KCMN’s June meeting focused on how to build a competitive advantage for your business,
by considering your company’s best areas of focus. Speaker and author Rick Tirrell challenged the audience to be able to answer the question, “What makes your company great?” Rick used numerous examples, both from his book, The Wisdom of Resilience Builders and from his work with a variety of companies in many industries, to discuss four competitive platforms:
Relationship platform – These companies are fanatical about customer service – Mckinsey & Company, USAA, and Brooks Brothers all spend tremendous resources to know, understand and serve their customers.
Efficient Platform – The bottom line for these companies is to wring every dime from every expense and to pursue efficiency in everything they do. Walmart, Amazon.com, and Dell in their early days, all make their mark by seeking better, faster, cheaper ways to deliver.
Creative Platform – For these companies, the development of continual innovation and new ideas is paramount. Pixar, Apple and Cisco all focus on this platform.
Marketing Platform – Branding and image are what drives these companies. While their products may have some differentiation from the competition, trust in the company and a positive image for the brand are key drivers. Examples include Pepsi, BMW and Proctor and Gamble.
While large companies may have the budget and resources to be single platform companies, Rick in his research has found that smaller companies are more successful in seeking two platforms as differentiators. Manufacturers often seek to be efficient in all of their processes and procedures, but efficiency alone is not going to give them a lead over global competitors with much greater scale.
Pepper Stokes, COO of Robbie Flexibles, explained how Robbie has been successful by focusing on all of the competitive platforms, but placing special emphasis on the Relationship platform and the Creative Platform. The platform approach has helped guide the company to place focus on the areas where they feel they can make the most difference.
First and foremost, the company makes sure that their mission and customer service values are known and can be communicated by every single employee. The company has a set of core values: passion, idealism, commitment, optimism and achievement; and even names conference rooms and offices after some of these values, such as the passion room.
In the relationship platform, Robbie provides a wide variety of services to their customers, sometimes even at no charge, in order to better understand their customer’s needs. They send out roll out teams to make sure all team members understand the value of their products, and report problems and issues as an extra set of eyes to their customers.
The relationship platform is a perfect complement to the creative platform. In knowing their customer well, the team can then seek creative solutions to their customer’s problems. The commitment to the creative platform drives decisions to innovate, and to invest in new processes and equipment that gives them additional opportunities to come up with new and better solutions for their customers.
While the efficient platform is not a key driver to the decision process, it is a key driver to remaining competitive in the global marketplace. Robbie excels in their pre-production process, and considered marketing the process to others, but decided against it as it was not part of their overall mission and focus. The need for short runs means continuous improvement in their changeover times, with much success, and more work to do.
The marketing platform is not ignored, but is a key supporter to the relationship and creative platforms. Robbie outspends many of their competitors on marketing, and attends tradeshows and events to build relationships, not just sell solutions.
Overall, Pepper told the audience, that the secret to success was to “Figure out what you do great and do it on purpose.” Rick challenged everyone to make sure that regardless of the platform or platforms, that having everyone singing from the same sheet music is a key driver to making your platforms successful.