I’ve had a slew of podcast interviews over the last few weeks, and virtually all of the hosts have asked me what I think is the necessary ingredient for continued business growth. I speak from a place of making mistakes, and from getting things right over the last 20 years.
The three things I believe companies need to survive are a market niche, relevancy, and a mindset of greatness. I’ve named them in order of difficulty.
Determining your market niche is easy. Sticking to your market niche is not so easy, especially for newer companies who are fixated on cash flow. They have a tendency to want to grab the low-hanging fruit, even if it stretches beyond their core competency.
When I started Information Experts almost 20 years ago, the company focused on a core competency of training & development. To stay relevant (will get to that in the next paragraph), we had to expand our abilities to provide computer-based and web-based training about 15 years ago. However, we kept expanding into multiple areas that went way beyond the core. Ultimately that diluted our brand and value proposition. Things have come full-circle now, and once again we are focused on our core competencies of training & development, as well as strategic communications as it relates to education. Our organization is laser focused, and our brand is re-strengthened.
Call to Action: Take a critical look at your niche. How does it compare today to what it initially was when you launched? If you’ve expanded it, have you done that thoughtfully and strategically? Has the expansion strengthened or diluted your brand? What do you want people to think when they think of your company? Honestly assess how close you are to that.
It doesn’t matter how great your product is if it’s not relevant to the market. Where does your solution fit in? I’ve learned over the last few years that there are many types of relevance. Your solution must be technologically relevant, culturally relevant, politically relevant, and even financially relevant.
For example, government contractors have taken a blood bath over the last 18 months as Congress and our Administration gridlocked over priorities, refused to pass a budget, and then delegated the lack of funding down to the contracting community by instituting a “lowest price, technically acceptable” pricing mandate for our solutions. Overnight, we had to cut our rates in half to stay what I call “financially relevant.” Having the best solution, or the best value solution, took a back seat to being the cheapest vendor. For many small businesses, this required hard-core pivots, including layoffs, terminations, slashing overhead, relocating jobs, moving offices, cutting benefits – anything that was required to be able to bid low price work. As the government community realizes that “you get what you pay for,” competing on value versus on price will become the norm again, and the financial relevance will once again shift.
Another example is the cyber-security industry. In the age of Edward Snowden, massive credit card theft, and data breaches, this industry is obviously completely relevant. Or, let’s look at the data storage industry. Companies that used to store paper documents will lose their relevance – and their customers – if they don’t migrate to electronic storage. It doesn’t matter if they were once the best paper-storage providers on the market.
Companies that want to grow will always be swimming against the tide of obsolescence. An idea is only as valuable as its relevance.
Call to Action: How aware are you of external events and industry trends? Congressional agendas and consumer behavior have tremendous impact on the products and services that fill our market place. Being connected to what’s happening beyond your office walls ensures your market relevance. Make a commitment to increase your overall awareness through the avenues that work best for you: attending conferences, subscribing to blogs, following thought leaders, etc.
Mindset of Greatness
OK. This is the hardest requirement of all: maintaining a mindset of greatness…believing that you are capable of greatness, and that you deserve greatness. It’s especially hard when it seems that all of the seeds you are sowing are giving you nothing in return. So often, we are blind to the small victories that happen every day along the way to your goal. We also compare ourselves to everyone else who seemingly have the formula for Success figured out.
I had a breakthrough – an epiphany – about Mindset a few weeks ago at my quarterly Mastermind meeting. My group showed me some “tough love.” They told me to snap out of the self-doubting mindset, to toughen up, and to recognize my value and my worth. They just weren’t having any more of it. One of our members said, “We are a MASTER-mind, not a Minor-mind, and we all need to think BIG!” So that was my “tipping point.” I went over the edge to the mindset of Greatness and haven’t looked back.
Your mindset is the single most important asset you have in your success. You must believe with all your heart, and every fiber in your body, that you are capable of greatness, and that you are worthy of greatness – that you can move mountains! You will especially need it on those days when nothing seems to be going right. Your mental state can make all the difference between quitting and forging ahead.
Call to Action: Do a mindset-check. How strongly do you truly believe in your own greatness? Do you live from a place of abundance or scarcity? Believe in your ability to be the change you wish to see in the world. Create a force-field that blocks out the negative mindset and critical nature of others. Identify those that drag you down, and put barriers in place between them. Then….GO GET WHAT YOU WANT.
What other things do you think are required for company sustainability and scalability? Share them here on the blog, or email me.
Need help strengthening your niche, your relevance, or your mindset? I would love to help you. Drop me an email at [email protected].