Many industries are facing a hyper-competitive situation, with disruptions in business practices, products, services and delivery occurring like popcorn – you never know which kernel is going to erupt next, but you know it will! As such, leaders are scrambling to maintain a competitive advantage or at the very least, remain in the game.
In a time when so many popcorn kernels are erupting, brainstorming how to maintain that competitive advantage may feel like grasping at air, but it doesn’t have to.
Here are several key strategies successful leaders are leveraging to ensure survivability – even thrive-ability – while not (always) running at breakneck speed.
1. Quit chasing the competition.
Awareness of the industry trends as well as regular marketplace research is imperative in order to maintain an edge in your market. However, too much of a good thing can be stifling. This applies to a constant focus on what neighbouring entities are doing to win clients. A savvy leader will slow down from time to time and immerse in introspective business development sessions apart from the competition.
Because innovation comes from two different sources — from within or as a result of outside forces — it’s important to also take time to develop an internal think tank of your own. Round up top talent and ask questions that spark deep analysis of how the company is running on its own — is there anything that can be improved? Have employees noticed a bottleneck? How can systems be made more efficient? Giving you and your employees the time to look within will build out a better basis for a competitive analysis.
2. Pare down services and/or products.
Trying to be all things to all customers can create internal cacophony. Battling industry disruption, growing at breakneck or some other scenario that has left both leadership and staff battle weary, with no signs of relief, may be signs that it is time to whittle down services, focusing on the core customer base.
By doing so, you may actually stumble upon your best competitive advantages — skills and time. Limiting the number of products or services you offer gives you the opportunity to really focus in on what the company does best, and ultimately, on how it can distinguish itself. Your margins will thank you just as much as your employees will.
3. Close down shop for a while.
While this doesn’t mean to put a going-of-business sign on the front door, it does mean that shutting down an office or entire operation for brief periods of respite and regrouping can be valuable to speeding up overall performance down the road.
Some businesses which operate on a seasonal schedule might choose slower periods for temporary shuttering, but even if the business is not seasonally oriented, shutting down for brief periods can be exhilarating and rejuvenating for almost any company’s bottom line. It’s in those windows of time when the brain is given a moment to rest that ideas really start to flow. Spark innovation and your next big step by slowing down your current one.
Related: Download 5 Employee Engagement Strategiesto learn why forward-thinking employers are starting to realise the ROI behind satisfied and engaged employees.
4. Get coaching.
Leaders who find themselves running ragged, continually tired, mismanaging their emotions and tempers or exhibiting other signs of overdrive may consider hiring a coach. Whether company-sponsored or someone hired externally, a leadership coach can provide an outside perspective and also help illuminate, through professional Q&A, other exercises and collaborative sessions, areas where the leader can streamline, amend or even discard certain habits, behaviours or practices.
Investing time and energy in a coach may require the leader to slow down a bit, but in the long run offers amazing returns. It provides she or he with an opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes on their career, the company as a whole and the goals with which they are aligned.
Related: 11 Tips from Top CEOs
5. Step out of your comfort zone.
Slowing down long enough to learn the basics of social media, email marketing or how to move your business online, especially if you’re a more traditionally based company, can seem daunting. Nonetheless, it could be the biggest addition to a strategy that will help you stay ahead of the curve. The discomfort of stepping outside of your comfort zone and asking for help on a new skill (when you’ve been the expert in your field) will eventually wear off, and you’ll only have the wins to show for that time!
Good leaders understand that not everything is about an instantaneous, short-term win. Use the time you’re gifting yourself when you slow down to really strategize what a long-term gain looks like and how you can get yourself or your company there. The pain of slowing down will soon be a distant memory once you’re back on the right track again!