Stop The Vanilla Blog

Assessing your Competition


At an early stage, a snapshot of the marketplace should provide sufficient information to determine whether your future competence has the potential to be unique or not. In addition to first-hand knowledge, you can gain some insight into how competitors are differentiating themselves by looking at their websites and sales collateral.

You should be able to answer several questions while completing a competitive competence analysis:

  • Who are your primary competitors in the markets where you compete?
  • What is the perceived competence of each competitor? How are they trying to differentiate from you and others?
  • Based on their competence, to what level does each company differentiate itself on a scale of 1 to 10> (A rating of 1 means they are selling vanilla ice cream, while 10 means they have a clear differentiation. They’re selling their form of mint chocolate chip ice cream.)
  • Are any of these competitors delivering or trying to deliver a competence similar to that of your company?

If yes, can you tangibly prove that you will deliver it better?

If you find out that competence is similar to that of the competition, then you need to go back to the drawing board until you define a competence that you can deliver better than anyone else in the markets where you compete. Gain team consensus about whether you can create a real differentiation for your company after you implement your competence and execute your plan.

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Being thoughtful In Creating Your Own Culture


People often talk about a culture like it is something that just kind of happens on its own. But in fact, the culture you create in your company, your department or your own personal culture are a result of things within your control. Most notably your actions, behavior and decisions.

How is culture defined? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as “the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action and artifacts, and depends upon the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.”

I am currently working with a client that has a very tense culture. The work environment feels cold and stiff. During our pre-planning interview and assessment debriefs with each planning team member, I kept hearing about the culture. Especially, from some of the new members of the organization.

The behavioral assessment results of each planning team member provided me the information to ask the specific questions to determine the root cause of this cool and aloof culture. I found it when I interviewed the company owner and president. He is one of the nicest and smartest guys you will ever meet, however, his father who started the business always used to say: “Going to work is for work.” This philosophy was the basis for the company culture. The president has a very high task orientation and as a result had not built professional relationships with any of his managers. The culture of his team was more of a group of hard working individuals vs. a high performance leadership team.

Because the team members had not built professional and personal relationships with each other they had less information to more effectively work with and communicate with each other. Characteristics of their team culture included the tendency to want to talk about what the other team members weren’t doing and too quickly jump to judgment because they had little information on their situation. Perhaps their teammate is caring for an elderly parent, or up all night with a crying infant. Or, on a more positive note, maybe he was out celebrating an anniversary or birthday the night before. I’m not suggesting that you have to be friends with all of your employees and teammates or that your culture should not have work ethic as a primary characteristic. But an increased understanding of where your teammates are coming from builds a culture of more effective communication and collaboration.

In our last strategic planning session the client company completed a team development exercise we lovingly call “getting the team in their underwear”. Figuratively of course. This process led to a candid and thoughtful discussion on the team and organizational culture they will create and the action plans and behaviors to make it happen.

So how does your culture measure up, whether it is in your business, department, or your home? Ask these questions of those who are part of your culture:

  • What words would you use to describe our culture?
  • How could we improve our culture to make it a more enjoyable and productive environment?
  • What can I do more of as the leader to positively impact our culture?

You set the tone and so be thoughtful in how you want your culture described. Remember, Those Who Plan – PROFIT!

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