Renowned Entrepreneurs Views on How to Run Competitive Businesses

Competitive Advantage PictureCompetitiveness guru Michael Porter stated that “A strategy delineates a territory in which a company seeks to be unique.” Within our local context, most of the key sectors operate within open markets. This means that there are no barriers to entry and as such businesses can enter the market without any restrictions. Therefore in any given sector, there are several competitors. One district may have more than one restaurant, barber, clothing store etc.  Running a successful and competitive business involves being strategic about everything including the choice of employees to your accounting practices.

 The following are out of the box ideas that these global business tigers have instituted within their respective businesses. Richard Branson founder of Virgin Atlantic, is one of Britain’s and the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. His maverick style has taken him to extremes, not only in business but also in pleasure, making him a global brand.  In competing in business, he stated the following:

“It’s not unusual for an entrepreneur to become overly preoccupied with what his competitors are up to. By doing market research on your competitors, you can work out exactly how to provide a product or service that is superior. This is the reason that I sometimes fly on other airlines – often, great ideas are sparked when you notice a problem that a competitor faces and try to find a good solution yourself.”

He believes that businesses should keep an eye on their competition while remaining focused on their team, products and services. Companies that do not practice this, will always be a step behind, and this can foster a culture that is, at its core reactionary. He maintains that businesses that are reactionary forgo innovation and can quickly become irrelevant to consumers. It becomes pointless to purchase a product/ service that another company has already done better. He further adds that companies should show ambition and put effort into creativity and focus on the next big thing which will allow the company to emerge as the one that other businesses want to copy.

The late Steve Jobs creative entrepreneur and pioneer of the microcomputer revolution gave this advice in marketing a business:

“One of the greatest jobs of marketing that the universe has ever seen is Nike. Remember, Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes! And yet, when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, as you know, they don’t ever talk about the product. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they are better than Reebok’s air soles. They honor great athletes. And they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about!”

And so, in working on Apple’s marketing strategy they focused on what their customers want to know about them, what they stand for and where do they fit in this world. Therefore, the marketing strategy focused on Apple’s core value- people with passion can change the world for the better. The company has had an opportunity to work with people who have this passion for example software developers, with customers, who have done it in some big, and some small ways.  Apple has the philosophy that, in this world, people can change it for the better. And that those people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that actually do. And so, their first brand marketing campaign focused on getting back to this core value.

Tony Hsieh the entrepreneur and mastermind behind the $1.2 Billion powerhouse online shoe company Zappos stated “Great things will happen if you make employees happy. It’s like a playground at the Zappos headquarters.” Tony said his employees are a little fun and very creative. One of the company’s core values is to create fun and stimulate creativity. They really recognize and celebrate each person’s individuality and they want for their true personality to shine in the work place. “This is one of the keys to how to run a successful business.”

Tony was approached to sell shoes online. He thought “it sounded like the poster child of bad internet ideas.” But it was the most exciting business from a growth perspective and he really liked the people. So he jumped on board as CEO, and run the company differently in order to ensure that the company’s culture did not go downhill.   He said if he had to go into an office, it would be with people he would choose to be around, not just for business purposes.

Tony ensured that his employees were happy by offering free lunch in the cafeteria, covering all medical benefits and even supplying a life coach to help employees reach their goals. Fortune magazine named Zappos as one of the top 10 companies to work for. Tony said “It is really more than a place to work. It is a lifestyle. The employees hangout with each other after work not because they are forced to but because they actually choose to.”

In conclusion, it is important that our local businesses understand how to strategize to build better businesses. The complacent business that has enjoyed advantages in the past may very soon find that it is overtaken by hungrier, fast-moving competitors. Businesses will need to implement strategies to enable them to be more competitive. They should strive for excellence in order to face fierce competition and more importantly for survival. This effort to outperform their competitors supports productivity and competitiveness which contributes to overall economic growth.

Is Your Idea/Solution A Good Fit for the #PROCOM Challenge?

ProCom-LogoInnovation can come from anywhere. Some of the greatest ideas and inventions were developed when entrepreneurs decided to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

In Saint Lucia, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are often confronted with constraints in accessing commercial funding for their projects. The PROCOM Challenge was conceptualized in an attempt to provide co-financing to local MSMEs with innovative solutions which seek to enhance productivity and competitiveness. Winning proposals may receive co-financing of up to EC$100,000 for project implementation.

While the PROCOM Challenge encourages businesses to think outside of the box, not all business ideas will necessarily be a good fit for The PROCOM Challenge.

The following piece is intended to help prospective applicants understand the PROCOM Challenge and requirements before deciding whether or not to apply.

APPLYING FOR THE PROCOM CHALLENGE

The PROCOM Challenge welcomes proposals from registered Saint Lucian MSMEs in all sectors that address productivity and competitiveness challenges.  Project/idea proposals must fall within one of the following categories:

  • Delivery of methods and or technologies to reduce energy costs for businesses
  • Compliance solutions to meet domestic, regional and international quality standards
  • Development of new or the adaptation of current technology to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency
  • Projects or solutions to improve business processes for greater efficiency and productivity

All applications will be assessed by an Investment Panel through rigorous criteria which will take into consideration a number of factors including:

  • Innovation

How will your particular idea/solution tackle productivity and/or competitiveness?

  • Impact/Potential

While firm specific solutions will be accepted, preference will be given to ideas and solutions that have a potential to scale and are backed by substantial evidence.

  • Sharing of Successes and Lessons Learned

The sharing of lessons learned is a very important part of the PROCOM Challenge as it will provide invaluable insight on future iterations of the Challenge. The Challenge therefore welcomes ideas/solutions from  businesses that are committed to evaluating their own success and are also open to sharing the relevant lessons learned with the NCPC team and external partners, particularly where this may be necessary to foster scale.

If you are interested in applying to the PROCOM Challenge, please follow these simple steps:

STEP 1:      Before you start an application, carefully review the eligibility criteria and selection guidelines to ensure that you are the right fit for the Challenge. This information can be found in the PROCOM Challenge Brochure and Manual which may be downloaded from the NCPC Website; www.stluciancpc.org or blog; www.ncpcstlucia.wordpress.com. You may also call 468-5576/468-5571 with any questions/queries on the Challenge.

 STEP 2: If you think your idea/solution meets the necessary requirements, submit your application using the prescribed forms and supporting documents to the NCPC; stluciancpc@gmail.com no later than 11:59pm on Thursday, June 30th, 2016.

 STEP 3: Wait for confirmation from the NCPC. If your initial application has been shortlisted, you will be invited to a Business Plan Training Session where you will receive guidance on the preparation of your business plan for submission to the investment panel. (N.B Only successfully shortlisted applicants will be contacted by the NCPC)

STEP 4:  Completed Business Plans must be submitted to the NCPC no later than four (4) weeks after the Business Plan Training Session.

STEP 5: The Business Plans will be reviewed by the Investment Panel and short-listed applicants will be required to pitch their idea to the panel for final judging. Once approval has been given, the funds will be disbursed after signing of the grant agreement and project work will commence.

If you think your idea or solution is a good fit for the PROCOM Challenge, please visit the NCPC website: www.stluciancpc.org, Send an e-mail to stluciancpc@gmail.com or call us at 468-5576/468-5571.