Before a CEO can begin to build ownable competitive advantage, there are two very important, yet often difficult questions that he or she must first answer. It’s the ‘WHAT’ and the ‘WHY’ of any business – and in this specific order:
What business are you in?
This may seem like an obvious question; however, it always proves to be one of the toughest questions for a leadership team to answer. If I were to ask you what business your organization is in, I bet that I can guess your answer. It has something to do with the product or service that your organization provides to the marketplace… was I close?
This is exactly where leadership teams get trapped when endeavouring to answer this very same question. They look to their competitive frame of reference – which is largely driven by the product or service the brand provides relative to competitors. In effect, they limit their competitive universe and confine their ability to create ownable, competitive advantage.
On the flip side, if the answer is considered carefully, it can be a catalyst for inspired growth opportunities by means of developing new (or enhancing existing) revenue streams, driving new innovation, creating new markets opportunities, and motivating and aligning employees. The best way to get to your ‘WHAT’ is to think about the benefits that your brand delivers to your stakeholders (i.e., consumers, employees, supplies, shareholders, government, etc.) and the value that it creates.
Here are some examples of organizations that re-framed their ‘WHAT’
Why do you exist?
A brand’s purpose (its ‘WHY’) is influenced by the benefits it creates and value that it drives (its ‘WHAT’). Thus, it is only after leadership teams identify their brand’s ‘WHAT’ can they begin to define the ‘WHY’.
Asking once is not enough
Markets have never been more competitive or disruptive, therefore it is important for leadership teams to continuously re-think what business you are in because the answer influences the value that your brand creates, and ultimately, why you exist.