The big company examples are readily translatable into the world of smaller firms. IDEO, the peerless product design firm based in Palo Alto, was asked by (big/very big) clients if its legendary approach to creativity could be imported into their firms. The answer was a resounding yes—and IDEO now has a thriving business helping others improve their creative and product development processes.
Era #1/Obvious Value: “Our ‘it’ works, is delivered on time” (“Close”) Era #2/Augmented Value: “How our ‘it’ can add value—a ‘useful it’ ” (“Solve”) Era #3/Complex Value Networks: “How our ‘system’ can change you and deliver ‘BUSINESS ADVANTAGE’” (“Culture-Strategic change”) Source: Jeff Thull, The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale
(VERY) BIG DEAL.
“The business of selling is not just about matching viable solutions to the customers that require them. It’s equally about managing the change process the customer will need to go through to implement the solution and achieve the value promised by the solution. One of the key differentiators of our position in the market is our attention to managing change and making change stick in our customers’ organization.” —Jeff Thull, The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale
AND THE WINNERS AREN’T/ARE
*Every … 2weeks!
Source: Richard Foster (via Rita McGrath/HBR/12.26.13
I was flabberghasted by this. The S&P 500 defines the USA economy. The BIGGEST of the BIG guys. And yet one drops off the list … EVERY 2 WEEKS.
“I am often asked by would-be entrepreneurs seeking escape from life within huge corporate structures, ‘How do I build a small firm for myself?’ The answer seems obvious … Source: Paul Ormerod, Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics
“I am often asked by would-be entrepreneurs seeking escape from life within huge corporate structures, ‘How do I build a small firm for myself?’ The answer seems obvious: Buy a very large one and just wait.” —Paul Ormerod, Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics
“Mr. Foster and his McKinsey colleagues collected detailed performance data stretching back 40years for 1,000 U.S. companies. They found thatNONEof the long-term survivors managed to outperform the market. Worse, the longer companies had been in the database, the worse they did.” —Financial Times
“Data drawn from the real world attest to a fact that is beyond our control: EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE TENDS TO DETERIORATE.” —Norberto Odebrecht, Education Through Work
Big company performance is, shall we say, problematic. (I could provide a hundred more equally compelling slides.)
My favorite company. Provide the red carpet for the Oscars, etc., etc., etc.
They dominate/own their niche.
*Basement Systems Inc. (Larry Janesky/Seymour CT) *Dry Basement Science (100,000++ copies!) *1990: $0; 2003: $13M; 2010: $80,000,000
Larry Janesky turns damp moldy basements into dry storage areas, family rooms, etc. He is …
Mr. Basement … and has the patents & profits to prove it.
The Magicians of Motueka (PLUS)!
W.A. Coppins Ltd.*
(Coppins Sea Anchors/
PSA/para sea anchors)
*Textiles, 1898; thrive on “wicked problems”
—e.g., U.S. Navy STLVAST (Small To Large Vehicle At Sea Transfer); custom fabric from W. Wiggins Ltd./Wellington
(specialty nylon, “Dyneema,” from DSM/Netherlands)
Motueka, New Zealand, is a peanut-sized town. (Very near where I live in the winter.) But it sports best-in-world in the high-value-added business of sea anchors. Clients include the U.S. Navy and the Norwegian government.
Grooves on … “wicked problems.”
(I organized a keynote speech to New Zealand’s business and government leaders around W.A. Coppins—an exemplar of global business “domination” in a small corner of a small country.)
Going “Social”: Location and Size Independent
“Today, despite the fact that we’re just a little swimmingpool company in Virginia, we have the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. Five years ago, if
you’d asked me and my business partners what we do, the answer would have been simple, ‘We build in-ground fiberglass swimming pools.’ Now we say, ‘We are the best teachers … in the world … on the subject of fiberglass swimming pools, and we also happen to build them.’”
—Jay Baer, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype
A small swimming pool firm takes to social media with a vengeance and becomes a major (world) force in its market space.
“BE THE BEST. IT’S THE ONLY MARKET THAT’S NOT CROWDED.”
“An adventure in ‘shoppertainment,’ begins in the parking lot and goes on to 1,600 cheeses and 1,400 varieties of hot sauce—not to mention 12,000 wines priced from
$8-$8,000 a bottle; all this is brought to you by 4,000 vendors. Customers from every corner of the globe.”
BRONNER’S CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND, FRANKENMUTH, MI, POP 5,000: 98,000-square-foot “shop” features 6,000 Christmas ornaments, 50,000 trims, and anything else you can name pertaining to Christmas. …”
Incredible. I give this book to accountants and lawyers and anyone I can buttonhole. It amount to 25 acts of unparalleled imagination—that define excellence and differentiation. (In, often as not, out of the way corners of the world—or, at least, the USA.)
I repeat: I LOVE THESE FOLKS.
I love … Middle-sized Niche-
"Own" a niche through EXCELLENCE!
(Writ large: Germany’s MITTELSTAND)
Forget the giants. (More or less.) Economic excellence is largely built more upon a hearty base of middle-sized superstars. Such a group, called the Mittelstand, are the source of Germany’s astounding/ sustaining export excellence. (Until recently, the world’s #1 exporter.)
*“agile creatures darting between the legs of the multinational monsters”(Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed’: THE THREE RULES:
How Exceptional Companies Think*:
1. Better before cheaper.
2. Revenue before cost.
3. There are no other rules.
(*From a database of over 25,000 companies from hundreds of industries covering 45 years, they uncovered 344 companies that qualified as statistically “exceptional.”)
Jeff Colvin, Fortune: “The Economy Is Scary … But Smart Companies Can Dominate”:
They manage for value—not for EPS.
They keep developing human capital.
They get radically customer-centric.
These mid-size superstars typically play the value added game to the hilt.
“‘Commodity’ is a state of mind. ANYTHING can be DRAMATICALLY differentiated.”
Small Giants: Companies that Chose to
Be Great Instead of Big (Bo Burlingham)
“THEY CULTIVATED EXCEPTIONALLY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS AND SUPPLIERS, based on personal contact, one-on-one interaction, and mutual commitment to delivering on promises.
“EACH COMPANY HAD AN EXTRAORDINARILY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LOCAL CITY, TOWN, OR COUNTY in which it did business—a relationship that went well beyond the usual concept of ‘giving back.’
“The companies had what struck me as UNUSUALLY INTIMATE WORKPLACES.
“I noticed the PASSION that the leaders brought to what the company did. THEY LOVED THE SUBJECT MATTER, whether it be music, safety lighting, food, special effects, constant torque hinges, beer, records storage, construction, dining, or fashion."
Small Giants is a stellar book with stellar case studies. Big message: There are paths to greatness other than an obsession with growth. In fact, growth-for-growth’s-sake is usually a loser’s game.