Develop an "Unfair Advantage" Over Your Competition
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
All I’ve ever wanted in business is an unfair advantage. Before you raise your eyebrows, let me define the term. An unfair advantage is not lying, cheating, or stealing. It’s exactly the opposite. An unfair advantage is doing everything just a little bit better than your competition. And even if you’ve been in business for many years and you’re at the top of your profession, in today’s competitive world you also need to do everything just a little bit better today than you did it yesterday. That’s your unfair advantage.
It’s not always easy. Do you remember the movie STAYING ALIVE, the sequel to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER? (And can you still dance that way?) It’s about how the John Travolta character pursues a career as a professional dancer, all the highs and lows (with a little romance thrown in). The last scene is an incredible dance routine. As my friend Kookie and I danced out of the theater afterwards, I had a revelation: The trouble with life is that it’s just too short to be good at very many things!
The dedication and discipline that the Travolta character needed to become a great dancer didn’t leave him much time for anything else.
That’s the problem with working and being in business today. The future belongs to those who are competent in many different areas. To be successful in any industry, you need to be a technically-adept, charismatic communicator with exceptionally good work habits, good people skills, and an abundance of healthy energy. (And it doesn’t hurt if also you look good and dress well.)
There’s an old saying, "If you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door." That was true once, but not today. Having the best product or service does not automatically guarantee you success. That’s because:
1. People do business with people they know.
2. People do business with the people who do business with them.
3. People do business with people their friends talk about.
4. People do business with people they read about.
Start now to develop your own unfair advantage and build your client base.
1. What one thing can you do better than your competition? How can you let the world know about your advantage?
2. What one activity can you improve on? Decide whether this improvement is worth the energy it will require. If so, what one step can you take this week?
3. Learn from the best...and the worst! No matter how long you’ve been in the work force, make a list of every boss you’ve had. Start with your first job at the age of ten or twelve and go right through to today. What did you learn from each of these people, good or bad?
This exercise is especially important if you are now in management or plan to be. Everyone you’ve ever worked for can teach you something, even if it is only to provide you with a pitiful example of what not to do. "If you want to build a ship," wrote pilot- poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." How many leaders have gone beyond mere management to filling you with a yearning for the endless immensity of opportunities before you? How did they do it?
Patricia Fripp CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and professional speaker on Change, Customer Service, Promoting Business, and Communication Skills. She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It So You Don’t Have to Fake It and Past-President of the National Speakers Association.