Lessons from a Great Business

Success in business or elsewhere comes from a clutch of common themes, ideas and efforts.

In recent months, I’ve been working on a number of motivational and leadership programmes for a leading, family-owned German company who are the ‘best in class’ in what they do. Last week, the senior leader of the company delivered a speech which I believe summarises reasons for their success. I’ll expand on these points and trust you will find them compelling.

“Our product costs a lot, but we are not expensive”

How many times have we met with challenges in our own business when a client says our solutions or services are “too expensive”? A Mercedes Benz car may cost a lot but it may not necessarily be expensive for the value it delivers. So here’s a great approach to how we do anything: deliver exceedingly good results, a quality product that lasts for years, and exceeds customer expectations. Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.

The problem in many organisations is a lack of ability to cascade these value points down to the frontline of the business; and where our sales professionals are selling ‘boxes’ versus a solution to our needs.

Approach of continuous improvement, forever committed to improving past performance

When you think of the best, most durable organizations and brands; they have spent a lifetime committing themselves to ever improving, listening to their customers, and coming back again and again with the best products for their needs. Kodak, the iconic company most associated with the still image lost its way not because of a lack of commitment to quality, but due to the lack of ability to listen to what their customers wanted. When you ingrain a spirit of continuous improvement in every person in the organization, only good things can happen.

Strategy beyond the short-term results of a listed company

This company has been family owned for more than a century. They could have become a listed company easily, being a global brand. However, on a strategic basis, they understood that there are always trade-offs. One of the trade-offs of a publicly traded company is the often-slavish focus on quarterly profits that can come at the price of giving up certain long term goals.And costly research and development or other strategies that take more than a year to come to fruition get the short shrift.

Focus helps generate economies of scale, a knowledge spillover with an ability to avoid dilution of efforts. - David Lim

Some highly influential, and visionary leaders like Jeff Bezos of Amazon could pull it off. When Amazon finally turned the corner of losses and registered its first profit in 2002, it had reached the tipping point. This was where the huge expense of winning market share had cost the company a huge sum, but leading to its post-2002 near-total domination of not only the online book-selling business but online e-commerce, period.

Others may find it easier to achieve long-term goals by keeping their company a private one. The key is to make an informed decision.

Take time to grow your people & celebrate business & its future

In each of the programmes I ran, it was less about the actual content or fresh knowledge that these people needed. It was more about how to harness what they already knew, so that they could believe in what they were doing and believe they could be a success.

Spending time out at offsites and such retreats provided the staff from their China, Singapore and Malaysia offices an opportunity to learn from each other. It also gave the top leaders a chance to rally the group, set the stage of future success and remind themselves of the greatness that comes from inspired work.

Sheer Focus

This company used to make a number of products, including, at one time, motorcycles. It now mainly makes one type of product, with many variations of the same product category. Focus carries huge benefits in terms of economies of scale, accumulating a wealth of knowledge that spills over to all other aspects of their products, not to mention the ability to avoid dilution of their efforts. This is so much better than coming out of a meeting with a thought like “Great, we’ve got an inch of progress in 20 different directions.”

About the author: David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Coach, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at david@everestmotivation.com to subscribe to a no-cost leadership e-newsletter.


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