Businessman eavesdropping on businesswoman

I’ve been writing about 10 Ways You Can Lose . . . Even When You’re the Best. Here’s the seventh way: You are internally focused.

Some companies that are the best in their field are completely focused on sales and delivery plus R&D to develop new products and services. You may have the resources and the market share to sustain that approach, but you may be missing out on market feedback, which over time diminishes the strength of your message to the market. Your new products and services are invented inside, not in concert with your customers.

I have also worked with a number of teams who believe that no one in their field delivers the level of product and service that they do.  However, they have no evidence to support this claim.  When teams like this lose business,  they blame it on “politics” or “incumbents” or “price cutting,” but the truth is they don’t have any idea why they are losing.  They do not interact with their market enough to have a pulse on what’s changing.

Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel, wrote a terrific book (published in 1999) called Only the Paranoid Survive.  It’s about the need for relentless pursuit of market information and preparation for unforeseen market disasters.  And Jim Collins and Morten Hansen’s newest book Great By Choice (published October 2011) looks at ten successful companies and their leaders who managed to greatly outpace their competition in chaotic and unpredictable markets.  “Paranoia” was a key ingredient in their success–hard-nosed, direct confrontation of all of the possible ways that things could go wrong.  The bottom line is that things will go wrong; things going wrong is a normal state.

So, do you have a deliberate paranoia mindset?  Do you encourage all of the bad news and weird news to come to your attention promptly?  Do you refuse to blame a messenger?  The more you are outwardly focused, the better you will understand how to be the best and convey to your prospective customers that you are the best company to meet their needs.