The best work is not what is most difficult for you; it is what you do best. – Jean-Paul Sartre
A few years ago now I was part of a weekend intensive business experience and one of the coaches there was an architect. We were talking about looking at different capabilities and where we might be and he took out his notebook and draw an image a little like the one above – some horizontal lines and a slash to show where you are.
As images go, it seems simple, but it’s a really powerful diagnostic. You don’t need a survey or questionnaire or spreadsheet – just some lines to figure out where you are right now.
This method popped into my mind when I read a comment on LinkedIn that talked about something Peter Drucker had apparently said. You can look at the things you do and measure yourself against the competition but what is it that’s going to make someone decide to work with you?
For example, let’s say you run a software development company. You’ve got experience in tools and frameworks and have enough people to do the work that needs to be done. You’ve got case studies of successful projects and can show how you add value. You can do all these things and so can many other companies in the same business. So, what makes the difference?
The argument you might make is that people don’t really do a line by line comparison and score you against others and then choose the company with the highest score. Well, they do actually, but I think that process usually ends up with the wrong choice. The selections that work – the ones where the client is happy and you deliver something – is when you do a particular thing way better than anyone else. When you stand out in some way that makes it very easy for the client to decide to go with you.
People don’t hire organisations that are average on everything – those ones are column fodder for tenders. You can get away with being a little better than average if you are a huge company and there is very little choice other than to go with someone like you. But for the vast majority of companies, the small ones that need to stand out to have a chance to be selected, you have a better chance if you do something that no one else can do as well as you.
This has a sound basis in strategy – if you do something no one else does as well then you have a competitive advantage – a moat. This barrier to entry to others gives you an edge, a chance that wouldn’t exist otherwise. So you really have to ask yourself, take the time to figure out, what this thing is, why it makes you better and how you can make the most of it.
What’s your one thing?