__Get on your marks!
By now you should have completed at least 10 episodes of #Business Wars, and can discuss the power of competition with your partners, employees, and friends. I know you are gushing to tell them: “Competition is good because it will help our business to grow…”
You also know now that as an entrepreneur you are only allowed to fight the competition using three tools: Innovation, Marketing and Merger/Acquisition. But before you can go into battle, you must do your homework and gain a deep understanding of the following:
#1. Know your business: What industry does it operate in?
Even when you have identified the industry, you must keep narrowing down. It is not enough to say “I’m in agriculture”, but what part of agriculture e.g., “I’m in the avocado industry” or “I’m in peanut butter manufacturing”. (There are industry classification systems you can find online). For homework, especially the #SeniorClass will want to check out Professor Michael Porter’s “Five Forces Analysis”.
Knowing your industry helps you to do constant local and global study of what is happening in your industry, in particular to keep track of the type of Innovations that are possible (or not yet in the market!)
#2. Know your competitor: “Who exactly is your competitor and why?”
If you were to meet me over lunch, this is the type of question I would want to ask you. You should know your competitors, big and small! Every day you or someone on your team must be scanning widely to see what others in your industry are doing, both locally and globally.
“In as much as it depends on you,” Apostle Paul once said: Try and have friendly relations with your competitors.
Attend trade shows, talk to your competitors if you see them at social events; compliment them with sincerity (not necessarily about their business, you can choose subjects like family etc.)
If there is no industry trade association, see if you can create one yourself. Be an active member at industry type exhibitions. When you can afford it, set up your own stand.
#3. Know your competitor’s products and/or services!
In each Business War podcast, you will see immediately that they knew the competitor’s products intimately. They are the first to buy their competitor’s product; they study it carefully!
You must be quick to respond to a competitor’s product innovations that might hurt your own product. To simply watch is professional negligence!
#4. Don’t be a “dirty” competitor!
I used to love watching cricket even more than soccer. I once travelled to the Caribbean to watch the entire Cricket World Cup. Then the sport was hit by a “match fixing scandal”. I stopped watching immediately and even today I barely follow!
__As an entrepreneur you must enjoy the way a game is played as much as the result.
A “win at all costs” mentality is immoral and will create a culture in your organization of “dirty” cheaters.
In Africa the most common form of “dirty” play is to team up with regulators and policymakers to make life he** for a competitor, or even to try and curtail or destroy their business.
I have no respect for a competitor who is not willing to respond with innovations of their own to anything I do but instead turns to the government regulators with complaints!
I need not talk again here today about corruption; the ultimate “dirty” player is the one who uses corruption to advance their place in the market.
#5. Finally… it’s all about your “talent”, another term we use for #People!
Yes, we face a competitor using either #Innovation or #Marketing, and if we can’t beat them we either make a hasty retreat or we acquire or merge with another player in order to “bulk up” or acquire more Innovations!
__Innovation is done by #People!
Just look at the level of #Innovation we are driving with the @Sasai App. Every two weeks we release an update. Most of these updates are actually product innovations!
First, we wanted to catch up with the products we were “fast-following”, then we wanted to move ahead of them!
You have to have #People at all levels in the organization who are passionate winners. They want to win! They know that it’s all about #Innovate or die!
__The most valuable employee is one who knows he or she comes to work to compete for business (irrespective of what they do for the company).
“Innovation and Marketing MAKE MONEY. Everything else is cost.”
By the way, I have decided to create an Innovation on #Sasai called Sasai Podcast, which will have all my favorite entrepreneurial podcasts from around the world. You will also be able to make recommendations for us to add. It should be available by end of February. I will also create an Audio File which has all my interviews and edited comments. It is one area I really want to work with you.
We are soon adding other amazing Innovations which will help sharpen your entrepreneurial skills. So download Sasai, and stay tuned!
For your homework today: What lessons have you learned from listening to the #Business War podcasts so far? Be specific. Let’s talk.
To be continued. . .
Image caption: Four 100g bars of chocolate from a shop in Johannesburg. Three from Africa! What do you see?
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa