Play Your Cards Right

In his first Thursday Night Insight, Dan Attivissimo this week discusses the merits of playing to your strengths.

Early in life we are conditioned to improve our weaknesses rather than enhance our strengths. As an example, as students (at least when I was a student) it’s all too common that parents and teachers spend more time and extra effort on subjects that are below our higher subject averages. (A subject with a B- will receive more attention than a subject with an A.)

Now, I am not making an argument for letting grades slip below average or even suggesting how parents and teachers educate children. I will ask this though – what if more time was spent enhancing the skills in the subject receiving a higher grade? What if the student who is excellent with percentages and decimals was now taught how to apply that knowledge to basic financial concepts? What if the student who has a gift for writing spent extra time learning how to develop stories? One may become a future all-star accountant and the other an industry-renowned journalist!

What does all this have to do with the B2B industry?

I also think that companies can apply these truths to their business. Companies, like people, also have a set of strengths, but typically they are drawn up before the company becomes operational (through a brilliant idea, business plan, mission statement, goals, objectives, experience, and refinement over time, etc.). After all, it’s what distinguishes a company from its competitors. Unfortunately, just like some students, businesses sometimes allocate more resources toward improving their weaknesses as opposed to enhancing their strengths. How many times have companies invested in product lines or services so far-removed from their core business that it becomes a failure before it even takes off? Or worse, continue to invest money and human capital into a division that isn’t competitive or profitable!

My hypothesis is, those who truly excel in certain activities, whether professional, personal, or sport, are those who have developed and perfected what they are naturally good at. So why can’t the same idea apply to businesses operating in the B2B industry?

What if companies focused more on developing their core strengths rather than expanding into a variety of unchartered territory, eventually reaching death by diversification? What if companies focused on being the best in a particular industry as opposed to having a small market presence in many industries?

Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, makes a great point that companies with long-term, sustainable growth achieved their greatness by being experts at understanding and investing into what they are strong in, what they are known for, and being the best at it. If certain opportunities didn’t fit within a company’s strong area it simply wasn’t pursued, saving the company from possible disastrous debacles.

What I have found in my recent experience is that people and companies are not all that different when it comes to exploring, developing, and exploiting strengths. Both can find their strengths through a systematic way of asking the proper questions and analyzing the answers (market research). Once a set of strengths has been established, both people and companies seem to perform better when they operate within relative distance of their core strengths.

I say don’t just play the cards you’re dealt, but play your best cards!!!

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