Driving Business Growth by Focusing on Strengths

For most businesses there are more ideas for possible new growth opportunities than you have time or money to pursue. Deciding where to invest is difficult. How do you know which ones will yield the best return?

The key is to stick to your strengths. There will be many opportunities that are appealing, but may require the organization to develop strengths it just doesn’t have today. While that is not outside the scope of possibility, it puts great pressure to accomplish the same amount of benefit in the same window of time.

Experts like Marcus Buckingham in his book, Now, Discover Your Strengths and Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 suggest that great leaders put people in jobs where they can be successful. They argue that it is more natural and much easier to build on what is already a strong point than to try to work against nature by fixing what is harder to accomplish. Organizations are essentially a collection of its people. As an organization envisions and builds its central concept, it is easier to leverage existing strengths than to try to build new ones.

Here is the downside of focusing on what isn’t working:

  1. It is swimming upstream. Most likely, weak areas are not a result of not caring but rather lack of interest, knowledge or skill. Trying to improve a weakness takes much longer and sometimes just isn’t doable.
  2. Fixing weaknesses requires a larger investment relative to return, especially if it just gets the organization “even” with other competition. If it takes longer, be sure it is worth it at the end. Are there easier and quicker solutions? The answer is usually “yes”.
  3. It takes energy from what is most important. Since there is a huge resource restriction called time, and only so much of it to go around, chances are this is not the best use of yours. When the weakness is modified in a positive way, will it drastically improve output or performance for the entire company?  Will it enable the organization to accelerate growth? If not, what will? That is where you need to invest time.

The strengths and personality of organizations should be easy to spot.

  • Southwest Airlines stands out among others for its willingness to do things differently. They started off with a different formula when they were founded in the 1970’s and as they have evolved they have stayed true to the strengths they are known for–simple solutions and systems, offering value to customers, being a friendly place of business, and now, not charging bag fees.
  • Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel doesn’t plan to compete head on with Wal-Mart. Price wars are not their strength. Rather he states their goal as being within 2% of Wal-Mart’s price. “If Wal-mart has bananas for 48 cents then we will charge 49 cents.” What do consumers get for the penny? A better experience in stores and online according to Steinhafel. Target invests in store design and fashionable branded merchandise. A penny difference  may not sound like much but in 2013 that difference contributed over 73 billion pennies.
  • Zappos is making a name for itself as more than a shoe seller, they want to be a customer service company. By broadening their offering and being fanatical about who they hire, how they maintain their customer service culture and deliver a superior customer experience they intend to continue to expand into other goods and services. Says Tony Hirsch, founder, investor and CEO,  “One day we asked ourselves, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up? Do we want to be about shoes or do we want to be about something bigger and more meaningful?’ That’s when we decided that we really wanted to build the Zappos brand and be about the very best customer service and customer experience.”

Are your strengths as easily spotted and recognized by your employees, your customers and your industry? Are you as clear and as dedicated in delivering on them consistently as you strive to meet the specific needs of your targeted customers?

Don’t back off from challenging the status quo by expanding your vision for the company. Just be sure you are deploying strengths while not being hindered by them.

Know how to Grow Now!

(photo: Creative Commons, Google Images)

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