In a world with ever increasing competition you must constantly innovate and or risk being left behind.

There will always be new entrants into your market, cheaper production in a far off country (or next door) and clients looking for better value and sometimes the cheapest price.

Your only defence is to continually add value and ring-fence your customers so they don’t want to go anywhere else.

Continuing on from our article “They walk amongst us” where we discussed hidden champions – world leaders in their fields, here are some thoughts on how you can continually stay ahead of the pack.

Stop and think

Are you plugged in 24×7? Never switch off your mobile? Constantly check email? Tell your customers they can call you whenever they feel like? Then feel stressed out of your mind?

I have news for you. No one can be productive if you don’t have some downtime. The world won’t end if you don’t answer that email immediately.

Going from meeting to meeting, fighting fires and being continually interrupted means you’ll never get anything really productive done. And innovation goes out the window.

Most great ideas come from that quiet space in your mind. Often in that period of Alpha Wave brain activity – when daydreaming, or between being awake and asleep. So you must take time out to just sit, chill out and think.

If you work in an office, decree that you have quiet time between certain hours. Switch of your email, divert your calls, put up a sign so co-workers don’t drop in for a chat and just think.

Yes it may take some practice and getting used to, but the results will be worth it.

Talk to your customers

You might think you know how your customers use your products, but I guarantee you’d be surprised at how they really do.

Your customers will be one of your greatest sources of innovation. They know what works, what could be improved and may even find other uses you’ve never imagined. Some may have designed add-ons which you could incorporate into your base product broadening its appeal.

Hermann Simon in Hidden Champions points out that highly successful and innovative mid-sized companies, have 25 – 50% more direct exposure to their client base than the large end of town whose exposure is somewhere between 5-10%.

Being close to your target market is a major differentiator ensuring your products will continue to be successful.

So keep talking to your customers. Value their opinion. They’ll feel included in what you do and love you for it. And let’s face it. If you feel involved in a project you’re far more likely to keep buying aren’t you? This is a great way to ring-fence your customers stopping them going to your competition.

Add value through consulting

You’re the expert. You know how to best use your product or service to get maximum results. So go out there and teach your clients how to get the most value.

Your product may have complex options which when used correctly could save your clients time and money and/or increase production. Maybe even do things they’d never thought of.

By helping clients get the most value out of your products you keep them in the fold. They rely on you give advice, improve their productivity, fix issues rapidly etc.

Consulting not only puts dollars on your bottom line, but gives you ideas for innovation. You can see how clients are using your products in the real world, what issues they’re facing and how you could improve.

And the best part is you’re in their faces. Your competitors will never stand a chance as you’ll be the trusted expert and authority.

Believe me we’ve seen this time and time again when conducting customer surveys. Many end users we’ve interviewed have told us how the organisation was always there to help and why as a result they’d never change suppliers.

Being loyal to your clients will breed loyalty in return.

Buck the trends

When your competition zigs, you zag.

Car manufacturers believed hard-top convertibles were always cheaper than their soft-top counterparts.

When Porsche produced the Cayman, a hard-top variation of their famous Boxter and priced it significantly higher, the industry thought they were mad.

However the Cayman went on to becoming their bestselling model.

Less is more

Ever been in a restaurant with 100’s of items on the menu? Feel overwhelmed with trying to figure out what to eat?

Your customers will feel the same way if presented with too many choices. And frankly, it’s almost impossible to be good at such a range.

So streamline your products/services by analysing what your customers really buy. 80/20 rule applies. You’ll find 80% of your clients buy 20% of your stuff. Just make sure it’s the most profitable 20%.

On that note if you missed my short article on the difference between mark-up and margin in terms of calculating profit and the pricing/margin/profitability table, go to and check it out.

Make tiny decisions

No journey is ever a straight line. You’re always making tiny adjustments and correcting course. Which is the same in business.

Big decisions are hard to make and even harder to change. Ego and pride come into play and it’s harder to be objective and admit you made a mistake. And the further you go, the harder it is to stop.

Instead make tiny decisions so there’s no penalty if you mess up. You just fix it and move on.

Tiny decisions don’t mean you can’t make big plans or have visionary ideas. It just means the best way to achieve those things are through small, manageable steps.

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. And then you take the next.

And finally…

Get outside input

We’re all too close to our own stuff. Whether it’s in business or life, getting an outside perspective is one of the most important things you can do to move forward. A new pair of eyes will point out the obvious – stuff you’ve missed, stuff that could get you out of a rut, spur you onto new levels of success.

And no, the outsider does not have to come from your industry. The best innovation comes from left field, people who look at what you’re doing and ask “why?”. And often you won’t have a good answer – “We’ve always done it like that…”

Which is my plug for the Two Heads and other consulting services we offer. Our eyes have helped hundreds of businesses ramp up their revenue and profit. Many have become leaders in their fields. Could you be the next one? Call us now on (02) 9499-7958 and let’s find out.

Rashid & Barbara.

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