In a previous column, I mentioned a topic that continues to resonate with me — not because it was a big revelation or because it was even slightly profound (don’t I wish). Yet it was meaningful nonetheless, to me at least, and at this moment in time.
What I wrote was that, while it’s certainly constructive to look back on the difficult years we have endured in our businesses as a result of the recession to learn from our mistakes, now is the time to look to the future. Enough with the past already. That topic has been discussed ad nauseam.
We’ve asked ourselves the difficult questions from “What the hell happened?” to “What could I have done differently?” Right now, there’s only one question that matters for you in your business; only one question that you must answer: What now?
What will you today that will change your life and your business for the better? Think about it. Is there something you have already planned to do today that will effectively shake things up at work? There’s no such thing as business as usual anymore. Those days are long gone.
Do not allow yourself to settle for the same level of effort or expectation. Too much is at stake. There are significantly more people desirous — no, desperate — for success. So if you want to make it in this post-recession world, you better bring something new to the table. You must disrupt the market.
Terms like market disruption and disruptive innovation or technology have been used in business since the mid 1990s when Clayton Christensen first introduced the concept in his 1995 Harvard Business Review article, “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,” which he co-wrote with Joseph Bower.
The idea behind disruptive innovations, be they technological or otherwise, is that they help create new markets by improving a product or service in ways that the market does not expect. In other words, you force yourself to look at your product or service in a different light, from a different perspective, and figure out a way to add value to your current value proposition. When this happens and you offer something completely different than what your competitors are offering, beyond even what your consumers may expect, you have effectively disrupted the market. You have distinguished yourself and your company from the masses and you have become a market leader.
Market disruption and disruptive innovations are not sophisticated business and investment concepts reserved for Fortune 100 executives. On the contrary. These terms are typically associated with nimble companies, usually smaller in size, that creep up on the larger, more established firms usually set on their ways. They can chip away at their market share by focusing on what Mark Johnson of Bloomberg Business Week refers to as their Underappreciated Customers.
“This happened when Southwest Airlines disrupted the major carriers, when Craigslist disrupted the classified sections of big-city newspapers, and when CVS Minute Clinics disrupted hospitals and doctors’ offices. In the case of Southwest Airlines, the business of selling no-frills, no-assigned-seating flights for short, underserved routes ended up delivering higher profits than the major carriers earned.”
But focusing on underappreciated customers is not the only way to disrupt the market. From simple teaming arrangements and joint ventures to sophisticated mergers and acquisitions, forging strategic alliances with other companies that compliment your product offering and cross leverages knowledge and relationships is an excellent path to disruption.
In the past, competition drove many companies to implement strategies for outsourcing all but their core capabilities. Additionally, an emphasis on service or product differentiation led firms to concentrate on niche markets by providing highly specialized services or products.
As a result, many companies found themselves isolated in a highly competitive field driven largely by price. In situations like these, disruption becomes a matter of survival as companies look to rewrite the rules of engagement by consolidating a wider range of capabilities under a single point of contact. The market disruptor benefits because it minimizes its risk while maximizing its complementary skills and resources, and increases competitiveness. The consumer benefits thanks to a more efficient procurement process — dealing with a single point of contact and reducing its administrative burden.
It’s time to change the way we do business and regain market position. Leverage your capabilities, resources and contacts with those of potential strategic partners to disrupt the market. Disrupt what and who is currently there, and disrupt the way they compete with you by adding to your value proposition. Just remember one thing: preparing to be the disruptor in your market is only half of the formula for enduring success. Once you’ve made it, the other half is preparing to be disrupted.
Manny García-Tuñó, also a columnist for EL Nuevo Heral, is president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm based in Miami.