Reassess your competition to stay competitive | Sunday Observer

Reassess your competition to stay competitive

26 June, 2022

"Managers need to keep pace with the external changes to stay ahead of the game. Macro factors affect the industry and thereby all players. Who stays ahead of the game would depend on who is quicker and smarter"

Keeping a close eye on the competition is often thought to be a big boys’ game. Most big organisations do invest heavily in competitive intelligence, or CI. In fact, competitive intelligence may be more important to small companies than to large ones, because small businesses feel the impact of competition more immediately and more deeply.

In a volatile market such as now, competition keeps shifting hence competitive advantages. Your brand may gain or lose with companies changing their strategies for a host of reasons, some external, such as broad economic changes, industry evolution or competitors moves, and some internal, such as portfolio decisions following strategic planning process.

In the current operating environment in Sri Lanka today, strategies are very short lived. To stay aligned you need to make weekly moves. And in doing so effectively, you need to factor in the significant macro changes that occur weekly and consequent competitor moves to constantly review if your strategy still has ‘life’.

When adverse macro developments makes your industry decline, force customers to evaluate more cost effective options or totally give up the use, lead to poor credit worthiness of the market, cost of goods skyrockets, cost of finance goes beyond the roof – and all these factors and more depending on the industry you work in makes your business unprofitable or at best make your gross margins thinner.

While these are common in any operating environment and quite rightly managers are paid to find solutions, the rate at which these changes occur and the extent, the nature of changes are beyond comprehension – leave aside them being so unpredictable or unimaginable.  

The challenges are seriously more complex – more complex than ever before. Situation demands that managers use their ultimate reading power, sharpest analytical assessment, ability to realign and capacity and competence to execute quickly – that’s the recipe to stay afloat or maintain a reasonable level of growth.

Speed keeps you live 

Managers need to keep pace with the external changes to stay ahead of the game. Macro factors affect the industry and thereby all players. Who stays ahead of the game would depend on who is quicker and smarter – and more importantly who makes the tougher decisions and executes them harder.

Keeping tabs on your rivals’ moves, formally or informally, usually occurs in one of two ways. Either you are monitoring them regularly, updating your bank of information as circumstances warrant, or you are suddenly faced with a surprise in the form of a new challenge that needs a prompt response.

The latter case often reflects a failure to think broadly about who your competitors really are. Though most business owners can identify their current top direct competitors, they “assume what exists today is going to be true tomorrow,” You need to avoid surprises as much as possible.

It’s a discipline  

Part of making competitive intelligence a discipline is discipline.  If you don’t have one already, establish a repository of competitive information that is accessible to anyone on staff who could contribute to or benefit from it. If you have one already, keep better at it in terms of quality, capacity and speed.

Decision makers can then review and analyse the data that are collected periodically for timely moves. Competitive intelligence in and of itself has no intrinsic value but the value accrues when you use it to make better decisions.

These employees don’t always see collecting intelligence as part of their job description, so company leaders have to institutionalise it, in part by fully embracing it as well as recognising employees who contribute. Consultants recommend encouragement such as regular contests that are perhaps more fun than profitable.

Reward and recognise those who keep their eyes open and look for value adding competitor information.

Data and facts driven decision making is the only way to survive these difficult times. You may even expand your market footprint to advance your market position with this initiative, if done scientifically with all managers understanding the importance of it and live by that.