Go to the Front of the Pack

I’m a little bit of an egghead and every once in a while I like to read a good study,  to keep myself current,  or even ahead of the curve,  on matters of health,  business or anything else that catches my eye.  Recently,  I read an interesting study on strategic competitive positioning,  a survey study done this year at Babson College’s Babson Executive Education.

Lead author H. James Wilson competes in triathlons and he used those competitions and their participants as the study framework.  Triathletes assess competitors in a clean and simple fashion:  who is Front of the Pack,  Middle of the Pack or Back of the Pack?  The first two groups are ranked as actual competitors and the latter is seen primarily as new to the triathlon scene and nothing to worry about.  MOPs and BOPs have one goal and that is to improve their time in every event they enter and move up to the FOP.

Wilson applied the FOP,  MOP and BOP classifications to 300+  global companies that had recently reported facing intense competition within their respective industries.  He segmented the companies as follows

  • FOP if they achieved greater than 15%  annual revenue growth in FY09  (5%,  16 companies)
  • MOP if they achieved 1-15%  annual revenue growth in FY09 (48%,  145 companies)
  • BOP if they showed flat or declining revenues in FY09 (47%,  144 companies)

The essential question of strategy is,  are you heading in the right direction?  Wilson knew that the FOPs were doing more than a few things right and to get to the heart of it,  he analyzed the FOPs and identified three ways in which they outpace the also-rans.  He then developed the following survey questions based on those strengths.

Wilson’s data indicate that if you can answer yes to each of the survey questions,  you’re on your way to the FOP.  How do you stack up?  Something to think about.

1.  Are you/is your company becoming more effective at meeting the needs of clients/customers?

Despite the economic downturn that spawned the planet-wide recession (depression?),  FOPs have maintained the trust,  confidence,  loyalty and dollars of their customers.  FOPs understand what customers want and they are better at anticipating future needs and trends.  They put resources into keeping a finger on the pulse of the customer and they know what resonates.  FOPs are proactive in market research and customer outreach.

2.  Have you/has your company recently implemented a significant innovation campaign or launched numerous small-scale innovation pilots?

Brainstorming ideas for new services,  fresh approaches,  an innovative marketing campaign or self-development plans is an important beginning.  It is always necessary to think things through,  examine the big picture and weigh the possible outcomes of your actions.  Just remember that  “implement”  and  “launch”  are the key words.  How many good plans have you left to languish on the drawing board?  FOPs understand that results come from deeds,  not words.

3.  Are you/is your company becoming more collaborative with other Freelancer colleagues/other organizations?

High levels of cross-company interactions distinguish FOPs more than any other factor studied.  FOPs are also more likely to inform those in their network about business opportunities.  As a result,  FOPs receive the benefits of reciprocity more than most,  when referrals come their way.  Think of  how you might include selected non-competing colleagues in business opportunities that would be mutually beneficial.  Perhaps this is the smartest way to scoop bigger contracts for both?  Plus,  you’ll gain exposure to another’s business methods and perspectives and that information will make you even more savvy and competitive.

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,



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