The start of a new baseball season provides a sense of energy and excitement for the upcoming months that will be filled with America’s favorite past time. During this year’s Opening Day ceremonies I took a moment to reflect on the amount of planning and preparation that are required to provide an enjoyable season; aligning teams, renovating facilities, scheduling games, and managing ticket sales, just to name a few. No matter whether it is your local Little League or Major League Baseball, the art of planning and execution are essential to a successful season.
Is running a business really that different from running a sports league or a team? I firmly believe the answer is no. Businesses are required to “play ball” every day and, in most cases, “play hard ball.” There is continuous pressure on businesses to plan, monitor, adjust, and deliver.
Here are a few curve balls being thrown at family-owned and privately-held businesses that are impacting their growth and performance:
- Soaring insurance premiums
- Escalating costs of regulations imposed by the federal, state, and local governments
- The need to sustain cost reductions
- Responding to industry consolidation from big businesses attempting to gain market share
- Attracting talented human resources and skills
- Navigating too much red tape and paperwork
- Rising employment costs, regulatory changes, and industrial relations issues
So how can you play hardball and reduce the impact of these curveballs being thrown your way?
The most important thing you can do is clearly identify your sustainable competitive advantage. I believe so strongly in the importance of this process that I wrote an entire blog post about it a couple of years ago, which you may want to go back and read. In the post I offered a few pointers to help you uncover and develop your sustainable competitive advantage, from revisiting your process for innovation, to thinking beyond your products, to carving out a niche in your marketplace.
Finding your competitive advantage is difficult; it often takes a good deal of time to discover, understand, and learn how to use. However, the rewards are many – more efficient time management, more focused marketing efforts, and a more successful future.
If you are a nimble shortstop who makes great fielding plays and routinely bats .330, you should not be swinging at curve balls in the dirt trying to hit home runs.
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