Try to Crush Your Own Company – Build a Better Business Strategy!

Can the Competition Crush You?

Can the Competition Crush You?

Recently, I lead an international product strategy meeting and completely blew the minds of some of our executive staff.

Why?  I used the competition to help us build our business strategy.  Check this out!

We probably all know that building a business strategy is important if you want a long-term sustainable and growing business.  And, different from a new business plan or start-up plan, we are talking about an established business and the need for a long-term strategy to set direction, align priorities, rank activities and build a foundation for trade-offs.

So, we had good alignment on what we were trying to do.  Everyone guessed that we would start with the tried-and-true internal assessment of the business (market size, market trends, customer profiles, our SWOT, etc.) and, actually, that’s the agenda I developed.  Then we’d make a list of stuff that seems important and think we had identified the most critical questions to answer, problems to solve or opportunities to leverage – the foundation of the strategy.

But I wanted to take this to a different level.  This workshop was for a multi-billion dollar product!  This one product is the most important in the company.  Basic wasn’t going to work.

I thought I’d use our toughest competition to help us.

Conventional Competitive Assessment

Conventional wisdom says we study the competition as part of any good strategy process.  We do this to figure out what they are doing right and wrong; to spot where they are strong or weak. And then figure out how to take advantage of the weaknesses; copy what they might be doing well.  Steal customers with better offers.  And so on.  But, in my experience, most commonly this activity is done through our lens looking at the competitor.  We are looking as an observer, really, looking “at” the competition.

I find this even with industry analyses or investor analyses.  Most of these reports assess the competitive advantages and disadvantages related to the entire market or competitive space.  It’s an observational perspective.  Like a news reporter.

And I just didn’t think this basic style of competitive assessment would work for such an important product.  It just couldn’t be insightful enough.

Un-Conventional Competitive Assessment

In setting up the workshop, I asked some of our best and brightest team members, in secret, to build comprehensive business (product) strategies for the competition, specifically with a goal to crush our product.  I gave them one month and essentially paid them to work in teams to create their strongest strategies for our competition.  Oh, and I threw an attractive financial incentive at them for the team that created the best competitive strategy.

Why did I do this?  Why did I take resources away from selling and marketing our own product for a month?  Because the most overlooked reason to study the competition is to figure out how they are going to come after us!  To role play the competitor (to “be” the competitor) and game plan how to take out your own company is a strong and powerful strategic tool.

When the executive staff assembled, I announced a change in the agenda and asked the first team to present their product strategy.  After all four of the presentations were complete, there was silence in the room.  The air of invincibility had been sucked from the room.  The absolute confidence and “king of the hill” attitude had been cracked.  Our teams did a great job.  Eyes were opened and real risk was at hand.

After the mandatory mid-morning coffee break, we reassembled and began to tackle what were now clearly the most critical issues for our business.

Would I do this again?  Absolutely.  I have.  Why am I such believer?  Because when we do this we are no longer observers.  We are the competition.

What Can You Do Today?

Make your own “I’m the Competition Workshop.”  Even if that’s just you.  Better if you can work with a small team (friends, advisors, board members, investors, CUSTOMERS!, etc.) but go it alone if you must.  Build your competition’s business strategy to take your own company out.  You don’t have to throw money at this or make a complex tome of a document.  Just think and write.

If you owned that other company, how would you put your current business out of business?  What weakness would you attack?  Where would you invest?  How would you steal customers?  Who would you partner with?  Answer the same questions you are trying to answer for your business.

Once you have this workshop (or solo brainstorm) complete, look through the results.  How do you need to now change your own business strategy so you don’t get put out of business by the competition?  What can you start to do now, to beat the competition at their own strategy?

At the end of this exercise, you’ll have some great new components and activities for your own business strategy.  And be on your way to putting the competition out of business.

Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on “I’m the Competition” workshop.

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3 Responses to “Try to Crush Your Own Company – Build a Better Business Strategy!”

  1. Robert Says:

    Great post Matt! It’s a very interesting approach to business strategy and I can see how it would work quite well for many business owners and entrepreneurs.

    Also, having a financial incentive to award the team with the best strategy is a fantastic idea!



  1. Try to Crush Your Own Company – Build a Better Business Strategy! | Strategy DIY | Strategic Management | - November 6, 2011

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