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How Eating Our Own Dog Food Helped Our Competitive Advantage



To succeed in the marketplace companies must embrace a competitive strategy. To help leadership teams discover what this is for their company, we often reference The Discipline of Market Leaders, by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma.

In the book Michael and Fred reference three competitive strategies or value disciplines:

  • Operational Excellence

  • Customer Intimacy

  • Product Innovation

To be successful organizations need to be good in all of these. In order to be the market leader the company has to be not just good but great in one of these. When we introduce this to leadership teams we find the dialogue and discussion illuminating for the business.

More recently we have had the opportunity to apply these same principals in our own business. As many of you know we have been introducing more service lines in the area of coaching and leadership development. This has always been an area of interest, however, our primary revenue stream has been from working with teams.

With any new strategic shift a company has a rich opportunity to look at themselves, which is what we have done. We “ate our own dog food” so to speak. We applied the lens of the Discipline of Market Leaders to thrive! inc.

We found the process quite valuable, and we think it’s worth sharing as an example. The real value comes from the willingness to engage in the self-assessment, the dialogue on the team and finally, getting feedback. All these things are what we help you, our clients, do so we were ready to engage!

Customer Intimacy

At the beginning of our assessment, we considered thrive! as strong in customer intimacy and product, service innovation. We believed we were okay at operational efficiency with definite areas for improvement.

As we opened ourselves to reviewing client, affiliate consultants, sub-contractors and partner feedback, we began to get a different perspective.

Yes, we are great at customer intimacy -- when we are face-to-face with the client or customer. For example, when we are in the room delivering or facilitating a team, speaking at a conference, coaching a client on the phone, conducting free trainings on video conferences like Go To Webinar or even social media events like Periscope, Facebook Live.

In these live-time face-to-face interactions people connect to us and find us real, funny, compelling and relatable. Our content resonates and provides value.

However, we also realized our customer intimacy over time isn’t great. We don’t have a path to capture and to stay connected to these new people so they get these blogs, or we can reach out to them personally on Facebook to stay connected and continue to build the relationship.

Imagine our surprise when we realized we have a series of drive-by connections, but don’t always do enough to foster and develop long-term customer intimate relationships. Heck, our tag line is relationships matter as much as results.

We were humbled.

Product Innovation

When looked at Product Innovation or Service Innovation in our case, we realized we actually do a lot in this area. In fact, as we looked at the data, we realized this may be our “great” area.

For our long-term corporate clients that we work with two or three times a year, we constantly develop and facilitate educational experiential modules on leadership development, communication, conflict, feedback, change and transition, dealing with stress, how to deal with reactivity, teamwork, business strategy, meetings, priority setting and goals.

Plus, our book (due out this spring) takes an innovative approach to conflict: The Pain Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage.

For our personal individual coaching clients, which is the area we have expanded into in the last year, we have already created:

  • Be Brave: A virtual program to help people learn to speak up in tough conversations

  • Find Your Mojo: An in-person retreat designed to help people step into leadership in their work and life

  • We regularly create and deliver free trainings via webinars to help people learn to communicate more effectively, set boundaries and be more empowered in their relationships. Heck our next one is: Learn How To Say No So Your Body Doesn’t Have To

We love hearing from you, our long-term clients, who we do stay connected to, what you would like us to develop. This is our sweet spot! Write us at thrive@thriveinc.com and let us know what you want more of because we’ll probably create it!

However, in our review we realized this desire to always be innovating may not actually be serving us in the broader vision of reaching more clients. That brought us to Operational Efficiency.

Operational Efficiency

Okay let’s just be clear. We suck at this. It is the leg of the stool we know is our weakest.

We quickly realized that some clear focus in this area could make a significant shift in our success in expanding our reach. Not just for new service lines but also in improving our customer intimacy with people like you, our team leaders and organizational clients!

So we have started to investigate…yes, systems. Yikes!

While some systems support our need for efficiency, they miss the mark in terms of customer intimacy. Other systems have the relational component we like but are not very flexible. We have not pulled the trigger on one yet, but plan to by the new year.

So in the end of our evaluation we realized we’re good at Customer Intimacy, great at Innovation, but it may be undermining our success, and poor at Operational Efficiency.

Our 2017 strategic plan is to:

  1. Expand and deepen our Customer Intimacy

  2. Settle down our InnovationB

  3. ring up our Operational Efficiency so that it is not stopping us

What Is Your Business Good, Great or Not So Great In?

Now it’s your turn to look at your business, company and team. Whether you are a large organization focused on gaining market share or a small local business focused on creating sustainability that supports your life style and community – the exercise is worthwhile!

Pull in your key team members and have the dialogue, gather outside feedback from your employees, customers and partners. Remember, like us, you very well may have blind spots – feedback is powerful.

Take the time to have a few discussions and marinate on the information. Once you have the data have the discussion on what your focus should be going forward to support your success. Set up a goal so that you move in that direction.

We would love to know how the process works for you. This isn’t just an exercise for market leaders – it’s an exercise that fosters great dialogue and creativity in reviewing and evaluating your competitive strategy and can lead to your competitive advantage!


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.


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