What is it that separates a good business from a great business? A good business adds value ... a great business ALWAYS adds value!

I was chatting with a client the other day, and he shared his insight that most business models are based on providing some sort of value (or at least the perception of value) to the marketplace, but that mostly the value is fleeting and businesses are able to hide behind a veil of imperfect information. That is, they know what effort and cost it takes to provide the service, but their clients don't really have a way to know that information, and rely on their trust in the service provider to believe that they are getting good value for their investment.

Remove the Veil

A great business, on the other hand, constantly finds ways to add value to their marketplace, and one way they are motivated to do that is by exposing their value proposition to the scrutiny of their market. They remove the veil and make the connection between the service they provide and the value it brings to the market wholly transparent.

The veil is one of the primary reasons that most businesses cannot even begin to imagine how to differentiate themselves. We see this time and time again with our clients: they look at themselves and their competition and see themselves in an increasingly commoditized market. But what they don't see is that, by hiding behind the veil, they are exacerbating the issue by making it increasingly difficult for their marketplace to figure out what makes one service offer different from the next.

Top 3 Differentiators?

They usually think that they are differentiating themselves by providing great service, or great advice, or a terrific product. As a matter of fact, having worked with many, many businesses over the years, we know that when we first meet with them and ask them to list what they think are their top 3 differentiators - the things that make them different from their competition and ultimately the top 3 reasons they think clients want to do business with them - that they will invariably come up with pretty much the same list as everyone else. And really, the list is short. Those top 3 differentiators come from a list of perhaps half-a-dozen stock answers. And they are always shocked (and somewhat dismayed) to discover that they have provided stock answers - the same answers as everyone else.

[This awareness is the starting point for truly differentiating themselves, and it is the point from which we launch into the heart of our Differentiation Program. And the results are remarkable. In all our years of doing this, we have yet to see a client list the same true differentiators as anyone else. And it is not that they then have to rebuild their business on a new foundation. Indeed, to have seen any success at all, they have usually already built the foundation of their business on exactly these differentiators ... they just haven't had clarity on what those differentiators have been. But with clarity comes focus, and they build their business knowing what they do differently, what sector of the market their offer appeals to most strongly, and they attract new clients who are a good fit with their business ethos. Happy clients means more business and more referrals, and so the business grows. We see it over and over and over again.

  • Simple formula.
  • Simple to execute.
  • Consistently exceptional results.

 Getting to the essence of your business offer and defining your differentiators is the only hard part when you are deep inside your own business. And this, if I might be so bold, is Michèle's gift (says the endlessly impressed partner).]

Performance, Mastery & Meaning

But getting back to being transparent in the value you bring to the table (enough shameless promotion, for now), think for a moment about your business and where you are hiding your value proposition. Think about how motivating it would be if you couldn't hide behind imperfect information. Where would your business go, and how would it grow if you knew that with every transaction your clients could accurately assess the value of your service? You would build a first-rate business or fail. And it is fear of failure that stops most people from taking the actions they know they should take. It is often the hardest thing to do ... but the most rewarding, just the same.

Think for a moment about professional athletes. They lay it on the line every time they take to the field, or the court, or the ice, or the course. If they don't deliver, it is there for everyone to see... every shift, every play, every volley, every hole, every game. And they are rewarded handsomely when they do deliver. And they build their careers by consistently delivering value that is easily measured and assessed. It is what motivates performance and mastery and meaning.

Not everyone is cut out for this level of scrutiny. But if you are, it is where the greatest rewards in life lie.

Dispose of the veil and create your success ... differently.

   - Brian