The undercurrent in U.S. business today may well be one of fear and even desperation. It would be easy to make such an assessment based on the number of words that have been written on the subject of competition. Businesses in the United States have lost their edge, if the flood of articles and reports on the subject are to be believed.
But is the problem really competition for customers or a share of the marketplace? Or is it something else?
A Focus on Scarcity
We could make a case that the real enemy of any business today is the focus on scarcity driven by fear. Fear of losing "the edge," of losing perceived global leadership, of losing profits.
Of losing the business entirely.
When fear is our focus and scarcity our attitude, our perceptions of the world around us are skewed. We gather incomplete data about conditions because we have conditioned ourselves to see only a small part of the total picture. Poor decisions are the result, diverting our attention from the business's right and proper focus.
"But what ABOUT the competition? Those people are really out there, you know, and they are stealing our customers!" I actually heard someone use these very words just last week. Yes, what about the competition?
If we focus on what our "competitors" are doing, we shift our attention from the real work and service of our businesses. In reality, incorrect focus causes us to lose more customers to those we label as our competitors.
What Is Right Focus?
We define right focus as:
- Attention to the needs of those you serve.
- Being clear about why you're in business to begin with and about your business principles.
- Knowing and practicing what you do best every day.
- Devotion to customer relationships and delivering value.
By focusing on strong relationships with those we serve, we understand the problems they face that require solution. We listen and hear the needs of our stakeholders. Not just our investors, but the investors attended to in collaboration with our customers, employees, and the community in which we work.
Another Look at Solutions
There's no question that U.S. businesses need the sorts of skills that well-educated people deliver. So, yes, let's inspire more students to study the sciences and technology. And while we're at it, let's ensure they receive the sort of well-rounded education that helps them focus understanding problems and being of service to others.
For service is, in the end, what business is all about.