Tag Archives: Tom Peters

Being “Best in Breed” may not make you “Top Dog”!

In services it is very difficult to differentiate yourself from your competition and it is even more of a problem for professional service organisations. It is very difficult to be distinctive, memorable and stand out from the crowd when everybody is qualified, capable and seems to be the same.

One route you can take is to become the very best at what your business does – what you might call a “Best in breed” strategy – but is this the best way forward?

“Best in Breed” Strategy

In a dog show, such as Crufts which has just finished, the best in breed winner is the dog which most closely matches the “breed standard”, it ticks all the boxes and has no faults but you have to ask whether the fine distinctions which gain favour from the judges are noticeable let alone memorable to the general public. And of course, there is only room for one “best in breed”.

Moving into the business arena, being “best in breed” may be a useful approach if you have a very narrow niche or have the resources to get ahead of and stay ahead of the competition but it won’t work for most businesses. You need to be different, you need to have personality and you need to build a community of customers who value who you are and how you do what you do. That’s what makes you “you”, makes you distinctive and makes customers [and employees] come to you.

Distinctive and Memorable?

Family DogYou need to have the key elements of the “breed standard” demonstrate capability but it is the other factors which make you distinctive and memorable. Unless you want to compete in Dog Shows, you don’t pick your family dog because of how closely it matches the standard!

All your competitors will have similar:

  • People [qualifications and experience]
  • Processes
  • Experience

Or they wouldn’t be in the business. You need to find a way of being different and that is best achieved through your people and your processes [what you do and how you do it]. To turn some customers on you may have to take the risk of turning some off, not everyone will like what you do and if you try to please everyone, you will end up being bland! You need what my friend Andrew Thorpe calls a “Marmite Pitch”

Very good but very ordinary

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you can’t be ordinary and it is very easy to be very good but very ordinary. Barry Gibbons then of Burger King was quoted by  Tom Peters’ as saying “Even when we did it right, it was still very ordinary”

Ordinary is not memorable and it’s not distinctive.

Extraordinary Expertise

Whether you are in:

  • Accountancy
  • Law
  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Financial Services

You and your people need to be extraordinary and that means paying attention to how you do things and how you interact with your customers, it’s not about getting better at what you do. That is obvious and easy to copy – if you can do it, everyone else can do it. To be distinctive and memorable and maintain this, you need to get brilliant at things that your competition doesn’t take seriously.

This means building outstanding customer care, building strong customer relations and giving your team extraordinary expertise by developing what are often called “soft skills” but they are not soft, they are hard and they are crucial to your business success. You need to encourage enterprise and build distinctive capabilities.

You don’t get to be top dog by being best in breed!

5½ Ways to predict the future!

Quite a few years back, I listened to a recording of a Tom Peters seminar where he quoted one of the development team of the Apple Newton [without which we may well have never got smart phones, i-pads and related tablets] as saying “The future was predictable but no one predicted it”.

Future can’t be predicted at the level of knowing the next winning set of lottery numbers but you can tip the balance in your favour – if you think about the future and look at what is going on in the world!

Here are my tips on how to do it:

1. Expand your horizons

Spend some of your time thinking about the future on a longer time frame than you do now. Ideally, you should be thinking about what is likely to happen in the next 5-10 years not next week.

2. Look at what is going on in the world

I use a framework I called ASPIRE & INSPIRE – which looks at

  • Social
  • Political
  • Innovation
  • Regulatory and
  • Economic

drivers of change.

You’ve probably seen similar ones and may even have used them before. The key to success however is not to do what most people do – work out from your business because your view will be coloured by who and what you are. You need to work from the outside in, asking:

How each driver could affect your industry or sector, does it affect you disproportionately and how well placed are you to respond.

3. Listen to your customers – especially the awkward ones

Look at what your most demanding customers are doing – are any of them using your products and services in unusual ways, are they asking for features which others aren’t. Then ask yourself whether these are likely to become trends.

4. Scenario Plan

Often, there are relatively few options on the way an issue will pan out – you can plan for all of these. If you can plan for an outcome which your competitors have ignored and that’s what happens;  you will have an advantage over them. Most businesses don’t plan for change so you stand a pretty good chance of being ahead of the game whatever the outcome.

5. Make your own future

The late, great management thinker Peter Drucker said that the best way to predict the future was to create it. So put some effort into being different, creative and innovative – can you produce interesting and exciting products and services before the competition have realised the need?

and finally

If you are not doing any of these then you are predicting your own future – you will be overtaken by events or the competition and go the way of famous names like, Woolworths, Slazenger and  TWA – don’t forget that even Marks and Spencer and Harley Davidson both nearly got caught out by taking their eye off the ball.


None of this will be any use unless you take action – so get on with it!