Want to Outlast — and Outshine — Your Competition? Focus on the Decisions You Make in These 3 Areas

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In every enterprise, whether you own a football team or run a shoe company, you have a few strategic moments when you can change the way you deploy resources to get a new outcome.

For most businesses, that time comes in the fourth quarter, a reflective period when you can take a fresh look at how you leverage people, time and money. Businesses who approach this opportunity with intention can start the new cycle with the right tools to meet the three greatest challenges businesses face, altering their course and rising to the next level.

Related: 5 Must-Haves for Entrepreneurs and Their Startups to Be Successful

1. Standing out

Your greatest competition is not necessarily other companies or influencers in your space. Your greatest competition is everything you don’t know about what they do well and how you can capitalize on areas of weakness. The first step in launching or rebranding is research. Everyone thinks they have a unique business, but is that true? It’s important to research the marketplace, taking a close look at the standouts.

Who is in your space? Find out who they are and how your concept differs from theirs. What is the one thing they do best? How can you fill a need they don’t?

In-N-Out Burger found a way to stand out. While many burger joints offer multiple specialty burgers, In-N-Out made things easy. Their brand is total simplicity from the limited choices to the clean-cut staff and basic color scheme in their stores. In-N-Out Burger fills a need: People’s lives are complicated. A burger order should be simple. The company delivers on that, and their sales prove it.

While you research the space you’re in, develop your unique selling proposition to ensure you are meeting customer demand. Be willing to make changes based on the research and reflection you do throughout the year.

2. Building a community

With more people working remotely, staff shortages and dwindling customer service hours, consumers are complaining about a lack of response when they reach out to many companies. Your business is a community. Do people enjoy being a part of your neighborhood? Or do they feel alienated and outcast?

Cultivating a sense of community starts with accessibility and connection, for clients and for employees.

When customers call, someone should be able to at least process a request and move it up the chain. Loyal customers should feel that their commitment is appreciated. Some of the best companies offer topical meetings once per week, a space where clients can learn more about products and services as well as a chance to give feedback. This is an opportunity to identify problems early rather than after it’s too late.

In the same way, you can build meaningful connections with your workforce. With so much work happening remotely, blogs, newsletters and digital messages can help your entire network feel a part of what your company does. CEOs can meet virtually or in person with a rotating small group of employees to exchange ideas and gain important feedback. Special corporate events and retreats can create a stronger sense of camaraderie among teams and a chance for leaders to get to know their employees on a more personal level. This will create an inspired synergy amongst the team.

Related: 6 Best Practices to Grow Your Small Business

3. Navigating uncertainty

The only guarantee in the world of business is the knowledge that big changes and shifts will always be a part of what you do. Growth forecasts can be wrong. The business climate can be unstable. However, some of these big changes and “unforeseen events” are quite predictable. If you are planning a beach party to launch a new surfboard company, you can predict weather changes that could ruin your event, costing you tens of thousands in marketing and set-up.

It’s important to research the fiscal year of the industry you are targeting. There’s an economic cycle you must consider. For example, if you’re marketing, it’s important to understand that every corporation has a different tempo. If you’re booking a speaking tour, most organizations want proposals in the last quarter. But if you’re launching a campaign or a business, December is not a good time since you’d be competing with the holidays. It’s important to know your seasons and plan accordingly.

With all the unknowns, the best approach is to find ways to bring stability. In the planning phase, ask questions, consider the timing of everything and be flexible. An outdoor event doesn’t have to take place in Sioux Falls in January; there are plenty of better months to choose from.

Another area of uncertainty is people. If you’re experiencing staff shortages, you can create teams of diversified roles but make sure everyone has the same basic tools and knowledge base. Football teams have the first string, second string, down to the practice squad. In other words, they have backups. If everyone has the same basic skillset, they can move up and fill in as needed.

It’s important to look at all the factors when you’re bringing new people on board. Is it the right time for you to partner with people or contract with a group to take on a big project? Asking the right questions can help you avoid paying good money for expertise that can’t be put to use because the timing is off.

Related: Invest in Growth or Cut Costs? 3 Things Top Companies Do Well Despite Economic Uncertainty

Final thoughts

A few simple strategies can help your business thrive while others are closing their doors. Taking the time to do needed research will help you establish a brand that stands out and outlasts the competition. Leveraging your resources wisely will help you navigate any business challenge. You can eliminate some uncertainty by knowing and respecting the season you’re in. You may not be able to stop the cycle of change coming your way; however, you can make a few small adjustments that will mean all the difference for you and the community you serve.

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