by William DiPaolo
My partner and I were recently entangled in a lengthy discussion about thought leadership and its importance in a company’s sustained success. You can find volumes written about creating competitive advantage through leadership in products, marketing or even employees. But leadership in thought? Not so much.
Cogent Road is growing rapidly and my partner and I are extremely busy. To ensure we spend time thinking, we engage each day in what we call our “Focused Forty”. This is committed block of 40 minutes during which we sit in front of a whiteboard and discuss the future of the business. For those 40 minutes we sit atop Cogent Road’s crows nest peering through binoculars to determine which way our ship should go. If we didn’t schedule this time, we may well drift any which way the industry winds blow.
It was during a recent Focused Forty that we began harping on our competitors. Over the years we have watched our competitors copy nearly everything we do. More than a few competitors have even cut and pasted entire pages of copy from our website into their own. (I’m talking entire pages word for word!). And they’ve copied our software innovations too. Most recently ScoreAll, an innovative idea in which all available credit scores may be purchased for a low cost with a credit report – and the highest ones added to the file.
Yet, after a short time we laughed because we realized Cogent Road had thought leadership. Rather than creating their own futures – they are simply looking at us. Where we go – so go the rest. For them, this is easier and safer. But in the long run this management style is self defeating.
Instead of worrying about your competitors copying your latest strategy – stay focused on the future. Spend time thinking and creating innovations that will lead your business into new markets – and hence new revenue streams. Competition exists when two or more companies battle it out using the exact same products, service and strategy. Consider the airlines or the American automobile industry. This is a bloody war that leaves no victor. Instead, look ahead…where there is only endless ocean and blue sky.
Thinking like this is difficult. Acting on your ideas is harder still. But as the leader of your business, there is no more important work.