I met a guy on a plane who was an area director for a major shoe store chain. "Suppose I went into your store and the shoe I wanted was out of stock in my size — what would happen?" I queried.
"Well, that shoe store has the capability of finding those shoes in our other stores — and then asks (tells) the customer to go to the other store to pick them up."
"Can't you just ship them to my home?" I wondered.
"No," he said matter-of-factly. "We're not set up to do it that way."
I turned the tables and asked the guy which he would rather have. "Delivered," he said without a second of hesitation. "I'd rather have them delivered."
"What about your customer? Do you think they'd want them delivered, too?" I challenged.
"Yes, I suppose they would," he said with that 'what's this guy going to say next' look.
"Who's your biggest competitor?" I asked.
"WalMart," he said.
"Suppose WalMart came out with a new service that would locate out of stock shoes for shoppers at other WalMarts and deliver them to the customers home the same day they were ordered — no hassle — complete return privileges at any WalMart store — think you might have to offer the same thing to be competitive?"
"You bet we would!" was his knee jerk reply.
WAKE UP CALL! HELLO — ANYONE HOME? If you would do it after your competition does it to "meet" them, why wouldn't you do it before they do it and "beat" them?
If you would do it reactively, why wouldn't you do it proactively?
- Why not beat them (your competition) to the punch?
- Why not make them react to you?
- Why not have them be perceived as the follower?
- Why not be the leader in service?
- Why not set the standard and let others try to catch you?
I'm stumped. There isn't one company or person reading this column right now that doesn't have an opportunity to out-maneuver and out-serve the competitor you hate the most — yet you sit there and wait for something to happen. Wait for your arch rival to take the lead. Why?
You only have an opportunity to capture leadership once — after that, you play number 2 — ask Avis. They've been "trying harder" for 25 years. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a different story. They took the bold position to deliver the rental car to the customer. Their competition HATES it (and their customers love it). They niched the replacement car market, delivered it to the door of the customer, and are now number one in rental cars. Call Hertz and ask them who's number one.
Enterprise never wanted to be number two, and using a proactive approach, beat Hertz at their own game, just by delivering the car and mastering one segment of the market — and beat them so bad, that now Enterprise is entering the airport market — and Avis is still "trying" to do it the same old way. Pity. Most of these changes (innovations) are obvious. You see something new and say to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?"
Three big reasons we fail to see the obvious:
- Too caught up in the day-to-day "got to make more sales" trap of mediocrity. Failure to see the big picture.
- Too caught up on making money instead of becoming "best" at what you do. The greed factor blocking the leadership and creativity factors.
- Too wasteful of your personal time (news, dumb TV, ball games, bars) to focus and plan for true success. Upside-down success priorities.
PROACTIVE OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: What new service or product offering could you make that would establish you as a leader in the field?
PROACTIVE CHALLENGE: What would you hate for your competition to beat you at?
PROACTIVE LEADERSHIP: What new service could you offer that your competition would HATE you for?
Leaders don't respond to trends — they set them.
Are you in the field or do you lead the field? Your innovative proactive actions will determine your fate. And your field position. Be first.
If you would do it reactively, "Why wouldn't you do it proactively?" is a haunting question. Don't let it haunt you.
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