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Get better or get bested

By 2007, Nokia had half of the global Market share of the smartphone industry. Nokia smartphones were the rave of the time; they were the fastest selling in the world. The phones were the number one in many countries and strong second in just a handful. With its Symbian Series 60 devices which came on stream in 2002, Nokia emerged as one of the pioneers of the smartphone industry. The Symbian Series 60 was the market leader for five consecutive years. But in 2007, Apple introduced its full touchscreen iPhone with an app-based operating system. The Apple iPhone redefined smartphone because of its unprecedented features. However, the response from Nokia was sluggish. The company carried on with its Symbian Series as if the iPhone was a fad that would soon fade. To Nokia’s eternal regret, the fame of the iPhone increased as more people opted for it because of its IOS and malleability. Nokia did not come up with its own windows phone until 2011. By that time, Apple and Samsung had taken over the bulk of the market. Apple, which was the market leader, was left to play catch up.

Why did Nokia lose its hold on its market? It lost its market share because it failed to continue to do what got it to the top position. Nokia edged out others because of its innovative Symbian Series. But it stopped being innovative after rolling out the series. Rather than give the market new phones, Nokia plateaued on the Symbian Series and failed to come up with newer phones until another company came up with an improvement on what Nokia had presented to the market as its best. The company had reached a point that it was complacent. Controlling 50 per cent of the market, Nokia believed that it had recorded so much success that it was no longer hungry for more. This explains its failure to speedily come up with something similar to the iPhone. Had it been able to respond swiftly, it would have been able to retain a chunk of its market share. But it took Nokia four years to respond to the Apple challenge. By that time, the market had moved on.

Those who don’t get better get beaten. How organizations get better

A company gets better by doing the following.

  • How to deliver moral leadership to employees

See your business as work in progress

Those who manage a business must operate on the understanding that a business is always a work in progress. They must have the belief that no matter how successful a business gets, it must always strive to get better. This mindset will dislodge complacency and root out self-adulation. Businesses that have this mindset know that the opportunities they fail to seize would be seized by other organizations and the money they fail to make would be made by others. So, they are always on the go, never laidback. They are always on the lookout for new opportunities. Consequently, they get better at what they do and leave no room for chances as they do all they can to be the best they can be.

Coca-Cola Company is one of the most successful businesses the world has ever known. The company sells over 350 products in over 200 countries worldwide. It currently serves about two billion drinks every day. In each of the countries where Coca-Cola operates, it is either number one or number two in its industry. The secret of the bottling company’s success is that those who manage the business never believe that they have done enough. No matter how much success is recorded, they are looking for the next territory to conquer. They operate based on the belief that there is still so much to do. With that mindset, they are always looking for the next opportunity. Hence, the company keeps getting better.


Being innovative

To get better, a company has to be innovative. The reason is that the market’s hunger for new products is insatiable. To have the market eating from its hands, a company must never cease to improve on its deliverable which is made possible by innovation. A company must never get to a point where it thinks that it has the market in its pocket because no company ever does unless it keeps improving on its services and products. Being innovative draws customers to a company. The average human being wants to be titillated and dazzled with new products. That is the secret of Apple. It never seizes to astound its customers with its out-of-the-world products.  Hence, the market keeps trooping to its stores. The reality is that the market is impersonal; it goes for the company that meets or even surpasses its expectations. So, being innovative is sine qua non to getting better.

However, innovativeness does not necessarily refer to an earth-shaking or record-shattering product or discovery; it could also mean simplifying issues for your customers so that they can enjoy your services and products without unnecessary hassle or hardship. That’s what banks have done by crashing the protocols attached to opening new accounts. Now a customer can open a new bank account on his telephone.


Create new customers

According to Peter Drucker, an accomplished business expert, a business’s raison d’être is to create and keep customers. Drucker says, “The customer is a foundation of a business and keeps it in existence.”

Companies create customers when they identify and satisfy customers’ needs. Companies, however, retain customers by exceeding customers’ expectations. Without ensuring customer satisfaction, achieving long-term corporate objective is a mirage. So, the customer is the oxygen that keeps any organization going.

Creating new customers must be an unending activity for a forward-looking company because current customers may die, relocate, get fed up with the company or even lose their means of livelihood. Should any of these happen, it will negatively impact on the company’s bottom line. The only remedy is a continuous creation of new customers so that there will be replacement for exiting customers.

The guiding principle of companies that keep creating customers is inclusiveness. In a competitive market, no company can afford to be selective; to remain relevant and profitable, there must be something for everybody. This is the rationale behind the introduction of Three Crowns Milk by FrieslandCampina WAMCO, makers of Peak Milk. Peak is a premium product but in order not to lose the lower end customers, FrieslandCampina WAMCO introduced Three Crowns Milk. It even went further to have evaporated Peak Milk in sachet.

The same reason informed the decision of the management of MultiChoice, a satellite cable television service that owns the DStv, to float GoTV. While DStv takes care of high end customers, Gotv is targeted at low end customers. Even for Gotv subscribers, daily subscription is allowed.


Invest in R&D

Inadequate research impedes the identification of new opportunities. Many businesses do not get their desired results because decisions are not hinged on sound research findings. Granted that now, many companies have their own research and development (R&D) department but the fact is that people see things as they (the people) are, not as things are. In-house people are sometimes swayed by what they consider to be the body language of management. So, their research findings are often a poor reflection of the true situation. As counseled by Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group, for an ongoing concern, relying solely on the advice of in-house people to veer into a new line of business may be misguided; it is always better to consider the informed position of experts, especially independent researchers from outside the organization.



One critical condition to getting better is being consistent in doing what is right. Some companies innovate occasionally and create new customers once in a while. But this will not result in getting better. There may be flashes of improvement but for the improvement to be enduring, doing the right thing has to be on a consistent basis.


Between a winner and a champion

The difference between a winner and a champion is that while a winner wins one and fails to win any further, a champion wins and keeps winning. Even if he loses occasionally, a champion fights back until he wins.

What makes a champion different from a winner is the consistency of winning. While a champion never stops getting better, a winner stops getting better after the initial winning so he gets beaten and gets disrobed of his title.

Be a champion, not just a mere winner.


Last line

The secret to sustained success is continuous improvement. Those who don’t get better get beaten.

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