What is the key to dominating your market or industry?

Are you dominating your market or industry and ready to scale – or if you are way off the mark, do you know how to correct your direction?

Michael Porter, the American academic known for his theories on economics, business strategy and social causes, says there are five competitive forces that can be used to analyse a company’s competitive environment.

In his book, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors published way back in 1980, Porter outlined a business model that explains why some industries are able to sustain different levels of profitability.

Porter’s ‘Five Forces’ are frequently used to measure competition intensity, attractiveness, and profitability of an industry or market. They are…

  1. Competition in the industry
  2. Potential of new entrants to the industry
  3. Power of suppliers
  4. Power of customers
  5. Threat of substitute products.

As Porter says, “every industry will have a different set of economic fundamentals, but the five forces will help you identify what creates profitability in the industry.”

We’ve learned from Porter that the key to success in dominating your industry is a strategic position that is unique and valuable. You need to be undertaking a different set of activities and establishing a difference that you can preserve in the marketplace.

To make this happen, it is essential you are clear on how to meet the real needs of your Core Customer in a way that sets you apart from your competitors.

The differentiation may be the way you engage with your customers or it may be a unique way in which you produce the product or service – something that delivers excellent quality at industry-beating margins.

Ask yourself and your senior team these questions…

What is it that the market truly values from its suppliers? The fewer suppliers to an industry, the more a company depends on a supplier. As a result, the supplier has more power and can drive up input costs and push for other advantages in trade.

Can you identify ‘white space’ – an attribute valued by your customers (and your competitors’ customers) but is being underserviced? What can you do to increase your competitive advantage? What is distinct about your company? What can you do differently?

Do you have the Core Competencies to capitalise on these opportunities? Is this explicit in your 3-Year Plan?

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Over the last 25 years, The Scaling Up Growth Platform has helped tens of thousands of CEO’s achieve their growth goals. The New Zealand based coaches of the Scaling Up Platform help NZ Businesses drive growth and scale.


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Eight strategies for a successful business exit

Planning a business exit? Your first step should be to stop and consider exactly what potential investors are looking for in an acquisition.

Too many business owners decide ‘this is the year to sell’, then are bitterly disappointed when valuation doesn’t meet expectations. Preparation for a business exit is often underestimated, resulting in a less than ideal valuation.

It takes significant effort, commitment and time to ready a business for sale. Here are eight strategies to capture investor interest and boost your business’ valuation.

  1. What’s the strength and capability of the existing leadership team? If you’re planning a business exit, who will lead the business post transaction? A strong and capable leadership group will give an investor confidence that the business will continue to be well managed in the absence of the former owner.
  2. Do you have a strong culture? When every person in your company is strongly aligned to the business’ Values, Purpose and overarching goal (your Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that is when a strong culture exists, and it’s crucial to a successful sale.
  3. Have you achieved strategic clarity? Where is the company heading and what is the plan to reach these goals? Investors value the past and buy the future, so will want to know who your Core Customer is; how the company differentiates itself in the market; what services will be provided to the core market in the next 3-5 years; the focus for geographical territories and what competencies must be developed to deliver the plan.
  4. Can you boast specialist competencies or capabilities? Business owners should carefully consider competencies which may be considered ‘run-of-the-mill’, but could be of considerable strategic value to another company. Strategic buyers will be looking for competencies to acquire – those they don’t possess and don’t have the time or skills to build.
  5. Have you clearly communicated your growth plan to the wider business? It’s one thing to have a well thought out strategy, but many leaders keep this close to their chest, introducing an element of risk for the prospective buyer after a business exit. Companies that exceed valuation expectations have ensured everyone is aligned and understands how they contribute to mid and long-term goals.

Scaling Up Tip: If you’re looking to achieve greater visibility and engagement, the One Page Strategic Plan and Vision Summary are powerful tools. Other tools such as Metronome or the Scaling Up Scoreboard further elevate levels of engagement and focus on the plan.

  1. Can you provide accurate and meaningful business and market data? Access to such data is critical to the effectiveness of reporting dashboards. Investors will want to see hard data that supports the strategic assumptions you’ve made.
  2. Can you show evidence of consistent revenue and margin growth curves? Investors love predictability and are often driven by recurring revenue. They’ll also want to see potential for market growth, supported by thorough market share analysis.
  3. Is your execution system faultless? A proven, disciplined and focused execution system, leading to relentless repeatability, is another attractive feature for investors. Can you prove the business is scalable and driving consistently improving gross margins?

In the experience of the Scaling Up NZ Coaches and cross referencing with our partners, such as investment bankers STS Capital, we know it can take three years – or more – to prepare a business for sale. Even if you are not yet thinking about the prospect of a business exit, applying these eight strategies will get your business match fit and improve profitability.

Learn more here

Over the last 25 years, The Scaling Up Growth Platform has helped tens of thousands of CEO’s achieve their growth goals. The New Zealand based coaches of the Scaling Up Platform help NZ Businesses drive growth and scale.

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Does your business have a ‘Brand Promise’?

A Brand Promise is not a slogan. It’s at the core of everything you do, and everything you stand for. It’s a promise to deliver something emotionally compelling to your customers that you stand by every day. And it needs to be credible.

Deciding on your Brand Promise starts with a deep understanding your Core Customer.

“Determining a brand promise is a fateful moment in the life of any company. Choose the right one – the one your customers respond to, the one you can track and execute day after day – and you win. It’s truly that simple. Choose the wrong one, and you’ll probably flounder for years, never quite hitting your goals,” says Verne Harnish.

The Brand Promise is at the heart of an effective strategy for differentiation. You’re looking for what really matters to your customer, that also demonstrably differentiates you from the competition, and can help you maintain a price premium over your competition, too.

Start by asking, who are your ideal customers, the customers that are core to your success, that value what you do and are prepared to pay for it? 

Your core customers have their own unique desires, hopes and fears. What can you promise that will be emotionally compelling and really matter to them, make you stand out in the marketplace? And importantly, how will you measure your success?

Consider these three memorable examples from Apple, Walmart and Nike…

Apple: “Think different.”

What started as a shrug to IBM’s “Think,” Apple’s brand promise is arguably the most famous slogan of all time and the key to Apple’s wild success in the computer industry. Apple’s brand promise is two-sided–their guarantee to create products based on seeing the world a little differently, and their promise to inspire their customers to do the same.

Walmart: “Save money. Live better.”

By combining the obvious promise of low prices with emotional benefits, Walmart offers its shoppers a better quality of life with easy access to the necessities.

Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

This brand promise doesn’t even mention Nike products, but instead tells the consumer how they think and what they aim to do on a much larger scale than sports clothing and equipment.

Once you’re clear on your brand promise, your next step is to really bring it to life, everywhere – from the boardroom and lunchroom to uniforms, vehicles and building signage. You need to keep that brand promise front and centre, so everyone can see exactly how you are bringing it to life in your day to day.

When your brand promise truly lives in your business, every staff member, every customer and every prospect will know what you believe in, and what you’re promising to deliver.

Looking for further reading? Check out the great Jim Collins’ article for HBR in 1999 here

Article Sources:

Over the last 25 years, The Scaling Up Growth Platform has helped tens of thousands of CEO’s achieve their growth goals. The New Zealand based coaches of the Scaling Up Platform help NZ Businesses drive growth and scale.

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Why your business’ success relies on a strong core

Let’s talk about the core of your business. Put simply, the core consists of three components: your values, your purpose and your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), the 10+ year goal that is going to push your business into the future.

Your core describes the foundations your long-term strategy for success. It’s the who, why, how and what of your business…

  • Who you are
  • Why you do what you do
  • How you do it, and
  • What difference you’re making in the world

By proactively establishing and maintaining a strong core, you’ll remove a lot of the ‘bumps in the road’ and experience a smoother ride on your scaling up journey. Let’s explore the three components.

Your Values

This is a set of shared beliefs or rules that describe ‘how things happen around here’. But these values need to be living – not just a set of generic words pasted on the wall. They must be genuine and alive in the organisation. Leadership in particular needs to walk the talk.  Best practise is to describe values in terms of behaviours, so people can relate to them.  

Take, for example, Google’s Core Values, which reflect the industry (and the company itself) – a bit less formal and more philosophical in nature…

  • Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  • It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  • Fast is better than slow.
  • Democracy on the web works.
  • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  • You can make money without doing evil.
  • There’s always more information out there.
  • The need for information crosses all borders.
  • You can be serious without a suit.
  • Great just isn’t good enough.

Your Purpose

Why do you do what you do? What difference are you making to the world?  Why do you and your team choose to devote your energy and creativity to this business? 

To really engage your team, your purpose needs to be beyond purely generating a financial return. It needs to go deeper, informing your strategy and helping you make key decisions. Ask the question, what are we deeply passionate about? And how can you tap into this with your purpose?

Many companies think they have a purpose, but they’re just words on a wall. Some will find employees do not even know what the purpose is.

Who Gives a Crap, an Australian toilet paper company, is a social enterprise founded with a strong purpose – to donate 50% of profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. Since their establishment with the assistance of crowd funding in 2013, the company has donated more than $10M AUD to projects that improve sanitation worldwide and build more toilets.

Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal is just that, BIG. It’s a 10+ year goal, designed to challenge your thinking beyond the incremental, and push you to greatness. It should feel exciting and scary in equal proportions – a good BHAG should feel perhaps 70-80% achievable.

The right BHAG will need no explanation – it will seem ‘obvious’ and inspire your team. There are three important questions will help you find it…

What are you deeply passionate about (your company’s core purpose)?

What can you be the best in the world at (figuratively – not the physical world – your world!)

What drives your economic engine (and of course the KPIs)?

One of the most notable and iconic BHAGs is President Kennedy’s famous declaration in 1961: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

The result, of course, after an extraordinary journey, was a historic moon landing in 1969. But imagine how audacious that goal must have been in 1961!

Some businesses are tempted to jump over the core, and go straight to the ‘hard’ elements of strategy.  Don’t fall into this trap. Setting your core and maintaining it vigorously will set the platform for scaling successfully.



Who Gives a Crap


Over the last 25 years, The Scaling Up Growth Platform has helped tens of thousands of CEO’s achieve their growth goals. The New Zealand based coaches of the Scaling Up Platform help NZ Businesses drive growth and scale.

Contact Us