Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example

Episode 58: Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example, with Susan Quinn

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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example? Learn practical steps to stand out in a crowd. A Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example awaits.

Sustainable competitive advantage example On this episode of Sell With Authority, I am excited to welcome Susan Quinn. Susan is the president and CEO of Circle S Studio and the author of the forthcoming book, “Best In Class Experiences. Does your Business Show Up or Stand Out?

Susan has decades of expertise in helping companies differentiate themselves from the sea of sameness and achieve best-in-class status. She and her team recently completed a landmark research study on what it means to be considered best in class. Susan is sharing the traits of high-performing, best-in-class companies and how those traits help companies weather a crisis.

We also take a deep dive into the three attitudinal segments that Susan and her team uncovered from the research respondents, and how those segments are similar and different. In sustainable competitive advantage example ,we will talk about why that data matters to agencies like yours and mine.

Sustainable competitive advantage example? Best in class companies don’t just compete, they stand out. Susan provides her recommendations for how an agency can create a best-in-class reputation. Think of practical and tactical action steps. Applying what Susan shares during this episode will give you the insights and next steps you need to build your best-in-class reputation.


What you will learn in this episode is about sustainable competitive advantage example:

  • How Susan defines best in class
  • The most important ingredients in the recipe that separates a company from competitors
  • The “9 traits of high performing best in class companies” and how they help companies weather a crisis
  • The three attitudinal segments of the research respondents and how those segments are similar and different
  • Susan’s recommendations for how an agency can create a best-in-class reputation
  • How having a reputation for being best in class impacts a company’s recruitment and retention strategies of top talent
  • Studying industry leaders and their sustained success provides a sustainable competitive advantage example, guiding businesses in crafting strategies that stand the test of time in competitive markets.



Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Full Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI. And my team and I, we created this podcast specifically for you. So if you’re an agency owner, a business coach, or a strategic consultant, and you’re looking to fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of RightFit prospects and get the at-bats, you know the leads in front of RightFit prospects so that you can build and scale well, then you’re in the right place. Do you want proven strategies for becoming the known expert in your niche and attracting all the clients that you need? Yep. We’re going to cover that. You want to learn how to step away from the sea of sameness so you actually stand out from your competitors and own the ground you’re standing on. Yeah, we’re going to cover that too. Do you want to future-proof your business so you can successfully navigate the next challenge that comes your way?


Well, absolutely. We’ll help you there as well. I promise you each episode of this podcast will contain valuable insights, tangible examples, and best practices, never theories from thought leaders, experts, and owners who have done exactly what you’re working hard to do. So, I want you to think practical and tactical. Never any fluff. Each of our guests has built a position of authority and monetized that position by growing their audience, nurturing leads, and converting sales. But all the while, they did it by being helpful. So, every time someone from their audience turned around there, they were given a helpful answer to an important question. So their RightFit prospects never ever felt like they were a prospect. I also promise you every strategy that we discuss and every tool we recommend will be shared in full transparency in each episode so you can become the known expert in your niche and fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of right-fit clients who never, ever were made to feel like one of your prospects.


Learn more about Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example by reading this blog by Susan Quinn: 5 Strategies for Positioning Your Firm’s Subject Matter Experts for Thought Leadership Success.


Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Susan Quinn’s Introduction


Okay, so I am excited for you to meet our guest expert today, Susan Quinn. If you’re meeting Susan for the first time, she’s the president and CEO of Circle S Studio and the author of the forthcoming book entitled Best In Class Experiences. Does Your Business Show Up or Stand Out? I invited Susan to join me today on the podcast because she has decades of experience and expertise around a topic that I just mentioned a couple of minutes ago: how to step away from the sea of competitors, that sea of sameness. In fact, Susan and her team recently completed a landmark research study on what it means to be considered best in class and how to get there best-in-class companies. They do not swim in the sea of sameness. There’s plenty of separation between them and their competitors. So, I invited Susan to join us here today to share her insights and wisdom about what she sees as the essential ingredients and the recipe that separates one company from its competitors.


We’re also going to talk through what Susan calls the nine traits of performing best-in-class companies and how those nine traits help companies that possess them, whether a crisis because whether we’re talking about COVID-19 or some other crisis in the future, there’s going to be something that we need to be prepared for. So that’ll be a worthwhile conversation. I will also ask Susan to share her insights on how having a reputation for being best in class impacts a company’s recruitment and retention strategies for top talent. We’ll also take a deep dive, well, there’s a lot here you can tell, right? We’re also going to take a deep dive into the three attitudinal segments that the research respondents that Susan and her team uncovered. They found three segments when they analyzed the data, essentially three buckets that the respondents fit into, how those segments are similar, the differences between the segments, and why that data matters to agencies like yours and mine.


And here’s what will come in for a landing. I will then ask Susan to share her recommendations for how an agency can create a reputation for being the best in class. So, think of practical and tactical action steps here. I promise you that applying what Susan shares during this episode will give you the insights and the next steps that you need to build your best-in-class reputation. Or if you’re already there, no doubt, the golden nuggets she shares with you will spark some new ideas of how you can double down even further on your reputation so you can extend that gap between you and your competition. Okay. So, without further ado, welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast, Susan.


Stephen, I am so delighted to be with you today. Thank you so much.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: From Law School Dreams to Brand Strategy Success


I’m delighted to have you here. Thank you for saying yes, and I’m really looking forward to the conversation because I think it’s going to be helpful. I think it’s going to be meaningful and impactful with some practical and tactical action steps along with some strategy at a high level that our audience can take and apply. So that’s just going to be awesome. Before we dive in, though, which, with what I think is probably going to feel like a barrage of questions that I have for you, take us behind the curtain and give us some more context. Tell us a little bit more about your path and journey. A couple of minutes, and then we’ll dive in.


Sure. Well, you mentioned I’ve been doing it for decades, and you are correct. It’s funny how those days do turn into decades, but in that time, and I’m going to step before my career, I was on the path to law school, thought I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps, and that seemed like a really fun, cool profession. And I had the opportunity to do an internship one summer, and I truly believe in internships today because you want to pay that forward. And this is not a dismissal in any way of my father’s profession. I have the utmost respect. But deep down, something cultural that summer said, I’m not sure this is the path that I want to be on. And, you can go into the future and say, was that instrumental in this whole culture, and what was its importance for me?


Sustainable competitive advantage example? I think the germ of an idea perhaps led us to where we are today. So, just with that as a backdrop, we have focused on Circle’s Studio over the last decades and have a fantastic team that supports us; we are consultants and brand strategists. We actually do the branding and also digital work in the B2B space. We specialize in professional services. And you talk about the sea of sameness. Hmm, yeah. Engineers do the same thing. They may be structural and environmental, but at the core, their competitors are doing the same thing a lot in the financial industry. I could go on and on, but being able to differentiate them has been something I’ve been passionate about. Our team is, but it’s so much more than that. So I can get into what we do as a company. You mentioned nine traits, and that’s actually at the core of what we do, which is seeing where you fall in those traits to create differentiating brands. So, I’m happy to step through that or to answer your next question. Because you promised me you were going to ask a few.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Unveiling the Nine Traits of Excellence


Yes. And you’ll feel peppered by the end. So you’re obviously writing a book about best in class. You just finished this landmark study that I mentioned about Best in class.  Then, we’re going to talk about ways our audience can take golden nuggets from what you share here and put them into their own agency to build their reputation. But before we do that, let’s get your definition. Let’s set some foundation here. What does being best in class mean to you? I mean, you’ve got the depth of expertise on this topic. So, define best in class first; let’s set the foundation.


What is a sustainable competitive advantage example? Well, I love the question, and we’re going to get into the research because some of it was, is it our own bias to say, wow, these companies do it better? They are recognized in their industry. Call it, you know, the top ENR 400, whatever it is you are being recognized for. You are a great place to work. You’re simply doing it better. You are in a category somewhere. If you’re a public company, your stock price is great. I mean, you have credentials in the marketplace, and you are doing well. Okay? What we ended up doing, my fascination with it, is because, you know, I have worked with Stephen with hundreds of companies and thousands of leaders in my almost 40-year career. Hmm, thousands. That’s a lot. And, about 10 years ago, I got fascinated with this whole thing. It’s gotta be leadership.


We do this complete brand for one company, and then this one pulls way ahead, not because it, and yes, we were a part of the brand and other elements and strategy, but why are they excelling more? So, I got really deep in leadership, and I probably downloaded a notebook with hundreds and hundreds of articles on leadership and the different styles. Okay, it’s how they’re navigating it, and then I took the research further. Then, our culmination of other research created these nine traits. And I’m going just quickly to step through them. I think those who are best in class do these nine exceptionally well. Think about it as their dashboard as they navigate; let’s say it’s the plane that they are flying. Okay? The first is that they have very clearly defined guiding principles. And, in essence, that’s their brand.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: The Core Traits of Best-in-Class Companies


Sustainable competitive advantage example? It’s their brand and the DNA around four things. They know their purpose and why they exist. And I’m going to come back to purpose. Displease let me return to that word because it has a long meaning today. Okay? The vision and this is where we see the best in class instead of that little one-day strategic exercise. Okay, everybody, do it. We check the box. Yeah, we have a strategic plan. Best-in-class companies have a powerful and well-defined vision in the organization. They do it well. Then, they also learn how they do it; it’s the mission. At the core of it, our values define behaviors. And in these companies, they’re not just words; they’re actions, and they create culture. Culture is a big word today, but it’s not. It is so genuinely based. Based on that core trait, they create and optimize the employee experience.


They create a culture from the moment you walk in, see it, and feel it. With that, everyone is on the same page, and they exceed client expectations. And how do they know that? Because they test it. They’re monitoring it; they’re monitoring all of this. It’s not a check-the-box; we’ve done it. But you know where you are going with that. What else do they do? They focus intensely on quality. Now, that may be obvious. Yeah. Doesn’t everyone kind of, yeah, don’t we want quality service, but how do you define it? Right? What does quality mean? And so these best-in-class companies, as we look at them, have strong QA and QC programs that are monitored frequently. So, it’s not just a word; it is immersed into the entire organization. And it’s not just a few that care. Everyone cares about it.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Thriving Through Change


This one, the fifth one, is adapting to change. I was just on another podcast recently, and I asked if we are having fun yet with the consistent headwinds we are facing today. You know, a best-in-class company. And we’ll get into the mindsets. That’s part of it. From the beginning of time, we have navigated change. Most people will do anything to avoid change; best-in-class companies embrace it because it’s part of the journey of being a better company and looking at it. So we are navigating headwinds, and we are doing it today, monitoring a rich dashboard. And it’s not just the basics. It’s not just what our p and l look like, you know, what did we do? That dashboard monitors experiences. It may monitor the generations. It may be monitoring things you would never see on a dashboard, but they’re keen on knowing what data will move the needle for their company, their industry, and the trends ahead to anticipate.


The other number, seven, is that they view their business in this holistic way. It’s like an ecosystem. So yeah, you know, your competition, but all stakeholders and how they each contribute to one another are clear to them. And so it is, and I put down, it’s a visualization of it because when you can visualize how you are vertically, horizontally, the entire ecosystem, they create a more powerful path of what is needed and what may be changing. Number eight. So you may think that this one is a simple little statement, but they avoid complexity. There is so much power in this. And I’m going to quote Steve Jobs. I mean, talk about the master, I mean a powerful phone and everything in it. How simple did they make that, as he says, simple can be more complicated than complex. Amen. And you have to work hard to clean your thinking and make it simple.


Sustainable competitive advantage example? I love this one. And so if you have books and procedures on how to do this and how to do that, you have to pull it out because you can’t remember it. You have a complex process and system in your company. And so this one is one that we love, and we do look for. Number nine, you learn, and you improve continuously. This is a big one in the marketplace today. And with that as a mindset that you’re always doing it better. You can navigate the headwinds. We think these are on the dashboard as you’re monitoring each of them. This is the path for the highest-performing companies. The research shows that they do show strength in that sea of sameness.


Love that. So, let’s loop back to purpose. You wanted to come back to it. What else did you want to add to the purpose?


Well, let’s return to what you did in March 2020.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Navigating Disruption with Purpose


Ironically, I was returning from a series of trips over seven weeks where I was home for like 14 days. And I was like, oh, I’m so tired of traveling. And then, literally, three days later, covid hit.  And so I feel a little bit embarrassed that I wished to get off the road.  but you know, obviously, everyone’s world changed in very dramatic, horrible ways for many at that time.


I had similar feelings. It had been weeks and weeks of travel, and I was feeling quite exhausted. We went remote when the word hit on COVID-19 and literally thought that it would be a couple of weeks and then we would all be back in, in the office. And we know how that played out for sure. So, disruption took place, and we were all literally scratching our heads at the uncertainty of that unknown. Seeing how different companies and individuals reacted during a chaotic time was interesting. We started seeing research around, obviously we, the great resignation. , 69% of workers said that the pandemic made them question their place of work. Okay. So what were they asking? Almost 90% Stephen. They wanted a sense of purpose at work. We started to see this trend in 2014 and 15, and we monitor trends.


Sustainable competitive advantage example? That’s what we should do as consultants. Let’s guide our clients, not just where we are, but what’s coming and what will be important. But if you go back to the industrial age, yeah, that gave us a lot of good process. It was a little bit of the robotic, you know, we can get things done moving into the information age; we’ve lived in that. Boy hasn’t data that we have, it changed everything. And the experience age was starting to morph. The prediction was that by 2020, the experience would overtake the price for companies. Okay? We were like, wow. We started, then shifted to about 2015, focusing on three experiences and ensuring they were done well. The brand experience around those guiding principles would help create a more robust culture and employee experience, creating a customer-client experience in raving fans.


Then, essentially, the Jim Collins flywheel created momentum. They weren’t one-ups; it was their congruency and their continuation. 


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Navigating Disruption with Curiosity


Sustainable competitive advantage example — Are you doing them well? That was our focus, along with the nine traits, obviously. And then when Covid hit, we just said, is it relevant? Are companies going to, do we need to do it differently? Are we in a whole new world? Do we need to think about anything differently? And that’s when we brought in Susan Beyer and her company at Audience Audit to help us with that hypothesis. You know, Susan, does it matter? We think being the best in class is essential. Is Covid changing anything? Did it change? What are the mindsets? We interviewed most of the C-Suite; about 97% were executives and companies. And we got their take. We think those three employee and client experiences will help us navigate in uncertain times, especially when 90% of employees want a sense of purpose. How many companies even care about that? So, happy to answer questions on the research. Susan Byer would, I wish she were by my side, but I do have the high levels for you.


Okay. Well, as we step into the research, let’s start with why. You already had decades of experience watching this and learning, teaching, and consulting about what it means to be best in class. So then, let’s think about why we do the research. That’s not a light lift; that’s a heavy lift and an extensive study. So why do it? And I’ll maybe ask you to contradict or validate this because as I was thinking about why I was thinking about trach nine, candidly, they learn and continuously improve. And I wonder if that’s why Susan and her team commissioned the study because that fits into trait nine for Circle S: learn and continuously improve. So, validate and contradict. Why do the studies?


Well, you nailed it right there. Oh, you can’t be enamored with what you know. Hmm. It’s this curiosity of what we don’t know. Hmm. And if you look at history, when there are huge times of disruption, what follows on that is the most significant period of innovation. And so what we were trying to understand is, where is disruption happening in these top-performing companies who say that they are pretty good at what they do? How are they navigating in the midst of disruption? And are they looking at the world differently? Because how we think is going to guide what we do? Hmm. That mindset. We can look at all of the things, do this, do that. But at the end of the day, if we think we are right on something, that’s the path we’re going to take. And it’ll be interesting. I’ll share the different attitudes that came out, and then, I love that that audience audit does this segmentation around those attitudes. I think it’s excellent; they’re great numbers, but that is a key part that we were curious to learn. And so it just gives us a body of information. We’ve become enamored with this term best in class that to be better. Was that just our little jargon? Do we need to change the language on it? We were curious.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Navigating the Attitudinal Segments


So, before we step into the segments, I want to highlight something you just shared. So, I wrote this in my notes real quick because I think it’s a golden nugget. And you said how we think emphasizing the word think how we think will guide what we do. Simple but profound.


At the end of the day, 95% of how we conduct ourselves is subconscious, which is how we think. 5% is when we are informed of other things. We can learn different things, but that core machine of us as human beings is guiding 95% of us to be able to navigate and change. It requires hard work, hard thinking, and rewiring. And so, the attitudes of companies, and I guess some of them, too, are the ones that we enjoy working with, which probably match our attitudes. Because, in a few words, we’re always bettering our best; that’s how we do it. It’s you’re not just, how do you define that you’re there, where is there, there is, it’s long-term and a long-term view to continue to better what you did to day before. Yeah. And to appreciate it. But it has been in my DNA, not that I’m not happy with success, but what’s next? What is there to learn? How can we continue to do it better? It’s a bit of a multiplier effect in terms of how we’d like to run the company.


Yeah. I also just put this into my notes; we’re always doing our best, right? I mean, there is no destination if you’re pursuing the best in class and with the mindset that you’re always bettering your best. There, there never is a finish line. There’s always room for improvement. So that is a great way; I think you teed up the segments really, really well because they’re attitudinal segments, and they tie back to the thought word you shared with us just a few minutes ago. So please walk us through the segments if you wouldn’t mind.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Understanding Attitudinal Segments


Yeah. So, the research showed three distinct attitudes. And as they tell us, you don’t always have three; sometimes you have one, and sometimes two. But in this instance, there were almost three, and a third, a third, which is the first, was called satisfied. Okay. And that was 35%. The second group consisted of simplifiers and the third group consisted of aspiring. And that was 31%. For the purposes of this, let’s say they were all pretty much even, but there were some similarities between satisfied and simplifier. So, in that regard, I would say that you could almost say that two-thirds in that category are kind of there. And the aspiring had more of a tendency that you never get there,


Oh, okay.


So, just a few things. Do you want any more details on those attitudes, or as much as I can recall?


Yeah, I think what would be helpful is that as you look through this lens of expertise and best in class, you look at the three attitudes. What are some of the things that stand out? What makes them similar? What makes them dissimilar? And then what do we do as a result of that? So, having your lens of how to look at the three segments, I think, would indeed be helpful.


High-level satisfaction means they essentially state that they’ve attained this level of being best in class. Oh, okay. They also focus on the employee experience, which we feel is very important for this segment. And client expectations as much as they should because they’ve got a great product and a great service, they’re at the top of their industry, they are one of the best in class, and they’re satisfied. They’re doing it. And they are continuing to hone their expertise, whatever that may be. Okay. The Simplifiers This was an interesting group, its name, because they focused on a few simple proven processes. You almost saw this group very internally focused more on how they operate. They, it is a well-run machine, whatever you’re doing. They care about emotional intelligence. But this group was the skeptical doubters.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Attitudes and Priorities


And I would say, what it says to us is that a third of the C-suite really don’t believe in brand marketing best in class. It’s all a bunch of hubbubs. Yeah. Okay. Just do your stuff. So these were the doubters and the whole guiding principles; those were the soft things. Just do your job; do it well. You will achieve success. Don’t take on too many things, do it. Well. So then the aspiring, this was an exciting group. They have very high expectations for their company. What was at the core of their brand promise was How to continue continuously improving. This group sought customer feedback more than the other groups. They value best in class. They want to be the best in class in all categories. So it was this notion that they see a challenge as an opportunity, and they want to do their best all the time.


So that’s what she called the aspiring group. You asked the question, where are they the same, and where are they different? I think we saw how, so the two, the satisfied and the simplifier for them, they define best in class as they’ve got highly visible leaders. They define it as they’ve been in business for a long time. They define it in their revenue. Ah, they define it based on the stock value or the company size. We’ve grown from here to here. That’s what best in class is. So I put those two together. It was the same. The aspiring, you know, what was top for them is that your customers are happy.


It makes sense that your employees feel a sense of purpose with a strong culture is very different. It’s more of that flywheel we talked about. You get your guiding principles, you get a strong team, you will have happy clients. You do that, and you will be a best place to work. And you will retain customers and clients because they’re going to become raving fans because they trust you. They’re not going to dismiss you. They become it. It’s the softer side of communication, care and creating trust. I think this group is making it a priority more than the others. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t, but it is a major focus and what they call best in class.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Spotting Blind Spots


Okay, and it sounds like they’re doing all those things with a tangible connection back to their purpose. As I was studying the research and getting ready for our conversation, I took a look at what you called blind spots in the report. So, I want to give this back to you to see if I’m tracking with you and then fill in any holes if there are any. So, I’m going to shorten it here as far as a few quick nuggets so we can get your take on that. But as I looked through, satisfied, it seemed like maybe a blind spot for them would be. However, you want to say this, maybe a lack of flexibility or less flexibility than maybe some of the o the two other segments. So, maybe the blind spot for satisfaction is flexibility.


Maybe the blind spot for Simplifiers could be that they might fall behind trends because they’re comfortable with the process. They’re good, you know, over and over and over and over again. That makes them susceptible to stepping into something new. And then potentially a blind spot for aspiring might be because what you just shared is like an ambitious set of doing some really cool things, all important. You could easily argue that all of those things are important, but because of that, maybe a blind spot is that they’re trying to do too much. And it might not be easy to prioritize what is the most important thing or the most important, like whatever the vital few might be. So, your take on the blind spots.


Well, I know you’ve been a good student your whole life. You were probably the A student. Yes. You nailed it. In each one of those, I’m going to start with aspiring, and we’ll go back. Okay. I would say we see this in our client, but we see all three. We really do. And I actually think you want all three; it’s like a disc profile. There’s no one way to do anything. Okay. And there can be times when you maybe should be satisfied. There could be times when someone needs to simplify this process. Someone needs to make sure that we are looking at the headwinds and we are anticipating. So I would offer that. That’s how I have come to believe they’re all important. If you look at any organization and see samples of all of them, then you have a strong, solid organization. Yeah. You want, now, if you lean heavily toward aspiring, you may have a blind spot of trying to do too many things. Okay? And we see high-performing companies doing all of these things. And in today’s world, I mean, we can do anything we want, Steve. We can’t do everything. Not everything has the same volume. And so I would, I would put that as a potential blind spot for aspiring.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Insights from High-Performing Companies


Simplifier. It is around ensuring you follow trends externally because you’ve nailed them internally. You probably are doing better than others with your process and the way that you run your company, but make sure that you are looking outside of your company. You know what still saying, it’s hard to read the label when you’re on the inside of the jar. We’ve given Toyota as a great example of a simplifier. They have perfected the manufacturing of what they’re doing. They have evolved culturally always to do it better. I think they are a wonderful example of a simplifier. But make sure you just aren’t staying inside that factory, inside that jar, and that you’ve got a sense of what’s coming on the outside. Hmm. The satisfied, remember that was the largest 35%. That one surprises me because they have arrived. They are proud. And this one, and maybe the blind spot, gets a little too harsh, but do you remember Kodak?


Oh yeah. Eastman Kodak, you bet. Based in Rochester, New York.


They were top of the industry in film. They were satisfied. They had so much market share that they knew where they were going. They were proud. One of their employees who worked for them was getting a patent on the digital side of things. And it was going up into management. And management said, don’t ever talk about this again. What we want, what we want to spend our time on, is proving why film is superior to digital. They invested a lot of money. We can go back in everyone. If you don’t know the case study, read it. They lost a lot of capital proving they were right, and they were satisfied with where the marketplace was. So the blind spot is who’s going to disrupt you if you’re at the top? Because if you’re at the top, you better believe it. Someone’s coming after you. Yeah. And my guess is it’s the aspiring group, and a third of them are out there, and they’re going to be nipping and coming for market share. So it’s just, once again, the mindset to stay satisfied and proud. But you are just the one on your team who is aspiring and looking for disruption. I would suggest to companies that before they get disrupted, they spend time strategically on how they can disrupt themselves because it’s coming.


And it’s a brilliant case study to illustrate your point of being inside the jar; whatever metaphor you want to use, it’s all relevant to being less flexible. Right. That when you come across than an idea that, that maybe could be seen as a threat. Or then the flip side of that, and I, and I get it, you know, looking backward a couple of decades, the, the, the vision is 2020, but the fact that they invented the digital camera and then decided to set it on a shelf, they actually had the disruption within their walls. And I know that hindsight is 2020, but holy bananas, this is a great illustration of the nine traits, right? And you mentioned the flywheel in Jim Collins and good to a great, excellent book.  and in applying those principles continuously with like number nine, learn and continuously improve, then that keeps you, maybe protects you. So the next time disruption is knocking on the door, you’re ready to respond, you’re ready to step into the greatest innovation. Right? Because disruption knocked on your door. Right?


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Crafting a Best-in-Class Reputation


Absolutely. I mean, we’ve got artificial intelligence that’s driving. I guess it’s going to replace our thinking. I don’t believe so. It’s a tool. Yeah. And we’re going to find some of it’s going to work. Some of it’s not. Some of it will be done on the dark side of this whole equation because there are some countries and people where they are most comfortable. I look for the good that it can be. I think there are wonderful components, but data AI is changing everything. Every industry is being disrupted today. Yep. You need to be clear on how it disrupts your company and what you see five or 10 years later. You don’t have a strategic plan if you can’t answer that. I will tell you about Stephen’s SWA analysis; I’ve done it for 40 years, and it’s so different today. You know, everyone loves, oh, these are our strengths and okay, yes, these weaknesses and okay, we’re going to make those better. And we see this opportunity, and then it’s two seconds on the, we, it’s a double T for us. The trends and the threats, we spend more time there. Give me your strengths. What’s the t part of it? Right? And if everyone on that executive team, management team, someone needs to be looking at that and, no kidding, anticipating what the plan is related to it.


Another golden nugget is right there for everyone to put in their notes.  it’s the trends and the threats. I’m looping back to something you said a couple of minutes ago, and I know we need to come in for a landing here so we can get practical and tactical about the next steps. But one of the other things that I’d like everyone to put in their notes, too, is what you said: there’s no one right way to do things. And in keeping that open approach, which again runs, right? Lock, stop or lockstep, I should say lockstep with the nitrates that you had shared with us with us before. So, I want to make sure that we fulfill our promise that I put into the introduction, you know, right before you came on. So, let’s think about it; I would love to get your insights and wisdom about how an agency can create a best-in-class reputation. Whether they’re a simplifier, whether they’re satisfied today, whether they’re aspiring, if, if they’re hearing your words and that’s resonating with them of like, yes, we want to be best in class. How should they go about that process?


Yes, okay. Let’s dig into that. And before we jump into it, we had the three segments. Remember that the middle one, the simplifiers, said this best in class is hubbubs. Oh, right. However, of the three where they were, there was consistency: 71% said a best-in-class reputation would have a greater impact on their consideration of who they would want to do business with.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: A Blueprint for Agencies


So that’s fascinating. Because it almost seems like that’s contradictory, but yet I know it’s not, but, okay, so, but like when you say that, I’m thinking, well, doesn’t that contradict, okay, so why doesn’t it, in your mind, why doesn’t that contradict?


So it goes back to whether they are looking at that term related to marketing, okay? That is what marketing is, and then it’s just a. In fact, we saw the language around it; it’s like sustainability. It’s like these bankrupt words that it doesn’t mean anything. However, almost three-quarters of this group seek a company that is deemed best in their business and that’s in their class. So, I would offer that it does matter. And if you look at, you know, great places to work, okay. If you have the best place to work, they significantly outperform the S&P 500 and experience higher rates of customer satisfaction, revenue, and growth. So, we do believe it matters.


A happy team equals happy clients and customers.


You know what? It’s so simple, but Yes. Yeah. And we’ve got almost 90% that want a sense of purpose. It’s the first time in my career that we’re checking the box of Yep. We did our brand. Yep. We’ve got, yeah, we’ve got onboarding. Yep. We’ve, yeah. Checking the box is not going to get you out of the sea of sameness. Hmm.


The intentional part you need to do is to do it well with meaning and a purpose that is authentic to who the company is from the top down. It has to get to the end of the rope, whoever that associate is, stakeholder. And it’s consistently done. So, back to your question. I know our time is going to wrap up soon. I could probably talk to you all day, but where I would suggest for teams, agencies, wherever, look at the nine traits and have your team rate yourself on a scale of one to five. Where are we in each one of these? And is there anything we are satisfied with where we are? Do we need to simplify what we’re doing with greater clarity? And then, ultimately, what are we aspiring to do? And make sure, back to that first trait, that your guiding principles, if you haven’t done them in a while, that your purpose, vision, mission, and core values are updated and crystal clear.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: A Path to Organizational Growth


And I’ll give you an example of one of our clients. We’ve had the pleasure of working with them for almost 20 years. And yes, that is a long time for any agency. I think it is what it is. Three years is the average. So, we don’t take that with anything other than pride. They are always looking to improve to better. And the growth of this company over the last 20 years as we’ve worked together is astounding. We are one part of their ecosystem, but we are a part of it. I remembered sharing with them, let’s make sure your core values, you’ve got a great mission, you know, you’ve got your purpose, but your core values, you’ve got a lot of core values. And the president came to me and sent me an email; he was so proud. We took our, I can’t remember how many, 12, and we brought him down to seven.


And can you redo our card? Because they like to show him at each employee’s desk or wherever it is. Okay. And I said to him, that’s awesome. The CEO and the president were present at a meeting with them. I said, tell me what they are. And they start; it was this and this one, and they got to three. And then they looked at each other and what was four and five? And I was like, gentlemen, you just did them and you can’t remember them, right? You have to. So, we went into a deep strategic session. They’ve got three that got infused into their company with huge training, and their net promoter score in one year went from 53 to 83 in their client satisfaction. Wow. That’s what best in class is. You know, you are monitoring, so that would be ways to look at it. Those nine traits, especially the four components, and clarity of where you are, where you’re going, what’s the delta, and how you know if you have an employee experience and a culture that will get you to raving fans. So this is so great.


Well, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you there. Uh, I feel like I interrupted. No, I said,


I don’t know if that answers the way to approach it, but at a high level, that would be the recommendation.


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Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Navigating the Journey Forward


I think it does. Let me actually give it back to you. Because I put five steps in my notes when listening to you share that. So here are the steps I took to reach the best in class: right here in the notes. First, rate yourself on a scale of one to five on the nine traits. Number one. Number two, ask yourself the question, are we satisfied? Step three: ask yourself the question, do we need to simplify? Step four: Ask yourself the following question: What are we aspiring to do? And then, step five, are our purpose, vision, mission, and values? Are they current? And do they need to be updated? And to your point, do they need to be simplified? So, our team really, actually truly knows what they are. How do we marinate our team in them so that if they’re having a conversation with Susan Quinn and Susan says, well, what are they? They can go and not get stumped at number four because they can’t think of 4, 5, 6, and seven. So, would those be the five steps to start with?


Absolutely. And then on that, aspiring where you’re going, certainly on that vision, that’s a big part of it. The ecosystem is disrupted. Just make sure that is a part of it. Okay? Uh, and who is monitoring that you need? It may not be someone internally, but you need a strategic partner to guide you. And even in that ecosystem, I love a mastermind group, if you will. Yeah. That hard to have all of it. And you don’t want all of it internally. We work with people who do research on behalf of us. We do research every day, but we’re going to have a bias if we do it. So make sure you know what part you do internally and who that strategic partnership is, which is also part of a best-in-class. They, if everyone is nodding and it’s a yes agenda. It’s okay to disagree and have a different viewpoint. And let’s go back to Kodak. It could be the path forward. So it’s a yes. And look at it: Is it the right path? Now, ultimately, we have to make decisions for our companies. And I enjoy hanging out with those who have an open mind and are looking for what’s next because it’s really a fun ride.


What an amazing conversation! Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom with us. Susan, I know we need to come in for a landing, but before we go, before we close out and say goodbye, two things. First, any final recommendations, advice, or things that you think we missed, and then two, please share with our audience the best way to connect with you.


Learn more about Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example by applying the process in this free video.


Sustainable Competitive Advantage Example: Staying True to the Core


Well, I know you’re a baseball fan, and I know you talk about the strike zone. We often think it’s all of this stuff around us and the latest and greatest. The strike zone will probably be the same forever. And many of the things we’ve discussed today are not unique. It’s just the version of them today for the marketplace we have today for the headwinds that we face today. I think the tried and true is really the companies’ long-term success. So yes, you need to navigate, and yes, you need to innovate, but at the core, that DNA of your company that resonates with you and others will be the success of companies going forward. It is fun to stay curious, and that’s where we will remain in terms of how to get in touch with us.


One of the things we now have is a resource on our website that is around best in class. So, if you want to take just your individual test of which one of the attitudes you can go to, to circle s, you’ll see the link for best in class, and you can take the quiz, which is interesting. It will also guide you through the three experiences, brand, employee, and client, that you may want to look at improving. So that could also be an excellent start for agencies and companies out there, as well as just getting that baseline measurement of what, where you are, and then where you’re going to go. So that would be one way to learn a little bit more. We’re going to be doing blogs and podcasts and just continuing to learn and do research. This will be an excellent resource for those who want to be the best in class and ensure who they work with is the best. So, we hope to create a community around this. We want to share people’s ideas. Please reach out to me because I think we can make it more transparent and better for the companies we want to grow. And that is the purpose for all of us.


Immunity is one of our favorite words. What a great way to close out the conversation. And, okay, everyone, no matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to the words of wisdom Susan so generously shared with you. The insights, the action steps, and all of it. The key is you have to take it and apply it because when you do, you will improve your reputation. Maybe you will reach best-in-class status, but you will undoubtedly accelerate your results. And Susan, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day, and I’m grateful that you said yes to come onto the show, to be our mentor, to be our guide, to help us move our businesses onward to that next level. Thank you so much, my friend.


Well, I want to say thank you, sell with authority. I recommend that book all the time. And I probably use the words slice and dice more than you know. So, I speak about you all the time, but I am grateful for the work that you have done together; we can all make it better. So I’m grateful for you. Thank you, Stephen and your team.

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Sell with Authority Podcast

The Sell with Authority Podcast is for agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants who are looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality.

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