What it Takes to be World-Class
Being a business owner for more than a decade, I have been forced to become a student of the marketplace. It’s my opinion that the only businesses that will continue to thrive in the coming years are those who are determined to be world-class. Not just good or even great, but only world-class organizations will be able to navigate the rapidly changing and volatile business climate. Unfortunately, good enough will not cut it the way it used to in generations past. Technology has vastly improved our lives, but it has also created increased competition in the work place and removed many of the boundaries and limitations businesses have, leading to more businesses being able to compete in a global marketplace. Businesses who compete in a crowded marketplace will all eventually reach the same fate unless they are able to break out and become world-class. What follows is what I believe makes a company (or an individual) world-class:
- Inspire a feeling in people–World-class companies inspire certain feelings in others. It’s as if there is something special the company does, and other people want to be a part of what is special. A world-class company has no problem finding great people to join the organization because great people want to be around other great people. Think about world-class companies–Apple, Disney, Lego, Rolex, Ferrari, for example–all of these can be associated with some special feeling. The best companies make people feel special about buying their product or being part of their team. They inspire a sense of pride.
- Obsess about being the best at only a few key things–World-class companies and individuals understand that in order to be the best in the game, their focus has to be on being the best and doing what it takes to achieve that distinction. World-class performers know that only the best get recognized and acknowledged long-term. For world-class companies, it’s about leaving a legacy and only being one of the best companies will ensure that. The key is to only focus on the things you can be world-class at and not be distracted by those you cannot.
- Work to be better all the time–The best understand they must constantly work to improve or they will not be the best for long. For people, progress equals happiness and the same goes for companies. For world-class companies, making progress is a necessity.
- Fixing and anticipating problems before they arise–Problems are a part of life and business. The longer you live or stay in business, new problems will arise that will force you to grow and adapt. World-class companies differ in that they are able to anticipate problems before they occur because they have fully thought through and tested their ideas. If problems do occur, world-class performers are quick to make it right for the client.
- Almost anyone would recognize its greatness–This almost goes without saying. World-class and greatness are almost synonymous. It’s worth repeating that the greatest companies and performers are recognized by others outside the industry as being world-class. The reputation of world-class companies is important to uphold.
- People talk about the high quality and refer others without hesitation–Great companies make it exceptionally easily for clients to refer them to others. World-class companies’ products are like a status symbol. Having the product or service means something, and stands for something.
- Paying attention to details–The gardeners at Disneyland are meticulous about exactly how they plant the flowers and which way the plants are facing. The janitors, also known as Cast Members, are careful to pick up trash and clean spills immediately. They take pride in making the clients experience a special one. This happens by paying attention to detail. The beautiful wrapping of an Apple product illicits a special feeling in the customer because they understand the company they are doing business with is paying attention to detail. When a car’s upholstery is hand stitched, the same attention to detail allows the business’ driver to take pride in doing business with them. Clients of world-class companies are happy to do business with them. This matters a great deal because the client knows if the company can pay attention to detail, they will pay attention to them as a person, even care about them! Focusing on details as well as the overall picture is what separates the merely good from the world-class.
I’ve struggled to move up from being good or great at certain things to world-class. Like many things in life, even if you have a roadmap on how to get somewhere, it can be exceptionally difficult to actually get there. In fact, most just look at the arduous journey and never take the first step. Still, others try for a while and then move on to something else or settle for “good enough.” My sincere desire is that everyone become world-class at one thing in their live; a world-class parent, athlete, student, philosopher, teacher, salesperson, employer, employee, CEO, speaker, actor–anything that helps other people. I think we should all strive to be world-class at whatever we do. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and world-class companies do it right more often than not.