Being World-Class

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:

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

In Heath,

Sean

The Problem With Competing

DON’T COMPETE

We live in a very competitive world. We have the idea of competition engrained in us when we are very very young. We are told that we have to try harder and do things better than everyone around us so that we can succeed. In school, we have to be at the top of the class. In sports, we have to be the MVP. Winners are recognized by society and we all desire significance on some level. Indeed, the idea behind winning is that we have performed better than everyone else doing the same activity as us and we should be recognized for being outstanding. I do admit that there is some value in competition. In certain situations it causes people to try harder and push past their previous perceived limits. On another level though, competition is one of the major causes of unhappiness in our culture. The constant stress of outperforming others can lead to some just “shutting down” instead of pressing on harder. Competition also creates constant fear that we may lose our jobs, our businesses, our titles and status to others. This fear can be useful if it leads to massive action and creativity, but I think in most instances this is simply not the case. From what I have observed, the opposite is true.

Competition kills creativity. This may fly in the face of what you’ve been told since childhood, but I stand by the statement. By definition, if you are competing against someone, you are doing the same thing as them, only attempting to do it better. This is the opposite of creativity. This is a form of copying. In the business world this is easily observed. Most companies start out trying to do the exact same thing as their competition, only perhaps make it slightly better or more convenient. Sometimes, businesses are engaging in the exact same activity and a customer would have a difficult time distinguishing between them. By copying what others are doing, the creative process of building something new is shut down. So much focus is given to outperforming the other, innovation takes a back seat. However, when you look at the most respected companies throughout history, most of them are recognized for being the first to do something or drastically improving the way something is done. The fifth company to the marketplace is rarely recognized, but that is what most people do- they start companies that are copies of others, or they get a job in the marketplace without giving much thought to what special skills will set them apart and allow them to do something unique.

Our world is in dire need of innovation. We need brand new technologies and ideas to drive humanity forward, but society teaches us from an early age, especially in our primary schools and universities to compete with each other for the same prizes, as if there was one pie and we all have to fight to get a slice. The truth is that through the creative process, we can all expand the size of the pie, or create a different prize all together. Get a piece of cake instead of pie. The world is not “dog eat dog”. In fact, dogs don’t really eat each other anymore, so I think it’s time to throw at that whole phrase and start working to build something new to benefit mankind. This requires that we use our mind as much as our bodies. Humanity must continue to evolve in its thinking and use the untapped mind-power we were blessed with at birth. Yes, it’s hard to think creatively in a world with constant noise. We have information at our fingertips today, but it’s not necessarily leading to more creativity. Much of it is just more noise. Our brains cannot process all the information it receives while at the same time trying to engage in creative thinking. The noise must be quieted in order for our minds to generate new ideas. Everyone is capable of creativity so long as we are not preoccupied with keeping ahead in the proverbial rat race. Break out of the race and blaze a new path. If you are an athlete, take your focus off the competition and put it on bringing something new and phenomenal to your sport. Develop a system, rituals or technology that allows you to surpass what you were previously capable of.

Happy New Year. May the coming year be a never ending fountain of creativity and energy for you and your family. Spend time thinking about new ideas. Who knows, if you’re trying to build something new, you might just do so!

In Health,
Sean