Competitive Advantage

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.     Jack Welch

All businesses have a limited amount of money and people, and competitive wisdom is the ability to use those precious assets wisely. The same is true for an individual.  But I am amazed as I work with senior executive teams how little they really know about their competitors and about their own competitive strengths and advantages.

And what often comes across as an understanding of competitive advantage is more likely a “corporate myth” than an actual competitive advantage.  “The flexibility of our business model is our competitive advantage”, says the CEO who can’t even get his senior team to revise they way they report monthly KPIs, let alone move people from one group to another very easily.

To have a clear understanding of your competitive advantage(s) in the marketplace, it is necessary to know two things:

  • know your competition so well that you fully understand their strengths and weaknesses in relation to your marketplace and customers
  • know your own organisational and product strengths and weaknesses so well that you develop plans to mitigate the weaknesses and build on the strengths.

Here’s a little test for the CEO.  Give the senior team the task of writing down the company’s organisational and product strengths and weaknesses.  You will be amazed at the diversity of opinion and also the amount of “myth” versus “fact-based data”.

I’d say it’s time to do some real thinking about competitive advantage, particularly since we are now competing on a global stage with players in countries we know almost nothing about.

Death is certain when your enemy knows more about you than you know about them.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Competitive Advantage

  1. Steve Borek says:

    It’s a good idea to do a SWOT analysis on a regular basis. I don’t think companies do it often enough.

    Take a look at the company Research In Motion aka RIM. They created the Blackberry which was synonymous with being the King of smartphone technology. Competitors crept into the mix and RIM is having financial challenges today.

    All good companies are one moment away from being a RIM if they don’t provide a competitive advantage.


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