How to use what makes your country unique to create competitive advantage


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How to leverage the unique strengths and capabilities of your company, country or region to create a sustainable business with a strong competitive advantage.

This article is done with specific emphasis on emerging markets where many local communities lack the resources or a sustainable way to create a higher standard of living for all. Examples are used to illustrate what countries and regions can do to resolve this challenge.

Essentially, it also endorses the fact that true competitive advantage lies in what a company can truly do authentically.

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How to use what makes your country unique to create competitive advantage

  1. 1. Creating a unified vision; collaborative thinking; coordinated and integrated activities – an “eco-system” to create a “better-life-for-all” in the region. 22 June 2012
  2. 2. Our position today: • Vast unemployment. • Low standard of living. • Low skills base. • Many activities, but anecdotal and uncoordinated. • We waste & undermine resources with no coordination. • This whilst the world and some parts of SA is starting to work.
  3. 3. To create a sustainable future, we need to align people, planet and profits… • This triad is important – yet the triad needs to work – it can only work if there is money to make it work. • Even though un-rivaled capitalism is not good, even China is proving that people want to use their skills and resources to create the life they want. No-one wants hand-outs! • I travel a lot in Africa – most people I have come across over the years want to become proud of who and what they are. They want to make money and change their lives, as well as the lives of their families. • Most people just do not know how to do that.
  4. 4. As humans, we are naturally industrious, we want to “better” our lives… both government and business is there to facilitate that. • We need to generate more than we consume – and I believe most people want to, everywhere in life. A clear vision and leveraging human capital, remains the best ways to do that. • Enabling people to do this, is where our focus must be. – The famous strategist Prof Gary Hamel of Harvard states that human capital is far more widespread than we think, if we care to look for it. – We can release this capability as government and business. • Whilst we can give direction and provide infrastructure as government and business, people must then be “released” to do what they do best.
  5. 5. Also, there is nothing wrong with making money, it is in the natural order of people to want to do something with their lives, making money as a principle is no different! It is how we do it that matters. • To use the example by the previous CEO of GE, if you do not generate profits, THERE IS NO MONEY TO DO GOOD! SIMPLE FACT. • Unless companies pay tax there is no way they can “do good”. • Unless companies make money, they will have no investors. • Unless companies make money, they cannot pay staff. This does not mean some do not abuse it, but the principle remains. • Wealth is created when we produce more than we consume, in all respects. • To do good, a company needs to DO MORE WITH ITS RESOURCES than other companies… that means 2+2 = 6, not 3 or 4!
  6. 6. Some background: in business today… • Outside of size, the only ways to achieve superior performance are: – By creating exceptional products and services; – By being different enough so that consumers will pay for it. By doing things that are totally unique! – By focusing on niche markets not catered for by larger players. • By becoming really creative & innovative, we can truly change the prevailing context - as a business example of how value is created: • The top 20 companies in the Fortune 2010 list of fastest growing companies received $3,40 in incremental market capitalisation for every $1 of revenue growth. • For the companies that created new categories, this was $5,60!
  7. 7. Creativity has a serious role in business today: we sit on this vast resource, what are we doing with it? • Before the iPod, there were MP3 players, yet Apple took the concept of an MP3 player and created a new market, using their exceptionally creative skills. It used the same labour as others - but produced more value. • This is a simple example of how we can produce something others also produce, but do it in a way that sells for so much more money, that we create a better life for those involved in it. • Another example is the fact that the exceptional design that went into an iPad, enables it to charge three times more for the same thing, as it closest rivals can! • To me this thinking has to be the foundation of how we in SA can actually become a successful, sustainable and prosperous country. We need to understand what people want, take our skills, and produce things that will create value for our companies and our people, beyond survival alone.
  8. 8. If we compare where the exponential benefit to create wealth is greatest, it is when we think different and do different things. Degree of competitiveness Low – commoditised Highly differentiated Profitability Commoditised – most airlines Differentiated offers, i.e. better service Niche markets New categories Revolutionary new products High margin spaces: more value is created than we consume. Moderate to fair margin spaces Low margin spaces, only competitive advantage volume
  9. 9. Doing something with what you have: The “story of Salem”… • The “Salem witch trials” were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts between 1692 & 1693. – Today, you can do an “Online Trial”… – You can visit this unique town… – You can share in the history… Turn what you are into a competitive advantage and arrange the “eco-system” to support that. Then unleash people’s creativity and natural entrepreneurship drive. Enable, then stand back.
  10. 10. • Walks; • Museums; • Guided tours; • Lectures; • Collectables; • Memorabilia; • Nick-naks like T-shirts, coffee mugs; • Videos/ movies/ books; • Interactive online games; • Tales & Stories; • Board games; • Statues; • Installations.
  11. 11. Here is a town that has created an ecosystem of related activities around a negative legacy. Part of it planned, part of it leaving it to the imagination of its people.
  12. 12. Today, this is a drawcard for tourists – and entrepreneurs that see new opportunities!
  13. 13. The people of Salem took a potentially very negative issue and turned it into a commercial opportunity; one that provides a livelihood for many of its people. It is a simple illustration of what can be done with entrepreneurial thinking – leveraging the strengths of a community. KZN is our most diverse province, in people and nature… Durban is our most transformed city – surely we can leverage these strengths? By cooperating, envisioning, training, enabling, creating infrastructure, providing trade routes - nurturing… and then allowing nature to take over.
  14. 14. My own home town... • Seven years ago. • 42% unemployment. No opportunities. • One savvy individual. • Gain support from key people in the community. Create a small team of supporters. • Help people to decide what to do. Create a vision of how to better the life for all. • Help them organise themselves. • Help them with systems, processes, product distribution, margins, management. • Last count, unemployment down to 16%.
  15. 15. What we need to do: • We miss a grand strategy and overall thinking. • We need to align, integrate and coordinate activities. • We need to create the knowledge and skills based required to make it happen. We need to create a plan and process to make it work! • We need to put the nurturing in place. • We need to empower with some infrastructure. • What makes us unique? How can we create something of value people want and will pay for? – What can we produce/ offer the world and other South Africans, tourists, etc.? • How can we create an ecosystem to enable this?
  16. 16. Then – get out of the way, people will ultimately help themselves. We just need to enable, produce the tools and light the fire of confidence.