“Your Move — Through the Looking Glass”

It’s imperative to know what makes you unique and how customers perceive you.

Dan Miller

Tom Zahniser
If you’re like most entrepreneurial leaders, surviving isn’t enough. You want to take your business to the next level.

But that’s no easy feat. Some people have a knack for being at the right place at the right time; when opportunity knocks, they simply answer the call. For most of us, however, finding the path to greater success is difficult.

One secret to growing your business lies in understanding your identity. Building a successful business means differentiating your company — creating a unique solution to an important problem that your customers have and then delivering your solution in a way that satisfies them. Doing this elevates your company out of the "commodity quagmire" and puts it on the path to profits based on the value you bring.

The first step in doing this is to be clear about who you are:

  • What is your unique gift, talent or knowledge?
  • What problem do you love to solve?
  • What do you love about your work, and how can you do more of this?

The more ways you find to satisfy customers’ needs based on a skill, knowledge, product or service that’s uniquely you, the more difficult you make it for competitors.

There’s a flip side to identity that is equally important: understanding how others see you. If you asked your best customers to identify the most valuable thing about your product or service, what would they say?

Customers care only about your company in relation to what you do for them. They think of you in terms of how you satisfy important needs of theirs. Understanding who you are — from your customers’ perspectives — adds another important dimension to your identity. To get clearer on this, answer these questions — from your best customers’ points of view:

  • What need do you satisfy, and how does this benefit them?
  • Why are you uniquely the best company to satisfy this need?
  • How would customers measure or assess what it means to be the best at what you do for them?
  • Using the same criteria, how can you demonstrate that your business is world-class at this?

By integrating these two trains of thought — understanding who you are and how your customers see you — you capture the essence of your current success. The surest path to successfully growing your business is to build on this awareness. Find a new set of customers with similar needs for your existing product — or find a related product that meets an unmet need of your existing customers. Build your business in ways in which you can be "uniquely you," and customers will love you for it!

Writer: Tom Zahniser is chairman of a CEO peer-advisory group with TEC Worldwide, and an executive coach and consultant in Mercer Island, Wash. zahniser@earthlink.net.