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Acoustical Wall Panel Systems

William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

Keep Your Eye on The Ball!

for the September / October 2004 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

"Keep Your Eye on The Ball". Fairly common saying in many popular sports. It's also quite appropriate for many other aspects of life. Particularly important in our Interior Construction Business! Important to all, Manufacturer, Contractor, Distributor or Independent Manufacturers Representative.

It's amazing to watch a company, long successful in their segment of the industry, get "thrown for a loop", with the emergence of a new competitor. Business has been going well for twenty, thirty years, or more, and all of a sudden, disaster lurks just over the horizon. Or so they think.

Rather than carefully analyzing the path they have traveled to their success, and considering a minor, "mid course correction", to meet the challenge by the upstart, some companies are willing to simply toss their entire philosophy out the window and start anew, as if they are the newcomer. Often following new rules developed by others rather than reinforcing the concepts that have worked so well for them. In some instances they madly search for experts from other disciplines of the industry, hire them, and simply accept their untested knowledge as fact! Doesn't seem to make much sense, does it?

Most really successful organizations, be it a team, competing in a sport, or a successful business entity, should never loose sight of "what got them to the top". Usually it was a combination of an excellent product, outstanding planning, hard work, determination, and the ability to participate in the market in the long term.

On the other hand, all organizations must be cautious of becoming stale, and staying the course, simply because, "that's the way we do it here". The correct path, as in most situations, is probably somewhere in the middle.

It's really important for any organization to constantly focus upon who are we? What is our goal? What is the most efficient manner to reach our goal? Common mistakes develop when a company or organization looses track of, "why do they purchase my product"? Is it Appearance? Function? Cost? Availability? Or a combination of some or all of these factors.

If a product is purchased purely for aesthetic reasons, then changing function, cost or availability may not enhance sales. Regardless of the product, there is always something available for less money that may not work quite as well, but, is immediately available.

The natural reaction to new competitors is usually to look for a quick fix. Often the most immediate target is price. Generally this is not the most prudent approach to the situation. Rather than abandoning a proven program, why not try this approach first?

  • Review your products for relevance in today's market. Has the market changed and your product not changed to meet the new reality? Remember, however, just because their product or concept is new or different, doesn't make it better.
  • Analyze why and how you have attained success.
  • Compare your product or service to the new competition, carefully and honestly evaluating features and benefits. How does your product stack up?
  • Confirm why people buy your product or service, it's rarely price alone. Has the reason they buy your product really changed?
  • Determine what your real competitive advantages and disadvantages are.
  • Develop a revised or modified game plan, for that portion of your business affected by the new competitor. Note, the new competition rarely affects all segments of your business. Don't change what is working well.
  • Stay on track with the portion of your plan that continues to be successful.
  • How is your customer service? The most vulnerable aspect of any organization is poor customer service. Often customers are willing to pay more for less, if they can be serviced in a timely fashion. Poor customer service has derailed many successful companies!

It is very common for a company or organization to overreact to a new competitor. Don't let your company or organization be a victim of a "knee jerk reaction". Remember, the new competitor or old competitor with a new product may not be successful in the long run. It is very common for a new entity to fail. Over ninety percent of new businesses fail! If your business has a proven track record, capitalize on your experience. Don't marginalize your product to meet a competitor that may not be there next year.

Approach the market with a strong emphasis on your company's proven record of dependability. Focus upon your features and benefits. Demand comparison of your products performance over many years and many projects vs. a new competitor or new product with virtually no track record. Longevity is really important to end users, particularly owner occupied buildings.

Remember, your company didn't get to the top purely by chance. "Keep Your Eye on The Ball"!

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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