Understanding Your Company’s Core Competencies

by Rachel Hartman on January 3, 2014
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When you first started your business, you probably knew which areas you excelled in. Over time, however, your focus may have shifted.

“We move away from our core competencies as our businesses grow, and we choose — consciously or not — to take on tasks that could be best handled by someone else,” says Linda Pophal, owner and CEO of Strategic Communications. This may also happen as your company expands its operations.

Whether you’ve strayed from your key strengths or are simply distracted by day-to-day operations, you can take the following steps to get back on track.

1. Recognize your roots. “As an online folder printer, creative design is one of [our] core competencies,” says Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders. It’s one of the reasons he started the company: Gendelman saw an opportunity to provide products of better quality in the marketplace. As a result, the company also develops custom folders for customers.

2. Ask customers for feedback. What brought clients to your business in the first place? Identify what sets your company apart from its competitors. Consider asking customers who have recently made purchases to answer a questionnaire. In it, ask what attracted them to your company and what they like best about it. Their answers will likely point directly to your core competencies.

3. Have a mission statement — and adhere to it. Your mission statement can be as simple as a few sentences that explain what you do and who you serve, Pophal says. Having one can help you stay focused on your company’s strengths and evaluate ideas for future growth. For example, she says, let’s say you own a pizza parlor that’s committed to using local ingredients. If you want to offer artichoke hearts as a topping but there aren’t any artichokes grown in your area, adding them to the menu would be a move away from your mission statement and core competencies. If, however, you decide to start an organic garden on-site, that might be right in line with your mission.

4. Build on your strengths. “As we continued to design, not just print, our customers’ folders, we got a lot of positive feedback from our clients,” Gendelman says. When looking for ways to make the most of that strength, the company spotted a new opportunity: “We realized our graphic designers often have downtime between projects. We decided to build on this potential by having them create folder design templates that anyone can download and use for free,” he says. “In the last few months, this program has been a great success, driving tons of traffic to our site with no marketing budget behind it.”

Rachel Hartman is a writer who frequently covers topics related to small businesses. Her work has appeared in The Costco Connection, Wells Fargo Conversations, Pizza Today, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, CreditCardGuide.com, and many other outlets.

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