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“Which silver car is it?” Tony Kibonge shouted as I tagged a car and he raced by.

This race to the silver car was a rematch on another race I had won one cold morning in Stuart Lake, when we had raced through the water up to my chest and Tony’s neck.

While I had won both races, the truth of the matter is that Tony, who is 13, is a much faster runner than I am. In fact, I think that Tony might be one of the fastest 13-year-olds in the country.

However, in both races against Tony, I made sure I had distinct advantages. I really had no intention of losing, although in both races it was a real possibility.

Are you intent on winning with your business? Do you have a strategy or are you going up against quicker, faster, better competition and just hoping you’re going to win, without really even a hope?

So often we go against competition that’s so stiff that our goal is just to keep our heads above the water and pay the bills.

So why don’t we change the game?

When I raced against Tony and his class the first time in a lake full of water, I knew I had a clear advantage. I knew that I weighed 100 pounds more and was a good eight inches taller than Tony, and this would help me as I moved against the water in the lake to the finish line. In business, we often think we have to run the race that our competitor has already established an advantage in. I knew that if I was to race Tony in the 100, 200 or 400 metres that he so loves to run, I would be left in the dust. So I don’t race those races.

In business, we also need to make certain the odds are in our favour. We need to think about what we’re better at than our competition. If our competition is really good at customer service, perhaps we had better focus on speed. If our competition has better prices, then we better focus in an area where we can add value and price is less of an issue. To distinguish ourselves, we need to really be different and find customers who are willing to pay for that difference.

And what does winning mean? In every race, there’s a finish line and a goal that we’re striving for. However, most small businesses don’t have real goals. We’re just plodding along hoping that our business is going to grow without having any real plans, any targets for sales or marketing, profit or any other measurable outcome.

If you’d like to double your business in three to five years, you need to grow at 20 percent a year. So how do we do that?

Establish a goal and write it down. Put up that goal where you’ll be reminded of it often and everyone on your team can see it. For example: “Sales target – by 2020, we will have $3 million in sales.”

Pick a strategy to achieve your goal. It might take time to work this out with your team but if you want to get people on board, you might want to include them in picking the best strategy.

If you have a really small company, it might mean you need to set time aside to put some thought into how your business will achieve the goal. What markets are you going after? In what area will you have a distinct advantage over your competition? Do you need to change your pricing model or your marketing strategies?

Lay out some tactics to achieve the strategy. These might be things like:

  • We’re going to research the X market.
  • I’m going to spend 50 percent of my time each week finding work for my team and 50 percent doing the work.
  • We’re only going to go after contracts that we have a good chance of winning.
  • Show our customers how much we appreciate them.
  • We will concentrate on doing exclusive work not done by others, which our customers will gladly pay for.

Measure your progress. Once you’ve started working towards your goals by implementing your strategies and tactics, you need to measure the progress and celebrate the wins.

In business, we need to play to our advantages. Just as I tried to beat Tony by setting the parameters of a race that I could win, you need to do the same thing with your business. Focus only on areas where you have an advantage. Know where the finish line is, and celebrate each and every accomplishment.

Make your business a winner!

Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy

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playing to win in business

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