It’s Opposite Day

When I read the news article, my first reaction was, “Who does this?” It doesn’t make sense…until you really digest what’s transpiring.

As a raving sports fan for more than 50 years, my number one rooting interest is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was reading one of the many online team blogs, and I had to read the article twice…until it made sense.

The Steelers have a new quarterback this season, which is big news by itself. But one approach taken by the new signal caller made me do a double take. Mitch Trubisky is filling shoes he doesn’t have feet big enough for. Steelers Nation will let him know that frequently. But I like one aspect of his preparation.

The Steelers also made a controversial move by hiring Brian Flores as a defensive assistant coach for this season. Flores is a defensive genius who’s actively engaged in a lawsuit against the entire NFL for discriminatory hiring practices. A discussion for a sports bar, not here.

In the article that caught my eye, Trubisky explained that he’s leaned heavily on Flores since spring practices began. He claims that having Flores in their quarterback meetings and being able to pick his brain during practice helps “to get his perspective on defenses, like, what’s hard to cover…I think him being there gives us good insight. How the other defense might be game planning for us. What the other defense might be talking about us. What he sees from his perspective.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin encourages this interaction and sharing, as he is known to say, “it doesn’t matter where good ideas come from.” I also like that approach.

That thought process from Tomlin identifies several important indicators for success. It demonstrates a willingness to be successful regardless of who gets the credit and how the team arrives there. I have a T-shirt given to me by Hall of Fame basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell that says, “It is amazing how much could be accomplished if no one cared who got the credit.” Second, Tomlin’s thinking also shows an energy to be reflective about what you’re doing. In other words, let’s take a look at how we are operating, and determine if there are other strategies we can employ to be successful. And this is done on a frequent basis, not just at the end of the season or the beginning of a new one. It’s every day of every week. Thirdly, the most significant aspect for me is that Trubisky is Looking Opposite. Even though he’s the quarterback (an individual on the Offensive unit of the team, for non-believers) Trubisky is relying upon a DEFENSIVE coach for insight, analysis, and opinion.

This reminds me of the historical story of how the Ford Model T became the most popular car purchased in its era. Henry Ford was searching for a way to ensure that building the Model T would be more economical for both his company as well as for customers. In 1908, the year Ford introduced the Model T, there were 500, yes, 500 companies making automobiles. Henry Ford wanted to find a way to dominate the automobile market. By happenstance, one of Ford’s employees, William Klann, discovered the concept of the moving assembly line in a pig slaughterhouse, and the Model T became THE car everyone drove for years. You can read more in detail about how Ford incorporated what Klann learned in the slaughterhouse in my brilliant Partners Stephen Semple and Dave Young’s Empire Builders Podcast here.

In both instances, there is an evaluation of the current endeavor and a desire to discover an advantage that will serve as a differentiator from others in the same enterprise.

In the business world, many might call this evaluation a Competitive Analysis. In an article in Business News Daily, a Competitive Analysis is explained as such:

“A competitive analysis – also known as a competitor analysis – is a way of evaluating how well your business and its products or services are performing compared to other companies selling similar products or services in your market.

A competitor analysis focuses on identifying market participants positioned to encroach on your opportunity and isolates each participant’s operational strengths, substantive weaknesses, product offerings, market dominance, and missed opportunities.”

Let’s look back at the Steelers scenario and the Model T example. In both situations, there was self-evaluation taking place with an eye on improving the product in order to be successful in their respective markets. There are 30 teams in the NFL, and each team plays 17 games. Henry Ford was facing 500 other automobile manufacturers.

Why isn’t Mitch Trubisky talking to other quarterbacks in the NFL and other offensive coaches, both on his team and on other teams? Why didn’t Henry Ford consult with a cadre of the owners of the other 500 automobile manufacturers?

According to a article, “The strategic advantage behind compiling a competitive analysis is that is helps you get a better picture of the competition so you can try to emulate their success but also recognize and avoid their failure…”

I believe that the folks promoting the concept of competitive analysis are missing a big point. Yes, it’s critical to know what your competitors are doing. No doubt. BUT, if you want to obliterate the competition, small business owners need to examine businesses in industries that are completely unrelated to their own enterprise. Find out what a pig slaughterhouse is doing that you can utilize to elevate your enterprise. The best way to get ahead might be… to do the opposite.

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