Staying in the Helicopter
-Winners never quit!
I used to race (poorly!) sailing dinghies and whenever I got into the position of being in the lead I discovered two important lessons:Firstly you must set your sights on the very highest objective – in this casewinning – and don’t for one second have doubts that you can do it, and thatyou deserve to do it, and that you will never be satisfied with being secondbest.Secondly if you spend your time looking at the guy who is second then thedistance between you will become less and less.It’s the same in business.If you operate in a market where there are one or two prominent players -perhaps many times larger than you are - it's very easy to get into the mindsetthat all you can do is chip away around the edges rather than take them onhead-on. The natural assumption is that if you do take them on head-on eitherthey will simply wipe you out with predatory pricing or the like or that youneed massive amounts of finance to be effective to do so. It’s then very easy toconvince yourself that it's simply too risky and a lot safer to stay as you are.
Well it's not true!
– the secret is to not only be bold but also innovative and, asMichel Robert put it in his book “Strategy Pure & Simple", force thecompetitors to play in your sandbox rather than playing in the theirs.To illustrate the point let’s have a look at three companies that have eachgrown from nothing to major players in industries where there where massive,dominant successful competitors such that they now have those competitorsseeking to play in "their sandbox". The three companies are Olam, Red Bull,and VirginI was privileged to share a speaking platform with Sunny Verghese, the veryimpressive CEO of Olam International and he told a fascinating story:The previous year Olam achieved an annual turnover of nearly £1bn and amarket capitalisation of £700m. They had 5100 employees in 42 countries andare known as "the brand behind the brands". They operate an integrated supplychain for 14 products including sheanuts, robusta coffee beans, cocoa, sesameand cashew nuts, from 12,000 collection points in 40 origin countries deliveringthese to over 3,300 customers in 50 destination markets.Olam is a world leader in many of these commodities with the overriding, and