wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Business successBusiness success


Business success is...

Satisfying customers better than competitors

No customers, no business!


The 10 C’s of business success

Customers, corporate culture, commitment, competence and learning, competitors, creativity and innovation, change, combination of opposites, cash and conscience - here they are!


1. Customers – amaze them!Business success


Give customers the best possible value for money and exceed their expectations – how?


a) empathy and  speed 

See the business from the customers' point of view and find solutions to their problems as quickly as possible.


b) customer driven 7 S’s

  • strategy (objectives, policy and implementation).
  • structure (how things are organized).
  • systems (how things are done).

The last four people related S’s (sometimes called the soft S’s) are the most difficult for competitors to copy and so are particularly important.


c) cost leadership

Have the lowest costs and lowest prices (if your product is similar to competitors).


d) product differentiation 

Selling something with a superior image and/or quality.


e) excel in the 4 P’s

  • Model T Fordprice - Henry Ford's Model T (pictured right) was hugely successful because of its low price. 
  • place (where the product is sold).

  • product (including quality and brand image).
  • promotion (including advertising).

f) market segmentation 

Selling to a particular group of customers ( a market segment or niche) e.g. rich/poor, old/young, male/female)

See market segmentation.



2. Corporate culture (shared values and beliefs)Business success

Every employee must passionately believe in and act upon certain values, particularly:

  • putting customers first.
  • striving for excellence in everything.
  • getting the best performance from employees and treating them well.

See corporate culture for more detail.



3. Commitment (motivation and leadership)

Happy motivated employees mean happy customers. This link is called the service-profit chain.


How do you motivate people (i.e. make them work harder and more effectively)?

  • recruit great people.
  • give them the information they need.
  • listen to what they say.
  • involve them in the decisions affecting their jobs.
  • give them control over their jobs, so they take responsibility for results (called empowerment).
  • encourage them to continuously learn and improve – see point 4. Business success 
  • make their jobs as interesting as possible 
  • pay them well and give them a share of the profits.
  • great leadership – the boss must inspire employees to do great things for customers (see leadership).

See for more detail:



4. Competence and learning

A successful business is a learning organization.

i.e. it continually learns from its experience and mistakes with a continuously trained and educated workforce.



5. Competitors - beat them!


  • keep them out e.g. patents (giving a monopoly for new products).
  • have better and/or cheaper products – see point 1 above.
  • exploit your core competencies (or distinctive capabilities) - significantly superior skills and technologies.



6. Creativity and innovationBusiness success

Creatively find new and better ways of satisfying customers (like the bagless vacuum cleaner inventor, James Dyson, pictured right).

So innovation (the development of new products) and creativity (the creation of new ideas) are vital – see creativity and innovation.



7. Change

All employees must continually change and adapt effectively to external changes (particularly rising expectations and different needs from customers).

So employees must constantly challenge themselves and the status quo.



8. Combination of opposites

The best businesses combine opposites that seem to contradict each other. Here are some examples:

  • quality product and low costs.
  • leanness (with lowest possible staffing) and loyalty (from motivated employees).
  • order (co-ordination, control and common purpose) and chaos (disagreement, autonomy and questioning) – both essential for creativity and innovation.
  • tough (being decisive and sometimes ruthless) and tender (kind and sensitive to people’s needs).
  • reflection (thinking about how to do something, like improving customer satisfaction, with all the relevant information) and action (doing it as quickly as possible) i.e. slow decision, quick action.
  • evolution (continuous small changes) and revolution (doing something completely different).
  • longer term strategy (over one year ahead) and short-term policies - beware these aren’t harmful e.g. cutting costs with redundancies may reduce employees’ motivation and so reduce customer satisfaction and profits.

 Business success


9. Cash

A business must always have enough cash to pay its bills by minimizing costs and maximizing sales – see cash flow management.


10. ConscienceBusiness success

The best companies are:

  • socially responsible (i.e. accept they must do something for society like helping charities, schools and the environment).



Key quotes explained


Business success

“Success is a lousy teacher”

- Bill Gates (pictured right) , co-founder of Microsoft.

It is harder to keep a business successful than it is to make it a success. So never be complacent, always keep improving and remember that success can easily turn into failure.

A passion to succeed is vital. “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart”, said IBM’s ex-boss, Thomas Watson Snr.



Business success

“Efficiency is concerned with doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things”,

- Peter Drucker (in his book, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices)

Business success is effectiveness i.e. doing the right things really well like customer satisfaction. Efficiency is doing things at the lowest possible cost but doesn’t necessarily lead to success. Why? The wrong things might be done efficiently!



Business success

“Control your destiny or someone else will”,

- Jack Welch (pictured right), ex-boss of the American company, General Electric.

Take the initiative by always changing and improving customer satisfaction faster than your competitors. If you don’t, they will beat you and force you to change. Innovation is vital to satisfy future customer needs

The American business professors, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad, define business success as “the ability to imagine what could be” leading to the creation of new markets.


Best books


Business success

Tom Peters (pictured right) and Robert Waterman (pictured below), In Search of Excellence (1982)

Business success is simple – give great customer service with great staff (KISS – keep it simple stupid!). To achieve this, the best companies do eight things:

Close to the customer - give the best possible service and quality to customers.Business success

Productivity through people - treating employees well so that they do their best to satisfy customers.

Hands-on, value driven – customer satisfaction is valued and prioritized by all employees including managers.

A bias for action – doing things quickly to satisfy customers.

Autonomy and entrepreneurship – encouraging innovation and giving people freedom to satisfy customers on their own or in teams (i.e. empowerment).

Sticking to the knitting - doing the business you know best e.g. McDonald's selling hamburgers.

Simultaneous loose-tight properties – a mixture of control from head office over the things that matter (like quality, customer service and the organization’s policies and objectives) and power to carry them out given to divisions, teams and individuals.

Simple form, lean staff – a simple organization structure with minimum staff at head office.


Partnerships with People (1997)

A British government study which found that the best companies have

  • shared goals (or objectives).
  • shared culture (values).
  • shared effort (teamwork).
  • shared information (through effective two-way communication between management and employees).

 Business success

Jonas Ridderstrale (pictured right) and Kjell Nordstrom (pictured below), The Funky Business (2000)

The “funky business” is successful because:

  • employees have the right values, attitudes and knowledge.Business success 
  • key customers are extremely happy.
  • customers changing requirements are met through innovation, learning and the ability to change (agility).


David Packard, The HP Way (1995)Business success

The co-founder (pictured right) of the American computer and electronics company, Hewlett-Packard (HP), describes how its success was based on:


1. Simplicity - in three areas:

  • purpose - focus on making the best electronic equipment “for the advancement of science and the welfare of humanity”.
  • finance - never using long-term borrowing for business expansion.
  • marketing - aiming to be leaders in HP's markets.


2. Strong commitment to people

  • respect for employees and trust,
  • open two-way communication and consensus (not confrontation)
  • visible and participative management (“management by wandering about”


3. Small business units

Splitting up divisions when they get to a certain size (about 1500 people).

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books