A lot of companies feel like they are the best in their industry. They base that belief on their own opinion and not on fact. They believe that they deliver the best job for the best price, but they reach that conclusion based on nothing but their own opinion. J.D. Power and Associates conducts surveys for the automotive industry and has, more recently, prepared surveys for insurance companies as to what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. However, most of us do not feel the need for outsourcing in order to determine what kind of a company we really are. So where do we find the knowledge that can help us become a better company?
I would like to suggest that you have seven major paths available to you in your search for knowledge:
1) Internet: Internet information is the most difficult to track in terms of accountability as to whether or not what’s being said actually works. The information can come from a lot of sources and it can be very difficult to determine exactly where it came from. An example is an industry blog that hosts “hot topics.” In order to generate high traffic, the blog needs to have topics that make people to want to visit it to read about what is supposedly going on. It sometimes appears that such an outlet is more concerned about generating traffic than they are about what they’re presenting. If you are advertising on the blog, the increased traffic can give you increased exposure. It seems that some blogs post “fire bomb” topics in order to get increased traffic. Such an instance often prompts people to sensationalize the topic and say things that might not necessarily be accurate. An example of this is the State Farm PSP that’s being discontinued: Most everyone has an opinion on what will happen, but few have first-hand knowledge.
2) Industry Gossip: This path is dangerous. What makes it dangerous is that it is usually something that you might like to believe. Usually we do not take the time to determine either the source or the validity of the information. Let me give you an example of someone who started a rumor and then heard it again three hours later, only even juicier than the original rumor. The person I’m describing is none other than myself. When I worked as a commercial airline pilot, I started a rumor in base operations just for fun. I then piloted a non-stop flight from Miami to New York for the next three hours. When I arrived in New York, I went into base operations to get the paperwork for my next flight leg. While I was picking up the paperwork, I heard the rumor that I’d started in Miami, only it was juicier. I realized that the agents in Miami had heard my rumor and started calling their friends around the system after I left. They had spread the rumor and embellished it in a matter of minutes. They didn’t ask me any questions, but they wanted to believe it and they wanted to spread it! So what should you do when you hear a rumor? I would suggest that you ask a lot of questions and try to verify the information through additional sources or even the source of the rumor itself.
3) Industry Publications: There are several different types of publications, varying from newsletters to magazines. They all have a verifiable source of their information. The editor is usually accessible and open to both questions and suggestions. Some have Letters to the Editor sections, which allow readers to have thoughts or feedback published. They work on knowing where their sources of information come from and they have to be accountable in order to continue to ensure that both the advertiser and the reader return to the publication. Publications are also a larger entity that can be held legally accountable more so than Nos. 1 and 2 (not to mention that they have a lot more to lose if they put out wrong information).
4) Industry Associations & Trade Shows: When you attend meetings and trade shows, you’re able to see and hear the information as it is being presented. Depending on the situation, you’re usually able to ask questions and confirm the information that you receive. You’re able to talk and discuss ideas with both attendees and exhibitors. The information shared can be shallow or deep, but usually the information is not verifiable, so you have to judge whether or not to take the information you’re offered as truth.
5) Industry Conferences: These conferences typically have a more specific focus. This allows attendees to preselect the topics they want to get help with prior to the event. This type of conference allows topics to be discussed in greater depth, meaning that the attendee can increase their knowledge at a faster rate.
6) Industry Consultants: A consultant is expected to have a great deal of knowledge on the topic(s) that you need help on. Prior to hiring a consultant, check them out. This is best done by speaking with their prior clients and getting an idea of what was gained through working with them. You’re able to work with the consultant, and in a predetermined amount of time, receive a variety of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to change consultants as the knowledge you attain begins to diminish. This isn’t a knock against your original consultant, but sometimes when one route comes to an end, you can gain a lot from a new, different perspective.
7) Peer Review Networks: The premise of these networks is that all participants are in the same business, have approximately the same dollar volume, but that they have no competitors in the group. This allows each participant the opportunity to see what the other companies are doing under similar circumstances. Each company is able to share their forms, ideas and dilemma’s with each other. Because they share each other’s financial and business development information in a standardized format, they are able to help each other in the best way possible. And because the group is evolving in their thoughts and actions, the group is able to generate and actually grow intellectual information. This means that they become each other’s consultant and they actually generate an internal knowledge base. This allows the participants to improve at an incredible rate. As a result of the sharing and trust level between the participants, they do not have to reinvent the wheel. Through the complete sharing of information, each participant is able to know with certainty what each company does and doesn’t do.
What you should see in each of the aforementioned paths is that one must be able to trust and verify exactly what a company says they are doing as well as what they are not doing. The ability to actually see how a company functions is far more important than what the company tells you they do.
I wish you a good year and hope that you are able to achieve
your budget profit for 2012!