Know Your Business

January 9, 2020

Nobel Prize winning physicist and chemist Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.” That point of view can apply to businesses today. Understanding your company’s susceptibility to disruption will help you make momentous strategic choices.

One of the keys is to not get discouraged by possible threat of disruption, but to consider the opportunities. This is the time to double-down on top-notch customer service. Think about Publix, the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States. With an aim to be the premier quality food retailer in the world, the company doesn’t win because they have the greatest technology, but what they have in spades is customer service.

If you’re from the Southeast part of the country, you know that people who love Publix really LOVE Publix. People will go out of their way just to buy groceries at Publix. Why? Because their employees live and breathe helping their customers. If you went home today, would your employees say the same thing or that they are focused on getting a commitment out? Or would they say, ‘I’m focused on creating a wow moment.’ Publix isn’t necessarily developing huge campaigns and wild schemes to better the customer service process. They are simply empowering their employees to do what it takes to ‘wow’ the customer on each visit. Ask yourselves what you can do in your business. We know this business better than anyone and disruption works much better within.

Finding, knowing and capitalizing on your value is very powerful. Think about how Square made its entrance into the established market of mobile payments with known players such Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Square didn’t create disruption. They looked for a sector of the market that was not accepting credit cards. Square discovered that nearly 13 million small businesses in the U.S. did not accept credit cards even though their customers wished they did. Using the concept of value-innovation, Square created a system for mobile payments that let them unlock an ocean of non-customers.

Be that innovator for your customers. Maybe it’s offering a digital closing solution or a secure way to transfer data and money. Maybe it’s something much simpler like sending hand-written thank you notes or giving your customers a phone call. Set your strategic priorities based on knowing yourself and your business. The results will be innovative instead of imitative.

Mary O'Donnell is president of the American Land Title Association. Send comments to

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