Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Ramos, founder of SHIFTPOINTS. We’ve written about Dave and his business philosophy before, so I was looking to hear something new. Ramos did not disappoint.
“Differentiation is always important, but rarely urgent,” says Ramos. “Clients would come to us in pseudo crisis because growth had plateaued. They did not come to us because they needed to be more differentiated. But their core problem always came back to the same thing. They needed clarity in the one thing that would make their companies exceptional.”
As Ramos saw this pattern emerge, he shifted his own company’s focus to deliver greater value to clients. In doing so, he re-branded the company from The Dashboard Group, which centered on alignment, to SHIFTPOINTS, which focuses on differentiation.
“Interestingly, we have seen a direct correlation between differentiation and employee engagement,” observes Ramos. “Lack of differentiation is the root cause of a whole suite of other problems including lower margins, lower win rates, and declining morale.”
“I’ve come to believe that one of the things that is highly engaging to employees is when they believe that are going to become part of something great. The notion that we’re creating a point of differentiation that enables the company to win business for a single point of greatness is incredibly inspiring. Clarity is a big part of engagement.”
Ramos has written the book, Decide One Thing, which offers a practical approach to clearly identifying a company’s point of differentiation. This process puts a different lens on what we think we already know. For example, if you’ve read Good to Great by Jim Collins, you’re familiar with the Hedgehog principle, which is essentially the intersection of:
- What you are passionate about
- What you can be best in the world at
- What drives your economic engine
What’s missing from the Hedgehog model? Something that enables a company to win business. The Hedgehog looks within and forgets to consider a critical external factor: What the customer values. In fact, the Hedgehog model is a static, academic theory. As such, it does not translate well into an actionable plan. Decide One Thing is the first element in a seven-step process that SHIFTPOINTS developed to help companies become exceptional.
Ramos has an interesting perspective on business and on life, and you may enjoy looking at business from his perspective. As Ramos will put it, a young company can drill for oil (i.e. be uncertain of its purpose) for as long as everyone in the company can fit in one car on the way to lunch. As soon as you outgrow the car, then you’ve got to put structure and systems into place. Usually what happens next is that well-meaning people come to work and doing the wrong thing. Unless, of course, you have clarity in purpose and communicate that one thing well.