November 5, 2010 § 6 Comments
Before you crucify me, please hear me out. You might be a fanatic of benchmarking, so this post may not be for you. But don’t stop reading because it is also possible that this post is exactly for you.
Benchmarking answers three questions: (1) Who’s the best out there?, (2) How good are they? and, (3) How can we be as good as them?
Like most, I have applied benchmarking. It feels natural. Find the best and make the best the standard.
For many start up companies, benchmarking seems to be a really good guide so I will not condemn you if you want to copy what works for others. And this approach has worked for many new entrepreneurs in terms of getting started and getting somewhere.
The chances are good that you will reach certain goals with benchmarking. But here is the limitation. There is one goal that you will never reach with this strategy. And that is, to beat the best.
If you benchmark on another company’s standards, you might be able to achieve where they are in a year or two. But after two years of chasing, or by the time you reach their admirable standards, they would have moved on, which means, you would still be behind.
If the company you are benchmarking is truly the best, I would assume that they will keep improving their standards, services, products, or processes. As a benchmarker, you will keep following. And that will be your future. You will keep following the leader, but you will not be the leader.
Again, I do not condemn you. Copying after all is easier than real thinking.
The opposite school of thought is “never benchmark!” Do not compete directly. Change the game from the start. Design your venture into a new category. This takes creativity and imagination. I believe that if you have the creativity and the guts, do not copy, not even from the start, “never benchmark.”
Another school of thought is to copy some, or copy to a certain level, but change the game at a certain point. The motto is, “apply benchmarking for a while”, but at the soonest, “Stop Benchmarking.” This strategy tries to get the hang of how things work at first, then innovate the process, service, product or model at a certain point.
If you do not want your company to be branded as the copy or imitation of another company, begin with the target customers in mind, not the market leader.
“Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”- Gen. Omar Bradley.
If you want to be perceived as unique, a company who delivers what the other companies do not, never make benchmarking your main strategy, make customer-centric innovation your main strategy.
Focus innovation on what the customers want, or might want, and address it. Ask the questions: (1) Who are my target customers?, (2) What do they want that is under served? and, (3) How can I deliver that?
© Ed Pilapil Jr. 2010