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It Is Tough To Stay Successful

It is more difficult to stay on top than to get there - Mia Hamm

There is nothing more challenging in business and in life than maintaining success – it is far, far harder than achieving success in the first place. Companies that are able to align their capabilities and build distinctive advantages to perfectly meet current market opportunities cannot necessarily adapt to meet tomorrow’s. Time and again once exemplary companies are relegated to also-rans by their failure to respond to changes in customer need, technology or competitor set. Companies such as Netscape, Kodak, The Gap and IBM (maybe you want to add Nokia to the list) have all suffered this fate and of the top 100 US firms from 1917 only one had outperformed the market average over the subsequent 80 years, while 61 had ceased to exist.

How confident are you that today’s market leaders will still be at the top, or even around, in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time? There is nothing written in stone to suggest that Apple, Tesco, WalMart, Google or even Coca-Cola will be protected from future demise. My hunch, if history is anything to go by, is that several of them will struggle or even disappear in the next few decades.

During the press conference to announce that NOKIA was being acquired by Microsoft, Nokia’s CEO ended his speech saying this “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. Upon saying that, all his management team, himself included, teared sadly. Nokia has been a respectable company. They didn’t do anything wrong in their business, however, the world changed too fast. Their opponents were too powerful. They missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and thus they lost the opportunity at hand to make it big. Not only did they miss the opportunity to earn big money, they lost their chance of survival. The message of this story is, if you don’t change, you shall be removed from the competition. It’s not wrong if you don’t want to learn new things. However, if your thoughts and mindset cannot catch up with time, you will be eliminated. Thus, it is not enough to achieve successful, you need so much work to stay at the top because the competition will keep getting better.

In today’s footballing world, the name Cristiano Ronaldo (also popularly called CR7 but with full name as Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro, born on February 5th, 1985), is unarguably a household name. Lovers of the round leather game have been thrilled and mesmerized by the skills of the multiple time World Footballer of the Year. No one will deny that CR7 is indeed a hard worker and this attitude he brings to any match he plays in. Teammates have confirmed that is one of his success secrets. The question you may want to ask yourself is, how desirous and hungry are you to achieve your set objectives and be the best in what you do? Those with burning desires seldom live average lives. Something on their inside keeps pushing them. However, the biggest secret is the level of work he puts in to stay on top. At Real Madrid, one of his teammates, Jese Rodriguez said, “I remember being called for my first training for Real Madrid. I went two hours earlier to impress the trainer. When I arrived, I saw Cristiano Ronaldo already training.” And that is why he is CR7. What is your own work ethics like? Do you have a time for practice and doing the work and putting in extra in order to become extraordinary and not remain an average? Nothing beats hard and smart work, and it is the only option you have if you are going to get ahead of the lot in the field of play in your career. Complacency is the undoing of many. Arriving and settling too soon. Thinking that the little success recorded is the end and all there is.

It is a cliché in the corporate life that getting to the top of your Industry is difficult – staying there is really, really difficult. We all know from lessons in life that it’s easier to fall off the perch than it is to get there for the simple reason that everyone wants to occupy the top slot. The same goes for vehicles. The Toyota Hilux has been South Africa’s best-selling vehicle of any type for bigger part of its life cycle which in this case goes back to 2005. However, nothing in life stands still and there’s no doubt in my mind that in the auto business, a 10-year life cycle is not far off double the industry average which has made the Hilux unusually vulnerable to attack. One vehicle, and it’s a four letter word beginning with F(ord), has been eating away at the Toyota’s supremacy to such an extent that it has usurped the top slot on the sales charts in some months. Among more than 1,000 companies that Fortune magazine included in its global rankings of the World's Most Admired Companies (WMACs), there are only 56 companies that have retained their status in the top 100 over the past decade. Similarly, in the Hay Group's research of the WMACs 2011 report, of the total 56 industries surveyed, there are 22 industries which have new leaders in their industries. For instance, in the petroleum industry, a long-time champion, Exxon Mobil, has been replaced by Stat Oil of Norway, Alcoa has been succeeded by Posco of South Korea in the steel industry, and in the telecom industry, AT&T has lost its crown to Telefonica of Spain. The Hay Group research identifies four key areas that adaptable firms use for achieving sustainable performance: focus on priorities for growth [focus on high-growth markets and fast-growing organizational units/subsidiaries], culture of innovation, employee involvement, and enabling employees to succeed, onboarding and integrating new staff into the organization; skills development; managers provide coaching, feedback and identify performance barriers. In life and in business, you must always be in shape, bring in you’re A-game at all time, be adaptable, stay innovative and be open to new ideas. This is the number one prerequisite to remain successful in an ever changing world.

(Culled from my book, The Path Less Traveled...


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