Who’s Your Enemy? A Fascinating Concept
When I heard Fred Catona speak at a gathering of executives from various industries, I was intrigued by his discussion of “Who’s Your Enemy” and its relationship to business growth.
Catona says this is one of the first questions he asks new clients to discover how best to empower them to grow. Invariably the client goes silent; Catona explains that few people in business think in terms of having an enemy so they’re usually at a loss to identify one. However, Catona emphasizes that without being able to articulate the enemy, we don’t know what we’re fighting for and what the enemy is costing us.
I asked Catona to tell us more about the concept so we and our businesses can benefit from his insights.
What the Concept Means
Most companies see their direct enemy as a competitor—think Ford vs GM or GEICO vs. Progressive. In reality, a company’s “enemy” can come dressed in many forms.
An enemy can also be a bad public perception: for example, people might, rightly or wrongly, associate dentists with pain.
In my own business, I identified with Catona’s description of more nuanced perceptions and looked at my enemy in a way I’d never thought about before. At the simplest level, my enemy isn’t a competing consulting firm but rather corporate inertia, satisfaction with the status quo and not monetizing the benefits of change.
Now consider these bigger players:
· Nike’s enemy is laziness or inertia, so to combat that their slogan is “Just do it”
· Priceline’s enemy is the cost of a plane ticket so their retort is “Name your own price”
· GEICO’s enemy is time and money, hence “Save 15% in 15 minutes
· Apple’s enemy is the establishment, so their products are designed “to be cool.”
Why You Need to Know Your Enemy
Once you delineate your true enemy, your reactions will change—having a direct bearing on your sales numbers. Catona says that’s why it’s so vital to determine who or what your company’s enemy (or enemies) is and create your message accordingly. Knowing the enemy gives clarity and focus to your brain, business strategies and marketing to overcome the enemy or your obstacles to sales.
Catona notes that when there isn’t much difference between a company and its competition (say in the banking world), it’s harder to separate their message so that the consumer notices. He says that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just takes more creative thinking to find an answer that works.
How to Determine Who or What Your Enemy Is
First, generally speaking, your enemy is whatever is stopping your company from making sales or growing. Many times the enemy is obvious—the competition, the consumer’s need, the demand you are trying to supply.
Sometimes, though, the enemy is hidden or at least undiscovered and can’t be determined internally. Then it may take outside help, in the form of a business consultant or trusted advisor, to open up the thinking process. Outside sources can often see more clearly new points of view or shed light rather than focusing on the same old outlooks and thinking.
Catona dramatically concludes that “we know that an enemy that prevents a sale will always be an enemy, but an enemy that we use to our advantage will become a friend.”
In Leadership Insights, Suzanne F. Kaplan, President of Talent Balance and GPSEG colleague, interviews and writes about outstanding leaders to share their stories and experiences. Although we've all probably read some of the thousands of publications on leadership, it's the personal insights that Suzanne will be capturing for our benefit.
We welcome your comments and suggestions of other CEOs and leaders, including those not well known to GPSEG, whom you would like to see featured in future columns.