A sustainable competitive advantage, or SCA, is created when an organization acquires, or more likely, develops an attribute or combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors. A SCA:

• Delivers value the customer is willing to pay for,
• Is not easily duplicated by competitors
• Has a relatively long life

An SCA can be the difference between real success in business and just barely surviving. So why is it so difficult to create your own SCA? To answer this let’s break the term down and start with definitions from Merriam-Webster:

Sustainable…of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.
Competitive…inclined, desiring, or suited to compete.
Advantage…something (such as a good position or condition) that helps to make someone or something better or more likely to succeed than others

So, Sustainable refers to over the longer term – not just today. First to market is not sustainable. Look at the iPod. What significant resources do you have that are sustainable to grow and build your business?

Competitive relates to competing in the marketplace. A macro view here is important because we all compete in many more markets than we think about. Michael Porter’s 5 Forces model is appropriate here. We compete with direct competitors, substitutes, alternatives, new entrants and ourselves. Think about it. How can you compete in the marketplace better?

To know if what we do is actually better we must objectively measure the results of our productive efforts. The results will tell us something about our use of our advantage. Now it is time to improve what we do. If we don’t, our advantage will disappear as others catch up, and pass, us.

Your SCA is the vehicle you use to communicate, both internally & externally, what makes your different, better and worth working with.

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