The One Core Competency Rule
The word core competency is thrown around pretty liberally when it comes to business. It is an important word, because it does help people focus on what you are good at doing. The problem, as with most things business, is that this is another one of those words that is now overused corporate speak. Its general operational definition devolves into an easy way to tell others, “Don’t worry we are good at that too. We have you covered”. To me, this cheapens the point of having a core competency.
What should it mean?
A core competency is the foundational capability that makes your company special. If you had 10 seconds to explain your company, service or offering you would tell them about your product and why you are special. The core competency would be the “special”. What is the point? Well, a core competency should be THE “special” not the “specials”. And if you only had 10 seconds to tell them WHAT and WHY, you wouldn’t have time to tell them 5 WHYs.
The 1 Core Competency Rule
Whether working at a large company or representing a small one, at some point in their history the company’s success started with a single core idea or principle. As more people join, the business grows, its cultural and product appendages grow, and as they take on new life people forget that thing that was special. This is the 1 Core Competency Rule; a company or entity must remember that it has only one true core competency. This doesn’t mean that they are only good at one thing. It means if you forget the central capability that helped makes you great, it is easy to get distracted and over time stray from what you do best.
Why is the 1 Core Competency Rule Important
Whether you are deciding how to grow your company or deciding to buy something from another company, using the 1 Core Competency Rule is a great way to stay focused, ask tough questions, and simply make stronger, better decisions. This rule of thumb has saved me a ton of trouble when partnering because it helps me truly assess how my partner can actually help me. Hidden behind all the pomp and circumstance of all their bells and whistles lies the thing they do best. Or when trying to decide to create a new product, one should ask; am I chasing the market or am I using what I am best at to win the market. Again…it is meant to simplify decision making by staying focused and true to your expertise.
The 1 Core Competency Rule in Action
One of my favorite ways to use this rule is when I am selling to customers. Inevitably, they begin to ask me about how my offering compares to others. This is the moment I always use it, but not in the way you think. Rather than start to wax poetic about how I can do all the things my competition can, I usually bring up this rule. As a veteran of sitting on the other side of the table, I tell them the 1 Core Competency Rule. I tell them that as you make decisions, all startups (my example) have 1 Core Competency and you must judge them on this. They usually pause and think about it. After a few moments, they ask me to explain. Now I have reframed the conversation to get them to specifically focus on this concept, it is much easier to share why I am special. By reframing the discussion around the competitors Core Competency versus mine, I can quickly differentiate why my offering is better because of what its true expertise is. And then you are off to the races.
A Real Example: EnTribe – The CRM for User Generated Content
I am currently working with a company called EnTribe. This company is a marketing technology focused on the user generated content or the UGC market (customer generated photos and videos). UGC is changing how companies market the way social listening changed how consumers usurped power from big brands 10 years ago. In fact, UGC has been around as a potentially valuable marketing technology for at least 5-10 years. While it has shown great promise, only with the explosion of Instagram, TikTok and YouTube is UGC gaining the notoriety it should. Many companies exist in this market space, but for many years their primary focus has been on a few different executions. Either they want to get UGC to use on websites to drive authentic content in ecommerce or the UGC is often centered on managing influencers who have become excellent at driving marketing value.
This is where EnTribe is different.Started by a former VP at GoPro, Adam Dornbusch was tasked with building a process to find, invite, manage and even reward GoPro customers for legal rights to their content shot on GoPro cameras.And while not all brands are GoPro, the concept of creating this 1:1 relationship with their consumers was unique.Adam built a process that allowed GoPro to jump from having 4 pieces of legally usable UGC to 250,000 pieces in a year.Not only did they acquire massive quantities of content, but they also rewarded and used this content in their marketing including a SuperBowl Commercial (see below)
Better still, by rewarding everyone who sent a photo to GoPro with a discount coupon, they were able to drive ecommerce sales too. When he left, he figured out that no one had built a platform to find, acquire legal rights, manage, activate and reward creators for interacting with their brand and thus the SaaS platform EnTribe was born.
So how does the 1 Core Competency rule help? Because when the scenario described above occurs in a UGC bake-off, EnTribe can tell people that they have built a CRM system for User Generated Content. The companies’ major (or 1) core competency is about building a process to help you create a direct interaction with your consumers. This direct relationship gives the brand the control they want over their creative with the authenticity they all crave to have with consumers. It’s not about publishing, it’s not about influencers, it’s about your consumer and the process you don’t have to get them creating for you. This relentless focus helps Adam continue to expand his offering by making sure they expand around this 1 Core Competency rather than try to be something they are not.
Do I eat my own dog-food?
I invite you the think hard about what your 1 Core Competency is that makes you special. Mine is in my companies’ name; InnovationMuse. I love to innovate and especially like being a muse for others. And as someone who loves people, I help CEOs with their strategy while providing the personal council to make their personal and professional strategy a reality. By helping them identify and evangelize their true north, I help them see where they want to get to in the future and then come back to today to create new business opportunities that enact that vision. It’s who I have always been and I have been embracing that Core Competency with the relentless focus of any CEO. While others are the CEO of their products or services, I decided a long time ago to be the CEO of my own skill set, and doing so was the best business decision I have ever made.