What story is your company telling about itself?

201512-buildings-pexels-photo-7618I read an article today in Bloomberg called “Can Cool Clothes Get Any Cheaper Than This?” It’s about the UK clothing retailer Primark and its move into the United States.

Primark positions itself at the intersection of trendy and cheap. In terms of price, they’re competing against Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s. But Primark is considerably ahead of those rivals in terms of fashion.

Why do you care? Maybe you don’t. You should, though, in the sense that you should care about how a business fits into a given competitive landscape.

When you think about making your career transition, out of technology and into business, you need to know how your company lives in its market ecosystem. A huge part is knowing what story the company tells about itself.

Here are some questions to ask about your company:

  • What customers do you serve?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Why would your customers choose you over your competitors?

We could go into tons of detail with these. But in the beginning, there’s no need. Perform a high level survey. Name your customers. Name your competitors. Find out why you win.

If you read industry news, or business publications, or talk with executives, you’ll hear a lot of buzzwords and fancy vocabulary. You’ll hear about “synergies” and “verticals” and “value propositions” and the like.

The buzzwords aren’t meaningless, but they can be confusing. Don’t worry about them. Frame your answers in terms of everyday language. The people you try to impress by using fancy business speak aren’t worth impressing.

What’s one quality that separates most technical folks from most non-technical folks? Clarity of thought. In math, science, and engineering, you can’t solve problems if you don’t think clearly.

Carry your clear thinking over to the business. Don’t distract yourself with jargon. The more you know about why your company succeeds, the better positioned you’ll be to contribute to the broader business.


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