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The keys to success: Knowing It, Knowing Yourself and Knowing Them

Malcolm Morley, author of Understanding Markets and Strategy, explains his three keys to success for managers.

Managers often ask me: What are the keys to success?  I tell them that there aren’t any magic keys, but there are three things that they need to know. These are:

  • Knowing it
  • Knowing yourself, and
  • Knowing them.

Let me explain.

Knowing it relates to the current context within which their business operates in terms of markets, buyers and competition. 

  • What is the nature, level and location of demand in the market? 
  • Who are the buyers and how is the market segmented? 
  • What is the value of market segments? 
  • What is the competitive dynamic in the market? 
  • What are competitors doing that might affect the competitive dynamic? 

Knowing yourself relates to what business you’re in now, the basis on which you can compete now, what you want to achieve now and the current competencies, capabilities and capacity the business has now. I have often found that the definition of the business you’re in is internally driven rather than related to the market and the needs of buyers. This leads to a disconnection between internal and external perceptions and loss of brand value. Similarly, knowing the basis on which you’re competing is vital and has to be based upon an external market context rather than an internal evaluation. Clarity of objectives based upon the reality of the market and the requirements of key stakeholders is also vital as this will affect the identification of the competencies, capabilities and capacity required to compete.

Knowing them relates to those external organisations with whom you need to work to enable the business to deliver what it needs to achieve its objectives. Increasingly, the fulfilment of buyer requirements requires a complex supply chain. You can have the best product in the world but if you can’t get it delivered or manufactured, buyers will be lost to those that can. Knowing those with whom you need to work is vital as is binding them to you to create a system of buyer requirement fulfilment at an acceptable return.

Of course knowing it, yourself and them now is only part of the equation. You also need to know it, yourself and them for the future. This means developing scenarios and putting your business, the competition and those with whom you need to work in that future context.

Without knowing it, yourself and them, now and for the future, you can’t identify the gaps that you need to address to achieve success. Too often business strategy is blown totally off course through having to react to events. Whilst some events cannot be predicted many can and plans can be made to ensure that the business makes proactive, rather than reactive, choices.

Understanding Markets and Strategy: How to exploit markets for sustainable business growth, provides tools and techniques to enable managers to Know it, Know yourself and Know them. You can never find the key to success unless you know the lock you’re trying to open.

Malcolm Morley, March 2015

Malcolm Morley is the author of Understanding Markets and Strategy: How to Exploit Markets for Sustainable Business Growth. You can vote for Understanding Markets and Strategy in the Small Business Book Awards 2015. Voting ends April 2nd 2015. You can also purchase Understanding Markets and Strategy at a 25% discount with the code UMSA25 when prompted at checkout on