Apple’s recent announcement in the Wall Street Journal that they are developing an electric vehicle sent shockwaves through the automotive industry – or at least through automotive-industry watchers. Why is that? Why are some people so sure that Apple will revolutionize the car business? Did Saturn? Did Tesla? While these companies clearly have made an impact, the industry hasn’t changed all that much, other than the effects of its natural, slow evolution over time.
What people may be thinking about is how Apple markets, not so much what it sells. We’re all familiar with the lore of the late Steve Jobs saying that people don’t know what they want, but if you make something cool, practical and somewhat affordable, consumers will flock to it.
So when you look at your business, would you be concerned if Apple became a competitor?
Think about what happens when an established brand enters a new market: Not too long ago, Richard Branson’s Virgin empire announced it would be building and operating cruise ships. Netflix and Amazon decided simply streaming wasn’t enough and began producing their own programming (and immediately earning viewers and Emmys). And along the TV lines, it wasn’t so long ago that HBO, once known primarily for broadcasting movies, began to produce the now-iconic Sopranos series.
Of course, there have been new ventures that didn’t generate the buzz and accolades (think Coke’s milk division). But the key here is that Apple has people excited – or apprehensive, depending on what company you work for.
So, how do you gain some positive takeaways if you’re a car manufacturer, or any other company for that matter? Here’s a checklist to start the process of evaluating how you’d fare against Apple (or any other organization entering your industry):
- Take a look at your processes, procedures and practices – a hard look. Is there anything that is merely tradition or habit? I guarantee a new player won’t have that hindrance, so clean house operationally.
- Are your assets outdated? Your competitor will be starting with the latest equipment and facilities. Be sure you have the competitive advantage.
- Do you reward loyalty and compensate well through salary and benefits? The first thing Apple might do is cherry pick your top talent. Create an atmosphere that they’d be foolish to leave.
- Are you working with partners that add value and reinforce your sales proposition, such as an industry association or the manufacturer of a complementary product or service? Don’t be surprised if Apple partners with a few big names so that they can eliminate having to start from scratch. Align with the best organizations in your space so that they’re not as available to another corporate suitor.
- Do you have any glaring deficiencies? Sometimes these are ignored when a company is profitable. But when Apple is competing with you, they’re going to exploit all your weaknesses for their gain (and probably make an excellent commercial about it, too, for that matter).
- Think about what you’ve always wished you could change about your company. Now, what if your new competitor did that exact thing?
If you’re not in the automotive, computer, phone or tablet industry, then you probably don’t have to worry about Apple – at least for now. But there’s no better time than now to take a hard look at your business to see what you could do better.