The One-Percent Edge: A book review by Bob Morris

The One-Percent Edge: Small Changes That Guarantee Relevance and Build Sustainable Success
Susan Solovic with Ray Manley
AMACOM (February 2018)

How to “identify opportunities and strategies, prioritize them, plan for them, execute, measure, adjust or abandon, and repeat”

The business world I survey today is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember. Change is the only constant. In one of his recent books, Mafshall Goldsmith suggested that “what got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, I think that whatever gets us here won’t even enable us to remain where we are, however “here” is defined.

In this book written with Ray Manley, Susan Solovic offers a six-step process by which to achieve and then sustain a competitive edge in eight separate but related components of organizational structure: Leadership, Customer Base, Products and Services, People, Marketing, Processes and Systems, and Finances. Step 1 is “Ask the Right Questions” and I agree with Simon Sinek that perhaps the most important of them is “Why?” Here are two others: “What are the defining characteristics of a workplace culture within which creative thinking is most likely to thrive?” and “How to create customer evangelists?” Senior-level executives were asking these and other questions decades ago but the answers today are different than they were then. Customer expectations as well as employee expectations are different.

Solovic points out that only 71 of the original Fortune 500 exist today. Reasons vary but one of the most significant is that most of those companies either ignored major changes in their competitive marketplace or responded too late.¬†Solovic wrote this book to help prepare business leaders to find the correct answers to the questions that need to be asked. Given the harsh reality of what Jeff Pfeffer and Bob Sutton characterize as the “knowing doing gap,” she explains the HOW as well as the WHAT. She agrees with Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

These are among dozens of passages in The One-Percent Edge of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Solovic’s coverage:

o The six-step One-Percent Edge process (Pages 5-18)
o Leadership Edge (Pages 21-30)
o Make Bold Decisions with Reason (24-36))
o Customer Edge (33-58)
o Product & Services Edge (61-93)
o People Edge (97-125)
o Identification of employee talent (119-121)
o Marketing Edge (129-163)
o Brand presence and brand gap (130-135)
o Storytelling (145-146)
o Consistency in social media marketing (156-157)
o Processes & Systems Edge (167-185)
o Checklist for legacy procedure (184-185)
o Financial Edge (189-218)

I commend Solovic on her skillful use oif various reader-friendly devices that include checklists, relevant quotations that serve as headnotes, and majer [points in bold face. These devices facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. It would also be a smart idea to have a lined notebook near at hand in which to record comments, questions, and page references as well as to complete exercises that Solovic suggests.

Although Solovic may have written this book primarily for senior-level executives, I think it would also be of substantial benefit to those now pre[paring for a career in business or have only recently begun one. Those who read and then re-read it with appropriate care will be well-prepared to help their organization to achieve and then sustain a competitive edge.In process, they will also create for their career a competitive edge of its own.

These are among Susan Solovic’s concluding thoughts: “I hope your primary takeaway from this book is that your relationship with your customers is the one sustainable advantage that insulates your business against failure. Of course, that means that every aspect if your business [i.e. its leadership, customer base, products and services, people, marketing, processes and systems, and finances] must support that relationship and consistently deliver it to the market. It means you are constantly listening to your customers’ needs as a problem solver and partner, and enhancing your business operations to provide solutions in a profitable and productive way.”

Years ago, when asked to explain why Southwest Airlines was more profitable and had a greater cap value than all of the other ten largest airlines [begin italics] combined [end of italics], then chairman and CEO Herb Kelleher replied,”We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care if our shareholders.” Almost everything you need to achieve your company’s edge is provided in this book.

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