Great Ideas: How to play hardball

Written by ProfitGuide

The winners in business always play hardball — meaning they use every legitimate resource and strategy available to gain advantage over competitors. If you’re not a hardball player, then prepare to watch your competition slowly but surely win, say the authors of Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win (Harvard Business School Press). Hardball players live by five main principles:

  • Focus relentlessly competitive advantage. Know exactly what your advantage is and exploit it relentlessly — don’t just talk about it.
  • Convert competitive advantage into decisive advantage. Unlike competitive advantage, which can be fleeting, decisive advantage puts you out of the reach of competitors. It’s systemically reinforcing: the better you get at it, the harder it is for competitors to compete against it or take it away. Toyota’s decisive advantage — built on its superior production system — enabled the company to grow its market share from 5% in 1980 to 11% today.
  • Attack indirectly. Hardball players often avoid direct confrontation with competitors. Military history shows that the most decisive victories have been won not from aggressive, in-your-face approaches but from indirect attacks.
  • Exploit your employees’ will to win. To achieve competitive advantage, people must be action-oriented, always impatient with the status quo. If your employees are resistant to change, take heart: softball players can be transformed. You might have to take a tough, no-nonsense approach in your leadership.
  • Draw a bright line in the caution zone. Always be aware of this zone — an area rich in possibility that lies between the place where society says you can play the game of business and the place where society clearly says you can’t. Before you enter the zone, you and your staff need to know where the unacceptable area is; it’s your job as leader to draw a bright line for your firm that marks the limit beyond which you will not venture.
Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com