Your People and Your Culture are the New Competitive Currency

By Todd Cohen

The pandemic exacerbated many things. But it has also taught us a great deal about the future and how we build our business. It has highlighted what will set you apart from your competitors in your customers’ minds. Every company faces a glaring realization: Your people are now your most competitive and differentiating currency.

Being faster, cheaper or quicker is not a forward-thinking business strategy. It is not about low cost. It’s about what we always knew to be necessary, but perhaps we gave it lip service. How we show up, behave, interact and subsequently represent the company. I like to say, “Every interaction is a selling moment.”

Profitable companies thrive when people can confidently demonstrate the following qualities:

Collaborative. Working with people to help a client say “yes” is the only way to build a sustainable culture and bring down the silos that keep us apart. Working around people to get what you want and going rogue will only have dangerous long-term consequences. Customers sense dysfunction very quickly.

The Litmus Test. The barometer for any sales conversation should be, “How is this helping us help our clients say, ‘Yes?’” This levels the playing field and puts everyone on the same page.

Lack of Hubris. People who welcome help and outside expertise invest in people for the long haul.

Cues. Your colleagues take their lines from your behavior, and more importantly, your customers take their cues from your action.

Courage. Calling out negative behaviors that are contrary to success is crucial. We must stamp out the “I’m just the…” mentality or excuse.

Self-Awareness. People must be very self-aware (have a high EQ) of their behavior and its impact on others. You may get the job done, but the path taken to achieve the goal could make you an outlier. It has a long-term corrosive impact, and ultimately the customers feel it and run away.

Humility and Vulnerability. It is actually good not to the smartest person in the room. Companies survive and thrive when people attract others with their approachability and humanity.

The ultimate differentiator of your product and service will always be the people who are the company. Those who see this and embrace it will avoid being a commodity. Companies hiring and developing people who exhibit these human skills will be competitive in ways that eclipse low cost. Do not bet against it.