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Sustainable Competitive Advantage: The 4 Musts for Business Leaders


ASHA (American Seniors Housing Association) kicked off its annual meeting today in Phoenix with a keynote address by FORTUNE’s Senior Editor-at-Large Geoff Colvin. His message resonated far beyond the Senior Housing industry and property management sector.

"Uncertainty defines the era we’re in," began Colvin. Those uncertainties: policies, global growth and human talent. The only things that are certain, according to Colvin, are four key mandates followed by the best business leaders:

  1. Innovating their business model – Think Instagram vs. Kodak. Business models don’t last as long as they used to. What used to be 30 to 40 years is now six to seven years tops.
  2. Managing for value – Invest in those areas that create value, such as training and brand building. Investors will understand value-creating investments.
  3. Building human capital – Never stop this building process. People, culture and relationships are often cited as the source of an operation’s competition advantage. But building human capital is the core competitive advantage – and the most valuable asset.
  4. Using the infotech revolution to radically be customer centric – You must offer value propositions to your different customer segments; differing needs require different value propositions. Companies that don’t adhere to this will be at a significant disadvantage. Welcome to the Age of the Customer.

“All four take courage,” stated Colvin. “And not everyone has it.”

Colvin stressed the everyday importance of company culture. He went on to define culture as “what people are doing when nobody is telling them what to do.” Never heard that put so succinctly.

He concluded with one final bit of wisdom.

“Experimenting online. That’s what the best businesses are doing.”