Jeff Bezos didn't get to be the richest man in the world recently--for six hours, when Amazon stock took an uptick--by being a dummy. (In case you were wondering, I held that title for exactly never hours.)
He's known for saying, and doing, a lot of smart things.
But I found one question that he rather famously asks himself to be particularly insightful. He gets asked all the time "What's going to change about your business?" Bezos has said the much more important question is "What's not going to change?"
And therein lies a lesson in not losing sight of the fundamentals.
We spend so much time analyzing competitors and trying to anticipate their future moves, hiring trend experts to help us understand where our category is going, engaging in scenario planning to be ready for seismic shifts.
But how often do we step back and take a look at the fundamentals of what's true about our business and will always be true, so that we can fully take advantage of the rarest of gems in the business world--the known commodity?
I'd like to offer a simple tool in this endeavor, what I call an Anchor Audit. It works in three steps:
1. Identify your anchors.
Get with your team and identify the three or four most important things to your business/business model that won't change--the anchors, or pillars of your business. I use the term anchor because it's what holds you steady (not what weighs you down for those cynics out there). For example, such core anchors might be:
- Having a deeper understanding of the end user than your competitor.
- Relentless, meaningful innovation.
- Product quality substantially higher than that of your competitor, at all times.
- Most reliable delivery/service record.
Again, it makes the list if it's at the core of the most critical things that have made you successful where you're successful today.
The key is to deeply think about the pillars; you can't just breeze through this. Do the analysis if necessary to understand what the true drivers of your business are. Many fall down here, with only a surface level understanding. Go deep and be sure.
2. Do a disruption check.
Remember, you will have just identified key things that are core drivers of your business and that aren't going to change. It's critical you believe that they really aren't going to change--that they aren't ripe for disruption.
While no team can ever fully predict disruptions, there certainly are areas that lend themselves to disruption more than others. Think an anchor that won't change is your low price? That may be ripe for disruption. Think it's an unmatched supply chain? Maybe ripe for disruption. You get the idea.
Make sure you haven't glossed over what really could change dramatically because those things require a separate action plan.
3. Do a sufficiency check.
Armed with the right list of rock-solid surefire things that really matter, now conduct a sufficiency check. Are you flowing enough time, talent, and resources to winning/continually improving in the anchor areas? Have you spent enough time strengthening your strengths or at least ensuring you don't skip a beat in these key areas?
Or is that shiny new idea-of-the-month distracting you from ensuring that the bedrock upon which the anchor holds is still solid?
So, what's not going to change?
Bezos is right to spend so much time thinking about this. It's probably why one thing that won't change is that Amazon will continue being a thought-leader and pace setter.