Business In Depth, 09/08/2019

Adrian Slywotzky Inspires Ukrainian Business to Win Global Competition

Ukraine being an outsider of international business for a long time, now faces a crucial challenge on how to become a global player. For many companies in Ukraine, this is a practical question. Compared to their overseas competitors, they lack experience, capabilities, resources. What can they hope for?

And here comes Adrian Slywotzky, an American business consultant and author of several high-profile books on economic theory and management. Since 1979, he has consulted to Fortune 500 companies on issues related to new business development and creating new areas of value growth. Adrian Slywotzky is partner emeritus of Oliver Wyman, a leading global management consulting firm. The Times of London named Adrian one of the top 50 business thinkers in 2011.

Currently, Adrian also is a member of the Lviv Business School advisory board. Apparently, this is the tribute of the internationally recognized management guru to his Ukrainian origin.

All of these puts Adrian into the unique position of providing first-class tailored advice to Ukrainian businesses on succeeding in the crowded and tough global marketplace. As the visiting professor of Lviv Business School and a frequent speaker at many business events in Ukraine in recent years, Adrian has a very good understanding of Ukrainian corporate realities.  Add to this, that, as Thinkers50 put it, “he is best known for his work on profitability and growth, and for pioneering the concept of business design and business model innovation.” So addressing the internationalization challenges Ukrainian companies face, Adrian  Slywotzky is one of a kind. He understands the problem and has a set of solutions.

Adrian’s inspirational message to Ukrainian companies is imprinted in the title of the seminar he has delivered in Kharkiv this July. It says, “David wins: Discipline of Asymmetric Competition.” One can easily figure out that Adrian refers to the biblical story of young David who has defeated Philistine giant Goliath in single combat. So, as Mr. Slywotzky believes, Ukrainian businesses face the asymmetric competition against their much stronger global adversaries. And they can win.

According to seminar organizers – Lviv Business School, – we live and create our companies in a world of asymmetric competition. Very small teams create enormous added value and win over large-scale opponents in various fields. Why and how does it happen?

In a nutshell, it’s all about the alchemy of business design that turns things around us into capital that generates profit, creates wealth and value.

Here are some plug-and-play takeaways from the seminar.

So, as a first step, take business design seriously. Only the companies that clearly understand where and how they make a profit can go global successfully. This is the axiom. And it is a self-test. If the very question about identifying the profit model for the business seems to someone as a banality or commonplace, this is a strong sign of so-called unconscious incompetence. And the good news for such a person is that he or she has yet to discover the enormous power of business design!

Second, think in terms of the reversed value chain. That is, start not with the value you believe to offer, but find out what do your customers need. As one of the tools, Mr. Slywotzky suggests creating a customer hassle map. Actually, “hassle map” is a concept coined by Adrian Slywotzky himself. In an Inc. interview, he explained, “Whether you’re talking about a consumer or a corporation, a hassle map defines all of the actual steps that characterize the negative experiences of the customer.” In other words, determine the customer’s pain, engineer the reliever and turn this into your profit.

Next, seek the ways to make competitor’s strengths and your weaknesses irrelevant. Well, at first this sounds very much like Sun Tzu prophecies, nice and paradoxical, but unclear how to implement. But Adrian Slywotzky easily explains how this general rule can be creatively applied to SWOT-analysis, which, we have to admit, many companies do in a thoughtless and resultless manner following the strategic planning formal procedure prescribed by business school professors or textbooks. The trick is, after identifying the strengths of competitors and your weaknesses, think about the circumstances when all of them do not matter. Still got the questions? Make a pause, watch Ocean’s Eleven for the inspiration.

Further, master the magic of the business levers. Actually, they are the ones that allow you to crack your competitors’ dominant positions. In other words, if you are not a giant, they are the tools that will allow you to get on a shoulder of the giant. They are the tools that make your weaknesses and competitors’ strengths simultaneously irrelevant in one touch. If you are interested, ask Lviv Business School for more detail.

And, finally, learn from the great. Create your own gallery of companies that have managed to become value giants seemingly from nothing. For example, you can start with Amazon, Tesla, Apple, SpaceX, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Alibaba, Didl, Baid, Xiaomi… There is always one or another trick you can catch. As Adrian Slywotzky recommends, learn one such company, deeply, every week. In a month, your brain will be rewired. For dramatically better results, study one per month. In a year, you will acquire Superman-like skills in analysis and action.

Will Ukrainian companies master these ideas? We just wait.

Text: Taras Danko

Photo: Lviv Business School