Confidence comes from competence

While in the dim and distant past now, the IGD’s Grocery and Foodservice Conference in September was a real boost to the spirit as industry leaders spelt out their progress and plans with clarity and honesty. Methodologies of how to adapt and prosper, reaching beyond survival, in the middle of an uncertain and extremely difficult economy were on show from each speaker.

I arrived expecting to hear mostly of ‘practical approaches to dealing with the gloom’ and left feeling genuinely uplifted. I admired the rigour and methodology with which players of different shapes and sizes were leading their operations in the current circumstances.

It struck me how confident and competent every contributor from the stage appeared and perhaps these qualities in themselves are worthy of a short investigation as we all look to travel ‘beyond survival’ for 2012 and further.

Commercial confidence surely comes from an ability to believe that a business will successfully navigate the future based on experience and results from the past.

Keep doing the same things and get more confident? No, most definitely not. But deliver planned results in your industry, adapt the plan according to your competitors and market conditions and, where possible, lead the competition through innovation and investment.

One thing we often find in our work with the wholesale sector is a reticence to communicate results and ask for the opinions of teams on the ground on how they feel the business could be improved.

So don’t wait for an annual review, get out there among them, on the floor, in the office or with the wheels and gauge the confidence in your organisation.

Outwardly confidence allows us to believe our approach is proven and is or will yield the right results. Confidence will enable us to resist the desire to deviate on price or service, or reduce quality because we are assured that our total package exceeds the expectations of our customers. We are battling against economic confidence indicators that, for the past two years, have probably rightly so, been pessimistic to say the least.

We can all build confidence in ourselves and our teams by examining and developing the required competences that our customers need us to demonstrate in our industry sector.

In my view, all the conference speakers appeared to be striving to be especially competent in four major areas:

Market sector an ability to separate their customers into sectors and treat each sector according to its need.

Range recognition that one size does not fit all. Directly related to market sector.

Loyalty a focus on how to increase loyalty and retain customers by establishing the correct quality, value and service.

Technology a real eye and a plan for what technology can and will bring to the wholesale sector both right now and in the future.

Competence will grow when you have a clear view of your critical focus areas and then decide the behaviour that you need right through your organisation, at every level, by every employee to deliver best performance in that focus area en route to achieving your required business results.

We should be constructively critical of ourselves and question whether we are approaching our chosen critical success factors with rigour around the technical, interpersonal and business-related resources that each of our team must have to achieve excellent performance.

We need our people to apply skill, ability and knowledge; to be fully competent in front of our customers and suppliers; and deliver the requirements of their role. It is likely that they are going to need direction and support to achieve this. We can’t just talk it, we must help them grow their competence. In doing just this, watch their confidence in their ability to perform in their role grow.

The wholesale sector contains a terrific balance of experience, knowledge, entrepreneurship, diversity and opportunity that, from our experience at the IGD conference, can be combined to deliver powerful results in challenging conditions. Our recommendation is that you take a look at how competent your business is in the areas that your customer decides are the critical success factors that they need you to excel at.

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