By Royston Guest

Are you thinking ‘inside out’ or ‘outside in’?

Great businesses and their leaders think ‘outside in’, the customer is the focal point of everything they do and how they do it. They are fanatical about looking at themselves through their customers’ lens and culturally are self-challenging, forever asking probing questions;

How easy are we to do business with?

Are we delivering a world-class customer experience?

What business are we really in?

Do you know something, most business owners and leaders do not know what business they are really in!

A simple exercise for you. If you have a pad and pen or electronic device I’d like you to write down your answer to the question: what business are you in? Don’t over analyse or over think your answer; it is not a trick question. Just capture your immediate response in black or white or worst case, imprint the answer firmly in your conscious mind.

Here’s the kicker to start with: in my experience most people answer that question from one of three angles. First, they think they’re in the business dictated by the name of their business; second, the industry in which they operate; or third, the products or services they provide.

But actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

You see, I don’t think most people know what business they are really in. Now, I know that is a bold statement but let me demonstrate my business case through a real world example.

Pizza Express is a global chain of over 500 restaurants, founded by a guy named Peter Boizot in 1965. If you were to ask anyone at the company what business they are in, the response might well be selling pizzas. At a logical level this is correct. However, as part of their induction, new colleagues are educated on the history, heritage, culture, and purpose of Pizza Express – guess what business they say they are ‘really’ in … ‘Feeding great conversations since 1965.’

The product or service, which in this case is pizza, is just the prop to engage the customer in the memorable experience. The fact that a pizza restaurant makes great pizzas should simply be a given; your product is merely your licence to trade and it has to be great because in a competitive world, mediocre products quickly give way to better ones.

Notice what impact the addition of one word has when you change ‘what business are you in?’ to ‘what business are you ‘really’ in?’ Your response to the first question will drive you down the road of answering the question from a logical perspective aligned to your industry or products and services you provide.

Your response to the second question creates an entirely different dynamic: great businesses think differently, they think ‘outside in’ as opposed to inside out. Adding one word ‘really’ to the question challenges you to go beyond the physical product or service you provide and delve deeper into the benefits your customer receives by choosing your products and services.

Now complete the exercise again but answer the question; what business are you really in? Simply changing the direction of your lens from ‘inside out’ to ‘outside will help you see your business through the eyes of your existing and prospective customers. And I hope you agree, it has the potential to completely transform how you think about your business, and how you engage with employees, customers, shareholders, partners.

Royston Guest is a global authority on growing businesses and unlocking people potentially. He is CEO of Pti-Worldwide, author of #1 best-selling business growth book, Built to Grow, now available on audible and founder of Built to Grow Mastermind programme. For more info see:

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