Strengthen the Core

In yoga practice, we are always encouraged to work our core--those muscles in our midsection. This gives us strength and enhances our ability to balance and be flexible, all necessary ingredients for a successful practice. When you start practicing yoga, you start slow and perfect basic poses so you can build strength, hold the pose longer, and eventually progress to more advanced, complex, and demanding poses.

We build our careers this same way. We start out learning the basics, practice and gain experience. We build confidence, strength, and experience, and learn more. We become subject matter experts. I've often counseled emerging HR consultants who want guidance on starting and growing their practices. I ask them, "What do you know? What do you do well? What are areas of the profession where you have practical experience and are comfortable and confident?" This is your core. This is where you should focus your practice. Moving too far afield, you risk diminishing your credibility. Becoming the Jack or Jill of all trades is risky.

Businesses are also built the same way, focusing on core strengths and values. Profitable businesses recognize that they need not diversify to the extent that they stray from their cores.

What is your business core? Whether you work as an independent consultant or a business leader within an organization, ask the following questions:

1. What are the boundaries—natural economic boundaries defined by customer/client needs--of the business in which I participate? What products, services, customers, channels, and competitors do those boundaries encompass?

2. What are the core skills, competencies, and assets needed to compete effectively within the competitive arena? Does the organization (or do I) possess them?

3. How is our (my) core business defined by my customers/clients, products/services, technologies, and channels through which I can earn a return today and compete effectively with my current resources, skills, knowledge, and experience?

4. What is the key differentiating factor that makes us (me) unique to core customers/clients?

5. What are the adjacent areas around my core, and are the definitions of my business, industry, or profession likely to shift, changing the competitive and customer/client landscape?

Growing a business, large or small, requires a solid foundation. You need to build a culture, and to do so requires an understanding of your core values--what you want the business to stand for. You also need to build a basis for profitability--your core resources, assets, knowledge base, and experience--in order to thrive.

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