Over the last two months I have covered five of the seven failures of business growth: #1 Failure to anticipate, #2 Failure to communicate, #3 Failure to collaborate, #4 Failure to innovate, and #5 Failure to pre-solve problems.

In this issue, I’ll share the final two failures of business growth and the strategies needed to grow your business for years to come.

Any product or service can be de-commoditized. Unfortunately, many companies don’t take the initiative to make their product unique. They come up with something new, and make that their main product. But other people copy the product. Margins get thin. Sales slow down. And they end up competing on price. The key is to take your product and put a service wrapper around it. Here’s an example: In the electricity industry, the utility provider cannot increase prices without permission from ratepayers. To de-commoditize themselves, one electric company created what they called “digital electricity.” They told their customers, “If your company runs a lot of expensive computerized equipment and you don’t want the electricity coming into your office to ever turn off or fluctuate in current or voltage, then you need digital electricity, which will cost more.” Many big companies signed up for the more expensive service, and in the near future, homeowners will have a similar interest because they will have multiple computers streaming audio and video in their home. This electric utility took a product and wrapped a service around it so they could charge more. Look at your product or service and think of ways that you can wrap a service around it to add value. But don’t stop there. Keep adding value to it every year so you never become a commodity again.

Over time, too many companies become just like everyone else. They don’t continue to stand out. Even though they do strategic planning, it’s usually just financial planning in disguise. True strategic planning needs to be more than numbers-based; it needs to focus on how you can differentiate your company and products from your competition instead of being and doing more of the same. So how do you differentiate? Simple…you stop doing all the failures of business growth just discussed. You start anticipating, communicating, collaborating, innovating, pre-solving problems, and de-commoditizing. Realize that you can infinitely differentiate your company if you have the courage to do the things your competition isn’t doing.

A weak economy doesn’t have to limit business growth. When you know the failures to avoid and the strategies to combat them, you’ll be well on your way to creating an organization that continues to grow despite outside conditions. So learn from these failures and rethink the way you do business. It’ll pay off for years to come.