Look beyond your industry for best practices

My thinking about the sales process had me thinking about best practices and so I had a stack of borrowed books about best practices in my office.

One of the books in my “best practices book pile” I read recently: Best Practices: Building Your Business with Customer-Focused Solutions, written in 1998 by R. Hiebeler, T. Kelly, and C. Ketteman.

The book talked about the need to look outside of your industry to the best practices of businesses in other industries. Even though they might have different products, there is still value to learning what their best practices are and to discovering connections that you may not have thought existed. The book references some case studies early on to demonstrate. For example: GTE (a communications giant bought by Bell Atlantic in 2000 and rebranded as Verizon) wanted to improve transaction accuracy in billing. So it looked outside of its industry and asked the question “who deals with transactions with 100% accuracy?”. They realized that the New York Stock Exchange dealt with many transactions every day and needed to be accurate each time so they studied the NYSE’s best practices and adopted some for themselves.

This is a brilliant business choice. Rather than focusing on your own industry, look outside of it and adopt the best practice principles from others. It’s something that I’ve started doing for myself and a practice I am working on with a couple of my clients. I would encourage you to try the same exercise: Figure out what you do (at a high level) and look around at other industries that do a similar activity.

For example, if you make pizza, then you take a variety of ingredients that must be fresh and you put them together on a made-to-order basis and then wait while it cooks and then deliver it quickly to the customer. Are there other industries that do some or all of those things? The automotive manufacturing industry, for example, may be helpful in thinking about just-in-time delivery of the “parts” that make up the pizza. And perhaps their assembly line structure might also inform your process.

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