What do world-class businesses do that you don't?

Tracey Porter

A world-class business may have many factors that make it the best at what it does.

It may be that it invented a unique product, developed an unusual service or simply that it thinks outside the box when it comes to being flexible and adapting to consumer demand.

Yet while these businesses may dominate different sectors, exist in different markets and have vastly different operating budgets, they usually have several characteristics in common. The biggest and most obvious of these being their ability to capitalise on little opportunities that make a big difference.

They learn from their customers

English entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and his wildly successful investment portfolio is the most obvious example of this.

Branson knows and understands that customers are the lifeblood of his business. Experience has taught him that his group must provide the products and services customers want, when they want them, at the price that suits. To this end, Branson spends much of his days soliciting feedback from passengers, meeting employees and speaking with staff. Open to doing things differently, he is known to keep a notebook of the ideas and is not afraid to implement them when the timing is right.

They fail fast, but learn faster

They’ve all done it. Everyone from Australian fashion designer Alex Perry to KFC founder Colonel Harland David Sanders has failed in some aspect before finding his or her feet and launching successful enterprises. While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes. But the 5,127th prototype worked, and Dyson went on to make the world’s best selling vacuum cleaner, earning himself millions in the process.

The biggest and most obvious of these being their ability to capitalise on little opportunities that make a big difference.

They go the extra mile

In 2011, author and frequent traveller Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a plane after a long day of travelling. He jokingly posted a tweet to a local steakhouse chain “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours?” After getting off the plane around dinnertime, someone in a Tuxedo tapped Shankman on the shoulder and handed him a Morton’s bag containing a steak, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. Not only had someone at the chain noticed the tweet, they had to seek approval for the idea, a cook had to make this food, the food had to be driven to the airport, and someone had to track down Shankman’s flight information to meet him at the right location.

So pleased was the author with the service, he retold the story to his 167,000 Twitter followers, spoke with dozens of reporters and did more for customer goodwill towards the chain than its PR staff could ever have wished for.

They look after their best assets – their staff

Google has developed a reputation for being a company that recognises the value of staff loyalty – but it’s not just about remuneration. With staff benefits ranging from on-site doctors to gourmet cafeteria food, every perk at Google has a good reason behind it, most of which are designed to lower recruitment costs. This applies to how long employees should wait in line during lunch – enough to allow time to network but not too much as to impede productivity – as well as how much paid maternity leave they receive.

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.

Image: Hardo Muller, Flickr Creative Commons license