Get competitive

by John Chan

Joseph Salvacruz, adjunct associate professor, Department of Marketing
School of Business and Management, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Photo: Courtesy of HKUST Business School Executive Education Office

Executives must learn to position themselves in order to drive performance in the cut-throat business arena

Business dynamism is to a large extent powered by competition, which essentially fuels intelligence, innovation, creativity and perhaps most importantly entrepreneurialism.

"The operating environment for businesses of all scopes and scales can be as hostile as it is competitive," points out Joseph Salvacruz, adjunct associate professor, Department of Marketing, School of Business and Management, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

A thorough understanding of how to monitor business dynamics and better position a company against its rivalries therefore creates an advantage especially for one to successfully navigate through clear and present change and challenge on today's rugged commercial landscape.

On a personal level, executives that are equipped with such an understanding plus the techniques and experiences to boot will find themselves in an advantageous position for future promotion. These people may even become indispensible during tough economic times when layoffs become a last resort for struggling businesses.

Employers in turn should seek every opportunity to upgrade their workforce in order to get ahead in the increasingly aggressive business world. "Developing a competitive mind-set among staff at all career levels is a basic benefit that will have a significant and positive impact on both business and staff performance," says Professor Salvacruz.

Executive skills

In an effort to prepare employers and business executives for sustainable success in business, the HKUST Business School Executive Education Office offers a two-day competitive positioning programme.

The competitive positioning programme, which has won much acclaim since its inauguration three years ago, is a high-level strategic marketing programme. It is designed and structured in such a way that it deals with issues related to creating and sustaining performance in the contemporary marketplace ultimately leading to the establishment of a competitive advantage.

Professor Salvacruz believes that the intensive curriculum is particularly suited to people who are actively involved in day-to-day decision-making, and also to aspiring individuals who aim at moving up the ranks. Strategic decision-makers, marketing practitioners and specialists of various professional disciplines will reap the rewards from the acquisition of such executive skills, he adds.

"The programme imparts knowledge which goes deeper than a simple understanding of the concepts of marketing management and strategy," he emphasises. "We aim to equip the programme participants with a better understanding of the marketing landscape including the competition, allowing them to align their corporate resources and capabilities with market opportunities."

The objectives of which, he explains, are to help participants to explore techniques of market segmentation and positioning, and to get a good grasp of strategic marketing formulation and implementation, with a focus on examining key aspects of creating a defensible position in the marketplace.

Participants of the programme are engaged in a highly interactive learning atmosphere where they exchange ideas, share experience and insights, and revisit business scenarios in the past. "This programme is unique in a sense that it builds on the discussion of not only local and international best practice but also negative examples across industries," stresses Professor Salvacruz. "Case analyses and interactive in-class exercises, provide for a greater sense of relevance and practicality."

The programme may only last two days but the mutually supportive environment allows for networking between participants.

Practical value

The fast-paced Hong Kong commercial sector boosts some of the most business savvy professionals particularly those who possess superlative strategic marketing and business skills. "However, there is a strong tendency for some skilled marketing professionals to be too products-oriented in their approaches," Professor Salvacruz observes. "Change in the marketplace is often met with a lack of understanding of proper positioning in the marketplace, and this, more often than not, leads to inappropriate strategic marketing decisions."

Programme participants can get better acquainted with the necessary knowledge and skills in market profiling and segmentation, insights into competition evaluation and product differentiation, as well as a walk through key issues related to value proposition.

He reiterates that insights into competitive position also provide the programme participants with a solid platform for professional advancement.
From an employer's perspective, the true value of enrolling its staff in an executive education programme is the subsequent transfer of newly acquired knowledge and skills back into the workplace.

"Obviously, as programme participants appreciate the issues brought forward in the discussion sessions, and as they recognise the relevance of the tools and frameworks that were used during the programme, they will become more motivated to apply these knowledge and skills at work," Professor Salvacruz concludes.

Poised for competition

  • A strategic position gives a company added advantages over its rivalries
  • Business executives equipped with competitive positioning skills become indispensible during tough economic times
  • Executive programme prepares decision makers for keen competition on the business landscape

Taken from Career Times 2 September 2011

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