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Differentiation matters – personally and in business

This past Saturday, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to walk in the 97th Commencement Ceremony at Walsh College in Michigan – receiving my Masters of Business Administration. And it got me thinking… why exactly did I decide to pursue my MBA degree in the first place? As with most things, the answer if a little bit complicated, but I realized an important connection can be made between working towards enhancing one’s own skills and strategic moves in business.

During the ceremony, the recently retired CFO of 3M Corporation and a student both gave riveting speeches on determination and achieving set goals. The 47-year old student MBA speaker did a phenomenal job in his assessment of how Walsh MBA program has made an impact on his life. He discussed how, after having to lay off hundreds of employees (including himself) of a failing corporation, he needed to get “back in touch” with the business world and educational teachings of the 21st century. He saw an MBA as a way to gain greater knowledge of the business world and differentiate himself from the other numerous, out-of-work employees in Southeast Michigan. Through his speech, I realized that his reasoning for undertaking 16 courses (48 credit hrs) was very similar to mine.

With an undergraduate degree in theatre from the University of Notre Dame, my background often became the topic of discussion, and sometimes scrutiny, from my peers and even clients. Unlike the student speaker, I couldn’t “test out” of any classes, and would have to take all 19 courses (57 credit hours) while continuing to work full-time, about 50 hours/week. Before joining Phoneworx, I spent six years in the banking industry. After three years, I became a branch manager and quickly realized that I needed to make a move to differentiate myself from my peers, instill confidence in my clients’ assessment of my abilities, and improve my overall skillset. After a little over a year, I became the manager of one of the most profitable and busiest branches in my region.

So you see, the investment of time and money paid off! Working hard towards my MBA was a way to differentiate myself from the “competition.” It also improved my image in the eyes of my clients and peers, helped me to grow in knowledge and capabilities, and even aided in boosting my salary. It was a way to “upgrade” my experience. Over the past 1.5 years, I’ve had to relocate twice, and I’m confident that pursuing my MBA was integral to finding gainful employment (quickly) in both new locations. In many ways, looking for a job is like trying to sell yourself to a potential company – just as in business, you try to sell a product or service to consumers.

Now, here is where the “aha!” moment comes in. Just like I was able to gain so much from achieving my MBA, small business owners have the power to gain similar benefits by taking a look at the overall impression their businesses are making in the market and assess ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. A simple upgrade – let’s say purchasing a new VoIP business phone system – can enhance your business by providing differentiation, helping to save or make more money, improving your image, and facilitating growth. Of course, there are other ways to achieve this differentiation, but Phoneworx is in the telephone business after all… 🙂

In closing, the next time you are wondering why the phone isn’t ringing, take a good hard look at your company’s opportunities for improvement – whether it is an old business phone system, an outdated website, or even the wrong employees, a simple upgrade can make a big difference! Making the investment of time and money 100% worth it.

Until next time –

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