2168-2484112082_cf4b78d9ab_m.jpgIn talking to some newspapers recently, I’ve started challenging people to think about what their real asset is. As information becomes more and more commoditised, and price is no longer the differentiator that it once was, rethinking what a business’ real asset is is critical to staying alive today, let alone gaining a competitive advantage.

More often than not, the real asset is the thing that you can’t take away. Let’s consider some business types:

For Newspapers

If a newspaper thinks its asset is the delivery of news, then what happens when someone can deliver it that faster, sooner, more individualised and as it breaks? The newspaper can try and become more technologically aware or resist it like Murdoch, or it can understand that its real asset is the ability to gather to news.

Think about it – a local newspaper knows its local community like few others do. If it wanted to pull together and network local businesses, identify and rally around a cause, gather information about a happening, it could do so easily.

Anyone competing and winning on delivery of news just can’t bet the local newspaper’s gathering of the news. In fact, it doesn’t just gather it, it sources it. (BTW, for expert reading on publishing, read Andrew Davies on the Idio Platform blog.)

For Restaurants

How about this case study by Steffan Antonas on the now famed AJ Bombers burger joint? 161 people turn up and check in on Foursquare at the same time – not for the food – but to unlock a special Swarm Badge that is only available when over 50 people simultaneously check into the same location.

Was the asset for the restaurant food? Or is the asset a geographical location where people can connect in a place that now has international attention?

For Retailers

Online retailer Threadless sells limited crowd sourced designed T-shirts. Over $30 million later, is their asset T-shirts, or is it their ability to crowd source from their community whatever designs need or could be crowd sourced?

For Brands

This post by Garrick Schmitt at the beginning of the year cleverly shows how for many brands, the asset is the integration of their products experience in everyday life – more than the products themselves. What do I mean? Google is no longer just about search. Facebook is no longer just about keeping in touch with friends. Even Twitter is no longer about “what you are doing” – it is now a realtime engine for discovering opinion, sourcing information, identifying leads. It’s a funnel.

For Professional Service Providers

Is the asset their flagship product? Or is it their deep expertise of their area that can be applied in a number of ways? Julian Summerhayes wrote some great thoughts about this recently. Especially when it comes to Twitter, first-mover advantage is still to be had – and the way to take it is by stepping up and becoming an Active Authority. If you ask anyone in Exeter what photographer to go with, what IT company to go with, what recruitment company to go with, what web design and online marketing company to go with, you’ll get unanimous answers.

One way that Professional Service Providers can be an Active Authority is to run events that reaffirm your expertise by just uniting people around a topic – much like the Charity Social Media events in Exeter. I don’t know who at this event is even involved in charity work, but that doesn’t matter – people perceive them to be so.

That type of first-mover advantage is proving really hard for others to compete against, especially when the real asset is understood.

For Like Minds

Is our asset a conference? Or is it a community? Long after the conference is over, there is a community and that is our asset that other conferences can’t compete on.

For Scott Gould

My asset isn’t really Like Minds, Aaron+Gould or this blog. My asset is the connections I’m making with all of you – that’s what gets great things done – which is why I keep on banging on about it. You can take away everything else, but that’s still there.

For You?

What I’d like to know from each of you is:

  • What is your real asset? What is the thing that stays when everything else is taken away?

Exceptionally cool photo from Mike Bailey-Gates

Archived Comments

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Great question, Scott. I will need to give this some real thought.

  • http://randelldesign.com/ Randy Dunning

    I second Robin.

    Actually, my initial mental response was, “Ugh, you had to ask THAT question.”

    And then I thought, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”

    Defining my “real asset” will be a valuable exercise.

  • / Scott Gould

    Robin, Randy

    It is a tough question isn’t it.

    Not much action on here today – which is fine. I think it takes real diamond focus to pull this out. And Randy, that scripture was the one going round in my head the whole team this last week as I’ve been thinking about commenting.

    Looking forward to talking more guys


  • juliansummerhayes

    Scott I am humbled to be included in one of your blog posts.

    I can do no better than repeat the sagely wisdom of Tom Peters in his book re-Imagine when he says that professional service firms have to capitalise on adding high added value by maximum utilisation of their creative intellectual capital. The problem is that too many firms are offering the same or very similar services and it is becoming increasingly tough for the buyer to distinguish one firm from another. The original rainmakers of the firm are now coming up for retirement and the newer people coming through simply do not get out as much as they would have done in the past. This is where the nettle has to be grasped over social media; whilst it will never replace the face to face meeting to build that deep level of trust, social media does have the power to build powerful links and alliances that can leverage the firm’s assets. Rock on is what I say. If professional service firms think about it too much then other business models will encroach rapidly and market share will be lost.

    Another timely and thoughtful post.


  • Tanya

    Hi – could you please expand on your statement “My asset is the connections I’m making with all of you”. How do you define ‘connections’? What exactly is it, does it have a value?

  • http://www.sytaylor.net sytaylor

    Knowing your value and real unique selling point is a valuable skill.

    Have a think about the subjects that pop up most often for you, what are they? What interests you about them? What do you like doing with them? What do you enjoy? What makes you want to get out of bed in a morning?

    Chances are… right there is your answer. Emotions = SMART

  • / Scott Gould

    Hi Tanya

    I focus on value over volume. I have deep, strong relationships with many of the people who comment here. I speak with them on Skype, run projects, collaborate on ideas, etc.

    My asset is a network of people (and ability to create new connections and networks fast) which I can mobilise to help with projects and tasks of pretty much any kind.

    A connection like this trumps the amorphous ‘community’ who follow me on Twitter or read this blog.

    Does that make sense?


  • http://twitter.com/alexthegreen Alex Green

    “the real asset is the thing that you can’t take away”
    Been thinking about that.
    Do you think that sometimes the real asset is the thing that you can take away?
    I know what you are driving at, in terms of ‘if you took that aspect of the business away, it would fail’.
    However, to flip it over, what is the one aspect of the business that people DO take away with them and therefore come back time and time again because they value so much what they take away each time.

    I wonder if that might make it easier for some people to identify their real asset?

  • / Scott Gould

    Well true – the real asset is what works wherever you are.

    The reason why I say it is the thing that you can’t take away isn’t because without if you would fail, but because it is WHO YOU ARE.

    So in that sense, yes, you can take it anywhere. It is the thing that you use to create something from nothing.

    Good addition Alex – I will extend this next week and use your idea!

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Okay, having really thought this through — and applying some diamond-tip focus, I believe my real asset to be:

    The ability to generate and implement a constant stream of valuable ideas that grow trusting and mutually beneficial long-term relationships.

    Thanks, Scott.

    Robin :)

  • / Scott Gould

    I like that. I’ve experienced the truth of it.

    Took me a few reads to get it though!

    I think it’s also similar to mine, which I’ll be posting on your share words post!

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Yes, it’s written as a piece for ‘internal reference’ rather than ‘external communication’.

  • / Scott Gould

    So what the external communication be?

    I guess those are the share words?

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Ran out of comment-nesting below, so have slotted this here.

    ASSET is included in the internal strategy and positioning document (I update annually).

    Share-words are how people will recommend me (to the extent that you can influence what they say). I’m not clear on my share-words, but kind souls are helping me workshop it at the moment.

    Best, Robin :)