When people think of core strengthening, they naturally think of the human physique – their abdominal area and surrounding core muscles. But core strengthening extends far beyond the human body. “Core” is defined as the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything. Synonyms for “core” include essence, heart, and center. And with this definition in mind, it becomes a strong metaphor for anchoring – and supporting – your company.
The core stabilizer for body and business
(Image Muscles by Kitty Rouge, Creative Commons)
In strength training, the “core” actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize and support the spine and pelvis and run the entire length of the torso. They also enable us to stand upright. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing exercises, and protects the back. If we apply the concept of “core” development to our businesses, core strengthening is absolutely essential to the growth and development of our organizations.
Every organization has a “core”
The Harvard Business Review blog says the core within an organization “symbolizes the inside of the enterprise, its principal capabilities, and primary revenue streams.” Think org chart, the products & services you provide, and your contract backlog.
How do you go about defining your business core? Start by being realistic. What are you best at? What is the economic center of your activity? Your core relates to the root cause of your competitive advantage.
Once you address your company’s core strategic benefit, you need to determine if it is relevant to your customer. And then pose the key question with customers in mind: is your specific market space using your core assets? What’s your reason for being?
As a business owner, I have always been cognizant of our “core” values
These equate to ideals and principles by which I run my business. Although my firm (Information Experts) has grown and changed substantially over the past 14 years, our core values have remained the same. These values are the essence, heart, and center of our company. They define our corporate culture.
Stats on core values, culture, and long term strategy
Results from a Bain & Company’s survey give more insight to how core values influence senior corporate leadership. The global survey assessed views toward management trends and reported 91% of the 1,200 surveyed agreed values-based culture is “as important as strategy for business success.” And from my own leadership experience, I believe through all phases of the business lifecycle it’s critical to ensure core values are reflected.
Our core values give us the stability and the moral compass we require to make decisions (and to grow).
How the core impacts brand (hint: avoid being ‘Jack’)
Organizations that choose to build a strong & lasting brand must commit to “core” products & services, rather than attempting to be a jack-of-all-trades or to be all things to all people. This core represents a company’s very being. It’s the most enduring resource that informs leadership and stakeholders what it does (and how it will navigate toward growth).
From this perspective – and especially in turbulent times – business must remain committed to improving their core capabilities. It brings back some “profit-from-the-core” principles I remember from a Harvard Business Review issue a while ago (…I didn’t see a link for these but rest assured, HBR was the brain power behind them):
- Sustained and profitable growth requires a strong, well-defined core.
- Most sustained, profitable growth companies have leadership positions in their core that forms the epicenter of their strategy.
- The greatest source of strategic error stems from an inaccurate understanding of the core and its full potential.
Fortifying the core: it’s the only strategic game in town
All core strengthening requires a focused, mindful strategy – whether it involves a human body or organizational entity. The effects of this strengthening won’t occur without a deliberate physical and mental effort. Going back to the original metaphor, when I am working my abdominals and my obliques at my gym, I think about how my strong physical core gives me the strength in all aspects of my life. I carry that strength through my work day and it helps me confront the challenges that await.
As I count down the 2 minutes that I stay in position for each plank hold, or work through my complete sets of push-ups even though my arms are shaking, or count down the 200 crunches that I do daily, the knowledge that I am strengthening the part of my body that makes the rest of me strong carries me through the struggle.
While core strengthening of any kind is often very difficult, the pay-off is worth the effort. So the next time you are strengthening your physical core, think about how your efforts are part of the larger strengthening strategy. And the same applies to developing your organization’s core values.
It pays incredible dividends to abide by your company’s core principles — whether it be through the customers we service, the services we provide, the partners we trust, or the employees we hire.
Marissa Levin and her Women Grow Business series on sales strategy and leadership.
Guest contributor Marissa Levin is Founder and CEO of Information Experts. Launching a new Women Grow Business series on sales strategy, Marissa was named a 2008 BRAVO Award winner by SmartCEO Magazine (which honors the region’s 25 most influential women CEOs) and recently was listed in Washington’s 100 Technology Titans by Washingtonian Magazine. Describing her true passion as “helping other business owners be successful with their own business growth”, Marissa can be reached through her blog Marissa Levin.