One of our market contacts that delivers white label package treatment plants and skids recently informed us that clients are increasingly willing to accept copies of well-known water product brands produced in countries with minimal intellectual property protection.
So with intellectual property increasingly under assault as a source of competitive advantage, how can organisations survive with reasonable margin in the water industry?
It will come as no surprise to readers that in my view, talent is the only true source of competitive advantage. As long as you have an innovative R&D team in your organisation, you can keep ahead of the imitators.
With the water industry capex set to grow at around 6% year-on-year for the next five 5 years (Global Water Intelligence) the competition for that talent will remain intense.
So how do you attract and retain the best people? The good news is that most organisations are not very good at this so it is easy to outperform. The bad news is that your organisation is probably one of the bad ones.
Here are my top three tips.
1. Have a coherent strategy!
I rarely come across a company in the water industry that has a coherent strategy which all members of the organisation are able to articulate clearly.
Smart people know that working in a company without a coherent, comprehensive strategy can be hell. Have a great story to tell…people love a great story. Make sure it makes sense from every angle because great people will see any inconsistencies.
2. Give real responsibility with accountability
Great people want agency. You must give your star employees the room to do great things. If you have the high-level strategy in place then micro-management will be unnecessary.
3. Be generous
Reward high achievers. Give your people the best technological support available. Make their work lives comfortable. Give them access to plenty of training and development opportunities.
If you can nail these three things then you are well on the way to attracting and retaining the top people, and achieving sustainable competitive advantage.