One of the most critical exercises that an early stage company should accomplish is to take an honest look at their core competencies. Core competencies are basically the things that you and your team are good at, they are the central skills to you, your team, and your organization.
This assessment is important early in the life of a company (ideally prior to starting the company) in that early stage companies are often resource starved. By focusing on what you are good at, you increase the likelihood of success and reduce the amount of learning and outside expertise required to get you up and running. Maximizing time and monetary resources are critical to the survival of the company – knowing what you are good at will influence your direction and help towards maximizing resources.
In my opinion our team did not do this early enough. In our case we had expertise in all stages of product development, foreign sourcing, marketing, finance, and culinary arts. If we would have taken this introspective look earlier, it may have brought us down our present path of developing our own consumer products much earlier.
Core competency evaluation should not just occur early in the life of a business. It should occur throughout the life of the business and be a key part of future planning. In fact, the author of Quantum Organizations, Ralph Kilmann cites an outlook of ten to twenty-five years. This outlook should include identifying, building, and combining core competencies across the entire organization.
This amount of planning may appear to be absurd at first glance, especially for an early stage company. However, upon further reflection it makes sense. A core competency assessment basically identifies your abilities and will likely bring to light areas in which you need improvement. Consider if your company is strong in a specific competency or set of related competencies, yet the market is diverging over the long term. This would likely prompt the founders to begin cultivating a new core competency or pursuing a different market.
Also consider that a core competency assessment will likely impact the structure of the company. It will also impact the type of new talent hired and training that occurs within a company.
A core competency assessment need not be burdensome. For an early stage company I envision a list with present competencies, desired future competencies which align to the state and trends of the market, and a brief statement on how to address any potential gaps in core competencies.
1. Kilmann Diagnostics. Ralph H. Kilmann: http://www.kilmanndiagnostics.com/ralph-h-kilmann
2. Ralph Kilmann. Quantum Organizations: