What does it mean to ‘be the best’?


My friend Gord McCallum recently shared an article from the Harvard Business Revue that I found quite thought provoking. It suggests that we stop competing to ‘be the best’ and that in business the pursuit of ‘being the best’ will ultimately lead to mediocrity. You can read the full article here.

My initial reaction to this article was a little defensive as I have always maintained our organization’s pursuit to not be the biggest but to be the ‘best’. Mediocre is not a word I want in any Mortgage Broker’s vocabulary so I really took the article to heart. While I wholeheartedly agree with much of the article there are certainly some pieces I would argue against. I do think that trying to be all things to all people is a poor business strategy and one that will likely lead you to mediocrity. I do however believe that with a targeted approach to be ‘the best’ in defined aspects of your business you can constantly enhance and improve your skills and your value proposition to your customers. The article argues that in business there is not necessarily one winner (read best) where as in sports or athletic competitions there is often only one victor. In business there can be many successes defined in different ways, a Walmart can co-exist with a Holt Renfrew. Which one is the ‘best’? Obviously that depends on how you define ‘best’. Lowest prices, or highest quality and brand names?

As mortgage brokers we have taught our consumers that we are the ‘best’ if we can deliver the lowest rate. This is obviously not the case; as we have discussed in the past the lowest rate may not ultimately be the best mortgage product for our consumer. Once again the pursuit of ‘best’ really comes down to your definition. The article talks about innovating and enhancing value for your customers. I completely agree with setting yourself apart and competing to be unique and not pursuing the crowd. This does not mean that as a business I can’t pursue the objective of becoming the best innovator or the best at leading my competitors with new and exciting ways to serve my customer.

Some of the online definitions of ‘best’ that I found include:

a) Of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.
b) most advantageous, suitable, or desirable

I don’t know about you but I believe that being the most desirable organization, or individual is a pursuit worthy of some attention. The trick here is that, as the article suggests, you need to define your market as you carry on your quest to ‘be the best’. Becoming the ‘most desirable mortgage broker’ to every segment of borrower is something that is not likely possible to do. We can however continue to strive to be the best in every aspect of our business and professional lives. So while ‘Stop competing to be the best’ makes for an interesting headline I encourage you to continue the pursuit of continuous ‘betterment’ of all aspects of your business.

For me some of the things that we seek to become the ‘best’ at as an organization are some of the following:

1) Highest average production per agent
2) Highest overall funding ratios
3) To become known by our lender partners as completing a high level of due diligence on our files in order to provide as fraud free files as possible.
4) To be known as respectful of all our suppliers and competitors in our industry
5) To give back to our communities and industry through volunteerism and charity

So for me the lesson learned from this article is not so much that the pursuit of best leads to mediocrity, but that you need to be rock solid in your definition of what you want to be the best at. You need to be clear on your vision and your measuring stick, making sure that you stay focused on your niche, values and purpose.

How do you define becoming the ‘best’ in our business? In what areas do you strive to become the ‘best’? How can we measure and become the ‘best’ option for Canadian mortgage consumers?



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