Learning from the leaders

global leaders

Apple has seemingly taken over the world, with industry reports predicting that in the next couple of years iPhone usage could reach 1 billion.

This is a staggering level of success and sets Apple aside from all other technology companies. Similarly, Mercedes-Benz has continued to grow and take on its biggest competitors Audi and BMW to retake the crown as the world’s largest-selling premium automaker in 2016.

But what do they have in common and how can other businesses learn from these industry heavy-weights? Not only are they internationally-renowned brands that evoke passion in their followers, but they are also giants in their fields, innovative employers that are constantly challenging industry expectations.

Here are my three suggestions for budding businesses looking to stand out from the crowd in their industry:

Don’t settle for less

One of the key attributes of an industry leading business is that they never rest on their laurels. They live by the expression “you’re only as good as your last success”, and understand that to remain at the top you need to fight for your place and continue to innovate and surprise your customers and competitors. They are not happy with mediocre, they want excellence.

Mercedes-Benz is a great example of this, as one of the most recognised automotive brands in the world, it is totally committed to excellence.  Its slogan “the best or nothing” originated with its founder, Gottlieb Daimler, and has provided a clear vision for the company over the last 120 years.

As well as meticulous engineering, Mercedes-Benz aims to continually innovate and “make history”. It has achieved a stream of firsts in safety, performance and driver comfort – for example, it was the first to incorporate rigorous crash testing of its cars as well as an Antilock Braking System (ABS) which helps drivers retain steering control even when they brake heavily. As another of its original founders describes, “the love of inventing never dies.”

Rise to the challenge

The strongest businesses will admit when all is not perfect with the current offering and look to provide a better solution for its customers. This takes courage but it is what gets a business noticed. Problem solving is at the heart of all leading businesses, and the strongest innovators will be constantly reviewing performance of products and looking to enhance their offerings.

Apple has recently addressed issues with its new Apple Watch Series 3, due to problems with the watches ability to make phone calls and access data without an iPhone nearby. While this may be a setback for the technology giant right now, the speed with which they announced the issue and the innovative nature of the business means it’s only a matter of time before they come bouncing back with a better, more sophisticated software update that solves this current challenge.

Invest to innovate

A true sign of leadership is being willing to invest in new technology, even though you know that almost as soon as you do, it will become dated. Leading companies try even though they may fail. Without experimentation, we wouldn’t have some of our greatest innovations. Some of the best lessons can be learnt through making mistakes, and brave businesses need to take a leap of faith as they will ultimately reap the rewards in the long term.

Although Apple and Mercedes Benz may feel a significant leap from the everyday business, the traits these leaders possess can be applied to any business in any sector. Having a leading mentality can open new doors, and help you overcome challenges that you may have otherwise struggled to overcome. These businesses have reached great heights for a reason, and there is a lot that can be learnt from their actions.

Mark Dewhurst, Operations Director at DS Smith, UK Packaging Division