By Neil Fotre and Brett Bergstrom
In Disney’s smash-hit show “The Mandalorian,” its grizzled bounty-hunter protagonist has a certain advantage over his adversaries. This advantage is so powerful that his allies and foes alike clamor over attaining it. You might think it’s his cunning strategy, or his strong execution. But it’s not. It’s his Beskar-steel armor.
Just like the Mandalorian, successful businesses have their own version of Beskar armor, their competitive advantage. Depending on the sector, that competitive advantage can take many forms: a patented technological innovation (Tesla), viral marketing (Gym Shark) or supply chain ingenuity (Amazon). But what’s important is that true competitive advantage, once identified and leveraged, enables a company to succeed, even in the midst of market uncertainty.
Blaster-proof competitive advantage is a critical reason that the Mandalorian is able to succeed. However, there are other drivers for his success, just as there are other important pilots of success for businesses. What follows is a list of five foundational principles—straight from the planet Mandalore—that every business should prioritize:
- Competitive Advantage.
Also known as Differentiation. The Mandalorian’s Beskar armor and combat training give him the competitive edge he needs to achieve his performance objectives and goals.
The overarching need to deliver Baby Grogu (nicknamed Baby Yoda by fans) back to the Jedi gives the Mandalorian a singular drive and passion to complete on-going tasks and responsibilities.
If the Mandalorian was on LinkedIn, he would be open to connect because the Mandalorian leverages a vast galactic personal and professional network to fulfill objective-specific requirements.
The Mandalorian always has a plan, but it generally backfires. His ability to pivot quickly and flex his acumen towards another course of action enables him project success.
Yes, luck. The Mandalorian gets lucky at opportune moments (just as remote-first businesses found their valuations skyrocket during the pandemic) and it allows him to catch a break and escape any Sarlacc Pit.
Principles of the Mandalorian can be seen guiding successful organizations throughout the “market-space,” navigating the ever-evolving pandemic frontier. Chewy, an online retailer for pet food and pet-related products is an organization that found itself in a nebula of societal isolation when the pandemic hit, in which added value was placed on companionship. While 2020 may have scrambled the navigational systems and direction of other organizations, Chewy expanded their e-commerce and launched an innovative pet telehealth service. Chewy posted a 47% gain in revenue at the end of their second quarter in 2020.
Zoom’s singular purpose was always to connect people remotely. But stacked up against feature-rich competitors like GoToMeeting, Zoom decided to find its competitive advantage by honing in on the differentiation of simplicity. Its product ace-in-the-hole: an experience that makes it as easy as possible to join and engage in a call. This differentiation vaulted them to the top of their respective field, where the COVID-19 pandemic has made their market-leader status as solid as carbonite.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses of all industries to react, or be Bantha fodder. Peloton is an example of an agile company that, while successful before the pandemic struck, went all-in on a value proposition and identity pivot – and reaped the profits. By reflexively shifting its business to remote wellness, Peloton enjoyed a first-mover differentiation that was buoyed by their strong product offering (a digitally-connected training bike and a strong backlog of content). Its earnings and company value are currently worth a stunning amount of Imperial credits as well as being projected to double to $60 billion by 2024.
Not all companies have done well. Data from Yelp listing current operating statuses suggests that more than 17,000 business were forced to close doors in 2020. If anything proves the business value of Beskar-strong differentiation and agility, it’s a global pandemic.
The pandemic also brought to the light (side), probably more than ever before, the importance of a network. How could small businesses, like restaurants, bars or grocers, survive without a strong network of app-driven delivery services to help them pivot during a precipitous drop in foot traffic? Even the Mandalorian had to utilize the services of mercenary characters that possessed specialized skillsets to aid him throughout his charge. GrubHub, DoorDash and Deliverr, despite their seemingly unreasonable fees that are burdened by the business owner were necessary evils to combat dine-in restrictions.
Businesses need to identify and/or find their Beskar. Adhering to a code and always dawning a figurative protective armor helmet will ensure likelihood of organization survival.
So, search your feelings, reader. You know it to be true. This is the way… to run a successful business.
Neil Fotre is a full-time MBA candidate at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and the president of DePaul student organization Kellstadt Partners. He is a former United States Army cavalry officer and current seltzer aficionado. He has an MSJ in investigative journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in English from John Carroll University. In-between D2L discussion posts, he enjoys push-ups and poor attempts at rudimentary math without the use of a calculator. He does not oversell his cooking ability but everything he makes is edible.
Brett Bergstrom is a product manager at a healthcare startup called Caremerge. He has an MSJ in media innovation from Northwestern University and dual bachelor’s degrees in English and economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While South Dakota will always be his home, he prides himself on learning the public transportation system of Chicago. His hobbies include architecting late-night snacks, spending too much money on clothes he doesn’t need and pretending he’s better at pick-up basketball than he actually is.