January is a popular time to plan for the year ahead with clients and look for fresh ways to create superior value and remain competitive. During these annual events and workshops, we find that having the right market strategy not the whole answer. Your people matter too. In today’s increasingly fast cycle global markets, that are characterized by hyper-competition, technology driven innovation, increasing web based disruption and decreasing consumer switching costs, sustainable sources of competitive advantages are becoming harder and harder to find.

Often it is a firm’s people that are the only remaining source of sustainable competitive advantage. Last week I chatted with Dan Monheit, Founder at Hardhat, one of the leading lights in Australia’s digital media and marketing industry. As Dan responded to my questions around his firm’s strategic positioning, it became clear that as successful as Hardhat has been in the last decade, they operate from an inspired and humble place. Dan and his team work hard and have no illusions about the real forces of change that exist for all firms, including themselves.

Dan shared with me that the average age of the Hardhat team was 26 and that Hardhat invested generously in developing their people, both professionally and personally. I could feel that the love Hardhat extended to its employees was indeed a source of sustainable competitive advantage for them. After our meeting, I took a peek at Hardhat’s website. Their pithy tagline ‘Hustle.Humilty.Heart’ resonated perfectly.