It’s not that long a drop from the top: Qantas, Virgin and the perils of complacency

If successful sports teams, racing car or boat crews keep changing and trying to improve, why do successful businesses think they don’t need to?

You only have to look at our domestic airlines to realise how Virgin’s opportunity to dominate the market stemmed from Qantas’ inability to change a once successful business model when they were on top.

The biggest opportunity for a new player is to learn from an older business, but bring a fresh angle to it.

Businesses with some level of success have strategically aligned their goals to achieve the best possible outcome, which ultimately is to be a big player in the market. But being big is not necessarily good for your business.

With limited competition in the market Qantas became complacent – it was obvious what their recipe for success was. Virgin, a brand which constantly reinvents itself and is known for being the pulse of today’s consumers, jumped at the chance to demonstrate that although on top, Qantas was tiring, it was out of touch with the needs of today’s Australians and had done little in the way of innovation.

Consumption is now so frequent that once someone has encountered and experienced a brand or a product they not only expect the same level of satisfaction each time they engage with the brand, but they expect to be entertained with an updated version on a regular basis. Take the iPhone for instance – people love the platform, but also countdown to the next version to see what the model will look like and what the technology will allow them to do.

Once you’ve delivered what people want they will always look for something more. A successful business pushes its boundaries and challenges its own model.

Five things you need to contemplate as a business owner:

1. Is your business agile enough?

Decisions in business should be made at the same speed you want it to move. Don’t expect fast growth without quick decisions.

2. How will your business define success?

Reaching the top or being the biggest is an achievement, but unless you frequently refocus your business strategy you will only be left with five minutes of fame.

3. How you motivate your team to keep innovating once you hit your business milestone

It’s human nature to take a breath once you’ve won the race and run your heart out, but you need to set a new business vision and lead by example before the next race is run.

4. Analyse positive customer feedback for ideas to advance your offering

It’s true that negative feedback is a great indicator of areas in the business that need changing but so is positive feedback. Analyse what you’re doing and strategise about how you deliver something better.

5. Make sure your promise and your offer are aligned

Qantas is a brand everyone loves. It is aligned with our national identity, but it doesn’t mean Australians favour it when it comes to booking the best flight experience possible. Your business image needs to be as successful as your business offering.

John Winning is CEO of Winning Group: Appliances Online,, Winning Appliances, and Handy Crew.


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