Recently, my colleague at Goalfix, Tania Roberts and I were discussing the progress of different delegates on one of our financial modelling master class courses.
With reference to one of the delegates, Tania said “Well he is the CFO of the company, so I expected him to cope with even the most challenging aspects of the course”.
Patently an example of presumed competence based on his title! (his brand) And a completely normal assumption.
In a broader context, the principle flowing from this simple conversation is – “does marketing and brand awareness guarantee competence?”
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread – or so the saying goes.
And yet sometimes it is still worthwhile to explore or reflect on issues such as the claim in the title of this article.
Now, clearly I am hardly a marketing or communications expert, so why do I have the temerity to express an opinion on this point?
Truth be told, I believe that marketing and brand awareness can convey competence – in the world of perception.
But not necessarily in the world of reality!
Of course, while the concept is not contradictory it is also not faultless.
Marketing and brand awareness can go hand in hand with competence – but in my humble view, the presence of both does not ensure competence!
I will probably be taken to task on this issue by any number of marketing practitioners.
And yet, so often in life, judgements and decisions are made based on perception and brand recognition.
Let’s face it, we are all brand conscious to a lesser or larger degree – and have been “educated” to believe that certain brands are better than others – across many products and services.
And in many instances, because of this belief, we are happy to pay premium prices.
Of course – the real question is – are we really getting a superior product or service? – or is it all smoke and mirrors?
After years in business, I have come to believe that in many instances real competence is often found in smaller specialist business – where the product or service is provided by companies or persons who have, as a result of years of experience combined with real in-depth knowledge, developed superior competence.
Very often, the founders, inventors or initiators of a product or service are indeed highly competent and are also driven by personal creative and entrepreneurial characteristics.
And so – they launch successful businesses.
With the passage of time, growth demands the addition of human resources and typically this is the point at which competence is often diluted.
In truth, there is very often an inverse correlation between the size of an organisation and is level of competence. The bigger the organisation, the more people, the lesser the competence!
So what is real competence – and how do we find it?
Whilst writing this article, I decided to do some reading about the issue and definition of competence, little realising what an exhaustive topic I had selected. A veritable minefield!
So, for the purposes of this article, can we agree on a simplistic understanding – a generally held view of competence – an everyday viewpoint?
During my reading on this topic, I came across a statement – “Competence is a habit”.
Well, this may possibly be true, but in the same way as age is not synonymous with wisdom, habits don’t necessarily guarantee or create competence.
In my view, competence is a combination of education (theory), application (skill), dedication (persistence), experience and passion. In other words, a fairly demanding definition.
A former colleague once gave me a wall decoration for my office. The words are still etched in my brain – “success comes not from a privileged birth, nor a higher education, but from persistence and determination”. Thank you Norman!
So I humbly suggest that in business (and life) we should not be seduced by title, marketing or brand awareness and by so doing, avoid the sometimes perilous error of presumed competence.
Colin Human CA (SA) Goalfix Financial Modellers 27 Oct 2018