Why your best practices aren’t enough.

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I love Mariano’s, the Chicagoland grocery chain that is changing the way people shop for food. It’s a combination of a standard grocery store + Whole Foods + Jamba Juice + Panera (if Panera had a wider selection of better food.)

One Mariano’s product I can’t live without is fresh orange juice.

Really fresh.


Mariano’s purchased an industrial juicer.

They smash oranges in-store and sell me the juice.


No middle man.

The label on the bottle has one ingredient: Oranges.






The popularity of freshly squeezed OJ seems obvious. At least it was to Mariano’s. You can now buy this product at every Mariano’s store. Truly fresh OJ, you could say, is a Best Practice at Mariano’s.



For a time it was a differentiator, but not anymore.

Now it’s only a Best Practice.



Why is it no longer a differentiator?

Because it’s been copied by every other grocer in Chicagoland.


And there’s the rub…. best practices are easily copied. Best practices are not enough to differentiate your brand, your product or your career.


Sam Walton improved Walmart by continually stealing best practices from competitors. He’d walk in their stores, look around, jot down prices, evaluate the end-cap displays, interview their employees and leave. Then he’d promptly replicate what he found in his own stores.


It’s easy for any competitor to copy a single best practice.


For example, Mariano’s has an industrial juicer… so Jewel buys an industrial juicer.

Problem solved.

Differentiation gone.



The goal is to create a system of differentiating best practices that when combined, become harder to copy.

Here is strategy guru Rich Horwath’s take on it:

“As an example, if there is only one activity comprising a strategy, the chance a competitor can successfully copy it is relatively high; 90% or .90. With three activities comprising the strategy, the probability of a competitor successfully emulating the strategy drops to 73 percent. Creating a system of strategy involving ten activities significantly diminishes the competitor’s ability to copy the leader.”


When it comes to safety, there are many Best Practices.

They are widely copied and widely adopted.


Everyone seems to have an OSHA 30 card.

Everyone performs Toolbox Talks.

Everyone preaches a “culture of safety.”

Everyone is chattering about “behavior-based” safety.


Everyone emails out a monthly safety newsletter.


Yet workers die on our jobs everyday. Hispanics get injured and die at disproportionately high levels compared to other workers on the job.


Red Angle Clients see Safety Spanish language training as an example of strategic differentiation.



Answer these 2 questions:

What percentage of workers on your job prefer speaking Spanish?

What percentage of your leadership team speaks Spanish?



OK then.

It’s tough to lead effectively when you can’t communicate.


Construction firms that train their employees to speak 100 or so Safety Spanish words confidently are implementing a best practice that differentiates.


Now think about your company…

How many best practices do you have in place?

How many are easily copied?



Now think about your people…

Are they differentiators on the job?

To everyone on the job?

Or just those that speak English?


Set aside 15 minutes at tomorrow morning’s meeting to discuss.

And bring along some Mariano’s fresh OJ.





Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.

To check out our Safety Spanish program for yourself, click here: https://gumroad.com/l/OeTH

Categories: Construction Spanish, Jobsite Leadership

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