Achieving competitive advantages through proactive management.

Author:Wobler, Gary C.

All electric utilities are striving to achieve a competitive advantage as the industry restructures. Proactive management techniques, providing consumers with choices and maintaining a flexible posture can help systems achieve an advantage.

The electric industry is in a world of change and will require considerable effort to meet future challenges. Considering the circumstances surrounding the situation, and the appeal for increased competition, it is inevitable that the rural program will amend its ways in the very near future. There is no strategic plan or pre-arranged conception that can replace an astute awareness of the opportunities to be taken advantage of in meeting these new demands.

The fact remains, it is an outdated notion that a cooperative must follow in the footsteps of their founders. To the contrary, cooperatives' efforts have culminated in an unlimited resource through the different agencies and financial institutions. As we enter the 21st century, the fashion will become "choice." The breakup of the telephone industry was probably only a shift in wealth, and although most will not admit they are paying more today for service, having choices is important to the consumer.

I remember a television advertisement several years ago where the football coach at halftime was complaining about the way the team had performed in the first half. A player commented, saying, "I don't understand, coach, we're ahead three touchdowns." The coach responded, "If you're satisfied as an individual, we're done as a team."

There should be no acceptable level of accomplishment, but instead a force and uneasiness that stretches us beyond everyone's expectations. We should maintain flexibility and consider every available opportunity, regardless of the nature, if it provides a needed service and/or socio-economic benefit to the region. Maintaining a defensive philosophy is analogous to football, where the defense tires before the offense.

For several rural cooperatives that now provide natural or propane gas, it is encouraging to be on the offense and offering choices. The fundamental fault line today is the inability to change and rethink our role. Although there are things that unify us, there are also emotions and situations that demonstrate our essential oneness.

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