compare-apples-01Yesterday I was reading the summary in The Australian about the results from the NAPLAN tests recently undertaken by our schools. I was both disappointed and concerned that barely any schools from South Australia were included on the lists. I know there is a lot of controversy around these results and that you do need to look at them with an open mind, but the fact that less than 2% of the schools listed represented our state is a disgrace.

We have made the decision to invest in our children’s education and they now attend one, of what would be considered one of the best schools in Adelaide. But when we chose this school we were only comparing it to other similar schools here in Adelaide, not across the country. No matter what you think of the NAPLAN results, it is obvious our education system in this state falls well below the other states and this needs to change. By the time our children finish their education, one can only imagine where the levels of technology and globalisation will be; but we need to ensure we are providing our children with the necessary education and opportunities to allow them to thrive and succeed in this global environment that they will compete in.

Ironically, I had a similar conversation a few weeks ago when BRS was listed in the BRW top 100 fast starters for 2013. Whilst we were thrilled to be included within this list, it saddened me to think that only one other company in South Australia made the list. Like with NAPLAN, South Australian companies only represented a mere 2% of the fastest growing companies in the country.

Then we opened The Advertiser today, to an article around ‘The Power List’ of the names that shape our lives here within our state. I agree many of these people included within this list should be included; they have achieved outstanding success in their roles within their areas of expertise. But as for the others, are these really the people we want to aspire to be, this list is so insular? I would find this article far more inspiring if it included individuals at a national level, who have excelled, and achieved results that were greater than just average. Unfortunately, these types of articles mirror the thinking in our State that being a big fish swimming in a little pond justifies status rather than challenging yourself to compete in the bigger global ocean.

These articles prompted my thinking around benchmarks. We all know that you are only as successful (both financially and professionally) as the people you spend your time with, so if we are constantly only comparing against the other children in your child’s class, or your company’s competition on the other side of town, what are you really comparing against? Is this really the benchmark you want to set? As John Maxwell once said “if you are the smartest person in your class whatever that may be in, you are in the wrong class”.

Within our business, we have never set our benchmark based on local competition. We continue to raise the bar and when engaging service providers we continue to look at individuals and companies that excel at what they do on a national (often international) level. We constantly push boundaries, research best practices and technology and take risks to ensure we challenge ourselves, remain bold and push our benchmarks to a higher level. This extends to conferences we attend nationally and internationally to continue to be better than we are yesterday. I truly believe that this is why we continue to achieve the success we have, as this month we have experienced our best month ever!

So if you really do want to make a difference and have an impact, then make sure you continue to raise the bar and set your benchmarks based on national and global standards, not just local. Set your goals and challenge yourself, you might surprise yourself as to just how much you will achieve! You will also continue to learn and grow rather than rest on the fact you are a big fish in a little pond.