By: Steve Coughran, Coltivar Group, LLC Posted: May 20th, 2015

Our Executive Education participants consistently rave about Tuck’s retreat-like, distraction-free learning environment as ideal for learning, reflection and committing to change. Steve Coughran, Founding Director at Coltivar Group, LLC, recently attended a Tuck program for financial executives.  

Here's his perspective on the Tuck School executive program-and how the location and personalized attention affected his learning experience.

Gazing out the plane window as I return from an invigorating week of learning, I stare in awe of the lush landscape, spotted with patches of thick greenery and pools of deep blue water. I am traveling back from a successful, participative week in the Strategic Financial Leadership Program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. This Ivy League college is located two hours outside of Boston in the quintessential New England town of Hanover, New Hampshire.  Unlike its rivals-Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Columbia-Dartmouth has a strategic advantage that cannot be replicated: its location. 

The Tuck School of Business is located in a charming town nestled in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. The quaint feel of the town is emulated in the MBA program. With a lean class size of 280, every student receives personal attention and encouragement to pursue his or her specific avenue of interest. Hanover provides the perfect setting for each member of the Dartmouth community to be actively involved on campus and within the locale. The quiet area fosters the perfect environment for students to spend much of their downtime hanging out, talking, and fortifying relationships. The setting of the university is the backdrop of a college with unrivaled opportunity.  The location and energy of the school cannot be easily duplicated.

As I attended this intense executive education program, admiring the scenery, the impressive professors and students, and the vitality of the campus, I realized the tremendous value in possessing a unique competitive advantage.  Unique is defined by Merriam-Webster as “being without a like or equal” and “distinctively characteristic.” The unique, differentiating factor is nearly impossible to mimic. The characteristic is the first attribute that is conjured upon mentioning of the name. It is the element that all attempt, but none can succeed in replicating.

This is a lesson we can all apply to our businesses as we look for ways to separate ourselves from the competition.  Although Tuck’s unique advantage-its location-may not directly relate to business, it demonstrates a plausible cultural strategy.  What gives a company its unique edge may not necessarily sprout from a business plan, but may rather be derived from the people, the atmosphere, and the values.

The culture at Dartmouth is extremely personal, as Dick Mosenthal, Director of Open Enrollment at Tuck said “It’s the Harvard that knows your name.” This statement was true to its form as the professors-Bob Howell, Sydney Finkelstein, Pino Audia, and Paul Argenti-each went to the effort of learning my background and spending one-on-one time with me to share personal insights to propel me in my career. It is the attitude of a quaint, small town and the element of personalization engrained in Tuck that have secured its unique cultural advantage. Tuck understands its exclusive asset and promotes its rarity.

In consulting, people don’t buy our services, they buy us.  It is our culture, built upon a solid team of professionals who share the same values, that attracts our customers. It is important to grasp what differentiates your company from the rest. What distinctive foundation supports your team’s offerings? Products and services are only safe from duplication for so long. It is the atmosphere, the location, the culture, the people of your company-that fortifies your business and exhibits your unique advantage to your customers, ensuring your sustaining competitive edge.

Originally posted to the Coltivar Group, LLC Website
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