“Colonel Custer had a plan “…What To Do When Your Plan Is Not Driven by Market or Internal Truths and You Lack a Market Driven Motivation

After writing my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A? I had someone contact me with a question I thought was worth sharing.

“I read your last post and I can’t agree more with gathering market truths, assessing internal truths ( particularly after recent lay offs) and having a motivation to make a difference in the lives of those in your marketplace….

 

But what do you do when you work for an organization that built a plan based on old market data, an inflated view of internal capabilities ( that assumes we work 18-20 hour days) and a motivation that is singularly focused on making our owner wealthier and not changing the lives of those in the market we serve?”

Having helped a number of companies in a variety of industries over the year’s… shame on me for not expecting this question. Not only have I personally faced this dilemma, I know a number of people trying to obediently execute plans that were written from within their organization and lacking market data today.

I enjoyed the conversation with this young man, and below is what I advised him to do;

Gather current Market Truths

Chances are, at some point your leaders were market driven based on the growth they have experienced over the past 20 years. At some point however they started relying on their own personal guts and intuition and forgot the true market sensing process that empowered their original growth. The first thing I advised him to do is assess the market truths of today. Once complete, compare and contrast the plan you were given to execute in relation to current market truths. Note the strategies and tactics that are in alignment and call out those that are no longer rational based on new data.

 

Write a market truths document

 

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current plan that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard to-do’s that do not support your road map

 

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have shared and allow some flexibility

 

 

 

 

 

As we closed the call this young manager said “we have a plan, but I am sure Colonel Custer thought he had a plan too…

Yes, I am sure he did. But he too underestimated the competition and lacked a clear understanding of his market realities. He had scouts warn him that he grossly underestimated the size of his completion but he failed to listen. Is it any wonder this famous battle was over in less than an hour? ( kind of like how most new products are off the shelf within 18 months)

The people I always wondered about were his men…I am sure most were seasoned military soldiers and by nature trained to take and follow orders. However there had to be a few heretics in the ranks and I wonder if they had the courage to speak up, did some dissert the night before the battle, or did they knowing walk into their own demise? History states a number of his men were seen running from the battle when it was obvious all was lost.

If you are asked to execute a plan that is not market driven based on the current realities of your market today, you owe it to your team ( and yourself) to present current market data.

 

Leaders do not just state the disconnections their plan has with the market realities, but they also provide possible new strategies, they become a part of the solution.

 

Be a leader… and if you are a member of a team that frowns on gathering current market data to create market driven strategies your have two choices;

 

Stay on the team and expect to be to do driven, chasing outcomes of the day

 

Leave the team and seek out market leading organizations that value writing plans strategically based on current market data

 

I could tell he did not like the second option , (nor did I when I felt the need to leave one of the teams I served when their plans were so far from market truths I experienced physical health concerns as I attempted to be a soldier and follow orders.) I was much younger then and I was still under the erroneous assumption that the Hippos in the room were the most knowledgeable.

How about your organization…do you believe the plan you will execute in 2010 was written with current market data?

 

 

 

 

 

If you answer is no, what do you plan to do? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever presented your Hippos current market data that was contradictory to the plan they gave you to execute?

 

 

 

 

(Would love to have an expert jump in here on the effects on employee physical health when they attempt to execute plans that are not in alignment with the market realities of today)

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Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A?

A third key consideration for leaders and owners of businesses when building upon a foundation of truth is your Motivation. Specifically what are your real objectives and motivation for your business? I often find when helping clients about six months into an engagement the leader’s true motivation is shared. It is often not the stated goal and the teams, like me were executing strategies and tactics that are not in alignment with the real objective. So early in my relationship with a new client I seek out the leader’s true motivation.

Some common objectives include;

want to be cash positive by (date)

want to retire, so build this business and position it for a sale

want to give this business to my children, please set the business and my children up to win

want to sell my business

want to grow at least 20% per year

want more profitable customers and less of those who do not truly value my product or service

The common objectives are usually stated as “I want’s” not what they plan do for their markets. However market leaders consistently speak in a voice that discusses the difference they plan to make in the lives of their customers.

One of my favorite fast food stops is Chick-Fil-A. I hesitate in calling this fast food as the food I receive is good and the people who work at Chick-Fil-A treat you like you are their only customer. As I travel throughout the US, if I need to grab a quick lunch I look for the nearest Chick fil-A. I order my food and at the end of each service experience I consistently hear “my pleasure”. As I look around the restaurant I am always amazed at the amount of activity they drive to add value for the markets they serve. This week they posted pictures of a gingerbread house making event they held last week and a future Christmas ornament making class for children.

When others are afraid to not be politically correct the person at the counter in Akron said “thank you, and have a Merry Christmas, God bless you and your family.” At first this was such an interruption it caused me to pause. It’s sad really when wishing someone a merry Christmas is an interruption, but as the recipient I can’t say how much this meant to me. Traveling this time of year is difficult and for a brief moment I did not feel alone.

So how do large organizations consistently execute a service level above and beyond the expectation? It starts with their leader, and the leader sharing their true motivation. A few years ago I attended a Christian business event and the president of Chick fil A , Dan Cathy ,was the speaker. He shared how they are a faith based company built on biblical principles. You can listen to him yourself as he talks about his team here. One of their key tenants was “going the extra mile”. This is in reference to the Bible passage in Matthew 5:41 . As the owner and president of Chick fil A spoke, he shared how going the extra mile for a busy mom is pulling out her chair and putting fresh ground pepper on her salad. He shared how it actually, form a cost stand point, costs very little, however the impact they consistently see in sales increases year over year are significant, , or as their website states; “we are here to serve more than sandwiches”. They have seen consistent growth for the past 41 years.

Market leader’s focus on a goal bigger than themselves and their personal desires.

Market leaders are on a quest to make a difference for their market and customers in their markets they serve.

How about you and your organization…are you on a quest to make a difference in the lives of your customers?

Or are your employees shouting “next” and supplying the bare minimum?

Is your team on a quest? Or are they working a plan they signed up for but honestly where never committed to?

If you have an opportunity, go to a Chick-fil- A for lunch and decide…is this how you are making your customers feel?

The good news is you can!

If you currently are not on a quest…find one!

Once you understand current market truths, and you have identified your internal truths, you must understand your leader’s and your team’s motivation. Market leading teams sign up for a goal that is bigger than them and meeting ROI’s. They sign up for quest’s to make a difference in the lives of those they serve…and interesting their financial results consistently outpace their competitors.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one Truth, …Understand Your Internal Truths

 

One of the roles I must play to truly serve my clients is that of a “Heretic”. I often listen to business leaders discuss how what distinguishes them, their team, their product or service in their marketplace. They confidently state ; product quality, our service, and my favorite of all…our relationships is our competitive advantage… Bla…Bla…Bla. That is when I need to explain that in today’s competitive global economy, quality, customer service and relationships are not differentiators. Very quickly some leaders become defensive and start discussing how “I don’t understand their industry…” and they often start sharing how “their competitors suck”. Again, you may have weak competitors, but the fact that you may or may not be better than competitors that suck is not a way to differentiate yourself or create a sustainable competitive advantage…(sorry)

The Bible is provides us some very clear advice in this area…” “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ( Matt. 7:3) and this advice rings true as leaders must look within their own organizations and establish their internal truths.

 

 

Having a core competency in; service, quality, or market relationships is not enough anymore.

 

Your team must have something that differentiates you in your market as Jack Trout explains in his popular book: Differentiate or Die. The authors of the best selling book: Tuned In, refer to this as your “distinctive competence.” The difference between a core competence and a distinctive competence is the latter differentiates you in your market.

 

You must gain a clear understanding of your distinctive competence in your strategic planning.

 

Assuming you established Market Truth as I discussed in my previous post, the next truth you must clearly understand is your internal truth(s). To help my clients establish their internal truths I like to ask a number of questions;

 

  • What do your customer’s say your team does better than your competitors?
  • What are the strengths and capabilities of your team leaders?
  • What is your team’s track record in terms of market growth over the past five years?
  • How many new products have you launched in the last three years?
  • Did those new products meet or exceed your launch objectives and ROI targets? Why or Why not?
  • Has your team introduced existing product(s) into new markets in the past two years? Did you meet or exceed your sales goals?
  • What is your current unused capacity that does not require additional investment?
  • What is your team’s ability to raise funds to support growth?
  • Do you have the access to funds to support your growth?
  • When was the last time you or one of your team’s leaders spent time in the market?

 

For example, I was asking these questions with one of my new clients in the past and their senior team all said the same thing but in different ways; “ we are not good at new…” What was interesting however was that at the recent off site strategic planning meeting it was decided that they would leverage new products to hit next year’s sales objectives. When I interviewed some of their key accounts they too confirmed this teams poor track history in launching new products. One clients said “ they are a great vendor, but they launch new products before they are ready, so we plan to wait six to eight months after their next launch to insure the product has all the bugs worked out before we buy…” Ouch!( their sales plan was not in alignment with clients waiting six months to buy) Again , what was disturbing was the mid level managers and their key accounts all knew a truth that the only people who failed to see were their senior management team. Sometimes senior leaders see issues and put band aides on them hoping they will heal on their own.

As you plan for a profitable future year … Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010.

Another new client wanted “more sales” . However, when we reviewed their internal truths the reality was they were currently at 90% of their production capacity and could not service new business. Had we launched a plan to gain new customers we would have frustrated those new clients as well as existing customers ( and their employees) as their service levels would have suffered. As we peeled this onion further we found a large percentage of their current orders were not profitable. So what the owner saw as a need “more sales” was actually a problem with a sales compensation model not in alignment with overall sales profitability.

You must establish internal truths, distinctive competencies, and identify your weaknesses when building your strategic plan. What we are discussing is about  

leveraging what you have. I am not saying as leaders you are not to improve weaknesses and bridge gaps . However what I am saying is you must authentically and openly humble yourself and your team to your internal realities.

Understanding your team’s strengths, as well as weaknesses and limitations insures the strategic plan you write for 2010 growth objectives is obtainable.

 

Market leading organizations clearly understand market and internal truths.

 

 

 

Market losing organizations can be identified by strategic plans not in alignment with their market or internal capabilities.

 

 

 

 

What kind of organization do you work for?

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan rely on effectively launching new products? (even though the last launch was supposed to sell 2,000 and only sold 2?)

 

 

 

Does your senior leadership team have the horsepower to take your business into a market leadership position?

 

 

 

Are you relying on those that got you’re here to get you there in the future? How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan count on you leveraging a capability your team does not have?

 

 

 

Have you reviewed the “why’s” your team failed to meet some of their objectives in 2009? Have you corrected what you found?

 

 

 

If you failed to achieve some of your 2009 strategic plan targets was it a “strategy” or “execution” problem? …you sure?

 

 

Market leaders understand the importance of identifying internal truths when strategic planning.

 

 

Market leaders understand the power of leverage. They leverage their distinctive competencies that solve market problems.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one, …Establish Market Truth

The first key step in writing a powerful flight plan (roadmap) to grow your organization profitably is; establishing market truth. There are many truths we need to insure the strategies and corresponding tactics and key performance indicators are in alignment with the true market opportunity. Unfortunately a large percentage of business leaders use their gut and intuition and fail to establish current, relevant market truth before they launch market strategies.

The leaves are almost off the trees as I drove South on Route 71 in Ohio last week to work with one of my clients. It’s that time of the year for cold damp rains, grey cloud cover, and this time of year business leaders are sequestered off to key offsite meetings to write their strategic plans for next year. As I discussed in a recent post: October – November…National Strategic Planning Months…When Do you Focus on Strategic Plan Execution? …it never ceases to amaze me that over 70% of sales growth objectives were not achieved in 2009, and yet those same teams will receive sales quota increases in 2010. What are the leaders of these businesses thinking? Is it their assumption that 70% of their sales team is just incompetent, not trying hard enough, or are they just trying to “will” their businesses to succeed? As I discuss in my guest blog post far too often the true issue behind businesses not achieving key performance indicators is more related to your teams ability to execute effective market driven strategies. Since I discuss how to overcome the execution and accountability management challenge in the post I provided a link for above, in this post I plan to discuss one component of truth needed to; build market driven strategies that increase shareholder value.

As I discussed in my post : don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing , far too many leaders are making decisions and writing plans based on dated or worst case incorrect information. How does this occur? The leading cause for Leader Market Disconnection Syndrome ( LMDS) are the Hippo’s in your organization calling audibles without any market data to support their directives. The reality is; thinking is hard work.

 

 

When you peel the onion and find the true “why’s” behind your team missing its goals you will find it is not for the faint of heart and requires a strong emotional intelligence.

 

The quickest way to build strategies that drive explosive sales and profit growth is to get re-acquainted with your market.

 

Years ago there was a great commercial in which a business owner called a meeting and instead of pontificating about opinions. gut instinct and intuition he distributed airplane tickets to his senior executive team and sent them out,…out into their market to visit belly to belly with those mysterious entities called “customers”.

 

 

If you want to create a business plan that results in explosive growth in 2010 and beyond get out of your office and dive deep into your market now.

 

What you will find very quickly is the market has changed considerably in the last 15 years from when you carried a sales bag. The market has changed significantly in the last six months! As I discuss in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them? some of those changes include;

 

  • longer sales cycles
  • more influencers involved in the buying decision
  • greater pressure on terms
  • increased pressure from international suppliers
  • as well as many more…

 

The first step in establishing market truth is to get out in your market and speak with your customers, potential clients, and those potential clients you recently quoted and failed to win.

 

While your sales team will tell you the reason you did not win the contract was price, my personal experience and research has proven time and time again price is not even on the list of reasons why your buyers do not buy. As high as 50% of lost sales are due to the sales process not having the right sales tools to help their buyer buy.

Market leading organizations continually outpace market losers and one of the key reasons why is their clear understanding of their market, its problems, and their changing buying processes and buyer criteria.

Market losers listen to disconnected Hippos and increase their sales objectives although they failed to meet goals last year.

 

 

Do you work for a Market Leader or a Market Loser?

 

 

When was the last time one of your key leaders met belly to belly with a customer? Potential customer? A customer you bid but failed to win?

 

 

Is your organization launching strategies that are market driven or Wall Street driven?

 

 

Are the new goals you are asking your team to achieve built from the market up with real current market data, or are they the result of ROI justification meetings with product mangers who never left the building?

 

 

Step One, Truth: Establish Market Truth