I work out quite regularly and there have been some occasions when people have asked me, “are you training for marathon?” Or “have you run a marathon?” I have actually never “run” a marathon and probably never will (running that far ain’t my bag) but that does not mean I will never accomplish a “marathon”.
Looking up the definition of a marathon one would find the following: “An event or activity that requires prolonged effort or endurance.” A marathon takes discipline, will, desire and endurance to complete. So what is your marathon?
Sometimes my “marathon” is taking on the task of changing a historical corporate process or culture that has become outdated. It takes many meetings, emails, discussions, but I keep focused and envision crossing the finish line in my head – change; a new direction and I can finally breathe a sigh relief.
Lace up your shoes, get warmed up and make your move.
Even though I primarily classify myself as a “marketing professional” I have also had my share of sales experience as well. My time spent in sales was enjoyable but ultimately not the best fit for me. Don’t get me wrong; even though sales may not have worked for me it has helped me greatly in my marketing career. It helped me to understand not only the end consumer but also how products are brought into the marketplace: store owners, business owners…etc.
Currently working in product marketing I often hear comments from sales asking for one more new item, one more item that will help them make their numbers and as I hear these comments I understand where they are coming from but looking at these requests from an overall market strategy standpoint I cannot accommodate such requests.
When I get these requests from sales they are always looking for that one item or product that will be their savior, it will be their silver bullet. To me silver bullets only live in Lone Ranger or werewolf tales, there are no silver bullets – especially in sales.
I always envisioned sales as an oil pipeline. As long as I always had oil flowing in that pipeline times were good but when that pipeline began to run dry it was time to pound the pavement, and like oil, sales sources are a limited resource. As soon as you find a new source of sales you better be looking for what’s next for when that one dries up.
So I say keep watching those scary werewolf flicks just don’t take their tales of silver bullet solutions from the silver screen to reality.
Have you ever been driving on the road and in your rear view mirror or driving next to you is an old, beat up, Dodge Neon? But this isn’t just any old Dodge Neon; it’s Dodge Neon that has been pimped out. It has a rear spoiler the size of a whale’s tail, it has more lights on it then an airport landing strip and it’s tire rims put a disco ball to shame.
The car that I have described and I’m sure everyone has seen at some point may look “cool” or interesting at best but when it comes down to it’s core, it’s engine, it will never be something that is fast, strong or intimidating on road – it’s always going to be a little Dodge Neon.
The same goes with companies, maybe your company. I work with sales people and they always say if we only has one more product, just made a product bigger, a different color we would be beating our sales goals.
I realize where these requests from sales are coming from but when I steps back and look at the whole business model, sales strategy and market status it becomes clear that another product is not the answer.
If you stand back and see cracks in the models or strategies you could introduce thousands of products but none will go anywhere because they fall through the cracks. You need to fix those cracks, strengthen the overall system and doing that will ensure any amount or type of product introductions will be a success.
Just like that poorly pimped out Dodge Neon, don’t pimp out your company with needless product introductions that rest atop weak structure. Invest in a strong engine; a sound strategy and that will turn more heads as you blaze down the road.
I am sure that at one point or another in one’s corporate career you will or have experienced some type of planning or strategizing “retreat”.
These retreats are usually off-site from the corporate walls so people can get away from all distractions and just focus on the company’s future and moving ahead (I have had the “pleasure” of experiencing many of these first hand). At these retreats top management and executives will spout rhetoric of the future like a fire and brimstone preacher, people fill up white boards with brainstorming sessions and at the end the result is usually some plans or next steps that everyone in the group believes will be innovative and move the company ahead of the competition (it’s almost like a cult brainwashing).
The problem I often see and have experienced with these retreats is that they do momentarily get everyone away from all the distractions of the office but when the retreat ends and everyone returns to the office they also unfortunately return those distractions as well. Time passes, the enthusiasm of the retreat wears off and all those well thought out plans begin to fade into the background of the corporate walls.
The best way I have ever been told envision innovation is not to think about it in terms of a processes or machine but a garden; Innovation like a garden should be continuous, year round and sometimes a real choir.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying these corporate retreats are bad or worthless but the retreat should be thought of as having a start and finish but rather a start – you plant the seed and no finish in site. Once the seed of innovation is planted it is now a daily choir or responsibility. You have to keep it alive and tend to it’s every need. You may toil daily, long and hard but the fruits of your labor are all yours to enjoy.
Here’s to innovating with a green thumb.
One of my favorite films is the 1980’s classic Valley Girl starring a young Nicolas Cage. If you have not seen the movie some of what I am about to describe may ruin it for you so be aware.
One of my favorite parts of the movie is at the end when Nicolas Cage’s character crashes a dance party to win back his female love interest. The only reason Cage’s character crashed the dance party was because is sidekick/buddy in the movie convinced Cage that he had a “plan” to win back his girl if he would just show up at the dance. In actuality Cage’s friend did not have a plan at all, he just said that so Cage would show up and then once Cage showed up (uninvited and to an angry crowed) his friend told Cage that it was time to go into action and win back the girl (which Cage does). Without that push to action Cage would not have got the girl and movie would have ended rather differently.
I have thought of this scenario when looking at my current or past jobs. I have worked for and under many different bosses. All of my past and current bosses were all good at managing people, planning and strategizing but what they all seemed to lack is the ability to put their elaborate plans into action. I do not think any of my past superiors lacked the ability or opportunity for action but were discouraged to do so by the risk or uncertainty that would accompany taking action. In our current environment of economic and job market volatility or risk is not something someone or company wants to incur (even it is necessary).
But without taking some action, taking some risks all your great plans and charts are nothing but doodles on paper. So I say make enough plans and strategy to “crash the dance party” but then you need to start taking some action to win the girl.
I’m sure we have all experienced it at least once. You’re at the bar, it’s late approaching closing time and you survey your surroundings looking for that someone to go home with. You see a Woman (or Man depending on who’s reading this) at the end of the bar who is looking quite attractive and you think perhaps this is when you make your move, but just as begin to make your move closing time is called and the house lights come on. Suddenly the dimly lit bar is flooded with pure unforgiving fluorescent light shedding a fresh bright radiance on everything. As you look around everything looks different. The dark smooth bar surface now appears old and unsanitary as you notice all the cracks and stains, the Woman you had your eye on at the end of the bar has gone from attractive looking to “what was I thinking” as you now notice her wrinkly skin abused by too much time in tanning booths complimented with dark bags under her eyes and a grin filled with nicotine stained teeth.
Our economy has called closing time and flipped the house lights on. People now have that unbiased light shed on their finances, their spending habits and all the nasty habits that were once hidden are now out in the open. But this is not a bad thing. This can help save us all from decisions we may regret in the morning. Sure maxing your credit, not following a budget, getting a mortgage you can’t afford may look sexy while the party is going, the lights are low and the beats are thumping but now in today’s economy the DJ has stopped spinning and house lights have been turned on. Time to take stock of your surroundings and make it home safe and sound.
During a recent conversation on strategy a colleague said to me, “If everyone who measured results owned a scale then they would never be overweight.” The point that was trying to be made by saying this is that if you always focus on the outputs and never the inputs then likelihood of achieving the desired result is minimal (simple yet so true).
Think about this concept it applies to every area in your life or career and it can sometimes be a huge blind spot. It is almost too easy to get focused on “measuring” results with all the analytical tools and applications out there. I can monitor my weight, bank accounts and email all on my phone with a couple swift touches. But if I look at the results and they are not what I want it’s not my phones fault for reporting but my fault for not analyzing the inputs to all those measurements. If I’m not at the weight I want, what am I eating? If savings is not where I want it, where’s my money going? If I have too many emails, what is causing all messages to be sent?
This thinking goes well beyond oneself. Look at your company your performance. Why is your company not a leader? Why are you not in the position you want to be?
To answer those questions the answer is not comparison (that is a trap). Comparing your company or your own career to the competition does not accomplish anything. Every company and person is different, no one can control all of that, but you can control inputs. If your company is not a leader take steps that would make a leader: increase productivity, innovation and value while decreasing your cost. Increase your knowledge of areas key to your position and add more tools to your belt.
If you are someone who likes to look at results daily, stop it and flip your focus. Analyze inputs daily and results once and awhile. By doing this I am sure you will be more pleased with the results.
Ah, “The Fonz”, not the most current representation “coolness” but for decades on TV he wore that crown. I never watched much of the show Happy Days where the Fonz made his name but I did not need to in order to know that the Fonz was the cool guy of the show. I just knew this from the way he dressed, made an entrance and talked. No one in the show had to tell the Fonz “hey, you’re really cool”, it was just something unsaid, something you just knew and that is really the mysticism behind the art of being cool – if you know you’re cool and you really are, then you’re not given this title it’s just who you are.
Now bringing that to reality – look at how you conduct yourself, your job or company. If you walked into a room, talked about your job or company would it sound cool like the Fonz or Revenge of the Nerds?
What made me think of this was an experience I had recently had interviewing companies to partner with for a broad corporate project. I talked with companies from all type of scale levels – small, medium to large. The thing that surprised me was the companies that had the best presentations and won both my and our company executives approval were not necessarily those that had the huge renowned clients or well-known names but the companies that came in and just played it cool. The companies that made an impact told me what they do, what they do well and basically take it or leave it. The companies that failed to make an impact were not actually “bad” companies but they just didn’t play it cool. These companies lacked confidence and even seemed slightly paranoid – asking numerous questions about others in the running, asking if their proposal was good enough. Hey, if you’re cool other companies, other people don’t matter because you already know what you got is what other people want.
The Fonz could make selling steak knives cool not because the steak knives themselves are cool but because the Fonz is and that “coolness” transfers to the steak knives which you can buy and get just a piece of that for yourself.
Basically if you know you’re good at what you do, your company is good at what it does then just be true to that. Don’t be fixated on what others are doing or trying to match what other companies are doing. Just play it cool and in the wise words of the Fonz, “Ehhh!”
The definition of insanity as quoted by Albert Einstein is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Based on that definition are you insane? Is the company you work for insane? Perhaps you may say “no” right away but please step back and think about it.
A company I once worked for once launched product after, after product relatively the same the way and every one of them failing. They called this “trial and error”, “live and learn” but I think our friend Mr. Einstein would beg to differ. Einstein would probably call that a little “cuckoo”.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not like this company enjoyed to be constantly failing but they were at their core a heavily sales focused company. Again there is nothing wrong with this type of corporate mentality except when it gets in the way being realistic, when it gets in the way of knowing when to change. With each product launch sales executives all thought this would be “the one” to save the company and after each failure it not the system that failed but everything else that failed. Executives clung the corporate system and culture they created, using it unchanged failure after failure like a gambling addict at the craps table hoping one more roll of the dice will be the one to strike it rich.
Well this was not the place for me and sometimes…“You got know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk and know when to run.” (Well-said Kenny.)