Don’t let “FUD” cause you to “soft launch” your next product

images fearOver the years I have experienced two types of product launches; a “Hard Launch” and what some people have referred to as a “Soft Launch”.

Hard Launch

A hard launch is when you set a specific date based on your market opportunity window, the ability of your team, resources, and market conditions. In a hard launch you have done your homework, you have market based data, and you have beta tested your product or service and received qualitative and quantitative feedback from the market. In a hard launch you have cross functional groups within your organization aligned and communicating regularly. If something unplanned occurs your team learns about it within days and has time to adapt verse finding out hours before the targeted launch that it will be late.

I believe in hard launches for four main reasons;

1. Sales can pre-sell based on your known buyer process and cycle

2. Execution, when hard launch dates are made, and communicated to internal and external customers…teams deliver

3. Buyers like vendor partners who do what they say they will do

4. Team members who hard launch products believe in their solution

Back when I sold big box retailers like Wal-Mart and others, if we  missed a launch date you would lose more than the revenue your product would have generated. To miss a key launch date violates your trust with that buyer and you had little if any likelihood of placing other new products in the future.

Hard launch dates create a “make it happen ” environment within high performance teams. In addition hard launch plans also quickly identify weaknesses holding teams back from becoming market leaders.

In most cases in my past I led sales and marketing teams and our goals were established based on a hard launch date. In the last 25 years I have never had my sales goals reduced because a product failed to launch on time. If your known buyer’s buying cycle is six months, you need to pre-sell to insure you meet the revenue projections that product management provided senior management to get funding for the product.

Soft Launch

If a member of one of my teams said we “need” to soft launch a product it would make my skin crawl. A soft launch means you did not thoroughly conduct market research, you are not sure you totally understand the problem you are solving and your solution may not completely solve the need. When someone says soft launch I hear them saying this product is an incremental improvement to a current solutions and is not a breakthrough product. I also hear them saying we will throw this product over the wall, into  our market and see if it sticks.Team members describe a soft launch as if it were some safe and effective way to launch new products. Their approach is like someone wanting to join the polar bear club and just putting their big toe in the frozen lake to check it out, and saying; I will ease myself in. It simply does not work. I hear some discuss how a soft launch is more cost effective. Again, I have experienced the opposite in actual real as well as the opportunity costs.

So I asked some senior leaders recently why they would or would not use a soft launch and what I heard in summary in favor of a soft launch was “FUD”…

 

Fear

Uncertainty

Doubt

 

 

 

 

 

Fear

· Fear the market may not accept nor embrace your new product

· Fear if you did a hard launch and you announced a future date your competitor would beat your team to market with your idea

· Personal fear, if this draws a great deal of attention, and it does not work I may be out of a job ( particularly in these economic times)

 

Uncertainty

· Not sure if their solution completely solves the unresolved problem you discovered

· Uncertainty in your teams ability to execute

· Uncertainty to the validation of the market justification data and process used to justify the ROI

 

Doubt (the what if’s)

· What if raw material costs go up?

· What if the market projection numbers and how we assigned goals was wrong?

· What if this new product in some way caused a negative feeling in our buyers that hurts our base business?

· What if the product turns out to be an incremental improvement and not a breakthrough product?

· What if by the time we go to market we missed the window of opportunity?

 

Market leaders do not wait for the perfect conditions and they lack “FUD”. Market leading organizations spend considerably more time in upfront research, doing their research in their markets and clearly understanding the unresolved market problems. The crystal clarity they gain insures the requirements for the new product or service are thorough, complete, and nail it the first time. Market leading teams have a launch strategy and plan that includes multiple steps and representatives from other cross functional areas within the team.

 

The next time someone recommends a “soft launch” what I want you to hear is “FUD” .Before you or your team spend any more time or money on this project you must identify what did not occur that should have. I have lived through soft launches and they never achieve targeted goals and thus ROI’s are missed. Soft launches , that put your toe in the water not only create doubt within your sales team, but customers have a 6th sense about products that are launched and just do not “feel right” so they wait. As buyers wait, your sales and marketing teams miss their key indicators and morale suffers. Soft launches are a sign you lack confidence in your product, product management, and marketing’s ability. With a soft launch sales does not pre-sell so even if your team totally nailed the solution, you now have the buying cycle before you generate the revenues and more importantly profits that meet ROI targets.

 

If you can’t have a hard launch plan, don’t launch it at all!

 

 

 

How about you, what experience have you had with “soft launches”?

 

How does your company launch products?

 

If you miss launch dates do you reduce the sales and profit key indicators?

 

Have you ever soft launched a product and exceeded your ROI targets? If so tell me about it.

 

Is there a case in which a soft launch is the best way to launch a new product or solution?

“Skubala” Marketing, take a quick quiz to see if you qualify….

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How do you know if your marketing is effective? How do you even define the word “marketing”? Simply put; marketing is about understanding your market, what they need, solving and serving those needs, and letting everyone in your market know you solve those needs.

So how do you know if you’re practicing “marketing good for Skubala”? This is an old Greek word, and is harsh. There is no mystery in what this word means , so I thought I would use it.

Take this quick quiz…

 

1. Do you clearly understand the problem(s) your product or service solves?

 

 

2. Does your messaging tell your market what you solve?

 

 

 

3. Do you know the buyer types you serve; do you have written buyer persona’s?

 

 

4. Do you know the buyer’s buying process?

 

 

 

5. Do you know your sales process?

 

 

6. Can you match the sales tools marketing provides to specific stages of the buying process?

 

 

 

7. Have you created any new sales tools in the last six months?

 

 

Pretty quick quiz right? If you answered “no” to any one of the above you are probably practicing Skubala marketing. If you said no to three or more (all) you’re marketing is definitely Skubala. How do you quickly fix this?….be able to say yes to all of the above.

 

How do you define “marketing”?

 

How do you measure marketing’s contribution to your bottom line?

 

Where do you start to change your marketing to make it a core competency in your organization?

13 “old school” steps to hiring the right independent sales representative

I have worked with independent sales representative firms throughout my career and wanted to share how I found firms that produce rapid results. These results include increased sales revenues, market share, and rapid strategic account product placements. As I discussed in my previous post “Should you hire Independent Sales Representatives?” before you hire an independent sales representative (ISR) you must understand the role they play as well as the role you will play supporting their efforts. For example, good ISR’s have a close network of buyer relationships and lines of complimentary products. Their goal is to sell as many of their product lines to the buyers they have built trusted relationships with over the years. ISR’s rapidly increase your speed to market and placement. At the same time they are “independent” if they wanted to be “managed” they would not own their own business.

So how do you hire the right ISR for you? Today there are many online tools to help you find ISR’s, from online rep finders to blogs and legal sites that even provide templates for ISR contracts. However sometimes the ways we did things prior to the internet, prior to the availability of so many tech based tools is still the best way. Below are the ten steps I learned to use over 15 years of experience on how to find top producing ISR’s.

1. Identify the accounts you want to sell in a region

 

2. Determine the appropriate buyers who purchase your product category at each account

 

3. Call each buyer, explain you are planning on hiring a independent representative and ask what are the top three firms you would recommend

 

4. Review your current markets where you have independent representatives and what complimentary product lines do your high performing firms have?

 

5. Call the sales managers at these complimentary firms. Ask them who they hired in the market(s) you plan on developing, and who they would not recommend and why

6. Take the lists you now have and prepare a letter of inquiry to introduce your company, your products, and the sales opportunity to the various ISR’s. Ask them to respond by a specific date with a presentation of their firm, the lines they currently carry and any other information you require.

 

7. Note the firms that called to confirm you received their information and asked if you had any questions. Weight them higher than those that do not follow up.

 

8. Sort all the responses and weight them with buyer and other manufacturer referrals. Review the lines they represent. Do not quickly dismiss firms that have competing products to yours as good independent firms will drop poor performing lines for product lines with bigger revenue opportunity or bring with them entrance into other strategic accounts within their territory. You may already have a relationship with an account in their market they have not opened, so representing you may open a door to a new relationship and sales opportunity for all their other lines as well.

 

9. Call the firms you are interested in working with and get a feel for their professionalism and phone presence

 

10. Book a Hotel room with an attached meeting room in the desired market and meet with all your top candidates. Request that not only firm principals attend but also some of their salespeople. A mistake many firms make is hiring an ISR based on meeting the principal of the firm, and they actually work with a team of different people.

 

11. How well did the firms you met with sell their firm and the value they can add to your organization?

 

12. Listen to your gut. Ask yourself honestly: How well does this firm match our team’s culture?

 

13. You also need to insure your product line will not get lost in their portfolio of products. How important will your product line be to this firm? Will your line provide 10%-20% of their overall commissions or will you “just pay their light bill?”

 

The above steps consistently produced high performing ISR’s in the markets I have served. It may seem like a lot of upfront work, however I have found the time you spend upfront finding the right firm for you will pay multiple dividends over the years, result in explosive growth quickly and a strategic partner to help your company grow year over year.

 

How about you…do you have a technique you use to find independent sales representatives?

 

Are you an independent sales representative? What do you want manufactures to know?

 

How do you know when it’s time to hire a new firm?

 

What do you do if a key account says they do not want to work with one of your ISR’s?

 

What is your policy on “house accounts” in the ISR’s market that you do not pay commissions on?

Should you hire an Independent Sales Representative?…the right firm is a key partner, not a necessary evil

I recently answered a question on linked in with regards to working with independent sales representative firms (ISR) that is all too common. The Vice President who posted the question mentioned his frustration with independent sales representative firms. He went on to say “how do you hire good representatives as he has to change representatives often, and none seem to be opening new accounts and growing our companies’ market share?” I really do not have enough information at this point to answer his question.

I have hired independent representatives for over 15 years of my career. Good independent representatives are worth their weight in gold. The company that chooses to hire an independent sales force needs to understand the role of these professionals. The main role of independent reps is to use their current relationships, established through supplying complimentary product lines they represent, to get your product placed. They have built trust with buyers in their market, and their relationships with their accounts will ALWAYS be more important than your rep contract…and their relationship with you. Factories come and go, but the accounts in their market limited. Just as you may feel risk when you hire an independent representative firm, the firm actually has a greater risk. Each product line they represent is both an opportunity to become more important to their buyers and increase their income, as well as a risk. Should they agree to represent your products and your company fails to do what they say they would do, and or your product fails to meet your brand promise, the local sales representative not only loses potential commissions, but they run the risk of a break in trust. (Their most important asset they have with buyers)

If you are thinking of hiring independent sales representatives, I would ask you to answer the following questions…

So tell me…

· What market are you in?

· What problem does your product solve for that market?

· The representatives you choose, how did you choose them?

· Did you profile complimentary products that touched the same buyers, and then hired those representatives that had those lines?

· What is your commission structure in relation to the industry, other lines the representative carries?

· When you hired the independent representatives, where did you get their names?

· What % of the independent firms overall income do you represent in relation to the time required to sell your product?

· How well do you know the buying process for your products?

· Do you have sales tools you have developed to help the sales process match the stages of the buying process?

· Do you have written buyer personas?

· How does your competitor(s) sell? Direct, or with independent representatives?

· Did you hire them with base revenue in each market, or will they only “eat what they kill”?

· Do you have any “house” accounts in their market?… you know, the big guys you don’t pay independent representatives commissions for?

If independent sales representatives wanted to be “managed” they wouldn’t be “independent.” As a manufacturer, a “factory” your role is to provide products that solve unresolved market problems. Your job is to understand the market potential for your product and build obtainable goals from the market up. Unfortunately the majority of factories establish goals by extrapolation. (In other markets we have sold z units, and you have y number of those accounts, so your goal should be z times y…right? Wrong!

I am looking forward to hearing from those companies contemplating the hiring of independent sales representatives.

 

Please answer a few questions for me;

 

How did you establish the goals for their territory? Was the independent firm involved in the building of the territory goals?

Do you have written buyer personas?

Have you mapped the buying process?

Do you know the sales process for selling your products?

Have you identified sales tools for the steps each persona takes in the buying process?

 

If you answered “no” to any (all) of the above then your problem is not finding the right independent sales firm, it is what you lack, and it is how you have set your sales representatives up to fail. Independent sales representative have instant access to goal achieving accounts if equipped and set up to win. What independent sales representative are not…they are not magicians, nor are they your product management, development or marketing.

In my next post I will share how to find and hire independent representatives that add tremendous value quickly. I will discuss how hiring the right independent firm is the most cost effective investment you will make. I will discuss how even the biggest bean counting CFO will be thrilled with the ROI produced by independent sales representative firms.

WARNING: Buyer’s say what salespeople do wrong?..PRICE is not on the list!

images salesBusiness development has been hard enough over the years. Salespeople work hard to grow their existing business while opening new business. When we look at strategies for growing a business we have a number of options;

· Sell more of what you have to your current accounts

· Sell your current accounts new products

· Sell your current products to new accounts

· Sell your current products to new accounts in new markets

· Sell new products in new markets

· Acquire another business, sell their products to your accounts and sell your products to their accounts

I am sure there are more, but above are some that I have used, and I understand the difficulty and costs associated with each. The best way to accomplish any of the above strategies, (and I recommend you only pick 3) is to know your buyers buying process and match your sales process to that buying process. Not many organizations accomplish this, but if you do, you will create tools for each stage of the buying process to help the conversation continue. If you study buyers, what would you say are “the top 5 Sins of salespeople?” As a reminder, the word “sin” means to “miss a mark, or target, goal”. So where are most salespeople missing the mark?

#1 not listening

#2 does not follow up timely

#3 does not understand the problem I am trying to solve

#4 they talk too much

#5 never built a foundation in trust

If you study your market, and conduct win-loss analysis you will find as I have that in most cases 50% of lost sales are neither about the product nor price. 50% of lost sales are due to the process the salesperson is taking to close the sale. Maybe they are doing the all too frequent; “ring the bell selling?” You know what this is…the salesman starts rattling off all the features and benefits he learned in the 15 power point slides of sales training he had and he waits for you, the buyer to ring the bell when one connects. Other words we waits for one of the things he said to hopefully connect to a problem you have, and hopefully you have been able to translate that particular feature into how it will solve your problem.

Based on the above “top 5 sins”, how can salespeople close more sales and drive explosive growth in the markets they serve?

#1. Listen and observe

#2. Ask open ended questions, seek first to understand

#3. After you understand the buyer’s problems, explain how what you are selling solves those problems (since your sales tools probably don’t)

#4. Story-Speak, don’t speak in features and benefits (ringing your bell) but instead share stories of how what you are proposing as a solution to the buyers problem solved it for others who had similar problems

#5. “Serve” your customers, don’t “sell” them

I have personally taught this system to sales teams in various industries and it drives explosive growth in sales and profits. Profits? Yes! When you sell by ringing your bell of features until one connects, (and you may or may not know why) you quickly jump to the negotiation of price. You have not built trust. Sales people who know the buyers problem, understand their pain intimately focus on solving that problem. A buyer who has a salesperson who is speaking to their problems becomes so focused on solving their problem they connect to the solution more than price.

So how is your sales team performing today?

When was the last time you observed your sales people in the targeted group you are trying to grow?

How are you trying to grow your business?

In your target group(s) what are their top problems?

Are you creating a symphony for your market?…or just noise?

 

To create a symphony you need multiple instruments playing at strategic times to create something the audience enjoys. It require planning, practice, and integration. Each note played either adds to the total experience or takes away from it.

Marketing is lsymike creating a symphony in that you use instruments like the web, direct, blogs, PR, creative, social media,copy, media, and so on at just the right time , based on the needs of the market and its buying process. The only way you can insure what is pleasurable and more importantly useful to your audience is to thoroughly understand the markets needs and wants while understanding what each instrument does. You do not make those decisions in a board room or a weekly staff meeting. Your team does not make them by guessing, assuming, or relying on: “when I was in the market we …” You make them in the market speaking with customers and noncustomers alike. You gather data through open ended questions and your personal observations.

Buyers have patterns, processes,personas, and accompanying emotions connected to pain points. People buy with emotion then validate their decision with facts. One big emotion is trust;” can I trust you will do what you said you will do? That your product or service will solve my unresolved problem like you said it will?” Your integrated marketing therefore needs to build trust.

 

So what are the rules for integrated marketing that sounds like a symphony and not just noise?

 

1. Know your market and its problems

2. Know your buyers buying process and buyer personas

3. Identify where your buyers go to solve their problems

4. Create content that explains how your product or service solves your buyers problems

5. When they find you, “serve” them don’t “sell” them

6. Build trust

7. Be authentic, transparent

8. People buy from people

9. Attach the value of solving their problem

10. Speak with a unique voice for each of your buyer personas

11. Create learning’s -Measure and track everything you do

12. Feed the market in spoonfuls and not a fire hose

 

Are your buyers hearing beautiful music when they view your integrated marketing campaigns? Or are they inundated with noise? I don’t know about you, but when I hear a noise that annoys me I tune it out, I switch the channel until I find music that resonates with me.

Are your marketing instruments creating noise and your buyers and those who could be buyers are tuning you out? Chances are you are not connecting to the market problems and you are using instruments that may have worked fine 15 years ago but need fine tuning.

What are some other ways that marketing becomes noise, and worst an annoyance to the market?

What are some recent examples of marketing noise?

Want to add value to your bottom-line quickly?…Hire a Heretic!

 

 

OrigenFace

 

 

 

 

In Art Kleiner’s book titled: The Age of Heretics , Kleiner‘s definition of a heretic as: “a visionary who creates change in large-scale companies balancing contrary truths they can’t deny against their loyalty to their organizations.”He discusses how managers get stuck into a rut and need heretics to point out new points of view to get past the deadlock and move forward. Later he describes some as “rebels unwilling to kowtow to the corporate bureaucracy.”

One example of a heretic (and there are many in the book) is Jack Welch who gained a reputation as he climbed the ladder at GE as “ignoring or pushing back against, the bureaucratic strictures of his parent corporation.”

In Art Petty’s recent post this week titled : Help Wanted: Visionaries and Dreamer-Safe Return Doubtful Art refers to individuals who create great works of art on a blank canvas, they run towards adventure instead of away from it. Art goes on to say how we should channel our inner-Shackleton,(after the leader and explorer Ernest Shackleton ) and provides four lessons that apply to the adventurers called Heretics today. It reminded me that some people are cut out for adventure and some are not.

Having played the role of heretic in most of the companies I have served, let me tell you what to expect if you have the guts to hire one. A heretic is someone who will not take the easy road agreeing with key influencers throughout your organization. Obviously if what your key influencers are saying and or doing is in alignment with market needs they will, but if they hear something that is inconsistent with the vision of the organization or market needs they will tell you. Team members may feel this is a lack of loyalty. However to the contrary a heretic is singularly focused and loyal to one objective and that is adding bottom-line value to the team he serves, to aligning the organization to win profitably in their market. They will tell the CEO for example that his recent directive to the troops is not in alignment with market needs nor the core values and mission of the organization. He will remind the CEO that the mission statement is as much about what you will not do as much as what you will focus on.

A heretic does not know, or more importantly does not care, your VP of Marketing is your sister in law. He does not know or care that your VP of Sales was your fraternity brother at Ohio State, but he will tell you if that VP is not demonstrating the ability to lead his team in a direction aligned with market needs and your vision. A heretic will come into your organization and ask a lot of questions. Some of his questions will make you uncomfortable and definitely rock the foundations of some silos that have built throughout your organization. How will you as the leader of your organization know? You will recognize incoming torpedoes when you see them. If key influencers and leaders in your organization start using their relationship with you to shoot torpedoes at “the new guy” you know he’s asking uncomfortable questions.

The heretic will then want to spend a great deal of time in your market finding what he does not know. They may ride along with sales people, and often may engage with your customers on their own…LET THEM! Sales will balk, marketing will object, finance may say it’s too expensive, but let him dive into your market asking questions. What you will find if you shadow him ( and I strongly encourage CEO’s to do so) is he has an innate ability to make people feel comfortable and get customers talking. When you listen to him you will hear open ended questions, not questions to validate a current corporate understanding. He will seek to get to “why’s” much more that “what” and he really does not care about “who” . Who did that? Who said that?…He’s not out to find who did things wrong, but he seeks to gain an understanding of the market and its problems.

After spending time in your various departments, (and I should mention he will not just speak with leaders, but every level throughout the team) and spending time in your market with customers, non customers and market influencers… the fun begins.

The easy part is they will share with you what you are doing well, but not in his opinion, but the voice of the markets’. He will also share gaps, misalignments like poor positioning, branding, or a lack of sales tools to support the buying process he observed. He may hold your customer service or quality department’s feet to the fire over interruptions he found in speaking with your team and your market.

Heretics reshape organizations to be market focused and thus the organizations become market leaders. Market leading companies are over 30% more profitable, grow faster, have higher customer satisfaction and higher morale.Their radical thinking throughout history has reshaped corporate management ( and our society) as we know it today, and they will create the market leading organizations of tomorrow.

So how about your organization, how do you know if you need to hire a heretic?

1. Lack of EBITDA growth

2. Your leaders speak in terms like “I think” verse sharing authentic market feedback and data

3. No one on your team challenges you as the leader

4. Your team has many meetings but you do not discuss topics that matter

5. Your salespeople sell your product or service like it is a commodity

6. The last two product launches failed to meet ROI projections

7. Your salespeople are creating their own sales tools

8. Your leadership team spends more time covering their own butts that talking about growing your business

9. If you are on your third advertizing firm in 18 months

10. If you answered a question with something like; “because that’s the way do things here…” in the last three months

11. If your competitor just released something that seems to “be selling itself” instead of your team introducing it

12. If the distribution of marketing funds to various vehicles like; print, web, trade shows, direct, social media, has not changed in the last 12 months

13. If reading this post made you feel uncomfortable

What are some other signs that companies should intentionally hire a heretic?

How would a heretic be received in your organization?

As the CEO, what’s more important …increasing the economic value of the corporation, or being the one who has all the answers?

As CEO Should you give yourself a “pink slip?”

 At a recpink slipent T.I.E. event, a venture capital firm partner said “ by the time you change CEO’s, you are already twelve months late.”As I discussed in is your business is bleeding , if  your business is in trouble it is one, or a combination of three back to basics business triage areas; product, market or team.. Sometimes it may even be the team member titled CEO. So why do we have such a difficult time with this? Is it ego, Pride? A great post by Kristin Zhivago tilted ; Revenue and your charactor: the high cost of Pride touches on this as it relates to listening to cutomer needs verse thinking you know all the answers.I have found two types of CEO’s emerge over time in the life of a business; the entrepreneurial founder and the professional  business builder. Both skills are valuable and very important and rarely does one individual master both.

Entrepreneurial leader

This CEO has a technical expertise in their space, and are visionaries, “big picture leaders”. They are passionately focused on solving unresolved market problems. They see problems as opportunities. Their quest is the difference their work makes in the lives of others in their market. They are inventors who can not rest until their product or service perfectly solves the problem.

 

Business builder

This CEO knows how to scale a business. They know how to grow markets and their people. They measure what matters and have a strong network . They are balanced team builders that create a sustainable and repeatable growth.They are connected to their market, but may lack the technical expertise to solve unresolved market problems.

So how do you know what kind of CEO is needed by your business? 

What stage is your business in today?

What type of CEO does your team need at this stage of the organizations growth?

Honestly, are you that person?

There is nothing worse than providing the wrong skill set and leadership style given the lifecycle of your business. I am not saying to actually “give yourself a pink slip”, but a true leader knows his/her strengths that add value, and their weaknesses .Leaders know the needs of their team and market. If your business has grown to a point with your entrepreneurial flair, great, but rarely will this type of leader scale that perfect product or solution without help.

I see this very often in the Biomed industry. The founder is most often a scientist focused on “the work”, not the business of monitizing the work. So once the new solution is developed, they often hire a CEO to scale the business. This individual is not their “boss” but a partner with complementary skills  that will grow the business. These founders have the emotional intelligence to humbly admit their personal distinctive competencies.

So ask yourself a simple question to find what kind of CEO you are; is your passion in the development of products and or service solutions that solve unresolved problems? Or is your passion and expertise in the management and growth of  teams and  markets? Some might say, “well why should I pick, I am good at both.” Well I hate to break it to you, but if you feel that way you are either very rare, or very wrong. ( the odds favor wrong) Once you answer the above, now ask yourself what type of leader does your business need today? If you want an unbiased view, ask your team to participate in 360 review.

If you find the business needs a skill set you do not possess, one of the best things you can do for your business and personal wealth, is to hire that skill and it may be a new CEO. This decision will free you to serve with your gift while being complimented by a partner who also has unique competancies . Agreat article by David Allen some time ago Titled : You can do anything-But not everything helps solidify the need we all have to narrow our focus.

If you are a founder, how can you come to grips with growing and handing your baby over to someone else? Focus.Focus on your business and its needs!

Besides, the founder is the one authors write books about.

 

Is your business bleeding?… Three back to basics triage steps to stop the bleeding

 triage

If your revenues are off as of late you are not alone. However knowing others are struggling does not help you know where to make adjustments to achieve your corporate objectives, or for smaller companies to help you make payroll. I call this looking for the real “why.” Once you determine the true “why(s)” you can make strategic corrections and adjustments to correct your business.So what should you do if your business is bleeding today? It may feel like death by a thousand cuts, but I can assure you it is always one of three ailments.

Over the years, when your business was booming you really did not need to be that good. I know that disturbs some people, but the tendency for some is to have taken a position of; “do I know where the business is coming from and why people buy from me? ..Why should I care as long as it keeps coming in?” (as described by one of my customers years ago.) Well, now is the time they are caring.

There are three back to basics business triage reviews I  always asses. If you are not achieving your revenue targets your business is bleeding in one, or a combination of the below;

 

1. Product

 

2. The market

 

3. Your team

 

 

Product

Do you have a product problem? What problem does your product solve? How well does it solve this problem? What have your customers been saying lately? Is your product the perfect solution for an unresolved market problem?

 

Market

Do you have a market problem? Do you have a market or solution for one customer? How pervasive is the problem you solve in your market? What new conditions has your market experienced? Has your market experienced any new market dynamics like new competitors, government regulations, environmental factors, technology changes? Does your market feel the problem you solve is urgent? Does your market have the ability to pay for your solution? ( a word of caution, too quickly leaders determine they are bleeding due to a market problem, be careful)

 

Your team

If your product is a perfect solution (determined by the market) and the market is urgently looking for someone to solve their problem with cash in hand, then your problem is your team. This is one of the most difficult areas to adjust. The quickest indicator I look for is how market driven your team is overall. How focused and passionate are they to serving the market? Does your team possess the skill set required for the market of today? As is often the case some team members provided tremendous value in the past, but now lack the experience or training to meet the market needs of today. In a Fortune article recently it discussed how market leading companies are always training their team members in good times and bad.

Here’s a shocker for some CEO’s …you are a part of the team too!

If you have a product that perfectly solves and unresolved market problem, and a market that desires to pay someone to solve the problem your product solves, and you have an amazing team….then the problem may be you. Ouch!..that hurts , how do you know if you are the problem? You need to ask yourself some tough questions;

How well does your experience and training match the needs of your team and your market?

What area do you feel is your strength?

What area is your weakness?

What skill does your business need today?

What steps have you taken, and or are you taking to offset your weakness and or the needs of your business?

leaders know their strengths and humbly admit their weaknesses. Top leaders are committed to continuously improving their abilities to better serve their internal and external customers. This is accomplished through growing our abilities and balancing our teams with leaders who compliment our weaknesses.

It’s time you go back to basics and perform honest triage if you find your business bleeding.

A backpacker's advice when we feel lost in business…

 

I was sharing with a friend who is an avid backpacker that a number of clients feel lost in today’s economy. Today is unlike anything they have experienced before and they feel lost. The things that always “worked” before, do not seem to apply now. As we discussed this my friend Jim said “well you know what they teach backpackers? We teach backpackers when they are lost to; STOP.

 back sitting

Sit                                        

Think

Observe

Plan

 

As I drove home that night I thought how profound that advice is for business leaders and owners today. I see so many business owners thrashing around, busy with tasks (tactics) that they have always done and hope they will change their current circumstance. It is difficult to just stop. Yet the reality of thrashing around without focus only depletes our resources and exhausts us. Exhausted and afraid we are not able to make rational (strategic) decisions which results in our becoming even more lost, and increasing the potential danger. Like a tire stuck in the mud some of us keep pressing the accelerator only to sink deeper into trouble and making more of a mess.

When we STOP, we replace activity and busyness with stillness. We stop depleting resources aimlessly throwing everything at the wall in hopes it sticks and allowing us to conserve our energy for more strategic effort at a later time. In a quiet state we can recognize what resources we have, where we are, where we have been, and accurately assess and observe the reality of the moment. In this state you may choose to make camp and seemingly do nothing. Rescuers will tell you when lost; the best way to be found is to not move. You may notice a landmark you failed to see while thrashing deep in the brush. Once still new options become evident.

When we STOP thrashing around in busyness and we can make our plan. Planning after thinking and being intentional about your future movements or non movement coupled with a thorough understanding of what is reality prepare us to make the most effective and efficient plans.

Plans give us focus, purpose, and an objective to rally behind. When we plan we naturally review a variety of scenarios so we create alternative plans that we may engage as we gather new information or encounter new challenges. The old saying “when we fail to plan we plan to fail “affirms this advice.

How about you? Have you taken the time to STOP over the last six months? If not, how’s that working for you?

Deciding to STOP could be the most valuable exercise you can do for your business and yourself.