If your business has been essentially the same size for several years, inertia has probably become a much stronger deterrent to the growth of your company than any economic downturn.
Where’s the incentive for bright, ambitious younger people to want to work for your company?
What’s the impetus for investing in new technology, systems, and approaches?
Why would a prospective customer realistically expect that you would be able to handle a big account/project? (trust you?) (believe you could?)
What will prevent you from becoming bored someday after doing essentially the same job (tasks) year after year after year?
If these questions resonate for you, ask yourself what size your company would need to be to
The transformation from inertia to momentum often involves expansion of the leadership team for an infusion of energy. Start there. Imagine the leadership team that you would need to truly break inertia. Do the math. What would their compensation packages add up to? What percentage of the company’s budget should be invested in executive/management compensation? OK. What size will your company need to be to have replaced inertia with momentum?
I’ll bet it isn’t incremental change like the +2-5% goals in many annual business plans.
The President of one of our client companies recently opened a meeting with the observation that strategic planning feels a lot like playing with a Rubik’s Cube®. Remember that toy? His hands turned in multiple directions as he reassured his team members:
“We’ll all be messing with just about everything in the strategic planning process from product development to marketing to production to accounting. But the good news is that we all know what the Rubik’s Cube® will look like in the end, and it won’t all come apart in the process.”
That was an impressive analogy. This particular team needed the reassurance. The company enjoyed a large market share for some time and hadn’t felt the need for repositioning strategy until now.
In many ways, a well-managed participative strategic planning process is a great deal like a Rubik’s Cube® because things won’t come apart while “everything is being messed with.”
However, the discovery and creative elements of participative strategic planning are NOT like the Rubik’s Cube®. Developing a positioning strategy early in the process can be equivalent to knowing the “secret” to the middle square on each side of the Rubik’s Cube®. It provides a sense of direction, but you really are not completely certain about how everything will turn out when the plan is completed.
For this client, we know that they will be adding new products to their mix. Do we know exactly which ones before research and decisions are made? No. We know that they will be moving into a new organizational structure. Do we know the exact job description for each new role and the names of the people filling new positions? No.
If your team members are the type of people who want to be provided detailed maps for their trip to __(place)__ and would preview the video tour of the city before committing to travel anywhere, increase the emphasis on exploration, discovery, and creativity so they can enjoy the journey.
Why go through a participative process for strategic planning if all you want to do is copy what someone else has already done? In this day and age, you would just be setting yourselves up to be BEHIND!
You just launched a new product aimed at your niche market. You thought you had a great head start, but today you learned about a very similar product being promoted to the same niche by a new competitor.
So what is your reaction?
It’s amazing how many companies overreact and immediately shift their marketing and pricing. If your marketing campaign featured the language of a market leader a few days ago, wouldn’t you look a bit paranoid if you suddenly shifted to “challenger” language? Why point out the limitations of the competitor’s product? If they are relatively new, they may not recognize their limitations, and you will just be teaching them how to compete against you. Why automatically lower your price? If you are really tempted to do that, perhaps you need to improve your product instead.
Maybe the “new competitor” could actually become a resource for you. Having a new competitor in your niche market may be an indication that you should speed up your product development cycle. If the competitor has demonstrated an interest in your niche and a capacity to produce a high quality product, maybe it’s time to learn about their capabilities. Who knows? They could become a subcontractor, a joint venture partner, or a candidate for acquisition…with you still in the leader position within your niche.