Thank you to all the attendees at today’s ACS 2012 panel on marketing and technical sales for start-up and growing businesses. Below is the presentation I gave at today’s talk. See the list of resources linked below for references. Next week we’ll be releasing a white paper to compliment this talk. Please sign up for our newsletter on the homepage to get notification and the link. It requires flash to view. If it does not load immediately, hit reload on your browser.
Where did all of our leaders go? It seems that everywhere you look, from our businesses to our government there is a dearth of true leadership. If you need help remembering what a real leader looks like, I suggest reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell. Harvard Business School recently completed a large survey and study of U.S. Competitiveness. The findings point to fundamental weaknesses in our approach and actions toward restoring our competitive advantage as a country. However, what I also took away from the findings was that a combination of educated leadership and cohesive strategy were absolutely required to dig our nation out of its current predicament.
Going beyond ideology and making decisions based on evidence is the mark of a functioning government. Researchers from Harvard and other top universities who worked on the U.S. Competitiveness study proposed paths forward. It will take great leadership that is willing to go beyond ideology, and forge a cohesive strategy that cuts across party lines to move our country forward.
How can we all do our part? Demand more of yourself. Read the studies and educate yourself from these and other solid research sources. Reevaluate your ideology in light of these findings and consider this as you elect your leaders. Demand more of our leaders. We must hold our leaders accountable for working together to move us forward rather than sitting idle under the cloak of their ideology.
Good business decisions are driven by insight. Insights come from understanding facts and from assessing situations. Good strategy grows out of these insights. The raw ingredient that allows managers to have insights into their business situation is data (the facts) and time to think about, discuss, analyze, and assess the data and its implications. That is the creative part. Creative thinking takes time. It can’t be crammed into a 15 minute break between two meetings. You have to create an environment where you have the time and the atmosphere to properly sit and think about your situation. I used to use the 2 hour commute to and from work to do this. Nothing like two hours in traffic to stimulate thought!
If you are a leader responsible for setting direction for your business or organization, create a time and place for this type of thinking. In the book, The Power of Focus, authors Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt discuss the need for this type of reflective thinking. It is critical to living life on purpose and to taking yourself beyond reactive to proactive.
In business, as in life, there are truly great performers and there are mediocre and bad performers. Great businesses manage to get a lot right. Operational effectiveness is a foundational trait that every great business must have. Without effective business operations, even a great strategy will be stunted. How you operate your business also directly impacts your ability to see and take advantage of growth potential. Often, the process of trying to scale up to meet a large customer’s order uncovers the weaknesses in your operations.
Be proactive. Develop a game plan to identify and tackle your weak links. While they don’t need to become your strongest assets, weak links should be improved so as to not limit the potential of your business. Create more value by improving how you do things, instead of trying to take on more different things. Question everything in an effort to clarify if processes are working or if they need to be updated. You may uncover all kinds of waste and costs that you didn’t know existed. In the end, you’ll often see returns to your bottom line just by going through this process.