Lately this has been a theme of many conversations and even an event I attended for the Local Chamber of Commerce. You've done something great, or not so great, but what's next?
Strategy doesn't just happen overnight, you prepare for it, work on it, adjust and tweak it, and it will never be perfect, but strategy needs to be at the forefront of all decisions big and small within the business. How do we solve problems? How do we move forward and keep momentum after a huge win? These questions should be answered before the problem pops up, and before landing that extremely large client contract.
I want to share, with you today, a few antidotal stories with you to get the creative strategy juices flowing.
When I was in the military many of us received signing bonuses. Most strategies included new shoes, new clothes, new cars (this was mine), and some even included a night out on the town. If we had the foresight at the age of 18 to save and invest, that $2500 or even $10,000 in some cases may have been very beneficial later in life. I don't, today, own the car I bought. I definitely don't know where any of those clothes are - thank the lord - and I honestly don't know where that money went other than that but all of that money is absolutely gone.
Knowing what I know now (and some of my options weren't available then) about investing money, stock markets, and even the basics of time value of money; If I had been prepared for the small windfall with a strategy, I could have been more prepared and may still have remnants of that savings.
The same can be applied to business. A question was asked last Wednesday at an event I attend.
"If your client base tripled in the next 3 days, would you be able to handle it?"
Yes, that's a bit of a stretch, but it's not impossible. His business is touching less than 5% of the local population with something that EVERYONE in his service area could potentially use.
As a young graduate working in Chicago I remember being in a monthly department meeting where the budget was somewhere around $1M for the month and we had missed the sales goal. We had not made the $1M for our month and the manager said "here are the numbers. We made this much and didn't make enough for this goal" (or something to that effect).
The manager then changed the slide and moved on. I promptly asked,
"Is there something we can do differently this month to make the goal?"
"Work harder" was the response. (Eye roll, I know)
I thought we had all put in the hours and more to consider it "hard work" for that month, so I wondered how in the heck we were supposed to put in MORE.
Hint, the missing puzzle piece here isn't working "harder" it's working smarter. It's working strategically.
Looking at those numbers revealed that my team of 13 technicians (it was a service department) had in fact contributed about $600,000 to our number for the month, whereas the other two supervisors, having roughly the same amount of technicians staffed, could not come up with the other $400,000 between them. What was I doing so differently that my team was absolutely killing it? Was it my territory? That could be a factor as I was central Chicago and they had outlying areas, but not the root cause. We still had all of the technicians working every day in all zones, sometimes on multiple calls a day.
I still didn't know what I was doing differently then I overheard one of the calls between a supervisor and a technician. The technician found a problem at the job site that couldn't be solved today, and was in addition to the routine contracted maintenance we were scheduled to do. The supervisor then said, "I'll have inside sales send the client a quote".
He hung up and commenced authoring an email to the Inside Sales department.
Now, that seems pretty standard right? I discovered that I had been doing things a little different.
When the job had something wrong and I was alerted by the technician, I asked the technician if the client had been made aware. The first move after being notified is to notify the client. I would immediately call them and let them know that a quote would be sent over for this new maintenance issue, or that something was happening today that wasn't part of the plan and to seek their guidance. This action to notify the client was actually affecting sales.
The client was happy that they were in the loop, they were ready for the new amount on the invoice, or ready to sign and return a new quote as soon as it appeared, instead of wondering what it was for.
The moral of that story isn't to pump up my sales abilities (I'm definitely no Zig), it could have easily been the other supervisor that was using these techniques instead, this is all about the failure of strategy.
Instead of requesting harder work, we should have been scrutinized by a leader to see what techniques were working and not. After that analysis we should have been instructed on a new technique or adjusted in some way shape or form in order to meet the budgetary goals. Instead there was no plan, no action. I'm not trying to speak ill of that person, company or department, but rather teach a lesson. The fact of the matter is that the problem solving strategy in this instance was virtually non-existent.
What are you doing in your organization to put strategy in place that remedies problems, or prepares for your future?
Do you have a strategy on how to solve problems?
Do you have a strategy for which problems deserve attention?
What's next? Now What?
If you don't have that laid out, start.
If you don't know how to start, contact me today.
Cory Myres is a Process Consultant and Leadership Advisor from Lubbock, TX