Stay Ahead of the Curve
Nurture constructive opposition based upon facts rather than speculation. Keep an eye on the future BUT let past be a cautionary guide.
One important observation of the changing business scenario that is evident more often than not can be summed up in clear terms: philosophies written in stone are prone to newer interpretations and adjustments per times!
You cannot afford to live in a cocoon forever.
Adapt to winds of change and mold yourself per the need.
History has been a mute spectator to hundreds, if not thousands, of Global Corporations go down without a whimper due to the shortsightedness of its management that failed to see notice the undercurrent of disruption.
I have often observed some very successful Chief Executives being pulled to the mat by their Board of Governors for tiny miscalculations that have shaved huge chunks of money off of their Balance Sheets.
The main culprit evident after a forensic analysis comes out to be their preference for strict caution in lieu of calculated risk per market demands. Instead of reaching the goal by steering the ship in a different direction, against the well-heeled advice of on-hand navigators in the face of oncoming storm, they preferred to take the fatal chance of maintaining predetermined route hoping the storm will pass them by.
A look at Global Financial News in your browser will reveal practically tonnes of information related to so many multi-national corporations falling victim to competition from the least expected sources. They just kept sitting in their imaginary comfort zones and let the water rise above their heads to help the drowning process.
And of course you will find examples galore of companies like Target that became a victim of its own management’s overzealous expansion plans into Canada believing it to be a cakewalk that bit them in the wrong place, their share-holders trust.
Kodak, the very inventor of the digital camera died a slow and painful death for its failure to keep the wheels of innovation moving at top speed.
KORES, the carbon paper and Copying Products manufacturing global giant could not see the fast eroding market for its premier product in the face of personal computers,
scanners, printers and fax machines.
Some of the off-the-cuff techniques I have tried with absolute success:
Keep up-to-date with Market Intelligence Data (assist smaller players in your niche industry and gain their confidence; they will support you in your time of need and may even become your partners in future growth)
Build an environment of ‘belonging’ in your organization where each employee is treated with equal respect and trust (most employees do not leave a company, they leave a boss)
Get out on the shop floor more often because that is where your roots lie: Nurture the roots so the branches could give fruit (most valuable data about your company’s health and its biggest ailments originate from there)
Never let an employee leave dissatisfied; take him/her out for dinner, by all means, and find out the most pressing cause behind their departure: you will be in for a terrible shock, I can assure you (offer them an enticing consultancy for a fixed term at a predetermined time-frame as a transition between jobs and you will win their hearts enough to spill the beans)
Explore synergies with your closest competitor to thwart any third party attempt to challenge your very survival (gone are the days of 100% secretive market intelligence with very few exceptions; synergy will help you in growth by take-over of nearest competition or becoming a take-over target yourself, with major concessions to protect your long-term interest)
Stay 10 steps ahead of the game of ‘disruptive technology’. Changing winds gather speed exponentially fast so your survival guarantee lies in always being far ahead of the same
Give the Customers what they want instead of offering them what you believe they need!
Here is another chapter from my own life’s book of Management Practices:
The year 1997, City: Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Location: Our largest Vendor’s Corporate Office, Attendees: Me and their CEO, Industry: Home Entertainment Electronics; Point of Discussion: Our fast growing Purchase Graph;
Bone of Contention:
For me: getting uninterrupted supplies guarantee
For Them: Growing threat to their existing, established but much smaller dealer network
I was spearheading a relatively young, home-grown company in Vancouver, British Columbia to solidify its business backbone and gain market share.
The only major vendor supplying this company happened to be the largest Importer/Distributor across North America for a particular line of essential product segment with over 300 different ancillary products that this business could not grow without. They commanded an unassailable position due to their large purchase volume at low prices.
During the meeting, this gentleman, I would name him Scott for reference purposes only (not his true name) asked me to explain how our purchase had been showing an increase of 20 to 25% week after week over the last 3 months. He was very concerned as he looked at us as a threat either by causing erosion of his market penetration by reaching out to his existing dealers or by undercutting them. Either way, he was more interested in checking our growth and the ONLY tool he had in his arsenal was direct imports at a low cost.
I was given an ultimatum tied to buy ‘X’ amount of slow-moving items to get ‘y’ level of the fast-moving as a precondition. Naturally, I could not agree to such an arrangement outright, at least not until the time I had made alternate arrangements.
We bit the bullet as a transition phase over 8 weeks while my company established its alternate Vendor Network consisting of 3 different agencies that we could offer sizeable purchase guarantees to. Come 9th week, we had our TEAM of telemarketers and on-the-road sales professionals launch a massive Sales drive that brought into our fold over 60% of the Installers as well as independent re-sellers across Canada.
We put on the line our projected profits for the next 3 months as an essential investment in direct-marketing. It allowed us to offer Competitive Pricing, Free Overnight delivery to All Small/Independent Operators, No-hassle Return/Refund or Exchange Policy as well as 30 day Credit to Repeat Customers above a minimum threshold with Prior Credit Approval.
Our continued thrust started showing negative results to Scott while other Vendors, especially those supplying him until that time, took notice of our growth. After letting this trend run for about a year and a half, we made our first contact with one of the largest manufacturers in China, with an offer that beat the regular purchase guarantees from Scott by a fairly large percentage. By now, the market had received clear signals of the new Sheriff in Town and they welcomed us with open arms.
We had taken the entire industry by storm, forcing our dear friend Scott to find a way to my office to renegotiate. However, his tone was more threatening this time than exploring continued business relationship.
Result: The small, little incubator I had been mentoring made an offer that Scott could not refuse and we took over his entire business empire in a single stroke of pen.
From a small, home-grown business, this company went to its first 30 Million hit within the country on its 3rd Birthday, before setting foot in the U.S. market and the rest is history.