Working On My Business: You Become What You Think About!

At the MoldMaking 2000 conference in Cleveland in March, I had the privilege of leading two of the conference seminars: Strategic Thinking - The Core Competency For Success and a mini-seminar: Home Field Advantage - How to Create the Rules of Competition in Your Market. 
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There's an irony in business. We tend to become what we think about. It's also true in life!

At the MoldMaking 2000 conference in Cleveland in March, I had the privilege of leading two of the conference seminars: Strategic Thinking - The Core Competency For Success and a mini-seminar: Home Field Advantage - How to Create the Rules of Competition in Your Market. Both subjects have a lot to do with perspective. Both have everything to do with attitude and leadership.

In business we refer to strategic thinking as a disciplined, learned process of putting a proactive strategic plan into daily practice by all stakeholders. Within an organization - you know that thing we define as a group of people working together to achieve a common goal - it is at the heart of the profitability equation. Remember, employees create profit. For managers, it determines the stress level associated with their daily mental gymnastics. In marketing, it is the core competency that will generate revenue. (Your customers' profit dollars!)

Show me a company that does NOT embody strategic thinking as a core competency and I'll show you a company where there is no true organization - only a bunch of people who show up for a job at the same location each day, complain about all the things that aren't right, and blame anybody or anything that moves for their lot in life.

On the other hand, those companies that define their direction with vision, have defined a clear-cut path for success and have included the workforce as partners in the journey will undoubtedly show growth in the top and bottom line, see the workforce embrace a common sense of urgency and personal pride in their work, and overall the company will out-perform their industry peers by at least three to one. It's about leadership, vision and relationships.

One CEO described the impact of strategic thinking on the organization this way:
"My people always seem to be in a hurry wherever they are going! They will, however, stop and talk with people along the way. We see a lot of smiling at our place - not a sneer or ho ho ho type of smile but instead more like their lips are frozen in an upturned position. There's a positive energy.

"The managers tell me that conflict does happen, but we no longer have the gossip, cynicism and tattletale mentality. The people work out their problems and conflicts because they want to move on to other things. It's as if they are working on a different level - all of them entrepreneurs.

"They seem to be as excited about achieving our goals as I am committed to meeting them. The profits and revenue show that they're doing something. I have a hard time keeping out in front of them as their leader. It's great! Business is great!"

What are the essential ingredients for strategic thinking? First, one must start with a game plan. Basically there are six elements to planning (see Figure 1).


Determine where you want to be at some time in the future. Think about, envision and focus on future success - You must have a dream to make a dream come true!

Envision the difference that it will make to you and to the other stakeholders (managers, customers, suppliers, owners and the community).

1. Determine where you are now. Constantly analyze your present (critically/honestly).

2. Determine what can possibly stop you (obstacles and risks) from attaining the visionary state of being.

3. Define/redefine and evaluate the road map to the dream!

4. Decide if it's worth the journey.

Note, this last part of the planning process must be evaluated from the stakeholders' perspective - remember the WIIFM syndrome (What's In It For Me?).

As you take this journey, share the vision, seek input from stakeholders, create excitement and enthusiasm for the objectives, and give all of the stakeholders the knowledge that they need to help you reach the goal.

This is only the beginning. At this point all that you have is a plan. Now the tough part! Leadership! There are all sorts of cliches about leadership but two are gospel - Inspire to Aspire! and Walk the Talk! When done well, you have Buy-in. When done poorly, you have: "It's just another program!" As you perpetuate the dream, you need to constantly display a can-do attitude with forward thinking.

If you want to expedite the process of reaching the goal, implement a time-based strategy. We've talked about this in previous articles.

The strategic thinking process that I just described seems to focus a lot on internal operations more so than the external world. In actual fact, the process for generating revenue is exactly the same. It's all about relationships and elevating the value equation beyond the ordinary. It's true for creating buy-in inside the organization and it's true for creating a buying environment within the customer community.

In marketing, we develop mini-visions called Customer Action Objectives and Market Action Objectives. These support the overall organizational vision. The value equations for customers must transcend the pedestrian mindset (i.e., quality, delivery and price are evaluation criteria) and set a new standard of thinking for the customer. To do this we need to under-stand how the customer's decision-makers think when making a purchase decision. This is called psychographics. Learn this process and then structure the value equation to play within those thinking processes. It's Customer WIIFM!

Marketing is defined as knowing what the customer wants and needs and then making sure that you have it. Sales is making sure that the customer obtains (i.e., purchases) it from you. Neither of these should be confused with order taking. Marketing is the relationship process - strategic thinking within the external environment. One way to know whether this is being applied within your own organization is to review the capture rate on quotes over a given period of time. If you win 65 to 75 percent or more of everything that you quote, your team is practicing strategic marketing. If not, they're wasting time - order takers!

Both of these issues - strategic thinking and marketing - appear to be areas where a lot of shops have some difficulty. These truly are topics that fall into the category of Working on My Business. So be careful what you think about. You may just get your wish!

Implementing a strategic focus at every level within an organization is challenging and may seem somewhat elusive for many. In my own personal experience with my company and with my clients, I found that the journey is well worth the hard work. What's been your experience?



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