Tag: strategy

How Will Your Company Survive, When the Big Fish Gets Away?

May 18th, 2016   •   no comments   

Landing a big client is both exciting and daunting, especially for a young company. It can be a defining moment, pushing the company into the credibility zone, where other clients will follow because of that first big one. It can also be a point where all of the organization’s resources are sucked into the servicing of that big client’s needs and nothing else can get done.  There is both high reward and high risk here.

Every business needs to perform certain functions on an ongoing basis. Structure needs to be created and operationalized. Reporting and accountability need to be standardized. Marketing, business development and sales need to be ongoing. If everyone is spending all of their time on the big fish, then what?

And in a worst case scenario, what if the big fish walks? The company is in a deep hole. It’s a terrible time to have to focus on non-income producing activities that have been pushed into the background for a while.

5_18_2016_Big Fish Getting AwayIf you land a big one, don’t stop- keep fishing. Then if the big fish gets away you can still survive. Somebody on the team should always be asking the question, “What if we lose Mr Big?” And everyone should be responding by focusing part of the time on keeping that loss from being fatal. Can you survive the loss of your big client?

Football Leadership Follies

September 21st, 2014   •   no comments   

The recent headlines regarding the National Football League’s handling of domestic abuse issues certainly create a visceral response in just about everybody. Emotion is front and center, whether in support of the victims or the players. After the emotion is set aside, we are faced with a variety of issues and nuanced arguments.

Many of these issues are consistent with those faced by business owners of all sizes every day.  They include core values and the behaviors that support them; decision making and critical thinking; leadership and communication; protection of the brand and aligning brand with corporate culture; and juggling multiple agendas.  They also include considering the needs of all stakeholders, both internal and external.core values

In an ideal business world, vision, mission, values, culture, brand, strategy and tactics are all aligned. All employees know what the company wants to achieve and they know how to go about doing it. They know there are consequences for actions, and they expect all to beheld accountable for their behaviors. There are few gray areas. Obviously, that is not the case in the NFL.

From watching and reading of all that has been going on, it appears that:

  • Issues of domestic violence have been around for a long time. (fifty plus cases in recent years)
  • The NFL has handled those that have been publicized on an ad hoc basis, without having a strong policy or making a strong stand against it. The NFL has probably swept a number of such instances, especially where charges were never brought, under the rug. It seems that the NFL’s large security department learns about, investigates and reports back to the Commissioner on these instances, and as little as possible is done about them. Clearly nobody has thought about the messages being sent by the subjective manner in which these cases are being handled.  Behind the scenes, there is probably much conversation and negotiation by the teams to minimize the punishment dished out by the league.
  • The primary agenda of the league is to make money for the owners. The Commissioner is the point person for the owners, who  are all about money.
  • In order to maximize the earnings, the Commissioner must protect the brand. The brand is tarnished by bad publicity, thus the hard work of minimizing that publicity is crucial. Of course, he could protect the brand by strictly punishing bad behavior, but he has chosen another tactic.
  • The NFL does not seem to have its own moral compass, so that even if they have core values, they do not consistently live them.  moral compass
  • The messages coming from the league and the individual teams are not consistent, vacillate wildly and change from day to day.
  • Each team handles matters differently. Each talks about protecting the individual rights of the players who “are innocent until proven guilty.”  But they are really thinking about winning and making money.

Everyone has rights. The victims have the rights afforded them by the law. The accused have rights. And the teams (i.e. the company) have rights. How can they all be jived?  Where does fundamental fairness to all reside?

Under the law, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But companies should be guided by more than just the law. There should be company policy that reflects the core values of the organization. If someone is accused of something that is felonious, how should the organization behave? It needs to show its stakeholders, both internal and external, its values and beliefs. The first action should be by the team and it should be based on company policy. That action should be clear and it should be quick.

In the case of football, the league also has disciplinary and regulatory power. The league should have its own code of conduct which comes into play as well. It may not always be exactly consistent with that of each team. Perhaps it should be stronger. And the commissioner should be vocal and should be a leader, stepping up and stating unequivocally what the decision is. Commissioner Goodell’s  statement was unsatisfactory because,  while he admitted making a mistake, he provided no information that could really be used to ascertain how the league had actually behaved.

All of the apologies seemed to be based on the fact that the press presented evidence of poor handling by the teams and the league.  They were sorry they got caught, not sorry they had acted poorly. Nobody behaved well.

Organizations need to examine their core values and determine exactly what behaviors are acceptable and what are not.  They need to consider how employees accused of crimes will be handled. And they need to consider the impact on other employees, customers, vendors, shareholders and the public. They must think about their culture and their  brand and how their decisions impact the perception of both.

Issues such as this are complex ones for organizations, especially if they try to juggle the rights of all of the parties. They are made easier if there are strong policies based on clear core values. Zero tolerance policies carry teeth. And tough consequences.

Business owners need to stand up and show courage and integrity. It is part of being a great leader. It is part of setting a tone inside an organization. It is part of creating and building a powerful external brand.


Build or Break Your Brand

July 19th, 2014   •   no comments   

“A brand is built action by action, just as a house is built brick by brick.” ~Jarod Kintz~

July18_2014_brandA brand in it’s simplest definition is a promise to it’s customers. Today, an estimated five to ten percent of a larger company’s budget is spent on developing a powerful and positive brand. For smaller companies that percentage may be different. Regardless of how little or how many actual  allocated or resources or how much one is committed to evaluating and refining their customer promise  decides whether the dollars, time and energy are actually  invested or wasted.

Consider these industries:

In these scenarios, note where the industry or company focused.

In the late 1800’s,  railroad was king spanning a nation and connecting the East and West. Whether it was hubris, shortsightedness, or just plain stupidity, the railroad barons’ brand was build more trains and lay more track. When in reality, their business was transportation.  All the railroads suffered and have never really recovered. Wasting marketing and brand resources left with a broken brand.

As king of the photo and film industry and at it’s peak,  Kodak held 90% of the market.  As an actual leader in the digital age, Kodak made a decision to hold back on this revolutionary technology and hold to it’s exiting brand, believing the “product” was what people were interested in purchasing. In reality, and to quote Dan Avi, author of the article, Kodak Failed by Asking the Wrong Marketing Question published in Forbes, 2012Kodak  focused on selling more product, instead of the business that it was in, story telling.”  In 2013, the headline in USA Today read, “Can Kodak Reinvent Itself After BankruptcyOnly time will tell if they can re-build their brand.

Disney remains one of the greatest leaders in the entertainment industry.  Continually striving to stay true to Walt Disney promise to “speak not to children, but to the child within each of us has proven to be a powerful strategy.   The focus and promise remains solidly on”storytelling, magic, and experience.”  Today, even though Disney remains number one in price, they are still considered number one in value.  They continually work on building their brand.

An Opportunity for 720thinking:

Most of the marketing resources are wasted on selling and telling people about what the products or services are and how they can be used.  A powerful brand builds a strong emotional connection,  and at the same time entices the consumer to want, almost need to experience. There is not a sale.  Instead,  customers are  lined up willing to spend top dollar because the value is not to fill the customer’s wants and needs, but to delight the them.

As 720thinkers, we would like to offer the following questions that can help you evaluate whether you are making or breaking your brand:








A Juggling Act- To Lead and Manage

May 15th, 2014   •   no comments   

Business requires a lot of juggling- juggling thoughts, time, people, resources, ideas, dollars… All this juggling can make anyMay_13_2014jugglinglotsone crazy.  In business, the owner, the executive, the solopreneur are generally the individuals with the most balls in the air. In fact, the very reason certain people are in charge is because they don’t just survive, they thrive on chaos and complexity.

How do they do it?  How do they not only maintain control but move forward?

People get so wrapped up in the blur and excitement of being in overdrive that they can never gain clarity. Decision making becomes a nightmare and yet they continue to add to the pandemonium, putting more balls in the air, instead of truly focusing on the business at hand.

Leaders need to develop an understanding of what it means to to lead and to manage at the same time.  Leadership generates strategy and planning which can be messy and mind-blowing. Management involves tactics, attention to detail and task-lists which are exacting and sometimes mind-numbing. They involve two separate mindsets, two different sets of skills.  Those in the position of having responsibilities for both are juggling two different roles, needing to be successful at both.  Keeping in mind, people are effective and things (machines, dollars, etc)  are efficient.

In a recent interview, I asked a middle manager how well they believed their international, Fortune 1000 company shared their vision and plan.  His response, “I’m not sure what the vision is any more. One minute it’s customer service, the next it’s profitability, the next it’s whatever flavor of the day, not the week, crops up.”

I next asked him what his company’s tagline was.  “I couldn’t really tell you that either.  I used to know it, but I don’t talk to marketing much. My vice president is busy maneuvering to be sure we have the resources we need.  He’s a great guy but, honestly, that’s why I never wanted to move up. I can’t be that political, I just want to do a great job,  provide a great service, hit my financial targets and unfortunately, that leaves me little time to help my company grow.”

Quite a sad testimonial, wouldn’t you say? It is simpler to focus on one aspect or the other. But it is almost impossible to create a situation where that luxury exists. There are business owners who seek to just lead, who delegate all managing to others. A few may succeed at this. But most lose touch with the business, its culture, and ultimately wake up to a business they don’t recognize or to a dire situation.

May13_2014_two ballsTo be truly successful, we will need to juggle by learning to lead and manage at the same time.

Please note this picture. It’s  is so much clearer.  Only two balls to juggle.

When the executive, owner, boss  focuses on leadership and guides, coaches, facilitates and mentors; as well as manages and controls tangible things  life will become much more positive and business would be much more successful.

As 720thinkers, we are continually striving to gain fresh ideas and insights to provide the best plans, strategies, tools and tactics possible to help people lead and manage at extraordinary levels.  We support:

  • cultures becoming  greenhouses for creativity and innovation
  • decision making to have high impact and relevant
  • communication to be open and collaborative
  • teams to be engaged and motivated

We would like to hear from you regarding your thoughts on how to master this juggling act – to lead and to manage.



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