On October 11th, we introduced the idea that Winning in a Down Economy does not start with blindly cutting costs. Instead we outlined a strategy for tuning in that market leaders have adopted. In the ten weeks that follow, we're covering the ten steps to getting your organization aligned quickly to a new market reality. This post is the fifth of ten. Steps 4-6 address the areas of product and portfolio planning with an emphasis on increasing the relevance of your solution offerings.
Step 5: Find the 'Bright Light'
"Some people think they are concentrating when they are merely worrying."
- Bobby Jones
What's your plan of attack to get through the next two years? The leaders we've talked to have already identified that what was good enough to get their companies to where they are today is not going to be good enough to keep them there. Some key aspects of their business will need to change, and quickly. And while they may not know exactly what the changes are yet, most have established a frame of reference for this transition ... creating a new two year plan.
If you've followed our recommendations from Steps 1-4, you've gathered a large amount of market data to sift through. The buying environment, customer problem areas, test results from new solution proposals, investment priorities the market demands, even your ability to execute ... should have all been profiled by this point. Now the challenge shifts to analyzing all of this data.
This is where tuned in leaders shine and separate their businesses from the rest of the pack. Identifying the patterns that make sense and an innate ability to filter through the useless to focus on the things that matter most is their gift. How do they gain these insights?
They ignore everything but the bright lights.
The data you've collected will have lots of bad news in it. Buyers are locking down budgets, cutting staff and freezing investments on all non-revenue generating purchases. Your sales may be down and the future outlook uncertain. Progress on a new product or a new initiative you launched may have stalled completely with evaluators. It can get pretty depressing when you take it all in. Tuned In leaders absorb these data points to be sure but they also possess two characteristics that push them past all of the obstacles they present:
- They know from experience that there is always a plan for success available so they keep digging until they find it.
- They focus more on what's working than what isn't.
The bright light is the set of data that is showing a positive trend. Perhaps it's the services business that you hadn't been paying much attention to. Or, a particular area of your website where visitor traffic has grown significantly. A channel of distribution, geography or product line that is outperforming the rest of your business. Or, maybe an external trend that has just recently emerged that lines up to a competency you have but have not yet exploited. Find it and you've got the first brick in the foundation towards your recovery.
In every market segment that we researched, we found companies who ignored these trends and allowed new competitors to emerge and in some cases claim leadership of their segment. In a very high percentage of these cases, the start of this breakout occurred in a down economy. While the leaders were all tuned out, focused on cutting costs, and ignoring the bright lights that existed, new entrants were fixated on them and built businesses that resonated.
Don't be afraid of being called an optimist. Now is the time to find the good things that exist in your business. Build your plan to connect to them and your opportunity will come into a much clearer focus.