Lessons learned from 2010

For most of us, we don’ t want to re-create the last few years. We want to learn from them. In fact, we want to grow our businesses at accelerated rates, in part, to make up for some lost time. Yet, we have all heard, “only fools keep doing the same things and expecting a different outcome”. And surely, you are not a fool. So what lessons did we take away from 2010 that will help us achieve our goals?

  1. “They” are us. Most of us have shaken our fist at the economy, possibly the politicians or greedy Wallstreet, or maybe BP for the oil spill, and how it has wrecked havoc on our businesses. And yet there are those that thrive. Look at Apple, launching the Ipad, SWA with its no bag fee policy, the growth of FaceBook. What do they get that we don’t? Growth is up to us. The economy is nothing more than the sum of business performance. Did you do your share? Did you rally the troops and make things happen? If yes, great! If not, read on.
  2. Time to internally fund growth and rely less on outside capital. Easy to say and hard to do, right? YES! But not impossible. Two ideas here; first, use enterprise analytics to understand where your profit is coming from and “right the ship” so to speak. Most businesses don’t track the granular detail to know where the majority of their profits are coming from, which is often less than half of their offer. Learn to make money from the entire business and then have cash to fund growth.  We offer this analytical service to our clients now as a part of the planning process. Secondly, invoke the discipline to stop  doing some things so you can fund the things you must do to grow. Too many companies just tweak a budget instead of cut out underperforming products or wasteful habits.
  3. Our growth will come from looking outside our businesses to figure out what customers value. The last few years, too many businesses have tucked in their tails to “survive”. The successful ones have looked boldly at the changes in the market and asked what do people want that they don’t have today? Groupon is nothing more than online coupons. One of the products with the biggest impacts in 2010 according to USA Today was pretzel M&Ms. Huh? Two food groups people loved to eat put together. Great innovations don’t have to involve technology, although many do. Think Swiffer vs. the mop, or Callaway golf clubs, or even wheels on luggage for their transformative power. Do you challenge your business to transform itself, and your industry?
  4. The Whac a mole approach to business strategy doesn’t work. One fix at a time, one problem at a time, one solution at a time is good for continuous improvement. It is not a strategy. Neither is setting annual business objectives. Would you align one tire on a car? Trying to improve or transform your business requires an integrated approach to the organization in which the entire business model moves forward in a cohesive way.
  5. Social media is here to stay and it matters. Figure out the right way to get on board for your business.
  6. The future lies in the hands of the innovators, not the managers. Or think of it this way, the role of managers is changing. We no longer win by just trying to optimize our business; rather we win when we figure out how to satisfy customer needs in a way they value. That is outside-in thinking, not inside-out. Huge difference in approach (and results!)

This is a list that could surely grow as we continue to learn from the past to ensure a successful future. What would you add to the list. Please share. And have a happy and properous 2011!

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