What’s Your Game?
Defining a game plan and crafting a winning strategy for your business can be difficult. Especially when you’re in the middle of the game, and the clock is running down. Often, an outside source with a fresh perspective is what is needed to assess your team’s strengths, reinforce the weak spots, and help you to find new strategies your business can use to go all the way to domination.
First, Do No Harm
Consulting firms and Creative Agencies would do well to heed this physician’s creed for their approach, but rarely do. Outside “consultants” are often engaged by larger companies, usually by management types with little desire for real change. These outside forces are then tasked to come in “fix things” with the understanding that these solutions must make the manager who brought them in look good in the process. Often it amounts to little more than this external entity playing the “hatchet man” and doing the company manager’s dirty work for them. This starts with busywork and meeting with various employees,then issuing blanket layoffs and “cost-cutting” measures. These moves are specifically tailored to improve the company’s short-term balance sheet, maybe score the manager a promotion for doing nothing, and ultimately fixing little. Although the immediate results can often seem positive, what most of these “consulting firms” do in order to get their payday is to take a (metaphorical) gas can to parts of the company’s business and then happily tossing in a lit match as they head out the door with their usually obscene fee. One of the reasons this occurs more often than not is that these “consulting” firms don’t take the time to learn about the client’s business and what makes it unique. What makes that business really matter.
These bottom feeders don’t do that because their bottom-line depends on lining up the next mark, or client for the next big payday. In point of fact, their slash and burn approach ensures that they will have more business in the long run, not less! The more companies that are successful, growing at a solid and reasonable pace, and who approach new challenges with creativity and excitement, mean less companies to exploit! They don’t have to stick around to watch the aftermath of their decisions. If their client sees initial cost savings (which are often wrongfully assessed as profits) they have “earned their check” and it’s on to the next business and the next undeserved payday.
Thanks, We Can Screw it Up Ourselves.
Sometimes these tactics can even come from within. Recently, when Apple Inc. was looking for a new Senior VP of Retail for it’s wildly successful Apple Stores, they hired John Browett, a former exec at Dixons Retail, a large chain of electronics stores in the United Kingdom. Obviously unaware of what Browett did to make Dixon’s profitable, Apple made a giant mistake which cost them millions of dollars and a large amount of employee satisfaction. Browett was infamous in business circles for his cost-cutting in areas like staffing and customer service at Dixon’s, (which has a terrible customer service social footprint) and what was his first act as retail CEO of Apple? It was the brilliant idea to give the employees a 25% “across the board” pay raise. What was it really? A “false flag operation” to distract from his ultimate goal; to slash staff by up to one-half in some stores! (Source: Wall Street Journal – Link)
For a company like Apple to allow Browett to try and torch what is at the core of why the Apple Stores worldwide are the most successful retail spaces in the history of retail (based on profits/sq. foot) since records have been kept is incredible. It also showed Browett to be a small-time thinker at best. Jokes were even circulating on the web that he must have been a “Google plant” because that’s the only thing that would explain such a suicidal career move. Apple had to rescind their blessing of Browett from on-high, and they allowed him (and them) to try and save face a bit by permitting him to announce publicly that he “Made a mistake” and was canceling any cost-savings by employee raises/downsizing initiatives.
This happens all the time, everywhere, usually on a smaller scale of course. Why? Two words; Vested Interest. If there is no real incentive for you to help the business grow and succeed, most people will not make the effort. It’s basic human nature for most, but not all. We take a radically different approach. So what makes us different?
Accountability – Not Just for Accountants
1. We will not accept you as a client if we don’t believe in you.
We would make terrible defense attorneys. We would either go out of business for refusing to take clients’ whose innocence we could not verify, or we would get disbarred for wanting to do what was right for whomever was wronged, whether it benefitted our client or not. If we see potential in your business, we will study it, ask you for some important data, and tell you what you need to change for us to work effectively with you. If that’s not acceptable, there are many others that will gladly take your money. “For what?” is the question you may want to ask yourself though. We like to pay the bills, but we’ll be damned if we’ll take a conflict diamond company on as a client. We have souls, and we’re averse to extreme heat.
2. We are small, and intend to stay that way.
That’s important, because with so many things in life, the more there are of something, the easier it is for quality to slip. Spreading yourself too thin means that mediocrity can become the standard, and that’s simply unacceptable at Adapptiv. Do we have aspirations of success? Even wealth? Yes, but success and wealth to us are meaningless if it’s not done in a moral and upstanding manner. We believe in God, and that one day we will, each of us on our own, have to answer to Him. We won’t push our ideologies on you, but we think it’s important for you to know we actually have some. Morals that is. Real ones. You can’t give the level of commitment and service that we believe is truly required and expect to be a Fortune 500 company. It’s simply not possible. Even Apple has been rightfully accused of forgetting some of their customers in favor of becoming a mass-market consumer electronics company. We love Apple in spite of the fact that it’s us, the content creators who helped Apple through their hardest times so they could be the iPhone/iPad mega-corp they are today. The point is, scale and growth is a double-edged sword at best, and when that’s not a motivating factor, quality easily takes its place.
3. We want to share in your wealth. Literally.
You can’t look at moves to cut costs, fire staff, and cut back on office supplies by themselves as profits. Nor can you take a short-term metric like a quarterly report and define success. If you have a great quarter and go out of business a year from now, where is the success in that? Public companies often chase the quarterly dividend at the insistence of their shareholders, most of which could care less about the business or the people in it as long as their monetary investment returns dividends year over year.
At Adapptiv. we will set performance metrics that we feel are achievable within the parameters of your particular business, and prefer to in part, base our fees and payments based on those results. If we don’t perform within the pre-defined parameters of expected growth, we don’t make the maximum amount possible. This ensures our success is at least in part, tied to yours. It makes us as accountable as you. We don’t work for free, and we aren’t cheap, but doing it this way shows you we back what we’re telling you to do with more than just our work. For you that makes taking and implementing our advice easier to do, because we aren’t just giving you the steering wheel and jumping out of the passenger seat. When your business hits 50mph around a sharp turn, we’ll be there. We’re in the race to help you win, when that happens we win in two ways. The satisfaction we get in breaking new ground for a company, and a bigger payday.
At Adapptiv, we specialize in areas that touch almost all businesses today. Adapptiv brings experience in technology, media, social and customer relationship management, and most of all creative thinking. We apply all that and more to your business after we’ve studied a large number of factors in order to improve it, not tear pieces (and people) out for short term gains on the company ledger.
Adapptiv’s Key Points of Evaluation
Your Employees – Numbers, Salaries, Duties, Past Performance
Your Customers – Past, Present, Future, Lost, Potential, Top
Your Locations (Brick/Mortar and Online) – Overhead, Utilization, Efficiencies, Redundancies, Visibility
Revenue/Profit Breakdowns – Strong Launches, Times of Year, Weak Points, Cost of Goods, ROI, Incidentals
Unexplored Markets – Local/Regional, Global, Other Uses, Re-Branding of Goods/Services, New Distribution Channels.
These are just some of the aspects we look at and bring back to the table for discussion and consideration. Using Apple again, they eschew focus groups because their mantra is that they help people decide what they want, not vice-versa. Other companies products live and die by focus groups, and we think somewhere in the middle is more applicable for most situations.
The point is not to fit any one thing into a pre-made box and assign a structure to it before you really know what you have to work with. If one is to really embrace change, then finding the less travelled path (and almost always the more challenging one) should be the first choice, not the last. It’s not a philosophy for the lazy. What is it then? It’s for people who, as Steve Jobs, whom we’ve met and interviewed three times once said:
“I just want to make a dent in the Universe.” We do, do you?