Strategic Planning

If You Dont Focus, Innovate and Evolve, You Die


After 128 years of business, a household word, Montgomery Wards, Inc., closed their doors forever and filed bankruptcy.

With 258 stores and 28,000 employees in 30 states, Wards fell victim to competition from service-driven retailers like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Circuit City. Wards claimed a "poor retail environment" for the failure. Interestingly, Wal-Mart and Home Depot didn't shut down. (Editorial sarcasm).

Wards is a perfect example of a company that thought it was in the retail business and missed the fact they're in the service business.

Perhaps they rested on their laurels. After all, 128 years in business is rather noteworthy in today's ever evolving economy. And clearly, size nor name recognition saved this organization from distinction.

The 28,000 employees will soon be looking for work. Why? Because the organization missed the mark. They remained retailers when the competition had evolved to a more personal, service oriented approach. And I'm willing to bet that most of the employees are "stunned," "surprised," "confused". They thought the old way of doing business was just "fine".

Perhaps this can be a wake up call for every business. What exactly does your business do? The quick answer is generally, "we make, manufacture, service the best darn 'Gismos' in the universe".

The focus is on the "stuff". The focus needs to be on the outcome.

Sure you might "make, manufacture, service the best darn Gismos in the universe" but if the end result isn't happy, satisfied customers who enthusiastically spend more of their money with you while telling friends, family and associates, you're destined for short term success, at best.

Remember, Wards was in the "retail business". Now their inventory is being liquidated at 40% to 50% savings.

A further wake up call might be on the horizon. If the U.S. economy moves toward a slow down, customers are going to be harder to find and still harder to keep. Following years of rapid growth, stunning sales with record profits, most organizations have felt little need to focus on customer retention, customer satisfaction, keeping customers, customer loyalty, customer service, customers for life or any of the current "service" mantras.

In fact, talk to just about any executive and they'll tell you their organization is "committed" to customer loyalty. Give them a few more minutes and they're likely to brag about the level of service their organization is currently providing. And just look at the numbers-they must be doing something right.

But just wait. The companies that spent the time to build and grow a powerful workforce with a focus on excellence and service will be light years ahead of the game as competition increases.

In other words - "Good times can camouflage poor performance".

So what's this mean to you and me?

First, FOCUS, Re-Focus and continue to RE-Focus. What is your company in business to do? What role does your department play in the process? How can each player move performance to the next level? Keep answering and re-answering these core questions.

Second, EVALUATE, Re-Evaluate and continue to RE-Evaluate. Take a hard look at the service offered by your company, your department, your team from the customers' eyes. Be on the lookout for opportunities to take performance to the next level.

Evaluate opportunities to enhance performance internally with your important Trapeze Buddies - the people you count on most often to complete a task, function or provide you with information so you can get your job done.

And never assume that "no news is good news". Your customers are talking - it just might not be to you.

Third, INNOVATE, Re-Innovate and continue RE-Innovating. Buggy whips sold well in their day but if you're in the buggy whip business today, you're short on customers.

Innovation is essential for continued, long-term growth. Look for innovation opportunities in the following areas: 1. Enhancing your core product or service; 2. Saving customers time or money; 3. Reducing customer's headaches and hassles; 4. Helping your customers gain a competitive advantage.

The rules of the game keep changing but one universal truth is this: the job of every business is to attract and keep satisfied customers. Period.

2005 Mark Rosenberger All rights reserved.

Mark Rosenberger, CSP helps companies transform employee performance, productivity and sanity. He is a sought after speaker, performance strategist and author of six books. Do you count on certain people to make your life work? Discover how to be caught more and dropped less, plus achieve more than you ever thought possible - download the FREE Trapeze Buddy e-book at NoSplatZone.com


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