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Views > management Twenty By Don Libey

The final instalment of our series looking into the foundation blocks that you can count on to give you the best possible business performance.

H 28

ere is the last batch of the 20 pillars critical to success in business.

The series began in

the March 2010 issue; subsequent columns appeared in the June 2010

and February 2011 issues. To order back copies, contact 01271 866112 or

16. Creative Catalogues, websites, emails, inserts, whatever;

it all has to be excellent. The creative pillar is built with talent, channel understanding, innovation, and testing. Sometimes, being just slightly off-centre helps too. Internally produced or outsourced, it really

doesn’t matter. Only the very best creative will create the very best companies. And creative is the full gamut: layout, design, copy, photography, typography, colour palette, pagination, navigation, and on and on. Single channel or multichannel, it really doesn’t matter. It has to be good and it has to sell more stuff to more people any way it can. The creative pillar has been allowed to

weaken, indeed, crumble a bit in recent years as we focus more and more of our energies on the online channel. The “old” creative has been left in place too long without the needed advances. Photography is still too often vendor-supplied and catalogues have not advanced much beyond the 1990s. We have been occupied elsewhere with usability, analytics, models and Google. When I do the lengthy and often distressing 40 to 60-page catalogue critiques, the reports are not pleasant for the owners. Most of our catalogues are “just another catalogue”. Only rarely do I see extraordinary

“catalogues” and when I do, they are always from extraordinary companies. Look back on the first 15 pillars. If we are

building a company for successful performance and have gotten this far, why would we settle for mediocre creative? Yet, we often do. We have ceased to value creative as we once did. It is time to strengthen the creative pillar.

17. Circulation Circulation is an art and science. It is

mathematical and mystical. It is predictable and unpredictable. It requires an experienced circulation professional to manage it. We are direct merchants. Circulation and all

of its intricacies are our prime function. I am on record about the importance of partnering with our trusted advisers, the list professionals (see the eighth pillar), and recapturing this incredibly important strategic high ground as masters of our own destinies. If you do, you will excel and grow. If you don’t, you will perish. The point: The circulation pillar—in all

channels—is what sells more stuff to more people any way we can.

18. Strategic planning A common characteristic of the best direct

merchants is that they actually plan where they are going. The primary value of strategic planning as

a pillar upon which to construct a company is that it unearths options. When many minds and many imaginations are set to the task of describing the opportunities for the future, options appear. And options offer choices. The secondary value of strategic planning

is the unified understanding of the company’s future choices. When all twelve oars are pulling towards the same spot on the horizon, the boat gets there faster and without going off-course. Strategic planning costs almost nothing.

It is a non-monetary investment in thinking. Thinking—innovative thinking—may well be one of the most hidden, seldom deployed and valuable aspects of figuring out how to sell more stuff to more people any way you can.

19. Communication There are a few great direct commerce

companies that succeed in communicating, both with customers and with employees. There are far more who do not.

Direct Commerce Catalogue e-business

The two most common failures of the bedrock foundations are lack of focus and lack of communication. They almost always exist side-by-side. Owners are often unsure of the focus and, as a result, unable to communicate the first necessary pillar: vision. From there, it is nearly impossible to construct the remaining 19 pillars.

Communication moves in two directions;

perhaps even omnidirectional. Clearly, however, it moves from customers to company and then from company to customers. During its round trip, it revolves internally, informing and enthusing every employee with a common culture, attitude, plan, and objective answering the question: “How do we sell more stuff to more people any way we can?”

20. Board of directors

or advisers The final pillar supporting performance and profitability is the board. The board is nothing more than the

modern-day continuation of the tradition of the tribal elders. Experience has enormous value. Smart leaders seek the wisdom of the elders. It’s good to be king, but it’s better to surrounded by competent trusted advisers. My formula for any board is as follows: a

niche expert who knows your niche better than you do; a direct marketing expert familiar with your channels; a financial expert familiar with the world of money and financial backing; an accountant with direct marketing experience; a representative of the customers who buy your product; a trusted, life-long personal mentor. Some include a lawyer. I don’t. Over the years I have observed and,

therefore, concluded that direct merchants with a fully furnished and fully functioning board, where all decisions are respected and followed, are far, far more successful than the autocratic companies.

Those are my twenty pillars for performance and profit. Any company that adopts these foundations will be a better company than those that do not.

Don Libey is a direct marketing consultant and futurist.

practical performance and profit pillars

part 4

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