Simple Questions, Complex Implications Once you have taken a full assessment of your existing and available tactical resources, this will soon lead you to some other questions. First, and this is a big one, do you constrain your strategic thinking to limit growth ideas that can be accomplished within your tactical means? If so, are you setting yourself up for mediocrity? Maybe. Is that such a bad thing? Or, do you reach for the stars and go all out for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) come hell or high water?*

I am certainly not entirely opposed to setting BHAGs. The business media, with their focus on the extreme successes and failures, has conditioned us to pay attention to those stories. But, the real lessons on what’s best for your business are likely not found in the internet start- up Unicorn celebrity story nor the latest mega merger nor the supposedly too big to fail bankruptcy headline. Most growth success stories are a bit boring and the result of careful planning and plain old hard work.

When you determine exactly what

strategic direction you take and the tactical resources that are required, it will inevitably lead to some other big questions:

• Why do you need to grow? • How fast do you want to grow? • How much do you need to grow? • How much risk can you take?

Take the time to answer these questions carefully. Your answers will directly impact your organization and culture.

Case Study: An Aerospace and Defense Manufacturer

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years since I experienced the subject of this case study. But, its impact is still relevant today. The client, a successful mid-market manufacturer, faced

a formidable challenge: two

of their three key markets were in down cycles simultaneously, reducing production orders and creating excess


capacity. Market forecasts suggested a multi-year recovery and layoffs were likely necessary.

To minimize impact and retain

as much of its highly skilled labor, the company’s strategy was to develop new markets, which would create diversification and new growth when their core markets came back. Company leadership set realistic growth targets, though everyone felt the pressure of an ambitious timetable. The logic of the strategy was convincing. If the company could perform as well as it did in its core markets, then they should be able to win new business in other markets.

The company created a special

team to take on the challenge. This crew recognized that they would have limited brand recognition in these new markets and one of the main concerns was rapid lead generation. Would they have enough new business leads fast enough to make a successful short and near term impact?

Let’s cut to the chase. Unlike the

other case studies I’ve shared in previous articles, the results of this example are at best a mixed bag. Tactical deficiencies on

several progress.

Our concerns over generating enough leads turned out to be unwarranted. In fact, the opposite was true. We generated too many leads. Using robust postings on a new vertical search engine specifically for engineers, the company actually generated close to 19,000 inquiries in three months! But our good results there uncovered weaknesses in other areas.

With that level of unqualified leads,

it was nearly impossible for the small sales team to separate the wheat from the chaff. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day to properly sort through and even semi-intelligently respond to each inquiry. In addition, we failed to invest in any kind of automated response mechanisms to throttle down the intake. We had no automated e-mail drip campaigns, e-newsletters, or digital

fronts greatly impeded

marketing tools to help qualify a lead. This led to potentially frustrated potential clients who felt ignored. Clearly, not all of those 19,000 inquiries were looking to place an order. But, there was not simple way to determine those who were simply interested in the company and those who wanted to place an order.

Compounding the difficulty were some missteps with the company’s new product introduction process. Due to the reduction in force, some of the manufacturing facilities were not geared up to be able to handle the influx of new production samples and testing. This resulted in undesirable lead times and frustration on behalf of all parties – the manufacturers, the sales team and the prospective clients.

A Warning, Not a Solution Fortunately, all was not lost. New markets were developed and the core markets came back as projected. But, failure to fully assess and invest in the tactical requirements to execute the strategy was detrimental to the company’s overall growth performance.

So, while we should not hold this up as a model for success, some key lessons can be applied that underscore the risks of tactical deficiencies. First, take the time to carefully identify and validate all assumptions before launching your initiatives. And, when trying new digital marketing technologies, run tests and pilots to ensure that your organization can manage volumes at full scale. This applies across the full scope of your company staffing resources including, marketing, sales, operations, customer service and so on. Often it is the unintended consequences that get us into trouble. In hindsight, that advice seems obvious. But, when leaders are in the thick of it all, the pressure is on to deliver, and the clock is ticking, it’s not so easy. Keep this in mind: even the best strategic idea depends on your ability to actually implement it.

Next Month: Growth Killer #7 – Process Deficiency

*My apologies to Jim Collins, who coined the phrase, “Built to Last”.

October 2019 ❘ 53

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