This article first appeared on August 31st, 2011.
Dear Aunty B,
For the past five years we have been a market leader in our industry that is changing incredibly fast.
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We had a great idea, this great innovative culture, great market positioning and people loved to work for us. But as we got bigger, some of our best people left for new organisations or to start their own businesses.
We recruited in people we thought could grow the company that were very highly credentialed from large organisations and while they are good at analysing things and showing us lots of graphs and reports we are still falling behind and revenue is nowhere near where it should be… and you can forget about profit!
Now we are a follower and Aunty, it hurts that all these upstarts have come in, stealing our ideas. How do we get back our leader status? We can never return to that speedy start-up disruptor we were before. So what do we become?
Desperate to reinvent but don’t know how,
It is simple. You haven’t changed. You put your flag in the sand five years ago with one simple idea. Then you sat back waiting for success instead of realising that this was just the beginning: that you had to keep running, keep reinventing, keep innovating and keep offering better service.
We have left the age of unassailable industry rights where a company could rise to the top on a lot of hot air and then enjoy its status as a profitable monopoly or duopoly for decades.
The global competitors entering our market and new technology has changed the business landscape forever. Instead we have entered an era where we have to constantly come up with new ideas, experiment with our products with our service, with our processes and with our strategies. Isn’t that a nasty shock?
So here is what you must do. Change your culture. Have a really good look at the boffins from the large organisations. There is a great clue to who stays and who goes. If anyone ever tries to slow you down by looking at you down their nose and saying: “Let’s not rush it, let’s do a proper report,” show them the door.
Of course, you need systems that get you the right information. And you need great technology so you can see patterns and innovate on that evidence. But be aware of anything that slows you down. Because it is far better to run hard searching for the new competitive advantage and trip up now and again than being part of a slow moving, lumbering organisation that can’t figure out that the world just shifted – again.
What you want to become is this: a replica of your younger self. Mimic your old culture. Yes you can’t go back to five people taking on the world. But you can look hard at the people still left.
Avoid the burn and churn mentality that operates at companies like yours where you constantly think the next new person, usually higher paid and from a larger more prestigious organisation, is going to solve all your problems.
Work very hard to keep and grow your existing staff. It is these people that know the DNA of the company backwards that are going to have the knowledge, the skill and the guts to take the risks that will keep you ahead of the pack. Keep these people working in small teams. Make sure there is no hierarchy and your organisation is free from politics with zero tolerance for disruptive silo builders. Get all your people working towards one common cause – to reclaim your position as leader of the pack, changing the world, changing your industry and having fun on the way.
Your Aunty B
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