I had the pleasure of addressing some smart people at the first New England XPO on Compelling Stories and building remarkable businesses. Here is a version of my speech:
Growing a private company is about being the best in the world at something. It’s about defining and dominating your unique market, your micro-market, your sliver of the world.
It’s about Positioning & Performance. Today’s business climate has one upside, there is more time to focus on choosing who you want to be. To be the best in the world. You see the best, the number one gets an unfair share of the spoils, eg vanilla ice cream, Google, number one selling CD, the fastest man in the world. Often second is not close in terms of reward. Being competitive I love running the 800m on the track. It is a hobby but one I like to do with passion. My goal this year is to produce the fastest time in the world for a 50 year old at that event. I’ve started well with my first race pushing me to #1 in the US. I’ve carefully chosen a specific event, trained for it every day at 6am and on race day I compete well knowing I’m ready.
Companies need to do the same. Are they going to be remarkable or invisible? Here is the good news – management get to choose. You get to tell your compelling story. Cirque du Soleil, Pixar, Apple, all got to choose what they could be the best at. All defined their unique market.
You see management follow the pyramid principal but they have it upside down. The pointy bit is at the bottom, that’s execution and performance. Often this is done in a simplistic, naive manner and the top of their pyramid is long and flat, that’s their over-complicated strategy. As we know the pyramid is pointy at the top, that’s the myopic, focused strategy of who you are and what you do. The bottom is long and flat representing the multi-tasks and multi facets of execution.
In building your compelling story think about the following questions:
Why you are remarkable?
How you will make money?
Why is your team effective?
Where do you fit in the landscape?
It pays to be a contrarian thinker; Paul Fireman, the founder of Reebok is investing in a high end designer jean’s business. VF Corp is rolling out more stores not less. As Borders struggles, Barnes & Noble is acquiring fast moving e-book retailers.
But strategy is what you leave out. It’s easier writing a long report than a short one page executive summary. Entrepreneurs get restless. They can’t get through the Dip, push past the boredom and the pain, hanging in past logic. It’s about taking things out and pushing on with being really remarkable at one thing. E Bay are retreating from competing across the board with Amazon, Tiffanys are closing pearl jewellery stores to stick with their knitting. ING announced in April a $10bn divestment plan to simply their business. Simply and focus. Think Google home page v Yahoo.
You see Positioning, nailing that compelling story drives everything.
Think marketing – social media, blogs, facebook, twitter are all geared up to bring you qualified leads. But you have to be crystal clear who you are.
Think sales scripts – sales processes like Sandler or Jeff Thull books give great frameworks and words to use but they need a starting point, they need a compelling story to spread. You need to be clear on the business result you will achieve for your clients.
Think Product Road Maps – Apple have created amazing products and an amazing eco-system for apps for the i-phone but they’ve done it with a strong compelling identity.
Even recruitment, the acquisition of world class talents needs an evangelistic message to attract the best.
It’s about choosing a space where competition is light or bringing to the market a fresh story that will disrupt the old guard. eg a potential competitor to Google called WolframAlpha
In summary, find your story, describe the business result you will achieve for your prospects and go build a remarkable business.