If you’re a business owner or a corporate executive, your day is logically spent looking for the strategic advantage to move your company into the brightest possible future. These are the advantages all organizations seek to get out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary, high-performing profit engine. For those looking for the strategic advantage that will position any organization for prosperity, read on. I’ve led very large business units within the Fortune 500 and now currently own and operate my own business consultancy group … nothing has changed in the 30-plus years that I’ve been running business, my charter remains … successfully leading teams and successfully engaging customers. We’re all seeking a strategic advantage and a better way to go about our business.
In that vein, I’ll provide the question that’s rarely asked, but always intimated: “How do I acquire the magic dust to create a highly profitable business that doesn’t keep me up at night”? You’re in luck … there actually is magic dust that will make this happen for you and your organization. And crazy as it sounds, it begins with you and how you will create the organization that has a highly prosperous future.
But first, let’s define the Four I’s. They are information, ideas, intelligence and innovation. The Four I’s are mission-critical to the success of your business … the first bag of magic dust.
Information: In the future—which starts now—we will stop hiring people solely on the basis of their knowledge, but rather on their ability to learn and to learn very quickly. Successful organizations will seek those who will possess the unique talent of effective learning and unlearning.
As J. W. Wilson puts it in Cracking the Learning Code:
“The information doubling rate is the main factor that is rendering Ancient Learning Theory obsolete. In the 21st century, all the information that exists in the world is estimated to be doubling at the incredible rate of once every 18 months This phenomenal rate is causing an information explosion in which two million new books are published each year, at least one significant new software program comes out weekly, millions of new pages are added to the Internet each day, and a new technology is produced every 15 seconds.
“Information has not always been generated at such a fast rate. Consider that 2,000 years ago, knowledge was doubling every 1,000 years; in the Middle Ages, 1,250 years later, it was doubling once every 750 years; and in the 1700s it was doubling once every 350 years. At the time of the U.S. Civil War, it was doubling at only once every 100 years, and by 1950 information was still only doubling at the rate of once every 25 years. Today information is doubling every 18 months and the prediction is that in ten years, information will be doubling every 30 days.”
There are a couple of ways of looking at this phenomenon, first, I believe that timely, relevant information, such as business intelligence, customer intelligence, market trends, and the like, is critical to the success our business. Second, however, with information doubling at that rate, it becomes like food. It’s not how much you consume that will make you healthier, but what is only important to your specific needs.
Intelligence: IQs as we know them have been significantly and appropriately downgraded, taking a back seat to emotional and social intelligence. In the future (as you recall, it begins today), the future belongs to those who have the ability to learn rapidly, unlearn outdated concepts and create winning relationships within and outside the organization.
Smart people are plentiful, smart people who can successfully navigate customer issues every day for a positive outcome … priceless! Emotional intelligence has a significant payoff. Every one-point increase in emotional intelligence equates to $1,300 per year. Improve your points by three, and your income goes up nearly four thousand dollars. Improve your IQ three points, and your income goes nowhere.
Emotional intelligence is the future … for well-run, high-profit people, teams and organizations.
Ideas: The aforementioned information dilemma/overload requires new ways of thinking. Enlightened individuals will develop strategies required to overcome challenges that will flourish through ideation. Your workforce, your consultants, your vendors and most importantly your customers must collectively share thoughts and ideas in order to successfully respond to threat and opportunities.
Gone are the days when decisions were made in the boardroom and then disseminated to the “troops” to implement and make successful, “or else”. Winning ideas start with full customer engagement, where the environment is looked upon as a partnership. No longer do we look at our clients and customers as “someone to sell too” but rather “someone to partner with.” Selling is an idea that needs to go away (unless you’re a commodity … then sell away). If your desire is to be in business for the long term, selling is the polyester leisure suit you left at your parents’ house 30 years ago; customer engagement is the idea that creates a visionary program to create a sustainable profit engine.
The best and brightest typically have the best and the brightest ideas … are you evaluating those you’ve surrounded yourself with? What’s the quality of ideas being put forth within your organization? Are you still selling? If so, stop: implement a customer engagement program, today; your profitable future depends on this.
Innovation: What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There is a book by Marshall Goldsmith. It is not so worthy for its content as much as its title, which epitomizes some of the thinking we consultants run into. Executives and business owners think they’re going to run their business the same way they have always run their business. The same treadmill, creating more activity, staying the course, doesn’t work. If companies aren’t getting out of the everyday and innovating a new, brighter future; innovating new products and services; innovating ways to engage and delight their customers, vendors and even their community, they are doomed. And logically so—given the pace of business, the demand for better products and service requires a new vision.
This vision comes from the interconnectedness of your workforce with your customers. Innovation happens when your activity nurtures communication with the art of active listening. The best source to innovate new products and services is asking your customers what they need. In addition, who knows most about the needs of your customers than those who engage your customers daily? That’s right, your workforce. Yes, it’s obvious, but if so obvious why do I need to coach each and every one of my clients on how to do this? The short answer is, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
The Four I’s are a great methodology to create a thriving business. But to make the Four I’s a real strategy, one must employ the Five C’s. As a matter of fact, the Five C’s, correctly implemented, will produce a business that is highly profitable, high performing and has a sustainable profit engine built in. If you’re a business owner or company executive who’s struggling to make a substantial profit or unable to leave the business for a day for fear that pandemonium will ensue, then you need the Five C’s.
The Five C’s are culture, customer centricity, capability, capacity and caring.
Culture is the Holy Grail to organizational prosperity. I use this phrase in every public speaking engagement and every program I provide to my clients: “The culture you have is the one ‘you’ve’ created, nurtured and made manifest.” Just like the word leadership, culture in and of itself is a subjective word; it doesn’t distinguish between the good, the bad or the ugly. Those who surround us distinguish this culture for us.
That brings me to my second statement on organizational cultures: “The existing culture will attract those who gravitate to a like culture.” This means, if you have a prosperity culture that fosters ideas, innovation and intelligence (emotional intelligence), you will attract those who value that same culture. Birds of a feather, flock together.
A culture that’s highly collaborative will achieve a level of prosperity far beyond those locked in mediocrity. If the culture creates value, then effectively partners with clients, it will have an opportunity to become a strategic component in the customers’ business, achieving trusted adviser status.
Positive cultures create a dynamic customer experience that fosters mutual respect for the workforce, solves customer issues beyond expectations, and creates an enviable customer retention record and reputation.
Authoritarian cultures that micromanage, demand compliance and have a “tell” mentality will attract automatons looking for a paycheck. This culture is one of high turnover, commodity selling programs, low price and sub-value products and service. This culture creates high customer churn ratios, and selling becomes a way of life, continuing to lower prices, hiring those who need a job.
That brings me to the third statement on culture: “The culture and organization will prosper to the degree of the capability, commitment and caring of those who comprise it.”
Caring: Employees focus on what those in charge value. (For the sake of clarity, I will purposefully leave out the word leadership. Those who own companies or manage organizations are not by default leaders. Those who embrace the strategies contained herein … you are on the path to leadership/great cultures.) Those in charge should live the vision, not be micromanagers enforcing someone else’s vision. Caring, like leadership, is difficult; that’s why so few engage in it. However, those who do reap the rewards.
To attract caring workers who care about your company, your customers and your future, you must put heart and soul into a culture that cares about its people. In other words, leadership and a radically successful culture is about “them,” not you! It starts with caring enough about yourself and your company to surround yourself with people who share your vision/dream. Remember one thing: “Happy employees create happy customers.”
Customer centricity: Happy employees creating happy customers doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Prosperous, well-positioned organizations place the customer at the hub of the wheel and then build the organization around serving the needs of customers. If we put the customer at the hub, then the spokes of the wheel become organizational culture, leadership, people, and one of the C’s, capacity, or the ability of the organization to deliver on its promises. This includes process.
The ability for the organization to work as a highly functioning unit eliminates speed bumps, innovates new systems, and shares ideas within teams for growth and a higher level of capability. Capability encompasses metrics and measurement to ensure quality customer interactions are solutions-based; advance a partnership mentality; and achieve measured, repeatable results. Capability is also about adaptability … critical to long-term success.
I have yet to have a company owner/executive admit they’re not customer centric; however, their reality doesn’t match their actions. It takes that rarefied leader to understand how to move his or her organization into customer centricity; it’s complicated, time intensive and requires 360 degrees of mindshare of every worker on your team. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
The Four I’s are terrific, but without the Five C’s, they will languish as just another program. The Five C’s are the framework to bring the Four I’s to fruition. They are the essence of a radically successful business that creates prosperity and a fun work environment filled with the best and the brightest workers—who in turn are creating delighted customers, who are telling others about your products and services.
It begins by understand what information is mission-critical, moves into the sharing of ideas through ideation, at which point those with high levels of emotional intelligence are engaged at the customer level, and provides innovation to the organization that will become critical to a prospering organization. This is imbued in the culture, which features 360-degree collaboration due to a customer centricity focus and an organization that has the capacity to deliver positive results and the capability to adapt and grow.