The initial reaction to the title of this article is most likely described with a single word such as “nonsense”, “simplistic”, or “pessimistic”. Invariably, business owners and CEOs will also quickly think: “It may be true, but certainly not for our company”. Unfortunately, it is true and applies to all organizations, big or little, new or old, public or private, business-to-consumer, or business-to-business focused.
When a coin is flipped in the air, it is moving either upward or downward. Only for an instant is it stationary. Gravity constantly depletes its upward momentum, causing the coin to stop rising and stopping for an instant, and then accelerating its downward motion. Different “gravitational forces” have the same impacts on companies. Those forces might be competition, technology changes, customer expectations, priorities, scaling, regulation, or even the economy. In all likelihood, a combination of these forces will be constantly at work, day and night.
We all know that the odds of getting a heads or tails when a coin is flipped is 50%. The odds of getting either two heads or two tails in a row drops to 25%. Unfortunately, today, the odds of a new company surviving (not thriving) to their fifth anniversary is 50% and, to survive to their tenth anniversary, the odds are only 20%. These odds are remarkably similar to the results of flipping a coin. Even large, international companies are subject to the same fate. It just takes a little longer. It is estimated that half of all major corporations do not last for forty years. Today, that duration is shrinking fast!
Thankfully, there is something a company can do to counteract the gravitational forces that they encounter unlike the non-varying gravity that a coin faces. The question is what should a company do to counteract those forces? Complicating the issue is what realistically can be done while still running the business as it is? Virtually every organization is resource limited and must focus on shorter-term results. Regrouping, re-starting, re-engineering, resetting, or revamping the business might be the theoretical right thing to do but may be too costly, too disruptive, or take too long to be practical.
There is a far more effective and timely approach that can be taken. It requires only a small incremental effort on a company-wide basis. It can and should involve everyone in the organization, independent of their level, role, or responsibilities. It involves focusing on demonstrating one word that is selected and embraced by the company. By demonstrating that one word consistently, all others involved inside and outside the company will begin to identify the company with it. It will then become a significant distinctive competence that can offset many of the negative forces that a company faces.
There is no single one word that is applicable for every organization. There are many to chose from. Below is representative list of some of the possibilities.
Responsive Meticulous Caring Helpful Reliable
Flexible Adaptable Trusting Resourceful Dedicated
Efficient Loyal Agreeable Agile Honest
Courteous Creative Thoughtful Engaging ???
The one characteristic that they all have in common is that they portray a feeling, not a fact. Relationships and decisions are primarily based on feelings. No one can control someone else’s feelings. All that one can do is to demonstrate some behavior over and over. As others experience it, they will respond and develop their own lasting feels. Of course, the natural tendency is for all organizations to strive to excel at all of these attributes. But, to standout from the crowd, focusing on one attribute will yield significant rewards.
Here are a few examples of companies that have excelled at one attribute that, in turn, has created a universally accepted feeling about their organizations.
Federal Express -> Reliable BMW -> Performance Apple -> Creative
Walmart -> Value Lexus -> Quality Rolex -> Prestige
Note that these companies do not have to “say” the word to create the feeling. They simply repeatedly demonstrate it and others “discover” it and internalize it.
Compare the above companies to the feelings that most of us have about the US Congress, cable companies, and the IRS. Just as feelings can be very positive, they can be equally negative and be very difficult to change.
Implementing this concept is remarkably easy and should involve everyone in the organization. Everyone has customers; some are external paying customers, while others are internal groups that are relying on other internal groups. The “one word” needs to be embraced and demonstrated by all. In time, it will become part of the culture and drive behaviors inside and outside the organization.
The added benefit of this approach is that when something goes wrong, as it invariably will, the reservoir of goodwill created by the past consistent demonstration of the selected attribute can offset the singular negative event occurrence.
At first, this approach may seem to be too abstract or to be applicable to only a small number of employees. This notion can be quickly eliminated by some simple role playing. Just pick an attribute, such as caring, and then ask each employee how they can demonstrate it to their customers, internal or external, or how they could reach out to others and demonstrate the same thing. You will be surprised at the response and creative examples employees will provide. The positive energy that this simple approach will provide will continue to keep your company rising and not suffer the fate of that coin flipped in the air. Try it now instead of when your gravity has forced you in a downward trajectory.
Tom Berger was the Speaker for our February 2018 Luncheon. Please visit his website at www.CxO-Atlas.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.