Editorial - Challenge a Few Convictions

By Len Monheit

With vacations looming and the tradeshow schedule empty for several weeks, many business professionals let out a sigh and get down to planning for next year. The summer months, often difficult from a business development perspective, are an excellent opportunity to take stock of programs and results against objectives and to modify those objectives for the coming months.

In our industry, many companies are beginning their budgeting processes. This process can be frustrating since key external and internal decision makers may be unavailable. It’s a serious temptation to use the slower period to regroup only, a trap that can be extremely dangerous. This down time is the perfect opportunity to challenge business and industry perceptions and convictions and to shake a few loose. Momentum gathered during the slower summer months can give you a significant head start on the competition, many of whom may slowly come to the starting line in September.

Crises can arise at any time, and this period is no exception. Your sales rep may be on holidays and an important client may need assistance, your documentation of the account activity is weak, and almost all of the key relationship information is in the rep’s head. Your data, intelligence and resources are so scattered and disorganized that you can’t find anything even if you wanted to. Your product or service suppliers, fine tuning their own budgets and planning, may be pressuring you for an annual commitment and you don’t have all the facts…or the budget dollars. Sound familiar?

If you’re like many leading organizations, information and knowledge gathering never stops. Organizing and making sense and use of the information typically never occurs. The accumulation quickly becomes overwhelming and each day, you find you only remove the top dusty piece of information from the pile which never stops growing or goes away. And as for strategic or analytical projects, they just never get addressed. Perhaps it’s time to focus on knowledge management strategies to improve your business readiness and processes? Perhaps it’s time to change the way your people work together and how they communicate? Perhaps it’s time to leverage what you’ve already learned instead of recreating the wheel with every project, client, proposal, submission etc.

I’ve found it helpful to work by creating snapshots associated with the following:

Where are we (am I) now and what are the key issues facing me?

Where do we need to be 1,2,3,5 years from now?

What will my clients look like and what will their needs be?

What will be the critical issues then?

What are the processes that will take us there?

If I have these processes now, are they working optimally?

If not, how do I fix them or rebuild them? If I don’t have them, where can I get them? Build? Acquire? Leverage?

What else do I need to consider?

What will my competition be doing along the way? (Who is the competition anyway?)

What can I control, short term, mid-term and long term?

What are the external forces at work?

For the issues outside of my control, is there any way I can establish influence, if not control?

Where are best practices that I can refer to which will help and guide me?

I’m sure you’ve got your own list and I’d be interested in learning more.

Some may argue that you can waste time on the analysis process, and I would agree, since you can certainly analyze the wrong things. There are many though that don’t go through this exercise as at, moving from crisis to crisis and certainly not taking advantage of this opportunity. And hard data, trend reports, consumer reports, external guidance and advice all assist the process, but don’t replace the need for self-examination, objective analysis and goal-setting. Too often, we are stuck looking at details and discrete issues; the chance to take a big picture view, a step back from the day to day is invaluable.

Issues such as industry direction, competitor strategy analysis, the pace and nature of mergers, acquisitions and alliances, rate of new product introduction, relative brand strength, recent client moves and activities are all areas that can be effectively considered at any time, but this mid-year period is an excellent one. Many companies in fact, do move through a planning and analysis period, recognizing that distractions are reduced, operational crises can be put aside and a strategic agenda embraced—at least for a few weeks.

Back to challenging convictions and perceptions—we tend to assume certain things to be true and irrevocable. It’s amazing how often this is not the case or our view is so lopsided that we can’t see differently.

This is an excellent time to say, “Is it really that way? Does it have to be?”

I challenge you to challenge a few of your own convictions.

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