We have all done it. Purchased the newest thought provoking business, marketing or leadership book, read it cover to cover or just a few chapters, then with vigor tried to implement this new strategy into your existing business. Unfortunately, you are not alone in this attempt to get your business back on track or change direction. I personally could not tell you how many books I have read, been asked to read or heard about that promise a brighter future for your business. Whether you are a seasoned executive or just starting out in your career, knowing how to use 3rd party information either in the form of a book, published article or seminar can be the difference between a positive change to the company for growth or years of continued struggle by implementing the wrong strategy for your company.
With this recurring theme across companies around the globe, the problem lies in one simple misconception. The idea that an individual or a group of them within a company can gain new knowledge through a book or article and apply that to their business is just not the case. The idea that a expert through their book can fundamentally change your business is just not the case. Regardless of the size of your business, the types of products or services you sell or how long you have been in existence, all businesses have various levels of complexity. Because of this varying degree of complexity, each business is unique and has a unique set of issues. Attempting to apply a generic model or methodology into your business will most often do more harm then good. Over the course of 35+ years in the corporate world, we are able to share what I would consider best practices in using 3rd party knowledge in your business.
- First, have a need. Whether you are having trouble with your profit, revenue growth, customer satisfaction or others, understand what your issue as a business really is. Is your lack of growth due to bad product quality, poor marketing or not enough sales people? While this step will take some time to fully understand, it will provide clear direction and focus on the best solution. In many cases, getting outside help in the form of a consultant, may offload this work and come to a conclusion quicker than assigning your internal resources part time to look into the concern. If it is difficult to determine what the true need is, working with a 3rd party consultant may provide the clarity needed.
- After your needs have been identified, seek out authors, articles or publications which are known in this area. Use references from others who have shown success with these strategies or consultants familiar with this area of expertise. If you are struggling with creating innovative products, look for experts specific to this type of work.
- Do not try to implement the writings of books or publications within your company for face value. This will be disastrous for your business. Your business is unique and as such needs a unique approach to solving the business need. Instead, use the publications as a foundation to build from. Take elements which may apply to your business. Work with a 3rd party which can help determine how your company can implement change using the key principles which have been modified for your business.
- Work in phases and work quickly. Trying to make large wholesale change within an established business may not provide the desired results both short and long term. Starting with your greatest needs, implement change within a functional area, product category or customer segment. This will allow you to modify the approach if needed as it is rolled out. As I often say, time is not your friend in these cases. The longer it takes, it typically is harder to implement. Work smart, direct and swiftly when making any strategy change in your company.
- It is okay to try something and throw it away. Often, when on paper a strategy looks good and is full of promise, during implementation it is determined it may not be as effective as designed. This will happen and often does in the early stages of making changes within a company. The key here is to identify the non-working strategy quickly, modify the approach and continue. In many cases, 3rd party consultants can help reduce poor strategies as they bring the experience of the companies who have come before you and the results which came with it, both positive and negative.
- Talk to your teams and management. For that matter, talk to as many stakeholders for this change as appropriate. They understand the business as much as anyone and will be able to quickly identify whether a new strategy is working or not.For example, if you are creating a new Marketing strategy, talk to the Sales Management team as well as the individual sales associates vs. just the Marketing department. They will provide good feedback which can be used before any changes are made to the business. Getting cross-functional support early will be the difference between a successful changes in strategy vs. a failed one.
The key here is to use the 3rd party information as a resource, not as a new blueprint for your business. Trying to copy the one company’s success using a specific strategy into your business and culture will be a disastrous attempt to improve your business. There are thousands of publications and experts in the market today providing sound, appropriate concepts and strategies for nearly any business. Use this information as thought provoking, foundational building instead of the new recipe for success. In many cases, the use of 3rd party consultants who provide expertise in your business or markets can provide the additional support to ensure your business is growing vs. one that is stuck in trying to implement wholesale change.