Customer strategy: Contact with the enemy makes all plans obsolete!


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Defining business mission statements, strategies and objectives, is a relatively easy if at times laborious process undertaken by those in charge of getting and maintaining business income. Every year, countless books and training courses are devoted to the subject of business strategy and planning, and the training industry gains a lot of business in supplying programs to meet the needs of businesses and executives who want to understand and improve their planning process.

Unfortunately all the planning in the world does not guarantee the desired results. Carl Von Clausewitz said that in war, contact with the enemy makes all plans obsolete. Business is not war, but there is an element of truth that in the world of commerce, changing factors can soon make business plans obsolescent.

As a manager responsible for getting and maintaining business income, setting income objectives to support the overall business plan is relatively easy. However, achieving those income objectives may be easier said than done.

Assuming that a business has identified a “need” in its market; has developed a product or service that provides a solution that satisfies that “need”, and at a price that potential customers are prepared to pay, then in theory, commercial success should be assured. In reality, business is never that simple. However detailed and comprehensive business development plans may be, their success depends on in the ability and motivation of personnel to deliver the actions and results required.

Managers responsible for bringing in income to the business have to know how they are progressing in relation to their business targets. Those business targets may be financial, or related to other factors such as profitability, orders placed, new customers gained, market share, or numerous others. Measuring performance is an important factor in effective management. But performance measurement shows only what has been achieved in the past. Past performance measurements may, by extrapolation, indicate a trend in future performance, but they do not guarantee it. Achievement is produced by business leadership and effective management. But what does effective leadership and management mean in the world of business?

Leadership is essentially about encouraging others to act willingly in a particular way for a specific purpose and benefit. In business, leadership is about encouraging others to work to achieve the objectives for the benefit of the business. Management is about using resources efficiently and effectively to achieve business objectives. Leaders need not be good managers, and managers may not necessarily be good leaders.

In most businesses, “leadership” largely belongs to Chief executives, as it is their responsibility to define the objectives of the business and to inspire the willing support of the employees. However, executives responsible for getting and maintaining business income generally have to manage their staff and resources effectively, rather than provide them with leadership. The executive’s ability to motivate their staff, to maximize their efficiency and productivity, is therefore of great importance. Ensuring that what is being asked is attainable, and that sufficient resources and training have been provided will help to build necessary moral and confidence, which is especially important for staff who deal directly with customers and potential clients.

Getting the best out of people, starts with an effective coherent plan, with achievable quantified objectives. Ideally, staff should be involved in the planning procedure so that their contribution helps to develop their commitment to the objectives and actions required.

There are many books available on “management style”, all claiming to be the answer to effective management and while every book may have its merits, none can provide the perfect answer because business conditions and culture differ in every situation. However, there are principles which will help the executive responsible for producing business income, maintain the morale of employees, and motivate them to work efficiently and effectively, which include the following:
* Ensure that your own standards of conduct and performance exceed those which you set for your staff.
* Make the work important to them by telling them why it’s important to others.
* Ensure that individual responsibilities are clearly understood.
* Set agreed obtainable objectives and delegate responsibility.
* Assess performance with quantified measurements.
* Ensure that staff are provided with the resources necessary to undertake their work and achieve their objectives.
* Regularly assess individual performance, with positive and negative feedback.
* Promote their successes and minimize their failures. More is achieved by genuine encouragement and praise than by overt criticism.
* Encourage staff to be creative and to devise new ideas and methods of working.
* Having set objectives and allocated resources, leave staff to get on with their job. Be available to assist if requested, but otherwise do not interfere.
It is said that “In life, you get what you expect.” If you expect the best from your staff, and give them the proper resources and direction, they are more likely to perform at the level required of them. Confidence breeds confidence and success breeds success.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract marketing Service 22 Nov 11

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nicholas Watkis, AE MA DipM CMC FCIM
Nicholas Watkis set up Contract Marketing Service in 1981, providing professional interim marketing management for a wide variety of businesses. Over 30 years practical experience in organizations, large and small, national and international, led to the development of Business Performance Maximized specialist in marketing performance measurement.


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