In Business, Going on the Offense is Usually the Best


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Have you ever worked in a business climate that moves as rapidly and unpredictably as the one we are now experiencing? The velocity of change that is roiling business, economics, and culture right now can make your head spin. It certainly focuses one’s attention.

I was asked recently about what is the best strategy for competing effectively – and winning – in today’s hyper-fast, massively competitive business world. The answer that kept coming back to me was simply this: You’ve got to stay on the offensive. In the current business and technology environment, the minute you get rocked back on your heels and find yourself on defense, you stand a good chance of losing. At the very least, you will lose critical momentum.

The recent World Series was a good illustration of this thesis. Leaving aside the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals made several egregious “defensive” errors in its epic Game 6 win over the Texas Rangers, the Cards ultimately prevailed by staying on the “offense” the entire four hour-plus game. The Cardinals kept pushing hard to score improbable runs, even when they found themselves teetering on brink of series-ending outs – not once, but twice!

It’s hard to remain on offense when all seems lost, but that is exactly what winning organizations do every day. That truism is just as evident in World Series baseball as it is in business. Probably more than anything, to manage a business to real and enduring success in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, you need to stay on an offensive footing.

How can you ensure that your company always plays offense and, in the process, stays firmly on the winning track? The following are some recommendations that will help you keep the offensive momentum rolling:

  • Stay Agile – A key definition of agility is being “nimble” and “mentally quick.” Whether you are a GM leading a business unit or a VP of marketing driving the company’s brand development and demand generation, the ability to move (and change) quickly, and do so with control and finesse, is a key ingredient for a successful offensive strategy. For example, marketers today are inundated with a dizzying array of data and media, which must be managed with skillful agility to attract, nurture, and convert leads. By using advanced marketing automation and analytics software, marketers are strengthening their agility and increasing their offensive capabilities to grow revenue more consistently and profitably.
  • Break Down Walls – The truth is that teams usually beat themselves, long before their opponents claim the winner’s mantle. There is no quicker way for a team to lose the offensive initiative and thus hasten its path to defeat than by failing to get its act together internally. The historically dysfunctional relationship between sales and marketing is a vivid example of this. In the history of modern business, sales and marketing have had a fractious and mostly unproductive relationship. This has put companies at a real disadvantage when it comes to closing more sales and driving increased revenue. But, when businesses adopt proven strategies like Revenue Performance Management, they are able to get back on offense by breaking down the internal silos and enabling sales and marketing to work more seamlessly and productively to drive revenue performance and results.
  • Keep Stoking the Entrepreneurial Fire – Large corporations frequently are more conservative (and sometimes act defensively) because they have more to lose – they are compelled to protect profitable brands and preserve global franchises. The bigger these corporations get, the more they lose their entrepreneurial edge. Start-ups, on the other hand, usually play offense because that is what entrepreneurs do (and they have no legacy assets to protect). The truth is, however, that there are many examples of agile, hugely successful large companies that stay on the offensive by keeping their entrepreneurial fires stoked. Just think of major corporations such as Oracle, IBM, or DuPont, and you can see how staying entrepreneurial is not just the province of just start-ups. It’s also a winning strategy for smart multinationals.

The old saying goes that the “best defense is a good offense.” My advice to business executives looking to compete better and win consistently, is to forget the defense and keep playing offense. Seizing and maintaining the winning momentum is always the best hand to play.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Phil Fernandez
Phil is a 26-year Silicon Valley veteran and has the scars (and a couple of successful IPOs) to prove it. Prior to Marketo, he was President and COO of Epiphany, a public enterprise software company known for its visionary marketing products.


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