One of my favorite blues artists is Keb Mo and recently on the drive home, I heard one of his songs on my radio. The song was “The Whole Enchilada” and the chorus goes like this:
“So tell me now that you’ve got the whole enchilada [aka The Girl] … Are you gonna be any better than the man you had to be to get her?”
Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he’s relating to the fact that us men tend to marry well above ourselves and to do so, we had to put on our very best behavior to convince our wives that we merited such favor.
But the wise man doesn’t just stop there. No, he doesn’t just rest on his laurels now that the hard work of getting the girl is done. Instead, he learns to edify and affirm and do all the things that make him an even better man than what it took to win the girl’s heart in the first place.
That makes the girl love him all the more. At least, that’s the theory.
Married to Your Business?
By now you are probably asking yourself what in the world does this have to do with the green industry? That is a good question indeed.
For some strange reason, when I was listening to this song, I started relating this concept of marriage to being in business. That is, your business is like your spouse. It took a whole lot of effort to “win” in the marketplace and to get your business to where it is today. You should be proud of the fact that you have made it this far, particularly having come through one of the most significant downturns in our economic history.
But given the business climate in which we now find ourselves today, we can’t stop there. Competitive advantages are being eroded at a faster rate than ever before. We need to make sure we (as owners, managers and employees) are getting even better than what it took to get us to where we are today. We might refer to this as developing the key success factors for the future.
So what might these key success factors include? A short list would have to include things like better brand management; more detailed analyses regarding SKU movement and replenishment; greater efficiency in distribution and logistics; closer integration of genetic innovations and supply levels with consumer demand; and the assimilation of innovative marketing technologies (social media and otherwise) into our strategic game plan. Notice that growing a quality plant isn’t even listed — that’s because it’s a given — you’ve got to have quality to even play in the game.
Value is perhaps the biggest success factor. R. Edward Freeman, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business says this about value: “Business leadership is about simultaneously creating value for customers, suppliers, employees, communities, and shareholders; how we can have business and ethics, rather than business or ethics; seeing business as set in society, rather than apart from society; and good judgment and understanding the full complexity of human beings.”
That’s a big chunk to decipher, but what I particularly like about this definition is his emphasis on all segments of the supply chain and they must all benefit for real value to be created. As you have heard me say before, as individual firms acting as a cohort, we have to re-focus our marketing messages on value and how that value translates into an improved quality of life for our end consumers. That way, we will maintain our relevancy in their lives and remain on their spending radar.
Sustainability is another future key success factor. Being a sustainable business is not a new idea. We have been talking about it in the trade for years now. But we didn’t invent the concept. Henry Ford, one of the sustainable business pioneers, experimented with soy-based materials and other ideas during the days of the Model T.
Ford Motor Company also shipped the Model A truck in crates that later became the vehicle’s floorboard upon reaching its destination. Successful businesses of tomorrow will put a higher priority on economic, social and environmental impact in their continuous improvement processes if they are to succeed in meeting the needs of Gen Y— which is the most environmentally conscious demographic cohort we’ve seen in decades.
Factors for a Profitable 2012
To close out this column, let me focus on five key overarching factors for being profitable in 2012:
1. The only truly sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to learn and adapt faster than your competition.
2. The ability to anticipate, adapt to, drive and capitalize on change is the most common characteristic of profitable firms.
3. The best organizations spend as much time analyzing what they need to stop doing as they do evaluating new opportunities.
4. Timing is critical in terms of when to enter, expand, cut back or exit — whether it’s an investment, a marketing decision or a business activity.
5. The future will always belong to those who see the possibilities before they become obvious to the masses.
Implementing each of these key success factors requires us to act creatively. While the “C” word scares some folks who don’t think they have any, perhaps it’s good to remember what Steve Jobs said about it: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it — they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.“
My take on what Steve said? To be creative means we will have to read everything we can get our hands on, get out of town more often to see firsthand how people think and act in other parts of the country and pay more attention to what’s going on around us.
After all, even songs on the radio can be an inspiration!