Be Paranoid in 2017, Part 2

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Happy New Year, wishing you all success in your businesses and personal brands this year.

Now let’s delve into the Part 2 of this article, starting with the feedback I got from a friend, colleague and former boss, who read Part 1 of this article and contributed the following which I felt was important to share with you. His feedback was that he saw two messages which were (1) the importance of executing strategies and (2) being brave to innovate even at the height of your success. I hope you all saw these two messages, because those were the messages I hoped to pass on.

He also suggested a quote from our mutual ex-boss, which is “there are two kinds of people, the quick and the dead”. Again very apt for our message. He said, “we have all seen instances where companies that are quick to execute their well thought out strategies defining the market, while the others are either dead or following.”
In view of his comments above, let’s look at great companies in Nigeria that are either dead or following because they did not execute their strategies, were insensitive to the strategic inflections of their businesses, did not innovate and had visionless leaders. Many of us will remember the great IMB. What an edifice the bank had! With the best crop of professionals in its talent pool. It was a bank that every banking professional wanted to work in, but today, the brand has been subsumed. Others are: UTC, Kingsway, Mr. Biggs, Starcomms (in its heydays, many of us spent huge sums buying its telephone lines), Multilinks, various airlines, amongst many. Globally, in addition to Nokia and Kodak, we have Dell, Motorola, Yahoo, Sony, etc.

Not long ago the Walkman was as ubiquitous as the IPOD is today, and Sony dominated the market for TVs, Cameras, video recorders and other consumer electronics. But as it became big with music and film divisions, it lost leadership in many of its core product lines. LG, Apple, Samsung, Vizio and various makers of cell phones, which come with cameras these days have outpaced this old innovator.

Same goes for Blockbuster, the video-rental chain that survived its transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to the next big change. Blockbuster remained flat-footed when Netflix came on board. The company had to close hundreds of stores, worked off debt and copied some of its competitors to survive. It is now chasing its industry instead of leading it.

We’ve seen this situation in many instances in Nigeria. Mr. Biggs the leader in its pack is now chasing other fast food businesses, same with big banks who were once the leaders in their industries now struggling to match up with banks that did not exist when they were incorporated.

From the above, it’s clear that we must be paranoid to survive and be quick or we die. Continuing with our valuable and insightful lessons from Andy Grove, who also said:

· “Most companies do not die because they are wrong; most die because they don’t commit themselves. They fritter away valuable resources, while attempting to make decisions. The greatest danger is standing still.”
In 2017, we need to be quick and agile with implementing our strategic plans. Be like Bert Roberts of MCI, who explained his strategy as “being quick to move forward and quick to pull back.” He said, “when MCI gets an idea, a champion grabs people, finds an alliance partner and locks the group in a room for 60 days developing a new product for the marketplace. Ten months later, competition is still thinking, noodling and appointing committees to examine the potential of the concept, while MCI has either scuttled the idea or it is on its 11th version, on the verge of getting it and very often, gets it very right.” Be the MCI in your industry or sector in 2017.
· “How can you motivate yourself to continue to follow a leader when he appears to be going around in circles.”
Leadership is everything! I have had the experience of working for a bad leader and a good leader, so I am in a very good position to tell the difference. A leader with no focus, confidence, transparency, integrity, inspiration, passion, open-mindedness will stifle growth, innovation and initiative. A leader with a vision and all of the positive attributes above, will drive positive growth. Not having them kills the business. Let’s be leaders with vision and leadership qualities in 2017.

· “People in the trenches are usually in touch with impending change.”
Many leaders struggle to listen. As leaders, we need to learn to listen to our people who are the frontline touch points of our businesses. They know what our customers are saying and the feelings about our services and products. We need to take feedback from our teams in the trenches very seriously in 2017 and actively seek this feedback. Not doing so will lead to wrong assumptions, misunderstandings, ineffective decisions and costly mistakes.
· “It’s harder to be the best in class in several fields, than just one.”
In 2017, focus should be your watch word. Don’t be the Sony of your sector. Having a clearly defined focus increases profit, because you are honed to selling to customers that do not waste your time and money. You have greater trust and credibility because of your reputation and expertise in a particular field. This expertise makes it easier to get customers and gives you a clear advantage over competition.

In conclusion, we must resolve that in 2017, we will ensure that our strategic inflection points are about positive fundamental changes in our businesses, technology and culture. We will “WATCH our eggs GROW” by implementing our strategic plans and throw ourselves into raw actions with our senses and instincts honed from January. Good luck.