Q: I know it’s a generic question, but what’s the best advice to keep managers focused on doing their best for the companies they work for all the time?
Businesspeople are not all made from the same mould, so we can’t expect that one piece of advice will fit all. Managers join companies and grow their businesses for different reasons. Some do it for the money, some for the power, while others do it for the thrill of the challenge. Having said that, investors look at specific aspects when they want to buy shares in a company or add it as a subsidiary. They look at the financial performance of the company: assets, liabilities, cash flow, revenue, cost, net profit, and brand equity. They also look at the current team’s performance and how capable they are in helping the company to grow. They would be equally interested in the company’s market share and customers’ retention strategies to know how deep the relationship between the business and existing customers is, which helps in projecting future revenues.
Investors are not interested in companies with debts, negative cash flows, poor employees’ skills, and lack of strategies on how to acquire and retain customers. Therefore, one of the best things that any management team can do is to strive for excellence in all the above-mentioned areas of the business; so much so that the company is always ready to be sold tomorrow even if they have no intention of selling. How they achieve this result is what makes brands different from one another…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: The market is a mix of different nationalities. Other than selling milk or mobile lines, can a brand capture many customers who come from all over the world?
If we have one thing in common as human beings it’s the fact that we’re different. If it wasn’t for our diversity there would be one dairy company, one telecom provider, and basically one source for every service or product you can think of. And as such, companies in the dairy and telecom industries can’t acquire or attract all segments in the market. In Finland, a country with very few expats – one may assume less diversity than the US for example – and with national pride for local brands, not a single local brand will appeal to all Finns. Where customers come from has less impact on their purchase patterns than who they are. Brands will have a much better chance of increasing and maintaining good customers when they focus on targeting people with similar behaviors and attitudes more than anything else.
For example, many football fans from different countries across the globe support Manchester United or Real Madrid. Although they might not share any racial ethnicity or a cultural background, they do have common views on football and that’s what these sports clubs marketing managers care about. Successful companies proactively and permanently search for common grounds between prospects, customers and their brands and position themselves around these attributes and build on them. In any given industry one brand may communicate value, another may focus on no-frills service, while the third may use indulgence. Know what brand you want to be and who you want to sell to because the minute you start communicating like a chameleon you start losing more than gaining…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: A Division Head position is now vacant and we want to hire from outside the organization. What’s the best way to increase the buy-in from employees towards their new manager?
I’m not against hiring fresh eyes. New hires that come from outside the company or even from outside the industry sometimes have a different perspective that’s worth exploring. However, I would suggest first taking a closer look at the current staff in that division. If an Assistant Manager is doing a good job and s/he’s been coached enough to take on a new challenge like this, don’t deny him/her the opportunity just because you’re used to seeing this person as just the Assistant Manager. And if I were to assume that you have done this exercise and you still didn’t find any existing employee fit for the position, make a note to set a clear strategy supported by a practical plan to always have people internally that are being prepared for the next position up when the time is right.
Once the candidates are shortlisted to three that you feel have equal chances of doing a good job in this position, present the options to the division’s staff like a presidential / city election coverage and let them select their new manager. Show their CVs, achievements, pros, and what they can bring to the division and to the company. As in all elections, there are always a few people who did not vote for the winner. They will be unhappy but at least the majority will support the new hire because s/he’s their choice. Is this approach uncommon? You bet, but quite often, common solutions lead to dull reactions…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected] Please note that only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management consultant and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.