Tag Archives: business

Is Your Business the River or the Rock?

Copyright 2016 Phil McCutchenExactly two years ago I read this very thought-provoking post, “Are You the River or the Rock?” by Dennis Merritt Jones. In it, Dennis made the case that we each have those things we cling to that make us want to resist or manipulate change. Making us a rock. And ensuring that our rock-like selves will eventually be ground down to dust by the river. His recommendation was to let go. Recognize change as a means in and of itself to an end. Even if you’re not entirely sure where that end may be.

I’d like to suggest that in the world of business, many firms cling to strategies, policies, methods, technologies, market segments, or other aspects of their business. These may have gotten them to where they are today. They may be strong players in their market. They may be the rocks of their industry. Successful. Proud. Solid. Reliable. Unwavering.

Who just may be ground to dust by the river of change.

If there is one constant in business as well as life, it is that change is inevitable. Responding to changing circumstances in a thoughtful, forward-thinking, innovative way can be more than beneficial for any business. It can help you grow or prosper. Or even save the business.

applefallFor example, just twenty years ago Apple was at rock bottom, trying to negotiate its sale to Sun Microsystems. For a measly $3.9 Billion. Last week Apple announced its fourth quarter 2015 profits of more than $18 Billion.

Change happened. Apple innovated – and brilliantly marketed – its way out of failure. The Apple board bought NEXT computers, bringing Steve Jobs back, signed a multi-year deal with Microsoft to push Office, and Steve and the Apple team began to innovate for consumers like crazy. Back from the brink of total failure, Apple changed to survive. And prospered accordingly. You could argue that today Apple, in some ways and for many businesses and consumers, BECAME the river.

There’s no doubt that your business is facing some kind of challenge every day. Competitors, regulations, consumer fickleness, cash-flow, whatever. But those challenges are not as important as is how you and your business respond to them.

Here’s another example that’s more recent: Look at how Uber is transforming the “I just need a lift” market. Once you called on taxies, friends, co-workers, or family members. Now Uber has made it easy and cheap to get a ride from point A to point B in many urban areas. How have many taxi companies responded? With legislation, pickets, and other tactics to slow the inevitable. GM, on the other hand, has invested in LYFT, a ride-sharing company. Rocks and rivers.

Change happens. Disruption happens. If you and your business are committed to your market – even if that market is changing – then you have to be committed to changing with it. Innovation and marketing are critical to helping you not only anticipate change, but respond successfully and profitably.

So, is your business the river or the rock? Are you ready, willing, even eager to accept change and use it to grow your business? It may mean giving up what may be a comfortable place for uncertainty, and setting out for who-knows-where. But what wonders there may be there.


What have you learned lately?

skiticketA few winters ago I travelled to Colorado for my very first ski vacation. My goal was to have fun, learn a little about a new sport and return with my body relatively none the worse for the experience.

Skiing has a somewhat higher than average bodily risk/return ratio. So it seemed like a good idea for me to spend the time, effort and expense of getting some one-on-one ski instruction. This instruction paid off as I got a better understanding of the rules, mechanics, techniques and thought processes of skiing. Equally important, because I took the time to get some training, I had fun negotiating the easy slopes. You can bet that I won’t hesitate to take more lessons to improve my skills in the future.

There is a correlation between my own learning experience and the need to be open to new learning opportunities in business. When looking at the lists of ‘Best Companies to Work For’ there seems to be common traits among them. This includes transparency, corporate culture, and good hiring practices that help define their success. But more importantly, one of the key facts that struck me about the winning firms was this: a broad corporate commitment to continued training and development of their internal employees.

I’m not surprised at the relationship between that commitment to training, learning and personal development and continued business success. That and other factors add up to a big improvement in profitability. Being among the best places to work helps to hire good talent, improves productivity, boosts marketing, and makes clients happier. According to a Quantum Workplace study, 87 percent of companies that received such an honor reported an increase in sales; 86 percent reported an increase in market share; and, among publicly traded companies, 90 percent reported higher stock prices.

With that in mind, true business leaders look for ways to motivate their employees. Many offer opportunities to them that enable them to develop their skills and talents or learn new skills. In today’s constantly changing business environment, offering learning opportunities is not being altruistic; it is taking care of business.

But business goals do not shift accountability for constantly learning from the employee to the business. The personal interests and passions that individuals have often drive their desire to continually learn more. And those self-guided learning experiences can often have a positive impact on the business. No, not every learning experience will translate into a relatable business skill — my learning to ski certainly did not — but others have, and will do so in the future.

So, a constant curiosity to acquire and then apply knowledge is good for employees and good for business. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.” And that is what drives results.

So, what have you learned lately?


What Do You Do When “Plan A” Won’t Work?

Be clear about your goal but be flexible about the process of achieving it.”
— Brian Tracy

Quick, what’s your “Plan B?”

Sometimes “Plan A’s” don’t work quite as well as anticipated.  They often assume, incorrectly, an optimal situation. One that’s unencumbered by reality.

So let me share a quick story about how a marketing Plan B that I had to come up with actually ended up a pretty good success.

Exhibiting at the big computer trade shows is a necessity for small companies that are trying to establish themselves in the market. As the marketing director for a small start-up computer hardware company some years ago, I was tasked with developing our exhibit to launch a new flagship product.

Just weeks before the launch and the tradeshow, I found that the new product would not be ready for demonstration at the exhibit. I had nothing to showcase! My well-laid and meticulously crafted Plan A was in ruins!

I needed a Plan B. Fast!

Brainstorming led to a simple idea — sell the promise. Instead of a big, fancy 20 foot by 20 foot exhibit that cost tens of thousands of dollars, I had a simple 8 foot by 8 foot by 8 foot high wooden crate made. This crate stood out on the glitzy showroom floor like a construction worker at a Broadway opening. Every attendee that walked by just HAD to ask, “What’s in the crate?” The staff and I, dressed in lab coats, gleefully went into our spiel about the new product under development in our labs that would soon be delivered for firms like theirs. Would you like to know more about it?

They were hooked. And we generated hundreds of leads, many of which turned into solid sales when we began delivering product.

Read the full story here, as it appeared in EXHIBITOR Magazine.

So, what’s the takeaway for you?

I believe that Plan B’s, often driven by necessity, can be just as effective as your Plan A, perhaps even more so.

Why? Because I believe that in a Plan B you must focus like a laser on reaching your goal through creative thinking. This is not to say that you should throw out analysis or planning. That is sure to lead to failure. It means that you take your analysis and planning and then try to play with the possibilities, the out-of-the-box scenerios that can have an impact. Your Plan B becomes your fall-back, regroup, get-‘er-done solution when or if Plan A goes awry.

In short, your Plan A may be the best you can come up with to be successful under ideal circumstances, but your Plan B can save your bacon when things don’t go the way you expect.