resurrecting your company (before it dies)

 

Uh oh. resurrecting your company not easy Your company has slid down the slippery slope of brilliant irrelevance. Your business is in trouble.

This sucks because in the not too distant past you were standing at the top of the mountain looking down on everyone … head in the clouds blinded by bright success.

Unfortunately … being at the top is heady business … and companies easily, and often, step a little too far. Actually … you probably stepped nowhere but instead the edge of the mountain eroded under your feet because you were looking up too much <or at the gobs of money you were making> and … oops … you just slid down the slope.

Here’s the good news. You have a chance. Albeit it is a small chance. But you do have a chance to get the hell off the slope and resurrect that frickin’ mountain you were standing on before. It’s a small chance because a whole bunch of things need to be done and need to be done right … AND need to go right … but it can be done.

Some branding expert once wrote about this topic and cranked out the eight P’s <purpose, promise, people, product, place, price, promotion and performance> as “the way” to resurrect your company.

Uhm.

First … there is no ‘the way.’

Second … it’s a nice trick using all that assonance <all the P stuff> but before anything else would happen I imagine most people would tell him to ‘piss off’ <that may be the 8th P> rather than try and do all those things.

Third. Resurrection is hard <Just ask JC>. It is pushing that boulder back up the mountain.

So while many things need to go right I would say success in business repairing personresurrection resides in doing a few things well, with focus … and lots of resilience and determination. Of course … I am not as smart as that branding expert … so you may want to take these thoughts with a grain of salt: 

–          Refocus.

 This is about focusing the entire organization. This can be resetting it can be redefining or it can simply be realizing that you … well … have lost your focus. I am never quite on board with the people who say you need to redefine … because that assumes you had a crappy definition in the first place. Sometimes this is simply refocusing on what got you to the mountain top in the first place.
Refocusing the organization begins with clearly defining the brand and business purpose and goals. I know where I mostly get aggravated with ‘rebranding experts’ is that they always seem to suggest a company needs something ‘new’  or recreate or … well … they seem focused on something new and glittery.

Here is a business truth. Brands and companies win not on glitter but on the grind. And the grind is, well, not glittery. I say that because while you are grinding away and making gobs of money there will always be a bunch of people showing you shiny glittery objects suggesting now, that you have had some success in the grind, you should be more … well … fabulous. Better than a ‘grind brand and company.’ Within that tempting glittery ‘I want to be fabulous’ gauntlet many a good company grinding away has been lured away from its focus. In fact. I would suggest the more success <or ongoing failure> a company has the easier it is to lose focus. It is only when you aren’t entirely resoundingly successful or resoundingly a failure that you keep your nose to the grindstone.

I imagine my point is that focus, in and of itself, isn’t glittery. To get off the slippery slope of irrelevance you often need to shed the glitter and refind the grindstone. And, yes, I purposefully chose this metaphor on my first point to reemphasize … this is work. This is hard.

And there is not a lot of glitter in refocusing <and resurrection> a business.

–          Relevance
This is about refinding the company’s true relevance. Because first & foremost the company has to have the perception <internally and externally> it is better at something. That almost sounds silly to point out but if a company is in a resurrection crisis mode … 99% of the time that ‘lack of focus’ that got them here has led to what I refer to as ‘fragmented relevance.’ What I mean is that success often breeds ‘following additional sales’ rather than ‘leading to additional sales.’

For example … at some point things were going well and it became really really easy to begin to make niche or small business exceptions under the guise of ‘the customer wants it’ and it gave some signs of incremental sales <maybe not profit>. Your balance sheet is becoming strewn with these little exceptions which inflate your revenue and sales … but you aren’t making shit for profit from them.

This leads back to relevance. A company fools themselves into believing they are offering something relevant because they are responding to a customer. But it isn’t better or distinct … you are simply attempting to meet a customer need/desire.

culture code emotional conIn branding words … you are flooding your brand with indistinct commodity like features. While each little thing looks … well … little … when viewed as a whole it becomes confusing to the outside world. What are you really good at? What is your best product? All that kind of stuff. You’ve lost perception relevance in people’s minds.

Ah. You have simply slipped down the slippery slope of irrelevance.

Many times a company will have to shed product/service offerings to resurrect. Uh oh. I told you this was difficult. If it helps, think of these things as little rocks weighing you down pulling you further down the slope <as well as making it an increased burden as you try and pull your company back up the slope>. Make sure that ‘better’ <the promise you are offering to anyone who wants to be associated with you> is relevant … oh … to them … not to you.

This means defining where you want the brand to be and then deciding how to get there.

This means making sure you are selling people ONLY the things that make you better.

And this often this means moving one foot forward to follow your customer as they have also become older … and yet keep one foot solidly in a growing customer base.

Does this mean the company has to mean everything to everyone? Absolutely not. It is just all about remaining relevant to enough people so that you have a meaningful place in the world of business. 

–          Align 

This is always the tricky part. Whatever you have decided the focus is you need to align everyone internally <without diminishing autonomy> and you need to reinforce this externally <consistent attitude & behavior>.culture code sign post

A company has to be mercilessly disciplined and yet maintain the flexibility to accommodate the true fact that ‘a great plan never lives beyond first contact with the enemy.’ I imagine using the P methodology could help because this is what the five of the P’s are all about: people, product, place, price and promotion.

People.

You have to be disciplined on the focus anchor of the business pendulum. The pendulum will swing. You just want to insure that everyone’s pendulum is swinging off the same axis. There has to be employee commitment and confidence. In fact … they need to be ‘reinspired.’ This is very difficult during resurrection because you have most likely decreased the number of offerings <which implies they will have less to satisfy the customer with> and you may have laid some people off.

The organization has to believe that there is a <planned> the future, the future will happen and that they can help.

Next. The products and services are the tangible evidence of the focus and relevance.

A company’s ONLY chance of resurrection is to be ruthless in assessing their product portfolio. Absolutely frickin’ ruthless. <note: this sucks … and is very difficult> I will outline in price how I would go about figuring this out.

The next P is place.’ Personally I think this is a forced P. This is about the experience … or however and whenever and wherever a potential customer interacts and has an experience with your product portfolio and people.  Some people call this the face of the brand.

I don’t really care what you call it. The experience must be consistent everywhere. No ifs, ands or buts.

Ah. Then there is price. Whew. Resurrection almost always falls apart here. I almost always suggest a company do an audit of all their sales and define two main things:

–          How many sales did you make at full price <no customer discounts or exceptions or whatever>

–          How many sales did you make with an acceptable profit.

I almost always begin here because not enough companies do this. In addition it shines a spotlight on where they make money and how they make money.

price value warren buffettI am not opposed to discounting <because there are some psychological aspects of selling it appeals to> but I am opposed to not having an everyday price perception. Too often customer research will come back and say something like “well, that isn’t their real price.”

That’s bad.

People need to know your price or at least your pricing strategy. A good place to always start <part one> is simply decrease an emphasis on discounting.  An overemphasis on deals and discounts builds deal loyalty rather real loyalty.

<but discounting is scary to eliminate>

A good place to start <part 2> is clearly define your pricing strategy. Despite what you may believe … a company does not have to be low price every day.

Yes. Building value perceptions is really difficult. But you know what? So is resurrecting your company. Resurrection doesn’t even get off the ground if you screw up your pricing <value proposition>. As hard as it is to accept … resurrection is not about sales … it is about value perceptions.

Chew on that one for a while.

Promotion <or how and what you communicate>. Theme, slogan, visuals, sounds … it doesn’t matter.

Too often someone comes dancing in from the outside suggesting that “how exciting … you are rebranding! … we need to build some excitement!! … some flash & sizzle!!!” <and, yes, the number of exclamation points increase as the conversation continues>. To use Tolkien … “not all that glitters is gold.” Go back to my first point … companies and brands win by grinding. All communications, first and foremost, must be reflective of ‘the alignment grind.’ A consistent reflection of that promise. Disconnected messages and tactics destroy alignment … destroy inspiration internally and destroy brands externally.

Ok.

Here is your bottom line on business resurrection. You want to, and have to, produce the right results. But you need to do it the right way.

Resurrection is relentlessly unforgiving.

You are honestly already on your way to death if you need to be resurrected.

It drives me a little crazy that more companies don’t take on a ‘do this or die’ attitude in resurrection mode. Of course they are nervous <if not scared> so they inevitably discuss easing changes and gradually shifting … its crazy.

Resurrection is about shaking the etch a sketch … or you slide down to the bottom of the slippery slope of irrelevance … and die.

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Written by Bruce