I heard a very interesting quote yesterday. “There is a recession in the land, but I refuse to participate.” This caught my attention. Yes, things may not be easy now, but every hard time presents lots of opportunities, and only those who are ready will benefit from them. What will make a difference for organisations at this time and season is their preparedness in terms of capacity and capability.
As we know, an organisation consists of three very important parts: people, processes, and systems. Forward-looking organisations leverage one, a combination of two, or all three to create value sustainably. “Systems run the business, and people run the system”—Michael Gerber.
Value creation is critical to the success of any organization, and it is not a one-time thing; it must be continuous. Herein lies the enviable position of marketing and innovation in every organization. The value you create lies in the needs and aspirations of the customer or client. “If customers value consistent quality and timely delivery, then the skills, systems, and processes that produce and deliver quality products and services are highly valuable to the organization.” If customers value innovation and high performance, then the skills, systems, and processes that create new products and services with superior functionality take on high value. “Consistent alignment of actions and capabilities with the customer value proposition is the core of excellent customer service” (Robert Kaplan & David Norton).
Achieving consistent alignment of actions and capabilities with the value the customer is expecting and being able to deliver it with a considerable margin is what would make an organisation relevant and profitable at this time.
Through some of the business marketing consulting work we have done recently, we have discovered seven things organisations have to do to accelerate. You either accelerate or get ready to die. The seven points are:
- Hire the right people and train them. You must seek out good people with entrepreneurial skills and a desire to add value. They may be a little more expensive, but it pays off in the end. Having recruited right, the next enabler is training. You should have a plan and process to train them regularly. I advocate that training should be a way of life for every organization. New things come up every day, and smart organisations get hold of them and leverage them to build and promote their businesses.
- Keep and nurture your trusted sources of revenue. My customer value development experience across industries has taught me that the majority of a company’s effort is focused on retaining existing customers, particularly high-revenue-generating ones. They provide the backbone of the organisation and must be nurtured to keep growing while prospecting and acquiring new customers. This calls for effective segment management. Where this is properly done, customers move from lower to higher levels of revenue contribution. This explains why every organisation must adopt customer relationship management (CRM) to manage their customers, no matter how few or many there may be.
- Reduce your risks. This is not the time to be careless and take things for granted. Our perceptions usually determine our view of the level of risk posed by an activity. Organizations must adopt processes that ensure the risks attached to their activities are well managed. Having a good enterprise risk management (ERM) process would support value creation by enabling management to deal effectively with potential future events that create uncertainty by responding appropriately to reduce the likelihood of downside outcomes and increase the upside.
- Be adaptable or flexible. We cannot afford to be rigid if we want to accelerate our organization. The needs, wants, and aspirations of our customers are ever-changing. We, therefore, have to be flexible enough to accommodate them. That is really what value creation is about.
- Ensure quality and a consistent customer experience. Businesses must embrace the knowledge age and align organisational structures to help them reach out, absorb, and integrate all the expertise and talent out there, including employees, partners, and customers/clients. Nothing beats a consistent customer experience. I advocate investing in developing a practical customer experience blueprint (with insights from your customers and clients) and ensuring consistent delivery.
- Be driven by vision. Leadership must keep their businesses focused on the vision, always thinking ahead to accelerate their businesses. Your systems, processes, and people will work well when the motivation for being in business is tangible and understood by everyone in the organization. According to Guy Kawasaki, it must be clear to all that you are in business to make meaning—improve lives, right wrongs, or prevent the end of something good.
- Thinking and evidence-based inquiry. The organisation should cultivate a culture of reasoned thinking and evidence-based inquiry. Leadership plays a key role here, as much of this is about modelling the desired behaviours as well as encouraging an open, creative, and critical thinking environment.
In conclusion, the importance of the people, which is one of the components of any organization, cannot be overemphasized. We need to go beyond just looking for learning opportunities; they must take the next step and provide thoughtful mentoring. We must ensure the rationale behind decisions is understood. Do employees know the “whether” and “why” beyond the “what, how, and when?” Leadership must help others see relevant insights coming from the customer and the environment, appreciate the efforts of the competition, and provide direction to guide everyone to deliver what the customer wants.
Ikechukwu Kalu is the CEO and lead consultant at Customer Passion Point Limited, a firm of value creation consultants that creates value through business marketing consulting and training. We facilitate induction programs, retreats, strategy sessions, and academic discussions at Pan Atlantic University and Lagos Business School in Lagos, Nigeria. We are committed to building capacity for businesses to enable them to understand and leverage the passion points of their customers to create value. We have over 30 years of decent work experience spanning industries, businesses, and cultures.
Authors: Ikechukwu Kalu & Joy Omotayo