There are hard-fast “business rules” that never seem to go out of style:
- If you want to cut costs, reduce overhead and be frugal with expenses
- If you want to improve your profit margins, reduce cost and increase price
- If you want to improve customer service, treat your employees as though they are No. 1
- If you need to mitigate risk in your organization, have a solid plan and execute it
Sometimes these indoctrinated business school rules are the exact blueprint we need to inch closer to success. Other times, though, they create inadvertent blinders for us and impede our ability to see a different perspective. And sometimes, you must do the exact opposite to achieve the desired outcome. Imagine spending money to cut costs!
When I was the CEO of Atrion, a Rhode Island-based IT services company, we went through our fair share of successes and speedbumps over our 30-year history. Sometimes, we tackled the problem from a straight and narrow approach—and it served us well! But other times, we took the path less traveled and threw conventional wisdom out the door.
For example, the 18 months that followed September 11, 2001, were extremely difficult for Atrion. We were in the midst of a recession before the terrorist attacks, and those attacks accelerated the economic decline the country was experiencing. On September 12, 2001, we started planning how to survive in those uncertain times. It was not an easy discussion because so many of the aspects affecting our company were out of our control. We spent too much energy and time outlining cost-cutting strategies only to discover they weren’t enough. We knew we had to do something else… something outside of the box.
We selected the initiatives that made us more frugal, but we also began analyzing our sales performance for the last 12 months. Based on our analysis we found interesting trends that led us to talk to our top 15 clients and get some direct feedback. Our analysis, coupled with direct client feedback, changed our entire approach from how to survive to how to thrive.
Instead of launching a macro cost-cutting program, we decided to reinvent our service offering to make it more consumable during the economic crisis. We added new services and products that addressed new challenges that our clients were experiencing. We completely changed our sales approach with our clients. As a result, our company not only survived the aftermath of the recession and the September 11 attack, but we thrived. In the span of 18 months, Atrion doubled in total revenues while 65% of our competitors ceased to exist.
Right now, you are tackling your own big hurdle or reaching your next big milestone. Perhaps you are looking to reach 20 percent year-over-year growth this year. Maybe you are looking for a more compelling way to demonstrate the impact of your organization to your funders, so you can expedite your ability to secure additional funds. Or, maybe your focus is to improve your business strategy so that you can compete more aggressively in a competitive landscape.
No matter the opportunity in front of you, consider the following as you set out to solve it:
- Are you looking at the right information to frame the correct challenge or opportunity? So often in the business world, we rush solve a problem or jump into an opportunity gap, but we have not taken the time to collect and review the right information. And most organizations do not have all the necessary information stored in one place or one system making it difficult to conduct the proper analysis.
- Have you clearly defined the problem or opportunity to create the maximum leverage? Most leaders define the problem or opportunity too broadly with too many actionable activities to complete that they never achieve their desired results. Instead, focus on leveraging the one activity that will generate the biggest return.
- Is there a better way to solve the problem or embrace the opportunity in front of you? The less conventional way. The different way. For three decades at Atrion, we did things differently. We put thought and energy into areas that others would have never focused on as an IT services firm—things like methodology, philosophies, and culture, to name a few. We do the same thing here at Trilix. We leverage proven methodologies to help our clients leverage technology as an accelerator. We focus on the softer things like culture that allow us to deliver the ultimate client experience. These differing perspectives allow us to step outside the box.
- Are you in your growth or fixed mindset when approaching the problem? Our fixed mindset constrains us as it tries to solve the problem in the way we have always done so. Alternatively, our growth mindset allows us to dream bigger when coming up with the solve and, in so doing, pave the way to greater impact.
- Are you including all team members in solving your next big business challenge? You will need to elicit input from both the frontline workers and upper management, so take a quick pause and ask: do you have the right people in the room to solve the problem, are they all seeing the challenge, and are they focused on the correct activities?
Every business—no matter their size or industry—desires to improve from year to year. No one ever says, “I want to do exactly what I did last year this year.” Everybody wants to be better. But to be better, we need new strategies, philosophies and ways of thinking. We must be willing to cast aside the rule book when a different way serves us better. I believe that to be successful you need the appropriate information at your finger tips to allow you to make better decisions.
In just a few days, Trilix is holding a workshop about how a business intelligence strategy can help you solve challenges and reach new milestones from an entirely fresh perspective. The event, taking place June 11 from 8 to 11 am in Providence, Rhode Island, will focus on how an information strategy can be a powerful tool in moving your organization forward. We will explore how businesses can synthesize the data that runs throughout their organization to look at new and old business opportunities through a fresh lens.
I hope you’ll join us!
Click here to register or to learn more.