Dearest Distributor: Do You Know What You’re Doing?
If your distribution business is void of goals, it’s likely your management is clueless
It's the beginning of the year, and everyone goes into the year saying the same things: “This is the year we are really going to grow our company.”
Senior managers will likely get together and decide on a growth target, and even come up with a strategic plan that outlines their ideas for growth, but how many companies are really successful at accomplishing what they so eagerly set out to do at the beginning of the year?
The reality is that people have a tendency to fall back into their old behaviors and returning to the old way of doing things. They have a problem staying focused on their plan, so the status quo is kept, and the company experiences small gains or remains flat. The main problem lies with accountability. If you set a plan in place, who is ultimately responsible for making sure that all parties will stay the course? A strong, disciplined leader is needed to consistently drill home the changes that need to take place in order to grow.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
You have to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are, so you can capitalize on the areas where you excel while continuing to improve on your weaknesses. The old proverb is correct: “To thy own self be true.” Leaders need to reinforce the plan of action that was decided on and hold those folks responsible for implementing the agreed upon plan.
I just mentioned another vital key. If you do not have 100 percent buy in from your staff, or if this is just one person’s plan, the likelihood of success is slim to none. The other problem is the timeliness of the goal. If you don’t roll out your plan until mid-way through the first quarter, your staff may feel it’s already too late, because the launch of your new program is coming after they’ve already missed last month’s budget without ever really knowing what that budget was. It’s like deflating the ball before the game ever starts.
How often do you meet to review and, most importantly, do these meetings produce results? Do you get an agenda well in advance of the meeting, right before the meeting starts, or, worst yet, do you not even get an agenda at all?
I’ve been in senior management meetings that I’ve basically sleep walked through because management continually repeats the same things over and over again, and no one is really held responsible, and the root problems are never brought up or exposed to the light to get resolved. It’s like Groundhog Day.
It’s easier to just go over the same dreary numbers hoping that someone will land a large project or a big account out of nowhere to save the year because your weak unenforced plans are not working.
Do you have the ability to realize that things aren’t going as planned and quickly adapt to your new reality? Did you lose a key counter person or outside sales person? Is your business being adversely affected as a result? If so, are you able to bring your team together to analyze the best solution for your new problem? In any given year, things will take place that were not scripted or built into your plan, so how fast can you react and turn a negative into a positive?
If you want to change behaviors to get more profitable growth out of your company, it’s either going to require a miracle or some good, consistent training. If your growth plan doesn’t include training, then you’re just wishing for growth. If your plan calls for you to roll out a new trip incentive plan for your large customers, then you better train your sales team how to present this, so you get the most traction out of your offering. You need to lay out what is required of the customer to earn the incentive. You must note how often your staff will communicate with your customers. How often will they inform them if they are on course to earn the incentive? Additionally, you must consider how you’re going to track the success of the program.
If you have new counter-based initiative, who is drilling and training with the counter personal? Who is ensuring that what you want offered or said is being done on a regular basis? Change will not happen without someone holding others accountable; sales will not grow no matter how sound your plan is if people refuse to buy into your ideas or if they are not held responsible for implementing what needs to happen for your plan to succeed.
You should allow others to be the trainers. If you ever really want people to know the material they are responsible for, have them teach and train others, not you.
You should do the initial teaching, guiding, and giving direction. Then, when the basics have been drilled in and everyone understands what needs to be done, hand over the responsibilities. At that point, you should make everyone on your team lead a meeting and encourage them to teach an aspect of the program that you’re trying to implement.
A new voice will wake up your audience and get everyone’s attention, because they know now they could be asked to lead the next meeting. It’s not just important that you and your senior managers know what you are doing, but you need to make darn sure that everyone in the company understands the path you have chosen and that everyone is all in.
I cannot stress this enough: To grow, you need a plan, yes, but it’s worthless unless people are being held accountable to their training and communicating your goals. You need to have smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals which stands for. Do you have that type of goal set for your company? If not, then it’s fair to say that you don’t know what you’re doing. The time to figure that out was yesterday, because business moves at the speed of sound, so you better quickly pick up the pace or be left behind. Aristotle said, “We are what we do repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.”
What habit are you drilling into your people, or are you letting them choice their own habits? Control your destiny, grow, or perish or else head in the other direction. The choice is yours.