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In business, and most specifically in business leadership, we spend at least some of our time at the top of the crow’s nest. Scanning. Thinking. Planning. Gathering information that will help us on our journey. It is important to remember though that, from these lofty leadership positions, to look in too many directions all at the same time is a bad thing.
Horizon scanning is particularly popular at the beginning of a new year. It’s pausing, I suppose. Standing tall as we try our best to gain as complete an overview as we can. Hands-in-pockets. Concentrating. Watching and whistling away to ourselves as we look down and soak it all up.
We take a look at our competitors. Noticing the new things they did in the last year. Analysing the effect of those new things on their business performance and the category within which you both operate as a whole. It’s interesting, taking the time out to notice the ripples. To see who was affected by what they did. To see if you were affected, even. And you will inevitably make comparisons of course.
That clever thing they did. That clever thing your competitor did that you reluctantly admire. Why didn’t you think of that? And what can you do this year to go one better than them? We’ve all been there. We’ve all thought these thoughts.
Other groups of people you can scan and analyse from your crow’s nest perspective – are customers. They probably fall into several neat groups. Some customers are new. Your relationship with them is still quite fresh and vibrant. Uncertain, of course. But it feels alive and exciting! You are still quite close to customers when they are new. You understand them. Some customers are established and have been with you for quite a while, now. They feel like, ‘a sure thing’ on the face of it. A sure thing to stay with you for another year. But deep down – are they bored? Will their heads be turned by the clever things that the other options in the same category as you did last year? Are the decision makers inside any of your customers shifting seats? So that your relationship just became that little less secure. Because Jane, the lady that really likes you and appointed you all that time ago, Jane just got a new job.
You are pretty sure that you know why some of your customers buy from you and, on the face of it at least, are unlikely to leave. Others? You really haven’t a clue. And you know you should know. You know you should know how likely it is that all of your existing customers will stay or go this year. Or do you simply shrug your shoulders and accept that, year-on-year, there’s 20% churn no matter what you do? So it’s OK to do nothing. Hmm.
And then there’s the issue of value. If a client paid you £10,000 for doing what you did last year, are you going to try to get them to pay £12,000 for the same thing this year? Because you are driven by increasing profitability overall? Because you are looking inwards – at yourself – wanting to get more money, for doing the same or less?
Or are you going to add something lovely and surprising to what you offered last year and at the same time freeze your price?
Because you want each and every customer to feel valued, important and special. Because you are looking outwards first – to your customers. So that you start your year with a delighted, smiley, grateful and increasingly loyal base. So that, if it felt right to do so, you could look to grow the account from a position where the client’s trust in you is maximised. Because you moved first. You gave something lovely, before you asked for any increased commitment or spend from the customer.
This is a complex set of considerations and decisions. And so it should be. Customers have a great deal of choice these days. They can get the fundamentals of what you do from many different sources.
So what are you going to do to keep them focussed on you? This – and a whole host of other questions – will enter your head as you peer down from your crow’s nest to the world you have created, as you slide into 2021.
As an endnote though, here’s an observation about what happens if you ask yourself too many questions – all at the same time.
Beware ending up paralysed. Beware giving yourself so much to think about that you don’t think properly about anything. Beware considering ten things quickly and incompletely, versus prioritising five things and thinking about them really deeply.
It is dangerous to look in too many directions all at the same time. So prioritise. Use your senior team to address what needs to be addressed. So everyone is focussing. Get them to do just one thing each – really, really well. And yes, in addition to their day-to-day. Get them to skip from where they live, which will be largely management. To where you live, which will be largely leadership. It’s what all great teams do. They support each other – in line with the leadership vision as set by you.
Happy 2021. Here at Harlands, we really do hope it is your best year yet.