Three new-year resolutions leading to success

Dear CEO,

This year, I decided not to send you one of those traditional Christmas cards. Having been inspired by the book “Dear CEO – 50 Personal Letters from the World’s Leading Business Thinkers” compiled by Crainer and Dearlove, I want to share with you some of my thoughts about making you more successful and provide you with three new-year resolutions.

In 2008, Tim Brown wrote, in an article published in the Harvard Business Review, that successful strategies need to exhibit three characteristics:

  • Desirability – Customers must want to buy your products and services
  • Feasibility – You must be able to deliver upon the promises made to your customers
  • Viability – Customers must be willing to pay for your products and services allowing you to generate profits

What can you do to ensure that your strategy meets these three criteria? Following the subsequent three new-year resolutions will get you there, or at least very close.

Observe customers. I am not telling you something new, when saying that success requires understanding customers, their needs, felt pains, and sought-after gains – or, as Clayton M. Christensen calls them, their jobs to be done. But that is easier said than done. Get out of your corner office and meet with customers, observe their behavior, and ask “why” questions – and, don’t try to sell them anything. Converse with at least one of your customers or leads per week. Focus on both big and small observations. Aim at gaining new insights to discuss and act upon at your next management meeting.

Experiment with new ideas. A new idea a day, keeps danger away! You need to keep up with the changing environment, or you will experience your Kodak moment sooner rather than later. As Alex Osterwalder said, business models expire like yogurts in the fridge. Experiment with new ideas, technologies, and business models yourself. Set aside an hour or two a week to be creative, to run thought experiments about how your company could be successful, one, five, or even ten years down the road. Share and discuss the gained insights with your leadership team and make them actionable. Don’t fall into the trap to delegate innovation down the hierarchy, or ever worse, outsource it altogether.

Answer the question “Why should customers buy from us?”. Michael Porter’s wisdom about competitive advantage, that you need to be either different or cheaper, still applies today. From a customer perspective this means, being able to identify valuable benefits in your products and services that are superior to those of competitors. What jobs does your product or service help customers to get done in a more valuable way than competing solutions? What is your competitive advantage pitch? And will it stand the “why” question test? Try to pitch your value proposition during the next elevator ride with one of your trusted customers? Repeat the exercise until they tell you, you convinced them!

And remember, remaining successful is not easy. If it were easy, your competitors would already have found it out.

I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Dr. Claude Diderich

Claude Diderich
P.S. Don’t hesitate to contact me, if you want to discuss how these new-year resolutions could be applied to your business.