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Article -> Conquer Business Challenges on 3 Fronts

Date Added: March 2009

Note: This article appeared in the March 15, 2009 issue of The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

A recent Nicolet Bank Business Pulse survey showed the top two CEO challenges were increasing sales and financial uncertainty. Best-practice organizations know how to overcome these challenges and prosper in 2009 and beyond.

In the same survey, 36 percent of CEOs said marketing budgets will increase this year. Is a focus on marketing and externally-focused customer issues enough? Unfortunately, there is no mention of strategy or employees. Focusing only on customers will result in failure.

Organizations must employ a three-pronged approach of strategy, employees and customers. All are equally important and all three are necessary.

Strategy is often forgotten in both good and bad economies. In good economies, firms are so “smart” they don’t need a strategic plan. In bad times, firms don’t have time for strategy because “we need tactical ‘blocking and tackling.’”

Leading companies have a plan in good and bad times, and continually work their plan. The plan may change with industry and market trends; however, core goals and strategies should remain consistent.

Employees are forgotten in today’s economy as they are being down-sized and dis-incentivized as seen with Associated Bank canceling an employee trip. If the trip was truly a recognition trip for high-performing employees and was a “reasonable” cost, proceed with it. The employees worked hard and the company was profitable, so provide the recognition.

Not doing this sends a message of “not caring” to employees, resulting in disengagement and lower satisfaction. In a service and people business, employees are a differentiating factor, so treat them accordingly.

In CEO discussions over the past 6 months, the message has been consistent. Organizations not doing well blame the economy or “something else.” They are scared and/or have no clue what to do. Those doing well execute 110 percent on strategy, employees and customers. They are growing in 2009 and will only widen their gap in 2010 and beyond. 

It’s only March, so there is still time to develop the strategy, take care of employees, and market to customers. Good luck!

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