Growth Insights for CEOs

CEOs: Getting Business "From Here to There"

Posted by Pete Hayes

I spent part of last month enjoying and being "filled" at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. One of my favorite concepts was something so simple and yet so rich that I can't stop thinking about it: the idea that leadership is all about getting from HERE to THERE. Bill Hybels tee'd up the notion. And then soon after, Jim Collins built upon it in his "How the Mighty Fall" discussion.

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First, Mr. Hybels reminded us that as leaders we're all about ensuring our teams understand that being HERE is a problem. HERE is not where we want to be. 

For a business, HERE is market share that doesn't allow us pricing power or brand recognition. HERE is where our channels are sub-optimized for reaching the most profitable customers. HERE is where our company valuation isn't going to create wealth for our investors, executives and employees. HERE is being behind in our manufacturing technology.

However, THERE is a place where our customers wouldn't think of our competitors as a substitute for our relationship. THERE is where we can afford to staff our China office with in-country sales and marketing leaders. THERE is where our margins are 10 points better than anyone else in our industry, and we're immune to seasonality. THERE is throwing off enough cash to finance our next big idea.

Recognizing the differences between where we are and where we could be, and having the passion and presence to clearly communicate whey we don't want to stay HERE, and we must plot our course to get THERE is central to executive leadership.

Jim Collins went on to remind us that the journey from HERE to THERE is surely not a straight shot. At first, the momentum of getting started will carry us quickly forward. And once we're nearing our goal, we'll be pulled towards the finish line. But when we're in the middle third or so, the going can be hard. People can miss the comfort of HERE and lose sight of the benefits of being THERE. This is when the effective leader reminds, fortifies and learns how to celebrate even the smallest interim victories and accomplishments.

As a marketing leader, I found it brilliantly refreshing to be reminded of such simple principles. Of course we don't want to stay HERE. Life's entire journey is about getting THERE. The trick of course is determining where THERE is. Finding the right vector. Agreeing to the right set of goals. Then plotting the course and executing with precision celebrating along the way. I like celebrating. Good idea, Jim.

Not only do some companies struggle getting THERE, some struggle once they're THERE. Hence Jim's latest book "How the Mighty Fall." Even though his cases are from large companies, those of us running smaller companies can learn a ton. As CEOs and marketing executives.

Here's an overview the book from an interview with BusinessWeek.

Topics: Business Leadership and Strategy, Corporate Strategy, CEO Choices, Marketing Strategy, Commodity Marketing