Monday, April 21, 2008

"Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what's for lunch." Orson Welles

"Art is about making something out of nothing and selling it." Frank Zappa

"The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past." Milan Kundera

Today's image: Tulips at St Mary the Virgin by Monster. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Playing the hand we have
Competing for the future

In the latest Barron's (Up and Down Wall Street, 4/21) we get some insight from David Rosenberg of Merrill Lynch who "is convinced that recession, as he puts it, is now a reality, not a forecast, and that the only question is: Will it be, as most Street and bureaucratic observers think (pray?), short and shallow or, as he assays at least possible, deep and prolonged?" Meanwhile, for another pov on government issued economic stats, please let me recommend reading and keeping up with the analysis of John Williams via Shadow Government Statistics. My thanks to Barron's and Alan Abelson.

So, take your pick. Either everything is just fine with the economy, we are heading into some kind of economic trouble or we're already in some stage of business cycle distress. My thought is we will fare best once we accept the worst possible case and act accordingly on that assumption.

In the near-term we should expect, without regard to online, a flat or soft ad spend. We are probably safe to expect nothing from media stocks, especially broadcast and cable. If Jeff Immelt can't make it happen in this market there's no reason to believe the broadcasting and cable CEOs will be able to make anything happen. As Jerry Reed once said "Pray for intestinal fortitude, work hard and keep the faith. Oh, and pray for good luck, you're gonna need it."

How about a mix of metaphor. Our task is to play the hand we hold, addressing the ball from the lie. A classic opening line by the great Graham Greene comes to mind...

"A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses
that moment of experience from which to look back
or from which to look ahead"

Today let me present an exercise you might find valuable. We use this on the day job, it works.

"What would have to happen..."

What would have to happen in order for us to make our numbers? This month? This quarter? This fiscal? Asking "What would have to happen" is a good beginning for developing very specific go forward strategies and tactics.

Before we ask that question let's survey the landscape, take a measure of where we are, discover our starting point. Here's the five-point model suggested by Gordon R. Sullivan...

1. Observe
2. Reflect
3. Decide
4. Act
5. Learn

And Sullivan's related three questions...

1. What is happening?
2. What is not happening?
3. What can I do to influence the action?

Our responses to the "What would have to happen" question are informed by intellectually honest observation, reflection and decision. This week gather your team, ask Sullivan's three questions and then ask...What would have to happen?

The gap not the goal

For this exercise to be effective you'll benefit from adopting a certain pov. Rather than focusing on the goal, focus on the gap. For example, if your monthly sales goal is 1.3 mil and you're pacing to finish with 1.1 mil, focus on the .2 mil gap. What would have to happen to close, run, and bill another .2 mil in the month? You're #2 25-54 with a 2.0 rating, the leader holds a 2.3 rating, focus on the .3 rating gap. What would have to happen to improve our rating by .3?

Act and learn. Mind the gap.

Closely monitor activity, keep a tight feedback loop, establish standards to grade activity and measure progress. Take a lesson from retail - measure daily. Create a dashboard to track activity and outcome. Continue to ask Sullivan's three questions and constantly ask the big question "What would have to happen?"

Make something amazing happen this week.

: Playing catch-up on recent finds - all reds, each around $10 or less. My love affair with the wines of Argentina (Mendoza) continues, here are two more to enjoy: Dona Paula Los Cardos, Malbec, 2006 and Gascon, Malbec, 2006. Four others to share. Ken Forrester, Petit, Pinotage, 2007, South Africa. Oxford Landing, GSM, 2005, South Australia (56% Grenache, 33% Shiraz, 11% Mourvedre). Seigneurs de Bergerac, Bergerac, 2005, France (45% Cab, 45% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc). Santa Rita, 120, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, Chile.


Anonymous said...

I'm hooked on sangiovese.