Thanks to C-SPAN, I got to see a couple of tremendous business thinkers address the National Governors Association.
First up was Steve Blank, an entrepreneur and professor. The two points I took from him were:
1. We can’t plug big, corporate thinking into small businesses and expect it to work.
2. Marketing is probably the most neglected part of start-up businesses. Blank advocates the same kind of approach we use here at Valé. Start by discovering customers and then adapt your business model to them. Make sure the business model is scalable. Then find more customers.
The clients who are most difficult to help are the ones who are some convinced they are right and spend money on facilities and employees before confirming the market feasibility of their idea by defining their customer target.
I was also blessed to hear Jim Collins, author of Good to Great speak about the qualities of great leaders of great companies.
Collins reminds us that good and great leaders share many qualities. But the great ones separate themselves from the pack because of their humility and their discipline.
Let me explain how this relates to marketing and management. First, humility allows you to admit when you are wrong or accept others’ ideas. This relates to entrepreneurship and marketing because it’s important to “fail fast” and get moving in the right direction.
In explaining why discipline is important, Collins used illustrations from history. Suffice it to say that it is better to have a system and work it with discipline, making incremental changes. This is superior to reacting wildly every time something changes.
Collins also spoke of the paradox of leadership. You must be determined and persevere, but you must also be willing to adapt. You must continually have faith that you will succeed, but you must not be blindly optimistic.
The best leaders, CEOs, business owners or marketing professionals must be willing to face hard, brutal facts. In Collins’ research, it was the CEOs who faced the music and made difficult decisions expediently who built great companies.
Reality. It’s not always fun, but it is really. The quicker we accept the realities of customer desires and how we should market to them, the more likely we are to succeed.