Strategy

What’s Your Purpose Statement?

One of the initial tasks of every company is to articulate the corporate identify so management, employees and investors are all on the same page, and then articulate the band that the company wants to project to its customers. Over time, things may change, and it’s important to revisit the corporate identify.  When was the last time your team revisited the accuracy and engagement-value of your company’s corporate identity?

Over the past few years, corporate leaders who previously may have declared that their company’s purpose was to “increase shareholder value” have expanded their purpose to include other stakeholders, including employees, communities and society in general. Concerns about climate change, sustainability, diversity and inclusion are all fueling this change.

Today, as a result of the pandemic, between 20 and 33% of adults, especially emerging and early stage adults, are beginning to rethink their lifestyle and career steps. Why continue to spent a lot of time commuting to work and away from raising a family and forging a wholesome lifestyle, when remote and hybrid work options let you integrate work and family into a lifestyle? “The great resignation”, as this trend has been called, reflects the re-evaluation of people’s values and prior life decisions. Many are taking GROWTHH sabbaticals to reflect and decide what they want to do and then seek out news skills, jobs, cities, etc.

Against this backdrop, an article by PwC, Why Corporate Purpose Statements Often Miss Their Mark, caught my attention. Are your company’s Corporate Identity components, which may have been developed years ago, still appropriate and accurate (1) for the current and future business and (2) for your stakeholders now and in the immediate future? 

The article focuses on the fact that many purpose statements lack and meaningful sense of purpose – which may explain why so many people no longer feel drawn to their former employers and the new ones desperate to find new employees.  For instance, when an environmental organization says its purpose is to “create daylight, fresh air and a better environment for people’s every day lives”, it tells you the reason the company exists, identifies the beneficiary and inspires people concerned with our climate challenges. Contrast that to another company’s  purpose to “produce goods of as high a quality as possible with as low as possible production costs”; practical, but not inspiring.

So it may be time for you to review your set of corporate identity statements:

  • Purpose: Why does the company exist? It should describe what the company does, who they do it for and how they do it.  The PwC study found that the overwhelming majority neglected to mention the core problem they intend to solve or refer to its history illustrate its actual purpose.
  • Vision:  What will you ultimate product as a result? Think of the headline you’d like to see in a major newspaper about the achievements accomplished in the distant future. (e.g., “ WHO announces that XYZ disease is now eliminated worldwide.”)
  • Mission: How are you contributing daily to the service that will solve the beneficiary’s problems?
  • Strategy. What resources will you mobilize and tradeoffs will you make to achieve the solution?
  • Culture: What values and behaviors should your team practice in order to actualize the purpose?

Once you’ve identified your corporate identify statements, then you can develop just descriptions for individuals and teams which incorporate them and build accountability systems and improvement systems to help people grow professionally and personally. (See Accountable4Success.com)

Most important, your statement of Corporate Identity is a living document. Over times, people and circumstances will change. What worked yesterday may not be appropriate for tomorrow. On an annual basis, at the least, your executive team should review and edit as needed. And the best time to evaluate your purpose and other statements is NOW!

Persuasion Requires More than Storytelling

Telling someone about “Little Red Ridinghood” is into the same as telling someone to invest in your start-up or next venture. Some skills are the same – such as public speaking rules. Others are different: building drama, suspense and character development may be fundamental to telling the first story. Understanding the complexity of the venture (e.g., the scientific foundation, the competitive advantage, the strategic tradeoff, the expertise of your team and the implications of the financial model), and presenting it in simple terms, in a persuasive manner, and one that your audience recall and reconstruct with potential other investors, is fundamental to the second feat.

Recently, James Currier wrote “The 23 Rules of Storytelling for Fundraising.” He raises many of the common issues. I thought I build upon a few to help you with your next presentation.

  • Keep it succinct and concise. Focus on the key points five plus or minus two) and keep them brief because people’s attention spans keep declining. Note: it will take you longer to create a short presentation than a long one. Mark Twain said: “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” So leaving in unnecessary “stuffing” may save you time when developing the presentation, but that reduces the persuasiveness of the presentation, which now takes too long to hear and may lead people on unnecessary tangents.
  • Create various versions so each is compelling. Remember, one audience may have 45 minutes to listen while another has only 10 minutes. Use simple concepts, models and analogies to speed up comprehension.
  • Plan it so the audience can easily provide a summary to their partners.  Use the basic rule of 3: tell them what you’re going to present (to provide a framework); deliver your content; and provide a concise (5 +/-2) summary – which becomes their overview guide for sharing the presentation).
  • If there’s Competition: Counterpunch. Spending time on the full competitive advantages (or lack of them) is key to eliminating audience Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). This is expert power.
  • Provide clarity: Share case studies, personals and examples  so your audience understands who the ultimate customer will be; use clear graphs rather than tables to highlight points and demonstrate contrast. Both provide the drama that demonstrates your company’s superiority.

Follow these rules and you’re likely to feel more confident when you present – which adds to the persuasiveness!   Feel free to ask share your questions and suggestions.

What’s the Source of Your Presentation Power?

When you makes a product service or idea, you presentation goal is to influence the other party. The power of the presentation depends on understanding the source(s) of your power and constructing a compelling case for it. For instance, the powers you marshal for an audience that is receptive to your proposition may differ from those you use to a hostile audience.

There are seven bases of power, according to Situational Leadership, and you should be aware of which you’re using in the presentation to maximize its effectiveness. They are:

  • Coercive – based on the audience’s fear of you and/or your message
  • Connection – based on the your connections to others
  • Expert – based on knowledge and skills
  • Information  –  based on your access to valuable information
  • Legitimate – based on your position relative to the other party
  • Referent – based on your likeability
  • Reward – based on your ability to hand out rewards, in the form of money or other incentives

To deliver an ADAP – Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentation – requires you understand the relationship you have with your audience and which power will have what effect.  For instance, an audience that doesn’t view you as a legitimate source, is unlikely to be influenced by mere information; they also won’t trust you if you lack referent power.  All things being equal, providing compelling information, demonstrating your expertise, and highlighting the rewards that the audience will get for following on your advice, are likely to produce the desired actions.

So the next time you present, consider where you and your audience stand in relationship to each other and the topic at hand. Then draft a presentation that demonstrates the powers that will have influence.

It’s the (User-Focused) Strategy that Counts!

To paraphrase a famous expression, “It’s the Strategy, Stupid!”

Recently Greg Satell, Publisher of Digital Tonto, reminded me of the difference that two companies used to accomplish a vision, with two different strategies and very different outcomes.   In “Anyone Can Have A Vision”, he compares the strategies of two visionary entrepreneurs committed to shifting the world from fossil fuels to renewables, and deciding to create enterprises focused on bringing electric cars to the masses.  Yes, one of them is Elon Musk and Tesla. 

The other, Shai Agassi, committed to this compelling vision in 2007 by forming a company called “Better Place”, focused immediately on producing the car for the masses. With a focus on the technology, he envisioned that the car, at least at the beginning, would have a very heavy battery and need to be recharged for drivers traveling long distances. Drawing on the model for gas-powered vehicles – where drivers stop in on stations to fill up when power was running low, the company focused on battery switching stations that would remove and install a new battery when power was running low.  The company went public and tested the initial model in places like Hawaii, Ireland and Israel, where the distances were relatively small and only one or two “charges” would be needed. Renault Fluence Z.E.  created the electric car to hold the batteries .  At its peak in 2012, there were 21 operational battery-swap stations open to the public in Israel. Better Place filed for bankruptcy in May 2013.

Musk adopted a different strategy – focusing on the user. He did not attempt to immediately build a car for the masses; instead he used the “adoption of innovations” approach and focused on early adopters: Silicon Valley celebrities and millionaires who wouldn’t rely on the car for everyday use, choosing to use it as their second car which they could show off to their friends and neighbors. That gave Musk the opportunity to learn how to manufacture cars efficiently and effectively, with the goal of producing cars for the masses in the future.

Musk focused on building competence in designing and delivering cars that buyers would want and could afford – and succeeded. In contrast, Agassi focused on battery switching, leaving him with only one automobile supplier – which provided only the “shell-of-a-car” running on someone else’s battery!

There are many ventures that teach us similar lessons. Webvan was one of the first delivery services for home goods. Despite raising a lot of money and hiring an experienced leadership team, it failed within a year, because it spent its money on distribution system warehouses, with a poorly designed scheduling system that made many deliveries unprofitable. Since then food and other home delivery services (e.g., Fresh Direct, Peapod, etc.) have learned the importance of smart user-friendly scheduling slots with profitability.

So before you launch your technology driven service, make sure you’re meeting customers’ immediate and long-term needs, profitably.  Use a “pre-mortem” to challenge your assumptions!

Increase Your Visibility

Are you one of the people/companies standing at the “post-pandemic” starting gate, anxious to gain new or increased business from potential clients? In this crowded field, it’s difficult to become visible and stand out in the crowd.   Here are some easy-to-follow rules that will help you succeed.

Two decades ago, when we launched Presentation Excellence to help presenters  who were already visible to close more deals,  we also launched PortfolioPR, an investor and public relations firm focused on the first problem: gaining visibility so you would be invited to make the presentation.  At the time, we created our own rules for doing so:

  • Conduct a perception scan – who knows about what you do and what do they really know
  • Determine a unique branding proposition to fill the blank
  • Present your brand in contexts where you’re different than the others around you
  • Reinforce your unique brand as often as necessary until feedback tells you that you’ve succeeded

For instance, a public company with a market capitalization of $500M, wanted to achieve a market capitalization of $1Billion+, so the largest investment banks would make investments.  The perception study told us that most potential investors didn’t know the company was even an option; they though other larger companies had acquired them years ago. At the time, the aerospace industry was in a recession and it provided products to the industry. But since it also provide other industry products, we branded the company as an expert in “highly-engineered solutions”. We promoted the company with a focus on the breadth of the product line, through a mix of public and private investor programs – which allowed us to engage in strategic partnerships with colleagues in all the industries. Eighteen months later, we accomplished the goal – and turned over the strategy to a newly created team within the company to continue the process.

Lee W. Frederiksen offers a different framework for professionals who want to increase visibility. In Visible Expert, he identifies four levels of expertise that a person can promote:

  1. The Resident Expert:  Establishing yourself as a thought leader and expert within your firm.  Focus on what you know and what people need, and keep developing outstanding content for anyone who reaches out to you.
  2. The Local Hero: With an eye on future career development, you begin to specialize within your domain of expertise. You rely on referrals, speaking engagements, social media and websites.
  3. The Rising Star: Using your entrepreneurial energy, you focus on your niche and start promoting yourself more actively to reach larger audiences and become recognized as a market leader.  Issuing white papers, publishing a book, participating in podcasts, etc., are strategies you use to create buzz.
  4. The Industry Rock Star: Visibility as an expert has taken a life of its own and continues to generate new opportunities. You become more selective in your niche expertise and audience, and channel existing buzz into reputation (and income) management.

Now is the time to launch your career or company growth. Harness the strategy that will enable you to achieve your goal of being a recognized expert and leader!

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