In last month's column, I addressed the concept of power --in particular
sales and marketing power. In that article, IBM was featured. It was shown that in every catergory which conveys power
to an individual, IBM, as a corporate entity, has managed a Perfect 10 (hold the Bolero, please). This article wasn't
written to encourage anyone to fight IBM on its turf, but to provide a model for becoming "King of their own marketing hill...
Possibly it's a bit unrealistic to think that you, your company, or your client could ever
achieve the benchmarks for the perfection that Big Blue has established.
Yet the road map for this conquest is clearly marked by the nine attributes that were enumerated:
Position Power, Admiration Power, Assertive Power, Enabling Power, Withholding Power, Information Power, Expert Power, Reinforcement
Power and Connection Power. Each provides strategic and tactical goals.
The challenge is to find a patch that you can call your own.
That's not so easy anymore in the computer industry... especially with the frolicing Blue Giant romping
through the the SIC codes associated with it. But there has to be a way!
As important as the above nine powers are, there is yet another -- which is seldom considered a "power"
but a quality -- that has the ability to offset, perhaps even negate, the combined might of all the others. It is...
THE ABILITY TO CONCEIVE A GAMBLE...
TO PULL IT OFF...
AND THE RESILIENCE TO BOUNCE BACK,
IF THE GAMBIT FAILS.
Just as one could take a look at IBM'S powers and consider them barriers to entry against IBM, so one
can take a look at risk taking as a barrier to market entry for many who perhaps have conceived of a risky venture, but have
not mustered the resources -- guts being one of them -- to give it a go.
Risk taking is a concentrated power; not much is needed to be very effective. A survey of tactics
outside of marketing and sales illustrates this point. Pulling a goalee in hockey to put another shooter in the line
up; a full court press in basketball to deny the opposition shooting time; the full line rush in football plus all other maneuvers
that provide an advantage if they work and a nightmare if they fail are all rooted in risk taking. And they are practiced
for the singular reason: Based upon the condition in which the team finds itself... the desired successful outcome can most
likely be achieved with such a high stake "zero sum" gamble.
Countering these risky maneuvors is at best extremely difficult and at worst impossible.
In sales and marketing, the ability of a company to exploit risk taking provides it with one-up power.
So now the question remains; Where and how to implement risk?
FOOLS RUSH IN..
Where wise wo/men never dare to go. And that's the secret to it all, for risk taking is relative in
the eyes of the beholder, or beholding company. Thus wise wo/men only believe that they are! So, to quell
the passion of your "can-do" spirit, here are three "sanity tests" to remember.
RISK ONLY WHAT CAN BE COMFORTABLY LOST. It sounds easy enough but can
be very difficult to determine. For example, IBM'S PC Junior would have swamped most other vendors' financial resources;
IBM took it all in stride. On the other hand, an IBM salesperson showing up for a regional meeting in a Seymour Cray
(founder of the Cray Computer) sport jacket, might possibly be taking even agreater financial risk... especially if s/he had
a child in college.
RISK SHOULD AT LEAST EQUAL GAIN. Putting much at risk for little
gain is just plain crazy. Again, this is subjective. Some companies will spend millions attempting to gain a few
percentage points of market share which obviously translates into additional revenue. Others, however, would rather
plow the money into creating a new product and market which it can dominate -- hence grab a larger payoff. Translated
on a personal basis, some people, preferring the better odds than better payoffs, always play the favorites.
GO WITH YOUR GUT 'N GREY MATTER, NOT YOUR GLUTEUS. As Kenny Rogers
sings: "You've got to know when to hold, to fold, to walk away and to run!" Such insight is best provoked by tempering intuition
with the inherent probabilities for success and degree of personal control over the situation which one has. Failing to do
so will truly create a "grab-your-ass-and-hope-the-best" (now you know to which part of the anatomy the gluteus refers ) sales
and marketing campaign.
While all the above may sound good as it pertains to the counter-balancing force of Risk Power against
the nine other powers, my experience is that it still doesn't satisfy a residual uneasiness rooted in the perception
of "little ol' me against big ol' them." Well, take heart, because little ol' you has a natural Ace-In-The-Hole with
regards to risk taking which larger companies are trying feverishly to acquire.
YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO FALTER, STUMBLE -- EVEN FAIL
AND DUST YOURSELF OFF
AND GO AT IT AGAIN.
Large corporations are spending millions of dollars attempting to dismantle bureaucratic management
structures and to foster an "entrepreneurial style. " However, to do so will require the institutionalization of rewards and
glory for risk taking -- and even failing after a valiant attempt to succeed. Certainly, the concept of invoking punishment
for making an "honest" mistake will be counter productive to the entire process.
But seriously, isn't it hard to imagine any large corporation -- even IBM -- having the ability to
weather an "honest" mistake per employee per day. Think only of the cash position chaos that the CFO would face daily
if those people with sign-off authority exercised it incorrectly on a daily basis. So while it all sounds great, the
idea of "institutionalized risk" is just another business slogan and oxymoron.
And herein lies the real power of risk taking: It is not only concentrated; it is also not available
to all that might seem to be likely holders of this capability.
Rest assured that as long as there are pinstripes on Blue, there is room to bloom.