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Kelly Odell

- A blog for leaders
12 Jul 2010

The Challenge of Or!

I am riding on the train on the way home from a very interesting speaking engagement at a management conference for a 50 year old company with patented industrial solutions. I can’t help but think about the similarities this company has with so many others.

The company is a powerful global player in their industry. Like many successful companies their success has been built on solid technological foundation based on high quality and innovation.

Today they face new challenges which require them to re-think virtually every aspect of their business. Continued focus on developing better products is an important success factor but it must be based on deeper analysis of “real” customer needs. The winners in industries like this will join strong products with innovative new approaches to sales and distribution. Great products once separated leaders from losers.

Today, great products only open the door to the playing field. Winners combine great products or services with innovative new approaches to sales, service, distribution and marketing. Turning products into services and services into products is something of a mantra across countless industries. As James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras put in in there book Built to Last, great companies must take on the challenge of the “or”. Should we focus on margin or volume? The winners do both! Should we focus on developing great products or be great at sales and marketing? The winners know that success will require both!

The company I met has understood that their outstanding products are a key element of a successful mix but that they must be stronger on all the other elements as well.

Many companies are facing numerous questions like:

How do we redefine sales processes to better support our customers’ buying processes our products are used in such a broad range of industries?

What steps need to be taken to go from selling products to solutions?

How do we develop new and flexible business models that maximize cash flow throughout the value chain?

How can we best use IT systems and telecom services to support our own and our customers’ processes?

Do we need to redefine the scope of our business to consolidate our past success and build a stronger platform for future growth?

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