“No amount of strategizing or strategic planning will compensate for the absence of a clear and widespread understanding of the ends sought.” Fred Nickols

A friend and colleague of mine sent this quote to me this morning. I think it’s a great reminder. In the world of strategic planning, it’s too easy to get lost in the details of the strategy, metrics and processes. At times I’ve found it quite useful to zerobase your thinking and come back to the most fundamental questions when assessing the current state of a client. Often times, when they’re not getting the results they desire, it comes down to something simple.

Forget about the methodologies for a minute, and ask some simple questions:

What is the direction of your company?
What outcomes is your team working toward creating?
How do you know everyone understands this the same way?
How are you going to make that happen?
How does your job contribute to making that happen?

I started asking some of these questions with one of my clients this year and we learned that the direction wasn’t that clear all the way up the chain. Once we recognized the gap, we were able to correct the situation. The results were a significant revitalization in the team and in the strategy.

This often results in increased energy behind and commitment to the plan, and that’s what it’s all about.

Capital Co-operativism

In the past you may have thought that these two words might actually repel each other like two magnets with the poles reversed. The new realities of the Canadian banking industry poses significant challenges for traditional co-operatives that value a unified approach even over profit. Bigger, meaner competition and thinning margins means that something has to change, and it’s resulted in a new breed of cooperative mentality. While this is newer in some markets than others, it’s not going to soon disappear from executive discussion tables.

What does this new shift mean? Is it a good thing or does it spell the end of a grassroots system that has stood for community values, and has formed a central part of the economy in many provinces. Does the emergence of open inter-credit-union competition indicate that co-operatives have lost sight of their purpose? I don’t think so.

Co-operatives are built by the community, exist for the benefit of the communities they operate in, and satisfy a business need or role in ways that other businesses cannot. I believe that while the new generation of cooperatives may not tip-toe around the markets of other similar organizations as they did in the past, this will ultimately result in strengthened competitiveness and benefits to their membership. Ultimately, the old ways have been renewed to function in a way that better aligns with the realities of today’s business market. This is not to say that these businesses should stop cooperating where it makes sense.

Capital Co-operatism: A collection of member-owned, democratically controlled businesses with a mutual desire to work together and to be seen as a single united group, but not at the expense of the business objectives of the single organization (which are based on the needs and direction of their membership).

Co-operatives will continue to serve the needs of their members, strengthen their communities and do it in a way that traditional business models cannot because the value they ultimately create is to the benefit of their customers… not their pocketbooks.

Product equity or relationship equity?

I’ve been doing some thinking about what and how some of my clients sell. I think it’s a good check-point to ask yourself whether the customer experience results in their perception of value being more attached with the product/service you sell or you as the person/team/organization? One could argue that this is more important in some markets and industries than others, but I believe that however important this was in the past, this will continue to become even more important in the future.

Obviously, a good part of your “selling” has to be focused on the product (as that’s what you’re moving) but don’t forget to make sure that a sense of value is associated with you as the provider. In your goal of creating loyalty among customers, this is core.

Most of you want to create brand ambassadors/referral centres. Think about what kind of customer experience it would take for these kinds of customers to naturally occur. Does the customer experience you offer result in this? Are you in an industry where interative transactional relationships occur?

Regardless of whether you think your team understands the fact that you’re in the business rather than the it’s always a valuable discussion to have. It helps us keep our eye on the ball in times of change.