Pur­pose­ful mis­sion, prof­itable op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Smart Manager - - Contents - RICHARD M ROTH­MAN

Richard M Roth­man, Open Mind Op­por­tu­nity Con­sul­tancy, tells us how to de­fine our mis­sion to cap­ture the best op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In his book, Master Op­por­tu­nity and Make it Big, Richard M Roth­man says, “The suc­cess of your ca­reer, your busi­ness, or any other im­por­tant as­pect of your life, is enor­mously in­flu­enced by the op­por­tu­ni­ties you choose to pur­sue. In fact, these de­ci­sions are among the most im­por­tant you will ever make in your life. In choos­ing these, you choose your fate.” En­abling in­no­va­tion and growth in an or­ga­ni­za­tion comes from choos­ing the right, lu­cra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties that are com­pat­i­ble with its vi­sion and mis­sion.

The fun­da­men­tal role of a leader is to set a firm di­rec­tion for the team to fol­low. As a busi­ness leader, you are ex­pected to steer your ship to­ward op­por­tu­ni­ties that can pro­vide many years of sus­tained, prof­itable growth.

Do you of­ten feel that your busi­ness has lost its way? Has it con­sis­tently missed op­por­tu­ni­ties that have been cap­tured by oth­ers?

Un­less you know in which di­rec­tion you want to go, vir­tu­ally any course of ac­tion will get you lost. Whether you

de­fine it as a mis­sion, a vi­sion, or a goal, the di­rec­tion you set for your team is al­ways cru­cial to your suc­cess.

These days most com­pa­nies have pre­pared a writ­ten mis­sion and vi­sion state­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, these state­ments tend to be cor­po­rate ver­sions of the Ten Com­mand­ments, ie we are in­no­va­tive, eth­i­cal, a mer­i­toc­racy, cus­tomer-cen­tric, etc.

Although this type of mis­sion and vi­sion state­ment may serve as an ex­cel­lent guide to ap­pro­pri­ate cor­po­rate and em­ployee be­hav­ior, it rarely helps to set us on a firm course to har­vest­ing the best op­por­tu­ni­ties.

fi­nan­cial goals can make you poorer

As the al­ter­na­tive to us­ing their mis­sion state­ment, most lead­ers set fi­nan­cial goals. In the past five years, I have in­ter­viewed the man­ag­ing di­rec­tors of sev­eral hun­dred In­dian com­pa­nies of all sizes in dozens of sec­tors. Over 99 per­cent have de­scribed their mis­sions to me in fi­nan­cial terms, such as: “We would like to dou­ble sales in the next three years.”

In gen­eral, these lead­ers have con­sis­tently failed to meet these lofty goals. Why?

Fi­nan­cial goals can be use­ful at a tac­ti­cal level, for ex­am­ple, set­ting tar­gets for in­di­vid­ual sales­peo­ple. How­ever, at a strate­gic level, they are in­ef­fec­tive. Why? Be­cause fi­nan­cial goals do not, in any way, help the leader or his team to find, eval­u­ate and choose the op­por­tu­ni­ties that can pro­vide sus­tained, prof­itable growth.

Let us use an anal­ogy. Ac­cord­ing to an old say­ing, “you can never be too rich or too thin.” We all would like to have $1 bil­lion and a 32-inch waist­line. Imag­ine that you per­son­ally have a more mod­est goal of los­ing 5 ki­los. Does hav­ing this goal help in any way to lose the weight? Does the de­sire to be rich in any way make you rich? Of course not.

Fi­nan­cial goals can even be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. They mo­ti­vate com­pa­nies to max­i­mize short-term gain at the ex­pense of long-term op­por­tu­ni­ties. It is com­mon for com­pa­nies to miss new op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause they are fo­cused on ex­tract­ing profit from their in­vest­ments in old op­por­tu­ni­ties un­til it was too late.

For ex­am­ple, even though Ko­dak in­vented dig­i­tal cam­era tech­nol­ogy, it pre­ferred to har­vest the in­vest­ment in its legacy film busi­ness, lead­ing to its ul­ti­mate demise. Rather than in­vest­ing in new op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by ex­pand­ing band­width, Black­berry pre­ferred to pro­long the life­cy­cle of its 2G phones, un­til it was wiped out by Ap­ple and its 3G smart­phone.

Changes in our en­vi­ron­ment con­stantly cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties, some of which can lead to tremen­dous growth and prof­its.

cre­ate the fu­ture, ex­am­ine the present and past

Changes in our en­vi­ron­ment con­stantly cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties, some of which can lead to tremen­dous growth and prof­its. Some peo­ple try to pre­dict change, and the op­por­tu­ni­ties that will come from it. Un­for­tu­nately, bet­ting on fore­sight is usu­ally no bet­ter than play­ing roulette. Few of us can ac­cu­rately see the fu­ture.

Many peo­ple fear change, and try to avoid it. But that is likely to even­tu­ally re­sult in a ‘Ko­dak Mo­ment’, ie ir­rel­e­vance and bank­ruptcy. Oth­ers claim that they can man­age change. I do not be­lieve you can man­age change any bet­ter than you can man­age the mon­soon. But you can ben­e­fit from the op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated by change, if you can see them and prop­erly eval­u­ate them.

For­tu­nately, there is no need to gam­ble on pre­dict­ing the fu­ture. That is be­cause valu­able op­por­tu­ni­ties al­ways ex­ist in the present. Vi­sion is not about pre­dict­ing the fu­ture; it is about see­ing the present clearly. By ex­am­in­ing our cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment, we can see op­por­tu­ni­ties. By un­der­stand­ing the pat­terns of the past, we can bet­ter un­der­stand how to eval­u­ate and choose the best op­por­tu­ni­ties.

To per­form this task, my con­sul­tancy OpenMind con­ducts an op­por­tu­nity au­dit, which ex­am­ines your

op­por­tu­nity en­vi­ron­ment. This en­vi­ron­ment has four seg­ments—mis­sion, model, mar­ket and do­main.

Un­der­stand­ing your mis­sion is the most cru­cial part of this ex­er­cise. That is be­cause re­gard­less of how many op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist in your en­vi­ron­ment, if the leader de­fines his or her mis­sion in­cor­rectly, the com­pany will in­evitably choose to pur­sue the wrong ones.

how to de­fine your mis­sion for op­por­tu­nity

What is the most im­por­tant ques­tion in the world? It is a ques­tion we all ask our­selves, some­times sev­eral times each day, even though we do not of­ten re­al­ize it.

The ques­tion is: What’s in it for me? (WIIFM)

It is a fact that we are all self­ish. In de­ter­min­ing our mis­sion, we must first ac­count for our own needs, oth­er­wise, we will not be mo­ti­vated to suc­ceed. Re­gret­tably, de­sire alone will not give us fi­nan­cial suc­cess. Although many peo­ple be­lieve in the Law of At­trac­tion, few will choose to love you just be­cause you de­sire their af­fec­tions, and no one will buy from you sim­ply be­cause you want higher prof­its.

Self­ish goals such as fi­nan­cial en­rich­ment are not enough to de­fine your com­pany’s mis­sion. That is be­cause busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties are not a one-way street. It is not just about you.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties are the bridge be­tween as­pi­ra­tion and re­al­iza­tion. An op­por­tu­nity bridge al­ways runs in two di­rec­tions, for both the buyer and seller. Busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties are al­ways a two-way value ex­change. Your busi­ness pro­vides the cus­tomer with value and rel­e­vance, and in re­turn, the cus­tomer gives you money or some­thing you can mon­e­tize, such as data.

your mis­sion is al­ways a ser­vice

Be­cause busi­ness op­por­tu­nity is al­ways a two-way value ex­change, you must an­swer the ques­tion: What’s in it for me? for your cus­tomer as well as your­self. WIIFM must go both ways.

To be op­por­tu­nity-minded, think ser­vice, not prof­its. Busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties are al­ways a ser­vice to oth­ers. The mis­sion of your busi­ness should ideally be de­fined in terms of how and why it pro­vides this ser­vice to oth­ers. Even if you sell a phys­i­cal prod­uct, the cus­tomer is ac­tu­ally pay­ing for the ser­vice it pro­vides.

For ex­am­ple, Google’s mis­sion is: “to or­ga­nize the world’s in­for­ma­tion and make it uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble and use­ful.” Ama­zon’s mis­sion is: “to of­fer our cus­tomers the low­est pos­si­ble prices, the best avail­able se­lec­tion, and the ut­most con­ve­nience.” These mis­sion state­ments clearly con­vey the type of ser­vice pro­vided to cus­tomers, while be­ing broad enough to un­lock huge ar­eas of op­por­tu­nity.

Ser­vice is a fine bal­ance, as both sides of the op­por­tu­nity ex­change should ideally be sat­is­fied. Busi­ness op­por­tu­nity is very much a two-way street. Ideally, each side of the value equa­tion should feel that they are get­ting the bet­ter deal.

main­tain your vi­sion of the present

Main­tain­ing an ac­cu­rate vi­sion of the present through au­dit­ing of your en­vi­ron­ment is also crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing rel­e­vance. There is lit­tle point in be­ing solely ded­i­cated to ser­vic­ing the needs of horses if the mar­ket has moved on to au­to­mo­biles. Based on changes in the other three zones of your op­por­tu­nity en­vi­ron­ment—model, mar­ket, and do­main—your mis­sion should con­stantly evolve to serve larger and more rel­e­vant needs.

A good ex­am­ple is Ap­ple. Its mis­sion be­gan as “make com­put­ers sim­ple so ev­ery­one could use them.” As it lost the bat­tle in that mar­ket, its mis­sion evolved to “make tech­nol­ogy sim­ple so ev­ery­one can use it,” al­low­ing it to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties that led to sev­eral hugely rel­e­vant new busi­nesses.

Re­gard­less of how many op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist in your en­vi­ron­ment, if the leader de­fines his or her mis­sion in­cor­rectly, the com­pany will in­evitably choose to pur­sue the wrong ones.

IS FOUNDER AND MAN­AG­ING DI­REC­TOR OF OPEN MIND OP­POR­TU­NITY CON­SUL­TANCY PRI­VATE LIM­ITED AND AU­THOR, MASTER OP­POR­TU­NITY AND MAKE IT BIG.

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