Previously in our series on building a house of business, we’ve taken up the vision, the experts it takes to get started, and bringing the vision and plan to reality. Now, let’s see what it takes to bring that building smoothly from stage to stage, in a timely manner.
An interesting fact about a house being built is that at each stage of construction takes place, each stage requires its own team. First, you have the framers that erect the framework of the building. Once that is up, different teams move in: plumbers, electricians, drywall contractors, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) specialists, and numerous others.
We can learn from watching such construction take place that, first of all, time is critical. One group is coming on Monday, and they need to be finished by Friday so that the next group can start. The person in charge, the general contractor, is the one who makes sure all of this happens.
What does this kind of effort take? What I call the 3 Cs: communication, coordination, and cooperation. All of these must be present and functional—otherwise, you won’t have a building completed efficiently and on time.
Putting this into a business context, we can look at 2 vital teams in an enterprise: sales and marketing. These are often at odds, with sales complaining that marketing isn’t producing enough quality leads, and marketing complaining that sales aren’t effectively selling to the leads generated.
At this point, the 3 Cs are critical—especially, in this case, coordination. For example, if sales are just sitting there waiting for leads, it’s a very costly waste of time. Sales do need those leads in order to sell!
Coordination of the flow of processes is vital. Who is doing what? And how flexible can they be? Coming back to the construction of our house, let’s say that the plumbing team takes a day longer than they were supposed to. The electrical team shows up. Would it be possible for the electrical team to be working on something else while they were waiting for the plumbing team to finish so that they’re not just standing around eating up money? As you can see, coordination requires considerable wisdom, experience, and practice. That’s why some houses are built faster and more efficiently than others.
Coordination is much like the relay race that you see in the Olympics. As an example, our general contractor for the house is coordinating the time concrete is coming in and how exactly it will be poured in time not to harden, so it can be smoothed out by the next team. In a relay race, the baton must be quickly and efficiently handed off to the next racer. In sales, a handoff occurs when a lead is passed to sales to become an opportunity; an experienced rep follows up the opportunity and closes the deal. Just like the relay race, the handoff must be seamless.
We also assume that we’re dealing with professionals in each of these trades. Back in our sales team, we assume that the salesperson isn’t a beginner and can successfully follow up on the leads they are given. In our building team, we assume that the plumber or electrician knows their job well and doesn’t require training or detailed supervision on their expertise. If training is involved, the whole process becomes a little more complex because the sales manager, or general contractor, must become a trainer as well. This can slow things down tremendously.
In my own business, which is a virtual business in which everyone works in their own location, I assume that someone that I hire is going to be a professional. I assume that they’re intelligent and that I won’t have to “micro-manage” them. I don’t have a camera on them, I don’t know when they’re working and when they’re not. I assume that they will work out how to efficiently reach their targets and goals.
In my opinion, the critical factor in accomplishing all of this is communication. We all live by assumptions and expectations. In the case of our sales team, they’re assuming they’ll get their leads, and that marketing will produce them. There can be a problem with an assumption, though, when it’s not verbalized. When it’s not verbalized, the next “C”—cooperation—can’t take place, can it? If Marketing isn’t aware of the expectation, they can’t exactly deliver on it. An assumption that someone else will do something doesn’t mean that they will. Therefore you can see that communication and cooperation go hand-in-hand.
The Holistic view
Everyone must perform well, from management on down to each of the teams. This is especially true when dealing with a customer. The customer is only going to remember the whole experience, not necessarily certain parts of it. They probably aren’t going to recall that the experience with the salesperson was wonderful when the onboarding didn’t go so well; they’ll instead remember that their experience with that company was not good. When a person flies on a plane, they’ll either remember it as a great trip or a not-so-great trip. The in-flight service may have been fantastic, but if their luggage was lost they’ll only remember it as a lousy flight.
The only way a great holistic experience can be brought about is with the smooth performance of the 3 Cs. And they’re certainly tied together—communication goes straight to coordination and then to cooperation. They can be viewed as one action because all 3 must be present.
When they’re not, all kinds of things can go wrong, and that’s where some companies become stuck. They’re still waiting for one group to deliver something, resulting in another group unable to start. In today’s lightning-fast business world, timing is everything.
Where can a company or a construction project have pitfalls in the process? First, someone (or sometimes a group) is managing and coordinating the team. The more players in place, the more complex it can become. Communication can become faulty, such as in the game “telephone” where you line up a group of people and tell the first person something, have them whisper it to the next person, and then ask the last person in line what was said; almost every time, it will be different than what was said in the beginning. All of us who have ever managed a team have experienced this in some form.
The only guarantee against such things happening is to have processes clearly defined. If you don’t define your processes, you can’t possibly succeed, and you certainly cannot succeed in the digital world. When it comes to defined processes, the example I always point to is Amazon. Can you imagine the processes it must require just to enable you to order butter, milk, and eggs, and have them delivered fresh to your front door, no matter where you live? It’s not just one process, but many, required to execute everything involved. It’s truly amazing.
Defined processes, of course, include all 3 Cs.
Once a process is defined, though, that doesn’t mean that you stick with it no matter what. Future success may require a process to be changed. For example, the sales model of SDRs—sales development reps—is disappearing. This is because too many people just don’t accept phone calls anymore unless it’s a number they recognize. In that environment, how many calls would someone have to make just to obtain a single lead, let alone reach someone on a call?
That’s an example of a process that is changing. That kind of work might be better performed by automation in the future.
Yes, there are pitfalls in building a house of business, which have to be overcome. And it is here that we see that, in business, it’s not the product or service that is the only success factor; it is the management of these 3 Cs.
There are many different management and leadership philosophies and methodologies, and we’re not taking those up here. I’ll only say that at Pipeliner we follow a clear management philosophy that comes from Peter Drucker and Fredmund Malik because we’ve found it to be based in sound, practical principles. Principles are universal and can be used in any business.
Managers, unfortunately, aren’t made overnight, despite the desires of so many to be promoted rapidly. Let’s go back to our building. If you had decided to build a house and interview general contractors to oversee the construction, what kind of credentials would you want to see? It would be along the lines of projects that this person has completed in the past, houses built, and teams coordinated. You would most likely choose someone with a lot of experience. And even then, you’d compare them one to the other, and in the end, make the most cost-effective and high-quality choice possible.
A standout example of “too fast promotion” in business is in sales management. A salesperson becomes the best in the company and is automatically promoted to sales manager—with no management education, training or experience. Company management is then upset when the person falls on their face. Is it really a surprise, though? In the case of hiring a general contractor, you would never promote a great plumber to be a general contractor, when they’ve had no experience. It would result in disaster.
3 Cs and Growth
When a company starts to grow, it is often falsely assumed that growth means continuously adding staff. The thing is when you’re very efficient with communication, coordination, and cooperation, that isn’t necessarily true. With the 3 Cs really in place, you can be more productive with fewer resources. Growth isn’t necessarily tied to more people. Technology even makes it possible to reduce staff.
So make sure to put the 3 Cs firmly in place—and with that as your foundation build your house of business to great success!