If you think I’m going to list of a bunch of product bargains or discount sales, think again. This post is about the side of business that drives superior performance at no extra cost. For now, forget about throwing heaps of cash at such initiatives as computer systems, advertising, equipment, recruiting – even training. And for a moment, stop worrying about low-cost foreign competition and the sluggish American economy. The best bargains in business can go a long way to helping business overcome setbacks. The good news is that these bargains can be unleashed from existing overheads. The right mindsets create magic.
1. Leadership heads the list. A good leader costs as much as a bad one. The best leaders have the ability to instill clarity of vision and a compelling purpose that inspires people to make the extra effort. As we know, Steve Jobs wasn’t the easiest guy to work with, but the results? Outstanding. Apple employees not only believed in his vision, they delivered it over and over again.
2. Simplicity. Companies that insist on simplicity are generally the most successful businesses. This is a corollary to leadership but it is also a core value that must permeate the entire organization. Everyone on the same page fighting complexity creates sustainable winners. The California-based In-N-Out Burger Chain is a wonderful example of keeping things simple. Just look at their menu - 3 beef burgers, fries, shakes and soft drinks. If you want chicken, salad, pizza or wraps, go somewhere else.
3. Culture takes time, but once you have it, leverage it and see the results, you are on your way. It is a state of mind that says, “These are the things that really matter in this company.” Some companies thrive on an innovative culture. Others pride themselves on getting things done. Zappos and Patagonia are in a class by themselves. When culture is the brand, you’ve nailed it.
4. Doing less, better. Thirty-five years ago I was part of a turnaround of a company that competed in 8 different food categories with over a thousand stock keeping units. We cut that “red-ink” business back to a coffee and tea company with 35 sku’s. Sales went up and the company went into the black. Within 3 years, our coffee brand became Canada’s top seller. Doing less, better trumps doing more with less and doing more with more. The more and more culture creates complexity in giant companies; this opens the door for smaller competitors.
5. Creativity. While the above bargains don’t have to cost extra money, they take considerable effort and in some cases, considerable time. This is not necessarily the case for creativity. The Big Idea and the process of creating and implementing the Big Idea is the last great bargain in business. I spent my entire career espousing the power of creativity, and the companies I touched did very well by it. As for today, Red Bull stands out as the quintessential idea machine.
Whining about the economy, budget constraints, and low-cost competition does nothing to improve a company’s well-being. Businesses who live by these 5 bargains are the ones who enjoy success – both in the journey and the bottom-line destination. But, beware. Bureaucracy lurks on the periphery, waiting for its opening to subvert the lean, mean, business machine. In the final analysis, bureaucracy is every company’s greatest threat.