Every business owner knows the market can shift on a
dime or a headline. Positive inflection points are sometimes generated
in response to these changes in market conditions. For innovation to
thrive, your foundation must provide both the stability required to
weather change as well as the flexibility to jump at sudden advantage.
In 2010 I spoke with an executive vice president of a Fortune 5 company
about a radical opportunity he was able to capture. He ran an
international division focused on hardware technology solutions.
His firm had developed a customer relationship management (CRM) system
in-house that was working very well for them. When the market turned
down in 2008 he uncovered a need among several of the firm’s most
important clients in the area of customer management, not his core
business. Nonetheless, he saw the wisdom of helping key clients
succeed a tough market, made the appropriate arrangements to sell the
in-house proprietary CRM system, and provided the support his clients
needed to take advantage.
The system was installed to a great reception and he soon had a revenue
stream consulting and providing support for the CRM. While not a core
revenue stream, it was a great addition as it was helping his customers
to thrive in a tough market. Further, he was able to integrate data
with many of these customers and exploit data mining at an
Then these same customers asked if they could provide the CRM to their
customers. Without hesitation he said, Yes.
As a result synergies began to grow exponentially. Three levels of CRM
data were now integrated and mined. Plus there was a booming business
in sales, installation, consulting, and support. Altogether the CRM
provided over a billion dollars in measurable revenue.
His company’s policies provided a flexible foundation that allowed him
to respond quickly, pursue, and realize this opportunity. As a result
he was able to generate an unanticipated inflection point among a key
group of clients and their customers.
The inflection point shifted his place in the market from a hardware
technology provider to a business partner. This was a critical
differentiator during the economic hardship of the 2008 downturn. He
not only sold and installed hardware, but worked side-by-side with his
customers growing their businesses and their customers’ in a very
challenging market. Good foundations make possible this kind of
The lesson? Not only should your foundation be flexible enough to allow
you to respond to emerging opportunity, it should be customized to
accommodate specialized risks of your field. Just as house foundations
in earthquake-ridden locales are specially fitted with hold-down
brackets, wall bracing, and bolts designed to accommodate the stresses
of tremors and seismic activity, your foundation should be equipped to
respond to and handle known stressors in your field of business.
(Only Read This If You Know Me And Are Following My Life)
week I was in retreat to finish writing my next book, Getting Innovation Right. Got my
draft copy off to the publisher on time. It’s a great book, filled with
insights and practical advice – lots of new tools and techniques I
use with clients.