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Are You on the Yellow Brick Road to Success?

Feb 29, 2008
In the Land of Oz, Dorothy always got into trouble as soon as she left the yellow brick road. When dealing with irresistible forces and potential stalls, you need to check constantly that you are on the right path and positioned favorably for achieving success, especially when the road forks.

Are your irresistible forces providing tailwinds, crosswinds, or head winds?

Begin by listing all of the irresistible forces that are influencing your organization. Then evaluate how they are affecting your progress. Forces that are helping you are tailwinds. Those that are pushing you off target are crosswinds. Those that are holding back your progress are head winds.

You will probably find that the list of irresistible forces and their impacts on you will change over time, so you should update your answers to this question from time to time. One consumer products company that has done this updating finds that its list changes very rapidly, and the list of which irresistible forces are head winds, crosswinds, and tailwinds changes even faster.

How can you turn all of your cross- and head winds into tailwinds?

At first, most people think that developing advantages from many of their organization's irresistible forces is impossible. However, with a little prodding, they are always able to find a solution that enables them to do so.

For example, a food manufacturer was finding itself squeezed by unfavorable trends emanating from retailers and competitors. There seemed to be no way out.

On further reflection, the company realized that if it viewed other companies who were experiencing the same problems as possible allies, the companies could combine in new ways to support each other and become much more effective. Also, relations with retailers could become tailwinds if the food company spent the time to establish a carefully-designed, win-win relationship with the retailers. And since the competitive disadvantages were caused by not having enough capital available at a low-enough cost, changing the way the company was financed would quickly improve that situation.

With a new understanding of the opportunities, the company quickly benefited by using the irresistible forces to its advantage. The usefulness of this question was amply demonstrated when a similar company faltered badly soon thereafter in response to the same irresistible forces, due to being directionless. The other company sought to serve too many interests in too many ways, and collapsed from the financial and managerial strain of trying to resolve the irresolvable during a crisis brought on by a sudden shift in irresistible forces.

As one example of this crisis, the second company had focused its growth plans for years on adding new products mostly made with new, less expensive ingredients. This expansion had left the company financially weak, even though it had shown good sales and profit results. When raw material costs of the highly-preferred, base ingredient unexpectedly melted down, the company's whole product line became vulnerable to new competitors who emphasized a more "pure" product using more of the higher-quality, base ingredient at a very attractive price.

To respond successfully, this other company would have had to add dozens of new products overnight with a different mix of ingredients. The firm had neither the vision, nor the management skills, nor the relationship with retailers, nor the financial resources to do this. At the same time, shareholders were in revolt as sales and profits plunged, which further distracted the management team. The company tried to do a little of all the things that might help in this situation, and simply saw its situation deteriorate due to its prior inattention to irresistible forces.

If other enterprises have taken the same path to success that you plan to use to adapt to these irresistible forces, how have they fared?

The answer to this question will help you determine the odds for success with your approach, and how they compare with other approaches. Let someone else's mistakes and successes help build you a road map for traveling with the irresistible force winds at your back.

This can be especially helpful in newly-emerging markets. For example, when consumer products companies begin selling into third world countries, they usually think in terms of the product sizes used in their home countries.

In third world countries, consumers may not be able to afford to buy so much at one time (as is the case with razor blades where people often buy them one blade at a time, instead of in packs) or may have a spoilage problem (as is the case with perishables in countries with hot temperatures and limited refrigeration for poor people). Plan for those issues, and you'll soon be making faster headway in these rapidly growing markets.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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