Updated: Jun 7
Knowing your business can be a very 2 dimensional process for most business owners, and executives. The business produces this and sells it there.
Knowing your business is not just about knowing the internal workings, it is also about knowing the external space in which it sits, to whom it serves and for what purpose.
These aspects can be looked at through the Johari Window. the four panes representing the 2 aspects of your business. The Known and the Hidden.
Internaly : Such as, we know what we do and how well we do it, we also will hide some of those aspects that we dont really want to show externally.
Externaly: Such as, our brand position, who is is buying our products and also what areas of the business do we have no idea exist at all or are we blind to.
Shining lights and raising awareness around your internal and external business is key to the strategy that you will use to ensure the sustainability of your business. When an aspect is unknown or your blind to it, this is where great danger lies.
Over many articles I have written, one incident that really jumps out is the following:
This owner manufacturer had a great product and very well made, a really competitive price point and a distribution margin that would give both parties a good business model.
They were very aware of their heritage, their market place and their customer. The business model worked for years and was very successful
They operated an extensive catalogue and had a very well run warehousing operation
They did not however see the dawning of Brick and Click retailing, nor the speed that online selling was taking chunks of market share. They felt somewhat immune to this as most of their wholesaler customers where not so sophisticated and they had a good bricks and mortar exposure.
Their field manager retired and they did not replace him. Sales where growing in the field and therefore it was perhaps felt that is was no longer needed. Metrics, they tended not to bother too much with, as the business was growing and looked great. Forecasting was a bit of a dark art, but they had their own factories, so they could turn on more production when needed.
One day, the phone rang in the sales office and a very irrate reseller reported that one of there other resellers that where selling online at 25% off the RRP. Now the problem was that whilst it had been discussed internally about changing their discount structure, but it wasn't perceived to be a problem, so nothing was done. Europe was becoming one integrated marketplace and EU laws reigned in practices that could have made this more managable. The Game of Whacka Mole Discounting Dealers started at pace!
They had spent many years building their business to be a strong brand, however, were blind and unaware of what was happening externally with their business! They did not see that they needed to change their discount model for their wholesale businesses, did not see that dealers where underpressure to go online, did not see that marketplaces created one shop window, with many resellers trying to get the sale behind the new facade! To make mattes worse, one very savvy reseller created their own barcode numbers and listed this brands products on one marketplace, so the barcode used was not the real one...why? They did not think a few years ago about the critical need to barcode all their products. It will be almost impossble to replace these on this market place until the product lifespan ends and it replaced with a new version.
i will also add, that acknowledged that they had sleepwalked into this and they had a great deal to do to secure the brand longer term. They will, but the pain and loss of brand position wil hurt for a long time to come.