How to Fire Your Customers
Strategex Fundamental #21: Debate, Then Align.
Healthy, vigorous debate creates better solutions. Debate concepts without making personal attacks. Push for the best solution, rather than your solution. Once a decision is made, however, get fully aligned by putting your complete support behind it.
Our 80/20 practice challenges many of the so-called norms of everyday business. We make a point of stressing the fact that not every sale is a good sale, and not every customer is a good customer. For many of our client’s employees, these statements break long-term strong beliefs.
When we introduce Product Line Simplification (PLS), the product managers and engineers get very protective of their products. When we introduce Customer Line Simplification (CLS), the sales force gets very protective of their customer base. This happens especially when the sales force is compensated based on revenue performance. Even though we form cross-functional teams to address PLS and CLS, the debate over what changes need to be made is often very spirited, and very emotional. Our best clients operate in a manner that is consistent with Fundamental #21. The teams vigorously debate the potential actions. They then decide on a plan of action. Last, they put 100% of their effort behind perfecting the implementation of their strategic decisions, leading the company to success.
Not all our client’s employees embrace Fundamental #21. These same employees are not stupid. They don’t actively talk about not supporting the implementation plan. They will often talk a very good game! But they tend to drag their feet when on the road to getting things done. They will have great reasons why activities are not getting accomplished.
They will say, "I am so busy with everyday work!" What is actually happening is passive resistance.
Whenever I see this type of behavior in a client, and I do see it, I always think of our Fundamental #2 – Do what’s best for the client. If the passive resistance is coming from employees at the manager level, I must go to Senior Executives and make them aware of the issue. This allows them to change the behavior of those employees. A much more critical issue is when the passive resistance is coming from a Senior Executive. This requires me to go to the CEO who hired us and discuss the situation with him/her. In terms of doing what is best for the client, I give the CEO three options.
- Change the behavior of the Senior Executive.
- Make a personnel change and remove the Senior Executive.
- If you choose to do nothing, then we must disengage ourselves from the client.
It does the client no good to continue paying our fees when the passive resistance will prohibit our client from achieving success.
My very first client with Strategex was a family-owned company in the foodservice industry. The owner had two adult children in the business (both in their mid-thirties). One of them started out as a passive resister of 80/20 and eventually was an active resister of 80/20. I went to the owner offered him three options.
- He should exit the problematic child from the business.
- If he did not want to tackle the problem, we would recommend selling the company. We would help him do that.
- We will stop our engagement.
I debated with the owner to align on which of the three options would work for us and/or the client. In the end, we aligned around option three. As I look back on that conversation, I realize that this conversation not only fits Fundamental #21 but several other Strategex Fundamentals as well. Speak up, speak straight. Do what’s best for the client. Add Value. Deliver Results. Be a Brand Ambassador.
By ejecting, we made it clear that we live our fundamentals. We wouldn’t compromise to save revenue, we insisted on doing the right thing.
There is no doubt that having many great minds attacking a problematic situation leads to great solutions. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure that the implementation of the solution is not actively or passively blocked.