Business Process for 21st Century Visionaries
Every business, large or small, can be segmented into two primary areas: Product Development and Sales & Marketing.
To make both of these areas work cohesively, companies must have a firm grip on their value proposition. This serves as the glue between the two functions and must be ‘common knowledge’ at a company. To get to this elusive intelligence that guides all activities, certain questions must be answered:
- What is the value you deliver to your customers?
- What are each of the customer’s problems you’re solving?
- What is the customer’s core need that you’re addressing?
- How are you exemplary at delivering your value? What do you do to keep or surpass their expectations?
- What products and services do you create for your customers?
Note that all of these keep the customer as the central focus.
A lot of times, when companies scale up from a startup stage, cracks emerge and the two areas disconnect. When two arms begin working separately, numerous under-the-surface challenges emerge.
It’s the work of leaders to continue testing the value proposition and its relevance in a fast changing world economy. This is done most effectively when lines of communication are open between:
- Sales: the frontline and therefore the first and closest to receive feedback from customers — which must be communicated to the marketing team for direct input on their needs.
- Marketing: Communicates the company’s value proposition. Their effectiveness is measured by the number of leads they generate for sales to happen — now or in the future.
- Product development: Every great company builds products to transform their customer by directly addressing their needs. This cannot be adequately done without the role of the first two teams.
Sitting at the end of this is the Finance function. Costs have to be measured, and value delivered must surpass this (startups on the ‘scale-up at all costs’ trajectory will disagree).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. This feedback loop is designed to simply support and evolve innovation. Building truly transformational products comes from a vision that takes this information into account, while showing the market what is possible. A great example is the fashion industry. Customers look upon their favorite brands to inspire their choices, rather than the other way around. Another example is Apple. Nobody knew they wanted an iPod until Apple showed them one.
To lead innovation in the 21st century, one must understand each of these dynamic areas in their business while having the vision and adaptability to consistently deliver. It takes the opposite of specialization to achieve this. The ability to make non-obvious connections across departments, industries and disciplines is the hallmark of a creative visionary. Our devices today would not be the same if Steve Jobs did not connect a line between design and technology.
Markets are ready for goods and services beyond the uniformity and commoditization of the industrial revolution. This next phase will be led by creatives. The lynchpins of industry will take lessons of this previous industrial age and upgrade the status quo. The time for multi-disciplinarians is here and now.