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Context, Collaboration & Confidence

“How to have your cake and eat it too” has been a goal of mine for a while. While it may not be fully possible there is a way to come closer by expanding the context of our thinking. There are three areas of knowledge: what we know, what we know we don’t know and what we don’t know that we don’t know. It’s the last piece that is most intriguing and can block our path to greater achievement and growth.

While cost control is always a management objective, sustainable growth derives from continued and additional profitable sales. There are still some fundamentals that apply. Charlie Munger, partner of Warren Buffet and VP of Berkshire Hathaway, noted in a speech to a graduation class that “You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end.” Isn’t this philosophy just a slight twist on the Golden Rule? Or as Dr. Tony Alessandro refined the concept to be the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would like to be done unto.” Tony has termed his sales strategy ‘non-manipulative selling.” This strategy recognizes that greater success comes from delivering goods or services based on the needs and timing of the buyer and not the goals of the seller.

This approach may take more time and require understanding and patience but in the long run your business will be built with happier clients. For example if you call on someone and they are content with their current supplier you can respect that and ask if you can follow up at a future time. No pressure or manipulation. Yes, if you are a persuasive sales person you can probably manipulate the buyer into a yes decision. But remember that adage that “a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.” Tricky sales techniques don’t support the integrity basis required for long term profitable relationships.
So if your strategic plan has allowed accessibility to desirable products or services you may offer to the market place then what is holding back your growth? Are there problems or issues that need to be overcome in order to progress? Have you been unsuccessful in identifying and addressing those impediments to growth? Now could be a great time to check the context of our thinking and be open to discover solutions or possibilities of that which we don’t know and wasn’t near our radar screen. Here’s a context example. If you have only two colors on your palette, blue and yellow you only have three options- blue, yellow and green as I discovered in second grade by coloring over the blue sky with my yellow crayon which only gave me a green sun. But if you expand your palette and your context to include all the colors of the rainbow spectrum, you now have the ability to produce any color or combination thereof.

Context is one of the three C’s you will need to get closer to all the cake you may want. The next C is Collaboration. While during WWII, this was a negative word, but since we have learned that the effective and efficient management of the supply chain will only benefit with collaboration among the component phases. Sales activity focuses our attention on the needs of the buyer. But with better understanding and collaboration with our suppliers or vendors, we can be in a better position to service those sales needs. If you can buy something right, selling is not a problem. At Greco Apparel we recently had a major issue with each of two fabric suppliers and the quality of the piece goods. We were within our right to reject the material but this would not have enabled us to complete our purchase orders. And today, as you are probably aware, there are fewer vendors worldwide and even fewer who maintain any inventory to support immediate purchase. The answer for us was to expand our context in understanding the nature of the problem created by our vendors and try to reach a workable solution. Fortunately both of our suppliers in this situation are quality businesses and shared our motivation to support our mutual long term growth. We learned more about the technical issues and were able to work with our clients to develop alternatives and still achieve our delivery schedules.

The third C is Confidence. We had to have faith that a workable quality solution existed, albeit outside the context of our current knowledge that would allow us to accomplish our goals although we didn’t know what the solution would be. We maintained our integrity by not permitting the crucial nature of the demand and the risk of losing business influence the acceptability of sub-standard quality. While this stance for integrity was the appropriate choice, we had to have confidence that a solution was available. If a solution did not present, we were back to the drawing boards to plan another quality solution which would maintain the trust of our clients. In the long run not much is more important.

When the pressure is great and the darkness of potential failure may be upon us, remember the words of Winston Churchill who spoke them to the 1941 graduating class at Harrow. “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never-in nothing great or small, large or petty never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…we find ourselves in a position where I can say that we can be sure that we only have to persevere to conquer.” Perseverance is the enemy of failure. Utilize the tools of context expansion, collaboration and confidence to ensure your success.

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