Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Three CEO Tools for Running your Startup or Mid-Tier Business

In part II of my interview with Just Run It author and turnaround CEO Dick Cross, we take a look at 3 crucial tools he uses to help companies develop strategies that start with an analysis of customer needs. Dick believes that one way to improve the US economy is to reduce the number of failed companies. It doesn't matter if they are a mobile startup or a vacuum cleaner repair shop -- small companies need help running their business and Just Run It is full of insightful ways for a CEO to better understand the needs of customer s and make sure those needs are being met.

The Back of the Envelope – using the four triangles on the back of an envelope, Dick focuses on three key questions –
  • Who are my Customers?
  • What do my Customers want?
  • What positioning do I need to sell what they need?
  • What are the competencies we need to achieve success?
When Dick was the CEO of CarStar, a US and Canada-based collision repair chain, research showed that customers were very concerned with the disruption the car repair process would cause to their everyday lives. When the company promoted the idea that CarStar would help with non-repair needs like "how do I get to work?" and "how do I get my kids to their activities?" -- temporary transportation -- business went up. So in this case, focus on positioning that was largely unrelated to the core service allowed CarStar to grow.

The Renewal Curve – The renewal curve is important for companies who determine they need to make a significant change in their business. The CEO must plan for change and expect that revenues will be lower in the period directly following a change in direction. Having the guts to stick with a necessary change is a critical skill for a CEO. In Startup world we often talk about the pivot. The Renewal Curve is what happens to a startup after the pivot. If you are prepared for a short or medium length downturn, your startup or mid-tier business can get over your pivot and back into growth.

Tri-Focal Lenses – The Tri-Focal lens depicts three lenses that a CEO must always be looking through while running the business. The first lens is Vision – where do we want the company to be? The second lens is Strategy – what do we need to do to achieve the vision? And the third lens is Execution – are we executing the strategy with a focus on quality and consistency? If the CEO can look through all three lenses at the same time, they can build and grow a successful business, full of happy customers.

So, CEO – Put on your Tri-Focal Lenses, turn over an envelope and try to figure out how you can help your customers understand how your product will meet their needs. And don’t forget that when you implement your new strategy, success is only likely to come after a downturn called the Renewal Curve. And before you do any of these things, go get a copy of  Just Run It at a bookstore near you.

Here's a link to Part I of my interview with Dick Cross.


Peter Propp is a strategy and marketing consultant based in Westport, CT.   He helps a wide variety of startups and established companies address growth opportunities with marketing and business development approaches.  He has interviewed dozens of business leaders on his video blog, 10MinuteStrategy, and is the co-founder of the FairCo TEEM Meetup Group, which is focused on providing a platform for shared learning by and for the many business leaders who reside in the greater New York region.  Peter can be reached at ppropp <at>

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