Eating better, exercising more, quitting cigars (ouch) – are all examples of changes in 2018 addressing my continuous list of not great habits that needed attention. The list seems to be endless – and sometimes repetitive (my success rate isn’t exactly 100%). So with all of my bad habits that need correction – why would I focus any energy on changing good habits?
While it’s always smart to eliminate things that are bad for you (as Will Rogers said: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging). I think we also need to apply equal energy to those things we can improve. How many times have we heard the old saying, “when you stop growing you start dying.”
Throughout my career in automation, the focus has been to bring the latest tools to the assistance of customers. This includes assisting in the elimination of bad processes (habits) and replacing them with a strategy that supports growth and improvement. Efforts like these are easy to measure and sustain. The challenge comes when things aren’t broken, but could be improved.
Over the past few years, I have had to re-examine a number of the business practices within HL Group. I looked at what we were doing, the practices of other companies, common industry practices to see how these lined up with our goals.
The temptation is to gloss over the seemingly good habits – the easier, known path that’s comfortable. It’s also easy to cave to the practices and habits that the bulk of your peers agree with – versus throwing them out for a new or fresh approach.
One of my favorite business books is Good to Great by Jim Collins. He points out that the enemy of Great is Good. He highlights studies where they identified and measured different companies and leaders that were satisfied being successful and comfortable versus others who weren’t – and instead focused on being their best.
At HL Group, I wanted to stay focused on providing automated solutions to organizations, but wanted to improve and upgrade our performance. That meant looking at what, on the outside, were some of our Good Habits. Three areas in particular received my attention:
- Solution Offerings
- Business Development
For most of our first twenty years in business, we had focused, leveraged and benefited from a close and personal relationship with a key solution provider as the center of our business plan. They were (and still are) industry leaders and a quality organization. So why change this teaming habit that has worked for 20 years?
While positive from a revenue and risk perspective, doing business this way limited our growth and decision making options. I wanted to expand our business. But in the past, anytime we would invest in an alternate business strategy as a 2nd market, the overall investment and revenue impact challenges were enough that we jumped back into the proven/safe business when things got tough.
The situation reminded me of something said at one of my past employers: “We’re strategic the first two months of a quarter, but tactical in the last month – because we’ve got to eat! We’ll just start over again next quarter.”
I didn’t want to stay in a restart cycle like with that employer. We needed to break our Good Habit of relying on our partner.
When we decided to build mobilePLUS as a premiere mobile asset/audit/survey solution, we needed to fund, focus and commit to its completion and create a high quality solution that we were proud to call our own. That required us to stay the course with constant, honest measurement of progress and continuous tweaking of our plan.
Our old habit was good, but this one – this focus on our own product – is better for us.
Our Business Development
A total commitment to the emerging mobilePLUS market encouraged us to re-examine how we were going to find potential prospects today – versus how we did it when we launched our company in 1998. It’s a different world out there. Trade shows, print ads, in-person sales calls and onsite delivery have been replaced with digital marketing, webinars and updated project delivery tools & processes.
This change in marketing, selling and delivering our solutions has challenged us to learn new skills in communicating (blog posts, SEO, downloads), web-based activities (presentations, demos, training) and implementation tools (installation scripts, documentation offerings, etc.). The biggest hurdle isn’t necessarily the learning curve and change, but actually the willingness to critique ourselves and improve. But that willingness is crucial to setting up new Good Habits.
With a new solution offering and updated business development model, one of the last practices we’ve modified is our partnering model. This is one of those where you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water – just update your existing approach.
“Partnering” is one of those overused terms in many industries. To me it represents something personal and not just a business relationship.
HL Group’s history has always been based around a unique market solution where we leverage relationships (market presence, contracts, etc.) for customer success. The selection and recruitment for those partnerships has been based on organizations that we feel would benefit from having us on the line card for their customers.
Now with mobilePLUS, we’re looking for strategic partnerships with teams that have a similar set of goals and a willingness to jointly develop and execute plans for a better combined result. It’s about a model that we think results in a stronger customer value – and improves the win ratio for both of us with less effort.
As a result, our partnering discussions are more about our joint business plans versus our products. It’s really an update on an old practice (a Good Habit) versus a new one. I’ve always believed that business is personal. This new approach still includes leveraging our existing relationships in the creation of these new partnerships.
2019 should be a very exciting and rewarding year for HL Group and I hope for your company or organization. I’m actually looking forward to the continued execution of the New Habits we’ve established – including the continuous examination of them and changes that it drives. I’m using that process as a motivator, and while tiring, it is working well for us.
Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management, RFID and supply chain solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.