Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Opportunity trumps cost cutting

Folks, the word is in from some strategic leaders...Opportunity trumps cost cutting for companies that will succeed in this economic environment. Now this is not a new concept but you wouldn't know it if you only listen to the TV news, cable or network. Yes, it's tough out there and most companies don't have money to throw away, but, and it's a very big but...

Why am I saying this? Because in the last couple of weeks I've chaired two very different panels of people who are strategic leaders who all say the winning strategy is looking for the opportunities -- the top line, revenue generation through innovation and grabbing the vast opportunities that are out there, is where the winners are. You cannot cut your way to profitability or success.

Two weeks ago I chaired a panel of five of the executives I interviewed for my newly published book. (Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers.) They included Greg Swienton, CEO, Ryder System, Ben Baldanza, CEO, Spirit Airlines, George Hanbury, COO/EVP, Nova Southeastern University, John Stunson, City Manager, Oakland Park, Florida, and Evan Rees, former banking executive and fundraiser for the Boy Scouts and homeless. Today I chaired a panel of technology executives speaking at an international conference on software quality. They were Jason Kalich, General Manager, Relationship Experience Division, Microsoft, Mike Zanillo, CIO, WMS (gaming entertainment industry,) and Phil Beckman, VP of Research and Development/Products, SpringCM, (on-demand content management solutions.)

These executives from diverse industries, geographical regions, backgrounds, and areas of expertise ALL said the same thing. It's about opportunity. Do you hear that? Opportunity.

A few blog entries ago I reminded people about the Chinese ideogram for the word "Crisis" that contains the symbols for "Danger" AND "Opportunity." These folks all echoed the same understanding of the universe. We must acknowledge the danger and then focus our energies on the Opportunity. The framers of the U.S. Constitution and the entire revolutionary generation that we acknowledge as the founders of the U.S. understood this. They knew their lives were at stake -- the danger was physically hanging on the gallows or the nearest tree. Like the panelist they were not unrealistic in their assessment of the danger. But unlike the talking (empty?) heads on TV, they did not allow that to constrain their thinking and creativity. These leaders, ancient and modern, focused on opportunity, on finding new areas for success, of capturing the future and not miring themselves in the present or the past.

Think times are tough? It's a matter of perspective. Think again, it's the time of opportunity. Read my earlier blog on the manufacturer who captured the lawn flamingo market...or look at the origins of Microsoft or other great companies that took carpe deim literally -- seize the day!

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