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Essential lessons for marketers in 2012

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If we've learned anything in business and life it's that change is constant. Just when we get comfortable, things change. And change is uncomfortable; it even makes people afraid. The most dangerous move in business is the failure to make a move at all. The history of business is filled with companies that are no more because their leaders refused to enact change when the writing was on the wall: Fear. Apathy. Lack of personal responsibility. These simple human flaws can turn a good company into a dead company. As we step into a new year and prepare to drive change and grow our businesses, here are a few essential core concepts to keep top-of-mind:
  • Principles mean something only when they are inconvenient. Prepare to live your brand promise in bad times and good.
  • In my first book, “The Mirror Test,” I talked about avoiding quick-fix “solutions.” Much harder to challenge are the accepted ways of doing things in a company. Harder still is standing firm in your challenge when you feel uncomfortable, hate the way something is being done or know that you shouldn't be doing that thing at all. It's easiest just to ignore these feelings and not act. Standing by your principles in these situations—when it is the risky and unpopular thing to do—is the test of a change agent's mettle.
  • Change the mood, change the culture; then, move on to people and processes. Remember: You can't be cool and look like Elmer Fudd.
  • What can you do to perfect the mood of your company? A bad mood can ruin a company faster than bad business. When you change the mood, you change the attitude and take the right steps toward changing the culture. Whether it is a big purple chair or something else, mood makes your place and your people feel that the business' best days are ahead of it.
  • Make your business look and feel alive.
  • Work across the seams of the company. Stick your nose into everything. Be a cheerleader and a white buffalo. Cause tension at every turn. The gauntlet of change is cruel, and change agents are exposed to all its dastardly personnel. Since this is the case, leaders need to be seam operators—they operate across the seams of the company. I tell my team all the time, “I don't want to know or hear about how sausage is made unless someone died. I get it; it's sausage. Tell me what I need to know to get things moving.” Find out what is breaking down within the seams of your company. Change agents identify problems and then find ways to fix them or bring in people who can. Jeffrey Hayzlett is a bestselling author whose latest book, “Running the Gauntlet,” was published this month by McGraw-Hill Cos. He is the former CMO of Eastman Kodak Co. and can be reached at Jeffreyh@hayzlett.com.
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