Four Lessons I Learned Adapting To The New Marketplace
By Nina Vaca
Growing a company from mid-market to enterprise level requires the CEO to make almost super-human commitments: time and financial resources, attentive team cultivation, and continuous improvement and reinvention to create value.
The results can be rewarding with substantial growth over time. Yet a company’s growth trajectory is rarely without its growing pains. Calculated risk-taking is part of the CEO’s job description. Forging into new territory inevitably leads to new discoveries – and valuable lessons.
Despite insightful and strategic planning, even the best CEO can be blind-sided – whether it is from a solvable flaw in new product or an economic downdraft that upends the business model. The test of a CEO’s salt is how grounded they are in the core capabilities and character necessary to carry the company through. Does the leader have the meticulous oversight needed to identify the product bug and the swift action to eliminate it? Or, more importantly, the innovative fortitude to adapt the company to the needs of a new marketplace?
These key lessons can help a CEO propel a business forward while weathering the inevitable difficulties that accompany change.
Look to the Future Through The Lens of the Client’s Needs
The foundation of sustainable growth is a company’s ability to adapt its offerings to the needs of the clients, especially in times of dramatic change. Here are three examples of change and strategies to manage it:
Seismic change. In the wake of 9/11, corporations were rocked with uncertainty, pulling back on spending and investments while trying desperately to find “the new normal.” This provided the intrepid company with the opportunity to listen, adjust its offerings to get the client priorities accomplished, and together map out a plan for the future. In the workforce solutions space, this meant staffing short-term projects while long-term programs were put on hold. When business bounced back, those client relationships formed in crisis became unbreakable.
Industry shifts. In the fast-changing marketplace, disruptors are always stepping in to cut off their competition’s access to the client. This requires the opportunistic CEO to think like the disruptor and seize that space.
In the staffing industry, the rise of Managed Services Providers (MSPs) enabled corporations to fully outsource their contingent staffing function . Instead of losing that direct client relationship to the MSP, the smart staffing companies became MSPs themselves and streamlined the hiring process for their clients.
Meta trends. Sometimes businesses are forced to diversify to meet new client demands driven by shifts in technology or globalization. The pragmatic CEO must consider strategic investments or partnerships to achieve the capacity and scale required. This may mean the acquisition of another company or an alliance to provide greater depth and breadth in service. Acquiring products like Vendor Management Software (VMS) can help clients manage their spend over multiple countries and across currencies.
Sustain the Company Values In a Dynamic Market
It’s crucial for the CEO to keep hold of the company’s core competencies as it expands into new opportunities. The leadership team and every employee must know and exemplify its values and distinctive offerings – such as impeccable service or product excellence — and deliver them consistently through every line of business.
This creates brand integrity. And in times of change when the company is exposed to new competitors or the stresses of a steep learning curve, it is the CEO’s armor.
Establish Principals of Doing Business and Stick to Them
Similarly, the CEO’s business code of ethics creates the company’s inner compass to guide it through market downturns or client challenges. As long as the leader follows what they know to be true, stands by their word, and delivers on their promises, their business will prevail. Clients will trust them and relationships will deepen.
This also applies to respecting employees. Shifting business and economic trends can impact the workforce. Companies that survived the Great Recession likely had to make tough choices and cut-backs.
The CEO must stand by the people who perform and be honest with people who have to leave. The HR staff should stay in touch with the departed employees through network communications, keep a line open for the future, and count on them to speak well of the company in the marketplace.
Create a Culture that Treasures Its People
Human capital experts know that people are a company’s most important asset and this is reinforced through its culture. For example, a performance-based company can cultivate entrepreneurial drive resulting in employees going the extra mile on projects and earning client loyalty.
Management can encourage this by incenting senior executives and high-potential associates to build expertise and become thought leaders in their fields. These can range from the technologies the clients require, to the HR and management skills needed to attract talent in a hotly competitive marketplace.
Behind a sustainable growth story is a backbone of resilience. Purposeful leadership, client orientation and unwavering ethics – that’s the lifeblood of today’s very human CEO.
Nina Vaca is Chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Pinnacle Group, a workforce staffing company enabling corporations to cultivate, procure, deliver and process human capital. Founded 19-years ago, Pinnacle has developed five lines of business and reached $650 million in revenues, and is targeted to reach $1 billion in the next year. Pinnacle is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise