Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

Navigating Breakthroughs

Navigating Breakthroughs 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

These days, it seems like we’re hearing about breakthrough after breakthrough. It’s easy to assume that these are spontaneous bursts of clarity from the most gifted people. Every so often, there’s an unexpected stroke of genius that leaves us with our mouths open. But usually, the real breakthroughs are years in the making, coming as the result of thorough analysis and collaboration. Of course, there will always be the “Why don’t we just…” moments, but the longest-lasting breakthroughs require teamwork and tenacity. Here’s our experience with many breakthroughs that happened in our business.

1. Other Practices in the Industry

We weren’t able to keep our signage on supermarket shelves. Our competition (and the cleaning people!) regularly removed them. Sometimes, we couldn’t even get our marketing materials up on the shelf. Our distributors tossed them in the dumpster. We had spread ourselves so thin that we couldn’t get our limited staff to all of our stores.

We noticed that one soup brand had a medal on each can to show the shoppers its value. Within two years, we worked out every mechanical issue to put our awards on each of our bottles, right on the bottling line. Finally, we had just one piece of marketing material that could not be removed from the shelves! The best way to get out of the box is to go straight up. It’s at that 10,000-foot level that you can see how other businesses tackled similar hurdles to yours!

2. Beginning at the End

Our success made us suffer. We were selling our products so quickly that we ran into a lot of out-of-stock and run-out situations. It was really hurting us. Our products weren’t being reordered quickly enough! And to make it more difficult, we had to go through middlemen to get to our retailers. The one thing we knew about these situations was to compare shipment reports or Depletion Reports. This was tedious and onerous work. By the time we figured out that a store didn’t order this month after ordering last month, we were taken out of that store for lack of sales. You can’t sell if you aren’t reordered, of course.

So we asked ourselves, “What do we really want here?” The answer wound up being, “Early Warning!” and “Specific Addresses.” We had our hearts set on that reorder, even if the distributor’s salesperson didn’t—before the store’s system recorded no sales for 30 days.

In order to do this, we needed to get into the software business and create an application that could use data to provide a list of stores that ordered last month but not this month. This early warning gave us more time to put these stores on the top of our priority list for reorders. It gave our sales reps a better sense of priority as well. But this breakthrough was 3 years in the making!

Because we started with an idea for the results we wanted, we worked backward to discover the breakthrough itself.

3. Know the Need

We encountered a problem—store managers and owners weren’t giving us enough time to present ourselves successfully. Our people ran into buyers who wanted everything concise and fast, yet compelling.

We asked our staff to better describe their frustrations to understand the problem at hand. We figured out that if buyers could simply wait until we assembled a display of our marketing materials and products, they would buy from us 75% of the time. So what could we do to reduce the presentation time?

One of our salespeople had the idea that we could copy the Mary Kay ladies and Fuller Brush man with their portable, briefcase-style displays. We then created what we referred to as a Sell Case. Our sales shot up by 50%. Our rep would just open the case and all the work was done—all the bottles were lined up, and all the marketing materials were all in one place. And just like that, instant presentation!

Instead of putting your people on a “need to know” basis, let them “know the need”. You’ll be much more likely to overcome your challenges!

4. Sleep on It

The brain works on our problems around the clock, even when we’re on vacation or sleeping. We sometimes have a take-charge approach, where we review the problem over and over again. This can actually prevent the issue from being solved.

During one of our big growth spurts, we faced a particularly difficult organizational issue. All businesses face these same problems when shifting gears between dependence upon those few big clients who keep the lights on, to building and expanding across the nation. We were losing many business opportunities because things were falling through the cracks.

Eventually, we said, “OK! I guess we need to take a break!” We went to Kauai on a hiking trip, away from people, business, and phone service. We felt a bit guilty, but we admit it was heavenly. On the way back, we completely reexamined our business and thought about putting our existing people in new roles. The opportunity to take our minds off the problem enabled the answer to present itself. This overhaul brought us to expansion, which led us to become a top national brand!

Your brain is tired. Let it work on the problem while you’re away or asleep. You’ll be shocked at the flashes of insight you may get in the shower the next morning!

5. Keep Going

Sometimes, a breakthrough is the result of years of persistence. You might need to wait until the timing is perfect. Even when you’re prepared with a breakthrough idea, people may not be ready to accept it. In these situations, determination always pays off.

We had an excellent salesman, Jack from Holland, who used to entertain us with his language, context, and accent. He would go see a major buyer every month, and each time he would return empty-handed. We would ask, “How did it go this month with the big buyer?” and he’d just shake his head and persist, “She’s not shopping!” Every single month, that was his answer—“She’s not shopping!”

Fast-forward a year later and Jack skips into our office with a purchase order for 2,000 cases from that same big buyer shouting, “She’s buy-ing!” His persistence led him to success because when the buyer was eventually ready, Jack was there! Through his failed efforts, he had developed a relationship with her over time, so he was at the top of her list when she was ready.

Breakthroughs are never a one-way street. You might have your breakthrough, but you need the market to be ready to acknowledge and accept it.

The Future

Today, crowdsourcing is a pretty incredible way to achieve breakthroughs and solve problems. You can now share your problems with the world to find the best ideas instead of just asking your own staff and associates. This international brainstorm alone can lead to limitless breakthroughs.

First seen as a source for funding, today’s crowdsourcing is a source for everything. But how can you use it for your business? Check out www.crowdsourceweek.com to learn more. This year, they’re focusing on breakthroughs! Who knows? Your next big breakthrough could come from Nepal, Norway, or even Nigeria! There’s only one way to find out.

For more, read on: http://c-suitenetworkadvisors.com/advisor/michael-houlihan-and-bonnie-harvey/