Creating your 2012 business plan
Written by George F. Brown
As the last quarter of 2011 dawns, your 2012 business plan should involve initiatives that address three important themes. While these themes are familiar to many and do regularly find their way into annual plans, our team at Blue Canyon Partners believe that next year in particular it will be crucial to address their finer points.
1. Address the Emerging Middle Market. While participation in emerging markets has probably been a part of your firm’s strategy in the past, next year it will be necessary to intensify your attention on these markets. Marketplace transition will continue throughout 2012 as the middle markets in these economies grow. Success in 2012 will require you to determine how to shift from exclusively serving western companies and elite customers towards building a presence with customers who are part of the much larger and more challenging emerging country middle markets.
2. Become a Solutions Provider. Next year, plans should be in place to help your company evolve from “selling a product” to become a “solutions provider.” Competition from low-cost countries like China will challenge product-centric businesses by offering very attractively priced almost-as-good products. In order to respond to this challenge, stop commoditization, and prevent its adverse implications on prices and margins, your 2012 plan must include how to move towards offering an integrated package of products and services that addresses the key challenges faced by your customers.
3. Create Headroom for Growth. Responding to the strong balance sheet that your firm has developed since the 2008-09 recession, you will hear about interesting opportunities for acquisitions and investments. Consider investments that will create headroom for growth and that can be justified by both top- and bottom-line arguments. Technologies like cloud computing and social networking can open up new avenues and sources for revenue. In addition to looking for growth through acquisition, consider expansion into adjacent product and market spaces.
All these initiatives reflect the opportunities available in today’s business environment, those which contribute to future growth and sustained margins. Successfully planning and executing these strategies will reward your audience’s firm with growth—but the challenge lies in making requisite changes to your business model in order to carry out these strategies. To ensure that the good ideas underlying your 2012 plans don’t fail because of implementation issues and resistance to change, it will be important to include the appropriate funding for the implementation team in these 2012 plans.
George F. Brown, Jr. is one of the founders and CEO of Blue Canyon Partners, Inc. He brings to his clients extensive experience and unique perspectives about growth strategy in business and government markets. In recent years, he has helped clients develop and implement strategies to achieve global market presence and reach decisions relating to segmentation strategies, pricing, channel management, and major customer relationship management. He is the coauthor of CoDestiny: Overcome Your Growth Challenges by Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs, published by Greenleaf Book Group Press of Austin, TX in 2010.
In addition, his work on business-to-business strategy has resulted in over one hundred other publications in various professional journals over the past decade. George earned a B.S. in Administration and Management Science, an M.S. in Industrial Administration, and a Ph.D. in Economics, all from Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, where he was awarded the Alexander Henderson Award in Economic Theory.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.