Wishing is not strategy
By Bill Wade
Wade & Partners
‘‘Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”
— Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again
Everyone wants to know what is happening during this strange first quarter (a blessed condition for consultants), but a realistic response is approaching impossible. As we face our first revision to the 2013 plan, don’t look here for “can’t miss” answers.
However, I am certain about five things that have no chance of working:
• Emotional reforecasting! Allowing technicians to participate in training programs throughout the year keeps your workforce up to date on technology and allows your employees the opportunity to grow and mature in their positions. Wishing isn’t planning, and painful third-quarter retreats from unrealistic early calls upset everything from suppliers’ schedules to customer availability.
• Tough budget revisions that squeeze others more than they do you. Where is the sustainable trust and chemistry we just promised to build?
• Promotions on the same product commodities that your competitors picked. These will never highlight any unique customer-value or cost-effective advantages — but might cover up for a quarterly miss.
• Targeting account programs with the same reps and same approach. Where is your breakthrough, win-win, value proposition for each individual customer, and what insight are you gaining from that dead horse, anyway?
• Tweaking incentive plans to change results mid-stream. Most of your people know what the right, smarter thing to do is — they just can’t do it.
It really bothers me to hear players in the heavy-duty parts and service business are again attempting expensive, “evolutionary” refinements that would only work in our old industry groupthink, and will not improve tomorrow’s results (shedding light where there was no darkness).
Here are a couple of things that really should concern independents over the near term:
• Don’t think that the traditional discounts, rebates, territory structures and “value-added” levels for this channel are preordained to last forever. These practices mask cross-subsidies and support unnecessary services that our best customers have been paying for and are beginning to reject. (On the other hand, small, abusive, parasitic customers like the subsidies and will squeal the loudest about any change).
• In a totally informed and hyper-competitive world, every customer will have to be both profitable for us and happy with the service package they co-created. It is folly to think that, as traditional channel practices come under stress, we can patch them up simply through discussions with suppliers or groups. We can wait for the roof to cave in on the old way, or we can proactively start designing the future solution with the end-user’s help.
Suppliers will not be able to come up with all new, monolithic channel policies that can be applied to all national markets, all intermediaries, the Internet and all end-user customers. As traditional, manufacturer controlled channels morph; each of the channel players can be part of the new solution, or be part of the problem.
Let’s focus on forward-looking, end-user driven solutions rather than simply trying to protect traditional channel practices. Because the Internet will continue to deliver information, options and buying power to end-users at an exponentially accelerating rate, we will have even less time to re-intermediate ourselves into bold channel solutions.
Wolfe said it best: “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
Bill Wade, partner in Wade & Partners, is author of Aftermarket Innovations. The views expressed in the Guest Editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Truck Parts & Service magazine.