Beware The Big-Company Manager

You’re a growing small-to-mid sized business. You need to upgrade your management team. So you take the plunge and bring in a seasoned manager from a respected large company. Smart move, right?

Could be a big mistake. Here’s why:

1) Ivory Tower Management

Often, execs from big companies don’t do. They have teams of people who do. They direct. You can’t afford the luxury of a high-priced person who doesn’t do. When interviewing candidates from large companies be sure to ask what they personally accomplished and how, not just what their departments accomplished.

2) No Urgency

Bureaucracy seeps into the marrow of large companies. People come to expect that change is slow and painful. That attitude can kill a smaller company. Ask big-company candidates about their experience in overcoming the obstacles that slow change.

3) Runaway Resources

Larger companies have more resources, whether it’s people, materials, equipment or money. More than one small-to-mid sized company has suffered because their former-big-company manager pushed for infrastructure that simply wasn’t supportable in the smaller company. Make sure to identify what resources your big-company candidates required to achieve results.

Yes, a growing business needs to grow its management capabilities. But don’t be easily impressed with big-company experience. For a small-to-mid sized company, how things get done is often as important as what.

Your thoughts?


Complacency Kills

I find it amazing how many businesses use their past successes as justification to not change. As if past success reliably predicts future success.  As if competitive landscapes are static. As if the economic environment is stable.

Everyone repeat after me: “What made us successful in the past could kill us in the future.” Complacency kills. There is no guarantee of success, no entitlement. How many examples do we need? Aloha Airlines. Bombay Company. Borders. Crabtree & Evelyn. Mervyns. Nortel. Ritz Cameras. Sharper Image. Ultimate Electronics. Wachovia. And that’s just the past few years.

(See: for a historical listing.)

Organizations that continually thrive maintain a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. A healthy paranoia about their prospects. They ask, “what if”, trying to anticipate the worst. They question their assumptions about themselves, their customers and their competitors.

Sure, it’s great to recognize and celebrate your successes. Just don’t stay too late at the party.

Your thoughts?


Competitive Intel

It doesn’t matter how good your products and services are.

It doesn’t matter how good your customers think your products and services are.

What ultimately matters is how good your customers think your products and services are versus how good they think your competitors’ products and services are. It’s all about competition.

Yet I find that many mid-sized companies know next to nothing about their competitors. How can you continually compete and win if you don’t know who you’re competing with, their relative advantages and disadvantages, and how those are perceived in the marketplace?

You can’t.

Solution: Competitive intelligence. Identify, investigate and track your competitors. Do the searches. Ask your vendors. Ask your customers, former customers, and future customers. Ask your sales reps. Ask your employees who have come from the competition. Keep a database and assign responsibilities for updating and monitoring it. And, as an executive team, insist on a summarized review each quarter. 

You might have a customer who is reasonably happy with your products and services today …  and who might fire you tomorrow. Compete.

Your thoughts?



Stop Strategic Planning

Stop strategic planning.  Strategic planning is an event and events don’t produce results. Processes do.  Think of strategy as a process to be managed – a Strategic Management Process.

A robust Strategic Management Process should be linked to your organization’s fiscal year and cycle through four phases:

  1. Assessment – determining the forces and trends impacting your organization and what is driving you to change
  2. Positioning – establishing a clear and concise identity and ambition
  3. Planning – outlining how success will be achieved
  4. Implementation – instituting the mechanisms to build commitment, align the organization and manage execution

When strategic planning ends, people go back to work and the plan collects dust. With Strategic Management there is no end.  Strategic execution is emphasized just as much as day-to-day operational execution.

Put an end to the strategic planning charade.  If you’re serious about establishing and sustaining the right focus, then commit to an annual process of strategy development and execution. Commit to Strategic Management.

Your thoughts?


Ruthless Consistency: A Philosophy for Winning

Inconsistency kills.  When you as a leader act inconsistently you kill your credibility. You demotivate your people. And you undermine your ability to win.

What does inconsistency look like?  When you say one thing but do another. When your work environment sets up your people to fail.  When you put the wrong people in the wrong positions.  When your strategy is out of touch with market realities.  Every example of organizational failure I have come across is a result of inconsistency.

What’s the solution?  Ruthless Consistency.  If you are truly committed to winning – however you define it – then that commitment must be consistently reflected in what you say and what you do.  In what you don’t say and don’t do. The decisions you make, the actions you take.  All the time.  Every time.  Ruthless Consistency.

It means developing and sustaining the right focus for your organization.  It means getting the right people in the right positions.  And it means creating the right environment so your people can and will do what it takes to win.

Do you have the right commitment to make this happen?


A Blogger's Manifesto

Hi, I’m Michael Canic. Welcome to the first posting of my blog: Ruthless Consistency.

So why another blog?  How will this blog add value and stand out in the hyper-expanding blogosphere?  Here’s how:

No Floundering
Too many blogs lack focus. They touch on everything.  I pledge to only post content that helps you, the organizational leader, develop and execute strategy.
No Fluff
Too many blogs are fluffy. Posting the trivial for the sake of posting. I pledge to only post content that is compelling and actionable.
No Filler
Too many blog postings ramble on and on and … chronƒ±c bloggerea. I pledge to only post content that is concise and information-rich.

My intent is to provoke thinking, feeling and, most importantly, action. Through concepts, models and processes that apply the principles of Ruthless Consistency.

No floundering, no fluff, no filler. Just focused content that is compelling and concise, and that helps you win.

This is my manifesto.