Taking on Challenges

5710792192_34d9afdedeImage by Frank et Son

When it comes to seeking clients, I try to find challenging projects and start-ups. Building a brand from the bottom-up and executing marketing turnarounds are some of the best ways to build a reputation as a marketer.

Seeking opportunities with “good” companies — while always nice for your client list and resume — don’t necessarily distinguish you. It’s always easier to guide a boat on course than one in turbulent waters.

Still those good company experiences have value for practitioners. What you get from good companies is a sense of functional system and process, which of course can be replicated elsewhere.

However, it’s when you take a no-name brand or one that’s struggling and successfully market them that you really cut your teeth. You succeed in the hardest of situations, and other potential clients take note. Of course, turnarounds are hard because you’re often the harbinger of change.

The art of a turnaround can be seen as embracing changing circumstances. A recent NY Times article on Catholic church reform discussed two common approaches to change, the Donatist or a circle the wagons approach vs. the embrace the change method of St. Augustine.

Almost every organization in crisis meets the change with infighting and a consolidation towards core values. Donatists reign.

Successful turnarounds involve the opposite approach, usually embracing antagonizing movements and moving towards common goals.

Whether integrating within an enterprise or appeasing external (and sometimes angry) stakeholders for the common good, the Augustinian approach is the more challenging one. It’s scary for entrenched power brokers. It often shakes up common views of business, at least within the enterprise. The Donatists throw up road blocks wherever possible, creating political quagmires.

Turnarounds are not easy.

No only do they require embracing change, but they also demand a laser focused strategy that creates early wins. While a strategist has her/his eye on long-term objectives, quick successes build trust and stifle criticism.

These two overriding principles: Embrace dangerous change and do so with quick successes are the two critical components of a turn-around, in my opinion. There are many other aspects, most of which deal with day-to-day management and tactics. But understanding these two approaches creates the necessary strategic precursors to righting a ship.

What do you think about taking on big challenges?