#558 Create Common Goals

When I was Vice President of Creative Services at Conseco, we were always out of literature for key products. In the insurance business literature is all you have to sell, so these outages would cripple our sales team. Our out of stock list was routinely close to 300 different items and climbing. While we had numerous meetings on the subject nothing ever changed.

So I stopped talking about procedures and policy and asked a simple question "If our goal was a back order level of 100 what would we do?"

Defining a specific target, instead of vague "get better" gave a focus to our discussions. Every day we knew exactly how far we were from our target.

As an added incentive, I offered to take the print team to any restaurant in town if we reduced our back orders to 100  by September. 1. The date gave us the sense of urgency we needed to keep this in the forefront of our discussions.

We kicked off every production meeting with a brief conversation about the back-order list and the ideas started flowing.  We instituted a "red flag" for any project associated with back order items. Every team, editors, designers, writers and account executives agreed if a red tag landed on their desk it was their first priority.

Slowly the numbers started to improve;  We posted the daily results on the way so we could see our progress in real time. On September 1, we went to lunch at Cafe Nora.


There are several important lessons for small business owners in this story:

  1. Define your goals, with a specific time line
  2. If you are serious create and follow an action plan
  3. Track your progress
  4. Involve others, do not assume you can do it on your own.  We would never have succeeded with out the support of the printer, inventory team, and other managers.
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