August 08, 2017

Finding Cheese At The End Of The Maze

Sometimes I keep thinking I talk about the same topic over and over and over and don't get anywhere. Here's an example ... I wrote this about comp segment analytics ... in 2008 (click here). And yet, the very method that I use to illuminate nearly every problem I run across ... a method at least 20 years old ... that method is used by how many of you? Show of hands?!

But there's a reason that we have to say the same thing over and over and over again.

It's because people (people like you and I) have a hard time working together and agreeing upon things.

Allow me to provide an example.

I wanted to get rid of discounts/promotions at Eddie Bauer. We A/B tested discounts/promos for 6 months, and learned that customers spent $0.00 more over time when offered discounts/promotions. Pull 20% of gross margin dollars out of the equation, and you had a formula for disaster if discounts/promotions continued to be pursued.

I was a Director at the time (late 1998).

I had to convince my boss (DVP Marketing) that this was a good idea. That was easy - my boss was as kind and logical and rational a person as you'd ever find.

Next, I had to convince his boss (SVP Marketing) that this was a good idea. I met with him "before work" once a week, because he was busy during the work day. I shared test results with him. He didn't agree with the test results ... and he was a "data-driven" employee before being "data-driven" was deemed the way to go.

I could have quit there. I didn't quit there. I went to his boss (EVP of Global Brand Direction), who liked the idea of removing discounts/promotions because it was "good for the brand".

With his approval, I went back to my staff and told them to remove discounts/promotions.

An individual who reported to me didn't like my decision, so this individual went to the SVP of Marketing and told the SVP what I was doing. Then the individual (a data-driven Manager) waltzed into my office and said "We're not doing what you told me to do, because I went to the SVP and he said he told you not to execute your strategy." It's always nice to have your staff work against you ... that's probably what the SVP thought of me, too.

So my staff won't do what I want them to do, and the DVP will allow it and the SVP will not allow it and the EVP will allow it. What next?

I presented my findings to our Executive Team, unannounced (I'll bet the SVP liked that).

Guess what?

Our CEO didn't like my idea. 

Here's the scoreboard, for those of you keeping score at home.
  • My Staff = No.
  • Kevin = Yes.
  • DVP Marketing = Yes.
  • SVP Marketing = No.
  • EVP Global Brand Direction = Yes.
  • CEO = No.
What did I do?

I instructed my team to remove discounts/promotions to all customers who have purchased in the past "x" months ... I went halfway. I pleased everybody.

My data-driven Manager was again frustrated - he went to the SVP and complained again. This time the SVP backed me, because I didn't pull discounts/promotions from everybody. And that was all it took ... the Manager had to implement my tactic, and did implement the tactic.

A year later, we had the most profitable year in the history of the online/catalog division, a history spanning more than fifty years.

Nobody complained when we had the most profitable year in the history of the online/catalog division.

Why share this example?

Well, if you are a data-driven employee and you have great ideas and your Executive Team won't listen to you, you have options. You can fight the good fight, finding Executives who do agree with you and working hard with those individuals to evangelize your idea. You can find a way to get past "no". You can take a risk ... you can implement a tactic that your CEO specifically told you to not implement ... sure, you might lose your job, but you also might make your company a ton of profit.

This brings me back to the opening paragraph.

I've been telling many of you the same thing over and over and over again for a DECADE and you still don't implement what I'm sharing with you. I could quit. Or I could keep fighting, over and over and over again for a DECADE to teach you ideas that have been proven to work.

So how about you? Do you keep fighting for the ideas you believe in? Or do you blame the dumb Executive for not adhering to your data-driven strategy?

Please, keep fighting!