September 18, 2022

30,000 Feet

Have you ever sat in seat 17F on a United flight into Chicago?

You look outside and you see thunderheads. Big storms. You are flying the Friendly Skies, the sun is out, and your six ounce diet soft drink rests comfortably on your tray. At 30,000 feet, things look a certain way.

Directly below you, however, the thunderstorm has just moved through. Flash flooding is happening. A tornado ripped through a residential community. At 0 feet, it is a very different story.

If you want to meet somebody who does not understand business, sit down with a Strategist for a half-hour. We've all been there. The Strategist sits comfortably, and asks a lot of "what if" questions, with thumb and index finger on chin.

I met one of these people at a conference in the "before days". His business was in free-fall, and had been for several years. He reached out every few months with a strategic question.

  • "I want to hear your opinion. If Amazon Web Services can fund their e-commerce losses, do you think Amazon can obtain 50% or greater e-commerce market share, and if they do achieve 50% or greater e-commerce market share, what does that mean for small and medium businesses?"

This Strategist was the Chief Marketing Officer. It was his job to fix his business, not opine on Amazon Web Services. And yet, he emailed me these questions on a periodic basis, and when I elected to answer his questions he came back at me with ... wait for it ... more questions!
  • "But we need to take a 30,000 foot view here, don't you think? If Amazon Web Services ends up being 80% of Amazon's annual profit, then they can fund e-commerce with another business unit, further lowering prices and subsequently driving all of us out of business. That's the view we need to be taking here, don't you think?"

There it is.

The Strategist is looking for somebody to blame when he cannot come up with the 39,443 new customers he needs for his brand to meet sales goals for the year. It's not my fault, it's AWS that is killing my business.

Eventually this CMO lost his job because his business floundered. He understood how AWS might impact an ecosystem, but he didn't understand business. All he had to do was spend time finding an additional 8,000 new/reactivated customers. That's it. Just find a tactic that opened the door to just 8,000 new/reactivated customers, and he and his business would still be here.

The 30,000 foot view, the "Above The Clouds" view of business, it's dangerous. It's fine if you understand how business works and have a tactical approach to delivering sales/profit for your business. It's not fine if that is where you spend all of your time.

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