November 15, 2023

Making The Best of a Bad Situation

That was the theme of yesterday's post featuring "Helen". (P.S.: I had one unsub because of yesterday's post ... apparently a blind cow was the line in the sand for that individual!)

Back in the late 1990s, I worked at a challenged company called Eddie Bauer. The brand had smart employees working in a dumb culture. There was no way to explain to the employees that the culture was dumb. 

So you stop trying to fix the culture.

You fix what you own, what you control.

In 1999 a $15,000,000 online business grew to $65,000,000. We forecast this in 1998, so we planned 1999 with this knowledge. We cut expensive print activities, especially within our customer acquisition efforts (because so many of the new online buyers were actually new to the brand, and were honestly being acquired without marketing expenditure ... yeah, 1999 was a groovy ride). If I had a 176 page catalog, it became a 160 page catalog ... I didn't let our merchandising team add pages they couldn't generate profit off of. When we had a 160 page catalog and a 64 page "prospect" catalog, I made sure most of our customers got the 64 pager (whereas in the past most customers got the 160 page catalog).

These were decisions I had the accountability to make. Sure, folks disagreed. Loudly! Regardless, I controlled my area of influence, making as much profit as I could within my control.

It turned out to be a lot of profit, once 1999 played out. Record profit, in fact.

About a decade ago, I consulted with a company that had a lousy culture. Nobody would take accountability for anything. I mentioned to the Executive Team that they performed like a 4-12 NFL team. Well that got their attention! They set up a war room to address issues. A month later, they fired the Chief Marketing Officer. Sometimes you aren't capable of fixing what you own.

Now go back to that video about "Helen". Her owners created the best possible environment so that Helen, the blind cow, could thrive.

You can do the same thing within your sphere of influence. Make the best of a bad situation.

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