Looking ahead Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

To create a vision for your organization, Peter Krivkovich says that you have to be realistic about your strengths and ask yourself some tough questions.

“What is the unique proposition, if any?” says Krivkovich, president and CEO of Cramer-Krasselt. “What is the opportunity to be able to package it in a way that your end user will see it as a value that is different from whatever value is out there? Then, how do you drive that and capitalize on it in as short a time as possible, within the ability of your resources?”

Krivkovich — who helped drive the marketing and communications agency to 2007 revenue of about $95 million — says you also have to have a strategic point of view, not a tactical one, because a tactical point of view is only short term.

“If you are looking from year to year, then I think you’ll eventually fail,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Krivkovich about how to look ahead to create a vision to move your company forward.

Look to the future. You have to have a long-term vision, and it has to be a vision that you both modify and constantly nurture with the resources that you have at your disposal.

It’s looking far enough ahead so you aren’t caught up in the day-to-day things that can throw you off.

Where do you want the company to be three years from now? Where do you want it to be five years from now? Where do you want it to be 10 years from now? What is it going to take ideally to get there, and how are you going to help your organization to achieve that through any number of means?

It is absolutely an analysis of the market and an analysis of the competitive set. An analysis of your own strengths and weaknesses and your own abilities, and being able to put all of that into perspective of achievable goals. To create goals that are ideal but not achievable is, in the end, frustrating and disorganizing.

You always have to have a reach. It’s only a question of, if you reach so far, you sprain yourself in the process.

It also depends on the culture of the organization and whether people are driven to succeed or they’re more, ‘Let’s maintain what we have.’

Envision growth. (The vision) has to be strategically based against the environment that you are playing in. It has to be with the purpose of not maintaining but growing. Oftentimes, people talk about growth, but what they are really trying to do is maintain. Maintaining is a losing proposition, because you always are going to lose business. That’s inevitable. So, you have to bake that into your strategy, and then build growth on top of covering the loss. But, if your whole time is (spent) growing incrementally and just cover on anything that goes wrong, you will eventually wither. It may take a year, it may take five, but you’ll never be dominant.

You have to absolutely define, and that’s where you sit with your management and you absolutely define what is it that makes you different. Is it your product? Is it your people? Is it your service? Is it your innovations? What is it?

What are the things that truly define your difference? Then, you drive your resources. Whether it’s communication, whether it’s the way people present themselves, whether it’s the way you redefine your product, you drive everything toward that point.

You have to become a student of your market and a student of your competition. If you’re not, you are lost in the woods. Then you are counting on luck and intuition, and intuition is only so good.

It’s analytics. It’s constant analytics of the data of your industry. It’s clearly looking at what the competition is doing, but also looking at it long term. It’s not, ‘Oh my God, they just lowered their price by 50 cents.’ That’s not beating the competition.

Certainly, you react to it, but that’s not a long-term strategy. If that’s all you concentrate on, just the short-term things that the competition is doing, you are going to fail. Then you are actually more of a follower than a leader.

You want to lead your industry; you don’t want to follow it. So, you’ve got to figure out, if the industry is stuck in the mud in place X, what are you going to do not to be stuck in that same mud?

Make sure the vision is understood. It’s constantly driving it through the organization, and you depend on your senior management to do that. So, you have to have their buy-in. It’s critical that you have their buy-in, and it’s critical that you keep them accountable for how they’re driving vision through the organization.

Then, it’s up to the CEO, not only with his senior management, periodically, to make sure the company hears it from him — whether it’s in speeches or opportunities where you get people together. I do quarterly e-mails, since we have a lot of people in a lot of offices.

For lack of a better word, it’s a state of the union — a reminder of, ‘Here’s where we are, here’s what we’re achieving, here’s where we’re going, here’s where we really think we can take the company.’

How to reach: Cramer-Krasselt, (312) 616-9600 or www.c-k.com