Do we have the right horses to win this race?
Do we have the right horses to win this race?

When spending money to attend a conference or a training session, we always hope to come away with bits and pieces of information we can turn into revenue and/or expense reductions. 

Every once in a while, we might even come away with a new vision for the direction we must steer our organisations.

That was certainly the case with the recent excellent Inland/LMA/SNPA joint conference, during which Eric Bright of Deseret Digital gave a presentation that was most insightful.

The first point driven home was critical and caused me to reflect on my own operation: Do we have the right horses in the race to compete and ultimately win?

Bright illustrated a key point by calling up four random volunteers from the audience. The four came up on stage, all prominent, upper-level newspaper executives complete with sharp suits, ties, expensive shoes, and the typical late 50s to mid-60s age range.

He referred to them as the typical four person executive team at most newspapers and newspaper companies throughout the industry.

Then he took his place among the group and now called it the new five person executive team. He then asked, “Which one of us is, say, a little different?”

When you saw Eric standing among the other four, something certainly was a bit different: It might have been the full beard, the shoulder-length hair, the jeans-and-loafers look, the shirt hanging out of the pants, or a number of other characteristics.

But one thing was certain: This horse was running a different race than the other four.

I have no doubt our industry is full of some of the smartest, hard-working people around, but we must ask ourselves: Do we have the right horses entered in the right race? Or, put another way, are we the brightest and smartest at what we need to win, or does winning take a new kind of smart?

What was smart and wise only a few years ago can often be a fatal mistake today. What was a smart path for our company five years ago can lead to disaster in today’s business environment.

The other key takeaway was the somewhat different direction that most of us are taking versus the direction Deseret Digital is going. As the herd is passionately chasing the online, digital, and mobile piece of the financial pie, Deseret is focused on a much larger and even faster growing target – that of e-commerce.

All those previously mentioned platforms are simply vehicles to attract and conduct more e-commerce. They simply want to take their trusted brand and leverage it, allowing customers to facilitate as many transactions as possible on as many platforms and verticals as they possibly can.

They don’t worry about page views, unique visitors, traffic, and so forth. Unless, of course, they can turn those into transactions that drive revenue.

So, while many of us are focusing on banner ads that cause banner blindness, Deseret Digital is moving away from those, as they irritate the user. While we are focusing on daily deals, they are providing their customers with online malls, with hundreds of potential transactional offers.

The combination of those two thought processes has given me pause to rethink our current strategy. It has given me a renewed energy to break away from the herd and chart our own course.

One thing that any business leader knows from history is that the herd is seldom on the right path. In fact, it usually makes sense to avoid the herd’s direction altogether and find an alternative route.

All routes can be fraught with peril and mistakes, but only those willing to risk falling from time to time will ultimately chart a winning course, allowing them to win the race.

To truly take this course that deviates from the herd, one needs to have the right horse in the race — a horse that understand the actual race being run and the new strategies needed to ultimately win it.