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Happy Endings Start At The Beginning

Practice makes perfect right? Actually, it doesn’t. 

Perfect practice makes perfect. If your coach teaches you the wrong way to shoot the basketball and that’s what you work on every day, chances are you’re never going to be the lead scorer. If you learned how to shoot correctly from the beginning, your dream of playing in the NBA could have come true.  

If you start out the wrong way, you probably won’t get where you want to go. Or, you’ll have to do some serious rerouting which costs time and money. It’s a scenario Airbus knows a lot about.

When it first appeared, the Airbus A380 was the world’s largest commercial aircraft, and they had to create a global supply chain to build the different parts of the plane. The various teams were using different computer-aided design programs and, during installation, they found out the parts didn’t fit together. Six billion dollars and two years later they straightened it all out and got the project back on track. Most mattress store owners don’t have six billion dollars or two years to undo a mistake that could have been prevented on the front end. 

The new store isn’t profitable because the premium you agreed to pay on rent won’t allow you to turn a profit in that location. You build a big promotion for Memorial Day but it fails because the offer you created had no pull. The new salesperson didn’t work out after three months because they didn’t fit the culture of your company. These are common problems, many of which could have been avoided. 

Here are four ways to get it right from the start:

  • Slow it down. We get in a hurry to launch a new program and we take shortcuts. Make the time to consider your strategy, understand your best and worst-case scenario, and then attack with a solid plan. Spending a few more minutes on the front end will save you a lot of heartache long term. Yes, action often reveals answers, but erratic action isn’t the recommendation. Think it through. Slow down and do your best to get a clear vision of what could go wrong. 
  • Ask the right questions. When hiring a new person, it’s great to know that they have experience selling beds, but wouldn’t it be good to know if they actually like working in retail? Have you tried to understand what drives them? Getting to know someone in this way could prevent a mistake that you will be paying for in six months. When hiring, ask open ended questions then be quiet and let the other person talk. A good phrasing to start any question is “tell me about.” Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your approach to selling. Tell me about the mattress industry, what do you know? 
  • Bring in the right people at the right time. If you are putting together a big promotion make sure that you have sales, marketing, and operations involved early on so that everyone is on the same page. Is it the right offer on the right products, and if it works, can you deliver products to the consumer based on the increased demand? If everybody is “bought in” after the initial meeting, then you’ve set yourself up for success.
  • Does it fit your overall strategy? If your team is bringing you a growth plan for the year but it doesn’t meet your goal to be more profitable in 2021, then it’s a hard “NO”. You have a lot of decisions to make every day, so if a project doesn’t agree with your initial plan then punt it. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects. Stay focused on your plan. 

Don’t be Airbus. Save yourself a few billion and do the strategic thinking that allows you to point yourself down the right path. You may not get it exactly right on day one, but at least you won’t be practicing the wrong way to shoot a basketball every single day. 

If your company works at a fast pace and you start a project on the wrong foot, it will take no time at all for you to be way off course. Remember, if you want the happy ending, it starts at the beginning. 

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