“Waiting hurts. Forgetting hurts. But not knowing which decision to take can sometimes be the most painful.” – Jose N. Harris.
As the world battles COVID-19, let’s task our minds a little. Who does the most important job in any organisation? The answer is simple: The person who invents outstanding ideas. Ideas rule the world. This saying is as old as man.
In their books, Good to Great, and Today Matters by Jim Collins and John C. Maxwell, respectively, the two authors shared an interesting story about the A&P grocery company (earlier known as The Great American Tea Company) that is a good example of what can happen when people fail to invest time to think – in order to arrive at best decisions.
The company was founded in 1859, when George Hartford convinced his employer, George P. Gilman, the owner of a hide and leather company in New York City, to go into the tea business. The Great American Tea Company emerged by that idea.
In 1869, Gilman sold his shares to Hartford and retired. That same year, Hartford changed the name of the company. From then on, it was known as The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company – A&P for short. Hartford also decided to create his own brand of coffee, which he called Eight O’ Clock Breakfast Coffee. It was very popular and profits soared. Hartford’s good thinking and innovative business sense took the company to greater heights. By 1880, the company had more than 95 stores.
Peak of progress
George Hartford was a good thinker, but his sons were even better! When his two sons George and John came in, they introduced a strategy to bring cost down and increase profit by manufacturing their own products. They also introduced models that would take care of the changing needs and wants of customers. They kept advancing their models and strategies to satisfy their customers.
In the course of the business, John convinced his father of the need to try something new by opening a cash-and-carry ‘’economy’’ store. It opened in 1912. In two years, the company opened 1,600 new kinds of stores. In 1916, the elder Hartford handed the business over to his sons. By then their sales had doubled from $31 million to $76 million. Nine years later, the company owned 13,961 stores that produced annual sales of $437 million. By 1929, A&P was the world’s largest coffee retailer.
In the early 1930s, the grocery industry witnessed a major change. Competitors were introducing Supermarkets. The Hartford brothers changed their thinking and met the challenge. They began closing their economy stores and opening Supermarkets. Even though they closed six old stores for every new one they opened, they prospered. Sales volume was high – and so were profits. By 1950,A&P annual sales topped $3.2 billion. It was the largest privately owned company and the largest retail organisation in the world.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the customers’ wants changed rapidly once more. Value was no longer as important as choices. Buyers wanted something new; they no longer wanted supermarkets; they wanted superstores. They wanted all-in-one stores that would provide everything they needed. Instead of going from one location to the other for baked goods, medicine, or even the bank for cash and so on, they needed a one – stop place for everything they needed.
Snare of generic approach
This was where the problem began. John Hartford no longer ran A&P. Perhaps, if he was in charge, he would have known how to fix things as usual! His successor, Ralph Burger, became president of A&P in 1950 and was named chairman of board in 1958.
According to Collins, Burger was not up to the challenge. Where the Hartfords had used their thinking to create breakthroughs, Burger sought to preserve two things: cash dividends for the Hartford family foundation and the past glory of the Hartford brothers. Collins quotes an A&P director who said that Burger ‘’tried to carry out, against all opposition, what he thought Mr John Hartford would have liked.’’ Collins goes on to say, ‘’ Burger instilled a “what would Mr Hartford do?” approach to decisions, living the motto “you can’t argue with a hundred years of success.”
Yes, you may not be able to argue with a hundred years success, but you can run it down.
I often say that I don’t believe in generic approach. In sales, I teach that sales professionals should discover the needs of every prospect or customer, and provide solutions according to those needs.
Most likely, no need is the same; therefore, no solution will be the same. This is why Qualifying the Prospect is a very important process in selling. Our faces differ, same way, our challenges and solutions to our issues will likely vary. I don’t believe in generic approach as a Sales Strategy. You need to identity the market and provide exact solutions for that market.
You must also recognise the changing environments. People change. Choices change. Situations change. Things change. The element that will remain constant is innovation, and innovation is a function of great thinking. You must continue to discover new ways to delight your prospects, customers and your world. You can’t go wrong in business, if you follow this path. The two basic functions of business remain Innovation and Marketing. Because the purpose of business is to create customers, these functions of business are relevant all the time.
In the story by Collins and Maxwell, Burger worked to repeat Hartford’s past actions rather than exploring Hartford’s innovative style of thinking. As A&P went down because of wrong acquisitions and other wrong business decisions, their rating went down from +3, the highest score, to – 3, the lowest score. Today, A&P operates 667 stores in 12 states in the US. Financial analysts aren’t enthusiastic about the company. It seems unlikely that the company will ever regain the status of profitability it once recorded.
Think right, act right
This true story is a great lesson in personal, business and professional lives of individuals. The power of good thinking cannot be overstated. The duty of any business leader is to be visionary. He or she must lead the way and show the way. The leader must have the ability to think and act in the now and in the future. Every choice, decision and action must meet up with current realities and be innovative enough to move with the changing business environments.
Thinking and putting your thoughts to action is a practical thing. Thinking alone without actions won’t achieve desired results. Sometimes, we ask ourselves questions why we don’t accomplish our goals. We feel unfulfilled because of our inability to achieve those things we wished for ourselves. Some of the things we desire do not come to reality because we fail to put the power of our thoughts to action.
Goache says ‘’Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world. I agree with this thought. This is not the time to worry. It is a time to think and act. COVID-19 is a known challenge; the next thing to do is to sit down and think. When this thinking is done, then put the thoughts to action.
This is the way of successful people. Successful people look at solutions. They don’t dwell in the problem. They spend more time in the solutions – by exploring and implementing the right thoughts. The right thoughts lead to the right actions. Thoughts beget actions. Guard your thoughts with all you have.
Claude M. Bristol, author of The Magic of Believing writes, “The more we contemplate and study thoughts, the more we realise what a terrific force it is and how unlimited is its power.’’ Good thinking leads to good decisions. What we see around us are power of thoughts. The products and services that add value in our lives are creations of thoughts.
The power of good thinking cannot be overemphasized. The more we think intelligently, the more we create great products and services. The more creative we think, the better we perform in any life’s endeavour.
The Japanese expression made popular by Toyota, Yoi shiko no yoi seihin (Good thinking, good product) is apt! You can’t go wrong with great thinking.
Always stay positive, no matter the situation. Good thinking comes from a positive mind. A negative mind begets negative thoughts. Positive mind gives birth to great thoughts. This is a simple fact. It’s time to take charge!
I recommend these actions to demystify challenges by exploring the power of thoughts:
- Be in the right state of mind: Stay positive.
- Discover the challenge at the moment.
- Find out the cause of the challenge.
- List possible solutions to the challenge.
- Weigh your options and choose the path that has the best outcomes.
- Give yourself target on when to fix the issue.
- Believe in your planned solution.
- Keep your eyes on the ball and go to work.
- In a crisis situation, don’t count your losses, count your lessons.
- Take action immediately and believe you will conquer.
- Periodically review your process.
Good thinking saves a lot of resources when executing. People who will triumph in post-COVID-19 marketplace are the ones that did great jobs in their thinking corners.
It’s time to think!
It’s time to act!
The battle is still on.
The match is still on.
We are in the second half.
We can still win this battle. We will fight on until the last whistle.
We may retreat, but not surrender.
We will win this match!
Read a book.
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