People-First is the Only Long-Term Strategy

When I was in business school we learned about the four Ps of the marketing mix.  The idea was having the right Product at the right Price in the best Place(s) with the right Promotion.  Achieve those four Ps and you were looking at success.

It’s 20 years later, but there is still plenty of focus on these elements, especially the idea of Place in a world of ecommerce.  But there’s another P term that supersedes all the others, and that’s P for People.  Despite the growing virtual nature of business and automation of many traditional business processes, your People are the single biggest factor in long-term success.  And providing them with Social Intelligence skills is a necessity in today’s rapidly changing environment.

Consider one timely example.  GE was built on the innovation of the lightbulb and was once the most valuable company in the world.  But in recent decades leaders focused on efficiency rather than agility.  And while efficient manufacturing can boost profits for a time, it does little to drive long-term growth or to shape the future.  The company’s exposure to shrinking business segments was not offset by growth opportunities.  Just last week the company was removed from the Dow Jones stock index where it was the last remaining original member company.  The stock is down more than half from its high and growth prospects are dim.  Its leaders are struggling to find a strategy in world where efficient processes is not enough.

Conversely, Walgreens (officially Walgreens Boots Alliance) was picked to replace GE in the Dow Jones based on its brighter future prospects.  The ubiquitous drugstore chain has become much more than corner drugstores.  The company’s leaders recognized the changing nature of their business and made strategic bets that included boosting their online presence, , entering new global markets, increased manufacturing and a shift to providing healthcare rather than just healthcare products.  As Wayne Orvis, the company’s vice president of customer and employee initiatives wrote in Business + Strategy “we had to develop mechanisms that could change long-established mind-sets and norms—not just changing operational details but putting in place coaching, support networks, and a new performance management model.”

They’ve embraced an agile mindset by creating change, not just reacting to it.  And it’s paying off.  Where many historic retailers have disappeared, Walgreen’s has thrived.   The company has grown revenues by more than 60% over the last five years even as the number of U.S. stores has declined slightly.  Yet the path is always fraught with new challenges.  Just today Amazon announced the acquisition of a prescription management company and the stock of Walgreens’ and others in the healthcare space dropped significantly.

As the saying goes, the only constant is change.

Learn more about creating positive change in our new whitepaper.

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