Strategic Insights 27

                                    WHAT’S THE “MAIN THING” FOR 2013?

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  Stephen Covey


“Ask the right questions if you are going to find the right answers.” (many)


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved….live the the answers.” Rilke




Are you tired of customers “checking prices”?

How then to achieve a service-value edge in the customer’s mind?

A good question, but it isn’t the “main thing”.


Each customer niche has a different set of subtle needs for which they will trade more volume and better selling profits. Selling “good service” to all doesn’t win.


How do you better execute at:  niching customers; defining service-value metrics for each niche; then achieving and selling that service-value?[1]


The “why, what and “how” of service-excellence per niche are good questions, but what about “the who”? Why will your employees buy into and make any important change happen? Is creating a high-performance culture the main thing? It’s vital, and partially “main”.    




Corporate cultures are like spider webs in several ways. Everything is connected to everything. Any disturbance ripples through the entire web. And, webs must be woven (and rewoven) from the inside out, one step at a time along framework strands. Unhealthy work cultures, like spider webs, ensnare victims and drain their can-do energy instead of growing it.


What are framework strands for an inspirational culture? In my hexagon model (YT 5: 1-86), I use these titles:

1.     Stuff we believe in

2.     Balanced metrics (for what each person does)

3.     Financial #s (interesting symptoms)

4.     WIIM/We (what’s in it for Me & We)

5.     Mastery (all becoming “10”’s)

6.     Partners (no more boss + subordinates in the dark)


Now, what is an attention-getting catalyst(s) to start reweaving the culture, one step at a time?   



“5% of our active items generated 500% of our operating profit last year” will get everyone’s attention. Start by reviewing summary results from net-profit ranking reports for: customers, items and suppliers (SI #11).  Use these reports to identify your best customer niche(s) and the 15 accounts within each niche that generate huge: profits, losses and future profits. These key customers will, in turn, tell you - if you ask them and listen carefully - what next-level, “service excellence” metrics are.


Now take a first, weaving step between each framework strand.

·          For #1- We believe: engaged employees => best service => bigger share of and retention of customers => more profits to share (?). One target niche at a time!

·          For #2- Balanced Metrics. Are the service-equation metrics posted for all employees to see how their service-value-process team is improving on them?

·          For #3-Financial #’s. Only symptoms that improve from all other strand action.   

·          For #4-WIIMe/We. Tell, repetitively, the line-of-sight-story between individual metrics and improving profits that then fund gainsharing bonuses and growth capital for all.

·          For #5- Mastery. How is everyone formally learning their way to being a “10” at what they are doing up and down the service-value-processes they are part of?  

·          For #6- Partners. Service value economics can’t improve for all stakeholders if everyone isn’t working together with a common incentive.  

·          Back to #1. What’s the next - “Thing We Believe In” - to guide another round of hexagon filling for ever-better engagement and alignment?



If my web site’s resources aren’t enough to ignite your Service Champions, then I’ll be teaching this process story at the University of Industrial Distribution, all-day, on March 12, 2013 in Indianapolis. Sign them up for the entire program; it’s a fantastic offering.


You may want to hear Executives from progressive distributors sharing their net-profit-analytics breakthrough success stories at the 9th Advanced Profit Improvement Conference on March 19-20 in Scottsdale, AZ. (Hold the date. Inquire about an invitation.)


And/Or, for immediate insights into the “how, why and what to do” with net-profit ranking reports and tools for your core-niche, renewal journey: request an on-line demo of Waypoint Analytics’ at




Underlying the questions on – customer niching, service value metrics and empowering employees to execute – is the-main-thing question about your unspoken success assumptions. Are they up to date with your channel’s life-cycle realities? (YT 2: 1-22). How do you switch from promoting products to too many types of customers TO ALSO selling service-value-chain, math solutions to partner the best customers in the best respective niches for each  of your branches? Live into it!


D. Bruce Merrifield, Jr.

December 2012








[1]For how-to answers: skim past “Strategic Insights” (SI’s) and my 338 YouTube (YT), 4-minute video clips in 8 “playlists”: both found at