Job at the top - Blog

Everything important on the back of an envelope

- Last modified: March 20, 2013 at 12:02 PM

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A few weeks ago, I made the point that half of the Job At The Top is about thinking. And it's seldom done well.

What's so hard about thinking?

The truth? It isn't hard. It's just hard when we have no frameworks to guide us when The Job At The Top is our objective.

Imagine no frameworks for a P&L, balance sheet and cash flow. And someone important shows up at your door demanding a rundown of the financial health of your business. Same result!

Let's introduce you to the first of three foundational frameworks for thinking effectively about the whole of your business.

I call this one The Back of the Envelope. It came to me on a late flight home after a week of visiting acquisition prospects for an investor. Under the dim light of the overhead I sketched a number 10 envelope on my yellow pad.

In the left-hand triangle I wrote Customers. Not demographics, but rather what each company's customers cared about most. To the right I wrote Needs. Which of those customers' most-important cares might each company be able to do something about?

At the top I wrote Positioning. How would each company need to be seen by its customers in order to be the unarguable first choice? And at the bottom I wrote Competencies. What resources would each business need in order to deliver on the story I'd created for it?

With each pass around the envelope I saw new connections for each businesses. By the time wheels chirped the asphalt at Logan Airport in Boston, I knew which businesses had promise, what would be required to achieve those promises and how significant the results might be.

All on the back of an envelope.

Try this for yourself during your 20 minutes a day, three times a week. Draw the envelope and think about it, as well as The Greatest Question Never Asked. Bet you'll begin seeing things you hadn't seen before. And you'll be thinking like a CEO.

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