“Who you are” is just as crucial as “why you are”



(This is the post associated with the September 15, 2015 ACBJ national column entitled What CVS Can Teach You About Kicking the Traditional Sales Model Habit)

How can it be, with so many myopically product-driven companies, that CVS actually implemented a growth strategy involving the reduction of one of their highest volume, high margin staples?

In these uncertain economic times, where some experts predict another recession, knowing “who you are” could very well be the safe haven salvation companies require to survive and thrive.  Is Starbucks a coffee house, or “the third place?”  Is SoulCycle a fitness company or a national movement?  Is Chipotle another sameness burrito joint, or have they taken a bold stand?  Is Southwest Airlines a run of the mill airline with below average customer service, or a competitor of Disney?

southwest air executives dress up

(that’s Southwest’s Chief Gary Kelly as the Mad Hatter for Halloween 2012, with his executive staff)

Here are three components that CVS and other “demand creators” embrace to combat competitive pressures and become known as “the only ones who do what they do”:

  1. Senior leadership courage.  As Peter Thiel noted in Zero To One, while genius is in short supply at the top, courage is even more rare.  I’ve seen it time and again.  Once Level Five leaders (humble yet resolute) stop playing it safe and learn the framework for company reinvention and unprecedented value design, a type of veil is lifted and the monopoly snowball begins down the hill … and there’s nothing that can stop it.  Those are always exciting times for not only senior leadership, but entire companies.
  2. Long-term strategy begins with “seeing what others do not, can not or will not.  CVS recognized the U.S. anti-smoking movement and the rise of wellness; Zillow uses data as a competitive weapon; Uber saw a stale, centuries-old, underserved industry.  What harsh realities do you recognize about your competitive landscape?  How much time do you schedule for exploring such things, and who do you include in the process?  The larger, more telling question:  Why aren’t you racing to discover first what others cannot see, ensuring your company’s marketplace positioning for years to come?
  3. Organizational integration of “the new you.”  Once a business makes the leap – takes the audacious stand – then the heavy lifting begins.  Are the following systems aligned, ensuring that purpose becomes firmly rooted?  Consider: Performance reviews; job descriptions; metrics, measurements and dashboards; compensation systems; how people are rewarded, recognized, disciplined, promoted and terminated; the kinds of questions managers ask.  And that’s just the beginning.  If the entire company infrastructure isn’t aligned with the desired business strategy and culture, the whole thing falls like a house of silent cards.

Intentional and purposeful value design begins with remedying the almost always evident company identity crisis, then expertly and fully “clothing the emperor,” providing a customer-attractive suit of clothes that becomes indispensable to loyal advocates.

Sean Stormes


Sean Stormes is Chief Value Designer of The Third Door®. His firm provides the most progressive concepts, methods, and PRG© (profitable revenue growth) framework and architecture available in the international marketplace to committed senior level business leaders who mean business.

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