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Promises, Promises: It’s Time For Execution

Monday May 14th, 2012 - 11:02AM

The first-half trade show season for housewares has ended, and it served up by many accounts more promise than any first-half planning season in years.

Discussions on the exhibit floors and in showrooms were tuned to how to optimize the new opportunities of a moderately growing marketplace instead of how to mitigate risks.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve at presstime was confident to let the economy progress on its own, even as some lobbied for new stimuli to ignite the growth rate from 1.5% to 3%.

Stakes Are High

That puts more of the burden on business to drive its own growth. And that mean the stakes are high for the swift, successful execution of the promises outlined at trade shows, press conferences and annual meetings in recent months.

Great plans without great execution are the empty calories of business strategy in today’s less-forgiving marketplace.

Companies sensing breakthroughs after a long dry spell have to guard against becoming too anxious to “Yes” their prospective customers without considering if they can really deliver as promised. It’s critical to understand and accept the full limits of your capabilities first, then to craft achievable ideas around those capabilities.

As hard as it is to get a first chance in this business climate, try getting a second chance if you miss on the initial try.

Slick Presentation

A colleague of mine recently showed a friend one of JC Penney’s latest advertising circulars. The friend at first glance was intrigued by the circular’s slick presentation, only to notice it was from JC Penney, upon which her enthusiasm seemed to deflate. 

My colleague equated the situation to how someone might react after learning of a new chef at a restaurant that served up an unsatisfactory meal during a previous visit. The new menu may seem interesting, but the lingering taste from the previous experience can be a strong deterrent to giving the restaurant and its new chef another try.

Be Prepared

This isn’t to suggest the new JC Penney team isn’t cooking up the right ingredients for an appetizing resurgence. It just illustrates the primary challenge confronted by the retailer: The inventive recipe concocted to lure shoppers back to the stores, if it succeeds in getting them back to the stores, won’t matter if the retailer doesn’t execute everything it promises after the shoppers walk through the doors.

Penney now has to execute. And it will only get one chance to make a first impression when it unveils its full-scale makeover in early 2013.

The same challenge applies to any business setting goals in this adjusted marketplace. Be inventive. Be assertive. Be careful. Be prepared to deliver what you promise.

That’s Business 101, right? Maybe. It’s more difficult to manage expectations, though, when the stakes are high and the desire to please prospective customers overwhelms the reality of your capability to please them.

Prospective customers might be skeptical at first glance, but the promise of progress is still very appetizing to them. That’s not enough. Deft execution of an achievable plan is a surefire way to keep them coming back for more.

The first-half trade shows are over. So are the promises.

—Peter Giannetti