Crisis Management: BACK TO BASICS

by Zach Johnson

chief-johnFor employers and staff, the basics remain the same.

Daggers of ice point at our faces. The path ahead is invisible. Gusts further disorientate us. Footholds crumble. A blizzard howls. Our companions vanish. All we see is blinding white; all we feel is bitter cold. A crisis! What to do?

Well, the mountain isn’t moving. The earth still lies below. And the heavens remain above. And the path still exists. We can’t see it. It may be covered in treacherous snow; ice may make footing precarious, and landslips may have wiped out sections of the path. It has changed. It requires extra care. It needs crampons and ice picks instead of hiking shoes. But it is there.

stomy-sky-mt-fuji-tori-gateAt a packed gathering in March at Suji’s restaurant in Roppongi co-sponsored by Japan Market Expansion Competition, Anthony Willoughby and Roger Brookin revisited the basics of building and enhancing a brand, expanding and defending territory, and developing and motivating people to put the customer back at the core of running a business.

“When we have negotiated the bleak storm-wracked path, and contemplate tomorrow’s journey from the temporary haven of a precarious bivouac, let us remember that the blizzard will pass, the sun will shine, and summer will come,” Willoughby said.

But this is not a time for false optimism, explained Brookin. “Hard decisions must be made. The journey must continue. And even stormier days may lie ahead before the spring. We must be sure that we do not hobble our ability to journey in sunnier times.”

Would-be and established entrepreneurs heard the two veterans of management state:

    We are all in the business of selling something. The number one basic is to rely on providing goods or services to someone who rewards us for providing them. Usually we are rewarded with money. We need to always keep that someone content, and ideally get them to come back for more. That means looking after the buyer.
    Goods or services need to be crafted to stand out from others and are really attractive to our buyers. Not just do the job, but also do it well, attractively and with emotion.
    Understand the territory, who is competing, and have an intuitive feeling for the rules of the game.
    Sustain a robust system for selling that rewards salespeople with money and a warm fuzzy feeling.
    Harness and exploit the organization’s accumulated wisdom and knowledge.

Willoughby and Brookin’s CampFire concept uses two very different skill sets, experiences and personalities to help groups understand their situation, applying a powerful combination of generating enthusiasm and a clear-eyed new look at their business that strips back to the basic core what the organization needs to do. “The CampFire is a noon-to-noon offsite session to encourage people to talk about their work using images and metaphors, drawing pictures and maps, not falling back on business speak,” explains Willoughby.

do-you-know-your-territoryHe says he learnt from a number of tribes in Papua New Guinea and Kenya that they know their territory, understand the basics of their existence, and have not let fluff overtake them. “Complexity gets in the way, and they perish.”

He stimulates through “Territory Mapping,” a visual, non-confrontational, interactive and highly engaging process that crosses all cultural, hierarchy and language barriers, enabling participants to get totally fresh perspectives of how they perceive their business and the environment in which they operate. “The process was recently described in the Independent newspaper in the UK as a process ‘that enables you to crash through civilization and see where you are and where you are going with new clarity,’” he says.

Willoughby evokes that simplicity in modern organizations, whilst Brookin draws on his 40 years of experience in strategy to recognize and cut back to core basics, helping the organization to realize its potential in good times and in bad. In more than 40 years of hands-on global marketing experience, Brookin says he learnt how to make things work in the real world. During the CampFire, he shares his repertoire of highly effective, practical tools and processes developed and successfully implemented in a variety of situations on four continents. Recent events, he said, have brought 50 years of academic complexity into question, and vindicated his drive to strip down to the basics.

“Territory Maps picture how participants perceive opportunities, issues and barriers to success, and the resources, knowledge and people they need. We then build on these insights to adapt generic building blocks of excellent business practice to fit processes to your specific needs, developing a Corporate and Marketing Strategy that harnesses the wisdom in the organization to put the customer at the centre and leads to cost effective results driven actions.” Brookin is an international marketing strategy consul tant who spent almost 30 years with Unilever in Europe, South America and Asia. He was Director of Marketing Services for Asia and a member of the board of management of Unilever in Japan. His role, he says, effectively became in-house regional marketing guru, and he developed the company’s regional network of marketing excellence based on his vision of actionable simplicity.

Raised in Africa and schooled in England and the U.S., in 1973 aged 22 Willoughby left the UK with a one-way ticket for the Trans-Siberian Express to Japan in search of inspiration, adventure and opportunities. During the next 25 years he built a number of highly entrepreneurial businesses.

Raconteur Willoughby shares many anecdotes with his audience: “Inspired by a complainer on my expedition across Papua New Guinea, when we had 24 bottles of wine and no food, and the lessons of climbing Mustagh Ata, a 24,500ft mountain in China, I established the first outdoor leadership and team development company in Japan, called ‘I Will Not Complain.’’’

In 1992, he opened an office in Beijing and a training center on the Great Wall. IWNC has grown into one of the leading providers of experiential training and leadership development in Asia.

Over the last 10 years, Willoughby has been developing the Territory Mapping process to bring visual and emotional clarity to business strategy. He also takes business people to spend time with indigenous tribes in Africa so they can obtain a better understanding of decision-making and strategy. The company operates extensively in Asia and Europe, bringing a customer-focused strategic marketing vision to companies large and small in all sectors. “The network includes leading-edge creative, media, packaging, human resource, marketing research and cross-cultural socio-psychological practitioners. The state-of-the-art marketing tools generate the information on which to develop a detailed and actionable marketing strategy,” Willoughby told WIFM. ❖