Following on from last month’s blog where I spoke about the Governance skills already embodied within senior marketers, I wanted to follow this on with another of the four skills a Non-Executive Director should understand and be able to encouragingly influence amongst the executive team, this month is ‘Strategy’ (and its progression).
The term was used by the military for controlling and directing operations and movements in a war or battle in order to accomplish a long-term overall aim. As such, business also has numerous ‘battles’ to overcome at both the micro and macro levels before accomplishing its next objective. Unfortunately though there are many pitfalls that can arise en-route, namely from: staff appreciation, acceptance and adoption of new strategies, financial challenges (e.g. appropriate budget allocation/cash flow/conflicting resources and other opportunities), competitive forces at regional, national and international level (e.g. direct or indirect competition/substitute products and services), supply-chain issues or process driven factors that include the systems a firm currently has at their disposal. With such an abundance of areas that can each impact on one another (and therefore reduce the chances of overall success), it’s critical Non-Executive Directors have a thorough grasp on all these areas in order to provide relevant and timely support to the executive team. However, the combination of these areas isn’t wholly aligned to HR, finance or operations professionals in the way they are in marketing and therefore those who are adept with numerous growth strategies, markets, research methods, and the modern skills of today’s strategists e.g. inclusion rather than meritocracy.
Placing this to one side for a moment though, every executive director is charged with deciding and then delivering the strategy and as such the support they can receive from suitably qualified NED’s with a background in senior marketing should be of great value because they will invariably face specific challenges from within the above list which they may find particularly demanding to overcome when so many other things are also obligated to them. These challenges cause delays, and delays aren’t a welcome addition in the mix when there is a palatable appreciation that the shareholders have placed significant faith and trust in the executive board to deliver. This is where the senior marketer has the capability to step in to advise and support the executive team to good effect.
This list of areas encompasses situations every senior marketing position will be supremely comfortable with especially as they will have built a strong understanding of progression through relevant budgetary controls and the relevance of not destabilising the firm as they themselves appreciate the additional challenges placed on CFO’s, CEO’s and COO’s.
Professional qualifications teach marketers much about these broad areas, but most marketing professionals find themselves being focused on the day-to-day, generally tactical deliverables for far too many years that they become proficient in one area only. Consequently a rapid interest in a firms products and services that arise from insincere tactical efforts may well satisfy some lower level egos, but they will most certainly fall foul of an executive team who have to report to private equity shareholders whose intention it is to build their portfolios of established firms to prime them for profitable divesting. However, senior marketers with a deep understanding of sustainable business growth across numerous markets are ideally placed, as long as they appreciate their role is to offer pragmatic suggestions as a trusted advisor and critical friend in order to facilitate the executive team’s progression.
It is here that the most ethical senior marketers will have strategic (and personal) skills that have been used to good effect throughout their executive/management careers, and knowing what the executive team will be looking for will also place them in an ideal position from which to transition into an NED position in a seamless fashion as I have been fortunate enough to do through my own connections.
So if you recognise these skills in yourself, I would urge you to raise the bar for the profession and look to embark on an NED career.
In my next blog I’ll explain what other attributes senior marketers have, that make them great NED’s, next time – Leadership!
If you would like to speak to me about any of the issues raised in this post, please email me, Nigel Davis.
Nigel Davis was voted ‘One of Britain’s Top 50 Small Business Consultants’ & is an MCIM Chartered Marketer and Non-Executive Director.