Tag Archives: The First 90 Days

Patriot 2014 Still Life

Racing Season is Here – Time to Deliver Results!

It’s my favorite time of year again – triathlon racing season!  Time to deliver results for all of the hard training time invested over the past year.  Time to compare my performance to not only other racers, but also to my performance in years past.  Time to determine whether I hit my goals for the year, or came up short.  And to analyze what I can do better for the future. To deliver results in the three disciplines of triathlon is a lot like delivering results in the three disciplines of B2B marketing.  There are skills that are common across swimming, cycling, and running, like building a strong aerobic base, just as there are skills that are common across awareness, demand generation, and sales enablement, like having a strong positioning statement.  There are also capabilities that are unique to each individual area, in both triathlon, and B2B marketing.

3rd place podium finish
3rd place podium finish at the 2014 Patriot Half

Last week I competed for the 7th year in the Patriot Half Triathlon, in East Freetown, MA.  Voted “Best Small Race” by New England triathletes, the race consists of a 1.2 mile swim in Long Pond, a 56 mile bike through the rolling hills, cranberry bogs, and local ponds, and a 13.1 mile run with 3 nasty hills.  I had a great race, beating my goal time, and finishing third in my age group.  In this post, I’ll analyze my result by leg, and point to additional posts that relate B2B marketing to swimming, cycling, and running.

Top 5 Lessons from the Top 5 Finishers

A few things are apparent by looking at the top 5 finishers in my age group.

Top 5 finishers, men 50-54
Top 5 finishers, men 50-54
  1. The winner of my age group finished 4th in the whole race!  Unbelievable!
  2. There’s a big time separation between the top 2 finishers and the rest of us.  It’s darn hard to break 5 hours in this race!
  3.  Big gains happen out of the water.  The swim is the shortest leg, so it’s easy to make up any lost time on the bike and the run.  Just compare my results to the 2nd place finisher to see this.
  4.  It all comes down to the run.  Having a fast bike leg, but leaving no energy for the run can be devastating.  This is most apparent when comparing my results to the 4th place finisher.
  5.  It can pay to be a fast swimmer.  Sometimes the swim proves to be the difference in finishing position. See this by comparing my results to the #5 finisher.

B2B Marketing and the Swim Leg

Ironman, triathlonNormally, races begin with a mass start of 40-50 athletes within a cohort.  The starting gun goes off, and swimmers jockey for position at the front of the pack, each seeking the best line to the first buoy.  If you’re not a strong swimmer, it can be scary, and dangerous.  Swimming isn’t known as a contact sport, but in triathlon it is.   Arms get tangled.  Faces get kicked.  Bodies get trampled. Patriot 2014 Swim

The swim start of this year’s race was done much differently than in any other race.  We were sent off in threes, every 10 seconds, in a time trial start.  The start was so civilized!  No massive scrum.  No crawling over bodies.  With less pressure to sprint out in front of the main pack, I had a swim leg that was a minute or so slower than usual, but a much more enjoyable experience.   For posts on how B2B Marketing relates to swimming, check out my post on the 4Ps of the Marketing Mix.

Cycling and B2B Marketing

Patriot 2014 BikeOver the past several years, my biggest struggle in triathlon is determining how hard to push on the bike leg.  Push too hard, and my legs are jelly when it comes to the run.  Walking tends not to have a good impact on one’s finishing time.  Go too slow, and I give up valuable time.  I’ve never found the right balance of speed and energy conservation.

Until this year.  This year’s bike leg was effortlessly fast.  I’m not quite sure why.  Spring weather wasn’t conducive to a lot of long rides, and I did fewer outside miles this year than any past year.  For whatever the reason, I averaged 20.7 mph on the bike, and felt like I could have gone faster without much effort.  During the bike leg, I knew that three racers from my age group passed me, but I expected that. For a cycling approach to B2B marketing, check out my blog on using a team pursuit for building a Challenger Sale commercial insight.

It All Comes Down to the Run

Patriot 2014 RunYou wouldn’t know it from this picture, but I had my best run leg ever at this year’s race.  Part of it was the weather.  High 60s and overcast the whole race.  Part of it was my energy conservation on the bike.  And part of it was my constant mantra to just keep running.  For the first time, I avoided walking.  I averaged 8:13s for the half marathon, taking a few walking steps at each aid station to swallow a bit of energy drink, and then getting back into my stride.  The best part of the run was at mile 12, when I caught and passed the competitor who ultimately finished fourth. Read my post on how coming up to speed as an exec at a new company is like a runner catching the leaders on Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon.

How’s Your Season Shaping Up?

In future posts, I’ll share results in the three areas of B2B Marketing.  Until then, tell me what you think.  How’s your racing season shaping up?  Have you been able to deliver results according to your plan?

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Whitewater kayak

Structured Learning in Career Transition – Navigating the Whitewater of the First Week

After my first week as Chief Product Evangelist at Aternity, it’s clear that a career transition isn’t like a triathlon transition.   Triathlon transitions are executed efficiently and calmly.  You lay out your gear neatly so that you can peel off your wet suit after the swim, pull on your cycling gear, and get going.   Spread a towel next to your bike to dry your feet.  Put your sunglasses in your helmet, and your helmet on your aero-bars, upside down, so you can put them on quickly.  Clip your shoes into your pedals, so you don’t waste time.  It’s logical, methodical, and predictable. Tri bike InTransition

Starting a new role at a small company is more like kayaking a class 5 river.   Exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting.  All at the same time.   So many areas to investigate, each seemingly as important as the next.  As I’ve started at Aternity, I’ve tried to use structured learning, outlined by Michael Watkins in his book, The First 90 Days.  Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve learned.

The Recommended Approach to Structured Learning

tf90d-book-coverIn his book, Watkins details a systematic approach to structured learning that helps new executives determine where to focus their efforts.   The structured learning process helps you gather and analyze information from a variety of sources so you can build a plan for adding value to your new organization.

Creating a learning agenda with a focused set of questions relating to your company’s past, present, and future helps you identify how and why decisions were made, the current state of market opportunity and challenges, and possible vectors for future growth.

Four Areas to Focus Structured Learning

In my first week on the job, I’ve focused my structured learning in four key areas.

The business:    Current customer base and growth, new product development areas, current and future competition, primary partnerships.

Stakeholders:  In the first week, I’ve met not only with management team colleagues, but also selected members of the sales and customer support teams.  These sessions have been helpful for me to start to understand our sales process and how we engage with customers.

Expectations:  In all of these meetings, I’ve asked for input on what the stakeholders need from me.  By asking this question across all of the major functional areas, I hope to get insight into consistent themes, and potential deliverables to generate early wins.  Watkins discusses the importance of generating early wins in building credibility, momentum, and on-going trust.

Culture:  Even by the first day, it was clear to me that our company has a very strong culture.   Priorities include effective and timely communication, clear assignment of action items and due dates, and mutual respect.   Not to mention a real work hard/play hard mentality!

Accelerate Learning in the Field

Mobile-World-Congress-Fira-Barcelone-1024x464Actually,  my first week in the office wasn’t my first week with the company.  Rather than wander the halls of our corporate headquarters, I wandered the halls of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  And, with 1800 exhibitors and 80,000 attendees, the event provided me plenty of opportunities to get in my mileage!

More important than mileage, attending the event allowed me to accelerate my structured learning plan.  Mobile World Congress is the largest gatherings of operators, vendors, and pundits in the area of mobile.   One of Aternity’s strategic priorities is to expand into mobile application performance management.   Attending this event fast-tracked my understanding of customer needs, competition, and partnership opportunities.   These areas are far more important to accelerating my structured learning plan than was filling out HR forms and firing up my laptop!

I summarized my impressions of MWC in my first blog entry in Aternity’s End User Experience 2Day site.   Check it out!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be using Watkins’ book as a guide as I complete my structured learning and prepare my 90 day plan.  I’m interested in feedback from others in a similar position.   Any guidance or suggestions for me?

 

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Wear your SWOT Analysis Backwards, It’s COLD Outside!

snowy trail-69822_640It’s that time of year.  Some are lucky enough to avoid it, but for most, it happens as we roll in to December.  Sure, it’s cold, but I’m referring to the annual strategy planning cycle.  We’ve all been there.  With a new year on its way, execs want to take a fresh look at the strategic plan to identify new opportunities, solidify revenue targets, and align investment.  A variety of strategic plan templates exist, and most begin with similar content:  executive summary, company mission, market analysis, competition.  A SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – is a time-tested component of the plan.   I’ve recently realized the advantage of doing SWOT analysis backwards.

The SWOT layout takes you down a chilly path

SWOT, TOWS

The SWOT matrix organizes helpful and harmful factors into internal and external categories.   Strengths and weaknesses, internal factors, are addressed in the top row.  Strengths give your organization a competitive advantage:  brand reputation, strong customer base, patents, or exclusive access to distribution channels.  Weaknesses hold you back:  lack of nimbleness, high cost structure, or lack of market presence in various geographic regions.  External factors are covered in the bottom row.  Opportunities may include unmet customer needs, loosening of regulations, or wide adoption of new technologies.   Put simply, threats are the opposite of opportunities.

Go outside BEFORE you look in the mirror

My mom always told us kids to look in the mirror before went out in the snow to make sure we were properly bundled up.   But when building a strategic plan, it makes more sense to consider what’s happening outside your company before you look too hard at your skills and risks inside.   Doing a SWOT analysis backwards is smarter.

This is not my idea.  I came across it while reading Michael Watkins‘ book, “The First 90 Days:  Critical Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels.”  tf90d-book-coverWatkins, a consultant and co-founder of Genesis Advisors, found it challenging to implement an effective SWOT analysis with his clients.  As he describes in this HBR post (free registration is required), clients would get stuck in the top row of the matrix, rambling on and on about what they were good and bad at.   As an experiment, he tried running the exercise “backwards,” forcing the first discussion on the external factors in the lower row.   He found that, after doing so, his clients were more effective in discussing their specific strengths and weaknesses in the context of the opportunities and threats.  This lead to a much crisper identification of potential strategic initiatives and tactics.  Which is the whole point of the exercise.  His conclusion:  ditch SWOT.  Cover the same topics, but in reverse order.  Use TOWS as the handy acronym.   It may give you the image of frost-bitten feet, but it will lead to a better result.

After reading this, I realized that I’ve had similar experiences  using the SWOT matrix.  Watkins’ suggestion makes a lot of sense.  What about you?  Have you run a SWOT analysis backwards?  How did it work?

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