2010 will separate real giants from tall midgets. Sellers and their managers quietly engaged in conspiracies of "relative performance" during 2009 (a strategy honed to perfection by fund PR agents). "Sure, we were off 16% from 2008 but, my gosh, the industry was off 27%. Comparatively speaking, our performance was pretty good." That was a reasonably useful internal positioning tactic for a year that saw very few companies and their revenue producers declare or receive outsize dividends and bonuses (Wall St., of course, the exception). And more often than any time in memory, have phrases such as "that's a little like being the tallest midget in the circus" followed such self-aggrandizing comparative analyzes. The year was shocking enough to warrant a half of a high five to the favorable "comp" argument, but even in those cases distance from budgets were wide enough to issue a gentle reminder that "it's still a hit the numbers game."
2010 say most prognosticators will be a relatively flat growth year. In the broadcast world, for example, the bandied about numbers range from -2% to plus 3% revenue growth. Nothing terribly exciting on the plus or minus side, and even the most pessimistic of forecasters have trouble identifying potential events, cataclysmic enough, to bring about a repeat of 2009. There will likely be a lot fewer conversations about comparing "actuals" to 2008 comparable periods. The emphasis will more likely be on comparisons to budget.
For those exceptional performers who adapted early and strategically in viewing 2009 as a year of opportunity while their peers and "competitors" were performing arias of "woe is me," 2010 will be a year of compounded dividends. Their partnerships with their customers will have attained new levels, having actually steered these ship-mates through rough seas at the expense of their competitors and grown their brand positions so that the customers' shares of better times is all but assured. And these uncommon performers will consequently be asked to stand alongside at the helm.
Managers worthy of the responsibility will be looking for signs that last year's troubles educated their sellers in many ways; that they learned how to best serve their constituents and to serve more of them. 2010 will be a year where real growth ought to be expected. The days of fingers in the dikes are swiftly drawing to a close, and recapturing and expanding valuations will be the order of the day. The survivors survived. In 2010 more will be looked for than survival.
This is a good time to sit quietly and ask--"How far have I come? How much do I give...To and for whom?...How deeply am I committed to the success of all the people who count on me? What don't I know? Who can I call upon to teach me? I want to stand out, be different, and be a giant in 2010. How?
The answers are there for those that ask.
Bob Sherman has 40 years experience managing relationships between media companies and advertisers in old and new media from radio, cable and TV to the Internet, and from sales executive to chief executive and from the biggest media corporations to his own entrepreneurial companies. He is currently in partnership with Pilot Group, LLC. Bob can be reached at email@example.com.
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