As companies look to grow their businesses they can often face many opportunities that promise to be the next successful strategy to drive growth. These opportunities can come in many forms such as implementing digital technologies, choosing new markets to enter, addressing a changing customer need or an internal department idea that promises to be the next revenue stream. As a result some companies fall into the trap of loosing their focus by trying to address every opportunity. At some level they believe each is equally important to success or they believe chasing all of them will improve their odds… they are often wrong. Companies allow these opportunities to drive their business and at times create costly initiatives, spreading resources thin which barely makes a dent in what they are trying to achieve. This often takes away from their real growth potential because they have not zeroed in on the most important opportunity in the mix that will drive growth.
Operating a company this way is called “Boiling The Ocean.”
Examples of Boiling the Ocean
Product Development It can occur when a company is trying to quickly implement new product ideas by adding features as a reaction to competitor’s advancements or customers disengaging. Because they are reacting, offerings become disjointed often not strategized to the level required and therefor fail at presenting a seamless value to prospective customers. They are trying to be all things to all people and their product portfolio becomes fragmented and their point of differentiation undefined.
Marketing It can occur when a company is implementing marketing strategies to engage a broad audience that their message becomes neutral and void of any real tailored benefit for the customer. The engagement is void of a specific targeted messaging and so distinct customer segments don’t see relatable value that fits their needs, so they ignore it. Marketing under this approach uses such a general message that the tactics, targeted with digital media, fail because nothing resonates with any one prospective customer. Sales It also occurs when a company relies on a networked sales approach and the sales team begins to target any consumer they believe they have a relationship with. The efforts to close the business become twice as difficult and twice if not more costly. Even worse, as a result most companies that operate this way create a revolving door of sales associates. This adds unnecessary cost to recruiting with the hopes that a better hire will improve sales and more often than not it doesn’t.
In every case, the central problem that drives a company to “Boil the Ocean” is derived from the fact that they are missing or haven’t defined a “True North” (Your Company’s Mission) that every department and every employee can see and get behind. Without a “True North” you wind up with an organization out of alignment and departments scrambling to perform thus creating their own paths to follow. These paths often lead in different directions, with different agendas, goals and outcomes. Therefore the company that is trying to grow by attempting to do it in too many ways ultimately fails because no single approach has the full support of the company’s resources.
Finding Your Company’s True North (The Company Misson)
The key to any organization maintaining focus lies within leadership. It is at this level that a company’s “True North” or more simply put their Corporate Focus must be established, communicated and advocated. However it cannot solely lie in the president or the executive team, although it starts here. Every level where one group of people is responsible for leading another must believe and follow a Corporate Focus mentality. This means managers have to understand where the company is moving, the objectives and how their individual roles and teams will be part of the entire picture. This gets the company moving in a consistent direction. Only then will growth more likely occur because resources will be allocated to the same target.
The quickest way to understand if a company has a True North (Corporate Focus) is to evaluate its growth over a several year period. Although declining, stalled or roller coaster growth can result from market conditions, economic stability and changing customer preference, a company that has been struggling despite being active in their efforts to grow, can usually be found “Boiling the Ocean.” Thus lacking in a True North. The second way to not only learn if a company is missing a True North but also uncover the different paths of leadership, is to conduct stakeholder interviews by a third party. Here a company will quickly learn the truth about where alignment may be missing and how fragmented the company’s efforts are in trying to achieve the same goal of growing. Using a third party will enable management teams to speak freely being left anonymous to share their views which can be evaluated for consistency and varying opinions.
If the problem is company wide then a re-positioning strategy should be used to engage every department responsible to align efforts and drive revenue more successfully. This strategy unifies teams, defines in a clear manner the path for everyone to follow and clearly communicates the purpose and value of the company’s offerings to the customers.
If the problem is department specific, such as one of the three examples presented in this paper then research that determines the best customer segments along with their needs should be determined. The comparison to the existing departments efforts should be evaluated to see if they match. This quickly provides a clear defined view of who these departments are trying to serve, their needs, if they are the right audience, the unique dynamics if the segments are industry diverse and how effective efforts are in achieving a secure loyal customer base.
“Boiling the Ocean” is common in many companies. It occurs when a company’s workforce expands due to growth and when a company is reacting to a negative situation. All parties involved in trying to grow the company are well intentioned but unfortunately left unchecked can be ineffective.
If you suspect your company is “Boiling the Ocean” and you are uncertain of your True North (your Company’s Mission) we can help align your team and establish clear direction company wide. Beware budgets can be depleted and are far less effective under “Boiling the Ocean” conditions.