Your Company’s Super Bowl Moment

This post is adapted from my article which originally published in Chief Executive before last year’s Super Bowl.  The observations still apply, particularly since the organization mentioned in here has not changed practices.

The Super Bowl is almost here, and with it, the media scrutiny of thousands of journalists who cover the event.

seahawks and pats

All eyes are on the Patriots and Seahawks, and their eyes are on each other—preparing strategies, refining playbooks (and checking the inflation on those footballs).

In business, every company has its version of the big game, a “Super Bowl moment.”  It’s a make or break time when planning is paramount and every employee must be revved up.

For retailers, that moment is Black Friday. This day the kicks off the holiday season which generates about 1/3 of annual revenue in the retail business. On this past Black Friday, I went to a local Staples store to buy a few items.

Simple enough?  No. The customer experience was horrible. An inexperienced cashier fumbled the handling of my rebate check, had a poor attitude and with 4-5 other errors the entire experience – which should have taken one minute – took twenty five and left me feeling cold. This particular Staples store blew their Super Bowl Moment.

Hopefully this store was a atypical for the chain.  With nearly 1,900 locations in North America, Staples generates an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue on Black Friday weekend. If only a tiny fraction of their customers had equally poor experience as me, the impact on their business would be significant.  It begs the question:  what are your company’s Super Bowl moments and how can you prepare?

Some considerations:

  • Define the levers that drive your customer experience, quantify the impact of each lever on sales and then improve them accordingly. Particularly in planning for Big Game Day.
  • Think about how your best laid plans can come undone and how can you mitigate against those risks.
  • How can plans for Super Bowl moments be operationalized—and be part of your knitting every day (for your regular season).

There’s no excuse for poor performances during Super Bowl moments.  With proper planning and excellent execution, every day can be a big game victory.

By |January 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Your Company’s Super Bowl Moment

Entrepreneurship Lessons from Billion Dollar CEOs

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the CEO2CEO Leadership Summit at the New York Stock Exchange.  As in previous years, the event was a terrific opportunity to gain insights from leading CEOs, including Leslie Wexner, founder of The Limited and Victoria’s Secret and Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical among others.  The common themes, very much on the minds of leaders of both multi-billion dollar companies and mid-market firms, were innovation and entrepreneurship.  (Yes, the “E” word is very much alive and well in the C suite of multinational companies).  Here are some lessons from these luminary CEOs:


Great entrepreneurs move quickly and make bold decisions.   Les Wexner personifies bold decision making.  He’s a retailing legend and the current longest-serving CEO of a FORTUNE 500 company.  He started the Limited in 1963 with a $5000 loan from his aunt and grew that investment into a $12 billion company whose brands include Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel and others.   Mr. Wexner talked about how jumping on opportunities can pay off in spades.

I read The Wall Street Journal on a Friday about Lane Bryant going private…called them the same day about a possible acquisition.  They said ‘no’ because their board meeting was on Monday.  So on Saturday I got a loan for $125MM and we closed the acquisition of Lane Bryant on Monday.   We paid off the debt in 120 days.

 — Leslie Wexner, Chairman and Chief Executive, L Brands

A sense of urgency doesn’t always mean fast, game changing decisions.  It can come from long term strategies that cultivate broad scale change motivated by a healthy sense of paranoia.

You’ve got to innovate faster than the disruptive companies can commoditize you.  There’s where partnerships come in.   At Dow, we lead and join associations that are at the center of change.  We foster innovation hubs in partnership with federal and state governments and universities.  They take time but we gain a research edge… one result is the development of ‘smart paint’ that can absorb emissions.  In the future we’ll have paint that can absorb viruses.

We get criticized for investing in R&D to create future earnings…things like self healing materials and smart batteries.  Everything (on Wall Street) is so short term focused.  We partner with entrepreneurs and learn from them.

— Andrew Liveris, CEO, Dow Chemical


We’re inspired by entrepreneurs who seek out and spot emerging trends and then jump on them with extreme focus.

In thinking about new business ideas I look for patterns. I spend 20-30 days a year visiting small independent stores around the world looking for patterns.  Like kids putting fragrances in their lockers etc.   So we came up with portable scents…

–Leslie Wexner



As we’ve written before, innovation doesn’t have to imply a lack of quantification.   The leaders of Omnicom and Dow Chemical, for example, are quick to point out the measurement they’ve put on innovation efforts.

$250MM in revenue has been created from ideas that came from bringing together very diverse groups of people— solving challenges for customers.

–Tom Harrison, Chairman Emeretus, The Omnicom Group

One KPI we use:  the % of margin coming from new product launches.

–Andrew Liveris

But beyond measuring the results of innovation, the innovation process itself can, in part, be driven by the numbers.   Here are some examples.


By now, you probably know that Boundless Markets accelerates revenue growth for clients by increasing their marketing and business development capabilities.  But you may not know that we also accelerate innovation, though a proprietary framework and exercises that have helped generate millions in revenue for clients and past employers.  These proven processes (and our love of upside) are one reason we often take a percentage of the revenue we generate for clients.

Have  a thorny challenge?  Let’s talk.   917-373-7451


By |January 23rd, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Entrepreneurship Lessons from Billion Dollar CEOs

Eat Your Own Dog Food, Please

Eat your own dog food.  That’s a blunt way of saying a company should practice what it preaches.

These days, with high buyer skepticism and social sharing off the charts, eating your own dog food is not just a good practice; it’s a strategic imperative.  Great companies focus their internal operations on living and breathing the values and practices they espouse to the outside world.  But too often it doesn’t play out this way.  For example, recently I spoke with a leading marketing automation company about an analytics project for one of our clients.  I made it clear in this discussion that our firm, Boundless Markets, was NOT looking for any software.  We were just inquiring about new ways of using analytics through the reporting in their system.  The next day I received this email from the company:

“Hello Brad,

Because you have shown interest in marketing software recently, I wanted to find out if you would like some help identifying your requirements and building the business case for marketing automation.  Choosing a marketing automation system isn’t a simple task, so let me know if you would like to schedule a 15 minute chat.”

In other words, a company whose entire existence is based on helping companies improve the targeting and relevancy of marketing to audiences completely ignored these principles in their own follow-up.  The way these mistakes happen, even with the best automation on the planet, is typically with human error.  Their representative tagged me as the wrong kind of prospect, and as a result the only automation that happened was one of irrelevancy.  A few weeks later, the same company sent me the email below— a note about their holiday party in the Bay Area – and they know I’m based in New York City.
bad targeting example










How do they know where I’m based?  Well, they asked during the initial phone call.  But either my address didn’t make it into their system or their holiday note did not take geography into consideration.  Either way, score one for data collection, score zero for acting on that data with smart targeting, which is what their entire company presumably is all about.   It is clear that this leading provider of marketing automation, a recognized “thought leader,” does not eat its own dog food.  No wonder the speculation inside the industry is that this company does NOT even use its own software to automate their internal marketing processes.

Other examples of not eating your own dog food I’ve come across recently:

  • A leading global management consulting firm (that helps FORTUNE 500 companies with research based insights) lacks effective processes for its own internal information gathering
  • A diet supplement positioned as an alkalizer (which neutralizes harmful affects of acid in the digestive system) contains lemon juice, a very acidic ingredient

Great companies internalize and perfect the practices they trumpet—this is a powerful part of effective branding.  Doing anything less can destroy a company’s credibility. Can you imagine what it takes to turn around the impression that your company does anything less than excel in areas core to your value proposition?

Take a minute to answer the following questions to see how well your company eats….err, practices what you preach.

  • What values are inherent in the way my company and products are positioned, and how well does your customer experience reflect them?
  • Are there well articulated, desired behaviors for employees that tie to these values?
  • How is ownership for these behaviors assigned and are proper accountabilities in place?
  • Do you have metrics/KPIs for these desired behaviors?

If your answer is no to any of those questions, what do you plan to do to remedy the situation? As you ponder that question, consider this quote from Shakespeare:  “It is a good divine that follows his own instructions”.

By |January 8th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Eat Your Own Dog Food, Please