When it comes to the ‘P’s of marketing, it seems only ‘promotion’, or specifically advertising, gets all the share of voice because of how glamourous it is perceived to be. In the real world, however, the other ‘P’s are as critical, if not more. Take the case of ‘place’ or supply chain and distribution to be exact.
As an experienced marketer think about how many times you have heard about a brand failing or struggling because of distribution issues. We live in a cut throat world where products are born and die constantly, and for sure, the world of supply chain has a graveyard full of dead brands. However, it also has many success stories. As I explored this world further, I realised how powerful it really is. Yet, no one on the main marketing forums is talking about supply chain and distribution.
To start a dialogue on this topic, I want to focus on what successful supply chain companies have in common, irrespective of where they operate in the world. According to the American Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), there are seven qualities that make for a great supply chain environment and I will discuss these qualities in a series of articles, each one focusing on one of the qualities.
At the top of the list is consistency in leadership. To understand this concept, I spoke to Naveed Sultan, CEO of Burque Corporation, the company which handles the supply chain for most of the mega brands in Pakistan, including L’Oreal, Nestle, Reckitt, Samsung, Shan and Unilever among others. Sultan completely agreed that leadership is the cornerstone of a business that is primarily driven by sheer will and commitment. It is a people industry. What follows is a summary of our discussion.
1. The Great Misconception About Leadership
Most people in management think that leadership is about making fiery speeches, thinking out of the box and similar stereotypical ideas. This is misleading, because although all this may be part of what makes a good leader, the glue that binds it all and creates a leader is consistency. There is a crisis of leadership in business today, stemming from inconsistency in both leaders and leadership.
So why do so many leaders preach about consistency, but do not practice what they preach? The answer is surprisingly simple. The dividends of consistency come in slowly and mediocre leaders do not have the patience for it. They want quick results and this is expressed in their short term approach. For example, if someone joins a gym and works out for three hours, will he gain a lot of muscle mass? No. What if he did it for a week? The answer is still no. Do you think body builders acquire their muscle mass because they worked out for a day, a week, a month or even four months? No they didn’t. Great bodybuilders get the physique they have because they do what they do consistently, day after day, year after year. The same goes for leaders. They commit to something and are not discouraged if results do not show up immediately. They are in it for the long haul.
2. Consistency is the Gold Standard
To manage an effective supply chain management, leaders and managers need to exercise two forms of consistency. Consistency in terms of the presence of the leader and consistency in the actions of the leader.
When it comes to the question of consistency in presence of the leader, in some companies, people in top management sometimes change so frequently that the middle and junior management remain perpetually confused. Every new leader brings in his own ideas and style of leadership and this is destructive to growth. Of course, leaders should be promoted and replaced in a natural timeframe, but doing so frequently damages growth and stability. According to CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly Magazine, many of the top performing global supply chain companies built their organisations in the 1980s and have only had one or two supply chain leaders over the three decades of their evolution. This consistency in leadership provided the foundation to build and grow their companies.
The other major issue is inconsistency in the actions of the leader. There is no point having a leader consistently, if his policies are inconsistent. There are four clear reasons for consistency in leadership. The first is predictability. When a leader is consistent in his leadership, he is predictable in his results, which in turn makes him dependable. Clients and managers hate working with leaders who make erratic decisions because they are unpredictable and cannot be depended upon. The second is consistency in delivery and decision making. This is what builds trust. The difference between a product and a brand is that a brand is built on trust by consistently delivering on its promise; consistency helps build the organisation’s brand because consistency leads to trust in the brand. The third is the fact that consistency sharpens the focus on goals and objectives. Both are difficult to accomplish if the managers reporting to the leader are confused and constantly led down different paths. The fourth is the fact that an inconsistent leader breeds inconsistency in his followers, creating further more chaos.
Of course, none of this means that people should not evolve. Introducing new ideas (such as technology) does not contradict consistency; in fact, it is part of the promise to consistently build a progressive company.
In my next article I intend to talk about how building a strong horizontal process is critical for a successful supply chain organisation. Although I am from the promotion side of the industry, I want marketers to start thinking about the other Ps of marketing. There is a lot more to building a successful brand then just creating an ad for it.
Syed Amir Haleem is CEO, Skale Interactive and Kueball Digital. firstname.lastname@example.org