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Finding your company's ideals

As part of the research for his new book, “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies,” Jim Stengel interviewed several of the key B2B marketers, such as Dell, IBM, Motorola Solutions and VISA. “These companies that I visited are all powered by something very extraordinary, which I call an ‘ideal,’" said Stengel, the former global head of marketing for Procter & Gamble, who is now president-CEO of The Jim Stengel Company. Stengel, who will speak at the BMA’s annual conference this spring, said he intends at the meeting to challenge B2B marketers to find their ideal.

Locating a company’s “ideal” starts with senior managers getting together to ask themselves some tough questions: What difference does the company make in the world? Why do people come to work at this company? How do we behave when we’re at our best?

While the ability to “listen” to your audience(s) has taken on an added currency because of the immense changes in consumer behavior, companies also have to improve their capability to listen internally.

“If we’re not listening to each other, if we’re not asking each other these questions, if we’re not in this together [the ideal] will be not be authentic and it will fall apart,” Stengel said. “I always work for many, many, many months internally before I go outside and that’s what you must do.”

Indeed, the process to hitting on the company’s ideal has to be organic and iterative, according to Stengel.

“If you’re hitting a nerve and have anything that is resonating with everyone, that’s only the beginning,” he said. “Then you have to ask how is this ideal consistent with our heritage, with the DNA of the company and is this compelling for employees and customers.”

During the meeting Stengel will discuss a major component of “Grow”: a global ten-year growth study of more than 50,000 brands that he conducted, along with Millward Brown Optimor and UCLA Anderson School of Management. (All attendees will receive a copy of “Grow.”)

The study revealed that those companies that center their business on the ideal of improving lives have a growth triple that of competitors in their categories. (An investment in the “Stengel 50,” the top 50 businesses in the growth study, would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500, according to “Grow.”)

Stengel will also talk about research showing that the highest growth businesses are run by “business artists,” or leaders whose primary medium is brand ideals.  Business artists also excel in practices that constitute an operating system for generating and sustaining high growth.

“I like the artist as a metaphor,” he said. “The artist takes the long view, is highly principled, is whole-brained and has a real Northstar for making decisions.”

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