What a cluttered office says about strategic focus

cluttered officeA strategy isn’t a strategy until it can be translated into frontline behaviors and routines, so one defining characteristic of companies with a Founder’s MentalitySM is their obsessive focus on the front line.

One of the best examples of that focus I’ve seen recently was scattered around Luis Gil’s office at Securitas Direct in Madrid. Securitas Direct is a leading European supplier of security systems for homes and businesses. With more than 1.5 million security customers and 6,500 employees, it operates in nine European countries and, more recently, in Latin America.

Luis Gil founded and runs Securitas Direct’s businesses in southern Europe—which includes France, Spain and Portugal—as well as its businesses in Chile, Brazil and Peru.

Central to the strategy of those businesses is a maniacal focus on its salespeople, who sell and install the equipment, providing a single turnkey solution. Customer acquisition and retention are at the heart of the company’s business model, and management focuses a huge amount of attention on finding and training its sales staff.

Sitting over a tapas lunch in his Madrid office, we discussed Securitas’s strategy in southern Europe and how he is now applying that repeatable model in Latin America.

Or, at least, I was sitting. As Luis described each point of the strategy—and particularly how the salesforce explains the company’s offerings to key customers—he repeatedly jumped from his chair to pick up one of the many pieces of packaging that filled his office.

Securitas Direct’s various home security systems come in packages with components that potential customers can see and touch—motion detectors and door sensors, as well as electronic activation keys and remote controls.

“Our salespeople need to be able to explain each proposition in no more than four points,” he told me. “They need to make these points as they show the product in its packaging.  So on the cover, they make the first point of the basic offer. As they then open the cover, you can see the three main items of the system, and our salespeople can make three additional points as they describe each component.” As he explained this, Luis flipped open the cover of a prototype box to reveal the three main products. The four points of the customer proposition were described right on the package.

For Luis, all strategy is theoretical unless he can translate it into a frontline routine—in this case, how the salesperson explains the core proposition in four points to the customer. The design of the packaging isn’t a marketing afterthought, or something delivered 27 layers down from where strategy is set: The design of packaging is the strategy.

As Luis put it, “What’s the point of PowerPoint?  Our success doesn’t demand that I sell you on Securitas Direct in a board room. It demands that our salespeople sell Securitas Direct every day on the front line. So the packaging is an essential part of strategy—it is the way our great products are sold to customers. Packaging is one key way we define and ‘lock in’ our repeatable model.” As a result, he says, “I find it very difficult to have a strategy discussion without a room full of packaging prototypes.”

This is someone with a Founder’s Mentality—someone who never forgets that a strategy must be delivered by the front line. Luis knows that what differentiates the company’s offerings can’t be conveyed through a PowerPoint slide: It must be seen and touched and discussed during a dialogue between customers and salespeople. 

The offices of business leaders reveal a lot. The more prototypes you see—of products, packaging, sales and service contracts, and so on—the more likely it is that you are in the office of someone with a Founder’s Mentality. Often, the more cluttered the office, the more ruthlessly focused the company.

This entry was posted in Frontline obsession, The paths to Great Repeatable Models by James Allen. Bookmark the permalink.

About James Allen

James Allen is a senior partner in Bain & Company's London office and recognized as a leading expert in developing global corporate and business unit strategy. He is co-head of Bain’s Global Strategy practice and a member of Bain & Company's European Consumer Products practice. He is co-author, with Chris Zook, of Repeatability (HBR Press, March 2012) and Profit from the Core (HBR Press, 2001 and 2010).

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