Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Getting Caught Flat-Footed

How you react when you get blindsided makes all the difference for your business.

In business, nobody likes surprises. Don’t get me wrong — I welcome unexpected windfalls and sudden good news from employees, but spur-of-the-moment announcements are more often harbingers of doom as opposed to heralding good times ahead. To wit, I was caught off-guard last Tuesday and I didn’t like it one bit.

There I was, minding my own business (don’t all these stories begin this way?), when “bing!” popped an email into my inbox announcing a networking event later in the week. The topic? “Home Technology.” In our market, we’re usually involved in any home technology events, so this struck me as odd. I did a little further digging and realized that all our local competitors were exhibiting. We weren’t. My stomach sank. How did this happen? I thought we’d been a member of this group for the past seven years. The simplest answer is I’d taken my eye off the ball. The buck stops here and whatever did or didn’t happen happened on my watch.

Also by Henry Clifford: Leveraging Tension in Your Business

After getting over my initial frustration, I quickly emailed the group’s executive director and asked if we could be a part of the event. She replied back and let me know that if I filled out the membership application quickly, she would do her best to fast-track us. I promptly pulled up their web form and began furiously typing away during dinner with my family (a cardinal sin in the Clifford household). I was a man possessed. After plugging away for a few minutes, I hit submit and hoped for the best. I simultaneously reached out to our entire sales team and asked them for all hands on deck at the event, showing them the flier and appealing to their sense of friendly competition.

The next day I received an email letting me know our application had been approved and we would have a 6-foot table at the event where we could show our wares. I called our COO, Stacy Hicks, explained the situation and asked her to take charge. She quickly spun into action and made magic happen with our table presentation. I met our team at the event around 5:00 PM and surveyed the room. Sure enough, all the local players in residential CI were positioned around the room along with several manufacturers and reps. I have to hand it to one of my long-time friendly competitors and friends — he’d done an amazing job of working together with the design community to pull off a mini expo.

Livewire at CE Event

I worked the room, said hello to all my competitors and got to know a few of the remodeling group’s membership. Earlier in the day I’d asked one of our new salespeople, Josh, to step up and represent Livewire at this group’s events from then on. He agreed and I was very grateful for his help on such short notice.

After the event my mind turned to how we could keep something like this from happening again. Scrambling around is not part of the Livewire Way. Our director of sales & business development, Zack, was out on vacation that week. We don’t call people on vacation.

Also by Henry Clifford: Learning From Lego

Zack came back this week and I asked him to pull together a matrix listing all the networking groups in the market and decide whether or not to place a champion in each or mark them not applicable for our business. This way we could move from our back foot to leaning forward in a proactive stance. Nobody likes reacting. As it turns out, I was the genius who offered to take over attending the remodeling group’s meetings after one of our former salespeople left a few years ago. Our service department calls that an ID10T error message. The man in the mirror strikes again!

We’re sure to make more mistakes tomorrow, just not that same mistake. What are you doing in your business to ensure you don’t get caught flat-footed?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.