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How Does a Company Become a Commercially Excellent Organization?

By Joane Ramsey

How Does a Company Become a Commercially Excellent Organization?

How does your company distinguish themselves from their competition? What can your leadership do to create an organization that is Commercially Excellent? In Episode 26 of the Strategic Insights Podcast, Joane Ramsey and Rick Van Natta share strategies for leaders to align their decision making and inspire everyone in the organization to pull in the same direction for more sustainable and profitable growth.

Joane Ramsey: 00:01 Hello and welcome to the Strategic Insights Podcast, brought to you by Strategic Enhancement Group. I'm Joane Ramsey, Senior Performance Improvement Consultant with Strategic Enhancement Group and today I'm joined by Rick Van Natta, Senior Consultant at Strategic Enhancement Group. We're going to be discussing a term that is becoming top of mind for a lot of organizations given the competitive landscape of today's marketplace, Commercial Excellent Organization. What does that mean and what does it look like especially now that we're in the midst of a pandemic? I would like to get us started today by helping our listeners get a picture of what that looked like prior to COVID-19 and then move into some tips for leaders to keep in mind as they move forward to the new normal. Rick, why don't you walk us through an example of what that looked like before the pandemic and then we can discuss what that might look like as we evolve through these challenging times?

Rick Van Natta: 01:00 Sure. I'm happy to. I'd like to have you think about a purchase that involves a large sum of money, maybe a luxury item. The first thing that comes to mind is that if you're purchasing something expensive, the expectation is that you'll receive the goods in good to great condition. The more luxurious item, the higher our expectations on what we will be receiving. An example might be the purchase of the vehicle or a new home, so I'd like to use the purchase of a new car as our example. People in the market for a brand new vehicle have higher expectations than someone purchasing a used one. It's more about the experience and the feelings they have when they're connecting to that new car. Most people know what they want, how they want it, and how much they're willing to pay to get it. The more features they want the car to come with, the higher the cost of acquisition and the higher the expectations around the experience they'll have at the dealership.

At this point, people expect the service and the car that are receiving to be excellent. A Commercially Excellent Organization is similar to the example of the new car expectations. Everything is designed to ensure customers, employees, and shareholders have a great experience and are receiving excellent service. When an organization sets out to be commercially excellent, that means they're paying attention to every detail of their business and are focused on delivering excellence to every one they touch. Now more than ever, organizations need to consider how they're servicing their clients. Some refer to this as the customer or client journey.

Joane Ramsey: 02:39 That is such a great example. I think that now more than ever operating at a higher level of customer service and providing value is critical for organizations to survive. We're all experiencing collective trauma. This is different for everyone, but one thing is for sure. As human beings there are three ways we experience trauma. We go on fight, flight, or freeze mode. This is something that we just don't talk about in business, but it is important to acknowledge because your leaders, your employees, your shareholders, your suppliers, and your clients are all having different reactions on how they are handling the situation and that may be different for each and every one of them. Rick, how about if we dive into what leaders need to recognize first in order to be able to move forward with clarity on how to handle the emotional side of this moment in time so they can then ensure productivity and innovation, and have a chance to flourish to maintain commercial excellence?

One area where I think we all need to be coming to terms with is that business is not as usual. By now, every leader in this country and around the world understands that the way we conduct business has changed and will continue to change until we're able to figure out what the new normal looks like. More than ever, leaders need to have clear in their minds what their business can do at this moment and review their plans in order to determine how to best move forward. Adjusting and reevaluating plans is imperative.

Rick Van Natta: 04:18 Yes, and part of this planning has to be recognizing that employees are not at their most productive state. Employees are distracted. In many instances, their families or roommates are with them 24 hours or perhaps now they're totally alone. They're concerned about keeping their jobs. Some are now having to be able to homeschool their children or care for elderly parents or relatives. Some are worried about just keeping it all together with reduced income or worry about when this will be over and what the world will look like when we start to move towards a new normal. Everyone is under stress and again, each is handling it in their own way. More than ever, leaders need to be talking to their direct reports, understanding from them what can be accomplished, and setting realistic expectations. Right now it is impossible to expect that employees are fully engaged. Even if you are an essential business and your employees are coming into work, they're still worried about their safety, maybe the safety of their families when they go home, and wondering how long they will have a job before they too may have to close up.

Joane Ramsey: 05:24 That is so true. Then you have your customers to consider. As leaders adapt and review their business plan, they need to put themselves in their customer's shoes more than ever and ask the question around, "How can my business help my customer?" "What can we do in order to provide value and help our customers also move forward?" "Where can we be flexible, innovative?" "What are we addressing?" "How are we addressing safety?" We have to remember that some company's overall health safety was not even in the radar prior to COVID-19, so given all these considerations, how do we move forward to continue on the path for excellence? Being a commercially excellent organization in today's world impacts everyone involved. For instance, from an employee's perspective, that means working for a company that helps them understand expectations, systems and procedures for safety among others, provides above industry benefits, and ensure that employees are receiving proper training so they can deliver their best performance to the organization's customers and shareholders. They're aligned with the leadership's vision, and mission for the organization.

Rick Van Natta: 06:37 From a customer's perspective, that means receiving excellent service and products from the organization that goes above and beyond industry standards. The level of service received is noticeably different from anyone else who may be servicing them. It means knowing that if they have an issue, that issue will be resolved in a timely manner, that the sales person who sold them the product is available to support their decision and goes above and beyond what most companies provide. It makes the customer feel safe in working with them. Customers trust the organization, its people, and its leadership. Especially right now, how organizations are handling customer service will likely become what determines whether or not there'll be around to face the new normal. As much as this is negatively impacting business, it's also an incredible opportunity for businesses to distinguish themselves from others. Customers will remember those companies that added value, were flexible and above all, were compassionate and came out of this ready to go.

Joane Ramsey: 07:41 You make such a great point, Rick. Right now, many companies have a huge opportunity to distinguish themselves from their competition. If leaders are resolute and have clarity on how their business should move forward, they're providing clear direction to their employees on what that looks like, how they want the employees to service their customers, and what they need to have put in place to support employees and how they see the future for their organizations, they can greatly differentiate their company in the marketplace. It is about leaders setting the tone for the future of the organization. The culture that they established prior to COVID-19 will either shine or crumble.

Rick Van Natta: 08:21 Yes, and at the same time, by taking action and reevaluating their plans now, leaders can provide their shareholders with the confidence they need that the business will survive the situation. More than ever, leaders need to have trust of their shareholders so they can have their continued support.

Joane Ramsey: 08:42 So with all that in mind, the question becomes, "How does my company become commercially excellent in the middle of a pandemic?" "What can the leadership do to create such an organization?" The reality is that there is a no fit all approach, but there are five characteristics that we know of, of how the company can become commercially excellent. This may be helpful to some of our listeners as they evaluate their business and revamp their plans. So let's dive into them. Number one, a discovery process that helps commercial leadership across functions align on framework and language. What I mean by that is that leaders should reach a common understanding of current capabilities and global best practices, as well as a clear objective and a holistic view of improvement of opportunities. Right now most companies are having to reevaluate their business anyways, so looking for those areas where your business has improvement opportunities is a critical success factor for survival of the business.

An example of a commercial area that is often looked at is sales. As a leader, how do I ensure that my salespeople are performing at their highest level of performance, that they have a common language and approach, so when our customers work with them, they know what to expect? Right now, businesses everywhere are having to improve on how their sales people work with their customers in a virtual setting. Look at the opportunity for improvement. Do you have to help your salespeople understand how to conduct a virtual meeting? Establish a protocol for them to follow. For most salespeople, this is just a new skill that they never had to utilize before and it needs to be learned.

Number two, clearly link each commercial capability with specific outputs and results. So when it comes to this, leaders should know how each capability will help, where it will perform best, and what economic impact they can expect from it. For instance, leaders with commercially excellent organizations know that their customer service department is handling every call in a way that ensures their customer will leave the call with their problems solved and they will have a satisfied outcome. The economic impact of that is that this is a customer that will return, provide testimonials of your services, boast about you in social media, and ensure that your business will continue to have a good reputation in the marketplace so new customers will feel confident working with you. The message here is that the expectations of performance at every level from a division, department, individual contributor are very clear. People know what is expected of them and they know how to deliver it and the results are positive.

Rick Van Natta: 11:34 Getting clear on those is so important. The next one, number three, is when the prioritized capabilities are perfectly aligned with longterm strategy. That's basically when leaders understand how each capability will help to achieve the vision of the organization. They also understand the behaviors required to achieve the vision. The company has systems in place and a set of competencies that drives the expected behaviors. Right now, this is another critical success factor for companies. Companies that have clearly established the behaviors required at this time in order to get through this pandemic are the ones that will thrive and come out at the other end okay.

Moving on to number four, business leaders and influencers remain highly engaged to drive adoption to reach critical mass. More than ever, this is so critical for success. An executive sponsor of the transformation sets the tone and maintains the momentum. They do this in part by enlisting and gaining support from other leaders, managers, and employees. The leaders in the organization have credibility and are well-respected. They lead by example. They deliver their best to the people.

Finally, number five. Capability improvements can be tracked and quantified. This is referring to return on investment. Senior leaders should know how much of the expected impact has been captured and where they are in the transformation journey. They're able to answer the very important questions of, "So what?", for the aftermath of the implementation. What results have we received? Are we on track? Are our customers satisfied? Are our employees fulfilled in their jobs and delivering their best work?

Joane Ramsey: 13:21 That is great, Rick, and the message here is that the organizations that move from insights to action and ultimately to sustained impact are really the ones who incorporate commercial capability development into their standard management processes, including annual operating plans, long range planning, and talent reviews, which are needed more than ever right now. The most effective companies not only take specific actions to build capabilities such as assessing current capabilities, setting goals, assigning owners, and launching initiatives, but they combine these actions with accurate and timely performance management. As a lot of leaders are having to rethink how they run their businesses, this may be something to keep in mind. Running a commercially excellent organization provides above all better results and a more agile organization that can easily incorporate changes in times like today. Many companies are being forced to evaluate all aspects of their businesses right now. This can be viewed as an opportunity to greatly improve your business. The question here is what kind of leader do you really want to be?

Rick Van Natta: 14:31 That's so true. We also know that organizations fail to track and reward progress consistently. Many have managers looking at commercial excellence as the flavor of the month rather than a new way of working in thinking. It is important to point out that once a company has structured a way of thinking about commercial excellence, it can replace habits and biases with facts, it can dig deeper into true sources of competitive advantage and make targeted investments in the new capabilities that will help drive profitable growth in a changing marketplace. These investments often include new tools, training, and talent that compliment each other. It is a world of and rather than or. Improving pricing and reducing leakage can quickly generate at least some of the funds required to invest in longer term improvements. Improvement models vary. Some companies create a central commercial excellence team while others give the line leaders capability building responsibilities.

Joane Ramsey: 15:30 Well, Rick, I think it suffices to say that commercial excellence is one of the most powerful levers for consistently delivering superior shareholder returns. Right now, those are the companies who are still operating at a calmer state than those who are scrambling to figure out how to move forward. By relying on a fact driven view of what matters most, leaders can align their decision making and inspire everyone in the organization to pull in the same direction, toward a more sustainable, profitable growth. I hope this provides our listeners with inspiring tips on how to become commercially excellent in their own right. Thanks, Rick, for joining me here today. If you have additional questions or thoughts, please visit us at

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Published: May 30, 2020

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Joane Ramsey

Senior Performance Improvement Consultant

A native of Brazil, Joane first came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student with AFS. She returned to Brazil where she successfully ran and sold two different businesses. Returning to the US in 1992, Joane put her business ownership experience to work with a small manufacturing company running the day-to-day operations and facilitating sales with South American companies. She joined SEG in 1999, where her experience has helped her clients get the results they desired. Joane has a B.S. degree in business management from North Central College, where she majored in international business and Spanish.

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