Who’s driving the bus?

Every business you’ve ever worked with or for has a primary driving force.   It is this force that is driving the business forwards.

Often it is a reflection of the values their founders or leaders hold most dearly.  This drive is the cultural lifeblood of everything they do, it becomes the norm, “the way things are done here” mantra that they live (and die) for.  

At the sales-driven company, you’ll see a massive focus on taking your product to market.  It’s their job to convince, persuade, cajole and eventually win you over to their way of thinking.   If you’ve worked for them, you’ll hear chatter about “the numbers”, closing deals and not so much about the customer.   This approach works…sometimes.  It relies heavily on the influence skills of their sales team.  Customers are often seen as the means to the end.  Relationships are measured by what they get out of it.  

The product-driven  (or engineering-driven) firm focuses wholeheartedly on building the very best widget.  Their internal dialogue is all around features, capabilities, specifications and performance of the said widget.  There is a belief that bringing the best widget to market is the best road to success, and sometimes it is.  For firms like Ericsson and perhaps even Google, they’ll often build great solutions to problems that don’t exist.  Sometimes these will appear to outsiders as failures, but the breakthroughs they make, lay the foundations for future successes.  Product-driven firms build amazing products, then look for a market for them.  Their internal dialogue if often, focused on innovation, better ways of doing things and beating the competition to market with their brilliant new idea.

Marketing-driven firms often look the slickest.  They are always “on message” presenting a story to the market that communicates the value they claim to offer.    They are smart, focused on the offer, presenting a wafer-thin veneer of credibility to the market, often while their product people work furiously in the background trying to match the reality to the glossy brochure.  Get beneath the surface (as an employee or customer), and things are not so pretty.  Often these are the first who spend the most time talking about “roadmaps” with new features coming soon.  These are the businesses you’ll see looking for that one silver bullet, the magic Facebook hack, shiny new branding or just about anything that avoids having to do the hard work of creating value for their customers.

Market-Driven firms, however, are different.  Their sole focus is on solving the problems that matter, to the people they exist for.  They are continually seeking more insights into the issues facing their market and finding better and more efficient ways of solving these problems.  They hear the market place, but perhaps, more importantly, are heard by the market place, and through their genuine engagement change the way they see the world.  They’ll do the hard work of building empathy into their business systems, such that they understand the hopes, dreams, frustrations and feelings of their customers.  Being market-driven is hard work, but ultimately it lasts.

Choose your driver wisely, because ultimately they will decide where you’re business goes.