Sunday, August 22, 2010

Offense vs. Defense

I am a Yankee fan. A favorite quote of mine is from the late New York Yankees "Boss" George Steinbrenner: "Look, if you're not on offense, you're on defense." I also remember the famous "The best defense is a good offense" adage that has been applied to many fields of endeavor, including games and military combat. I have been selling telecom and IT services since 1983. Throughout my business career, I basically have two kinds of conversations with clients. One is usually about saving them money, and the other is about making them money. I have observed that it is very hard to have both conversations, with any one client. They either love playing defense, or they love playing offense, but rarely does the client ever aspire to play both sides, at the same time.

People are usually of the “defensive” mindset, determined to reduce expenses, and to cut operational costs. Others love playing “offense” and they want to focus on growth, acquiring new clients and concentrate on business development. But which is the best strategy?

Let’s look at the numbers:
If a client is spending $1,000 per month on their telecommunications expenses (voice, data, wireless and wireline services) and I show them how to reduce their total telecom and IT spend by 25% they will save $250 per month. Not bad, putting $3,000 per year back into the cash flow of a typical small to mid-sized business is usually a welcomed strategy. But, if that same business owner could spend $250 per month - and by implementing proper technology-based sales and marketing strategies - they could GROW their business by 10% or more, they could be making thousands of dollars per month in new revenue, growing each and every month. Which strategy sounds better to you?

To me, eliminating waste is always a good idea, and implementing cost-reduction techniques is rarely a waste of time. If let’s say, a client was paying $0.05 per minute for toll free reservationless audio conferencing service, and they can have the exact same service (with same or better quality) for $0.02 per minute, why pay more for exactly the same thing? We are more than happy to take care of this for a client.

But, to me, the real way to be successful in business is to make “new” money, and that means playing offense. Most sports teams (except maybe for the 85’ Chicago Bears) became champions because of superior offense, not defense. I think the same goes for business. You can only save so much money, but you can never make too much money. There are only so many ways to reduce expenses, but there are an unlimited number of ways to make money.

And so it goes. Sports teams are usually known for their superior “offense” or for their superior “defense” but rarely are they known for both offense and defense at the same time. I never met a client in my business career that I could not help to save money, and that is a fact. And, I never met a client that I could not help to make money (assuming they accepted my advice). Under all circumstances, I always had the best long-term relationships with clients that we helped to dramatically grow their business through technology-based sales, and via implementing innovative marketing techniques. Saving money is always nice. But generating a client a profit where none could be found before, that always seems to be the sweeter victory.

It is always fun to see a great defensive baseball game, dare I say a “no-hitter”. But it is even more exciting to watch your team come from behind, in the bottom of the ninth - and with a flurry of superior offense they come back and win the game. I like watching a superior offense in action. Go Yankees.

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