The Maxicure Group PDF Print E-mail

eorge Addison leaned forward on his desk, sipped the lukewarm coffee that Petra his secretary had brought him and opened the thick document containing Maxicure's current strategic plan which he had just retrieved from his filing cabinet. His brief from Jon Finch, the Managing Director had been simple enough and Finch's words were still ringing in his years from the meeting that had ended about an hour ago.

? Put simply George, I want you to find the cause of our falling sales and submit proposals to me to reverse the trend. As Marketing Director, I expect you to develop a programme that will address our current predicament. Your job could depend on it.?

Addison had decided to begin by retracing the company's strategic thinking over the past three years. In 1997 the first ever documented strategic plan had been drawn up for Maxicure by the entire senior management team, with Finch at the helm.

As he flicked through the plan he noted that all the proper steps to develop the plan had been taken. Addison remembered that at that time he suggested calling in the services of a management consultant to provide an external perspective, and to guide the team through the entire process. Finch had disagreed stating that consultants were a waste of time and besides there was enough expertise in the management team to ensure a workable plan could be produced.

Beginning with the stated purpose of Maxicure, (which the planning team had differentiated from the company's mission), Addison slowly worked his way through the three-year plan. He noted that in 1997, the prime purpose of the company's existence was stated as being to provide a profit for its members and to maintain its position as the leading supplier and marketer of power fencing in South Africa. Moreover, a commitment was also made within the statement of purpose to maintain what Finch saw as being dominant market share and to ensure a rewarding and stable work environment for all staff. ?Hmm? muttered Addison to himself. ?If only Jon Finch was to practise what he preaches we may not have lost three of our best technicians to the opposition and the current problems with our KwaZulu ? Natal dealers may have been averted.

Moving on to the company mission, Addison started to highlight the salient phrases. ? Committed to the pursuit of excellence in servicing our customers. Indeed. ? he muttered with a shake of his head. ? Supplying a high quality product backed by sound technical advice . What a farce. And if Jon Finch thinks that we provide a full range of power fencing equipment through a good dealer network , then he is living in cloud cuckoo land. Our customer service, not to mention that with which we provide the dealers is so bad that defections are rife.? Moving through the document he noted that key assumptions had indeed been made, both industry and SWOT analyses had been undertaken, strategic thrusts listed and a competitive advantage identified. The document also listed Maxicure's financial, personnel, marketing, production and general policies. Moreover, an implementation programme had been neatly set out with specific actions and completed dates being listed. So what was wrong? Addison thought carefully about his options. He knew that his marketing plan was good, given the resources at his disposal, but had differed with Finch on certain key issues, particularly on the dealer relationship programme he had wanted to develop. His main concern was that Finch was trying to dictate the tone of the marketing thrust, which Addison believed was limited in scope owing to the lack of financial resources made available in the marketing budget. He had fought tooth and nail for more money with both Finch, and Eric Fleming, Maxicure's financial director, but to no avail. Now he was beginning to feel that he was being made a scapegoat for the company's poor performance over the past eighteen months. This was in stark contrast to the accolades accorded him by Finch at the start of the current strategic cycle when Maxicure was indeed the dominant player in its industry. At that time Finch had welcomed Addison to Maxicure with a great deal of revelry and had proudly announced to the entire staff how lucky Maxicure was in having attracted someone of George Addison's calibre and background.

Leaning back in his chair Addison thought about his next move. He could talk to a consultant, but Jon Finch would take a dim view of that and kill any idea of hiring such an individual. He could also commission a research study amongst dealers and end users, but he was not convinced that that would tell him anything that he did not already know. Besides, he would be hard pressed to justify even to himself, such expenditure. He could organise his own discussion group with some of the dealers to try and save on the cost and to send a signal that Maxicure really do have an interest in what they have to say. He dismissed that on the grounds that it may be interpreted by the dealer network as being a knee jerk reaction to the stormy dealers' meeting he had attended two weeks previously. He could call a meeting of the senior management team to discuss the predicament and to see if he could leverage the current situation into reviewing the strategic plan

Instead he picked up the phone and dialled the extension of Alan Williams the Sales Director, with whom he was on friendly terms both inside and outside the Maxicure environment. On the social front, the two men were golfing partners and managed to play most weekends. It was natural that the subject of their employer came up on the golf course and during the social gatherings between both sets of families. Moreover, Addison felt he could trust Williams and for that reason sought his counsel.

?So what's the problem?? asked a rather surprised Williams. ?You sounded pretty upset just now.?

?Its Finch. I think he is out to nail me. You know how badly we have been doing recently. Finch now expects me to sort out the mess intimating that it is a marketing problem. I mean take a look at this strategic planning document. It is well structured, has all the right steps and looks really professional. But you know what Alan? The thinking is all wrong or is not even there in the first place. Finch thinks that by following a stepwise approach to strategy an effective strategic plan will be the result. I knew I should have spoken up at the time.?

?Steady on George. Don't you think you are jumping the gun a bit? I mean that document is the result of the entire management team's efforts over a three day period.?

?That may be true Alan, but my gripe is that nowhere in this document does it even remotely state how we are actually going to outmanoeuvre the opposition. I mean just listen to this.? Addison proceeded to quote directly from the document.

?Maxicure in future will only concentrate on the power fencing business in which it must sustain a long term competitive advantage, through differentiating itself from its competitors. This differentiation will comprise the following:

  1. Continued and active promotion through advertising in the media and exhibiting at trade shows to promote the Maxicure name.
  2. The appointment of quality dealers who are able to provide the professional service the Maxicure name deserves.
  3. Maxicure being perceived by both its dealers and the public at large to be a professional organisation through the quality of its housekeeping; the courteousness of its staff; the efficiency of its service and the sustained quality of its products.

?What utter garbage. Look Alan, there is nothing there which makes us better, never mind different from the opposition. You should see the new dealer relationship programme that Secure Scape have just introduced for their dealers. It's brilliant. The guys are falling over themselves to promote that brand. In addition, the training they provide is first class. They have even brought a guy over from New Zealand to spend time with the dealer network training them in the latest sales and product developments. I wanted to do all of this two years ago, but Finch said it would cost too much money. Now Secure Scape are way ahead of us in everything from product quality, to dealer loyalty and market share.?

?Why did you not speak up at the time?? asked Alan Williams.

?I suppose I was just being cautious, being the new kid on the block. I had only been in the job for about two weeks when this stratplanning session was conducted. I mean, even our statement of purpose and mission statements are a joke. We don't provide excellent service and our product quality is suspect, judging by the increasing number of complaints we receive.?

?Be fair George? counselled Williams. ?This strategic plan was our first attempt.?

?All the more reason to bring in an expert to take us through the process. Instead of which it has been based on supposition, people's perceptions, rumours and popular knowledge. The benefits to us? A big fat zero! And besides, when was it last reviewed? And what hacks me off is that as a result of this, my marketing plan has little or no direction and yet Finch has the audacity to lay the blame for our deteriorating situation at the door of marketing. If I were you Alan I would be worried in case you are next.? At that, Addison took his leave of his friend and went back to his office. Picking up the phone he dialled through to Jon Finch.

?Jon, Hi! I have thought about our discussion earlier this morning and I think I may have the answer you are looking for. When can I come over and discuss it with you??

Meet Paul Dorrian
Principal Consultant

Paul has over twenty years experience as a management consultant, and has directed many projects in the fields of strategy, marketing and organisational effectiveness. His expertise has assisted many of South Africa's leading companies across numerous industries and national backgrounds....
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