A couple years ago, I created a communication tool to explain the fundamentals of Palmetto’s business model - and I called it the Rhythmic Triangle of Success. It’s nothing too amazing, but it’s an important symbol of how business ebbs and flows. To evolve as a company and pursue our mission, we need a basic framework of understanding why decisions are made when they are. I’ve relied on this symbolic tool to help in communication since our Company’s pivot to a platform business since 2017.
Origin: The triangle is used to illustrate our company’s priorities, culture and relativeness to the every-changing market landscape. At the time of create, Palmetto went through a doozy of a business model adjustment – from a vertically integrated model (with mis-aligned subsidiaries) into today’s business model of a software and logistic platform). In those days, needed to create a communication tool that would consistently communicate our Company’s goals. During that time, I stood in front of the Company each week for a period of 20 weeks and needed to communicate the need to transform the business – it was difficult and included demotions, divestments, relocations and divestments. But, to take the new and necessary direction, I had to transition the business and quickly. The outcome is was worth it - The Rhythmic Triangle of Success is still applicable in today’s business model.
About The Construct:
Inside the triangle is the business, itself. It’s basically all internal items and pillars of focus. Outside the triangle is ‘the market’. We only control what takes place inside the triangle.
INSIDE THE TRIANGLE: Managing Internal Resources & What we Control
Top of Triangle: Focus. This is all about focus and alignment. You absolutely must have a simple communication tool for your team’s overall focus and alignment. Team members need to know that what they are doing is going to be fruitful and, if done exceptionally well, rewarded. It sounds simple, but it is hard. The classic entrepreneur and leader has a million things going on at all times; we see shinny red balls and, without focus and discipline, we chase those shinny red balls - seeking excitement, “something new”, whatever. The trusth is, your team mates probably don’t understand why you appear unfocused – maybe they are thinking the ‘here and now’ while you are thinking ‘beyond the horizon’; sometimes the roles are reversed, perhaps you are too much in the ‘here and now’ while you need to be focused on the ‘horizon’. When you find discipline and stay focused, you will discover success. You will also see greater buy-in from your team - you can then build systems and processes for long-term success (Assuming the opportunity is viable); this will, in turn, create more success with your team - success breeds success. A classic example of this is Zuckerburg’s facebook - each leadership meeting - they walk out with one thing (only one thing) to focus on. It’s that focus that has revolutionized the social media platform industry.
Left of Triangle: Data. We are data obsessed people at Palmetto. We love numbers and analytics. From a management perspective, you want as much data at your finger-tips as possible and presented in a way that helps you understand whether you need to make adjustments. Numbers are simple and tell you a story. Do you like what that story is telling you? If not, what do you need to do differently? Prior to establishing ‘data’ as pillar to our organization - we were a rutter-less ship, lost at sea, without a captain (any other sea-based analogies). Sales projections, by example, was a ‘gut instinct’ from our head of sales or cash needs was an ‘estimation’ - if those two things weren’t forecasted correctly (and they were not) then we would be in big trouble (and we were!). As we build out our software and databases, we focus on management tools required for decision-making. This is applicable to each and every team, individual and initiatives. We need metrics to manage by. The old, but true cliché, “you cannot manage what you cannot measure.”
Right of Triangle: Competitive Advantage. In the early days, identifying and focusing on our competitive advantage was everything. In many ways, it still is. If you don’t know what your competitive advantage is, then you need to stop everything and figure it out. Otherwise, you will focus on too many things and, as a result, spread you and your team thin. Even big companies forget this principle - and eventually fail. We initially focused on one competitive advantage after focusing on our new platform model a couple years ago. It wasn’t until we executed that advantage in full that we added on a second area of focus and so forth... For your non-competitive advantage areas, we should structure partnerships and manage those outsourced relationships carefully (with data). Overtime, you may decide to in-house those areas, but don’t do that until you have the basic completive advantages as building blocks. This way, you build your division in a way that has long-term viability.
OUTSIDE THE TRIANGLE: managing ‘Chaos’ & what we do not Control: Outside the triangle is the market landscape and all it’s external factors that impact our business model. This can include, but is not limited to: competitors, legislation, policy, investment sentiment, interest rates, international trade, technology evolution, industry changes, commodity pricing and so on. To be successful, we need to understand two central items – Relevance and Timing.
Relevance: Three years ago, I was on a business development roadshow for seven weeks; it was grueling, exhausting and aggravating. The more I learned on the road, I understood that what we were building back at Headquarters was a fundamentally wrong – we were continuing to build a vertically integrated model, which was not financially viable and we needed to make a pivot. Meanwhile, back home, team mates were under the impression that our Company was performing well, but they were misguided and, as a result, we were misaligned. What we were building wasn’t relevant anymore - we needed to pivot. I came back home and delivered a message - we were going to pivot and reboot the Company. To do this, I literally had to reinvent the culture, move offices (to create the scrappy, vibrant environment that has made us successful today) among other things. I believe this pivot was all led by one simple question - how do you stack up? If you are building a product that the world doesn’t need or you are not solving a pain point in your industry, you are going to be out of business soon. You need to understand your relevance. Then, you need to get your team on the same page and explain ‘why this is so important’. As the orchestrator and team lead, you are responsible for changes in the direction when the market tells you to pivot. If you don’t, then there will be trouble (and it’s not pretty, trust me! I have the war stories.)
Timing: If you ever read the Audacity of Home by Barak Obama, you know that timing is everything; his political career was all about timing and execution. I think business is the same way - if you understand your industry and sense there is a correction on the horizon or adjustments need to be made to capitalize on an opportunity, you need to be able to pounce! But, you need your team and your culture fully aligned with you. The best way to be able to capitalize on market timing is to have the inner part of the triangle in complete harmony - with a high morale and strong sense of confidence that you will lead them to your Company’s Mission.
Overarching Theme: The overarching theme is our Company’s mission statement. It is the purpose of our organization. It all starts there. Our Company, by example, has had to manage a number of pivots to grow and remain relevant in the marketplace - in our industry, it’s critical to anticipate macro and micro shifts in the landscape, plan accordingly and execute without hesitation. While doing so, we’ve had our share of difficulty, but the big idea, the mission, has never changed – not once since inception in 2009. How we are executing on our mission has evolved, certainly. But, the Mission of the organization is steady and as solid as a rock. It’s been my saving grace in explaining why a pivot is needed - justifying the adjustments to the team based on externalities (outside the triangle) that require we adapt and improvise.
Rhythm and Culture: The three corners of the triangle require orchestration in order to operate within concert with one another - consider it your universe; each and everything interplays with one another. This is the rhythm factor. You as a team leader, manager or officer, you are responsible for orchestrating the necessary pieces of the organization to reach your specific daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals (aka ‘Focus’). Rhythm is central to your team’s culture and, thus, the Company’s culture. If your team is stuck in paralysis by analysis of ‘Data’ or misaligned on the Company’s core objectives then you are not going to be successful. Its important to go back, find focus by speaking with members of leadership, providing feedback and ensuring goals and objectives are aligned. In the absence of clarity, culture is compromised (As we all know, culture is everything). It can be your best friend or your worst enemy; and, if you are not careful, it can turn on a dime. (There is a great book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz that can be applied to organizational culture). You ultimately want to ensure your team is a well-tune orchestra and you are the conductor.