Once upon a time, I worked at Mattel, and they gave me the chance to be the Product Manager for a new toy line. That meant that my small team and I had to do ALL these things:
- Get Designers to produce prototypes of the dolls and toys in the line.
- Get Market Researchers to do a limited test of the prototypes, to see if kids liked them.
- Get Broadcasters to develop TV commercials for the line.
- Get Public Relations people to write good things about this new line.
- Manage the relationship with Hallmark Cards, whose designers had come up with the sketches that formed the basis of the line.
- Get Manufacturing to gear up to make the products (with 15 or so different items in the line).
- Get Advertising to buy time in the right media to get the message out to people.
- Work with an outside animation company that was developing a TV special based on the main character. I had script approval.
- Get Packaging to work on boxes for the product that were gorgeous and highlighted the beauty of the products.
- Go out and meet with Retailers who had to buy the product to put on their shelves all over the USA to make the line mega-profitable. (I went out on the road with our company salespeople to do this.)
And there wouldn’t be a “next year” unless we had BIG success THIS year.
I had to get their attention and get them WANTING to work with me.
And “getting their attention” looked different for each of those 10 types of people listed above. For example, we had to keep in mind that an average Manufacturing guy cares mostly about the manufacturing plant running smoothly. He doesn’t particularly like new stuff because that’s where mistakes get made. He probably prefers to manufacture the old stuff that he and his team understand and can produce efficiently. Compare that to motivating a Designer who thinks she’s an artist and says, “It’s more fun to work on Barbie. She sold a quarter of a million dollars last year!”
I managed to work with ALL those people, and we had the most successful launch year of any doll in the history of dolls. Rainbow Brite sold $150,000,000 at retail in its first year on the market. It was the most successful launch year of any doll in the history of dolls – despite being up against what we would call a “Coke and Pepsi-type competitor” -- the Cabbage Patch Kids!
And that success came about because we were successful in building bridges with lots of people, not least of whom were the little girls aged three to eight and their parents and other relatives who bought our products.
What bridges do you need to build – or to reinforce – to create extraordinary success for your business? Too often I see leaders work with their favorite associates over and over again while other “links in the chain” get no attention at all. This isn’t advice to focus on your weaknesses; I do believe in working to your strengths. But when stakeholders hold aspects of your future success in their hands, they generally don’t become more engaged with you due to your lack of engaging with them!