Steve Van Remortel is owner of SM Advisors in Green Bay and is author of “Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream.” He is a featured speaker at the third annual Manufacturing First Expo & Conference in Green Bay on Oct. 31. Recently, he talked with Insight Associate Editor Nikki Kallio about how manufacturers can be more successful.
I was born and raised in De Pere and lived all over the country for many years and came back. My undergraduate degree is in marketing and organizational communications; it was during that time I realized that strategy was one of my core passions in life. When I was in Detroit, I went back for my master’s degree in strategy, continuing to try to build my passion for it.
“SM” stands for “strategic management,” and our focus was exclusively on helping companies develop their strategy around why a customer is going to do business with you versus somebody else. The strategy and talent combination kind of came together like peanut butter and chocolate. Once I realized the power of simultaneously optimizing your strategy and your talent at the same time, that’s when we had a breakthrough – I would be with clients, and I’d say, “You gotta stop selling vanilla ice cream! You gotta sell Rocky Road ice cream!” So at that point I dot-commed Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream. I trademarked it and over the next three or four years, created this process that helps an organization optimize their strategy and their talent at the same time.
What we did when we launched the book in October of last year is we gave the process away to every business leader so they can optimize strategy and talent in their own organization. Around 30 percent of companies plan – what are the other 70 percent doing? We plan for weddings, we plan for vacations, but we don’t plan for the one thing that’s going to fund all that, and that’s our business. Why don’t they plan? It’s because they don’t have a process – is it because they don’t know how to? Is it because they can’t? So we’re doing research to figure all that out.
That’s our passion, to get as many companies planning as possible. If they do it on their own, great, if they do it through a workshop that we might lead, or if they use another advisor, whatever it is, great. My personal passion is that more companies plan. The question I would ask business owners is, ‘Do you agree that if you’re more prepared for a situation it’ll likely go better?’ The answer is yes, so then why wouldn’t you prepare for 2014?
Because we’re living in a global economy, we’re not competing against the guy that’s a town away or 100 miles away, we’re competing against people that are thousands of miles away. So we have to clearly be able to, number one, have the organization understand how we’re unique, and then be able to take that to market in our sales and marketing plan. You want to buy from us because we provide this at a level that nobody else can – and then prove it.
The one thing about the New North (region of Northeast Wisconsin) is that there are never highs and lows – it’s always pretty steady, so we have to recognize that we have to continue to do the right things. What I do see on the talent side, especially, is the high performing talent wants to be with organizations that have strategic clarity, that know where they’re going, that understand why they’re different. Talent stays with companies that have their act together, fundamentally, so be an organization that understands why customers are going to do business with you. Be an organization that has a clearly defined strategy that has a vision. People like to work for people that know where they’re going. The second thing that manufacturers in the New North need to continue to work at is not only identifying talent but developing it and retaining it.