Monday, March 7, 2011

The One Bet I Hope I Lose

A little more than a year ago one of the companies for which I serve as the CFO was experiencing very good sales growth. In fact, about seven months into the year it looked like the company might hit its sales projections for the year by the end of the eleventh month, one month quicker than we forecasted. As we discussed this as an executive team, I launched a friendly challenge to the Director of Sales: "I'm not sure you can hit our projection for the year by the end of the eleventh month. I'll bet it takes you all twelve months to reach the target."

He stiffened in his chair and showed a competitive grin. "I'll take that bet if it means I can win a steak dinner."

Not intending for him to take me up on my teasing, I was left no choice. "Okay, you're on. But it will be the first time I root against myself, because it would be great for the whole company if we could beat our forecast."

For the duration of the year not an executive team meeting went by without that steak dinner being a major point of discussion, and the company reached record sales and beat its budget weeks before the 11th month was over--a victory for everyone. Yes, it was a victory for me, even though I was going to buy the Sales Director and his wife dinner.

We put a pretty aggressive growth plan in place for the next year, and the company came out of the gates well in the first month, handily beating the sales forecast. Before I had a chance to fulfill my commitment from the prior year, I was offered a double-or-nothing scenario, which I gladly accepted. It's becoming evident that I will be buying two sets of steak dinners in the near future, and I couldn't be happier about it.

How is this company achieving such amazing sales growth? From its inception, the company was created on the solid foundation of customer needs it could uniquely solve. As sales are dropping for others in the same industry, this company continues to grow impressively. And its technology is innovative enough that the competitors initially disregarded the company's products and have only made feeble attempts to mimic some of the features, still falling far short of delivering the benefits to which the customers are becoming accustomed. Really, it's a classic example of Clay Christensen's The Innovator's Solution.

I am not the type to gamble or bet. In fact, I don't think I've ever done either before. I'm about to be zero for two, and I couldn't be happier about it!