Stack the Odds

Nicola Cook // December 11 // 0 Comments

Anyone who placed a bet on what they’d be doing in 2020 were either delusional or psychic – or were they?

Our job as entrepreneurs and sales growth leaders is to focus on what is within our control and to react to changing circumstances or market shifts. It’s what we do.

If we’re effective at running our businesses, on a daily basis we should be tracking our business’s KPIs, analysing both our internal and external variables and acting accordingly. We do this through a combination of collated facts, crunched numbers, intelligent research, customer feedback, years of experience and our all-important gut instincts.

It’s what Stephen Covey refers to as focusing on the Circle of Influence vs. the Circle of Concern.

However, the challenge for many leaders at the moment, is the pace of change within their sectors, combined with a momentum killing level of uncertainty, which is sending them into a fear-induced state of flux. Prior to the beginning of this year, no one had a contingency plan for the effects of a global pandemic. And with the lack of a Clear Exit Strategy from the current situation it’s easy to understand why some business leaders are either paralysed or making poor decisions.

‘Fear makes people stupid’ – fact!

I’ve yet to meet a leader who made a decision from a place of fear that turned out well. Keeping a rational head, even in the darkest of times, is part of what it takes to be a leader.

So how can you hang onto your marbles and steer your ship through these choppy waters?

Make the tough decisions ahead of time

‘Run the scenarios’ so when the deadline arrives, regardless of the state of play at that point, the decision and agreed action is clear in your head. Most leader paralysis occurs when the facts almost match the scenarios they anticipated - or they’re living in hope that by giving something a slightly longer runway, things will come good.

Trust me – they won’t. Get clear.

  • Follow through with those cost saving actions IF the numbers haven’t crossed the pre-determined line
  • Do not extend that person’s probation IF they haven’t achieved the pre-determined outputs
  • Commit to capital expenditure IF your cashflow forecast achieves the pre-
    determined number

…and so on. 

A few years ago, I was helping one of my clients write a post-Brexit strategy. (They’re a manufacturer with an established customer base inside the EU that obviously was at risk). We ended up with 16 different business cases, all based on a variety of internal markers combined with post Brexit trading scenarios.

When it came to taking action by our own deadline, we were clear. All the variables had been thought through and an action plan pre-prepared.

In their case, the MD relocated himself and his family to Germany, the company opened an EU registered legal entity, built an in-country sales operation, upgraded their internal systems and in essence executed the plan we had written ahead of time. The blueprint existed.

So what must you do?

Start by writing down all the variables cluttering your head;

  • What if we have another lockdown
  • What if our sector is permanently affected
  • What if our Order Book Value increases or decreases
  • What if our current Cashflow Runway changes
  • What if our B/E falls or increases to ‘x’ percentage of turnover
  • What if ‘this’ happens in the team

Then map out an action plan to handle each various scenario. Use the headings from my SAM© (The Sales Acceleration Model) as a guide;

  • Strategy – what product, to what customer, at what margin, via what route to market
  • Team – how do I build the most competent team to deliver that plan
  • Tools – what tools, resources, capital, processes and templates will be needed
  • Tactics – how can I ensure everyone consistently executes on the strategy

As a sales growth strategist I’m often quoted as saying, ‘the execution of your sales strategy is a game of poker. All you can do is what you can to ‘stack the odds in your favour.’ The rest is up to the Gods.

So, what will you do today – to help you stack your odds in your favour?

Nicola Cook is the CEO of Company Shortcuts. The UK’s leading Sales Acceleration agency helping scale-ups build a profitable Sales Engine for Growth.

Her waitlist is open and is currently taking new applications for 2021. If you’re interested in finding out how she could help your business, contact

About the Author Nicola Cook

Nicola Cook is an award-winning entrepreneur and twice published international best-selling author on professional selling and personal & business growth. She is CEO of Company Shortcuts, a business devoted to improving business results by injecting skill, passion and strategy to help those entrepreneurs and sales enthusiasts achieve the sales results they desire.

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