Do you have trusted partners to help you weather the storm?

The current economic climate calls for partners that have skin in the game. CEO of Hatched Melbourne, Stephen Fisher explains how to check if your team has your back.

In the most memorable scene from the 1999 film Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino, playing a washed-up and over-the-hill American football coach gives one of the most often quoted and inspirational speeches in movie history, culminating in a rallying cry to his beat-up, exhausted and all but defeated players…

“…. life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it… the inches we need are everywhere around us… You got to look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes. Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you… That’s a team gentleman, and either we heal now as a team, or we will die as individuals.”

It is a simple message that our industry could do well to heed as we head into potentially choppy waters. Success is most easily delivered through teamwork. And the team you have around you, and the tissue that connects them, is going to be more important than ever in 2023.

We can’t control the external factors of what the next 12 months will throw at us, but we can control what happens within our sphere of operation and influence. And right at the heart of that is the team you’re working with. And especially for marketers your external partners.

Do they know your business as well as they should? In the heat of the moment, when under pressure to deliver, are they equipped to succeed? Indeed, do they even know what success looks like?

These are important questions for marketing teams as we navigate this year. Harvard Business School psychology professor Amy Cuddy is an expert on the relationship between trust and competency and asserts that in a professional context, we often place priority on an organisation or individual’s capability over whether we trust them. And that is an error.

As Cuddy puts it, “in evolutionary terms, it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust”. Although competency is, of course, highly valued and necessary, when it comes to doing business, it can only be evaluated after trust has been established.

At the height of Rome’s expanding empire, they evolved and perfected a military tactic invented by the ancient Greeks before them, the Triple Line. A simple military formation that integrated senior and junior ranks to enable legions to operate in any environment and under any conditions while ensuring cohesion, clarity and support in the chaos of battle.

Each member of a unit had a clear understanding of the mission and success, their role within the line and the direct support of a senior ranking officer. This tactic enabled Roman armies to create vast unbroken fronts that could outflank, out-think and outmanoeuvre the enemy with fewer men. It created an unfair advantage through a level of unity only possible through clarity of understanding of the mission, and a deep trust in those alongside you.

The point of that story? Now is not the time to be wondering if you’re on the same page as the partners standing next to you in your mission. To put it bluntly, right now, you need partners that know their shit. People who know your business inside and out: how your business operates, how your customers engage with your products and how all those elements come together. How you make money.

You know you’re there when you don’t need to brief a partner because they’re already tackling the challenge. There will always be details specific to the task, but in a team equipped to deal with headwinds, you shouldn’t have to explain your brand positioning, target audience or category seasonality again.

If you’re reading this and getting that niggling sensation that perhaps your partnerships aren’t quite there, there are some questions you can ask to find out for certain. Do they understand how and where you make money? Can they explain the mechanics that drive your category? The nuances of your target audience? Can that understanding be linked to comms and objectives?

Beyond simply accumulating knowledge, you need partners that can apply that understanding to filter the right ideas from the endless lists of proposals that pass for “good”. The right ideas fit your strategy perfectly and are only created through an intimate understanding of what is trying to be achieved.

There needs to be skin in the game as well; nothing builds trust like finding solutions side by side through the dark times. Ultimately, you need partners that have structured their business in a way that allows their team the time and space to live your business, and who are rewarded by prioritising your success over growing their bottom line.

The right team creates that most precious resource. Time. And in the long run, as the saying goes, time is money. In the coming months, every dollar of marketing investment is going to have to do more than its fair share of heavy lifting. And it’s only going to do that if you’re not spinning plates trying to bring a whole team up to speed.

Despite the commentary from the merchants of gloom, I’m a huge advocate of the sentiment behind another great quote. This time from an inspirational Aussie Ironman, Trevor Hendy (with credit for sharing this quote going to another inspirational Aussie, Chris Savage) …

“It didn’t matter if the surf was huge or small. If the course was long or short. Had many transitions or things that really showed my strengths or challenged some of my weaknesses, or things that I needed to hone-in on. It didn’t matter to me because with a shift in my mindset, I was able to say to myself, the conditions are always perfect.”

Remember that. The conditions are always perfect.

But is your team ready? Are they fighting for every single inch, or are you in danger of dying as individuals?

Don’t let 2023 be the year you find out you’re on the wrong side of the line.

Stephen Fisher is the CEO of Hatched Melbourne.


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