Words matter

Strategy is sometimes a bit mysterious. Almost secretive. As if it is a secret sauce or recipe that cannot be shared openly. Perhaps developed by management consultants, approved by the Board of Directors, but kept safely in the board room, far away from the organization. No wonder why many employees don’t have a clue about the strategy.

I strongly believe in two things:

(1) Strategy cannot be a secret.

(2) It needs to be communicated in a way that everyone understands.

Why is it essential that the company’s strategy is shared? Typically, delivering on a strategy requires something of the organization. And the best way to make change happen is for those involved to have a clear understanding of why change is required so that they are committed to delivering what is needed.

It is not sufficient to inform. We need to make it stick so that both teams and individuals are committed on a personal level. That is why we have to spend time talking about our strategy in a language that everyone understands.

I have been fortunate to have been working for companies where a new strategy was necessary to move the organization forward. For a couple of them, what was needed was turnarounds and focus. For others, it was more related to repositioning and innovation. The common denominator was to find a simple way to talk about what was required and where we were going and to decide on one or two KPIs that really mattered.

When I was working with commercial real estate, we decided to focus on the office segment only, concentrate efforts in the biggest cities and be the most environmentally friendly company in the sector. The change involved selling whatever was outside the perimeter and focusing the operations. As a lot of the tenants were unhappy, we decided that one of the most important KPIs had to be customer satisfaction. The logic is evident: If your tenants are unhappy, they will end up leaving, and you are left with vacant space. To tell this story to everyone wasn’t so hard, execution was strong, and the company created real value for stakeholders.

At Kredinor, one of our first strategic decisions was to replace “debtors” with “customers”. This may seem like a small semantic change, but I can assure you that this change is decisive and real, and it marks the day when we started our repositioning in the debt collection market.

Everyone in any organization is sometimes a customer, and it is easy to conceptualize what needs to happen when dealing with customers and no longer with debtors. We have to understand the needs of our customers, the customer journey and customer satisfaction. We also need to think about our value proposition and how to be more innovative and go beyond what the customers believe is possible. A popular quote from Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, goes like this:

Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.

Our industry has been conservative, and very little has happened. As “always”, a certain percentage of customers still fail to pay their bills in time, and the debt collectors step into the process to help bridge the gap between “creditor” and “debtor”.

It is certainly an important role to play in society to keep the cost of credit down. The concept of offering credit relies on people keeping their commitments. And the debt collection industry is an essential part of this value chain.

However, the past is not necessarily a good mirror for the future. We believe we should do more and do things differently. We have some interesting initiatives on our drawing board and are looking forward to testing these.

And when we do, we will make sure to explain our strategy in words that everyone, inside and outside Kredinor, will understand.

Stay tuned for what’s next!

Best, Klaus-Anders

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