Tactics which are formulated while sitting in the clubhouse just don’t work any more. If a coach wants his team to be successful then he must be close to the pitch. Above all, in an intensely competitive environment he must definitely get down onto the pitch and take the pulse of his own team and closely follow the game of his rival. The same rule also holds true for the world of business. For this reason, executives spend increasingly less time in their own offices and frequently go down to the ‘pitch’. Because that is where the heart of the company is and where new interesting ideas appear.
The era of executives sitting at their desks in their offices is long gone. Today an executive’s desk is wherever she or he happens to be. In order to be able to see how things are going out in the field, to be better able to analyze defects, and to develop creative solutions for their businesses, many executives allocate an important place in their diaries to fieldwork. It is out in the field that many executives have the opportunity to compare their own company with that of their rivals. Meetings with customers, distributors and suppliers result in the development of important projects. Many executives view fieldwork as the key to competition and innovation. In addition, the relationships and communications established with the workforce during field visits increase motivation.
We asked executives from different sectors how much time they spent in the field, how they evaluated this time and what results they had achieved.
Mehmet Ali Neyzi: “Fieldwork Increases Our Competitiveness”
Aygaz General Manager Mehmet Ali Neyzi says that the management team at Aygaz attaches considerable importance to being out in the field. He explained their field trips as follows:
“In 2006 I visited distributors in three to four cities in each of our regions. I went on several trips inside the country and attended meetings of institutions such as the European LPG Association and the World LPG Association. The direct contact we establish with our distributors and customers during our field trips gives us the opportunity to identify and meet the needs of our customers. These trips were what enabled us to develop the Integrated Ordering System (ESS) which allows us to meet customers’ demands more quickly, to develop the first ever hologram cap for bottle gas safety and, for the first time in Turkey, to introduce installment payments for bottle gas purchases through a partnership with Worldcard.”
Meral Ak Egemen Was Mostly In The Field In 2006
During the course of 2006, in addition to regional visits and meetings, Meral Ak Egemen, the general manager of Ak Emeklilik, also held a number of videoconferences. Egemen had an intensive programme in 2006 and explained her fieldwork as follows:
“In 2006 I conducted 20 visits to regions, during which I met with approximately 400 financial consultants, visited more than 100 Akbank branches, held a meeting with a 500-strong sales team, met with more than 50 suppliers and partners, and visited around 50 large corporate customers. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet with customers at the MCT
Human Resources Summit, which we sponsored and which attracted around 1,500 participants. I also participated as a speaker in approximately 20 conferences and panels and held interactive meetings with 1,500 people. In addition to all of these, I listen to at least two of the conversations between customers and our call centers each day. In any case, I also call customers and conduct detailed discussions about products. I was also a guest speaker at two conferences in Europe on personal pensions.”
Serdar Bölükbaşi Visited 800 Sales Outlets
In 2006 Serdar Bölükbaşı, the Efes Bira Group president for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, spent approximately half of his working time outside Turkey, and 75 percent of his time outside the country was spent in meetings in various countries and cities. Bölükbaşı spent 25 percent of his time abroad outside the office. He related his experiences as follows:
“This is equivalent to 40-45 working days. During the course of the year I visited more than 800 sales outlets. In 2006 I went most to Moscow and Alma-Ata.
During my field trips to cities which I am visiting for the first time or which I have not visited for a long time I definitely go to the local open markets or to the indoor markets where the local people do their shopping. These visits make it easier to understand the living standards of the local people, their spending power and their habits.
Galip Yorgancioğlu: Focused On The Aegean And The Mediterranean
Mey İçki CEO Galip Yorgancıoğlu spends two or three days each week in the field, particularly for eight weeks during the summer, when he traveled along the entire coastline from Kilis and Gaziantep to Erdek in the Sea of Marmara. “I would imagine that I visited approximately 35 distributors, nearly 250 sales outlets, 20 provinces and 50 sub-provinces,” says Yorgancıoğlu. “We have 20 factories. I visited most of these factories several times. I went abroad six times on business trips. These were all short trips lasting between one and three days. We visited our distributors there, went out in the field and visited supermarkets and corner stores.
A FMCG executive who does not go out in the field has little chance of being successful. You speak with your distributors, and learn important information from the corner shops and supermarkets. You also see what your rivals are doing and how, and then decide on your strategies.”
Jack Trout/Location Expert
“Run Straight To The Front”
“In order to be a great strategist you need to stick your head in the mud of the market. You need to look for inspiration at the front, among the market wars to win over the target groups.
Sam Walton was a humble person and throughout his life was always on the front line touring the Wal-Mart stores. He even used to stay in the dispatch warehouses until midnight chatting with the loading crews.
Unlike Mister Sam, many leading executives choose to avoid this kind of contact. As the company grows bigger so the opportunity for contact between the CEO and the frontline grows smaller. This can be the most important factor limiting the growth of a company.
In addition, as in everything else, it pays to be big. Marketing means war and the most important principle in war is strength. This means that the bigger an army is or a company then the greater the advantage it enjoys. But if it cannot be focused in the marketing war being conducted in the mind of the consumer then a company loses some of the advantage which comes with being large.