Focusing on the Internal Stakeholders - in conversation with Millie Tan

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Understanding what drives a business, assessing current processes, and prioritizing initiatives are needed to redefine a business’ acceleration to its next level of growth. We are in conversation with Millie Tan, an integrative strategic thinker and untraditional marketeer who works closely with companies to help redefine themselves.

Millie has a unique process that has been proven successful in her career across various industries. She is sharing her process and insights which involve focusing on internal stakeholders and external customers alike.

Millie, as a business-oriented professional, you work with companies to redefine themselves. You transform existing business models to achieve improvement and sustainable change. Do you have a specific process or method to do so? Or, how do you approach each situation uniquely?

“Companies are very often interested in innovation but get stymied in how to make this happen. They are not clear on the path forward from its traditional strategy to the new strategic vision. I believe it is imperative to capture the best of who they are and solve for the next step along the value chain. The goal is to build a roadmap for the company — build on today while embedding a strategic vision for the future. You are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“My process is very inclusive to ALL stakeholders. Of course, one of the most important things I bring to the party is to be customer-centric and fact-based. In addition, I bring internal stakeholders into the conversation. The people of the company know it best and are able to identify the company’s strengths and what is missing. They are also often passionate about the company so bring in not only the rationale but emotional perspectives. Hence, along with knowing the customer view, incorporating the internal thoughts and business processes is crucial and a unique approach I utilize.

“To start this process, I create what I call a ‘steering committee’ which is made up of internal stakeholders from various departments in an organization. I involve people from R&D, manufacturing, finance, purchasing, others as appropriate, as well as Sales and Marketing. That gives us the opportunity and tools to gather the viewpoint of every department. Each department is distinct in terms of what is important and what they think the company needs. The goal for this steering committee is to distill the strengths, and also identify the gaps, and curate plans to fill those. Keep in mind that within an organization, there are many more people who can say ‘no’ than who can say ‘yes’. I want to capture any concerns and potential roadblocks early on in the process so they can be addressed. I look at all of this from a marketing perspective. People often assume that marketing involves just words and visuals, but it’s so much more. Marketing really requires understanding the full business dynamics, both external and internal.

“The next step is (from the marketing perspective) to understand the competitive environment, bring to the table what competition is doing. I have found that people in large organizations tend to be very insular. They have proven to be successful in the past, though sometimes people need to understand what breakthroughs are being made — by their competitors, by non-competing disruptive industries — and consider them to their own. That is the business side of marketing — keeping up with the trends and learning from what others are doing. While doing this, it’s key to keep in mind each department and involving them — that’s where the steering committee and the operational imperatives come in.

“The next step lies in actually finding out what the customer wants — existing and potential new ones — to find out what is working, what is missing, identify the strengths and gaps of the brand. I often include internal stakeholders so they can hear firsthand what and how customers are speaking and feeling about the business and brand. This allows everyone to have a common foundation and language from which to work. We then head into discussion and brainstorming — taking everyone’s needs and concerns into consideration — and finally getting to a solution. It’s that combination of the internal stakeholders and external customers, putting them together that creates solutions that meet a customer need and can be delivered. That is the best solution. I’m sure many have experienced a time when Marketing came up with an ideal product solution only to find that Manufacturing couldn’t deliver it!

“To summarize, the tried and true method I used to redefine and help a company is establishing a cross-functional internal steering committee, analyzing the outside world of competition and other industries, and finally align all these factors to creating a path supporting a new strategic vision while expanding the historical strength of the brand and its business.”

Thank you for sharing, Millie.

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