Running, With Your Head Up, to Succeed

The score freshly tied at 8-8, Number 28 knelt down to face off one last time. The son of an All American, he quickly lived up to his genetics, sweeping the ball from under his opponent's stick before his rival could react. Scooping it up one-handed, he quickly turned left, only to reverse motion and throw a pass to where he knew Number 31 would be waiting.

Number 31 received the ball right-handed, but effortlessly moved it to his left. His opposing midfielder quickly closing, he cradled the ball close to his caged helmet and tactfully performed a roll dodge, leaving his opponent heading the wrong way.

The clock ticking down, the defense had no choice but to challenge him. Number 31 had already scored four goals on four shots and, if they were to let him launch a fifth, it would surely end the game.

The right-side defender moved forward to confront him, while the goalie barked out orders, stridently tapping his titanium stick against the goal and issuing one final

Reducing his gait, Number 31 ghosted a pass to his right side attack man, only to bull dodge the initial defender to the left, leaving him flat-footedly looking over his shoulder. With only one defender remaining and a wide open field, the goalie knew that it was all a guessing game now. Number 31 could let loose any number of shots.

In a last-ditch effort, the remaining defender moved to force an early confrontation. Running with his head up, switching his stick to his right hand one last time, Number 31 brought the ball out high for an obvious upper right-hand corner crank, only to rifle a pass to Number 7, who had drifted to the left-side crease. Number 7 caught the ball and gently tossed it into the wide open net.

That was the final play of a boys' lacrosse game that I attended recently. After the game, the opposing coach personally congratulated the players. He did not recognize them for their intensity, dodges, passes or shots. Instead, he applauded them for "running with their heads up."

Do you and your business "run with your heads up?" staying attuned

In reality, running with your head up isn't just a sports adage; it's quite relevant to business.

In business, the expression means that, while you're working hard with purpose and direction, you're keeping your eyes and ears open for changes and new opportunities. It means that you're not just recognizing these changes and opportunities, but also being in position to take advantage of them.

When I'm traveling, attending shows, or in the middle of discussions or meetings, I stick close to my determined purpose and direction. However, I'm always looking and listening for changes and new opportunities. These changes and opportunities are often where I find the most success.

As a rep, I understand that I have to be out in the field to truly know what's happening. Out in the field, running with my head up, I can see display changes, product modifications and technical transformations plus all of the coming and waning businesses. Out in the field, running with my head up, my eyes and ears are open to changes and opportunities.

As a kitchen and bath dealer or distributor, being out in the field and running with your head up is vital, too. It's easy to cocoon yourself in what you're working on at that moment. It's also easy to be too busy to see what's going on around you. However, we and our businesses compete in an environment that changes faster than we can comprehend. We must work with our heads up, our eyes and ears open and our minds ready to react and take advantage of changes and opportunities.

Your competition
What should you be looking and listening to? Number one is your competition.

When you're out on the field competing, you need to be aware that your competition isn't static; instead, it's constantly changing.

For example, is your competitor introducing new products, promotions, selling campaigns or pricing structures? You need to be out in the field, running with your head up, trying to spot things like this. You must be aware of how the playing field is changing, while keeping your game plan flexible. Thinking and staying a step or two ahead is how you outdo the competition.

Your customers' needs are another area that you must monitor. Do they need new products and/or services? Are you in position to address their needs? Changes in your customers' needs have to be recognized and reacted to early. Their needs are constantly changing and so must you.

New products, techniques and businesses are other matters that you should be heeding. It's not only important to keep your head up for changes in your competition, and for better ways to support your customers, it's also important to watch for new items that will be of future benefit to you.

In the kitchen and bath industry, we are steadily being presented with new products, new techniques and new businesses. Many of these will be of little value to you, but if you're running with your head up, you'll be prepared to recognize the ones that are of value. You're preparedness will help you discover new products, techniques and businesses that will make you more valuable to your customers and more successful.

As a rep, I stay in close contact with dealers and distributors that I think run with their heads up.

In the past week, I visited several customers to introduce them to new door styles and finishes, but I left with several innovative ideas that I had not anticipated. On one day alone, I picked up a new incentive initiative and a great presentation technique. I've already begun to implement these in my business, and I believe the incentive initiative will immediately boost my sales.

My customers and suppliers will gain from this because I and my customers were receptive to changes and opportunities.

In other words, just like the lacrosse players in the opening of this column, we were running with our heads up.


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This article originally appeared in Kitchen and Bath Design News 4/2004

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