Where have all the B2B DM Generalists gone?

When I tour B2B catalog companies today I am struck by something that I think is very important.  That is, there are precious few people in any company who really know, in a balanced way, what is going on.

Sure, we have product wizards, catalog production experts, paid search experts, outbound telemarketing managers, fulfillment/ERP experts, etc. etc.   But where are the people who have the whole, integrated, balanced view of how the business runs?  Where are the experienced direct marketers who can review, evaluate, and assess investments across the various needs of the business? Seriously, where are they?   Look around your own organization and find those people because they are worth their weight in gold!

As our companies grow and as each area of our operations become more complex, detailed and hard to manage it is only natural that we have specialists.   What is sad is that we don’t have they complimenting generalists.   You know, those are the folks that balance the great ideas in one area with the “about to be a disaster” in another area.

I am reminded of the day that a well intentioned bean counter made the unilateral decision to communicate to all employees that manual paychecks were no longer a payroll option.  All payroll was to be processed by direct deposit.   Of course, he assumed everyone had a bank account just because he did.  He also incorrectly concluded that they were just too lazy to fill out the direct deposit form.   Well, that memo was regarded as a pink slip for the 130 employees who received manual paychecks.   All heck broke loose and it took months to repair the distrust that resulted from that seemingly innocent and well intentioned decision.   The problem really was that the author of the memo really didn’t have a clue about the nuances of the various areas of the business.  He was a specialist, not a generalist.

I sit in many client meetings and one of the pleasures of my work is that I meet many, many very bright and talented people.   It’s a treat.  However, what I don’t see are too many experienced generalists.   In privately held companies it is usually the owner and maybe one or two other long term, senior employees.   In companies that are owned by larger public companies mostly I see talented specialists in the various functional areas and limited experience “general managers” that last 2-3 years “in their current assignment”.   These folks are not generalist with experience but often reactive quarterbacks.  Mostly I see them fight fires rather than drive businesses.    I can also say that I see a direct correlation between the companies who are doing well and the ones who have 2-3 senior generalists running the place.   Look around.  Which type of company are you? 

Care to comment?   Write me at tjukes@b2bdmi.com.

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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