Smart? Or just fortunate?

Mike Vaughan
Publish Date: 
Jul 19, 2010
By Mike Vaughan

I FIND IT IRONIC when I read a press release announcing that, “Jimmy Smith, VP of Marketing for XYZ Inc., is departing the company after 10 successful years of increasing sales and market share to pursue other interests.”

Where’s the irony, you’re probably asking yourself. Well the irony is that if Jimmy has done so well for 10 years, why is he departing?

It seems to me that if you were really good, and you were really responsible for that increase in sales and market share, then XYZ Inc. would be doing anything it could to retain you. (Let's face it, “perusing other interests” many times is just code for being let go.)

Could it be that Jimmy Smith really isn't a sales and marketing genius? Could it be that Jimmy, like many of us, stumbled into the market at the right time, and surfed the rising tide of motorcycle sales -- and now that the tide is ebbing Jimmy’s without a clue as to what to do?

Some of us remember the motorcycle market in 1993 when the bottom dropped out and the industry reported sales of new units at less than 300,000. Things turned around a bit the following year; the bottom had been reached, sales were no longer in free-fall and things were starting to move in a positive direction.

In the years that followed, motorcycle sales rose at a steady pace, and we all sat around toasting our success and our sales and marketing acumen, patting one another on the back and, at least in some cases, telling everyone about how brilliant we were.

As we all know, the party started to end in 2007. In 2008 the bottom dropped out.

It would seem to me that if the people who enjoyed the success of the past 15-or-so years are really talented and capable, they should be able (and want) to turn their talents to the current challenge -- if nothing else, to at least slow the leak so that when this sales decline ends our companies will be aloat and we’ll be in proper position to surf the rising tide of upward sales.

What “other opportunity” could be more challenging or rewarding? It’s easy to be a genius when times are good; it’s exceedingly difficult to be one when times are not.