'Transferable Power' - The Secret to A Networked Company

One of the good guys of the business left us a couple of weeks ago. Gene Kummel  was the former chairman, president and CEO of McCann-Erickson. As Ad Age describes it, he had, “a strong emphasis on global agency operations, Mr. Kummel expanded McCann's reach around the world as he led the development of a force of more than 100 international executives familiar with the McCann system and its worldwide clients.”Mr Kummel referred to this concept as "transferable power." A concept that is more necessary and less practiced than ever before.

Seeing it clearly is a challenge, made more difficult the closer you sit, ownership usually being the blurriest of all vantage points.

But once you have taken the steps to identify and articulate your value, the next challenge is to maximize its impact.

Almost every service company ultimately expands geographically, there being a limit to both talent and opportunity in any single location. In many cases, adding more offices is seen - both internally and externally - as an expression of success, the risk of which is that the simple presence of an extra city on the letterhead and a new phone number is enough to satisfy the strategic view of some business owners.

The result of which is that throughout the communications industry, many companies are operating under the banner of networks but which are simply individual offices that share the same name.

Extending your business so that the sum is greater than the parts has at its core, Mr Kummel’s concept of Transferable Power. It requires, in my experience ten elements:

  1. A clear articulation of how the company improves the condition of its customers and clients
  2. A set of standards, both practical and esoteric, on which the company operates
  3. Sufficient infrastructure to allow sharing of data to take place in real time
  4. A relentless commitment by the company’s senior management to reinforce the benefits of collaboration between offices, and a willingness to take on the ‘not invented here’ mentality that most people instinctively bring to the table
  5. A considered compensation philosophy that rewards collective achievement as much or ideally more than local achievement
  6. A transparent compensation philosophy which confidently acknowledges the disparity in pay between the same job descriptions in different cities, and which has a clear understanding of when and why to adjust for that difference
  7. A standard of employment that ensures that each person can contribute to any office
  8. A recognition that each office should contain the same skills, but an understanding that a standardized template of how to organize those skills will never satisfy the needs of each office
  9. A willingness to invest so that your staff can see for themselves the benefits and challenges of other offices, and in so doing can improve the connections between those offices
  10. An understanding that every market, even within the same country, has individual idiosyncrasies that require a distinct and local approach, and that the battle for balance between local and global is an ongoing and necessary one.

Companies make enormous investments every day in finding and keeping customers happy.

Doing so on a networked basis is the most valuable use of that investment, both to the business and its customers.

Making that a reality requires Transferable Power. Thank you Mr Kummel, for putting such a powerful name to such a valuable concept.