How to manage when the classic 80/20 rule applies

80/20 rule

Companies within the logistics and supply chain industries are often built around a small number of clients because these clients generate 80 percent (or more) of revenue – The Pareto Principle aka the 80/20 rule.  Some companies choose not to openly acknowledge this reality; I believe this is done at their peril.  Rather than ignore the elephant in the room, accept it, and establish a culture that addresses this reality. This will mitigate risk and enable you to be able to better manage both time and resources within your company.

Here are tips on how to manage when the classic 80/20 applies:

Build a culture of intellectual honesty

The first step is to build a culture of intellectually honesty. While your employees can probably guess that a small number of clients are generating the majority of your company’s revenue – be open. Take the time to get the entire company on the same page.  Establishing a culture of intellectual honesty enables management to implement effective and appropriate risk and management structures to be put in place. Additionally, it empowers employees, because it allows employees to better understand why certain systems and structures have been established.

Exceed expectation, anticipate needs, don’t get lazy

With respect to your high revenue generating clients – exceed their expectations and anticipate their needs. Just because you have a strong relationship with them, and maybe even a long-term relationship, you never know what the future will bring. New management, an acquisition, merger… there are several events that could end the relationship.  Never assume that history will make your relationship bulletproof.

Moreover, don’t get lazy. Be proactive. Every time you pick up the phone to talk with the client or every time you meet with them — impress. You need to know their strategy and know their needs — immediate, mid-, and long-term. What’s more – be open with the client. Let them know they are important to you. If there is an issue  make them aware of it, let them know you are being responsive, and address the issue ASAP.  Furthermore, ask the client for feedback, listen, and be responsive — address their concerns in a timely fashion. Finally, follow up with the client to make sure they feel their concerns were addressed.

Manage talent

Many companies get in the trap of assigning a large number of employees to the revenue-generators. At issue is that if the big client terminates their relationship with you, you may be forced to lay off talent — good talent. Additionally, this type of structure is generally fraught with bureaucracy. Instead, assign a small, focused team to the client. This type of team will have fewer bureaucratic hurdles and will do far better than a bloated team that has to battle red tape. And importantly, if you lose the client, you are more likely to be able to reallocate quality team members.

Establish an evaluation process

Regarding the smaller clients, it is important to have a defined and accountable process in place that evaluates why they are part of the 80 percent. If the client is not a good fit to your model, manage them out of your base. If they are a good fit, delight the client and treat them as if they were the big fish — you never know, one day they could be your biggest client.

Put a leader in charge

Finally, it is essential to put a leader in charge of client acquisition. By putting someone in charge who understands your company culture, the business model, and the company needs, client acquisition will be more effective and more efficient.