My very first “official” marketing role was Product Manager for Baxter’s base/core/what-the-business-had-been-built-on I.V. (intravenous) product line. You know all those I.V.’s that get hooked up “stat!” to bleeding patients on all your favorite T.V. shows? That was the business I was responsible for…and it was worth over $500 million in revenues at the time I started as a brand-spanking-new PM.
I believe it was my first day on the job when I was told something along the lines of,
“Greenpeace is telling our customers to stop buying our I.V. bags because they’re made of PVC plastic. Since many individual hospitals are becoming very environmentally-conscious the major buying groups (which created purchasing contracts on behalf of hundreds of hospitals) are worried and thinking of switching to (a competitor with an inferior product that was not made with PVC). You need to find a solution.”
If you’re familiar with the recent Nestle/Greenpeace debacle you understand how serious a situation like this really is for a company and for a brand.
Now, I won’t get into the specifics of PVC, especially given this was years ago and I am not currently familiar with where PVC currently stands from an environmental perspective. Suffice it to say that there was no way for Baxter to simply take PVC out of the I.V. bags – it’s a many-years-long process to get a medical product like this approved through the FDA and this is after many years of development and testing with specific product materials.
So, cut to a Baxter conference room later that afternoon where I am meeting with the other poor souls from across the I. V. business (engineering, purchasing, legal (of course!), environmental, R&D, regulatory…) who have been tasked with “finding a solution.” That was our mission. Find a solution.
Inherent in this mission was to save business and develop a reputationally appropriate response. What happened in that conference room literally transformed my career.
I wrote a post earlier this week called, “The Business Altering Difference Between Vision and Mission.” If you have a few minutes to take a look it provides my stance on why your business vision makes all the difference.
When I sat down at the table in the conference room as the new “Leader” of this poor team (marketing led teams like this at that time) I looked around and was admittedly aghast at what I saw. They all clearly knew I had been thrown into the deep end with no chance of a life preserver bobbing near me anytime soon, but they were all smiling smiles of encouragement. Why?
They had a vision. They had an idea that could not only fulfill our mission but clearly set Baxter apart from our competition in terms of environmental leadership and, ultimately, commitment to customer values. They had a vision to create something truly great that could bring real change.
Now, to be clear, they certainly didn’t say to me, “Lisa, we have a brilliant vision that will fulfill our mission…blah blah blah…” No, they simply said they had an idea, and they thought they could make it work. What I realized was the idea represented a vision of a whole new way of being environmentally conscious in a hospital setting. A way to recycle I.V. bags that had been used to save lives into other products that would contribute to the health care “cycle.” Brilliant.
What began as a daunting mission was suddenly brought to life by a genuinely innovative idea that invoked passion from every member of the team. We believed we could find a way to recycle the I.V. bags, make it financially feasible to do so, and “wow” our environmentally-conscious customers in the process.
Not only did we believe in it, we could literally picture it in our minds.
You will have to trust me – it was the passion that this vision invoked that had us investigating recycling companies, walking around stinky piles of trash on a regular basis, and had me physically following waste management workers at the country’s leading hospitals to fully understand all the pitfalls that might arise along the route from Operating Room or ER to the loading dock and then how the I.V. bags would leave the hospital in our quest to recycle them.
It’s what got me up in the middle of the night at far-away places to train night-shift nurses on all the requirements of recycling the bags (no needles could make their way into the recycling bag!) and that drove other team members to literally sift through the trash received in our recycling partner’s dock to ensure that on test runs nothing was making its way into our recycling bags but I.V.s.
We brought our vision to life when we launched the EnVision Recycling Program (no, the name was no accident) at five of the most respected hospitals in the US. At our kick-off celebrations at the five hospitals we had hundreds of smiling nurses, docs, and waste management workers thanking us and sharing their excitement at being able to do their part in helping their hospital become more environmentally friendly. We had hospital CEOs talking about how impressed they were that we’d made it work, and how happy they were to see their staffs so “jazzed up” about the program.
The final outcome? Not only did we, “find a solution” and save business, we
- increased the loyalty of our environmentally-conscious customers who had considered switching to a competitive product, saving millions of dollars in business
- gained a major new national hospital account worth $50 million to the entire business in the process
- received significant press for Baxter when the program was launched at the 5 major hospitals
- helped earn Baxter a major, respected environmental award
- were invited by a United Nations environmental conference to present our program and
- went to the United Nations environmental conference where I had the honor and privilege of presenting the program on Baxter’s behalf
It was the mission that got us all in the conference room on my first day of work as a marketer – where we could have simply recommended a concerted PR effort and on-site visits to major at-risk customers by our C-level executives.
It was the vision that led us to bring something truly innovative to life, save millions of dollars of business and gain a new account worth millions more…
How does your vision drive value for your company? If you don’t have one, are you inspired to create one?
Please share your thoughts in the comments…I learn so much from my readers!
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…Photo is Ultima visión?! by Mind_Scratch.