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3 Keys to a Successful Digital Transformation

Guest: Pascal Brochier, a coach at CEO Coaching International. Pascal has over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and general management roles at some of the world’s biggest consumer products and technology companies, including Gillette (now part of Procter & Gamble), Vivendi Universal, and Electronic Arts.

Quick Background: The pandemic forced many companies to accelerate their online pivots. Now, it’s time to start preparing for the next phase of your digital transformation. Web 3.0 could decentralize pieces of the global economy and create rapid advances in AI and data acquisition. And however you want to define “metaverse,” there’s no denying that your customers are going to increasingly live, shop, and play online. On today’s show, Pascal Brochier reflects on lessons he learned during the first wave of online growth in the early 2000s to point CEOs towards a BIG digital future.

Keys to Digital Transformation from Pascal Brochier

1. Stay ahead of your customers.

To explain what a successful digital transformation looks like, Pascal quotes hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

“Are you currently focusing on where your customers are or are you really focused on where they’re going?” asks Pascal. “That’s the anticipation that actually makes a huge difference.”

Back in 2004, Pascal was leading the Australian operations of Vivendi Universal, which at the time owned gaming giant Blizzard. No YouTube, no Twitter, no Facebook, and the largest online community, MySpace, had about a million daily users.

However, broadband technology had advanced enough that a new genre of online-only computer games allowed players from all over the world to adventure together whenever and however they wanted. The biggest game, EverQuest, had about 400,000 users. Blizzard launched a similar game, World of Warcraft, hoping to grab a slice of this emerging market — and quickly grew their subscriber base to 11 million players.

In addition to creating a product that people loved, Blizzard also saw how technology was changing its customers habits, and how they had to adapt their business model. Blizzard was among the first game companies to transition from selling a finished game only on retail discs to digital delivery and a subscription-based service where the game continued to receive new content. This model gave current customers a reason to keep paying, attracted new users, and allowed Blizzard to expand into direct sales as broadband use continued to grow.

“What we anticipated is that through technology and through online connectivity, you were able to tap into a new world of social experience that just took people to a next level,” Pascal says. “18 years later, everybody’s talking about the metaverse and what this means. The ability to live in this digital world and be rewarded socially and form new friends is where this is actually going.”

Obviously, not every company is going to have the same “social experience” as Blizzard. But the answer to “Where are my customers?” is, increasingly, on their phones and social media. If people can’t connect with your company and likeminded consumers on those platforms to find what they want and to feel like they’re part of a community, they’re going to swipe over to your competitors.

2. Assemble a digital transformation team.

We often tell our executive coaching clients that the people who got you where you are might not be the people who will take you where you want to go. Major technological shifts can be a particularly challenging hurdle for legacy employees. But completing your digital transformation will require new leaders with specialized expertise integrated with highly motivated “A” players who want to learn, work hard, and grow.

“I don’t think you can succeed by just having a digital team separate from the rest of your team,” Pascal says. “You either get everybody to be digitally savvy, because this is how you’re going to embrace your customer, or you don’t. So having people who come in and understand the notion of lifetime value of a customer, what the customer acquisition cost is, what the funnel is, and starting some basic education either through hiring or giving your team exposure to this new digital world is critical.”

One lesson that Pascal learned from his Blizzard experience was the value of turnkey solutions versus do it yourself. As Blizzard increased its focus on digital sales, it tried to develop its own payment platform rather than working with existing platforms. “It took much longer and cost a lot more,” Pascal remembers. “The ability to retain control was probably misjudged versus some off-the-shelf solutions that were available.”

This is the difference between improving your customer experience, and chasing a shiny new object. Once you go down the rabbit hole of building out a new tech stack, there are any number of sinkholes. Circle back to your customer’s wants to separate what your company needs to be best at from what another firm can do for you more efficiently.

3. Get Over your insecurities.

For the past 20 years, companies that resisted a digital transformation have been piling up in business graveyards. CEOs who want to avoid digging a fresh plot next to the Blockbusters and Kodaks of the past can’t let their own insecurities about new tech blind them to what’s coming next. After all, it’s not your job to build a better website, design NFTs, create a more engaging social media campaign, or fine-tune how your AI crunches customer data. But it is your responsibility to learn everything you can about emerging trends, identify a strategy, and then surround yourself with the best possible team to execute that strategy.

Your number one job as the CEO is to set the vision,” Pascal says. “And the vision doesn’t have to be fully baked. It can be aspirational, and it can be where your place in the world, where your place in the market, is going to be. And how you’re going to address this huge segment of the market with an offering that solves a big problem, or is going to leapfrog your competition. Then your team is going to help you figure that out through a detailed plan and very rigorous execution. You’re not expected, as the CEO, to have the solutions to all the questions. That’s where you need a strong team around you. You’ve got to be listening, but they’re going to be the ones to help you execute.”

Top Takeaways

1. Don’t follow your customers, meet them where they’re going to be or, even better, lead them to something they didn’t know they needed.

2. Digitize your team. Coach up your best players so they’re ready for your digital transformation, and fill in any gaps by hiring the best.

3. See a BIG future and let your team manage the smaller details.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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