Author Archives: Joseph Truncale

About Joseph Truncale

Joe Truncale is President and CEO of NAPL, a not-for-profit business management association representing progressive companies in the graphic communications industry. NAPL helps companies grow through member resources, industry leading research, and custom-tailored consulting services. Joe specializes in strategy, customer analysis, and organizational effectiveness. He has developed a number of custom tools used in NAPL’s Business Development Modules, including the NAPL Key Account Accelerator Process™, which helps businesses identify and maximize their most significant customer relationships. He also works with companies to help them identify their Quality Competitive Index™ (QCI) through highly focused three-dimensional customer research. He is a skilled meeting facilitator, working with entrepreneurial business leaders and their management teams in developing strategic plans with a focus on differentiation and unique organizational ability. He also provides executive coaching and leadership development consulting and training. Joe is a graduate of Monmouth University and earned his Master’s degree at Rutgers University. He received his Ph.D. from New York University, his Doctoral dissertation being a ground-breaking study on the effectiveness of entrepreneurial business leaders in the graphic communications industry. Joe serves on the New York University Board of Advisors and is a member of the adjunct faculty, teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership and Financial Management. Joe began his career with NAPL in 1985 as Director of Membership and held several management positions prior to being named President in 2003. He resides in Colts Neck, New Jersey.

When goals are REALLY goals

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In working with many companies on their strategy and their business plans, the subject of goal setting always comes up.  Whether goals should be “stretch” or “makeable” is another subject for another time.  What I have noticed is that something even more fundamental is usually missing.  It’s what I call “the two N’s”.

Goals (sometimes called objectives) are often expressed in broad and even vague language.  Improve our position in this or gain a better understanding of that.  Do less of one thing or more of something else.  While setting goals can be helpful, setting clear, measurable goals is even better.  Which brings us to “the two N’s”:  Names and numbers.

By being as specific as we can in setting goals, using numbers allows us the benefit of accurately determining whether and to what extent we actually reached our goal.  Instead of simply “growing sales”, we want to “increase sales by 12% with half of that growth coming from new customers”.  Using numbers, whether they are expressed in percentages, actual counts, or dates is essential in order for us to get a truly accurate read on the accomplishment of our goals.

The second “N” stands for names.  Or more to the point, name!   Next to each goal, the name of the person responsible for its accomplishment is absolutely required.  Not a department, division, committee, work group or team.  A singular person must be responsible for bringing the necessary resources together to achieve the goal.  This does not mean, of course, that one person has to do all of the work required to complete the goal.  But someone has to “own” the responsibility of the goal.  When more than one person is “responsible” there is just too much opportunity for the focus to be dissipated.  Assumptions are made about who is doing what and not much happens.  Or as my old football coach used to say “anybody could have made the play…everybody thought somebody was going to make the play…so nobody made the play!’

Breathe new life into your goals by making sure that numbers and names are always included.

Know what you’re talking about: Read.

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If you are old enough to remember that line (in fact, the only line) in a public service television spot that ran some years ago, you are in good company.

The spot featured a group of young men in a diner discussing something, and although there is no audible dialog (just background music) it is clear that the discussion/debate is quickly becoming heated and may very well come to blows. Just then, another young man walks in, calmly joins in the discussion and very quickly, all involved cool down and listen to what must be words of great wisdom. Frowns turn to smiles and nodding of heads, even handshakes. The camera pans in to reveal a paperback novel in our hero’s back pocket, followed by the narrator’s voice intoning, “Know what you’re talking about: Read!

I remember when my son was in fourth grade and I went to parent-teacher night. I met with his teacher who said how glad he was to meet me, how well Alex was doing in class, and how interesting and advanced he was. Nice for any parent to hear, for sure. He told me that Alex was far ahead of the rest of the class on a variety of topical subjects, domestic and world events, contemporary issues, history, etc. He then said something I will never forget: “Alex reads a lot, doesn’t he?”

I answered that yes, he does, and he has done so for as long as he could read. In fact, we are a family of readers. His response: “I thought so. He knows a lot about a lot of subjects, and you can only get that from reading”.

As I continue to work with an increasing number of successful executives, I’ve noticed something. They read. Business journals, business books, industry updates (such as NAPL’s State of the Industry Report, white papers, and case studies), what I call “wisdom literature” (everything from William James to The Screwtape Letters), biographies, historical works, and, yes, even a novel or two.

We have conducted any number of senior level executive searches for our member/clients here at NAPL. One question I always ask a candidate is simple, direct, and very revealing: “What are you reading right now?” Try it. The answer may surprise you, and it will provide great insights into the learning system of the person across from you.

So whether your medium of choice is online, on a device, or on good old paper, casebound or paperback (mass market or trade), make the time to read. Be selective if you must, but consider investing at least a little more time in this worthy pursuit.

Know what you’re talking about: Read!

Rate and Pace Will Win the Race

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By now, the failed experiment of Ron Johnson as CEO of major retailer JC Penney has been well chronicled.  Until the April 7 issue of Fortune magazine, however, much of the detail about what happened had not been made quite so public.  What was revealed in the article, titled, “How to Fail in Business While Really, Really Trying,” was not simply corporate hubris or even CEO ego run amuck.  Rather, it demonstrated quite simply how difficult business transformation can really be (even for really smart people).

So here we have Ron Johnson, former head of Apple’s retail division, widely hailed as a genius for making his vision for Apple retail stores a reality.  If you have ever visited an Apple store (and you probably have), you know that they continue to be busy, buzzing, bustling (and very profitable) places.  Innovative in design, layout, lighting, and staffing, there is nothing traditional, stodgy, or boring about an Apple retail store.  The same could not be said for JC Penney.  In fact, the big retailer had plateaued and was going nowhere fast.  Who better to transform this traditional, boring, also-ran into a lively, exciting, youthful destination?

Clearly, Johnson had his own ideas and his own ways of doing things.  And he did what many in his position do when beginning a new challenge: he surrounded himself with his own people.  The holdover JC Penney team members were made to feel as though they were outsiders, especially when they challenged some of Johnson’s ideas.  No more coupons or sales?  JC Penney customers had come to rely on them and scheduled their visits to the store to align with the timing of these special offers.  The offers stopped coming―and so did the customers.

There are certainly enough Penney holdovers who lamented the fact that rather than selling “cool technology to ‘20 somethings’,” Penney was selling “dresses and flannel sheets to women in their 50s!” Clearly the same retailing prowess that fueled Apple’s growth could not work at JC Penney.  Looking back, that argument seems to make sense now.  But here’s the insight.

The fact is that no one knows whether Ron Johnson had it right or not, and that is the real tragedy of the JC Penney story.  What was clearly wrong was not the idea of radical transformation and change (Penney needed both), but the rate and pace of that change.  That’s what makes transformation so challenging and so daunting.  We need to hold on to what we have now, while simultaneously creating something new and better.

For executives and owners in the printing, mailing, graphic communications business who themselves are seeking to transform their businesses, the JC Penney story (as far away as that seems from our industry) can and should provide a stark and valuable lesson.  Business transformation requires parallel paths; keeping what (and who) we have in the near term while creating something new and different for the long term.  It isn’t that we are wrong to transform and change our business; it is the rate and pace of that change that will go a long way in determining our success.