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Monday, August 27, 2007

Exhilarated By [Solutia] Marketing!

Jumping in Waimea Bay 2 originally uploaded by Nantel.
Have you ever been so exhilarated from an encounter that you've wanted to leap off into water or break out into dance? With the intensity of the exhilaration being a function of how extreme the contrast between the encounter and the previous state of being...

Isn't it an amazing feeling?

In my case, the previous state of being comes from close to 4 years of uncertainty -- the result of my company - Solutia - entering into Chapter 11 in December 2003. Although we've done our best to focus on what we can control and not be distracted by the unknowns and the bankruptcy process, things have certainly been 'different.' They've also been tough and we've had to figure out how to do things more efficiently, considering new approaches to doing the same old things...

Despite being part of a larger organization, anything outside of the immediate scope of our business has been irrelevant. The prime directive has been to focus on our customers, our markets, our industry. It's been the same for the other Solutia businesses.

So, imagine being invited to take part in a marketing communications summit across all Solutia businesses... an almost surreal concept that actually took place a few weeks ago in St. Louis, Mo. And, was it ever a blast! I felt like Christopher Walken dancing to Weapon Of Choice - Fatboy Slim [feed readers, click on Weapon of Choice link for YouTube clip].

The summit signaled that it was okay to look beyond our immediate world, to learn about other businesses and .... to plan for that up-to-now ever elusive emergence from bankruptcy [this October?]. What a message!

It was also the most exhilarating get-together that I've taken part in since joining Monsanto/Solutia! This was a get-together of marketing practitioners across the organization: 22 of my peers across several businesses within 4 divisions participated. I had neither met nor communicated with most. Those I had communicated with, I had only met a few weeks prior. What a thrill!

We spoke about the future, and a future together as one company. We educated one another about our businesses, and marketing approaches. Although we operate in different markets, the differences triggered ideas and thoughts to consider and explore. In that session alone, I met SEO experts, marketers facing intense multi-cultural marketing challenges, web experimenters, branding professionals -- all top-notch. I may have more in common with some businesses than I do others, but regardless I know I can learn from all of these marketers.

Even though we had never met or interacted with one another, we all shared the experience of having made it this far through bankruptcy. We are leaner and nimbler. We've reinvented ourselves in the midst of uncertainty and tremendous change. We have shut down businesses and been forced to figure out new approaches. The pace has been so intense that there's been little opportunity to mingle with other businesses or spend time contemplating anything other than what is immediately critical, making this event that much more powerful.

These are some of the Solutia Inc. businesses I learned about:
+ in Nylon Intermediates [in addition to Ultron and Wear-Dated], Vydyne
+ in Films and Glass Products, CP Films, Gila Films, LLumar as well as Saflex
+ our new Flexsys business
+ in Specialty Products, Skydrol and Therminol
Most are heavily B2B, but several share B2C elements.

Shortly after returning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published this article by Rachel Melcer titled Solutia is doing well after three years of bankruptcy [which Floor Daily reinterpreted as Solutia Doing Well After 3 Years of Bankruptcy].

The lessons from all this?
+ Certainly, Anna Farmery's words of wisdom from When limited budget is fantastic news! come to mind. Consider whether you are making the best possible decisions with your resources.

+ As bad as things may be, there may still be opportunities hidden within. Bankruptcy has not been fun, but I truly believe that it has made us a better organization.

+ Reach out to those around you. Ask them to tell you what they do. Get them to talk about their roles/markets/businesses. You may think that you share nothing in common, but you'll discover unexpected perspectives and experience levels and benefit from it all.

Many thanks to our corporate communications group for having created this exhilarating opportunity for Solutia marketers to learn from one another.

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