Who doesn’t love a good mystery? We all live through one, whether it’s the question of what’s next in life or business. I love a mystery and find it interesting to understand why some businesses succeed and what I can learn from those that are challenged to help others change the trajectory, and move to success.

Mystery Favorites

I grew up reading mystery books such as “Nancy Drew Mystery Stories,” by Caroline Keene, and “The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories,” by Franklin Dixon. Graduating to a bit more intrigue, I started reading spy novels such as Ian Fleming’s James Bond Series (yes, I initially chose the book because of the similarity in the author’s last name), moving on to Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Later on, I was first introduced to Walter Mosley’s first in a series Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins detective book while attending Howard University’s Book Publishing Institute. Lately, I’ve been catching up on the most recent book in the Lupe Solano series about a woman detective in Miami, by Caroline Garcia-Agulira, and enjoying the “Will Robie” and “King and Maxwell” series by author David Baldacci.

Why my love for mysteries? Couple of reasons:

  • It’s a team sport where collaboration with a core team and extended team are critical to
  • Connecting the dots to find a solution is what solves the mystery.
  • You’re making sense out of chaos, and each solution to the mystery is different.

Now, if you’re wondering what’s the connection to business, stick with me, and I’ll tell you why.

Business is a Mystery

Fast forward to my executive assignments with nonprofits and business-to-business organizations. Each of the marketing positions I held started out as a mystery. In every situation, there was a business problem that needed to be solved or a marketing objective to achieve.

  • “Based on what the customer has purchased or is purchasing, what else are they buying?,“ asked the marketing director.
  • “Should we be in this business? Let me know in a week what we should do?,” asked the marketing director.
  • “Let’s dig in to understand how big the market is so we can determine whether we can make a case for entering this business,” said the global marketing manager. Then the question that follows: “What do we sell to the customer since the core product is only worth $30?”

It’s About the Mystery 

Photo Credit: Sophia Jones

It’s About the Mystery. Photo Credit: Sophia Jones.

Catherine just took over the family business. Sitting in her first meeting with the senior management team, they’re reviewing the monthly results when her sales manager said, “We’ve had several meetings with prospective customers this month. While we’ve had good conversations with them, when we discuss how our product can solve their problem as opposed to our competitors, the customer points out that’s nice, but explain why your product is better than Company XYZ’s product?” The Sales VP notes, “When I look at Company XYZ’s product, it’s half the price of our product. If this keeps up, we’re going to have a difficult time closing deals and we may miss our revenue targets for the year if we don’t figure out a solution soon.”

The Operations VP said, “That’s interesting, because we just had our best quarter in revenue. Customers like our product and we just seen received a big order from a new account,” she said.

The Marketing VP notes, “We’ll we’re having difficulty filling seats for an upcoming event next month and have increased our digital advertising spend to increase registrations.” The Sales VP notes, “Well, I just got a call this morning from my sales manager who indicated that this big order, which could have helped meet our revenue target for the month, has been cancelled.”

Catherine, turns to her team and says, “What do you recommend we do?”

Why I Love Mysteries

A love of mysteries.

A love of mysteries.

The reason I love reading mysteries? It is because the themes and storylines in mystery novels mirror the vexing problems executive management face every day as they strive for success in business. Think about it: in this scenario, Catherine and her team have a problem to solve. The initial clues include a new competitor, declining attendance at their event, and a big order was cancelled. How they go about solving it could go in multiple directions.

It’s thrilling to read mysteries by your favorite author, catching up with the lead character to see how they get out of the latest jam, exploring a different mystery genre, or discovering a new mystery set in a different milieu. Yet, all along the way, you’re faced with a problem that has to be solved before the situation can transform from bad to good.

A significant benefit of the mystery format is that it is a sandbox or a place to momentarily escape from your busy life and way of thinking about a problem to check in for the opportunity to think differently. You have signed a pack with the author to dive in, take the journey, and to match wits with the detective. If we have the tenacity to stick it out with the agent, we’re able to solve problem.

In our next posts, we’ll explore what mysteries and business have in common.

Let me know what your favorite mystery book or author is, why, and what you think mysteries have in common with business. Leave your comment below or email us at [email protected].  Or pick up the phone to call—we’re eager to help you solve your business mysteries.

Carla A. Fleming is the Founder and Chief Strategist for Renewable Marketing, a marketing strategy firm. Contact us today to set-up a 30-minute Discovery Session and learn how we can help you cultivate your business.