Let’s look at the fourth strategic area – Innovation!
In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied in organizations in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.
The 2015 strategies that CEOs are looking at:
How to create a culture of innovation by promoting entrepreneurship and risk taking
How to engage in strategic alliances with customers and other business partners
How to find, engage and incentivize key talent
How to apply new methods, products and services
How to develop innovative skills in all employees
These strategies all point to the fundamentals of strategic CHANGE: changing the way we think, changing the way we act, and changing the way we lead those we count on to deliver the results we are seeking. If you can create an environment where people are recognized for their input, motivated to create and lead, have the right attitudes and skills and give them an engaging direction of where they need to go, CHANGE can happen.
Enhanced outcomes can include: improved company image, more efficient and effective processes and performance, reduced cost, greater accountability, enhanced strategic planning, reliable forecasting and greater goal achievement and better decision-making and greater customer satisfaction. Most of all it will enhance your competitive advantage!
Through our Behavioral Base Change Programwe can quickly help you identify the obstacles and then jointly implement an engaging team based change program that will lead to these benefits in today’s challenging market conditions. Our workshops are tailored to assure focused and quantifiable results.
In our next news letter you will learn more on how forward thinking companies are addressing the next strategic issue; Sustainability!
For a free demonstration on how the Behavioral Based Change Program and tracking tool can quickly create innovation driven team dynamics and enhance your competitive advantage, give me a call. You have nothing to lose and perhaps a great deal to gain.
In our MUST-DO Strategies post we highlighted that to meet today’s challenges for high quality sustainable growth CEOs are focusing their strategies on Human Capital, Customer Relations and Operational Excellence. Let’s look at Operational Excellence and creating a results driven culture!
The business dictionary defines Operational Excellence as “A philosophy of the workplace where problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership results in the ongoing improvement in an organization. The process involves focusing on the customers’ needs, keeping the employees positive and empowered, and continually improving the current activities in the workplace.”
The strategies and actions that CEOs are looking at:
How to raise employee engagement to drive productivity
How to achieve better alignment between strategy, objectives, and organizational capabilities
How to improve organizational agility and flexibility
How to redesign business processes to make them simpler and more effective
How to continually improve and innovate
During the recent CERAWeek Conference in Houston we heard:
“People are very creative and very innovative and they respond when they are under pressure. They respond the best!” ExxonMobil Corp CEO Rex Tillerson.
“Getting to simplicity is harder. It means getting to the core of what’s needed. Cutting costs in the simple manner is rather easy. Cutting the right costs is much more difficult.” Statoil CEO Eldar Sætre said.
When you take the definition of Operational Excellence and overlay it with the CEO’s focus on people and processes and compare that with what is said at the CERAWeek conference it paints a clearer picture of where your initiatives should focus, but not the what and how.
The challenge is determining the what and how that will quickly result in an improved competitive advantage in today’s marketplace?
Through our “GAP” Implementation Program and the interactive online goal tracking tool we can quickly identify the what and how that have delivered quantum leaps in performance, innovation, risk reduction and improved margins of over 30% per year even in challenging times like today. Our program and workshops are tailored to your needs and objectives to assure focused and quantifiable results.
In our next news letter you will learn more on how forward thinking companies are addressing the next two strategic issues; Innovation and Sustainable!
For a free demonstration on how the “GAP” Implementation Program and tracking tool can quickly create goal driven team dynamics and enhance your competitive advantage, give me a call. You have nothing to lose and perhaps a great deal to gain.
In our MUST-DO Strategies post we highlighted that to meet today’s challenges for high quality sustainable growth CEOs are focusing their strategies on Human Capital, Customer Relations and Operational Excellence. Let’s look at Customer Relations – What do they REALLY value?
Creating a strong culture around customers is one of the critical drivers in meeting the multiple challenges facing industry today. What do we believe customers really want/need: Price or Value? If you believe that the only thing they cherish is the price then don’t read anything further. If you believe that they are looking for value than read on!
The tendency of our traditional sales and business development efforts is to push services and benefits to our customers. Try changing the game. Ask customers what they really value and what their expectations for value are. You may be surprised that the answers. If you asked this question of your management you might get different responses but in the end customers want to know if you are the type of company that can trust to get the job done! They’re always looking for the A-Team at the lowest price! Give them more of what they really value!
The strategies that CEOs are looking to related to Customer Relationships focuses on the following areas:
Relationships – Leadership should personally engage with key customers and clients to establish the foundation of trust, value, accessibility and commitment.
Quality – Customers are looking for quality in the products and services. Consider what quality is costing you and your clients. What would you look for if you were in their shoes?
Culture – If you look internally and develop a more outward looking customer centric culture in your organization what would you expect the customer’s response to be?
Speed – Time is money! The current market has created a need for speed and reduced waste! The quicker you can deliver a quality product, the higher value for your client and a more competitive advantage for your success.
Differentiation – Use competitive intelligence to identify your differentiators inline with what the customer really want, need and value. This will help you create your market leverage and success.
YES, clients are pushing for cost reductions in today’s marketplace. However, if he believes that he’s getting a great deal and meeting his expectations, he’ll pay for it! Raising the focus on delivering better value requires innovative solutions throughout your entire business system in order to reach your full potential. It will also reduce waste and risk while increasing your margin potential, growth and shareholder value.
NOW, ask yourself and your teams these questions: What are we selling? What are our customer’s problems? How can we solve these problems in a unique or better fashion? Do we understand their expectations? Have we a differentiated offering? Are we asking the RIGHT questions and ARE we listening? Do we have a culture fit and relationship?
In our MUST-DO Strategies post last time we highlighted that to meet today’s challenges for high quality sustainable growth CEOs are focusing their strategies on Human Capital, Customer Relations and Operational Excellence. Let’s look at Human Capital – those mission critical resources necessary for business success.
If you want to improve results there are many initiatives you can try but in the end the most effective way may be to get more out of what you already have through behavioral based change. Attitudes affect behaviors which directly impact results.
Do you need an attitude or behavioral based change? Ask yourself and your teams the following questions:
What would an improvement in management team effectiveness mean to results?
What is turnover of mission critical resources really costing us?
How are our culture and behaviors impacting results?
How well do we work together as a team?
How are our quality and behaviors affecting client attraction and retention?
If there is a disparity with any of the answers to above or you just want to get better, you may need a positive behavioral based change. Ask us how our INSIDE-OUT Success Formula can improve attitudes and your bottom line results, FAST!
If you’re keeping up with today’s headlines the energy industry is a scary place to be! In today’s dynamic market what should you do: cut, downsize, restructure, implement strategic changes,…?
Today’s Must-Do Strategies!
According to The Conference Board 2015 CEO Challenge annual survey results from across the nation the top three strategies for achieving high-quality sustainable business growth are:
Human Capital – Improve Performance Management
Customer Relations – Engagement and Quality
Operational Excellence – Productivity and Alignment
Your success objectives growth, profit, customer satisfaction, retention and/or shareholder value are dependent on the organizations ability to implement strategic change and maintain a motivated innovative culture and behaviors.
In our next postings you will learn how forward thinking leader’s are addressing these strategies and enhancing their competitive advantage, FAST!
Please feel free to contact me for more information. You have nothing to lose and perhaps a great deal to gain.
“If we improved any single process in our business by just 1%, or even 0.1%, but we did that every single day – what do you think the effects would be in a month? In a year? In five years?”
Are you looking to assure more successes with sales, profit, satisfied customers and employees, promotions, bonus or more? Do you know the formula for success and have you mastered the art of achieving success? We all know what we want to do and maybe what we should do, however, do we have the behaviors and the know-how and support needed to achieve real success?
There are four key components to being highly successful. Those are:
The Want To!
The What To!
The How To!
The Where To!
If you have ever played organized sports you know what it’s like to have a coach encourage you and help you understand the rules, strategy, plays and the behaviors necessary to be successful in that sport.
Business is the same. Be it building teams, managing people, successful sales, career advancement, project management, profitable operations and projects and more we all need a valid success formula and the support to achieve our goals and objectives. It’s a team sport! If it was all so easy, then why aren’t you already getting the results and rewards you deserve?
The solution is simple; we can give you a proven process today that you and your teams can use to achieve phenomenal long term results, FAST. The ROI starts on day one!
As some of our clients put it: “It helped me get organized and focused not only on my work but also on what I want to achieve!”,”It helped our team to discuss shared issues and find solutions to common problems.”, “Our sales could double using this formula!”, “The gains we are realizing are priceless!”
There is no charge for the first consultation. You have nothing to lose and perhaps a great deal to gain – more profits, advancements, improved retention of mission critical resources, more sales, satisfied customers, reduced risk, behavioral based change, goal driven management teams with results and more! You could say that we are in the Results Assurance Business!
If you’re interested in learning how this success formula can help you get more from what you already have, then give me a call today at 713-249-9569. I guarantee it will be life changing for you and your business results!
It can’t be forced. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And…it’s largely in your control.
Companies spend time and money to measure, maximize and promote, often with posters and making impressive-sounding proclamations. Yet they rarely encourage leaders to do the simple, everyday things that make a sustained difference.
This article highlights what great leaders do to create an environment that inspires all employees to be their best. Emphasis on “inspires,” as you can not coerce engagement. Emphasis on “best,” as most employees are hungry for work that maximizes their strengths and challenges them to improve.
A seminal report by the Conference Board summarized findings from a number of research studies on employee engagement. They define employee engagement as “a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or co-workers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.”
The report also found that the most powerful driver of employee engagement is the employee/manager relationship – specifically, managers who care about their employees’ well being, foster trust, and lead with integrity.
In the quest for true engagement, what matters most are leaders who are tuned in, turned on, and who consistently call forth the best effort and best attitudes of employees. And not only does this pay off big time for the organization, but it pays off big time for YOU as well!
So, if you are ready to improve business results and eager to retain top talent, then you are ready for the 5-A Model for Engagement. It details specific tools and practices to cultivate personal and productive employee relationships.
5-A MODEL for Engagement
1. ALIGNMENT: Fit of employee talents and capabilities with role
2. ATTENTION: Ways a leader pays attention to employee
3. ATTITUDE: Positive thinking and positive guidance for positive outcomes
4. APPRECIATION: Cultivating and expressing gratitude and recognition
5. AUTHENTICITY: Leading in a way that is true to one’s own unique strengths, personal style and professional perspective
Alignment addresses the fit between an employee’s strengths and interests with their job responsibilities. For many people I’ve coached, their biggest challenge is that they are asked to do what they cannot do or be what they are not, and the individual is seen as having a “performance issue” rather than being in the wrong job.
So the first task if you want to engage your employees is to be vigilant about uncovering, articulating, and advocating their strengths. This is not always as simple as it sounds. Most managers are trained to find and address what’s lacking in an employee. But research tells us, that we would be wise to spend our time developing and utilizing a person’s strengths as opposed to eliminating their weaknesses.
Additionally, employees feel better and do better when their strengths are aligned with their work. In fact, using the other 4 A’s in this model – and not aligning an employee’s skills and interests with the work – will not result in full engagement.
Tips to Create Alignment:
Two of the many tools on the market that help capture strengths I recommend are: StrengthsFinder found in the book, Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, and VIA Signature Strengths survey which is free and can be found at http://www.viasurvey.org
Ask your employees, “Tell me about a time when you felt most engaged at work…what was happening? What skills were you using?” Ask your employees, “Do you feel you have a chance to use your best strengths in your job?” When promoting or moving people into new roles, ask yourself if the employees will still have a chance to use their strengths. This is especially important when promoting stellar individual performers into management positions.
Attention includes the physical and non-physical ways you focus on employees. Your most valued resource is your attention. And the quality and nature of how you pay attention speaks volumes about you and the value you place on your employees. Paying positive attention to your employee’s strengths and interests is critical to engagement.
Additionally, you should also look at all they do right, their career ambitions, families, hobbies, concerns, goals. Even employees who prefer some privacy appreciate your asking.
Body language is BIG. Notice how you physically give attention to your employees. Do you use their name when speaking to them? Do you look them in the eye? Shake their hand? Restate what you hear them say? Do you show up at meetings on time? And very important, when in group meetings or one-on-one discussions, do you eliminate distractions like email and phone calls?
Tips for Giving Attention
Turn off all appliances and tune in to your employees.
Ask employees about their career ambitions, hopes, and fears.
Ask employees about their outside interests and families.
Make eye contact and use the name of the person you are speaking with.
Give employees at least 3 positive statements for every critical one.
Say good morning and good evening.
Celebrate the good stuff!
The two key behaviors that contribute to displaying and inspiring a positive attitude are positive thinking and positive feeling.
With positive thinking, you approach challenges from a realistically optimistic perspective rather than a pessimistic or victim-oriented one. Realistic optimism doesn’t mean denying problems: It means applying your efforts – and the efforts of others – on what you can control, expecting that by doing so the future will be better.
Pessimistic managers see organizational challenges as pervasive and out of their control, “I’m such a bad manager. This company is going down hill.” Realistically optimistic managers see challenges as opportunities, consider the bad stuff as temporary, and believe in their own resourcefulness and the resourcefulness of others. “It’s true that we’re going through a rough patch. Now what can we do to make it better?”
While some leaders tend towards pessimism or optimism, anyone can choose an optimistic approach to work. Doing so not only feels better but results in better outcomes. Employees want to be engaged with positive people and rewarding endeavors. You must lead the way.
Second, use positive emotion to promote useful outcomes. We all recognize that the simple cold is quite contagious. What is less obvious is how contagious a bad mood can be — especially when it belongs to the manager. Science has established that like physical viruses, moods are indeed contagious. Additionally, negative feelings such as anxiety and anger not only feel bad but shut us down and close us off to new ideas; we become less creative and resourceful.
Barbara Frederickson developed a “broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions” that finds that “There is now hard data showing positive emotions give us access to cognitive, social, psychological and physical resources. In other words, they make us smarter, more creative, more social, and healthier.” And not surprisingly, people in positive moods are more liked by others and more open to ideas and experiences (Frederickson, 1998). The bottom line is that negative emotions tear down — positive emotions build up.
This research, and our own anecdotal experience, suggest how leaders lead and employ smart behaviors that you can use to enhance your — and others’ — emotions.
Tips for Creating a Positive Attitude
·Before going into a meeting, ask yourself what kind of attitude will help work get done at the meeting. The answer will lead you to some ideas for how you want to behave.
·Ration the time you spend with people with negative attitudes.
·Ask yourself and/or your team, “What’s in our control?”
·If someone responds negatively try saying, “That may be AND…”
·To promote positive feelings in yourself, consider the following 5-minute attitude adjustment activities:
oPay attention to your thinking
oGo for a fast power walk in the parking lot
oSpend a few minutes paying attention to your breath
oWrite an email to yourself stating what your goal is and note what thoughts and feelings will assist you in attaining
oLook at a picture of your family or favorite vacation spot
oAnd yes, one of my clients played the theme song to Rocky every time he wanted to psyche himself up for a big
meeting or moment.
“The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated” – William James.
Not only is appreciating a smart strategy for engaging others, but taking time to deeply appreciate what we have fills our tank as well.
You might be thinking that cultivating appreciation is well worn advice–something we heard from our parents or teachers. And that may be. But good common sense is often uncommon. Further, while appreciation is indeed an underused strategy for engagement, there are actually many barriers to practicing it.
For starters, if you are like many leaders, you may consider yourself a high achiever. One thing we know about high achievers is that they are often focused on future goals. And that future orientation makes leaders vulnerable to not seeing all that is currently happening and all that has already been achieved.
Managers are paid to solve problems and put out fires. You’re quick to see what’s not working rather than what is working. You usually look three steps ahead. Again, this tendency can come at the expense of appreciating people now and accomplishments now.
And it’s easy to rely too heavily on reward and recognition programs instead of smaller, sometimes more impactful displays of genuine appreciation. Employees make countless contributions made by employees every day that may not merit formal recognition, but without them we and our organizations could not succeed.
And the last barrier to appreciating is simply the pace of our lives: We forget to stop and appreciate.
Tips for Cultivating Appreciation
·Start or end your meetings with “thank you’s” or personal acknowledgments, (even better if you invite everyone to join in).
·Keep a supply of monogrammed note cards in your desk and make it a point to write a few each week.
·One client enjoyed keeping 10 pennies in his left pants pocket, and every time he gave a sincere acknowledgement he moved a penny from his left pant pocket to his right pant pocket. His goal was to have all 10 pennies moved by the day’s end.
·Spend 5 minutes at the end of each week writing down what you appreciate that week – feel free to include non-work happenings, and by all means, feel free to engage your team and/or your family in the activity. As they say, “What we appreciate appreciates…”
·Leave a note somewhere reminding you to be appreciative.
·And lest you think showing appreciation is just something for the good times – it is even more important when things don’t go well. Consider the manager who when his team was faced with a setback, instead of pointing fingers, asked, “What’s here for us to learn? What can we appreciate about this challenge?”
Being authentic means expressing yourself in ways that are in keeping with your own authentic style and temperament and with a sincere desire to make your relationships work. Employees can see through technique, so by all means adapt these suggestions in ways that feel good to you. The only caveat is if for instance you recognize an opportunity to be more appreciative, and choose to use a new behavior such as sending thank you notes, realize that at first it may feel awkward because it’s new – which is different from not being authentic.
Tips for Cultivating Authenticity
·Clarify and articulate your core values – use them as anchors and guideposts to inform your leadership actions.
·Tell the truth — and if you don’t know, say so.
·Tell personal stories that demonstrate times you have overcome adversity, managed change, or accomplished an important goal.
·Invest in your own development – know and claim your strengths and weaknesses.
·Honor your commitments.
·Lead by example.
So What’s in it for You?
I love win/win/win propositions, and the good news is that using these 5 A’s of Engagement results in increased engagement for your employees, your company and you!
Align people’s strengths to their job, attend to their needs with keen focus, bring a positive attitude (via thoughts and feelings) to work challenges, consistently convey appreciation for your employees efforts. Practicing these behaviors will inspire higher levels of performance, enhance retention and generate greater commitment to results. You will feel GREAT about yourself as a leader, and the increased commitment and contributions from those you work with will wow you! Promise. Now, here’s to you!
Conference Board Report: Employee Engagement: A Review of Current Research and its Implications, 2006. “What Good are Positive Emotions?” by B.L. Frederickson, 1998. Review of General Psychology, 2, pp. 300-319.
Growth is vital to prosperity. Every person, every company, and every national economy must grow. Are you working for a company that is growing? Is it growing profitably and with no decline in velocity? What happens when the growth rate is low or even negative?
If the company as a whole or your business unit lags behind competitors, your personal progress will suffer. If the company’s sales are flat for five or six years, people will not have the opportunity to be promoted and move forward. Top managers will begin to cut costs, cut the number of employees, cut layers. They’ll start reining in R&D and advertising, good people will leave, and eventually the company will go into a death spiral. People will suffer.
In today’s world, no growth means lagging behind in a world that grows every day. If you don’t grow, competitors will eventually overtake you. Westinghouse, for example, used to be compared with GE. It lost its way, didn’t focus on growth and productivity, and no longer exists. Then there was Digital Equipment Corporation, not long ago the world’s second-largest computer company. It stuck with making mid-sized computers when the world was going to PCs. While upstart PC makers like Dell and Compaq grew, Digital Equipment did not. It lost its independence when Compaq acquired it.
Growth has a psychological dimension. Growth energizes a business. A company that is expanding attracts talented people with fresh ideas. It stretches them and creates new opportunities. People like to hear customers say they’re the best and that more business will be coming their way.
Look at what is happening in the world of Internet and other technology companies. Until very recently, young people were so anxious to get jobs working for dot-com companies that they were postponing their formal education. And venerable old companies had trouble luring graduates from the best schools and retaining their top performers while companies like Cisco, Intel, Nokia, Microsoft, and Oracle attracted a disproportionate number of them. Even a small start-up like Teligent attracted the former president of AT&T, Alex Mandl. What is the attraction? Growth, and all the opportunities and excitement it brings. The chance to build something, make something happen, and prosper.
Growing the Right Way
But growth for its own sake doesn’t do any good. Growth has to be profitable and sustainable. You want growth to be accompanied by improved margins and velocity, and the cash generation must be able to keep pace.
Many entrepreneurs taste success on a small scale and become obsessed with growth, losing sight of the money-making basics along the way. The case of one entrepreneur who supplied beverage equipment to restaurants is typical. He built a profitable business installing beverage equipment at a cost of $2,000 per installation and thereafter collecting $100 a month from the restaurant for the ingredients he supplied. He borrowed money to make the installations. The margin on the ingredients was so slim that it did not cover the interest payments on the borrowed money. Yet he was obsessed with growth.
As this ambitious young man expanded the business, the outflow of cash soon outpaced the flow of money into the business. Eventually, the company went bankrupt, and the lenders decided that the company needed a new CEO.
Sometimes senior management inadvertently encourages unprofitable growth by giving the sales force the wrong incentives. For example, one $16-million injection molding company rewarded its sales representatives based on how many dollars’ worth of plastic caps they sold, regardless of whether the company made a profit on them. Everyone was excited when the company landed $4 million in new sales from two major customers. But in the following three years, as sales rose, profit margins shrank. Finally, the CEO realized that the new business everyone was so excited about was actually a money loser. The price of the new caps did not cover the costs of producing them. Worse, the sales team lowered the price each year to retain the business.
Bankruptcy is often the sad end of misguided expansion plans. In August 2000, one of the largest equipment retailers in the United States joined the list of companies seeking bankruptcy protection when its ambitious growth plans went awry.
In the 1990s, the company had kicked off a rapid expansion that included opening eighty to a hundred stores a year, some outside the United States for the first time ever. Sales grew steadily through the 1990s, from well under $500 million to well over $2 billion, and at least in the early years, earnings per share inched up, too. But beginning in 1995, as the pace of its acquisitions quickened, earnings moved sharply downward for several reasons.
For one thing, the company was conducting business much as it always had, trying to make money on the sale of the equipment itself and also on the highly lucrative business of extending credit to customers. Meanwhile, the credit card industry was blossoming, and customers were using credit cards instead of store credit to buy their equipment. The company lost a main source of income. The loans it did make were more often to high-risk customers, some of whom didn’t make their payments. Also, sales from the new stores didn’t always meet expectations, and sales from older stores were dwindling as the company failed to make needed renovations.
By 1998, the company was losing money, and in 1999, it began to retrench. It closed stores and sold off some of its business units. Still the debt burden was too great, and in August 2000, under the leadership of a newly appointed CEO, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
So don’t use size as a measure of success. Pushing for more sales dollars isn’t necessarily good business. You have to know how and why you’re growing. And you have to consider whether you are growing in a way that can continue.
Look at what is happening to your cash. Maybe sales are increasing, but the cash situation is getting worse. Step back. Are you growing in a way that is generating or consuming cash? Is your profit margin improving or getting worse?
If the money making is improving and the cash is growing too, you have some interesting choices. You can use the funds to develop a new product, buy another company, or expand into a new country. Maybe you want to add some new features to make your product more appealing. Maybe you can cut the price and expand demand profitably.
Finding opportunities for profitable growth when others can’t is part of business acumen. Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, knew how to grow a business, even when his industry peers thought it was impossible. In 1975, the CEO of Sears, Roebuck told my class at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business that retailing in the United States was a mature business and a no-growth industry. That’s why he diversified into financial services. Meanwhile, Sam Walton was opening new stores while maintaining a return on assets substantially above the industry average.
Wal-Mart has widened the gap between itself and Sears. Though the businesses were roughly equal in size in 1992, Wal-Mart had sales of $165 billion for the year ending January 31, 2000, versus Sears’s sales of roughly $40 billion for the same period. In the process of expanding, Wal-Mart’s margin and velocity have both improved. Wal-Mart’s superior return on assets provides resources for it to expand internationally.
Opportunities for profitable growth may not be obvious, especially for big, established companies. But with drive, tenacity and risk taking, you and your colleagues can discover them. Take, for example, Ford. As Jac Nasser told the investment community at a meeting with securities analysts in January 1999, Ford was evaluating several avenues of growth and would pursue those that had the greatest potential to create value. One of Ford’s growth options was to provide a range of services that have to do with vehicle ownership. Nasse intended to have Ford venture down this path by making acquisitions and exploiting adjacencies. Adjacencies is the word he uses to describe market segments that are different from but closely related to the core business — like Nike’s selling of athletic apparel along with its core business of selling athletic shoes.
As Ford saw it, a consumer who buys a vehicle needs to finance it, insure it, and, over time, maintain and buy replacement parts. Financing, insurance, maintenance, and auto parts are separate market segment: but they are closely related to the initial vehicle purchase. Over the life of the car, an average person spends $68,000 in total — almost three and a half times what the average consumer pays for a vehicle. Ford hoped t grow and create shareholder value by participating in all these segments. That’s why in 1999 it acquired Kwik-Fit, a European auto repair chain, and Automobile Protection Corporation, which provides extended service contracts on all makes of cars.
Ford also planned to fuel growth by using e-commerce aggressively. The company plans to use the Internet to connect with more customers more quickly and to communicate with suppliers and dealers to shorten the time it takes to provide consumers with the vehicles they desire. That way both customer satisfaction and sales would rise.
Ram Charan is a highly acclaimed business advisor, speaker, and author, well known for his practical, real-world perspective. He was a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School where he earned his MBA degree with Distinction, as well as his DBA. Dr. Charan is also the author of What the CEO Wants You to Know, Profitable Growth Is Everyone’s Business, The Leadership Pipeline, and Boards at Work. His articles have appeared in Fortune and Harvard Business Review.
When you stepped on this path of entrepreneurship, if you’re like me, you became a sponge for knowledge. If there was a new strategy you heard about, you found a resource to become skilled in learning that strategy. If there was an event you knew you needed to be at, you figured out how to get there. You were an “eager beaver” to learn, learn, learn and implement what you learned in your business.
But chances are, nobody ever suggested you stop with all the information gathering and ask yourself the deeper questions of, “Is this right for me? Is this aligned with who I am, what my business is and what’s important to me?” Many entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with are just now stepping back to ask themselves what they’ve been doing for the past several months (or years)… and if it’s really working for them.
What several of these entrepreneurs are discovering is that they’ve been going after what they “thought” they “should” be doing based on watching and modeling someone else. It’s an honest thing to do. You’re taught to model others. But, you’ve got to be mindful of knowing where the line is between modeling in a way that serves you and modeling in a way that pulls you further away from who you are.
On that note, I want to share with you the ABC’s of aligning with your business so no matter what stage you’re in; no matter how much knowledge you have; no matter your level of success (or frustration) these three tips will help you make sure you are on track to be in total alignment with your business as you head into 2010.
In order to get from “Point A” to “Point B” in terms of aligning with your business, you’ve first got to assess where you really are. Many entrepreneurs just keep going, keep plowing through their to-do list without taking time to step back and truly assess where they’re at and what direction they’re headed.
In this phase, you’ll allow yourself to see what’s working in your business and what isn’t working in your business, and more importantly what is and isn’t working for YOU! It may be that your greatest source of income is also coming from the service that causes you the most amount of stress. This is not in alignment. Your income ought to come from your greatest joy. So, these are the things to be looking for. Where does your business FEEL right and where doesn’t it?
The assessment phase may uncover some things that perhaps you’d prefer not to see. I know when I went through the assessment phase in my business, I saw I was doing things that I really shouldn’t have been doing. These were some of the things others had suggested I do, so they didn’t purely come from the intent in my heart, but by what someone else thought.
So, this next phase invites you to be brave in facing what you see. Yes, it might feel temporarily easier to pretend that what you see isn’t really there. It’s natural to want to avoid that kind of pain. However, if it’s there, it will always be there and it can’t really be avoided, it can only be postponed. So, allow yourself to face whatever you see straight-on and you will be one step closer to totally aligning your Self with your business.
Finally, the third phase is to embrace the concept of co-creation. Co-creation happens when you are fully awake, aware and conscious of the reality that everything created through you is created in partnership with Spirit. In order to truly be aligned with your Self and your business, it’s essential to not let your human will or your ego feel like it’s the creative force behind what you do.
Alignment happens when your ego is set aside, when your intent is pure, when comparison and competition (or what you think you “should” do) aren’t part of your process. This can be the greatest growth opportunity of all… to allow yourself to “let go” enough to make room for grace. So, don’t feel like you have to do everything in your business (or your life) alone, be open to seeing that when you’re in alignment you’re opening to a world of infinite possibility.
For almost three years, JR Andersen, CEO of mid-size software company Andersen High Tech (AHT), and his board have been uneasy. Business growth has been “OK” at eight percent but the market has been growing at a 15 percent annual rate. With almost half the growth from price increases, unit growth for the main product line has been less than five percent. Fortunately, margins have been expanding nicely along with management bonuses, so things aren’t too bad.
Or are they?
With business growth rates well below the market, AHT is losing customers and hence market share. At a minimum, this means lost opportunities.
Competitors are gaining enough critical mass to develop the next product faster or better. AHT’s biggest competitor has won three bids with “leading edge” requirements, leaving JR worried about his next generation product.
If you were JR and his board, where would you look to escape this predicament? My experience suggests the answer is in marketing strategy, not in technology.
To increase your company’s business growth, your new thinking and priorities should focus on:
– Finding hidden opportunities – Your potential business growth solutions are buried inside your current approach to product enhancement and development.
– Applying product discipline – You need to find and apply the right balance of technical and business factors for proactive product management.
– Discovering customer niches — You need to find specific customers with unique needs that you can serve better than others could.
Six months ago, JR started down this road. Here is his path to business growth success:
Finding the hidden portfolio gold & fixing your R&D investment black hole
AHT had a large “portfolio” of products and product enhancements in development. Like many companies I’ve seen, AHT’s pipeline had many small, incremental projects and very few truly innovative ones.
To fix his R&D problem, JR decided that he needed to divide the projects into 3 categories:
1. Major new products: Greater than 10 percent of firm revenue within three years.
2. Significant product enhancements: defined as substantial new customer functionality.
3. All other.
JR knew there were only four new products underway, counting two in the very early stages. He was surprised to find only seven significant enhancements, and even more surprised to find 73 “all other” projects.
Next, JR needed to understand the resources assigned to each category. Because there had been no central resource tracking, this step was hard for JR’s staff. They had to visit each product group and each functional organization several times before obtaining the necessary information. Everyone was surprised to discover only 20 percent of the resources assigned to major new products and another 15 percent on enhancements–with the remaining 65 percent working on “all other.”
The solution was obvious. Take resources from “all other” and add them to new product development or product enhancements. Not only did this improve confidence in launch dates, it opened a floodgate of possibilities for new products.
Applying Product Discipline
While looking at the AHT product development projects, JR first drew them out on a calendar showing launch dates. Then he asked his engineers and product managers some questions. They included:
– When are intermediate reviews scheduled and who is participating?
– Can you show me the specific customer needs that preceded the technical work?
– For existing products, do the product plans line up with corporate objectives?
– What are the skills and background of the people in product manager roles?
Like many companies, he found AHT only addressed these issues intermittently, meaning he received many answers he did not want to hear. In discussions with the vice presidents at the next staff meeting, JR and his executive management team agreed they needed to personally apply more consistent attention and focus.
Discovering Niches and Segments
Next, JR dug into the product plan for AHT’s product with the largest growth objective. He found the sales target, marketing communications plan, and the planned product enhancements. But the assessment of competitors was weak. Worse, the description of target customers and applications was missing. In other words, no description of why a customer would buy AHT’s product or which customers should be interested.
I’ve seen this pattern at many companies. The value proposition is missing or too broad, without real and specific customer benefits. Crafting a great value proposition includes becoming very specific about benefits in terms that affect the customer’s bottom line.
JR quickly realized that the most productive place to look for revenue growth was in incremental uses and new customers for AHT’s three key existing products. He asked his marketing, sales, engineering and customer service leaders to carefully understand and document each benefit received by current customers, then identify other similar customers.
Business Growth’s Bottom Line
After six months of focus, JR and his board are feeling better. Revenue growth for the last quarter was 17 percent and the most recent product launch was on time. The whole company now has a positive outlook and people are buzzing with energy. It took two new product managers and a lot of executive attention, but the customer niche/value proposition concept has really taken hold. The VP of sales even became a believer when he landed an elusive key account after a presentation of AHT key product benefits (rather than their technical capabilities).
The product launch schedule has six new products and fifteen enhancements in the pipeline, all with strong executive support and no more “black hole.”
I sincerely hope your company isn’t facing the problems faced by JR and his board at AHT. But if you are, try JR’s roadmap for business growth. Find the hidden opportunities, apply product discipline, and discover your customer niches.
B2B marketing expert, Bill Gilbert, has extensive experience in moving telecom and high tech firms, just like yours, from technical focus to a customer-driven brand. For more free business growth tips on how to drive a compelling value proposition, proactively manage new product development, and exploit product portfolios to systematically build brands check out Bill’s blog at: [http://www.b2bgrowthmarketing.com/marketing-blog/]