Educating the workforce = strategic advantage?

5 12 2007

Yesterday I mentioned the move toward global government investment in education as a means to assume leadership status and to remain competitive in the future.  Link

Are individual companies dedicating resources for the education of their work force in order to insure future success?

There are a multitude of options available to the employer and employee in order to increase knowledge;  graduate degree programs, continuing education courses, specific industry training, seminars, conferences, short courses, books, magazines, blogs, the Internet, mentoring and travel.

How many formal or informal programs are in place at your workplace for employees to increase their knowledge?

Formal programs might include subsidies, grants, loans or co-participation in the employees education costs.  They might be specific courses run by consultants or experts, focused on improving specific skills.

Formal programs also include the participation in seminars, workshops, short-courses and other short term events.  They provide opportunities for networking, information, motivation and even a “breath of fresh air” from day to day operations.

How much money and time are set aside in your business for these education events yearly?   Why?

Who determines which events are important, and is there an evaluation as to which events provided valuable material and concrete results to the company?

Mentoring programs also provide opportunities to pass on knowledge, explore and share ideas in a “non hostile environment” and create valuable internal networks.
Informal programs for learning would include providing books or magazine subscriptions to industry press,  monitoring of industry blogs and the Internet for news and trends, attendance at trade shows and business travel.  These provide opportunities to receive new information, create dialogue, learn about trends and tendencies that are or will influence the business.

After any “educational” event, is there a formal feedback program that asks the employee “how can we implement this in our company” Link?   There is room for improvement here.

Will the continuing education of their workforce result in a more competitive future for the company, or will business always be able to “purchase” top talent in the marketplace without having to invest in education?

Related LinksSerendipity as part of business development

Maximize the impact of business conferences, seminars and special events in your organization

The future of our entry level workforce, gloomy

Our future depends on education

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The challenge of international business

4 12 2007

I love international business.

It’s difficult, time consuming, requires more resources than selling in the national market, it’s complicated, frustrating, complex and incomprehensible at times.

It opens my eyes to new cultures, new ways of doing things, new languages and amazing people.

It has made me realize that there are many paths to a solution, and all of them are valid.

It is a highly competitive arena.

There are no second chances.

The people in the business of selling or buying products or services across borders live with this on a daily basis.

We like it.

It drives us crazy too.

It’s the same mentality that drives people to do crossword puzzles, go rock climbing, or take on huge tasks.

It’s about the challenge, the complexity, the rush of adrenaline when it all goes well and we succeed.

I realized how different I am from others, in my desire to be involved in global trade, during a conversation between three friends.  Two of us are involved in international commerce and the third lives in the local national market.

We stumbled on an idea that involves the consolidation of various local products (overstock and outdated inventory) and selling it via an auction process to international buyers.  It was a response to a very costly and real problem  that our friend lives with daily.  As we discussed it, our blood pressure rose, our hearts quickened, we got excited.

“Sounds like a lot a work, forget it, exporting is too much trouble” was the reply of our third friend.

I’ve heard the same comment many times before.

I watched the potential solution wither and die before us.

My friend is ready to live with a problem and loss of  income because he didn’t want to work harder.

He didn’t even consider hiring others, using specialized outsourcing, to work for him.

“It’s a lot of hard work.”

Of course it is.

Planning on exporting, importing or working internationally?

Find people who are genuinely interested,excited and turned on by the challenge.

The ability to embrace adversity, problems, and constant change as part of the daily working environment is key to working across borders and cultures.

Related Links

Looking for New?  It’s in another country

16 essential questions, the international business traveler’s quiz 

7 tips for doing business internationally   





Big Important Things – risk and opportunity identification

30 11 2007

“Big Important Things” (BITs),  are local, regional, national or international circumstances or events that cannot be controlled or prevented, that have a significant effect on current and future business practices.

One should always keep in mind the impact of the “Big Important Things” (BITs) on the supply chain, customers, the competition and your industry.

Those involved in strategy and planning must understand how BITs create enormous risks and opportunities.

One can only react to BITs, they cannot be created or eliminated by an organization.

BITs would include, but not be limited to:

  • Natural and man made disasters – hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, explosions, flooding.
  • Massive economic changes – depression, recession, inflation, currency devaluation, massive layoffs
  • War and Terrorism – security measures, logistics, international trade limitations
  • Government policies – trade barriers, laws and regulations, economic sanctions, embargoes
  • New technologies, – trends and tendencies inside and outside of the industry
  • Environmental or health issues – contamination, unsafe products, epidemics
  • Legal issues – pending or current lawsuits, documentation and reporting, legal precedents
  • Significant global changes in demand or supply – shortages, increased demand
  • Energy costs – trends and tendencies

Contingency plans should be created, worst-case and best-case scenarios developed, and efforts made to lower the risk profile or strategically position the company to take advantage of possible changes in the business environment.

How to use BITs to identify areas of risk and opportunity 

  1. Analyze each of the following elements independently;  strategic raw materials, suppliers, logistics, major customers, the competition, your company, and finally your industry (local, national and internationally).
  2. What is the probability that a BIT would affect each element (impossible, low, medium, high, inevitable) and when (short-medium-long term)?  “My supplier is the only manufacturer in North America of the widgets we need, they are located on the western Florida coast and annually are affected to some degree my hurricanes and flooding.  There is a high probability that a major hurricane will hit them in the short to medium term.”
  3. Use a “what if” line of questioning for those high risk or high impact areas.  “What if a major hurricane hit my supplier and disrupted their production?
  4. What are possible scenarios to reduce your risk, or take advantage of the opportunity.  “Do I have alternative suppliers in place, extra inventory, insurance, how can I protect my customers, who else will this affect and how?
  5. Review this process at least twice a year to take into account changes in the probability of the BITs and modify the contingency plans or strategies accordingly.

Related Links

Analyze and Plan Using 7 Simple Questions

How to Systematically Analyze Any Situation for Better Decision Making

9 Steps to Better Decisions





Commoditization, is it happening to you?

28 11 2007

“We are living in an era where there are too many retailers serving too few customers and where there is no longer any brand loyalty or retail loyalty” Kevin Burke, President/CEO. The American Apparel and Footwear Association.

From this comment by Mr. Burke I believe the apparel and footwear industries are in the midst of an important struggle, to move away from their current status of a commodity business.

The winners will be those with strong design, distinct brand, and smart developed distribution systems. The same can be said for almost any current industry.

Too many retailers and points of sale? I doubt it. What I interpret from this comment is that there is intense competition between retailers, and instead of seeking exclusivity or innovation to attract and maintain customers, they are using the oldest,simplest trick known….lowering product prices and with it, the quality of the shopping experience.

It is a classic example of commoditization.

Manufacturers are also to blame. The rush to sell their product to high volume buyers insures loss of control of the marketing and retail channels.

The rush to sell everywhere, to everyone, at the same time allows and promotes price competition and price wars between the various manufacturers and retailers.

Too few customers? The real problem is overproduction. Current manufacturing focuses on high volume production and this encourages the standardization of product. The desire to reduce fixed costs drives manufacturers to seek out cheap world labor, increase productivity through mechanization (which encourages product standardization) and the outcome is a mountain of finished products, created all over the world, that are indistinguishable from one another.

Commodities. Most apparel and footwear companies focus on low cost, high volume manufacturing, they sell to wholesalers or retailers that also focus on volume. So suddenly branded products can be found in department stores, boutiques, grocery stores, flea markets and the Internet. The product is everywhere, consumers have learned that one should just look for it where the price is lowest.

This also makes it easier to pirate and sell a product to a growing network of sales outlets focused on offering a brand name for less.

No brand or retail loyalty?
If there is no customer loyalty (read as no perceived advantage to shopping with you versus the competition), and loyalty is important for continued growth, profit and success, then it’s time for a serious reevaluation of how one is doing business.

How can one stand out from the crowd, do something different and unique, and create a sense of exclusivity and prestige for the consumer?

This is the future.

Related Links

The easy way

10 top reasons for poor customer service and their solutions

Give this away

Are you listening to what the customer needs?





No shortcuts to being a great leader

27 11 2007

There are no shortcuts to effective sustained leadership.

It is not easy to be a leader, or to maintain a position of leadership.

There is no book, movie, seminar or short course that will turn one into a leader.

We can learn about certain elements of leadership that we may or may not possess, and incorporate these ideas into our lives and behavior.

But leadership is not about what information we possess, our good intentions, or a business title and corner office.

It’s all about what we show to others.

It’s about what we do.

Day to day actions.

Sustained leadership success comes from; listening, attention to detail, implementing ideas, perseverance in the face of adversity, willingness to embrace innovation, training and mentoring others, planning and risk identification, and the most important factor of all, providing a living example to others.

A true leader provides a model to others.

Leaders will consistently provide examples of; honesty, integrity, ethics, dignity, passion, diligence, capacity to learn, and unwillingness to be defeated.

A true leader will also provide examples of how to lose, how to accept defeat and move on, because leaders are not always winners

Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a way of life.

Related Links

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

Leadership, do you want the job, or just the title and benefits?

What defines an exceptional leader

Improve your leadership profile





Get the mission statement off your website

24 11 2007

Do you read the corporate mission and vision statements on websites or in corporate promotional material?

I don’t.

In fact, I find them to be insincere, ambiguous and completely useless to the customer, and most of the time useless to the company itself.

So why do many corporate websites include them?

Does someone in the sales and marketing department believe that customers find this information important or believable?

Objectives, goals, mission and vision are important in an organization.  They define where we are going, and help in making decisions about how to get there.

You don’t need a mission or vision statement to be successful.You will need to make certain everyone in the company knows where they are going and are focused and motivated on getting there.

Customers will see the results.

You don’t have to tell them what you are trying to do.






ANPIC Fair 2008 – Leon, Guanajuato

14 11 2007

ANPIC, is an important international leather industry suppliers trade fair held annually in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.

The dates for ANPIC 2008 will be Thursday February 14, 2008 – Sunday February 18, 2008, at the Poliforum Leon.

If you’re involved in the international leather components and accessories industries, ANPIC is a fair that should not be missed.

Expositors include:
Components, Accessories and Fittings
Lasts, Heels and Soles
Hides and Skins
Machinery and Equipment for Footwear
Machinery and Equipment for Tanneries
Chemical Products
Synthetic Materials and Textiles
Services

Related Links

ANPIC Fair of the Americas

ANPIC 2008 – Leon, Guanajuato

Leon, Guanajuato Mexico

Hotels in Leon Guanajuato

How to do business in Mexico

Poliforum Leon