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?





New is a requirement

20 06 2007

We are creatures of habit.

We enjoy and feel comfortable with a routine.

We create routines in our personal and professional lives constantly.

We wake up around the same time, go to work at an appointed hour, drink coffee at a scheduled time.

We tend to focus and concentrate on our specific career area, and in doing so are excluding influences and relationships that matter.

New and different influences and relationships that can dramatically change the way we work, feel and create.

Even our free time is scheduled and programmed.

We read the same papers, watch the same programs, go out at the same time, and surround ourselves with the same people and experiences.

In order to maintain interest and excitement in our professional and personal lives we need to learn, experience or add something New.

Turn the microscopic view of our lives into a telescopic view and look for the New relationships and New elements of influence.

We can’t change, innovate, modify, evolve and grow if we don’t have access to New.

New ideas.

New learning.

New skills.

New methods.

New relationships.

New challenges.

New does not seep into us by accident, it requires active participation on our part.

We must seek it out, experiment, and take chances.

Find it, analyze it, embrace it or reject it.

New does not always make us happy, in fact it can create conflicts and anxiety which ultimately lead to better definition of what we want, or what we are doing.

We can find New in books, magazines, web logs, articles, especially if they are unrelated to our current business.

New can be found by taking a different route to work, shopping in a different area, eating different foods or in different spaces.

New can be found in any person whom we haven’t had a conversation with.

We have to make the conscious decision to break our routines and seek out New.

When was the last time you encountered something New?

When will be the next time?

What can we do today to find New?

When creating our weekly agenda, keeping in mind that we must dedicate time to actively seeking experiences and information that are outside of our comfort zones and areas of expertise.

Find something New today.

Start a list, when you find something New write it down.

Encourage the people around us to discover and share something New.

Watch how New begins to change your life and decisions, enthusiasm and attitude.

Related Links

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Does your company like new ideas

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Can’t make a decision?

23 05 2007

 There are times our decision-making is stalled due to fear of making the wrong decision.

Next time you’re in that indecisive state of mind, answer these questions and see if it pushes any buttons to move the process forward.

  1. What is the “best case”desired outcome?  Will your decision move you toward that outcome?
  2. What is an “acceptable” outcome?
  3. What is the worst thing that could possible happen if you make the “wrong” decision?  Can you accept this?
  4. Is your decision reversible?
  5. Will a wrong decision destroy value, confidence or trust of anyone involved?
  6. Do you have enough information to make the decision?
  7. Do you have too much information?
  8. Who knows more about this subject than you….what are their recommendations?
  9. Are you the right person to be making this decision?
  10. Will avoiding making a decision now make the situation better, worse or have no effect?
  11. Does the decision provide a short term fix or will it solve the problem permanently (long term)?

Related Links

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

Why don’t they?

9 steps to better decisions





The point of no return

18 01 2007

The hardest part of decision making is passing the “point of no return“.

While the situation is being analyzed we’re safe.

Wacky, imaginative and wild solutions can be discussed and their impact and effect weighed and discussed. But it’s theoretical, it’s safe.

The minute we have to make the decision, take responsibility for the action and outcome, then we enter into scary territory.

The key to decision making is to get the momentum, confidence, courage and motivation in order to pass the point of no return.

I’m not saying that your decision will always be correct. But what is important is to make a decision and not spend hours, days and weeks agonized and postponing the process and decision.

Picture yourself on a diving board. High above the water. It’s scary to think that you may not perform the dive perfectly. A belly flop would be embarrassing and painful.

There are three options available.

  1. Stay where you are, agonizing over the decision to jump.
  2. Go back down the ladder, let someone else jump.
  3. Jump.  Leave the diving board, cross the point of no return, make the dive.

When we are sure of our abilities and understanding due to good research and experience, we have confidence.

When we are not afraid of making a mistake, we have courage.

When we know the decision is important and necessary in order to keep things moving and get on with other activities, then we are motivated.

Focus on the task and problem, create the solutions and make the decisions on time.

Push yourself to pass the point of no return quickly and with confidence.

Jump.

Related Links

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Motivation – Heroic Moments

Decision-making, how they used to do it 400 BC

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making





Why do we fail

22 12 2006

No one likes to fail.

We can feel foolish, outmaneuvered, incompetent, insecure, unlucky, silly, angry, overwhelmed, frustrated and in some cases afraid to try again. after suffering a defeat.

Failure is an integral part of the learning process.

Failure is required in order to become successful.

Rare is the successful individual, product or organization that has not met adversity, failure, defeat and loss.

One of the keys to success is the ability to accept failure, learn from the experience and try again.

The fear of failure is so great in some organizations that it freezes innovation, thwarts change and stifles growth.

Organizations try to reduce or limit failure by passing on historically successful methods and accumulated knowledge to new members.

Many times this information is not useful and out of date because the elements, players and dynamics of today’s challenges are quite different from those of the past.

Use the following list to analyze your current projects (and possibly prevent or limit failure), or use the list after a setback or defeat to identify where you can improve.

Reasons for business failure can be broken into 4 main groups:

Planning

  • No plan
  • Incomplete plan
  • Wrong calculations
  • Poor or incomplete interpretation of data and research
  • Failure to take into account all factors
  • Lack of experience
  • Failure to evaluate competitor reactions correctly
  • Failure to anticipate consumer response
  • Significant difference between planned and actual costs
  • Poor cash flow calculations
  • Unrealistic goals and expected outcomes
  • Underestimate risks

Information

  • Didn’t collect all the pertinent information for planning
  • Product or service was not wanted or needed by customer
  • Lack of knowledge of market
  • Lack of knowledge of customers
  • Lack of experience in the industry
  • Lack of experience in manufacturing
  • Lack of experience in sales and marketing
  • Lack of experience in administration

Operations and Follow-through

  • Lazy, didn’t do the work required
  • Undisciplined
  • Unorganized
  • No control of suppliers
  • Did not stop in time and take corrective actions
  • Did not recognize warning signs
  • Ignored warning signs
  • Did not seek professional assistance
  • Lack of attention to logistics details
  • Failure to focus on customers needs, desires and wants
  • Poorly trained personnel
  • Lack of initial capital
  • Not enough capital to maintain operations for first years

Factors outside of our control

  • Important changes in technology
  • Environmental factors
  • International, Federal, State or local government laws, regulations and legislation
  • Aggressive competitor(s)
  • Act of God
  • Change in fashion and trends
  • Theft and fraud

Related Links

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9 steps to better decisions





Sourcing and supply chain strategy – Mexico

16 11 2006

Purchasing from Mexico and Mexican suppliers?

Don Gringo at Catemaco News and Commentary brought these items to our attention.

Sourcing in Mexico gets easier.  The article points out that doing business with Mexico is easier than in the past.

  • The proximity of Mexico to the US markets impacts communication, logistics, costs and time factors.
  • Mexico has a history of dealing with the US, and are familiar with competitive manufacturing techniques.
  • Relationships are critical to success.
  • Beware of stereotypes.
  • Take the time to find the “right” partner.
  • Do’s and don’ts for doing business in Mexico

Does your supply chain strategy include Mexico?  It should.  Al Brown president of SupplyMex writes that Mexico offers:

  • Logistics infrastructure, highways, rail and port system that has been improved over the past 10 years.
  • Free trade agreements with 42 countries.
  • Global production and quality standards.
  • Stable political and economic environment.
  • Skilled workforce.

Thanks Don.
Related Links

Purchasing.com

Why you should pay attention to free-trade treaties 

Maquiladoras in Mexico

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico





Mexico manufacturing, US inventories and safety stock

21 10 2006

Manufacturers are returning to Mexico after “experimenting” in the Asia Pacific region. Some of the big reasons for this return are ; to reduce time to market, eliminate the financial costs of inventories in transit, lower the logistics costs, and to strengthen the supply chain by moving closer to just-in-time deliveries.

But moving to Mexico isn’t going to solve all the problems.

A September 2006 article in CFO magazine points out how US businesses are increasing safety stocks “just in case”. Delayed in the USA The article points out how supply chain disruptions are being provoked by an increasingly saturated US highway system and bottlenecks in deepwater ports and railyards.

The good news is that Mexico is close to the USA, a truckload of goods can leave any point in Mexico and arrive at the US destination in as little as 4-5 days. The railyards and new multimodal Interior Port in Guanajuato, Mexico allow manufacturers to establish production facilities in the interior of the country. Exporters can now clear customs and load the sealed container onto the rail-car at the new (2006) high capacity Customs port located in the geographic center of Mexico.

The bad news is that unless the US begins to upgrade their highway, port and rail facilities, supply chain managers in the US will be buying and storing higher levels of inventory to assure continuity of operations, “just in case”.

Related Links

Delayed in the USA – Supply Chain

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico

AMPIP Mexican Association of Industrial and Business Parks





The New Mercenaries – Outsourcing

13 10 2006

Mercenary, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. One who serves or works merely for monetary gain; a hireling.”

Using this definition, and forgetting the military connotations of the word (warrior for hire). The term mercenaries can be used to describe outsourcing suppliers and organizations.

Our outsourcing mercenaries are individuals or organizations that are motivated solely by monetary gain and do not share our organizations philosophies, ideals and interests.

We are hiring mercenaries to manufacture our goods, “do the dirty work”, buy time and help us compete better (and win) against the competition.

Are we weighing the long term risks of this outsourcing strategy?

Beyond the current short term cost benefits, have we identified the long-term strategic and control risks to our organizations by embracing outsourcing?

There are inherent dangers and advantages to using mercenaries. What can history tell us of mercenaries and the long term results of depending upon them?

Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince (a book about the strategy of power and control), wrote that mercenaries were not loyal, dangerous and even useless: “He who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay.”

The decline of the Roman Empire has been linked to the use and dependence upon mercenaries. The failure to control them, and their infiltration into positions of command and control inside the government.

Mercenaries

  • Historically tend to overthrow the power or control they do not like.
  • Adopt strategies to protect themselves from danger and risk.
  • If talented, will seek to increase their power, and if incompetent will ruin their employer.
  • Have no loyalty to the employers ideals, goals or objectives.
  • Are marked by their materialism.
  • Create their own agendas and goals
  • Their first priority is to themselves and self preservation.

Using (outsourcing) mercenaries can be positive when:

  • There is total control and agreement regarding training, quality, standards, and continual improvement.
  • The competition has access to equal or reduced resources in order to hire mercenaries.
  • There are clear short term objectives and goals, at which point the contract is finished and/or renegotiated.
  • There is clear recognition that their intervention is specialized, unique and required to create an advantage for swift campaigns or to solve specific problems.

Mercenaries and outsourcing become a risk or hazard to your organization when:

  • Mercenaries reach a level of importance and power, where their absence will provoke or contribute directly to your failure.
  • They understand your entire process or have access to your “secrets”.
  • When the competition can pay more for their services than you can.
  • Objectives are not clear, and contracts are not specific.
  • Quality standards fall, or the organization accepts below standard levels of work or products.
  • Mercenaries are relied upon to provide long term stability or to reach long term goals for your organization.
  • You forget that mercenaries respond to power and money, and not on providing quality “soldiering”.
  • You believe that by hiring mercenaries you have eliminated risk from your operations.

What risk factors and changes occur in our organization when we relinquish control over the entire process by using outsourcing mercenaries?

What happens when our outsourcing “partner” says no or begins to work for the competion?

Are we outsourcing because everyone else is, or are there fundamental long term strategic and economic reasons that support the decision?

Related Links

The Dangers of Outsourcing and What You Can Do About It

Reining in Outsourcing Risk





Analyze and Plan using 7 simple questions

3 10 2006

Who – What – When – Where – Why – How – How much

Project management, organizing a team, writing a business plan, creating strategies, planning meetings, running day to day operations, general analysis and problem solving can be facilitated and improved by using a simple application of 7 basic questions.

The application of the standard reporters’ questions of who, what, when, where, how and how much to a specific situation will help organize the process of analysis and planning.

In order for this system to work, all the questions and answers should be written down. You’ll be building a visual map while defining the objectives, tools, resources, bottlenecks, time limits and chronologies of the problem. It will become clear what the real goals are, what is required, what is missing, who should be involved and when the tasks should be accomplished.

Who – Who is or will be affected by the decision or process? Who are the participants? Who will be involved or affected in some way by the project?

What – What are the objectives and desired results? What is the problem or challenge? What are the options available? What tools are required?

When – When is this supposed to happen? Define the deadlines, time limits and chronologies.

Where – Where is it going to happen? The physical place or space should be defined and examined.

Why – Why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way or by this procedure? Why is it occurring?

How – How are we going to do it? The mechanisms, requirements, and processes needed in order to achieve the goal.

How much – How much is it going to cost?

Example – You are asked to give a speech on the sales results in Mexico for the last quarter for the upcoming Board of Directors meeting on January 10.

Who – The audience is the Board of Directors. The sales department, marketing, logistics and finance departments have the numbers and explanations of the results. Who is responsible for the agenda, audiovisual set up, room reservations? Are any other members of the company required to attend the presentation? You are the project leader and responsible party for the presentation.

What – The presentation is directed at the Board of Directors, they want to hear about results, expectations and strategies of the sales in Mexico. What questions will they ask, what aspects of the business will be of interest or concern? What information is important?

When – The meeting is January 10. You’ll need all the pertinent sales information by what date? It has be polished into a concise presentation by what date?

Where – The meeting will be held where? How big is the room, what equipment will be required for the presentation.

Why – Why do they want to review this information, is there a problem, is it routine? Why me?

How – Will you give a visual media presentation along with documents? What graphics will you show? Will you be the only speaker? Will the presentation style be serious, upbeat, creative or different from other presentations?

How much – Do you have a budget for the presentation and required materials? Do you have to fly in the Mexican sales representative to be present at the meeting? Do you have to rent equipment, hire caterers or provide refreshments or coffee service?

Related Links

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

9 steps to better decisions





20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

29 09 2006

Exporting is an extremely difficult process as compared to selling in the local or national market. Exporting is not easy, and it’s not inexpensive. It takes planning and requires people that are open, flexible, problem-solvers, and quick at adapting to new situations.

A smart organization that desires to export their products will invest time and money building the proper administrative and sales structure before they begin operations.

20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

1. Say no to customers. When you can’t do it, say no upfront, before you make an agreement.

2. Create an export strategy before you begin to export. Don’t get sucked into exporting by “accident”.

3. Samples should be equal in quality to the actual production that will be shipped.

4. Make everything perfectly clear with customers. Don’t assume anything, don’t work with suppositions.

5. Learn and understand the business culture of your export market and customers before you begin.

6. Provide detailed price lists and price quotations to the customer. Understand your Incoterms (if you don’t know what these are, stop know and click here)

7. Contemplate what problems might possibly arise (internal and external) that could affect shipment or delivery. Prepare alternatives or take preventive action.

8. Understand that there is a learning curve that affects the organizations ability and performance when exporting to new markets. Calculate the time this will require, and it’s cost.

9. Write down and sign all agreements with the customer (dates, specifications, changes, time, everything). Verify everything with an email or fax if unable to physically sign the agreements and changes.

10. Use caution about exclusivity agreements. Everyone wants exclusivity, will that exclusivity support your entire export production? Will it limit your ability to grow?

11. Develop a quality control system throughout the company.

12. Never send poor quality products, especially in order to meet a shipping deadline.

13. Research the transportation, temperature and climatic conditions that the product will be subject to prior to arrival at the export destination.

14. Create an export price strategy. Know where you are going, and how you want to get there, your costs and required profit margins before you begin to quote prices.

15. Clearly define the costs of production and separate them from the costs of the sales required for exports. Give the sales department a base price to build upon, and make sure they clearly identify the costs related to sales and promotion in the export markets.

16. Always have at least 2 customers in the export market. This will provide protection and stability for your production and for the customers in the export market.

17. Customers who provide the research, development and design for the product may bring samples to you. Assist in the development and manufacture of the samples. Your production know-how (turning ideas into product) is fundamental and important for all involved.

18. Research and investigate fashion, trends and tendencies. In order to survive, you have to create, not pirate and copy.

19. Quality complaints and suggestions must be addressed and implemented immediately. This has to be part of the understanding of every worker, from production to sales to executive suite.

20. Discipline, planning and order. Production planning, raw material purchasing decisions, financing, infrastructure investment, human resources, sales and marketing all must be planned and coordinated, at all times.

Added Oct. 1, 2006 – Bonus legal reminder:  Know the law of the country to which you are exporting concerning:  retention of documents for litigation, product quality and manufacturing and product safety before you begin sales and shipping.  Understand your responsibility and liability for recalls, retrofitting, refunds or destruction of the product.  Learn about your legal responsibility and relationship with brokers, agents and distributors and your products.

Related Links

7 tips for doing business internationally

Maquila and Maquiladoras in Mexico

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

Mexico and international free trade treaties





Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

27 09 2006

Globalization, transnational companies, global sourcing and outsourcing, free trade, do any of these terms sound familiar?

Obtaining products and raw materials for the lowest price possible is a fundamental concept in business. Today organizations are looking for manufacturers and locations worldwide where they can find lower costs of production in order to remain competitive.

Combine the factors of: quality control, low cost production, logistics costs, and the time involved to get the product to market from the factory, and you understand the challenge of doing business and sourcing products in today’s global economy.

To truly determine the final cost of the product, all these factors must be calculated. This will determine which country offers the best competitive advantage. Make sure you are analyzing any existing free trade agreements when you are seeking suppliers globally.

Free trade treaties between countries have a significant impact upon the final cost of goods. These free trade agreements eliminate the tariffs and taxes on imported and exported goods between the countries involved, depending upon their concentration or percentage of “local” or national raw materials (including labor), as specified in the free trade agreement.

Free trade agreements between countries are of great importance and value only if are exclusive and not accepted by all trading countries. The more free trade is embraced by the international community (through treaties or elimination of import and export tariffs) the less impact the current free trade agreements have in determining competitive advantages for a single country.

Here is a simple example of how the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) free trade treaty between Mexico and the USA, would favor the US supplier over a Chinese supplier.

Example of free trade agreeement competitive advantage:

US supplier to Mexico. If I want to purchase paint made by a US paint manufacturer and have it shipped to my warehouse in Mexico, my total cost to bring the goods to my warehouse in Mexico would be the cost of the paint, plus freight and customs clearing costs. There is no import tariff on this product due to the NAFTA free trade treaty. It would take 4 – 6 days to arrive in my warehouse in Mexico once the product has been shipped from the USA.

US paint $ 20.00 + Freight $ 4.00 + Customs $ 1.00 = $ 25.00 total cost of the US product in my warehouse in Mexico

Chinese supplier to Mexico. If I purchase the same product, from the same transnational company, but it is manufactured in China. Transportation time is 40 days from date product is shipped from China.

Chinese paint $14.00 + Freight $ 8.00 + Customs $ 1.00 + Import tariff (13% of CIF value) $ 2.86 = USD $ 25.86, total cost of the Chinese product in my warehouse in Mexico.

In this example the final cost of the product is $ .86 lower from the US supplier as compared to the Chinese supplier, despite a lower initial product cost. Factor in the financial cost and time required to move the product from the factory to my warehouse, and the lowest final cost in this case would clearly come from purchasing product from the US supplier.

Mexico’s aggressive free trade strategy

Since the 1990’s Mexico has bet heavily on international free trade agreements as a method to improve their competitive advantage and increase their manufacturing base and attract foreign investment.

Mexico has signed 11 existing free trade treaties and 2 complementary economic agreements with 42 countries. It is the only country in the world to have standing free trade agreements with North American and the European community.
The free trade agreements have greatly increased international competition (imports) in Mexico (good for the consumer).

Free trade agreements have allowed Mexican exports to increase and reach destinations and markets that were closed before due to tariffs and costs. There has been increased foreign investment from countries that desired to use Mexico’s free trade competitive advantage for international manufacturing and export projects.

The Mexican manufacturers and suppliers of the national Mexican market were given a “sink or swim” option. Virtually overnight (many of the treaties were phased in over a period of 3 – 10 years), their previous protected market was filled with imported goods (more competition, lower cost, higher quality).

Those that have survived the “invasion”, have had to improve their efficiency, quality and costs. Making them much more competitive in todays global economy.

Britannica’s Definition of free trade:

“Policy in which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports. A free-trade policy does not necessarily imply that the government abandons all control and taxation of imports and exports, but rather that it refrains from actions specifically designed to hinder international trade, such as tariff barriers, currency restrictions, and import quotas. The theoretical case for free trade is based on Adam Smith’s argument that the division of labour among countries leads to specialization, greater efficiency, and higher aggregate production. The way to foster such a division of labour, Smith believed, is to allow nations to make and sell whatever products can compete successfully in an international market.”

Related Links

Mexico and international free trade agreements





Cultural misunderstanding, it can happen to you.

15 09 2006

When we think of industry leaders in marketing and branding, Disney comes to mind. Geniuses in promoting their brand. Magnificent marketers. Leaders in the theme park industry. Universally recognized brand.

What could possibly go wrong with their expansion into Hong Kong and the Asian-Pacific market? Cultural misunderstanding.

Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures has created unforeseen headaches and problems for Disney once again. Disneyland struggles in Hong Kong

This is not the first time Disney has encountered cultural problems in international projects. EuroDisney also suffered from problems related to culture and customs that were not predicted or not taken seriously.

Disney is not alone. Virtually all organizations seeking to export and participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.

The lesson to be learned is to spend the time and money to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business. It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.

Related Links

Create great international business relationships

Stereotypes and global business





Successful managers should be breaking the rules

14 09 2006

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something. Thomas A. Edison

I’ve found the most successful and exciting environments to work, study or play in are those with “no rules”. Environments that are open and flexible and not strictly controlled with things you can’t do. It’s exciting to be in these situations, inspiring, sometimes a bit scary, but always memorable.

Rosa Say has a brilliant read for all managers about how the use (or abuse) of rules often limits our creativity and enthusiasm. What are the Rules? Hopefully, none.

  • “No rules” requires clear objectives and goals.
  • “No rules” requires planning.
  • “No rules” requires discipline and commitment.
  • “No rules” demands responsibility for actions and outcomes.
  • “No rules” is about inventing process. Creating and forming the process required, or desired, in order to get the job done and reach the objective.
  • “No rules” is about allowing creativity and innovation into every decision that brings us closer to our objectives.
  • “No rules” is about questioning the status quo in order to explore new and different solutions and methods.
  • “No rules” is about accepting and integrating new ideas.
  • “No rules” is about tolerance and examination of new concepts.
  • “No rules” is about getting excited and energized by every life or work experience.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. George S. Patton

It is good to obey all the rules when you’re young, so you’ll have the strength to break them when you’re old. Mark Twain

Related Links

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?





Putting change into perspective

25 08 2006

We all understand that change is a part of our life. We’re physically changing, our environment is changing, our relationships are changing, the whole universe in changing.

How can we successfully survive and prosper in an environment that is constantly evolving, moving and changing?

How do we reduce and eliminate stress and indecision from our lives?

Change does not have to take us by surprise. It does not, and should not be thought of as a negative force. We can plan, prepare, adjust and create strategies that allow us to feel comfortable, reduce stress and look forward to change.

Change Options

  • Predict the change before it happens
  • Control the changes, limit the velocity or magnitud, guide and channel the change to fit your objectives
  • Create and provoke the changes
  • Embrace the changes, go with the flow, adapt and enjoy
  • Ignore change, the “head in the sand” treatment, pretend it doesn’t exist or isn’t happening.
  • Observe and analyze change, identify the factors that caused the change and study the effects.

Life is all about change. Growth is optional. It all depends on you.





How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

24 08 2006

The ability to analyze and make decisions is one of the most important qualities of anyone in a leadership and management position.

How to systematically analyze any situation

  • What does the information I have really mean or reflect?
  • What are the questions I should be asking in order to increase my understanding of the situation?
  • Who are the people who have the information and answers to my questions?
  • Ask the questions and accumulate the required information.
  • What are the fears, expectations, limits and points of view of the involved parties?
  • What have I learned, and what am I going to do about it?

Example: Imagine that your salesforce reports that customers are demanding delivery of your products to their store two times a day, at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, instead of the current delivery schedule of 3 times a week. What do you do?

Begin the analysis.

What does this mean? The customers needs or desires have changed. Our salesforce has detected a change in the marketplace.

What questions do I need to ask to understand this? Why is the customer requesting the change? Who requested the change, is it driven by costs, lack of inventory space, new management, competitors? What do our people think about this? What customers are requesting the change?

Who are the people with the information and answers to my questions? Your sales-force and logistics department. The CEO, purchasing managers and warehouse managers of our customers. Who is going to contact them and get more exact information about the situation?

Expectations and points of view of those involved? The sales-force knows that without this change they will lose customers and market share. The customer’s executives and purchasing managers have found an method to reduce inventory and stocking costs with your competitor. The warehouse managers are losing personnel and control and are unhappy. There are significant costs associated with implementing and operating the program. Your competitors are aggressively investing in order to take away your market share.

What have I learned and what am I going to do about it? You discover that a competitor is providing deliveries twice a day, and stocking the customers shelves, reducing costs for the customer. They have made significant investments in trucks and personnel in order to provide this service. Your top 20 customers are affected now. Failure to provide equal or improved service will result in the loss of the customers and your market share. It’s time to bring in the company decision-makers and create an appropriate solution and response.

Related Links

Was Peter Drucker right, is it all about attitude?

9 Steps to better decisions





The 6 Fundamental Concepts Behind Every Successful Business

22 08 2006

1. Supply and Demand. The fundamental idea behind business and a market economy. Want to determine where to sell or buy, or predict if prices will be going up or down? Understand the concept of supply and demand.

2. Cause and Effect. Physics applied to the business environment. What you do will affect your competitor and the market and vice versa.

3. People like to feel important and special. Learn this and you’ve discovered one of the fundamental qualities of a great salesperson or marketer.

4. Simple clear communication, on-time. Don’t make it technical, keep it easy to understand. Answer all questions when asked, and never forget to call back and follow-up.

5. Get the work done, on time, and with the highest degree of quality possible.

6. Ask lots of questions and get all the answers.





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.




Build your organization, don’t destroy it

14 08 2006

Pragmatic business people know that strategies must be reviewed before, during and after implementation. Difficult questions must be asked and answered throughout the organization. Results analyzed and reviewed in order to identify flaws and errors.

Many times this exercise can push us into seeking and identifying problems instead of solutions. Too much time spent on what can go wrong and not enough focus on what can be created. Gridlock sets in, no solution is good enough, there is always a flaw.

All to often we find ourselves criticizing the work of others and the efforts that did not succeed as expected. We spend time taking things apart to find out what went wrong, and seeking to identify who was responsible for the “failure”. Our days are spent destroying the ideas of others.

Why not focus an equal amount of time on the positive aspects?

What did or will work, and why?

Creation is much more difficult than destruction. Support the creation of ideas and solutions in your organization, make your first analysis focus on the successful or positive aspects.

Ask yourself, “what am I creating today”.





Leadership by default

12 08 2006

I have had the misfortune to have worked in organizations where the leadership, management and decision-making style could be called leadership by default. This is characterized by leaderships and management’s inability to make decisions on-time or to make decisions at all.

Leaders who are consistently unable or unwilling to make decisions can be a dangerous element in the organization. Often they are insecure about their position, or don’t have skills and abilities required to fulfill the obligations of leadership.

The usual excuses are often repeated to cover up and justify the absence of decision making. These would include; we don’t have enough information, the situation is volatile, and that there is too much information available. The excuses are covering up the inability to sort, organize and prioritize data and the inability to identify and recognize opportunities. Grave leadership errors.

By not making a decision on-time, the options become limited, and with more time, factors come into play that eventually corner the organization into a situation where a decision is virtually forced upon them. It is the only remaining option. The decision maker says they are ready to make the decision, everyone reviews it and agrees it is the right decision (as it is the only option remaining), and life goes on. The decision maker feel validated. It’s leadership by default.

If you go to purchase tickets to the theatre for an event that will be presented in 3 months there are plenty of choices, all different. If you purchase tickets on-time you can have your pick of the event, the seat you desire and the date that is just right for you. By waiting until 5 minutes before an event begins your options are extremely limited, perhaps the event you really wanted is gone. You made a decision, and got tickets with both scenarios, but the results (seats and events) are very different.

It is not fair to the shareholders, customers or employees to allow management to consistently stall and postpone decision-making. Efforts should be focused on finding the right people in the organization who are willing to research, evaluate and identify opportunities and make important decisions on-time, every time.

Related Links

Thanks to Lori for the inspiration – Iwan Cray Huber Horstman and Van Ausdal LLC