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?





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





Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

Related Links

Why don’t they?

Starting over

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

AGI Institute – Theory of Constraints

Evolution (Disambiguation)





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

Why do we fail

Motivation – Heroic Moments

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

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making





How to determine who is your best customer

21 12 2006

How do you determine who is your best customer or best employee?

The usual method is by analyzing revenue or sales.  The customer who buys the most, or generates the most profit is the best customer.

We almost never pin the “best customer” award on the client who pushes us, complains and forces us to change, unless they meet the sales volume or profit test.  It is exactly the “uncomfortable” customer who may be providing the new ideas required in order for your organization to survive in the future.

The same criteria applies to your employees and staff.  Who is the “best employee”?  Is it the conformist, the one who never makes any waves, never creates conflict or challenges your ideas?   The disruptor, the individual who questions and challenges the status quo,  might be your organizations best friend.

There are three types of organizations; one that creates the future, one that adapts to changes in the future, and one that fails to survive.

Your “best” customers and employees should be helping you prepare for tomorrow, not just sustaining your operations today.

Related Links

The Easy Way

Does your company like new ideas 

Individuality and chaos in the workplace 

Successful managers should be breaking the rules





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





The power of something extra

5 10 2006

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more that what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

What defines an exceptional leader, a great manager, a super business, or remarkable experience? Something extra.

There are two words (one French and the other Spanish) that convey and represent the concept of something extra, lagniappe and pilon.

Lagniappe (hear it) is the word commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

Pilon is the Spanish word used in the southern US and Mexico to describe a gratuity given by tradesmen to customers settling their accounts, it’s something extra, and not expected.

Incorporating something extra in our actions, results and as a business philosophy can be incredibly powerful.

Something extra:

  • forces creativity and innovation.
  • demands clear understanding what is expected of us by others.
  • focuses our attention of adding value, and not on cutting costs.
  • is positive.
  • is rewarded with good will and positive reactions.
  • will lead to continual improvement.
  • is fundamental to continued success.

Something extra is all about the little things and details.

Something extra is not just something “free”, it must arrive without anticipation, unexpectedly in order for it to be special and make an impact.

Something extra allows you to surprise the customer.

Something extra will make think about your results and expectations. It will make the difference between simple compliance and outstanding results.

Something extra will make you and your results different from all the others.

Embracing something extra and applying it on a daily basis, will make you great.

Giving something extra is not a difficult task. It’s all about applying small acts of innovation and creativity to your results, especially for routine and day-to-day tasks.

The power of something extra can change your life, your products, your processes and how others perceive you.

“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step… the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: What ELSE could we do?” Dale Dauten

Related Links

Motivation – Heroic moments

What defines an exceptional leader





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





Create great international business relationships

14 09 2006

Working with individuals and ideas from cultures different from our own is complex, and filled with opportunities to misunderstand and offend everyone involved. It requires time to develop trust and understanding for all the players involved.

Take the time to learn how and why business is done in the country. Don’t judge the results based upon your culture and your country’s standards.

There is nothing more damaging to an international relationship than criticism based upon a lack of understanding. You must learn before you attempt to teach new ideas, strategies and procedures.

When doing business in Mexico remember that no matter what you feel or believe about your company’s products or procedures, Mexicans know their market and people better than you do. They know the correct business etiquette and the “invisible” cultural nuances that are required in order to do business in Mexico.

If you enter into business in Mexico with the idea that you are going to “teach the Mexicans how business is really done” I am confident you will suffer some serious problems.

Pushing procedures and business strategies into Mexico will surely cause divisions, it can turn into an “us versus them” situation for employees and customers.

I recommend that your focus be on learning and understanding how business in currently done in Mexico, and why. Once you have this knowledge, teach and explore your cultures and organizations solutions and strategies with your Mexican collaborators. I’ll bet the ideas will get modified if necessary, implemented and embraced quickly.

The creation of hybrid strategies, using elements from both cultures, will guarantee unification and understanding for everyone involved.

Before you start a revolution it’s essential to fully understand the status quo.

 

Related Links

International Business Tips

Stereotypes and global business

International business traveller – ambassador, explorer, map-maker





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





Sales and marketing terrorism

10 08 2006

The recent media coverage of political terrorism throughout the world has me reflecting on terrorism and extreme sales and marketing tactics in the business world.

Every industry has individuals or organizations that use drastic, pointless, unethical or dangerous economic tactics in order to increase income or market share in the short term. This use of drastic and irresponsible actions can be called sales and marketing terrorism.

The goal of sales and marketing terrorism is to create immediate change, instill panic and chaos, or further the goals of one group who cannot or are not willing to work with the current system of rules, regulations and norms.

Many times the reaction to these isolated incidents will severely impact the industry, market or specific businesses. Reactions can result in increased government legislation, more government or industry intervention, increased costs of doing business, loss of revenue and reduced customer confidence in the organization or industry.

Some examples of “sales and marketing terrorism”:

A competitor who initiates a campaign of extreme discounts or low prices (dumping) in order to eliminate a competitor or increase market share.

A marketing campaign that uses lies and innuendo to reduce the reputation of a competitor or industry segment.

Products of extremely poor quality (below expected consumer beliefs or expectations) substituted for products known for their quality.

Don’t confuse sales and marketing terrorism with innovative ideas and paradigm shifts in how to do business. The difference is that a sales and marketing terrorist has no plan other than disruption.

Sales and marketing terrorism is a short term strategy or single event that has no regard for long term collateral consequences. They believe their actions will be justified because of short term increases in profit or market share. Rarely do they succeed, but often create chaos and disorder in the marketplace that have an impact on the industry and consumers that can last for a long time.