Cheap, Fast or Good—How to Pick the Two That Are Best for You

By Matt Baird

Matt Baird-fast or good

Would you expect someone to give you all the time in the world to deliver an average product, while letting you charge as much as you want for it? Sounds absurd, right? This scenario is just as pie in the sky as getting something cheap, fast and good. Rarely, if ever, do you get all three

The Trilemma

Known by many names, such as “the triple constraint” or “the business triangle,” the general rule is that you can have it cheap, fast or good, but you can’t have all three. Yet picking only two is a choice most don’t want to make.

Here’s a simple example: Adam wanted to buy an ultra—HD TV in time for the Super Bowl. He didn’t need top—of—the—line, but was determined to go big and wanted the best bang for his buck. Unfortunately, he waited until two weeks before the big game and found that the great deal he’d been eyeing was on back order. He couldn’t get it in time and was left with three choices:

To get it reasonably cheap, fast and good, you’ll need to decide how much of each you’re willing to give up. Click To Tweet
  1. Order an in—stock, lower quality TV (fast and cheap)
  2. Order a comparable in—stock TV that wasn’t on sale (fast and good)
  3. Wait for his dream TV to be available (good and cheap)

Although purchasing a TV is worlds apart from running a marketing campaign, designing a website, or buying a service, the trilemma is still the same. And whether you’re a Fortune 500 company, a tech—savvy startup, or a local mom—and—pop store, the cheap, fast or good rule holds true for everyone.

So how do you pick the right two? Adam had to choose what was most important to him—what he valued most: price, quality or speed. Here are some things to consider to help you make the right choices.

Do Your Homework

If price is a priority, then preparation is key. By planning as far ahead as possible and building in a lot of lead time, you’ll be in a better position to bargain with vendors. Early preparation also allows you to develop a clear picture of your goals and communicate them. The better they understand what you want, the better they’ll be able to deliver.

Say, for example, you’re building a new website to coincide with a product launch. You want to go live simultaneously in English and Spanish, but you spent all your energy on the English site and didn’t leave sufficient time for the translation. This often leads to one of two outcomes: high cost or low quality.

Doing your homework also means understanding each step in the process. Make sure you’re working with professionals who are experts in their field. The last thing you want is to find out that the vendor tasked with translating your website is outsourcing to an inexperienced translator.

Don’t DIY

The internet is full of people proclaiming that you can have your cake and eat it too, that you can get it cheap, fast and good . . . if you just do it yourself. In the end, you’ll often find that the time you spent trying to be something you’re not could have been devoted to developing your core business.

Others offer tempting yet misleading ways to get services for free. Sticking with the website scenario, automated translation apps and plug—ins are a perfect example. You might think you can simply plug in your copy and translate your website in minutes. And you can. But will it be good? Machine translation is far from cracking the code of human language and all of its nuances. The Spanish speakers who land on your website won’t be impressed, let alone stick around very long.

Bend The Triangle

The trilemma isn’t always a zero—sum game. You can bend the business triangle, but only within reason. Being smart in one area can often pay dividends in others. If you’ve planned very carefully in advance, you can save your vendor time and get what you need while keeping costs down. Also, less expensive doesn’t automatically equal cheap. Perhaps you can find a quality product with fewer bells and whistles—less good, so to speak, than more expensive counterparts.

The caveat here is “within reason.” To get it reasonably cheap, fast and good, you’ll need to decide how much of each you’re willing to give up.

It’s About Value

You’ve likely heard the old saying: “You get what you pay for.” But that only tells half the story. The trick is not to think in terms of price but instead in terms of value. Ask yourself: Is it mission critical or simply nice to have? Will fast and cheap end up doing more damage than good? Most of the time, you are going to sacrifice quality unless you come to the table with a lot of time or a lot of money. But maybe that’s okay—maybe you’ll still end up with the added value you need.

You really can’t have it all. But if you treat the trilemma as question of value, you’ll be able to focus on the two aspects of it that are right for you.

Matt Baird is a professional German—to—English translator and copywriter specializing in marketing and communications. He also serves as a speaker for the American Translators Association, which represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 100 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org

Prioritizing Opportunities Using Four Levels of Focus

By Dr. David Chinsky

As leaders formulate and fine tune their strategies, it is important for them to sort through and prioritize the often bewildering array of opportunities that compete for their attention. One of the biggest traps you can fall prey to is the belief that everything is “Priority One”. The problem with this is that if everything is Priority One, then nothing is Priority One.

When leaders view any opportunity as an opportunity worth pursuing, they can set up their organizations for continuous demands that cannot possibly be met. It is important to realize that not all opportunities are created equal. Some opportunities, like many shiny objects, may serve merely as distractions from what is most important for you to be focusing your scarce time and resources on.

Once you’ve established the mission, vision, and values for your organization, and have committed to a set of strategic goals, you can be proactive in selecting those opportunities that will best contribute to your success in both the short and long-term.

The Opportunity Board, a tool best utilized every ninety days, will help you organize your opportunities into four distinct levels of priority. The first step in creating the Board is to identify all of the potential opportunities you might pursue. These can be your own personal opportunities, your team’s opportunities, or organization-wide opportunities.

This list or inventory of opportunities that might be pursued over the next ninety days need not include your daily tasks or to-dos. Rather, you are looking for the bigger projects you might undertake in the next calendar quarter that move you and your organization closer to meeting one or more of your strategic goals.

Your opportunities might include achieving a specific level of sales; completing the development of a new product or service, or at least succeeding in achieving some specific level of progress toward that new product within the next ninety days; mentoring one of your direct reports; writing a new policy; etc.

Your list of opportunities often represents a mix of short and long-term projects. You are not just looking for opportunities that you can complete in ninety days. You are also looking for projects that need to be started in the next ninety days even if you need to continue working on them into successive ninety-day periods. This is important to remember so that you don’t end up only listing low-hanging fruit on your Board. There are always going to be opportunities that will take longer than ninety days to finish, and if you exclude them from your list, you will likely never start working on them.

Once you have identified your opportunities, you can begin to sort and prioritize them, and move to a clearer understanding of where to focus the efforts and limited resources of the organization.

If everything is Priority One, then nothing is Priority One. Click To Tweet

Here are the four levels of focus—or priority—represented on the Board. Each of the four concentric circles represents a different level of priority, as follows:

Bullseye

These opportunities align with one or more of the organization’s key strategies, and rise to the top of your list of opportunities you want to pursue in the next ninety days. When executed properly, these opportunities result in target markets being profitably served and/or projects yielding great benefit for internal and or external customers.

In the Ballpark

These opportunities are close enough to your “bullseye” to warrant your attention and evaluation. While not necessarily in your “sweet spot”, these opportunities deserve your serious consideration once you’ve completed opportunities in the “bullseye” of your Opportunity Board.

Opportunistic Focus

These opportunities sometimes come only once in a lifetime and may trump an opportunity in the “bullseye” or “in the ballpark” sections of your Opportunity Board. Other opportunities placed in this portion of the Board are opportunities you cannot begin before securing the funding, enabling legislation, additional staffing, etc. necessary to begin the project.

Off the Board

These opportunities are actually on the board itself, and they’re referred to as Off the Board to indicate that they are the last opportunities you might pursue while you work through the other three areas of the board. Keep these opportunities in this fourth section of the board so you don’t forget them. They are your “someday or maybe” opportunities.

The Opportunity Board has many uses. It can be utilized as a personal planning tool to organize your own opportunities into the various sections of the Board. It can also be utilized by a leadership team to check for alignment. If each member of a leadership team completes a Board and then presents it to the group, individuals on the team might begin to see why others are not addressing certain issues on as timely a basis as they’d like.

The above team exercise can reveal misalignment around the table with regard to priorities, giving the team the opportunity to create a collective agenda and reorient members of the team around that common set of priorities. Some organizations have even used The Opportunity Board to do annual strategic planning to help them sort through the most viable and important strategies they wish to implement.

How will you utilize The Opportunity Board to sort through and prioritize opportunities competing for your attention?

Dr. David Chinsky is the Founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness, a celebrated speaker, and author of The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success. After spending nearly twenty years in executive leadership positions at the Ford Motor Company, Nestle and Thomson Reuters, he now focuses on preparing leaders to achieve their highest level of professional effectiveness and leadership fitness. For more information on Dr. David Chinsky, please visit: www.FitLeadersAcademy.com.

Understand the Impact of Your Profit Per Sale

Make Sure You’re Dedicating Your Resources to the Right Clients

By Jill J. Johnson, MBA

Jill Johnson-profit per sale

Few enterprises truly understand the actual profits generated by the individual sales they make. Most metrics for sales effectiveness are monitored by reviewing top line revenue results. Yet the most critical determinant of on-going business viability is to understand what revenue actually drops to the bottom line after all costs have been taken into account. You must understand what profit is generated by sales to each of your clients. Then consider the benefits and vulnerabilities the cumulative impact these sales mean to your business. Knowing the breakdown of the profitability by the individual sales to your clients can have a significant impact on your ability to achieve your business goals.

The impact of the true profits generated by each individual sale takes on greater importance. Click To Tweet

1. Understand the Impact of the Profit Per Sale

There are many expenses that go into determining profitability for a company. The same is true for determining the profitability of a sale. Each sale has multiple components impacting its final profit. You should consider your total cost of goods sold, including investments in promotion and delivery expenses. Factoring in the costs associated with the staff time required to generate a sale is a must, too. Unfortunately, few companies consider all these expenses when developing their marketing and sales strategies. Whether you are working on growing your business or you are struggling financially, the impact of the true profits generated by each individual sale takes on greater importance.

2. Know Your Profit Per Client

Frankly, not all clients are worth the effort to generate the sale. Sometimes your growth goals for your business mean you also are growing beyond clients you have historically served. This transition period is a very vulnerable point for any enterprise. It is also very stressful because you might be wrong and wind up losing a client that could have provided even revenue value if you have not been afraid to maximize your relationship.

Carefully study the costs associated with serving each client.  Perhaps you have long-term clients you like personally, but if you have not taken the time to explore the costs of the sale, their value to your business may have changed dramatically over the years. Before abandoning these clients, try to identify options to trim your expenses without jeopardizing your quality. But it may be time to move on if they are not generating any real profit to your company.

3. Review Your Customer Segments Revenue

Using a target marketing approach to grouping your customers into similar client segments provides you with a more detailed understanding of what is working and what is not. The key to effective target marketing is to focus your sales activities and expenditures toward those type of customers who can best be served by your enterprise, who will stay with you over the long-term and who will generate solid profitability. 

4. Evaluate Individual Sales Profitability

There are two ways of looking at your sales profitability data. One is by the individual clients. The other is by combining clients using some specific target marketing components. Grouping clients by similar characteristics makes it easier to identify trends in the data that you can use to assess the profitability of each of these major segments.

There are many options for grouping your customers into segments. For a B2B client, you could group them by their industry sector, number of employees, location, etc. For a B2C customer, you could group them by where they live, personal attitudes, age, family size, income level, etc.

If Client Segment A generates solid profits for you, but all of your marketing efforts are being devoted to Client Segment B who are barely break-even, the choice is obvious. You must retool your marketing and sales activity to attract more prospects from Client Segment A.

5. Monitor Individual Client Profitability

A complete review of the mix of your customers and sources of sales will reveal your potential vulnerabilities if market conditions change. It is not enough in today’s complex and competitive marketplace to look only at your total overall sales. If you have one customer that generates more than one-third of your sales, you are in an extremely vulnerable position if you lose that client to a merger, change of staff or if it goes out of business. Controlling and monitoring your client profitability and cost of sales allows you to take corrective action before your business’s survival is at risk. This takes on even greater importance if you are overly dependent key clients for your profitability.

6. The Impact of Pricing on Profitability

A close companion to client profitability is to understand the impact of various pricing strategies on the perceived value of your goods and services, and how they intertwine in attracting the customers who will buy from you. Engaging in discounted pricing strategies often attract customers who are buying from you based on price, not your value. If you are in a service-oriented business, this can be a slippery slope. You may get clients who keep you busy, but who do not generate the profits you need to build a sustainable enterprise or build your net worth. It is a delicate balancing act, but one you must realistically consider given your business objectives.

7. The Impact of Strategy on Profits

You must also consider the financial consequences of your business direction and your vulnerability to setbacks. This assessment allows you to make better business decisions and to set a more realistic strategic vision for your organization. “Finding a lane” or picking your niche through target marketing must also incorporate a true understanding of the costs of reaching them, as well as their ability to add to your bottom line in a meaningful way.

Final Thoughts

Reviewing the trend information for each of your major client segments is a highly impactful approach to revaluating the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts. It removes your emotions and relationships with your clients to allow you to be more detached in considering their impact on meeting your business objectives. They are no longer become just people you like, but a bigger grouping of customer segments who impact your future costs and business growth. If you are not attracting the kinds of clients generating the profitability to move your enterprise forward, it is time to reconsider all of your sales and marketing efforts.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars’ worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Avoiding Days of the Living Dead

Addressing Workplace Zombies and Promoting Engagement One Person at a Time

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-zombi sotry

Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time.

These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.

So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.

Knowing Your Zombies

Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:

Zombies in the workplace look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin. Click To Tweet
  1. Negative zombies—Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
  2. Minimum-contributor zombies—They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
  3. Status-quo zombies—These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
  4. Shortcut zombies—They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.

Identifying the Source

To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:

  1. The ready-made zombie story: People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
  2. The we-did-it-here zombie story: Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
  3. The retired-on-the-job zombie story: These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
  4. The abandoned zombie: Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.

Making the Choice Before It’s Too Late

When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management.

Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory.

Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.

Taking Action

Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.

Step One:Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.

Step Two:Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.

Step Three: Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs.

No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.

Step Four: Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.

Step Five:Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People, who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.

Ask

  • Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
  • Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
  • Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
  • Do managers confront negativity?
  • Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
  • Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
  • Does a strong zombie-screening interview process exist?
  • When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?

The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com

10 Commandments for the Inspirational Leader: The Foundation of Business Solutions

By Michele Wierzgac, MSEd

Michele-your personal brand

There are so many theories in leadership ranging from vision to self-awareness to service. The simplest way to develop your leadership skills is to have a work ethic mixed with a solid foundation of core values.

Inspirational leaders have commandments they work and live by. Commandments, or guidelines, lay the critical foundation for the development of leadership and business solutions.

All of you have your own commandments that you work and live by. These Ten Commandments will work as a guidebook to inspire your staff, increase workplace morale, and lay the foundation for a successful company.

1. Be truthful

Any leader aspiring to greatness must do two things all the time—listen and tell the truth. Inspirational leaders own up to their mistakes and correct them as soon as possible. Do not blame others for your error. And when someone comes up with a brilliant idea, give credit where credit is due. Do not take credit for the idea. You will be respected by your team.

2. Be consistent

Leaders are always performing like an actor on a stage. You must consistently and authentically act out your part in front of your audiences. You must lead with high energy, all day, every day. You must protect your personal brand.

3.Be empathetic

To start using empathy more effectively, put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Then validate the other person’s perspective and examine your own attitude. Perhaps you are more concerned with being right rather than finding a solution or accepting others as they are. Listen with your heart to determine what the other person feels.

4.Be generous

Business and personal relationships are everything. Every relationship needs to be a two-way street. However, before a relationship can be formed, you need to give with zero expectation of receiving anything.

5. Be strong

Inspirational leaders bring a light to someone’s life. You become the message of hope and encouragement to your staff. Encouragement comes from focusing on the strength of another person to drive their motivation and perform at a higher level which adds value to the organization and your personal brand.

6.Be articulate

Effective leaders put words together based on the thoughts and needs of others. You must create the whole story out of words you have collected. Inspirational leaders are able to articulate and clarify what many of us have been thinking on the subject for a long time. Inspirational leaders seek and inspire excellence, not perfectionism. Go out there and learn so that you can return to your team members and inspire a culture of learning and accountability.

7. Be approachable

Are you accessible? Do you have appropriate body language? How you appear to others is key to being an inspirational leader. Some people have a fear of authority, but it is your responsibility to remove the barriers and establish an environment of trust. By using proper verbal communication and listening skills, you will become much more approachable and inspirational. You are in control of how approachable you are.

Your name can open and close doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority. Click To Tweet

8. Be a brand champion

If you are passionate about a common interest, you create a very attractive personal style of interaction, and inspire your team to become involved and take an interest in you. They become a brand champion, a supporter, and a cheerleader of sorts for you. In return, you become a brand champion for them. Because we share a bond, we naturally support one another no matter the situation because of our passion. Remember, passionate people are attuned to the five senses, taste, touch, scent, sound, and sight. Passion for a common purpose brings people and ignites warmth.

9. Be a genuine spirit

Talk to people—listen to what they have to say and what they actually mean. Sometimes those two can be completely different things. There is a beautiful story in everyone, so listen intently with an open mind; try to add value to the conversation wherever you can. Everyone has a gift—bring the best out of everyone. Among many other lessons of the heart, Leo Buscaglia reminds us “love is open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.” Remember, some people are unreasonable and self-centered….love them anyway. Inspire them. Bring the best out of them.

10. Be credible

Reputation is about earning credibility, not expecting it. You must work hard at building credibility so others are confident about doing business with you. One way to earn credibility is to keep your promises. Another way is to be honest. Actions speak louder than words. If you are credible and honest, your personal brand will sell naturally. So make your brand work for you. Most people agree that there is a direct correlation between a person’s reputation and his or her success. How effectively you represent yourself in public often determines what you will accomplish in your life. Your name can open….and close….doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority.

As an inspirational leader do you have commandments that you work and live by? What do they look like?

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks For Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life transforming leadership tool. For more information on bringing in Michele Wierzgac for your next event, please visit: https://micheleandco.com.

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