Tag Archives: business

Four Things You Have to Get Right in Business

By Michael MenardMichael Menard

Most organizations know that in order to grow and be an industry leader, they have to continually innovate and undertake key projects that lead to growth. Unfortunately, many companies do so in a haphazard or non-strategic way.

Here’s what typically happens: Leaders keep saying yes as various projects and ideas are presented to them for investment. They say yes until they run out of resources. The projects and ideas first on the list get funded in contrast to the best of all ideas across the organization. The sad truth is the early bird does get the worm. As a result, they waste money and resources, lose momentum, and then wonder why they never achieve their strategic goals.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a proven approach that enables leaders and decision makers to make a greater contribution to the business, activate the strategic plan, achieve the desired balance, and optimize allocation of limited resources. Here are the four things you need to get right in order to make better decisions so you can maximize your company’s Capital Efficient Profitable Growth (CEPG).

1) Define your strategy: Before your company can undertake any new initiative, you first have to identify your strategy. In other words, who are you and what do you want to do? Unless you know this information, it’s difficult if not impossible to move forward in a productive way.

While most companies have a general idea of their strategy based on their vision or mission statement, often it’s not focused enough to translate into specific strategic goals. For example, suppose you’re a beverage company who offers a variety of soft drinks. How do you grow? You could introduce one new beverage after another and expand into new markets at random, but that will quickly drain your resources. A better approach is to define a specific strategy for growth. For instance, you may decide that you want to be the North American leader in bottled water. Now you have a focused strategy to guide your efforts.

2) Generate ideas: Armed with your strategy, you can now generate ideas that support the strategy. Some people call this step innovation or creative brainstorming. Whatever you call it, the goal is to come up with possible options for advancing the strategy.

Going back to our beverage company example, if the strategy is to be the North American leader in bottled water, your team needs to generate ideas that fit the strategy. Some ideas could include adding nutrients to the water, adding protein to the water, adding exotic flavors to the water, offering different bottle shapes or sizes, etc.

3) Prioritize and select the best ideas: Next is to select the portfolio of ideas that are the best for the company to pursue and that will advance the strategy. As you do the prioritization and portfolio selection process, you need to ask two key questions. The first is, “Will this portfolio of ideas and projects deliver our strategic goal?” If the answer is no, then you have to do something different. Either you alter your strategic expectation or you increase the number of ideas. Keep going through these iterations until you can say, “Yes, our portfolio has the potential to deliver our strategy.” And remember, at this point you’re simply assessing whether the portfolio will meet your strategic goals. You’re not assessing whether it’s something you actually could do.

Once you agree that the portfolio of ideas and projects will help you meet your strategic goals, the second question to ask is, “Do we have the resources (time, money, people, equipment, etc.) to fund the portfolio?” If the answer is yes, then celebrate and move on to step four. But if the answer is no, then you need to circle back and solve the equation. Can you lower your strategic goals? Can you generate bigger, better ideas? Can you add resources? Change the timing? Scale back the idea? Once you have a portfolio that allows you to say yes to both questions, you’ve completed the prioritization and selection process.

4) Execute on the ideas: Finally, it’s time to take action and actually execute the portfolio of ideas. This is where project management comes into play. As you execute each step to support the strategy, outline the detailed activities needed to complete the project on time and on budget. Assign key people to be responsible for each role, and establish checkpoints so you know if the project goes off track. The more thoroughly you manage the execution of the portfolio, the more success you’ll have.

Get it Right…Now! No matter what industry you’re in, long-term business growth depends on these four things: Strategy, Idea Generation, Project Selection, and Execution. When you take the time to implement this process in your company, not only will you make better strategy decisions, but you’ll also achieve the breakthrough results that achieve the ultimate goal: Increased CEPG.

Michael Menard is the author of “A Fish in Your Ear: The New Discipline of Project Portfolio Management,” and cofounder and president of The GenSight Group, which provides enterprise portfolio management solutions for strategic planning, project portfolio management and business performance optimization. A holder of 14 US patents, Menard has utilized his expertise to advise senior executives at organizations such as Coca-Cola, Cisco and the US Department of Energy. To learn more about Mike Menard please visit http://www.afishinyourear.com.

Sustainability is Good Business: Four Benefits for Your Organization

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Going green to make green is red hot right now.

Recently businesses all over the globe have gotten into the “going green” trend and it’s paying off big for many of them. In fact, several recent studies have shown that sustainability-oriented companies have a better stock performance, lower volatility and a higher return on assets than other similar companies. In short, the “sustainable” or “green” companies are making more “green” than the companies that have not jumped on board.

You might be thinking, “That sounds great!  I want some sustainability for my company. How soon can I get it shipped to me?”

Unfortunately, sustainability is not a clever new accounting software, a sparkly new app or a cool new office toy.  In fact, it’s not a “thing” at all.  It’s a philosophy and it’s a very powerful one.

Sustainability is a commitment (from upper management to the front line) to switch from only focusing on short term profit to something even larger and longer lasting – a focus on maximizing the health of people, the planet and profits.

As you may remember from fifth grade biological science, the planet we live on is one big interconnected biological system. So sustainability means that we use this systems’ resources (air, water, land, energy, raw materials) in a manner that will not hinder (no pollution or overuse) future generations’ ability to use these resources. With 7 billion people currently living on the planet and all of them wanting to be rich, get rich or get richer we must start use the resources we have in much smarter ways.

Sustainability is that way and business is the perfect mechanism to deliver smart resource use to the planet’s people.

There are four great reasons why you should integrate sustainability into your business. They are:

(1) Sustainability can reduce business risk. For businesses, risk is omnipresent.  A sustainability approach (people, planet, profit) to business can reduce some of those risks, such as:

  • Litigation –Unfortunately each and every business is at risk for lawsuits.  Are you using chemicals in your business that could end up in the local air, groundwater or soil?  Finding ways to eliminate the use of these materials can align your business with the environment and reduce risk.

  • Cleanup – Accidents happen.  By using safer or more environmentally-aligned safety measures for your business, you can eliminate the need for cleanup, and thus eliminate that cost.  Brainstorming ways to eliminate accidents and subsequent cleanup costs before they even happen is smart and sustainable.

  • Environmental Regulations – Environmental laws are in place to protect the public (people) and the environment (planet) from hazards.  Instead of asking “how do we comply?” ask a much different question. Ask yourself, “what if there was no need for compliance?” What if we could point our company at the target of low or no waste, low or no emissions, low or no energy use? What if we exceeded the compliance standard so much that it becomes irrelevant?” No legal costs. No compliance costs. No problem. Okay… fewer problems.

(2) Sustainability can cut your costs. This is the low hanging fruit of sustainability and it’s not difficult to take on.  Focusing on what you take, make and waste in your buildings, stores, fleets and manufacturing plants can be a successful sustainable strategy for both the environment and for your company.  What if you could reduce your energy costs by using a sustainable resource or a more efficient process?  What if you could reduce your waste disposal costs by creating less waste through recycling or pre-cycling?  What if you could use less water?  What if you could use the sun to pre-heat the water you need for the process?  What if you could reduce your water, energy and waste?

(3) Sustainability can build your brand. You survive and thrive as a business because your customers choose to do business with you. If you lose the respect, trust or loyalty of your customers, you’re finished. Consumers today hold companies (your brand) to a much higher standard than ever before. They expect and reward companies that hold themselves responsible for the people the company affects and the planet it uses resources from. A sustainability focus allows you to make sure that you earn a profit while keeping your eyes on the positive treatment of people and the planet as well. Short-term profit margin focus only is no longer acceptable to customers and they can let the entire world know with one mouse click. The more your company acts like a decent local and global citizen, the more your customers appreciate it and the more loyal they are to your brand.

(4) Sustainability can grow your revenue. From a business perspective, this is the most fascinating area of “being green.”   New products and services are developed every day, but what if business used its problem-solving skills with sustainability as a guide? Viewing the market through the business lenses of sustainability allows you to see the market in a way you’ve never seen it before and capitalize on what you see.   Because it’s a paradigm shift, you may be able to see solutions that others focused only on short-term profit can’t see.

Let’s say you’re in the industrial floor polisher industry and everyone in your industry is worried about the toxic/hazardous chemicals used in the process. You are less likely to see that you can solve the problem with a totally different cleaning process (using water, ionization, for instance) rather than using less toxic strategies, unless you’re seeing the world through integrated sustainability lenses (reducing negative impact on planet and people). Through these lenses, our products and services take on new dimensions. We may even be able to take our core competencies and create new problem-solving products for the global market, which will lead us to long term revenue growth!

Sustainability is good business for the planet, good for the people of the planet and good for business.  What is your company waiting for?

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.

Technology In Business: Use It, Don’t Rely On It

Nathan Jamail-TECHNOLOGY IN BUSINESS

Grab your smartphone and check your appointments, while you’re at it, see if any of your clients have posted anything worthwhile on Facebook, tweet your new prospect, check your e-mail for any new appointment requests and then go grab lunch—what a day! More and more sales professionals are relying on technology to drive sales and increase market share; unfortunately that is the first step to staying mediocre.

More and more sales professionals are relying on technology to drive sales and increase market share. Click To Tweet

Getting sales professionals to find vertical markets and make outbound prospecting calls as well as setting sales appointments with prospective buyers (in person!) is still the best way to increase sales—period. All of the technology in the world cannot close more deals than getting in front of the decision maker, so put away those e-mail marketing techniques, fax-ready sales pitches and automatic voicemail calling systems. It is no more difficult today than it was twenty years ago; we just have new excuses.

The gatekeeper now is voicemail with a delete button versus a receptionist and a pink message pad. The great handwritten letter to the decision maker and the trashcan has been replaced with e-mail systems that have auto junk mail programs. The prospective customers have always been too busy or happy with their current product or service to meet. Principles and disciplines of getting new sales are the same today as twenty years ago; the tools and skills needed to get the appointment are new.

Make the Call

What do nice letters, great e-mails, logo gifts, catchy tag lines and marketing campaigns all have in common? Every sales person hopes that it will be the “new thing” that gets their phones to start ringing by prospective customers, but in short they are all just a “another reason for a sales person not to make a prospecting call.” No matter what marketing idea or event you use to attract prospective customers, the sales professionals still must make the follow-up call. If you are going to use a technology-based tool (e-mail campaigns, voicemail systems, etc.), use it only as a tool for you to follow up with the prospective customer, not as an excuse for you to wait for customers to call you.

Social Media is Just Another Tool; It Isn’t a Sales Plan

Social media is powerful and there are many experts that have shown and believe that social media can really help a company become better known, or take the “word-of-mouth” to another level. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are some of the great social media forums, but they alone will not increase a company’s sales. It is a nice added inexpensive media outlet (and highly encouraged!), but if social media is the primary source for a company to attract new customers or to sell their product and services then they are sure to fail.

Social Media should work in conjunction with a marketing and prospecting plan that is based on network marketing, cold calling, vertical marketing and other key prospecting activities. Prospecting is still the most difficult part of any company’s sales process, but it is not complicated. Prospecting is 90 percent discipline and 10 percent skill set. Sales professionals should take the time to learn how to maximize their social media, but they should not rely on it to make their sales. In the old day’s sales, professionals were taught to follow their dollar. This means where a sales professional spends money, they should look there for future prospects as well including friends and family; the “old” social network. Just like then, as it is now, social networking is not the only way to grow business and should not be relied upon exclusively.

If increasing sales was only about coming up with some creative way for prospects to call then companies would not need professional sales people and especially the added expense of their high salaries. If you want to increase sales in today’s economy, then use the technology of today with the disciplines and principles of yesterday. It has been said a million times and it is still true; increasing sales is simple, but not easy. People are still buying; the question is whom are they going to buy from? Make the call!

Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group, and author of the best-selling Playbook Series, is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director, life insurance sales professional and business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. Nathan has worked with thousands of leaders in creating a coaching culture. Get your copy of Nathan Jamail’s most recent book released by Penguin Publishers, “The Leadership Playbook” at www.NathanJamail.com.

Your Book as Your Business Card

Indie Book Publishing Provides Professionals the Edge

By Keith Ogorek

Keith Ogorek-Book as Your Business Card

What is 6” by 9,” usually weighs roughly one pound, and is giving an increasing number of business leaders an advantage over the competition? A book.

Thanks in large part to the explosion of Indie book publishing, the use of ‘the book as a business card’ has added a new and powerful tool to the marketing arsenal of many successful business people. For a few hundred dollars, seasoned experts and professionals are putting their knowledge into professionally-published books—a calling card sure to make a much bigger impression than the traditional business card.

A prospective customer isn’t going to necessarily care who published the book—they’re going to read it and discover that you really do know what you’re talking about Click To Tweet

Marketing—especially for businesspeople in consulting and service industries—is about credibility, and a book establishes a person as someone who has reached a level of expertise. It allows readers (potential clients) to learn more about their philosophies, thought process and successful case studies, much more so than a simple brochure. And, you don’t have to be published by a major house to achieve and utilize this credibility. Authors are proving that it doesn’t matter if a book is self-published—the end result in terms of marketing benefits is the same.

Imagine one business consultant calling on prospective customers with traditional marketing materials, and another calling on the same customers and supplementing materials with a book written about the field of expertise. Who do you think has the better chance of landing that sale?

Securing extra income from book sales typically isn’t paramount for business authors. Media coverage in the form of book reviews, interviews and feature stories not only spreads the word about the author to their target business groups, but also provides excellent fodder for meetings with prospects, and priceless material for other marketing collateral.

The marketing power of TV and radio shows appearances or an expert’s book featured in various public and trade publications is undeniable. Once again, it is the book that makes the media interested in the author; another benefit of publishing.

One case in point is AuthorHouse author Stacey Hanke, whose book Everything You Need From A to A To Z To Influence Others to Take Action, has received interest from over 120 media outlets.

“My book has given me the opportunity to promote my business in ways I could not have done before,” says Hanke.

Randy Petrick, a writer, speaker, and money coach with more than thirty years of experience teaching financial concepts, has received nationwide media attention for his book Money Games: 85 Ways to Save Money and Attract Abundance. Petrick’s book and expertise has made him a particularly attractive source for the media in light of the recent economic difficulties and many Americans’ increased focus on stretching their dollars.

“Writing and publishing Money Games has been a wonderful opportunity to enhance my business as a financial consultant,” says Petrick. “I can’t imagine a better ‘business card’ in these financial times than my book.”

The expansion in the popularity of Indie book publishing, more commonly referred to as self-publishing, is drawing attention from prominent media in a time when publishing as a whole is experiencing contraction. Recent features in the Time Magazine and The New York Times draw a distinct contrast in ‘old publishing’—which was often fraught with obstacles and disappointment for prospective authors—and indie book publishing which is opening up the goal of publishing a book to everyone, including business professionals.

If you’re a business person selling your services, a prospective customer isn’t going to necessarily care who published the book—that’s not their mindset—they’re going to read it and discover that you really do know what you’re talking about, and you’ve proven it in the book.

Keith Ogorek is Vice President of Marketing for Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI) ASI, owned by Bertram Capital Management LLC, is the world leader in indie book publishing—the fastest-growing segment of publishing. ASI’s self-publishing brands: AuthorHouse, AuthorHouse UK, iUniverse, Xlibris, Wordclay and Inkubook; have helped more than 70,000 authors self-publish, promote, and bring to market more than 100,000 new titles. In 2008, one out of every 20 new U.S. titles was published by an ASI brand—more than any publisher in the world. Headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana; ASI also operates offices in New York City; Indianapolis; Milton Keynes, England; and Cebu, Philippines. Visit www.authorsolutions.com or call 877-655-1722 for more information.

The Opportunity to Change

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In recent months there has been a great deal to cogitate about. There was a media preoccupation with the U.S. presidential election, coupled with a focus on the credit crisis, which seemed to worsen every day, eventually turning into a financial crisis and threatening the global economy. Throughout it all, businesses has been left wondering how to best weather the worsening economic storm.

First, consider the presidential election. Although the campaigning and the voting are behind us, the ramifications of new leadership still lie ahead. Will the promises that were made be kept? Will the dangers that were forewarned be avoided? More importantly, what will these actions and nonactions cost? Will the tab be borne directly by businesses or the employees (“taxpayers”) whose work allows those businesses to function? There are many unanswered questions, and it won’t be until well into next year that we will even begin to see the answers emerge. It is correct to say that this is a U.S. election with the questions being USA-centric, but the ripple effect will be felt around the world, which in many respects is holding its collective breath, waiting for what is to come. Things are changing—and within those changes reside great opportunities. Click To Tweet

With this uncertainty, however, comes the opportunity to prepare for the future. In anticipation of these changes, optimize your business now: tweak polices; fine-tune procedures; review hiring practices and employment structures; and pay down or eliminate debt. Then you will be prepared to capitalize on whatever changes occur, whenever they occur. We all know that change is coming; those who are ready will be positioned to capitalize on it.

Next is the credit crunch.This hits hard those businesses that rely on credit to make their operations function—along with those companies and consumers who do business with them, which means just about everyone else. Having debt is more worrisome than not having debt, but we are all hurt when lending institutions are afraid to or unable to loan. This tight credit market has sparked overall financial fears, which portends economic woes. Unemployment is increasing (which, although good for those who want to hire, is bad for those wanting to be hired); inflation is also on the rise (which is a concern for just about everybody). From a practical standpoint, the steps already taken to shore up the financial markets should be sufficient to work. Unfortunately, the media—which excels at proliferating the negative—is effectively propagating unsubstantiated pessimism. That will serve to hold markets down and stymie growth until sound thinking resumes, thereby restoring balance.

Until that happens, for those who have access to money there is great opportunity to make sound purchases and wise investments. You might opt to replace older, business-limiting equipment, or you could acquire new technologies that will enable to you to offer new services or capabilities. Either way, you are establishing an infrastructure that is future-focused and poised for growth.

For those who wish to invest money, the current conditions present an ideal opportunity. Follow the simple yet astute investment advice to buy low and sell high. Now is a great time to find good deals, as many people are panic selling; they bought high and are selling low—a poor investment strategy.

The next consideration emanates from a series of customer service experiences I have recently encountered. After upgrading the operating system on one of my computers, I spent hours on the phone with a technical support group trying to resolve all of the driver issues and unexpected side effects. After multiple calls and callbacks, there are still pending issues. Because of communication challenges (resulting from the agents’ poor English-language skills and subpar audio connections) the calls lasted much longer than they should have. I am left wondering how much money is really saved when a call takes several times longer to resolve than it would have if effective communications were not a limiting factor.

I also subscribe to another service that provides phone support to resolve computer issues. The annual fee is shockingly low—and the service I receive matches correspondingly. I find myself putting up with many problems because the hassle of trying to report them and frustration in communicating with the agents exceeds my aggravation over the problem. I would gladly pay ten times as much for good service; in fact, I might pay twenty times as much for superior service. As it stands now, I don’t even plan to renew my subscription.

In another situation, I repeatedly tried to subscribe to an online service, only to receive an error message. The problem was apparently common enough that the message included a link to “report” it. Unfortunately, the link landed me in a generic troubleshooting section. Nowhere was there a means to resolve the problem. This is ironic given the fact that I was trying to pay them money. Additionally, since this subscription was for a service to protect my computer, I am now questioning how reliable the service would be since that they can’t make the subscribe function work.

There are examples in many other areas as well. I have found the practice of medicine to be similarly frustrating. I tend to avoid my doctor’s office because the most likely outcome is a series of bills from multiple sources and no tangible diagnosis. Aside from addressing good health, another issue is billing. I currently have a medical bill that is almost a year old. I am anxious to pay my portion of it, but despite my repeated calls I cannot convince them to submit it to the right insurance company. I’m about ready to pay the full amount, just so I don’t have it hanging over my head.

This solution of pursuing the “path of least resistance” is taken more and more often by more and more people because customer service is so poor and the likelihood of a satisfactory solution is so low. Consider how often you put up with an inferior or broken product because it is too much of a hassle to seek a resolution. How often do you pay a bill because it will take too long to correct an error?

In another area, I have missing credits and questions about the “rewards” program at my office supply store, but no easy way to get them answered or resolved. This pushes me to seriously consider their competitor, something that I wouldn’t otherwise contemplate.

Although I could provide more examples, I won’t. The point is that each of these instances demonstrates a negative change from how service used to be. Each change presents a great opportunity for anyone with the insight to divine a superior solution and offer it in a compelling way to the guilty parties.

Yes, things are changing—and within those changes reside great opportunities. Are you ready to capitalize on them and come out a winner amongst this deluge of change?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.