Wisdoms of The Pricing Man


 

“It is not the business that earns a profit adequate to its genuine costs of capital, to the risks of tomorrow and to the needs of tomorrow’s worker and pensioner, that “rips off” society. It is the business that fails to do so.”


                                                                             - Peter Drucker, The Delusion of ‘Profits,’ Wall Street Journal, 1975


I was recently recommended a great book, Confessions of the Pricing Man How Price: Affects Everything by Hermann Simon, widely considered the leading expert on business pricing of all time.

Doubt this? Well, Mr. Simon is so renowned and respected as THE pricing guru that he has built a $300 million+, 32 offices (in 22 countries), 860 employee consulting firm focused exclusively on advising many of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world (including  American Express, BMW, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs,Grainger, LinkedIN, Skype, among very many others) advice on pricing strategies that maximize profitability and the customer purchase and consumption experience.

This "Win-Win" duality - that yes we can charge a profitable price for our products and services and that our clients and customers can feel good about it, is a simple but incredibly profound wisdom that the vast majority of businesses just don't get.

And not doing so costs them dearly.

Because in this Internet Age of ours - with no matter what businesses we are in or what we sell - there are thousands of competitors offering similar, comparable wares, far too often we are all seduced by the siren song that if we just lowered our prices...

...sales would increase and with greater volume “eventually” we would figure out how to reduce costs to make up for the lost margin.

Unfortunately, as Mr. Simon explains in his book, lowering prices is almost never the right strategic choice, and referencing the Peter Drucker quote above, makes the profound point that as business owners maintaining sustainable is not only a business imperative, but a moral one too,

To achieve and maintain high prices, Simon advises that as sellers we must 1) shun from our minds forever the "Engineer's Fallacy” that if we just build a good product “they will come" - i.e. that marketing and branding do not really matter and 2) to truly “get” that the buyer's pricing experience is decidedly not a one-time event at the moment of purchase, but an "experience over time."

And as that experience is a high quality one where our product / service delivers on its promises and confers emotional, psychological and social benefits that are important to buyers, then the price charged - no matter how high - will be experienced as a fair one for almost all buyers.

Let’s put this all into three quick ways to put these pricing insights to work right away:

#1. Buy and Read Simon's book.  It will change forever for the better how you think and act about pricing in your business.

#2. No time for that?  Then start thinking less about the features of your product and services (technical specs, input costs, delivery time, etc.)  and far more about its benefits (safety, prestige, sex appeal, contributing to the greater good, etc.). “Benefits Thinking” like this will immediately get us focused more on marketing and branding and less on operational costs and considerations.

(For a brilliant illustration on the power of Benefits Thinking, watch this video of arguably the greatest business strategist of all time announce and explain the launch of one of the most famous and successful marketing campaigns of all time).

#3.  No time for #1 or #2? Then just raise your prices! Reference my “Using the 20% Rule to Double Business Results” logic and challenge oneself to raise prices 20% this year, consequences be darned.

My strong bet, and Mr. Simon would most concur, that doing so will create a virtuous circle - happier customers at the moment of purchase and throughout their consumption experience, and more profits too.

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Resolving Buyer - Seller Tensions to Get Deals Done


 

For conversations around business financings and sales, there are natural tensions, of time, credibility, and trust, between entrepreneurs seeking to be financed/sold (“Sellers”) and the investors/acquirers that approached for $$ (“Buyers”).

And if these tensions are not resolved, a deal cannot get done.

Time Tension is the idea that our entrepreneur seller almost always seeks to have their business valued based on its future potential, while our investor / acquirer buyer seeks to price it based on past results.

Note that time tension is present no matter the stage or size of a business, from the startup raising its first round of capital to the multi-billion dollar public company explaining its quarterly earnings and giving guidance for the period to come.

Very importantly, it is almost always the sellers responsibility to proactively resolve time tension to move a deal forward.

First, this involves having clean, concise, and easy to access financial and company records (no matter how unimpressive they might be) available for buyer review, along with the ability to coherently explain why the results were what they were.

Secondly, it involves the Seller telling a Great Story of how results will improve in the future.

This great story must be both "Top Down" and "Bottom Up."  The Top Down story is a firm point of view on what one's industry and marketplace will look and behave like in the future (say in 3-to-5 years time), and then how our business is well-positioned to profit from this evolving reality.

A great example of this is Travis Kalanick, Founder and CEO of Uber, who communicates with amazing eloquence his view on the future of transportation and mobility, and then how Uber's growth plan is being evolved and executed upon to benefit from this evolution.

And our great story must also be Bottom Up, detailing as specifically as possible how people, technology and financial assets will be brought together in a cost-conscious and hard-to-duplicate way to execute upon our growth plan.

Yes, creating both great Top Down and Bottom Up stories is hard and doing so requires the expenditure of a LOT of brain juice by smart and dedicated people.

But doing so at a high level can be worth a LOT MORE in accretive value (like $62.5 billion more, as in the case of Uber) and as importantly is the only way to...

Bridge the Credibility Gap. As a default, Buyers believe nothing that Sellers give and tell them.

For past financial results, they ask who prepared them.

For financial projections, they ask where is the proof that its assumptions will come to pass.

For our “Top Down” opinion on where our market is heading, they ask based on what.

And for our “Bottom Up” operational plan, they ask us to show them evidence from our past that we can execute upon it.

And as we provide this evidence, they ask if we are still motivated and young enough to do so again.

Sellers must put their pride aside and really hear and empathize with these buyer doubts, and then patiently overcome via attention to detail and via extremely high quality thought and business presentation...

...and via a Pig-Headed Determination to repeat that business presentation over and over again until some buyer (and it often just takes one!) says yes.

Yes, Webster defines determination as "Willfulness infused with discipline."

Willful, determined entrepreneurs, who through their work ethic and discipline produce high quality business stories, and then repeat those stories over and over again...

...well they are the ones that the resolve the Buyer - Seller tensions of time and credibility, and build trust so deep that only a handshake is needed to get a deal done.

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Modern Selling: Challenge Yourself to be Great (4 Things to Do)


 

The stereotypes of what makes a great salesperson - a "silky charmer," a “smiler and dialer,” a “closer” etc. - are really not characteristics of top sales performers anymore.

In fact, it probably makes sense to retire the term "salesperson" altogether, as it has become too corrupted with negative connotation to be useful to describe the kinds of professionals companies need to represent their products and services and drive top line results.

A term I prefer (which I partially borrow from Brent Adamson’s excellent piece on the topic) is “Challenger Rainmaker.”

Challenger Rainmakers challenge everyone in their orbit - customers, prospects, colleagues, their managers, and above all else themselves to be their absolute best selves every day in every way by focusing on these Four Things:

#4. Relationship. Our Challenger Rainmaker comes to each and every interaction - whether it be in person, on the phone, via email / text / social media - from a profound place of empathy and respect for their prospects and clients.

While of course upbringing has the most pronounced impact on this personal characteristic (is there anything we more fundamentally learn from our parents?), company leaders and managers that model these values greatly influence the likelihood of their importance being stressed at the level of prospect and client interaction.

And with authentic relationships arrived at from a place of integrity and respect, our Challenger Rainmaker then focuses on...

#3. Process. Directing a decision-making process that moves, in the words of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, at a “quick, but unhurried speed.

This means that every communication is concluded with the “What are the Next Action Steps?” questions, along with elegantly but firmly insisting that the answers to those questions be given in a timely and complete manner.

Those answers can be as simple as agreeing to the time for the next call, and as complex as organizing multiple parties to move with velocity through the complex process of getting from a meeting of the minds to a signed agreement.

While empathy may be the guiding emotive state for the relationship mindset of our Challenger Rainmaker, when it comes to process "Tough Love" is.

Our Challenger Rainmaker is relentless, both because he or she cares, and because they believe in the value of what they are doing, which leads to their next characteristic...

2. Our Challenger Rainmaker gives Consultative Value-Add in each and every conversation.

This is a commitment made on many levels - of the genre that “There is No Tomorrow" and so with everything we do and say our goal is to be an Additive Force for all who we meet.

And it is a commitment to work and study long and hard to Know Our Stuff, and thus be able to actually add value.

Knowing our stuff, in our intensely competitive modern environment, is both a lifelong and an “after hours” commitment - i.e. we always should be learning and doing so beyond our “Nine to Five” job descriptions.

And when Our Challenger Rainmaker combines a deep commitment to relationship, with professional process, with being of the mindset to add value always and to learn and grow well beyond the 40 hour work week, what naturally follows is...

1. A Burning Desire to Win. To win for a lot of reasons, because we believe in the value of our products and services and the mission of our organization, to win because we deserve to for all of our hard work and to win because winning is a lot more fun than losing.

Winning, from a place of relationship and hard work, and accomplished through professional process that has real value-add in and of itself...

...heck is there anything in business sweeter than that?

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Business Lessons from Trump, Sanders et al


 

With the Iowa Caucuses this coming Monday and the New Hampshire Primary a week later, this is crunch time in both the Democratic and Republican Presidential Nomination Races.

And whatever your politics, as business people we can learn a lot in these next two weeks from how the leading candidates sprint and compete hard for votes and momentum.

So as you are watching the election coverage, don’t just get upset by all of the rhetoric but also learn from these winning political strategies and mindsets that can be put to great business use right away:

5. Nothing is Immutable to Hard Work. As voting days approach, watch for the vastly increased personal effort of the candidates, with “Dawn to Dusk and Beyond” full throttle campaigning the expectation and norm. Yes, whatever you think of their motivations, politicians right before elections, like coaches preparing for a big game, are excellent role models in “lengthening the day” and cranking up the energy in pursuit of victory.

4. Simple Messaging is Effective Messaging. Whether or not you agree with their styles and policies, note that the favorites to win in Iowa and New Hampshire are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who in turn have by far the simplest and most emotionally visceral campaign messaging.

For Sanders, it is the always popular theme of income inequality, and for Trump the equally time tested one of cultural identity and fear of "the other." For our business purposes let’s not focus on the rightness of these positions and instead reflect on how our customer and prospect messaging can be simplified and better aimed at "the gut" versus the analytical mind.

3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. As responsible businesspeople, we often feel the need to "change up" what we're saying because a) We feel that if we have already told someone something, that it is rude to repeat ourselves and b) especially for the creative entrepreneurs among us, saying the same thing over and over again is boring.

Politicians feel no such constraint. Coming back to Sanders and Trump, not only do they keep their messages simple and visceral, but they repeat these messages over and over again. (Heck, Bernie Sanders has been saying pretty much the same thing for over 50 years!)

The old marketing adage that a message needs to be heard seven times before it starts to stick probably underestimates the needed touch points in our massively distracted, low attention span technological age. So when in doubt, have faith that more frequency almost always trumps less.

2. Cater to Your Niche. While in a general election, the candidates are tasked with crafting messaging that appeals to a broad and diverse electorate, in primaries the winning strategy is as often as not to cater to the more “extreme” voters, who also are usually the most animated and engaged, and thus command a disproportionate influence on the result.

Similarly, in business, the value of our most enthusiastic customers - the Harley Davidson riders that tattoo themselves with the company's name, the Apple enthusiasts who sleep in line outside of a store to be first up for a new product release - should never be overlooked.

These kinds of customers do something far more important than buy our products and services, they validate us and the value we bring with a level of authenticity and credibility that we as “conflicted agents” can’t ever match.

1. Re-Frame Everything as a Positive. Yes, it is partly an act, but no matter their poll numbers or how little money they have in the bank, between now and the voting all of the candidates will project a positive and winning air.

And if they lose, in their concession speeches they quickly “spin” the defeat into a positive - i.e. they did better than expectations, they made an important contribution to the debate, etc.

Yes, it is only natural to be discouraged by setbacks, but being effective means moving with velocity through those setbacks and quickly pivoting to that next challenge, that next race, that next sale.

So let's put the cynicism aside and no matter our politics both commend and learn from the effort, messaging, and resilience of the various candidates in this their truly “Crowded Hour.

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That Quality of Certainty


 

Perhaps the most underrated of Steve Jobs' many talents was his maniacal ability to be totally convinced that whatever business position, opinion, or strategy that he was holding at a particular moment was the 100% right and righteous one, that all who disagreed with him were fools and/or ill-intentioned, and that everyone at Apple had to right away rally around (and do so 24/7!) his suggested course of action.

And Steve Jobs could, would, and did regularly change his mind on these opinions, strategies, and suggested courses of action, often to diametrically opposed positions in just a few days time and every time he did...

...he then held that new view with the exact same if not more fervor than the point of view so recently discarded.

While some would call this lacking in solid beliefs, chameleon-like, and just all around not to be admired, This “Quality of Certainty,” when arrived at without guile and from an authentic place, is a powerful executive management and leadership trait.

Words to describe folks like this: Charismatic, Enthusiastic, Persuasive, Change Agents.

And resilient too, possessing of that inspirational knack of re-framing obstacles and rejections as the fault not of themselves but of the “other,” and thus both able to bounce back quickly from adversity and be energized and not drained by setbacks and difficulties.

So how does an executive develop more of this Certainty and put it to use in his or her business?

Well, first by accepting, as with all personal qualities, that some people are more naturally possessive of it than others, but equally so that it can be developed through practice, focus, and modeling of those with the quality in abundance.

Secondly, by repeatedly taking the time too convince and "sell oneself” as to the righteousness and value of our business proposition. And when we just can’t bring ourselves to do it for our current line of work, then to know it is time to find it for something we can.

And, finally, by being careful to not equate a general energy drain with lack of business conviction.

This is true now more than ever, as the technology of our modern life that requires us to be “always-on” inevitably dents our spirit and dampens our spark.

So take time for downtime, off the grid, and away from the maddening crowd. And be pleasantly surprised by the certainty that will naturally bubble up for what we are doing, saying, and offering right now, right here.

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Using the 20% Rule to Double Business Results


 

In last week's post, I described The 20% Rule, where by improving four key business processesby just 20% each leads to results doubling. 

What I love most about The 20% Rule is how it allows us to set big Stretch Goals, and then focus all our business energy on incremental, ongoing improvements to reach them. 

So what does process improvement at a 20% clip look like? It is even easier than it sounds, requiring a mere 2% monthly improvement over the course of a year to more than exceed it.

So why do most of us fall short? I would point to three main reasons:

1. We Don’t Know What to Fix. Thoreau once famously said that “The unexamined life is not worth living."

Likewise, the unexamined business is not worth having - and nicely, those businesses that stay unexamined won't stick around for long anyway!

So before even figuring out what to fix, let’s just make a firm commitment to connect all of our important business processes (marketing, sales, operational, financial, etc.) too easy to measure Data Points and Metrics.

My experience is that doing just this gets us more than halfway to any process improvement goal.

2. Become a Better Fixer. Business, like sports, is a highly competitive undertaking, with many talented players and teams, reaching for the same, brass ring.

And just like athletes must constantly train and practice, so do entrepreneurs and executives need always to work on maintaining and improving their “Business Games,” with skills to rigorously develop and be great at for the 20% rule including:

●    The ability to collect data (see above)
●    The ability to interpret data - i.e. understanding what data represents in “Three Dimensional” business terms
●   From these interpretations, the business “creativity” to arrive at plans and solutions to improve results
●    The Will to Act (enough said)

3. No Egos Allowed! The 20% Rule requires us to check our egos at the door and accept which of the above we aren't great at and ask for help.  Help, with an authentic desire for it coupled with an inspirational mission and persona, is easy to attract and get.

This is a well-known secret of all successful people, to understand and stay within one’s Circle of Competence.  John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company explained it best:

"Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details — accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation."

So let’s set big Stretch Goals, break them into 20% Attainable Goals, and then incrementally reach and exceed them via measuring what needs fixing, becoming great fixers, and getting help when, where, and as we can.

[Click Here for a complimentary consultation on how to identify and improve your four key business processes by 20% each to double results in 2016]

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Breakdowns Leading to Breakthroughs!


 

In my work I often get to lead strategic and business planning sessions and retreats with some amazingly dynamic and thoughtful entrepreneurs and executives.

These past seven days have been particularly rich in this regard.

Last week, I led a retreat day for the executive management team of one of California's and fastest - growing construction management firms, and on Monday did so for one of the oldest receivable management agencies in the world.

These sessions follow a common pattern: A company’s leaders set growth goals, for sales, profits, company value, and/or on a company, division, product/service basis…

…and then together they grapple with both their realism and the marketing, sales, operational, and financial challenges to be overcome to achieve them.

Through this process, the original goals are revisited, adjusted up or down (or completely rethought!), and almost always brought into plain daylight is the need for profound change - organizationally and at the individual level - for there to be any reasonable probability of their achievement.

There is a common energy dynamic to these sessions that was best described at a famous (or infamous!) empowerment seminar I attended many years ago:

Breakdowns Lead to Breakthroughs.

No matter the industry, the age or level of success or sophistication of the executive group, inevitably the course of a serious strategic discussion follows a “peak to valley to peak” flow like this:

The Opening. The session starts, the group is fresh, full of enthusiasm, energized by being together and by the yet to be discovered business possibilities.

The Breakdown. The first blush recedes, the discussion turns to considerations (of time, money, talent) and of obstacles - competition, market/customer apathy, operational inefficiencies.

Energy drains from the room, creases of doubt and worry spread.

The Breakthrough. When hope is about gone, someone suggests something…

…an idea, a strategy, a new way of approaching/defining/verbalizing the opportunity, the selling proposition, the competitive advantage.

The suggestion is taken up by the group, augmented, permutated, solidified. Heads nod, eyes lock, adrenaline surges.

The group arrives, miraculously, to another place. Different from what had been anticipated for sure but usually far more actionable.

Let me say it again: this emotional “roller coaster" is common to almost all strategic gatherings, and I would venture to say that without it the ability of a group to define and commit to the business action plans that flow from the discussion is limited.

A common question asked is, "How long must we be in breakdown until we get to breakthrough?"

The answer of course, is it depends. Sometimes the breakdown is only a matter of minutes, other times it lasts months.

However, a good measurement of an executive’s effectiveness is his or her ability to get to and move through breakdowns rapidly.

Is it better to have strategic sessions led by an outside facilitator or done in-house?

Well, just like all Olympic gold medalists that have great coaches, so do great business leaders have advisors that help them move through breakdowns and to breakthroughs faster.

So do strategic retreat and planning sessions often and right, more breakthroughs will be had and your business will soar.

Getting to all this is worth a breakdown every now and then, isn't it?

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Want To Double Sales in 2016? Use the 20% Rule


 

This first week of 2016 is the best time to set big growth and success goals for the New Year. There are two main approaches to doing so:

1. Set Attainable Goals. This is the incremental “get a little better” approach, letting past results guide and drive our goal-setting.

2. Set Stretch Goals. Stretch Goals are goals that are beyond, often well beyond, what we have accomplished in the past. Stretch Goals usually feel unrealistic, even to those that set them. These are the goals of “Childhood Imaginings,” the goals we really want to accomplish but as we grow older are almost embarrassed to admit it.

A classic Business Stretch Goal is the subject line of this post: Doubling Your Business’ revenue in 12 short months.

Many executives react poorly to Stretch Goals. They consider them Pollyanna and distracting to more pressing matters at hand, like keeping the lights on!

Well, in these first few days of the New Year when hope is fresh, as we do our goal-setting let me suggest we set solid Attainable Goals that as we accomplish them in their aggregate add up to Stretch Goals that tickle the loins and fire the imagination!

To demonstrate, let's break that “Double Revenues in 2016” Stretch Goal down into a series of Attainable Goals whereby we improve performance of the below four key business processes by just 20% each:

1. Marketing Campaign Conversion

2. Sales Team Performance.

3. Product / Service Pricing

4. Customer Repurchase Rate

1. Marketing Team Conversion. For the sake of our example, let’s assume in 2016 we send out 100,000 direct mail pieces where we offer a complimentary consultation to learn more about our products / services.

And let’s say on our past campaigns we have achieved a 1% “conversion,” or 1,000 out of the 100,000 recipients took us up on our offer (i.e. 1,000 leads).

Now, in 2016 let's improve the quality of our message / positioning such that as opposed to those 100,000 pieces sent resulting in 1,000 leads, we do 20% better and generate 1,200 leads.

2. Sales Team Performance. Let’s assume our sales team is now, on average, turning 20% of these leads into customers. But, in 2016 we invest in sales training and technologies such that performance increases by 20% so instead of turning 200 of the 1,000 leads into customers, we do so at a rate of 240 out of 1,000.

3. Pricing. Let’s also take the bull by the horns and raise our prices by 20% from, say $5,000 per order, to $6,000 (and we invest in improving our brand positioning and value proposition to support this higher price).

4. Repurchase Rate. And finally, let's operationally improve the quality, speed, and efficacy of our offering such that as opposed to our customers buying from us at an average repurchase rate of twice per year they do so at a rate of 2.4x per year (20% more often).

The math is as follows:

Business as Usual: 100,000 marketing pieces x 1% response x 20% sales conversion x $5,000 x an average repurchase rate of 2x / year = Annual Revenues of $2,000,000.

20% Better. 100,000 marketing pieces x 1.2% response x 24% sales conversion x $6,000 x an average repurchase rate of 2.4x / year = Annual Revenues of $4,147,200.

[Click Here for a complimentary consultation on how to identify and improve your four key business processes by 20% each to double sales in 2016]

Voila! We set a Big Stretch Goal of Doubling Sales and we then got there through Attainable Goals of improving four key business processes by 20% each.

So before the year gets too far in, let’s set Big Stretch Goals like this and then invest the time and do the work to identify, evaluate, and improve by 20% four business processes to get there.

Just think how great it will feel in January 2017 to look back at a year with this kind of exciting growth!

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2016: Five Ways to Make it Your Best Business Year Ever


 

One of the many great things about the holiday season is the opportunity it affords to “turn off” the negativity that for better or worse passes as “news” in our modern day.

From the bluster of the Presidential Campaign to the borderline hysterical coverage of terrorism fears, to doomsday concerns over Fed interest rate hikes, the news bombards us with a LOT of not-so-empowering stuff so it is nice to “turn it all off” this time of year as we spend quality time with family and friends.

And correspondingly, in this hopefully more positive, energized and forward-feeling state, let me offer five “end-of-year” mindsets to get 2016 off to the right start to be the BEST year of all of our business lives:

5. Push the Risk Envelope. As so eloquently proved in Michael Raynor's masterpiece, "The Strategy Paradox," the vast majority of executives take too little short term risk, and by so doing subject themselves to far greater longer-term dangers.

As I described in my "Breaking Free of No Man’s Land” post, this is because most usually the real danger for a business is not its sudden or dramatic failure, but rather slowly sliding into technological obsolescence, commoditization, and a low to no profit economic model.

While this conservatism is more pronounced in times of recession, in good times it is doubly insidious because both the opportunity costs of overly conservative and the likelihood of risky initiatives being successful are so much greater.

A great shortcut question to ask yourself is: I had no considerations of time and money, what would I do?

The answer will usually point you to the riskier, and more often than not, the more strategically correct business decision.

4. Embrace New Technologies. In the past few years, we've reached a tipping point as to the ability of companies of all types and sizes to earn quick ROI via implementing and utilizing business process technologies that allow for the completion of work more quickly and cost-effectively, and at a higher level of quality and consistency.

Cloud-based, on demand, proven and inexpensive technologies are available now for almost all business processes - from sales CRMs to marketing analytics, to project management software to HR, accounting, and finance. 

And because of an almost overwhelming number of great software companies building new business process services (and because of SaaS, improving the ones they have almost daily), the cost of these tools continues to drop while their quality and efficacy rises. Let’s all make the business resolution to “try out” a new one of these tools each and every month in 2016 and see what additional marketing, sales, operational and financial efficiencies and improvements we can muster from them.

3. Pursue Global Markets. As I described here, the volume of US exports is hitting new records year-after-year, and is projected to easily cross the $2.7 trillion mark in 2016.

Never before has it been a) easier to sell products and services globally b) have there been so many customers with money to spend the world over and c) has the reputation of US companies for technological leadership, quality products and ethical dealings been greater than it is right now.

So if you have a global growth strategy, build on it. And if you don't, get one.

2. Be Organizationally Creative. The maturation of business process technologies combined with the “flattening” and full-on “virtualization” of most modern work has created extraordinary opportunities for every company - no matter how small - to profit via organizational evolution, outsourcing, and fractionalization of work.

Things like organizing one’s enterprise via a mix of W-2 employees, 1099 contractors and outsourced technology, project administrative work flow partners from around the globe.

My experience is that most of us intuitively get how this stuff works (as evidenced by how much of work we all now do on our mobile devices), but are still held back by a sense of how a “real” company should be organized.

The heck with that! All that should matter in decisions like this is whether it works - i.e. does it deliver higher quality at a lower cost? Everything else is just noise.

1. Have a Plan. Conditions are good. The world is our oyster. Let's commit, in writing, that we're going to make the most of it.

In the immortal words of Goethe, once a commitment is made, Providence moves too.

The spoils and thrills of victory in our so competitive but so opportunity-laden world go to those who devise bold plans of action and then go out and do them.

So let’s make great plans - organizationally creative ones that leverage technology, take intelligent risks and pursue and win opportunities around the world. 

That sounds like a great 2016!

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What Your Business Can Learn from the Online Holiday Giants


 

Like many fellow, proud last minute holiday shoppers, my gift-buying stress has gone down dramatically as online shopping has gotten faster, more reliable, and if it is even possible more price competitive.

I am not alone. Holiday E-commerce continues to one of the great growth industries in the world, with sales growing 13.9% this year, to a record $79.4 billion. At this growth rate, within 5 years ecommerce will represent the majority of US holiday retail sales!

Great for the consumer, but troubling to say the least for all but the biggest online businesses, as the Amazons of the world build on their already dominant positions and put under severe threat everyone - offline, specialty, and smaller retailers - in their crushing paths.

Yes, smaller businesses need to either adapt to this new environment - learning from the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses of the Big Boys - or be steamrolled. 

Just say no!  Here are changes and initiatives that almost every business can set in motion right now to keep this from happening to them in 2016. 

First, Understand and Speak to the “New Customer.” At Amazon senior executive meetings, Jeff Bezo's famously leaves one seat empty to represent the interests, wants, and needs of the customer. 

Let’s speak to these customers as they are - for better or for worse entitled and empowered by endless inducements like detailed product specifications, price matching, and extensive, verified online reviews and testimonials.

And know that B2B customers too are fully conditioned with these expectations and that if we can't meet them, newer competitors will. 

And we are going to recognize and accept that meeting these expectations will require us to offer far more Intrinsic Value with our products and services than we currently do.

This is especially true for service businesses - lawyers, accountants, web designers, consultants of all types - where much of the offering is “relational” and “perceived” and as such difficult to define and quantify. 

Here is a quick and dirty way to do this quantifying and defining: Let’s benchmark the price, quality, and value of our offerings against that offered by “freelancers” in our industry for comparable services.

Yes, doing so is scary - think of fields like web and graphic design decimated by overseas freelancers providing good quality service outcomes at seeming impossibly low rates.

But look, compare, and benchmark we must. 

And as we do, we need to make one big change and one big choice:

The Big Change: Ruthless cost reduction and vigilance is the way we must live and work today (brought to you by Amazon, among many others). Given the vicious and unrelenting pricing pressures from everywhere and always, we have to be able to at least partially get to price competitiveness through cost competitiveness. It is what it is. 

The Big Choice: We need to accept that we can’t compete, like an Amazon does, in multiple markets with multiple offerings, at commodtized prices. 

Rather, we need to pursue niche and / or premium offerings that are - again - at least partially protected from price and feature competition. 

Now this is where it gets really hard - more often than not what this entails is an acceptance of reduced volume and horror of horrors turning away paying customers if they are lower margin and not part of a longer term sustainable and strategic plan.

A tough road for sure, but the competition is only going to get tougher as the years roll on.  So give your business a gift this holiday season and put these critical changes into motion today.

To an Awesome Holiday Season for You and Yours!

P.S. Click Here to register for my webinar on “Seven Things to Do” to Make 2016 Your Best Business Year Ever.

 

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