Making Better Business Decisions


 

There are only 3 things to know to make dramatically better decisions:

1) How we’ve done in the past.

2) What our competition is doing now.

3) What our customers will want in the future.

1. How We’ve Done in the Past. At this point in the Big Data and SaaS revolutions at our fingertips should always be dead accurate data on mission critical processes like customer acquisition costs by marketing and sales channel, profitability by client type / employee role, and really anything else that moves and trends on a regular basis, and upon which the performance of our business depends.

Truly understanding and accepting our company’s historical performance - good and bad - is the mature approach to better business decision-making.

It is mature in that it accepts that while huge business breakthroughs are always possible (and we should always be highly optimistic and innocent in our quest for them, incremental business improvement, with just a little more focus on the numbers, is always highly probable.

And the most important step in getting that incremental improvement is to “get real” with ourselves and our track records and then find the 1% improvement here, the 2% gain there, that over time compound into significantly better results.

2. What the Competition is Doing Now. Could one possibly imagine a great coach - a Bill Belichick, a Nick Saban, a Mike Krzyzewski - not investing gobs and of time and resources into knowing everything about their next opponent?

Business is no different. Conjuring up and executing upon great business strategy is not possible without knowing everything about our best competitors - how they market, how they sell, how they fulfill, and their costs and margins in so doing.

Now a cool thing is that that thing that we all waste lots of business time on every day- i.e. the Internet - is also the first and best place to find out everything we ever wanted to know about what our competitors are doing and more.

For sure, the most juicy and valuable competitive intell. can't be found from a simple web search, but through that search we can certainly connect with the people and firms who can go out and get it for us (write me if you would like to learn more about how to do this!).

3. What Our Customers Will Want. Since business time immemorial predicting the needs and wants of our customers has been seen as an intuitive and dark art - truly understood only by genius marketers and sales savants.

Luckily, the behavioral science literature as what really drives customer decision-making has exploded over the years, with the most profitable firms in the world investing significant resources into studying and learning from and all of us should too.

Easy shortcuts to do so including online quizzing technology, with the key insight being gamification - i.e. making it fun for customers to tell us more about them,

 And pattern recognition software - where we enter in a cohort of our customer and then have a comparison run against public data sets to find the “non-obvious” correlations between the psychographics and purchase patterns of our current customers and future best prospects.

Now, a final word as to how to best intake these data sets and use them to regularly and reliably output better business decisions and action plans.

You just gotta meet and talk about it!!

But not in the typical lazy way that most business strategy meetings are run.

Instead, first assemble all of the data above into as organized and simple to digest formats as possible. 

Then “pre-read” it all before the meeting. This “pre-read” preparation time is critical to let the insights from the data sink in and to allow the meeting time to be focused on the key business decisions that flow from the data versus just data “digestion”

Then and only then get the key team members together, (and these need to be longer meetings - 90 minutes to 2 hours at a minimum) and let the “Eureka” moments flow!

None of the above is complicated. 

Just diligently collect and review those three big buckets of data, meet to talk about it, and watch both the better business decisions and $$ flow!

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4 Well-Known Companies to Emulate


 

recently wrote that, when it comes to customer relationships, most businesses should NOT emulate Amazon, since Amazon's margins are so thin.

 Many of you replied with "then who SHOULD we emulate?"

So, I did a bit of thinking and came up with 4 well-known companies to model. They are:

  1. For margin, Warby Parker.
  2. For recurring revenue, Uber.
  3. For profitable reselling, Grainger.
  4. And for lifetime customer value, McDonalds.

Warby Parker. Warby Parker is an online store for prescription sunglasses and eyeglasses that since their founding in 2010 has taken the Lenscrafter “eye doctor in a mall” concept and fully “Internet-ized” it. 

Trailing twelve month revenues for the company is over $100 million and the company was valued at over $1.2 billion in its last round of funding.

As they have grown, they have also had amazing success with a hybrid “bricks and clicks” model where customers can try on frames in one of their 50+ retail locations and then order them online, right in the store.

Very impressively, for a mid-priced player in the eyeglasses space, Warby’s gross margins are estimated at a healthy 60%+

Warby manages this killer combination of moderate prices and solid margins through supply chain efficiencies on the back end and on the front end picture perfect web branding and “white glove” customer service. 

How to emulate this great business? Well, first do a quick status check on the perceived value and differentiation of your offerings via running the “what would happen if I doubled my prices?" thought experiment.

If the answer comes back that sales would plummet as customers would leave for lower priced competitors, then the needed places where our offerings lack intrinsic and perceived value - because of operational inefficiencies and / or branding ineffectiveness - should become readily obvious.

And then get to work to fix those places!

For recurring revenue, Uber.

Because of their well-publicized internal troubles and management dysfunction, Uber these days is everyone's favorite business punching bag.

But of course the company is incredibly deserving of heavy admiration and emulation for how, in just a few short years, they've re-engineered and become the default offering for a massive business category.

And in so doing they created a powerful recurring revenue business model based as much on their organizational design as on their marketing and technology prowess.

Uber, perhaps like no other company in history, has through its business model empowered the people that work in it to create and drive its recurring model.

These now over more than 1 million Uber drivers around the world that every day leave their homes (for no base pay!) to canvas 300+ of the world’s biggest cities and thus make it so easy for Uber customers to buy transportation from the company.

Again and again and again.

Our challenge is to similarly “crack the code” of empowering the people connected to our business - employees, contractors, partners, even vendors and customers - to "sell for us" in a way that benefits all.

Franchising is a great “old school” way of accomplishing this and Uber the ultimate 21st century technological way to do so.

Most organization designs will fall somewhere in between, but there is powerful insight to be had in reflecting on how the very structure of our business either motivates or hinders customers to “passively” transact with us, over and over again.

For profitable reselling, Grainger.

Very many companies have as their business model distributing / reselling, - i.e taking products and/or services made by someone else and then inventorying, marketing and selling them.

These kinds of businesses are under severe “disintermediation” threat, as technology allows buyers and sellers to connect directly with each other, and thus bypass “middlemen” like Grainger.

Grainger's awesome re-selling trick - even though they sell mostly to just businesses in construction, manufacturing, and building maintenance environments - is to personalize the purchase experience in such a way that they, and not the actual maker of the products, get selling credit for the products’ “emotional” aspects - i.e. stress reduction, status enhancement, etc.

The end result is gross margins of 40%+, well above competitors in its category, and a stock up more than 300% in the past 10 years (50%+ above the S&P for this same period).

For companies that sell B2B, learning from Grainger is easy - just talk to customers not as faceless representatives but rather as living, breathing, and feeling human beings.

The Grainger Everyday Heroes video series show us exactly how to do this.

Finally, there is McDonalds for lifetime customer value.

Through its play places and its Happy Meal toy-based marketing, McDonalds establishes brand loyalty and joyful associations for customers at the youngest of ages and then continue for a lifetime.

This mindset - that we will market to and serve our customers for 50 - 60 years and more - creates a whole different conversation around our customer relationships.

Warby Parker, Uber, Grainger, McDonald's. 

Learn from them and both your customer and your bottom line will thank you.

What about You? Do you need help marketing your products or services so they attract more customers and boost your bottom line?

Was your last new product or service launch a huge success? If so, great!

If not, send me an email to [email protected] In the email, please give me a brief overview of your situation, and I'll email you back my thoughts.

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5 Keys to Launching New Initiatives


 

The world’s best run businesses efficiently and effectively decide upon, launch, manage and optimize new business projects and initiatives.

In contrast, poorly run businesses struggle mightily to do so on all fronts.

They struggle deciding where to invest scarce project time and resources.

Once they do decide, they then struggle to get those new projects launched.

And if they do manage to get them launched, sadly far more often than those projects just don’t work out, are abandoned, and things are frustratingly returned to business as usual.

How can your business avoid this sorry fate?

Well, here are Five Keys that separate companies and organizations that successfully launch and execute new business initiatives from those that don’t:

#5. They Choose Wisely. For existing businesses serving existing clients (i.e. not startups), it is almost always better to take on only 1 - 2 “change” projects at a time.

Whether it is a web site redesign and relaunch, a development of a new product, implementation of new sales software, rewriting of job position roles and responsibilities, the pursuit of an outside financing, or really anything else that is not “business as usual,” finding the needed proactive and "reflective" energy to focus on more than just a couple of these initiatives at a time is unrealistic.

Far better is to invest more upfront time to determine which initiatives are most mission critical / have the highest ROI, and to then work to execute on them sequentially versus in parallel.

#4. They Know Their People. Conjuring up and doing “new” things is a talent that the significant majority of business people simply do not possess.

This is especially true in smaller, founder-led companies where the main guy or gal is a high creative, high ambition individual who then tends to fill out their organization with more process driven folks to execute upon all of his or her great ideas.

However, this “I dream, you do” dynamic can lead to a lot of frustration as the entrepreneur/founder can often feel that their team just doesn’t “get it” and big communication gaps open up such that key company-building projects get off track often as soon as they get started.

Instead of getting frustrated the founder / entrepreneur needs to identify (the Gallup Strengths Test is one of my favorite tools to do so) those in their organization NOT designed to take on new things and then...don’t give them any new things to take on!

 #3. They Get Outside Help. The natural corollary to the above is to "let in" the deep and wide world of outside consultants and service providers of every stripe, from all around the globe, and just hire them to drive the needed new stuff forward for you.

What is particularly great here is that it is usually far easier to drive hard and demand results from outside contractors or consultants, than it is from one’s own employees!

#2. They Hire a Change Champion. When budgets are there, hiring a person to be a company’s “Change Champion” is a great best practice.

This person should report directly to the CEO and be empowered to "run roughshod" on and over any bureaucratic bottleneck, excuses, and less-than-stellar effort from team members charged with leading and making happen the key change initiatives.

The most successful Change Champions have the emotional makeups of successful sports coaches - they find the balance between "tough love" accountability and positive motivation and just the very act of having a person like them in the organization is a powerful signal that a company's leadership is truly willing to “walk” the change and innovation “talk.”

#1. Toughen Up. The world's best run businesses recognize the magnitude of the “change challenge” and commit themselves as a team to the additional work and highly resilient attitudes to get it done.

These change leaders do not tolerate weaknesses or excuses - in themselves nor in their co-workers, not from a place of “jerky” blame but rather from a one of inspiring themselves and all in their orbits to be their best and most aspirational professional selves.

And every day as their organizations build more of this “change muscle,” they are able to complete their best change and growth initiatives more efficiently and profitably.

Be like them.

What about YOUR organization? How well does your organization launch new initiatives? Was your last new product or service launch a huge success? Have you successfully built systems to streamline operations and increase sales and profits like clockwork? If so, great! If not, send me an email to [email protected]. In your email, tell me about an initiative that absolutely must be a success for you. And then I'll email you back my thoughts to help you.

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Why Amazon is Wrong


 

One of Jeff Bezos’ hallmarks in meetings is leaving an empty chair to represent the needs, wants, opinions, whims, and moods of the customer.

But while that strategy might work for a behemoth like Amazon, for the vast majority of “normal” businesses, it is exactly the WRONG strategy

Because somewhere in all of the customer catering and adjusting and customizing and personalizing done by Amazon and the other big online retailers...

Somewhere in the management canon where it reads that the "customer is always right...”

Somewhere in that so firmly held modern sense that customers are entitled to everything...

Somewhere in all this what has been lost is the consideration for the other side of the deal.

For the seller. For the operating business.

Because focusing too much on what customers think and feel can be a sad road to ruin for very many businesses.

Why?

Well, first of it all it can have us attempt the very unpleasant undertaking of morphing who we are and what we do to fit too wide a spectrum of customer types, budgetary capacity, and scope of need.

And it can tempt us to promise solutions and benefits that in our heart of hearts we know are impossible to deliver upon.

It can also cause us to dangerously reduce our prices.

While doing so might work for companies like Amazon with virtually unlimited financial resources and the ability / willingness to make almost zero margin on individual sales, the vast majority of normally sized businesses will almost always be harmed (sometimes severely) by "race to the bottom" price cutting.

And perhaps most profoundly, too much accommodating to customers makes business owners and executives feel bad.

About the value they bring and about the value they feel they deserve.

Now this word “deserve” is a loaded one because no one in modern business deserves anything

So this feeling of “deserving it,” if not channeled properly, can easily result in a lot of very unproductive emotional anguish.

But with just a little re-framing, this feeling can be channeled into powerful fuel and motivation to “solve the riddle” of persuading customers to happily give us what we as entrepreneurs and executives feel we deserve.

Solving the riddle might involve marketing and sales and branding and pricing tricks, techniques, and "hacks."

And solving it certainly will involve providing our customers with SO MUCH fundamental and intrinsic value that they are thrilled to pay for it at a price where we earn a healthy profit.

Of course this is hard to do.

Customers, as is natural, will always try to get the best deal they possibly can so the burden will always be on us to get to true win-win.

Winning via deeply pleasing and serving customers with the value we provide.

And winning via having those same customers be thrilled to pay for and consume that value at the price and on the terms we request.

So enjoy Amazon as well all do as customers.

But don't try to be like them as a business.

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Profitable Change


 

Making profitable business change happen is hard.

Sure, there are treasure troves of books, articles, and seminars, including a lot of recent science - based studies, that we can all access to guide us as to change management best practices.

Much of it is very wise, and it is always good to immerse oneself in quality business thinking - if only to pull that one great idea that inspires new and different business action.

But really, the only essential ingredient for effective and profitable business change is plain and simple: One person who has both the will and the authority to propel and drive it.

This simple truism is easily obvious to anyone that has ever successfully sold anything of any consequence into an organization.

What good sales people intuitively understand is that there is either an individual on the other side with the willingness and ability to commit their organization to a suggested course of action, or there is no deal to be had.

This does not mean that collaboration and discussion and reporting and decision-making structures in organizations are not important, of course they are.

But for any business initiative of real consequence, there needs to be that one guy / that one gal that drives it forward, or nothing will happen.

From this flows a pair of equally simple but profoundly important business insights.

The first is for those in marketing and sales functions, i.e. those with the mandate to reach out to other businesses with the message that we, for a price, can solve your big problem / help you capture your big opportunity.

To these brave and inveterate souls, I kindly say identify that empowered, charismatic, and brave individual on the other side and sell to them and them only.

And its natural corollary, if you aren’t talking to that individual, or more often than most of us want to believe, if no such individual exists on the other side, then...

...you aint making no sale.

The second insight is for those tasked with driving important internal company initiatives.

And it is that the only person within any organization that can effect positive change is...of course you and only you.

No matter your role, your title, your responsibility, your budgetary authority.

Yes, as it was once so famously said, we must be the change we seek in the world.

And in our companies.

There are always excuses of why it can't and shouldn't be you.

Too young. Too old. Too new to the company. Challenges too big. Etc., Etc., Etc.

All the above may be true, but so what?

Let’s just be the change we seek.

And make the magic happen.

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Put me in Coach!


 

My sons Teddy and Jay Jay are sports crazed 9 and 10 year old boys and so springtime means only one thing to them - Little League Baseball.

And a blessing in my life over the years has been coaching their teams.

Let me first note that I started coaching out of a sense of obligation.

I have two boys playing on the same team and folks willing to donate copious amounts of time and energy to manage and lead youth sports teams are always in short supply.

But from the very first practice when my boys were just four and five years old I was hooked.

It is just something about being outside, with kids, celebrating triumphs together, wiping away more than a few tears together, well it’s baseball, it’s life, and it's a heck of a lot of fun too!

Now that my boys are older it's all still in good fun, but score is most certainly being kept and this past weekend the competition and hard desire to win from players, coaches, and parents was palpable.

And without looking hard at all, many on life, on leadership, and on entrepreneurship were there for the taking.

First, this quaint but profound idea that the game is meant to be played right, or not at all. 

Now coaching youth sports has not made me holier than thou, but it has taught me how shallow victories can be when they are attained through bending or clandestinely flouting the rules and spirit of the game.

Then there is Hemingway's beautiful definition of courage as “Grace Under Pressure."

Well, watching a mix of unevenly talented kids try to accomplish that most difficult thing in all of sports - hit a pitched baseball - with usually most of the important people in their young lives watching (and from their perspective - judging) how well they do it...

...well if nothing else it has been for me a profound window into the emotional and philosophical elements that impact being our best selves at those moments that matter most.

What I have seen that works best is a relaxed confidence, a“Zen” place where this game, this at bat, this swing is the most important one of our lives, and...

...means nothing at all.

And finally the wisdom that in the end playing good baseball, like most good things, just comes down to a LOT of practice.

For sure some of us are more talented than others so need to practice less, but in our hyper competitive world any kind of meaningful winning is impossible without a lot of it.

And so the question I ask myself is how much are we, as adults, practicing our craft?

Now this "adult work" practice is of a less defined form than practicing hitting a baseball, but keeping up with and mastering the latest trends, technologies and innovations in our chosen profession is a often overlooked but critical success factor.

And the really great thing about practicing at work like this, unlike the untold thousands of little leaguers who practice every day with the almost impossible dream making it to the major leagues, is that most of the folks that we compete with in business don't practice at all!

Sure, we all send a lot of email and texts, we surf the net pretty well, but how many of us deep in our career really work on getting better at our craft like young athletes do?

It may not be as exciting and life memorable as scoring that winning run in a little league baseball game, but it is always the right thing for our businesses and careers.

Play by the rules, be always in the moment, and practice and prepare with all of your heart.

It works in little league baseball, and in business and life too.

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What to Do When You’re At a Business Crossroads


 

Last week I sat down with the owner of a multi-million dollar, profitable information services company and discussed his business growth and exit plan.

For him, it was the “best of times” in many ways. He was living the American dream. He owned his own business and had an affluent and enviable lifestyle.

But it was also his “worst of times,” with storm clouds gathering that threatened to wash away everything he had worked so hard to build.

For the past 5 years, his business had had flat revenue growth, with a combination of competitive pricing pressures and customer churn creating a frustratingly one step forward, one step back dynamic of no real business progress.

And this late 50s-aged entrepreneur admitted to me that he was suffering from what he described as “creative exhaustion” - finding it near impossible to get excited about new ideas and approaches to grow his business.

And while he didn’t say it, I felt from him an even more perilous exhaustion - a lacking of stamina to implement and “stick with” any of those ideas or approaches no matter how potentially transformative they might be.

Now, there are no “right” answers as to what at this juncture he should do.

Heck, his best choice could be to just “keep on keeping on” - getting older every year for sure, but also making good money without too many obvious headaches or risks as well.

Unfortunately there is that pesky little word “obvious.” Because lurking right beneath the surface are host of business problems ready to pop their ugly heads.

The first of these problems is the natural “entropy” of modern business - i.e. without a significant exertion of ongoing and proper effort, a company’s almost certain future is slowly declining revenues and far more pressingly rapidly deteriorating margins and profits.

The second problem is philosophical, but vexing nonetheless. A do nothing “Waiting for Godot” approach just feels wrong, and does so especially for entrepreneurs whose ambition, competitiveness and unwillingness to accept mediocrity is what makes them first successful in the first place.

And then there is opportunity cost - the huge sums of money that moderately successful small businesses like this one leave on the table by not breaking through and getting to that next level of growth and success.

In the case of this $4 million+ business, because of its flat revenue and profit growth, the high end of its expected value is probably 3-5 times last twelve month’s earnings, valuing the business now in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, as effective innovation is able to drive the business to double digit percentage revenue growth - along with a credible business plan to build on that growth in the years-to-come, a sales price of 2-3 times last 12 month’s revenues is potentially attainable.

Or the difference between a few hundred thousand dollars of exit value and $8-10 million of it.

Now, for sure, "going for it" and trying new and different business things carries risks and causes discomfort. 

Those new things might not work, and almost always require investment of capital and time without any assurance of return.

And, the discomforts are manifest, ranging from facing the “look in the mirror” fears as to whether you still "have it," to the need to clean out organizational "dead wood," oftentimes family and close friends, to give the business the best chance of success.

But almost always, taking these risks and accepting these discomforts are the right business choice.

And most of the entrepreneurs I speak to, feel and know that it is.

It just comes down usually to finding the courage and re-discovering the work ethic to do so.

Nobody will scold you if you don't, but also never will you inspire yourself or others...

And oh yes, there is a LOT of money at stake, too. 

So why not go for it?

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The Economy is Growing at 4.3%. How About Your Business?


 

Did you hear Monday's exciting news?

That the US GDP is forecast to grow 4.3% this quarter.

Unfortunately, most businesses won’t realize this fast growth in Q2.

Why?

Because for too many companies their daily realities are just a series of squeezes:

Pricing squeezes driven by aggressive competition and ever-higher customer demands

Margin squeezes driven by shrinking gaps between employee profitability potential and their pay expectations

and perhaps most vexing, ideas and innovation squeezes between the changes that executives know are needed at their companies....

...and their creative and execution capacity to get them done.

Is your business experiencing one or several of these squeezes?

And if so, do they feel even more frustrating because of all of the growth you see in businesses all around you?

My friend and famed marketing consultant Paul Lemberg talks about four things working together that can transform those tight feelings of being squeezed into elated ones of business progress and success.

They are:

1). One above-average idea that inspires your market and leverages your assets.

I love Paul's use of the phrase "above average" - i.e. that we don't have to wait for that one Einsteinian / Steve Job's-esque world changing idea to transform our business.

No, just pretty good ones will usually suffice.

Like repackaging an existing product or service into a more modern and customer friendly form, such as selling services on a subscription versus a fixed project fee basis...

...Or “extending the day” via serving an adjacent market - like school caregivers (therapists, nurses, etc.) working in home healthcare in the afternoons and evenings...

...Or even something as organizationally simple as starting work 30 minutes earlier and leaving 30 minutes later every day.

These are good, but not world-changing ideas. 

But when properly executed can make meaningful and sustainable differences to the top and bottom lines.

2). Communications so clear prospective customers easily grasp the value.

The guide post word here is simplification.

Say in few words versus many.

Or with a picture better still.

Our modern business world is filled with many amazing role models in this regard.

Apple. Uber. Slack. WeWork.

All of Hollywood.

Yes, simplifying at the level of design elegance and creative excitement as these big boys do is hard.

But my experience is that the branding and marketing of most smaller companies is so bad that even a quick refresh can make a big difference.

3) Pricing so both you and your customers are happy and you earn excess profits.

Hermann Simon, author of Confessions of the Pricing Man How Price: Affects Everything, built a $300 million+, 860 employee consulting firm focused exclusively on advising many of the biggest companies in the world on pricing strategies that maximize profitability and the customer purchase and consumption experience.

He talks about the “Win-Win” duality - that we can charge a profitable price for our products and services and have it be one that our clients and customers feel good about it.

How do we arrive at these right prices?

That word again, innovation.

Odds are high that the prices we charge now are sub-optimal, so it is just a matter of analysis to determine what that optimal pricing should be and then courage to make and stick to these new (usually higher!) prices.

4) Consistent marketing that creates new business at an acceptable cost.

In spite of the constant churn of modern markets, we must have faith that as we increase the value we offer to our customers, and then sell that value at the right price and focused on the right benefits...

...that these changes we make will last and work for a long time.

And 4.3% economic growth makes everything easier.

So what are you waiting for?

Need Feeling Squeezed and want help getting your business moving Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Innovation and Growth Experts.

 

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NASDAQ 6,000 and Your Business


 

Yesterday, the NASDAQ crossed the 6,000 mark, its first breakthrough "round number" since 2000 when the widely followed technology index reached 5,000 for the first time.

For sure, fueling the index's steep recent rise (up 17% since November 7th) has been the solid uptick in business confidence and enthusiasm since the election.  

But this is only a small part of the story. 

The rest of the story is told in the list of the world’s five most valuable companies, as in:

#1. Apple, approaching an all time high value yesterday of $758 billion and the most valuable company in the history of the world (wow). 

#2. Google, valued at $607 billion.

#3, Microsoft, at $596 billion.

#4. Amazon, at $434 billion. 

#5. Facebook, at $425 billion.

Looking at these famous names and these astronomical numbers, our first thought often can be great for them, but what does it have to do with me and my business

Or with the other 99.99% of businesses without the vast financial resources, global brands, and treasure troves of intellectual property like these tech behemoths?

How about everything?

For today and evermore. 

Because, in this NASDAQ 6,000 world of ours, we are all either technology businesses...

...or we are nothing at all.

Because if we can’t face and overcome the intense and business fatal threat of technological obsolescence...

...of machines and code allowing these tech. giants and their ilk, or businesses of a similar size to our own, but nimbler and more innovative... 

...to do the work we do for our clients better, faster, and cheaper that we can with our legacy systems and processes...

...then irreversible business decline is our certain fate.

Now, of course it is not all clouds and rain.

NASDAQ 6,000 also shows us that the counter is true too - that as we do technology right there are billions and trillions of dollars out there and ours for the taking.

Unfortunately, here is where too many of us get stuck.

In spite of dawn-to-dusk work ethics...

In spite of lifetimes of impressive academic and professional achievement...

In spite of deep training and vast real world problem solving experience in our chosen fields, industries and markets...

We don’t think we can do it.

That tech. is "over our head".

Or even worse that our only choice is to hire outsiders to do it for us.

The dreaded "IT guys."

Or, the tattooed, nose-ringed millennial that "knows social media."

Or the overseas firms that will build for us "this stuff" on the cheap.

Sure, these business types all have their value - in my business we work at least one of each of the above.

But if we want to - as the Big Boys do - capture the value for ourselves - as the Big Boys do - we can’t outsource it.

We have to be the technologists. 

All of us - in every business.

Yes I know, it is a long and hard road to build a technologically impressive company.

But the first step is to understand the “Innovate or Die” nature of the challenge.

That should get us out of our bed early to get after it.

And all of the money to be made in a NASDAQ 6,000 world should keep us there. 

To Schedule a complimentary consultation as to your company's technology and innovation strategy Click here.
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The Fall of American Retail: Don’t Let This Happen to Your Business


 

The retail industry's woes have crossed the tipping point...

Already in 2017, we’ve seen these store closing announcements:

JCPenney (138 stores to be shuttered), Radio Shack (552 stores), Payless Shoes (400 stores), Macy's (68 stores), Sears and Kmart (150 stores), The Limited (250 stores), American Apparel (110 stores), BCBG (120 stores), and Staples (70 stores).

This amounts to more than 89,000 retail workers being laid off since October, with sadly many more to come.

The root cause is obvious - the unassailable competitive pressures brought on by the cost, convenience, and customization advantages of e-commerce that builds every passing year (more than $40 billion / year in online cannibalization of retails sales every year since 2013) and now probably has reached the point of no return.

Now let's put aside the cultural implications of a world of hollowed out shopping malls, boarded up down towns, job dislocation and the poignant shift from an in-person commerce model in place since the start of recorded history to us all sitting alone in our underwear and just pressing “click."

Let's put it aside because as business people our jobs are not to engage in wistful sentimentalities, but rather to address economic conditions and technological realities as they are and will be and not as perhaps we would like them to be...

...and plan and act accordingly.

And so the next time we walk by a shuttered store front - especially one of a retailer where perhaps in our youth was a particularly special place (for me it was Radio Shack) it is ok to be sad for a moment but then we must transition quickly to the passionate and even angry feeling that "This will not happen to me and my business!"

That NO our businesses will not be reduced to a statistic, to a misty water-colored memory

Instead, we will learn from the causes of the fall of traditional retail and not do those things. As in:

  • Not get into a position where legacy, high cost structures make it impossible to realistically compete with leaner, more efficient rivals. And if we are in a high cost position now, we will unwind those costs immediately because if we don't do it for ourselves, our customers flocking to lower cost providers will very painfully do it for us.
  • Not think our brands and reputations, no matter how old and sturdy they might be, will save us. Yes, it can be helpful in a trust challenged Internet world to have a known brand and sturdy reputation, but the former can quickly turn to a stodgy liability and the latter can fall apart in an instant (see Airlines, United).
  • And just not think that the particular business model we have now is going to last forever because it won't.

So if the writing on the business wall is such that your particular way of doing things is firmly in the cross hairs of the modern technological onslaught, then sometimes the most honorable and profitable (or loss mitigating) thing to do is to accept your business model as it stands now is truly doomed...

...and either radically change it or shut it down and do something else.

Now, the good news is that in the long run it is far easier to win at something that is aligned with modern progress than to fight to keep alive for “just another day” a flawed and anachronistic business model.

So no matter how stuck or old or frustrated we might be, we just gotta believe that a new and better business thing is right around the corner and is ours for the taking...

...because this is the only right kind of sentimentality for our technological age.

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