Mr. Aravinda Korala on ATMs, FinTech, Mobile and More [Recorded Video Conference]


 

On this recorded video conference, Mr. Aravinda Korala, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of KAL Software, joins us for the March edition of our Growthink Innovators video conference series.

Mr. Korala started his company in 1989, and has built KAL into the world’s largest independent supplier of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) software, with installations in more than 80 countries and over 300,000 ATMs worldwide. Marquee clients include Citibank, ING, UniCredit, and China Construction Bank.

Along the way, Aravinda has truly travelled the world, averaging more than 40 weeks per year of international travel, visiting with banks and financial industry technology providers around the globe.

From this lifetime of experience and relationships, Aravinda has developed deep wisdom as to what is real and what is hype when it comes to banking and financial industry disruption brought on by the FinTech revolution.

A Conversation Not to be Missed!

On the recorded video conference Aravinda and I discuss:  

  • The transformations that will shape the bank branch of the future 
  • The role of the ATM and other types of self-service machines in the future delivery of financial transactions.  
  • How can banks’ IT departments can preserve their flexibility and protect their budgets as their hardware and software vendor(s) scramble to adjust to the various and significant FinTech industry disruption and changes
  • And much, much more!

Who is This For?

This Innovator Series conversation is designed for:

  • Entrepreneurs and executives looking to learn from someone who has truly done it - built a great, global company from scratch and from a lifetime of high intensity, high integrity effort
  • Banking professionals (both in business and technical roles), with a vested stake in the fast-changing financial technology landscape.
  • Anyone just curious about how consumers and banks will be impacted by the projected $150 billion investment into new financial technologies over the next 3-5 years.
To view the video conference recording, click the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2633180096350683394

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What Do Top Athletes and Top Executives Have in Common?


 

Businesspeople, of course, love sports. This is evident in so many ways.

From the vast sums spent by companies on sports advertising, sponsorships, luxury suites, etc., and more to the point from the common sayings and cliches of both worlds.

These range from the classic sales axioms - "take your swings," "get the deal across the end zone," "this one is a Hail Mary," to the universal pleas of coaches and managers "to be a team player," "support each other", and my eternal favorite to “bring your A-game.”

The sayings might be trite, but the mindsets and daily actions of top athletes and top executives are
very similar.

It starts with sports at its most fundamental - keeping score and at the end of the game having a winner and a loser.

Top executives lead from a similar “no excuses” frame.

Top marketers know their prospects either filled out the “Contact Us” form or they didn’t.

For top salespeople, their prospects either bought or they didn’t.

Top managers have either happy, productive employees, or they don't.

And the companies that top CEOs lead are either growing and profitable, or are shrinking and losing money.

And just like with top athletes, it is all on them and them alone.  

The flip side of this tough love “win or lose and there is no in between” frame is how "tabula rasa" sports naturally are.

The best athletes always focus on the next game.

They don’t rest on past glories and accomplishments nor catastrophize the "damning effect" of past losses and setbacks.

Famed coach Bill Belichick is a great example in this regard.

Before he won five Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, his record in his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns was a middling 36-44.

Yes, it is nice to have a track record of business success, and for sure it is discouraging to have one of failure.
 

But...top executives know that the true value of their enterprises is based solely on its intended plan of accomplishment - and its probability of achieving that plan- in the months, quarters, and years to come.

And then my favorite, and hardest, lesson from sports for business is how much top executives can learn from the life choices of the very best and most successful athletes.

The very best athletes - the Olympic Gold Medalists, the Masters Champions, the Super Bowl Winning Quarterbacks - define and value themselves through their sporting accomplishments.

For the very best, it is far more than a game.

It is a burning desire to win that runs as deep and hard as desire can.

And from that desire flow a whole series of life choices and disciplines.

What to eat, what to drink.

When to sleep, when to rise.

Who to have as trainers, advisors, coaches.

All of these life and professional decisions and more are guided by the simple goals of winning, of striving to win, of being the best.

Now, does being a peak performing executive require the same kind of monomaniacal focus and discipline?

Yes it does.

The negative of this is that it is a lot of work and sacrifice.

The positive is that for the executives at the top of their profession, and for those striving hard to get there, their work is truly a labor of love.

And the sweetness and joy and satisfaction they feel when it all comes together and their businesses just take off and prosper....

....makes it so much worth it!

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It's March 1st, Five Ways to Profit from Today's Frothy Markets


 

Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 21,068, up 15% since Election Day, with since that time more than $3 trillion in new investment wealth having been created.

This rally has been both deep and consistent, with almost all market sectors participating, and with market volatility levels at their lowest level in 34 years.

What is driving the rally is the hope that the aspects of the new administration's policies that are clearly pro-business, namely tax, regulatory, healthcare reform and infrastructure investment, will outweigh those that potentially are not - trade and immigration.

Whatever the long-term might hold, and let us always remember legendary economist John Manynard Keynes’ dictum that "In the long run, we are all dead," at this moment the “animal spirits” of capitalism are at a
very juicy high water mark.

So the smart and ambitious executive feels and knows that now is the time to just get after it.

So, on this March 1st, with all of the exuberance and confidence in the business air, here are five ways to take advantage:

#5. Sell Your Company. Rising public markets, with big companies flush with fresh equity and thus able to more assertively pursue growth-by-acquisition strategies, creates a virtuous trickle-down effect on valuations and business sale probabilities for even the smallest of firms.

Primarily, the acquisition targets of the public market big boys are mid-sized businesses - $100 million to $1 billion in transaction value.

These mid-sized companies in turn look to, via acquisition as well, improve their strategic profile and growth rate through seeking buyout targets with enterprise values of less than $100 million.

Both observing and participating in this uptick in buyer demand are private equity firms - sensing a shorter time frames to exits for their portfolio companies.

For sellers, the natural result of all of this buyer confidence and urgency is better pricing and faster closings.

These conditions won’t last forever of course, but right now is about as perfect a business sale climate as we have seen felt since the 1990s.

#4. Prepare to Sell. The above is all well and good, but the significant majority of companies are just too small and financially unimpressive to even consider being sold.

If your business falls into this category, then instead focus on preparing to sell through researching and then emulating the attributes of the more successful businesses in your market.

Even if this research yields just the “obvious” insights - i.e. that my business needs to make more money, have more predictable revenue, have a better brand, etc. - simply taking the time to make the comparison is almost always illuminating and actionable.

#3. Ask Yourself What is Wrong. Talented executives are usually well aware of what they need to do to grow their businesses to attain their strategic and financial goals.

But they just can't seem to get it done.

Their classic bugaboos have been the same since time immemorial - clients not buying as much, or as easily, or at as high a price.

And / or employees not performing well enough, or the better ones not sticking around long enough.

How about instead of blaming stalling growth on problem customers and employees we place it where it squarely belongs?

On the shoulders of our leadership.

The best executives, when they see that their prospects and the customers are the wrong ones, they pivot and instead pursue, secure, and service the right ones.

If their employees aren't performing as they should, they either fire them or usually far better identify and improve those aspects of their business culture holding everyone back.

Yes, let’s channel Harry Truman and
always have the buck only stop with us.

#2. Learn More, Complain Less. Whether one agrees or with the policies of the new administration, or finds irksome the personality of the new President, the incessantly negative and gossiping media coverage about it is mostly pointless and usually depressing.

Let’s instead listen to Bill Belichick, the most winningest coach in football history and “Do Our Jobs.”

Let's tune out all of the toxic noise and instead invest our “media time” in learning how to do more of what we as executives and business owners should always focus on above else - growing the sales, profits, and value of our companies. 

#1. Speed Everything Up. No one knows how long the current market rally and big leap in business confidence will last.

But it will come to an end.

And instead of riding this upward wave, we will be dragged down by a declining and fear filled market.

So while the going is good, let’s act.

Let’s write that business plan. Launch that new sales campaign.

Make that new hire. Invest in that new product.

Do so with care and preparation and precision for sure, but absolutely don’t wait for things to be perfect before you do so.

We are in arguably historically good markets.

Shame on us all if we don't fully take advantage.

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What Do You and Elon Musk Have in Common?


 

This past week, I had a pair of experiences that painted in inspirational relief the power of innovation to change the world for the better.

The first was first reading the cover article of the most recent issue of BloombergBusinessWeek, featuring Tesla's and SpaceX's founder Elon Musk and his new "Boring Company, " and then traveling to SpaceX’s headquarters just a short drive from my Los Angeles office to see for myself what all of the hubbub was about

The Boring Company is Musk's and fanciful idea to build giant tunnels under the congested freeways of Southern California.

Musk and his team have already started digging, along with calculating the reduction in tunnel cost per mile, currently at $1 billion / mile(!), to make the economics of the project work.

This, like Tesla and SpaceX, is innovation on the grandest and most inspirational scale.

My second experience last week was one of innovation on a smaller and yes much more “boring” scale.

Through my firm’s advisory practice we are in the process of developing a business and marketing plan for a team of executives with a lifetime of experience in reducing workers’ compensation costs in high injury prone environments like large construction projects.

Sadly, for many of these projecs and work environments injury and workers compensation costs amount to as much as 12% of the total project cost.

This statistic is probably not surprising to any business person with first hand experience of workers' comp, especially in ”pro-labor” states like New York and California.

At the heart of the problem is the adversarial relationship that has traditionally existed between management, labor, and the insurance company before, at and after when a worker gets injured.

Our client's key innovation is to "flip" this traditionally adversarial dynamic to one of partnership and collaboration.

While the details about how they do it are confidential, suffice to say they are able to effect workers’ comp savings of as much as 80%!

The “aha” connection I immediately made was that it was the smaller, "boring" innovations like workers’ comp reform that make possible the larger, headline - making ones like Elon Musk’s giant tunnels.

Yes, we all need the Elon Musk’s of the world to dream and make happen very big ideas like the Boring Company...

But just as much so Elon Musk needs the smaller process and relational innovations to make his big ideas economically feasible and possible.

Very importantly, for the vast majority of businesses and entrepreneurs, it is almost exclusively through these “smaller” innovations where real money can be made.

This simple fact is more true today than ever, as the modern economy is so dominated by a relatively few number of societal-changing giant technology companies like Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber, Tesla, SpaceX, et al.

Odds are very long that any of our businesses will grow to their size and impact but...

...if we plan and act right, odds are very short that we can devise, build, and market new business models that thrive off of their big innovations.

So hopefully, the next time you are driving in Southern California, rather than crawling along on one of the region's painfully congested freeways, you are instead whisking to your destination through a safe and state-of-the art giant transportation tunnel.

I hope you do so with a big smile on your face, both from awe and excitement for this new mode of transport.

And because you had made your business thrive by finding and pursuing opportunities that handsomely profited from the big changes and innovations around us always.

No matter how small and boring they might seem.

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How "Frankensteining" Can Reinvent Your Business


 

This past Saturday night me and my nine and ten year old sons went to see the new Lego Batman movie.

I would like to say that they begged me to take them, but it was really the other way around. Because I love Batman and I love Legos!

And I have been so impressed with how Lego has re-invented itself from a stodgy manufacturer of plastic kid's building blocks into to one of the leading toy and entertainment brands in the world.

We excitedly made our way to the theater, and a mere $71.90 later were all happily chomping on our popcorn and enjoying a movie that entertains on all of the best levels: visually impressive, funny, and thought provoking for a mixed-age audience.

And when I read on Monday that the movie topped the box office charts with over $90 million in ticket sales on its opening weekend (against a production cost of only $80 million!), the phrase that immediately came to my mind was “Commercial Frankenstein.”

Yes, in making the movie Lego has mixed, matched and “Frankensteined” together a number of disparate concepts, storylines, and brands to create a new business form.  

A form monetizable with new customers and with multiple, additional revenue streams associated with it.

And we can all learn a lot from their crazy creation!

 Their first Frankenstein is the obvious combo-ing of the Lego and Batman brands.

For our purposes here, the basic concept is to “sizzle up” a somewhat flat and functional brand (Lego) by pairing it with a far more glamorous one (Batman!).

Restaurants famously do this by adorning their walls with pictures of celebrities enjoying their food.

Smart service providers do the same - highlighting in their marketing collateral and on their websites famous and well respected clients.

Co-hosting industry events is another great way to do this, as it can allow our brand to “bask in the reflective glow” of more "exciting" people and businesses in our space.

Another basic but often overlooked concept to borrow from a big tentpole movie like Lego Batman is to cross-sell and upsell everywhere and anywhere.

Lego goes all out - ubiquitous merchandising tie-ins, video games, cartoons, theme park attractions, sequels, etc.

An easy way to put this concept to work is through a “VIP Tier.” What this tier might lack in volume of buyers because of its higher price points it can more than make up for with profitability and the ability to “sell off premium” and thereby drive up pricing for more "core" product and service lines.

Finally, there is Lego’s clever expansion of its target demographic.  

Lego, at its core, is a children’s brand. Batman’s demographic overlaps with this for sure, but skews older.  

Then, the movie’s clever scripting and snappy dialogue (go see the movie, it is great!) accomplishes that holy grail of any kids' film: appealing to parents and an older audience.

We can do the same by finding the marketing “adjacencies” - those potential buyers just one level removed from our core customer demographic.

For software companies, it could be repurposing code to serve a related business process. For accountants, it could be selling predictive analytic and "Big Data" tools to help clients better forecast sales and cash flow.

And “Commercial Frankenstein” thought processes like these aren’t just limited to just marketing and sales.

In every business, ample opportunities always abound to morph operational and customer services processes to different and more vibrant forms.

It is as simple as mixing and matching traditional elements in ways that haven't been done before and then see what comes out....

When Lego did this, they transformed a boring plastic bricks business into a brand worth more than $7 billion.

How much value can you unlock by doing the same?

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Business Lessons From The Greatest Super Bowl Of All Time


 

As a lifelong New England Patriots fan, Sunday's Super Bowl was a sport-watching roller coaster like none other.

In addition to being an awesome inspirational adrenalin rush from the desperate competitive effort displayed by both teams, this game like few in recent memory served up many tasty nuggets of business value and wisdom. 

Here are my top five:

#5. Nothing is Over Until it is Over. Let’s say it again and again. In football, life, and business, it is
always best to just keep playing, with every ounce of our best effort, until that clock hits 0:00.

At one point, according to ESPN Stats & Info’s probability chart, the Patriots' chances of winning had dropped below 1%.

So what?

It is cliche because it is true: always we must keep at it, keep giving our all, both because you never know and as importantly...

...we owe it to the game, to our lives, to our businesses, to always give it everything we’ve got.

#4. Tom Brady. Has there ever been anyone in the public eye with such bountiful blessings of the good life who has also maintained their competitive fire for so long and so effectively?

What I see when I watch Tom Brady play is a deep and abiding love of the game.

And the byproduct of that love is that what matters above all else is not yesterday's victories or accomplishments, no matter how impressive they might be, nor those games to be played "someday" but this game right here, right now.

Business, at its best, is like this too.

What will we do for our clients and customers today?

How hard will we work to make our product / our service as great as it possibly can be?

How much will we strive to improve ourselves? To be the best?

Or if we are already at the top of our profession, what will we do and sacrifice to maintain that level as age tries to chip it away?

#3. Aggressiveness is Great, Planning is Better. The Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and built a seemingly insurmountable lead in it through one of the greatest offenses in league history.

Their game plan and team identity all season was one of aggressiveness and risk taking.

This is nice, but it doesn’t win Super Bowls.

At many points in Sunday’s game just a little more thoughtfulness in their decision making would have resulted in them making a play or two that would have easily won them the game.

But they were seemingly blinded by too firm a commitment to a style of play even when the game's circumstances no longer warranted it.

Sure, let’s be confident and aggressive in our plans and actions, but let’s also remember that these are just tools toward higher goals and not ends in themselves.

[Click Here to Register for My Webinar Next Week - 7 Keys to Business Plan Success]

#2. Losing is Terrible. No matter their future accomplishments, the Falcons’ players and coaches will never forget this loss.

This can’t and shouldn’t be sugar-coated. The hard truth is that winning is so much better than losing that it’s not even in the same universe.

In sports and business, you’ve got to win.

And yes in a higher number of scenarios than perhaps we would like to admit, to do so by any means necessary.

Because on very many levels nothing else matters.

#1. It is Just a Game. The paradoxical corollary to the above is that even though the Super Bowl is the biggest game played each season, in the end it is just one game.

And at the Monday press conference the morning after it, Patriot's coach Bill Belichick, after winning arguably the greatest of them ever played, already was talking about getting ready for the first game of next season.

Yes the great ones know it, both intuitively and from a lifetime of hard work and repetition that...

...you just give it all you got, to the final whistle, playing with both your head and your heart...

and hate losing as much as you love to win and then always it is...

...onto the next game.

This is how Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots do it, and how in our businesses we should too.

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Here's Why NOT to Trust Your Business Gut


 

According to statistics from BizBuySell, less than 1 out of 5 of businesses marketed for sale are able to find a buyer and to consummate a successful transaction.  

Even this depressing statistic vastly under-estimates how few companies are able to attain a successful exit, as the great majority of the over 6 million U.S. business owners are never able to even consider listing their companies for sale.

That’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears expended on work and businesses that yield comparatively very little.

Even more viscerally, working hard and long on a business that doesn't get to an exit is, far more often than not, a profound form of losing.

And losing sucks.

Now, there are always reasons and excuses as to why better and faster progress is not made: Cheap, overseas competition, difficulty in attracting and retaining talent, taxes, regulations, and perhaps my favorite the lament that one's struggles are caused by customers that don't “get” how awesome our products and services really are.

These reasons and excuses are just that. For every one of them, there are infinitely more possibilities and opportunities that with just a little refocusing of effort and action can turn declining or flat-lining business vectors into solid and sustainable growth trajectories.

Here are three of them:

1.  Always Ask This One Question.  The great Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's partner at Berkshire Hathaway for over 50 years and one of the most successful investors of all time, is famous for asking his managers this question when it comes to important operational decisions: "What is the Low Cost, High Quality choice?"

What I love about this question is that no matter the business process - marketing, sales, operational, financial - it forces us to not to make the classic (and lazy!) false choice between cost and quality: we can have and deliver both.

2.  Start at the End. Growthink Co-founder Dave Lavinsky’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship best-seller Start at the End should be required reading for any and all executives truly interested in building their companies to a successful exit.

In it, Dave goes into great detail as to the effective practice of business goal-setting far out in the future, and then how to work backward to today’s most important projects, tasks and to-do's.

3.  Trust Our Guts Less and the Numbers More. Pioneering work by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman has demonstrated that in almost all business arenas - hiring, marketing initiatives, sales teams, customer satisfaction, financial performance – almost always it is the cold, hard numbers that are right and our warm and fuzzy guts that are wrong.

This has always been true, but now for the first time we can protect ourselves from our guts, utilizing Predictive Analytics (automatically making sense and order of our Big Data world) and Business Intelligence Dashboards (automatically giving us a "Quantified Self" snapshot of where we stand in real time against our goals and what to do about it).

It is simple: Be numbers-driven, define as precisely as possible our long-term objectives, and at every turn make the lower cost, higher-quality choice.
Build these muscles and you will avoid becoming unfortunate destiny of the vast majority of your business peers…

…A Statistic.

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Opportunity & Danger on February 1st


 

February 1st is a great day to look at the various start-of-year economic and business predictions, and at our business resolutions and plans to profit from them.

Famously, the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, respectively signifying “opportunity” and “danger.”

What a great description for 2017 one month in!

Opportunity. With the new administration in Washington comes high hope for reform in five areas of strong business interest and concern: Corporate Taxes, Regulation, Infrastructure, Healthcare, and Education.

Real movement toward positive change in any one of these areas would have profound impacts on whole swaths of the U.S. and global economies.

To the degree that
all of these areas were to be successfully reformed, well that could result in the kind of 3% - 4% annual GNP growth not seen in America and in other developed economies in 25+ years, which in turn would mean a whole new ballgame as to business opportunity and money-making.

Danger. Concurrent with its pro-business tenor this new administration has consumed much precious airtime on agendas both tawdry (size of inauguration crowds, media fights, etc.) and depressing (impractical and "small" executive orders on immigration and trade).

Quite simply, the businessperson’s hope is that the distractions and discouragements of the latter don't crowd out and forestall action on the great promise of the former.

Opportunity. This week's announcement of Snap's IPO, combined with the expected public offerings later this year of Airbnb, Spacex, Spotify, Lyft, and Uber, reminds us yet again that
more than any other factors technology and innovation drive the business and financial world.

Yes, if there is a business process in need of improvement, whether it be to increase marketing effectiveness, sales conversion, customer engagement - or to reduce their cost in a meaningful way - then there is a technology service out there to help us do so.

Need Help with Your Short and Long Term Growth Plan? Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Growthink Consultant.

This is truly awesome, and we should not let our justified frustrations with modern technology’s complexity and capacity for distraction cause us to lose sight of the massive business opportunities it alone makes possible.

Danger. Right alongside its promise is technology’s massive threat.

The threat from cheaper - and oftentimes better and faster - overseas competitors that technology empowers.

The threats of cyber-security and cyber-warfare.

And the fundamental threat of technology to just eliminate the need for us altogether (see travel agencies, brick and mortar retail, taxi cabs, etc.).

So we all must develop strong processes and disciplines to build our companies such to be “technology hammers and not technology nails.”

And if you don’t know how to do this - how to build and act upon a technology strategy that protects and grows your business, then find someone to help you that does.

Promising. The best business people I know stay informed as to the wider world and its political and technology trends. They are also blissfully untouched by them.

They intuitively know that on a fundamental level businesses still succeed and fail as they have always done so -
in the micro and by its leaders working very hard, and focusing and striving on just being a little bit better every day in some meaningful business way.

And February 1st is a great time to look back at those start-of-year goals and plans (or make some if you don't have them!) and recommit ourselves to both dreaming big and backing those dreams up with daily hard and intelligent work.

Dangers. There's nothing dangerous about the above. When in business doubt, or anxious from the political and technological changes and upheavals all around us always - let’s come back to those few timeless, simple business principles.

Value, Integrity, Hard Work.

Those work on January 1st, February 1st, and Forevermore!

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Change this Habit & Watch Sales Soar


 

Last week, I wrote about the “Commercially Important People, the "CIPs," in all of our business lives, and of the importance of being very clear as to who they are (and are not!), and to then connect and communicate with them in a manner and with messaging apropo of their so special and valuable status.

A fundamental premise of the post was that the distractions and "leveling effect" of modern technology and social media make it dangerously easy to treat our contacts and professional network too much the same, and thereby not prioritize our CIPs to the exalted status they deserve.

So the first point was to just not do this - to recognize that for the vast majority of business types and executive roles electronic communication - email, text, social media, etc. - is fundamentally limited as to maintaining and growing the very high value relationships that can and do propel businesses forward.

Instead, we must and should nurture our CIPs as has been done since business time immemorial - in-person and over the phone.

Yes, with just the simple habit change of more meetings and phone conversations and less “electronic stuff” our best business relationships returns will go up significantly.

The key caveat is that the quality of our CIP interactions can and do swing wildly.

From interactions that are filled with positive energy, mutual value add, and win-win next step projects and action items... 

...to ones that are “salesy,” leave both parties feeling empty, and for our CIPs with the sense that that the next time our call comes in voicemail (and an unreturned one at that!) is its most likely destination,

How do we avoid this depressing fate? And especially so with our most Commercially Important People, the ones that  make multi-million dollar financial differences to our businesses?

Well, it comes down to a few bedrock principles on which every business rises or falls.

And again, in our technology-enabled, shallow communication-defaulted modern business world principals that we can too easily be distracted from and overlook.

The most basic of these is value.

Yes, before we pick up the phone, before our CIP steps into our office or we into theirs, before we go to that conference, lunch, dinner, golf outing, Burning Man, etc...

....we need to look deeply within our businesses and our ourselves and ask what real value we can and do bring to those that make the biggest difference in our business lives.

As in how much, in quantifiable dollars today and in the near future can we contribute to our CIP’s bottom lines?  

Or, more softly how can and will our CIPs feel better about themselves and their life prospects by speaking to and working with us?

Unfortunately, for too many businesses and executives what will be found as they ask these questions are big gaps as to “CIP value adds.” 

Our products and services are found to be dated, or overpriced, or incomplete in some critical way.

Or as damningly, we find our organization lacks the "evangelical" belief in those products and services that would inspire our CIPs to buy, use, and enjoy them.

As we identify these “value holes,” the only right response is to roll up our sleeves and work like heck to fill them.

To improve and modernize our product and service offerings.

To reduce their price. Or to add such great features and benefits to them that it is easy to increase it.

And to improve ourselves. 

To re-dedicate ourselves to our craft and rediscover the enthusiasm and passion we had for it when we first started.

As we do this, as we increase our fundamental business value and our ability to passionately embody and share it...

....we might just not find that not only do our calls with our most Commercially Important People go easily and swimmingly well...

...but we don't even have to pick up the phone to make them, as our CIPs are standing in a long and patient line just waiting and hoping for the opportunity to talk to us!

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Are You Using CIP to Grow Your Business? Why Not?


 

At Singapore Changi Airport for a fee available to all is the “Commercially Important Person,” or CIP experience.

At its highest "Jetside" level, as they exit their planes traveling CIPs have a uniformed agent greet and whisk them to the tarmac to a waiting Mercedes that chauffeurs them to a special terminal where customs is cleared quickly, luggage routed, and for travelers with connecting flights amenities of the elegant CIP lounge include complimentary food and drink, free wifi, private showers, and more.

While not materially different from high-end VIP experiences the world over, I find the phrase “Commercially Important Person” wonderfully evocative of the super pro-business culture for which Singapore is rightly famous, and a great one for entrepreneurs and executives to adopt as they think about those most important relationships that can and do propel their business forward.

CIP is value-neutral - it just recognizes that
of course some clients, partners, and employees are far more important than others for a company's bottom line and should be treated as such.

For client and partner CIPs better and more personalized service and attention.

For employee CIPs more money, perks and recognition.

All of this should be obvious. But in our technology and social media overwhelmed world, it can be dangerously easy to treat as of having the same value the various likes, followers, and online friends and connections that can be globbed onto oh so easily and seductively!

And then what happens is that start to treat quantity of contacts and breadth of exposure as sufficient measurements of marketing, sales, and client relationship management effort and success.

CIP is a shorthand to break out of this trap. We just ask:

How much value - in quantifiable dollars today in the near future - will this relationship bring to me and my organization?

Yes, this is an unfeeling question.

And a difficult one to answer, as most business relationships are somewhat indeterminate as to when and how they might be monetized, or might not lead to direct compense themselves but are enablers for other relationships that do, or are relationships that provide us the comfort and inspiration we need to build and do great things.

Yes, all of this is true and right and real, but...

...really grappling with what a business relationships’ true and quantifiable value actually is can save
a lot of wasted and frenetic effort.

My experience with this exercise is that the vast majority of businesspeople find that the truly Commercially Important People in their business lives are:

  • Actually far fewer than first surmised (or would be signaled by online connections / contacts)
  • That for most (but certainly not all!) types of business, it is far more profitable to have fewer, higher paying clients than a lot of lower paying ones
  • That for these “chosen few” clients, social media - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter et al - are terrible tools through which to cultivate with them deep and monetizable relationships
  • That email, no matter how personalized, is only slightly better

And so yes, in spite of all of our technological progress, in spite of the almost cultural “faux pas” it has become to not put technology at the center of all of one’s business efforts, that the best business is still done pretty much as it has always been - over-the-phone and in person.

Now, a really neat byproduct of this realization is that as we winnow down and focus our efforts on those few and truly relationships, that a lot of the noise of our business lives naturally goes away.

What is freed up is more business time to invest in those things that actually make us have more value to our clients in the first place.

Like investing in professional skills development.

And in preserving and cultivating our energy so as to be able to deliver those skills to clients that can both benefit from them and pay us for them.

And as we keep doing this over and over again, to and for the right and few commercially important people in our business lives, we might just start to find....

...that the most commercially important person in your business life will become exactly who it should be.

You.

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