Try this “back of the envelope” Big Data trick


 

The “big data revolution" just keeps getting bigger. 

And more confusing, too.

How can a small business make sense of it as big companies like Amazon, Cisco and FedEx do?

Well, there is a “back of the envelope” trick that can greatly reduce the time and expense of making decisions based on facts and data...

and not just “gut” and intuition.

Decisions like where to spend scarce ad dollars, the right messaging to use in those spends, who to hire, who to fire, which new products and services to develop, and the list goes on and on. 

And it is in this “on and on” element where data-based decision making gets complicated very quickly.

“Split tests,” regression analyses, choices as to which sets of data are important, which are noise, and then which software to use to organize and interpret it, to name just a few.

And even when we get all this right, the business challenge remains of doing something positive and profitable with it. 

The disappointing result of all of this complexity and ongoing intellectual burden is that data - based decision making, in most companies, is done sporadically, poorly, or not at all.

I don't see this dynamic changing anytime soon.

Most companies are just not going to benefit from the big data revolution as it is currently construed without a significant
simplifying of the process.

And a great “back of the envelope” simplification trick is the concept of Expected Value.

Expected value is the idea that for business decisions, there are just
two factors to consider - 1) the probability of the series of outcomes resulting from that decision and 2) their related economic values. 

Just get these two factors right and we can quickly determine whether or not any decision is a good, or a “Positive Expected Value” one.

From this frame we can break down complex decisions into simple bites.

To illustrate, let’s evaluate a simple marketing spend decision, such as deciding whether or not to invest in a new advertising campaign.

Let’s say we are considering a $15,000 monthly ad spend on Facebook, with the related goal / hope of securing 10 new customers from it that will generate on average $5,000 in profits each.

As we are clear as to the economic value of the success outcome - here, the $5,000 in profits from each new customer (which is usually reasonably easy to calculate) - we can focus on determining the outcome probabilities.

As in what is the probability that we generate zero customers from the spend?  

3 customers, which would get us to break-even? 

5 customers? 10? Or more?

When we grapple with these probabilities, the depth of our confidence or unease will become quickly evident.

More often than not, we’ll get to a vague “feeling,” and depending on how strong the feeling is, we will either just “damn the torpedoes” and plunge forward or get stuck in the dreaded “no decision” mode.

It is at this juncture where thoughtful data analysis can vastly improve our confidence, and speed of decision-making.

Some of this analysis can be benchmarking, as in utilizing the plethora of online competitive intelligence tools to determine marketing spends and yields of companies with marketing campaigns similar to ours.

Some of it can be vendor assessment, as in asking marketing agencies for data - based on examples of successful ad campaigns they have managed, again for scenarios similar to ours. 

And some of it can be internal, as in dispassionately evaluating our appetite for risk and comfort with uncertainty, and our ability to financially withstand losses from campaigns and new initiatives that don’t work - i.e. how much are we prepared to lose before we we win?

All of this analysis is still serious and difficult, but is far more “contained” when we do it exclusively for the determination of probabilities.
 

Try it for your next important business decision.

It allows any executive to quickly start making better decisions based on data.

Without getting lost in all of the numbers and the noise.

Are you facing a key business decision? Considering an important new initiative? Would you like help in evaluating its probability of success? And its related expected value? 

If so, then complete this short questionnaire and give us a brief description of your current situation.  And we’ll reach out with our thoughts to help you. 

Categories:
 

Want to Give Your Business a Quick and Easy Boost?


 

The dream of every entrepreneur is to build a company successful enough so as to one day be able to attract a buyer to and for it.

So as to reap a financial harvest and windfall. Sometimes in the millions of dollars, sometimes in the billions of dollars and at all points in between.

This is really a simple and straightforward goal.  

But one that so often gets lost in the noise, hustle and bustle of the daily business battle. 

This is especially true for closely-held private companies, who have the blessing and curse of not having “quarter-by-quarter” financial accountability as public companies do. 

It is a blessing in that this kind of financial reporting and accountability is a lot of work.

And kind of insulting too.

I mean, do we think that seasoned executives - with lifetimes of industry and domain experience - really want to listen to some “whipper snapper” analyst opine upon and question their strategy and approach? 

But of course this lack of feedback and accountability can be very much of a curse too.

For starters, because of it way too many private companies just don’t do any kind of financial reporting whatsoever. 

And if they do, and if results are disappointing, as opposed to the real time feedback that public companies would get in terms of their stock prices cratering, private company executives instead often get quite skilled at “rationalizing” poor performance on the myriad of usual suspects - economic conditions, overseas competition, employee turnover, product development delays, supply chain snafus, etc.

And as they do, sometimes even unknowingly that beautiful dream of a business exit and financial windfall recedes depressingly into the sunset.

Luckily there is a way to give any business a quick and easy boost.  

A boost toward better financial results.  

And a boost toward a faster timeline and better probability of a business sale at an exciting price.

To illustrate, let’s investigate two typical company scenarios:

Company Scenario #1: A company lacking great financial traction - slow revenue growth, little profit - but one that competes in an industry attractive to strategic and financial buyers.  Many software and healthcare businesses fit this description.

Company Scenario #2: A company with a solid revenue base - say more than $5 million in sales - but competes in an industry not one of great, current interest to buyers / investors.  Many distribution, manufacturing, and service businesses fit this description. 

Now, in both scenarios the likelihood of a third party buyer approaching these companies and making anything other than “fire sale” offers for them is quite low.

And because the executives running these companies think they know what their companies at their current point of development are worth they...

...do nothing. 

Sure, they work hard every day but they don’t make meaningful progress toward their most important goal - increasing the value of their business via improving its financial performance and strategic positioning. 

Now somewhat counter-intuitively, businesses “stuck” like this can, in very many circumstances, give themselves a quick and easy boost, simply... 

....marketing themselves for sale.

To prospective financial buyers. To prospective strategic buyers.  

To this wide and wealthy world of ours. 

Yes, yes, yes, I know there are concerns of confidentiality and distraction when so doing, but these are far outweighed by the vast benefits of putting ourselves out there, warts and all, for outsiders to evaluate and value.

Putting out there what our actual financial results have been.

Putting out there as to what our financial results will be, and why - in the form of well-documented and reasoned financial forecasts. 

And putting out there the “story” behind the numbers - the talent, work ethic, and integrity of our people, the suredness of our IP, the thoughtfulness of our product development roadmap, the sustainable competitive advantage of our operational cost structure, and the like.

Putting all of this out there and SO many good things come back to us.

Ideas. Relationships. Momentum.

All of which come back to us whether or not we actually consummate a business sale.

We will know just like a public company does what we need to do - financially, strategically, culturally - to attain our dreamed of financial harvest.

And we will attract to us new relationships and partners to help us get there.

And oh yes....we just might attract offers for our business at a price exciting to us.

And attain that financial windfall far sooner than we thought possible. 

Does Your Company Need a Boost? Would you like to explore how to accelerate your business down the path to an exit? Curious to know how buyers might value your company now?

If so, send a note to [email protected] with a brief description of your current situation.  I will review and reach out with some thoughts to help you. 

Categories:
 

Is More Software the Answer? Or the Problem?


 

Like most companies, every month my company pays for a lot of business software.

Here is a partial list:

What is this software helping us do more efficiently?

And what is it preventing us from achieving? 

Well, through it we get access to the best thinking and "secret sauces" from the world-class domain and functional experts that designed all of it, and work daily to improve it over time. 

The best research minds.

The best customer relationship and database minds.

The best collaboration and project management minds.

The best accounting minds.
 

The best email marketing and social media minds.

And the list goes on...for just a few dollars per day we can access a software tool - and with the right customization to our particular business challenge - upgrade virtually any under-performing aspect of our business and make it world class. 

But the complexity of all of this software can also easily prevent us from attaining our key business goals.

Webster defines complexity as “the state or quality of being intricate or complicated.”

And anyone who has ever spent a few passing hours trying to understand or customize a piece of business software knows exactly how intricate and complicated it can be. 

However, it is in these frustrating “in the weeds” moments where we most need to step back and connect the dots back to the big values our businesses are all about.

The value we seek to bring to our customers and clients.

And our internal values - the enduring missions and long-term objectives we seek to represent and attain as organizations.

To the degree we have clarity in these two value dimensions, the tactical purposes and connectedness of all of our software will come into simple focus.

And when it doesn’t, we just need to ask ourselves two simple questions.

First, does the software help enhance the value, real and perceived, my company brings to its customers and clients?

And relatedly, does it increase the likelihood of us accomplishing our key long-term goals and objectives? 

Yes, it can be sometimes hard to drill down from the 30,000 foot nature of these big questions to nitty gritty software features and functionalities.

But it’s also pretty straight forward and just requires focused effort on a periodic basis - say once per year - to yield great results.

Less complexity, more customer value, more mission-driven work, more competitive advantage.

Yes, when it comes to business software it is our choice whether we painfully watch it enable competitors to pass us by.
 

Or learn to use it best to help us win.

What about your company? Do you feel your company’s technology strategy is helping you best attain your business goals? If so, great and congratulations!

But if you need help in identifying areas where software and technology can help you reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction, then complete this short questionnaire and tell us about 1 -2 areas in your business that could use help. 

And we’ll reach out with our thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

Amazon Slashes Whole Foods Prices -- should you do the same?


 

Monday was Amazon’s first official day of ownership of Whole Foods.

And they wasted no time in putting their imprint on the high-end grocer, reducing prices on popular items by as much as 43%. 

Why are they reducing prices so much? And should your business do the same?

Well, to answer this question, let’s first look at how the market reacted for the traditional players in the supermarket and grocery store industry, who saw more than $12 billion erased from their market values.

Or that of Walmart, who immediately announced price cuts of their own.

Or that of politicians, who since the announcement of the acquisition in June have been almost uniformly against it. 

Then there are the reactions of actual Whole Foods’ customers. 

They reacted, of course, with excitement over the price cuts at a store derisively known as “Whole Paycheck” for its sometimes absurdly high prices.

And with excitement for the potential of some of Amazon’s famously consumer friendly benefits - like easy returns and free delivery - being ported over to the grocery store.

Now for we as business people, it is these customer feelings of strong excitement and desire for Amazon’s “Price Plus” value proposition - as in low price PLUS a branded, high quality and consistent customer experience....

...that make all the difference. 

YES, this is arguably the hardest thing to accomplish in business, but since its founding 20 years ago Amazon perhaps more than any other company in history, has proven that it is possible.

And Amazon is proving its corollary too, namely that to the degree a business cannot do both - as shown with the demise of Whole Foods as an independent entity - its almost certain fate is decline and failure.

Now the thought that most worries the chattering classes is that we are all just doomed.

They gripe who has the resources, the technology prowess, the maniacal customer centric culture and the willingness and ability to operate on thin margins seemingly forever like Amazon does to realistically compete?

To that I say humbug.  

Throughout business history, in any technology and market shift there are winners and losers.

The winners are those that embrace the technology and market conditions and challenges of their time and commit themselves to prevail in them. 

And the losers are those who cling stubbornly to the way things were as the world, and customers, just pass them by. 

So this should be our first point of solace - that the significant majority of our competitors, through some depressing combination of stubbornness, laziness, and bureaucracy, have already taken themselves out of the innovation game. 

Our next solace should come from both the example and inspiration of those like Amazon that are trying to innovate and disrupt things, along with the myriad of business wisdoms readily available online from their successes and setbacks.

And our most important solace should come from the blessed fact that, unlike the vast majority of businesses that are and have ever been, we have both the opportunity and strong probability to actually pull “Price Plus” off.

It simply starts with the excited acceptance of it as an over-riding business goal.

Then comes the long, hard but straightforward work of breaking the goal down into its component parts, first the outward facing ones - Brand Accretion, Customer Utility (real and perceived) and Competitive Pricing.

And then onto strengthening and leaning out the “bones” of our businesses - internal costs, operational efficiencies, and a mission and customer-centric culture. 

Put it all together and we truly have it all.

Brand. Profits. Growth. Enterprise Value. Impact.

Amazon is not the only one that can play that game.

What about your company? Do you feel your company can compete and win in the “Price Plus” game?  If so, great and great luck to you.

But if you need help in identifying the areas of your business that are falling down and holding you back, then complete this short questionnaire and tell us about 1 -2 areas in your business that need a revitalization. 

And we’ll reach out to you with our thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

Young Athletes vs Old Business People


 

How can we learn from the other group?

And use that wisdom to dramatically grow our businesses?

As a father of two sports-crazed sons, ages ten and eleven, and as the coach of now more than a dozen of their AYSO soccer and little league baseball teams, I have thought a lot about these questions, and into making the best sense of the “journey of competition.” 

You see, the starkness of youth sports, where score is so unequivocally kept, layered on top of the precious emotionality of youth, who feel winning and losing so viscerally well...

.. it just brings a few fundamental truths and wisdoms about the nature of modern competition right to the surface.

The wisdoms starts with this: No matter how good a young athlete might be (unlike in simpler, less technologically connected times), the Internet and social media make it quickly evident that there are multitudes of bigger, stronger, and just plain old better athletes than him and her out there.

And for sure, while on some levels this can be inspiring and motivating, the very magnitude of the competitive deficit can also be just plain old discouraging.

Modern business is similar, isn’t it?

Don’t almost all of us have now, from all over the world, hundreds if not thousands of able and determined competitors - competing hard with us, on price, on quality, on just plain hustle?

I mean really, no matter how much we are able to reduce costs, does it feel realistic to be able to compete on price with low wage, low regulatory oversight, low tax overseas competitors?

Or, in another dimension, competing in marketing and brand presence with the tech big boys, the Amazons and Apples and Googles of the world?

I call this “competitive baggage,” and youth sports force parents and coaches to confront it as we so often are required to explain, to impressionable young people, the path forward from painful and sometimes heartbreaking defeats. 

I have had the challenge to lead conversations like this on too many occasions to count over the past few years.

And the words and emotions naturally almost always come back to the same theme, to motivation, to why we play the game

To the degree it is for the "material stuff," to see our “name in lights,” it is inevitable that we will feel ongoing anxiety as to our relative abilities and worth.

But to the degree we compete on that most wondrous spiritual plane, for the love of it - of the game, of the work, of clean living, of teammates and colleagues, of healthy and non-envious respect for our adversaries...

...well when we compete like this, we will still have our setbacks and disappointments for sure, but some magical things will come blessedly to our aid.

First, we'll have a lot more fun.

Because loving something is the most fun we can have on this earth, is it not?

And from the fun will just naturally flow more of the hard work and long hours inherent to any pursuit of excellence.

And from this inspired hard work arises that soulful place of artistic expression, where we conjure up and create beautiful and unique products and services.

And even when those creations aren’t so readily differentiated, we make them so through the totality of experience - marketing, sales, delivery and service - that only we and our businesses can bring to them.

Put it all together and we can and will compete very well.

And win
far more than our share.

And have fun and passion everyday, as we do it, too.

How cool is that?

What about your company?  Does everyone in your company have the right kind of love and passion?  For the work? For winning? For leaving a legacy?

Do you need help in getting everyone fired up and rarin’ to go to win new business?

If so, then complete this short questionnaire - and tell us about a key initiative that if you execute upon it properly can propel your company forward in a new and powerful way. 

And we’ll reach out to you with our thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

Making Money and...an Impact


 

"McKinsey is not a strategy firm per se — it’s a leadership firm. While other organizations talk about strategy and analysis, we instead talk about leadership and impact." 

        - McKinsey Corporation, Who We Are

On one level, reading a quote like this isn't all that surprising. 

I mean, being “pro” leadership and “pro” impact isn't all that controversial.

Almost everyone in business at least mouths words like this.

That their work is not just about making money, but about changing the world for the better in ways small, and about leaving a legacy.

But then you realize that this otherwise innocuous quote comes from McKinsey, the world’s largest and most renowned strategic consulting firm, famous for its dispassionate and scientific approach to solving business challenges.

And they here are saying - as perhaps a Tony Robbins or a Joel Osteen or a Louise Hay would - that strategy and analysis aren’t really that important, as long as our hearts and motives are in the right place. 

Hmmm.

Now don’t get me wrong - I am all for dreaming big dreams, for visioning our businesses such that it touches and inspires everyone - employees, customers, partners, our community - with which it comes into contact.

But I am also for calculating, planning, and quietly working - with our heads and our analytical minds - to achieve slow and methodical growth.

And doing so without big speeches and blandishments about “causes,” or culture.

Yes, McKinsey with this quote is making a classic false choice. 

Between doing good and, as they say, “making coin.”

Because of course we can, should, and must have both.

Big dreams
and little plans. 

Societal impact and improving profits.

Leadership
and management.

The challenge is to find where, and only where, these highly complementary goals and objectives intersect and meet.

And to then only do those things.

As in
only build and sell products and services of the highest possible quality. 

And as in only market and sell them elegantly and creatively, reaching for both the heart and minds of our prospects.

And striving for the absolute lowest cost structure in all of our operational and fulfillment processes, because we recognize that efficiency and leanness are universal business positives, no matter our market or brand positioning.

And as an organization respecting and honoring all who come into contact with us, especially our employees and our partners (i.e. our culture)

Not with the goal of making the lives we touch comfortable and "balanced." 

But rather clearly understanding and believing in our organizational mission and core objectives, and then working to align everyone’s “best selves” with them (even if this means working really, really hard!).

And then we have it all.

Solid strategy and clear, daily to do lists.

Leadership and impact.

There isn't a false choice here.

Even if McKinsey thinks there is.

What about your company?  Do you have the right balance between leadership and management?  Between your big organizational goals and your daily to do lists?  

Do you need help in getting everyone on the same page to attack a key new business initiative? 

If so, then complete this short questionnaire - and tell us about a key initiative that if you execute upon it properly can propel your company forward in a new and powerful way. And we’ll reach out to you with our thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

Be Like Ray Kroc? Or Not?


 

Last week I saw the movie "The Founder," which details which the amazing story of Ray Kroc and the early days of the McDonald's restaurant chain.

Anyone that loves business and entrepreneurship should see this movie, as it paints in beautiful relief one of the most iconic business success stories of all-time.

It starts with the simple, startling and SO inspirational fact that Ray Kroc - played masterfully in the movie by actor Michael Keaton - first became involved with McDonalds at the ripe, young age of 52!

His life career to that point had been a series of failures and near misses - start-ups gone bust, failed marriages, and then middling success as a milkshake machine salesman, which led to his now so very famous meeting with the McDonald brothers.

Yes, Ray Kroc, contrary to popular belief and perhaps even his own illusions, did not start McDonalds, or conjure up its two most famous "secret sauces" - its assembly line inspired fast food “Speedee Service System” or its evangelically infused “Golden Arches” signage and store design.

These innovations were those of the McDonald brothers - poor, first-generation Irish immigrants that made their way during the Great Depression to California to seek their fortune.

After a failed movie theater, hot dog stand, and drive-in-restaurant, they had their “Eureka” moment, the design and implementation plan of the world’s first, true fast-food restaurant - featuring 15 cent hamburgers, 10 cent french fries, and 20 cent milkshakes - and served via walk-up window at the revolutionary speed of just a seconds from order placement to food delivery.

Soon, theirs was by far the most popular restaurant in town, and catching the attention of Ray Kroc when he received an order from them for eight of his milkshake machines - no other restaurant had ever ordered more than one!

Kroc’s curiosity was so piqued that he got in his car and drove 2,000 miles from his Illinois home to Southern California to see for himself how they were doing it.

They quickly struck a deal for Kroc to be the company's first director of franchising.  

Kroc then mortgaged his home and put every penny he had on the line (a lot harder to do at 52 versus 22!), and after many heartaches and setbacks, soon was selling McDonald's franchises throughout the Midwest at a rate of almost one per week, building a phenomenon the likes of which the restaurant industry had never seen.

And as I watched as the movie portray him overcome one daunting obstacle after another, his salesmanship, never-say die attitude, and messianic enthusiasm in pursuing and evangelizing his dream was...

...flat out totally inspirational.

Now here's where the Ray Kroc story gets complicated.

Almost immediately after signing their deal, Ray and the McDonald's brothers started to clash.

Over menus, over the look and layout of the restaurants, and most profoundly over what an acceptable rate of growth and risk-taking should be.

The brothers were fundamentally conservative, focused on how the business might provide them a comfortable middle class life and an escape from the poverty of their youth.

Ray Kroc wanted an empire.

And was willing to do whatever was necessary to build one.

It goes without saying that these two world views would clash. Nor was it surprising who won - only the scale of the victory and how it was achieved being shocking and thought-provoking.

In one of the great business heists of all time, Kroc negotiated with the McDonald brothers to pay them a mere $2.7 million for the then 200 unit restaurant chain, along with an "handshake deal" for 1/2% of the companies revenues, into perpetuity.

Ray Kroc never honored that handshake, and instead went on to build McDonalds before his death into a 7,500 store behemoth with locations in 31 countries. 

And to a personal net worth in today’s dollars of over $3 Billion.

This is a tale of persistence, of a 52 year old man who had swung and failed too many times in his life to count, finally connecting and with grit and belief hitting it really big in America.

And then the rest of the story, more complex but no less revelatory as to the competing priorities and values of modern business.

And of the different kinds of courage needed to make the hard and business and life offering choices inherent to truly going for it.

All of us need to grapple with these choices in our own way. 

The movie “The Founder” condenses those choices into one hour and fifty five minutes of beautifully made cinematic drama.

As an entrepreneur and a middle aged guy, I enjoyed it immensely and think you will too! Go see it!

Categories:
 

How to Be a Business Superhero


 

There is one key to becoming a business superhero.

One that leads their organization to ongoing growth and success.

It is often overlooked because business, for the very most part, is an incremental game.

Each and every day we strive to make small improvements in key business processes - reducing the amount of time it takes to fill a customer order, or complete a project, or increase the conversions from our marketing efforts into sales leads, or once we have those good prospects to increase the percentage of them that  buy, and at what price.

Then, the well-founded hope is that all of these small improvements, compounded over time, will slowly but surely grow our sales, profits, and business value.

All of the above is 100% true, and in my consulting practice, I have developed analytics and business intelligence tools to win business races this way - inch by inch, key metric improvement by key metric improvement.

AND I've discovered that this analytics-based, incremental approach is completely insufficient for breakthrough business growth and improvement.

No, what has to be added in is that most beautiful thing that the greatest among us have displayed and embodied throughout the ages and even every now and then in today’s marketplace.

Courage.

Courage is defined by Webster as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

And for better or for worse, it is not a word that comes up all that often in 21st century knowledge work.

Now for those of us whose work consists of sitting in front of a computer, or on our smartphones, the opportunities and need to demonstrate and embody courage are naturally fewer than when work was more physical, more viscerally interpersonal, heck even more violent than it is today.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with this, as we are all blessed beyond compare by how with our analytical minds, powered by technology, we can earn our daily bread.

But more so than we might think, to achieve business breakthroughs and greatness, we need our crowded hours - those special moments where our hearts race, where the pits in our stomachs grow so strong that we have to consciously remind ourselves to breathe, and that feeling of fear envelops us so tight that we want to run away...

...but instead we stand and fight.

And win.

When, in modern business do these moments present themselves?  Where courage as much as competence is required? 

Well, here are two classic scenarios:

1. When Our Business Needs Outside Growth Capital. Courage is needed throughout - from the initial decision to go seek it, to the hard soul-searching and strategic work to develop a compelling business plan to credibly ask for it, to the the fortitude to press on as the apathy and rejection endemic to modern fundraising inevitably pours in, and finally to the transference of our courage to others to fortify them to take the leap into the exciting but fear-inducing unknown of investment partnership.

2. When we decide to fire a key team member, or to quit our current business/company and go start/find another one. Courage is needed here as the vast majority of us default to letting things stay as they are, no matter how imperfect they might be, versus taking on the confrontation and life disruption of big interpersonal business and career matters.   

Of course there are many other scenarios like these.  They come up, in ways big and small, in almost every business day.

And when we feel the fear...and say and do anyway those things that serve our business destiny....

Well then the transformation in ourselves and the world around us is immediate.

We and our businesses leap forward, in some magical and inspirational way that makes life worth living, and business worth doing.

Now, when we couple great courage with laser-like focus on incremental, daily improvement...

Then we become nothing less than business Supermen and Superwomen.

And there's a lot of fun, and money, in that!

Categories:
 

What is Your Organization's IQ (Innovation Quotient)?


 

Your ability to succeed in today's economy is directly correlated with your ability to innovate.

But most organizations change and innovate way too slowly, if at all.

My Growthink colleague Stephen Lehtonen has developed an eight question test to measure an organization's Innovation Quotient , or its "IQ."

The test measures organizational attributes like clarity of mission, process for pursuing new initiatives, the change-friendliness of its culture, and its "intuition" as to customers wants and preferences.

I encourage all to take the test here, as it gives a powerful snapshot of the innovation aspects of a business that are best of class, and those needing re-engineering and rejuvenation.

Business leaders should also look within and authentically ask themselves how committed and able they are, at this point in time, to lead dynamic change at their companies.

Sadly, my experience is that most of them simply are not for two main reasons, both involving that ephemeral but fundamental quality of energy.

The first is discouraged energy, or burnout, caused by the passage of time, by much hard work without ample rest, and by the attempting of very many new things that just didn’t work out and produce as planned.

Telltale signs of companies with discouraged leaders include high levels of absenteeism, late completion of assigned tasks, little if any organizational initiative, and just those sad feelings of hopelessness and negativity. 

The second is unfocused energy, where a great "fighting spirit" is alive and well but is scattered, with multiple new initiatives being pursued at the same time, but without clear senses of prioritization or realistic time frames for their completion.

Tell-tale signs of companies led like this are meetings without clearly defined agendas or action items flowing from them, and a pervasive unease among the company's line workers as to the projects and to dos in their work day that should be given the most attention and time.

In both these scenarios, the outcome is the same: a business that doesn’t innovate - it either doesn’t conjure up good, new initiatives to pursue and if it does is unable to pursue them quickly or effectively.

Luckily and not surprisingly, the fix for both energy problems starts with business leaders recognizing their complete power and ability to do something about it.

For the burned out leader, the answer might simply be a long vacation.

Yes, I know real vacations from modern work are hard to make happen, as technology keeps us always so tethered to it.

But we have to recognize that in spite of our technological advancements, that as human beings we are still built for natural cycles of work and rest. 

As for the scattered and frenetic leader, the answer could simply be to learn how to do his or her job better - to study the canon of business leadership (some recommendations in this post!) and slowly but surely cultivate a new executive persona and approach.

And for those in between - maybe both a little burned out and a little disorganized....

....well combine the best of both. 

Take a nice vacation and read some great business books while on it. 

It is summertime after all and yes sometimes the business can wait.

And when we return to work re-focused and refreshed, we might find we can easily accomplish in just a few short hours those things that now seem impossibly hard to even start.

Because yes, sometimes we do need to take a step back, to refresh and reset, so as to lead our companies to an innovative leap forward.

How about You? How well does your organization innovate? Are you discouraged? Scattered? 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. And then I'll email you back my thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

What Worked Yesterday, May Not Work Today...


 

Everyday, business owners realize that certain approaches and strategies that worked in the past...

...just don't cut it anymore.

Because the competition has gotten better - offering comparable products and services at a lower cost and also often of a higher quality.

Or because customers have just moved on  - as generations change and their moods and preferences shift.

Or because industries have eroded away, as is sadly happening in traditional retail right now, and has decimated once prosperous industries like newspapers, wired telecommunications, and travel agencies.  

I regularly speak with entrepreneurs and executives grappling with these "the world is passing me by" kind of forces and challenges, and I am both impressed and dismayed by the leadership and strategic choices that they try to make to save their businesses from them.

Two conversations from earlier this week stand out for me - the first with the General Manager of a North Carolina war memorial museum and the second with the CEO a $50 million+ revenue Texas - based satellite services business.

While very different entities in so many respects - from their missions to their organizational structures to their technology fluency - the challenges these two leaders face are surprisingly similar.

The museum director’s challenges were greatly driven by the demographic reality that the older, “analog” generation with personal memory of the wars his museum honors are just dying off, while the "digital" generation that are his current and future patrons just don't go to museums like they once did.

And then squeezing from the other side is the need for and high cost of significant infrastructure improvements at his aging museum facility.

The Texas satellite business CEO had a similar set of “declining sales / increasing costs” challenges.

Their core business for many years has involved the servicing of consumer satellite TV equipment, and as “cord-cutting” has put this business into long term decline, his ability to meaningfully grow his company’s top line has evaporated.

And perhaps most distressingly for both of them, the future trend lines for industry and markets only forecast for their problems to get worse.

Luckily, in my conversations with these fine men, two of the most admirable leadership of them all - resilience and flexibility - were on powerful display.

In the case of the museum director, his resilience came from his commitment to his mission - to honor and keep vibrant the memory of our war veterans.

For our satellite executive, it came from his desire to turn his business around so that its 200+ employees could keep and grow in their jobs.

And from their resilience and determination then came the flexibility to ask the tough existential questions to first save and then grow their enterprises. 

Questions like "how could we fulfill our mission if folks just stop visiting museums like ours altogether?"

Or, “in a world where there is no more satellite television, how can we pivot, without going broke as we do, our business expertise to products and services with a brighter future?"

Questions like these require executives to step into the abyss of the ending of their enterprises as they know them so as to have the “tabula rasa” to re-imagine and re-engineer their sustainable businesses of the future.

Resilience and flexibility.

Without both all businesses are doomed to eventual decline and failure.

But with them both...

...not only can we protect ourselves from technological and societal forces that toss and turn and threaten us unrelentingly and without mercy.

But we can also harness their power to transform ourselves and our businesses into new and more prosperous forms than we have ever been.

What about your company?  Do you see opportunity in your market but not sure exactly how to get there?  If so, send me an email to [email protected] In your email, tell me about an opportunity that if you can execute upon it can propel your company forward in a new and powerful way. And then I'll email you back my thoughts to help you.

 

Categories:
 
Syndicate content


 

Get a Free Consultation
with a Growthink Expert

Click Here