05 Oct

Super powers grow your GP%

ab212faa2fb1e56a08eb9984407d561bEarlier this year I had the privilege to facilitate and present at a Strategic Sales conference. The theme of the conference was ‘we all have ability – the difference is how you use it’. Fascinating discussions arose around individual skills and strengths (their super powers) and how to use them in the business as a whole rather than limit them to a specific branch. As in system thinking the true power of a business is recognised when people start working together towards a common goal. (The group/system is more powerful that the sum of the parts) In the process the team communicated across multiple levels and the fresh ideas and innovations put forward were used in developing a strategy execution plan. The result has been a 15% increase in GP over 6 months.

The 7 steps to maximising your super powers are:

  1. Know yourself. Understand what your strengths are  and just as importantly what your weaknesses are.
  2. Talk to others in your team and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. You might need to go first to make the communication more transparent.
  3. Identify your business goals. What do you want to have done by the end of the year to achieve your strategy. Companies often call these CSF’s or critical success factors.
  4. As a team look at your strengths (in the team) and plan on how to best use these to achieve your business goals.
  5. Identify what weaknesses you have in the team and how you can reduce or eliminate them using the team strengths.
  6. Draw up a plan of action showing actions, responsible people and time lines.
  7. Measure progress monthly. Often plans need to be fine tuned because of changes in the company, market, customer or competitor.


23 Mar

Think backwards to create innovations you can sell!

ButtEveryone talks about using INNOVATION to improve companies, products, and services to create a competitive advantage. But how do you innovate knowing that the end result is something your customer will value and is willing to pay more for?

Well the first obvious questions are what does your customer value and how do you innovate value? Many customers cannot find a product or service that meets 100% of their needs so they either develop their own solution or focus on ‘the closest fit’- a suite of products or services that best do the job. Their goal is to find a solution that is cost effective and hassle free.

So how do you find the perfect solution for your customers that offers them better innovative value? The answer is ‘think backwards’…look at your business or product service offer (PSO) from your customers point of view. It will both help you understand your customer better and drive customer centric thinking…the first step to creating a competitive advantage.

Value Innovation is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost. There are two LEAN tools that when combined offer a great practical way to focus on developing your VALUE INNOVATION skills. They will also help you to create a new value curve, which not only creates differentiation but also new markets.

The first tool is Value Stream Mapping (VSM), which is designed to look at your business processes, from manufacturing to delivery, as a system and focus on creating flow by reducing waste. Remember that each step in the process has an impact on the other steps and the whole business process.

The second tool is Blue Ocean thinking (Kim & Mauborgne), which has a set of tools to interrogate value stream elements. These tools used with questioning techniques such as brainstorming and 5 Why’s drive innovative thinking.

The7 steps to create VALUE INNOVATION are:

  1. Create an INNOVATION team made up of a representative/s from manufacturing, distribution, administration and sales. Each team member should be chosen by the value they can add to the team. Each team member will be influenced by their own specific business environment and so create diversity when identifying and eliminating waste or interrogating elements.
  2. Invite one customer to each INNOVATION team meeting. This will allow them to get involved in designing a product or service that will add greater value to their business and reduce the ‘purchase hassle’. It will also add the consumer view point.
  3. Innovation teams must meet for 1 hour per week to discuss progress and improvement ideas.
  4. Draw up a flow diagram showing the process starting from when your customer receives the product or service and working backwards. The most effective method is to use post-it’s on a wall chart. Each post-it represents a step in the process and can be moved or eliminated as the new map takes shape. A powerful customer centric tool for creating and reviewing a flow diagram is the Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas. http://homebrewacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/yellow-tail-strategy.png
  5. Interrogate each of your products, services and business process steps using the Blue Ocean 4 Action Framework.
    • ELIMINATE elements that are taken for granted and add no value.
    • REDUCE elements that are higher than industry standards and/or exceed customer expectations.
    • RAISE elements that are below industry standards and/or do not meet customer expectations.
    • CREATE elements that the industry has never offered and/or is on a customer’s ‘wish list’. These elements must add value for the customer.
  6. Draw up an action list showing changes, actions required, person responsible and time lines. All goals set must be SMART and progress measured weekly.
  7. Once the new process is complete make sure it becomes the new best operating practice.

Remember INNOVATION is a process of continuous improvement. Good hunting.

23 Jan

Noah has the answer…

Ark…not only to strategy and innovation but also to superior customer service with his ‘ARK.’

Noah had a ‘blue ocean strategy’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpb9UgXWf6Q setting him apart from everyone else, he used disruptive innovation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDrMAzCHFUU in finding solutions that were not expected and typically designed for a different set of customers.

Let us compare the three values Noah used while building the Ark against what we are expected to do for our customers today.

Availability – Noah and his family (team) were involved in planning and building the Ark, sourcing provisions and then collecting the animals. Noah and his family were always available to look after the animals with their needs. Noah did not delegate problems but solved them with the help of his team. Today our customers want the same level of availability from us and our teams. They want us to be there for them to answer questions, help solve problems and offer advice. They also want to know that they can always get the products or services we offer within a reasonable period of time.

Reliability – Noah made a promise to build the Ark and fill it with animals. Even though he went through some difficult times he persevered and delivered on his promise. Reliability is a cornerstone of trust. If our customers can rely on what we say and do it creates a trust relationship leading to a partnership. Customers buy from people they trust.

Knowledge – Noah had specific knowledge that floods were coming and with that knowledge became indispensable in executing the plan. Market and product knowledge can be used in the same way when shared with our customers through training sessions or strategic conversations. The power we gain from sharing knowledge with our customers and teams will lead to them seeking us out for advice. The more knowledge shared the greater our expert power.

20 Oct

THINK before you speak!

ThinkYou often hear people talk about ‘thinking before you speak’…specially related to thoughtless comments,  incorrect assumptions or not thinking through things before commenting.  In fact one of my favourite sayings is “Put your brain in gear before you open your mouth”.

Customer facing staff are particularly vulnerable. A while ago I found a notice posted on the communication board in an administration office spelling out the value of ‘Thinking before you speak’.

  • T – Is it True? Always be certain that product or service information given out is correct. In your customers eyes you are the expert. Make sure what you are about to say is true and not market gossip. Many business and personal relationships are damaged, some irreparably, by untrue comments. If the information is found to be incorrect or untrue then you will lose face in your customers eyes and be considered unreliable.
  • H – Is it Helpful? If the information you pass on is helpful to your customer it will hold their attention and build trust. It will also increase your expert power with your customer, making you a person they want to talk to.
  • I – Is it Inspiring? We always want to spend time with people that inspire us. Your customers are no different. Look for ways to inspire them to improve their business.
  • N – Is it Necessary? Your customers are always busy so don’t waste their time with unnecessary or irrelevant information. They will quickly get distracted and move on to the next issue or sales person. If you do this regularly customers will start avoiding you.
  • K – Is it Kind? Never say bad things about your opposition. There is a real danger that the negativity will rub off on you or your product.