An eclectic assortment of newsletters, papers and articles selected to inform, stimulate, challenge and amuse.
Well Done vs. Well Said
"Well done is better than well said." - Benjamin Franklin “ In consulting and law and finance, “well said” is important. Well said wins you cases, assignments and awards. Well said compels the right people to want more. Well said is a critical skill. But well said is only the beginning. It’s the “well done” that truly matters. Well done produces change that sticks for your clients. Well done is the hard work: preparation, focus and execution. Well done builds your reputation and makes your career. The sheer number of media outlets (and lots of noisy competitors) encourages us to say more. Resist. Let’s focus instead on saying less (but well) and doing more. Let well done be our scorecard.
Rochelle Moulton & Team, Inc. 4170 Admiralty Way Suite 145 Marina del Rey, CA 90292
How’m I Doing?
This is the question that Ed Koch, the iconic three term mayor of New York City, made famous.The Mayor would pose this question to the denizens of each of New York’s five boroughs as he strolled through his City.He was looking for direct and immediate feedback from the people he served…and you can bet, in New York, that’s exactly what he got.He was a tough-minded New Yorker and he knew how to take the feedback and use it to improve service delivery.That’s one reason he was elected three times as mayor in one of the country’s most jaded political environments.
Unfortunately, most business owners don’t ask their customers that same question:“What do you think about the product or service we deliver?”
It may be because they don’t want to “upset the apple cart” reasoning that, in some relationships, if the question results in an answer that creates a problem, it’s just better not to ask.Others may believe that a repeat purchase order is a positive performance review.Still others may be so absorbed in running their business they don’t consider actively soliciting feedback from their customers.Each of these notions limits the firm’s opportunities to gain an advantage over the competition.Look, you may have the business today, but you can bet your competition is asking your customer what aspects of the product or service they consider the most important and tailoring a proposal to meet those expectations.If you are not doing the same, the business may be at risk.
If you are communicating with your customers you will know how best to serve them; and it is often just a matter of executing on those expectations.In addition, if needs change or if your customer has new products in development, you are most likely to be the first to know.And that’s a huge advantage to further cement the relationship, by collaborating with them in the development phase.
At a minimum, these are five questions that you should periodically ask:
1.How did you hear about us?
This can help identify the marketing channel that is working best for you (referrals, directsales,advertising or other promotional efforts). Obviously, this is not a question to ask long-term customers.Consider replacing it with something that draws out what current industry marketing/advertising/promotional trends seem most effective.
2.What was the main reason for choosing to do business with us?
It is essential to know why your customers choose you.Is it price, quality, reliability, flexibility, a particular relationship, or some other factor?Know this and amplify it.
3.Can you name one thing that we do really well for you?
This is another very important question.This will give you an idea about the areas where you may be better than your competition.This is key intelligence about how you must perform to keep the customer relationship.
4.How could we improve our product or service to better suit your needs?
This is the scariest question of all, but it is critical information for your business.You might not like the answer, but you are better off knowing how you are missing expectations than not knowing.If there is an expectation gap, at least you will know about it so that it can be plugged.Don’t leave a gap open to be exploited by your competition.
5.Can you rate how likely you are to refer another customer to us?Please use a scale of from 1 to 10, where 1 is least likely and 10 is most likely.
This is the capstone question.If you receive 8’s, 9’s and 10’s, you know these customers are pretty reliable referral sources.This also identifies your best and most loyal customers, the ones you really want to continue to satisfy.Concentrate on them, particularly if they provide significant revenues.
Clearly, asking your customers how you’re doing provides very important “actionable intelligence” to help you manage your business.Equally important, it helps communicate to your customers that you know they don’t exist to provide you with sales, but that you exist to serve their needs.
This is part 1 of a 2 part series focusing on evaluating the company’s performance in critical areas: Externally With its Customers; and Internally With Financial Measurements
Buck Financial Services, LLC provides the “missing piece solutions” to fill gaps in accounting and finance for small and middle market firms. Its founder, Greg Buck, can be reached at 612-708-4221 or email@example.com. The BFS website is www.bfsllc.info.
Relationships More Important Than Being Right
The first thing my new boss explained to me on my first day was that my first priority was managing the production of the new advertising campaign - and getting it on air for Thanksgiving. When he showed me the shooting boards, my heart stopped. The advertising was terrible.
Fortunately, I resisted my natural instincts to show him how smart I was (and how dumb everyone else was) and went into question mode.
"May I see the strategy?"
The advertising hit the mark on benefit and support. The gap was in its character.
"Are you sure this advertising is in line with this character?"
"You know, that had been bothering me too."
We scrapped the advertising together, started over together, missed Thanksgiving together, and ended up with advertising that made a material difference to the business in a way that built our relationship.
This approach to a disagreement involves going back up the logic chain to the point at which you all agree. Then connect steps back down the chain to the point of disagreement. If the other person sees the logic the way you do and changes his or her mind, great. If not, do it their way. Any argument you win in your early days is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory. Instead of trying to win, find ways to help others be right, get right, or stay right.
PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding and Transition Acceleration Helping new leaders and their teams deliver
It’s Good to be King
With apologies to Tom Petty, it IS good to be King.But every King needs his court; his cadre of trusted advisors.It’s no different in business. The need is there but, surprisingly, many closely held businesses do not formally engage a group of advisors or a board of directors.
Most business owners have a few trusted advisors, an attorney, a CPA and perhaps an interested and savvy friend, spouse or a senior manager.But most business owners turn to their attorneys and CPAs for “transactional” or single issue advice, not strategic direction.Friends or spouses often don’t really have the right business experience for counsel on challenges like branding or exploiting new market opportunities.Finally, employee executives may be too deferential for candid, objective advice.
Every chief executive and business owner understands that, while it is good to be King, it can also be very “lonely at the top”…especially when a crisis looms.Having a trusted group of experienced advisors who know the business and are engaged in its challenges can be an invaluable resource.Frank advice from independent peer executives can be crucial in clearly defining an issue and fleshing out the right course of action.With seasoned advisors, there is a strong chance they have faced the same or similar issues and can bring that experience to bear.
One of the most important benefits of assembling a court of advisors is found on a tactical level by bringing a discipline and culture of accountability to an organization.Formulating and articulating short and medium-term objectives and then measuring and reporting monthly or quarterly the progress to a designated “higher authority” can be a company changer.Beginning at the top, the objectives are communicated and understood throughout the organization.Then they are translated into measurable activities and standards.If the importance of meeting those standards is clear, the accountability can drive the company to higher levels of success.
Finally, no matter how brilliant and committed a business owner may be, (s)he is unlikely to know what (s)he doesn’t know.Another set or sets of experienced eyes can provide that key missing piece, the one that enhances the vision and wisdom to accomplish the firm’s mission, thus making it easier and more satisfying to be the King.
You’ve met him. Or her. Glued to his Blackberry, iphone or new gizmo. Addicted to the ability to know what is going on—anywhere and at anytime. Key word here? Addicted. Meet the quintessential Blackberry Guy. A big firm partner, he invited me to lunch to compare notes on our businesses. As we walked to lunch (10 minutes) he checked his Blackberry—twice. As we were being seated, he checked it again. Finally, he put it in a pocket and there it stayed while he talked about his work and his practice. He responded to my questions and we dug a bit deeper. He engaged. Eventually, the talk turned to my work. It didn’t take long for the Blackberry to reappear. Not once, not twice. I lost count of how often he looked down at it. The message it sent to me was that talking about him was important enough to leave the Blackberry stowed. Listening to me? Not so much. The irony is that his practice requires a high level of client intimacy to be fully effective as an advisor. Right now, I’m not inclined to refer anyone to Blackberry Guy. I know others in his specialty—just as smart and capable—who exhibit far more interest in those around them. What could Blackberry Guy do differently to earn my respect? Focus completely on who you’re with. We underestimate the power of our full, undivided attention, especially in a world with so many distractions. Explain extenuating circumstances—they do happen. If you are waiting for deal or life-altering news, say so. Ask for permission to check your incoming. Most everyone says yes and your candor may actually build a stronger relationship. Put your Blackberry where it can’t distract you. Shut it off before putting it in your pocket. Vibrate mode will grab your attention every time (Ladies, turn the sound off and throw it in your purse. Better still, shut it off). Should I give him a 2nd chance? Maybe. But will a potential client? I doubt it…..
Rochelle Moulton Consulting Practice Advisors Santa Monica, CA 90401 310-822-3910 www.rochellemoulton.com
Set Others Up to Fail
Sometimes setting others up to fail is the right thing to do.
One classic example of this is the battle of Thermopylae, during which a very small force of Greeks held off an overwhelming mass of Persians for three days. The Greeks were set up to fail, with most of them getting killed by the end of the battle. But their stand gave the rest of Greece reason to believe they could defeat the Persians – which they did in the end.
Consider this approach when onboarding into a new role that requires significant organizational change [or you are an existing executive considering implementing similar dramatic change]. The ACES model suggests three approaches to a new culture: Assimilate, Converge and Evolve, or Shock. Assimilate is the easiest – culturally. Converge and Evolve is the preferred approach most of the time. Sometimes you have no choice but too shock the organization to turn things around. The problem is that those leading the shock often get rejected by the organization in the end.
Let someone else be the bad guy.
If you join a group that needs to be shocked, consider having someone else go the shocking. This could be an outside consultant. It could be an interim manager. Or it could be a loyal supporter in a temporary role. The suggestion is to have someone else deliver the initial bad news and shake the organizations out of its inertia so that you can pick up the pieces and rally others around a forward-looking optimistic outlook. People tend to reject the harbinger of doom and rally around the beacon of hope. Be the beacon.
One critical piece of this is that those getting set up to fail [must] know that they are signing up for. The Greeks at Thermopylae know what they were getting into. They were well-informed volunteers making a conscious choice. This may be the crux of the difference between setting others up to fail as an evil act and it being the right thing to do.
George Brandt – Founder, PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding and Transition Acceleration 200 West Hill Road, Stamford, CT www.primegenesis.com
When to Just Say No
We’ve all had them. A proposal that goes nowhere—sometimes the very one you’ve worked the hardest to win! In this economy especially, you can’t afford to waste time with the wrong prospects. Consider these 3 signs that it’s time to decline to propose.
You can’t get them to their goal A good advisor always starts by helping the client clearly articulate their goal(s). But if you can’t align your delivery with their vision (and reality), it’s a match doomed to failure. Better to make an effective referral under these circumstances--good for the client AND it builds goodwill for the future.
Their focus is on cost vs net results Listen carefully when a potential client speaks about costs. Is their focus on fixing a cost issue? No problem—if you can help. But if their focus is on your fees independent of results, you haven’t demonstrated your value. They won’t hire you unless/until you can show them a clear win. They haven’t tasted success When most early conversations are littered with all the reasons why past projects or consultants didn’t work, beware. What about you—your team, your process—is going to truly produce success in their eyes? Ask yourself and ask them. If you can’t draw a straight line to their success, refer them to someone who can. The conclusion? Time spent on no-win proposals is better spent developing your “sweet spot” clients.
Rochelle Moulton Consulting Practice Advisors Santa Monica, CA90401 310-822-3910 www.rochellemoulton.com
GROWTH RATES The first eight articles in this ongoing series have set the framework for more advanced aspects of financial analysis and, by extension, value-based finance. Starting with this article, we will now delve into the major indicators of value creation (or destruction) and then move to value analysis; that is, how much shareholder value has been created by past and present financial performance, or is anticipated based on strategic plans and their related financial outlooks. There are three major indicators that lie beneath and help to explain economic profit (article #6) and return on capital (#7). These key indicators are:
- Growth Rates - Invested Capital Intensity, and - Value Profit Margin
This article will focus on the first of these indicators – Growth Rates.
Most of the corporate world is focused on revenue and profit growth. Another important component – growth of invested capital – is usually not given much attention, however. In fact, my experience over many years leads me to believe that most managers don’t know the “level” of invested capital in their business, never mind its “growth rate”. Those who do understand how shareholder value is created recognize that the relationship (the relative rates) of revenue, profit, and invested capital growth is what’s important.
Over the long run, the ideal pattern is for profit to grow the fastest, followed by revenue and invested capital. This ideal long-term pattern is based on straightforward rationale. If operating income (profit) grows faster than revenue, profit margin will increase. If both revenue and operating profit grow faster than invested capital, then the return on capital – by any of the well-known calculations – will increase. As research done by credible organizations indicates, higher returns on capital combined with revenue growth are usually rewarded in the financial markets through increased measures of performance (e.g., market-to-book ratios).
While the pattern cited above is ideal for the long run, a business strategy may dictate a different pattern in the short or near term. Such a strategy needs to be tested to see when it will produce the optimal pattern. If the recent history of a business produces a different pattern, then management needs to determine when they will get “on track” with the optimal pattern.
Growth is an important issue in most firms, and is often over-analyzed. The problem with much of the traditional analysis, however, is that it excludes or de-emphasizes the invested capital element – an important ingredient in analyzing the impact of growth on shareholder value.
This is a continuation of the last article on business etiquette, which was about introducing yourself with style and consideration for your business partner. There will be another on this topic because manners are decisive skills that significantly flatten your path to career success. As a rule of thumb your hard skills are only 50% of the equation the other 50% are related to your personality, your manners and the overall way you carry yourself. Your manners can distinguish you from the competition and land you the job; especially when a company wants to know if you can effectively represent the company at business functions. Depending on the importance of the position it isn’t rare to be invited to join events in the job application process just to evaluate how you carry yourself. This might be a lunch, dinner or bigger event.
Today my topic is a subtler one. As opposed to common credence, humans have many different abilities that matter as much as logical-analytical or mathematical skills. For the interested reader I recommend the books of Howard Gardner a psychologist from Harvard. He defined these different abilities as true intelligences. In what concerns introducing yourself properly and leaving a favorable impression I’d like to stress the domain of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Not only our mind but also our body contains an immense range of abilities and resources that can be set apart as a true intelligence. The most recognized sphere of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence in business is body language. The philosopher Karl Jaspers called it psychomotricity because facial expressions, handshakes, eye contact, postures, gestures, intonation and rhythm of the voice as well as the overall beat in our body movements are directly related to our mental processes. Jogging, swimming, dancing and other types of physical activities practiced for at least 30 minutes to one hour per day promote tremendous increases in physical health, mental vitality and bodily-kinesthetic abilities.
What has this to do with etiquette? A lot, because you can train your body and even shape unconscious movements to a certain extent in order to make them work for you when courteously interacting with others. Here are some examples, which are relevant to good manners in the business environment.
Handshakes. You have certainly met people who are exceedingly energetic and their handshake so firm that it hurts. Or the opposite, people who are so timid that they extend only their finger tips which also arises some awkwardness. The right way to shake hands is with your arm extended so you leave enough space between both parties firmly shaking the entire palm of the other person’s hand. The shaking movement comes from the elbow and not the shoulder.
Eye contact is also important. It tells a lot about you. People who can’t look someone in the eyes seem to be hiding something. Less frequently there are those that maintain eye contact too incisively and constantly.
Posture. Picture an invisible string fixed on the back of your head pulling your entire body upwards. Shoulders and arms float freely and openly to the sides. This would be the ideal posture because it inspires confidence and strength. Crossed arms make others subconsciously think that you are either defensive or aggressive and in a way trying to restrain yourself. Leaving your hand the entire time in your pockets can leave the impression you are lacking confidence.
If you work to improve your body language you can achieve fabulous results. Top executives or politicians even get special coaching in body language including intonation of the voice and gestures because it is so important when relating to others. People will feel at ease with you and respect you more. They might not know why because these soft skills influence people predominantly on an unconscious level. What you can do is to focus on your body language and practice. But remember never violate your true nature by trying to become somebody you are not. Body language is also about integrity; use it to reflect your true self.
Simone Silvestri M.D., Ph.D. Personal and Professional Coach 1800 Sunset Harbour Drive (also Purdy Avenue), # 1415; Miami Beach, Florida 33139 Mobile: +1-248-673-2690 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.mindcoaching.com
Forbes.com has published the first in a series of articles on successful innovation.It’s off to a good start, as you can see below. gb
A Key To A Successful Business Plan Now is absolutely the best time for your business to succeed. As the collapse of Dubai World just demonstrated, enormous market changes keep happening. Laggards and the unwise are failing, and businesses that position themselves smartly to take advantage of market shifts are winning big gains. Look at Google. There's never been a better time to move ahead by developing plans for leading your business to dramatic growth in revenue and profits.
Unfortunately, though, your business's 2010-2011 planning cycle probably won't deliver what your business needs. Few planning efforts begin with what the future demands. Instead they focus on historical product sales, historical technology investments and historically large customers and segments. Planners start by saying, "Here's what we did this year and over the past three years. Now let's project next year." That amounts to driving the bus while looking in the rear-view mirror.
In my last article, I discussed how innovation goes wrong. Here, I begin a series of pieces describing ways to get it right.
When you focus on what your business did last year, your business plan becomes a minor variation on what you've been doing. Given what happened to most businesses during 2008 and 2009, your most likely recommendation will be for no new investment. Those in planning and finance will advocate being conservative, expecting flat or declining sales and doing additional cost-cutting. Executives will want across-the-board savings. Managers will have little they can do but accept lowered expectations while developing ways to spend even less. The cost-cutting spiral will continue.
Major opportunities exist for growth in 2010 and 2011, but the planning cycle will be a study of 2007 to 2009. Potential opportunities aren't even part of the discussion. Next year's plan will be 95% completed in the first pass, and then hours upon hours will be spent refining the last 5%, preparing presentations to justify it all and perhaps working up layoff lists and project shutdowns. Not a good use of precious resources.
That's why companies that do better, ones that increase their revenues and achieve higher rates of return with real innovation, don't do their planning by studying the past. They concentrate on the future. To grow and make more money, you have to use scenario planning, and you have to spend a lot of energy doing it. Planning has to be about the future.
Apple would still be the Macintosh company, offering a niche product line, if in 2000 it had continued to plan based on the past. Instead, Apple worked hard on its view of the future, and published it as what has been called its "digital lifestyle" document. Then it changed its plans. Instead of trying to focus harder on execution in the Macintosh personal computer market, Apple began looking for alternative investments that would yield better growth. It spent less defending its historical business and more investing in new opportunities.
Result? We now see Apple's revenues and profits grow even in a struggling economy. The company has moved broadly into very profitable new fields of consumer electronics with products like the iPod and iPhone and even music distribution with iTunes.
Apple participated in a joint venture with Motorola to develop what in 2005 became the ROKR, the first phone to sync with iTunes. Motorola drew on all its experience with phones like the RAZR and offered an uninspired launch of a modest product variation. Trying to maintain market share, Motorola ended up slashing its prices and now is struggling to spin off its money-losing handheld business.
Apple, after that experience, used what it had learned about mobile phones to project scenarios of what the business could become. Looking straight into the future, it moved quickly and powerfully into the mobile phone market with the iPhone, introduced in 2007 and offering extensive new capabilities.
Much of the technology that went into the iPhone had been known and available to Motorola. But Motorola planned for more of what it had been doing. Today the iPhone, despite having only 2% to 3% of the global handheld market, is the clear technology leader and standard setter for smart phones. Nokia leads the market with a 35% share and earned $1.1 billion on handheld phones in the third quarter. Apple made $1.6 billion with less than a tenth of Nokia's share.
In 2000, the big leaders in personal computing were Dell and Microsoft. Both had solid plans to defend and extend their historical successes. About 10 years later the big winner is Apple, which used scenario planning to figure out what the market would want and need, rather than merely executing better to defend its past strength. Today Apple has more cash and marketable securities than the market value of Dell. Apple was nearly bankrupt in 2000; now its market capitalization is almost $200 billion--within striking distance of Microsoft, whose market cap has fallen 40%.
There's never been a better time, in the market and in your company planning cycle, to plan for a big win. But if you follow the traditional approach to planning, you'll never get it. Innovation will elude you. To win in today's fast-changing market, you can't just do what you did before better, faster and cheaper. Instead, you have to develop robust fresh scenarios about the future. You have to dedicate your planning effort to figuring out where you want to be, not where you came from.
If your plan for succeeding next year is to hunker down and wait for the economy to improve--well, good luck. Instead, prepare for market shifts that could hurt you (like bank failures, currency fluctuations, commodity price changes or bankrupt customers or suppliers), and position yourself to be a big winner in growth markets. To grow next year, plan the way companies like Apple, Google and Virgin do.
Adam Hartung lives in Chicagoand is a partner in Vector Growth Partners, a growth strategy consulting firm in suburban Washington, D.C. He is author of Create Marketplace Disruption: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition. Learn more at AdamHartung.com.
I Love A Good Audit To some extent, an audit is all about asking and answering questions about the financials statements of a business and whether or not they accurately reflect the underlying health of that business. The title of this article might surprise many because it actually stems from a comment someone made to me when I mentioned the audit process. They said “that sounds painful”. I suppose some people view the financial audit process as painful and in fact, I suppose that they can be in some cases. But I think there are three important factors to avoid this situation.
First, it’s attitude. One has to review the audit process as an important feedback loop. It’s an opportunity to have an objective review of the financial practices of the business and find opportunities for improvement. If your view is to defend every journal entry you have made throughout the year so that there are no changes, then the process will indeed be painful. If on the other hand, you view it as an opportunity to understand another point of view and reconcile and agree upon any differences, then it becomes about understanding your business better.
Second, it’s important to accept this feedback and work it through your subsequent year’s financial process. It makes no sense to have the auditors provide adjusting journal entries at the end of each year if you continue the same practices as before only to have the auditors make the same adjustments period after period. I recently came across a company that was making payroll entries incorrectly every two weeks. When I questioned this, the person said that the auditors gave them adjusting entries to fix it. I never understand the thinking behind this process. So I asked, “What if we spend thirty minutes and I show you how to do this correctly?” She said, “that would be great, no one’s ever offered to do that for me before!” To me, this makes far more sense. The person doing the work has learned something new and increased their skill set. Management gets a more accurate view of the financial results sooner (rather than waiting for adjustments) and we’ve taken an unnecessary piece of work away from the outside accountants thereby reducing fees.
Third, it’s having the “right” auditors for your company. The firm should be able to give your company the attention that you need and staff it with people who take the time to understand your business and are comfortable dealing with the level of complexity that your business entails. No one audit firm is right for all companies. The big firms tend to be overkill for the small companies and small firms can’t handle the complexity or staff to the needs of Fortune 500 companies.
If your firm isn’t helping you move forward, I’d recommend asking business associates for referrals and interviewing other firms. Many companies with a fair degree of complexity need a firm that will take the time to understand the business, can handle relatively complex issues, will work hard to improve the processes and are sensitive to costs.
Ken Homza St. Louis, MO 314-863-6637 ken@homza your cash is flowing. know where.®
I Can't Do What He Does
Final episode of this season's "Mad Men". They create a new advertising agency and pull together, in order, the visionary leader, creative head and accounts head. They're reluctantly considering the addition of an operating head when one of them says, "I can't do what he does. Can you?" With that, they decide to bring onboard a partner with complementary strengths.
It seems that additions to the team are either complementary, supplementary or redundant.
People with complementary strengths fill a void. If the void is critical to creating value, making the value you create known to the world around you, or making things work, these people are the most important people to add to your team. If you can't do what they do, and you need what they do, you need them.
People with supplementary strengths make others better. They're not quite as important as people that fill voids. Often, others can do what they do. But, they'll do it better together. Sometimes Richard Rogers wrote the music and the lyrics. He was more successful as part of Rogers and Hammerstein though.
People with redundant strengths come into their own when you're trying to scale your operation. They provide leverage.
Get the right people in the right roles
This starts with defining the right roles, clarifying whether you need people with complementary, supplementary, or redundant strengths in them. Doing this helps you bring the right people onboard.
George Brandt – Founder, PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding and Transition Acceleration 200 West Hill Road, Stamford, CT www.primegenesis.com