Umbrex is pleased to welcome Brent Packer with synthesize.consulting. Brent is a former Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company. During his 5+ years at the Firm, he worked with Fortune 500, public sector, and nonprofit clients while specializing in digital/analytics/product and sustainability (recognized as 1 of 16 manager-level experts globally).
He has also worked with multiple startups and founded two social ventures, including an open-source zero-electricity structure that filters, cools, and dispenses water to help eliminate plastic waste.
Brent now has his own freelance consulting firm with work authorization in both the USA and Canada.
Barry Horwitz shares a post that explores how the pandemic has spurred accelerated decision-making and action-taking strategies in ecommerce.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience…
You call your doctor’s office for an appointment because the nagging pain in your foot, back, or some other body part, isn’t getting any better. They say, “Of course, how’s Tuesday at 10am?” The difference now, though, is that Tuesday’s appointment will be virtual — held via a secure video conferencing link.
Is it the same experience as going into the office? No. But, depending upon your particular ailment, it’s surprisingly effective, much more convenient, and less expensive for all concerned.
Interestingly, it took a worldwide pandemic for telehealth applications — long explored but little used — to increase from very limited to nearly 100% in some services.
This is just one example. Over the past six months, many long-evolving trends have suddenly accelerated. Indeed, McKinsey notes that we have accomplished ten years’ worth of ecommerce penetration growth in just three months.
Something else has accelerated in recent months: the pace of decision making within organizations. Apparel companies, seeing a sudden shift in the market, altered production from shirts to masks. Full-service restaurants that had never before offered takeout, were suddenly rolling out online ordering, delivery and curb-side pickup.
In industry after industry, things which would normally take months were being accomplished within weeks, or even days.
Key points in the post include:
- Ecommerce penetration growth
- Proctor and Gamble’s response to toilet paper shortage
- How homegrown methodologies can hamper growth
Read the full article, The Pandemic’s (Positive) Impact on Urgency, on Horwitzandco.com.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Tarik Djeddour with Stellaris Consulting. Tarik is a Healthcare focused former McKinsey manager who started his own consulting firm in 2016. He mainly focuses on go-to-market strategy, commercial due diligence, and insight & analytics projects, supporting pharma and med device teams mostly in Europe and the US. An engineering & MBA graduate of Imperial College London, Tarik has worked for industry leaders such as Honeywell and Shionogi, as well as boutique consultancies.
His 20 years of professional experience is a blend of senior consulting know-how for blue chip clients and hands-on senior executive operational experience across the start-up to incumbent spectrum. He is married to a primary care physician and splits his time between London and Girona in Catalunya, Spain. He is fluent in English, French, Italian, and is developing fluency in Spanish and Catalan. Tarik is happy to collaborate on projects
For all who are working with Microsoft Office 365, Hugo Bernier has provided a series of posts to help navigate the software. In this post, he explains how to work with rules in Microsoft Lists.
Over the last few years, Microsoft has done an amazing job at modernizing SharePoint.
It used to be that the first question my clients would ask me when I would start a new engagement was “How can we make SharePoint not look like SharePoint?”.
Now, most engagements start with “How can we make our old SharePoint sites look more like the new SharePoint sites?”.
That’s a testament to the hard work of folks at Microsoft. They’ve changed how you edit SharePoint pages and sites to make it easier for everyone to quickly design beautiful content.
But lists in SharePoint have not changed at the same pace. Sure, they got a slightly updated look and feel (well, some lists, anyway), but they were still not easily approachable for every user.
With Microsoft Lists, Microsoft seems to be doing to Lists what the SharePoint team did to pages. They are modernizing them and making them much easier to use for everyone.
They’re still lists behind the scenes, but they’re no longer relegated to being hidden in a site somewhere. They’re becoming first-class citizens in Microsoft 365, crossing the boundaries of SharePoint, Groups, and Teams.
I already covered the lists templates, but in today’s post, I’ll explain how you can easily build rules to notify someone, and how rules will continue to evolve to do a lot more.
Key points covered in this article include:
- Creating a rule
- Editing a rule
- Why put rules under automate?
Access the full article, Working with Rules in Microsoft Lists, on the Tahoe Ninjas website.
Access this resource from Gaelle Lamotte’s company on how to improve your ability to execute strategies by integrating development and planning, driving focus and alignment.
How often do you win with your strategy?
Strategy development is useful for defining ambitions and long term goals. A good strategy is only as good as the capability to implement it and how well it delivers the desired outcome.
Various research concludes:
Organisations on average realise only 50-63% of the financial performance promised by their strategies.
Others suggest that the figure is in fact less than 30%.
Regardless of the data reviewed, it is not good news!
Failure to execute is often a result of poor understanding, and disjointed planning and governance processes.
Key points include:
- Identification of weak governance processes
- Build in-house capability for aligning Operational Plans and Budget with the Strategy
- The dynamic strategy management approach
Access the full PDF, Improve your ability to execute your strategies, from the Strategy Management Partners’ website.
Sara Conte shares an article from the company archives that identified the increase in the use of expert networks with projections reaching into 2022.
Investors and others are increasingly utilizing expert networks like Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) and AlphaSites to instantly get answers to key questions. It’s like calling a friend in the business, but these calls are highly regulated to ensure compliance with confidentiality requirements. The results are quick and actionable – particularly when paired with analysis on trends and market data (SGC Ventures provides this service).
Bloomberg published this article, “Investors Are Paying $1,300 Per Hour for ‘Expert’ Chats (click here)” earlier in the year, describing the process and its growing popularity. A few excerpts are included below.
Experts On Demand
Research spending on expert networks to soar past $1 billion in coming years. Now that banks have stopped giving equity research for free under a new European Union law, some money managers are opting instead to spend their cash speaking with experts in fields as trendy as artificial intelligence or as niche as sausage packaging.
Included in this article:
- Projections graph
- Increasing fees
- Link to resource
Read the full article, Investors Are Utilizing Experts At Increasing Rates, on the SGC Ventures website.
Charity: water’s MZ Goodman joins Robbie Kellman Baxter to share how she is applying subscription model best practices to a nonprofit. They discuss how MZ leverages content marketing and digital community strategies developed in her work at The New York Times to build a donation-based subscription model, how they’ve leveraged a single 20-minute video to raise millions, and how to think about a Forever Promise in the context of engaging donors.
Welcome to the show. It’s your host, Robbie Kellman Baxter sharing subscription stories with you. Today’s guest is MZ Goodman. MZ is a true innovator, bringing the best practices of subscription, engagement, and brand from her work at The New York Times, Ralph Lauren, Glossier, and goop, to charity: water, a nonprofit that provides clean water to people in developing nations. The organization has been phenomenally successful by taking a different approach to fundraising. The 14 year old organization has raised over 450 million dollars. Join us as MZ shares the secrets of charity: water’s success and how to bring these principles to any organization. Welcome to the show, MZ.
‘Hi, Robbie, thanks so much for having me.’
‘Now your title at Charity: water, can you tell me what your title is?’
‘Sure. So I’m SVP of Subscription.’
‘That is not a title that I’m used to hearing at nonprofit.’
‘How did that happen? And what is a subscription to a nonprofit?’
‘I think it was, leadership was incredibly smart when they decided to pivot the business at the nonprofit in this direction, in that our COO, Lauren Letta, who’s incredibly visionary, she was already evaluating whether it made sense to create a subscriptions team focused on a North Star metric of predictive revenue so as to enable significant growth across the organization. And our model is very complicated. But it took a lot of moving parts. So it was a very intentional move on the part of leadership to create a cross-functional team focused on a North Star goal of building membership and growing recurring revenue.
Key points covered in this podcast include:
- Why a mission is the most important factor for attracting subscribers
- The importance of building a brand based on quality over charisma
- Ways for nonprofits to allow members to remain active without opening their checkbooks
- MZ’s advice for product leaders who want to transition to the nonprofit world
- The differences between building a community at a news company, a make-up company, and a nonprofit
Listen to the full conversation, Subscription Stories, Charity:Water, on RobbieKellmanBaxter.com.
Discover practical inventory management tips that can help your business grow in this post on Carlos Castelan’s company blog.
For any products-based business, it’s hard to overstate the importance of inventory management. Not only does effective inventory management help you to evaluate the state of your business and reveal various roadblocks to your success, but it also helps you to keep operations running smoothly and ensure that your customers stay happy. And when your business is growing quickly, it becomes even more vital. As we talk to customers of all sizes, we have heard several themes -that’s why we’ve provided these inventory management tips for flourishing businesses:
Use Up-to-Date Software
One common mistake made by many companies is that they continue to use inventory management methods and/or software long after it has become obsolete. And it usually comes down to costs.
But as The Houston Chronicle’s website Chron explains, using archaic inventory management contributes to a host of problems that end up costing your company much more money than the price of quality, up-to-date software. Digitized tracking allows better forecasting, reduces errors, improves customer service, and enhances efficiency. Research the market, and you will likely find a number of cost-effective options that can transform your inventory management practices.
Key tips in this article include:
- Improve your forecasting
- Stick to FIFO
- Audit your stock efficiently
- Check your products
Read the full article, Is Your Business Growing? Consider These Practical Inventory Management Tips, on the Navio Group website.
Barry Horwitz explains how confirmation bias hurts business and provides key tips on how to identify and avoid falling into the confirmation bias trap.
I’m often reminded of a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is asked how he went bankrupt. His answer: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
When dealing with change (bankruptcy-related or otherwise), there are often warning signs along the way — gradual shifts that are easy to dismiss as temporary or not yet consequential, until one day, abruptly, they arrive.
The point is that sudden threats to organizations are rarely truly sudden. The signs were there, but they were missed.
We’ve all heard of the examples: The streetcar company that didn’t appreciate the advent of cars; Kodak sticking with film until it was much too late (despite the fact that it was a Kodak engineer who invented the digital camera); Blockbuster turning down the opportunity to buy a struggling Netflix for a mere $50 million in 2000.
And yet, it keeps happening. Partly because our view of the world is a function of what we believe to be important. Blockbuster, for example, assumed that “movie night” was its main offer – the ability to pop into a store and instantly have a movie whenever you felt like it. Waiting two days for the mail to arrive seemed like an inferior alternative. As it turned out, Netflix, not Blockbuster, was the one to anticipate streaming as the next, best iteration.
Whatever the specifics, the human tendency to embrace evidence that supports our pre-conceived notions and dismiss that which does not (“confirmation bias”), can lead us to ignore the weak signals of change until it’s far too late.
So, how do we avoid getting caught in this trap? There are a few ways…
Key points identified in this post include:
- Checking your assumptions
- Listening to your constituents
- Keeping an eye on trends and results
Read the full article, Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Business?, on the Horwitz and Company website.
Robyn M. Bolton takes a lesson learned from a fairy tale to illustrate truths.
I love stories. When I was a kid, my parents would literally give me a book and leave me places while they ran errands. They knew that, as long as I was reading, I wouldn’t be moved.
But there was one story I hated – The Emperor’s New Clothes
I hated it because it made absolutely no sense. It was a story of adults being stupid and a kid being smart, and, to a (reasonably) well-behaved kid, it was absolutely unbelievable.
No adult would try to sell something that doesn’t exist, like the clothiers did with the cloth. No adult would say they could see something they couldn’t, like the Emperor and the townspeople did. Adults, after all, don’t play at imagination.
As a kid, this story seemed completely wild and unrealistic.
As an adult, this story is so true that it hurts.
The truth of this story touches so many things and innovation is at the top of the list.
I’ve spent my career working in innovation working within large companies and as an advisor to them. I know what executives, like the emperor, request. I’ve said what the consultants say to sell their wares. I believed all of it.
Now I need to be the kid and point out some of the lies, as I see them.
Lies identified in this article include:
Lie #1: Companies can disrupt themselves
Lie #2: If companies act like VCs, they’ll successfully innovate
Lie #3: We can pivot our way to success
Read the full article, The Innovator has No Clothes: Innovation’s 3 Great Lies, on the Mile Zero website.
Ravi Rao was recently interviewed on the podcast The Why Word where he explains how businesses can become emotionally healthier places to work, and reap the benefits of a happier, motivated, and more productive workforce.
Humans survive because we care about each other, because we are connected to each other, because we are so aware of each other. The challenge with something like the COVID virus, and SARS, too, is that we have even diminished the, if you will, socially acceptable ways that touch occurs for adults; handshakes, hugs, pats on the back, high fives. These kinds of things now represent public health danger. Sometimes when someone says to me, ‘Hey, I’ve got a lot of great content. I can’t figure out how to put it in a presentation, that’s gripping.’ I always say, ‘How would you do it as a play? How would you tell that story if it was in the form of an anecdote?’
Points covered in this podcast include:
- How Ravi made the jump from neuroscience to acting to management consulting at McKinsey
- The scientific approach to emotion
- The emotional impact on business
Listen to the full podcast, Emotional Business, on YouTube.
Robbie Kellman Baxter shares a podcast from her new series, Subscription Stories – True Tales from the Trenches. This week, she is in conversation with Brad Handler, vacation entrepreneur. They discuss his affordable business model, the integration of membership and subscription into the luxury travel service, and more.
I’m Robbie Kellman Baxter. Today’s subscription story belongs to Brad Handler. He and his brother, Brent Handler, are vacation entrepreneurs who are incorporating membership and subscription in some really novel ways. Brad has done a lot of different things over his career, first as an engineer at Apple, then as an attorney at a top Silicon Valley law firm, then at eBay as their first in-house counsel from 1997 to 2001. But he is best known for his innovation in the world of destination travel clubs. The Handlers launched Exclusive Resorts in 2002. More recently, they have been building Inspirato, a membership model which also has introduced a subscription option.
‘I walked into a little dorm fridge and a tiny little bar sink and my wife turned to me and said: ‘shut up or solve this problem.’ So we spent the rest of that vacation week solving the problem.’- Brad Handler
We’ll talk about how to package value for subscriptions and determine the right price and features and what he learned as a Silicon Valley insider that has informed his work in rethinking the travel industry. And finally, we’ll discuss the unique benefits and challenges of working with your family.
Areas of interest include:
- Using technology to pull ahead of competitors
- Subscription vs membership business models
- Inspirato’s most important metrics
- How data collection can transform and improve customer experience
- How Inspirato is structured for profitability
Listen to the full podcast, Inspirato’s Brad Handler on Revamping a Thousand Year Old Industry, on robbiekellmanbaxter.com
Nils Boeffel explains what can go wrong with a digital strategy and shares tips on how to develop a successful digital strategy.
Everyone is talking about digitalization, but many people and organizations get it wrong. To them it means throwing technology at things, hoping that they will get better. What is it really, what does it mean, and how do you think about it and implement it?
Last year I led a digitalization workshop at a company where they were looking to increase their digitization efforts. They recognized the need to move ahead (mainly due to changing market demands and the competitive situation), had several topics already under way, and wanted to “speed things up.” During the workshop it turned out that many things were already being done in different parts of the organization, that there was no central digital strategy, that the digitization was not integrated with their overall corporate strategy, and that the initiatives were taking longer than planned, and not providing the expected benefits.
How could they do it better, and what would it take to successfully define a digital strategy and implement digitalization?
Points covered in this article include:
- Three key roles in digitalization
- Phases of digital strategy
- Questions to ask
Read the full article, Digital Strategy or Digital Disaster – how to develop a successful digital strategy, on his company website.
The power of writing a list should never be forgotten. Luiz Zorzella has compiled a six-point list of tools and approaches that improve efficiency.
If you ever thought:
‘Hmmm… wouldn’t it be nice if I had a one-pager list of the tools that people use to improve process efficiency?’
Then today is your lucky day!
I have listed below my compilation of the main tools and approaches I found which other executives and consultants use to directly or indirectly process efficiency.
And, even though this list is not exhaustive, I have never found anything more useful than it to make sure you are not overlooking anything important.
By the way: if you see anything missing, please send me a note and I will be happy to include it in the next edition of this list.
The six areas of efficiency on this list include:
- Managing demand
- Organization alignment
- Value creation
Read the full article, 6 ITEMS FOR YOUR EFFICIENCY LAUNDRY LIST, on the Amquant website.
Eli Diament’s company has recently released a comprehensive report on how the current pandemic has affected business, including a summary of findings from their national survey of Americans, executives, business owners and business decision makers.
Azurite Consulting recently surveyed 3,500 Americans , in partnership with PeakProsperity.com – to capture a unique view of COVID-19’s impact on spending, hiring and business decision making. This is the second survey in a longitudinal study, capturing the granular impacts of Covid-19 and paths forward. We plan to continue the study, with the next ‘data point’ survey in Q3, 2020. The original research is available here.
This article highlights a subset of the major research findings, but is only a portion of the total findings.
The contents of the report include:
- Business Outlook: Slow L-Shaped recovery
- Permanent Layoffs: Fewer Employees Will be Hired Back
- Business Cutting Expense: Projected to Continue Through 2020
- Digital Tools: Their Impact on Jobs and Work-Life Balance
- Working From Home: Is it Permanent?
- People & Business Geographic Migration
- Returning to the Office and School
- Daily Activities: How Long Will People Wait to Return?
- Changes in Spending & Time: Millennials Driving Spend
- Returning to Daily Activities: Broken Out by Activity Type
Download the full report, Impact of Covid-19 On Business Decision Making, Spending & Recovery – JULY 2020, from the Azurite Consulting website.
Geoff Wilson asks the questions that make you think about your business strategy post COVID-19, identifies what you should focus on, and explains how you should move forward.
Hey, you there…the guy or gal with the life you always wanted. How does it feel?
You are working from home. Your computer screen has become your window into the world. And, you have realized that it is, in fact, possible to pack more meetings into a day if you just sit still and do everything by videoconference.
But, how’s your business? I mean, really, how is your BUSINESS?
I don’t mean how many COVID-19 cases do you have. I don’t mean how many furloughs, shutdowns, or capacity reductions do you have. I don’t mean how much stimulus cash you were able (or not able) to borrow. And, I certainly don’t mean how much sales have decreased (or, if you are lucky, increased) over the past couple of months. Those are interesting, good coffee chat items.
But they are the items in the spotlight. And, the spotlight in this case is searing. Everything–and I mean everything–is being cast in terms of the effects of COVID-19. Media coverage grasps at straws for something new after months of exhausting coverage and in doing so pulls ever more anecdotal evidence onto center stage. Statistics that we never knew existed (well, ok, some of us knew what an R0 was, but only kind of) are now part of the national discourse. And, yes, your employee base is focused on these same things.
But what about what’s happening with your business outside of the spotlight? How are you thinking about that? Because that’s really what you need to focus on.
Points covered in this article include:
- Shocks in the system
- Second-order effects
- The Uber example
Read the full article, The great strategic “wreck-oning”, on the Wilson Growth Partners website.
Lin Giralt shares findings from a Evalusys and Lambda study of over 600 small and medium sized enterprises in the U.S., covering ten categories, including results on: human resource management, business exit readiness, innovation processes and capabilities, and quality of business processes.
What Evalusys and Lambda have learned about US Small and Medium Sized Enterprises [SME’s]
Summary of Results from over 600 Business Evaluations indicates that improvements in Sales Management [98%] and Strategic Business Planning [94%] are the Categories that lead top managers’ and owners’ areas of action. In terms of specific points of action, the Innovation Category had the top three most important actions mentioned: “Company does not have the right metrics and incentives to support a culture of innovation,” [72%]; “Management is not satisfied with their ability to leverage open innovation,” [66%]; and “Management is not satisfied with the rate of new product development,” [64%].
On the other hand, most SME’s were content with their Overall Business Processes, Supervisory Practices and Human Resources Management.
In addition to metrics, this article includes:
- Topline conclusions
- Discussion of results
- Examination of the data
- Conclusions and further considerations
Read the full article, What Evalusys and Lambda have learned about US Small and Medium Sized Enterprises [SME’s], on LinkedIn.
As more consultants rely on video conferencing to connect with clients, David A. Fields shares timely, tractable, and tongue-in-cheek tips on how to avoid common mistakes that are all too often made.
Are there video call-specific rules of etiquette? Of course.
Remember the old days, when people left their houses? Consultants would frequently travel thousands of miles, sardined next to strangers (crazy, right?).
Even then, your consulting firm’s best, everyday outreach tool was your telephone.
However, in the modern, no-travel era, video calls have become totally acceptable and quite common.
Video calls are far more effective than the phone for building relationships with your consulting firm’s clients, prospects, influencers and partners.
As noted in this article, you’ll benefit from quickly moving email and phone conversations to video.
However, video calls do come with some risks and behavior changes.
For instance, when you were on a phone call and the other person was talking, you could sneak in a quick bite of your lunch (or one, entire Krispy Kreme donut).
On a video call, you tell your contact that you see a tarantula dangling behind them, then quickly scarf your box of donuts while you’re watching the other person shriek and flail. (Later in the conversation you can mention how much you like their pajama bottoms.)
Obviously, a quick review of avoidable video call faux pas is in order.
- Visual disconnection
- Audio fails
- Hot mic/camera
- Unhappy endings
Read the full article, “10 Common, Avoidable Mistakes Consultant’s Make on Video Calls,” on David’s website.
During times of crises leaders must make the tough decisions, but choosing the right way to go is not always clear cut. Zaheera Soomar identifies three practical approaches to serve as guidelines for ethical decision-making.
During a recent conversation with a senior executive, she expressed a sentiment that many of us share: “When the pandemic has passed, I want to be able to say that, at the hardest of times, I did my best to do the right thing”. During this pandemic, leaders are expected to make difficult decisions with far-reaching consequences.
Ethical decision-making becomes even more important in times of crisis.
Leaders are constantly faced with ethical decisions, with all of the challenges associated with meeting the expectations of various stakeholders – investors, employees, customers, partners, regulators, local communities, and society at large. These decisions are rarely simple, bringing together financial considerations with deep-rooted beliefs about the right thing to do: Costco’s raising of its minimum wage, Woolworths’ decision to get out of liquor and gambling and Salesforce’s decision to bar certain firearms companies from using its services all represent tough decisions informed by ethics and values. Leaders must make decisions with limited knowledge, predicting their impact, and have confidence and trust that the compromises and trade-offs are the right ones.
Included in this article:
- Align your decisions with your purpose
- Follow agreed and actionable principles
- Prioritise and plan your decisions and actions
Read the full article, Making Good Decisions in times of Crisis, on the Principia website.
David A. Fields identifies benefits consulting firms should focus on during this time of crisis.
There are so many voices fixated on the disaster unfolding around us, that you could easily be swept into a torrent of anxiety, fear and panic.
In truth, there is real reason for concern and you absolutely should heed the direction of medical leaders. At the same time, you and your consulting firm will benefit from a healthy dose of positive perspective.
If you ferociously cling to positive thought patterns while chaos is swirling around you, you and your consulting firm can maintain a clear head and promote forward progress.
Fortunately, there are many realistic, reliable reasons for you to feel upbeat.
Eight thought-starters are listed below, and I’ve left two spots open for you to fill in—one more than usual, because I know the entire consulting community will benefit from your inspiring thoughts.
Read the full article, 10 Positive Facts Your Consulting Firm Should Obsess over During this Crisis, on David’s blog.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Richard Cho with Growing Abundance Mindsets. Through his time at Gartner, Bridgewater, and McKinsey Richard developed a set of tools, frameworks and practices that have been adapted from leading business thinkers and applied across multiple Fortune 500 company teams to successfully drive new initiatives.
Often times technology problems are usually business engagement problems, and he has a track record of getting these initiatives on track. Richard is passionate about building world-class cross-functional digital teams that go after big goals by developing a culture of meaningful trust-based relationships and continuous learning.