Barry Horwitz shares an article that extolls the benefits of reading and reading some more.
Students in my strategy classes at Boston University often ask: What applicant characteristics matter most when applying for positions with strategy consulting firms? Of course, there are some obvious ones — sharp analytical skills and strong communication capabilities among them. But one that is often overlooked — and yet quite valuable — is possession of a healthy curiosity.
As I wrote in an earlier newsletter, creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems often come from insights garnered outside of an organization’s specific field. A robust curiosity (despite its potentially negative impact on cats!) can lead you to seek additional information and generate creative insights.
Curiosity’s proven value is also why business leaders often design their offices with central gathering points (whether mailroom or kitchen areas), where individuals from different functional areas are likely to encounter one another. As Vinit Nijhawan used to say when he ran the office of tech transfer at BU, he wanted to “minimize friction and maximize collisions.”
Read, Read, and Read Some More
Of course, one of the best ways of gaining insights from a broad range of fields is to work in a broad range of fields. But what if you are early on in your career or if your career journey to date has kept you tightly focused in just a few areas?
The answer is simple: Read… broadly and a lot. Hopefully, that’s obvious. Less obvious, though, is what to read.
Key points include:
- A reading list
- Email newsletters
Read the full article, Curiosity Killed The Cat… But It Can Keep Your Business Thriving, on HorwitzandCo.com.
Kaihan Krippendorff takes a look at the history of the music industry to demonstrate how Spotify excels at delivering customers what they want when they want it.
In 2006, a pair of Swedish entrepreneurs banded together to fight an ongoing problem: Piracy in the music industry was costing artists, retailers, and record companies billions of dollars in lost sales. Customers who had previously gone to CD or record stores to purchase music were now evading legislation to download songs for free, instantly into their music libraries from services such as Napster.
When Napster unexpectedly shut down in 2002, Kazaa, another controversial service, sprung up in its place. Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek saw an opportunity to combat illegal online activity through another means: delighting customers.
“I realized that you can never legislate away from piracy,” he said in a 2010 interview. “Laws can definitely help, but it doesn’t take away the problem. The only way to solve the problem was to create a service that was better than piracy and at the same time compensates the music industry. That gave us Spotify.”
He joined forces with fellow entrepreneur Martin Lorentzon to create what is now the most popular music streaming platform in the world. How did they do it? By delivering what the listener wants to hear, when and where they want it—and sometimes before they even realize exactly what it is they want.
THE EVOLUTION OF MUSIC THROUGH A PROXIMITY LENS
An industry-wide trend is underway. Company strategies and customer desires are shortening the distance between when people decide they need something and how long it takes for them to get it. My friend and writing partner, Rob Wolcott, offers the following definition: “Technology is driving the production and provision of products and services ever closer to the moment of demand.”
Many of us have benefited from the somewhat creepy omniscience of Amazon’s anticipatory shipping—the retailer predicts products we might want and delivers them to a nearby warehouse before we’ve even placed an order. But the research Rob and I have done shows that this extends far beyond retail; proximity is the future across all industries, and it’s been in the works for years. In order to pinpoint where Spotify seized the opportunity to capitalize on proximity, let’s take a brief look at the history of music purchasing.
Key points include:
- The changing technology
- Napster and file-sharing
- Applying proximity to your business model
Read the full article, WHAT SPOTIFY CAN TEACH US ABOUT PROXIMITY, on Kaihan.net.
Surbhee Grover shares an interview, recently published in Thrive Global, that focuses on several aspects of her entrepreneurial journey, including a perspective on the beauty business, and insight into launching a start-up in this industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been drawn to creation (and I define “creation” quite broadly). I’ve also realized that money and title are not my primary motivational drivers. As a result, I’ve often wandered off what might be the standard trajectory — at IIM Ahmedabad, where I went for my Masters, I was also involved in choreography and theatre. At NYU Stern School of Business, I traded some of the business credits to learn creative writing. As a global strategy consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton (Booz & Co), where I advised companies on growth and innovation, I once accumulated several weeks of vacation only to spend it doing a film-making course in London. When I look back, there was always a pattern, a consistent theme to what I was drawn towards — discovery, innovation and creation of something that gave me joy.
Around 2015, I was doing a lot of strategy work for luxury, retail and consumer clients and it struck me that while several concepts, ingredients and wellness practices from the Indian sub-continent had made their way into the daily life and lattes in the West, these barely scraped the surface of all the region had to offer, and that brands from that part of the world were woefully underrepresented in the aisles of beauty/ wellness retail. Thinking back, I believe I was staring at a café menu in Brooklyn that served turmeric lattes, when it struck me that I HAD to play a part in this movement… taking these rich, regional botanicals and practices that had yet to make their way outside their native regions, and make them unique, relevant and exceptional for today’s wellness consumers (the “how” for that would come later!). And that’s when the seeds of my latest entrepreneurial venture were sown.
Key points include:
- Innovative products developed by Love Indus
- Elements of the beauty industry that inspire and cause concern
- What you need to know to succeed in the beauty industry
Read the full interview, Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry, on ThriveGobal.com.
Miklos Tomka offers a brief view on his experience when trying to hire a service provider or supplier during the pandemic.
Hello all, I have had the same perplexing experience now several times. I am contacting a supplier as I would like to buy their product. I am contacting a service provider as I would like to use their services. Or I am contacting a company as I would like to send customers to them (most recently, I wanted to send several smaller customers interested in our drinking straws to distributors – as their order quantity is too small for our minimum order size).
And the reply I got every single time – is exactly zero. Nothing. No interest in new revenues (which is exactly what I propose – no hidden agenda). And the companies I have contacted do exist – they serve existing customers, pick up the phone etc. Just their sales function seems to be dead…
I thought businesses (or at least many of them) are struggling and are anxious to grow sales. Maybe there is a different segment that has so much demand that new sales are not needed at this time?
Have you had the same experience – companies not interested at all in new business? Is everybody maybe running at full capacity and so does not want to grow more? I would be interested in hearing from others – is this just me, or is this quite common these days? And if quite common – is this maybe a Covid impact: businesses do not really care at this time about increasing revenues / profits?
Read the full article, Are companies not interested in generating revenue growth anymore – as a result of Covid?, on LinkedIn.
A Dark Sky experience led Kaihan Krippendorff to ruminate on how to disrupt your industry.
It’s 6:30 a.m. at the Dark Sky RV resort in Utah. I’m sitting out by the gas firepit and everyone else is asleep. The sun is rising, but it’s not one of those sudden appearances that I often see in the Northeast. Instead, the sky is wide open above the vast horizon, and it begins to change colors over the short desert vegetation and red rocks. The rising sun gives a far longer preview of its arrival. It’s bright enough to be nearly daylight now and yet the sun has still not officially peeked over the horizon.
Now, our family is not an obvious RV family. When I tell our friends how often we have journeyed across land in these houses on wheels, complete with nighttime BBQs after arriving late to the site and impromptu stops at unplanned points of interests, I’m often met with wide eyes and expressions of disbelief. But we continue to realize the value of forced family time in close quarters and pushing out of our comfort zone to explore unfamiliar territory.
The other day, we toured the tiny motel strip at Page, Arizona, a road lined with extremely compact motels made for construction workers while they were building a nearby dam half a century ago. Last year, we stopped by the graves of the Gypsy King and Queen in Mississippi.
But the issue has always been where to sleep when the sun went down. Our days of exploration and delightful surprise too often lead to evenings of predictability and frustration. You see, although the RV camping industry in the US is an important slice of the US economy, employing nearly 23,000 people with an average salary of US $30,628 per year, the experience of spending the night at an RV camp leaves much room for improvement.
Key points include:
- Reform the strategy
Prioritize the pain points
Rethink each pain point
Read the full post, Disrupting Your Industry: Lessons From An Rv Park, on Kaihan.net.
David A. Fields explains why some of the most promising opportunities fail to transpire into contracts, and what you can do to ensure a more positive outcome.
Your hard work on business development and some good luck resulted in big opportunities for your seed optimization consulting firm: potential engagements with Worldwide Walnuts, Paramus Pecan Co, and NoNutz.com all at the same time. But, somehow none of those opportunities blossom into closed projects. Why?
You may have a “Step 0” problem.
If you’ve read The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, you’re familiar with the six steps to unlimited clients, starting with Step 1: Mindset and running through Step 6: Propose, Negotiate and Close. (If you haven’t read that book, go here, read this. Don’t pass Go or collect $200 first.)
It turns out that there’s a step before Mindset:
Step 0: Delivery Confidence.
If you aren’t confident that your consulting firm can deliver on a project, you will intentionally or unconsciously sabotage your business development efforts.
Your consulting firm’s Delivery Confidence wanes when you or your team members worry that you lack sufficient capacity or that your capabilities fall short.
A Step 0 deficiency is serious. Instead of winning the easy, NoNutz.com project and possibly cracking open the Paramaus or Worldwide engagements, you end up losing all three opportunities. That’s not good.
Your capacity concerns can be addressed with straightforward tactics, including hiring, delegating, streamlining and renegotiating. (You’ll find 11 capacity-increasing strategies in this article.)
Key points include:
- Questions to ask
- Confidence in delivery
- Increase capacity and capability
Read the full article, Step 0: The Prerequisite For Your Consulting Firm To Win More Business, on DavidAFields.com.
Rob Ristagno interviewed Tom Barry, Managing Partner of GHJ Advisors, on his podcast where they discuss how to scale your business without working overtime.
All professional services firms face the same challenges when trying to scale. The product they sell isn’t an item—it’s their team’s time and expertise. When you have a specific number of employees, each with a finite number of hours in the day, how do you grow your business without demanding more time and energy from employees?
Tom Barry, Managing Partner of GHJ Advisors, who’s been with the accounting firm for nearly 25 years, faces this question regularly. GHJ has built a thriving practice, serving privately-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations within their hometown of Los Angeles and across the country. Like other businesses, they’re always looking to grow.
But they never want that growth to come at the expense of their greatest asset: their team. That’s why Tom and his fellow leaders have honed in on four areas of focus to enable sustainable scaling.
The first is a focus on work/life balance. The firm’s #BeMore motto is about finding growth in ways beyond just doing more work. They want to create a space where team members can be more and nurture all areas of their life: family, self, and firm.
From providing weekly meditation sessions in the office to enabling hybrid work arrangements and flexible, capped hours, the team is constantly looking for new ways to help employees flourish.
Tom also cites investments in tech and AI as important ways to expand capacity. When individuals can automate tedious manual processes and tasks, it frees them up to do more high-value client work. Leadership loves testing new ways to create efficiencies with tech, from using new communication platforms to implementing Salesforce to manage client relationships.
The third lever Tom uses to scale efficiently is outsourcing. We live in an outsourced world, and there are many benefits to finding external partners to help handle workflow. Not only does it create additional capacity for your team, but it also allows you to effectively work around the clock.
Tom says one of GHJ’s outsourcing partners is located in India. The GHJ team in LA makes the most of that time zone difference. They hand tasks off to the folks in India at the end of their workday, and when they wake up and log on the next day, the tasks have been completed overnight.
Finally, Tom talks about the importance of providing value in how you structure your services. When it comes to professional services, it’s not about the hourly rate, it’s about the value derived from that time. He provides the example of a high-profile law firm. Yes, you may pay one of the partners $1,000 an hour, but if they save your company $5 million in the end, isn’t that a bargain?”
Key points include:
- Providing value
- Tiered offerings
Listen to the podcast, Scale Your Professional Services Firm Without Working Overtime, on SterlingWoods.com.
Jason George shares an article that explores building contingency at the cost of agility, and why taking the safe route may be more costly.
The next time you travel by airplane, look out the window and see if you can count how many engines are attached to the wings. Chances are pretty good you will find only one on each side. This holds true even on routes with long stretches over water or harsh terrain that provide no suitable diversion sites in case of mechanical trouble.
With few exceptions, most jets in commercial service now come fitted with two engines, a notable change from the status quo in the middle of the 20th century. In those earlier days of air travel the norm was to have four, and not because they provided the optimal ratio of power or efficiency. The main reason for this redundancy was the perceived unreliability of existing engines.
If there were only two to begin with, a blown piston or other mishap would leave just a single engine operating, a prospect too risky for regulators. This led manufacturers and their airline customers to converge on four engines as the standard. (For obvious reasons of symmetrical thrust an odd number wasn’t a popular choice, although some models featured a third engine embedded in the tail.)
What’s more, regulatory bodies like the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. mandated that aircraft couldn’t stray too far from possible landing sites, in case of emergencies requiring immediate help from the ground. This meant routes were carefully plotted not to take the shortest distance between origin and destination but to stay within range of potential diversion airports throughout the flight.
Key points include:
- The great circle route
- Known unknowns
- Getting rid of the safety net
Read the full article, Calculated risks and the costly status quo, on JasonGeorge.net.
Amanda Setili shares a short post on the value of trust.
Last weekend, Rob and I camped in a small family-owned campground 15 feet from Pamlico Sound on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. One night it stormed, hard. The wind was gusting to over 30 mph, and the rain was intense. It would have been easy to wonder if our tent would survive.
But I didn’t wonder.
We’d bought the tent from REI, the same company that had made the tent we had recently retired after 20 years of hard use in a variety of difficult conditions.
As we sat in the tent, listening to the rain and wind pummeling the tent, it became obvious to us that our new REI tent was as well-designed as the one we’d had for 20 years.
Companies talk a lot about earning their customers’ trust, and sometimes that talk can feel a bit overblown; after all, how much trust is involved when you buy, say, paper towels? But when a thin layer of material is all that separates you from a crazy-powerful storm, trust really matters. It’s then that you fully appreciate every aspect of your purchase: the materials used, its design and execution.
Key points include:
- The importance of trust
- Trust in business
- Customer loyalty
Read the full post, When the Storm Gets Intense, You Have a Very Different Definition of Trust, on LinkedIn.
The odds of success with mergers and acquisitions are surprisingly low, but in this post, David Gross explains how to give M&A Transactions a larger chance of success.
Trillions of dollars pour into mergers and acquisitions (M&A) annually as companies seek to increase market share, reduce costs, differentiate, diversify, refocus, and capture other sources of value.
Unfortunately, M&A success is the exception, not the rule. A whopping 70 to 90 percent of transactions fail. This means, only 10 to 30 percent of transactions succeed. To put these terrible odds in perspective, let us turn to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas. The odds of winning in blackjack are 44 to 48 percent, much greater than the odds upon which companies stake their futures.
Though these statistics may seem grim, there are companies beating the M&A odds, and they’re beating the odds over and over again. But how do these companies, or “M&A Winners,” repeatedly beat the odds? After 20 years of dealmaking, we have discovered 5 hallmarks underpinning their success.
HALLMARK #1: M&A IS A DAILY ACTIVITY
They say practice makes perfect and consistency is key. The same is true for M&A Winners. These companies have specialized talent, or “dealmakers”, who focus exclusively on M&A strategy and execution. Dealmakers typically reside on the corporate strategy or corporate development team, or on the equivalent business unit team in decentralized organizations. They are adept at marshaling talent, information, and other resources across the company; keeping their eye on critical value drivers and interdependencies; and managing the deal process. Effective and efficient dealmakers pay for themselves many times over.
An alternative and frequently-taken path is to challenge a leader with operational responsibilities to manage M&A activity day-to-day. Unfortunately, this approach stretches buy-and sell-side leaders too thin and may result in underperformance on the deal and missed operating targets in the existing business. For the sell-side, missed targets may prompt the acquirer to demand a lower valuation and changes to other key terms.
Key points include:
- The benefit of a “dealmaker”
- “Tuck-in” or “bolt-on” acquisitions
- Over-investment in due diligence
Read the full article, Reverse the Odds: Give Your M&A Transaction a 70 to 90 Percent Chance of Success, on ConsultSVP.com.
David A. Fields shares a recent post that is designed to help consulting firms identify and address areas that limit growth.
To achieve the next level of success with your consulting firm, you have to know what inflection point is next on your route (or, where you want to stop and optimize). Let’s briefly walk through the common stages on your consulting firm’s growth journey.
Transitions are hard. When you think about a typical, personal life journey it’s easy to remember (or imagine), the pain and setbacks, missteps and do-overs at each defining inflection point:
You live with your parents → You live on your own → You (successfully) live with a partner → You have kids in the household → You’re an empty nester → Oh no, your kids live at home again?!
Some gateways to a new stage of life are inevitable. None are easy. You shed a fair number of tears during the lead-up to each inflection point.
A consulting firm’s path to success differs from a personal journey in (at least) three ways:
The typical stages of a consulting firm’s progress are less widely known
Consulting firms’ inflection points are more predictable
You can stop at almost any point, optimize your consulting firm’s current life stage, and say, ‘That’s good enough for me.’
Key points include:
- Stages of growth
- Sticking points
Read the full article, 10 Stages of Consulting Firm Growth (Where Are You Stuck?), on DavidAFields.com.
Kaihan Krippendorff identifies the importance of proxemics between product and consumer/user as a key component of growth for businesses.
Shuffling through the crowds of Fourth of July weekend shoppers, I spied my prize. The farm stand’s rows were bursting with color—juicy strawberries, rich blueberries, and robust peaches. “Over here,” I called out to my kids to join me. We carefully selected handfuls from the overflowing baskets. Fresh berries would make a perfect addition to our family’s dessert that night.
When I approached the shop owner to pay, I had a brief moment of panic.
“Is it cash only?” I asked her.
“Nope,” she replied, revealing the white square hooked onto her phone. “We take credit cards now.” I breathed a sigh of relief as I handed her my card to swipe through the reader. She smiled and bagged our fruits, and I followed my kids on to the next stand.
TODAY’S CUSTOMERS WANT PROXIMITY
It would be difficult to stroll through a small-town market or other pop-up shop without seeing a Square reader. These recognizable contraptions, which now include contactless payments for cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, easily connect to mobile devices and empower small- and medium-sized business owners to accept credit and debit card payments on the spot.
No longer do merchants have to turn down sales because the buyer doesn’t have cash on hand. Square is a leader in digital payments, and its onsite and digital point-of-sale systems are part of a bigger trend that’s helping people purchase the goods and services they want exactly when and where they want them.
Today’s technologies have a human mission. Our mortal desires have always demanded instant gratification. Wants and needs arise, and we are driven to satisfy them as quickly as we can. The underlying concept, coined by my friend Rob Wolcott, is proximity—products and services produced and provided ever closer to the moment of demand in time and space. Square represents a proximity technology; it allows a business owner to cheaply and quickly set up a point-of-sale system on the spot at a weekend pop-up event.
If shoppers prefer to stay home, they can order from a small business online and receive their shipment in just a few days. It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend. We’ve come to expect Amazon packages in mere hours. Food deliveries arrive within an hour at our doors. Our doctors and educators enter our homes through video cameras.
Enabled by technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving cars, and 5G connectivity, proximity is occurring at an accelerated pace, and it’s going to continue to transform nearly all aspects of our lives.
Key points include:
- Customer demand
- Investor returns
- Three steps to benefit from proximity
Read the full article, How “Proximity” Technologies Are Bridging The Gap Between Demand And Delivery, on Kaihan.net.
Xavier Lederer identifies a key component that must be considered when building a strategy for growth.
You are not competing directly against your competitors, you are competing to be unique in the marketplace.”
What does your most valuable prospect look like? “Probably a lot like your existing valuable customers. The easiest and most profitable growth will be achieved by adding additional customers very much like your current most valuable customers,” explains Robert Bloom in his book “The Inside Advantage.” Clients you resonate with will bring clients in the same vein. The key question is: Who is your ideal customer – how do you identify and describe them – and how will you solve their problem?
Shifting ideal customers
This wisdom is more relevant now than ever: because of Covid customers have changed. Some have disappeared, others have shifted from in-store to online, and others have increased their purchases. As a result the assumptions you had about your ideal customers may no longer be relevant. And yet: you really need to know your ideal customer if you want to grow your business.
All customers are not created equal. Your ideal customer is an existing customer (not a hypothetical one), buys from you for optimal profit and refers you to other prospects – new customers who are likely to be remarkably similar to your current, ideal customers. Once you have identified your ideal customer you can find out whether there are enough of them to reach your goals – and define whether you need to expand into an additional segment.
Your ideal customer is a breathing, living human being
The thing is: It is not enough to define your customers as a market statistic – you can’t get to know a statistic. You have a much better chance of selling to someone you really know and understand. If you can’t answer the following questions, chances are that you don’t really know your ideal customer:
How many customers generate 80% of my gross margin, and who are they?
Key points include:
- Shifting ideal customers
- Going beyond market statistics
- Brand promise as a solution
Read the full post, Want To Grow Your Company? Start With Who, on AmbroseGrowth.com.
Barry Horwitz identifies why it is important to address the predisposition to the positive and how it often arrests the growth and improvement of the company.
Back in the early 90s, I joined the senior management team of a regional retail chain. I was new to the company and had moved there from out of town. The rest of the leadership team was made up of longstanding executives — people who had been there for years (in some cases, decades).
Not surprisingly, my colleagues enjoyed telling the positive story of their achievements. And that was fine, they had certainly accomplished quite a bit.
But the market and competitive landscape were changing; they were blind to the ways in which we were being newly threatened. In my view, if we didn’t evolve our strategic positioning, we were in danger of falling behind, or worse.
Were these executives unusual in this way? Not at all, unfortunately. Organizations work hard to build cohesiveness and teamwork among their employees and people like to feel good about the things they are doing well. Toss in the human tendency for confirmation bias and it’s easy to overlook a lot:
Sales were off a bit last month? That may have been due to bad weather or some other factor — it’s probably just a blip.
Donations are down from prior years? It’s probably the economy or the change in tax laws.
Given this predisposition towards the positive, how do you raise issues and deliver news that may not be welcomed? There is a perceived (often real) risk that by pointing out bad news or blind spots — even if it helps avoid bad things from happening — one will be labelled “not a team player,” perhaps getting sidelined or even fired as a result.
Here then, are some suggestions for highlighting — and slaying — those organizational sacred cows….
Key points include:
- Addressing prior beliefs
- Structuring recommendations
- Establishing a safe environment
Read the full post, Slay the Sacred Cows, on HorwitzandCo.com.
In this post, Amanda Setili explains why taking risks may be the safest strategy.
The world is always changing, but lately the changes have felt faster and more extreme. In times like these, your ability to manage risk and uncertainty can give you a huge competitive advantage.
To put this another way, in volatile times, taking on too little risk is dangerous. You may be left in the dust as competitors invest in new arenas that you considered too uncertain.
Some of my most successful clients encourage their teams to swing for the fences AND to have a systematic plan to manage risk. They break the risks into distinct pieces and assign someone to manage each specific risk, such as the risk that suppliers will not be able to perform, or the risk that customers won’t understand the product.
They’re also very clear about the risks that they are willing to take that other companies will not. For example, an organization may choose to self-insure, because they better understand the risks they’re taking than insurers do.
To accept more risk in a responsible manner, it pays to break the risk down into smaller pieces. Then, manage each of these pieces. Set clear goals for what you need to learn in order to mitigate each risk.
Key points include:
- The benefit of risk taking
- Managing risk
- Risk options
Read the full article, In Volatile Times, the Riskiest Strategy Is to Take Too Little Risk, on LinkedIn.
David A. Fields shares a post that is a must-read if you are considering partnering with another consulting firm to increase business.
There you are, polishing the sign in front of your catamaran and trying to attract consulting projects from the throngs of prospects meandering along the oceanfront. A boat-owner on the adjacent pier hails you: “Would you like to join forces? I’m sure we could catch more consulting clients together.” What do you think? Will adding more boats to your armada result in more clients?
Take a moment to look at the reality and rules of partnering.
(Note: This article was published in slightly different form in 2015. In the intervening years, I’ve obtained no new nautical knowledge, nor any greater misgivings about grossly overextending a metaphor.)
Reality: Prospects who want berths on ocean liners won’t choose
your skiff, even if it’s tied to a handful of others.
Many boutique consulting firms consider partnering to make themselves more attractive to buyers who lean toward big-name consultancies. “Companies don’t want a small shop like mine,” they reason. “Adding a confederate or two will make me a viable option for more projects.”
But heading in this direction misjudges the currents. Most prospects who will seriously consider a 50-person consulting firm will also hire a 15-person consulting firm, a five-person shop or even a solo practitioner.
In contrast, decision-makers who dismiss single-shingle consultants out of hand typically express equal disinterest in boutiques and loose networks of small players.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking a partner or two will convince a prospect to jump ship from his Crystal Cruises mega-steamer. You’re a different type of vessel, period. Take on the clients who appreciate your sleek lines.
Key points include:
- Reaching prospects
- Company values
- Sharing opportunities
Read the full article, Partnering with another Consulting Firm, on DavidAFields.com.
Rob Ristagno shares a podcast with a transcript that illustrates the important role company culture plays in the growth of the company.
David Kinsley didn’t anticipate taking over the family business. In his teenage years, he dreamed about becoming a Wall Street power broker, vacationing in St. Barths, and living a life filled with the finer things.
But when a chronic illness upended his first two years of college, his life changed course. He finally found relief and recovery in Eastern traditions. That led to a spiritual awakening that guided him back to the organization his father had founded.
He joined The Kinsley Group full-time in 1994 and became President 12 years ago. He’s led the organization through 12 straight years of growth and continues to find new, synergistically linked ways to expand the energy solutions company.
However, when asked about the key to the company’s success, he doesn’t point to a business development initiative or specific product. Instead, he says it’s The Kinsley Group’s team of compassionate, emotionally intelligent individuals.
Every employee goes to work each day striving to fulfill the company’s vision statement: To solve the energy infrastructure and environmental issues of the country. This lofty goal, to improve sustainability and provide top-tier service, is what David identifies as their secret sauce.
David says that his vision statement for The Kinsley Group was inspired by Bill Gates’ mission for Microsoft. In the 1970s, the thought of having an at-home computer would have been completely alien, yet Bill Gates proclaimed that his goal was to make that very thing happen. He dreamed bigger than anyone would have thought possible, and today that dream is a reality.
Similarly, David aims to solve big climate problems with innovative energy solutions. The Kinsley Group does this by designing bespoke offerings to tackle major environmental issues. He offers the example of a partnership with a Vermont dairy farm, Cabot Creamery, and Middlebury College.
Key points include:
- Culture, discipline, and accountability
- Team leadership and transparency
- Customer relationships
Read the full article, How Company Culture Influences Organic Growth, on SterlingWoods.com.
For the innovative entrepreneur and business leader who seek transformational categories, Mark Organ shares a comprehensive post that provides the key steps to take for this adventure in growth.
What entrepreneur does not dream of boldly leading the largest and most important company in a hot, rapidly growing category?
As I covered in How To Create A Transformational Category Like A Scientist, Salesforce, Peloton, and Uber are all examples of modern-day “category creators” that have captured our imagination while driving incredible wealth for society. Category creators who dominate their categories often are worth more than the entire prerequisite category they came from – and consistently generate more revenue (2.7x more) and market capitalization (4.2x more) than non-category creators.
I believe that software categories can be created with a systematic process. In over 25 years of category-creating entrepreneurship, including founding Eloqua and Influitive (and growing them both to 8-digit+ in ARR) – I have discovered, studied and applied this approach – and will now share with you what I have learned.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the 1st step in the category creation process: how to “discover” underserved heroes that will be massively elevated by powerful trends in technology and society – and show some category discovery examples.
But first, a disclaimer…
Key points include:
- My Category Discovery Journey
- Salesforce – A Category Discovery
- The Category Inception Pyramid
Read the full article, Discovering Your Transformational Categories like a Scientist, on LinkedIn.
Stephen Redwood shares an article that explores managing resources during disruptive times.
As companies go through phases of growth and decline, innovation and stasis, integration and diversification, resource needs fluctuate in terms of numbers, types and capabilities. Even for eminent companies such as du Pont, General Motors and Sears Roebuck, these cyclical phases have more often than not resulted in – as the professor of business history, Alfred Chandler, once wrote – “Resources accumulated, resources rationalized, resources expanded, and then once again, resources rationalized.”1
It is an unfortunate reality that the “resources rationalized” part, more often than not, relates to reducing headcount. How best to achieve that is a common source of questions from clients, often hoping for some magical thinking that will enable a rapid and relatively painless outcome. The reality, however, rarely matches those aspirations but not because of a lack of possibility, more because of a lack of method.
Determining the types and sizes of particular resource groups required in the short term versus those likely to be needed in the longer term is a challenging task when faced with the need to undertake a rightsizing transformation. This speaks to the importance of finding the right balance between strategic potential (“doing the right things”) and tactical details (“doing things right”).
A lack of access to adequate data or an understanding of the reasoning behind why things operate as they do only add to the challenge. This is often compounded by variance in job roles and responsibilities across organizations.
Ultimately, though, there is a finite set of ways to look for savings opportunities, but unless changes are made to the flow and volume of work in the business, none of the savings will stick.
Once identified, savings should be prioritized so that a properly managed transformation program can be established to ensure objectives are achieved without upsetting key growth or innovation initiatives.
Key points include:
- Assessing the landscape
- Restructuring at the top
- Bending the cost curve
Read the full article, Separating the Forest from the Trees, on RedwoodAdvisoryPartners.com.
Stephen Wunker provides a concise post that identifies four steps that can help build strategies to expand into new markets.
Market expansion is a goal many executives share, and rightly so. Expanding into new markets is not only a revenue driver but also a way to escape familiar competitive dynamics. It has powered giant success stories, such as Netflix’s entry into video streaming and then content production. Moreover, you don’t need to be a Silicon Valley wunderkind company to make it work. Consider Fujifilm’s transformation from Kodak rival to a $20 billion medical imaging powerhouse, or how Ingersoll-Rand grew from air compressors into markets as diverse as air conditioning and power tools.
But great care is required as dangers abound. All too often, these efforts become pet projects of senior executives, and they scale up before the customer needs or business model are truly worked out. Conversely, they can also linger in a zombie-like state, moving forward aimlessly with an unclear list of priorities, too little funding to spring to life, and no ability to kill off struggling ventures.
Who gets market expansion right? Look to venture capitalists for inspiration. Their profession is to assess new markets and figure out the best bets to make on them. Of course, if you have an established business, you should have a leg up on the VCs, as you have strategic advantages you can also leverage. The trick is to stay market-focused (not inwardly-focused) and not to transpose preconceptions from your existing business into new ones.
So, how do you do it? Here are four steps to expand into a new market:
Key points include:
- Go-deeper techniques
- Strategic theses
- Prioritize market expansion ideas
Read the full article, 4 Steps to Achieve Market Expansion, on NewMarketsAdvisors.com.
Sugath Warnakulasuriya explains how to take the first step in accessing the digital value in an old-school business model.
For leaders of traditional industrial and business service companies operating in eroding markets, the typical daily experience is one of keeping existing customers from leaving, holding onto already scant revenue and margins, and staying alive. Entertaining thoughts of getting lots more new customers or becoming more profitable is a rare luxury amidst constant fear of new digitally native attackers turning the industry on its head, or existing competitors retooling themselves to take away what little of the market is still up for grabs.
If you are a CXO or senior leader of such a company, you already know that the deep and disciplined operating expertise and relationships you’ve built over time are indeed very valuable, but also wonder how you can turbo-charge that with “Silicon Valley magic” so you can become the cool new digital, data-driven kid on the block. At the same time, you are skeptical of the hype around “digital transformation” and suspicious of consultants and vendors pitching proprietary solutions as the way to unlock digital value. All of this can be confounding!
So, what’s the clear-headed, strategic way to get your arms around all of the potential new digital value you could generate if you were to “reimagine” parts of your business, or simply make better use of existing and new data and insights to make smarter decisions on how you operate? How do you know what the right priorities should be, what the key risks are, and what kind of investment and organizational commitment is needed to take on this challenge?
The very good news is that the first “no regret” step to getting started is actually pretty clear, though surprisingly still a secret for many.
Key points include:
- Value levers
- Digital opportunities
Read the full post, The Very First Step in Unlocking Digital Value in Your Old-School Business, on LinkedIn.
The future of work, agriculture, education, and even relationships are all areas facing change thanks to AI technology. David Edelman extols the benefits of AI in this post.
The digital explosion, accelerated by Covid, has not made life on the front lines of sales and customer service any easier. In fact, when customers are able to do more research on their own, salespeople face tougher unanswered questions, and more of an inquisition about competitive differences, granular product details, or use cases they’ve never considered. Service reps have to handle the calls of customers facing challenges they could not resolve online, likely meaning customers who are more frustrated or who have very complex situations, often demanding special treatment or deeper investigation. And if they cannot work in a call center setting, getting help from colleagues or managers is simply more challenging logistically.
No matter what prognosticators say about AI automating away jobs, there will always be a need for front line roles (even if fewer people can handle many more calls) and AI can supercharge them by augmenting the capabilities available at the rock face of customer interaction. Reps will be more effective, and as their efficiency in “handling the difficult” goes up, they will become more scalable. The business cases are getting powerful.
Key points include:
- The new powers of augmentation
- It’s a brand issue
- But the tools are not enough
Read the full article, AI to the Rescue, as Call Centers Struggle
Aneta Key was interviewed on Cloudflare’s Strategy Spotlight where they discuss how to navigate growth, change, and uncertainty to rapidly scale.
How to navigate growth is a fundamental question that underpins many of my clients’ corporate priorities, though it comes in different flavors. For example, leaders address:
- How to chart a growth strategy, align around it, and put it in place
- How to keep everyone pulling in the same direction in an organization growing in size and complexity
- How to improve operational excellence after a rapid growth phase
- How to scale operations throughout digital transformation
- How to enable growth through leadership capability building
In March 2021 I was interviewed LIVE on the Strategy Spotlight segment of Cloudflare.tv discussing scaling teams and organizations at hyper-growth companies. It was a fun conversation mixing pragmatic advice for leaders and teams with explicit definitions and geeky humor on distributed/diverse teams.
Watch the full interview, Strategy Spotlight: Scaling Best Practices, on Aedeapartners.com.
David A. Fields shares a post on key steps to take to grow your business.
Clients hire your consulting firm in part because you know more than they do. You’re an expert. Wise in the ways of management, marketing or the musk beetle (or whatever your area of expertise happens to be).
How expert are you, though, and what are you doing to continuously upgrade your knowledge?
Domain knowledge is one of the three ingredients you mix together to whip up a consultant. (The others are consulting skills and s’mores.) Examples of a domain include: an industry, function, methodology, technology platform, geography, or particular situation, problem or aspiration.
New consultants at your consulting firm often need to polish their consulting skills and supplement their domain knowledge. Plus, of course, newbies need to learn your consulting firm’s IP and family recipes inside and out.
Ideally, you’ve developed onboarding and training materials to fling newcomers up the capability curve.
After that initial bolus of learning, however, the vectors of learning in many small consulting firms narrow down to one: experience.
Similarly, as a consulting firm leader, you’ve gained the lion’s share of your valuable wisdom from experience on projects.
Experiential learning is huge. It’s real-world, and directly relates to your clients’ needs.
Key points include:
- The true value of experiential learning
- Creating a domain knowledge ladder
- Identifying the knowledge source
Read the full post, The Ladder You Must Climb To Grow Your Consulting Firm, on davidafields.com.
David A. Fields shares a post designed to help the independent consultant accelerate revenue growth.
If you’re having trouble accelerating your consulting firm’s revenue growth, it could be because you’ve forgotten to create a stable revenue base.
“Bread and Butter” work (outlined in this classic article) is the most common and straightforward path to establish a solid, bedrock of revenue for your consulting firm. However, you have another interesting option:
Your consulting firm houses a treasure trove of assets, all of which are sellable to create a steady revenue stream that supports your consulting work.
A half-dozen assets that you could possibly leverage into cash flow are outlined below:
You can rent out your people to clients at a fee-for-time rate. This is staff augmentation, not consulting, and it’s a tried-and-true revenue generator.
In some industries, such as IT, staff augmentation margins are razor thin; however, some of our clients earn north of 50% margins on staff augmentation engagements.
Clients hire your consulting firm in large part because of your approach to solving their problems. You understandably guard your approach jealously and view it as a secret sauce that you don’t want to share. However, that precious resource could also line your coffers.
Licensing or franchising your consulting firm’s approach can yield generous income streams while potentially boosting awareness and demand for your services.
Key points include:
- Developing freestanding software content
- Developing an online academy
- Monetizing connections
Read the full post, Alternative Revenue Sources For Your Consulting Firm, on davidafields.com.
Xavier Lederer shares an evergreen post from his company blog that explains why your management style and communication needs must change as your company grows, and how it can hinder growth if you don’t.
“My company has great growth potential, but I am so stuck in the damn dailies, I can’t find time to work on my business. And my team, they just don’t seem to be pulling in the same direction. I have a clear vision of our future, but they are just not executing.” sighed the 55-years old CEO of this mid-market manufacturing company. He started his company 15 years and successfully grew it – but over the past few years, growth had stalled. His efforts to re-boot his growth engine have failed as well. In short, he felt stuck. How could he un-stuck himself?
His plan was simple: grow the company and then sell it in 5 years. For him, the next step seemed obvious: he needed to hire a new salesperson.
“What happened to the last sales guy?” I asked naively.
“He left! I can’t find someone who will stick with us long enough to have an impact. The same happened to the sales guy before him. I don’t understand this new generation; they have no loyalty.”
Like many other CEOs he identified and focused on symptoms, rather than on the root cause of his company’s issues. His company had outgrown his management approach.
Complexity increases faster than size.
As your company grows, it adds more employees and therefore more complexity. When you started in your garage people management and internal communication was very efficient: your leadership team (of one) was perfectly aligned on strategy priorities, communication was seamless from strategy to execution, and customer feedback went straight from the sales team (i.e. you) to the product development team (you as well). Then you hired a couple of people, and complexity increased: you needed to divvy up work, make decisions together, follow up on other people’s work,… Complexity increased much faster than your team size: When your team went from 3 to 4 people (+33% increase in team size) your complexity doubled!
The larger the team size, the more complex its management. Managing complexity is a challenge – but the biggest challenge is to regularly adjust your management approach to increasing complexity.
Key points include:
- Complexity increases faster than size
- Management approaches for each stage of growth
- Roadblocks to growth
Read the full article, My Growth Engine Has Stalled! Where Do I Go From Here? on ambrosegrowth.com.
Rahul Bhargava takes a look at thriving startups and shares the key factors that led to their success.
Recently, one of the startups I am working with, asked to ‘decode’ a post by Michael Stewart he had read about success factors for a startup. This post itself was a further assessment based on the TED talk by Bill Gross, founder of Idealab, given in March, 2015 on the topic. The talk and further assessment by Michael assessed 5 factors for startup success – Ideas, Business Model, Team, Funding and Timing – and gave verdict on Timing as the most important success factor amongst these.
To assess the impact of Timing, Bill asked the following questions (not exhaustive) from 100 Ideallab companies and 100 non-Idealab companies: Is the idea too early? Is the world not ready for it? Is too much education of the customer required? Or is it too late, giving the competition too much time to be competitive?
The question asked from me was – How do we decide if the timing is right for our startup? I shared with them a version and then thought of taking it to a wider audience for inputs.
Overall, a large number of factors that influence a startup could be taken care off by the other 4 parameters (Funding, Team, Idea or Business Model). I believe that those factors that are not completely under your control, are the ones to be considered under Timing.
Key points include:
- Product development
- Customer acceptance
- Scale up requirements
Read the full post, Decoding the biggest success factor for Startups, on LinkedIn.
Amanda Setili explains how innovation is key to the evolution of an organisation, and how leaders can take action to speed the process.
As much as leaders like to talk about innovation, a more accurate term for the process they wish to employ is evolution. Success in business comes from a lot of small actions and insights that accumulate and work to evolve the organization to a completely different state.
In nature, an individual organism mutates and if it proves successful, then that animal is more likely to reproduce and thus perpetuate their proven trait in subsequent generations. That’s how species evolve, and that’s how your organization needs to adapt.
Almost every day, someone in your company comes up with a better idea, tactic or strategy. In most cases, these advances have a relatively small impact because only a few people know about them. Even within a single department, it’s possible for someone to come up with a better idea and keep it to themselves. So, one sales person gets more effective, but her colleagues don’t adopt her approach, because they are unaware of it.
The way leaders speed up evolution is to help their organization establish a habit of identifying and sharing these incrementally better ideas. (In a similar manner, they can help to eliminate weaker ideas that haven’t made the grade.) To be clear, I’m not talking about giving orders from on top, but rather about reinforcing outcomes that have already emerged within your organization.
Key points include:
- Team leadership
- Employee recognition
- Sourcing innovative tactics
Read the full article, Speeding Up the Evolutionary Process of Your Company, on LinkedIn.
David A. Fields shares three ways consultants can expand their market. Bonus information and insights in the comments section.
There’s a rich, hidden vein of project opportunities for your consulting firm—projects that your consulting firm may not have been in the running to receive. With the proper outlook and actions, you can reveal and win them.
Usage of certain consumer products such as toothpaste and toilet paper are fairly constant—you’re unlikely to persuade consumers to use more of them or to use them on more occasions.
However, manufacturers of other types of fast-moving consumer goods, such as tahini, cheese and chocolate chips know that the right marketing and promotion strategies can increase usage and purchases.* Manufacturers call this “expandable consumption.”
Can your consulting firm tap into expandable consumption, or is consulting a fixed-consumption product?
Logical answer: Consulting is fixed consumption.
Consulting isn’t an impulse purchase like chocolate bars, parmesan crisps or Teslas. You can only win a consulting project when a client has a need for your consulting firm, and needs aren’t expandable or discretionary.
Key points include:
- Actively building visibility
- Focusing on hot buttons
- Creating high-touch engagements
Read the full article, 3 Tips to Expand Your Consulting Firm’s Market, on davidafields.com.
Dan Markovitz explains why training without a goal is a waste of time.
“Just in case 2020 wasn’t challenging enough for you, here’s a brilliant example of how to waste time, money, and credibility in 2021.
The HR department at a company approached me recently about teaching employees process mapping. This company recognizes the utility of process mapping in continuous improvement and decided that a class would be a good place to start.
Sounds sensible. But with all due respect to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), I can’t imagine a bigger waste of time or money than this class. Not because training has no value—of course it does, in the right circumstances—but because this class was completely disconnected from any process that needed improvement or business goal. Training done for training’s sake, without linkage to some sort of goal, is like a cattle rancher taking vegan cooking classes: intellectually interesting, but kind of pointless.
In my experience, the half-life of classroom knowledge is somewhat shorter than the time it takes employees to walk from the conference room back to their offices. Without a connection to a desired business outcome, training becomes a strictly academic exercise that will be forgotten after the next bite of a danish. And even with a connection to a business outcome, you’re in race with the danish.”
Read the full article, One Easy Way To Squander Time, Money, And Credibility, on MarkovitzConsulting.com.
Barry Horwitz explains why he believes industry experience is overrated and provides examples from Ford, Staples, and health organizations to back up the claim.
“In September of 2006, Boeing executive Alan Mullaly was named the new CEO of Ford Motor Company. Not only did he have zero experience in the auto industry, he drove a Lexus (shocking!).
The hiring decision was widely panned by industry experts and “regular people” alike. But Mullaly wasn’t fazed. When asked how he was going to tackle something as complex and unfamiliar as the auto industry, particularly given the financial shape Ford was in at the time, he replied, “An automobile has about 10,000 moving parts, right? An airplane has two million, and it has to stay up in the air.”
In the end, Mullaly was credited with having led a significant turnaround of Ford, which was also the only major auto manufacturer that didn’t require a government bailout during the great recession.
Industry Expertise is Overrated
When speaking with prospective clients, I am often asked whether I am an expert in their particular industry. While there are a few industries in which I have spent a number of years (e.g., retail, consumer products, health & human services, disease-based nonprofits), there are many more in which I have not.
In practice, however, lack of industry-specific experience is not usually a limitation. While it’s true that some understanding of the industry is critical, an outside resource can draw on the expertise that resides within the client organization, and from speaking with industry participants and analysts.
The truth is, if you are seeking creative and innovative ideas, they often come from looking at things from a different perspective — a perspective that is more likely in the possession of those with experiences across multiple and different industries.
There are many examples of this…”
Key points include:
- The benefit of a broad experience
- The intersection of industry innovation
- Hiring strategically
Read the full article, Respect the Unexpected, on HorwitzandCo.com.
Aneta Key shares a concise post that explains the purpose and benefits of her company’s GrowthKey programs.
One way to increase the leadership capacity of your organization is to invest in the development of your people and build organizational capabilities. The GrowthKey Programs help you do just that.
GrowthKey blended learning approach
The GrowthKey professional development programs develop critical strategic, problem-solving, and interpersonal capabilities to elevate the confidence and performance of leaders, high performers groomed for cross-functional assignments, up-and-comers, partners, project managers, and consultants.
The programs may mesh one or more of these elements depending on your unique needs:
Synchronous (virtual or in-person) “intensives” to galvanize learning — A core element that kick-starts learning. Custom content is developed based on client objectives and needs assessment for learners (e.g., High Potentials, Team Leaders, Project Managers, new hires). Durations last from multi-day “boot camp” formats to half-a-day “deep-dive” formats.
Key points include:
- The comprehensive global program
- The targeted local program
Read the full post, GrowthKey — Blended learning model for custom corporate training programs, on the Aedeapartners.com.
Amanda Setili shares a few practices designed to help you excel at both long-term and short-term thinking.
Every one of us knows well the constant tug-of-war between long and short-term thinking. You want to lose weight, but you also deeply desire that double chocolate cake. You want to put a new roof on your house, but you also have your heart set on a restorative summer vacation.
Long-term big thinking is the foundation of all major accomplishments. From the interstate highway system to the automobile manufacturing plants that populated it, such accomplishments are the result of decision makers’ choice to invest—sometimes painfully–now to create impact across many decades. But they also are the result of countless individuals working one day at a time.
So—as you already know—the trick is to excel at both short as well as long-term thinking, each in its place. But that is harder to do than it sounds. Here are a few practices I’ve found helpful:
Key points include:
- Incent short-term behaviors that have long-term benefits
- Work on both fronts at once
- Progress of all sizes
Read the full article, Navigating the Constant Tension Between Long and Short-Term Thinking, on LinkedIn.
Sean McCoy identifies key steps a business may take to alter the operation model and improve productivity.
We are in the initial stages of a productivity mega-trend. Forced by wage growth and enabled by technology, leading companies are already redesigning their operating models to make their people more productive.
The forces creating the productivity mega-trend
Wages are rising and look set to continue rising. Labor’s share of GDP is at a 90-year low, and we are seeing a reversion to long-run historical averages. 20 states raised their minimum wages in 2018, impacting 17M workers, over 10% of the country’s workforce. New technologies are radically re-shaping the processing of data and the interacting with prospects, leads, and customers. Repetitive work is being automated, and customer engagement is going digital. Extend the evolution of these two trends, wage growth and new technologies, and a firm can expect to experience one of two outcomes over the next business cycle: margin dilution or productivity growth.
How to join the productivity mega-trend
The first step to participate in the productivity mega-trend is to understand which of your business functions will be impacted. Functions with large spans of control and a large share of entry-level positions will be affected the most by wage growth. Functions where “data shuffling” is a common activity will be affected by automation technologies. Customer-facing functions will be impacted by the new customer-experience technologies. When listing functions that meet two or three of those criteria, at the top are functions such as inside sales, customer care, and customer service, and corporate functions such as Accounting, Finance, and HR.
Key points include:
- Wage increases
- How leads and customers interact with business
- Shifts from strategy to execution
Read the full article, The Productivity Mega-trend You Can’t Ignore, on McCoyConsultingGroup.com.
In this article for Forbes, Stephen Wunker reveals how this small business led the charge in innovation, safety, and customer service during the height of the pandemic.
You might not think of an auto body shop as a hotbed of business innovation – but you’d be quite mistaken. Consider the story of one small chain that shows how businesses can go on offense during the coronavirus pandemic, seizing the initiative to remake customer experience, business relationships, and competitive position. This is how one company made its Great Reboot happen.
Today’s Collision, a 64-employee chain of three auto body shops based in the Boston suburb of Malden, saw the pandemic happen at an unfortunate time. Boston had a relatively mild winter with little snow, and – sorry to tell you – auto body shops expect people to have more accidents when the weather is nasty. However, owner Bobby Cobb had a realization: if the winter was tough for his relatively well-capitalized company, it must have much harder for the mom-and-pop firms that were already just eking by. As the coronavirus hit and the plummeting level of road traffic foretold still fewer collisions, Cobb knew that shops across the industry faced dire circumstances. For him, this was the time to seize the initiative.
Key points include:
- Changing the customer experience
- Expanding your business partnerships
- Seizing market share from weaker rivals
Read the full article, How a Local Business got on the Front Foot during COVID, on Forbes.
With the pandemic slowing the pace in how we live and work, many of us may feel stuck. Luckily, Mike Ross shares a quick tip to help set movement in motion.
I’m lucky to spend a lot of my time working with highly intelligent, motivated people; helping them think through decisions for themselves and their organizations. Some big decisions, some small ones, but these conversations often share a striking similarity – the people I’m speaking with usually already know what to do.
They know the answer. They’re just stuck.
And what makes them stuck is fear. Fear of getting it wrong, of making a mistake, of screwing something up and regretting it. And they come to me (and people like me) to validate their ideas. Sometimes we find a piece of evidence or a fact that they overlooked that helps them to re-think their idea and chart a new path, but in many cases, they would be just as well served by trying their ideas out (on a small scale to begin with) and learning as they go. And that’s usually the advice that I give them. Try it and see.
They don’t really need a consultant or an adviser or coach. They just need the starting point of a plan and permission to move.
So here’s a quick hit to help you get unstuck…
Key points include:
- Tackling risk
- Gathering ideas
- Breaking through fear
Read the full post, Permission to Change, on LinkedIn.
Tim Worboys shares the strategies behind the success of a leading US insurtech company.
Hippo, a leading US insurtech company, announced yesterday that they had raised $150M in a Series E round, valuing the business at $1.5B post fundraising.
As the global economic conditions continue to prove challenging due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic we are beginning to see a split in the market – some insurtechs are going public or successfully raising significant amounts of funding and others like Metromile are either having to lay off and furlough significant numbers of staff or closing altogether like Coverly. So why are Hippo in the former group and continuing to be so successful? In my view there are three key reasons:
Hippo chose a great “niche”
All insurtechs entering a product market have to focus on an initial country and product combination (a niche). This niche is critical as it defines the parameters within which they operate and hence significantly influences their chances of success. Hippo chose to enter the US homeowners market – this market has a number of key advantages that help increase their chances of being successful:
Large size –at ~$100B there is a lot of opportunity for new entrants. Even at a retention rate of 85% there is $15B of new business premiums to compete for in a given year. Hippo at ~$270M currently will only be looking for 1-2% of that per year so can focus on the type of business/customer/states that they wish to target and have a lower chance of challenges such as adverse selection.
Key points include:
- Consistent growth
- High average premiums
- Simpler supply chain and less complexity of claims vs Auto
Read the full article, Hippo – getting a lot of things right – sustainable profitability the final challenge, on LinkedIn.
Are you failing to attract the talent you want at your company? Paul Millerd takes some time to analyze what does and doesn’t work on a company career page with examples taken from a review of 100 sites.
Why Stripe has the only good career page on the internet (okay maybe Costco too)
January 30th, 2021: Greetings from Taipei. It’s day 9 of our quarantine here in Taiwan. We were lucky enough to stay in Angie’s parents apartment so we’ve been able to walk in and out of different rooms to keep us occupied. Thank you to Arvind and Peter for becoming paid supporters of the newsletter and greetings to the 75 new subscribers, hitting the 3,500 subscriber mark.
This week’s picture features Angie’s rock painting creations, a hobby she picked up only a few months ago. Crazy!
#1 Stripe seems to be the only company that has put effort into their career page
This week I went through more than 100 career pages. It started because I have been writing about how our expectations of work have changed dramatically since I graduated in 2007. When I graduated careers pages were simply a listing of jobs available.
However, somewhere in the last 15 years things started to change. Companies started to market working at their companies and use language like “find your calling” or “do the most important work of your life.” AirBnB’s page tells people that they can “life their best life” at AirBnB.
This is a big shift and has led to a vicious cycle of increasing expectations and bolder language around what the company claims to offer. This is great except I’m not sure that most companies can guarantee that people will live their best life or do the most meaningful work of their careers. Most jobs, well, just aren’t all that exciting.
Someone suggested I walk through the Stripe site and explain why there site is so good. Here are five things they do:
Key points include:
- User experience
- Effective communication
Read the full article, The Career Page Crisis | #126, on Boundless.com.
Sugath Warnakulasuriya shares an article that explores a strategy many companies take to develop a path to profitable growth.
Many traditional high-share, low-growth companies find themselves in a similar predicament: they’re burdened with large, fragmented account portfolios, likely from inorganic market share binges. They often have hybrid asset bases, widely dispersed points of distribution and sale, large workforces, and complex logistics, all of which make margin growth very difficult. The legacy nature of these businesses also prevent access to accurate and timely customer and operational data, further limiting clear paths to profitable growth.
A few companies have battled this dilemma by rethinking how they operate, with judicious use of inexpensive digital engagement, devices, data analytics and innovation techniques. The typical playbook involves creating new digital customer experiences that introduce convenience and drive use, providing the workforce with mobile tools that make it easier to do their job, and deriving insights from newly collected data to improve operations altogether. With emergence of low-cost IoT, some companies even instrument and connect their distributed assets, opening the flood gates to granular, up-to-date and highly useful data. Bringing it altogether with modern data infrastructure and analytics, and operationalizing key insights paves their way to profitable growth.
Key points include:
- Creating new digital customer experiences
- Digital dashboards to monitor hidden patterns
- Connecting distributed assets
Read the full article, “Cash Cows with Millions of Udders” and Digital Paths to Profitable Growth, on LinkedIn.
Robbie Baxter shares valuable advice on how to build and manage a network in a comfortable and authentic way.
A few years ago, my sister asked me to co lead a workshop to help a group of her fellow psychologists build their professional network.
Here’s how she opened the event: “I know most of us really don’t like networking, and I’m glad you’re here anyway. For most of us networking is worse than a sharp stick in the eye”
I heard murmurs of agreement and saw heads bobbing up and down. These people hated networking. But I came to learn that a big part of it was how they defined networking and the approach they believed they had to use to build and nurture their networks.
I have come to learn that for many people, networking feels inauthentic and cheesy, and seems to take them away from the real work of helping clients and doing the work.
And yet, your network can be a tremendously powerful tool in “doing the work” and your investment in building your network can be among the most authentic and meaningful parts of your day.
In my work building engaged communities and forever transactions for all kinds of organizations, I have spent a lot of time teaching people how to build their networks in an ethical and comfortable way.
Here are some tips that can help you build yours!
Key points include:
- Communication tips
- Strategies for segmentation
- Developing opportunities
Read the full article, 30 Days to a Stronger Network in 2021, on LinkedIn.
Barry Horwitz explains why developing strategy is even more important when instability and uncertainty are the norm.
‘There has never been a time in which managers did not invoke the idea that the world is changing faster than it’s ever changed before.’
Nitin Nohria, just-retired Dean of Harvard Business School
Pandemic, rampant unemployment, economic uncertainty, climate change, political upheaval.
And that’s just what you’ll find above the fold in today’s newspaper. Given all the turmoil and confusion across the board — about today, let alone tomorrow — is there even any point in developing a strategic plan for your business?
Of course, as someone who trades in strategy, my position on this question is pretty easy to guess: The answer is a resounding YES.
First, because as Dean Nohria and many others have observed over the years, we humans are biased towards believing that change today is happening more rapidly and more broadly than ever before. It’s not. The specifics may be different, but rapid change has always been a given.
Second, it depends very much on what you envision when thinking of a “strategic plan.” If your answer is, “a fancy, dust-gathering binder full of financial projections and dozens of pages of text assembled to spell out specific plans for five years into the future,” then I agree, it’s a waste of time.
But that’s not what an effective strategic plan looks like.
Key points include:
- Strategy to determine purpose
- Strategy is direction
- Strategy recommendations
Read the full article, Is Strategy Still Relevant?, on HorwitzandCo.com.
Amanda Setili asks us to think about how interaction with clients has changed and what expectations will be in the years ahead.
Imagine that it’s three years in the future, in 2024. Largely gone are the days of flying somewhere to meet with a customer for an hour or two. Customer expectations have changed dramatically; they want substance more than just a few hours together.
Instead of a social call, customers in 2024 want substantive gatherings of talent. For example, they value it when you can set up a virtual gathering between your customer, an engineer in California, a SME in New York, and an entrepreneur in Germany.
The way things are done in 2024 are a direct result of everyone going virtual in 2020, plus three years of effort to make virtual gatherings substantively better, rather than just socially distant. It’s become far easier to share data, see and interact with other people, swap ideas, break out into small groups, and even to look the other person in the eye.
No one—myself included—can accurately predict all the innovations likely to take place over the next three years, but I’m pretty certain that many will combine to make virtual gatherings far more effective.
Key points include:
- New skills and perspectives
- Changing expectations
- Changing operations
Read the full article, How Will You Interact with Customers in 2024?, on LinkedIn.
To ensure companies have the talent that will grow the business, Stephen Redwood explains how a multi-track career model is the better choice for today’s agile and lean requirements.
In a world where attracting top talent is increasingly competitive there is certainly a case for focusing attention on that special and small number of company roles that are deemed critical to success. Those roles may well shape the agenda, define points of focus, and be responsible for creating much of the potential business value, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that it is the collective performance of the whole employee population that ultimately delivers the actual results. In thinking of a suitable metaphor, I was reminded of the poem Where Many Rivers Meet by David Whyte. The title conjured just the right image for the way career models should combine the flow of capabilities across organizations to support strategic goals and individual ambitions alike with a force like ‘the mouths of the rivers sing[ing] into the sea.’
The narrowly defined career paths of the past, that reward climbing a hierarchy of increasingly administrative general management roles, no longer fit with the leaner, agility-focused, diverse and dispersed operations of today’s companies. Nor do they fit with the expectations of an increasingly mobile, diverse, remote and ‘gig-minded’ talent pool of today’s society. More flexible career paths are the order of the day, yet in many cases the need lags behind the reality.
Clients often ask me what they should factor into their thinking as they evolve new designs that allow for multiple career paths, providing opportunities for a wide range of skill sets and capabilities.
Key points include:
- Addressing the practical realities of the global labor market
- Balancing individual and organizational needs
- Offering different career tracks
Read the full article, Where Many Rivers Meet – Building Multi-Track Career Models That Work, on LinkedIn.
In this article, Kaihan Krippendorff identifies one major, but hidden, competitor you may not have recognised and explains how this may help you build a more competitive strategy.
If you’ve spent time developing your organization’s strategy, chances are you’re familiar with your competition. You know your competitors’ offerings, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can deliver where they don’t. But when it comes to preparing for the future, there is one alternative competitor, less obvious but omnipresent, that may not have crossed your mind: nonconsumption. Keep reading to find out why nonconsumption may be a threat to your organization and how to address it.
NONCONSUMPTION: YOUR INVISIBLE COMPETITION
At last year’s Reimagine the Future Summit, I had the opportunity to meet backstage with Efosa Ojomo, Nigerian author, researcher, and speaker at Harvard Business School and the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. He introduced me to the concept of nonconsumption as a major competitor in the market.
He explains, ‘Nonconsumption occurs when the vast majority of people in an economy would benefit from access to a product or service, but due to obstacles such as cost, expertise, time, or availability, they are unable to afford the product.’
If left unchecked, nonconsumption can become one of your biggest competitors, but it can also lead to untapped market potential and strategic opportunities.
Key points covered include:
- Your invisible competition
- Four reasons for nonconsumption
- How Chinese virtual currency addresses nonconsumption
Read the full article, Have You Addressed Your Hidden Competitor?, on Kaihan.net.
David Burnie shares a post that explains why now is the time to refresh your growth strategy.
The COVID-19 crisis has impacted businesses worldwide. Globally, governments have put economies on pause, and businesses have shuttered their doors to try and limit the virus’ spread. Factories have idled, and customers have sheltered in place as the world weathers the storm. Whether or not this strict response was necessary, or an overreaction, is a side debate – it happened. As we move from the frenetic pace of survival into recovery, businesses now need to seize the opportunity that has been presented.
Deloitte Canada’s recent September 2020 Economic Outlook noted that Canada’s economic activity is not expected to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of 2021. Businesses still operating have withstood the immediate shock to revenues and survived the initial downturn; now they need to leverage this recovery period and set the foundations for future growth.
There are 5 key reasons outlined within this article as to why businesses need to invest now in refreshing their growth strategy:
To convert crisis urgency into future momentum
To gain first-mover advantage on emerging trends
To adapt to a technology-focused market
To take advantage of the robust talent pool
To build resiliency into their strategy
By heeding to these reasons and acting to refresh growth strategy, businesses can position themselves for success in the recovery and post-pandemic world. They will better understand their customers’ problems and what they as a business can do to solve them, thus working towards increasing market share, entering new markets, and growing revenues.
Key points covered include:
- Converting crisis urgency into future momentum
- Gaining first-mover advantage on emerging trends
- Adapting to a technology-focused market
Read the full article, Why Now is the Time to Refresh Your Growth Strategy, on BurnieGroup.com.
Jeff Perry shares a post that identifies the positive potential of divestitures in a company’s growth portfolio.
Houston, do we have a problem? While many companies talk about the need to regularly reshape its portfolio, divestitures are too often considered aborted missions. Quite the contrary, divestitures can be rocket fuel for other business priorities of the parent company.
Divestitures are unsung in portfolio-shaping. When businesses are rumored to be for sale, many questions are raised internally and externally: Why is the business on the block? Is it underperforming? Was it starved investment? Was required management talent lacking? Why would the business be of more value to someone else?
Divestitures are not typically afforded the buzz and attention of their M&A cousins. When companies announce major acquisitions, there is often great anticipation and excitement regarding how the newly acquired entity will drive growth, expand geographic markets, expand products and services, and/or improve supply chain efficiency. High potential leaders in the business lineup for roles to help in acquisition and integration processes.
When divestitures are considered, first, there are fewer people “in the know.” When it is more known that a business may be a divestiture candidate, in addition to the questions highlighted above, high potential leaders often run for the hills. People may experience changing allegiances throughout the divestiture process as well. While everyone starts thinking on behalf of the parent company, some will shift to wearing the hat of the divested business, especially if they are ring-fenced and going with the deal.
Key points include:
- The barriers to overcome
- Creating value
- Capital raised
Read the full article, Divestitures Can Be Rocket Fuel, Not Aborted Missions, on LeadMandates.com.
Nora Ghaoui shares the top three ways she built her business as a solo consultant during the difficult year of 2020.
Building a consulting pipeline is tough in any year. In 2020, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic made companies cautious, so it was harder to get projects agreed and started. I tried out different actions to build my project pipeline, and some worked better than others. Here are the top 3 things that made a difference to building my business as a solo consultant. They might not be what you expect!
Spend your time wisely
Time gets away from you when your established routine is broken. Without strong deadlines or direct feedback, it’s easy for actions to be postponed, half-done or forgotten in the jumble of dealing with lockdowns and working from home.
So the most important success factor is: Be very intentional about how you spend your time. What you spend time on, and what you get done, makes the difference between building your business or seeing it languish. It sounds obvious, but it can be hard to do in practice.
As an “army of one”, all the work has to be done by you, although you can outsource parts of it. This work includes refining your positioning, creating and publishing your marketing, building and nurturing your network, prospecting for leads, pitching for projects, negotiating with clients, working on projects, doing administrative overhead, keeping your expertise up to date, and, last but not least, having fun and enjoying what you do.
Key points include:
- Questions to help you prioritize
- Reviewing progress to stay on track
- Expanding and maintaining connections
Read the full article, Keep building your consulting pipeline (in a tough year), on Veridia.nl.
In this article recently published in the El Economista, David Uriarte explores how COVID-19 has encouraged medical and social experiments on sustainability, the economy, and the management of companies.
One of the ways in which human beings have managed to advance our knowledge and civilization is through experimentation. Experimenting means testing in order to explain or understand the nature of reality. Experimentation is one of the building blocks of innovation . Experimentation is based on changing the things we normally do .
Experimenting is often expensive and time consuming. It also forces us to get out of our comfort zone and seek new realities.
Covid-19 is posing a huge humanitarian challenge with, for now, more than 1.5 million deaths. In addition to its profound negative impact, it is generating new processes of innovation and digitization, because we are forced to experiment, we are forced to do many things differently.
All crises generate experiments, innovation and knowledge. World War II inoculated us against fascist ideology and advanced technology to hitherto unsuspected limits.
You just have to walk through the Royal Air Force Museum in London and see what airplanes were like before and after World War II to get an idea of this transformation.The sense of urgency and need to obtain a vaccine for Covid-19 has meant that a large amount of resources have been dedicated to its research and development. Thanks to this, new platforms based on RNA and DNA have been generated to obtain vaccines that may be used in the development of new vaccines in the future. With these technologies, vaccines can be developed more quickly because they do not require culture or fermentation and billions of people will benefit from them in the future.
Questions posed in this article include:
- What happens to pollution in a city
- What happens to an economy when millions of people cannot work
- How do organizations develop if their workers are related only digitally
Read the full article, COVID-19: The Great Experiment, on El Econimsta.es.
Dan Markovitz shares a free workbook to accompany his latest book.
Response to my latest book, The Conclusion Trap, has been strong, but I’ve heard from some readers that they’d like a workbook to accompany it.
You can download the Conclusion Trap Workbook here. For free. Gratis. No charge. $0.00 dollars.
In it, you’ll find a recap of each of the four steps, along with questions, and recommendations you can use to experiment with the approach in your work (or personal!) lives.
Access the link to the workbook through the post, The Conclusion Trap Workbook Is Out (And It’s Free), on MarkovitzConsulting.com.
In this post, Bernie Heine identifies what the business community has learned from the Coronavirus pandemic.
We are all learning to live by the new rules in all aspects of our existence; we also realize what we can do.
For the past ten months, businesses all around the world have faced various challenges. Some have suffered terrible losses. However, others managed to emerge from the crisis more potent than ever – even without proper coaching. We continue to see how flexibility stands out as a prominent feature that often determines the fate of a company.
Many business lessons learned amid COVID-19 are here to stay, and that, it turns out, is a positive thing.
Agility Means SurvivalAs gamers will know, building a fighter’s agility is crucial in many fighting games. Strength, dexterity, and health are vital, but it’s agility that will determine whether you will beat or be beaten. It’s similar in business; flexibility will decide if you will sink or swim. During these turbulent times, it is of the utmost importance to have the ability to assess the situation instantaneously and have quick reflexes. Only then will you succeed in adapting to newly developed conditions and ensure survival.
The sudden explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic left many businesses with their back against the wall. They had to make the decision, and they had to make it fast. Were they going to try and adapt or close their door for the unforeseeable future? The rapidly changing business scene has forced many to get out of their comfort zones. In some cases, such actions have revealed the companies’ hidden weaknesses. The smart ones used the newly acquired information to their advantage, fixed the underlying issues, and got out of the gutter even stronger.
Key points include:
- Increasing the talent pool
- Fostering productivity
- The need for social interaction
Read the full post, 5 Business Lessons Learned amid COVID-19, on ProfessionalBusinessCoaches.com.
Susan Hamilton shares a thoughtful post on creative thinking and the pursuit of possibility.
September has always been my favorite month. The smell of new notebooks, the crispness in the still-warm air. A season full of unknowns, full of possibility. This year, the back-to-school season presents a different riff on unknowns to be sure, but I am still filled with a sense of excitement at the possibility that awaits.
People who are open to seeing possibility have a powerful competitive advantage. They notice opportunities others miss. They discover new ways forward that others may not have imagined or may have written off as impractical.
Tony Petito was a man who saw possibility.
While growing up in New Jersey, Tony’s love of theatre was a puzzlement to his family of plumbers. Undeterred, he organized extravagant musical productions, earning him a commendation from his town’s mayor. He went on to earn an MFA in directing from the Goodman School of Drama of the Art Institute of Chicago and pursued a theatre career in Chicago and New York.
When he was offered an unexpected opportunity to work in management consulting, he took the leap. While it drew him away from the theater, his time with Booz, Allen & Hamilton took him on adventures across Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore and provided a secure life for his growing young family.
In Singapore, a community theatre approached him seeking an artistic director. Where others might have dismissed the role, imagining nothing more than staging Gilbert & Sullivan musicals for local expatriates, Tony had a vision. What if it were possible to transform that theater, leveraging its staff and supporters, to create a professional, international company?
Read the full post, In Pursuit of Possibility, on SusanMeierStudio.com
Barry Horwitz shares a recent post on digital transformation in business, and how it can provide a clearer understanding of business wants and needs — both internally and customer-facing.
In a recent webinar, Harvard Business School professor Joe Fuller (author of Managing the Future of Work) shared this mouthful: More work will be more digital more often… soon.
What does that mean? Well, what it does NOT mean is that companies should simply do remotely or digitally what they have always done before.
“Digitizing” something that was conceived decades ago is not transformation. This is like how the first cars were called “horseless carriages” (and looked exactly like a horse-drawn carriage minus the horse) and the first attempts at “digital newspapers” were simply PDFs of the printed paper attached to an email.
No. What Fuller and others are saying is that it’s time to consider new combinations and envision a novel, better approach. Not only can this protect your business from getting left behind, it has the potential to open doors that might have otherwise remained closed.
Some examples worth chewing on…
Higher Education. Mid-semester (the first full semester under COVID conditions), many schools are still struggling to figure out the best way to proctor remote exams. One option is software that monitors — Big Brother style — a student’s every move during a test; a bad combination of intimidating and creepy. Maybe it’s time to rethink our approach to learning assessment, in ways other than through closed-book exams.
Supported Living for Consumers With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). Rich Johnson, CEO of Ohio-based ViaQuest, envisions a future for I/DD services that is virtual, hybrid, and home-based, enabling consumers with I/DD to live with families and friends, instead of in 24-hour-staffed group homes.
Key areas of digital transformation include:
- Higher education
- B2B sales
Read the full article, Digital Transformation Is Coming For Your Business, on the Horwitz and Company website.
In a recent podcast from Subscription Stories, Robbie Kellman Baxter shares the secrets behind building a successful membership community.
We crave community.
More than ever, community is what ties us together and motivates us to be our best selves every day. Increasingly, we’re finding those connections online. From clothing manufacturers to conference organizers to professional services providers, community creators struggle to build authentic, sticky, and even profitable communities.
Gina Bianchini knows the secrets to strong communities.
She has dedicated much of her career to ushering in a new era of digital community. In addition to MightyNetworks, the community platform, she also co-founded Ning and grew it to over 100 million users in 300000 active networks.
I recently sat down with her to talk about how to launch and build community as part of a broader Forever Transaction. In our wide-ranging conversation, we also discussed how to incorporate other elements of value into your community, such as content, digital courses and subscription commerce. Enjoy!
Key points discussed include:
- Distinction between the ad business versus the subscription business matters
- Identifying sticky content as opposed to quantity of content
- Subscription overwhelm and subscription fatigue
Read the transcripts or listen to the podcast, Secrets to Building Membership Communities, on LinkedIn.
Using the rise and fall and rise again of the national public radio system as an example, Kaihan Krippendorff explains why a “betting on the past” strategy has caused the downfall of giants.
In March of 2008, the United States’ national public radio system (NPR) seemed to have a fatal and too common choice: to bet on the past rather than the future. It’s the kind of decision that has initiated the fall of many once-great companies: Toys “R” Us, Polaroid, Borders, Macy’s, RadioShack, and BlackBerry, to name a few.
The pattern often begins with a shift in the “point of demand” that the incumbent chooses to ignore. BlackBerry ignored that the point of demand of mobile phones was shifting from IT managers to working consumers who started to demand they be allowed to bring their own devices to work. For innumerable retailers it was the shift from stores to online. For Polaroid and Kodak, it was the shift of demand from paper to digital.
When the point of demand shifts, some companies cling hopefully to the possibility demand will shift back. Others follow the point of the demand, shifting how they produce and deliver value.
By 2008, NPR had been following an historical shift in how people were consuming radio. As podcasts started taking off, NPR was early to the game. They had launched their podcasts three years earlier, offering a collection of nearly 200 programs. They quickly could claim 5 million downloads. When an NPR fan, a college student, launched an NPR Facebook page in 2008, NPR quickly took over its management.
Key points in this article include:
- The shifting point of demand
- Walking the line between innovation and tradition
- How media consumption has evolved over time
- The spectrum of NPR’s strategy
Read the full article, How NPR Leapt Forward in Proximity, on the Outthinker website.
Christophe De Greift explains why now is the time to plan your analytics transformation, why you should, and the first step to take.
Artificial intelligence is a relatively young discipline in companies and in constant evolution. However, the experience of pioneering companies in various sectors and continents confirms their high value generation when accompanied by a true transformation of the company. Those who have not yet internalized their analytical transformation plan should start now to be able to arrive on time, as I explain below.
Being analytical is increasingly necessary to stay competitive
Many important business decisions are better when supported by data. Neuroscience has recently confirmed what common sense has always allowed us to understand: man can be irrational, biased and even blind. The machine is not 100% reliable either; the key is to precisely define the role of man and machine for each decision, as explained in a previous article . In very repetitive problems such as forecasting the demand for mass consumer products in retail stores, the most advanced and successful companies limit human intervention to exceptional cases. In more sensitive problems such as medical diagnoses, the radiologist is assisted by artificial intelligence.
Across all sectors, the competitiveness gap between analytics pioneers and the others is growing, threatening the sustainability of the latter. Those who have succeeded in analytics redouble their efforts and investments to become even more analytical, creating the virtuous circle explained in a recent MIT and BCG article.
Being analytical requires a transformation at the people, organization, processes and technology level.
Key points include:
- Data as an opportunity
- Predictive maintenance
Read the full article, 3 reasons to plan your Analytics Transformation now, on christophedegreift.com.
Amanda Setili was interviewed on the Quest for the Best podcast where she shared how to identify and act on opportunities in a fast-changing world for small business leaders.
I would have to say (I was inspired by) my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Tidwell. She grew up on a farm and she’d tell us stories about growing up on a farm and what it was like, and she had a great experiment that she ran with her kids every year, which was to take fertilized chicken eggs and put them in an incubator, and every few days we’d open one, just to see what the state of the growing chick was, and it was just a great example of, kind of running experiments, seeing for yourself, and just getting really immersed in the physical world of how things really work that really helped to foster my lifelong love of science and experimentation.
…I thought, when I was in college, that I wanted to work in R&D because I thought that was where you’d get to invent things and find new theories and things like that, and so my first job was at Kimberly Clark in R&D, and it did not suit me at all. It was interesting that your interest as a kid doesn’t turn out to be the correct direction to go, so after I had worked in R&D for a year and a half or so, I was just kind of thinking, ‘this is just moving to slowly’ and I’m spending too much time thinking and writing, and I want something more immersive, and luckily at that time there was an opportunity available to work in a production facility, a mill, so I moved there, working in a small town, in a mill for Kimberly Clark, and I just loved it. It was everyday something happening, working with a small team to optimize operations and develop new products, and there was never a boring minute at all.
Key points covered in the interview include:
- Agility as the ability to see what’s going on in the marketplace
- How marketplace changes create new opportunities
- Finding a way to create something good whatever changes
Listen to the full podcast, How to Take Advantage of Marketplace Opportunities, on myquestforthebest.com.
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.
As more companies seek mega mergers to dominate the marketplace, a new alliance is going to revolutionize how you access your meds. Kaihan Krippendorff uses Amazon’s recent expansion into pharmaceutical distribution to illustrate the importance of proximity in expanding and improving business offerings.
If you want to predict the path of innovation in your industry, consider one unifying strategic concept: proximity. Introduced by innovation guru Rob Wolcott, proximity is the theory that the production and provision of value moves ever closer to the point of demand. Viewing your industry through this lens can reveal new opportunities, help you clarify where to focus your innovation efforts, and help you better anticipate which innovations will thrive and which will fall.
Consider TJ Parker, a second-generation pharmacist who came to realize the pharmacy industry was broken. Over the years, he observed how convoluted the experience was for patients, particularly those with multiple prescriptions, to get the drugs their health depended on.
Multiple prescriptions meant multiple trips to the drugstore. At home, they had to handle multiple bottles of drugs and keep track of how often they took each one (some once per day, some multiple times per day, others only on certain days of the week). They might sort the pills at home into pill organizers. But, still, the time and effort was onerous, resulting in low compliance and poorer health.
Key points covered in this article include:
- The pharmacy industry system
- The pillpack system
- The value of proximity
Read the full article, Pillpack, Proximity, and The Amazon Future of Pharmacies, on Kaihan’s website.
David A. Fields identifies two issues consulting firms must overcome to win projects and asks four pertinent questions that can help you take the action needed to move forward.
Your consulting firm has probably encountered more resistance from prospective clients than usual over the past eight weeks. Fortunately, you can understand and overcome the elevated stumbling blocks.
The basics of winning consulting projects haven’t changed. Keep them moist and use lots of butter. No, wait. That’s for sheets of phyllo dough. To win consulting projects, your consulting firm still needs to outperform every alternative on The Six Pillars of Consulting Success.
However, the change and uncertainty that have swept the globe have also spawned two shifts in how prospects evaluate your consulting firm’s offerings.
Points covered in this article include:
- Heightened Risk Sensitivity
- Extended Time Horizon
Read the full article, Two Issues Your Consulting Firm Must Confront to Win Projects in Uncertain Times, on David’s website.
Robbie Kellman Baxter shares expert tips on how to build revenue through a subscription business model.
I’ve been noticing something funny recently.
As I make my rounds being interviewed by podcasters, influencers and subject matter experts, the conversations turn from ‘advice for listeners’ to ‘advice for the host.’
In other words, these solopreneurs, subject matter experts, and social media celebrities are trying to figure out how to build a viable, profitable business around their own community and expertise. They’re not just trying to provide useful information to their audiences–they’re struggling with their own revenue model.
Don’t underestimate the power of the “forever transaction” for small businesses.
Subscriptions can be a powerful tool for virtually any organizations–public, private, big, small, venture-backed, family-owned, non-profit, old, emerging, and across all industries. It can be a particularly effective tool for the smallest businesses.
This week, I presented my work to several hundred small business owners through BNI Global, and was inundated with questions. They wanted to know how to apply the principles to their accounting firms, restaurants, car washes, real-estate businesses and solo-consultancies.
Membership models and subscription pricing work great for most small businesses, subject matter experts and even celebrity influencers.
Included in this article:
- Identifying the value
- Segmenting the audience
- The ROI of Free and Freemium
Read the full article, How Influencers, Subject Matter Experts and Small Business Owners Can Build Subscription Revenue on LinkedIn.
Luiz Zorzella takes an adventurous look at two choices innovation-based businesses may or may not choose to pursue to illustrate how emotion is an underlying driver of innovation.
Companies that decide to compete on innovation-based businesses have 2 potential paths to choose from: with or without “emotion”.
Years ago, my wife and I traveled to the NorthEast of Brazil. There, we went on a tour on the sand dunes on a buggy.
Fifteen minutes into the tour, I was convinced that that was going to be the high point of our trip. The dunes were beautiful, the tour was fun and the driver knew exactly where to stop to get the best pictures.
Then he turned to us and casually asked: ‘so… with or without ‘emotion’
He can speak in code because most tourists already know what it means: do you want to continue the rest of the tour like the first fifteen minutes (which were great) or do you want him to ride the dunes like a lunatic, flipping the buggy and sliding large dunes sideways? That is the “with emotion” option.
Companies that decide to compete on innovation-based businesses have 2 similar options:
Points covered in this article include:
- The two choices
- The pros and cons of each choice
- The most commonly preferred option
Read the full article, The Exciting Path Of Strategic Innovation, on the Amquant website.
David A. Fields shares a post that identifies the benefit of extending your reach and imagination to find partners and connections that can help your business grow.
Many of your consulting firm’s prospects are caught in the eddies of crisis and battling to stay afloat. While they appreciate your relationship-building calls, unfortunately, they’re too preoccupied to fully engage in deep conversations with you.
On the other hand, you know who’s in the same boat as your consulting firm and casting about for new ideas and connections?
Fly fishermen. Partners.
Plus, the right partner can contribute more to your consulting firm’s health over the long term than any one client.
A partner is any individual or firm that helps you with your consulting cycle (Winning Engagements and Profitably Creating Value), and/or whom you can help.**
The five categories (and examples) of partners are:
- IP Creators
- Value Extenders
Read the full article, 5 Partners Your Consulting Firm Should Call This Week, on David’s website.
David A. Fields offers an encouraging post on how to manage your ego when clients don’t respond to your overtures.
With a sigh and subtle shake of your head, you send one more outreach email to Pippi Burntkernels, the co-founder and COO of Plumper Popcorn, Inc. A few months ago, you and Pip had a great conversation about their operations, and you gave some advice on effectively instituting a better butter beater process.
You know that if you and Pip keep talking, there’s a consulting project at Plumper for your consulting firm.
But she doesn’t return your phone calls, nor has she responded to any of your emails. What’s going on?
Read the full article, How To Overcome Your Consulting Prospects’ Fear (So They’ll Call You Back), on David’s consulting website.
Robbie Kellman Baxter explains what a subscription business can do to mitigate customer loss and generate customer gain through attraction and retention strategies.
‘Millennials aren’t joiners.’ ‘Millennials don’t pay for news.’ ‘Our customers love us, but the average age is going up. It seems like millennials just aren’t interested.’
These are statements I hear all the time from membership organizations that have been around for a few decades or more: professional associations and trade groups, religious institutions, newspapers, gyms, and country clubs. Having some success under your belt is both a blessing and a curse. What you’re doing seems to be working, so you keep doing it. But let complacency take hold and you’re doomed. When businesses can’t attract new members, they die a slow death as old members age out.
The problem is two-fold. One, if you don’t evolve your offerings and communication strategy, new prospects will find your company ‘old fashioned’ or ‘not for me.’ Two, you might mistake inertia for loyalty: those members are still with you out of habit, and when new competitors come along they suddenly realize someone else can better meet their needs.
Points covered in this article:
- Common mistakes made by old and new subscription businesses
- Tips to reinvention
- Self-disruption as a strategy
- The benefits of paranoia
Read the full article, Walking the Generational Tightrope: How To Keep Older Members Happy and Also Draw In Younger Ones, on LinkedIn.
Luiz Zorzella shares a survival guide to Clay Christensen’s opus, including impressions, recommendations, and thoughts on how business leaders can use his ideas to drive success, growth and transformation.
If you work with innovation and strategy and are responsible for the future of your business, you probably read Clayton Christensen’s 2 most famous opi: The Innovator’s Dilemma and Competing Against Luck (aka the “Jobs To Be Done” book).
If you have not, do it and you will improve your chances of not going extinct.
Over the years, I had the chance to see some of the concepts described in these books applied in real-life situations. Some of these applications were successful and rigorous and confirmed my admiration for the amount of impact compacted in such simple concepts.
However, more often than not, I have seen the concepts, approaches, and terminology he formulated deformed, mutilated and distorted into grotesque parodies – both intentionally and unintentionally.
Content in this article includes:
- Competing against luck
- Agree on what is an useful insight
- Know thyself and avoid mirages
- Think 2 steps ahead
- Find the heart of darkness
Read the full article, Survival Guide to Clay Christensen’s Opus, on the Amquant website.
David A. Fields offers a valuable resource for consulting firms in this series of articles that provide a comprehensive guide to marketing tactics.
Your Challenge: Can you come up with even one tactic that’s not on the list below? (Bonus points if you post two or more tactics.)
Have you ever wanted to co-write an article because writing your own stuff is hard and takes time? Woo hoo, here’s your chance!
In the next part of this two-article series, you’ll learn a framework for determining exactly which marketing tactics you should invest your precious time and energy into for your consulting firm to attract more prospects and clients.
Spoiler alert: The best marketing tactic is not the same for every consulting firm!
Read the full article, Your Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Tactics for Consulting firms, on David’s website.
Jason George explores the sale reach and marketing savvy of Time and Newsweek to demonstrate the success of a strategy that encompasses a large demographic; he then explains how and why the internet disrupted this model by pursuing the individual.
In the early twentieth century Americans seeking the news had plenty of print sources to choose from, many of which were local papers. Even smallish towns had markets deep enough to support multiple publications, each jockeying to make their presence known in a bustling marketplace. Beyond the daily news cycle there was demand for a more reflective, comprehensive perspective. This space was filled by magazines that bypassed regional reporting in favor of issues with national significance.
These titles curated articles across a wide range of topics, assembling them into issues with broad appeal. Among this group Time and Newsweek would become two of the most prominent, launching around the same time and reaching similar audiences. Their solidly middle-market voices helped them grow steadily in circulation, able to attract urbanites on the coasts as well as those in the heartland.
Areas explored in this article include:
- Why markets fragmented into specialized verticals
- How needs of large constituencies affect behavior across industries
- The challenges of size and risk(s) of growth
Read the full article, The Challenges of Size, on Jason’s website.
Stephen Redwood provides answers to commonly asked questions that help his clients increase the strategic value of Human Resources (HR).
If there is one thing that has been a constant over my years in HR and decades as a consultant, it has been the sense that the HR function is too often a supplicant to other functions and lacks the confidence to see itself as an equal. So, when clients ask me how they should be thinking about the evolution of their own HR function, in my mind is the question of how to overcome this mindset and establish a better understanding of how it can provide greater strategic value.
With that said,Winston Churchill’s words “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see” resonate with a challenge that faces HR: people and cultures take time to change so, what exactly should one be changing to and with what timeframe in mind?
Questions covered in this article include:
- Given no constraints, what is the most positively impactful contribution HR could make to the organization?
- How can HR gain the “permission” and latitude to achieve its potential?
- What should HR be working harder at?
- How can HR gain sufficient agility to build and sustain a high impact contribution?
Read the full article, How Can We Increase the Strategic Value of HR?, on LinkedIn.
James Black provides a comprehensive list of questions designed to help you build a marketing strategy that can help your business move forward in 2020.
Entering the New Year provides a great opportunity to take a quick audit of your brand or business to identify opportunity areas in your 1) customer understanding, 2) go to market strategy and 3) marketing capabilities. These 20 questions are designed as thought-starters to help you get a sense of the state of your business.
Areas covered by the questions include:
- Brand/Business proposition
- The path to purchase
- Marketing plans
- Marketing capabilities
Read the full article, 20 Questions to Help Your Brand or Business See 20/20 in 2020, on LinkedIn.
Odin Muhlenbein and his colleagues co-authored an article that explains how social enterprises are solving the problem of youth unemployment in Africa.
The issues that are the most pressing today will shape the legacies of the most powerful African political and business leaders of our time.
For the continent, the youth population boom and issues of employment are at the top of the list of priorities. Leaders at national, continental and global levels discuss these topics in the halls of the United Nations, the African Union and within talent-strapped businesses operating in the region. When it comes to the political and economic agendas of a continent dubbed “the most youthful” and projected to become the home of half of the world’s youth population by 2040, the “youth bulge” and the unemployment statistics inform the entire dialogue. Clearly, there is need for urgency, action and collaboration to create sustainable impact on a large scale.
This article includes approaches applied by leading social entrepreneurs in Africa to address the issue.
Read the full article, Learning from social enterprises: How to solve youth unemployment in Africa, on the Devex website.
Luca Ottinetti’s company blog shares case studies that reveal how Intel and SpaceX successfully launched new products, and what went wrong with Nokia and Swissair’s business model innovations.
Entering a new market with new products that target new customers requires a new business model. It is a powerful strategic initiative that changes the rules of competition. It also represents a challenge with odds of success at roughly 30%, but ultimately – when done right – it rewards winners with huge returns.
Managers need to know what they’re in for if they decide to pursue this path of business growth. The challenge in entering a new market through a successful business model innovation (BMI) consists of getting two elements right:
(1) the pursuit of attractive market opportunities, and
(2) ownership of the strategic control points in the industry to protect profit streams.
We look at cases of success and failure by companies that have entered new markets with new business model designs to illustrate the determinants of success.
Included in this article:
- Two case studies on successful business model innovation
- Two case studies on failed business model innovation
Read the full article, Market Entry through New Business Model Design, on the Great Prairie Group website.
Luiz Zorzella explains why non-strategic projects can be a distraction that get in the way of real strategic work and what you can do about it.
When companies define their strategic priorities, it is common to include in this list items that are not building blocks of the company’s strategic goals. At least directly.
Some of these items are extraneous, pet projects and/or impositions from third-party actors or the result of internal politics and accommodations and at best do not add any value and at worst hinder the strategic agenda.
However, there is another type of priority which, if properly managed, can help you break into a vault full of riches that are unreachable to you right now.
Points covered in this article include:
- Three categories of items
- How to prioritize and implement items
Read the full article, Break into the Strategic Treasure Vault, on the Amquant website.
In the digital age, Amanda Setili explains why every company — big or small – needs a platform strategy to connect with customers.
Today’s businesses now live or die based on how well they cultivate and connect those who they do business with. Just look at the seven most valuable companies in 2019—Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (parent company of Google), Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba and Tencent. Each created their success by deliberately and aggressively building powerful platforms to connect customers, content providers, suppliers, and others to each other.
Amanda provides five detailed steps toto build a vibrant, self-reinforcing community that can propel your company’s success.
The five steps shared include:
Step 1: Take inventory.
Step 2: Attract and connect your ideal.
Step 3: Assure participants get value.
Step 4: Create physical or virtual engagement platforms.
Step 5: Listen, observe, enhance.
Read the full article, Why Every Company — Big or Small — Needs a Platform Strategy on Amanda Setili’s company website.
Many financial service leaders are not convinced that total market growth is important. Luiz Zorzella explains why even small companies can benefit from paying attention to and capitalizing on what is happening to the market.
You may have heard – or asked – questions such as:
“If our company does not hold a large market share in our markets, should we worry about market growth?”
“How would we even estimate market growth?”
“If most of our existing clients are in not in growth markets, should we abandon them and go after new ones?”
Those are very valid questions:
In most markets, companies with single-digit market shares feel no significant impact of market saturation (that feeling that you have exhausted all good leads). That means that as a general rule, regardless of whether the market is expanding or contracting, there is always an abundant supply of fresh, good prospects to be chased.
Areas explored include:
-Growing markets have growing needs. For example, your commercial clients will be investing to expand capacity and may need CRE and equipment loans to open new locations.
-Growing markets have more sophisticated needs. For example, companies in growing markets often need more attractive Group Benefits to attract talent and ward off poachers.
-Growing markets tend to supply better clients. For example, credit quality tends to be good and to improve over time in growing markets – thus not only improving the quality and value of your portfolio but also freeing up capital to invest in growth.
-Growing markets will carry you. This is because your existing clients, who have a lower acquisition cost than new clients, will continue to grow.
Read the full article, The Eternal Hunt for Growth in Financial Services, on the Amquant website.