Tag Archives: Business process

Adding Value

I think most of us can distinguish between cost and value. Buying something at a lower price improves the cost, but if the item breaks and needs to be replaced in a month, the value of what we bought at that lower price is quite low. Smart shoppers do that cost/value equation in their heads as they shop, which places the onus on us as businesspeople to provide superior value no matter what business we’re in.

How can we do that? It’s not just by lowering the price, although if what you’re selling is a commodity, the price differential becomes pretty important. To a certain extent, that’s something I deal with as a consultant. You might have noticed, there are a lot of us out here. What I need to do, when talking to potential clients, is to help them to understand why I’m worth the premium I charge when compared to many others out here. I do that by adding value in some of these ways:

  • Understanding their perspective. I see my business through their eyes which means I must research them, ask a lot of questions, and then present myself in a way that is meaningful and valuable to them.
  • Giving them something for nothing. Sometimes it’s just a series of articles I’ve found that are relevant to them but those articles demonstrate how part of my service to them is to help them stay informed and ahead of the competition.
  • For existing clients, I’ll often do many of the “little” tasks that end us distracting my client from their main purpose. That can mean writing up brainstorming sessions, breaking our their web analytics, or updating their website. That helps them by reducing anxiety, by keeping them focused, and because I’m generally not as rushed and more experienced than they are, improves the quality of those lesser tasks.

Adding value needs to be as basic as breathing for any of us in business. The real challenge is in making the type of value you add correlate to the needs of each customer. How will you do that today?

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Crazy

I like crazy.  Not in the clinical sense since that’s kind of disturbing once you’ve seen it.  I like crazy in a couple of the other senses of the word and I think craziness is actually a desirable characteristic in most businesses.  You might think I’m encouraging strange behavior and wild rants.  I’m not, unless “strange behavior” encompasses pushing back against the status quo.

The Jetson family (clockwise from upper left) ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, I think our goal in business is to get our customers to be “crazy” about our brands.  That might sound easy but if so, why don’t we see more brands with fan bases as engaged and passionate as that of, say, Apple?  The newest iPhones went on sale to so-so reviews and yet there are lines to buy them.  Apple fans are so crazy for the brand that competitors make commercials about it.   That’s the kind of crazy we want.

Second, most of us are very afraid of the crazy idea.  We use crazy as a pejorative.  That’s…crazy!  All great ideas began as someone’s crazy concept.  Put a human on the moon.  Humans flying.  Driverless cars.  When I was  kid watching the Jetsons, that was all just someone’s crazy imagination.  Today, it’s reality for the most part.  What slows us down as businesses is resistance to the crazy idea, not the idea itself.  Look at the what the music business went through as digital emerged.  Had they embraced the crazy idea of separating songs from albums and distributing the product digitally they would have prevented years of piracy, the need to sue their customers (now THAT’S crazy), and lost revenues.

Finally, there are the offshoots of crazy – crazy like a fox – or crazy as a word to add positive emphasis – crazy smart.  Personally, I’m a fan of what others might call “crazy talk” – what Steve Jobs was referring to when he talked about those who push the human race forward.   “While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

So call me crazy, but I’m with him.  You?

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Trust The One You’re With

I’ve written a number of times here on the screed about the subject of trust.  Most of the time I’ve written about how consumers need to trust the sources from which they receive marketing messages or the sources from which they get information.  Today I want to make it more personal but probably more important as well.

Each of us relies on other people to do business.  I’ve found that one of the most important factors in that process is trust.

Benutzer:dapete and Benutzer:Ezrimerchant shak...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, I used to tell new employees that the only way they could get into serious trouble with me was if they did something that caused me to lose the trust I was going to give them unconditionally.   I was on their side until they proved that my trust was misplaced.  Lie to me just once – cause me to doubt that they were giving me the facts and all the information about a topic – and our relationship would be severely damaged, maybe irreparably.  I feel that way about business partners too.

I’ve dealt with people who I knew were holding back information.  Sometimes it was more a feeling than probably was warranted.  Several times it turned out to be a huge problem, as a meeting would take an ugly turn based on information that had been withheld but ultimately surfaced.  Often it’s because they didn’t want to give anyone bad news despite them hearing that bad news is just another situation we need to work through together as partners.  When someone finds reasons to delay a conversation or slows down a deal, my early warning system would go off.  It still does.

I’ve been told from time to time that I’m hard to deal with because I’m very open and blunt.  I’m told I’m a pleasure to deal with for the very same reasons.   On the whole, transparency seems to work.  It fosters trust although I’m the first to admit that over the years I’ve had to learn to be more tactful.  I think folks with whom I’ve worked would tell you a lot of things about me but one thing they probably won’t say is that I hide the truth or obfuscate the facts.  That’s about trust in my mind.

On a simple level it’s about someone doing what they say they will do.  On a larger level it’s about them being who they say they are.  You with me?

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Early Dismissal

It’s snowing lightly here this morning. We’re a couple of miles from the local schools but I can hear the minds of every child putting out vibes for early dismissal. That’s a fine thing when you’re sitting in a classroom but it’s a very dangerous thing in business. Let me explain with a something that’s going on in my business.

I was speaking with a business partner a couple of weeks ago and in the course of conversation he asked me a question that was a complete nonsequitur. He asked if I knew anyone who wanted to buy a large quantity of something (yes, it’s totally legal). He is not in the business of brokering purchases of this stuff and neither am I. After I stopped laughing I asked him to send me more information. Rather than dismissing the idea of brokering a deal in a field that’s unfamiliar, I spent a few minutes running through my contact list and thinking about his question. I sent out a few emails to folks I knew who might know a buyer.

Strangely enough, a little while later I received a response from someone who had a buyer. This was not a person who has anything to do with what is being bought and sold but in his network he had a friend who is in that business. While we’re still putting the deal together, it’s looking good and could be a nice piece of business for everyone involved.

All of this happened because I am an advocate for never dismissing any idea out of hand. How many opportunities can you think of in your business that went by the wayside because someone with less vision than you dismissed them too early?  I’m not naive enough to believe that every good idea is fully formed when it first emerges from its cognitive womb, but I do think that in almost every bad idea is the germ of something that might be worth pursuing.  The problem comes when we dismiss them on the basis of the obvious bad thinking and ignore their potential.

Early dismissal is something that should appeal only to school kids.  It can be fatal when it’s practiced on a regular basis by business folks.  Think about that and let me know if you agree.

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Seven More Fishes

I started to write our Foodie Friday post and got part way through it when I realized that I had written it before.  Seriously – I had written a nearly identical post a few years ago.  Maybe it’s a sign that it’s the end of the year and the creativity tank is almost empty.  Fortunately, the holidays always fill it back up.

Thanks Saveur!

In any event, this is the last new post before Christmas (I’ll post Monday but I’ll probably begin the “Best Of The Year” series) and I wanted to touch upon the Christmas Eve tradition of the Seven Fishes.  The earlier post is below – after reading it again I thought I got it right the first time (funny how that saves you work later on!).  To those of you celebrating, Merry Christmas.  Whether we observe the day or not, we should enjoy its culinary gift!  To wit:

Our Foodie Friday theme today is La Vigilia, the Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  Now what, you might ask, does a nice Jewish boy know about such things?  Well, having spent a great deal of my youth around my best friend’s Italian mother and grandmother while they cooked, I know quite a bit.  I know that they started to prepare this feast several days in advance, as they put salt cod into water to hydrate it (there was a running battle about using milk to do that).  I know that they spent many hours over the subsequent days preparing all manner of seafood – fried, broiled, and baked.  And I know that it all was mind-blowingly good.

There’s one thing I didn’t know, and still don’t, about the Feast:  what does it represent?  Everyone knows it came as a southern Italian tradition and there are lots of theories about the number 7.  But apparently no one knows for sure and that’s the business point to end the week.

All too often in business, we do things because that’s the way they’ve always been done.  When we ask why or what does it mean, there is much head-scratching and often there’s uncertainty but both are generally followed with a shrug of the shoulders and a supposition that someone higher up wanted it that way.  I used to tell new employees that they possessed a rare commodity: fresh eyes with which to examine all of our business traditions.  They were not supposed to take “because that’s how we’ve always done it” as a satisfactory answer if something didn’t make sense to them.  Sometimes as we dug down into the “why” we figured out a better “how.”

I’m not sure it’s important that we understand the “why” of La Vigilia, but that’s an exception.  In business, everything changes pretty rapidly and the traditional ways may no longer work.  Questioning the reasons why we do certain things is a critical item on the path to success and we should encourage it.

And now, it’s off to go find some fresh fish.  Buon Natale!

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The Missile Crisis

With a presidential debate on foreign policy tonight, it’s interesting that today is the 50th anniversary (boy do I feel old) of the start of the international incident known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

English:

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re unfamiliar with this time, there is a great movie called Thirteen Days which captures that period in 1962 when the U.S. and the Soviet Union came very close to starting a nuclear war.  I vaguely remember the “duck and cover” drills in school but little else.  The basic facts are the we had deployed some missiles in Italy and Turkey; the Soviets retaliated by sending missiles to Cuba.  We implemented a naval blockade to stop the ships, the Soviets threatened to start a war if the blockade didn’t end.  Harsh words were exchanged and the  situation escalated into the unthinkable – a nuclear war that would wipe out 100,000,000 citizens of each country as well as create an environmental catastrophe for the entire planet.

What does this have to do with business (since that’s what we do here on the screed)?  Maybe you and a customer have a disagreement   Maybe your management team is aligned on goals but very far apart on how to achieve them.  Maybe you have a work team in which some folks do all the work while others get all the credit.  Those are just a few of the business situations which can escalate into the business equivalent of nuclear war.  Those situations usually involve lawyers, money, a lot of time, and most of your emotional energy.  They take away from the reasons you’re in business.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was solved by the parties realizing that they did share one goal – avoiding the mass casualties and planetary destruction that a nuclear war would bring.  Back-channel negotiations solved the problem in a way that accomplished that goal as well as each side’s own goals while saving face on both sides.  That’s how it gets done in business as well.  Obviously, the best situation is to anticipate things that could become problems and write careful agreements before the situations happen.  However, a lot of the time that’s not feasible  as in some of the cases above.  In those cases, the sides need to come together  identify the goals they DO share, and listen very carefully to the other side.  Avoid posturing – speak openly and honestly.  Think creatively.  Commit to solving the problem.

Few business issues (OK, none) are of the magnitude of those weeks 50 years ago but we can still learn from what occurred.  What thoughts do you have?  Ever gotten to “the brink” in your business life?

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Bird Poop

I had just walked out of a meeting this morning

Birds on wires

(Photo credit: rkramer62)

and was standing talking to some other folks on the team when something with started dripping down my sport coat.  Despite it being a warm morning I was very certain it wasn’t sweat.  What I was hoping was that it was some excess moisture dripping off a pipe but of course it wasn’t.  It was bird poop.  Well more specifically I think it was bird pee although frankly it doesn’t much matter.

As I was standing there frantically trying to wipe it off my coat, my compatriots informed me that it was good luck.  Apparently in some cultures a bird pooping on you is exactly that.  I’m not so sure it is in my culture – more likely it’s 180 degrees from that.  In checking out their notion I also found that many people believe this to be a major sign of wealth coming from heaven.  Seem to me it’s a sign of an expensive cleaning bill coming.  In any event it did trigger a business thought.

Too many businesses spend their time standing under wires hoping bird will poop on them, figuratively speaking.  They would almost rather be lucky than good.  Rather than looking for wires filled with birds, they’d be way better off spending time looking at analytics, social mentions, and their own financial statements.  Spending money on bird seed trying to attract the birds and the luck they bring is probably not as worthwhile as spending it on an all hands on deck brainstorm.  You know the ones – where no idea is a bad one and outrageous thinking is encouraged.

I’ll let you all know if some great piece of luck follows – there wasn’t a large check in the mail today however.  In the meantime, remember what Hemingway told his son – you make your own luck.  Good business advice – and much cleaner than depending on the birds!

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