Recent Posts by J Schneider

Applying expert advice to your company growth strategy

We have all done it.  Purchased the newest thought provoking business, marketing or leadership book, read it cover to cover or just a few chapters, then with vigor tried to implement this new strategy into your existing business.   Unfortunately, you are not alone in this attempt to get your business back on track or change direction.   I personally could not tell you how many books I have read, been asked to read or heard about that promise a brighter future for your business.  Whether you are a seasoned executive or just starting out in your career, knowing how to use 3rd party information either in the form of a book, published article or seminar can be the difference between a positive change to the company for growth or years of continued struggle by implementing the wrong strategy for your company.

With this recurring theme across companies around the globe, the problem lies in one simple misconception.  The idea that an individual or a group of them within a company can gain new knowledge through a book or article and apply that to their business is just not the case.  The idea that a expert through their book can fundamentally change your business is just not the case.  Regardless of the size of your business, the types of products or services you sell or how long you have been in existence, all businesses have various levels of complexity.  Because of this varying degree of complexity, each business is unique and has a unique set of issues.  Attempting to apply a generic model or methodology into your business will most often do more harm then good.  Over the course of 35+ years in the corporate world, we are able to share what I would consider best practices in using 3rd party knowledge in your business.

  1. First, have a need. Whether you are having trouble with your profit, revenue growth, customer satisfaction or others, understand what your issue as a business really is. Is your lack of growth due to bad product quality, poor marketing or not enough sales people? While this step will take some time to fully understand, it will provide clear direction and focus on the best solution. In many cases, getting outside help in the form of a consultant, may offload this work and come to a conclusion quicker than assigning your internal resources part time to look into the concern. If it is difficult to determine what the true need is, working with a 3rd party consultant may provide the clarity needed.
  2. After your needs have been identified, seek out authors, articles or publications which are known in this area. Use references from others who have shown success with these strategies or consultants familiar with this area of expertise. If you are struggling with creating innovative products, look for experts specific to this type of work.
  3. Do not try to implement the writings of books or publications within your company for face value. This will be disastrous for your business. Your business is unique and as such needs a unique approach to solving the business need. Instead, use the publications as a foundation to build from. Take elements which may apply to your business. Work with a 3rd party which can help determine how your company can implement change using the key principles which have been modified for your business.
  4. Work in phases and work quickly.  Trying to make large wholesale change within an established business may not provide the desired results both short and long term. Starting with your greatest needs, implement change within a functional area, product category or customer segment. This will allow you to modify the approach if needed as it is rolled out. As I often say, time is not your friend in these cases. The longer it takes, it typically is harder to implement. Work smart, direct and swiftly when making any strategy change in your company.
  5. It is okay to try something and throw it away. Often, when on paper a strategy looks good and is full of promise, during implementation it is determined it may not be as effective as designed. This will happen and often does in the early stages of making changes within a company. The key here is to identify the non-working strategy quickly, modify the approach and continue. In many cases, 3rd party consultants can help reduce poor strategies as they bring the experience of the companies who have come before you and the results which came with it, both positive and negative.
  6. Talk to your teams and management. For that matter, talk to as many stakeholders for this change as appropriate. They understand the business as much as anyone and will be able to quickly identify whether a new strategy is working or not.For example, if you are creating a new Marketing strategy, talk to the Sales Management team as well as the individual sales associates vs. just the Marketing department. They will provide good feedback which can be used before any changes are made to the business. Getting cross-functional support early will be the difference between a successful changes in strategy vs. a failed one.

The key here is to use the 3rd party information as a resource, not as a new blueprint for your business.  Trying to copy the one company’s success using a specific strategy into your business and culture will be a disastrous attempt to improve your business.    There are thousands of publications and experts in the market today providing sound, appropriate concepts and strategies for nearly any business.  Use this information as thought provoking, foundational building instead of the new recipe for success.  In many cases, the use of 3rd party consultants who provide expertise in your business or markets can provide the additional support to ensure your business is growing vs. one that is stuck in trying to implement wholesale change.

Five must haves of today’s value propositions

Today’s markets are fierce.  Obvious correct?  Whether you are a manufacture, service provider or somewhere in between, it seems the market continues to get more competitive by the day.  Companies large and small are forced to compete outside of their traditional areas in an effort to grow and protect their customers from competitors.   Over the…
Read more

How does Life Cycle Management support Innovation?

What is Life Cycle Management?  Is it managing a product through the plant, the sales channel, or simply creating a new one?  The answer is all of these and many others.  Simply put, Life Cycle Management is the process of actively managing the creation, sale and obsolescence of a product, service or business model over a set period of time.

 Innovation can occur anywhere in a business with just about any type of product, service, process or business model.  Today companies are launching new ways of competing in the market using innovation which does not necessarily start with a product.  This does not mean the product is not important, it certainly is, however when your product or service is in an already crowded space, other forms of differentiation is what will set you apart.

In the adjacent diagram, Life Cycle Management is focused around six core pillars over the course of a product or service life.  Most of these pillars focus around the tactical execution of designing, building and commercializing a product or service.  While flawless execution in these phases can give your company a competitive advantage, the focus here is where to start with a new product?

Where does true innovation come from?  Where does it start? 

Historically it starts with an idea or a concept from someone on the team and evolves into a product or solution your company can sell.  Sketches get created, revenue and cost projections are estimated and before you know it, a product or service is underway. 

Our experience has shown that innovation really comes from obsolescence.  That most individuals or companies are simply looking for a better way of doing something tomorrow vs. today.  This concept is simple and in nearly all cases true.  If innovation comes from the idea of eliminating something else, then individuals or companies would start the discussion and process at this point of the product lifecycle.   Unfortunately, most small to mid-sized companies as well as thousands of large ones, skip this step and head straight to idea creation without really understanding what product or service they are replacing.   Here are a few steps that can change the way your company looks at innovation and how to ensure success in the future:

1.  Consider all the products or services being offered in the market today.  What do they have and what do they lack?  Spend the time to understand the broader market.

2.  Understand why customers purchase and why they don't purchase these items.  If these are the products you are replacing, understanding the customers current likes and dislikes will ensure you are creating a product with features they value.

3.  Talk to your customers and your potential customer's a lot.  Talking to them before you innovate will ensure you get your product right and that they see you as an innovator vs. a market follower and that your company truly understands the customer behavior.

4.  For revenue potential, focus on the current market size of the existing products or services which is being replaced.  Is this new market space or existing and is it growing or declining?

5.  Assess your capabilities, resources or people within your company.  Do you have the resources and infrastructure to accomplish this task?  If not, where can you get it?  New talent or equipment or 3rd party help?

6.  Ask yourself and your teams why your company is innovating in this space or market.  Is it because you always have or that the market will continue to reward you if you do?

7.  Document a plan which outlines the products that are currently in the market and the ones which your company expect to replace with this innovation.

Creating new products, services or business models does not have to be a daunting task.  It should really focus on where you currently are vs. your company goals.  Embarking on this change within your organization may take on several forms.  Developing new tools, innovative culture and or processes may all be needed in an effort to change the organization in reframing the discussion into one of true life cycle management.  The key to success is focusing on new tools, culture or processes as a starting point.  Building on the initial focus, adding other areas of focus during this change will further solidify your new strategy.  Examples include a new tool strategy with developmental questionnaires for your company.  Creating a new process focusing on the importance of asking specific questions related to obsolescence in relation to the new idea and so forth may be another. 

Innovating does not always guarantee success, however, starting the process of innovation at the right spot will greatly improve your likelihood of creating differentiated products your customers will pay for.

The 64-4 Approach, how does it help your company focus?

We have all heard of the 80/20 rule.  80% of the result comes from 20% of the products or clients.  This business rule or law suggests that with proper focus on products or services and elimination of wasted energy will result in greater profits or revenue for your company.  In most cases, this model will have various levels of success with nearly all companies.  Whether you are a manufacturer of products or provide a service, proper focus on the true drivers of your business growth will result in profitable gains. 

The question here is what happens when simply looking at your business through the 80/20 lens is not enough.  When you need additional clarity or granularity to determine where and why the revenue or profit are not meeting your expectations, additional insight may be needed.

The 64-4 approach is focused on providing that additional granularity and focus to quickly identify gaps in the business and make changes and corrections for quicker results.  Using the 80/20 model as a foundation, looking at the best of the best of your business and then the worst of the worst will allow your company to quickly identify the areas which can grow your business and eliminate those that are limiting your growth.  This is not limited to only revenue or profit, but rather all areas of your business which provide value to your customers.  Your product or services may be obvious choices to start, however, understanding where other sources of opportunity exist is equally important.  Your company value can be located within your engineering, operations team, or inherent market expertise.  These other sources of value should also be considered using this approach so you know how to properly leverage them to grow your business.  

 

What does it mean to look at the best of your business and how do companies accomplish this task.

 

  1. Initially, identify areas within your business which appear to represent the best of what you offer to your customers.  Products, Services, Customer Support, technical assistance, or shipping speed may all be areas where you excel and provide significant value to your customers.  Validation of this will occur later.
  2. When taking inventory of your business and areas of current success, focus on understanding the sources of the input, meaning, where does the data come from and is it accurate in its depiction of the current situation.
  3. Based on this data, determine what actually represents the best parts of your business, where your revenue and profit come from and why.  Here you may categorize them in a meaningful segment for your business so they can be rated based on the group they are in vs. against every product or customer.
  4. Identify those products, customers or other areas which are the top tier of your business.  Which ones generate the highest returns or opportunity for growth for your business?  Understand the why is key here as it will be used as the foundation for future decisions within the business.
  5. Using the organized data, create groups of areas which can be rolled into functional areas as the basis of your strategy formulation. 

Now that you have identified the best and worst parts of your business, begin looking at new strategies to manage these areas differently within your business.  Areas of strength which bring you strong revenue and profit growth, determine the why and create a strategy to expand this area of your business. 

For areas of weakness within your business, the process is identical with the focus on being areas which are limiting your ability to grow or improve your profit.  Since these areas more often have a greater negative impact on your business, a strategy to deal with them quickly with a defined course of action is necessary.  As an example, should the business raise the price, limit the sale to a certain customer types, partner with another company who can provide this product or service or eliminate it completely from the business.  Depending on your business situation, some or all of these actions may be necessary to improve your ability to grow.

Looking at your business differently can be a challenge in many cases.  It often contains significant bias and opinions not based on fact but rather perception.  Using the best data you have, listening to your customers and developing a focused approach on the best and worst parts of your business will provide a great foundation for future growth.  Regardless if you focus on the “Best” or “Worst” parts of your business first, a defined strategy with set goals and objectives should be created to properly focus the business on these areas first, as the impact will be significant early on.

 

Recent Comments by J Schneider

No comments by J Schneider yet.