Archive for August 2009

How do I Become a General?

August 31, 2009

By John Riley

This commentary is for the young businessman or woman starting a career. It is an attempt to answer the foremost question in his or her mind, “what is the secret to success?”  I offer it here because it is so profound and  so true.

 Former Secretary of State and four-star general Colin Power recently related a story he learned while a young infantry officer at Ft. Benning in an interview by Fortune Magazine July 6:

 “There was a brand new second lieutenant who  was very ambitious and wanted to be a general. One night at the officer’s club, the young officer spotted this old general sitting at the bar, and he went up and said, ‘How do I become a general?’  And the general Answered, ‘Son, you’ve got to work like a dog. You’ve got to have moral and physical courage. There may be days when you’re tired, but you must never show fatigue. You’ll be afraid, but you can never show fear. You must always be the leader.’

 “The young officer was so excited by this advice.  ‘Thank you, sir,’ he said. ‘So this is how I become a general?’  ‘No,’ said the general, ‘that’s how you become a first-lieutenant, and then you keep doing it over and over.’

 After telling the story, General Powell added, “Doing your best in the present has to be the rule. You won’t become a general unless you become a good first-lieutenant.”

 For anyone entering the job market in today’s business environment, this is sound advice.

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Global Growth Awaits Arizona Companies

August 31, 2009

If you’ve been thinking about how to further expand your business on the global horizon, Arizona International Week will focus on that very subject in Phoenix, September 17 through September 22.

 The occasion will kick off with the Enterprise Network’s Executive Forum breakfast at the Lakeview Inn at the Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, Thursday,  September 17. 

 The agenda will include international development and feature local success stories. It will also include key economic development and business resources available to Arizona’s business  community. Featured panelists will be Dana Garmany, CEO, Troon Golf, Scarlett Spring EVP, GPEC and Raymond Wiley, Director-Aide Solar USA.  Doug Bruhnke, CEO, Growth Nation will moderate.

 General admission will be $65 and Executive Partners will pay $50 until September 14.  After that , general admission will be $75 and $60 for Executive Partners.

 To reserve a seat or get more information, call Elizabeth Savoia at 480-496-4408.

‘Marketing Cafe’ Lures Tokyo Women

August 30, 2009

TOKYO: Less than two months since its launch, Japan’s first so-called ‘marketing cafe’ – where consumers try out skincare, beauty or even mobile phone products while sipping their frothy coffees or having a meal with friends – has been deemed a resounding success.

Based in the heart of the trendy Shibuya district, the Lcafe has already persuaded more than 2,000 young, affluent women to exchange their name, age, address and mobile phone details in return for free items.

So far, food, drink, toiletry and electronics manufacturers have offered free samples in return for personal data; allowing them to contact prospective new consumers via their mobiles at a later date.

Aimed specifically at women in their 20’s and 30’s, the Lcafe was devised by Sample Lab as an innovative way to talk to influential consumers about products new to the market.

In the view of Yuhi Hori, spokesman for the event promotion division of Dentsu, there is, among many marketers, a “fresh interest in samples” at a time when mass market advertising costs are continuing to climb.

Data sourced from the Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff, 25 August 2009

Sony Signs Up ‘Blogger Dads’

August 30, 2009

Sony is targeting social media to promote its consumer electronics in the US and is signing up ‘blogger dads’ to stimulate consumer conversations on the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Many firms in the US use ‘blogger moms’ as part of their marketing efforts but Sony is launching DigiDads which aims to get fathers to use its products and write about them.

But, unlike products distributed to journalists in traditional media, it is specifying the projects the dads should work on and is also asking for them back afterwards.

The campaign is being run with blogger Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs. Brogan is an advocate of ‘sponsored’ conversations on the internet, and as such has attracted the ire of other bloggers. Last year he was involved in a campaign for retailer Kmart through sponsored conversation specialist Izea, where he is a director.

“Anyone can do blogger outreach,” says Brogan, “we’re aiming to tell a story rather than just say ‘here’s some stuff, write about it.’” Digidads projects will include ‘Summer of 100 faces’ where dads and their kids will take 100 portraits and the use of GPS-equipped video cameras to map out historical video tours of a neighbourhood or record a tour on vacation.

Bloggers signed up so far include Michael Sheehan of HighTechDad.com, Max Kalehoff of AttentionMax.com, CC Chapman whose blogs include DigitalDads.com and CC-Chapman.com and Jeffrey Sass who contributes to Brogan’s blog, DadoMatic.com.

Marcy Cohen, senior manager of communications at Sony Electronics, says the aim is “to engage customers in conversation and share the insights we gain with engineers, product developers and designers. The feedback is going to be invaluable. It’s an easy way to speak frankly and directly.”

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by WARC staff

What are Your Options for Growth?

August 29, 2009

By John Riley

 Building incremental sales has been one of the lesser options for rapid growth for many years. It’s just too slow. When a company begins to think about doing something to make their financial sheet look more robust, they begin to consider other options.

 While growth is often important, other issues often come into play as well. It depends entirely on the needs of the purchasing company.  Some examples:

 The target company may have a strong research department with promising new products in development.

 The target company may have some highly skilled engineers in their product design department.

 The target company may have a solid distribution in a key market the buyer wants to penetrate.

 The target company may have several core accounts the buyer wants to capture.

 Developing and introducing new products can reinvigorate a company’s sales and profit efforts. It also has the virtue of making life difficult for the competition. However, unless the company has a healthy research budget with a stream of new products in the pipeline, additional sales will be spotty.

 Entering a new market can open up new revenue possibilities, but it is a costly and time consuming process. Additionally, competition will be reacting in the form of cut prices or some other counteraction.

Distribution is likely to be contested by the new entry, but if the competition has strong distributor relationships, any new comer is likely to find it difficult to penetrate the market.

 Mergers are a viable option if the two parties can make the merging of two different cultures work. That’s is one of the most challenging issues.  Beyond that, such things as who holds controlling interest, executive appointments and restructuring of the organizations are not easy to reconcile.

 Partnerships share most of the same challenges of mergers.  In this case, the partner with the most money usually emerges as the ‘senior’ partner.

 Acquisitions have long been labeled as the fastest road to financial success or failure. Transactions are either in cash or stock or both. Culture differences can also intrude here when two companies become one. Many successful acquisitions have been accomplished over the years by companies of all sizes. Time Warner’s $124 billion purchase of AOL is a compelling example of how not to make a acquisition.

 Achieving solid growth year in and year out is hard enough, but achieving rapid and significant growth is not only difficult, but risky. So as you consider your options, do your due diligence carefully and your chances of success will be much greater.

Does Your Boss Like to do Your Job?

August 29, 2009

By John Riley

 These days, it is not surprising to find someone who has a boss that does her job for her.  Most people would call that micro-managing  and attribute it to insecurity brought about by a fear of making a mistake or having one’s subordinate make a mistake during these uncertain times.  I think it’s more complex than that.

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While insecurity is certainly one factor at play here, there is a professional element as well. I’m talking about the person who is a perfectionist and feels that their subordinates do not share the same attitude toward their work. As result, the fear comes from concern a subordinate might make a mistake and the lack of professionalism would reflect on the supervisor.

 Another possibility that fosters micro-managers is a greater feeling of power.  It probably stems from their feeling that what got them promoted was what they should do as a supervisor except to a greater degree.  That produces a doer rather than a manager and has its own set of problems.

 Unfortunately, whatever the reason, employees resent micro-managing bosses.  And why not?  It shows little respect for the subordinate, prevents their professional development and provides no chance for recognition.  Yet, management seems to tolerate such behavior because the work gets done.

 A common management  justification is, “we’ll deal with it after we get through this difficult period”, but that never seems to happen.   A micro-manager response is, “if I don’t control everything, something bad will happen because my people aren’t up to speed yet”.

 Most observers offer advice to the suffering employees when it is the supervisor that should be dealt with.  Specifically, management should add a remedial action item to the supervisor’s job goals after discussing it with him, the supervisor should be sent to a Manager training program, and he should be scheduled for a performance review in six months.  If, after these three steps, the supervisor’s behavior has not changed, management should find a non-managerial position for him.

 Does your boss like to do your job?   If so, leave a copy of this article near the copy machine.

If You Haven’t Redone Your Business Model, You May be at Risk

August 28, 2009

By John Riley

 Businesses that have managed to weather the economic storm by cutting staff, reducing inventory, and a variety of other measures are now trying to figure out how they are going to sell their wares in this new and uncertain economy.  In response to the new business environment many companies  are changing their business models and most likely, more will be. 

 Building a business model  can be as simple or as complex  as the situation requires. The important thing is to end up with plan that offers you a realistic chance of success.

 It always starts with customers. You can be sure their businesses have been impacted by the recession as yours has been and they are or soon will be doing things differently.  You need to understand what’s changed and most importantly, how it’s going to affect the way they are going to do business in the months and years ahead.  Be sure you are well prepared with the questions you need answered…you may not get another chance for a long time. 

 Remind yourself that if you don’t listen to what the customer is telling you, you’re not going to get the message.  Communication experts tell us that listening is the biggest weakness people exhibit when trying to communicate.  We also know that listening is a learned skill so concentrate on nurturing it. When you do, the valuable intelligence you will receive from the customers will help build your business.

 You will already have a good handle on the economy and forthcoming government regulations so its time to think about the strategies you need to penetrate and expand what you have defined as your target market. If you run a tight ship, each of your departments will have processes that have generated and stored historical performance data and the metrics that are used to measure that performance.

  Input from the sales and marketing department is a good place to start. Sales personnel report on each of their customers and submit  forecasts of anticipated purchases for each, how much of that business he expects to receive, and the resources he needs to make that happen. With that information, the head of sales consolidates the data and arrives at a total sales figure for the year, taking into account the enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm  of his team members.

 Manufacturing then introduces their metrics, units of production per day, cost per unit, amount saved through manufacturing efficiencies, quality improvements, capacity increases or decreases, etc.  Also taken into account is the financial officer who distributes the list of planned capital expenditures, timelines for receipt of equipment and start up of operations.

 Each of the departments that support sales and manufacturing provide their proposed contribution in the form of increased revenues or reductions in operating costs or both.  Metrics from each department will be used by the Department Heads to support their proposals.

 With this collective input, the executive team is able to fashion its business model for the coming year. The business model remains a dynamic tool as the year progresses. Management knows and expects there will be some tweaking of the numbers, but when management spots a gap (significant variation) between expected performance and actual performance they take corrective action. 

 In general, this process of collecting data, analyzing it and then preparing a business model is one of the most important management  functions.  Approach it casually and without preparation and you will pay a high price.  Do it well and you will reap the substantial  benefits.