From Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/viral-james-mattis-email-reading-marines-2013-5
“By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business.”
My business/management/leadership reading has diminished in recent years. Formerly, I had two or three books going at the same time and taking copious notes. Reading was a key component on how my business acumen developed.
Three elements on how I created business/ organizational concepts:
- Education – the MBA – a starting point
- Experience – what works, what doesn’t work
- Enhancement – reading from experts
The key to reading was recognizing what was worthy to read and what was not….the real value was finding the best writers and understating what they had to say.
The end result: learn from others-find a better way
Low Cost or High Value
Many companies have moved their manufacturing to other countries….Carrier won’t be the last one.
The key business issue is that there will always be some other country that is low-cost.
Starbucks (2.22.16 post) added value and quality to its products….and thus expanded the market.
If all a business does is compete on low cost….there will always be another to come along with a lower cost. At some point to be a viable….profitable company….add value to a product and thus make it more desirable to the ultimate decider of the future of the company….the customer.
In our business, there was a low-cost competitor nearby….our strategy was not to enter that low cost-low value market….it was to provide better products and better value for our customer.
Starbucks (SB) closed 600 locations in 2008. Was this a sign that Starbucks was in trouble?
This was the time for SB to move up the S-Curve and refocus on what made the business a success.
From the article – Starbucks:
- Began offering a higher quality of coffee (added value)
- Offered an evening food program (expanded market)
- Invested in technology (increased customer contact)
Great businesses/organizations find ways to move forward by getting better. That is what Starbucks does….always adding value.
What went wrong?
Project disaster in South Carolina. It started off fine….with a lot of preparation and fine tuning. Once on site, within the first two hours, the whole project was in damage control.
We were doing business and organizational consulting and had come across this prominent organization in SC. We submitted a proposal….defined the needs and expectations of the group and sent in the final project plan and fee. Everything was approved by the executive director and we were ready to go.
Here’s where the plan went awry….the CEO was not on board for whatever reason, perhaps not liking the project….maybe not liking us….who knows. We toughed it out for the next day….despite his refusal to participate with the rest of his team. The other team members were dismayed by his attitude and did their best to be good participants.
We eventually packed our bags and headed back to NC….spending the time discussing “what went wrong”.
The Lesson Learned: make sure senior team members are on the same page….if not don’t try to make the project work.
The executive officer did honor his word and promptly forwarded a check the following week.
Nokia at one time was the Number 1 manufacturer of cell phones. The iPhone came along and changed that. The article from INSEAD, a top international business school, relates that it wasn’t so much the technology that Nokia is no longer a major ceil phone manufacture….it was the culture (soft) of the leadership/management that lead to Nokia’s decline.
“The fear that froze the company came from two places.
First, the company’s top managers had a terrifying reputation, which was widely shared by middle managers—individuals who typically had titles of Vice President or Director in Nokia.
Secondly, top managers were afraid of the external environment and not meeting their quarterly targets, given Nokia’s high task and performance focus, which also impacted how they treated middle managers.”
The culture within any business has a great affect on the success of that organization.
“Soft is hard, hard is soft” – Tom Peters….is certainly applicable in the demise of Nokia’s cell phone products.
Right Bus-Right Direction
Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great the important task in any organization is to get the right people on the right bus going in the right direction.
Reflecting back….getting the right people was the challenge. Getting people who were invested in the purpose of the business/organization and not merely a job. Of course it was leadership’s role to find….train….and instill that purpose in the folks who than became part of the organization. For the most part….we found committed people.
And there were several times when it was necessary that “the wrong people were (left) off the bus” (very important because of their negative impact on the organization).
Good sales performance = Superior listening
The fundamental reason for business is sales….which is revenue….which is why business exists.
While the sales function may vary….listening is a key component of that function even if it is only the McDonald’s counter person taking an order.
For many other businesses…..listening is even more critical. Often consultants think they have all the answers….so little time is spent in listening to what the client really needs or wants.
In our business….we were very careful not to unsell the sale. That is stop the selling process and listen to the customer….more often or not they would tell when the sale was completed.
A favorite story is of Ray….he was the senior salesperson in his group. The younger sales associates would pounce on the customer….begin their sales pitch….make or not make the sale….than latch onto the next customer.
Ray took a different tack….with each customer he took time to get to know them….what was their name….where they lived….who they worked for. After 20 minutes or so of getting acquainted….he than asked what he could do for them. The selling process was basically completed and it was just a matter of finding the right product (s) and delivery date.
Ray took the time to listen. It may have taken him twice as long with each customer….yet many times he made twice the sales as the younger associates….all because he was a superior listener.