Business Intelligence

How to Conduct a Four-week Strategy Review

February 21, 2021

 

From his company website, Andrew Hone offers a guide on how to conduct a rapid strategic review and identify new value-creating opportunities for your business. 

A strategic review is a structured process to identify new value-creating opportunities within a business. This could be about improving the performance of an existing division, or taking advantage of a new market adjacency opportunity. Many companies undertake strategic reviews on an annual basis as part of their strategic planning process. Other businesses will undertake them on a more ad hoc basis when presented with a specific opportunity or problem within the business. A change of ownership or appointment of a new CEO can often trigger the need for a strategic review of the business as a way to clarify the key areas of opportunity and challenges within the existing portfolio.

Whatever its origins, a strategic review should be a clear fact-based analysis of the business opportunity or issue. It provides an opportunity to step back from day-to-day operations to assess the strategic foundations on which a business is built. The outcome of a strategic review should be a clear set of strategic recommendations and a future roadmap for the business that charts its course and enables increased and sustained performance now and for the future.

Benefits of a strategic review

When conducted well, a strategic review can deliver significant benefits to a business. In addition to the direct financial benefits of improving performance and targeting new growth opportunities, the process itself can improve alignment between employees, senior management teams and other key stakeholders, helping to drive a high performance culture and clarity on the future direction of the business.

 

Key points include:

  • Benefits of a structured approach to strategy development
  • Typical scope of a strategic review
  • Key principles to follow when undertaking a strategic review
  • Indicative timeline and workplan for completing a strategic review in 4 weeks

 

Access the full guide, The four week strategic review, on the ZenithStrategy.com website.

 

Our Strange Economy: How Coffee Shops Subsidize Airlines

February 6, 2021

 

Ian Tidswell provides insight into the strange pricing practices fueled by loyalty programs, credit card programs, fees, and customer perception of value. 

Utpal Dholakia always has interesting posts on pricing.  This one got me thinking about the strange way that buying a coffee can result in wealth transfer to an airline.  

Airlines make a lot of money off of their loyalty programs (often all of their profit). 71% of those miles are purchased, many by banks for their credit card programs.  This is strange.

Credit card payment processing is not a very economically efficient market: there’s close to a duopoly with MasterCard and Visa (80% market share).  That, along with the scale efficiencies, consumer switching costs, and merchant risk aversion (more on this below) mean they can charge high fees to merchants, capturing huge value.  (Capturing rather than creating IMHO, since this is rent-seeking behavior. It’s a high-margin, commodity business. MasterCard net profit margin is 50%!)

MasterCard and Visa member banks then compete with each other in a profitable but near-commodity market. One way they compete is on price: sharing some of the fees they earn via the processing companies with consumers. They could do this with a simple cash-back scheme or other reward programs, but it turns out that airline loyalty points work well since many people value them higher than their actual worth. It’s basically a parallel currency with a highly variable exchange rate to valuable services. An exchange rate the airline controls.

 

Key points include:

  • The true value of reward programs
  • The true cost of reward points
  • The rentier economy

 

Read the full post, The strange case of a Cup of Coffee, Credit Cards and Costa Rica vacations, and access links on the subject on eenconsulting.com.

 

Ahoy Mateys! Bring these Hands on Deck to Steer the Ship

January 23, 2021

 

Set sail with Chris Rooney as he explains what a bosun is and why your business needs one. 

The Bosun is the deck boss of a ship, also known as the “Chief of the Boat.”  The most experienced and trustworthy operator, they have charted the world and mastered every role.  They are the human conduit through which the vision of the Captain becomes realized action and the patient teacher by which an inexperienced crew can become an exceptional, effective team.  And often, they are the wizened thought partner who helps enable the Captain to mature from being visionary to becoming a visionary leader.

CEO’s and business owners have similar challenges to Ship Captains: they have a bigger vision of what is over the horizon, and what world-changing bounty is to be gained from the journey there and back.  But without a very experienced Bosun — a partner who has seen it all, can build and elevate teams, can weather unexpected storms and lack of resources, and inspire others during hardships they have endured before — a successful journey can be exponentially harder.  Most importantly, Bosuns have the experience and foresight to see problems before they arise, recognize opportunities and execute them more quickly, and re-imagine solutions with the confidence of someone who has done it before.

In today’s specialist-oriented business world, true Bosuns are hard to find.  Most executives (including CEO’s) are deeply functional in their experience, domain, and resulting world-view.

 

Key points include:

  • The problem with the CEO silo
  • The limitations of investors and board members
  • Skills needed to navigate unpredictable business environments

 

Read the full article, What is “Bosun”​? And why do you need one?, on LinkedIn.

 

It’s Fabulous and It’s Free

 

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. 

Done. 

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.

 

Four Steps to a Successful Post Merger Integration

January 16, 2021

 

Sean McCoy shares an article that explains why most post-merger integrations fail.

Most mergers and acquisitions fail to achieve their intended synergies and deal rationale, because most post-merger integrations (PMIs) fail. Most post-merger integrations fail because they did not beat The 4 Clocks. There are 4 clocks counting down in PMI, a clock each of the four major stakeholders in a PMI: employees, vendors, owners, and customers. The clocks also largely parallel areas of synergies. The name of the game in PMIs is to complete the integration and achieve the synergies before the clocks hit zero.

The Employee Clock

The Employee Clock measures the opportunity for two key synergies, internal synergies through consolidating excess capacity and external synergies via retaining top performers. Human capital and physical capital are under the microscope of the Employee Clock. Integrations often create excess physical capacity, e.g., plants, locations, and a common source of synergies is consolidation of physical plant.

The human capital element is a race against a brain drain. Top performers from both companies will typically stay on board to see where they fit in the new company. But, they will not stick around forever. The Employee Clock hits zero when top performers decide to move on. Losing top performers is perhaps the most damaging impact to the long-term strength of the integrated company. The high stakes for talent retention are usually why most PMIs begin with determining everyone’s role in the new organization.

The Vendor Clock

The Vendor Clock counts down the opportunity to capture cost efficiencies. A common source of synergies is the consolidation of vendors and systems. The cost of two systems becomes the cost of one system, but beyond that obvious savings, the new company has greater bargaining power with vendors, due to the larger volume of the integrated company. The starting time on the Vendor Clock is usually higher than on the Employee Clock, but vendor and system integrations also take longer, leaving no time to delay.

 

Key points include:

  • Source of funds
  • Revenue synergies
  • Customer churn

 

Red the full article, Post-merger integrations are racing against The 4 Clocks, on McCoy ConsultingGroup.com. 

 

What Has Business Learned from COVID-19?

 

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.

 

Case Study: Strategic Alignment of Leadership Teams

 

Priyanka Ghosh shares a case study on the strategic alignment of leadership teams.

SITUATION

In the course of driving a growth program for a family-owned European industrial manufacturer, it quickly became clear that the dysfunctional leadership team was a bottleneck to progress. Although the team was composed of capable individuals with impressive track records, the ten team members were unable to agree on a coherent strategy and continued to revisit the same issues. The various departments seemed poorly informed about business activities outside their siloes and they were particularly confused about how cross-functional decisions should be made. Gonzalo, the CEO, found himself in constantly firefighting to solve operational issues and placate disgruntled workers. Gonzalo approached ProMelior to bring order and efficiency to the leadership team before the growth program could go ahead.

DIAGNOSTIC

ProMelior began by building a fact-base on how the leadership team was interacting. We explored three key questions:

How often did the team meet and what was the nature of the interaction?

The team was spread across several geographies and rarely met in person as a full group. In the scheduled twice-monthly meetings, there was frequently more than 30% absenteeism, even among phone participants. When the meetings did occur, they were mostly used to resolve operational issues that involved 2-3 groups but which were irrelevant to the majority of participants.

How were key decisions being made?

Important commercial decisions were usually made by Gonzalo, the CFO, and the Head of the largest Business Unit in ad hoc meetings that Gonzalo would typically convene. Decisions regarding operations, HR policies and other functional matters were usually made by the CEO and the relevant functional leader. Once decisions were made, they were rarely communicated in a structured manner across the leadership team, let alone across the organization.

How was strategy developed?

Most of the leadership team believed the company had no strategy. They understood a clear imperative from the top to growing existing revenues streams to achieve aggressive annual targets. However, there was no common understanding about how the organization was going to achieve these targets.

 

Access the case study, Strategic Alignment of Leadership Teams, on Promelier.co.uk. 

 

The Biggest Blunders by Leadership

December 19, 2020

 

Eric Hiller shares an article on the top mistakes made in product cost management and design to value. 

Product cost management (PCM) and design-to-value (DtV) are two areas in companies capable of delivering the greatest of impact, but are sadly prone to the biggest blunders by leadership.

Eric A. Hiller, the managing partner of Hiller Associates and a specialist in product development and procurement, has unveiled some of the crucial errors that even the elite executives tend to commit in their PCM and DtV journeys.

Trying to save one’s way to growth

As great as product cost management and some of its sub disciplines like should-costing are at increasing your profit, but they will not grow your top line. To do that you’re going to need to focus on design-to-value. Make sure that you understand both the benefits and the limitations of these techniques.

Not understanding the massive leverage of COGS savings on margin

Cost of goods sold (COGS) is almost always the largest expense on the income statement of a product company. Often it is 70 to 90% of each dollar of revenue. People think of cost reductions in terms of big percentages (e.g. reducing product cost by 50%). That is one of the things that often scares people off from attempting such a transformation period, however you do not need to save massive percentages on cost of goods sold to meaningfully impact the bottom line People forget that margins at product companies are often thin, often less than 10%.

 

Key points covered include:

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS)
  • Cost avoidance
  • Under investing

 

Read the full article, Eric A. Hiller Reviews Top Mistakes Made by Executive Champions in Product Cost Management and DtV, on Medium. 

 

COVID-19 Vaccine Adoption Study

 

Jeremy Greenberg shares an article from his company’s website that examines the findings from a study on the challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine adoption.

STUDY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Half of participants say they are likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available
  • Safety and minimizing side effects are the most important factors driving decisions
  • Two thirds of those not likely to take the vaccine doubt its safety
  • Women are more often the gatekeepers for households and are less likely to take the vaccine than men
  • Over one third of doctors and nurses are not yet supportive of taking a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Some do not consider their doctor’s recommendation important and are leery of new vaccines
  • President-elect Joe Biden’s victory had a net positive impact on vaccination adoption

Several pharmaceutical companies have made significant progress in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and are planning distribution for high priority segments of the U.S. population beginning in the next few weeks. While this is exciting news, it will take some time before a vaccine will be available for the general public – optimistically by April to June, 2021, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

 

The findings reported include:

  • Low expected adoption rates
  • The confidence gap
  • Women as the gatekeepers

 

Read the full article, New Study Identifies Challenges for COVID-19 Vaccine Adoption, on Avegroup.com.

 

How a New Business Model Brings New Opportunities

November 27, 2020

 

Using the company Hoowaki as an example, David Summa shares an article that illustrates how business model innovations can drive new revenue streams.

In my last post, I wrote about business model innovations and how it can drive new revenue streams, especially in times of changing economic and cultural landscapes or declining performance. To help illustrate this point, I’d like to talk about a recent success with Hoowaki.

Hoowaki is a materials science company in South Carolina that for years has specialized in manipulating surface friction. They create novel surfaces that fall anywhere on the spectrum of slippery to grippy. Their business model generated revenue through paid R&D, followed by a promise of royalties once a product containing their technology reached market. However, many of their inventions, though remarkably better than what currently existed in the market, were not incorporated into a customer’s product. Only later did Hoowaki learn that they needed to help customers stand-up a supply chain in order to make their product, which may seem obvious today, but at the time wasn’t expected, nor did customers communicate this. As such, only half of the Hoowaki business model proved profitable.

In 2019, BMI began working with Ralph Hulseman and Hoowaki to upgrade its business model. We mined past work and identified application categories, mapped them on a value per square meter of material (high to low) and square meters per year (high to low). What emerged was an excellent roadmap for scaleup.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Incorporating inventions into a customer product
  • Upgrading Hoowaki’s business model
  • The success of flipping the business model

 

Read the full article, The Swab Opportunity: An Example of Business Model Innovation, on LinkedIn. 

 

Walking in Your Clients’ Shoes

 

Caroline Taich shares a concise post and one key tip on how to improve your client services. 

Are you getting ready to start a planning process?

I help my clients bring new ideas to life. To do this work well, I believe that it helps to know what it’s like to walk in client shoes. So when the arts organization where I am Board President was ready to write a strategic plan, I jumped at the chance to be the client. Here’s what I learned about how to make the most of your planning experience:

You must invest in it. Full stop. Your job as a leader on the strategic planning team is to listen; contribute; reflect; rinse & repeat. Unless you invest, you won’t get the full benefit. When I volunteer my perspective and say out loud what I value (e.g., “part of the purpose of a community arts organization should include making new friendships”) – I build ownership, pride and accountability for realizing it.

Write out your most important questions at the start, and make them as specific as possible. An ok question might be, “How can we have greater impact?” A better question is, “What are the three most important things we can offer our community that they can’t get anywhere else?”

You have to make the length of the planning process work for you. Planning can be done in as little as 1 day or as long as a year. Choose the timeline that allows you to wrestle with the data and your vision – but not so long that you get lost in the process.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Strategic planning tips
  • Building ownership
  • Question planning

 

Access the article, On Being a Client, on the Kirtland Consulting website.

 

What You Need to Know about Google’s Antitrust Lawsuit

November 21, 2020

 

Tobias Baer shares an article on the latest Google news and the regulation of Big Tech. He explores the impact of Google’s algorithms on e-commerce and the commercialization of the internet. 

In spite of its limited scope, the DOJ’s antitrust complaint against Google already highlights three fundamental issues of e-commerce and the commercialization of the internet. The first is about industrial organization – how to create a digital market structure that isn’t monopolized through natural network and scale effects? The second issue is the bundling of services especially in areas where due to information asymmetry, consumers don’t see the true cost of their decisions (as they pay with their data) and hence are highly vulnerable to exploitation. The third issue is the important role of design as a key trigger of human behavior – an aspect where governments still are playing catch-up with the latest insights of psychology and behavioral economics.

Before offering two specific solutions to the problem, I want to briefly explain these three issues.

Monopolization of e-commerce

The DOJ’s allegations of anticompetitive behavior is the latest evidence that the internet, rather than democratizing seller and buyer relationships and giving more power to consumers by getting rid of the “middle man”, has enabled the creation of powerful new quasi-monopolies. Such creation of dominating platforms is driven not only by network effects (e.g., just as we benefit from everyone speaking the same language, it also benefits us to communicate through the same channel or app) but also because of an inherent need for risk management, as I’ve argued in an earlier article. I learned already in Industrial Organization 101 that in such situations regulations need to create a market structure protecting a balance of forces between sellers and buyers – sadly my teacher did not explain exactly how to do this for the internet (which back then was in its infancy)!

 

Key points include:

  • The high cost of bundling
  • The psychology of design
  • A regulated code of conduct

 

Read the full article, What Google’s antitrust lawsuit means, on LinkedIn. 

 

How to Connect Technology to Strategy

 

Daune Capuano shares a whitepaper on how to turn your technology and strategic goals into action. 

Does your association struggle with data trapped in an outdated association management platform that does not interact with your current systems and restricts your organization’s ability to implement new software for  new products and services ?

Are you concerned that your current Learning Management System (LMS) has become antiquated and cannot add new features such as webinars and classes using stream video technology ? Are you considering making some or all of the sessions from your conferences available online?

Sound familiar? It’s no secret that to stay relevant and grow revenue levels, associations must utilize new technologies that engage their key audiences and deliver information and services in new ways. Yet many associations suffer from an internal struggle to find the intersection between strategy and technology.

 

Points covered in this article include: 

  • Conduct vendor research
  • Executing a request for proposal process
  • Negotiating contracts

 

Download the full whitepaper, 8 Steps for Navigating Successful Technology Projects, from the Success Roads Consulting website.

 

How to Prepare for World 2.0

 

In this article for Industry Week, Dan Markovitz explains how the current pandemic provides an opportunity to move forward with value stream mapping. 

At some point, the COVID pandemic will pass, whether that’s due to a vaccine, a two-minute test, or herd immunity. But if you want to thrive in the post-COVID world, you’ve got to start working on operational improvements now. After all, if you’re walking to the starting line while your competitors are already settled into the blocks, you’ll never catch up. Value stream mapping is the tool that will help you become faster and more nimble—both now, and in the World 2.0.

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

Value stream maps (VSMs) show both the material and the information flow in any kind of end-to-end process such as order to cash, or new product introduction. By revealing the handoffs, the delays, and the defects within and between processes, they act as an X-ray into the otherwise invisible workings of your operations, enabling you to address long-hidden problems that make your organization slow and unresponsive.

 

Key points include:

  • Selling and Merchandising
  • Picking, Packing, and Shipping
  • Key VSM Terms

 

Read the full article, COVID: A Golden Opportunity to Move Forward, on Industryweek.com.

 

Efficient and Effective BPO Management

 

Anna Engstromer shares an article on the management of external services, specifically, BPO transactions.

Consequences of poorly managed services are like chronic diseases: spreading its consequences little-at-a-time over vast areas – like customer service, availability, performance and speed of delivery – slowly building awareness for the problem but not considered as such until something breaks, or stops.

Temporal Focus

Much of any organization’s cost is external. How significant it is and how it breaks down by categories vary across sector and organization. Most organizations buy a significant volume of services through Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The creation of such outsourcing usually gets proper resource allocation and management attention. The initial operating period typically gets it too, especially if much is at stake or if implementation success is part of managers objectives. 

But what about the continued management of external services? Typical BPO transactions have a life of several years. The process to source services is so complex it is a tempting option to extend services through renewal rather than to launch a new strategic sourcing process. Many BPO contracts go on being poorly managed, from the client side, for several years. Who notices this and raises the flag? Consequences of poorly managed services are like chronic diseases: spreading its consequences little-at-a-time over vast areas – like customer service, availability, performance and speed of delivery – slowly building awareness for the problem but not considered as such until something breaks, or stops. Since there is rarely one single cause for problems, the work to un-nestle third party contract management is hard. The people who do it are not always prepared for it, nor are they consistently understood and rewarded.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Elements of good contract management
  • Vendor-led Conversation
  • Contract fatigue

 

Read the full article, Why an A-Team to Do BPO Vendor Management, on Engstromer.com.

 

Removing the Barrier to Customer Research 

 

Robyn M. Bolton shares why a business should always engage in customer research when innovating and explains why she doesn’t always follow her own advice. 

If you’re innovating without involving your customers, you’re wasting time and money.

I believe this so deeply that I require all of my clients to spend time talking with and listening to their customers at least once during our work together.  Investing in customer research, I explain, is the single smartest and best investment that any business can make.  Just 5 or 10 customer conversations can dramatically alter the course of an initiative, positioning it for incredible success or killing it before too much time, energy, and money is wasted.

Understanding your customers, especially through Jobs to be Done, is the hill I will die on.

But I actively resist doing this for my business.

The idea of interviewing my customers, or investing to understand their Jobs to be Done, or altering aspects of my business based on their feedback triggers a cold sweat and a very real flight response.

So why is my business different? (It’s not)

Why am I such a customer research hypocrite?

Here are the thoughts that run through my head when I consider talking to my own customers:

I’m supposed to be the expert in this, what if they tell me something I haven’t thought of?

What if my customers say they don’t like or want what I’m doing and would like or want something I’m not?

What if I do try something new and it fails?

It is SO much easier, and it feels so much safer, to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s what I’ve always done and it’s what bigger and more “successful” firms do.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Why am I such a customer research hypocrite?
  • How do we overcome these emotional barriers?
  • How do we overcome the fear and take action?

 

Read the full article, Confessions of a Customer Research Hypocrite, on Milezero.com.

 

 

How the Pandemic has Promoted Proactive Behavior

 

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.

 

A View on Why Cost Cutting Programs Don’t Work

October 18, 2020

 

In this short video from Andrew Hone’s company identifies why only one in 25 cost-cutting programs work.

 

 

The video can also be accessed on Zenithstrategy.com 

Microsoft Lists Explained

October 15, 2020

 

For all who are working with Microsoft Office 365, Hugo Bernier has provided a series of posts to help navigate the software. In this post, he explains how to work with rules in Microsoft Lists.

Over the last few years, Microsoft has done an amazing job at modernizing SharePoint.

It used to be that the first question my clients would ask me when I would start a new engagement was “How can we make SharePoint not look like SharePoint?”.

Now, most engagements start with “How can we make our old SharePoint sites look more like the new SharePoint sites?”.

That’s a testament to the hard work of folks at Microsoft. They’ve changed how you edit SharePoint pages and sites to make it easier for everyone to quickly design beautiful content.

But lists in SharePoint have not changed at the same pace. Sure, they got a slightly updated look and feel (well, some lists, anyway), but they were still not easily approachable for every user.

With Microsoft Lists, Microsoft seems to be doing to Lists what the SharePoint team did to pages. They are modernizing them and making them much easier to use for everyone.

They’re still lists behind the scenes, but they’re no longer relegated to being hidden in a site somewhere. They’re becoming first-class citizens in Microsoft 365, crossing the boundaries of SharePoint, Groups, and Teams.

I already covered the lists templates, but in today’s post, I’ll explain how you can easily build rules to notify someone, and how rules will continue to evolve to do a lot more.

 

Key points covered in this article include:

  • Creating a rule
  • Editing a rule
  • Why put rules under automate?

 

Access the full article, Working with Rules in Microsoft Lists, on the Tahoe Ninjas website.

 

A Winning Strategy Management Resource

 

Access this resource from Gaelle Lamotte’s company on how to improve your ability to execute strategies by integrating development and planning, driving focus and alignment.

How often do you win with your strategy?

Strategy development is useful for defining ambitions and long term goals. A good strategy is only as good as the capability to implement it and how well it delivers the desired outcome.

Various research concludes:

Organisations on average realise only 50-63% of the financial performance promised by their strategies.

Others suggest that the figure is in fact less than 30%.

Regardless of the data reviewed, it is not good news!

Failure to execute is often a result of poor understanding, and disjointed planning and governance processes.

 

Key points include:

  • Identification of weak governance processes
  • Build in-house capability for aligning Operational Plans and Budget with the Strategy
  • The dynamic strategy management approach

 

Access the full PDF, Improve your ability to execute your strategies, from the Strategy Management Partners’ website.

 

Interest in Expert Networks on the Rise

September 28, 2020

 

Sara Conte shares an article from the company archives that identified the increase in the use of expert networks with projections reaching into 2022.

Investors and others are increasingly utilizing expert networks like Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) and AlphaSites to instantly get answers to key questions. It’s like calling a friend in the business, but these calls are highly regulated to ensure compliance with confidentiality requirements. The results are quick and actionable – particularly when paired with analysis on trends and market data (SGC Ventures provides this service).

​​Bloomberg published this article, “Investors Are Paying $1,300 Per Hour for ‘Expert’ Chats (click here)” earlier in the year, describing the process and its growing popularity. A few excerpts are included below.

Experts On Demand

Research spending on expert networks to soar past $1 billion in coming years. Now that banks have stopped giving equity research for free under a new European Union law, some money managers are opting instead to spend their cash speaking with experts in fields as trendy as artificial intelligence or as niche as sausage packaging.

 

Included in this article:

  • Projections graph
  • Increasing fees
  • Link to resource

 

Read the full article, Investors Are Utilizing Experts At Increasing Rates, on the SGC Ventures website. 

 

Subscription Stories – Subscription Business for Non Profits

September 28, 2020

 

Charity: water’s MZ Goodman joins Robbie Kellman Baxter to share how she is applying subscription model best practices to a nonprofit. They discuss how MZ leverages content marketing and digital community strategies developed in her work at The New York Times to build a donation-based subscription model, how they’ve leveraged a single 20-minute video to raise millions, and how to think about a Forever Promise in the context of engaging donors.

Welcome to the show. It’s your host, Robbie Kellman Baxter sharing subscription stories with you. Today’s guest is MZ Goodman. MZ is a true innovator, bringing the best practices of subscription, engagement, and brand from her work at The New York Times, Ralph Lauren, Glossier, and goop, to charity: water, a nonprofit that provides clean water to people in developing nations. The organization has been phenomenally successful by taking a different approach to fundraising. The 14 year old organization has raised over 450 million dollars. Join us as MZ shares the secrets of charity: water’s success and how to bring these principles to any organization. Welcome to the show, MZ. 

‘Hi, Robbie, thanks so much for having me.’

‘Now your title at Charity: water, can you tell me what your title is?’

‘Sure. So I’m SVP of Subscription.’

‘That is not a title that I’m used to hearing at nonprofit.’

‘I know.’

‘How did that happen? And what is a subscription to a nonprofit?’

‘I think it was, leadership was incredibly smart when they decided to pivot the business at the nonprofit in this direction, in that our COO, Lauren Letta, who’s incredibly visionary, she was already evaluating whether it made sense to create a subscriptions team focused on a North Star metric of predictive revenue so as to enable significant growth across the organization. And our model is very complicated. But it took a lot of moving parts. So it was a very intentional move on the part of leadership to create a cross-functional team focused on a North Star goal of building membership and growing recurring revenue.

 

Key points covered in this podcast include:

  • Why a mission is the most important factor for attracting subscribers
  • The importance of building a brand based on quality over charisma
  • Ways for nonprofits to allow members to remain active without opening their checkbooks
  • MZ’s advice for product leaders who want to transition to the nonprofit world
  • The differences between building a community at a news company, a make-up company, and a nonprofit

 

Listen to the full conversation, Subscription Stories, Charity:Water, on RobbieKellmanBaxter.com.

 

Access Expert Inventory Management Tips 

September 26, 2020

 

Discover practical inventory management tips that can help your business grow in this post on Carlos Castelan’s company blog. 

For any products-based business, it’s hard to overstate the importance of inventory management. Not only does effective inventory management help you to evaluate the state of your business and reveal various roadblocks to your success, but it also helps you to keep operations running smoothly and ensure that your customers stay happy. And when your business is growing quickly, it becomes even more vital. As we talk to customers of all sizes, we have heard several themes -that’s why we’ve provided these inventory management tips for flourishing businesses:

Use Up-to-Date Software

One common mistake made by many companies is that they continue to use inventory management methods and/or software long after it has become obsolete. And it usually comes down to costs.

But as The Houston Chronicle’s website Chron explains, using archaic inventory management contributes to a host of problems that end up costing your company much more money than the price of quality, up-to-date software. Digitized tracking allows better forecasting, reduces errors, improves customer service, and enhances efficiency. Research the market, and you will likely find a number of cost-effective options that can transform your inventory management practices.

 

Key tips in this article include:

  • Improve your forecasting
  • Stick to FIFO
  • Audit your stock efficiently
  • Check your products

 

Read the full article, Is Your Business Growing? Consider These Practical Inventory Management Tips, on the Navio Group website.

 

How to Avoid the Bias Trap that Hurts Your Business

September 23, 2020

 

Barry Horwitz explains how confirmation bias hurts business and provides key tips on how to identify and avoid falling into the confirmation bias trap.

I’m often reminded of a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is asked how he went bankrupt. His answer: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

When dealing with change (bankruptcy-related or otherwise), there are often warning signs along the way — gradual shifts that are easy to dismiss as temporary or not yet consequential, until one day, abruptly, they arrive.

The point is that sudden threats to organizations are rarely truly sudden. The signs were there, but they were missed.

We’ve all heard of the examples: The streetcar company that didn’t appreciate the advent of cars; Kodak sticking with film until it was much too late (despite the fact that it was a Kodak engineer who invented the digital camera); Blockbuster turning down the opportunity to buy a struggling Netflix for a mere $50 million in 2000.

And yet, it keeps happening. Partly because our view of the world is a function of what we believe to be important. Blockbuster, for example, assumed that “movie night” was its main offer – the ability to pop into a store and instantly have a movie whenever you felt like it. Waiting two days for the mail to arrive seemed like an inferior alternative. As it turned out, Netflix, not Blockbuster, was the one to anticipate streaming as the next, best iteration.

Whatever the specifics, the human tendency to embrace evidence that supports our pre-conceived notions and dismiss that which does not (“confirmation bias”), can lead us to ignore the weak signals of change until it’s far too late.

So, how do we avoid getting caught in this trap? There are a few ways…

 

Key points identified in this post include:

  • Checking your assumptions
  • Listening to your constituents
  • Keeping an eye on trends and results

 

Read the full article, Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Business?, on the Horwitz and Company website.

 

Innovation Lies and Other Truths

September 22, 2020

 

Robyn M. Bolton takes a lesson learned from a fairy tale to illustrate truths.

I love stories.  When I was a kid, my parents would literally give me a book and leave me places while they ran errands.  They knew that, as long as I was reading, I wouldn’t be moved.

But there was one story I hated – The Emperor’s New Clothes

I hated it because it made absolutely no sense.  It was a story of adults being stupid and a kid being smart, and, to a (reasonably) well-behaved kid, it was absolutely unbelievable.

No adult would try to sell something that doesn’t exist, like the clothiers did with the cloth.  No adult would say they could see something they couldn’t, like the Emperor and the townspeople did.  Adults, after all, don’t play at imagination.

As a kid, this story seemed completely wild and unrealistic.

As an adult, this story is so true that it hurts.

The truth of this story touches so many things and innovation is at the top of the list.

I’ve spent my career working in innovation working within large companies and as an advisor to them.  I know what executives, like the emperor, request. I’ve said what the consultants say to sell their wares.  I believed all of it.

Now I need to be the kid and point out some of the lies, as I see them.

 

Lies identified in this article include:

Lie #1: Companies can disrupt themselves

Lie #2: If companies act like VCs, they’ll successfully innovate

Lie #3: We can pivot our way to success

 

Read the full article, The Innovator has No Clothes: Innovation’s 3 Great Lies, on the Mile Zero website.

 

The Emotional Equation in Business

September 5, 2020

 

Ravi Rao was recently interviewed on the podcast The Why Word where he explains how businesses can become emotionally healthier places to work, and reap the benefits of a happier, motivated, and more productive workforce.

Humans survive because we care about each other, because we are connected to each other, because we are so aware of each other. The challenge with something like the COVID virus, and SARS, too, is that we have even diminished the, if you will, socially acceptable ways that touch occurs for adults; handshakes, hugs, pats on the back, high fives. These kinds of things now represent public health danger. Sometimes when someone says to me, ‘Hey, I’ve got a lot of great content. I can’t figure out how to put it in a presentation, that’s gripping.’ I always say, ‘How would you do it as a play? How would you tell that story if it was in the form of an anecdote?’

 

Points covered in this podcast include:

  • How Ravi made the jump from neuroscience to acting to management consulting at McKinsey 
  • The scientific approach to emotion
  • The emotional impact on business

 

Listen to the full podcast, Emotional Business, on YouTube.

 

Revamping  a Thousand Year Old Industry 

September 4, 2020

 

Robbie Kellman Baxter shares a podcast from her new series, Subscription Stories – True Tales from the Trenches. This week, she is in conversation with Brad Handler, vacation entrepreneur. They discuss his affordable business model, the integration of membership and subscription into the luxury travel service, and more. 

I’m Robbie Kellman Baxter. Today’s subscription story belongs to Brad Handler. He and his brother, Brent Handler, are vacation entrepreneurs who are incorporating membership and subscription in some really novel ways. Brad has done a lot of different things over his career, first as an engineer at Apple, then as an attorney at a top Silicon Valley law firm, then at eBay as their first in-house counsel from 1997 to 2001. But he is best known for his innovation in the world of destination travel clubs. The Handlers launched Exclusive Resorts in 2002. More recently, they have been building Inspirato, a membership model which also has introduced a subscription option.

‘I walked into a little dorm fridge and a tiny little bar sink and my wife turned to me and said: ‘shut up or solve this problem.’ So we spent the rest of that vacation week solving the problem.’- Brad Handler

We’ll talk about how to package value for subscriptions and determine the right price and features and what he learned as a Silicon Valley insider that has informed his work in rethinking the travel industry. And finally, we’ll discuss the unique benefits and challenges of working with your family.

 

Areas of interest include:

  • Using technology to pull ahead of competitors
  • Subscription vs membership business models
  • Inspirato’s most important metrics
  • How data collection can transform and improve customer experience
  • How Inspirato is structured for profitability

 

Listen to the full podcast, Inspirato’s Brad Handler on Revamping  a Thousand Year Old Industry, on robbiekellmanbaxter.com

 

Steps to a Successful Digital Strategy

 

Nils Boeffel explains what can go wrong with a digital strategy and shares tips on how to develop a successful digital strategy. 

Everyone is talking about digitalization, but many people and organizations get it wrong. To them it means throwing technology at things, hoping that they will get better. What is it really, what does it mean, and how do you think about it and implement it?

Last year I led a digitalization workshop at a company where they were looking to increase their digitization efforts. They recognized the need to move ahead (mainly due to changing market demands and the competitive situation), had several topics already under way, and wanted to “speed things up.” During the workshop it turned out that many things were already being done in different parts of the organization, that there was no central digital strategy, that the digitization was not integrated with their overall corporate strategy, and that the initiatives were taking longer than planned, and not providing the expected benefits.

How could they do it better, and what would it take to successfully define a digital strategy and implement digitalization?

 

Points covered in this article include:

  • Three key roles in digitalization
  • Phases of digital strategy 
  • Questions to ask

 

Read the full article, Digital Strategy or Digital Disaster – how to develop a successful digital strategy, on his company website.

 

A One-page List on Efficiency

 

The power of writing a list should never be forgotten. Luiz Zorzella has compiled a six-point list of tools and approaches that improve efficiency. 

If you ever thought:

‘Hmmm… wouldn’t it be nice if I had a one-pager list of the tools that people use to improve process efficiency?’

Then today is your lucky day!

I have listed below my compilation of the main tools and approaches I found which other executives and consultants use to directly or indirectly process efficiency.

And, even though this list is not exhaustive, I have never found anything more useful than it to make sure you are not overlooking anything important.

By the way: if you see anything missing, please send me a note and I will be happy to include it in the next edition of this list.

 

The six areas of efficiency on this list include:

  1. Relocation
  2. Technology
  3. Processes
  4. Managing demand
  5. Organization alignment
  6. Value creation

 

Read the full article, 6 ITEMS FOR YOUR EFFICIENCY LAUNDRY LIST, on the Amquant website. 

 

COVID-19 – A Report on the Impact on Business

 

Eli Diament’s company has recently released a comprehensive report on how the current pandemic has affected business, including  a summary of findings from their national survey of Americans, executives, business owners and business decision makers.

Azurite Consulting recently surveyed 3,500 Americans , in partnership with PeakProsperity.com –  to capture a unique view of COVID-19’s impact on spending, hiring and business decision making. This is the second survey in a longitudinal study, capturing the granular impacts of Covid-19 and paths forward. We plan to continue the study, with the next ‘data point’ survey in Q3, 2020. The original research is available here.

This article highlights a subset of the major research findings, but is only a portion of the total findings.

 

The contents of the report include:

 

  • Business Outlook:  Slow L-Shaped recovery
  • Permanent Layoffs: Fewer Employees Will be Hired Back
  • Business Cutting Expense: Projected to Continue Through 2020
  • Digital Tools: Their Impact on Jobs and Work-Life Balance
  • Working From Home:  Is it Permanent?
  • People & Business Geographic Migration
  • Returning to the Office and School
  • Daily Activities: How Long Will People Wait to Return?
  • Changes in Spending & Time: Millennials Driving Spend
  • Returning to Daily Activities: Broken Out by Activity Type

 

Download the full report, Impact of Covid-19 On Business Decision Making, Spending & Recovery – JULY 2020, from the Azurite Consulting website. 

 

Strategic Steps for Business Post COVID-19 

 

Geoff Wilson asks the questions that make you think about your business strategy post COVID-19, identifies what you should focus on, and explains how you should move forward.

Hey, you there…the guy or gal with the life you always wanted.  How does it feel?

You are working from home.  Your computer screen has become your window into the world.  And, you have realized that it is, in fact, possible to pack more meetings into a day if you just sit still and do everything by videoconference.

But, how’s your business?  I mean, really, how is your BUSINESS?

I don’t mean how many COVID-19 cases do you have.  I don’t mean how many furloughs, shutdowns, or capacity reductions do you have.  I don’t mean how much stimulus cash you were able (or not able) to borrow.  And, I certainly don’t mean how much sales have decreased (or, if you are lucky, increased) over the past couple of months.  Those are interesting, good coffee chat items.

But they are the items in the spotlight.  And, the spotlight in this case is searing.  Everything–and I mean everything–is being cast in terms of the effects of COVID-19. Media coverage grasps at straws for something new after months of exhausting coverage and in doing so pulls ever more anecdotal evidence onto center stage.  Statistics that we never knew existed (well, ok, some of us knew what an R0 was, but only kind of) are now part of the national discourse.  And, yes, your employee base is focused on these same things.

But what about what’s happening with your business outside of the spotlight?  How are you thinking about that?  Because that’s really what you need to focus on.

 

Points covered in this article include:

  • Shocks in the system
  • Second-order effects
  • The Uber example

 

Read the full article, The great strategic “wreck-oning”, on the Wilson Growth Partners website. 

 

Results from Evalusys and Lambda Business Study

 

Lin Giralt shares findings from a Evalusys and Lambda study of over 600 small and medium sized enterprises in the U.S., covering ten categories, including results on: human resource management, business exit readiness, innovation processes and capabilities, and quality of business processes.

What Evalusys and Lambda have learned about US Small and Medium Sized Enterprises [SME’s]

Summary of Results from over 600 Business Evaluations indicates that improvements in Sales Management [98%] and Strategic Business Planning [94%] are the Categories that lead top managers’ and owners’ areas of action[1]. In terms of specific points of action, the Innovation Category had the top three most important actions mentioned: “Company does not have the right metrics and incentives to support a culture of innovation,” [72%]; “Management is not satisfied with their ability to leverage open innovation,” [66%]; and “Management is not satisfied with the rate of new product development,” [64%].[2]

On the other hand, most SME’s were content with their Overall Business Processes, Supervisory Practices and Human Resources Management.

 

In addition to metrics, this article includes:

  • Topline conclusions
  • Discussion of results
  • Examination of the data
  • Conclusions and further considerations

 

Read the full article, What Evalusys and Lambda have learned about US Small and Medium Sized Enterprises [SME’s], on LinkedIn.

 

On a Video Call? Don’t Do That, Do This!

 

As more consultants rely on video conferencing to connect with clients, David A. Fields shares timely, tractable, and tongue-in-cheek tips on how to avoid common mistakes that are all too often made. 

Are there video call-specific rules of etiquette? Of course.

Remember the old days, when people left their houses? Consultants would frequently travel thousands of miles, sardined next to strangers (crazy, right?).

Even then, your consulting firm’s best, everyday outreach tool was your telephone.

However, in the modern, no-travel era, video calls have become totally acceptable and quite common.

Video calls are far more effective than the phone for building relationships with your consulting firm’s clients, prospects, influencers and partners.

As noted in this article, you’ll benefit from quickly moving email and phone conversations to video.

However, video calls do come with some risks and behavior changes.

For instance, when you were on a phone call and the other person was talking, you could sneak in a quick bite of your lunch (or one, entire Krispy Kreme donut).

On a video call, you tell your contact that you see a tarantula dangling behind them, then quickly scarf your box of donuts while you’re watching the other person shriek and flail. (Later in the conversation you can mention how much you like their pajama bottoms.)

Obviously, a quick review of avoidable video call faux pas is in order.

 

Tips include:

  • Visual disconnection
  • Audio fails
  • Hot mic/camera
  • Unhappy endings

 

Read the full article, “10 Common, Avoidable Mistakes Consultant’s Make on Video Calls,” on David’s website. 

 

Helping Leaders Make Ethical Decisions

 

During times of crises leaders must make the tough decisions, but choosing the right way to go is not always clear cut. Zaheera Soomar identifies three practical approaches to serve as guidelines for ethical decision-making.

During a recent conversation with a senior executive, she expressed a sentiment that many of us share: “When the pandemic has passed, I want to be able to say that, at the hardest of times, I did my best to do the right thing”. During this pandemic, leaders are expected to make difficult decisions with far-reaching consequences.

Ethical decision-making becomes even more important in times of crisis.

Leaders are constantly faced with ethical decisions, with all of the challenges associated with meeting the expectations of various stakeholders – investors, employees, customers, partners, regulators, local communities, and society at large. These decisions are rarely simple, bringing together financial considerations with deep-rooted beliefs about the right thing to do: Costco’s raising of its minimum wage, Woolworths’ decision to get out of liquor and gambling and Salesforce’s decision to bar certain firearms companies from using its services all represent tough decisions informed by ethics and values. Leaders must make decisions with limited knowledge, predicting their impact, and have confidence and trust that the compromises and trade-offs are the right ones.

 

Included in this article:

  • Align your decisions with your purpose
  • Follow agreed and actionable principles
  • Prioritise and plan your decisions and actions

 

Read the full article, Making Good Decisions in times of Crisis, on the Principia website. 

 

How to Steer the Ship

 

David A. Fields identifies benefits consulting firms should focus on during this time of crisis.

There are so many voices fixated on the disaster unfolding around us, that you could easily be swept into a torrent of anxiety, fear and panic.

In truth, there is real reason for concern and you absolutely should heed the direction of medical leaders. At the same time, you and your consulting firm will benefit from a healthy dose of positive perspective.

If you ferociously cling to positive thought patterns while chaos is swirling around you, you and your consulting firm can maintain a clear head and promote forward progress.

Fortunately, there are many realistic, reliable reasons for you to feel upbeat.

Eight thought-starters are listed below, and I’ve left two spots open for you to fill in—one more than usual, because I know the entire consulting community will benefit from your inspiring thoughts.

 

Read the full article, 10 Positive Facts Your Consulting Firm Should Obsess over During this Crisis, on David’s blog. 

 

Welcoming new member Richard Cho

Umbrex is pleased to welcome Richard Cho with Growing Abundance Mindsets.  Through his time at Gartner, Bridgewater, and McKinsey Richard developed a set of tools, frameworks and practices that have been adapted from leading business thinkers and applied across multiple Fortune 500 company teams to successfully drive new initiatives.

Often times technology problems are usually business engagement problems, and he has a track record of getting these initiatives on track. Richard is passionate about building world-class cross-functional digital teams that go after big goals by developing a culture of meaningful trust-based relationships and continuous learning.