Archives for category: Customers

This post continues the series on scaling a business, this time defining the exponential organisation. An exponential organisation is a company that scales rather than grows. In other words it grows at an exponential rate – d’oh!

Jacob Morgan covers how to create an exponential organisation and why you would want to in this excellent piece. He leans heavily on the work of the innovator Samil Ismail, one of those lucky souls who can find his first name in his last name…

Ismail’s research into exponential organisations leads him to identify ten commonalities in companies successfully hitting the stratosphere.  Five factors are external, and five are internal.

The five external factors equal the word SCALE:

  • S, staff on demand
  • C, community and crowd
  • A, algorithms
  • L, leased assets
  • E, engagement

The five internal factors spell the word IDEAS:

  • I, interfaces
  • D, dashboard
  • E, experimentation
  • A, autonomy
  • S, social

To find out more about each factor, and what combination of them would suit your ambitions, have a deeper look at the article.

 

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In this second in the series of posts exploring scaling the business, let’s look the differences between growing the business versus scaling the business. What better source of authoritative information than this piece from the Growth Institute.

There are some fantastic insights in this piece. Here are just three of them:

  • Companies that scale successfully don’t set out to grow their business, they build it for scale from the outset
  • A scaling company grows at twice the industry average but its expenses are roughly the same
  • When I was at business school, a company’s growth was a series of steps, where you go through a plateau period before you slingshot up the next level. Nowadays the scaling curve is a series of ‘valleys of death’ through which each company must pass in order to dominate its industry

The Growth Institute identifies four scaling stages:

The percentages of companies that make it through each of these stages are horrifically small, so if you’ve got scale-up ambitions it’s important to go in eyes wide open, and also read the Growth Institute piece, and the ‘how to navigate’ guide, in more detail.

Recently I wrote a short post about scale-ups and scaling a business. Now I’m going to start a short series that continues the theme of scaling.

If the trend watchers are to be believed, the start-up and dot com has had its day. Maybe that term is a little out of date these days, since the emerging start-ups of today all seem to be dot ai anyway. Apparently it’s all about becoming a larger sustained company now, while also avoiding being copied, outdone or annihilated by the likes of GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.

But if you want to catch the wave and forge something that lasts, what technology bandwagon should you be hitching a ride on? This piece from PWC explores in detail what they see as the eight essential emerging technologies.

The eight technologies are:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented reality
  • Blockchains
  • Drones
  • Internet of Things
  • Robotics
  • Virtual reality
  • 3-D printing

The thing that makes this tricky for start-ups is that you need boat loads of cash to dominate them. They’re not a niche that you can easily protect.

The PWC article groups these eight technologies into five converging themes:

  • Embodied AI
  • Intelligent automation
  • Automating trust
  • Conversational interfaces
  • Extended reality

For information on which technology or theme you can embrace to harness your scale-up company ambitions, see the article.

I was reminded of the hidden cost of bureaucracy the other day. Hidden, because it goes largely unreported, and the personal cost to me.

About 6 weeks previously, I had required to send off my passport as part of an application process. The process stated that if you needed your passport back by a certain date that you should detail this. Which I did, since I needed to fly to the UK for a week, building in 2 days buffer in the process. 2 days? I know, ludicrous in hindsight. In fact not even in 2 days. I was flying on a Monday, but told them the Saturday before and that I needed the passport by the Thursday.

The passport hadn’t arrived by the Tuesday. I needed it to fly with Ryanair, whose flights I had booked ages before. The government office dealing with my application had 4 telephone hours per week, yes 4, during which time the phone line was permanently busy. I couldn’t turn up in person and demand my passport back, so I sent an email into the info@ customer service email abyss.

Friday, the last day for postal deliveries before the weekend, and nothing. I had a sliver of hope, in that I was flying late on Monday so it might come that day. On the Friday I called in a favour and someone knew someone who worked in the department of the minister responsible. Nothing, until 4:30pm when an email responding to my info@ enquiry came back with a ‘When did you send your application? When did we receive it? What was the postal tracking number?’ I replied back with the information at about 5pm, and that was that.

In the meantime I had made enquiries with the chat facility of Ryanair, who said they couldn’t help, since the passport was mandatory for travel with them. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, I discovered that if you fly with Aer Lingus from the UK to Ireland, and vice versa, and you’re a citizen of either, you can use a driver’s license for ID. Happy days. I booked the outbound flight for the Monday with them, at short notice prices, hoping that the passport might still come in time for me either to fly out with Ryanair or at least back with them if my family could post the passport out to me.

My week in the UK came and went. The passport arrived in my home town on the Friday, and I was due to fly back home on the Monday, first thing. I therefore booked a short-notice-price return flight and came home.

As I said to the info@ people to confirm I had got the passport back, it’s no use offering a process if you can’t then follow it. The fallout affects your customer. Not that there’s too much of a concept of the customer at a government level. I speculate that my application was unopened until my info@ email came in, or more likely the prod from a friend of a friend.

The cost of bureaucracy to me? The cost of bureaucratic failings? Why are they so often set up to fail, to frustrate? 2 additional flights with Aer Lingus at a cost of €150. I know, coulda been much worse.

This post, according to the admin screen of WordPress, is blog post 900. That’s exactly 300 weeks of writing and publishing 3 blog posts a week. You see, a mathematics education has not been a waste.

When I first started this blog, in September 2013, I wanted get into the habit of writing regularly. I also wanted to write a book, in my spare time. The act of writing the blog, in short punchy posts that the reader can get through in a minute or two, has guided the shape of the book. I started the book in 2015 and finished it in 2018. It was a long process. Now I’ve finished sourcing the imagery for the book. All I gotta do now is get it designed, laid out, proofed and published.

I’ve started making noises about stopping this blog at exactly blog post 1,000. That’s in a little over 33 weeks’ time, at my current level of productivity. Again, it’s amazing what the human mind can compute. I should really get the book out there before blog post 1,000, so that’s a rather nice milestone for me to aim for. Then this blog would have topped and tailed the book project, formed a temporal ring around it if you like.

Which feels like a good thing to do. Onwards and upwards! Thanks for reading at least 1 of the 900 posts so far.

A while back I wrote a post called Are You Working In or Working On? Working in the business is a ‘head down, bottom up’ thing where you’re getting stuck into the everyday tactical stuff. Working on the business is the strategic, directional side of it.

I want to tweak that question slightly in this post, to this: are you working on something, or towards something? This to me is a pretty fundamental question. There’s no right or wrong answer. In fact, I think you have to do both.

Working on something means you’re in the moment, dealing with the present tense, getting it done. Working towards something means you’ve an eye to the future, or to a destination. It’s like the difference between the journey and destination. A means in itself, or a means to an end.

If we don’t know where we’re going with something it’s hard to shape what we’re doing right now. Conversely, if we don’t know where we’re going with something we can learn from the journey. After all, we can’t necessarily see the finish line but we can see the next few hundred yards and that’s enough to keep us on track.

Keeping an eye on what we’re working on sets us up for what we’re working towards. Keeping the other eye on what we’re working towards improves the quality of what we’re working on. Sounds like a pretty virtuous circle to me.

 

Do you remember the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’? You’d hear it all the time, until apps started to tail off a year or two ago, to be replaced by web-responsive-designed websites. So now it’s a case of ‘there’s a website for that.’

The other day I landed at Galway train station for a meeting, but I wanted to post a letter first. I don’t know Galway city well enough to remember where all the post boxes were, and I’ve mentioned before how they’re quite scarce compared to their UK counterparts.

‘Wouldn’t it be great if someone designed a website that told you where your nearest post box was,’ I thought. ‘Wait a minute, may be there is.’ A minute later, a search for ‘post box near me’ led my phone to offer up postboxmap.com. I located the nearest postbox, a 1-minute walk away, and I was off to my meeting with 5 minutes to spare.

Maybe I could have simply asked my smartphone verbally rather than through google, and maybe I’ll be tapping keys much less often in future, but I was still very pleased to have found what I needed in such a short space of time.

A picture tells a thousand words, as the well-worn phrase goes. Most of us would find it very easy to use up a thousand words describing a painting, picture or diagram, and a good picture kind of does all the work for us. People find it much easier to retain something visual, so as sales people, marketers and storytellers we rely on a picture to bring people along. I tend not to do it so much myself, but a lot of people at work tend to want to whiteboard what they’re explaining.

I’m a words guy rather than a picture guy, but that’s not to say I don’t appreciate a good picture. A good picture is simple, powerful and influential. Pulling against this force is the desire to put everything in, include all the thousand words so that nothing gets left out, or left to chance in the mind of the person we’re trying to communicate with. When we do this we risk the simple message being lost, so we’re back to square one.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped me trying, at every business I’ve been involved with, to draw picture of everything that goes on in the organisation, so we can show how it all fits togethers, all the elements and interdependencies. Every time it gets too complicated, too difficult, and I run out of space.

The other day I mapped all the sales, marketing and service functions for your typical organisation serving a customer through their entire lifecycle, from not-yet-a-prospect through to an active advocate customer. It came out as a multi-ringed circle diagram, and I quite like it. I might have cracked it. It helps me help companies see where the gaps are in their coverage and strategy, where the holes are in their 360-degree view of their customers. Of course, it’s not exhaustive, you’d probably need ten thousand words for that, and there’s not a powerpoint slide, poster or whiteboard that could do justice to that level of detail.

You have to stop somewhere, and I have. It’s my new shiny ten thousand word picture. Now I need to test on my market and see if they get the big picture.

Our American business friends love the phrase ‘peeling back the onion’. It’s used a lot as a metaphor for life, but I hear it in business most of the time. People use it to describe how you can layer a story or a whiteboard to get your message across, or to reduce something complex and muddle to something simpler to grasp, but for years I was never sure I knew exactly what they meant.

Sure, I get the analogy of how you can remove the layers of an onion, and there is a satisfying feeling to doing it that probably dates back to six-year-old-birthday-party games of ‘pass the parcel’, but there’s not much to it when you peel away the inside layer. There’s no reward in the centre of an onion.

For me, the direction is wrong. Even though I’m an outside-in kind of a guy – by which I mean that I need to understand the whole picture so I can see how the little bit I’m dealing with fits in – I much prefer the inside-out onion layers approach, starting with the core and adding back in the onion layers, or the concentric rings of a diagram, as you go.

Adding the onion layers, rather than peeling them back, starts with something small and simple and builds as you go. It’s not a breaking down or disassembling process, it builds from the nub, the core, the kernel, and layers on the colour, complexity and detail.

‘I’ve had nothing back from her.’

‘Radio silence so far.’

‘She’s not come back to me yet.’

‘Nope, still waiting, got nothing back.’

This is par for the course when you’re trying to reach people in business, at work or at play. It’s not even confined to sales people trying to reach prospects and customers. We’re all busy and we’re all trying to reach other busy people whose agendas and priorities don’t necessarily mesh with ours.

It still makes it tough to get through your work and keep on track if you rely on input from others. You can get all scientific and favour certain days of week and certain times of the day, and then you’ll have those days when you get nothing back from anyone, which can be pretty frustrating.

We have to keep plugging away. We have to use all our skills and powers of persuasion to make sure we package those emails, voicemail messages and chats in a way that’s going to appear minimum impact to the recipient, with the maximum chance of a positive response.