Archives for category: Strategy

Chains are an interesting way of explaining business or biological processes that connect players in a particular ecosystem.

The supply chain and value chain are handy ways to explain what happens either side of the manufacturing and creative process. The food chain is not so much a chain as a loop from contributors to consumers who in turn become contributors to start the cycle again.

The use chain – I don’t know if that exists as a term, but if it doesn’t I’m coining it now – is an interesting one. At some point somebody acquires something, uses it and passes it onto someone else to use, or else re-uses it themselves – re-consumes it if you like. The product or service doesn’t change materially between one user and the next, or one use and the next. There is no additional value or additional commercial benefit built in to the second or more use. Re-using something is the enemy of commerce, but friend to the consumer and the environment. In a responsible and societally aware culture, if we can’t re-use something then we can recycle it, or reduce it to minimise the impact of its having ceased to be useful or consumable to us.

If we could figure out a way of enabling a win-win for the use chain, the planet might have half a chance.

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Partnerships, relationships, company. All of a sudden it’s not about what you want, or what your company wants. It’s not even about your end customer. It’s about the person that holds the key to the end customer.

With partners you’ve got somebody else’s priorities to think about it. This is why people that consult on partnerships emphasise the importance of lock-step, being aligned with your partners and making sure their goals are your goals.

You work really hard to get a partner on board, an agent, a distributor, a reseller perhaps, and then the hard work really starts. That’s when you figure out how important to them you really are. If they’re calling you, they’re getting pull from their customers, what you have is easy for them to sell, and profitable too. If they’re not calling you, their priorities are not yours and they’re not going to bat for you. Simple as that.

It’s a bit like the domino theory I proposed in blog post number 1. You’re facing your partner, looking for their attention, but they’re facing their customer, looking for their attention. An entire supply chain can be like that, a line of dominos focused on their customer and ignoring their supplier.

Bottom line? Well, 3 bottom lines, I think. Your product has to be relatively easy for someone not in your company to sell, which you can help with, of course. Second, it has to have sufficient margin for it to be worth it to your partner, who will always seek the path of least resistance toward hitting their own target. Third, the end customer has got to want it, to pull it through the supply chain. How you achieve that pull? Well, that’s all down to you, your marketing, your budget, your staying power and your inventiveness.

A former boss and mentor of mine recently referred me to an article on self-publishing. It was written by someone who had been published before, using the traditional publishing routes and methods, and now was publishing his own books. The full post is here. It’s a fascinating read, especially so if you are thinking off putting stuff out there.

This post, however, is not so much an advert for self-publishing as it is a comment or two on how technology has changed how we write, and how we consume what’s been written.

Books are changing. They’re not books any more, much of the time at least. Sometimes they’re ebooks, existing on screen but not existing physically. Sometimes they’re printed on demand, one at a time, Sometimes they’re very short, like a pamphlet. Sometimes they’re simply a blog post, like this one.

Publishing something used to be this mammoth, self-contained, one-off project that ending up with something spitting out off the presses. Now we can publish something very short, very quickly, even charge for it too, and get almost instant feedback on what readers thought of it. Web 2.0 baby, what a wonderful thing.

This same technology has also changed the way we read, our reading behaviours. We have an unending wealth of information and diversion at our fingertips. We now skim read, and have a shorter attention span, so unless what we’re reading is a compelling page turner – digitally or physically – shorter is better.

So maybe this is a misleading post title. Maybe books have already changed.

 

I don’t know what all this Brexit fuss is about…I’m kidding! It’s hard to imagine a topic that’s more pressing and more invasive for people, businesses and countries right now.

So it’s about time I jumped on the bandwagon. It’s not Brexit, or it shouldn’t be at any rate. Britain, or Great Britain to use its full moniker, is comprised of England, Scotland and Wales, in descending order of population.

Unfortunately, however, Britain isn’t scheduled to leave the EU on 29th March 2019. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is leaving. Northern Ireland is heading away too. That’s an extra country and about 1.8m more people. I wonder how the people of Northern Ireland feel about the term. Their opinion may well boil down to their upbringing.

So it’s not Brexit, it’s UKExit, technically. Should we say U-K-Exit, or Ukexit? Not as snappy and rollable-off-the-tongue, but more accurate nonetheless. Perhaps we could shorten it to NUKE – Non-UK Europe?

‘That’s mental!’, as they sometimes say over here, meaning something is crazy or mad. But that’s not what I mean by mental, at least not in this post.

I played in a table tennis tournament a few Saturdays ago. I’ve been playing quite a bit lately, but it’s been all practice and no matches. Some practice matches, sure, but it’s not the same thing. I played quite well in the tournament, at least for someone in his supposedly declining years, but I lost all 3 of the matches that went to a 5th game ‘decider’.

What I told myself, and anyone else who would listen, was that I wasn’t match tight, I’m not playing enough matches. That might be true, but it masks the fact that the mental side of the game has been my weakness. The talent and the work-rate is there, but the mental part has been not as strong, and it’s resulted in a failure to close out more than my share of matches in my favour. In sport, at all levels, so much is down to the mental side – belief, confidence, trust in one’s abilities, positivity, good decision-making in the heat of battle, presence of mind to close out the victory.

It got me thinking about the working world, and whether we’re neglecting the mental side of our development as well. We work hard, we update our learning, we follow process, we’re open to best practice. Do we make decisions and execute to the same high level with the top two inches? I came to the conclusion that we probably don’t, and it’s probably an area we should work on more.

In my last post my 3 big things with workshops grouped conveniently – if a little artificially – into an ABC aide memoire. No such luck this time?

I’ve mentored staff in my marketing and sales teams, and I’ve also mentored early stage companies, which can often be a one-person company, over the last handful of years in a consulting capacity. Here’s what I’ve found to be best for those being mentored, again helpfully arranged in an A-B-C format.

Ask questions. As a mentor you’re a sounding board for the person being mentored. It’s a chance for them to talk through their rationale and approach with an experienced other party who is detached, impartial and objective. Probing with questions can allow you to drill into the detail and challenge, play devil’s advocate and ultimately help validate what they’re doing.

Build structure and process. The job of a mentor I think is to help the person being mentored see the next few steps towards their desired destination. Structure and process combine to give them some direction long after the mentor session finishes. Structure provides the framework to hang the various elements and process gives them an order for doing things.

Coach. I think our job is to coach, providing suggestions and approaches that we’ve seen work well before, rather than to tell them what to do. That seems to be the best way for them – and their businesses – to improve over time, as they grow in confidence and independence.

I’ve done a few workshops over the years, and, as they say, I’m learning all the time. Each workshop is different and requires a unique preparation and approach, but when you’re repeating the same workshop content to a different group of attendees then you definitely improve as you go. Some things work well, and others less so.

Here’s my ABC of things that work well in workshops.

Advertise collaboration. OK, so the A is a bit forced, but ABC brings the post together nicely. The day is much more productive for attendees, and goes more quickly for everyone, when there’s plenty of interaction and discussion, so I always ask for it and encourage it. Otherwise it turns into a one-directional classroom arrangement which is tedious and no-one learns anything. We learn by doing and getting feedback from our peers as well as the workshop leader.

Build in Breaks. Secondly, make sure the day is punctuated by breaks, because attendees often have urgent things to attend to with their day job and also they get invaluable benefit from being able to network with other attendees. As long as you’re punctual with the punctuations, regular breaks work really well.

Behaviours. Here a bonus B. Workshops are often mini-change management exercises, and are simply a nicer word for training. If you’re looking to establish new behaviours, then you need to treat the workshop as one step in a process. I like to give pre-work to be done before the workshop, to get people to start thinking about what I want to cover, and I like to follow up after the workshop (anything from a week to 6 weeks after) to see how the new behaviours are bedding in and offer some corrections if required.

Challenge. It tends to be a benefit to the attendees if their assumptions, assertions or approach are challenged by the workshop leader or other attendees – constructively. If their approach is found to be robust enough to withstand criticism or questions, then great, that’s good validation. If not, then it will improve as a result of the additional viewpoints, input and recommendations.

 

 

 

Back in 2002 I was in England working for a software company, in a sales and marketing capacity. I was in a meeting with the MD and we were discussing go to market strategy for a new product we were launching.

‘OK,’ he said, ‘let’s do a drains up on the product and we can prioritise next steps.’ I’d never heard the phrase before, but it seemed so apt. When you’re having kick-off meetings you need to get everything out on the table, warts and all, good and bad, so that everyone in the group is in possession of the same information and viewpoints.

Imagine lifting up the drains of a building to see what you’ve got. People aren’t shy about getting the good news stories out there for all to see, but they’re a bit more hesitant about revealing the sludge, muck and general detritus from things that haven’t gone as well.

Once you really know what you’re dealing with, and everyone sees the universe of good and bad, then you can list it all out and put the priorities in rank order. It gives you focus and the right order of things to tackle.

You hardly ever hear the term drains up in Ireland, and I don’t know if they use it in the US. You may prefer ‘brain dump’, ‘information transfer’, or ‘download’, but I like drains up. You know to know what you’re dealing with, eliciting both good and bad, and ‘drains up’ encourages that process and desired outcome.

I’ve written before about the need for product manufacturers to design and deliver the whole product solution, or in other words, the entire customer experience, rather than just their product.

This includes the packaging, the accessories, everything you use when you consume the product.

A case in point is the squeezable marmite jar. You either love it or hate it, as the advertising goes, and I’m one of the lovers when it comes to Marmite, always have been. The unmistakeable branding, smell, consistency, taste and round glass jar. In the last few years the Marmite folk have taken to using a squeezable plastic jar to deliver their gooey goodness.

The trouble is, the stuff is so damn viscous that you can’t get more than 70 or 80% of the product out of the jar; the jar won’t squeeze down enough. I purchase a replacement jar – glass – before I realised a good bit of my purchase was yet to be consumed. To get value for your money, and who doesn’t want that, you have to twist the top off and collect the stuff from the inside of the top and the mouth of the jar. It gets everywhere, and leaves your kitchen cupboard, the jar and your hands a sticky mess. Not a good experience.

All the stuff outside of the product itself is an important part of the overall experience. You have to get all of it right, or you risk turning away first-time triers and seasoned customers.

I blogged about January earlier this month, about how it’s a ‘kiss me arse’ month. I wrote about January, however, in mid-December or so, since if you blog regularly you tend to have a stock of posts scheduled at any one time.

How did January turn out? Well, you’re reading this at nearly the end of the month, so for you it’s my January retrospective, but I’m writing this with the guts of 10 days to go. I can give you pretty clear steer on it though.

I came back from a great break in the UK with dose of ‘man flu’, which I hardly ever get. It took me a week to get rid of, by which time it had migrated to a chesty, flegmy cough that warranted a trip to the doc’s and the parting of €63 for the visit and the accompanying anti-biotics. About the same time I also re-tweaked my troublesome left calf playing my first game of table tennis for a few weeks, before turning over in bed a few mornings later and precipitating a sore trapezius-back-of-the-shoulder-blade thingy which subsequently reminded me how often I unwittingly engage it in every-day movement.

This is all my own fault of course. I always view January as the necessary evil we all have to get through, the hangover from the party period of the previous month. I had it coming, in that self-fulfillingly prophetic way.

I’m going to take a leaf out of my mate Gaz’s book next year though. He’s always glad when Crimbo is out of the way and looks forward to January. A clean slate, get some things started, that new year, new you kind of a thing.

So I’m looking forward to an awesome January 2020. A new decade, and the world’s my oyster. Bring it on, except not just yet. I have 11 stellar months to enjoy first.