Growth Strategy and Customer Service

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So, the Politicians, the Press and market commentary Pundits will tell us that 2014 could be the year for continued recovery and a much sought-after increase in company fortunes.

This is the year for Growth.

Developing the options for Growth is quite straightforward even if we have to go back to base marketing principles. Using Market Analysis models, options can be presented of where growth could come from and then your decision is one of inorganic or organic growth, with or without some form of partner. Talking with a group of SMEs recently and taking them through business planning principles, I positioned the old concept of the ‘leaky bucket’, which in a traditional business environment means that you fill up the bucket with new revenue but at the same time observe revenue leaks through customer attrition and price erosion. Murphy’s Law will dictate events.

Growth is good, but smart Growth is better.

What really concerns me is when you go through the effort to win business and then lose it through the performance in your deliver and service to them. But before we point the finger of blame, everyone in a company is accountable for Service Excellence; it is just that some parts of your organisation are more responsible for it than others. The rhetorical question I have behind this challenge is why are we more competitive to win business than maintaining it?

As a Consumer and Management Consultant I can’t help but notice that doing the basics in delivery promises and after-sales service appears to be slipping. Through the 90s and 00’s there were significant steps to develop the need for customer excellence. Phrases like ‘Right First Time, Every Time’ spawned a myriad of programmes to reshape the behaviours of employees and managers and redesign processes to eradicate failure. Then came a movement to right shore to lower costs economies customer things that could be completed on the phone or on a PC and at the same time supported by a move to ‘intuitive’ websites. By the time the 2008 financial meltdown came, companies were already transforming costs and designing their organisations to do more with less. But, at what cost?

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index, which monitors consumer feedback across multiple sectors in B2C markets tracked steady growth in Satisfaction up until 2012, then it plateaued. The average peak being 78.2% Satisfaction. To July 2013 most organisations had seen a 1 point drop in their rating over the year. Now, there is a high end to the result range and there is a low end, but if we are looking at a cross section of the ecomony, the potential for 22% dissatisfaction is quite harrowing. As Service is delivered by your organisation and is not impacted by your Competitors, it’s like taking a pick axe and making your own holes in the ‘Bucket’.

The key linkage on satisfaction is whether a Customer will retain its relationship with you for the longer term and will they advocate (recommend) to buy from you next time. We can draw equal analogies for B2B markets, but if you are in these segments you may want to look at your own Satisfaction and Leakage results to see what the extent of the challenge might be in comparison.

So, let’s have a look at the case for Growth again, where all the hard-found monies will be spent in stimulating markets. You get all your employees excited for the extra push, but forget to secure the revenue base in your existing model. Growth will usually come at a discount on profit contribution. Your existing base would usually be richer in contribution. Add one final cost multiplier to the equation. Popular view across Marketers across the internet would suggest that the cost of a new Customer acquisition is 6-7 times that of retaining an existing Customer.

Growth is critical for economic recover and history will prove that we are great at innovating and communicating. However, this time let’s take a look at the whole end-to-end business model, define the changes and drive the whole organisation in one direction to deliver to the expectation of your customer offers.

Have a nice day.

Auld lang syne…a chance to reset your direction

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This is the last Post of the year as I get ready to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

I have always tried to take an extended holiday in December to get some quality time with the family and to allow myself time to reflect on the year and where I am heading. It is a special time of year where others in the business world also try to do the same. Even if you are working over the holiday period, you get the sense that it is a ‘different’ time in the year than any other (sounds corny, but please read on…)

For us in the Northern hemisphere, the shorter days and the absence of natural light is adequately compensated by bright lights and jingles. In the marketing world they call it ‘involuntary attention’. Whether you want to take in the ambiance or not, it gets to you. It is a time to think of others less fortunate, those who are distant from you and those who are no long able to celebrate with you. But what it is is a moment in time, where your body and mind knows that a closure on an event is about to happen. The 365 days click by one after the other until that last minute on 31 December… “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”

If it has been a bad year you think and hope for a better one, your healthy resolutions kick in and it really is a fresh start, albeit in the mind. But being in the mind is good, because this is your conscience for positive emotion and motivation

This time-out moment gives us an opportunity to call closure on something, to create, to invent and to start anew for the fresh year ahead. This is your moment and a time to be positive too.

The whole world has been trying to recover from one of the most impactful recessions in our short history. Politicians and Senior business people have been shaping and saving to keep companies afloat and now we are ready for a bit of welcomed growth. So my challenge to you, at years end, is think how you might do things differently in the New Year to help with Growth?

Whether you are leading a business as CEO or are lower down in one of the critical functional chains you have an opportunity to ‘think’ differently and ‘speak up’. Ideas are not reserved for people with certain job titles and even if you do not know the solution, you might be able to define a business-enabling question! I am a firm believer that it is not a few people that will draw us back to prosperity, it’s the combined strength of the masses that will deliver us innovation, excitement and growth.

So what should you do?

Just think through the process of how and why you are doing things today. It will be to a ‘plan’, whether it is a written plan or not, and you do what you do based on a set of ‘rules’ that guide you. This is your direction…it’s your reference for doing business. And you will continue to head on this course, unless you pause for thought and reset your purpose. The turn of the New Year is a great time to think and change because you are in the right frame of mind. It also coincides for many companies that they either have just closed their financial year or are in the 3 months running up to it.  A great time to think how your role, your product or a process could work differently to give a better outcome!

If you are already experiencing success and your company has a predictable and successful planned future, the reset of direction may be minimal, but the thinking process will reaffirm that you are on the right route.

So, keep this in mind as you start your new year and instead of just getting back into the ‘same old’ work pattern, challenge yourself and your company!

If you think that your colleagues or bosses would benefit by this article, please feel free to share it with them using the buttons below.

That just leaves it for me to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Regards

Dave Dugdale

Ready? Ready, Grow

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The basic Growth model…What you have + What you need = Growth

The question in the Boardroom may be…Where do we focus?

This is a simple approach to the growth question for larger SME’s and companies in the Corporate Mid Market (you probably have a turnover of £10M or more) but whatever you do is complex because you have an existing revenue base and you have a large organisation delivering it for you.

Your Executive Team have decided that it is time for ‘Growth’, but can you execute this level of performance through your existing strategy and plan to make it happen?

Dugdale Consulting can help you focus on the Big Picture.

But only if you are ready?

Click Here to make Contact

Growth by Acquisition…doing the math

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As your company works out its growth strategy and assesses the options for inorganic growth through acquisition, the headline expectation of benefit may not be as assured as the simple math that you may see. Let’s take a simplistic view of an Acquisition or a Merger and try to answer the question chalked in the panel.

Talk of acquisition creates a special atmosphere in the buying company, sometimes both companies. Initially through the Executive Management team close to the deal, word spreads to Middle Managers and Employees.  It’s not always a good thing for Employees as you start to look towards synergies, but for now let’s take a pure and positive corporate view of this.

Whether you are going for Horizontal acquisition (Market Share) or Vertical acquisition (Value Chain), there is always due diligence, there are always lots of advisors, but the target Company should add something to your alchemy. What Executives are looking for in most cases is a simple Venn diagram for (a) the overlap, (b) the differentiated access to revenue and profit and (c) the cross selling opportunities of the non-overlapping areas.

So an expectation is set, established and the business case agreed. Sale! (Gavel banged, deal!). The expectation?…look towards the simple sum… ’1+1 = ?

The optimist may add up all the benefits and get to an answer of ‘2 + x‘. Value Add thinking. This is how we should be thinking, especially when trying to get out of a recession.

The pragmatist may say that it’s a simple investment, so ‘what have we bought?’ The answer is ‘2‘.  They have a model, we have a model, we are both continuing to looking after our own customers and the Value will be that we are a bigger player in the market and we may have more control of the value chain.

Then there is a pessimistic view. Your overlap causes confusion in your portfolios, customer dissent and you end up with a compete operating model with complexity. It will cost you revenue, profit, market share and your Talent will leave you. Therefore the answer in this case, simply stated is ‘2 – x‘.

In each case x can represent the integration benefit (+) or risk (-)

So what is the real difference between optimism and pessimism in the Acquisition world? Here are my thoughts on what can happen even though everyone is trying to maximize a result.

As the scouting is conducted, there are ‘Plays’ that are considered of the value of acquiring another company. The Plays get valued on a set of assumptions. The assumptions are tested again in the due diligence. The results give the Executive Team and Shareholders the confidence that this is the ‘strategic fit’ for the investment. We can ignore Acquisitions that are made for turnaround purposes at this stage, as they would not necessarily be looking at long-term growth, but pure investor value. However the principles that follows may still apply to these cases.

The purchase is made, the champagne is opened, the PR announcements are broadcast and the expectation is set by the CEO to the employees that this is a “critical investment for our future” and we will be in a “period of transition” to merge the companies activities.

If both Companies have done their homework, the first week after the purchase should see Post-Acquisition Integration teams, fuelled with your best Talent (not necessarily Senior, but empowered people who understand how both Companies work) starting a series of planned activities. They should be looking to work out how you bring capability together, what you keep apart and what programmes are required to drive the synergies. Each functional area should have a Play for what is the optimum solution to meet the investment and corporate strategic aims. Nepotism and Stovepipes should be highlighted and removed and a series of Integration Metrics agreed quickly of what ‘Good’ looks like. So on a route like this…1+1 = 2 + x is a possibility.

Let’s take a look now at what can also happen to get a reduced return.

We start with post-Acquisition Integration. You agree the merger principles, but leave the room without a plan and an end state. No plan means that you have limited ownership and you may not have executive sponsorship. The two companies continue to perform to the expectations of what they are today, with probably a little more load to Middle Management day jobs. At best you get to 1+1 = 2

The worst scenario is that you have a low intensity and low immediacy in your integration plans and the organisations start to compete. Employees and Managers get caught in the battle for delivering their own objectives and invariably, some of these Managers will fail. The lengthening process of Integration creates a noise for Managers and the finger of blame is used to defend shortfall. This is the CEO’s worst position. Unless you have an agreed play to rationalise the two organisations to a smaller but sustainable model, the payback to the Shareholder has been diluted.

What started as a Honeymoon Period could end in ‘Acrimony’. What you need is for the relationship to end in ‘Alchemy’.

So how do we keep the investment to the original strategic intent and how do we Make It Happen…Do the detail!  If you would like to know how Dugdale Consulting could help you with acquisition integration contact us.

In summary, the original ‘Sum’ was a multiple-choice question, but the real answer is in your choice for the plan you effect to determine the desired outcome.

If you find this article of value, please share it with your colleagues. Or need some advice, contact at enquiry@dugdaleconsulting.com

dugdaleconsulting.com

Great minds think alike…

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Do we all think alike in Business?

‘Great minds’ are said to do so, but how do we get there and what do we take into account? Is thinking more in the creative category or is it in the scientific category?

Take part in a simple survey and we will play the findings into an article on ‘Business Thinking’ by the end of December.

It is anonymous and is only going to use the responses you give and if we are lucky with the automation, your Country. It is also purposefully a lighter subject matter so that should make for interesting and easy reading as we head to the end of quite a challenging year.

Just click on the link below. There are 12 Questions and it should take you 2 minutes to complete.

Start Survey (Click Here)

I’m trying to get a good response, so feel free to share this page.

It will be Open until the close of 20 December 2013 or until we’ve received 1000 responses.

Many thinks.

The Curate’s Egg…managing Company performance

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Are you in control of your business?

With the proliferation of data from automated feeds into the Boardroom Report, Executives have an opportunity to manage their business and make decisions with the facts at hand. The challenge however is that the availability of measures creates a counter-problem by the pure volume of insight. The Dashboard approach which is used in many companies, takes a sample of metrics and measures and presents them as beautiful arrays of BRAG indicators, Graph’s, Spider-graphs and Tables, which compile to ‘The Month Review Pack’, probably delivered a day before the Executive Review or in a worse scenario, presented on the day.

The Executive then starts to reason. Financial one’s are to some degree the easiest. ‘Actuals, Forecast, Outlook and Trending’, multiplied by views of Revenue, Order Book, Sales, Profit, Cash-flow, Expense and EBITDA or PBIT. Getting complex but a bit like singing the national anthem, it subconsciously fits together as you are doing it.

Then the challenge comes. Business Units start to provide their views of the business in an array of styles; Sales, Marketing, Customer Services, HR, Finance, Operations… What started as the hope of a simple dashboard, delivers a Christmas Tree-like book, with Blue, Red, Amber and Green status lights, with Graph Lines for tinsel and Pie Charts for baubles. Very pretty, but when you add to the complexity that a RED ‘may not be bad’ as it is trending in the right direction and a GREEN ‘could be bad’ as it is on a small percentage of the business mix.

Having lots of data can be as damaging as having no data.

It is no wonder that unless you are having a really successful time in all your markets, the Review will either be a contentious one or partly overlooked.

So, what can you do about Measures and Metrics to make more sense and ensure that they can be reviewed? You need to work together as a Management Team and dedicate some quality time to agree Metrics that represent your focus with a clear definition that the operational source can confirm.

These needs to include:

  • Financial Performance
  • Market and Customer Performance
  • Critical Operating Metrics
  • Strategic Metrics
  • Change Measures

Don’t accept measures just because you can get them.

Think about what the company is trying to achieve. Use a good balance of Lag and Lead indicators. I think of them as ‘have we achieved objectives’ and ‘Are we going in the right direction?

I’ll cover other areas of Scorecards and Alignment in future posts.  I will also cover data quality and efficacy later too.

So, the challenge when viewing your next Executive Pack, ask yourself, “are we really managing our business with the information that we review?”

Business ideas…Short and Tweet

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Dugdale Consulting has a large number of readers around the globe who are regular visitors to the topical Posts on Strategy, Business Planning and Change Management. To supplement the Posts there are regular Tweets written for Executive management teams to guide them on becoming better, fitter and faster in the way they do business.

They are concise…to be Short as they are Tweet.

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@DugdaleConsult is designed to deliver Thought-leadership and Insight…

…and is targeted at Middle to Executive management teams across an organisation and for innovators and academic opinion formers.

There’s a nice archive of past Tweets to tap into and they are updated regularly. I see them as a ‘better business’ thought for the day.

Just press the Follow Button above or below to follow me and please share across your colleagues and management teams.

I am always interested in feedback, so if you have an angle that I am not covering, please reply to a Tweet.

If your Executives are looking for some specific Advice in areas where you have business challenge, just hit the Contact Tab at the top of the Page.

David Dugdale, Principal Consultant

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