Business mishaps. Know your proposition and know your audience!

Excellent Client Engagement

As a small business I was recently involuntarily contacted (cold called) by a local Hotel’s telemarketer who pleasantly introduced herself and the venue to see if I was aware that they had services that I could use. A very busy market space with many vendors, but I was in inquisitive mood so listened and joined in. As a central city location and I knew exactly the location, I posed a context and a question straightaway. “ I don’t have an immediate need, but if I wanted to have a room for half a day for 4 people, how much would it cost?” I explained that as an SME I have a need to use ‘space’ occasionally to meet Clients. “When do you want it?” I was asked. After reiterating a few times, that SME’s are increasingly using external space and I don’t have an immediate need an estimate would be fine. She took my details and went away. Fairly promptly, I was sent an email to say thanks for the conversation and explained “…follow up regarding your needs and requirements for meeting and event spaces within our properties…” and provided a host of general attachments about the hotel, but none answered my question.

A few weeks later a follow-up call to ask if I had dates and wanted to go ahead with a booking.

I then went into Marketing Consultant mode and suggested that I needed to know what the proposition and offer was to consider it and they were unable to do this. “But, I don’t know the prices for these, I am not authorised to talk about prices! I can pass you to my Sales Manager?” I politely ended the call.

So, what’s my point? In a crowded market you have to have a proposition. You need to understand the profile of your target audience and you also need to have a process to complete what you start. It is fine to ‘qualify out’ rather than ‘in’, but know your product. The world has become increasingly knowledgeable, so if you have a gap in the facts about a product, your product, especially in a competitive market, you will be ignored. It affects brand and reputation, so it is very important.

We all need to try harder at getting the basics right, but we may also sometimes need a little help to identify a weakness in the way we do business, because we become too familiar with it.

And the photo? The atrium of a Hotel in Singapore where I stayed which had excellent and memorable Client engagement.

Growing pains – when success meets complexity

There is an amazing feeling for the entrepreneur and the onlooker of a start-up business blossoming and growing. We all like to hear of them starting ‘off the back of a cart’ and how they progressed to an established player in their sector. Maybe smaller than the rest, but seen as an ‘industry shaker’. A broad portfolio, employees hired for specific professional roles and ready to take on the world.

Does this resonate with your company?

The Revenue line pointing skyward, healthy forecast and a profit profile matching the upward trend, then something unexpected happens; The growth engine starts to stall, cash flows less predictably and customers drift away. Nimbleness lost.

This is the phase that I term as the ‘complexity point’.

What started as a personal business with a proprietor with focus, common sense and ultimate control, finds itself with a wide product set, creaking processes and an organisation which although taken on as human capital is looking more like a liability.

I’ve tried to reason with when we can anticipate the complexity point starting to kick in, but I have arrived at a summary conclusion that it may be different for each business, but with common attributes to what leads to the hiatus.

It is not a privilege to SMEs, complexity will exist in most of the mid to large corporates too.  And, across the sectors, there are different angles to the complexity, from capital-intensive businesses where the focus may be on the ‘plant’ right through to Professional Services organisations, but common signals will be present for each one.

There are ways of tackling the complexity challenge that requires a retrospective step in order to move forward, but my guidance at this stage is that it is not a one-off event and it happens in cycles. The important role of the Executive is to keep pace with it, anticipate that it will happen and be proactive.

A route out of recession and making it happen

Slide1It is really encouraging to see business contracts being awarded and the flow of wealth starting to happen. I always think that a visit to the local Shopping Mall is a great barometer of feeling and last weekend my local centre in Solihull was heaving. There are no major sales taking place and it wasn’t during the school holidays, just your average wet February Saturday afternoon. In fact, you could be forgiven as a Consumer if you were feeling miserable. It’s been raining for 2 months and the sky has been mostly grey, but despite that, the shoppers looked happy.

Optimism is great for the sole and a lubricator for the wallet!

When fortune returns after a recession, you have to be there to maximise your return from it. In the B2C markets, let’s say you are running a restaurant or a bar, you should be asking yourself, Are your staff ready to provide an even better level of service? Sometimes, a Customer needs to wait for a table, which isn’t a problem for a Consumer, for lots of people that is good as it means the restaurant is popular and probably has an atmosphere. However, when you wait you need to feel that there is a sense of ‘urgency’ going on around you, to look after you, drinks, seat, etc, before being taken to your table.

The above example is a simple one but can be transported to B2B markets and services as a simple model for maximising on Market confidence, through customer experience.

Now, my challenge to everyone; Are we doing enough to help Customers spend their hard earned/scarce money? My argument is, No, we are not.

Urgency doesn’t just happen, you have to make it happen!

During the recession employee training budgets were cut and the focus was on survival. Companies sought to maintain Profits but not staff levels and not staff competencies.

Survival and being Competitive are not always mutual friends, but if you want a slice of sustained growth, you need to go back to the drawing board and you need to take your staff with you. Unemployment levels are high but you will have to try hard to get the right skills to make your company work. You have to look at your business operating model and ask yourself why Customers want to do business with you. Nothing should be taken for granted, leave no stone unturned.

So as you look out at the growing opportunity from the door of your business, take a look over your shoulder at your operation and make a quick assessment whether you think you are ready to compete.

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!

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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

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