How to Spot Opportunities

March 3rd, 2015
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take advantage of opportunities

Business opportunities are fleeting – prepare to capitalize on them before your competition does.

One of the keys to successful growth is learning to spot opportunities – and leveraging them. While working with clients of all shapes and sizes, I find that opportunities are all around us; however, we frequently miss them. Developing an eye for spotting opportunities can take a bit of practice.

Following a few proven methods can give you better odds for success: 1) Look for trends. 2) Watch metrics. 3) Be aware of your industry and surroundings.

Start by watching for trends. I find that a significant portion of my success comes from identifying trends others miss. Keep your eyes open for deviations from the norm. For example, if your customer typically calls for overnight shipments at a certain time of the month because their demand changes, ask your customer about it. They might not have realized that it seems to happen on the 3rd week of the month every time. They might be able to resolve the issue once they know about the timing. Undoubtedly, your customer would value that information! Or, perhaps they cannot resolve the issue but they could place their order sooner to minimize shipping charges. Either way, you will be valued.

Watch out especially for trends with your customers and suppliers. If you see a trend with a customer, ask about it. It might result in an opportunity. Customers want to do business with those who pay attention and demonstrate that they value the relationship. For example, I worked with a client that noticed a blip in demand. He mentioned it to his customer, and his customer was really appreciative because he forgot to place orders. Goodwill can go a long way!

Next, watch metrics. Start by identifying your key metrics. Which tell you whether you are moving in the right direction? Which are indicative of problems or opportunities? Don’t become overwhelmed with “too many” metrics. Select only those which impact your strategy and profit drivers. Measure them daily, weekly, and monthly. For example, if cash flow is critical to your growing business, measuring inventory levels would likely be an important metric. If you saw inventory increasing on a particular product line, you could follow up on the cause immediately. If you weren’t tracking metrics by product line, it could take weeks, if not months, for you to notice – too late to address successfully.

Third, be aware of your industry and surroundings. What is happening in your industry? Who is leading the pack? What new products have they released? Are you getting alerts for your main competitors and for industry data? In today’s Internet-connected world, it is easier than ever to stay informed. Set up data feeds from relevant news sources. Attend industry conferences. Get to know industry experts. Read trade publications and join relevant LinkedIn groups. It is also worthwhile to keep up on the latest economic and relevant world politics. For example, when I was in the absorbent products industry, my Director of Purchasing kept track of an amazing amount of information about oil and gas prices and factors and events affecting them because he knew that oil and gas prices directly affected our raw material costs. Because he was informed, he kept prices low while maintaining strong supplier relationships, and he was able to better leverage opportunities as they arose.

Lastly, it does no good whatsoever to solely identify opportunities. You must be willing to ACT. Once you identify a valid opportunity, put together a plan of action and implement. It is easy to let them pass you by. Not all opportunities last long, and so you must be prepared to make decisions. The reason you are tracking information on a frequent basis is so that you do not need to make decisions in a vacuum. Thus, do not delay when the opportunity stares you in the face.

I’ve seen countless clients miss vast opportunities because the people who saw them weren’t empowered or the leaders didn’t see them. Set yourself up for success by ensuring you’ll be able to see opportunities, and encourage your team to remain vigilant in keeping an eye out as well.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

How to Spot Trends  

Are You Working on the Right Priorities?


© 2015 LMA Consulting Group

The Value of CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

March 2nd, 2015
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supply chainI’m in process of teaching my first APICS CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) session, and earlier today I taught a section on CRM. In addition, I’ve been helping clients select the “right” ERP system to best meet their business priorities, and CRM has emerged as a top priority. The bottom line is that more executives are thinking about how to better leverage customer relationship management processes and technology to create customer loyalty. Also, the better you know your customers, the better your supply chain performance can be.

CRM can help you track your sales pipeline (potential customers), understand your customers and contacts (what are their preferences, pricing, status, etc.), track your promotions, and manage your marketing communications. Most modern ERP systems have CRM capabilities – have you considered how you can leverage this functionality to grow your business and better serve your customers?

One tip to implement this week:

You might wonder what you can do with CRM if you do not have CRM software. Plenty! Take a few minutes to think about your customer relationships. Pick up the phone and talk with your customer. Ask your Customer Service and/or Sales folks. Find out more about their needs. Consider taking your customers’ point of view – what value could you provide that they might be interested in?  What ideas or suggestions might be helpful? Typically no money or capital is needed to show your customers you value them; only effort and thought is required. At a minimum, they will know you value the relationship.  

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


© 2015 LMA Consulting Group

Leadership’s Unsung Heroes

February 26th, 2015
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unsung hero

A leader may be appointed by management but true influence and authority may emanate from the rank and file.

Success begins and ends with leadership. Clearly, formal leaders are vital; however, it is important not to overlook the power of influence leaders. These folks are informal leaders who command significant influence in an organization – typically unsung heroes. Who do people follow?

At all of my most successful clients, I find informal leaders. Sometimes they are in a leadership position of some sort but not the “top dog”, and often they have no official power. Yet these influence leaders wield VAST influence on the organization’s success. Typically, they are known for championing the critical yet difficult changes. They seem to genuinely care about the people and the progress. They work hard and set a positive example. They are willing to share credit and accept blame. They aren’t afraid to share feedback and ideas. In essence, they are LEADERS yet have no title (or certainly not one which denotes power).

In my experience, I find these informal leaders can have significantly more influence on success and results than the formal leaders. People will follow those they know, like and trust. You must do what you say you’ll do. If not, people will listen to what you do; not what you say. One of the best ways to successfully navigate change is to get these informal leaders involved in the process upfront. Gain their respect, and the change will occur. Try to dictate the change, and you might as well hang up your briefcase. 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People:

Essential Skills of a Supply Chain Superhero 

Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars


© 2015 LMA Consulting Group

How Students Show Us the HIGH VALUE of Continuous Learning

February 25th, 2015
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supply chainOn Friday and Saturday, my APICS Chapter hosted the APICS West Coast Student Case Competition. I happened to lead the Student Case Competition committee as well, and so I was immersed. It was a popular event as we had close to 100 students from universities throughout Southern California, AZ, Northern CA, Utah, Oregon, Texas, Mexico, Hong Kong, etc. The students did a supply chain case study through a simulated computer exercise and presented their findings and learnings to the crowd (as if we were the Board of Directors of the company). It certainly pointed out how much talent there is in our future supply chain and operations leaders!

It also begged the question about whether we’ve kept the student passion for learning. Are you continually learning? If not, we are falling behind! It so happens that APICS professionals (who were also in attendance) are typically above the curve when it comes to learning as the APICS certifications are a key part of the supply chain and operations body of knowledge. Do you have something like this that will make learning a part of your everyday life?

One tip to implement this week:

In today’s complex world, what worked yesterday might not work today – certainly not by next year! It is important to keep up with the latest trends, best practices, ideas, new concepts, industry news, etc. The good news is that there are lots of alternatives for achieving this goal.   

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


© 2015 LMA Consulting Group

Are You Planning for Failure?

February 24th, 2015
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planning for failure

Your business won’t thrive if you expect the worst. Instead, plan for the best outcome and watch it unfold.

Are you planning for failure? I imagine no one thinks they plan for failure; however, I see it happen more than you’d think. Instead, plan for success, and success will follow.

Have you ever called an important contact and were surprised when he/she answered the phone – and you didn’t know what to say? Don’t despair…we have all been there. This is an example of planning for failure on a small scale. As easy as it is to do with this, unfortunately, I also see countless examples of this in everyday work situations.

For example, if you are planning an important meeting, do you plan for success or failure? Do you expect your sponsor to show up to support you? Plan as though he or she will! Even if he doesn’t, run the meeting as though he did. You’ll be surprised how this type of simple action will contribute to success.

The same holds true if you are planning an event. Do you expect to “fill the house”? Or are you worried if there will be only a handful of people in attendance? Be willing to plan for success. Guarantee food for a full house. Bring the best speakers. Assume you will find a way to achieve success, and you will. What you think will affect whether you plan for success or failure. At my APICS Inland Empire’s first executive panel and networking symposium, we were not sure if we would find enough panelists, fill the audience, etc.  It was scary as we had to commit funds – and, worse yet, we were concerned as to whether we’d lose face if the event wasn’t successful. Instead, we planned for success, and were thrilled that we had 80 people (four times our previously typical program audience) turn up for an amazing panel discussion.

In another example, if you have a recommendation you feel strongly will help your company, will you plan for success to gain approval? Or, will you not ask to meet with the CEO or Board of Directors because you think he/she is too busy or not interested? Think about your idea. Is it worthwhile? If so, plan for success. Be persistent. Bring your peers and manager in the loop. Present why it is a “win” for them – put it in their best interest. Be willing to push for your recommendation, even if you risk hearing “no”. If you do not ask, you will definitely not succeed.

Lastly, in another example, if you know you have a good chance to “win” new business; however, in order to keep it, you have to maintain service levels over 98% which would require spending money not currently approved in your budget, will you? Or will you hold off to try to make both work (win the business and maintain service without spending money), even though the chances are slim? Plan for success. Go to the appropriate people to gain budget approval. Clearly communicate the potential return on investment. Be willing to go to your Board of Directors if required to gain upfront approval. Assume compelling logic will be sufficient. The worse that could happen is that you hear “no”.

It is easy to unintentionally plan for failure. The main way to ensure you plan for success instead of failure is to maintain focused on the end goal. What do you want to achieve? Why? How can you make sure it’s achieved? Develop plans and stick to them. Be persistent. Be bold. Be willing to invest in success. Be willing to ask for help. Plan for success. Success will follow. 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People:

Develop a Talent Edge  

Essential Skills of a Supply Chain Superhero


© 2015 LMA Consulting Group

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