The Value of Collaborating with Strange Bedfellows

February 19th, 2019

The topic of collaborating with strange bedfellows has recently come up repeatedly. There can be significant value and strategic advantage created in collaborating with unlikely partners if there are clear objectives, trust and an open mind. Just think about Amazon’s collaboration with the U.S. Postal service. Amazon is clearly famous for rapid, same-day, even Sunday deliveries whereas the U.S. postal service is definitely not known for agility and speed yet they understand and are proficient with the ‘last mile’.

Kash Gokli & I host the Harvey Mudd executive roundtables, and the topic of collaborating with competitors as well as unlikely partners arose in our recent roundtable. In the ‘right’ situation at the ‘right’ time, it can maximize service and value. Also, I am a Board member of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and member of the Southern CA Logistics council, and this topic of collaboration has come up on multiple occasions. We recently led a collaboration session with 10 academic institutions. Of course, they all compete from several respects yet there are opportunities for 1+1+1 = 25. And this is just the beginning. When it is put together with collaborations with industry and government, perhaps 25 can turn into 100 or 1000. Last but not least, I met with UCR students last night to encourage their involvement in manufacturing and supply chain and invite their participation in APICS-IE. We had this exact conversation about collaborating with their competitors (Cal Poly Pomona, CSUSB etc.).

Are you exploring collaborations with strange bedfellows?

One tip to implement this week:
Perhaps it is as simple as opening your mind to new possibilities. Think about the person or entity you would most want to avoid joining your collaboration. What if you gave it a chance? For example, I remember a distinct time a few years ago when I was involved with a group. Someone in the group brought up a new member who would be the last person I’d want to join our group. I felt like I was collaborating with a diverse set of people, and we were making great progress. I just didn’t like this person. Although I didn’t say it, I cursed my bad luck on the way home because I just wasn’t excited about collaborating.

Fast-forward several months and it turned out that the new participant added unique value that probably would not have occurred otherwise. Although I still wouldn’t want to have dinner with this person outside of our work together, I’m glad I gave it a chance or I would have missed out on fantastic benefits and a learning opportunity. We have all been there, and sometimes we are right to be hesitant. Can you achieve a shared goal? Is trust possible as it relates to the objective? Assuming so, I vote for exploring the opportunity. Perhaps it is the next Amazon/ U.S. Postal Service collaboration.

Collaboration goes hand-in-hand with resilience. In today’s marketplace, there is no doubt the resilient will thrive. If your key supplier or customer is devastated by a natural disaster, power outage or unexpected shutdown or other disruptor, have you thought about collaborating with strange bedfellows to serve your customers? You cannot wait until the issue occurs! Creating a resilient end-to-end supply chain is of paramount importance.

For more information, check out our new resilient supply chain series and contact us if you’d like to have an assessment of your organization.



The Stock Market, The Economy & How They Do Not Align

February 12th, 2019

Key research groups are starting to talk about their predictions for the economy, and everyone is interested. It feels like everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, we have been in an expansion mode far longer than is typical and there is plenty of volatility and uncertainty in global trade, the U.S. Shutdown and more. Last week, I heard a research expert from City National Bank and did an informal poll of trusted advisors (CPAs, attorneys, consultants, commercial bankers etc.). The bottom line = continued growth.

The City National Bank expert said that they study about 20 economic indicators, and all are firing on all cylinders. The only one that has consistently shown some potential for hesitation is geopolitical risk –  which isn’t new. As much as the U.S. Shutdown, global trade tensions, Brexit and more has the stock market jittery, it hasn’t impacted the economic forecast. Businesses are growing and the economy is doing well! The hot topics being discussed include asset protection, the talent shortfall, the technology transformation and cyber security risks. There are always lots of details to consider but the common theme is growth. Thus, a key question becomes, are you prepared for scalable, profitable growth?  

One tip to implement this week:

What I’m seeing as a differentiator to success in these strong yet uncertain times is the ability to ‘stay the course’ and be resilient.  With each new emerging news story, I’m seeing the stock market choke and people panic. Unfortunately, this can lead to short-term, erratic changes in executives’ decisions. No one wants to be put into the same position as they were in during the last recession. So, the tendency is to overreact. Yet, the most successful clients provide stability and a platform for scalable growth.

They are willing to make hard decisions, ranging from investing in top talent to systems and technologies (even when their peers are hesitant) to addressing the sacred cow (every business has at least one!) to thinking about how their business model might be evolving and what they might need to change (even when they are currently profitable and seemingly successful).

It might make good sense to take a step back and avoid overreacting to the latest news. Stay aware and on top of trends. Ask questions and consider down-the-line impacts on your business. Instead of getting caught up in the latest drama or fad, put thought into how to build agility into your plans. How can you ensure your navigation system is rock solid and will weather whatever storm occurs next. If there is one constant, it will be continued volatility and uncertainty.

Prepare to be resilient. Check out our new resilient supply chain series and contact us if you’d like to have an assessment of your organization.



UGG Founder, the Amazon Effect in Healthcare & Why Demand is Key

February 8th, 2019

In listening to the UGG founder, Brian Smith talk through his trials and tribulations in developing the amazing UGG brand, a few themes emerged.

  1. Resilience in finding pivot points when obstacles emerged played a vital role in creating the UGG brand.  
  2. The benefit is what matters; not the product.
  3. Creating demand goes back to being a leader in the category when the market shifts.

What a great story!

Next, related to the demand theme, I spoke to the Professional Women in Healthcare (PWH) Orange County group about the Amazon Effect. As a former Executive of a healthcare manufacturer, it was fun to have an interactive discussion with these leaders. Interestingly, healthcare manufacturers and distributors are experiencing the same issues as aerospace, building products and food & beverage. How to keep up with demand (or preferably get ahead of it) while increasing profit and accelerating cash flow (not having a bunch of inventory tied up for no benefit) is the topic on everyone’s mind. Aligning demand and supply and related parties is the trick!

Demand emerges as a common theme. Therefore, I’d like to invite you to an executive lunch centered on the topic, “Increase Demand“. I am speaking on a panel of experts on driving demand in your business. Use early bird promo V25 for a 25% discount. Hope you’ll join us there.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Every client has a focus on demand. Typically, they are thinking about how to grow the business in a scalable, profitable way, which leads to a mountain of questions about forecasting and how to get in front of demand.

Interestingly, it ALL goes back to one place, the customer. Do you have a passion for your customers and creating a superior customer experience? If so, demand will grow. If not, it won’t. In watching countless organizations over the last 14 years in consulting, I’ve yet to see one that succeeded long-term without this essential ingredient. Have you?

If you have a passion for the customer as the CEO or General Manager, that is a great place to start. However, it is not enough. Your sales team is relevant but the most successful clients view the entire organization as the sales team with a passion for the customer. Ask a trusted colleague to visit your facility. They will be able to ‘feel’ whether there is a passion for the customer or not. Ask them.

If the most successful executives have a focus on demand, it is worth noting. Are you providing lip service to the customer or are you creating this view within your organization? There is also a tremendous amount of focus going into understanding demand with forecasting tools, analytics, artificial intelligence, and more. Do you have a clear path forward as it relates to demand? Of course, this topic also relates strongly to creating a resilient supply chain. Only the most successful companies predict and proactively engage customers to get ahead of demand.

To learn more about these strategies, check out our new series:



What’s Ahead in Technology?

January 30th, 2019

To think about what’s ahead in technology, it is important to put it in perspective with what’s ahead in business.  Read our article, “What’s Ahead in Business?” for details on the key trends impacting business:

  1. Importance of the customer experience
  2. Taking the holistic view has become a “must”
  3. Volatility is the new norm
  4. The coming power of manufacturing and supply chain

What’s ahead in technology lines up with these same themes. In order to achieve scalable, profitable growth, technology is an important enabler. The most relevant technology trends include:

  1. ERP Upgrades – More and more companies are realizing that their system infrastructure must keep up with business requirements and customer expectations. As tough as an ERP upgrade can be, it is one of the only ways to make the leap from manual, labor-intensive processes to providing a superior customer experience efficiently.
  2. E-commerce/ Customer Portals – Amazon. Alibaba. Customer collaboration. Need we say more?
  3. Business Intelligence & Data Analytics – We are overwhelmed by mountains of data. We are so anxious to gather data yet we don’t seem to have the appropriate information at our fingertips when we need it. That’s where data analytics comes into the picture. Beyond that, predictive analytics is gaining steam.
  4. Artificial Intelligence – Even my Mom counts on Alexa! In addition, who wouldn’t want a car that self corrects? Predicting customer patterns and behaviors is becoming more important. AI is set to transform many industries over the next several years.
  5. IoT– Smart factories. Smart homes. Connected devices and machines. According to NEWGENAPPS, 60% of global manufacturers will use analytics data tracked using connected devices to analyze and and optimize processes.
  6. Robotics & Automation – Robots may not be taking over the universe tomorrow morning, but they are working hand-in-hand with people to achieve many benefits – improve safety, increase speed and consistency, improve customer satisfaction, fill capacity shortfalls and and increase productivity.
  7. Autonomous Vehicles – Beyond self-driving cars and trucks, autonomous vehicles are used widely in manufacturing and distribution environments.

Are you thinking about which of these technologies will support your business objectives?  Or which are likely to impact your industry?  Consider technology as a key part of your strategy and plans. If you’d like an expert to evaluate which, if any, of these technologies will be relevant to your business, contact us.

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What’s Ahead for People?

January 23rd, 2019

People make a business thrive. That’s why even the most technical of companies like Google value people.  In our experience, people are the #1 asset of any organization. Hands down, we can help any organization with good people quicker and to a FAR larger degree than an organization with very few good people.

In thinking about what’s ahead for people, there are many transitions and trends to be aware of:

 

  1. Baby Boomers  – As baby boomers retire, they will be harder to replace than what appears at first glance. Typically speaking, they aren’t up-to-speed on the latest technology.  They might have old fashioned ideas but they know “what works”. Don’t be too quick to hurry the process along. Instead, value their knowledge and find a way to transition it for a win-win.
  2. The Skills Gap – It is hard not to have a skills gap when technologies change daily. Jobs are being automated and new jobs are being created with entirely new skill requirements. The world is becoming more complex and global and customers expect more for less. Are you prioritizing the retention of your top talent? Is your company attractive to top talent?
  3. Diversity– We are not believers in mandates and regulations but we have found diversity to propel success. Are you actively attracting people who do NOT think like you? That’s a tough one (after all, don’t we all prefer people who agree with us?), but it is important if you want your team and organization to thrive.
  4. Spark an Innovative Culture – With the high demands of customers, bard members and the like, solid leadership is no longer enough. Sparking innovation has become a “must” for success.
  5. Back to the Leadership Basics – There is no coincidence that every successful client has a strong leader. Whereas long-term struggling clients and contacts (as struggling leaders rarely hire consultants) have weak leaders. Being a strong leader is “hard work” and requires courage. What are you doing to build your leadership bench strength?

The core tenets of successful people do not change. The requirements and challenges we face continue to expand. Yet, the route to success is clear. We choose to see this fact with hope as it does not require rocket science to become a good leader.  We’ve seen plenty of examples of mediocre leaders who transform into exceptional leaders through mentoring, coaching and experience.

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