Category: Eagle Eye Strategic Focus

Why Southwest Customers Wouldn’t Buy a Bentley

July 24th, 2019

After giving 10 speeches on pricing and profits to groups of CEOs, it is certainly top of mind. Yet, it should always be top of mind for executive teams. One unanimous finding from the informal research of executives is that pricing is a strategic topic.  So, we must find time! When is the last time you focused on pricing?

Whether you consider pricing a strategic topic or not, it will directly impact your business. Let’s start with three typical options from a branding point-of-view.

  1. Low price leader – Southwest and Walmart are great examples of this. No one flies Southwest to have a first class experience. Instead, they are accessible to the general public and fun to fly. Their prices have to match their brand, and low prices do NOT equate to lower profits. Southwest has been consistently profitable when the higher priced airlines weren’t!
  2. Luxury brands – Similar to the low price leader, a Bentley or Gucci denotes the luxury image. If you found a low price on a Bentley, you would definitely think it was a lemon. In the B2B world, the same holds true. We work with a high quality lawn and garden equipment and tools supplier.  Their prices have to remain higher than the low cost brands to maintain their image and customer base. Of course, they need to provide more education and value for their customers as it is what they expect.
  3. Customer focused – In this case, the brand is all about the customer.  These companies are known for going the extra mile and providing superior value for their target customers. If it is all about value in the eyes of your customer, don’t you think your price better align to this value? Of course! If not, it is the epitome of the opposite of the brand.

Have you thought about your strategy and whether it relates to your pricing? It is easy to get caught up in competitive pricing situations and start to lower your price.  However, it might be the time to take a step back and see whether what you are doing matches your branding and strategy.

For example, one CEO provided an example of when she was a VP of Sales at a significant company. They had a niche product with unique value and higher prices. The sales teams were starting to see competition and thought they had to reduce pricing slightly to maintain their position.  The CEO said ‘no’. They were the leader and had value their competitors didn’t. It was a really hard process for the sales team to go back and talk value instead of giving in on price but they managed it. Fast forward to the next year. They were successful in maintaining their prices and didn’t lose business. Instead of falling into price war thinking, they talked about value.

What Do We Need to Think About Related to Strategic Pricing?

From an 80/20 perspective:

  • Who is your target customer? Think about your answer. Hopefully, it isn’t anyone willing to pay for your product or service! Yet that is an easy trap to fall into. Instead, take a step back and think about your target customer. What is their profile? How many current customers are target customers?
  • What do your target customers value? Although we tend to spend 80% of our time on 20% of our customers, the key question is whether these are the target customers. Do we know what our target customers value? Don’t think about your customer base and your daily interactions to answer this question. Instead, think only about your target customers. If you don’t know, find out! Being clear on this alone will yield dramatic results.
  • Is your pricing aligned with your target customers and their expectations of value? This is a tricky one. In our experience, 80%+ of our clients have room for improvement when we get to this point. It also changes over time.  If you last put thought into this even a year or two ago, you are acting on old information!

There is vast opportunity to keep pricing top of mind as it relates to your strategy. Why do this? It is a top strategy to ensure customer value (to grow your business) and increase bottom line profits simultaneously. If you are interested in a pricing & profits assessment, contact us.

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The Strategic Benefit of SIOP

June 26th, 2019

SIOP (Sales, Inventory, Operations Planning) should not be relegated to the Planning Department. Although the planning group is a key participant and might lead the process, SIOP touches upon several strategic issues while creating alignment with Sales, Operations, R&D/ New Product Development, Finance, Purchasing, and others. As a CEO, you must become interested!

We have worked on countless SIOP projects with clients across industries as diverse as building products, food and beverage, healthcare, and aerospace.  It has proven to be the most effective at achieving the win-win-win of enabling growth while maximizing service, cash flow (inventory) and profit. For example, at one aerospace client, we put the fundamentals in place to support SIOP (scheduling, planning systems MRP/MPS, forecasting) and then rolled out a SIOP process involving all key aspects of the organization. Although our objective was to bring service levels from the 60%’s to the high 90%s, we not only accomplished that metric but we also improved margins by 5% and increased morale and engagement. What’s not to like with these results!

Critical Aspects of SIOP
Let’s start with just those elements that are most important to achieving results:

  • Can you get executives involved? Of course, it is better to gain executive involvement upfront.  However, I have found that it is quite doable to gain the involvement over time as well. For example, in one client situation, a key executive was not on board at any level at the start.  So, as we rolled out a pilot process, we convinced him to give the process a try. Once he sat in on the executive SIOP meeting, he became more interested because strategic issues arise such as make vs. buy, changes in sourcing, impacts to sales strategies and more.
  • What do you have to do to get directionally-correct information for making decisions? By NO means do you need perfect information.  In fact, if you wait for perfect information, your decision will be long past. Yet directionally correct information is imperative so that you can make fact-based decisions and/or gain approval from corporate or your Board for what you know must be done to succeed. I cannot think of a client situation where I couldn’t gain access to at least directionally correct information after an assessment, no matter how ancient their ERP system.
  • Will you involve all relevant departments in the SIOP process? If you focus on data and not the people, you will not succeed. The 80/20 of success is to bring typically disparate groups together to align on 1 plan/ path forward. It is much easier to say than to accomplish, and so those clients that do this well have a far higher success rate than the rest. You should involve Planning, Purchasing, Operations, Logistics, Customer Service, Sales, Finance, New Product Development, and any key area of your operation.

SIOP is not a quick resolution.  However, you can make quick interim progress . Similar to safety, it must become part of your day-to-day culture. As business conditions change, roadblocks naturally arise through the process. We’ve found that they have a FAR higher chance of being averted or minimized when they arise as part of the process instead of related to one person or department who typically is seen as the “problem”. Strategic issues also arise naturally through the process so that they are proactively addressed instead of resulting in a reactionary panic.

You can start the SIOP journey with an assessment of readiness with recommendations for improvement. Several clients have started with this approach so that they knew which building blocks to put in place and whether the benefits would drive a substantial return on investment at this juncture. If you are interested in this type of assessment, contact us.

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Pricing & Profits: It’s Not All About Revenue

May 26th, 2019

According to CFO Magazine, Amazon’s profit doubled to a record $3.6 billion in the first quarter yet reported its lowest growth rate in quarterly revenue since 2015. In today’s Amazonian environment, subscription services such as Amazon cloud and Kindle services as well as disruptive forces such as the 3rd party seller services (clients worry about from the opposite viewpoint) are driving profitable growth for a company that once lost money continuously. Are you considering ways to ensure your pricing makes sense and delivers the results you intend?

 

It’s Not All About Revenue
Ask questions of your sales representatives, customers, marketing department, executives and competitors about pricing:

  • When is the last time you raised prices? Why are they at the level they are set?
  • Who sets your prices? Think carefully as this could lead to some interesting discussions.
  • Do you know how your prices compare to your costs? There are lots of reasons NOT to set prices this way but knowing this relationship is relevant.
  • How does your pricing stack up with the competition? Again, high or low is irrelevant but considering your strategy is key.
  • Since it has come up frequently lately, I’ll also throw in this one: Is your pricing so complex that your ERP system won’t support it? That would certainly be something to re-evaluate.

Pricing is an important topic, assuming you are interested in profitable growth. It is worth taking the time to ask a few key questions of your internal and external resources. Gather your executive team and put some focus on whether what you are doing makes sense and supports your strategy or if it is out of date. With the pace of change at an all-time high, reviewing this topic once every few years is by NO MEANS enough. If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us.

 

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ERP Selection: Why It Has Become a Strategic Priority

April 18th, 2019

In today’s Amazonian environment, customers expect rapid delivery, over and beyond from cradle to grave, collaborative service, 24/7 accessibility and last-minute changes. Executives are realizing they must upgrade their technology infrastructure to meet and exceed these customer expectations while driving bottom line improvement.

Your ERP decision will be one of the most significant investments your company will undertake, and these projects are wrought with risk. 80% fail to achieve the expected results yet waiting “too long” can put you out of business.

Selecting an ERP System is a Strategic Priority
Because of the significant customer and bottom-line benefit and steep, unintended consequences associated with these projects, the most successful clients realize they must be a strategic priority. By no means should the decision by relegated to a technical expert or project manager. Involve your best and brightest on the team and ensure your executive team is on top of preparation, progress and the inevitable pitfalls – beginning with preparation:

  • Understand business processes: Start by understanding what occurs on a day-to-day basis. One of the top failure points is to assume that people can make the leap from current processes to what every ERP provider claims to be “best practices” on day 1 with no roadmap.
  • Gain strategic and cross-functional input – Since all systems will perform the basics well, success will boil down to what drives your strategy and supports your cross-functional and cross-organization collaboration.
  • Identify critical requirements – Countless hours wasted on typical business requirements (which all systems generally cover); instead, focus 80% of your attention on the requirements unique to your business, industry, and company. Think customer differentiation & profit drivers.
  • Prepare data and be realistic evaluating your process disciplines – No matter how well you prepare, your system will only be as good as your data and process disciplines.
  •  Dedicate appropriate resources – Be an exception. Supplement your resources, bring on appropriate expertise early on and be willing to invest in what will ensure success and mitigate your risk.

5 Critical Factors in Selecting ERP Software

As complicated as most companies seem to make it, the critical factors in software selection boil down to a select few:

  1. Your business objectives – Don’t worry about everything required in every module to run your business. Instead, take a step back and focus on what you need to meet your grow and profit plans.
  2. Cloud or not?  It depends. Dig into the details. Develop your own spreadsheets with paybacks. Consider your technical resources, adeptness with topics like cyber security and the latest technology, and your ability to navigate disruption and risk.
  3. Understand your culture – What are your cultural norms when it comes to change? Do your employees have an entrepreneurial spirit or do they require strict procedures? These answers will be integral to aligning culture and technology.
  4. Think about design upfront – Not thinking through down-the-line implications will derail the best of projects. Incorporate design and a holistic systems-view upfront.
  5. Ballpark estimates and ranges – Get a ballpark upfront, and never accept the first estimate. It’s typically too low! Worse yet, two suppliers that should be within 10% of one another can be 100% different. Ensure you are comparing apples to apples, and remember implementation, not software, is the 80-pound gorilla of ERP success.

ERP is a tough topic! Clients worry they are “too small” or it will be “too expensive”, and in the interim, the competition passes them by since having the technology that supports a superior customer experience without breaking the bank is a “must”, no matter your size or industry. With that said, we have seen clients ready to “throw out” a perfectly suitable ERP system as they think it is the system, not the process or people that is the issue when it isn’t.

If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us. 

      

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What is at the Cross-Section of Success?

March 4th, 2019

In thinking about the tours and events in which we’re recently participated, spoken or led, the audience represented a great cross-section of manufacturing and logistics industries, as well as company size:

  • Professional Women in Healthcare – spoke on the Amazon Effect
  • Aerospace & Defense Forum – spoke on the resilient supply chain
  • Anti-seminar themed Executive Luncheon – was a panelist on the topic of increasing demand
  • CSCMP state of the industry event – listened to the president of CSCMP discuss the latest statistics and timely topics in logistics
  • ProVisors manufacturers and distributors event – featuring a City National Bank expert discussing an economic forecast
  • The Founder of the UGG brand – talking about how he created the UGG brand and grew the company from the back of his van to what it is today
  • Tours of UPS, Amazon, Pacific Mountain Logistics, Shamrock Foods, Goodwill, Lifestream, ESRI and more.
  • Meetings with 9 academic institutions in the Inland Empire and surrounding areas
  • Harvey Mudd executive roundtable event –  M&A and preparing for sale
  • Webinars with APICS-IE on IoT and with the Society for the Advancement of Consulting on overcoming obstacles, leveraging PR and more.
  • And more…

So, what is at the cross-section of ALL of these tours, events and/or interactions?

The need for a resilient end-to-end supply chain!

What is in common is the sheer amount of volatility and disruption. Whether the disruptor or the disrupted, entire industries are transforming the way business is done. Some are preparing to have artificial intelligence and automation take over. For example, according to research performed at the University of Redlands, 60%+ of jobs are subject to automation by 2025. Others are dealing with massive benefits or disruption from changes in trade, depending on their role, while others choose to ignore the hoopla and are growing while everyone else is caught up in the chaos! And, this is just the beginning. Trade wars or not, many companies are near-sourcing, and looking at additive manufacturing and vertical integration.

What’s next? If you develop a resilient supply chain, the idea is you don’t have to worry because you’ll successfully navigate disruption to achieve peak performance. Contact us if you’d like to find out how to create a resilient supply chain.

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