How Manufacturers and Distributors can Utilize Social Media for Success

July 30th, 2013
Lisa Anderson - LMA Consulting Group - social media

Maximize your use of social media to distinguish your company.

In today’s new normal, we are in a volatile and challenging business environment where customers are demanding more for less – and NOW!

Thus, it is increasingly critical to stand out from the crowd.

One of the best ways to differentiate your company is to utilize social media to increase revenue, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

Those manufacturers and distributors who are jumping on the social media train are surpassing their competition. Here are a few of the ways they are leveraging social media:

1.        To promote products – social media can help to generate excitement about new products and features. As influencers note interesting developments and offer incentives on Twitter and Facebook, the market follows.

2.       To find talent – nothing could be more important in today’s environment as high-skilled talent is hard to find yet vital to managing complex supply chain networks. LinkedIn is a great way to source top talent!

3.       To source supply – although the tried and true ways to sourcing suppliers still remain valid, social media can provide interesting new alternatives. Social media brings the global market to our fingertips and allows us to search and focus in on specific attributes and selection criteria at any hour of any day 24/7.

4.       Gain expertise – there are countless experts in a wide variety of subject matter leveraging social media as a Q&A tool. For example, one of my clients wanted to find out how to leverage their ERP system to drive business results in supply chain planning and was able to find numerous experts happy to share expertise on Linked In groups and blogs.

5.       Training/how-to – as customers are king in today’s new normal business environment, what could be better than providing 24/7 access to training tools and how-to videos on YouTube and other sites so customers can gain just-in-time access to what they need when they need it?

Learn more about how to use social media with my new book “Leverage Social Networks to Drive Business Results.” By utilizing best practices, business leaders will gain the critical strategies to utilize social media to achieve success.

Avoid those Social Media Landmines too! Download  my 8 Don’ts in Leveraging Social Networking White Paper.

How to Defy the Odds with Culture Change

July 25th, 2013
change management map

Execution must be a core component of your organization’s culture

Between 70-80%+ of culture change programs, such as mergers and acquisitions, fail to produce the results originally expected. Yet, there are still many private equity firms and companies aggressively searching to merge and/or acquire a business – and certainly companies embark on major change initiatives, such as ERP implementations and reorganization plans every day. Why is the success rate so low? And, why can’t 70-80%+ of the merger/acquisition leadership teams find a way to be part of the 20%?

I’ve had first-hand experience working with companies in various stages of mergers and acquisitions and other significant change projects, and the answers are incredibly simple yet hard to execute. First, most mergers/acquisitions do not fail in the strategy. The synergies might be compelling, the opportunities vast; however, the key lies in poor execution. So, how do we stand out in the crowd as part of the 20%?

People and execution

One of the key issues is that people tend to become numbers – have you heard one of the following, “We can save X labor dollars,” “after consolidating Y function . . . ,” “we need to implement Z program to offset our 10% attrition – whether customers and/or employees”? Stop! Instead, value people, as they will be the ones who determine whether you’ll be one of the 20%.

First, make sure you:

1. Listen – to your employees, your customers, your suppliers, etc.

2. Involve them in the process – clarify the vision/end state and ask for involvement in defining the path to achieve the vision, encourage debate on the various alternatives and their benefits/costs to achieve a goal, ask for feedback and ideas, value their concerns and input and encourage brainstorming of solutions.

3. Communicate frequently, and consistently – do what you say you’ll do – this does not require that you have all the answers or that you communicate items you are unable to communicate yet it even works with bad news. People will value your communication if they know it is genuine, if they can count on you to consistently keep them updated, to answer their questions and if they know you value them and will treat them fairly and respectfully. And, I found that doing what you say you’ll do is much more challenging than it sounds, but it is #1 to success. The bottom line is that people are your #1 asset. Instead of focusing on equipment, labor and materials, first focus on people.

Next, execution is key. Execution must be a core component of your organization’s culture. What does that mean? The best definition I’ve seen of culture is from Alan Weiss – “Culture is simply that set of beliefs that governs behavior.” Thinking in terms of that definition, execution must be valued in your organization. Or, another way to say this is that the discipline of how your organization gets things done is more important than the “form” (who reports to who, how it looks, etc.). Of course, this takes us back to #1 – people. In addition, as Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan say in Execution, “People think of execution as the tactical side of the business. That’s the first big mistake. Tactics are central to execution, but execution is not tactics. Execution is fundamental to strategy and has to shape it. No worthwhile strategy can be planned without taking into account the organization’s ability to execute it.”

I’ve found there to be several key ingredients in successful execution – people, leadership, clear communication of the vision/end state, communication of the why’s and how’s (For example: Why are we following this path? How will this help us in the marketplace?), communication/integration to each person’s goals (including how they make a difference), tools/training required, follow-up, feedback . . . and repeat.

If the majority of your focus is on people and execution, you’ll likely be one of the 20%.

5 Ways to Improve Processes

July 23rd, 2013

Stay focused on continual improvement of your processes to keep your business at the forefront of your industry.

Process improvement has been around for centuries. I laugh as I see the fads come and go with different names and hoopla yet the fundamentals remain the same. What is process improvement if not just in time, lean, Toyota production system, TQM, demand driven MRP? …and the list goes on. How do we stimulate ideas that will help our companies?

1. Ask – It is always prudent to start by asking your employees, peers and managers. This is an often overlooked secret to rapid cost savings and revenue generation ideas.

2. Read – Read the latest industry magazines, the newspaper, blogs, newsletters (of course Profit through People!) etc. You’ll be surprised what ideas can apply to your situation.

3. Listen – Slightly different than asking is to listen. Instead of talking, listen to your colleagues with an ear towards interesting ideas. Asking clarifying questions during conversations can be revealing.

4. Network – There are countless industry, geography and topic-related events and groups. For example, my APICS (Association of Operations Management) chapter hosts events on manufacturing and distribution topic areas. Industry groups such as aerospace and defense have numerous events. Attend, ask, listen, network and learn.

5. Social media – There is also an overwhelming amount of information available on social media. Join a LinkedIn group and ask how to leverage your ERP system to become more efficient etc.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic: Implementing Processes

Stand Out From the Crowd and Delight Your Customers!

July 18th, 2013

Engaging your customers creates a customer service edge

There has never been a better time to create a customer service edge! Gone are the days of the last decade when we saw examples of 10% sales growth achieved solely by picking up the phone. Customers expect more for less – and NOW! Profitable growth is essential yet challenging to achieve in today’s volatile economy. And companies are left with fewer resources to deliver these high expectations since executives are slow to ramp up the hiring curve. Thus, we must work smarter, not harder and focus efforts on delighting our customers – if we plan to thrive in today’s new normal.

In my 20+ years of experience as both a former VP of Operations of a mid-market manufacturer and as a global business consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve found that those companies who leverage these types of hidden opportunities leapfrog the competition in times like these. In essence, while everyone else is working on 100 priorities at the same time surviving each day, one day at a time, what can you do to provide exceptional service and stand out in the crowd?

How do you create a customer service edge and delight customers? 1) Engage employees. 2) Involve your supply chain. 3) Provide tools & support.

1.    Engage Employees

Have you ever seen unhappy employees with happy customers? Me either! You have to start with your employees. Have you provided them with a compelling vision? Do they feel that they are involved with a company that is making a difference in some way? Do they know how they contribute to the vision? How do they add value? Are you providing feedback? Appreciating progress? Engaging them in key projects and ensuring they feel they are a core part of the team?

You’d be amazed as to how the most unlikely employee can contribute to creating a customer service edge if included in the process. In my experience, I’ve seen engineers close a sale, IT leaders create customer intimacy, and supply chain employees create a customer service edge. The common ingredient is engaged employees. How important is service to you?

2.    Involve your supply chain
Now that your employees are on board, you cannot afford to stop there. A customer service edge can only be created by involving your entire supply chain – after all, how will you shorten lead times and improve on time delivery if your customers consistently change their mind at the last minute and your suppliers provide an unreliable delivery lead time?

For example, in one company, we implemented a vendor managed inventory program with our #1 customer, and we went from unreliable service levels to winning the coveted supplier of the year award. We involved the entire supply chain in that we determined how to fulfill our customer’s distribution centers to ensure 98-99% service levels by becoming more intimately involved in the complete supply chain – utilizing our customer’s customers’ demand data, involving our carriers as partners to ensure delivery performance within shipping lanes, and partnering with suppliers through a collaborative forecasting process.

3.    Provide tools and support
Last but not least, the best strategies fail in execution; thus, what can we do to ensure we beat the odds and create a customer service edge? Focus on execution – blocking and tackling. Don’t just dictate a customer service priority. Explain its importance. Provide coaching. Support the process with systems. Build customer service into the performance management process. Celebrate success. With a clear strategy and the appropriate support, customer service will thrive.

In today’s new normal business environment, everyone is struggling to survive and grow by a few percentage points. Don’t follow the pack; instead, stand out from the crowd with a customer service edge, and leverage the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.

Profit through People: Is Talent Important to You?

July 16th, 2013

Do you know how to attract and retain the best employees?

I have always believed that people are #1 to success. Without people, there is no business. I hear executives use these words; however, later they talk about people as costs. Which message do you think is taken away?

I have the opportunity to network with several top executive recruiters in my ProVisors groups, and there seems to be a new trend emerging – top talent is not only hard to find but it is ready to “make the move” to companies who appreciate them. Thus, have you thought about what your top talent is thinking?

What are you doing to retain your top talent? It isn’t about the money. For as much conversation as goes on about money, it isn’t a key motivator. Of course the lack of money is a problem (so I’m assuming you are paying within reasonable ranges in alignment with job requirements) but money alone will not keep your top talent.

Do you notice when an employee puts in extra effort to achieve a key result?
• Do you say thank you?
• Do you appreciate ideas?
• Do you ask what employees think will work or for potential pitfalls?
• Do you spend all of your time with the problem employees and ignore your high-performing employees?
• Do you ask about career path aspirations?
• Do you offer training and tools?
• Do you deal with difficult problems?
• Are you willing to address the problem employee who is creating havoc?

Employees want to be able to count on you!
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Employees: Your #1 Asset