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Koalas, Kangaroos & Why Good Contacts Matter

January 15th, 2019

 

When I was in Australia last month, I had a day and a half to tour the Melbourne area after my global strategy session and seeing my cousin.  Since it was my first time to this area and I don’t know if/when I’ll return, I figured it was a good idea to see whatever I could while there.  Luckily, I thought about the person who helped set up an Australia/ New Zealand trip for me previously when I traveled with friends and asked her for a recommendation since she did a great job with our multi-week adventure.  Because of her recommendation, I went on the only tour that actually sees koalas and kangaroos in the wild as well as many great sites on the rest of the tours.

If I hadn’t kept track of “good contacts”, I would have missed this.  Do you keep track of yours and nurture them?

One tip to implement this week:
Do you keep track of your contacts? Writing this note reminded me to thank my contact at American Express travel.  Realizing that I forgot her name, I looked it up in my contacts.  It seems like the place to start to keep track of them. No need to purchase expensive programs. I use Outlook and was able to find her quickly.

Keeping track is not enough though. When I contacted her to ask about my day in Melbourne, I referred back to when we worked together previously. She remembered me and gave me exactly what I needed with rapid response and no charge. Thus, reminding the person where you met previously and being easy to work with can help down-the-road. I had no clue I’d ever call her to ask for help, but I did.

Most importantly, go that extra mile to stay in touch. Why not tell your contact about an event you think might interest her? Or, simply give him a call around the holidays or send a quick ‘thank you’. While typing this note, my contact responded to my email and was thrilled I had a good time.

Take a few minutes out of your schedule this week and pick up the phone or drop a contact a note.



The Resilient Supply Chain: Top Requests from Clients on Technology

January 11th, 2019

Next in our supply chain resiliency value series, we are sharing a short video on the relevance of ERP and e-commerce systems from the Manufacturing Summit’s panel “Amazon Effect: Pass or Play – the New Sales & Distribution Game and How it Affects Manufacturing”.

I’m responding to a question on what manufacturers and distributors need when it comes to systems and technology.  Every client in the last few years has requested a project objective that goes back to the overarching goal of scalable, profitable growth.  The trick is how to achieve BOTH a superior customer experience (with increasing pressure from disruptors such as Amazon and Uber) AND profitable growth. Of course, there is no easy answer, and it depends on a multitude of factors. With that said, there is an ever increasing need to scale with technology inclusive of ERP, e-commerce and more.

ERP has become much more of a strategic topic. It isn’t about blocking and tackling and using ERP to achieve tactics.  Instead, it is about whether a business has the technology and systems to scale in a scalable, profitable way.

Do your systems support your customers’ needs?  If not, you had better jump into the fray or the next disruptor will eat your lunch.  If your answer was, ‘yes but I have to do x, y and z to make it work,’ our next question is will this process be repeatable, reliable and profitable?  If not, perhaps you better think twice. It is likely your competitor will answer yes.  Lastly, have you thought about your customers’ needs a year into the future?  If you aren’t prepared to handle them currently, you are getting behind.

Our most successful clients don’t wait so long that they lag behind. Is it time for an upgrade?  You are most welcome to our free resources to determine whether it is  the ‘right’ time. As you debate the benefits vs. costs, keep in mind that as hard as it is to take the leap, the most successful executives are willing to take on prudent risk to make leaps forward.  Are you?

If you would like an expert to assess your situation to determine whether you should further leverage your current software, put the effort into upgrading or simply focus on people and process improvement opportunities, contact us.

 



The Resilient Supply Chain: What If You Sell More?

January 7th, 2019

Most sales people answer the question “What if you sell more?” with a cheer. Most accountants would add up the additional revenue and profit.  And, often, the Operations resources would be glad the leaders are in a good mood. But does anyone know if we are set up to successfully handle increased sales if they occur?

There are several questions to consider in evaluating ‘what if you sell more’. It all boils down to capacity.

  1.  Machine Capacity – Do you have the machine capacity to keep up with the increased demand?  If not, can you retrofit a machine? Can you use a machine from another facility?
  2.  Labor Capacity – It is very frequently a significantly bigger issue than anything else. Do you have the people to turn up the volume?  Can you add another shift? How about overtime? Do you have a partner who can supply temporary workers as needed? If you have the sheer numbers of people, the question becomes, do you have people with the appropriate skills for the specific products being sold?
  3.  Supplier Capacity – Even if you have the manufacturing and logistics capacity, it won’t matter if your suppliers cannot keep up with demand.  What are your suppliers’ expectations? Do they have flex capacity? Will they prioritize you?
  4.  Cash Reserves Capacity – None of this matters if you do not have the cash reserves or liquidity to fund sales growth.  Aggressive growth sounds like a pleasant problem to have vs. cutting back. However, if you cannot fund growth, it can quickly become unpleasant.
  5. Infrastructure Capacity – Will your internal people, processes and systems support the increased demand?  Will increased volume lead to decreased margins? Customer complaints? Loss of visibility? Or can you scale effortlessly?

As much as selling more is a great problem to have, it pays to think about it before you run into it unexpectedly.  Some companies get carried away with rules and regulations designed to stifle Sales. That doesn’t work either!

Instead, think proactively. Plan for the likely.  Think through contingencies.  Remain light on your feet.  And, you’ll be able to answer the question, ‘what if you sell more?’ with a resounding “YES!”.

 



The Resilient Supply Chain: Cross-Organizational Collaboration

January 4th, 2019

I’ve been coordinating a process involving several disparate players, ranging from multiple educational institutions who are not aligned with one another, government players (with many differing goals) and business partners (with a completely different set of needs).  Although there are others, these 3 core groups are more than enough!

Success will only come to those who find common ground with collaboration.  If collaboration was as easy as simple communication, everyone would do it. We would probably have a lot more happy customers and more profits to share with investors, employees and for reinvestment and giving back.

What should we think about if this is the outcome we wish to create?

  1.  Look for the win-win-win –  If someone wins and someone else loses, it isn’t a successful collaboration.  If you think hard enough, there is usually a way to turn a situation into more of a win-win-win with some shared give-and-take.
  2.  Think about positioning –  If your idea is presented in isolation, it has a much greater chance at failing than if it is presented in light of the bigger picture. Why is it important?  How can each person play a role? Does each person know how he/she fits in and provides value?
  3.  Value diversity – Each time I think “I don’t want to be on this person’s team because he/she is annoying or won’t add value”, I find that I am completely wrong (luckily these are just thoughts, not actions).  The best ideas come from the most unlikely places.  And, interesting suggestions that can lead to “big” ideas typically come from someone who is quite opposite and thinking about the situation from a different perspective.
  4.  Recognize progress of the team –  Who doesn’t want to be recognized with a pat on the back as progress is made?  The key to collaboration is not to say positive things about collaboration and then reward individual performance.  Instead, reward team progress, even if that progress is simply gaining an understanding of how much they do not agree with each other yet are willing to listen.  
  5.  Consensus isn’t needed – As much as collaboration can achieve dramatically better results than each superhero individual thinking on his/her own, consensus is overrated.  Set the expectations upfront of how collaboration works. Feedback and input is expected. Discussion and debate participation is mandatory. But consensus isn’t required for every decision.  Otherwise, you might get there eventually but your competition will be LONG gone. More importantly, determine how to collaborate and make decisions upfront.decisions

The importance of collaboration comes up more frequently than almost any other topic.  Since executives are collaborating with customers, suppliers, trusted advisors, other supply chain partners and even competitors, there is just no room for poor collaborators.  

If you’ll notice, many disruptors collaborate with strange partners. Perhaps this core skill is a key ingredient to success…. Or, think of it another way, how will anything get done without it?