How Any U.S. Company Can Survive a Trade War with China

August 5th, 2019

 

With all that is going on with China in terms of trade wars, currencies, natural resources and more, it begs the question of what we should be thinking about doing business with China. Is it prudent?

Thanks to APICS Inland Empire and International Business Attorney and expert, John Tulac, we are sharing APICS-IE’s webinar on “How any Company Can Survive a Trade War with China”.

Note: The webinar is about 60 minutes.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
We should be aware and considering potential impacts on our business. Think about any direct ties to China with supply as well as indirect ties with our extended supply chain. Undoubtedly, everyone has at least an indirect tie to China, and so we all better think about impacts and implications!

Stay on top of trends and highlights. Get involved with organizations such as APICS-IE to participate in events and network with resources. For example, make plans to join our semi-annual symposiums where we feature an  executive panel and networking opportunities.  Mark your calendar for our Fall 2019 Symposium on “Collaborating for Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Success“.

Also, contact experts such as John Tulac to help navigate more complex situations. Remember, a penny saved that costs you thousands and hundreds of thousands down-the-line is by no means “a penny saved”.

Certainly, the topic of trade wars relates squarely in the resilient supply chain camp. If you are interested in a resilient supply chain assessment, contact us. You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 



Dana Point and the Customers’ 1st Experience with Your Product or Service

August 2nd, 2019

Last week, I went to Dana Point for a good friend’s daughter’s wedding. It seemed like an opportunity for a mini-getaway.  So, I spent the night at the Marriott (pictured). Not only does Dana Point appear majestic with the view of the water, the lawn in front of this hotel provides a great first impression.

Your customers’ first impression can be very important. It gives them a “feeling” about your product or service. As my consulting mentor says, “Logic makes people think. Emotion makes them act.” In this case, it gave a calming and majestic feeling. Great for the end of a busy week!

What is the first impression of your product or service? Does it appear to be high quality? Or is your service welcoming and customer friendly? Mainly, is it what you would like it to be?

One tip to implement this week:
Start by taking a step back to think about your first impression. What would a customer experience? One idea is to ‘shop your business’. If you have a product, go to shipping to see what your next customer will receive as a first shipment.  Also, check on the carrier or truck to understand the delivery experience. Perhaps order your product for a family member (so your team doesn’t know it is for you), and see how it arrives. If your provide a service, call a customer upon your team’s first interaction.  Or go to the point of service and observe or test your service. Test your perceptions.

Once you gain an understanding of your first impression, consider ways to improve upon this first impression. Don’t just think about what you would want. Put your mind into your target customer’s experience.  What value could you add (that doesn’t have to cost anything) that they would appreciate and value? The clients that do this the best have a completely different relationship with their customers. It is worth pursuing if you’d like to increase your customer value and your bottom line!

 



Is CRM Valuable?

July 30th, 2019

A Client Question
When clients decide to upgrade ERP, they also look at CRM (customer relationship management) because it makes sense to align the technology infrastructure into a common platform that will be fully integrated and scalable. However, what if it isn’t part of an ERP project? When does it make sense to jump into the CRM world? One client asked us just this question.

The Answer
In their case, they could achieve a powerful return on investment with CRM. It provided the tools and technology that would strengthen their relationship with their current customers, as well as help them expand sales with current customers and create a pipeline of new customers. Specifically, when meeting with customers, the sales reps gained insights into customer preferences and ways to strengthen the relationship. If they captured those ideas into CRM on the spot, the next person who interacted with that customer could see the notes and tailor the conversation. These seemingly small preferences can go a long way!

In terms of expanding business, they needed robust sales reporting that would tell them if they were falling off in a particular area or if they sold one product without its complimentary product so that the sales rep could follow up. Last but not least, they wanted a way to track potential new customers and expansions of business. For example, if a reseller was opening a new facility, they wanted to track it in CRM so that everyone had access to the timing, forecast, and other critical information. Also, since it was a collaborative sales environment, they wanted a way to track potential new customers and where they were in the sales cycle so that they could forecast future sales and the likelihood of it occurring. Sales forecasts were the 80/20 of success in this client because it was in a high growth mode where cash forecasting is of critical importance.

 A simple CRM solution fit the bill. A few years later, they were ready to upgrade their ERP infrastructure. At that time, they had the base CRM disciplines functioning and so it was an easy transition to a fully integrated system with CRM functionality. This client has been recognized multiple times for its substantial growth and success.

Food For Thought
Although CRM systems can be a great idea (as it was in our client’s case), if your sales and support teams aren’t ready to enter at least the key data, you’ve just bought an Audi that sits in your garage.

Start implementing process disciplines early. Enter information about your customers that will be handy at a later date.

Start tracking key meetings and prospects. Are you able to make good decisions from what you are tracking? If not, wait!

Aggressively push to start tracking vital information about your customers, even if you put it in Outlook or a spreadsheet to start. Soon you’ll be ready for a simple CRM solution, followed by more powerful ones as you get used to driving your car on city streets, you’ll be ready to brave the freeways.

If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:
Obsession with Your Customer
A Systems Checkup


SIOP/ S&OP and Bottom Line Benefits

July 27th, 2019

According to a Hackett group study, the benefits of SIOP (Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning) can be dramatic.

First, let’s back up to describe SIOP: It is an integrated business process that aligns demand with supply through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization.

In our experience with over 20 SIOP projects, our clients have experienced these same results (and often even better ones), no matter the industry, company size or priority. Simply put, when done well, you’ll have more cash, profit and revenue. What’s not to like!

The types of results fall into three buckets:

  1. Working capital – Undoubtedly, freeing up inventory to increase cash flow is becoming a greater priority as executives realize just how much cash is tied up in servicing customers’ Amazon-like expectations with global supply considerations. Therefore, it is not surprising that we’ve received a serious uptick in requests to increase inventory turns. SIOP is always a part of the solution. Hackett research says 20-30% improvement is to be expected. We have certainly found this to be true.
  2. Cost reduction – Whether we term this cost reduction or margin improvement, 5-10% improvement is what the Hackett study shows. We have seen these results, even by default (when the SIOP program was focused on improving service). Thus, if they can be achieved by default, they certainly can be achieved with focus! Items that fall into this category include material cost reduction, freight cost reduction, labor productivity improvement, and fixed cost optimization.
  3. Sales growth – According to the study, a 2-4% improvement is not uncommon. We have experienced dramatic results in this area with lead time reduction, on-time delivery performance improvement, customer scorecard wins and strengthened partnerships that lead to new and expanded sales opportunities.

For example, in a significant metals-related aerospace business, we started the SIOP journey to reduce inventory levels to free up debt. By partnering with sales to better understand customer requirements and by better aligning the sites on a single plan and set of priorities, we were able to align demand with supply. It was truly about alignment as the performance measurements couldn’t be completely changed (and they often didn’t support the same decisions as SIOP). Yet, we gained executive alignment and focus. This led to our ability to align the various functional areas on a single objective while still recognizing the site level objectives. Therefore, we were able to reduce the inventory in the core product line by 30% while ensuring customer satisfaction levels were maintained or improved.

The question isn’t whether you’ll benefit from implementing SIOP. The only question relates to what you’ll achieve based on your priority focus. Will it lean in the direction of margins, cash flow or customer loyalty and revenue growth? If you’d like to learn more about how to benefit from SIOP, read about it in our blog, explore our proprietary process for SIOP, 4 Excel or contact us to discuss an assessment.

 

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:
The Strategic Benefit of SIOP
Have you Thought about Increasing Demand??



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.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:
Pricing & Profits: It’s Not All About Revenue
Gaining New Ideas to Increase Business Value