Tag Archive: business

Sequoia and the Power of Silence

August 8th, 2019

My best friend from high school and college was in town recently and we went to Sequoia National Park. First, I must say, what a ride to get to Sequoia on winding, mountainous roads! Once we arrived, we went to the ‘Trail of 100 Giants’, and it was impressive! These Sequoias were over 1500 years old, and gigantic. The largest tree has a diameter of 20 feet and is over 220 feet high.

Yet what stood out was the power of silence. You could hear the rustle of the wind in the trees. It sounded similar to sitting by the ocean. It certainly was a calming and humbling experience as the silence and the sounds of nature overpowered everything else.

Have you ever thought about the power of silence? Do you find it to be more effective than 1000 words? In a business setting, silence can speak volumes…

One tip to implement this week:
We all hear the advice to stop and listen.  Yet, how often are we thinking about silence? The most powerful speakers know the power of silence. The dramatic pause will emphasize just the right words. Certainly the best actors use this technique expertly, and we are putty in their hands!

Or have you thought about how not answering immediately answers the question? For example, at one client, I admit that after a particularly grumpy executive who didn’t want to support our project told me that he didn’t think consultants were valuable and didn’t want to talk to me to answer my questions, I was silent because I was thinking about how to respond that would be productive. Sometimes, it is better to be lucky than brilliant! In this case, since I didn’t respond quickly, he ended up filling the proverbial silence (since we weren’t communicating in person) and came back to me and agreed to do exactly what he just said he wouldn’t do. A light bulb went off that there is power in silence!

Silence is extremely valuable in negotiations. Have you noticed that whoever is silent gains the upper hand? That’s because we are typically uncomfortable with silence and rush to fill the gap. Next thing we know, we’ve given away more power and information than we intended, and we are behind in the negotiation. Yet I have to say, silence used as a manipulative strategy will not achieve your intended result. People will pick up on whether you are genuine or not.

Consider silence instead of a long response the next time you are going to open your mouth in a high stakes communication. Let me know how it turns out.



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


What do UPS, Shamrock Foods, Amazon & a 3PL Have in Common?

March 14th, 2019

In touring multiple facilities, ranging from package shipments to cold storage food service delivery to the e-commerce behemoth to 3PL organizations, it despite the conversations that take place about labor costs and other daily concerns, the #1 concern across the board is transportation costs. The numbers support this sentiment. According to CSCMP, transportation costs are 65% of total logistics spend.

Logically, it also makes good sense. No matter your business, materials, parts sub-assemblies and/or products need to arrive at your facility. Often, especially in industries such as aerospace, the parts make multiple trips around the area (unless you are unlucky enough to require sourcing outside of your local area) for outside processing services such as anodizing and painting. Lastly, every work-in-process part or finished good must go to the next stop along the way to the customer such as a final assembly customer, your distribution center, your customer’s distribution center or the end customer. That makes for quite a lot of transportation, often involving multiple modes of transport from air freight to ocean freight to rail to trucking.

Given these alarming statistics about transportation costs, the question becomes: What can we do to proactively manage these costs as well as reduce the impact on the environment? After listening to several experts on these tours and experts from Georgia Tech, APICS (learn more about the critical importance of logistics in our APICS-IE CLTD, certified in logistics, transportation and distribution certificate program) and CSCMP SoCal (at the state of the industry event), a few ideas emerged.

  1. Collaborate with strange bedfellows:As recently published in an I’ve Been Thinking article, collaborating with strange bedfellows can achieve 1+1+1 = 25 minimally. In terms of transportation, there is no doubt maximizing the space used in your truck, container or plane is vital. Why not collaborate with another business to increase your utilization?
  2. Take the holistic or systems view: It is quite challenging to see the forest for the trees as the old slogan goes. We have all been there! I have worked with clients for extended periods of time and found myself with this same issue.  So, I have to deliberately shake it up to maintain the systems or bird’s-eye view. For example, don’t worry about saving a few pennies on a non-essential element of your transportation infrastructure when you are missing the key point that your mix of modes of operation or something like that is costing you millions.
  1. Utilize technology that focuses on the critical transportation factors: In every case (at every tour, event and in every conversation), leveraging technology where it makes sense came up. Certainly, artificial intelligence is the new craze since it has the potential to transform entire industries including logistics. However, robotics are being considered even in industries such as 3PL where they never were previously due to the nature of managing different customers and products. Of course, IoT is prevalent in the world of logistics and transportation as well as topics such as alternative fuels and automation. And what about the basics of a solid ERP system and TMS (transportation management system)? Don’t panic over the horror stories. Contact us if you want to overcome them.
  1. Be customer friendly:Interesting how often being customer friendly arises, no matter the industry or size company (small family owned to private equity backed to large complex organizations).  With rising truck rates and a shortage of drivers, if you aren’t a preferred shipper, you might just be out of luck no matter how much you spend. What does it take to be a preferred shipper? It depends on your business, carriers, locations and more. However, it starts by thinking about what is important to your carrier (not you). Are they looking for flexibility? A quick turnaround time? Fast payment? Good treatment for their drivers?

Since transportation costs are, at minimum, 65% of your total logistics spend, it requires further thought. With the vast amount of technology options available, the best approach is to start with your foundation (your ERP system) and ensure it is stable. Once you have a scalable base, find the ‘right’ technology for your situation to maximize the value of your logistics infrastructure. However, remember the 80/20 goes back to people. What are you doing to develop strategic partnerships and to ensure you are customer friendly and a preferred shipper? Given the impact, don’t leave this to chance or make assumptions. We all like to think we are preferred but what can we do to take it an extra step further?

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

Systems Pragmatist

 The Sheer Relevance & Impact of Transportation (a Billion Here, a Billion There)

The Resilient Supply Chain: Should We Invest in Technology?

 



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.