Tag Archive: customers

Future-Proofing Your Customers

February 13th, 2020

Have you thought about future-proofing your customers? In thinking about future-proofing your people, it makes sense to start with your customers.

The statistics are staggering. According to Outbound Engine, acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. We wouldn’t be surprised if the actual cost is far greater if direct and indirect costs are combined. It certainly should give us pause. How do we future-proof our customers?

One way is to focus on the Amazon Effect and providing lighting speed delivery and tirelessly differentiated service. There is no doubt customers expect more. The bar gets higher with each passing day. Thus, we must be ahead of our customers to take a proactive approach to providing a superior customer experience while being cognizant of profitability and working capital.

How will you know what your customers see as differentiated service? Start by listening. Observe your customers and see what might provide value. Ask questions and tailor your solutions to be special for key customers. Find ways to provide these differentiated services while proactively managing the process efficiently and effectively from the internal point-of-view.

To accomplish this feat, it is wise to keep in mind that you are only as good as your #1 asset, your people. We have yet to meet a client with unhappy employees and happy customers. Start by getting your house in order. What do your employees need to be successful? It is more than a training course or occasional pat on the back. Do they know they are making a difference? Are they empowered within reasonable guidelines? Do they know leaders value performance and are willing to address the tough topics?

Investing in employees is the best way to future-proof your manufacturing and supply chain. Expand your thinking on people to your trusted advisors, customers, suppliers and other business partners.

Are you taking the time to ensure a prepared yet agile end-to-end supply chain? Remember, the people within the end-to-end supply chain count in providing an exceptional customer experience!

If you’d like an assessment of where you should invest (time, resources, money) to deliver lightning speed delivery and tirelessly differentiated service, contact us. There are also plenty of free articles and resources on our website. Let us know your thoughts and questions.

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Should We Listen to all the High Tech Talk?

January 22nd, 2020

Client Question
Should we pay attention to all this high tech talk? Certainly it seems like everyone and their brother is talking about artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and even the use of technologies such as virtual reality and autonomous vehicles. And this is aside from mundane topics such as ERP systems. And,  we need to function on a daily basis. We need to serve customers and deliver value to the bottom line.  And, we prefer to only get distracted when necessary.

The Answer
We have seen clients get carried away with the latest and greatest technology fads. Although it was an interesting personal education, it typically didn’t result in a return on investment. On the other hand, we have also seen clients ignoring technology that becomes vital to survival in their industry. After all, it is easy to do. When Sears used to be the Amazon of the age, no one thought they would be going out of business.

So, as usual, the answer is “it depends”. You must pay attention, learn about and invest in technology so that you can make a good decision on which to pursue and which to ignore for your go-forward business strategy. If it were easy, we would all be successful for 100 years running.  There are VERY few companies in this position. Do you have a position or a person who is dedicated or allocates part of his/her responsibilities to this role? If you don’t call it out, it will fall by the wayside. This should be similar in concept to an R&D/new product focus. Why should we focus only on new products and not new technologies?

Food For Thought
No two clients are alike. Some ask us this question and it is an obvious,: YES, you must invest to stay relevant and increase business value. For others, it is an emphatic, NO. Why waste resources on additional technology when we haven’t implemented or used the available systems capabilities that will move the business forward? As it seems to go in business, it is usually the best executives and CIOs who are on top of their technology road map who ask these questions. The rest won’t even invest enough to find out where they should prioritize limited funds so they don’t become the next Sears!

At a minimum, once you get to a certain size or complexity, the minimum you should do is upgrade your ERP system so that you have a modern technological backbone and can scale up quickly as needed. With that said, it is rarely enough if your goal is profitable growth.

If you’d like a technology and ERP systems assessment, please contact us. At a minimum, read our numerous articles and get started in evaluating your situation!

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All Roads Lead Back to People

December 30th, 2019

All roads lead back to people. In working with executives from diverse industries of aerospace, building products, healthcare and food & beverage, whether a $10 million dollar family-owned business, a $50 million dollar private-equity backed company or a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate, the most successful have the best people. Little else seems to matter. The best strategies are destroyed by poor leaders, and the most mediocre of plans are wildly successful with the right leaders.

Since many of our clients are manufacturers, and October is manufacturing month, we thought it would be the ideal time to remind you that “all roads go back to leaders”. As much as it is relevant to stay on top of the latest technologies (learn more about artificial intelligence and computer vision in our “Just for Clients Section”) and search for the best practices for your business (such as SIOP (sales, inventory, operations planning) and lean manufacturing), it is even more important to think about your people. In fact, if you have the ‘right’ people, the rest will fall into place.

When thinking about people, you should consider several important groups:

  • New hires – Spend more time ensuring you have the ‘right’ person before wasting time and energy on a non-performer! Stop thinking about job descriptions and tasks.  Instead, think about what results you need and whether the person you are interviewing can ‘turn them into a reality’.
  • Your employeesThe most important category is your employees. If your people aren’t involved and interested, how do you expect to create fans of your customers?
  • Your suppliers – Do you consider your suppliers an extension of your team? You should! They can make or break your success.
  • Your customers – Certainly, there is such a thing as choosing the ‘wrong’ customer. Are you just taking any customer that comes your way or are you making sure they are a good fit for your business? Some customers will take you to new heights and others will send you accelerating backwards.
  • Your trusted advisors – Pay attention to who you listen to! Bad advice is far worse than no advice at all. As trusted advisors, we can attest that when our clients find ‘inexpensive advice’.  They come running to us because they tied up people getting nothing accomplished, or worse, the situation has gotten worse! In addition, having the ‘right’ banking, financial and legal advice at the ‘right’ time can prove invaluable.
  • Your trade & professional organizations, alumni groups etc. – The story is very similar to trusted advisors. You can gain invaluable insight and resources if you consider your network an important aspect of your business.

Watch our interview with  Ismael Reyes, Jr. and Cindy Baughman of Ingram Micro, the Manufacturing Council of the Inland Empire’s Innovation Award winners. We talk about the relevance and importance of talent and leadership as well as the dramatic impact it can have on bottom line results. They achieved over a million dollars in savings in process improvements.  And, they consider the key to success to go back to people.

Are you interested in bottom line improvement AND/or developing a superior customer experience? If so, start with your people!

If you are interested in an assessment of how you stand vs. the industry norm and would like recommendations and priorities to drive results, read through our articles for ideas or contact us to discuss further.



Forget About Reducing Inventory; Perhaps You Have the Wrong Supply Chain Strategy

December 16th, 2019

Clients and colleagues have demonstrated a heightened interest in inventory reduction recently despite not yet seeing the full value! Certainly with everyone worried about a potential recession in 2020, they are starting to think about not tying up as much cash in inventory but that is not the 100 pound gorilla. The real question is why we are thinking about corporate mandates and full warehouses instead of seeing the bigger picture – reevaluating our supply chain.

Of course, maximizing your customer service (on-time delivery, quicker lead times), margins/efficiencies and cash flow (inventory reduction) is an important standard best practice. To learn more about how to achieve this win-win-win, read our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News. Yet, it could become “rearranging chairs on the titanic” if your supply chain is not set up to deliver maximum performance. So, instead of jumping to erroneous conclusions, take a step back to reevaluate your end-to-end supply chain strategy.

When I was a VP of Operations & Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer, our private equity backers and Board of Directors were always asking about labor costs. It didn’t matter that labor costs was our smallest cost element. In fact, material cost was the 800 pound gorilla at around 70% of product cost, followed by freight. If we could double labor cost to reduce materials and freight, it would be a smart decision. Yet, it was never viewed that way. So, if a smart private equity group and executive team can bark up the wrong tree, we all might be speeding down the freeway but going in the wrong direction.

Typically, labor cost is 8-12% of the total cost of ownership. How does that compare to your materials cost? Unless you are in a labor-intensive industry, perhaps you better take a second look. Next there are freight costs. Not only do freight costs continue to rise but the rules, regulations and delays can be astounding. In a recent California Inland Empire District Export Council (CIEDEC) meeting, the new sulfur emission rules for shipping arose because costs will have to be passed on to importers and exporters. Of course, we don’t have to mention tariffs and global unrest. Now, let’s add inventory carrying cost into the equation. It is a minimum of 6%.  Yet, most experts (and clients) agree that it is truly a minimum of 25% and could be as bad as a 1:1 ratio. Just think about how often your customer changes his mind, all the expediting you have to do to serve customers and the systems and complexity your team has to manage. Is it time to reevaluate?

ERP system
Let’s not forget that this equation isn’t just an insource or outsource question. There are lots of opportunities. For example, you might want to think about the following questions:

  1. Where are your customers?
  2. Where are your suppliers?
  3. Is there disruptive technology that could impact your cost ratios?
  4. How complex is your supply chain? Have you thought about the price of complexity?
  5. Do you have a robust ERP system to support customer expectations while achieving profitable growth?
  6. Are there supply chain partner programs that could completely change the game?

No matter your situation, it is worth revisiting. Corporate strategies last NO MORE than a year so why are we leaving our supply chain to old rules? Instead, we should be future-proofing our manufacturing and supply chain business.

Stay tuned and read more about it If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Value Based Pricing

October 21st, 2019

calm leadershipAn overarching theme from our pricing and profits presentation relates to value based pricing. It was unanimous – every CEO believed that value based pricing was the best direction to go.  Yet, it became muddier in figuring out how to move towards value based pricing in his/her particular situation.

Let’s start by defining value based pricing. Simply stated: prices are based on the value the customer receives.

Everyone wins. The customer gains more value and you gain a higher price. Of course, that higher price should carry a higher margin.  It isn’t set up so that you win at the expense of your customer. Instead, both parties win with extra value and margin. So, if everyone wins, why don’t more of us utilize value based pricing? According to the CEOs, it isn’t simple. Yet we all agreed it is worth it.

Perhaps we’ll be talking about this for months and years to come as it can do something far more important than increase margins. It enhances customer value which can lead to customer engagement and loyalty. There are lots of statistics.  Suffice it to say, we will be much happier and are willing to spend more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service. And, more engaged and happy customers are dramatically more profitable.

After all, it can be 2 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one.

Start by figuring out the value of your product or service. Don’t listen solely to your R&D department, sales resources or anyone else while trying to understand value. Don’t even listen to your customers. Instead, think about your target customers and probe the value to these customers. Ask. Listen. Observe. When you ask questions, listen to what else they say. What would improve your customers’ situation? The value will emerge.