Tag Archive: strategy

The Skills Gap in the Modern Era

October 2nd, 2019

People are the #1 topic on our most successful clients’ executives minds. That’s because these clients realize that even the best strategies and plans will fail without people.

On the other hand, we have seen clients who appear the least likely to succeed, overcome great obstacles to not only become competitive but also to gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. The secret ingredient is people. As a former VP of Operations and Supply Chain, there was no doubt that my success was directly correlated to the strength and attitude of my team.

Since it is such a key topic to ensuring growth and profitability, we wanted to dig into the current state of the skills gap. As a follow up to our research several years ago when we found that 87% of companies were experiencing a skills gap, we wanted to understand the current state of this topic and how it has evolved as we are knee deep in the technology era. For example, there is quite a bit of discussion on the topic of people vs. robots. Do we need to think about the skills gap if robots can take over? In other circles, the talk is all about artificial intelligence (AI). Will AI transform the industry? For example, there is a concern about this happening in the accounting profession. However, it might just mean that those trusted advisors must add value to what can be taken over by robots. That is certainly true in manufacturing environments. The skill requirements are changing. Perhaps we need people to interpret data? And how about to get people and technology to work together?

Please take our skills gap survey as we would appreciate your feedback into the following types of questions:

  • Which skills do you need the most?
  • Are technical skills enough? Do you need a savvy communicator as well?
  • How do you find your best talent?
  • Do you offer incentive to keep top talent such as rewards and recognition programs, performance management programs (tied with compensation systems) etc.?
  • How have you seen these requirements changing with the hot bed of technology?

A few highlights from what we’ve seen at a cross-section of clients across closely-held businesses to private equity backed companies to global enterprises:

  • Broad skills: Companies are looking for a broader base of skills. It is no longer sufficient to be an expert in a specialized area.
  • Presentation skills: Those who can present ideas effectively succeed whereas the most talented resources will struggle if they can’t get their ideas across.
  • Technology overload: Although everyone is interested in the latest technology, we are overwhelmed with all the options. Selecting just enough technology to advance a key point is often the best course of action.
  • Your network is your most valuable asset: It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a new hire, sourcing a supplier or getting just the ‘right’ trusted advisor at just the ‘right’ moment, the best way to find these resources is through your network. Are you nurturing your network?

The bottom line is that the most successful companies pay close attention to their #1 asset, their people. This idea extends to your customers, suppliers, trusted advisors and more since your face to your customer will be inclusive of each of these people. As the rubber meets the road, navigating your skills base will be of paramount importance.

Participate in our skills gap survey and we will ensure you are the first to receive the findings to help all of us successfully navigate the skills gap.

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Strategy Isn’t Long Term!

September 6th, 2019

As I meet with countless CEOs and P&L leaders at clients, via connections, at speeches, etc., I pay attention to what is top of mind. Strategy is always top of mind for the most successful business leaders! After all, if a CEO makes in the millions (the top 10 paid CEOs from 2018 made between $66 million and >$500 million), he/she is being paid for more than just executing the plan. Certainly, strategy is integral to the future success of the organization.

Yet, I see a lot of confusion about strategy. It isn’t complex. Strategy is figuring out the ‘what’. Whereas, tactics is the ‘how’. Strategy isn’t necessarily long-term. Who says ‘what’ should be long-term? In fact, some of the most successful CEOs are now focusing on rapid and agile strategy. Isn’t that what we need to succeed in today’s Amazon-impacted, rapidly changing business environment?

Focusing on the ‘what’ focuses on the outcomes and goals. In essence, where should your business end up? As Peter Drucker would say, strategy is “doing the right things”; whereas tactics is “doing things right”. Take a step back and think about his profound thinking. It is easy to spend all your time “doing things right”, isn’t it? It certainly is for me, and I am an expert in strategy!

What do you think Jeff Bezos is thinking? How to execute the best logistics plan or how to control the logistics landscape, just like a chess game? Of course, strategists need managers who are good at both strategy and tactics to make any strategy come true. And it is also true that strategies rarely fail in composition. Yet, more often than not, they fail in execution. Thus, it seems we must have both! We better know which is which and not be thinking strategy and tactics are long-term vs. short-term, or we will go the way of Sears and Toys R’ Us. (Quite sad as I still remember going to Toys R’ Us as a child around Christmas to explore all the possibilities. It was truly an experience!)

Have you thought about your strategy lately? If not, you better get on it before the next Amazon passes you by. And, let’s not get cocky, Sears used to be the Amazon in my lifetime. You never know who the next Amazon will be. If you are interested in a strategic assessment, contact us.

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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.



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.

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The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!