Archive for November, 2013

Guido’s Personal View: If Everyone Else Is Doing It . . .

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Time and again you hear people justify inappropriate behavior on the grounds that everyone else is doing it.
• An example from sports: doping. Doping is illegal. Athletes who want to compete at the highest level do it anyway. Naturally they say they shouldn’t do it, but then they justify the behavior afterward. After all, they say, everyone does it – you must to in order to reach the top.
• An example from business: corruption. Bribery is illegal. Ordinarily, a businessman who wants to do business in a particular country wouldn’t engage in bribery. But if bribery is the order of the day there, the businessman does so nonetheless. After all, he says later to justify his behavior, everyone does it – and must in order to conduct business there.
Something wrong doesn’t become something right just because everyone is doing it. And just because it’s human nature to dismiss best practices, it does not follow that bad practices will become good ones. Neither doping, nor bribery, nor theft becomes more acceptable through repetition or because of a crowd of supporters. Where does all this lead? To anarchy, to vigilantism, to chaos. As the devil avoids holy water, I avoid people who have internalized this mindset.
Many of our clients and many of the businesses in our network prove that profitable growth can be had without abandoning common decency. I respect people who refuse to follow a perceived trend, who instead stand by accepted rules and values – and who do not engage in tactics just because they provide the greatest advantage.
© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund. All rights reserved.

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Correct Bad Behavior

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Your focus for today: Correct bad behavior consistently.
All to often, bad behavior is tolerated, downplayed, shrugged off. “It’ll be OK.” No, it won’t. Tolerance of obvious misbehavior reinforces a negative trend. Acceptance has an effect exactly opposite to what you aim to achieve. Passivity creates space for further misbehavior.
If an employee addresses a customer, a colleague, or another employee improperly this week, correct the misbehavior promptly or, in legal parlance, “without undue delay.” If a customer submits an unethical offer, or if a customer addresses your or your employees improperly (that also happens), correct this just as promptly.
You have called for punctuality and people show up late? You have called for honesty and people resort to so called “little white lies” (how big must the lie be before it is no longer “white” and becomes just a lie, plain and simple?), or when you have called for commitment and dependability and people fail to deliver results: Correct such obvious misbehavior immediately. Only then will you be taken seriously.

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

How Good is Your Strategy, Really?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

We work constantly on growth strategies with our clients. We develop them together, we update them together, and along with that, we help them to implement parts of the strategy, or even the entire program. Ultimately, the primary benefit of collaboration with Mandat is that afterward, our client companies have what they need for growth at their fingertips, they have improved their position for future growth, or they have even grown significantly already – depending on whether we’re speaking of the development, implementation, or updating of a strategy.
But what we don’t do – and are unwilling to do – is to overturn strategies at the slightest change in the business environment. Yet time and again, we encounter the demand to do so. A strategy is developed at great expense in time and materials. All participants (with or without consultants) are firmly convinced that it is the correct strategy and yet, the slightest disturbance casts it into doubt yet again, breeding to some extent wholesale demand for change.
Caution: If you change your strategy in response to the slightest breeze, then you don’t have a strategy. Nothing against opportunistically picking things up from other businesses, nothing against flexible strategies, and also nothing against reworking obviously bad, unsuitable, or mistaken strategies. But a strategy is by definition a well-founded declaration of intent. The question of whether the strategy is the right one is usually not answered overnight. When you develop a strategy, we assume that all the experts and Senior Management have been involved in the process and have agreed to the result. So why the perpetual demand for change?
Either your strategy is a bad one – in which case you must rework it – or it is a good one, in which case it must not be permanently altered, but merely tweaked. When you say to me that you have a “strategy” and yet you challenge or overturn it at every opportunity, you may have any number of things, but you have no strategy.
“Simple as that,” as we say.

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Singapore Airlines: Two More Points

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Those who know me know also that I am a brand ambassador of Singapore Airlines. Not only that I didn’t have any negative experience so far, with more than thirty intercontinental flights. I exclusively had positive experiences so far. Here are two more points the airline made on our recent first class trip to and from Asia:

1. Stopover in Singapore: One hour.

On our flight back from Hong Kong via Singapore to Frankfurt we had a one hour stopover in Singapore. I was sceptical about this short stopover already at the time of the booking, but SIA told me, it wouldn’t be an issue, they would take care of us. I kept being sceptical, having made all these experiences in Europe, but they were the experts. In fact: It wasn’t an issue at all. We landed almost on time in Singapore, were the first passengers to leave the aircraft, took the skytrain to terminal 3, arrived there, were guided by Singapore staff that directed us to the gate and – voilà – found ourselves sitting in the next aircraft.

Our luggage? Here’s the tag the luggage got: “T3”, “Hot”, “Priority”, “First.” Of course the luggage was expecting us in Frankfurt on time. Respect.

Kofferticket

2. If someone wants to know how Singapore Airlines treat their best customers, get a personal invitation to the private room at Singapore’s First Class Lounge in Changhi. Silence, a private butler, wonderful.

This is what I call customer service and this is what leads to customer retention. Period.

(c) 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Managementberatung GmbH, Dortmund, London, New York.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Resolve conflict

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Your focus today: Resolve a key conflict.
You can skip over this blog post if, at the moment, you don’t find yourself in some kind of conflict. But most of us have one smoldering conflict or another that is plain for all to see – or else hidden away but that exists all the same.
Take time this week to deal with it. The first requirement toward that end: the conflicting parties must agree that a conflict exists. Otherwise, you won’t be able to resolve it. The first step of resolution is to address the conflict and articulate it. Try to arrange things so that no one emerges a loser from the situation. Doing so will guarantee you their respect.
And by the way: People decide consciously whether to participate in a conflict. Conversely, you can also decide consciously not to be part of a conflict. “I am not part of this conflict” is a fine thing to say. Bottom line: Either resolve the conflict or simply step away from it.

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Guido’s Personal View: Senior Management as Team?

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

The idea of the “team” is frequently overused. Unfortunately, forcing the concept does not necessarily lead to superior applications. The “team” is one of those concepts that have worn thin as a result of having been used too often. At the top level: “the Senior-Management team.”
I don’t believe in teams at the Senior Management level. Teams at the top are a myth. For the most part, members of the executive boards are distinctive characters. Many have risen to their positions based on their ability to implement, and not so much for being team players. You can see this in corporate leaders, many of whom report that they spend a large part of their time on what they call “politics.” Meaning: They devote a lot of time protecting their position. That may appeal to them or not, and it may also differ markedly from company to company. But there must be glimmer of truth to it; otherwise, you wouldn’t hear about it so often.
In addition, my experience in more than 20 years’ as a management consultant shows that teams at the top of an organization are by no means necessary. It’s quite enough to agree on a common value-structure, on common goals, and on a common modus operandi. Then the top executives, each playing to his strengths, can together ensure that the business develops in the best way possible. In the process, Senior Management must absolutely not become a “team.” The executive board has only to act cohesively, always say the same thing to various target audiences, act accordingly, and be consistent. The supervisory board should impose sanctions as quickly as possible when a member of Senior Management strays outside the “guardrails,” but team-building measures at the Senior-Management level are as unnecessary as they are out of place.

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

How do you talk to your customers?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Many a business criticizes its customers for not understanding its problems. I have some news for them: Customers don’t need to understand your problems. You must understand your customers and communicate with them clearly and effectively. Laborious explanations about why things didn’t happen as agreed are as boring as they are unnecessary. A customer is interested in an outcome, that a promise is kept. By the way, a distinguishing feature of a brand: keeping its promises.
Moreover, long-winded explanations of deficiencies, or telling little white lies, or even shifting “blame” to your customers (see my column on this point “It’s Not My Fault and Here’s Why I’m Right” on this blog) are only one part of the problem. Opaque communications extend far beyond those between individuals – on the Internet, for example.
“Error 404 – Page not found” is one of the more common error messages. Attempting to follow a link on the Lufthansa home page recently, I received the following: “Error 400: EJPSD0020E: The URL cookie for the WAS request was not found. Either cookies are not activated in your browser, or the servlet must be called directly.” Perfectly clear, right? All of that as a single line in an otherwise empty browser window. That was it.
How do you ensure that you speak appropriately to your customers?

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Forgo feedback

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Your focus today: Spurn spurious feedback.
Feedback is a good thing if it comes from someone who has no personal interest in whether you use it to make changes – or you don’t. These are trusted individuals from whom you even actively expect feedback. Most of the feedback we get comes from people who have an interest in a specific outcome that is to their advantage but not to yours. For that reason, such feedback is not only worthless, it’s a waste of time.
So, your focus this week: Systematically ignore feedback of people from whom you don’t want it. “Can I give you some feedback on that point?” “Thanks, but no thanks.”

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Guido’s Personal View: Politics and Growth

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Every farmer knows that a cow needs grass before it can give milk. Every businessman knows that growth is impossible without investment. As Horst Trimborn, former chairman or the board of Andreae-Noris Zahn AG (now a member of the Alliance Boots Group) told me:
What works for businesses emphatically does not work in politics. It is not the function of politics to spend money to promote growth. It is not the function of the state to arrange for employment directly. It is the function of politics and the state to ensure an environment in which the private sector can create growth and jobs. The state’s involvement in such matters must be held to a minimum.
In the ongoing discussion about what good politics or the state might do for its citizens (especially voters at election time) – and whether the state should concern itself with growth – there is in play too much self-interest among the individuals involved. Equally in play is the suspicion that we businessmen don’t really care about growth for the benefit of society as a whole. Dear politicians, those of you who see the state as the engine of growth: Have a look at the finances of the majority of businesses and notice that, as a rule, profits are reinvested to insure continuing prosperity. For the benefit of all.
Growth is more than “more of the same.” So, we don’t need more state intervention. On the contrary, we need less of it – and rightly so.

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Stop “selling”

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Corporate managers who complain that their products and services are under tremendous price pressure often create this problem for themselves, namely through a phalanx of rogue door-to-door sales reps in the sales department. Yes, you heard right: Even in industries where it is generally accepted that everyone operates under price pressure, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even in the sale of so-called commodities, price must not dominate as the distinguishing feature.

The sales department must indeed see to it that products and services “land” profitably in the marketplace of the company they represent. When sales reps only advise, then they are advisers, not sales reps. But nowhere is it written that sales reps should resort to pressure tactics, never mind that they must do so. In many instances, “selling” tends toward exactly this kind of high-pressure approach.

Instead of selling, a good “sales rep” facilitates purchases. That is a significant difference. A good sales rep creates value, utility. The more valuable the products and services that he (or she) is responsible for, the more value and utility a good sales rep will create for his customers in the process of selling. I’m not speaking, here of monetary benefits, and especially not rebates. I’m speaking of things that the customer holds dear. This could be a suggestion, a tip, a concept, a professional article, membership in a community (as with Nespresso, for example) – in other words, something that helps the customer to advance. All of this serves to cement the relationship. It serves to show that the sales rep is truly serious about the relationship and that it is not a matter of making a fast buck, either for the rep or the customer. The customer’s final “yes” becomes a natural part of the relationship, as does a sincere “no” or “not yet.”

You probably have the wrong priorities if you say at this point that your sales department doesn’t have time to invest in serious relationships, because it has to produce transactions. When you say that, naturally, selling should build relationships – just a little more quickly, please – you’re being unrealistic. Our work with our clients shows that time invested in decision makers always pays off in profitable growth. When you worry that your sales reps will take customers with them, should they happen to leave, you’re tilting at windmills.

Our experience shows that the repercussions feared from a sales employee’s changing firms are by-and-large exaggerated.

What does your sales force do? Exert pressure or facilitate purchases?

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.