Archive for March, 2014

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Recognizing Artifacts

Monday, March 31st, 2014

In diagnostic imaging as in various other disciplines, we are acquainted with the concept of artifacts. I first became exposed to the idea as I completed nearly two years’ work at an intensive care unit in one of Germany’s largest hospitals. There they spoke occasionally of “artifacts” in conjunction with the evaluation of patients by electrocardiogram (EKG). The concept interested me, and it was explained to me that an artifact is an alleged anomaly in an EKG. But it arises from external influences and is not a real anomaly. Simply put, an artifact is an apparent defect where there is none. A disturbance with absolutely no significance.

What artifacts are there in your environment? How often do you jump up – figuratively speaking – at apparent abnormalities that really aren’t or – to extend the arc a bit further – that are irrelevant? How do you determine whether what you’re measuring is in fact largely free of influences – or whether you can at least recognize such influences. How do you make sure that you use your time – your most important resource after your health – sensibly and not squander it on supposed therapy for symptoms that amount to nothing more than artifacts?

Think about that sometime. It’ll be worth it.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Ease-of-Purchasing as a Growth Driver

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Businesses think too much about product improvement and not enough about how they can make it easier for customers to purchase their existing products.

My wife and I have been considering buying a made-to-order, so-called “anti-dirt mat” for our RV. We have two dogs that we occasionally take to dog shows, and we would resent the dirt less with even a light-colored anti-dirt mat than with the light-tone carpet that came with the RV. We decided on an especially high-quality product, similar to a carpet, that was to match the specifications of our own carpet.

The snag: The supplier needed our carpet as a template. Not a drawing, but the original, to ensure a good fit. But how do you ship a three-piece carpet? Here’s the solution: “Pack up your carpet, and we’ll have it picked up at whatever address you wish, at no charge. When the new carpet is ready, we’ll deliver it – along with the original – to any address you choose, again at no charge.”

No sooner said than done. It couldn’t be simpler. The carpet was picked up at Mandat, and both packages were delivered there later. The product is outstanding, and the process impressed us.

And that’s how growth happens.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Recognizing Artifacts

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

In diagnostic imaging as in various other disciplines, we are acquainted with the concept of artifacts. I first became exposed to the idea as I completed nearly two years’ work at an intensive care unit in one of Germany’s largest hospitals. There they spoke occasionally of “artifacts” in conjunction with the evaluation of patients by electrocardiogram (EKG). The concept interested me, and it was explained to me that an artifact is an alleged anomaly in an EKG. But it arises from external influences and is not a real anomaly. Simply put, an artifact is an apparent defect where there is none. A disturbance with absolutely no significance.

What artifacts are there in your environment? How often do you jump up – figuratively speaking – at apparent abnormalities that really aren’t or – to extend the arc a bit further – that are irrelevant? How do you determine whether what you’re measuring is in fact largely free of influences – or whether you can at least recognize such influences. How do you make sure that you use your time – your most important resource after your health – sensibly and not squander it on supposed therapy for symptoms that amount to nothing more than artifacts?

Think about that sometime. It’ll be worth it.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Discipline

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

I have already written a great deal about discipline because it is my firm conviction that discipline is one of the primary necessities for growth. Last week, I organized an open workshop – a “power day,” as we call it – focused in this case of an specific target audience. I had sent out a questionnaire beforehand to get a better picture of the situation, the bottlenecks, and the capabilities of the participants. I also wanted to make it possible for the participants to have thought about the questions in advance. Finally, good questions can incorporate a lot of know-how.

The results were inevitable: Fewer than two-thirds of the questionnaires came back, and most of them arrived after the deadline. On the day of the event – and anyone who has conducted workshops knows this – participants must be reminded repeatedly that a break is over. Although the break had ended, one or another was still playing with his smart phone. What’s more important? Of course, someone always comes into the room late.

It’s all the same to me whether the questionnaires are filled out or not. It also doesn’t matter to me if participants in an open workshop arrive late or find their smart phones more important than being active participants  – as long as they don’t disturb the group. But: You marvel at why some grow better than others? Personally and professionally? It begins with discipline and taking advantage of opportunities that come with it.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

“Bomb Threat? Follow These Instructions.”

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Recently as I checked in with JetBlue Airways in West Palm Beach, Florida to fly back to New York, instructions on the employee’s desk attracted my attention as she busied herself with my ticket. They were printed on blue paper, laminated to the desk top. The content was approximately as follows:

Affix these instructions near your telephone.

“Bomb Threat?
Ask the caller the following questions:

  • Where is the bomb?
  • When is it set to explode.
  • Under what circumstances will it explode.
  • What does the bomb look like?
  • What is it made of?
  • Did you build the bomb?
  • Why?
  • What is your address? Where are you at the moment?

Let’s assume that these questions were not pulled together by amateurs, but by professionals who know what they are doing – since in the end, air travel is a realm that is sensitive to security. What do we see here? At least the last three are not immediately obvious. They serve either to keep the caller on the line, to keep him talking, or there really are instances in which these questions are answered correctly.

Teaching moment: Sometimes there are questions that aren’t obvious, questions that must be asked in order to reach a goal

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Benefit from Growth Opportunities in the Commodities Market. Example: Freenet

Friday, March 21st, 2014

How often have you heard it? That things can’t work; that the competitive environment is difficult because products are interchangeable; that others can do something better; or that others have already tried something – without success.

During the 10th International Brands Colloquium on September 12-13 at Seeon Abbey, Christoph Vilanek, CEO, freenet AG, made it clear that at the moment, especially companies that are offering commodities are well-advised to look for growth-potential in their markets. Freenet, for example, is on course to become a “digital-lifestyle” provider and is pursuing this course consistently. Vilanek said that it is necessary to maintain a very rational view on the own products and to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with low-priced products as long as a lot of people buy them. Just as a sidenote, Vilanek also put to rest the question, he is often asked, of whether you need a new name if you become a “mobilcom-debitel,” which is the brand since the fusion between the two providers “mobilcom” and “debitel.” His stereotypic answer is “no,” since it’s not about a clever name. Haven’t Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, and Hennes & Mauritz also worked out all right in the end?

In addition, one’s perception of the facts is crucial. Forty-seven percent of Germans have a smart phone. A huge number. Vilanek’s view: Fifty-three percent of Germans DON’T have a smart phone. A huge potential.

In our role as consultants, we frequently scrutinize traditional business models as to their potential for growth. It’s not unusual for us to discover that over the years, an organization has learned behaviors that must be examined critically if it wants to grow further. But this assumes a certain “internal opposition,” because it means grappling with the fact that what has brought the organization to its present prosperity will probably not be what will guide it to future prosperity. A sea change in thinking that requires strong leadership.

On my own account: The 11th International Brands Colloquium will take place on September 18-19, 2014 at Seeon Abbey in Chiemgau, as always. Once again, business leaders, companies, and senior-brand managers will convene to speak in a familiar and confidential setting about brands, strategy, leadership, and growth. There is no documentation of the proceedings so that the speakers can talk about things not intended for wider publication. You can find out more about the International Brands Colloquium here.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

The Reputable Businessman. Example: Sixt

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

It would be nice if reputable behavior were universal in business. But what value can a sense of honor possibly have, given the pressure for results that confronts so many managers? More and more, you hear of companies that deliberately bully employees into resigning voluntarily, of mounting pressure on employees to be more productive and to purposely ignore agreements about work hours and vacation time. Increasingly, the talk is of placing suppliers under price pressure that is ethically questionable at best – or taking them straight to the cleaners. Just talk? Selective perception? I don’t know, but a few personal experiences or first-hand observations indicate to me that the concept of the “reputable businessman” is more often to be found on paper or in conversation than in actual practice.

During the 10th International Brands Colloquium on September 12-13 at Seeon Abbey, Erich Sixt, Chairman of the Board, Sixt AG, made it clear that this sense of honor lives on in his company’s business practices. A man’s word is his bond. That still holds at Sixt. On this principle, Erich Sixt might well have based his entire business, which he took over from his father when it had 200 cars – in conjunction with banks, by the way. Today, Sixt has 230,000 cars, and Erich Sixt is proud of being able to say that it is possible to base entrepreneurial success not simply on strict rules, but on a sense of honor. And you have to bring this sense of honor with you, because it won’t come from rules, says Sixt.

Time and again in our consulting practice, we encounter companies having models that have been worked out with much effort, time, and money. We usually ask three questions:

1. What is the model?

2. What are the model’s implications for your area of responsibility, and how do your goals mesh with it?

3. How do you assure that you will act in accordance with the model, even when you come under economic pressure?

The third question in particular is the crux of the matter, because the principle behind “We see our suppliers as partners, and we treat each other on an equal footing for the benefit of all” is a far cry from demanding a price decrease of five percent going forward, if you want to continue doing business with us. Reputable businesspeople don’t do that.

It is our strong conviction that growth must be founded on reputable business dealings, assuming you don’t want to build your enterprise on a holographic footing.

On my own account: The 11th International Brands Colloquium will take place on September 18-19, 2014 at Seeon Abbey in Chiemgau, as always. Once again, business leaders, companies, and senior-brand managers will convene to speak in a familiar and confidential setting about brands, strategy, leadership, and growth. There is no documentation of the proceedings so that the speakers can talk about things not intended for wider publication. You can find out more about the International Brands Colloquium here.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: New Business

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Which new business to take on? Every one that comes along? Or only a select few? How do you choose? According to customers, type of work, profitability, workload, strategic compatibility of the new business with the old?

We have noticed that companies accept business with too little reflection – and all too often get in the way of their own growth. Whoever accepts any and all work must plainly be either confused or is not thinking the matter all the way through. No, even in a turn-around situation you ought not to take on every job – probably especially not in a turn around. It is said often enough that you should take what you can get. But repeating a fallacy over and over does not make it true.

However, in the process of growing a business, that which would have been better left alone is all too often taken on. There is too little discussion of which businesses you take on as a matter of principle – and which you don’t. Too frequently, profitability is the target. Too rarely do strategic compatibility and profitable growth drive the decision to accept or refuse business.

Get it straight in your own mind what kind of business you will accept in the future and what kind you will refuse. In order to be confident, you must draw up a growth map that shows you – and makes clear to your employees – in which direction you want to go and why. And in doing so, don’t forget to review your system of incentives and sanctions. Otherwise, what basis will an employee have for declining business that would earn a commission?

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

What Business Are You Really In? Example: American Express

Monday, March 17th, 2014

“What business are you really in?” When I ask managers or companies what business they are in, the first thing I usually get is a questioning look. Then the chairman of a pharmaceuticals wholesaler says “pharmaceuticals wholesaling” or “logistics.” The forge operator says “forging” or “subcontractor.” The chairman of a fashion company says “fashion” or “industry.” The CEO of an engineering firm says “civil engineering.” We often discuss this topic with our clients because growth-oriented companies know that they are not in the business that corresponds to the work they actually do. The insight that a company needs clever strategic positioning in order to distance itself from the relevant competition is not a new one. That this begins with asking about the true nature of the business is new to many.

During the 10th International Brands Colloquium on September 12-13 at Seeon Abbey, most of the speakers made it clear, independently of one another, that they are not in the business in which they are presumed to be – and that this is a significant factor in success. Dyson is not in the vacuum-cleaner business. Sixt is not in the rental-car business. And American Express is not in the credit-card business, just to name a few examples.

Let’s look more closely at American Express: Thomas E. Nau, Chairman of the Board, American Express, Germany and Austria, made it clear in his speech that American Express is not in the credit-card business, but in the service business. “To become the world’s most respected service brand” is the purpose of this company. Thomas Nau made it clear that Amex customers must always be able to rely on the company, even in emergency situations. “We will always help people whose location we can pinpoint, anywhere in the world.” In my view – and based on my experience – Visa and MasterCard still have miles to go. Credit-card proficiency is one thing; the service behind it is another.

A company with such a mindset aligns itself completely differently from a company with the mindset that it is in the credit card-business. Completely different goods and services, processes, procedures, and employees are needed. Differentiation starts here.

So, Amex is in the service business. And you? What business are you really in?

On my own account: The 11th International Brands Colloquium will take place on September 18-19, 2014 at Seeon Abbey in Chiemgau, as always. Once again, business leaders, companies, and senior-brand managers will convene to speak in a familiar and confidential setting about brands, strategy, leadership, and growth. There is no documentation of the proceedings so that the speakers can talk about things not intended for wider publication. You can find out more about the International Brands Colloquium here.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: How Do You Know That You Are Any Good?

Friday, March 14th, 2014

How do you tell that you are performing well or have done so in the past? How can you know that you are any good?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? We know without a doubt if we have performed poorly. We notice it right away: something doesn’t work out; something goes haywire, whether it might be a product or a relationship with a customer; there is negative feedback; it was an obvious failure. But how are we to know that we have performed well? Praise rarely comes from customers. In the south of Germany, there’s a maxim: “Nothing said is complement enough.” As a rule, companies, executive boards, CEOs get no praise, anyway. Someone in one of these positions who has relied on external praise, is not going to be happy. The conviction that all is well must come from within. How do we pin this down?

Here is where goals and results enter the picture. Without goals, no direction. Without goals, no compass. The results we achieve show whether we have performed well. It is not direct feedback. It is the conviction to do the right thing. When customers return, when employees perform at their peak, when suppliers become partners, when the company shows healthy growth – then we have obviously done something right.

We concern ourselves too much with what we might be doing wrong and too little with what we might be doing right. Today, in speaking with customers and employees, focus on what you are doing right and how you know that.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.