The So-Called “Round Table”—The Appearance of Equality Doesn’t Guarantee Equality

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Are you among participants in negotiations where you sit at a “round table?” The “round table” is convened whenever the aim is to discuss something free from the constraints of hierarchy. The seating arrangement at a rectangular table always gives an indication of who is in charge—the individual at the head of the table or in the middle, according to the occasion and the gathering. A round table is supposed to signify that everyone seated there is equally empowered.

But that’s usually not the case. In television broadcasts of political gatherings, have you ever considered, for example, how cameras and national flags are arranged? Have you ever considered where entrances and exits to the room are or who sits next to whom? Of course there’s a hierarchy, even at a round table, and naturally, everyone present knows what it is.

Don’t let yourself be bullied: There are inequalities in every negotiation. If you want to grow, you must be aware of this and use it to your advantage.

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: The Surest Way to Leverage Growth is . . .

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
. . . to concentrate your efforts on straightening out your weaknesses.

As prelude: If you or your company has weaknesses that fundamentally inhibit growth, straighten them out. And quickly.

Examples:

  • As part of internationalizing your company, you want to establish an international management team, but you speak English only poorly. Learn English.
  • Your customers will no longer accept your production tolerances. Take remedial action.
  • Your production costs are uncompetitive, and a premium price is not feasible. Lower your costs.

However, spend no more time than absolutely necessary to straighten out weaknesses. If that is all you do, you’ll be chasing the market. Bet on your strengths, both your personal strengths and those of your company. To outpace the competition, it’s far more effective to build on strengths than to straighten out weaknesses.

You will only make lasting gains over the competition if you know your strengths, and make use of, multiply them. On the one hand, doing so focuses your efforts; on the other, it’s gratifying. We often find this to be true when we huddle with our clients who make it their business to identify and multiply core competencies. It is not uncommon for a considerable growth-spurt to come out of such a meeting. Focus instead of spreading yourself too thinly. Strengthen strengths instead of straightening out weaknesses. And that’s how growth happens.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia – Fotolia.com

Marriott and RitzCarlton: When Ordinary Tarnishes Luxury

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

During my most recent stay at the RitzCarlton in Naples, Florida, it had become obvious what happens when an average brand—Marriott, in this case— takes over and dominates a luxury brand like RitzCarlton. This time, there were no slippers in my suite—offered only by request. Shoes left out for the overnight shoe-polishing service weren’t returned in an elegant, cloth bag, but in a tacky,.plastic one. And even the piano player, who always performed afternoons in the lobby, had disappeared. The piano remained, abandoned. The building also was in need of renovation in some places. Some guests pointed out that they now had to ask that the shampoo, shower gel etc. be refilled or replaced; in the past, these amenities were replenished daily, regardless of how little had been used.

Ordinary does not comport with luxury. Too often, average brands attempt to seek their salvation in lowering prices—which also doesn’t lead to growth in the mainstream, but that’s a story for another time. But luxury is not “common sense.” Luxury lives on excess, on rational extravagance. Luxury yields high revenues, but it also carries costs that would bring tears to the eyes of a comptroller. And exorbitant prices are paid for all of this. When I pay high prices and receive average service, I feel made to look foolish, and I turn elsewhere.

Still, RitzCarlton has a brand bonus. We often give these strong brands, with which we have had good experiences, the benefit of the doubt. Marriott would do well not to let RitzCarlton slide into mediocrity or, more positively stated, to give the brand the latitude it needs in order to develop. Marriott management can play the little game of lowering costs in their own house.

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: The Messi Effect

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Ready Set Grow
Before I am innundated by a flood of emails: Yes, Lionel Messi is an outstanding soccer player, with this proviso: Messi also makes mistakes. And Messi plays badly from time to time.

But during the World Cup, has it occurred to you that Messi (almost) always did everything right, brilliantly, strategically—at least in the opinion of the commentators. Even when he made a particularly bad move, it was “strategically well-conceived.” When Messi took a shot, “Messi, Messiiii, Meeeeeesssssiiiiii!” Too bad he missed, by ten feet. Commentary: “That was really, really close. A great idea from the Argentinian star player, but his teammates let him make his run all by himself. Even the best can’t do anything that way.” Ho hum.

There it is, the “Messi factor.” The star can’t play badly, because that isn’t on the agenda. If he doesn’t get a shot, it’s because “he was taken out of the play by four, five opponents.” I see.

There’s an on-going Messi factor in daily life. The authorities make no mistakes, and everything that the authorities do has a reason (supposedly). It reminds me a little of a satire by the great Ephraim Kishon, wherein he describes a guided tour through a museum. The guide kept asking, “What is the artist trying to tell us?” But Kishon never had an even half “correct” answer because he saw only meaningless sculptures or moronic images having four squares instead of the alleged epiphany before his eyes. At the end of the tour, near the exit, Kishon pointed out to the guide and the tour group a pile of sand, ingeniously formed so that it seemed that it must have a very special significance. The guide: “Oh, the fire department forgot to remove that after the last drill.”

Don’t let alleged authorities bully you. We all make mistakes. All of us.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia – Fotolia.com

The Prophet in His Own House DOES Count!

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

“A prophet counts for nothing in his own house.” You may know this saying from the Bible. It is often only too true—and it doesn’t apply to your own company alone. How often in our projects do we confirm insights that had already been gained internally in a similar way, but not taken seriously? How few clients do we have in Dortmund and the Ruhr in comparison to significantly more distant locations and to the world in general? Munich, Hamburg, Hanover, and also Zürich, Prague, Warsaw, Vienna, Amsterdam, Estonia, and London are but a few of the places outside Dortmund where we have project partners. But we are a “given” in Dortmund. A potential client in Dortmund once said to me that he would not hire a Dortmund consultancy because we are all probably networked together, and he was concerned that internal matters would get out. You need say no more.

Across from Mandat is the main office of Elmos, a chip-maker whose chips are built into virtually every automobile in the world. These chips are produced directly across from us, in our technology park. Is this appreciated? No, it’s just Elmos; you,ve certainly heard of them. Diagonally across from Mandat sits the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, one of the world’s leading institutes in the field of logistics. It recently received a royal visit from the Netherlands. Are they really so important? You bet they are. Those are two examples from our immediate surroundings.

Look around. What you take for granted might be quite impressive to others. What your own people tell you will be right more often than you think. Also, talk up your company, about how special it is. Because possibly, the people with whom you regularly associate, the people in all your networks will not have that on their radar. We’re always saying such things, too. There is excellent guidance toward growth to be had in Dortmund, and you don’t have to be headquartered in Munich or Düsseldorf to get it.

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