Archive for the ‘Ready Set Grow!’ Category

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

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: The Carrot in Front of Your Nose

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
From time to time during a conversation about a possible project, especially with potential client companies of a certain size and complexity, we hear this: “Mr. Quelle, do you take into account at all in your fee that we can award additional projects if you and your colleagues do a good job?” Translated, that means: “Best if you don’t charge anything at all. That way, we’ll get something and you won’t. Oh, and by the way, we might be able to do more deals like this in the future.”

Usually, I don’t say anything and draw up a fair offer that pointedly ignores the implicit demand for low fees. The carrot of potential follow-on projects isn’t even a consideration until the first project pays off for all concerned.

Don’t let your clients dangle a carrot in front of your nose. You can’t hope for possible future business; such little hypothetical games don’t pay your bills. Also, make that unmistakably clear to your sales department. Cave in once, and the price never gets back to where it ought to be. Furthermore, have you ever once pushed a full grocery cart to the supermarket cashier and said something like this? “Just charge me half. I’ll be sure to come back more often.”

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Lead Consistently

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
Leadership themes continue to be a component of our projects to create profitable growth. It is systematically managed weakly, inconsistently, or not at all. In particular, inconsistency is what leads to confusion in the organization. On that point, a direct quote from an employee at a recent project: “Actually, I could do whatever I wanted; it wouldn’t matter, anyway. Say no more.

Leadership needs a direction. If the direction (strategy) is not clear, it can’t be sensibly managed. From the opposite perspective, if the strategy is clear, there is no excuse for inconsistent, directionless leadership. That is why we always take pains to dust off the strategy first of all. As a result, the underlying excuse for weak leadership vanishes.

A lack of consistency in leadership—and a leadership culture that leaves much to be desired—are significant brakes on growth. Leadership is taught a only a few colleges, but it is presumed in business. What are the standards for good leadership? How do managers behave when a good friend in the company makes a mistake compared to someone else with whom he is not acquainted? Is the same standard applied? Are people aware of consequences, and are they adhered to? Leadership is not a by-product.

Provide for consistent, directed leadership. And don’t be like Steve Jobs. To a couple of department heads who came to him with a dispute, he said: “Settle it, or both of you are out of here!”

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: A/The Hole in the Brand

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
On the autobahn, we overtake a car towing a trailer, which has a cover that advertises patio awnings. In the cover, a big hole. Trust in awnings needs to be built in some other way.

Hartmut Jenner, CEO of Kärcher, in his presentation at the 9th International Brands Colloquium: It is simply unacceptable for a field representative of Kärcher, a company that stands for cleanliness, to drive around in an untidy or dirty car. Enough said.

Concierge over the telephone of a Mercedes-Benz branch office, who hadn’t understood my name: “I’ll gladly connect you. May I please have your name again, sir? —Exemplary. No longer do any of us want to hear a gruff, “What did you say your name was?”

Brands are forever being damaged by concretions of details. Details that you don’t realize at first. Details that creep in partly unnoticed. Details seen by managers as not important important enough become, in many circumstances, something to pay attention to. But there are such details, details that express, particularly in their external effects, how your company’s brand presents itself to outsiders.

Does your receptionist greet your customers as you would like? Does the deportment of your employees in sales, in customer service, in technology, and in subsidiaries represent you as you would like? What about the telephone switchboard? And your correspondence, not to mention your emails? Is there a “hole” in your brand somewhere? Then patch it, or even better, Get a new cover.

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: When You Have to Set Priorities, Do It in Sales

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
All of us have to set priorities. The “setting” accomplishes little by itself if subsequent actions don’t align with the priorities. In a company, with its mesh of relationships, with its often murky decision-making environment, it is important to be crystal clear in orienting these priorities toward expanding the business. Which begins in sales.

I have all too often experienced sales initiatives that didn’t happen, were implemented half-heartedly or even torpedoed because other priorities suddenly took center stage. But the best business-process optimization is of little use if it lacks direction, which must be identified by the market.

So, restructuring, reorganizing of processes, internal simplification: Yes, everything in due course (we also supervise numerous such projects), but please, don’t first concentrate on fine adjustments at the expense of focusing on the market. When a business-process reorganization takes place, then the Pareto Principle applies. Better to direct your efforts toward sales and its interfaces within the organization. Other processes will then soon clarify themselves. Is that less than perfect? To be sure, but as Einstein once said, “Better to be right in principle than to be perfect in detail.”

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Don’t Forget the First Sale While Thinking About the Fourth

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Ready Set Grow

In sales, there is a principle that basically gets it right: “First, think about the fourth sale.” I first heard this from my coach, and the saying made it apparent to me that salespeople are always racing off to do the quick deal—only to be surprised when they lose out to a competitor at the next sales opportunity because they have neglected to build a relationship with the customer. Relationships are what sales is all about. They take time, and sometimes it’s not worth your while, metaphorically speaking, to think about the fourth sale to a customer to avoid losing perspective and becoming a victim of the quick opportunity.

But, some salespeople overdo it and think only about the “fourth” sale without completing the first one—even though the customer would be happy to close the deal, and it would be profitable.

So do both. Consider your connections to your customers. Think about that “fourth” sale, but in doing so, don’t forget the first.

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Be Seen

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Ready Set Grow

There was once a much-derided concept called “management by walking around.” These “management by” techniques fell short because a good, growth-enhancing management- and leadership style is marked by situational behavior within a framework of guard rails, not with “management by” techniques.

But, it is an indisputable fact that it pays to show yourself regularly on the “shop floor,” especially if you are a manager. All too often, we hear the complaint that the people “up there” haven’t the foggiest notion of what “we” do down here (in assembly, fulfillment, logistics, and so on). All too often, an ivory-tower mentality arises. All too often, a barrier exists between blue-collar employees and white-collar staff.

Our most successful clients regularly appear on the shop floor. They visit production. They take a look at the warehouse. They go through the specialty departments. They drive to branch offices. And they take an interest in relationships. Please note: We’re not talking here about acting the benevolent uncle, but about genuine interest. By the way, it is not much of an excuse to say that, in doing so, you’d be interfering with the employees’ immediate supervisors. Having “no time” is just as bad an excuse. Better to hold a shorter meeting on the shop floor.

Show some interest. Be there. Be seen.

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Don’t Forget the Saw

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Ready Set Grow

Perhaps you know the following story: Out for a walk in the woods, a man comes upon a woodsman. The woodsman is struggling mightily to slice a felled tree into slabs with a saw that is obviously dull. He is making little headway. The man says to the woodsman: “What are you doing there?” The woodsman wipes the sweat from his forehead with a cloth and replies: “Surely you can see that I’m sawing.” He returns to his work. The man persists: “Wouldn’t it be better if you sharpened the saw? It’s as dull as can be!” The woodsman, becoming impatient: “My good man, be off with you. I can’t sharpen; I have to saw.”

Evidently, the woodsman sees only the task immediately at hand. Instead of investing time to make his tool significantly more effective, he prefers to remain on safe ground. Better to make progress slowly but surely than to stop for an unspecified time to sharpen the saw, and then continue toward an uncertain outcome (perhaps the work would go no faster, after all). No time to lose. Saw!

That’s right. The woodsman should indeed saw. But, just as we should develop ourselves further in matters of growth, just as we should learn new things, sharpen our strategies and tools, we must also at some point consider the saw. At some point, it is sharp enough. If we merely sharpen and don’t do any sawing, the tree won’t be sliced into slabs.

When we huddle with our clients about strategy, we tell them at the outset that this pause, this sharpening is important. However, we also tell them that there must come a time when they resume sawing as briskly and efficiently as possible, something that our growth projects with our clients demonstrates.

Have a great week!

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

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Develop a Quick Wit

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
How quick-witted are you? How often have you been upset with yourself, after a conversation during which you were perhaps challenged personally, that you didn’t have the perfect riposte at the ready. Don’t get upset. It’s not worth it.

Three examples of quick wit:

1. Musician Frank Zappa was once interviewed by Joe Pyne, a talk-show host who had a wooden leg. Pine was known for giving offense.
Pine: “So, I guess your long hair makes you a woman.”
Zappa: “So, I guess your wooden leg makes you a table!”
(Different versions of this dialog are quoted, but the exact wording isn’t the point here.) Text from www.tvparty.com)

2. Recently, a female member of our management-consultant network in America was curtly labeled a “trainer” by a banker. Whereupon, she said, “You’re mistaken. The difference between me and a trainer is the same as the difference between you and an ATM.”
Result: astonishment.

3. In a project meeting,
a member of the project team, unreceptive to valid criticism of the progress made in his department: “If my boss were here now, he would not stand for this.”
At that, the project leader responded: “That would in no way make him more correct.”
Result: a huge burst of laughter.

Here’s the best way to be quick-witted: Be in the present, don’t censor yourself, remain cool and above the beltline. In the worst case, you’ll ge more respect; in the best case, you’ll all have a good laugh.

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