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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rainmaker #6 – Networking – Are you Being Served?

Definition: A Rainmaker creates a significant amount of new business for a company. The Sales Lab Rainmaker Series is one rainmaker technique for technologists during the first 300 seconds (five minutes) of the monthly Capital Technology Management Hub Meeting. This is the handout for our June meeting.

We're professionals! Somebody said we're expected to network.

What do you want to get out of a networking session? This may surprise you - 1 or 2 new relationships. Someone of interest – who they are; what their organization does; what's their role; and what interests them .

Offer some help if you can – by telling about results - from your customer’s viewpoint – from using your service/product (only if directly on target); or refer someone or something; describe a useful blog & send them the link.

Then – be quiet for a bit – if you offered some help, they may ask what they can do to help you (or you can tee it up for them “I've been trying to …”) - or - they may ask for more info about the results you mentioned. Either way - tell them something they can react to – not a sales pitch - and thank them for any suggestion offered – no rating, ranking, or refuting.

The key to successful networking is to focus on the needs of the other person as you learn more about them and seek a way to help. Zig Ziglar says: “You can have anything in the world you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

Please share your thoughts to help extend our learning - comment below:

Reserve your place for the next Capital Technology Management Hub Event, How to Transition a Small Business Into a Fortune 50 Company , June 14th,
The previous Rainmakers:
Rainmaker # 5 – Start With An Offer
Rainmaker #4 – Time, Talent, and Treasure
Rainmaker #3 – Process to Purchase
Rainmaker #2 – The Nametag
Rainmaker #1 - Gifts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Doer

You know this person – uses hands, mind, eyes, ears, and creativity to contribute directly to the organization's results.

He is engaged and there to contribute. She supports the mission and works to the highest of standards. Doers are the tensile strength of an organization's operations.

The Doers do their part, are always ready to jump in where needed, quietly improve performance, and focus on outcome & results. They are on the direct path for producing results of the organization – not in a support function for those who are on the path.

Want ideas about how to improve the organization? Ask a Doer.

Know any Doers? Share a story.

It is not like planting a garden!

You might know that I started my banking career at Alexandria National Bank. It was there that I met the very best operations person I have ever known, Michael Umlauf. He was not a programmer or an “IT” person; he was just a very good manager. The best advice I ever got from him was to “know what your input would be (i.e., form, raw data, etc.) and know what you want out (i.e., reports).” When we merged three bank operations into one to form First American Bank in 1978, that was his mantra, and it resulted in the smoothest conversion of systems I have ever experienced (and I have gone through a lot of bank mergers!).

Right now, as I am working on several operational projects, trying to design systems and procedures, Umlauf’s advice frequently comes to mind. Often I collaborate with folks who have never considered the basic “input/output” issues of effective organization. My opinion is that processes must have rules. Unlike dealing with nature, where the rules are already defined, managers should step through what the rules should be before processes are designed.

Last summer Dick Davies wrote a blog titled Value Centric Work Analysis. It talks about defining the work process and how that makes work more efficient. This is a good time to review this information and apply it to what you are working on.

As part of your thinking about processes and rules, I think you should first consider what your customers think is important about the system you are defining. How easy is it to use, what kind of instruction and feedback do they need to use it effectively, and how much of their time will it take to complete it?

Next, I think you should consider how efficient your requirements would be for your staff to interface with. Is there a lot of additional data entry required? From the questions you are asking, is customer input going to be clear? How much time is going to be required to “manipulate” the data?

Finally, I think you need to evaluate what you are going to do with the data you receive. What is the purpose of the process? What reports are you going to produce and whom are you going to show these reports to?

A final opinion: don’t go out and engage an IT person to design the technical parts of your system until you have stepped through your work process and know exactly what you want.

This doesn’t sound much like gardening, does it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Greek Tragedies

A recurrent irony in Greek mythology is in how trying to avoid their fates brings people to embark on a series of actions that actually cause the events they are trying to avoid. Does it happen in business?

Companies see negative signs (read less revenue), and immediately work out a plan to reduce some form of overhead or raise pricing to compensate for the loss. As a sink or swim action, I can’t argue with this, but in many cases a company is perfectly solvent and able to withstand lower profits, just not willing to accept lower profits or flat growth.

In answering to a board, stockholders or parent company, there may be no tolerance for such results, even though they are still not in negative territory.

What often happens then is a series of measures that ultimately reduce the quality, value, or service provided by the company. What then? Not hard to figure out is it? A downward spiral due to loss of reputation, value and performance (see General Motors late 20th century). Now the company actually got what was feared, though it did answer the short term directives or implied demands of the controlling forces. With people who are compensated and evaluated for a company’s value at particular times (or for a snapshot) they are likely to do whatever is necessary to provide the highest compensation for themselves at that time regardless of the long term consequences.

The answer is to have the real confidence to weather the storm and be ready to take advantage of circumstances when they become more favorable without trying to force the issue. Being realistic allows a company to avoid being in a position where reducing customer satisfaction or offering lower quality will hurt their reputation too much to come out of the bad times intact. Then they have to start over and there are numerous examples of companies that could not.

So just as the Greek Tragedies warn, trying too hard to avoid certain fates only brings one closer to what one was trying to avoid. Being realistic in a market, either up or down is a key to continuity.

Your comments?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All Hands On Deck

Robert and I were discussing a new opportunity.

I said, “If you have to start by carrying somebody, they just get heavier.”

Robert said, “Can I use that?”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Infinite Meetings

There are good reasons for scheduled, repeating meetings. However, without a clear understanding of how to use them, I have seen repeating meetings get mired in processes that go nowhere, I guess expecting that donuts are infinite.

There are as many processes for describing work as there are serial numbers on dollar bills. However, there are far fewer options that achieve a planned result.

Here is a process that increases throughput.

Intake, Process, Execute, Repeat on a different subject.

What if we need more or better intake? Replace whoever is making the case. If we don’t assume unlimited time, intake becomes making the best case in the time allowed.

In a time of scarcer resources, making a virtue, hell making a career, of attending meetings can’t be supported.

Finish something!

(First post on Natty Narwhal)
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Drucker Was Right!! And He Still Is!

Peter Drucker has taught us a lot about the development of management – and by extension, leadership.

Here's his view of what management must do to lead an organization, which he wrote in 1974 (for more, click, beginning at page 39).

Management has three tasks of equal importance which it must to create a successful organization:
    • Establish the specific purpose and mission of the institution;
    • Make the work productive and the workers effective;
    • Manage the social impact and social responsibility.

This was the foundation for successful traditional organizations 40 years ago, but it also fostered some successful non-traditional ones as well.

Look closely at Apple and Southwest Airlines in the '70s -

Purpose and mission were simple and broadly communicated - useful computers for everyone and inexpensive air travel which is fun, respectively.

Their employees were highly productive and innovative - engaged in supporting the mission.

Both embraced social responsibilities and their impact on the community and nation – conserving resources in pursuing the mission, reducing wastage and trash, and working in the community for improvement and progress. Apple was noted for supplying schools with computers at little to no cost; Southwest was the first airline to recycle drink cans and research the optimal altitude and speed for the most economical fuel usage.

They remain in the forefront of their industries today.

The New Normal of doing business continues to evolve and the successful firms continue to incorporate the three tasks – lots of communication about purpose and mission to the market, media, and employees; workers are more engaged in supporting the mission and being innovative in ways to do things better; and conservation of resources and materials is the rule rather than an afterthought.

Drucker's three tasks of leadership remains valid after almost 40 years and they're a trait of the New Normal successful organizations - Google; Zappos.

Do you agree? Share some examples so we all can learn more.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's a Different World

I have worked for years developing best case scenarios for my products and services. The way that I have best positioned my case has been to illuminate the VALUE of my services either in terms of pricing or the depth and capabilities of my services. Somewhere in the function of price and service I am able to make a case for my products.

More recently companies have started to not only care about the value, but want the best of both worlds also, meaning they are asking for the lowest price with the highest array of services at the same time.

This leads to a few things-

One, it takes longer to make a sale because companies are going further in their searches for the best deals.

Two, companies are in danger of falling for a promise that won’t or can’t be kept offered by companies that want their business and say what the customer wants to hear.

Three, it affects salespeople who are squeezed by the companies that they work for in order to maintain profit margins.

Four, in some cases the customer gets a great deal.

Five, in other cases the provider’s margins are too small to stay in business and no one gets the benefits of lower pricing.

So what now? Can companies really afford to keep offering more for less? My thought is that if we keep pushing for this eventually we end up with just one or two companies to choose from. Can you say monopoly? Then the pricing goes back up and there will be no other solution.

For the time being companies had better get in tune with the new reality.
In my mind the best thing they can do is take a realism pill and forget about getting huge increases in business over short periods of time. Even to the point of small temporary contraction for a time, but with the thought of staying profitable or at least not negative. The days of every other company going public and reaping the benefits of their value are over. We still see this thinking and it drives the corporate atmosphere of anxiety.

It isn’t enough to have a good product, and sell it making a profit, because companies are so concerned with their valuation. Whatever became of the thought of true value? In other words companies being worth what they profit not what can be speculated. We have become too concerned with making a killing and not with providing a value.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

R & D – Research and Duplicate

Joe, Jack, and I were meeting with a friend and patron who is starting a new assignment. The world is stretched out in front of him, his for the taking. We recommended he start an activity for his customer base, that Jack and I have been doing for 15 years.

He was concerned it wasn't right to use something that someone else is doing.

I said, “Jack recently took it to version 2.0. If you don't make version 3.0, how will we ever get to version 4.0?” That was as good as I could do on first pass.

Thinking more, Merlin Mann said, “Innovation is starting where the last guy stopped.”

Jack says, “Conversation and iteration improves clarity.”

I was once told I wasn't innovative. That my idea of innovation was to go ask the ten smartest people in an area what they thought and then write up the notes. I remember that because it is true. 
Finally, a great presentation from Austin Kleon, HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME)

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