Archive for April, 2009

Sales, Change and Strategy

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

I don’t pretend this little 2×2 grid is in anyway unique, but would suggest that even though many of you will have seen it before, if like are like me, you haven’t taken it down, dusted it off and used it anytime recently, I suggest you shut your door for 15 minutes, tell your PA you do not wish to be disturbed and that you complete this twice. Once thinking of your business (be that an internal function or an external business) and then again from your personal point-of-view (a sort of personal marketing strategy). If you find this useful, you might wish to consider then sharing this process with your team and then convening a meeting to go through this at the team level too.

Here is the grid:-

So the first question is “Can I/we sell more or our existing products or services to either our current customers or types of customer?” Then ask “Could we sell these things to new customers, types of customer or in new sectors or locations?” Then, “Could we sell these new products or services (based on our current competencies, or our customer’s needs) to our existing customer base or sectors & geography?” And finally, “What new products and services could we offer to new customers, sectors or locations?

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” Henry David Thoreau

Clearly your answer to the final question should initially be based on your existing assets, knowledge and reputation. Brand extension is a good way of creating new businesses and markets. Think of Caterpillar selling men’s shoes, or JCB supplying clothing, or better still confectionary businesses like Mars & Cadbury selling ice creams based on their products.

A lot of business strategy experts encourage people to increasingly specialise, focusing on ever narrower niches. However, If you explore the opposite direction, that too can be very fruitful. Think of what is the higher level category or market you are in. For example, in one direction you might go “We are Accountants” ->”We are tax Accountants” -> “We are corporate tax Accountants” -> “We are VAT Accountants”. If you took this in the opposite direction, you might go “We are Accountants” -> “We are Business Advisors” -> “We are Advisors” etc. With each step up the chain, new possibilities come into play.

What is your primary asset, your specialist knowledge or the quality of the relationships that you have? If you can build real trust with your clients then you open up all sorts of new possible ways of working together profitably.

If we project five years forward, I am absolutely sure that many people will think back to 2008 as the year they began the process of making their fortune. the $64,000 is “Are you going to be one of them?” If so you need to plant the seeds of Change today! Remember talking this kind of thing through with someone else makes the process much more powerful!

“Before the seed there comes the thought of bloom.” E. B. White

My thanks to C Ragg for reminding me of this model


Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Regular readers will know that I have recently been installing filtration into our pond.   It is one of those jobs that is conceptually very simple, but the devil is the detail!  It requires quite a lot of skill to ensure that it not only works but looks nice too.  It pumps in the dirty water through a clever array of mechanical and biological filters to remove not only the solids in suspension but to convert the waste products of the fish into harmless nitrogen.

The interesting things is that we all filter our world, all the time!  If there is something we are interested in, we can hear someone mention it from across the room; the opposite action this is to remove things that we find troubling, we literally don’t hear / see  them.  This is a very useful function of our brains but can be dangerous.  I have read that the native Americans were unable to see Columbus’ ships when they arrived as they had no concept that such a thing could exist.

Awareness of this process is helpful and gives us some choices about how we handle our communication.  What might you be filtering in or out today?

You don’t know what you have till it is gone…

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I did something I seldom do today, I left home without my watch.  I spent the rest of the day glancing at my bare wrist, and feeling daft.  I guess most of the time I normally look at it, I am hardly even aware of it, yet when it isn’t there I am hyper-aware.  I wonder if there is anything that you might really miss if it wasn’t there and if this thought should trigger some action…..

A Heck of an idea… or is this the Herd Reich?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

One of the odder activities that went on in Nazi Germany was the scheme to resurrect the Auroch.  These were a giant, primitive form of cattle that stood 6’ tall and had horns of similar dimensions.  They were hunted to extinction but remain part of European (and British) history.  Herman Goering, backed two zoologists called Heck, who tried to revive this breed.  Derek Gow, a Devon farmer has now imported a herd of 13 bulls, cows and calves.

It is an interesting story based on reviving the past and the tales we tell ourselves of who we are and what makes us special.  All our lives are filled with such stories; this is also true in companies and is part of what makes up corporate culture. 

However, being special because of some mythic past is one thing, but no substitute for being special because of who we are today and how we live our lives in the here-and-now!  I wish Mr Gow success with his endeavour, but I wish you much more in living mythically today.

“Glory be to God for dappled things for skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim”   Gerard Manley Hopkins

“Unless what we do is useful, glory is vain”   Latin Proverb


Reasons to be Cheerful… part 3!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Today, in the heart of the worst economic crisis in 80 years, Tesco posted record profits of ?3b.  Now I’m not a wholehearted fan of Tesco or their methods, but they are a great example of what is possible if you proceed with a sense of possibility and not despair; if you make it happen.  At a more local level, two of my clients have had both achieved record performances.  The first had a the best year ever last year and the other has had a record first quarter this year, hitting sales of 3-4 times those they were achieving when we first started working together.

Every situation presents opportunities, opportunities for someone.. we have to decide if that someone is gong to be us!  If you allow yourself to be imaginative, to be playful, to have fun with silly ideas, you’ll be surprised by what you might uncover.  Then, having spotted something, don’t let the counsel of fear persuade you that it is all pointless, that you’ll fail, what’s the point?

Today is the best possible day to make something happen!

“It is often hard to distinguish between the hard knocks in life and those of opportunity.”  Frederick Phillips

“Seize the opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.”   Bulgarian Proverb


Heart and Soul

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I was listening to Susan Boyle, a very ordinary looking 47 year old lady with an extraordinary voice today.  I then clicked another link and heard another extraordinary clip.  Here is Paul, living his dream to sing opera.  It is absolutely fascinating to watch the reactions of the audience and the judges.  As he gives himself over to the magic of the music, he casts a spell over them; we see people moved to tears, smiles and applause. 

When you show yourself  to others, without defence or pretensions, saying, in effect, “This is me.” something very special happens.  It takes huge courage to do this in a world where we are taught that to get ahead we have to ‘play the game’, to pretend and hide our true feelings.  There is a whole new field about about the importance of authenticity in leadership, but I would argue this is the challenge for all of us.

Maybe today is your day to stand and be seen. to belt it out, heart and soul and see what happens?

“Give me love, give me peace on earth, give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth, give me hope, help me cope, with this heavy load, trying to, touch and reach you with, heart and soul”   George Harrison

“Every single life only becomes great when the individual sets upon a goal or goals which they really believe in, which they can really commit themselves to, which they can put their whole heart and soul into.”    Brian Tracy


Reasons to be Cheerful … part 2

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I don’t know if you were around in the 70’s or remember the Doors singing “Been down so long, that it seems like up to me”   That may sound like a cold comfort, but whilst I’m sure that we still a have a few unpleasant surprises to come, for most people, most of the bad news is on the table, and globally the stock markets etc can really only go up here.  This isn’t financial advice so much as the recognition that now is the time to invest; invest your time, invest your energy, invest your creativity to dare to be hopeful!  Flowers grow on bomb sites and someone else’s bad news can be your opportunity to break through.

People need / want to save money now so they are willing to talk to new, lower cost suppliers; big businesses are suffering too and now are no longer seen as the automatic supplier of choice; there are lots empty properties and god knows interest rates are low!   Don’t listen to the council of fear….!

The song says:

“Well, I’ve been down so Goddamn long
That it looks like up to me
Well, I’ve been down so very damn long
That it looks like up to me
Yeah, why don’t one you people
C’mon and set me free “

I would suggest that no one else can “set me free”…. if it is going to be, it is down to me!

Resources: Listen to it here

Cherry Blossom time

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

The Japanese are flocking to see, admire and appreciate this year’s Sakura or cherry blossom. It is the very transience of this beauty that is at the heart of their appreciation.  They feel it should be enjoyed in its perfection and the very fact that this is fleeting adds a bitter-sweet quality to their pleasure.    I suppose a western version of this is summed up in the expression Carpe Diem, Seize the Day!

I wrote in an earlier blog about this being the time for Change; we need to ensure that we don’t allow this moment to pass…

I don’t know if there is a little Japanese in my soul but I have always loved the sight of Cherry blossom and am loving the sight ours in full bloom.

Reasons to be cheerful… part 1

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

We have been subjected to a diet of doom and gloom for nearly a year now as one after another major corporate has gone to the wall.  People have lost jobs, homes and lives.  I hear from colleagues that they are worried; and certainly the press constantly reinforces this sense of doom.

Personally, I feel very positive.  I think that we have begun to create an environment where scared cows can be slaughtered, and accepted thinking challenged.  There have been too many things accepted for far too long because “Things have always been done that way…”  and when we are hitting targets and making profits everyone supports the status quo.

If you are going to redecorate a room, you have to first stop using it, then clear it out, strip off all the old paper, paint etc and then make good.  Only then are you ready to consider redecoration.  It seems to get worse and worse and before you start the final phase, it is easy to feel a bit depressed and wonder why you ever started.

Now is a time to be brave, imaginative and creative.  You need to remember that you should build for the long term and avoid short cuts, especially when they compromise important values.  Look after your people, (by which I mean your staff, your customers and your suppliers,) avoid waste, and communicate, communicate …. communicate! 

I’d be very interested to gather together some of your examples of reasons to be cheerful.

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.”    Helen Keller

“A man can believe a considerable deal of rubbish, and yet go about his daily work in a rational and cheerful manner”    George Norman Douglas


The only way to go… Favourite funeral songs

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

According to a survey, popular songs are now the norm at funerals

  • “’My Way’ by Frank Sinatra was the most requested piece of music overall, followed by
  • ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler and
  • ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.

Other favourites include ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Westlife, ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams and ‘Over The Rainbow’ by Eva Cassidy. 

More unusual choices are:-

  • ‘Always Look On The Bright Side of Life’ from Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  • The Radio 4 Shipping Forecast
  • The themes to everything from Only Fools and Horses and Top Gear to Benny Hill, Z Cars and Channel 4 Racing.

So people are choosing to express themselves and their loved ones in ways which are more meaningful to them.  Our individuality  is so precious to us, and is the very essence of what we value in others.  If a business does not express that it values its people in just this kind of individualistic way, it won’t get the best out of them.  To be seen, and to be valued is what we all crave.