Archive for April, 2012

5 Tips for Fast Growth in a Slow Economy

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Inc. magazine is packed full of good advice for business owners of all sizes.

An example of the great articles I’ve read in it over the last 10 years is Fast Growth In A Slow Economy from their latest (April) issue.

It focuses on 5 strategies which have transformed the business of the owners who adopted them.

Here they are.

1.    Drop your worst customers

Inc.’s emphasis is on customers who don’t pay on time, but the definition can be broadened.

We include customers who want non-standard products or services; always want a deal on price; leave it to the last minute to order; or are abusive to employees. Some bad customers do all of these

I was interviewed recently by Diane Buckner, of the Dragon’s Den, for her post, Customer from Hell? Don’t be afraid to fire them.  She comes to the same conclusion.

Get rid of the customers who drain your lifeblood.

2.    Get help from your customers

Email or on-line surveys are inexpensive ways to get insight into customers’ thinking and challenges.

In the Inc. article, Barrett Distribution, reported a 30% response rate to their survey. The fact that 56 questions could be completed in 12 minutes helped.

Barrett surveyed half of their customers immediately and half 6 months later. That allowed for quick reaction to the feedback. One opportunity they uncovered meant business with one customer quadrupled – providing, by itself, a decent ROI on the survey.

3.    Act locally, not globally

Pursuing companies with a national brand can appear to be very lucrative. However, it’s easy to find yourself competing hard just to get their attention.

The experience of Door Number 3, an ad agency, can be typical. They pursued national accounts and won fewer and fewer of them. When they examined their business, their best accounts were located in their own area.

It’s easier to build relationships with decision makers in smaller, local accounts. Travel costs are less and you can spend more time with them, getting to really understand their business.

Finally, local companies talk amongst themselves and so there’s more word of mouth promotion and referrals from them.

4.    Treat everyone as a potential employee

Virtual organizations offer many advantages (we run one at ProfitPATH). So I can relate to the consulting company in the Inc. article. The owner, Tom Koulopoulos, needed access to specialist skills to complete bids on RFPs his company had a high odds of winning.

For a number of reasons, he couldn’t add the people he needed as full-time employees. So he forged partnerships with them, exchanging a share of the contract value if they won the RFP.

Since Koulopoulos’ company was the vendor he had to find people whose values were similar to his. The key to his success his use of his network, in many cases people he had known for many years.

5.    Get small to get big (think niche)

The owner of Medisys Health Communications’ breakthrough came when she read Blue Ocean Strategy

She realized that they had to stop trying to be all things to all people, competing with everyone else doing the same, find a niche that no one inhabited – and then own it.

So they focused on something they’d been giving away free for years and ended up collaborating with her previous competitors – doing something none of them can do.

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About

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Things Really Good Consultants Say

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

I am so excited!

There’s an absolutely fabulous article on the Inc. magazine web site. Okay, everything they publish is good. But this article is way up there.

The point the author makes is that consultants who get results and deliver a great service say certain things while they are pitching for business. Business owners who listen for them can dramatically reduce their risk when selecting or hiring a consultant.

Why am I excited? Because we say these things all the time – we really do!

Here are my favourites.

1.    “I don’t know.” Why would you say anything else? The client is going to figure out that  you don’t know what you’re talking about sooner or later.

And we’re not in business to learn at a client’s expense.

Consultants should only offer services in areas with which they’re intimately familiar (no I won’t use the “expert” word, I dislike it intensely). That’s because they’ve spent a long time acquiring skill and experience in the topic. And they’re still learning and staying up to date in the field.

Our field was originally strategy development and execution. To that we’ve recently added succession planning

2.    “You can do that on your own.” I’m going to meet a client later today and tell him just that. Why? Because he has the expertise to complete some of the project steps in house.

I appreciate it when the people and companies I deal with try to save me money. Why wouldn’t our clients feel the same? And the time that we save by taking this approach we spend looking for things that truly only we can do.

It’s also our policy to bill out at the rate of the person who does the work. So if we use support staff to complete a task, we bill it at their rate, not mine.

Yes I’m a Scotsman but I like to live up to my name as the “canny Scotsman”.

3.    “I still don’t understand the requirements.” I’ll risk appearing slow to understand at the front end of a project to avoid risking missed expectations at the back end.

Despite the number of years I’ve been in business it never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily misunderstandings occur. One bad assumption about what was meant can lead to great frustration – and damage to our reputation.

So, if there’s any room for misinterpretation it’s better to ask a clarifying question.

4.    “We’ll want to come back later to see how things turned out.” The challenge for our profession is that the consulting assignment could be finishing just as the real work is starting.

Call me nosey but, while some consultants will walk away at the end of the project, I want to know if the work we did produced results. That’s as important for us as it is for our clients.

If we’re not getting results we won’t be in business long. And I’d like a lot of warning and an opportunity to do something about it before that happens.

We offer review meetings as an option for our strategy development and strategy execution services. Even if the client opts not to use us to structure and facilitate those meetings I’ll often ask if I can sit in for part of one and listen.

The article which caused my state of advanced excitement is called “8 Things Great Consultants Say” and it’s written by Jeff Haden.

I think he’s really hit on 8, if not the 8, differentiating factors of really effective consultants.

So what do you think? Want to share some experiences?

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

Things Really Good Consultants Say

I am so excited!

There’s an absolutely fabulous article on the Inc. magazine web site. Okay, everything they publish is good. But this article is way up there.

The point the author makes is that consultants who get results and deliver a great service say certain things while they are pitching for business. Business owners who listen for them can dramatically reduce their risk when selecting or hiring a consultant.

Why am I excited? Because we say these things all the time – we really do!

Here are my favourites.

1.    “I don’t know.” Why would you say anything else? The client is going to figure out that you don’t know what you’re talking about sooner or later.

And we’re not in business to learn at a client’s expense.

Consultants should only offer services in areas with which they’re intimately familiar (no I won’t use the “expert” word, I dislike it intensely). That’s because they’ve spent a long time acquiring skill and experience in the topic. And they’re still learning and staying up to date in the field.

Our field was originally strategy development and execution. To that we’ve recently added succession planning

2.    “You can do that on your own.” I’m going to meet a client later today and tell him just that. Why? Because he has the expertise to complete some of the project steps in house.

I appreciate it when the people and companies I deal with try to save me money. Why wouldn’t our clients feel the same? And the time that we save by taking this approach we spend looking for things that truly only we can do.

It’s also our policy to bill out at the rate of the person who does the work. So if we use support staff to complete a task, we bill it at their rate, not mine.

Yes I’m a Scotsman but I like to live up to my name as the “canny Scotsman”.

3.    “I still don’t understand the requirements.” I’ll risk appearing slow to understand at the front end of a project to avoid risking missed expectations at the back end.

Despite the number of years I’ve been in business it never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily misunderstandings occur. One bad assumption about what was meant can lead to great frustration – and damage to our reputation.

So, if there’s any room for misinterpretation it’s better to ask a clarifying question.

4.    “We’ll want to come back later to see how things turned out.” The challenge for our profession is that the consulting assignment could be finishing just as the real work is starting.

Call me nosey but, while some consultants will walk away at the end of the project, I want to know if the work we did produced results. That’s as important for us as it is for our clients.

If we’re not getting results we won’t be in business long. And I’d like a lot of warning and an opportunity to do something about it before that happens.

We offer review meetings as an option for our strategy development and strategy execution services. Even if the client opts not to use us to structure and facilitate those meetings I’ll often ask if I can sit in for part of one and listen.

The article which caused my state of advanced excitement is called “8 Things Great Consultants Say” and it’s written by Jeff Haden.

I think he’s really hit on 8 (if not the 8) differentiating factors of really effective consultants.

So what do you think? Want to share some experiences?

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