strategy

Discover the New Opportunities

As you may know I teach a capstone business course for CUNY. I help the students a mindset that the world is changing rapidly and they need to get ahead of them, before automation, artificial intelligence, etc. eliminate many of those jobs.

One of the topics we discussed is the interesting competition between the e-commerce leader, e.g., Amazon, as it invades the former territory of retail stores and creates new opportunities, and the actions of the retail stores, e.g., Walmart, to move into the e-commerce space and create new opportunities. The issue isn’t who will win, the issue is how will the new opportunities to serve existing and future customers’ expanded set of needs morph the entire playing field.

Initially, the retail stores simply responded to the ecommerce threat by offering their own version. Then Amazon redefined the playing field to integrate retail and ecommerce, through its purchase of Whole Foods, its experiment with its Amazon stores, and more recently with the experiment of Go stores which offer a cashier-free app-based shopping experience.

Walmart responded by buying Jet.com, to get the expertise and insights of Marc Lore, including his interest in creating greater access to more upscale brands than Walmart has traditionally served. The results are experiments such as the following

  • Project Kepler is an effort to “change in-store experiences leveraging emerging technologies to define and deliver on evolving customer expectations”. The goal is to create physical stores that, like Go, will operate without checkout lines or cashiers.
  • Code Eight is designed to reach high net worth urban customers, such as busy NYC moms, who they could never reach customers with stores. Allegedly, its goal is to provide them with personal shopping services: product recommendations will be made via text messages for health, beauty, household essentials and apparel/accessories. Walmart also acquired Bonobos to experiment with provide personalized clothing services for men.)

In other word, both sides are not going to fight directly over the turfs they currently dominate (i.e., the “Red Ocean” strategy) but instead to discover new opportunities in terms of markets and products (i.e. “Blue Ocean” strategy. (See: Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan and Mauborgne).

And that’s where all the best opportunities exist for us in 2018 and the future: harnessing the technology and cultural changes taking place and finding new opportunities to serve existing and future clients.  How are you doing so?  Share your experiences and plans!

Four Elements of a Successful Leader Development Program

At the end of last year, I reflected on how to improve the leader development services that I  provide to CEOs through Vistage Worldwide’s multi-service ecosystem (e.g., Peer Advisory Boards and Vistage Inside for executive teams, which provides), a statement in a McKinsey article (“What’s Missing in Leadership Development?” by Feser, Nielsen and Renni); August 2017) caught my attention. “There is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences… a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 Billion – are delivering disappointing results….just 10 percent said their leadership development initiatives have a clear business impact.”

The authors concluded that four sets of intervention appear to matter most:

  • Contextualizing the program based on the organization’s position and strategy
  • Ensuring reach across the organization
  • Designing the program for the transfer of learning
  • Using systems reinforcement to lock in change.

Each year, I review the results of last year’s program with clients as we forge next year’s strategic goals. Are sales and profits increasing – and why or why not? Are human and capital resources being maximized, and if not what’s necessary? How is the market – changes in customers’ needs and competition – impacting on the company? Do we have a clear and executable strategy for the next year, with KPIs measuring the effectiveness of execution? What else needs to change? Are we becoming a Continuous Improvement Learning Organization (CILO)?

Apparently, our leader development programs are working. As a result of regular monthly meetings to review progress, improve through executive coaching, fresh perspectives and adoption of new tools shared by Vistage experts and CEO peers, 24/7 access to a Chair/coach and our focus on becoming a CILO, is enabling our leaders and their organizations to achieve new heights: one member’s company has quadrupled in sales and profits during the five years we’ve been working together.

Whatever leader development system you use, heed the advice of these authors, as we are.

For more information about Vistage’s potential help you and your team have a super year in 2018, feel free to contact me!  Remember, Vistage’s 21,000 leaders are in 20 countries, served by over 600 Chair/facilitators; so I can refer you to another local Chair if you’re not in NYC!

Habits of Excellent Presenters

Reading Brendon Burchard’s most recent book, High Performance Habits, made me think about the habits developed by excellent presenters. For over two decades, we’ve served over 5000 clients who’ve presented on investment, fund-raising, marketing, sales, management and other issues. More recently, we focus on senior executives whose presentations are focused on closing large and important deals for companies involved with M&A, VC, Private Equity, etc.

Based on this experience, we see that excellent presenters develop the following five habits:

  • Competence: they immerse themselves in the material so they can build a Compelling Message. They know that “data dumps” and “long-winded wordiness” are distractions; short phrases, not full sentences, are presented; graphs, not tables full of numbers. They recognize that persuasive arguments are based on the right balance of logic and emotions.
  • Proactively Responsive: Meet the audience’s needs: When it comes to building a case, they do the necessary homework to understand the audience’s perspective: what’s their past experience on this topic? What are their current concerns (e.g., more logic or emotion)? Who else helps them make the decision? How will the setting affect their ability to process the information? Is the information succinct enough to get attention (from people whose attention spans often are limited) and have the desired impact?
  • Being Authentic: They immerse themselves in the material so they are presenting from a position of aligned values and self-confidence of the material. Demonstrate your sense of curiosity in learning the material and formatting the presentation for presentation excellence. Facilitate the audience’s development of trust in you.
  • Sharing: The goal isn’t to present “to” an audience, but to be part of a “community” in which they use their competence to share a story with the audience. The “field” includes presenter, audience, setting, context, message and possibility of a future relationship. They welcome questions, because it demonstrates that a relationship has been forged between the parties and enables the presenter to further demonstrate her/his expertise.
  • Practice: They recognize that everyone is nervous about presenting, with the only real question being how to channel it? By practicing the art of persuasive communication they harness nervous energy to make the presentation exciting, as opposed to allowing it to become a barrier between them and the audience. Handling pace, tone, body language, etc. are key to the transfer of enthusiasm – which is the ultimate goal of a presentation.

Are you an excellent presenter? Have you had the pleasure of listening to one or more? What additional habits would you include?  Please share.

How to Retain Your Creative Edge in this “Busy” World

With all the interruptions we encounter in life – multiple job roles – 24/7 access, “finish it now”  deadline, it’s hard to retain a creative perspective when we look at the things that lead to innovations – annoyances we want to overcome, blue ocean opportunities, etc.  In Too Fast To Think: How to Reclaim Your Creativity in a Hyper-Connected Work Culture, Chris Lewis offers some potential solutions. Let me share a few activities you should follow:

  • Read more – it breaks the normal routine, opens you to new ideas, and gives you respect for people
  • Get out more – we spend too much time in the “boxes” of work and then home, and not enough being exposed to the things that stimulate ideas. I work with a  number of top college graduates who are recruited for their intelligence and creativity and then take jobs at which they work 18= hours a day 6-7 days a week. That produces burnout.
  • Realize the paradox – while we want people to get creative at work, most creative ideas originated outside.
  • Be present – multi-tasking eliminates the ability to see the contradictions within a single concept, which when analyzed with time, can lead to a creative insight
  • Speed isn’t always good – creativity comes from incubating contradictions and paradoxes. Slow is smooth and leads to the better, faster solutions
  • Get enough sleep – research shows the importance sufficient sleep to do quality work and stay creative. It’s amazing that so many (big) companies abuse their new hires with 18 hour days, and take pride in it.
  • Value the power of silence – to give you the creative space you need.

And here are a few creative traits that facilitate success:

  • Quiet – get rid of the noise and clutter to experience sounds, smell and touch that concentration brings
  • Focus – take time to listen, believe in yourself, and the process.
  • Unleash your imagination – encourage daydreaming of alternatives
  • Play – relax from work, release the stress and play with the ideas. You must enjoy the creative process..
  • Teach – the best way to know what you’re learning is to try to teach it.  It’s one of the reasons that I offer public speeches and workshops on new areas of interest to me – because it forces me to organize it so that someone else can clearly understand it – and challenge my assumptions if they deserve it!

What are you doing to maintain your creative edge?  One of the interesting findings about aging is that creativity doesn’t necessarily decline while we get older. That’s probably another reason that one of the largest group of entrepreneurs today are people who are “retiring” for their older jobs. Share with how you maintain your creative edge and what you plan to do next!

It’s Time to Shift to Blue Ocean Strategy

When you develop a strategy for a new venture, expand or change an existing company, do you adopt a Red Ocean or Blue Ocean strategy? If you’re not familiar with the terms, let me explain.  

In 2005, Kim and Mauborgne, professors at INSEAD, introduced the distinction in Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. Michael Porter , a Harvard professor, originated the 5 Forces model to describe how a company develops strategy, noting that one was rivalry of incumbents. They fight over similar clients with similar weapons (e.g., airlines today increasingly compete on price, times and fewer amenities).  When they compete, they sometimes end up in a “bloody” war – turning the ocean “red”.  Kim and Mauborgne, suggest thinking “outside the box” and focus on customers who might not yet be served with new products that are neither lower priced (e.g., discount vs. full-serve airlines) or product “richer” (Mercedes Benz vs. Buick), but rather rethink the value offering to include some of both (e.g., iTunes, Smart Phones). For instance, after hundreds of years of circuses with animals and clowns that serve children and their parents, Cirque du Soleil, developed a completely different kind of “circus entertainment” for adults. In the world of billboard outdoor advertising, with limited options and limited impact, JCDecaux created “street furniture”, such as bus shelters with moving ads, to offer more cost-effective outdoor advertising.

As an innovation advocate, I provide workshops (through Vistage and Presentation Excellence Group) to help participants unleash their creativity for product, process and new market innovations, as well as help companies forge cultures to spur the ongoing adoption of innovations. Accordingly, I invited a speaker to discuss the concepts in the book with my Vistage CEOs at Board meeting.

Now, the authors have advanced their model to help more companies develop Blue Ocean strategies.   In Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing, they provide a set of tools that can be used to go after these opportunities and share more examples. For instance, the Four Actions Framework allows you to break the traditional trade-off between product differentiation and lower cost by listening to customers and non-customers who help you work through four questions:

  • Which factors that the industry takes for granted can be eliminated?
  • Which factors should be reduced below the industry’s standard?
  • Which factors should be raised well above the industry standard?
  • Which factors that the industry never offered should be created?

One example of a company that adopted the Blue Ocean strategy is citizenM, which created the new market space of affordable hotels – which offer the features of a 5-star hotel for 3-Star prices. Focused on the needs of today’s business travelers, they discovered that these customers did not value traditional hotel’s extra lobby space, personnel to run it, and food services,  but did value location, quick check-ins using kiosks and phones, high quality sleeping environment, and unique, compelling communal living spaces.  The result is a new, growing chain of hotels with high occupancy.

If you’re open to expanding your product line and market reach by rethinking industry’s approach to serving customers, which often takes “pain” for granted (e.g., standing in the rain for a taxi vs. Uber-type services), read the book!  Then share your thoughts and experiences.

(If you want your company to adopt the Blue Ocean Shift framework and forge new product and services, and/or enter new markets, we’ll be providing hands-on workshops starting in 2018!)

This is an interactive workshop, called “How to Capture and Capitalize on ‘Blue Ocean’ Opportunities” is designed so participants leave with a plan-outline. We’re offering it to Vistage groups, Association and corporations who have conferences focused on creativity and innovation, etc. Interested? Sign up here.

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