Driving your own upturn

Screen shot 2011-03-17 at 9.20.12 PMThere is no more normal.  No back to normal. No creation of normal.  There is only readiness and the acceptance that certainty in business has been removed.

What is required is a nimbleness and a feeling of empowerment to quickly synthesize and work out the emerging opportunities and the dangers that can be found in the ever-changing markets, changing technology, and changing pressures that surround us.

An organization’s readiness to make decisions, to take risks, to learn along the way, to adjust, becomes the new standard. An organizational culture that supports, encourages, embraces and celebrates new information and innovation. One that equates change with opportunity and an exciting future.

Competition has never been greater.  Competition for talent, competition for resources, competition for your customers, competition to be heard and valued by the people who matter to you – your customers.

Choosing to compete on price is no win for anyone – you lose profits and someone, somewhere is likely to do it cheaper, followed by someone else offering it cheaper again.

Competing on first to market is also time-limited.  Someone will follow and offer the same, maybe more, maybe better and certainly followed by a number of others.

Competing with the product and services you serve today will not serve you tomorrow. They will be substituted by new, better, sexier and more personalized or smarter versions or something that supersedes them entirely.

To remain relevant and of interest to your customers, you can compete on one thing only – your ability to consistently evolve and differentiate and to create the best possible customer experience.

You need to implement a model that supports sustainable and continuous innovation.  To build an organization that supports innovation that supports the improvement of your customer’s lives in a way that is valued and meaningful to them.

And critically, an organization that allows your people to be free to innovate, to think, to create, to build, to serve, to deliver growth.

Who is going to be the hero?  The leader of change? The leader of innovation? The leader of your success and future? The leader of growth and upturn?

The answer is You. Yes, You.

You need to create the space in your organization to shine. You need to create space to allow your team to shine and enough to allow all your people to shine.

You need to get every non-differentiating system and innovation-roadblock, innovation-killer and time-wasting activity out of the way so you can spend time on:

  • Finding ways to introduce new products and services to existing customers.
  • Identifying new customer segments to target new, innovative, personalized and relevant offers.
  • Capitalizing on opportunities in emerging markets and enhancing your performance in existing markets.
  • Delighting your customer through their unique experience dealing with you

If you are not already finding this time, thinking or operating this way, then your time is already limited.  Either you will be replaced by others who are, or your organization’s ability to compete will be time-limited.

Tic toc tic toc.

Time is ticking.  Time for change. Time to do things differently. To think differently.

If you want growth and are under pressure to deliver numbers, then take ownership within your organization to drive your own upturn and success.

More for Less for More

Earlier this year I was at a conference and was lucky enough to hear Dr. R.A. Mashelkar  present an inspiring address on Gandhian Engineering.  A concept that incorporates the principles of doing more (providing more features, more services, more  value) for less cost to make it more accessible and available to much larger numbers of people.  Hence the phrase “More for Less for More”.

Tata Nano Car WhiteAn example of this was the launch earlier this year of Tata’s radically innovative car, the Nano.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at the 9th Auto Expo in New Delhi, Mr. Ratan N. Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group and Tata Motors said, “I observed families riding on two-wheelers – the father driving the scooter, his young kid standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him holding a little baby. It led me to wonder whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for such a family”.  He challenged his organization to think differently about the problem and they did.  Only a few years later they delivered the Tata Nano, a “comfortable, safe, all-weather car, high on fuel efficiency & low on emissions” for approx US$2000.

Tata received more than 200,000 orders in the 3 week period following its launch in March. Today they can produce approx 3,000 cars per month.  A small number considering the demand . 

However with increased production capacity being addressed, we will see over time improvements in quality and consistency, and the addition of features likely to be provided at an even lower price.  And of course the competition will follow benefiting greater numbers of people.

Already there are announcements by a number of car manufacturers that they too will be entering this low end/low emission category including the bigger, more well-known names.   The Japanese car industry turned the car industry on its head once before.  They lead with price and followed with quality.  The same is happening with Korean cars now and we will soon see the same with Chinese and Indian automobile brands to follow.  Large-scale change can and will occur and accessible and affordable cars will be available to those who require a safe form of transportation, and who were previously locked out, in the near future.

The challenge is certainly there for businesses to think about how best to serve and care for the 6.8 billion people we have on this earth.  There are two aspects which drives the need for businesses to broaden their current thinking:

  1. The ubiquitous nature of the internet & wireless technologies – the increasing speed of technology for increasingly commoditized (and thus reduced) pricing is making it easy for people all around the world, including within developing nations,  to connect and transact with anyone, anywhere, anytime.  The flattening of the world opens up additional markets – more product choices for people, more potential customers for business. The greater the global demand, the more solutions will exist in logistically moving or upgrading goods and services around the world.
  2. The expanding social and environmental conscience – the ever-increasing pressure to evaluate our footprint on the world and the increasing gap awareness in wealth between nations.  This will continue to grow as the consequences of our current policies and actions continue to become better understood, and the forums for voting with your feet become more common.

With increased competition as the world continues to flatten, businesses will require greater creativity and innovation from their people.  Without a model for constant and differentiated innovation, businesses will suffer and ultimately become irrelevant.  Increased competition from the developing nations will continue to place pressure on value for money. 

And as price drops due to competitive and consumer pressures, so will margins.  Thus there will be a requirement (not just an opportunity) to sell to more people together with an increased requirement to build meaningful, personal relationships with customers.  This will drive the way organizations will think about their product or service offerings in the future.

A decision will need to be made by businesses. 

Do they cater for a few customers and charge a premium or do they rethink their business model and approach with the objective to do “more for less for more”?  Both models will require continuous innovation and competition will require them to define how they are going to keep doing it better than anyone else.

I applaud the technology, medical, science and engineering organizations who are already thinking this way.  Interestingly this approach increases profits for most of those organizations. But real revolution starts with awareness by a bunch of like-minded people that things need to change for the better.  Revolutionaries’ prophesize through education, communication and real example, encouraging more and more of the general population to follow and take action.

It poses an interesting question to every one of us:  What responsibility can we take in our every day decisions to stamp out oppression, poverty, hunger, poor health, and environmental damage?

 In every decision we make – either business or personal – how can we make an impact on providing equal opportunities for people to thrive no matter where they are located?  Can we offer more for less for more people?

The questions may seem big, the actions we make may seem little, but every one of them will make a positive difference.

Taking your product to market – How to turn your product into a business

Emma presented the topic “Taking your product to market – How to turn your product into a business” at BootUpCamp, an intensive workshop where participants go from an idea to a fully operational web business in two weeks.

To watch Emma’s presentation go to:

Part 1: http://www.viddler.com/explore/BootUpCamp/videos/10/

Part 2: http://www.viddler.com/explore/BootUpCamp/videos/11/

Part 3: http://www.viddler.com/explore/BootUpCamp/videos/12/

Part 4: http://www.viddler.com/explore/BootUpCamp/videos/13/

Progression post recession…

escalatorjpgWith great caution, we are seeing reports of “Australia avoiding a recession” with claims the worst has passed.  And whilst I sincerely hope that is the case and no-one suffers further or unnecessary financial hardship, I do wonder if we as a nation have spent enough time considering just how we will compete and sustain our economy over the long term.  Have we invested enough in understanding the global economic crisis?  The reasons for the global crash and the questions it raises about our understanding and demands on the companies’ (or investments’) integrity, values and responsibilities that we invest in?

One beauty of financial uncertainty is that it forces us to think about what is important to us.  It certainly forces us to review where our priorities and responsibilities lay.  In business it brings clarity to what is the true means of competitive differentiation and how best to go-to-market.  If your company’s survival is at stake, it forces you to define clearly where your markets are (or could be) and how sustainable they are.  It allows you to explore different possibilities and opportunities.  And it should be a time where you encourage and promote innovation and change within your organization and empower your team to help find the path to future growth and financial strength.

In the March quarter national accounts, it still showed domestic spending falling by one percent, the sharpest fall since December quarter 2000.  We avoided a technical definition of a recession by a GDP expansion mostly due to imports contracting and exports remaining positive. “Overall, GDP growth was positive because imports contracted by an extraordinary seven per cent allowing net exports to contribute 2.2 percentage points to GDP growth and ensuring a positive result” stated Westpac’s chief economist Bill Evans.

Let’s not exhale the sigh of relief that the worst has passed us.  Use this time to consider what you need to do to emerge stronger.  How can you innovate and compete strongly in the global markets?  What is your true means for sustainable competitive differentiation and how do you focus on those?

Back to integrity, values and responsibilities, what does this mean for your company and what (if any) are the lessons here?  What should you avoid next time and what do you need to ensure you do next time?  What measures need to be in place to help ensure you don’t forget those lessons?

And finally, as we consider the lessons in these times, how in finding your means for financial strength and security will you balance your desire for greater profits against your responsibilities to your employees and to the greater community moving forward?

What will your story of progression post recession (or near recession) be?

As Albert Einstein said “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.