The Triumphant Trio: Mastering Quality, Service, and Cost in Your Business Strategy

Today, we’re delving into a compelling business conundrum: the challenge of providing high quality, high service, and low price all at once. Traditionally, businesses are told to pick only two of the three – quality, service, and cost. Usually, offering a premium product or service implies higher prices, and low-cost providers often compromise on either product quality or customer service. So, is it possible to excel in all three areas? Let’s explore with real-world examples.

Amazon, Costco, IKEA, Southwest Airlines, Xiaomi, ALDI, Google, Zoom, Spotify, and Trader Joe’s have all notably disrupted their sectors by providing a balance of quality, service, and price that is typically considered unattainable. From cost-saving online distribution models to strategic partnerships and economies of scale, these companies have leveraged various tactics to buck the conventional wisdom.

The key challenges in simultaneously combining high quality, service, and low price arise from economic and logistical factors. Economically, premium materials and top-notch service typically come at higher costs, which must then be passed on to the customer. Logistically, managing a broad supply chain and maintaining a consistent level of service can be complex and resource intensive.

What if a company chooses just two of the three? This is indeed a common strategy. The choice largely depends on the company’s core values and the market segment it targets. For example, if your target market values high quality and superior service, and is willing to pay a premium, focusing on these two areas would make sense. Alternatively, suppose your audience is price-sensitive but still demands quality. You might choose to offer high-quality products at a competitive price, while keeping customer service at a functional, rather than exceptional, level.

Size and scale are vital in achieving all three—quality, service, and cost. Larger operations often mean economies of scale, allowing companies to purchase materials in bulk at reduced costs or spread operational costs over a larger output, lowering per-unit costs. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as some smaller, agile businesses can also excel in all three areas through innovative approaches and efficient operations.

Contrary to popular belief, significant funding is not always required to achieve the ‘trifecta.’ While funding can accelerate growth and provide a safety net for experimentation, what’s crucial is strategic investment and smart resource allocation. For example, focusing on technological advancements can lower costs and improve product quality and customer service.

So, how can you apply these concepts in your business? Here are three actionable steps:

Identify Your Core Competencies

Understand what you do best and leverage those strengths to deliver exceptional quality or service while optimizing cost.

Innovate Your Business Model

Look for unconventional ways to manage your supply chain, deliver your product or service, or structure your operations to decrease costs without sacrificing quality or service.

Scale Strategically

Plan your growth to maximize your economies of scale and maintain your commitment to quality and service.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to deliver value to your customers. Whether that’s through quality, service, or price will depend on your unique business context.

For a more in-depth discussion on optimizing your business strategy, reach out to Activate Group, Inc. We specialize in helping businesses identify and overcome their unique challenges to achieve sustainable growth and success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group, Inc., is a top business growth expert, serial entrepreneur, and author of The Leader Launchpad. He specializes in helping businesses create a culture of accountability and foster innovation to achieve sustained success.

Crafting Your Corporate Dream Team: Harnessing the Power of Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors

In the world of C-suite leaders, the terms Board of Directors and Advisory Board often come up. However, effectively understanding the difference and leveraging each remains a mystery to many. Whether you’re piloting a small startup or steering a multinational corporation, the value of a well-structured board cannot be understated. For any business, from thriving startups to established multinationals, there’s often confusion in the boardroom – specifically, between the roles of a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors. Both serve crucial but distinct functions within an organization. Understanding these differences can supercharge your company’s success.

A Board of Directors carries formal authority and is legally responsible for governing your company, making binding decisions, and appointing key executives. They’re your organization’s guardians, meeting legal and fiscal responsibilities. Their role carries significant legal and financial implications.

On the other hand, a Board of Advisors is the mentor to your organization. They offer strategic advice, industry expertise, and potentially lucrative connections, but their recommendations are not binding. The Advisory Board’s role is consultative, often comprised of industry experts, experienced businesspeople, or influential individuals providing valuable insights.

Consider Lisa, the CEO of an emerging tech startup. Packed with tech veterans, her Advisory Board provided invaluable insights to navigate the industry’s competitive landscape. Meanwhile, her Board of Directors ensured the company stayed compliant and financially healthy during its aggressive expansion phase.

What is the Difference Between Boards of Directors vs. Boards of Advisors

While the Board of Directors and the Board of Advisors might sound similar, they have different organizational roles, responsibilities, and legal obligations.

Authority and Decision-Making:

Board of Directors: They hold formal authority in an organization and are legally responsible for its operations. They make binding decisions about the company’s strategy, appoint and remove key executives (including the CEO), approve budgets, and ensure the company meets its legal and fiscal responsibilities. In a publicly traded company, the directors are elected by shareholders. They have fiduciary duties to the shareholders, and their decisions have significant legal and financial implications.

Board of Advisors: On the other hand, this board serves in a more informal and advisory capacity. They provide strategic advice, industry expertise, and networking opportunities to management, but they don’t have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the company. They have no fiduciary duties, and their role is often consultative. They’re usually composed of industry experts, experienced business people, or other influential individuals who can provide useful insights and connections.

Legal Responsibilities:

Board of Directors: The members of this board have formal legal responsibilities and liabilities. They must act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. They can be held legally accountable for their decisions, especially if they lead to financial loss or violate laws or regulations.

Board of Advisors: Since they don’t make decisions on behalf of the company, they typically have no legal responsibilities or liabilities associated with their role. They are there to provide advice and counsel, not to oversee operations or make binding decisions.

Structure and Formality:

Board of Directors: This board tends to be more structured, with formal roles (such as Chair, Secretary, etc.), scheduled meetings, and official minutes that are recorded and maintained. There are often legal and regulatory requirements about how the board is run.

Board of Advisors: This board tends to be less formal and more flexible. There may be fewer scheduled meetings, and the format of those meetings may be more relaxed. There are typically fewer regulations governing this board.

Selection and Tenure:

Board of Directors: Directors are typically elected by shareholders and serve for a specified term, which can vary depending on the company’s bylaws. They may be re-elected for additional terms.

Board of Advisors: Advisory board members are usually selected by the company’s management or the board of directors. They serve at the pleasure of the company and can be removed more easily. Their tenure may not be defined, or they may be appointed for a specific period.

Pros and Cons

Each type of board comes with its pros and cons. A Board of Directors provides robust governance but may also bring regulatory complexity. An Advisory Board offers strategic insights without legal complications but lacks decision-making power.

When designing these boards, consider their size, diversity, expertise, and dynamics. Carefully select members who understand your industry and complement each other and your management team.

When to Use Which: Directors, Advisors, or Both?

Smaller or early-stage companies might prefer an Advisory Board for their strategic insights without the formal responsibilities that come with a Board of Directors. As your company matures and the governance needs become more complex, a Board of Directors becomes essential.

High-growth companies with aggressive expansion plans might find the strategic decision-making authority of a Board of Directors particularly useful. Conversely, those with a niche focus might value the specialized advice an Advisory Board can provide.

Some companies combine their advisory and directorial boards. While this might seem efficient, it often leads to confusion over roles, potential legal implications, and governance challenges. Maintaining separate boards ensures clear delineations of responsibility and function.

Best Practices for Compensating Boards

When it comes to compensating board members, the best approach varies depending on your company’s size, sector, and the board member’s role. Generally, Board of Directors members receive a combination of cash compensation and equity. The equity part aligns their interests with the company’s long-term success.

Advisory Board members, in contrast, are often compensated with a smaller equity stake, with or without additional cash compensation. Since their role is consultative rather than decision-making, their compensation is typically less than that of Directors.

Remember that compensation should be competitive enough to attract top talent but balanced against your company’s financial capabilities and objectives.

Actionable Steps and Takeaways

(1)  Evaluate your business’s needs, size, and growth plans.

(2)  Define clear roles for each board type.

(3)  Choose board members based on their ability to fulfill these roles and the value they add.

(4)  Regularly review your board’s structure and performance.

(5)  Balance compensation to attract top talent while aligning with your company’s financial capabilities and long-term objectives.

In Conclusion

Understanding and effectively implementing Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards can give your business a significant strategic advantage. Remember, these boards are not static – they should evolve as dynamically as your business.

Whether you need the legal oversight and strategic decision-making of a Board of Directors, the tailored advice and industry expertise of an Advisory Board, or both, choosing the right board structure can drive your organization to unprecedented success.

Corporate governance isn’t a ‘set it and forget it‘ concept. It needs to be as dynamic as your business, evolving with every stage of growth and challenge.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore, founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a leading business growth expert. With an uncanny ability to help businesses unlock potential, Howard is your strategic partner in achieving exponential growth. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad” and has worked with over 300 companies across multiple industries.

 

Breaking Barriers: Strategies for Middle Market Consumer-Based Businesses to Disrupt Traditional Industries

As a middle-market consumer-based business, it can be challenging to stand out in a crowded market and increase profitability. However, by adopting innovative strategies, these businesses can disrupt traditional industries, increase market share, and become more profitable.

One inspiring example is Thrive Market, an online membership-based retailer that offers organic, healthy, and sustainable products at affordable prices. They disrupted the traditional grocery industry by providing a unique value proposition to their customers.

Thrive Market achieved this by leveraging technology to reduce their operational costs and offer products at lower prices than their competitors. They also focused on customer experience by offering personalized recommendations, easy-to-use search functions, and a convenient online shopping experience.

Another way Thrive Market disrupted the industry was by focusing on social responsibility. They offer a free membership to low-income families, donate a portion of their profits to non-profit organizations, and source their products from sustainable and ethical suppliers.

So, how can middle-market consumer-based businesses apply these strategies to their business? Here are some ideas:

Leverage Technology

Look for ways to use technology to reduce operational costs, offer products at lower prices, and provide a convenient online shopping experience. Embrace innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to stay ahead of the competition.

Prioritize Customer Experience

Focus on providing personalized recommendations, easy-to-use search functions, and a convenient online shopping experience. Build a loyal customer base by investing in customer service and support.

Embrace Social Responsibility

Develop programs that help your customers achieve their social responsibility goals. This could include sourcing products from sustainable and ethical suppliers, offering free memberships to low-income families, or donating a portion of your profits to non-profit organizations.

In conclusion, middle-market consumer-based businesses can disrupt traditional industries by leveraging technology, prioritizing customer experience, and embracing social responsibility. By following the example of companies like Thrive Market, these businesses can increase market share, disrupt the industry, and become more profitable.

Call to Action: If you’re a middle-market consumer-based business looking to disrupt the industry and increase profitability, consider adopting these innovative strategies. By doing so, you can break barriers and achieve new levels of success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore founded Activate Group Inc., a consulting firm that helps businesses achieve their potential through strategic planning and leadership development. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad” and has worked with over 300 companies across multiple industries.

Scaling Your Business: Strategies for Breaking the $50M Ceiling

In the world of business, growth is the ultimate goal. Every entrepreneur dreams of building a company that generates millions in revenue, employs hundreds of people, and dominates its market. But the harsh reality is that most businesses never make it past the $10 million revenue mark, and many end up selling in frustration before they ever reach that point. In this article, we’ll explore why this is the case, share some lesser-known case examples, and provide ideas on how a company can separate itself from the pack.

The Statistics on Scaling

Before we dive into why most businesses fail to break $10 million in revenue, let’s look at some statistics. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 32 million businesses in the United States, but only around 0.5% of those companies ever surpass the $10 million revenue mark. Even more startling, less than 0.1% of businesses reach $50 million in revenue. These numbers make it clear that the path to significant growth is challenging.

Reasons for Stagnation

There are many reasons why businesses struggle to grow beyond a certain point. One of the most significant factors is a lack of scalability. Many companies are built around a single product or service, which limits their ability to expand and diversify. They may also lack the infrastructure and systems necessary to handle rapid growth, which can lead to operational inefficiencies and customer dissatisfaction.

Another common problem is a failure to differentiate from the competition. In crowded markets, standing out and attracting new customers can be difficult. Businesses that fail to offer unique value propositions or exceptional customer experiences will likely struggle.

In some cases, businesses may be limited by external factors, such as regulatory barriers or a lack of available funding. However, more often than not, the biggest obstacles to growth are internal. Founders and leaders may lack the vision, skills, or resources to take their companies to the next level.

Some Case-Examples on Falling Short

While it’s easy to point to well-known companies that have achieved massive success, such as Amazon or Google, there are many lesser-known examples of businesses that have struggled to grow beyond a certain point. One such example is the DVD rental company Redbox. Despite achieving tremendous success in the early 2000s and expanding to over 40,000 locations, Redbox has struggled to compete with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. In 2020, the company’s revenue was just $564 million, far below the $2 billion it generated in 2012.

Another example is the grocery delivery service FreshDirect. Despite being one of the pioneers in the online grocery space, the company has faced stiff competition from Amazon, Walmart, and others. In 2019, FreshDirect’s revenue was just $752 million, well below the $1 billion mark it had hoped to reach by that point.

What Companies Can Do to Separate Themselves and Grow 

So, what can companies do to separate themselves from the pack and achieve significant growth? Here are a few ideas:

(1)  Build a Scalable Business Model: Companies built around a single product or service are unlikely to grow significantly. Businesses must be scalable and diversify their offerings to break through the $10 million revenue mark.

(2)  Differentiate from the Competition: Standing out in a crowded market is essential. Companies offering unique value propositions or exceptional customer experiences are more likely to attract and retain customers.

(3)  Develop a Strong Company Culture: A strong company culture can help attract and retain top talent, which is essential for growth. Companies prioritizing employee engagement and development are more likely to achieve long-term success.

(4)  Embrace Technology: In today’s digital world, technology is essential for growth. Companies that embrace technology and leverage it to improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and expand their offerings are more likely to achieve significant growth.

(5)  Focus on Customer Acquisition and Retention: Acquiring new customers is important, but retaining existing ones is equally essential. Companies prioritizing customer retention and loyalty are more likely to achieve sustainable growth.

(6)  Build Strategic Partnerships: Strategic partnerships can help businesses access new markets, technologies, and resources. Companies that develop strong partnerships with complementary businesses are more likely to achieve significant growth.

(7)  Invest in Marketing and Branding: Building a strong brand and investing in marketing is essential for growth. Companies that effectively communicate their value proposition and differentiate themselves from the competition are more likely to attract new customers and achieve significant growth.

In conclusion, while the statistics may seem discouraging, it’s important to remember that achieving significant growth is possible. By building a scalable business model, differentiating from the competition, developing a strong company culture, embracing technology, focusing on customer acquisition and retention, building strategic partnerships, and investing in marketing and branding, businesses can separate themselves from the pack and achieve their growth goals.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a business consultancy firm that helps entrepreneurs and business leaders achieve their growth goals. With over 30 years of experience in executive coaching, leadership development, and business strategy, Howard has helped countless businesses achieve significant growth and success. He also authorizes two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business Is A Leaky Bucket.”

State of Expansion: Key Steps for a Successful Business Transition to a New State

As the CEO of Activate Group Inc. and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” As someone who’s seen the intricate mechanics of business growth from a unique vantage point, I’m here to share some indispensable steps for successfully expanding your business to a new state.

Understand State-specific Laws and Regulations

Before setting foot into a new state, it’s essential to understand its laws and regulations – employment laws, taxes, permits, and licenses. Failure to comply can lead to penalties and tarnish your brand reputation. For instance, I once knew a small technology company that made a rushed expansion to another state without fully understanding the employment laws there. They ended up with a lawsuit that cost them dearly.

Actionable Step: Hire a local attorney who specializes in business law and can guide you through the legal maze.

Market Research

Understanding the market landscape in the new state is critical. Each state has unique cultural, social, and economic factors influencing consumer behavior. Remember Target’s failed expansion into Canada? It’s a classic case of neglecting market research leading to misreading consumer needs.

Actionable Step: Conduct comprehensive market research to understand local consumer behavior, needs, and competition.

Consider Logistical Requirements:

Moving to a new state means dealing with new logistical challenges. This includes supply chain management, transportation, and warehousing needs. Underestimating these can lead to operational bottlenecks.

Actionable Step: Build a robust logistical plan considering the geographical and infrastructural realities of the new state.

Assemble a Strong Local Team:

A local team understands the market pulse and can provide valuable insights. They can also help in establishing connections and building relationships.

Actionable Step: Prioritize local hiring. If you’re moving existing employees, ensure they have the resources to adjust and settle in the new state.

Community Engagement:

Integrating your business into the local community can significantly enhance your brand reputation. I recall a retail brand that launched in a new state and won the community by sponsoring local events and contributing to community development.

Actionable Step: Plan for CSR activities or community events that resonate with the local community.

Conclusion

With careful planning and execution, expanding your business into a new state can be rewarding. As a C-suite leader, understanding and executing these steps can turn this daunting task into a successful business adventure.  I invite you to click on the following link and check-out the short video I created for one of our trusted partners and just posted.  It will provide you with more comprehensive content and perspective. Additionally, following are the links to the first two articles in this series of three; Recognizing the Signals to Expand and Evading Common Pitfalls.

If you found these insights useful and want more such strategies, please consider subscribing to our newsletter at www.activategroupinc.com. Remember, a successful business is built not just on big leaps but on meticulous steps.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a recognized authority on business growth, and the author of “The Leader Launchpad.” Howard has led countless businesses towards exponential growth with his unique insights and strategies. His passion lies in helping business leaders turn their ambitions into achievements, making him a trusted advisor for businesses on their path to success.

The Decisive Second Step: Evading Common Pitfalls when Expanding to a Second Location

Congratulations on the success of your first business location. With flowing revenues and a high-spirited team, an expansion is the next logical step. But as you embark on this exciting venture of opening a second location, it’s paramount to anticipate potential pitfalls and strategize to avoid them, ensuring a smooth continuation of your brand’s success story.

As the CEO of Activate Group Inc and advisor to many high-growth organizations, I am often asked how best to approach the opening of a new location. The second location may be harder than the first. And this decision usually takes longer to become profitable and is more costly than imagined. In this article, I share with you some crucial insights that could change the trajectory of your business expansion plans.

Pitfall 1 – Not Replicating the Success Blueprint

The first mistake businesses often make when opening a second location is overlooking the replication of the successful elements that made the first location thrive. A real-life case in point: A popular sandwich shop famous for its distinctive, homey interior design opens a second outlet in a bustling city area but neglects to replicate its unique ambiance. The regulars walk in expecting the same comforting atmosphere but are met with a stark, impersonal setting. The result? A downturn in customer retention and, ultimately, revenue.

Actionable Step: Document the key elements contributing to your brand’s success, like interior design, customer service approach, and product presentation. Ensure these elements are appropriately integrated into your new location while tailoring them to the local context.

Pitfall 2 – Overlooking Market Research

Second, never underestimate the power of thorough market research. Just because a concept worked wonders in one location doesn’t mean it will work in another. A classic example? Walmart’s failed venture in Germany. Despite being a big hit in the United States, Walmart couldn’t resonate with the German market due to cultural disparities.

Actionable Step: Invest time and resources in rigorous market research before you expand. Understand the local market dynamics, customer preferences, and competition. If possible, test your strategies through a pilot program.

Pitfall 3 – Spreading Resources Thin

Rushing into opening a new location without a clear evaluation of your resource capacity can lead to disaster. Both locations may underperform due to insufficient financial, human, and operational resources.

Actionable Step: Undertake a comprehensive resource evaluation. Develop a well-structured business plan, complete with budgeting and financial forecasting. Make sure you have a robust team to manage the new outlet.

Pitfall 4 – Ignoring Entry Strategies

The path to a successful second location also depends on the entry strategy. In the restoration industry, we’ve seen that companies who either entered with a strong client base or acquired an existing company with a client base and team have been most successful.

Actionable Step: Evaluate the pros and cons of various entry strategies. Whether you choose organic growth or an acquisition, make sure you have a strong foundation – a solid client base and an efficient team.

Pitfall 5 – Overlooking Talent Pool Considerations

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of talent pool considerations in your new location. A client once chose a location near his beach house, which though pleasing to him, failed to attract the right talent due to the long commute and unaffordable living costs relative to their compensation structure.

Actionable Step: Consider the availability of talent, commute times, and living costs when choosing your new location. Remember, a thriving team is fundamental to the success of your new venture.

In Conclusion

As a CEO, your primary goal is to make strategic decisions that drive sustainable growth. By steering clear of these common mistakes when expanding to a second location, you set the stage for continued success.

Expansion is a bold and ambitious step, but it needs to be taken with caution, planning, and foresight. I invite you to click on the following link and check-out the short video I created for one of our trusted partners and just posted.  It will provide you with more comprehensive content and perspective.

For more insights, strategies, and advice on growing your business, please consider subscribing to our newsletter at Activate Group Inc. (click-here).

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a seasoned business leader, and the author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With years of experience helping companies achieve exponential growth, Howard is passionate about sharing his insights to empower other business leaders to achieve their potential. His approach combines strategic analysis with hands-on, actionable steps, making him a trusted advisor for companies aiming for success.

 

Unfolding Opportunities: Recognizing the Signals to Expand Your Business to a New Location

I am Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group Inc. and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With years of experience strategizing and guiding businesses towards growth, I have gathered some key signals indicating it’s time to expand your business to a new location.

Consistent Business Growth

If your business has seen consistent growth over the years, it strongly indicates that you’ve developed a successful business model. Remember the story of Starbucks? They started with just one store in Seattle and noticed a steady rise in sales. Recognizing this as a sign of successful growth, they ventured into new locations and are now globally recognized.

Actionable Step: Conduct a thorough financial analysis to ensure sustainable growth.

High Market Demand

If you’re constantly turning down orders or your customers are traveling long distances to reach you, it’s a clear signal that there’s a high demand for your product or service.

Actionable Step: Conduct surveys to identify the demand in potential locations.

Healthy Cash Flow

Expanding to a new location requires a significant financial investment. If your business has a healthy cash flow and good profit margins, it might be time to consider expansion.

Actionable Step: Prepare a financial forecast to estimate the cost of expansion.

A Successful Team

 A confident, efficient team that can take on challenges is a great asset. If you have such a team and can replicate it in a new location, expansion could be on the cards.

Actionable Step: Evaluate your team’s readiness and willingness to expand.

Attractive Market Conditions

 If market research indicates favorable conditions—like a growing target audience, low competition, or advantageous real estate prices—in another location, it might be a sign to expand.

Actionable Step: Research and analyze the market conditions of the potential location.

 

In Conclusion...Recognizing and strategically acting on these signs can open new avenues of success for your business. As a business leader, it’s up to you to seize these opportunities and navigate the expansion journey confidently.

If you found these insights helpful and are looking for more business growth strategies, consider subscribing to our newsletter at Activate Group Inc. After all, recognizing the right opportunities at the right time is half the battle won in business.

 

About the Auther:  Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a celebrated author, and a seasoned business growth expert. With a keen eye for recognizing business opportunities and a wealth of strategies at his disposal, Howard has been instrumental in turning growth goals into reality for numerous businesses. He continues to inspire and guide business leaders, making him a trusted name in the world of business growth and expansion.

Disrupting Traditional Industries: Strategies to Increase Market Share and Profitability

In the fast-paced business world, staying relevant and profitable in traditional industries can be daunting. However, it is not impossible. With the right strategies, any business can increase its market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable. This article will explore ways to change your business in traditional industries and make it stand out in the market.

Let’s take the example of WhiteWave Foods. This company started as a small organic farm in Boulder, Colorado, and grew into a leading food and beverage company with a market capitalization of over $10 billion. WhiteWave Foods disrupted the industry by redefining what it meant to be a food and beverage company.

With an increasing number of people becoming health-conscious, WhiteWave Foods recognized the need for plant-based alternatives that could replace dairy products. One of the ways WhiteWave Foods achieved this was by focusing on plant-based dairy alternatives. They introduced their signature almond milk, which quickly became popular among consumers. This move not only helped WhiteWave Foods gain market share but also disrupted the dairy industry.

Another way WhiteWave Foods disrupted the industry was by embracing sustainability. They became one of the first food and beverage companies to publicly commit to sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and waste. This helped them connect with consumers who prioritize environmentally-friendly products and gain a competitive edge in the market.

WhiteWave Foods also focused on innovation, constantly exploring new ways to improve its products and processes. They invested in research and development and introduced new products such as non-dairy yogurts, plant-based creamers, and coffee creamers. This allowed them to stay ahead of the curve and cater to evolving consumer preferences.

So, how can you apply these strategies to your business? Here are some ideas:

Focus on Innovation

Embrace new technologies and explore new ways to improve your products or services. Look for ways to add value to your customer’s lives and make their experience more enjoyable.

Embrace Sustainability

Become more environmentally friendly by reducing waste, using sustainable materials, and investing in renewable energy. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment, and are more likely to support companies that prioritize sustainability.

Offer Alternatives

With an increasing number of people looking for options and choice, consider offering alternatives to your products. This could open up new markets and help you gain market share.

Collaborate with Other Companies

Look for opportunities to collaborate with companies in your industry or related industries. This could lead to new ideas, products, and services you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

In conclusion, changing your business in traditional industries can be challenging, but it is not impossible. By focusing on innovation, embracing sustainability, offering alternatives, and collaborating with other companies, you can disrupt the industry, increase your market share, and ultimately become more profitable.

 

About the author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

From Surviving to Thriving: How to Adopt a Growth-Oriented Mindset During Downturns

In times of economic downturns, many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on cutting costs. While this may provide short-term relief, it often comes at the expense of long-term growth. Adopting a growth-oriented mindset is crucial to thriving in today’s competitive marketplace, even during difficult times. In this article, we’ll discuss steps companies can take to shift from a cost-oriented approach to a growth-oriented one, using a real company example to illustrate our points.

First, it’s important to recognize that cutting costs alone is not a sustainable solution. In fact, it can even harm a company’s future prospects. For example, let’s look at the case of Kodak. When digital photography emerged as a major threat to its traditional film-based business, Kodak responded by cutting costs and reducing investments in R&D. This strategy provided short-term relief but ultimately proved disastrous. Kodak failed to adapt to the changing market, and the company eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Instead of focusing on cost-cutting, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation and investment in the future. Here are some steps to help make this shift:

Reframe the Conversation

One of the first steps in becoming growth-oriented is to reframe the conversation within the company. This means moving away from discussions solely focused on cutting costs and instead emphasizing growth opportunities. This can be done by setting new goals and KPIs focused on innovation and growth rather than just cost-cutting.

For example, let’s look at the case of Amazon. In 2001, the company faced a major challenge when the dot-com bubble burst. Many companies were cutting costs, but Amazon took a different approach. Instead of focusing solely on reducing expenses, the company set a goal to achieve profitability by Q4 of 2001. This goal helped shift the conversation within the company and encouraged employees to think creatively about achieving it. Amazon ultimately succeeded in reaching this goal, setting the stage for the company’s future growth.

Invest in R&D

Another important step in becoming growth-oriented is to invest in R&D. This means dedicating resources to developing new products and services that can help the company stay ahead of the competition. While R&D can be expensive in the short term, it’s critical for long-term growth.

For example, let’s look at the case of Apple. In the early 2000s, the company faced a challenging market, with declining sales of its core products. Rather than cutting costs, Apple invested heavily in R&D, developing new products like the iPod and the iPhone. These products not only helped to turn the company around, but they also set the stage for Apple’s continued success in the years to come.

Focus on Customer Needs

A growth-oriented mindset also means focusing on customer needs. This means developing products and services that solve real customer problems rather than just trying to cut costs or maximize profits.

For example, let’s look at the case of Airbnb. When the company first started, it faced significant challenges in convincing people to rent out their homes to strangers. Rather than giving up, Airbnb focused on understanding the needs of its customers and developing solutions that addressed their concerns. This included developing a robust verification process to ensure the safety of hosts and guests, as well as building a community of users who could vouch for the quality of the service. This customer-centric approach helped Airbnb to overcome its early challenges and paved the way for its continued growth.

Embrace Risk-Taking

Finally, a growth-oriented mindset means embracing risk-taking. This means being willing to take bold steps to pursue growth, even if it means taking on some degree of risk.

For example, let’s look at the case of the clothing retailer Zara. In the early 2000s, the company faced stiff competition from other fast-fashion retailers. Rather than focusing on cost-cutting, Zara took a bold step and invested heavily in its supply chain and logistics. This allowed the company to dramatically reduce its lead times, meaning that it could bring new designs to market much faster than its competitors. This focus on speed and innovation helped Zara to become one of the world’s most successful clothing retailers.

In conclusion, while it can be tempting for companies to adopt a cost-oriented approach during economic downturns, it’s important to remember that this approach can ultimately harm a company’s long-term growth prospects. Instead, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation, investment in R&D, customer needs, and risk-taking. By doing so, they can position themselves for success both during difficult times and in the future.

As Howard M. Shore said in his book “The Leader Launchpad,” “Leaders who understand the importance of growth over cost-cutting are the ones who will thrive in today’s rapidly changing business environment.” So let’s embrace growth-oriented thinking and help our companies succeed, even during the toughest times.

 

About Howard M. Shore: Howard M. Shore is a growth-oriented leader passionate about helping companies achieve long-term success. With over 30 years of experience in business leadership and entrepreneurship, Howard is a trusted advisor to CEOs and business leaders worldwide. He is the founder of Activate Group Inc., a consultancy that helps businesses across a range of industries to adopt growth-oriented strategies. Howard is also the author of two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” both focused on helping leaders drive growth and innovation within their organizations.

How Do You Find Your Purpose?

If yours is like many organizations, you and your competitors are trying to serve a similar purpose to your respective clients. That is true if you look only at the surface. It is how you see the challenge of purpose that counts. Most times I find leaders trapped in a box. That box revolves around existing products and services and does not consider the problems and challenges of people they want to serve.

By finding your organization’s unique purpose, you can move with the changing needs of your customers and evolve your products and services. Too often business leaders are trying to force the external world to buy what they want to sell. What they fail to consider is whether what they want to sell is a real need, and whether there is already too much supply solving that need. If the need is already well served or over served, then pumping more supply into the market without identifying and addressing a new critical need for their buyers will surely result in a painful journey for them and their colleagues.

5 Lenses of Purpose

When working with leaders to assist in their strategic planning session, we work on defining purpose. A common challenge is to help the leadership team find and articulate their purpose. You may wonder how purpose is discovered. I believe you can find your purpose by looking through 5 lenses:

  1. Disrupt an Industry – Airbnb changed the lodging industry forever. They made a very cost-effective and easy way for anyone to list their space and to book unique accommodations anywhere in the world. By doing so they made traveling more affordable and accessible for many people.
  2. Uncommon Service – Provide service at a level that goes beyond your competition in a way that is essential to your target customer. The traditional companies I think of are Ritz-Carlton and Nordstrom. In a less traditional sense, think of Amazon, where you know you can go to their website and find almost anything, 24/7, at the lowest possible prices and have it delivered to your doorstep, in many cases the same day as you ordered it. And all of it done with a few keystrokes. Most vendors on their side will allow you send your purchase back for free if you are not satisfied. The challenge with service is that it is like an escalator that is always going down. Once you have delivered something considered extraordinary the first time, it becomes standard the next time. So you have to keep trying to improve your service levels every year to stay on top.
  3. Change the World – We have so many large societal and natural problems that you can address as a for-profit or not-for-profit. I am proud Board Member and Red Jacket Society Member at City Year, where we believe education has the power to help every child reach his or her potential. We recognize that children in high-poverty communities have external obstacles that can interfere with their ability to both get to school and be ready and able to learn. City Year helps with these challenges. On the for-profit side you have entrepreneurial mavericks like Elon Musk, who is trying to prove through Tesla Motors that electric cars could be better than gasoline-powered cars. The impact of such an innovation will have profound impact on issues like global warming and use of natural resources like fossil fuels.
  4. Excellence – There are always ways to change the features of products — increasing their speed, beauty, functionality, etc. No company is going to get it right with every product, but Apple, Samsung, Ikea, Dyson and 3M are companies that have produced products that have really stood out from their competitors in specific categories.
  5. Information and Communication – Technology has caused this category of purpose to explode over the last 10 years. Dominant in this conversation is Google, but you also have to consider Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, and the myriad of others that allow people to share information, find anything or anyone, share knowledge, discover and communicate.

I recommend that you look through these five lenses and determine which of the five you are really passionate about. Then ask “what purpose can we serve within that lens” within an industry or across industries that is not being served to the level that you believe it could or should be served. The key is to think big! Consider your purpose to be a pursuit rather than a destination. It will be a mantra that you and your organization will need to constantly improve and perfect.

Head over to our business coaching page or call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Are You Targeting the Right Market Segment?

The predictability and consistency of your revenue growth rate are important measures of the health of your business. A key to driving your growth is targeting the right market segment. Positioning your company in a growth industry, market segment, or sector is crucial to the continued success of your company. In order to have future growth, regardless of how you are doing this quarter or year, there must be a market out in front of you that your products/services are focused on and that is growing.

Why Should You Care Which Market Segment You Choose?

When you are in a growth market running the business is much easier in many ways. Here are a few reasons for you to want to be in a growth market:

  • Employees – It is easier to attract, keep and grow the right employees.
  • Customer Acquisition – It is easier to be a winner in a growing market than in one that is declining or stagnant. All boats rise with the tide.
  • Capital – It is easier to attract and lower your cost of capital.
  • Margins – There is a better chance of earning larger profit margins.
  • Operations – Predictable revenue allows you generate cash and to plan and invest properly in the support structure of your business to properly serve your.
  • Shareholders – Higher returns on investment for shareholders.
  • Valuation – Buyers pay more for businesses that are in growth markets.

How Do You Find Your Market Segment?

By focusing time on a specific customer segment you can become the dominant player in that segment. A segment is a group of customers with common characteristics that influence how they make decisions. In every industry you can group potential customers into many possible segments.

Your leadership team must examine the marketplace and cluster people and organizations into groups, separating them based on common needs, behaviors, or other attributes so that they can be better served. Once you have isolated different groupings, you can look for ways they may be underserved today in terms of products and/or services. You do this by asking questions such as:

  • Do they deserve a distinct offering? How well do the current offerings meet their distinct desires and needs?
  • Are they reached through different channels? How well do the current channels work for this grouping?
  • Does this unique set of people or organizations require different types of relationships?
  • How does profitability differ, and could it differ for each grouping? What would need to change to change the game?
  • How much would each grouping be willing to pay for different aspects of the offer?

How Do You Know You’re In A Growth Market?

Failure to identify segments destroys time allocation in your business. I find that this is more obvious when your company is small and time constraints are more serious. In most cases, we consider whether or not a prospect can afford to do business with us, rather than the likelihood of their doing business with us.

However, you know you are in growth market when the following signals are apparent:

  • You can consistently grow at least 20% per year. More would be preferable.
  • Acquiring new customers seems to be easy, and your current quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year is either the same or growing. Any quarter that shows a dip is a warning sign that an adjustment may be needed.
  • Profit margins appear to be holding steady with volume increase. There are obvious exceptions to this rule as you hit different steps in expansion.
  • You are finding more and more competition in your space. This is why you have to move swiftly and grow quickly when you find a hot market.
  • You can find news media, analysts, and industry experts talking about the trends you are taking advantage of. Follow them for signs in trend shifts.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Is There a Difference Between Innovation and Disruption?

The Technology Leader Awards Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber, of which I am the recurring chair, met the other night. We were establishing the categories for this year’s awards when a great question arose. Is there a difference between innovation and disruption? It stimulated a spirited discussion among the committee members, and I realized that it’s a very important discussion to have when considering the strategy for your business. While we used the terms disruption and innovation in the context of technology, they can be looked at in broader constructs such as your business model. While one could argue that there is a difference between the two, my position is that disruption is a higher form of innovation. The reason is that all disruptors are innovations, but not all innovations are disruptors. The more disruptive the innovation, the higher the stakes and the value you can create in your business.

What Is Innovation?

In simple terms, innovation is just finding a new way of doing something. If you are running a business, it is developing ways to provide a product or service better, faster or cheaper. It is about improving every process with fewer defects, requiring less labor, increasing throughput, etc. It is about changing the usefulness of a product or service. From an even more important standpoint, it is about creating new demand and fulfilling a need that no one else is currently fulfilling. For example, our phones now go everywhere, serve as computers, calendars, watches, and many other things. It is about changing your online experience so that now you can order many products and get them delivered same day. Innovation is about seeing possibilities that others cannot see and making them happen.

Sustaining Innovation versus Disruptive Innovation

When we were discussing categories in my committee, we should not have been asking if there is a difference between innovation or disruption. The real question is “what is the difference between sustaining technologies and disruptive technologies?” While both are innovative, there is a huge difference and advantage to having both.

Sustaining technology improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically changing designs to address different consumer sets or by allowing a lowering of prices in more mature markets. A disruptive innovation helps create a new market or value chain and eventually disrupts an existing market. Disruption is much more substantial than sustaining innovation because it changes how we think, behave, do business, learn, and go about our day-to-day. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru, Clayton Christensen, says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.

Not All Disruption is Created Equal

The innovators’ dilemma is that not all innovation is created equal. There has been much innovation that has turned out to be worthless. In 2010, Time Magazine published a list of The 50 Worst Inventions Of All Time, here are few of my favorites:

  • The Segway – Give inventor Dean Kamen this: he’s a master of buzz. A closely guarded secret that was supposed to change the world upon its release in 2001, the Segway never brought about its promised revolution in transportation. Though the technology is pretty cool — very expensive gyroscopes make the thing nearly impossible to tip over (though George W. Bush found a way) — the Segway’s sales far underperformed vs. Kamen’s predictions. It lives on as the vehicle of choice for mall cops and lazy tourists, but the Segway’s best contribution might be as the vehicle of choice for failed.
  • New Coke – Marketers should have known — don’t mess with consumers’ sentimental attachment to a product. Especially when it’s 99-year-old Coca-Cola. The “newer, sweeter” version, introduced April 23, 1985, succeeded in blind taste tests but flopped in the real world. Phone calls, letters and rants from Coke die-hards flooded in and just three months after its debut, New Coke was removed, and the word Classic was added to all Coke cans and bottles to assure consumers they were getting their first love.
  • Airbnb – When disruption goes your way it can be enormous, such as the Airbnb.com story. Airbnb.com has changed the landscape for people that need a place to stay around the world. Airbnb is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodging. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company is privately owned and operated and booked more rooms than Hilton last year.
    Airbnb figured out how to enter the vacation rental marketplace without owning any rooms. Unlike traditional hotels, Airbnb scales up not by scaling inventory but by increasing the hosts and travelers and matching them with each other. It has no need for all of those employees and is not held accountable for the customer service problems you find in hotels, such as waiting in long lines for check-in. Its model runs on a marketplace platform where it enables transactions between hosts and travelers, all online. This is definitely an innovation you can categorize as disruption.

Value of Disruption

In today’s fast-paced world, disruption seems to be short-lived. It is critical that you do not go bankrupt trying to create your innovative idea and that you have plenty of capital behind you to take advantage of your position once you have the opportunity. Speed is also essential. Take the Airbnb example. Given that that the primary key to their success was a website to match hosts and travelers, scaling up quickly to have the largest inventory on a global basis with a lot of traveler traffic to their website was essential. Moving early and fast allowed them to build their brand and presence with no marketing budget. They built their entire empire through social media. The value of their innovation and how they approached is the exception and is what all disruptors should seek to accomplish.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Are You Ignoring a Bad Business Strategy?

Are you ignoring a bad business strategy? Your business strategy is a determining factor in whether your sales “will” or “will not” grow faster than your competition’s. Does your business have an “unusual offering” that is critical in the buying decision of your target customer or not? Most businesses either have an “unusual offering” that their prospects don’t know about, or they don’t have one and are not facing it. Key components to a successful business strategy and your ability to grow sales are how well you understand your core customer, that you have an unusual offer for this customer, and that your strategy focuses on being best in the world at delivering that offer.

Great Sales People Cannot Erase a Bad Strategy

Are you evaluating how to grow your sales in the right way? When sales are not growing, it is usually the result of a bad business strategy. Most companies fail to recognize and address inadequate sales growth as a strategy issue. First sales management and the salespeople are blamed. This can go on for years. Salespeople come and go with no change in result! Next someone will decide it is a marketing problem. “We just need to do a better job of getting our name out there, learn to better leverage the internet to get leads, and everything will turn around.” When that fails, the economy becomes the culprit —too much competition, and so on. In most situations, the real dilemma is that leaders continue to ignore the fact that what they are offering the market is inadequate, and the marketplace has spoken.

Is a Bad Strategy Causing High Turnover?

Are you experiencing constant turnover in your sales force, followed by leadership complaining about how the salespeople keep failing? A bad business strategy results in sending good salespeople out to get slaughtered. In my experience, when you have a good strategy, even a bad salesperson can sell your product or service. When you have a good strategy salespeople line up at your door to work for you. Too often leaders are hoping and praying that hiring great salespeople will magically make a bad strategy disappear. So the real question is “what is the ‘unusual offering’ that the sales force can offer that will attract the customer segment you’ve defined as your prime target?” What is that offering that will get prospects to recognize you and say, “It is about time someone understands my needs. What forms of payment do you accept?”

What is an “Unusual Offering”?

“Unusual offering” is most commonly referred to as a “unique value proposition” — how you differentiate your product and services from those offered by your competition. I’ve chosen the word “unusual” instead of “unique” for a reason. While the difference between “unusual” and “unique” is subtle, I find the standard for “unusual” is much more achievable for most businesses. Unique offerings are very difficult to create and almost impossible to sustain for very long. However, the best businesses have mastered consistency in unusual offerings. For example, everyone in the fast food industry knows they are supposed to deliver consistent quality in food, fast, and yet they don’t. McDonald’s has a better track record in terms of moving customers through lines than other fast food restaurants. When it comes to customer service Nordstrom has been able to set themselves apart from competitors who claim high-quality service as their differentiator.

Why Your “Unusual Offering” Needs to Change

It is important to understand that your unusual offering needs to change over time with the market. For example, FedEx used to focus its business differentiator on when you “positively have to have it tomorrow at 10:00.” This is no longer a business differentiator because all of the competition caught up, and now customers expect that level of service. Even the post office can consistently deliver on that promise.

In my next article I will discuss how to develop your unusual offering. If you want help with fixing a bad business, strategy please contact us for a free consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization, or check out the testimonials page for stories from other leaders we have coached.

Business Strategy Based on Knowledge Instead of Belief

Is your business strategy based on knowledge instead of belief? If you are like most entrepreneurs, you are not collecting enough external data when making your business decisions – and it will cost you millions over your lifetime. It may even cost you your business.

“Why?” you might ask. The answer is that too often we make decisions based on “belief” instead of “knowledge.” There is a very important distinction between knowledge vs. belief.

Knowledge vs. Belief

Knowledge is indisputable “fact”. Belief is your opinion about what result any given course of action will produce, and much of what you believe about your business many times is wrong.

Are you acting on facts that are no longer valid, or on beliefs that you have held for a long period of time despite contrary evidence all around? In my experience as a business coach, you probably are. Worse, when people present you with facts, you may be doing everything you can to hold onto your erroneous beliefs by finding any random inconclusive data to support them.

Communicating With External Sources

I spend more than 100 days per year conducting planning sessions. I watch leaders make decisions without collecting data from customers, prospects, or past customers. Even when they have collected data, they are not looking at and analyzing that data. Many times they are looking only for data that supports their existing opinions. Often the data they collect does not help them with their decisions because there isn’t enough, or what they have is anecdotal or too generic.

Are you collecting information on a weekly basis about people that have chosen not to do business with you, people that are customers, and people that you want to have as customers to really analyze why you lost customers? You will notice I chose “people” and not businesses, clients, customers, or any other word. You do business with people. They have needs, wants, problems, concerns, opinions, challenges, biases, etc.

The world is constantly changing, so these factors are always shifting, thus causing the need to continually collect the information to keep your offering competitive and relevant. Failure to do so results in business strategy based on “belief” instead of “knowledge.”

Start Improving Your Business Strategy With Customers

The obvious place to start is with your customers. You are probably thinking, “I know my customers” because you do business with them every day. It is a common mistake to confuse a system for collecting information with daily exchanges. Without a systematic process you will fail!

In your daily exchanges, you are concerned with delivering your product or service, and the customer is focused on receiving it. At best, you get anecdotal information and only focus on problems and challenges. During daily exchanges, your front-line staff is not thinking about the company’s business strategy or worrying about what data you need for making future business decisions. In many cases, a staff member who receives what could be useful information may filter it or not report it at all.

Collecting Unfiltered Information From Your Customers

Collecting unfiltered information from your customers should be a priority for every company. This is usually easier than you think, and the only reason it has not happened is that you have not made it a key priority. Benefits you can expect:

  1. Identify reasons to charge existing customers more for existing products and services.
  2. Identify new products and services to offer.
  3. Increase retention of customers that you did not know were at risk.
  4. Turn existing customers into a referral engine.
  5. Strategize based on knowledge instead of belief.

Customer Feedback

A great historical example of how this can work for you is when IBM had its top 200 managers talk to 5 customers and employees every week and review the information every Friday. This was an incredibly simple way to collect live market data weekly and then share it with key leaders in IBM. It helped increase sales, overcome customer roadblocks, and also added energy to the teams.

Questions to Ask Customers

We recommend you and each leader on the leadership team have at least one conversation each week with a key customer. We have found these four questions will provide you will a wealth of information:

  1. How are you doing?
  2. What’s going on in your industry?
  3. What do you hear about our competition?
  4. How are we doing?
  5. (Bonus Question… when appropriate) Do you know of anyone else that would like to be as happy as you are?

Need help improving your business strategy?

We can maximize your team’s business strategy. Contact us for a FREE consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization.

Customer Service Points You Have to Get Right

A few weeks ago, JD Power released its list of 2012 Customer Service Champions. I found it interesting that there were three airlines on the list. You don’t usually think of the airline industry as customer-focused. Yet three airline companies managed to impress JD Power with their fanatical attention to customer service—so much so that they made it onto this list of just 50 companies that are “champions” of service.

I am not surprised that the three companies are Southwest, Virgin America and JetBlue. These airlines have used customer service as differentiators for some time, each in their own unique way. Their customer service is finely honed and crafted especially for their core customer, which is why they all have such impressive brand loyalty.

The important thing to note is that great customer service is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The customer service experience is drastically different between all three airlines, and that is by design. The loyal Southwest customer is drastically different from the loyal Virgin America customer. These customers expect different things and demand different experiences, and you could never interchange them. In all likelihood, a loyal Virgin customer would hate the experience of flying with Southwest.

Think like these customer service champions and design your customer service experience around the preferences and demands of your core customer.

Define Customer Service “Moments of Truths”

When I work with a company as a strategic planning consultant, one of the most important company functions we examine is customer service. When we evaluate their service processes, we identify their “Moments of Truths”. These are essentially their most crucial customer touch points—the times and places in their new business acquisition, servicing and retention processes that are so impactful to the customer that if they don’t get them all right, it could cost them that piece of business.

Every company and industry has three to five service “Moments of Truth.” How you touch your customer at these points defines your service experience. Let’s look at the restaurant industry as an example. Every restaurant must meet a certain standard in four key areas: Service, Price, Food Quality and Cleanliness. These are the four Moments of Truths for a 5-star restaurant or a fast food joint. However, how these two very different businesses deliver on these touch points is highly important for their core customers.

The 5-star restaurant customer expects extremely attentive and formal service, gourmet food and impeccable cleanliness, and for that they are willing to pay a premium price. The fast food customer still expects cleanliness, but service should be quick and casual at a low price. Both restaurants can be customer service superstars, but they must understand their core customers and design the service experience around them.

What are the Moments of Truth in your customer service experience? Define them and define the ways that you will use them to differentiate your company in the marketplace.

Howard Shore is a strategic planning consultant and business coach who works with companies that need customer service strategy and coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about strategic planning consulting through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

9 Questions Every Business Model Should Answer

One of the most important strategic planning tools every company must have is a well-written business plan with a winning operational model. Well-constructed operational models answer nine key questions with a resounding ‘yes.’ Some small companies mistakenly think that only large companies need to address these operational questions. The companies that decide to put this off until they become bigger are among the 50 percent that fail within the first five years.

Questions That Determine If Your Company is Under-Performing

If you can’t answer these questions with a strong ‘yes’, your organization is probably under-performing in the areas of sales growth, customer service, employee satisfaction, innovation and profitability:

  • Does your management team willingly participating in the annual planning processes?
  • Does your organization regularly achieve all or most of the financial and non-financial goals in your plans?
  • Does everyone in your organization know the plan goals and how they will contribute to them?
  • Do the actions in your organization regularly resemble the plans?
  • Do you receive regular input from all levels of the company and use it to develop your plans?
  • Do you get regular input from your customers (not just complaints) and use it to develop your plans?
  • Do you know what trends are going on in your industry? Who your competitors are, what your competitors are doing, and what your opportunities and threats are? (SWOT analysis)
  • Have you identified specific market segments to focus on?
  • Do you know what capabilities, management systems, people, and other resources you must have in place now and for the future, and by when?

If your answers to these questions are a definitive ‘yes’, you have a successful business plan. If not, you know exactly where to start improving your model and planning process.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning tools and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about business strategy development through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

How do you find your “Blue Ocean”?

More importantly, what is a Blue Ocean? That is the main focus of our upcoming strategic planning workshop called Keys to Forming an Awesome Strategy Workshop on Feb. 2. In it, we examine some of the principles from the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. In order to teach students how to build a business strategy that works, we look at how to dissect the various differentiating aspects of a service or product and create a refreshed strategic model around it.

Think about the different dimensions of your business. What decisions can you make about your product or service that will help you break boundaries? What choices do you have in terms of positioning your company in the marketplace?

This workshop gives you the model you need to reposition and strategize for exponential growth and success using some of the tactics of Blue Ocean Strategy, Good to Great (by Jim Collins), and our years of business strategy consultation experience.

This strategic planning workshop will help you answer:

  • What is the purpose of your business in one word?
  • What is your one-sentence strategy?
  • What is your brand promise?
  • What is your one main target audience?
  • What is your “big hairy audacious goal?”
  • What can you be great at?
  • What is your “X Factor?”
  • What is your ‘Profit per X’?
  • How does culture affect your business strategy and success?
  • How do you attract and hire the best talent?

Hurry! Spots are for our strategic planning working are limited so REGISTER TODAY.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential. To learn more about how an executive coach, management consultant, leadership training, or business coach can help your team, please visit his website at activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.