Archive for the ‘Business advice’ tag

Icon Business Solutions discuss the role of management in business

leave a comment

Here is the latest article from Tano Rebora, our guest business writer from Icon Business Solutions.

Tano Rebora Icon Business SolutionsManagement in all business and organisational activities is defined in dictionaries as the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management comprises planning, organising, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organisation (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal.

So there it is – people; goals and objectives; using available resources effectively, efficiently. Note that it does not say where (other than organisation or effort) so by implication, anywhere and at any level of human activity.

All ‘professional’ people immediately stand to attention and see the implications applied to business whilst rejecting that such notions exist in any other field.

Dictionary definitions continue by stating that the word derives from the latin ‘manu agere’ to ‘lead by the hand’ and this is at the base of management skills; it is about giving direction that is stronger than just a passing suggestion yet not an order and also implies that the person doing the leading knows where he is going and is going first, willingly, to where the follower is being lead. The leader is not asking the follower to do something he is not willing to do himself.

But let us move sideways for a second and leave fuzzy people ‘things’ to one side and let us consider the much harder, more concrete ‘business management’ first.

What do we mean by ‘business management’?

Well, if an enterprise is to be managed effectively and efficiently then at least the Board must know what the correct corporate vision and mission is, mustn’t it? Otherwise, if there is no understanding of what the business is to have achieved in a specific time period the chances of success are hugely diminished.

It is much easier when both are present because this can lead to planning achievable objectives in realistic times. It’s the point at which the ‘Executive’ strategic level manages the tactical to achieve long term aims.

Business Management – Goals and objectives

It stands to reason that, if there are reasonable vision and mission statements then good management dictates that appropriate, preferably numeric, objectives can be derived from them for the Managing Director/C.E.O./Owner to ‘own’ and be responsible for delivery in measurable timescales. This can then be cascaded down the organisation, irrespective of the depth and complexity of that organisation.

At a simple level there are three basic levels of hierarchy in any business – the operational, the ‘Management’ (tactical) and the Executive (strategic). For the ‘one man band’ – all three need to be considered and applied. Therein lies the basis of many company failures – but that’s for another time.

All three levels need to be accountable and all the objectives must funnel upwards and downwards to fulfil the success criteria for the business.

Setting the goals/objectives and measuring people on their achievement against them is at the heart of ‘business management’.

All different functions must be managed on this basis, as example:

Sales:

  • Director: KPIs based on company revenue, company profit ; departmental profit; territory cover; Wins vs Losses; client satisfaction; team performance. All, as appropriate dependent on market, sector, high value vs low value, timescales and other factors.
  • Manager: KPIs on team sales target; profit target (as above); client acquisition; territory coverage; client satisfaction. The above constraints apply.
  • Salesperson: revenue, profit (if applicable), number of new Accounts

Marketing:

  • Company/departmental/sector revenues; number of suspects and prospects created totally attributable; competitive positioning (wins/losses)
  • Sub divisions of these depending on structure and responsibilities.

Operations/Production

  • Company revenues and profit margins
  • Number of units produced
  • Efficiency of equipment and employee levels
  • Health and Safety
  • ‘Returns’

Other functions such as Financial/Legal and Human Resource should be similarly treated as should any sub-functions for example; Product Development, Product Marketing.

The above list is not complete and it is not intended to be. It is just an example of the sort of tangible, concrete objectives that can be measured.

There are tomes written on how to set these and Peter Mayer (Attitude is Everything) describes good objectives as being SMARTERS (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Ethical, Rewarded and Satisfying Strategic goals.). There are other words used for the acronym but I choose to finish on the last one for good reason – Satisfying Strategic goals.

Everything that everyone in any company does is focused on getting the business forward today (operational level), tomorrow (Management tactical) and in the future (Management Executive).

So, all employees now know what tune they are marching to at every level but how does anyone know how different people are performing, individually, departmentally and at company level to ensure company success?

People Management – Not so ‘fuzzy’ stuff, then ‘fuzzy’ stuff
Well, the answer to the above is – no-one does, unless there are proper Human Resource processes in support.

How many companies, again, at any level, have these? In my experience – very few.
Rarer indeed the ones that have the end to end processes that guarantee performance such as:

  • Hatch: Recruitment -attracting the right people at the right time and the capacity to tell the difference in measurable ways (there you go- there’s a good SMARTERS objective for HR people already!).
  • Batch: Appraisal – setting the correct objectives and regular meeting to match objectives achieved with those set out. In the process also identifying ‘high flyers’, succession planning (both measurable) as well as non-performers and documenting all for action etc.
  • Dispatch: No easy way to put this one – but the actions taken must be, again, set against proper well documented situations, ethical and with respect for all individuals.

Well, that was non-fuzzy but what about fuzzy stuff?
Have you noticed that some people just manage to get more out of other people than others might do?

What do we call that? Leadership? Charisma? The innate or developed (there’s a question!) capacity to ‘lead by the hand’ (please re-read previous introduction).
People/Managers can spend a lifetime blithely managing by objectives and not totally understand how to get the best out of their people, always managing to make their own objectives without understanding how they can do more through their ‘fuzzy’ people management skills.

No matter how well the company may be doing and may be business managed these are the ones that, typically, make the best sales to the most loyal client base; may need less human resource in production to achieve best output; may hire or help hire the best people in the marketplace….the list is endless.

Oh and who measures them? They may well be managed by people who, let’s repeat here, people who ‘always manage to make their own objectives without understanding how they can do more’. Perhaps understanding this and hiring for ‘fuzzy’ traits is what makes good companies great.

From Maslow through Herzberg to Goleman and beyond there has been tremendous work done on people motivation through the years precisely focused on this.
Companies are made from the top down but without the right business and people management skills with the right processes they will never be successful.
So if any of the above resonates – act on it, for that is the role of management in business!

This article was written by Tano Rebora and was originally published on the Business Matters blog.

Tano offers free, no commitment Business Health Checks, which will guarantee companies with business building strategies upon request. To find out more about Icon, visit the website at http://www.iconbusinesssolutions.com or email Tano Rebora at tanorebora@iconbusinesssolutions.com

Business Adviser Tano Rebora asks: ‘Are you pricing yourself to failure?’

leave a comment

Our blog’s guest business writer Tano Rebora of Icon Business Solutions, shares more of his advice!

Tano Rebora, Icon Business Solutions Ltd.

 This week, Tano asks, ‘Are you pricing yourself to failure?’

Recently talking with one of our clients brought to mind one of the thorniest subjects ever associated with sales, that of ‘discounting’. Now sure, every client wants the best deal that they can get but why is it always on price?

If your offering is all that it is cracked up to be and you have been in business for a while then, surely, your pricing is appropriate, isn’t it? Or is it?

It may be that your competition has crept up on you. Then what is your differentiator? Does your product now reflect your client sectors requirements at the level that it did?

Who, exactly, are your clients? Is the sales force being aimed at the correct client profile?

If the answer to any of the above is a resounding no, then it may be time to refocus on who your ‘ideal’ client is and what, exactly, makes your product or service so distinctly different.

In this case, however, analysis brought us to a different conclusion.

In order to be at most service to your clients the sales force, whoever few or many these may be,  must have knowledge of the businesses that they serve and be prepared to put in the effort to understand what the real issues that these clients face. What they need and want.

Without this effort and the expertise necessary to develop this relationship and the product then the offering will be a “so what?” and be subject to the competitive “me too and cheaper”.

In our opinion, so many businesses suffer eroding profit margins and customer base without analysing the why.

Make time – gather the appropriate information and review in light of the above. You’ll be surprised by what you will find and what a difference this will make to the health of your business.

Tano Rebora, Icon Business Solutions Ltd.

Written by Chris

August 30th, 2012 at 10:48 am

More advice from Sheffield’s finest Business Adviser Tano Rebora

leave a comment

Icon Business Solutions is a Global organisation that is focused on working with Owner / Managers of SMEs to help them become more profitable, reduce their time commitment and achieve their business and life plans. Tano Rebora is a partner of Icon Business Solutions and an experienced Business Adviser, as well as the Seven Creative blog’s guest business writer.

Tano Rebora, Icon Business Solutions Ltd.

Today, Tano asks: Is your competition hurting your profits?

I am referring to Vodafone making a successful bid for the Cable and Wireless business.

Well, I guess that those within the sector long term or keen watchers may have had an inkling, but most business people, across the board, that I have discussed this with did not see it coming.

Is this a potential future threat to the almighty BT?

Fascinating – not from the present positioning or financial viewpoint but because it reflects the highly competitive nature of the telecoms industry; the continual repositioning of the major ‘brands’ as different carriers of different services. But who defines the new world order; the brand or the consumer? This does not just refer to the telecoms sector, of course, the question applies to all

Yet the Vodafone strategic vision is very clear: ‘delivering a more valuable Vodafone’ through five clear directions amongst which – ‘total communications: continue to develop the adoption of converged fixed and mobile services’. We should have known, really.

There we are; a clear strategy, clear direction and clear competitive positioning which has taken it out of a very clear niche that other mobile suppliers are competing in.

Whilst ‘the pack’ is racing around to be ‘the best’, Vodafone has moved the goalposts. Joan Magretta of the Harvard Business School defines Michael Porter’s view of Competitive Strategy as ‘why being unique is better than being best’.

So what makes companies across the spectrum – ‘unique’?

There are a number of factors but, principally amongst these:

  • Clear strategic vision:

Many owners/ shareholders believe in having organisations that are ‘agile’ and ‘flexible’. Of course, they are completely correct. Who wants an organisation that already has a ‘due by date’ from the beginning? Organisations must evolve in order to achieve. But note the use of the word, evolve.

It is the duty of any executive team, from the start-up to the corporate, to establish a vision of what their company is to achieve in the longer term, not simply the next six months. With that comes a clarity of product/ service to be provided, to what market and in what timescale. Planning for all other functions follow that.

Experience dictates that most yearly plans revolve around the ‘last year plus x%’  and that most business owners, at varying levels of company turnaround, have not had the opportunity to focus on where they want or need to be. Far less are the Owner/ managers who actually see the development of their company reflecting their own personal and business needs

Stephen Covey, in his ‘7 habits of Effective Managers’ advocates starting with the end in mind but – how does business generally measure up. In the eyes of this author – poorly.

If this is the case then competitors will always lead.

  • Clear target market:

Many Owners start their companies with clear ideas of where they intend to be personally at some future point. Of course, as the inevitable pressures start the line between what the intended market is and who seems to be interested in the products/ services the lines become blurred.

It does happen that may some start with a perception of the market they intend to serve only to find that the perceived market does not exist, is already serviced by potentially competing products or barriers to entry are higher than first thought.

It is easy to deviate from the plan at that point, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board and to refocus. Does this just happen to ‘newbies’?. Many companies find that the mismatch within the first to second year of operation, some struggle with this for eternity, it seems.

The questions to ask are basic: What is our product? What market does it serve?

The most successful companies answer this in two ways:

  • Complete and total focus: find the real niche and serve that to the exclusion of all else. If the market does not seem big enough to serve the needs then expand geographically.
  • Reorganise into different divisions: serve differing markets with the same or slightly differing products under the same ‘umbrella’ or brand thus being able to measure the effectiveness of the sales/ marketing effort and maximising synergies.

In most cases, it seems clear that few ask: Who is our Client? In B2B scenarios: is it the M.D., the HR Director, etc. etc ? Appropriate messaging should ensue as should appropriate direction of the sales effort and product bundling.

  •  Differentiated product/ service:

Although most business owners may believe otherwise, there are relatively few Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sir James Dyson or, at a different level, Sir Alan Sugar or Richard Branson.

The fact is that, for most companies, someone somewhere has a product that is similar. If not, there soon will be; the cult of the ‘me too’ has been alive and kicking for many centuries.

But how to differentiate?

Many business owners/ salespeople claim to ‘experience in the industry’, ‘best product’, ‘geographic availability’, ‘best client service’, ‘24/7 cover’, add your own here. The list is endless. Yet sadly, so often in this quagmire of similarity it all boils down, at least in the buyers mind, to – how much does it cost?

Of course, it is very easy to make these statements from afar and not see the ‘day to day’ battlefield that we all operate in.

Frequently, as company leaders struggle to work ‘on rather than in’ (Michael Gerber – The e-Myth) the race seems to be centred on ‘price’ as the ‘holy grail’ of client acquisition policy. But so many factors contribute which are, somehow, left behind in thinking and practice.

Why is your company unique? How is it demonstrably different? Ask the question repeatedly because if there isn’t an easy answer then how is the prospective client to know? More importantly, how will they justify the price to themselves?

Dramatically, the euphoria of the acquisition of a new client is quickly superseded by the misery, on reflection, of a diminished profit margin. Yet how many Company owners really know how much they are able to discount without bleeding funds to a very nasty conclusion?

Competition is, and will always be, alive and kicking. Encourage competition; make competitors your ‘allies’. After all the more activity in a marketplace the more opportunity there is. Just make sure that the product and the service the Clients want is yours. Why: because you knew what they wanted and you are strategically building a company that provides this in a more demonstrably different way to everyone else.

Good Luck.

Tano Rebora, Icon Business Solutions Ltd.

Written by Chris

August 21st, 2012 at 2:48 pm

The importance of having a website

leave a comment

"If your website doesn't do what it’s supposed to do, it’s pointless"

The website pictured here is a perfect example one that provides virtually no practical function whatsoever - neither form nor function.

Introduction

I was recently commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce to write a short article about the ‘importance of having a website for small businesses’.

When I looked at the ‘subject’ around which to write an article, I have to say I was a little stumped. The problem is that I just don’t agree with that statement! You might think this is a little paradoxical seeing as I earn a living building websites; however, the reason I disagree is due to the omission of several important words.

On the one hand, of course I think it’s imperative that a business has a website. The problem lies in the fact that unless the website in question is built properly, they may as well not have one.

In my many years in the business, I’ve seen countless examples of pathetic websites that are either invisible to search engines, don’t communicate their message or are just so user-un-friendly that they will never fulfil any useful function whatsoever.

For a website to actually fulfil its function it needs to be properly built, to allow it to be found on search engines, its keywords and phrases need to be properly incorporated in order for the site to appear in relevant searches, but most importantly, before a site is started, it needs to be properly planned to make sure that it actually does what its supposed to do!

If anyone were to ask me for advice before starting a website, I would tell them that the first thing they need to do is sit down and list exactly what your website must do for their business and also what other functions they’d like it to fulfil. These are the primary and secondary objectives that allow you to properly evaluate whether or not your finished website site is successful.

Obviously, I think that it is important for a business to have a website, but that website must be a successful website. If it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, its pointless.

The importance of having a website

Getting yourself a properly planned and well built website may be one of the smartest business decisions you ever make, and I should know: My entire career I’ve been involved in helping businesses with their sales and marketing from start-ups and sole-traders to large blue-chip organizations such as the BBC, National Geographic and Motorolla.

A good website opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your business. It will work tirelessly for you, promoting your products and services twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. It’ll save you money in print advertising and it’ll even help you break through geographical boundaries to reach people you could never normally have hoped to reach!

From a potential customer’s point-of-view, the internet will often be the first place they look to check your credentials! Your website will help you to quickly differentiate yourself from the cowboys out there by providing customer testimonials and a clear and open means of communication. Also, having your own domain name and email address @ your domain will show people you’re not a fly-by-night organisation.

Businesses who think they’ll be ‘just fine’ without a website run the risk of being left behind. Every day, people become more and more likely to use the internet as the first place they look for products, services, tradesmen and suppliers. That ‘over-the-fence’ recommendation is now an ‘over-the- internet’ one and the convenience a website provides to a potential customer has become less of a luxury and more of an expectation.

Over the past decade, business has changed, meaning traditional marketing methodologies have evolved.   A website means there’s a good chance you’ll be there at the right time, when your potential customers are ready to buy. Without a website, however, you run the risk of being, effectively, invisible.

Written by Chris

June 16th, 2010 at 10:11 am