What Can We Learn From Our “Almost” Competitors?

Last week, while coaching one of my medical industry clients, I had a major, multi-part Blinding Flash of the Obvious (BFO).  This client’s medical practice has many competitors, both medically and geographically.  One competitor (called LuxDocs in this blog) in particular, has positioned themselves to be “high-end”, charging an annual fee for access to their doctors. Initially, my client did not consider LuxDocs to be a direct competitor even though they address the same area of medicine.  However, as we went down the list of LuxDocs’ actual and perceived value points and benefits, 24/7 doctor access for example, it became obvious that my client offered, or could offer, many of the same perceived high value services and benefits as their “almost” competitor. Our discussion progressed into two areas:
  1. Which of the services and benefits that my client already offers are valued by their patients but are not currently emphasized within their internal perception  or external marketing?
  2. What services and/or benefits could they add that are of perceived high value by patients, but could be offered with low additional cost?
BFO Part 1 – This concept isn’t only applicable to medical practices – substitute the word Customer or Client for Patient and re-read 1 and 2 above.  Now look at your product or service through the lens of what is already included, or could be included, in your offering that are perceived as high value/benefit, but that you haven’t emphasized? BFO Part 2 – Remember, look at product or service aspects that are of high value to your clients, customers, patients or whoever makes up your target market.  This is not necessarily about what you and your team value, it is about what your market values.  In other words, work to understand the entire, complete definition of your product, not just the obvious. BFO Part 3 – This is closely related to the concepts presented in the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.  Add high value items to the design of your product or service while eliminating high cost low value items. Action Steps – As many of my current clients have already done:
  • Completely define your product or service.
  • Make a list of as many; reasons to become your customer, ways you add value to your customer, and benefits, both small and large, of being your customer as you can.  Remember, from their point of view, not yours.  Shoot for 100.
  • Your complete product definition and the list of your value points form a major part of your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). Make sure you constantly and consistently communicate all of these aspects of your UVP both externally and internally.
  • Read Blue Ocean Strategy.
  If you would like assistance with the process implied above or you wish to accelerate your progress toward your business goals, contact me or the ActionCOACH business coach in your area.

What Can We Learn About Business From The Boston Pops – Part 2

About two weeks ago I went to a wonderful Boston Pops concert at Tanglewood.  While enjoying the concert, my mind wondered to business and I had two Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs). My first BFO was the subject of Part 1 of this post, that a well run business is like a symphonic orchestra.  The second BFO I had at the concert reinforced one of the core themes of my coaching; the goal of successful, effective delegation as opposed to abdication or, even worst, keeping every responsibility and task for yourself.  Something I call responsibility hoarding. I know this is an extreme example, but imagine for a moment that there were no section leaders, concert masters or first chairs in an orchestra.  That there was no one the conductor could delegate local leadership to, no one to be responsible for assisting the conductor with interpreting and communicating his or her vision of the performance of each piece of music to be presented. Without section leaders present during rehearsals, both the conductor and the orchestra cannot maximize the value of their time.  When the conductor works with the violins, the other sections are listening but idle.  Major orchestras with section leaders, often have separate concurrent sectional rehearsals, a much more effective use of everyone’s time.  During concerts, when the conductor turns his or her attention stage right, toward the violins, the other sections do not get lost, they can follow their section leaders.  Bottom line, the conductor, and by extension, the entire orchestra, gets the benefit of tremendous time and operational leverage. So in your business, you should always be aware of the following key questions:

-Have you identified your team (both internal and external)? -Are you delegating?  Successfully and effectively? -Are you even trying to delegate those things you are not good at, hate doing or shouldn’t be doing?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, you must answer YES to the next question:

-Are you your businesses biggest roadblock, in the way of growth and long term success?

No delegation equals no consistent growth, no long-term success and you becoming, if you haven’t already, a slave to your business with no exit plan.  I don’t mean to imply that successful, effective delegation is easy.  Delegation is both an art and a science which must be studied before it can put into your daily routine.  It starts with your desire to get leverage in your business, a desire to delegate. If you are not currently delegating, are not getting the results you expect in your business, have no plans to delegate or don’t know how to begin delegating, get thee to a business coach.  Any of my colleagues at ActionCOACH and I are expert in successful, effective delegation.

What Can We Learn About Business From The Boston Pops – Part 1

While at Tanglewood last night for a wonderful Boston Pops Orchestra concert under the baton of conductor Keith Lockhart, I started thinking (as I often do) about business.  It was then that a very powerful analogy struck me … a successful business is analogous to a symphonic orchestra.
  • An orchestra has sections; violins, cellos, violas, percussion, etc. – a business has, or will have, departments; production, shipping, marketing, sales, etc.
  • An orchestra has management; first chairs, section leaders, conductor, etc. – a business also has management; department heads, managers, executives, etc.
  • Most importantly, an orchestra has both a local (short-term) mission, the score of the piece they are performing and a global (long-term) mission, delivering beautiful, meaningful music to the audience. Your business, to be successful, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term as well, MUST have both a global mission and local (departmental) missions in order to consistently deliver value to your customers.
Just like the Boston Pops and The Boston Symphony benefits from the teamwork that starts with their mission and culture, and enables them to deliver beautiful music night after night, so can your business benefit from the strong team based performance that results from having a powerful, communicated and genuine mission and culture.

How To Grow My Business And Not Lose My Edge?

During many coaching sessions with my clients one theme that constantly reappears is how to grow a business in balance.  For growing businesses, losing sight of their culture, their mission, their excellence, or their operational consistency is a constant concern.  The faster the rate of growth, the greater the danger. I recently read a great article by Leigh Buchanan in the March 2014 issue of Inc Magazine that addresses exactly this important concern (http://www.inc.com/magazine/201403/leigh-buchanan/how-to-scale-your-company.html).  I am sure you will garner a few useful insights that will help you grow your business in balance.

What Can We Learn About Business From My Granddaughter?

A few weeks ago my 20-month-old granddaughter suffered a broken pinky as the result of a stroller mishap.  A few days after the accident my son-in-law sent me this photo of my granddaughter multi-tasking. After admiring how cute she is in the photo, I started thinking about, of all things, business. Many “experts” have differing opinions about the effectiveness of multi-tasking, everything from it works, it is efficient, it is possible, to it doesn’t work, it is not efficient, it is impossible.  My experience convinces me that the effectiveness of multi-tasking is highly situational.  Multi-tasking is a subject onto itself, and not the primary take away from this photo. The primary business lesson to be gained from my granddaughter is about being adaptable.  We all need to be adaptable as to our investment of our time, our plans and our products or services. First, let’s address how we invest our time.  Think about it, how often during your business day do you find yourself working on items or tasks that were the furthest things from your mind at the beginning of the day?  I am willing to bet that even those of you who are very proficient at planning how you invest your time often find yourself off track at some point during your day, I know I do.  So if we are destined to have unplanned activities occupy anywhere from a few moments to major parts of our work day we must become time adaptable. How often have you read about a very successful company that became successful after its original business plan failed to yield the results it was seeking.  For example, the company we now know as Twitter was in fact founded as Odeo, a podcasting company.  When Apple launched iTunes podcasting, and made Odeo’s podcasting platform irrelevant, Evan Williams, CEO, Biz Stone and an Odeo employee named Jack Dorsey decided to create something called Twitter instead.  (Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-twitter-was-founded-2011-4#ixzz2lyym7wSj).  This turning point displays adaptability at its finest, snatching success from the jaws of failure.  Odeo was both plan and product adaptable. I could site many other examples of companies and owners being adaptable, and I am sure you can add more than a few to my list.  The point of this is really about having the attitude, mindset and culture that allows, supports and facilitates being adaptable.  When the inevitable challenges of day-to-day business arise, will you complain, display counterproductive behaviors or will you view them as opportunities to learn, outpace your less adaptable competitors and to ultimately succeed?