The Golf Ball and How Nike Missed The Boat

Leading up to the 2000 US Open tournament, virtually all the golf balls in use, especially by professionals, were of wound construction.  Top of the line balls had balata covers which better golfers beat to shreds.  Tour pros routinely used six balls per round.  The exception was a Titleist ball with an Elastomer cover, the Titleist Professional, which closely resembled the Tour Balata, but with a more resilient cover.

At the beginning of the 2000 season, Tiger Woods, who was a Nike athlete was using the Titleist Professional ball.  Nike in partnership with Bridgestone Golf was prototyping a ball called the Nike Tour Accuracy, which Tiger call “My Ball”, planned for release at the beginning of the 2001 PGA Tour season.  In early 2000 Tiger had narrowed the prototype field down to two versions.  After some additional testing, the final version of the ball was brought to Hamburg for testing during practice rounds at the 2000 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open.  In a wind-swept heavy rain, Tiger hit a drive from the first tee with the Titleist Professional ball that the wind caught and push into the rough.  Tiger next hit the Nike prototype on the same starting line. The Nike ball moved about five yards in the wind and stopped in the middle of the fairway.  In May 2000, Tiger switched to the Nike ball, ahead of the original schedule.  Starting with the 2000 US Open, Tiger won his “Tiger Slam” with “My Ball” and changed the golf ball industry in the process.

What does this have to do with business?  During that period, Tiger Woods was the most influential golfer in the world.  That influence resulted in a complete move away from wound golf balls to the new two- and three-piece balls.  To quote Tiger;

“I won four majors with that ball, and the rest is history because wound-ball technology is gone.  Everyone switched.”

Unfortunately, Nike was totally unprepared to capitalize on Tiger’s success using the Nike Tour Accuracy golf ball.  Kel Devlin, Nike’s global director of sports marketing still ponders the circumstances around the ball.

“If we had enough capacity, and I could have gotten the sports marketing folks and Phil [Knight] to buy into the bigger program … if we’d had the ball available to any Tour player who wanted it four weeks earlier than we did …”

Result?  Nike is no longer in the golf ball business and Titleist continues as the far and away best-selling brand of golf balls.

So, I ask you the same question I ask of most of my clients when they are about to begin a new strategy or marketing program,

“What if this works?”

When you do something new, do you prepare for success?  If you are launching a new product or item, do you arrange for timely delivery of inventory on a just-in-time basis?  If you are launching a new service, has your team been fully trained to consistently deliver the service up to the quality you require, while continuing to support (not losing) your existing loyal clients?  To successfully scale your business, it is essential to ask these questions and many more as part of your planning and implementation process.

My ActionCOACH colleagues and I are expert at assisting clients just like you in the development of new products and services and business growth.

*Based on an article in the June 2019 edition of Golf Magazine.

Highlights from My Vacation Reading

I took the first two weeks of August for a trip to Europe with my wife, Tammy.  Tammy joined one of Berkshire Choral International’s groups which rehearsed and sang in Budapest, Hungary.  While she was in rehearsals I toured Budapest and caught up on my reading, both business and pleasure.  Following are comments about and links to a few of the articles that struck a chord.
  • Jason Fried in the July/August 2017 issue of INC Magazine in an article headlined Starbucks Wasn’t Built in a Day, subtitled “Entrepreneurs are told to go big or go home. Stop obsessing over scale, and perfect the basics.”   In the article Jason talks about John who wishes to open a tea shop, but often drifted to talking about his next shop, and his next shop, etc.  He advises John to slow down and get the basics right before focusing on rapid growth.  I have long agreed with this philosophy.  While there is nothing wrong with having big long range goals, we emphasize long term planning at ActionCOACH, one needs not to get ahead of one’s self.  One of the major points of the ActionCOACH 5-Way Formula is that a business must be built in balance.  Before I joined ActionCOACH, I had several turn-around clients.  One in particular, a consumer goods company, had great marketing and product, but couldn’t reliably deliver their products to their customers, the retail stores.  Ultimately their customers abandoned them in favor of suppliers that had great product, marketed well and consistently delivered.  My client had grown their business out of balance, and could not cover the basics.
  • In the July 2017 issue of Golf Digest an article about confidence by Sam Weinman titled What If Everything You’ve Been Told To Think Is Wrong? caught my eye. Within the article are several concepts that apply equally to business as well as golf.  One very important concept was highlighted by a quote from Dr. Fran Pirozzolo, a sports psychologist and mental-skills coach “Confidence is a garbage term in that it induces illusions of competence.”  If in business, we confuse confidence with competence, our mind will be closed to our limitations and that will limit our ability to construct plans to overcome them.  It is the difference between an “I Know” attitude which cuts off learning and an “Isn’t that interesting” attitude which encourages learning.

Another concept applicable to business revolves around Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck’s division of our mind-sets into two categories:

– Fixed mind-set – people who seek validation of their abilities – Growth mind-set – people who believe their skills can be cultivated through effort

The final concept that jumped off the page also came from Dr. Pirozzolo – “Don’t believe the hype.”  During my career in the fashion industry, I was aware of countless fashion designers who crashed and burned because they believed the hype and were unable to adjust to changing market and business realities.

  • From the September 2017 issue of Success Magazine John C. Maxwell has an article about time management 4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for a Better Tomorrow Today.” The title of the article says it all.  In our TimeRICH seminar, we encourage the audience to be militant about their time.  Along the militant line, Maxwell’s article contains a great quote I intend to add to the TimeRICH presentation:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are just a few of the ideas I gleaned during my vacation reading, I hope you will find them useful.

Net Promoter Score and Your Business

During recent coaching sessions, the subject of Net Promoter Score (NPS) came up.  My clients wanted to learn what NPS is and how it might benefit their businesses.  Thus, I thought this is a good time to share a few ideas about NPS. What Is Net Promoter Score? Simply put, NPS is a very simple, direct, relatively easy, and effective method to measure your customer’s (client’s, patient’s) loyalty to your business and the likelihood they will refer your business to others.  In other words, how healthy is your customer experience and your customer relationships?  It was developed by (and a registered trademark of) Fred ReichheldBain & Company, and Satmetrix Systems. Net Promoter Score was introduced by Reichheld in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article “One Number You Need to Grow”.  NPS can be as low as −100 (everybody is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everybody is a promoter).  An NPS that is positive (i.e., higher than zero) is felt to be good, and an NPS of more than 50 is excellent. Why is NPS Important? Time after time in measuring conversion rate (as per the ActionCOACH 5-Way formula) by lead type, it is obvious that referral leads have the highest conversion rate of all lead sources.  Therefore, it is extremely important for your business to deliver a great customer experience (GCE).  A great customer experience will result in a high NPS.  A high NPS will enable your business to have a robust and consistently effective referral system.  The formula is

GCE -> HNPS -> NewCustomers -> Revenue -> Profit

Many successful ActionCOACH clients have achieved completely referral based businesses, with the ability to add as many new loyal customers as they can serve.  An added bonus to a referral based business is lower customer acquisition cost and higher lifetime customer value. How to Develop Your Net Promoter Score At its core, NPS is derived from a single question customer survey.  The question is

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend, family member or colleague?”

Those who respond with a score of 9 to 10 are called Promoters, and are considered likely to exhibit value-creating behaviors, such as buying more, remaining customers for longer, and making more positive referrals to other potential customers. Those who respond with a score of 0 to 6 are labeled Detractors, and they are believed to be less likely to exhibit the value-creating behaviors. Responses of 7 and 8 are labeled Passives, and their behavior falls in the middle of Promoters and Detractors.  The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. For purposes of calculating a Net Promoter Score, Passives count towards the total number of respondents, thus decreasing the percentage of detractors and promoters and pushing the net score towards zero. There are a variety of thoughts within the NPS consulting industry as to:
  • When to survey, and how often?
  • Types of surveys – relationship vs. transactional
  • Additional questions (if any), how many, what should they be?
  • How many people should be surveyed?
  • Format of the survey
There are many resources available to enhance your understanding and implementation of NPS.  This blog was based upon a great web article by Christian Reni ( https://customergauge.com/news/how-to-calculate-the-net-promoter-score/ ). If you wish to build your business on a solid foundation of raving fans who are both very loyal and who consistently refer new customers, NPS is an essential part of your toolkit.  My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH can assist you in building and implementing this important business building strategy.

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 2

More BFOs from Day 1 of the 2016 BEF, Troy Hazard continued. Troy told a story about car salesman who had sold him a luxury car in Australia where he lived before moving to the USA a few years ago. The salesman asked how often he traded cars in, Troy answered about every 4 years. The salesman began contacting Troy about every 6 to 8 weeks, by mail, email, telephone, you name it – when Troy moved to USA permanently the salesman continued kept in touch.  After about 4 years the salesman called to say it’s time for a new car.  Troy told the salesman that he permanently moved to US and salesman continued to stay in touch.  On a family visit back to AU, Troy dropped into the dealer and asked the salesman why he continued to stay in touch, answer … “I sold more than 100 cars to your friends.”  The business question to ask yourself is; How is my business staying in touch with our customers, members, advocates and raving fans? (See the following section – day one BFOs from Brad Sugars – The Ladder of Customer Loyalty). Next, Troy urged us to always have absolute clarity of where the money/profit comes from.  His example was an electrician who repositioned to being a Total Energy Solution. Troy also told us about one of his companies that had five salesmen.  Following a typical bell curve, at one end of the curve was a salesman who was only doing about $60,000 in commissions and was way below quota.  In the middle were three salesmen at or slightly above quota, earning $100,000 to $125,000 in commission income.  At the other end of the bell curve was a salesman who was pulling in about $275,000 in commissions.  Troy then threw a trick question at us, asking who he fired.  Most guessed the $60K salesman.  In fact he fired the $275K salesman, explaining that he was disruptive, not a team player, stealing leads from the others, didn’t embrace the company culture, etc.  The business question here is who on your team is not fully engaged with the mission/vision/culture of your business?  By the way, he also fired the 60K salesman. The final BFO from Troy Hazard was very simple; Change or Die, one change at a time!   Our next speaker was Brad Sugars, the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH.  Brad opened with the statement that “Profit comes from REPEAT BUSINESS.” Next Brad presented the ActionCOACH Ladder of Customer Loyalty. IMG_7935 small The first rung of the ladder is Suspect – a target or an ideal customer.

Suspects are moved up the ladder to Prospect via marketing.  Prospects have taken some action; responded to an ad, visited your store, called to ask buying questions, etc.  The BFO here relates to the ActionCOACH 5 Way Formula, “if the Conversion Rate is low, the Target is WRONG!”Prospects are moved up the ladder via sales to Shopper. Shoppers have made their first purchase.  The BFO that Brad mentioned here is “the 2nd purchase is 10 times more important than subsequent purchases.”

Shoppers become Customers when they make that all important second purchase.  This is where you begin to build a relationship with your customer.  Have a consistent point of contact and establish genuine know-like-trust in the relationship.

As you develop stronger and stronger relationships with Customers they can become Members.  Members will develop a sense of belonging.  The sense of belonging must be enhanced by superior, personalized customer service and continued relationship building.  The BFO here is Great Customer Service starts with doing business with those you want to do business with (see Target above).

Continued relationship building and consistent superior customer service will result in your Members moving up to Advocates.  A major BFO here is every customer defines customer service differently, that is why building strong relationships is the KEY.  Advocates will refer their friends and network to your business.

If you consistently deliver exceptional customer service and continue to build relationships, your Advocates will become Raving Fans.  Raving fans will refer all of their friends and their networks to your business.

Whew, this wraps up my BFOs from only the first day of the 2016 BEF.  Stay tuned, there is much more to come.

Effective Delegation Part 3 – What You MUST Delegate If You Want Your Business To Grow

As part of my on-going series about the art and science of effective delegation, and in response to questions I have been asked, I have developed the following Top 10 List:   The Top 10 Items You MUST Delegate

10. Activities that will speed up your cash flow – This includes collection calls, invoicing on a timely basis, responding to inbound customer inquiries, processing and shipping orders and making it easy for customers to buy from your business, to mention just a few.

9. Tasks that are already streamlined and documented – This is one of the keys to achieving both leverage and consistency in your business. Without leverage and consistency your business will become increasingly chaotic as it grows, if it grows at all.

8. Tasks that involve government or other outside, often-changing regulations – You simply do not have the resources to keep up with regulations. Make sure to delegate to trained professionals whose job it is to be up to date.  For example, a while ago I was introduced to a customs lawyer.  She told me that her new law practice was booming because U.S. Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.  She mentioned she found many companies that have been importing materials for years, always completing the paperwork the same way that are un-wittingly, no longer in compliance.  Worse yet, the potential penalties are many times larger than before DHS was formed.

7. Anything that you want your team to master – You will never achieve leverage in your business if your team does not master operational tasks. Mastery supports consistency.  Consistency is a prerequisite to growth.

6. Tasks where you are the bottleneck – If everything goes through you, your company can only work at your speed and capacity.

5. Areas that are beyond your skill-set or competence – Simply put, if you are not good at it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

4. Anything that you shouldn’t be doing – If you are tempted to do that low-value task that is not time sensitive, stuffing envelopes, shredding out of date documents, etc., you are keeping yourself from adding the most value you can to your business. Remember, all of us ultimately are compensated for the value we add, not for the time we devote.

3. Tasks that keep you from growing your business – The main responsibility of ownership, whether you actually own a company or simply take ownership of your responsibilities, is to develop and grow your business.

2. Anything you hate to do – If you hate it, you most certainly will not do it well.

1. Anything that requires specialized knowledge – You cannot possibly be an expert about every subject necessary to build a successful business. You can never go wrong delegating to expertise on an as-needed, demand basis.

Bonus – Any subject where you can benefit from someone else’s experience – We are not omnipotent; learn from the mistakes of those who went before you.

One very important word of caution: You must not abdicate any of the above; you must learn and practice effective delegation. Please share your experiences and results from delegation or abdication with my growing community.

Would I Fire My Client If I Owned His Company?

During a coaching session the other day, one of my clients asked me a very interesting question.  To paraphrase his question –> given his shortcoming number one, and shortcoming number two, and etc., “if you (meaning me) owned my (meaning his) company and I was your employee, would you fire me?”  At first I was, I must admit, speechless.  After gathering my composure I realized a couple of things:
  • All of the shortcomings he mentioned represented areas that are outside of the ownership zone. They all focused on working IN the business rather than working ON the business. They revolved around tasks that he could, and should delegate.  My client owns a mid-sized manufacturing company with a front office team that has the theoretical capacity to accomplish most, if not all, of the items he mentioned.  On the other hand, his front office team may not be the right team to accomplish the items.  Which led me to my second realization …
  • Being an owner is very different from being an employee. An owner has several prime responsibilities, among them are:
    • To create and maintain a success environment for his team
    • To create, communicate and live the company’s Mission, Vision and Culture (M/V/C)
    • To design, build and lead the company and its team to ensure consistent delivery of the company’s M/V/C
So my answer to his question was that as an employee I might fire him.  As an owner however, he, as is the case for all of us, could improve.  I told him that it is time to build the kind of team to whom he could confidently delegate, not abdicate, those items that he shouldn’t be doing, is not good at or simply doesn’t like doing.  Effective and successful delegation will enable him to concentrate on working toward growing the business and fulfilling the company’s M/V/C, in other words, to grow as an owner.

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 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.

What Can We Learn About Business From James Taylor?

To celebrate the 4th of July I went to Tanglewood in Lenox, MA to see one of James Taylor’s (JT) annual concerts.  JT has been giving concerts on and around July 4th for more than 20 years.  Many in the audience have seen a majority, if not all of these concerts.  In a review of the concert, the reviewer, unknowingly asked the business question … why do so many people, from far and near, fill Tanglewood beyond capacity at these concerts year after year?

The one word answer, one of the keys to long term business success – Consistency!

James Taylor demonstrates consistency in 3 important ways:
  • Consistent Quality – JT surrounds himself with perhaps the very best back-up singers in the business.  In addition, the musicians in his band are exceptional.  The arrangements, both vocal and instrumental are exceptional as well.  Does your business offer a consistent level of quality to your customers?
  • Consistent Delivery – Year after year, although JT is now 64 years old, he makes sure to sing within his vocal range.  He has adopted the latest audio monitor technology all in order to deliver a top quality vocal performance.  His guitar arrangements and the variety of instruments he plays deliver exceptional musical moments.  In addition, he employs up to the minute lighting and sound equipment to deliver just the right atmosphere for each song.  How consistent is the delivery of your business?  If you are not delivering in a consistent manor, you will never build long term success into your business.
  • Consistent Variety – I know what you are thinking, isn’t consistent variety an oxymoron?  Well, in this case, no.  All of the regulars know that JT, while covering the expected bases, such as Sweet Baby James, You’ve Got A Friend, Mexico to name a few, he will also play a variety of songs that a different from year to year.  For instance, this year he performed Twist and a moving arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner.  In addition, some of the songs were played to new arrangements.  This variety makes each year’s concerts unique and therefore must see events.  One of the things James Taylor is known for is the variety of his performances.  This makes him somewhat unique (there are other bands and performers in others genres that offer variety) and ultimately increases the value of his concerts.  What is the unique value proposition of your business?  Do your customers and your team understand the value your business delivers?
James Taylor consistently delivers quality, variety, and value to his audience making him one of the most popular and enduring acts in show business today.  How can you deliver consistent quality and value to your customers?  If you need help with the consistency of your business, call me or one of my colleagues at ActionCOACH.