Category Archive Business culture

business planning for leaders to ensure success by Richard Gourlay

Great LEADERSHIP is all about your VISION

Great LEADERSHIP is all about your VISION 

Having a Vision for your business is the most important leadership trait for a successful leader to have. For leaders to lead they must have a strategic vision for their business. A clear future state they want to achieve. One which provides not only an optimum place within their market they want to be but one which inspires, motivates and drives the organisation to achieve.

Great leaders may be charismatic, they maybe forceful they may even be likeable, but for them to be successful they must have and be able to communicate and inspire others through their vision. A vision is a future place within tomorrow’s market.

Leader’s must create a vision which is not only aspirational for themselves but motivational for the all stakeholders in a business.

A recent survey of 1,439 chief executives and senior HR people from 707 organizations across the globe found that the outstanding trait of successful leadership is the ability to create and communicate a VISION. This is the single most important characteristic for success. Amongst those interviewed it scored an impressive 92% amongst such high level people in business. This demonstrates just how important a characteristic this is in creating a successful leader.

“Without a clear vision no leader can succeed today in business”

#business #planning #business #successfully by Richard Gourlay

Business planning is vital to succeed: start with your #Vision.

Creating a VISION

Creating a vision is not easy. Leaders are busy people fighting to keep their business on track, dealing with day-to-day issues and making decisions based upon facts and figures. That last point is therefore a real challenge for leaders in developing a vision. This is because there are no facts and figures about the future. The future, by definition is unknown. Instead leaders must rely upon a range of forecasting tools, gut feel or by benchmarking others to develop their vision of what the future might look like.

Each of these are fraught with danger and risk, both in terms of making decisions based upon inaccurate perceptions or damage to their credibility as a leader. Following others through benchmarking is always the safest option for leaders, but it limits them to be a follower within any market sector, rather than to lead it from the front within their sector.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage is about creating and sustaining leadership within a market, how Dyson trumped Hoover in achieving success.

Growth is painful, change is painful but nothing is more painful than staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong

Dealing with Change.

For leaders to lead, they must be able to deal with change. Change happens in-perceivably until it is obvious. Every day we grow older but it is only when we look back we see how we have aged. The same is true in any market, even in what is called disruptive new entrants, the change that enables new players to enter is caused by changes within a market which if being monitored can be seen to create opportunities.

Change is the only constant in any business. The market is always moving either through Macro factors or through Micro factors. Good leaders need to be continually monitoring both and understanding their impacts upon their business, their customers, their channels to market and value perceptions of their brand.

Leadership is about dealing with change.

#Change is always happening, the impact of change is huge but imperceivable day-to-day, unless leaders keep monitoring it.

Challenges for Leadership 

Failing to create, validate, monitor and deliver a clear mission towards the delivery of a vision, is the single biggest single reason chief executives fail.

Leaders have to carry people with them for their vision to be brought to life. Poor communication skills are at the heart of why visions fail to succeed. Leaders must be able to create, verbalise and rationalise to others their vision to generate buy-in and carry their senior people with them. For a vision to succeed leaders have to build relationships, develop trust in their future and develop a team culture towards that vision. The inability for leaders to invest in developing their vision often results in the lack of trust and development of the senior team culture.  This failure to develop leadership soft skills, is a major area leaders must invest in to improve their effectiveness as a leader.

Leadership is a balance between science and art. Creating a vision is often seen as an art, but for a vision to connect with senior stakeholders visions require a scientific rationale. It is the old adage we buy with the heart and justify with our head. A solid vision is both a visual but backed up with both direct and indirect evidence of that future state in which the leader’s vision sits.

Key Communication Skills

The importance of being financial and operationally literate to the CEO role is always seen as core leadership skills. These hard skills are often key drivers of leadership assessment. Which is why so many CEO’s come from  finance and operations leadership backgrounds as these competencies are seen as important for any CEO role.

In todays’ business environment CEO’s are being selected based upon having a demonstrated track record of having created and delivering strategic vision. The ability to inspire, buy-in and carry others throughout the strategic vision creation and delivery process is now being seen as a the more important track record for a successful CEO.

Succession Planning 

The importance of succession and smooth transition is becoming more important element for successful leadership. With the exception of the sudden changes, such as BP’s sudden need to be seen to change direction in response to events, companies today are investing time and effort in succession planning. Well planned succession planning ensures long-term shareholder value and the ability of avoiding the football management culture of overnight change. The leadership teams ability to develop successors who are able to support and follow through a vision is becoming an integral part of the CEO role.

Executives, board members and business leaders all recognise that talent management plans, including succession management have become essential for sustained performance in today’s organisations.

If you want to develop your company’s position then there needs to be a vision for it, where it is going and why. If your are looking for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting. Let us see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.

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Strategy: How to outcompete the competition; finding sustainable competitive advantage

 Sustainable Competitive Advantage 

Few companies can lay claim to the holy grail market position for any length of time, retaining a sustainable position within a market. Here are some that come immediately to mind: Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Hoover, Apple’s Phone, Boeing, Walkman, Sky, Microsoft Windows, are all good examples of global companies who have achieved that today.  Sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to create and sustain a position within a market. Sustaining a desirable market position provides long-term competitive posiitoning for that brand.

The competitive advantage most companies strategically aim for is to own the space of early adopter within an adoption curve. That position is where a brand is seen as a premium player, producing innovative new products and services and able to command and earn premium prices for those products. That premium position, finding, and holding the early adopter position in any market, is seen as the optimum competitive advantage position within any market.

By finding that competitive position, and often helping creating the market structure, a brand takes ownership of that the competitive position and often drives the development and evolution of the market.  A company can choose to operate anywhere within a market and make it competitive if they build their business model to a defined market position.

Making it Sustainable

Making a competitive position sustainable requires a brand to develop its ability to sustain its position over the long term. That sounds easy in theory, but in reality is hard. Short-term attitudes in growth and profit can easily distract a leadership teams focus. Failing to invest in sustaining their brand’s market position, or stakeholder demands short-term profit taking, are two of the most common pulls that destabilise a brands’ established market position.

The challenge for any leadership team with their business is to be able to see the market position they want within that market position. Sustainable competitive advantage, the holy grail of a successful business is not easy to find, straight forward to own or simple to sustain, and that’s why it is every leaders’ holy grail.

How to Outcompete the Competition 

In mature (and often saturated) markets developing a unique strategic position can give a business sustainable competitive advantage. A sustainable competitive advantage in any market is the holy grail for business owners. To be somewhere that your competitors aren’t, and to have something that cannot be taken away, is what every business leader wants to achieve in setting up in business, and  dreams of achieving. It is one clear defining way of out competing the competition is to develop a sustainable competitive advantage in a market.

Dyson Vacuum Cleaners

To be recognised as the market maker, such as Hoover, whose name is synonymous with vacuum cleaners, gave the Hoover brand unbelievable control of the market for most of the 20th century.  Hoover, the brand leader owned the global market, with an unparalleled history, and complete market dominance. The brand name itself became synonymous with the product category, everyone hoovered with a Hoover.

So what changed? A loss of focus and desire to continue to own the market coupled with the airplane ticket fiasco which opened the door to new competitors.  One man in particular James Dyson who grabbed the opportunity to replace Hoovers’ once held position in the market launching his own Dyson brand through technology shift of his cyclone bag less vacuum.

His passion, created from vacuuming at home and becoming frustrated, seeing the cyclone idea at a sawmill which then took 15 years, 5,127 prototypes to turn into a winning product. Today this winning product benefits upon 60% recommendation purchases and has allowed Dyson to spin his cyclone technology into hair and air dryers as well as washing machines.

Features of Strategic Competitive Advantage

What are the key features of sustainable competitive advantage for any company in their market, well here are the most commonly found top five:-

  • Charge a premium for its services; even low cost suppliers out price other low cost suppliers.
  • Lead the market through innovation; will get to market new ideas quicker or in a more dominant way to shift the market to your agenda.
  • Controls the key channels to market; from buying decision processes to pricing structures.
  • Owns the pace of change within the market; from technology development and consumer mind set, being the pace setter in the market.
  • Control of buyer activity; the significant majority of the Share Of Buy (SOB) and Share Of Space (SOS) decsions through its dominance.

Sustainable competitive advantage is an extremely difficult goal. Most successful brands only ever achieve the challenger market position, one that challenges existing perceptions within a market. Developing a sustainable competitive advantage requires an organisation to constantly challenge not only the competition but also itself, to sustain its desirable position within its market.

Creating dominant sustainability requires the leadership to create a clear vision of where the company is going and where the market opportunity exists.  It takes leadership with passion, dedication and drive for a brand to succeed in moving from a challenger brand to one which can dominate its market such as Dyson. For men like James Dyson, the advantage was that he was in the right place at the right time, with the right product.  That has enabled a technological shift in the market with his bag less vacuum and a move to smaller cable-less products dominate the innovator position within the market.

Learn More about Strategy

If you want to develop your company’s position then there needs to be a vision for it. Where it is going and why. If your look for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.


Strategy The Leader's Role By Richard Gourlay

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values in business matter to customers and employees

Values matter in BUSINESS more than ever as Ikea have found out

In today’s information driven world, how you do business matters as much as the business you do, as Ikea the iconic Swedish furniture retailer has just found out. Ikea’s green credentials have been dealt a massive blow in consumer’s minds. Ikea’s failure to support sustainability in its products leaves customers questioning its real values as a business.

Ikea only 16% sustainable wood 

Ikea’s failure to achieve its own most modest target of 30% of its wood products to be from certified sustainable wood, will damage it its credibility heavily with its key audiences. The fact that it only hit 16%, has a massive blow on the values it professes as promoting sustainably sourced materials and to its environmental positioning.  Compare that with Homebase (78%) and B&Q (77%), which won the best green award 2010.

The excuse given in its defensive press statement is that it has sacrificed the values of sustainability for rapid growth and protecting its profitability (£2.3billion). But short term greed like this can cost dearly on both growth and profitability over the long term.

Ikea’s staff not telling the truth 

This corporate failure was made worse by staff telling customers in store that its products are from sustainable sources. When in fact they are from illegal logging in places such as Russia. This insatiable drive for growth, which so often undermines trusted names, may damage the Swedish brand’s position as the leader in the flat pack market significantly.  This expose means that Ikea will now undergo microscopic environmental and customer scrutiny.

Ikea’s soft “long term” aspirational statements on their website with links to the Rainforest Alliance are unlikely to be seen as enough in the modern world where green wash marketing such as this are quickly exposed and penalised. When the spotlight of the green world is turned on, it is difficult to hide in the shade.

The World Bank suddenly in the late 1980’s promoted its ‘green credentials’ by promoting itself as having employed ‘an environmentalist’, to offset its image of chopping down forests for cash crops.  This green wash story was quickly exposed when it was pointed out the World Bank employed some 5,000 economists, what difference would/could one environmentalist make?

Values matter in business for leadership

Values must be transparent

The way you provide your product or service and to whom, says more about you than how much business you do. Being big in a highly segmented world is no longer the determinator of success. How you do your business now determines your current credibility and future success. Credibility is as much about your values in becoming successful as about the success you have. Mohamed Al-Fayed for example, despite buying Harrods, never shook off questions about his background.

Your values as an organisation as demonstrated by everyone inside your organisation matter to both existing and potential customers in choosing to do business with you. People have choices and they can now exercise them more freely than ever before, and that means customers can access information instantly to make choices that are more informed. Ikea’s staff misinforming undercover Times reporters about their sustainable and certified sourced products at a number of shops are one symptom of Ikea’s rapid growth boardroom culture.

Values Must Live In The Moment 

Almost everything in life is in real time and instantly communicated to circles of influence and beyond. A restaurant having  bad night can have a poor reputation before the starter has even been cleared away as customers post live feed back to sites such as Qype or Trip Advisor . Therefore, before the waiter, maitre d’ or chef knows what’s happening the world outside already does by Twitter and Facebook and are cancelling their reservations in their droves.

Why clean lavatories matter?

The old adage that if you want to know how clean the restaurant kitchen is, inspect the lavatories. This is because they tell you how the restaurant values cleanliness, is a great example of modern customer awareness. Do you live your values or just post them on your website? Is the question customers want to know in establishing and experiencing trust with you and your brand.

You can spend as much as you like on your website, Google reviews and trip Advisor comments, but simple first impressions such as the state of lavatories matter more to customers.

Rail companies learning fast

The recent story of the man on the train talking too loudly causing enraged customers to Tweet  complaints about his behaviour which was picked up by a duty manager hundreds of miles away who then contacted staff on the train to track down the loud caller and asked him to quieten down.

This story is very much testimony to the growing demands of customer expectations, immediate online response, not waiting for passing train staff to react. This story is part of the reputation shift that train companies are actively pursuing.

Values are in the detail

Values matter, they define the real differences between companies. How British Airways treats its customers through the values it embeds in its entire organisation is what makes it different to other premium airlines and distinguishes it from them, and from the bucket providers such as Ryanair.

However, as everyone de-layers in response to changing business models, cost and modernisation requirements, values can be lost in the rush to modernise and compete in new ways. BA’s changes to its premium dinner menu, introducing exotic main courses such as crocodile and ostrich sounded good but simultaneously cutting the After Eights, so there was not to go around 1st class passengers was a classic example of getting its values wrong in its customer’s eyes.

Values Must Involve Everyone

If you value your customers then remember everyone needs to smile in their role, if you believe in providing excellent customer service then don’t cut your front of house staff numbers.

Too many companies’ ideas of communicating values are to place a statement on a website, brochure, at reception and on the induction training programme. How many companies look at the strategic advantage of values and embed it into people’s roles, asking staff to define their role by those values by redefining their role to live those values?  How many companies review those values as outcomes in winning and retaining customers?

Values as seen by Customers and Employees

Customers, potential and existing, are drowning in choice.  What makes you stand out to them is the values you own and can demonstrate as a business. Statements on walls and websites always sound good, (possibly, because they are written by marketing people who do not work there) but unless the company lives them, then they do more damage than good. Over promising and under delivering is a growing experience for everyone today.

Whether it is a London hotel, stating it’s exclusiveness, as evidenced by its 5 star, pretty pictures on the website of its presidential suite and over the top statements such as “sumptuous 5 star accommodation” the jaw dropping price tag. When you turn up and find a broom cupboard with not enough space to turn around in let alone swing a cat, and you are one of 500+ rooms filled with bus loads of tourist on a package holiday then company values are under pressure.

The same is equally true for staff. Why should people stay loyal to you if you don’t live those values and enshrine them in every one of your people. Do they live it or lip service it?

New company’s leadership must create true values 

New companies have the unbridled opportunity to define their values from the start. By building them into their business model throughout the entire process from the beginning, providing value and clarity with every new role and new person, they can use their values to maximum leverage for attracting their chosen customers and staff.

So Googles’ “DO NO HARM” value won many plaudits, breaking down the concern about the is was then rightly questioned by their policy in China of being seen to be supporting censorship (try typing Tienanmen Square Massacre into Google in China it never happened!).  Now there is a good argument that rightly says any Google is better than no Google, but the contradiction against their stated values upset many Google Supporters elsewhere in the world.

Your values should come from within. What do you stand for? What does your company do? How should everyone do it? What does excellence look like? Some classic questions to understand the values you offer. I often ask people to think of an animal or car which best describes there organisation

Keeping Values Alive       

Established companies inherit values, often without realising they have them in place, “its how we do it around here” type phrases are often values hidden inside everyday activity. Keeping values alive is often hard in rapidly changing under-pressure environments. Changes in leadership, particularly when cross industry leadership is introduced or when new pressures are introduced from changing ownership for example often end up throwing out the hidden value of a brand in the race to achieve short-term results.

Everyone entering a company, particularly top executives, must understand the core heritage values any organisation has, how they are owned and expressed. The best way to achieve that is for new people to present those values back under peer group review and add to them with the changes they intend to introduce. New products/services need to incorporate core values and learn to demonstrate them in new ways as new channels of communication are opened up.

Values Check List 

  1. Are your values visual to your team and customers? 
  2. Does everyone know your core values, have you checked?
  3. Can all your people translate them into their daily role?
  4. Do people see the company values in other people’s roles within the organisation?
  5. Do customers comment on those values in their dealings with your company in formal and informal feedback channels? 

If you can only answer confidently to only points one and two then you are not living your values as a business. If you cannot hand on heart even answer those two them its probably time to look at your values in a lot more detail. Spend time to think through what you and your business stands for and get in touch if you need any assistance in creating values which matter to you.

Leadership Strategy

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Customers have choice by Richard Gourlay , Cowden Consulting.

Are you on a MISSION or just a dreamer?

One of the most important pieces of any good business plan is to define what you do and where you are going as a business. If you do not define what you do and where you are going then why should people work with you or for you? Defining your purpose as a business is the clearest statement of intent any director or owner of a business can make, and yet one of the most misunderstood and avoided pieces of any business plan. This is the mission statement which everyone in a company should be able to relate to and believe in.

Why is it avoided? In my experience directors are most often frightened of making a commitment of what they stand for so as not to alienate any existing or potential customers who may not fit the proposed mission statement. This contradiction, not wanting to say what the primary goal of a business or organisation is, means that many company’s try to be everything to everyone, ending up being meaningless to everyone.

Mission Failure

This failure to define a mission is also one of the biggest limitations companies and organizations have in creating clear blue water between them and other players in their market. It is why so many companies struggle to stand out and then expect someone in marketing to try to answer that question sometime later. Marketing does not define the purpose of any business or organization, they may influence it, but it takes leadership from the top for a mission statement to be successful.

Missions fail if they are not believed in by the employees and customers, or experienced in how an organisation looks to deliver its products and services. They are not just slogan on a wall or a website.

 

Mission Statement

A good mission statement is clear, unambiguous, engaging and relevant to all its key audiences: namely its leadership, senior management, employees, shareholders and customers. A mission and a vision (but more of that later) provides a central definition of what a business or organization delivers.

Creating a Successful Mission Statement

Here’s a quick-step guide to creating a mission statement.

  1. First identify your organization’s “strategic advantage” what makes you successful. This is the idea or approach that makes your organization stand out from its competitors; the reason that customers prefer you and not your competitors, what makes you unique, what are your core competencies?
  2. Secondly, identify the key measures of your success. Key success measures by which you can measure, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), typically pick 3 to 5 headline measures of performance.
  3. Thirdly combine your strategic advantage and success measures (KPI’s) into tangible and measurable goal.
  4. Define the wording, using clear language, until you have a concise and precise statement of your mission, which expresses your ideas, measures, and desired result.
  5. Now communicate the mission statement effectively so everyone owns the mission statement within the company, make it public and ensure it is owned from the top with passion.

Communicating mission statements effectively to everyone is a defining piece of making the mission live. After all the hard work in having one so often they are filed away, or framed and stuck on the wall and forgotten. Instead successful Mission statements are launched to everyone and owned.

I’ve run embedding program within companies to ensure that everyone inside businesses and organizations “own” the Mission and build it into their everyday activity.

If you don’t follow through then all the effort is wasted and the opportunity is lost, so remember to focus on making your mission statement memorable and relevant. The leadership also needs to own the mission statement and make it live throughout the company.

A Mission Creates Loyalty

If you do this businesses and companies can achieve significant improvements which can include: building higher loyalty from staff, higher levels of customer service; improved stakeholder and channel support and lower costs for winning new higher value customers. These are just some examples of the benefits from having and using a mission statement successfully at the front end, one other major advantage is that you have a foundation upon which to build your business plan.

Good Luck: Want to develop your growth plan, use my business planning tool kit, click here to Take the guess work out of your business success   or click this link to learn how to greta your own business strategy:-

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Strategy: The Leader’s Role by Richard Gourlay

Richard Gourlay

 

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Richard Gourlay provides advice and support for business leaders to grow and develop their business.

The power of WHY to consumers

WHY Customers’ BUY 

Traditionally customers used to buy what companies made, went where they sold it and bought what they promoted.  That was the age of big marketing and sales budgets, when big adverts worked.  Driving demand through pushing products down channels, offering promotion and celebrity endorsement to generate business.

The age of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) we are special because….. so you will buy’! It was the 1980’s so the world did as it was told: “we make what you want because we tell you want you want because we know about your needs”.  This relied upon trust in a brand by the public, which in a pre-internet world gave complete control to the brands.

People buy if they trust the brand they are buying from. In the 1980’s people trusted brands because no-one questioned them. A lack of information coupled with a belief in household names meant that people’s buying decisions were based upon a limited width of information upon which decisions were made.

Today the world has changed. The sources of information has increased dramatically. The transparency required by companies is now at a level that every aspect of what and how a company operates is under total scrutiny. Every aspect of ever action is recorded, analysed and evaluated. Business leaders today live in a totally transparent world, and the measures of trust are now very different.

Trust, the intangible combination of character and competence which all successful brands must develop and sustain is mad cup of a whole series of complex elements.  The importance of ethics in today’s business are essential characteristics which purchasers expect their brand to portray in all their activities. That makes it a key priority for leaders’ to focus on within their role.

 

Honest is essential

Then ethics came into play, as the age of information came into play in the early years of the new millennium. As the internet began its infancy, the power of globalisation was laid bare by the internet. People asked more about how companies did things? Where were products sourced and how became important. Why were the premium footballs, such as those which David Beckham kicked, being made by blind children in India for a few rupees. Why were the clothes models wore being made in sweat shops where workers earned less than for a dollar a day?

The internet changed how the media could communicate, explaining how household names operated and could afford those huge marketing budgets. This forced companies to change their practises (and their internal policies) by educating and fighting back against the likes of Naomi Wolfs’ No Logo expose for example.  The brands who recognised that they could no longer hide their activities became more open and honest and developed trust, while those which did not, suffered public shaming and demise.

How business operated mattered, and so in response companies upped their awareness of their social impact and visibility through corporate social responsibility. How people did things mattered not just when the likes of Bhopal and Exxon Valdez disasters struck, but in everyday life.

Fair-trade has become a household name in consumer goods, with high street stores vying for credibility of having an ethical policy, supporting local goods and having transparent policies of how they operate. This gives more confidence but leaves companies open to further scrutiny and often to unsatisfactory answers to vital key questions, not at least within developing countries, who are now the fastest growing emerging markets for many brands.

Ethically; should I buy from you?

The biggest question which consumers and business now asks people is why businesses are doing these things.  Everyone has become so empowered with information sources that people want to buy the WHY, not the what. Buyers want to understand the ethics of the company and importantly the people behind the decisions it takes. Customers want to know that these decisions accurately reflect the real cultural and values that company has, not just the marketing hype, which the brand portrays. Today this is the real power of the internet.

What’s the real purpose of the company, who and what is driving it and what does it really believe in and stand for. No longer is a small donation to a local charity enough to say it supports the community, customers want to know how much, who gets involved, is it company wide and deep or just a year-end tax saving. In today’s world the importance of ethics in today’s business cannot be understated for leaders to focus upon in their role.

Ethical Values Being Lived

In fact the world has changed completely, confidence comes not from what you say but why you are saying it. The educated and informed world means that it’s not just politicians who have seen their reputation tarnished but any business in any sector who does not explain it why factor.

It’s not just whistle blowers who expose mal-practice in today’s world, everyone is communicating through so many channels, from traditional word of mouth, through social media and beyond into a connected world, where reputations must be transparent. As everyone’s voice matters, being ethically transparent, open and honest is now essential if a brand is to be trusted.

Winning customers is no longer all leaders have to focus on. Finding talented staff, channels partners and customers is now a multifaceted challenge for leaders to deal with. Ethical short-cuts damage brands reputation and those damaging allegations now stick, and become magnified to stakeholders as statements are now online, like a bad trip advisor review, it never goes. A tarnished reputation is exactly that.

No matter what sector you are in, understanding the still emerging power of the internet in sustaining your reputation is essential and never more so than in explaining why you are in business and why you matter. The importance of ethics in today’s business has never been so important to establish and maintain.

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Do YOU have a Plan for Growth?

Do you have a plan for GROWTH? 

Leadership is most often identified as someone with a clear vision to grow their organisation, of where it is to where you want it to be within its market. By definition, that means looking for and finding growth.  All leaders must focus on looking for growth and development of their organisation if leadership is going to be seen as successful. But many leaders do not have a plan for growth within their organisation.

Leaders need a plan for growth

Do you have a clear vision of where you are going to take your business?  From understanding the market and its direction to where your business needs to be within those sectors, to profit from the growth within the market.  Leaders need to be strategically aware of their market if they are to find and focus on growth within their organisation.
Leaders must also redesign their organisation so that it can take advantage of growth opportunities, redesigning how a business operates to increase turnover and / or profits is at the heart of ensuring a leadership team has plan for growth.  Revitalising the sales and marketing operations is at the heart of acquiring more clients and developing improved relationship structures with customers and channel partners.
With a plan for growth leadership teams can reduce the amount of down time and focus their efforts on driving your business forward, with a clear vision of where you are going and why.  Successful businesses develop strategic plans to move their business forward, to grow and succeed, while being in control.
The first role af any owner or director is to have a plan, from star-up onwards (not for the banks) but for you to own and deliver. That plan needs to be kept alive, fresh and driven to focus on success and succeeding.

GROWTH needs a Strategy

strategy is a researched approach by the leadership team, supported by a detailed plan of continual action steps to get the organisation to where you want it to be. The reason strategies are so vital is they keep things moving, and in business, if you are not going forward, you’re going backwards, and that can happen very fast.  So, if you want your business to be successful and/or pay you more, having a strategy that focuses on growth is a must!
If you have no formal strategy to take your business to the next level you need to refocus your priorities right now to create growth, here’s the first stage of a growth strategy framework:

Create a clear vision of what you want to achieve:

There’s an old saying that you can’t hit a target you can’t see. Well your vision is your target. Your vision needs to be very clear in terms of what you want from your business, by turnover, profit, customer type or all three? What’s your ideal position in that market, do you want to be known as the premier supplier of your product or service, or a low cost or niche player?
What about your personal goals to support your lifestyle?  You need to be very clear about what you want and what you don’t want. Have a clear focus that will keep you aligned with your long term goal for you and your business. Make your vision aspirational, where do you want your business to be within the net 3 to 5 years? What will it look like and what will the business feel like to be part of?

Looking for Growth

Starting with a clear vision for growth within a business is the simplest and most powerful way a leader can motivate everyone. Growth is about understanding the drivers of growth within your business sector.  Knowing where a market is going requires leaders to step out of the day-to-day operational detail and focusing on the drivers of your market.
Growth is fundamental to a successful company. Finding growth does not mean just looking for growth in turnover, growth in profitability is by far the most valuable growth any leader can find. Growth can also be found in winning new market entrants; cross selling penetration to existing customers; launching  innovative products and services or premium pricing of scarce products.  Other profitable ways to grow your business include driving demand of premium and unique products, where your business has or can create a competitive advantage.
Like to learn more about creating growth for your business, then get in touch with us through the links below.
Cowden Consulting provides Strategic Planning Workshops which enable owners to create their vision of what they want to achieve. Our SPW faciliated workshops provide the opportunity for owners to work on their business not in their business. To learn more about Strategic Planning Workshops (SPW’s) or contact us by clicking Cowden Consulting to discuss your needs, or go to our website www.cowdenconsulting.com to learn more about us.
Like to learn how to find growth for your business? Then why not buy the book on how to build your successful business strategy, with the step-by-step guide on how to build your own business strategy, click the book below to buy now.
Strategy The Leader's Role By Richard Gourlay

Strategy: The Leader’s Role by Richard Gourlay, a book fo how you can create your business strategy, with all the tools a business leader needs to build their business strategy.

Learn more click here to read more about Richard Gourlay 

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strategy, leadership and vision in business by Steve Jobs

Values matter in BUSINESS more than ever

Values must be transparent

The way you provide your product or service and to whom, says more about you than how much business you do. Being big in a highly segmented world is no longer the determination of success. How you do your business now determines your current credibility and future success. Credibility is as much about your values in becoming successful as about the success you have. Mohamed Al-Fayed for example, despite buying Harrods, never shook off questions about his background.

Your values as an organisation as demonstrated by everyone inside your organisation matter to both existing and potential customers in choosing to do business with you. People have choices and they can now exercise them more freely than ever before, and that means customers can access information instantly to make choices that are more informed. Ikea’s staff misinforming undercover Times reporters about their sustainable and certified sourced products at a number of shops are one symptom of Ikea’s rapid growth boardroom culture.

Values Must Live the Moment

Almost everything in life is in real-time and instantly communicated to circles of influence and beyond. A restaurant having  bad night can have a poor reputation before the starter has even been cleared away as customers post live feed back to sites such as Qype or Trip Advisor . Therefore, before the waiter, maitre d’ or chef knows what’s happening the world outside already does by Twitter and Facebook and are cancelling their reservations in their droves.

Why clean lavatories matter?

The old adage that if you want to know how clean the restaurant kitchen is, inspect the lavatories, because they tell you how the restaurant values cleanliness, is a great example of modern customer awareness. Do you live your values or just post them on your website? Is the question customers want to know in establishing and experiencing trust with you and your brand.

Rail companies learning fast

The recent story of the man on the train talking too loudly causing enraged customers to Tweet  complaints about his behaviour which was picked up by a duty manager hundreds of miles away who then contacted staff on the train to track down the loud caller and asked him to quieted down.
This story is very much testimony to the growing demands of customer expectations, immediate online response, not waiting for passing train staff to react. This story is part of the reputation shift that train companies are actively pursuing.
The values that a business lives really matter to customers and to the brand reputation. Learn more about strategy and how to build yours in your business, click here or on the book below.
Strategy The Leader's Role By Richard Gourlay

Strategy: The Leader’s Role by Richard Gourlay

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Dyson strategy to outcompete the competition

What Makes a Great Brand (Part 2)

Clear Brand Strategy

Being clear and precise is also important in the company’s messages for a brand to succeed. A strong undiluted brand message must enthuse internally but must also consistently connect with customers through touch points. For great examples look at Innocent, Dorset Cereals or Apple as classic examples of touch point engagement. They also demonstrate a clear story delivered with passion about who they are what they do and why they matter. This focused and consistent message is not just a marketing message but an ingrained set of values which consumers buy into with passion. These brands not only position themselves as premium players in their fields and earn more but they also continuously find new ways to spread their key messages to customers, they have a clear brand strategy to achieve it.

Everyone Must Live The Brand

Another vital aspect of any brand success is that the people within that brand demonstrate what they preach.  They live that lifestyle, support the values and aspirations associated with a brand and contribute to its success. It is their lifestyle, it is a part of the way they and their brand do business.
Great brands go beyond the logo to understand its real value to existing customers and also to tomorrow’s customers.  Whether it is a family run local shop or a global supermarket chain, great brands position themselves so they develop and hold a market position to develop long-term success.

Great Brands

Great brands also develop their own uniqueness, not just the product or service but the whole package is how we do it around here. There needs to be not only consistency but the brand hand writing and value on how they do it. The best brands always develop singular simple signals for customers, cutting through jargon to create clarity without patronisation.

For brands to succeed in today’s global markets these golden rules have never been more important as consumers have never had so much information, but if you follow these simple rules of brand success you can develop and maintain a great business.

Looking for Advice 

If you want to develop your company’s brand and are looking for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strategy-Leaders-Successful-leaders-business/dp/1508761965/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476384916&sr=1-1

Strategy: The Leader’s Role by Richard Gourlay click to learn more

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The power of WHY to consumers

The power of WHY to consumers

Will they BUY?

In the old days people used to buy what companies did, what they made, where they sold it and bought what they promoted. That was the age of big marketing and sales budgets, when big adverts worked, by driving demand through pushing products down channels, offering promotion and celebrity endorsement to generate business.
The age of the Unique Selling Proposition “we are special because…..” so you will buy! It was the 1980 and 1990’s so the world did as it was told: “we make what you want because we tell you want you want because we know about your needs”.
That mindset existing when choice was limited (if there was any choice at all) and led to big brands consumers trusted without question.

Honest is essential

Then ethics came into play. As the internet began its infancy, so the power of globalisation was laid bare by the internet. People asked more about how companies did things? Where were products sourced and how they were made became important to consumers. Why were the premium footballs, such as those which David Beckham kicked, being made by blind children in India for a few rupees. Why were the clothes models wore being made in sweat shops where workers earned less than for a dollar a day?
The internet changed how the media could communicate, explaining how household names operated and could afford those huge marketing budgets. This forced companies to change their practises (not their policies though) by educating and fighting back against the likes of Naomi Wolfs’ No Logo expose for example.
How business operated mattered, and so in response companies upped their awareness of their social impact and visibility through corporate social responsibility. How people did things mattered not just when the likes of Bhopal and Exxon Valdez disasters struck, but in everyday life.
Fair-trade has become a household name in consumer goods, with high street stores vying for credibility of having an ethical policy.  Supporting local goods and having transparent policies of how businesses operate matter in consumer decision making. This gives more confidence but leaves companies open to further scrutiny and often to unsatisfactory answers to vital key questions.  Not at least within developing countries, who are now the fastest growing markets for many brands.

Why! – should I buy from you?

The biggest question which consumers and business now asks people is why businesses are doing these things.  Everyone has become so empowered with information sources that people want to buy the WHY, not the what. Buyers want to understand the ethics of the company and importantly the people behind the decisions being taken. Customers want to know that these decisions accurately reflect the real cultural and values that company has, not just the marketing hype, which the brand portrays. Today this is the real power of consumers to interrogate and validate brands as to their genuine credentials.
What’s the real purpose of the company, who and what is driving it and what does it really believe in and stand for. No longer is a small donation to a local charity enough to say it supports the community, customers want to know how much, who gets involved, is it company wide and deep or just a year end tax saving.
What do the decision makers really value, their life story, their values really matter, and how they treat all their people now determines as much if not more in buyers minds than the value the products communicate.
In fact the world has changed completely, confidence comes not from what you say but why you are saying it. The educated and informed world means that it is not just politicians who have seen their reputation tarnished but any business in any sector who does not explain their why factor. No matter what sector you are in, sustaining your reputation is essential and never more so than in explaining why you are in business and why you matter to consumers.

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