We love San Francisco, at the edge of the Pacific Rim, and strategic gateway from Asia to the vast American market
We don't write business plans (other than our own). Rather, we help you develop and write your own plan. And, it's not always a full-scale Business Plan that's right for you. Here's an example:
A high-tech product marketing and sales executive for a large firm decided to establish his own service business in a very different, but very leading-edge industry. As happens with many "early adopters" of high tech, he soon fell in love with purchasing and learning to use the nifty (and expensive) advanced products required to provide the service. Customers? "They're everywhere. They just have to learn that a paradigm shift has taken place, and they'll have to come around."
After about a year, many thousands of dollars of equipment, and well into six figures of foregone pay and perks, he came to realize that "they're not coming around." "HELP! I need a business plan," he said. We asked, "what is your sales approach?" "Leading-edge," he replied.
After learning what we could about the emerging industry, we believed that he was probably right about the paradigm shift and he could be among the earliest players. Problem was -- and is -- that customers don't care about shifts or tech, they care about bottom line. We helped him re-focus his attention from developing a formal plan, complete with market guestimates, pro-forma financials, the works, toward drafting and experimenting with a sales approach using hard-numbers and intangible customer benefits with side-by-side "traditional way vs. new way" comparisons. Results: decent sales over the short term, buying him credibility and time to plan a viable, long-term strategy.
A group of manufacturing companies in a tight labor market were concerned about attracting and retaining production workers for processes that were categorized as the 3 Ds: Dark, Dirty, and Dangerous. They were aware of some of the well-publicized auto factories in Europe, but considered some of these practices to be both impractical and expensive to implement.
This group commissioned us to conduct a survey of companies in America and Europe which enjoy high levels of production worker loyalty and productivity compared to industry or location averages. We visited and compiled information on well-regarded manufacturers across about a dozen industries, ranking management, benefits and working environment practices by cost and apparent positive effects. The not-so-surprising results: frequent handshakes from "the boss" and the absence of reserved parking spaces and executive dining rooms count for as much as ergonomically-correct workstations, day-care facilities, or high wages.
This assignment was the spark that led to our on-going tracking of best business practices that even the smallest firms can adopt and adapt. If you've discovered an inexpensive, effective "best practice" and it's not widely known (e.g. not listed in publications such as Robert Levering & Milton Moskowitz's "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America" or Inc. Magazine's "301 Great Management Ideeas from America's Most Innovative Small Companies" or similar publications), we'd like to hear from you. In return, we'll send you one of our genuine leather bookmarks. Thanks.
Awhile back we were asked to prepare a series of lectures on American project management practices for several groups of engineers from a newly-industrializing country. Their government knew it was important for these engineers to understand basic concepts on managing major infrastructure projects, even though they eventually would contract out this work.
More recently, a professional group asked us to prepare an overview of the advantages and drawbacks of American business process reengineering (BPR) practices. They heard the horror stories of vast numbers of people downsized out of jobs and wanted to know if layoffs and expensive automation was all that reengineering offerred. What we found was that some well-known companies such as Hallmark Cards, Federal Express and 3M offer employees high job security along with extensive training programs to encourage a broader background and upward mobility. There are also scores of smaller companies who have creatively avoided layoffs (e.g. temporarily assigning employees to jobs with other local firms who need the extra people) or slashed training costs (e.g. sharing expenses with other firms, even competitors).
We've recently studied ownership, succession and mentoring issues that arise and are successfully addressed in family businesses that survive beyond the second or third generation. The large diversity of business models which we found illustrates the need to adapt any solution to the specific needs, desires and talents of the managers involved, regardless of company size. In addition to our own findings, we discovered several excellent advisors we'd be happy to recommend. Pleae contact us for more information.
A not-for-profit organization had lost its vitality over a number of years as its relevance to its members faded. Membership dropped to less than half of what it was during the organization's heyday. New leadership was brought in and aggressive growth targets were set.
Problem was, many of the substantial advantages of membership were well-kept secrets. In fact, no one in the organization knew how much "bang for the buck" any given member realized over the course of the year. Some records and database information were maintained, but these were not always in useful form or easily retrievable.
Membership renewal times occur throughout the year, providing an excellent opportunity to get immediate information and feedback. Since the organization's salesforce telephoned or visited each member several months prior to membership expiration, we helped develop a checklist of benefits which the salespeople could quickly go through with each member, tallying the member's return on investment (usually an impressive ratio!).
We also designed a query-able database system for daily or weekly entry, allowing the organization to slice and dice member use and financial impact of the many services offerred. This information was then used to identify -- and successfully communicate with -- those member segments and individual members less likely to renew because of low utilization. Winning results for the organization: membership growth well beyond targets; greater member retention; substantial improvement in cash flow. Winning results for the members: expanded service offerings; increased use and financial impact of services; larger networking/ business prospect base.
Siemens is doing it, AT&T is doing it, Sony is doing it ... even we're doing it: forming alliances and outsourcing to leverage our scarce resources while growing our businesses.
This is how companies grow domestically and, especially, internationally faster than by using only their own internal means. The first step is usually to appoint a sales rep or agency. We receive numerous international requests from across both the Atlantic and the Pacific to assist in this first step: to help companies find an appropriate sales representative. While we provide this service for market entry clients (see our Marketing section for a fuller description), you need to be aware that this is not usually a strategic partnership.
From a sales representative, companies progress to forming a branch office, then a division, sometimes going on to creating a subsidiary or other full-functioned entity and from there "back" to centralized control of high-level strategy (beyond the scope of this discussion). Strategic partnering takes place at all these levels.
We're frequently asked to develop a "short list" of appropriate candidates and conduct "due diligence" studies on parameters such as their: ability to meet given manufacturing specifications; established distribution in defined markets; financial and management capability for equity investments; demonstrated expertise in producing and customizing certain types of software.
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