Posts

Beautiful actions

Where does excellence start? Surely it begins by knowing the fundamentals and then incorporating them into your decisions before executing with discipline? Beautiful actions = [understand the fundamentals] + [incorporate into decision-making] + [execute with discipline] I want to live a life filled with beautiful actions. Actions that are rooted in the fundamentals. It's also frustrating that it often feels like we live in a world where things are ungrounded. Take South Africa, for example. It is so unstable, without a foundation. Debt levels are too high; basic education is a mess; infrastructure is outdated, absent, or broken. We're fundamentally an uncompetitive country. Half the population have no hope. We're in trouble. Another area where things are often baseless is in marketing and branding - mostly, businesses behave randomly. The equivalent of ugly actions. A mess. There's no link between operational capability, brand positioning, marketing activity and sales p

Are you wasting time trying to succeed?

Three things determine business success at a macro level: Market opportunity - is there a large, buoyant market for what you sell? Most small/medium companies over-estimate market size - they think they swim in an ocean of opportunity when really, they play in the kiddies pool. Awareness - do enough people, or prospective customers, know of you? Not knowing you exist is a major inhibitor to growth.  Message clarity - if customers don't know what you offer them, they cannot take action. You'll be surprised how few businesses are crystal clear about what they sell and why you should use them. Each of these points has underlying factors; for example, market size depends on volume and value and how many already serve the market. You might be in an ocean of opportunity but crowded out by competitors.  Awareness is not merely a case of raising it through advertising, but also how vast your network is. Most entrepreneurs that succeed do so on the back of others that give them a foo

What to pay a consultant?

How do you know that a consulting project will deliver results?  The short answer is that you don't just like you can not guarantee the successful outcome of most things in life. You don't know if your marriage will work - you believe it will; you have confidence that it will - but you cannot guarantee it. Chances are 99.99% that your next flight will land safely, but it is not 100% guaranteed. Again, you have confidence that all will be fine.  There is no certainty anywhere in life, yet we pay for things despite this uncertainty because we are confident it will deliver. The same applies to paying a consultant. Pay for value, not time A consultant adds expertise to a project that will add outsized long-term returns to a business. The value of the consultant is the role they play in unlocking this long term value creation.  In his book, Value-Based fees, Alan Weiss clarifies what the consultant brings to an engagement and, therefore, why you pay them. You pay them for the long-t

Living in uncertain times

Image
We live in uncertain times, but maybe the world has always been like this? Maybe things are just as uncertain today as they've always been? Maybe uncertainty is a constant, not a variable? The fact is, we simply don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Uncertainty is constantly uncertain. But practically, what does this mean? Maybe it means that, in reality, we all sit with questions and anxieties that is linked to uncertainty, yet uncertainty will never disappear - it's always there. Questions such as: should I change jobs, am I living in the right country, where should I send my kids to school, and will I have enough money are all just some of the common questions linked to uncertainty. In truth, I believe no one knows the answers to these questions because it is simply uncertain. Uncertainty is the same for everyone. Although I believe the level of uncertainty we face hardly moves up or down, essentially making it a constant in our lives, I am intrigued by the que

Premium pricing as commercial muscle-flexing.

Charge more. That's the most un-sexy but best business advice you can give to almost anyone. Price is to a business, what altitude is to an aeroplane - the higher it goes, the safer you are. A plane at 30,000 feet has many more options than one at 500 feet.  The higher your price goes, the more the rest falls into place (pun intended). Selling your offerings for more forces every part of the business to perform better. Suddenly quality must be higher, products more innovative, sharper service delivery, staff more motivated and sales less driven by those easy deals. Charging more is the ultimate performance metric for a business. It's a raw measure of strength.  Investors often prefer companies with strong brands, but this is not because of the brands themselves, but what they allow the business to do - charge more. Brands command premiums which lead to profits which in turn fuels the business. Money creates money, and suddenly everything starts to make sense. 

What does winning look like in your business?

What does winning look like in your business? It's a serious question, and too few entrepreneurs know the answer. The answer can't be "making money". That's like a runner saying he wants to run. Running isn't winning; it's participating.  Like this book I'm reading says "Are you playing to play, or playing to win?"  The ultimate definition of winning can't be an internal measure, of any kind—branch growth, employee count, revenue...even profit. These are all participatory numbers, like a speed dial, rev counter and fuel gauge in a car merely says it's moving. But is it ahead of the others?  Winning is about serving customers brilliantly, and either you are doing it successfully, meaning you're winning, or you're not, meaning you survive for another day.  But is making money not a reflection of customer satisfaction, I hear you say. I don't think so. Revenue is a poor indicator of customer perception—it's simply a sign

Business confidence as a pillar to effective marketing

Small/medium companies often struggle with marketing because the business suffers from a lack of self-confidence. "We don't really know who our customer is. We're not sure who we compete against. We don't know how the customer makes purchase decisions. We don't know if our pricing is right. We don't know if our products and services are optimally bundled. We have doubts about whether we're meeting expectations." "We don't know, to be honest."  This is often the true answer to many marketing strategy questions that underpin effective marketing. The result is ineffective marketing activities and a waste of money. "Marketing" gets blamed as "not working" whereas the real problem is that the leadership suffers from a dire lack of confidence in what it is they are trying to promote.  It's like saying the car can't drive properly; meanwhile, you haven't learned how to drive.  As a business, gaining self-confidenc