The Scorpion in business

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Here’s how the story goes – A Scorpion ambles down to the river. He gazes at the distant
bank on the other side wondering how to get across. Along hops a frog and the Scorpion
has an idea! He asks the Frog if he can get on the Frog’s back and the Frog can swim him
across to the other side. “But what if you sting me? Then we will both drown!” pleaded the Frog. “That’s why I won’t sting you”, promised the Scorpion. Convinced of this logic the Frog agrees, the Scorpion climbs on and they begin their journey of collaboration. As they paddle over the deepest part of the river the Scorpion flicks his tail and stings the frog! “What did you do that for!”, croaks the Frog as the life drains from him and they begin to sink. “Because that is my nature!” the Scorpion replies.

What does this metaphor have to do with business? Everything! Particularly if you are a
startup. Where business and money are involved there will always be the Frogs and the
Scorpions, and both are trying to achieve the same objectives i.e. success, so they will
always be crossing paths with each other.

Most entrepreneurs entering into business are Frogs. They have a skill set i.e. they can swim. They have an objective – to get to the other side thereby reaching their goals. They know and understand most of the obvious challenges such as debris, rising water, unseen obstacles, bad weather, lurking enemies etc. and mostly prepare to meet them in advance. But there is no way one can foresee the coming of the Scorpion.

The Scorpion comes in many disguises – it may be a client, a member of staff, a colleague, a partner, an associate, a bank, the economy, circumstance, politics, or even yourself. The Scorpion always makes perfect sense as you begin your journey, and only when you reach the deep water does his real character reveal itself. A client’s marketing director may resign and the new one appoints another supplier; a member of staff may be a  manipulator and pitch the other staff against you; a colleague may find a new job and leave you an overload of work; an associate may get a better deal from a competitor; the bank may call in your overdraft; the economy may change dramatically and affect your industry directly; a new invention may make your product obsolete; political indiscretion may hike interest rates and your investments nosedive; and you, yourself, may make bad decisions that looked good at the time.

So, what is the moral of the story? Many small businesses fail in the first 12 months of
operation (in fact up to 90% of them) and the Scorpion is often the cause.

The unpredictability of business is one of many factors that startups fail to understand, and often some business owners give up when the Scorpion strikes. Critically important to your new business is your planning, which includes market understanding (is there a market for your product/service?), financial planning (are you spending money on the right things?), product/service quality (the optimum balance between cost and price), distribution (is your product on the right shelf?) marketing and advertising (defining your strategy and your media appropriately), customer service (are you trained and geared towards customer satisfaction), administration (does your cash flow smoothly in and out and are you meeting compliance issues?).

But always be aware of the Scorpion, it is his nature to take you out.

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Don’t lead your salespeople to sales, lead them to success.

It is the habit of companies, large and small, to motivate their salespeople by driving them to make sales i.e. setting targets and putting pressure on them to achieve those targets. For most companies this is all they do. They give a salesperson some background on their product or service, then put them on the sales-floor or send them off to clients with no more of a brief than just “sell!” This methodology forces the salesperson to focus only on the activity of selling, and not on the vision of being successful. The difference between the two trains of thought is that the first results in a salesperson, and the second results in a successful salesperson. The first achieves sales and maintains minimum results, and the second builds customers and achieves maximum results i.e. growth. The first keeps the company going, the second takes the company to the next level.

Being a successful salesperson requires more than just sales skills; it requires a different kind of thinking. And more often than not all a salesperson needs is to be guided to a different perspective, a new approach not just to how to sell better, but how to achieve better.

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The benefits are obvious really. Instead of the salesperson doing the minimum to help the company achieve sales, they begin doing the maximum to help themselves build a career – and in so doing they grow the business optimally, not minimally.

More often than not one of the stumbling blocks salespeople face is the type of training they get. In most cases it is predominantly of an academic nature, rather than an attitude shift. For example they may be told how to keep a diary effectively and fill in all their schedules, but do they they take ownership of that time? Do they see it as company time, or their own time?

Does your training just teach you more knowledge? Or does it motivate you to succeed?

Author :: Chris van Rooyen :: chris@brickmoon.co.za :: http://www.brickmoon.co.za

The Customer Experience

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THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DIRECTLY AFFECTS CORPORATE GROWTH

We’ve all heard the expression “You only get one chance to create a first impression”. But is that impression a good or a bad one? Your company’s future will depend on it. A good impression will last a long time, but so will a bad one…only longer!

Every business communicates with the public at large in a multitude of ways. It may be the receptionist, the delivery man, the security lady at the gate, a press advert, a salesperson, a business card, a brochure or social media. Communication as a whole is the lifeline that connects your business with your customer. Communication creates an ongoing ‘conversation’ with your customer that builds credibility and trust. How else does your customer know who you are, why you exist, what you do, why it is different, how they can get it, what it means to them, what it means to the community, what makes you special, etc.

Every single time your business engages with the public it generates an ‘experience’.

This experience translates into a positive, indifferent or negative memory of the business. Each experience is unconsciously and/or consciously perceived by the public to be either favorable and applicable to them, or the opposite. Coffee aroma in a coffee shop is a favorable experience, and bad smells in a grocery store are negative

This is the Brick Moon universe i.e. many years of experience helping companies to “say the right thing”.

Communication strategies in companies do not only revolve around putting an advert in a paper or launching a Facebook profile. The task is far more intrinsic to the company as a whole than most companies care to realise:

Hiring people with the right attitude is the new corporate AND communication imperative. Companies filled with positive people communicate twenty five times more effectively with their customers than those that just meet expectations, and indefinably more than those that are even mildly negative.Training people to become a willing part of and live the corporate promise both in and out of the company. Customer service is about bringing the corporate promise to life!

Media communication has the potential to expose you dangerously. There’s an old advertising proverb that says “Beware when you advertise, someone may actually see it”. If someone sees your advertising what does your message leave behind? It’s not just about saying something, it’s about proving something. Do you live up to your advertising? As an example I think I can safely say without much contradiction that banks seldom live up to their advertising.

My pet hate is the “receptionist from hell!” And it doesn’t mean that s/he may be loud and abrasive, but also indifferent and helpless. Your frontline staff are the most important to your business. By ‘frontline staff’ I mean any individual that regularly engages in any way with your customers or suppliers. Your delivery guy, your receptionist, your security people at the front gate (even if they are not yours), your sales staff, your client executives – even your staff in general when they are in public or attending events etc. Your people are your business and their bahavior will affect the way the customer perceives you.

Strategy is asking questions…

strat3…and getting answers you never expected!!
What are the typical questions one asks when plotting your current corporate situation?

  1. Who are we?
  2. What are we doing?
  3. Where are we going?
  4. Where do we want to go?
  5. How do we change to get there?
  6. How do we measure it?

The process of self-analysis is led with these six key questions and as you drill down with further questions from each one you discover stark realities, many of them being answers that reveal the opposite of what you originally planned.

Every organisation gets sidetracked by circumstance, it can’t be helped, and the bigger the company the more prone they are to it. But when re-looking your corporate strategy two distinct realities always emerge:

  1. You discover that many of the answers to your questions reveal activities that are chewing on your resources and productivity and, in the interest of profitability, you can most certainly do without.
  2. A remarkable amount of opportunities emerge that you have simply stumbled past in the pursuit of your diabolically busy calendar.

Creating the time for answers
The challenge comes in finding the opportunity to critically review the activities of your company on a regular basis. “Oh, I’ll do that at the next annual conference”, you tell yourself. But hello. this is now 2015, and maybe you didn’t notice but strategies change at the speed of technology these days and once a year very dangerously inadequate.

Strategy in today’s world is an ongoing process that needs to be strictly scheduled into frequent review & planning meetings, not just to avoid the stumbling blocks, but also to see the opportunities available to stay ahead. I know this may all sound a bit “I’ve heard it before”, but consider that it is the very real growth factor in your business right now, and without it the decline has already begun.

Article: Chris van Rooyen : chris@brickmoon.co.za

Visual is Critical

A story in a picture. Because of the dramatic shift towards visual communication the storytelling properties of a picture today is becoming more than just important – it is critical to being noticed and understood. The ‘creative’ picture today is not just an image that looks cool and requires little justification other than supporting the verbal message, it has to be immediately communicative telling its own story.Face

In this case we were asked to create an image that depicted the dual personality of our client’s store in Cape Town.

Their selling proposition is that they sell fine African origin gems and jewellery as well as traditional and authentic African Artifacts appealing to the tourist market. We photographed a classic African model who is contemporary and cosmopolitan on one side and traditional/tribal on the other. This image has become representative of the brand positioning.

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Even images used in infograms are now focusing less on words and more on imagery. There is so much information out there that consumers need to process the data much more rapidly, and it is well known that images transfer information 60 000 times faster than words (http://bit.ly/1vAeGoc), so it is natural that images create the first impression when communicating. Images are also more easily memorized so your message stands to enjoy a longer more impressionable life

However, you now have to be very careful what your images say! It is easy to avoid innuendo and ambiguity with words, but not so easy with images. Think and plan carefully when using imagery to tell your story.

A Neglected Craft?

karate2It is sad that illustration in South Africa plays a distant second fiddle to the glamour of photography. If one spends a short time ‘googling’ media overseas you will find that this incredibly versatile craft is alive and well and kicking up quite a storm.

And what’s more is that SA has an abundance of creative talent.

One key observation of these global publications is that the ones deemed ‘creative’ are mostly the ones that use the dynamics of illustration to present that ‘unique’ image. The image of South African magazines is mostly on a par, with their differentiation being determined mainly by the quality of their photographs. One just has to look at the shelf in a CNA to recognise the parity.

But, because of this, illustration presents an amazing opportunity for differentiation between one publication and another.

Think Illustration

How often do we automatically reach for stock images or the in-house photographer when doing an article for PR, or an advert in print, or a brochure design, or even posters?  All it takes is to ‘think illustration’ when you plan that next article, poster or advert. When up against the opposition it can often be the difference between being seen in the crowd…or not!

Chris van Rooyen :: chris@brickmoon.co.za