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Collective Intelligence: The Most Impactful 15-45 Minutes of your Week (#2-25-14) Newsletter #150

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sat, Mar 1, 2014

collective intelligence map resized 600Solving issues, challenges, concerns, and simple brainstorming by calling on the Collective Intelligence within the knowledge and experience of your team of co-workers is an infrequent manifestation in most businesses.  Think about all that brainpower and the capacity it has to hurdle any obstacle, and you realize what an untapped resource you are probably underutilizing.  One of the magic’s of the weekly meeting is a dedicated time frame called Collective Intelligence where your team provides obstacles or ideas to discuss.   It applies the intellect of your team to solve challenges which would otherwise remain frustrations obstructing progress in your business.   The 15-45 minutes (depending on your weekly meeting designated length) will be the most productive time you receive from your business. Here some stories from clients on why:

In the past several weeks the following were topics discussed at the weekly meetings in collective intelligence from two of my clients: Sales Force Realignment, Industry Trends, Full-Time HR Position, The Great Game of Business (Book & Application to their business), vacation and holiday compensation, outside source for generation leads, organic growth of sales position, strategies to grow sales pipeline, salesperson hiring process, display art for trade show booth, company work process flow chart (7-9 essential systems), testimonials, pricing model and much more. 

Several of these topics resulted in impactful changes for my customers.  One determined that their approach to hiring sales people should be changed. They decided to outsource lead generation and develop their next sales person by first assimilating them through the company to learn the value it offers prospects and customers before placing them in the role of converting leads/prospects.  It’s been a challenging process to find sales people for this business based on the nature of their service.  After several recent hires didn’t work out they decided to look hard at their process and determine if it was poor hiring decisions, or not having defined the position and process.   Ultimately they determined they had several people internally functioning well in the role of sales conversion.  They desperately need to drive more leads.  For the time being they determined an outside resource can do that part of the lead generation process better than they could, and for a lower investment then hiring a salesperson to focus on this.

Another customer is debating the configuration of their sales force.  They presently have account managers, merchandisers and sales reps.  What’s the proper number to have in each category?  Is having one person do two or all three roles better or worse use of efficiency? 

We discussed the Great Game of Business and the value of transparency of financial information and the incentive this would provide.  The company determined that they were on this path already, sharing financial data with departments and developing incentives to reward contribution to the bottom line on a trimester and annual basis.  Long term the Great Game may deserve another look in the future.

There was a discussion on the fairness of their present holiday and vacation compensation, since some employees don’t take their share of vacation each year, and then get paid for the weeks they don’t use.  How is compensation paid for commission versus salary and union workers, and what’s fair?  Another discussion surrounded whether at their present level of employees (over 100) it merited changing their Human Resources position to a dedicated full time position with HR training and education.

In the past we reviewed sales presentations to get everyone’s input, discussed theme and incentive programs, one of which resulted in an annual theme that decreased returns for a beverage company by over $600,000.

Discover the power of your leadership team’s Collective Intelligence.  Gather the issues, concerns and discussion points at each weekly meeting that impact your business.   Once collected, decide which ones are priorities and then have someone lead the discussion searching for the best solution.  McKinsey in their excellent 2007 survey on Internet Technology“Collective Intelligence refers to any system that attempts to tap the expertise of a group rather than an individual to make decisions.”

You’ll quickly enjoy the impact that comes from your team’s observations, contributions, and discovery.  Solve your most pressing issues and discover the impact of Collective Intelligence in just 15-45 minutes of each week!   One of my clients requires I make sure we move through the Good News, Numbers and Customer and Employee Feedbac, Accountability pieces of the weekly meeting so we always have 45 minutes for Collective Intelligence. He finds it that constructive! 

If your meetings are not aligned you’re not receiving the full benefit of Strategic Disciplines execution and strategic value in your business. 

For an opportunity to learn more about Strategic Discipline and the power of the Rockefeller Habits register now for the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decision Workshop coming to Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 29th.  Bring your leadership group to really stimulate the value of collective intelligence and learn first-hand how to implement the critical pieces that can make your business soar!  

Topics: Customer Feedback, Employee Feedback, weekly meetings, collective intelligence, Business Growth

Innovation Involves Risk #8-28-12 (Example) Newsletter #132

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sun, Sep 9, 2012

Every business leader faces the currents of change.  Today’s business environment is full of sweeping changes from social media to health care reform.  describe the imageMaking good decisions in these challenging times requires leadership that listens to their employees and customers for feedback and then has the courage to change. The following is an example of one of my clients who has consistently beaten challenges and recently made a remarkable innovation that required considerable risk.  First a little background on All County Music and Fred Schiff’s leadership capabilities.

Hurricanes, recessions, big box competitors, Fred Schiff of All County Music has faced it all. With each challenge Fred has learned lessons, remained true to his principals of foundational business practices and weathered the storm. 

Hurricanes are part of the weather challenge that every business in the southeast coast ofFloridaface. In the mid 1990’s what’s been called the chain store blitzkrieg era, a large competitor, Mars opened a location 7 miles from All County Music’s main location.  In quick succession Sam Ash and Guitar Center opened as well close to them, all large chain stores with major muscle to hurt Fred’s core business.  And they did, in fact more stores opened to compete with All County and each time Fred noticed as much as a 30% drop in his monthly retail business.

All this activity gave Fred many sleepless nights, but instead of sitting back and taking the next hit, Fred hit back.  Band rentals and supporting school band programs has been the backbone of All County Music’s business.  That’s where Fred focused.  He developed a plan that met or exceeded the school rental programs that Mars provided solidifying his position with school instrument rentals. 

The chain stores came after his people, and instead of allowing them to leave Fred counter offered effectively, not losing a single key employee to his competition. 

In Leadership Requires Vulnerability we discussed the importance of the business leader being vulnerable in discussing their weaknesses and mistakes with their leadership team and staff.  Fred is no stranger to the courage required to take risks and initiate plans that may not have predictable outcomes. 

In early 2011 Fred put together a plan to remodel his Tamaraclocation showroom, designing a custom-made maple cabinet, hardwood floors and glass doors to reveal his latest specialization project, Florida Flutesdescribe the imageFred intuitively understood (quoted in an article from Music Inc), “There are certain parts of the market that want to be niche, where [customers] want to experience something they can’t get somewhere else.”  Investment in this innovation was $10,000 not including his stock.

It was a bold attempt to predict where the market is going.  Fred anticipated that excellent band students were looking for a business that could serve their individual needs.  To help them improve their sound and performance by offering step up flutes, accessories and service.  “It’s a group of musicians who really want to fine-tune and be able to play different options.  …once parents hear what their children are playing and how it makes a difference in their sound they’re going to be more apt to purchase that and understand the difference between a $5,000 and a $15,000 flute.”

Has Fred’s innovation been right?  Fred’s Florida Flute’s project got up and running in January, including a website dedicated to this instrument specialization.  Through the middle of August flute instrument sales alone had nearly exceeded the forecast Fred had made at the beginning of the year.  describe the imageAccessory and flute service repairs have far exceeded is projections.  The initial investment has been earned back.

It should be pointed out that Fred is a master at developing relationships.  Whether it be a drop-in customer or a flute instructor from a local college or university, Fred’s empathetic approach and concern for doing what is in the customer’s best interest builds immediate rapport and develops long term relationships that grow raving fans and a strong referral base. 

Fred also understands that a business is built through the service after the sale, and he’s committed to meeting his customer’s service needs with a dedicated group of service technicians that are expected to meet very high standards in terms of quality and quantity of performance. As part of the company’s dedication to Florida Flutes they’ve set aside a dedicated bench solely for flutes.  Florida Flute customers are given tours of this section of their service department to ensure they understand the commitment and security they will have for their flute when purchasing it from Florida Flutes.

Again Fred backed his innovation with a commitment to his customers, “If you’ve got a $20,000 flute, you don’t want to put it in the mail for service.  You’d like to bring it somewhere.  And if it means you have to travel a couple of hours to do that, that’s certainly better than having to ship it.”

Building your business requires risks.  Fred Schiff at All County Music understands that vulnerability is part of any business owner’s life.  He’s already planning his next innovation niche move for his business, a similar  move like Florida Flutes but for a different instrument.

Is your business innovating at a pace that anticipates and beats your competition?  Strategic Discipline offers a valuable set of meeting rhythms that offer customer and employee feedback as the backbone of weekly meetings. These feedback areas offer many options and opportunism for innovation if we as business owners take the time to listen. 

Is it time to improve your system for innovating and gather ideas on where your opportunities are? 

Topics: Customer Feedback, Employee Feedback, weekly meetings, Strategic Discipline

How to Link Customer Feedback To Profitability #120 8-30-11

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Wed, Aug 8, 2012

Answer:  A recent McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy study published by the Harvard Business Review determined that 90% of company profits are the result of your front line employees. 

How does your company look at customer complaints?  Are they considered an opportunity, or are they hidden, cast aside, and quickly forgotten?

If you don’t think getting customer feedback is important please pick up Fred Reichheld’s Ultimate Questiondescribe the imageIt’s packed full of stories and examples of companies who have made dramatic leaps forward in growth and profitability by focusing on customer satisfaction.  Reichheld’s evidence shows that companies providing superior customer satisfaction grow at 2.6 times their competition. 

Great customer service anticipates the needs of the customer.  Customer service cannot be an individual performance or it will not be enduring.  We’ve all had an experience with a great employee at a business we frequent only to come back another time and discover that this was just one person who knew how to treat people. 

Customer service starts at the top.  Leadership must recognize the value of keeping their customers happy. 

The way to make this an enduring part of your business is to incorporate customer feedback into your weekly meeting rhythms.  It’s another reason why Strategic Discipline needs to be an indispensable part of your company’s culture.  Each weekly meeting should have a portion of the meeting dedicated to employee and customer feedback.  Customer feedback is essential to begin to discover how your operation is functioning, and how customers are being treated. 

Each leadership team executive should be required to contact at least one customer every week.  Top companies like IBM has its top 200 managers talk to 5 customers and employees every week and review the information every Friday.  We recommend asking four short questions to discover how the customer feels your service is performing.

If you’re serious about your customer satisfaction effort and wish to compare it to how great companies perform, then you’ll want to start using the scale Reichheld provides with the Net Promoter Score.  Here you can begin to measure yourself against the businesses that have the top customer satisfaction scores in the industry.

I recommend visiting their site; particularly the pages that offer who the leading customer satisfaction companies are by industry and who rank highest in customer satisfaction.  The names might not surprise you, but their scores might.  Industries that don’t score well certainly won’t surprise you.  Some of the lowest scoring industries are cable and internet, health and life insurance, and credit card companies.  The highest are grocery and supermarkets and online shopping. 

How do you arrive at the Net Promoter Score?  You can find out more at the net promoter website.

Is it valuable?  One of my clients established the net promoter score as their basis for customer satisfaction.  They quickly realized store-to-store profitability increased as their net promoter score elevated.  Their goal each quarter is to exceed a 65% NPS [an outstanding score] to ensure each location is extremely profitable. 

Contact me to find out how this can tie into your overall strategy.

Topics: The Ultimate Question, customer survey, Customer Feedback, Net Promoter Score

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