Posts Tagged ‘competition’

Monday STAND TO!

By Richard Martin, Expert in Business Readiness and Exploiting Change

Do you try to mould your future and create the conditions for your success, or do you instead remain passive while others seize the initiative?

The whole point of Business Readiness is to “take the bull by the horns” and shape your competitive battle space for you and your customers. This isn’t simple P&P (preparation and planning). It’s about vigilance, preparedness, and robustness so you see, assess, respond, act, and pounce on opportunities before others see them.
Situational Awareness
Step 1 of the Business Readiness Process (BRP) is…

Vigilance through constant Situational Awareness. Situational awareness requires systems, procedures, and mindset to be on the lookout for changes and trends at all levels–strategic, operational, tactical–of your business and organizational environment. This includes keeping eyes on:

  • Changing customer needs and wants
  • Changing political, social, demographic, cultural milieu
  • Technology, finance, economic factors, etc.
  • Competitors and other stakeholders, including changing alliances, support, and opposition to your goals and strategies
Think of how effective non-business opposition to Keystone XL,
Northern Gateway, and other pipelines has been.
Could this have been anticipated?
Could the companies involved have managed the situation better?
Could they have assessed their courses of action better?
You need…
  1. A consistent and constant watch and evaluation system.
  2. A method and the right mindset and motivation in you and your people.
  3. To decide if this changes your mission and objectives or whether you need to update them.
It starts at the top. If you’re not open to change and ignore signs of imminent disruption, how can you expect your team members to be engaged and motivated for it?
Business Readiness Process (BRP)
1.     Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
2.     Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
3.     Activate organization or team.
4.     Conduct reconnaissance.
5.     Do detailed situational estimate.
6.     Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
7.     Perform risk management and contingency planning.
8.     Communicate plan and issue direction.
9.     Build organizational robustness.
10.   Ensure operational continuity.
11.   Lead and control execution.
12.   Assess performance.


Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Feel free to contact me at any time to discuss your objectives and needs.
And remember… STAND TO!!!

© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc.

This article may be forwarded, reproduced, or otherwise referenced for non-commercial use with proper attribution. All other rights are reserved and explicit permission is required for commercial use.

The “Power Law” is one of the most useful concepts for making predictions and decisions in business and management.

The power law shows how two variables–one dependent, the other independent–covary. Mathematically, one varies as a function of the other by being raised to a certain power (exponent).

The following diagram shows this type of relationship. Often these are depicted on log or log-log graphs, but I show the “power curve” as an asymptote on both axes of the graph to highlight the non-linearity of the relationship between the two variables.

power-law-basic

A concrete example will help. The great majority of earthquakes are of very low magnitude. High magnitude earthquakes are much rarer than low magnitude earthquakes. In fact, their magnitude varies in inverse exponential proportion to the total number of earthquakes. In practice, this means that there are literally thousands of earthquakes every day around the world, but magnitude 6, 7, and 8 ones are much rarer. The most powerful earthquakes of all, over 9 on the Richter, scale are very rare. They can happen only a few times a century, or even less. This doesn’t mean that the magnitude of any particular earthquake can be predicted. It does however imply that given a sufficiently large sample, we will eventually see a frequency-magnitude distribution that resembles the graph above.

This type of relationship is ubiquitous in nature, and that includes our human and social natures. There was a whole book written on this topic–The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson–with emphasis on the right side of the graph. In his book, Anderson described how the internet has made many businesses or ideas viable which would not previously even have been known. He called this the long tail because there are musicians, artists, artisans, crafts workers, professionals, etc. who can provide their productions and services to people around the world, even though they can’t compete with the more traditional providers who dominate markets by occupying the left side of the power curve. This makes for much more diversity and many more opportunities to get known and appreciated, and to develop a following because it lowers traditional barriers to entry and long-term viability.

This type of relationship is also depicted in the following diagram. I show the relationship between number of clients and the number purchases, interactions, or value of each category of client that characterizes the market and product distributions of most, if not all, companies (including my own clients).

power-law-of-clients-and-value

For instance, I’ve been working with a banking client. This graph shows the relationship between number of clients and the number of products/services that each client has with the bank. The total market size for this bank is about 80,000 potential users of its services. Of these potential users of its services, the great majority, about 85 %, have no business relationship with the bank. Of the 13,000 or so that do use the bank’s services, the majority only use less than 3 of over 20 products and services. As we move to the right, there are less clients, but their interactions with the bank are more intensive. In other words, there are are many fewer clients in categories to the right, but they use many more of the bank’s services, which in turn generate much greater value. On the other hand, there are no actual clients who do all of their banking and meet all of their financial needs and objectives, much less use all of the bank’s services. This is why we can depict the lower right part of the curve as an asymptote. You never actually reach complete saturation or use.

We’ve all noticed these types of power-law relationships in our professional and personal lives, our management and business experiences, and even in some natural phenomena. This relationship is often referred to as the 80/20 law, Pareto’s Law, or Zipf’s Law. It shows up in such truisms as: 80 % of my problems are caused by 20 % (rates can vary) of my people; most of my sales and profits come from a small number of sales reps; only a few of my clients provide most of my revenue and profits; this product category accounts for 45 % of my sales, but 70 % of my profits; etc., etc.

The following diagram is a further illustration of the principle. It comes from an online article by Mark McLean of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and shows an almost perfect example of a power-law distribution in the number of deals done by different categories of real estate agents who are members of TREB.  We can see that only a very small number of agents in TREB can be considered highly successful, prolific even.

treb-gif

Of those agents having completed 6 or less deals in a year, a similar relationship holds, although it’s less stark:

treb-6-and-under

Whatever we wish to call them, power-law distributions and relationships underlie much of the correlations and dynamics that surround us. We can use them in making general predictions and, along with the S-curve phenomenon I described in a previous post, we have two very powerful tools and concepts for understanding the world around us. Moreover, power laws and S-curves are not only ubiquitous, they tend to show what’s called “self-similarity,” or a fractal pattern. I’ll discuss that third powerful concept next week.

© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc.

This article may be forwarded, reproduced, or otherwise referenced for non-commercial use with proper attribution. All other rights are reserved and explicit permission is required for commercial use.

By Richard Martin, Expert in Business Readiness and Exploiting Change

One of the most useful ideas for conceptualizing any kind of change process is the S-curve. Perhaps you’ve seen one of these before. It looks like this:

typical-s-curve

The S-curve is the way natural and human phenomena grow and develop over time. For instance, the plot of a growth of bacteria or yeast in a laboratory follows the exact S-curve. Technically, it’s known as a logistic function, and when we plot it as a rate of growth, rather than cumulative growth, it forms a bell curve, although it doesn’t follow a normal, Gaussian, distribution. In other words, when something starts growing or spreading, it first starts very slowly, then it speeds up until it hits it hits a maximum, after which the growth/spread rate slows down until it basically tends to zero.

The S-curve approximates the cumulative growth or spread of just about any natural or man-made phenomenon, such as:

  • Penetration of a new market segment
  • Growth of new product/service category
  • Learning stages
  • Interest in topics
  • Abilities (which tend to plateau after a time)
  • Etc.

One of the more relevant business applications is in strategy formulation and execution. Take a look at the following S-Curve application. It shows how we can map the different phases of a product or market life cycle onto the S-curve. This gives an intuitive understanding that all good things must come to an end or, as I imply in the title of this piece, “What goes up, must (eventually) come down (or at least level off).”

product-market-life-cycle-phases

New products or markets start as ideas, often as an external start up. I pluralize this because there should be a relatively high number of “experiments” and trials underway at any one time within a diversified company. Another strategy is to watch out for promising startups outside the business (or in an internal “skunkworks”) and then invest in them or simply acquire them once they start entering their rapid growth phase. Companies should have businesses (various combinations of product-market mix) in all stages of the life cycle in order to ensure a constant stream of growth generating ideas and strategic business units.

Another important phenomenon to note is the presence of a decline phase. Unless there is continuing investment in a business line or concept, it will eventually go into decline. We don’t necessarily know when, but we DO know it will happen at some point. This is another reason to be constantly replenishing the pipeline at the earlier life cycle stages of startup and rapid growth. The capital needed to invest in future ideas and growth will often come from the “milk cows” that are businesses in the maturity or plateau stage, although the latter can also provide a good source of financial capital through divestment.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding, and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

December is already upon us. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to make your plans for changes and new initiatives in the new year.

Here is a distilled version of the military planning and readiness process that you can apply to your own needs. I’ve been helping my business clients with this type of “battle preparation” for close to 10 years now.

This is a proven method to get through any challenging period and come out on the other side with outstanding results.

  1. Determine or confirm the problem to be solved or the change to be made. This leads to a clear and concrete statement of the end state or vision and its supporting objectives.
  2. Do a time estimate to determine how much time is available before launching the change/operation and the tasks that must be achieved before D-Day.
  3. Plan and execute reconnaissance in order to discover and assess the terrain (market), weather (economic, political, social conditions), objective (customers), and enemy (competition).
  4. Analyse your tasks and responsibilities as well as the overarching strategic framework to create a clear and concise mission statement for the change/operation.
  5. Give everyone brief overview of the mission and operation/change to come, including any preparatory tasks and work.
  6. Plan the change/operation.
  7. Communicate your plan in sufficient detail to give everyone involved to understand the overall context, intent, and their specific tasks, responsibilities, outcomes and resources. Leave sufficient time for subordinate elements and managers to conduct their own “battle readiness” procedure.
  8. Execute the plan while controlling progress.
  9. Evaluate interim results.
  10. Make adjustments and update plan as needed. Communicate and control changes.

Feel free to contact me at any time for the this or any other strategic, leadership, and performance improvement needs.  Ask me about my “Battle Procedure Briefing” for business, which is one of the means I use to bring powerful results to my clients. I also speak and facilitate sessions on leadership, initiative, morale, strategy and using military wisdom to win business battles.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Goal-setting is a buzzword (or is that buzzterm?) that gets bandied about a lot. We’re supposed to set clear goals so everyone is motivated and knows what to aim for.

Forget SMART goals though: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Sometimes the last thing we need is an “achievable” goal, much less a “realistic” one. Most accomplishments–and they needn’t be monumental or earth-shaking in scope–appear unrealistic and unachievable in at least some respects to some people some of the time. The other things are useful, but speed, surprise, and originality can be just as important, if not moreso, especially if you’re in highly competitive situation.

Instead, I propose defining the end state you’re looking to create. This comes from military practice, where a commander clearly communicates what the battlefield or operation will achieve in very concrete terms: for instance, the enemy has withdrawn from objective X and is on the run; our forces have seized objective X and are in a strong position to exploit to line Z 20 km beyond the objective.

This type of goal creates a vision that anyone can relate to. Moreover, it sets the parameters for what is needed to get there. “If this is what the end state looks like, then what do we have to do and by when, with what resources, and in what manner, for that to become the new reality?”

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

I was speaking for a corporate client and his team last week in Toronto. The topic was team collaboration and the lessons of the military approach to collaboration.

Most people expect that the military relies exclusively on discipline and command authority, but the reality, especially in this day and age, is that everyone must understand the big picture, including the why of an operation and the mission in order to achieve the commander’s intent. There are simply so many things that can go off the tracks in modern military operations, specifically in peacekeeping and counter-insurgency, that soldiers at all levels must be able to adjust and apply their initiative on the fly as the situation evolves.

The idea that everyone advances in serried ranks in the face of withering enemy fire is anachronistic. Today’s soldiers must be intelligent and informed. They must have the big picture so they can manoeuvre and adapt in the face of changing circumstances and intelligent opponents, both vying for the hearts and minds of the population.

Whether in sales, marketing, product development, or after sales support, all members of your organization/team must be aware of the overarching strategy and business model, as well as the intent of company, division, departmental, team leaders. Just like modern-day warriors facing sophisticated opponents, they must be given the big picture at strategic, operational, and tactical levels. They must also have a clear understanding of the intent and mission so they can adapt and evolve with the situation.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

In battle the best way to defeat an entrenched enemy is to hit him in his weak spot or, even better, manoeuvre around him completely to make his position untenable (and irrelevant). By the same token, a company can outflank or bypass the competition through innovation and savvy market manoeuving. Here are some questions from Brilliant Manoeuvres to improve your ability to use the indirect approach:

  • Are there customers, segments, or entire markets that are currently inadequately served or ignored by established competitors?
  • Are there existing products and services that could be modified to better meet these needs?
  • Are there components or technologies that could be re-combined or suitably modified to meet these needs?
  • Could you effectively outflank and bypass the competition by exploiting these under-served or ignored needs?
  • What competencies and resources can you bring to bear to exploit these opportunities?
  • What financial, human, technical, marketing, and sales capabilities could you develop or acquire to bypass the competition?
  • Can you keep the risks within acceptable bounds? What means could you use to do so?

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Time spend in reconnaissance is rarely wasted. Whenever a military force is advancing against enemy positions, it always sends out scouting parties to reconnoitre the terrain, confirm enemy positions and strength, and find gaps and weaknesses in the defences.

Selling should be conducted in the exact same manner. Time spent in preparation, is rarely wasted. Even if you think you know what you’re up against, you must sound out your clientele and send out metaphorical scouting parties to size up the client, identify potential objectives, wants, and needs, as well as identify and assess the competition. You can do this through a phone call, telemarketing (if you’re reaching out to find leads), online research, or background research from your company’s own data banks and CRM software.

The key point is, don’t go in blind, even if you think you know everything you need to know. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that’s not just good motherly (or doctorly) advice.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

The best way to defeat an entrenched enemy is to go around him, exposing weaknesses and gaps in the defence, and exploiting them to go beyond his defences in order to threaten his whole position.

  • Are there customers, segments, or entire markets that are currently inadequately served or ignored by established competitors?
  • Are there existing products and services that could be modified to better meet these needs?
  • Are there components or technologies that could be re-combined or suitably modified to meet these needs?
  • Could you effectively outflank and bypass the competition by exploiting these under-served or ignored needs?
  • What competencies and resources can you bring to bear to exploit these opportunities?
  • What financial, human, technical, marketing, and sales capabilities could you develop or acquire to bypass the competition?
  • Can you keep the risks within acceptable bounds? What means could you use to do so?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Last week Target announced that it was shutting down completely its Canadian operation, all 133 stores, and taking a $5.4 billion writedown. What was originally supposed to be the beginning of a glorious international expansion has turned into a lesson in humility and hubris. There was a lot of talk of how they had poor merchandising, high prices, lack of stock, etc etc. This is all true, but the main cause of this was arrogance. They appeared to think they could launch across Canada en masse without learning about the market(s), building a solid supplier network and logistics, and experimenting to adapt to the Canadian marketplace and competitive dynamic.

A military force that’s fixing to cross a major obstacle into new territory always starts with a bridgehead. The aim is to secure a foothold that can be defended and to build up strength and supplies of fuel and ammunition. Only when you’ve done so successfully do you extend the beachhead by probing and seeking gaps in the enemy defenses. You can then attempt a breakout. We can’t be sure Target would have been ultimately successful, but if they had started with a few stores in various parts of the country, experimented, generated experience and lessons learned, and only then tried to expand in phases, they would probably have done a lot better and would still be expanding instead of retreating humbly back to their home base in the US.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.