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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Turn Experience into Expertise

Many years ago, when I was a callow youth, I was given the opportunity to learn about selling engineering products at the feet of a master, a wonderful man called Phil Copp.

Phil was, at that time some 50 years ago, a stereotypical salesman of the era. Maybe my memory plays tricks with me after so long but I seem to recall a gabardine raincoat, a trilby hat, a moustache and a pipe, all of which fitted the image perfectly.

Phil had eons of experience and he used it at every touch and turn. I well recall being with him in a Lancashire mill town when he suddenly stopped the car outside a mill, got out and started to sniff the air.

I was slightly bemused by all this and asked him, with some diffidence I must confess, what he was doing.

“They have a particular process here” he said “and we can make it run better. Come on!” We went into reception and Phil asked (demanded actually) to see the works engineer who duly emerged metaphorically wiping his hand on a filthy rag.

“Now then” said Phil, “You’re running such and such a process here, aren’t you?” (Memory failure at this stage prevents me from recalling what the process was).

“We are” said the engineer. “Right” said Phil “We can make it run far more efficiently. Come on!” (he liked the imperative)

We went down into the works, took a look at the process, and Phil told the engineer precisely how he could improve the shining hour, which he did in the fullness of time, and successfully, resulting in a nice order on the books for Phil.

The moral of the story? If you say that you have twenty years experience, be careful that it doesn’t turn out to be one year’s experience replicated twenty times.

The really clever thing is to turn your experience into expertise. Assess what you have learned over the years and exploit it (in the nicest possible way) to the benefit of others and, of course, yourself.

For further information contact us at:
Website www.maa-uk.co.uk

Monday, 23 November 2009

What Do Your People Want To You To Tell Them?

I believe that most people want to know the answer to these two questions:

How am I doing? and
Where are we going?

The “how am I doing” question is so important to people in the business as it gives them an insight into their performance, their attitude, their behaviour and, crucially for them, their prospects.

Does this mean that the dreaded annual appraisal becomes mandatory? Not really because I believe that once a year is just not enough. Your people want to know on a regular basis how they are doing so certainly, if you have a number of reports, then the regular one-to-one is best.

When I say regular, I MEAN, regular. It needs to be scheduled on a monthly basis at least, for 60-90 minutes, on the diary and NOTHING gets in the way. What is more, the agenda belongs to the staff member, not the leader. This gives opportunities to raise matters which may normally lie dormant and either not be actioned, or worse, fester.

The other question is more complex. This demands a statement of the vision or dream of the leader (or leadership) of the business and it must be stated clearly and regularly. I like the idea of a short, sharp long term objective for a business somewhat on the lines of the famous Pepsi mission statement of “Kill Coke”. They didn’t and they won’t but it gives the team a focused objective that everyone can understand.

While I certainly don’t like the idea of waging war on the competition, a short, snappy objective can focus minds and behaviour in the business, ideally to have your competitors worrying about you rather than the reverse.

Think one through and then communicate it on every possible occasion and in every possible way. Let it become the mantra of the business and watch performance improve.

Incidentally, take a look at http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/5714885/ for a slightly different take on coaching!

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

A Severe Attack of Cliches

I need another rant! As an avid listener to BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, I have been struck (again) by the overuse of what are now becoming clichés. In fact, it has become so intrusive, that I have retreated to my other haven, BBC Radio 2!

First of all is the widespread use of “basically” which seems to populate virtually every interview one can hear and what is more, it is making an appearance in overseas broadcasts. Add to that the incessant “at the end of the day” and perhaps you can understand the irritation.

Then there is the hyperbole. Why does everything need to be over-emphasised? Why, for example, does it seem necessary to use “absolutely” in answer to a question when “yes” is perfectly sufficient? Why is everything “fantastic” or “amazing” and, worst of all, “incredible”?

Just listen to any broadcast nowadays and count the number of clichés that you hear. It may just take your mind off the recession!

For further information contact us at
ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk website www.maa-uk.co.uk

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Vistage Open Day Last Friday

We held another successful Vistage Open Day last Friday at the amazing Gorton Monastery in rather wet Manchester, UK and we had over 110 people attending.

What is so good about these events? Firstly it gives members of several Vistage groups the opportunity to meet each other and even perhaps do a little networking. Secondly, members are encouraged to bring colleagues from their businesses to experience a top class speaker and to meet other colleagues, and finally, it gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of Vistage membership to guests and potential members,

Malcolm Smith was the speaker, a most energetic and enthusiastic presenter of a session on Negotiation Skills, and everyone went away with take away tools, especially “go back to your businesses and put your prices up!!”.

Watch out for the announcement of the next Vistage Open Day in the New Year and be sure to book as soon as details are available.

Vistage is the world’s leading CEO and MD membership organisation and is very active here in the North West of the UK.

Membership of Vistage leads to better leaders, better decisions, better results.

If you would like further information give me a call – I will be pleased to discuss it with you.

For further information contact us at
website www.vistage.co.uk

Monday, 2 November 2009

“L” Shaped, “W” Shaped, “V” Shaped, “U” Shaped?

I am beginning to be very bored by the many opinions as to the shape of the recession and with the many and varied views as to whether we are coming out of it (or not yet).

There is no doubt that, as managers, we can only react to the situation so it seems pretty sensible to have a view as to which way it is likely to go.

Whatever the shape of the recession, (and I favour the “L” shape), we are now in the New Normality where the economy fell of the cliff around August 2008 and since then has gradually flattened out with very slight signs of an upward movement.

That means that, if this is now a normal situation, then we need to shape (or re-shape) our businesses on that basis. If we can achieve that, then when the economy really does start to improve, we will be in a strong position to exploit the improvement.

Check out the “five line” P&L. Start with sales, minus cost of sales (usually materials and labour costs) equals gross profit, minus fixed costs equals net profit.

On that basis you can see which of the criteria you can affect. Sales can be predicted with some accuracy but not materially affected. Labour and materials can be directly affected so that the gross margin is maintained, and finally the fixed costs can be controlled. If you can get all these criteria in balance showing a net profit, then you will see the new shape that the business needs to take.

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