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What we're thinking about


Philip Bouchard

TrustedPeer Next Experts Program with Cal Poly

The Next Experts Program enables students to have access to the expertise they need to become the next business leaders.

Click to view a short documentary about the Next Experts Program - https://youtu.be/XoZqi0dYfgQ

This great mini documentary of the Program was directed by Cal Poly students and Next Experts, Jenna Hoffman and Niki Moshiri.

And congratulations to Executive Producer, Brian Morris and 12-time Emmy Award Winner, Jon Dann, as Line Producer. Both Brian and Jon are TrustedPeer Experts

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Philip Bouchard

Tom Brady and the Patriots: Deflating their Brands?

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Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are more than star quarterback and Super Bowl championship team. They are brands – Brady as an individual and the Patriots as an organization and corporation.

So what happens to those brands, individually and within the context of a corporate brand, when they are the subject of intense negative publicity such as the "deflategate" controversy?

TrustedPeer Experts are top-of-field business consultants who have worked with companies across a broad range of challenges. We asked them for their thoughts about lessons learned from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  

Their answers reflect some of the same dividing lines that have appeared in fan and public reaction to the story, including geographic proximity, the willingness of constituencies to "forgive and forget," and the very nature of celebrity itself.


STEVE POTTER, managing partner, Odgers Berndtson, LLC:


Personal brand is just like a corporate brand: It takes a long time to build up and only a few minutes to destroy. 

On the corporate side, you can always fire the people who screwed up and recover over time.

On the personal side, it’s a bit hard to fire yourself. So the script there is to apologize, admit wrongdoing, and do a lot of charity work for years… and hope the public forgives or forgets. They have forgiven Bill Clinton but not Pete Rose. Go figure!

 


DAVID WARD, CEO, Telegraph Hill Program Initiatives:


Sport franchise brands like the Patriots and the brands of individual stars like Brady are all about winning. Fair play is secondary, and pushing the boundaries of the rules is expected – "just win baby." Inasmuch as Patriots fans want and expect Brady and the Pats to win, and they did, I don't think the current episode will be remembered much or tarnish their brands.

In my industry, technology, I compare this situation to the Microsoft antitrust case of the 90s and continuing into the 00s under Gates: Is the Bill Gates "brand" much diminished by they way he pushed his business practices beyond the edge of customary competition? He is still the richest man who ever lived (i.e., still winning, brand intact). Microsoft's brand was tarnished by the decade-long stock price slump after Ballmer took over (not winning, brand diminished). Only recently do we see that brand starting to revive under Satya Nadella, and we'll soon see if he's a winner.

In my opinion, this Pats/Brady episode (like similar ones in the MLB and NBA) is more about a regulatory agency (the NFL) proving its oversight bona fides so it can justify its own brand image – not to mention its exemptions from antitrust scrutiny


RUTHY BENNETT, regional energy manager, Towns of Arlington and Bedford, MA:


Tom Brady is a brand. He is what Ralph Lauren was looking for, what Tommy Hilfiger tried to advertise for. Brady is All-American – wholesome and strong. His beautiful wife and children did not hurt, but he himself created his brand –  hard-working, team member, involved in the community and yes, very good-looking. The Patriots were no fools when they stood behind him. He has become them. 

His parents have built the same brand. They live in California in the same house Tom grew up in. No gates, no gold-plated faucets, no mansions...

Brady told Bob Kraft a long time ago that drafting him was the best thing the Patriots could have done. He was confident and he also proved his worth. Patriot fans love, love, love Tom Brady.  Facebook is awash in love for him on the New England side of the country. The Patriots were brilliant in changing their FB cover photo to his jersey. I shudder to think of the roar in the stadium when he plays his first game in the 2015-16 season. I bet the price for those tickets could rival Super Bowl ticket prices.  

The Pats let Belichick be the ugly guy – literally and figuratively. He is smart but gruff, rude to the press and barely smiles. He wears worn-out clothing (have you see how Giselle dresses Tom?).  He is like a rodent – ferreting out every obscure rule to use in his offensive plays (for example, switching eligibility right before a play starts). Belichick is the one who people love to hate and he brings it on. Brady gets to be the superstar without trying to take the limelight. The Pats set it up well.  


What has hurt the NFL and has helped the Patriots is that whether Brady was/is guilty or not, he stayed true to his brand – hard-working, clean-cut, friendly and a team player.  He spoke to the media with a smile in "hard-working" clothes (sweaty shirt interview during deflategate as opposed to his very designer outfits on most other occasions).  He kept his head down. He did not lose his cool, he did not mouth off.  

In fact, part of the Patriots brand is the opposite of the Oakland Raiders. You'd be happy to have any of these guys meet your mother. Belichick and Kraft run a very tight ship.  There are no bottle caps at Gillette Stadium. If you buy a water bottle, they take it off for you – so there's nothing to throw. There is a "family" section, and you can text the stadium if someone is cursing, drunk or otherwise bothering you. Clean-cut, family-friendly, hard-working and in the end – major major winners.

I can't wait to read the college and master's papers written about this "gate." I bet there will be more on this topic than for Chris Christie's George Washington Bridge "gate."


DAN BEEBE, president, Dan Beebe Group:

In the sports world, there is a continual balance that has to be struck between the club or league brand and those coaches and players who become successful and revered. It presents a big risk if the individual(s) become bigger than the university, professional club or league. 

As a former NCAA investigator, I also saw situations where those in more vulnerable positions would not be forthcoming about the misconduct of the powerful because of the risk it posed to their livelihoods and future.  Look what happened at Penn State. 


JONATHAN DANN, president, Jon Dann Communications:

Personal branding (within the context of a corporate brand) has become much more fragile and ephemeral in the present era – resulting in less value and ROI.


The very notion of celebrity has changed dramatically. In the old days, someone achieved fame for an accomplishment or heroic deed. In the age of the Internet, celebrity has been turned on its head.

People all too often achieve their fame through bad behavior or pushing societal boundaries. This phenomenon has never happened before.


In the Internet era, the politics of personal destruction (coupled with a lack of personal privacy) are particularly vicious so that even those who have achieved fame through honest achievement find themselves under attack.

The result: a diminished personal brand.

The above does not suggest that personal branding lacks value, only that tying a corporate brand closely with a personal brand must be much more closely scrutinized before entering into a partnership with a celebrity.


JOHN PHILLIPS, president, Colony Marketing:

In the case of Tom Brady and the Patriots, think of the Patriots as an umbrella brand and Brady as a sub-brand.

Two criteria for good sub-branding:

Umbrella brands and sub-brands need to be aligned in terms of their promise, visual identity, etc. 
There should be a clearly defined sub-brand strategy and architecture.
As a New York sports fan, I find there is no branding issue in this case. Unsportsmanlike conduct is a tightly-aligned promise between umbrella brand and sub-brand.


KATE MONTGOMERY, TrustedPeer editor and former marketing executive at the Wall Street Journal:

Interesting topic. I'm actually exploring something related to your personal brand question for a book project I've recently started.

Regarding Brady, I'm not following "deflategate" too closely, but it seems he was suspended because he knew the ball was deflated, yet said nothing. It is likewise another example of a group of people we would like to admire who are caught cheating in order to "win" a big prize. No longer an unusual event, unfortunately.



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Steve Cadigan

Nurturing a Culture of Innovation

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Everywhere you turn today, you hear and read about innovation. All companies want it, but few really offer it.

Why? Because as employers try to unlock the most creative, innovative ideas within their organizations, they often have no clue what it means to nurture a culture where innovation can thrive.

Based on my experience, it can be done. It's not easy, but it can be achieved.

I've been in the talent business for 30 years. I've worked in the fashion industry, the insurance industry, the semiconductor industry, among others. But it wasn't until I came to work in the Web industry with a new startup, a company you might have heard of, LinkedIn, that I truly discovered the secret of creating a culture of innovation.

What's the formula? Would it surprise me to say I can't tell you, but I know what it is? Well, that's exactly the case.

In my consulting career, I have worked with some of very interesting organizations. They all want to be innovative and ask how I helped create this innovative culture at LinkedIn. But as I said earlier, it's akin to asking, "How do you fall in love?" There is no single answer. You cannot control the outcome here and there is no formula that perfectly unlocks innovation because all of us are different and every organization is unique in so many ways. But there is a starting point, and it's the belief that to foster innovation means engaging people in ways that are not traditional, in ways that are not about control.

Fostering this culture begins by asking your employees what you can do to make them more productive, finding out what work settings and organization structures and communication schemes produce the best outcomes. You have to get close to your individuals and teams to learn who works best in small groups and who works best in large groups. Having an effective listening strategy is essential because ideas sit and flow everywhere. You need to tap into these insights in every way possible--and build systems, tools and work environments that foster free flow of ideas and insights. The companies that I see innovate well spend a great deal of effort making sure they are fostering cultures that surface insights quickly, and action them just as fast.

One of the big keys, of course, to successful cultures of innovation is having leaders who really get that their most important deliverable is unlocking ideas from their teams and putting the best ones into practice. These leaders spend a great deal of time observing, asking questions, being available, and finding ways to bring out the best in others. Innovation is not always a new product--it could be a new way of spending time, communicating, holding a meeting, or leveraging a new tool or tech.

At LinkedIn, we innovated but we didn't start with a plan saying we are going to innovate. We started with a belief that we wanted to be the best place our employees had ever worked and we relentlessly listened and adjusted and changed course based on constant input. Our ability to listen, move quickly, fix issues and surface great ideas became a great part of our success and I see this in many companies today that realize great outcomes--they are dedicated to constant iteration, to trying new things and adjusting course and engaging their whole teams in this endeavor. Building the ability to quickly change and adjust is becoming more important as a leader today than the ability to frame a long term plan because the future is so unpredictable.

On the other side, I still see too many companies who still think that performance reviews are the best way to run a company. Most of the companies I work with today are scrapping annual performance reviews for weekly conversation bursts that offer targeted feedback, focus and alignment in 15 minutes--so both employees and leaders can learn from one another, adjust and focus on the right things. This is the new reality.

When I was at LinkedIn we didn't even have a specific plan for innovation, yet in the end we completely disrupted the recruiting industry. In less than 10 years, we built a company worth over $25 billion. In the four years I worked at LinkedIn, we hired close to 3,000 people off a base of 400 against the sexiest, most competitive brands in the world. Google made more money in a day than LinkedIn made in a year in those days. Try growing talent in an environment like that. In the end, with a culture of innovation as the main driver, we grew our share price 7,000 percent in a five-year period.

LinkedIn proved that if you allow innovation to thrive, if you listen and learn, you do not need world-class experience to be a world-class organization. Most of all, to drive innovation, you have to get out of the way of your people and find ways to let them be great. Silicon Valley's insatiable hunger for talent is going to spread. No matter what sector you represent, you are going to start to feel it. If you want to create a culture of innovation then ask your workforce, your people, what keeps them from being their best. When you get those answers and begin to act on them, you will be off and running towards creating a culture of innovation.


* Originally published by Steve Cadigan here.

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Lynn Hunsaker

Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management: Do This, Not That

Universal to most business-to-business customer experience management (B2B CXM) scenarios is the existence of a “village” of people who influence B2B buying decisions. This single fact means a lot. If the purpose of customer surveys is to accurately monitor customers’ likelihood of re-buying, then you must gain an understanding of each influencer’s expectations and sentiment.

A logical follow-up to this is the need to integrate the viewpoints of the “village” to paint a realistic picture. In consumer situations, there are usually only a couple of viewpoints to integrate for any purchase: husband and wife, parent and child. But for B2B situations, you may be grappling with integrating the views of the user, purchasing agent, plant manager, and gatekeepers for IT, safety, facilities, and quality, among others.

And another commonality among many B2B relationships is extensive post-purchase interaction. This may be related to a complicated deployment such as enterprise software, or peer-to-peer, such as engineers from the supplier and customer companies meeting to work out usage details, or a customer appointee who interfaces with multiple locations of the supplier company in a single morning.


Here are 3 keys to getting B2B customer experience management right: capture the whole buying decision equation in your VoC, integrate influencers’ inputs to paint an accurate picture, and ensure post-purchase customer experience consistency.


1) Capture a More Comprehensive Buying Decision Equation: Why try to tie CX to financials without understanding who’s driving what?

DO THIS:  Identify all parties within a customer account with the power to kill a buying decision. Characterize each party’s expectations and design your customer-listening portfolio to keep a radar on their sentiment. Quantify the consequences of meeting or missing each party’s expectations.

NOT THAT: Assuming that whoever signs the contract or transacts with your service organization is a spokesperson for their company, or that a series of transactions represents the customer experience that can be reasonably tied to bookings.

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(voice-of-the-customer questions from the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study)


2) Integrate Influencers’ Inputs to Paint a More Accurate Picture: Simplification of the complex picture is essential for tackling the issues and formulating better strategies to capitalize on opportunities.

DO THIS: Weight and nest the parties’ inputs for more realistic linkages to bookings. Make your customer intelligence reporting compelling: consider show the parties’ interests through flow-charting, cause-and-effect diagramming, activity network diagramming, or interrelationship digraphs. Make sure action plans reflect inputs from all influencers.

NOT THAT: Assuming that averages and bar charts convey what’s needed to be actionable and effective. Don’t ignore the opportunity to get valuable insights from your dedicated sales team. And don’t let the account teams obscure insights that can help the rest of the company help them. 

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(voice-of-the-customer questions from the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study)


3) Ensure Post-purchase Customer Experience Consistency: Why work so hard to manage perceptions but ignore these vital touchpoints?

DO THIS: Make it easy to capture informal comments. Then stream informal feedback to relevant groups throughout your company. Establish cadence & methodology for originators to prevent issue recurrence. Motivate actions and follow-through on informal inputs. Set the stage for streamlined re-purchase decisions: share actions and progress to proactively influence rebuying.


NOT THAT: Assuming that inconsistencies will naturally work themselves out, or aren’t important to building trust and relationship strength. Waiting to send a survey when you’re already getting a goldmine of insights that you can work on right away to be more proactive in influencing repurchase decisions.

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(voice-of-the-customer questions from the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study)


B2B CXM has parallels with consumer experience management, but there are definite realities in B2B CXM that should be addressed in order to make the most of your efforts and investments. Experiment with these 3 B2B “musts”, or better yet, design them into your B2B customer experience management from the beginning. As the graphics above show, you’re likely to stand out from the crowd in your industry in doing so, and these methods may be an important customer experience differentiator for your company.


Note: The concept of "Do This, Not That" is borrowed from the popular book "Eat This, Not That", where the weaknesses of common practices and myths are brought to light and sensible replacements are recommended.

If you manage B2B CX, please join our Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management LinkedIn Group: http://tinyURL.com/b2b-cem-li


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Alex Sortwell

TrustedPeer's "Next Experts" Program

Introduction

TrustedPeer® is the easy way for corporations and executives to consult with world-class experts on-demand.  TrustedPeer’s digital consulting platform allows you to schedule micro-consulting sessions online with vetted, highly-qualified TrustedPeer Experts, who will create a customized action plan targeting your expertise need. Or you can search TrustedPeer’s extensive content library of best practices and common problems specific to your industry and operational area. Either way, TrustedPeer provides the information you need from The Right Expert, Right Now!

Now, TrustedPeer is extending its knowledge base to higher education. As college and post-graduate options have become accessible to a wider audience than ever before, it has given rise to a larger national student body and greater competition in the job market. Graduates have to find ways to leverage and differentiate themselves from their peers just to find job opportunities, let alone ones that fit their interests, skill set, and passions.

To help solve this problem, TrustedPeer has partnered with the Orfalea Business School at California Polytechnic State University to create the Next Experts program. The program provides access for a select group of undergraduate business students to TrustedPeer’s on-demand business knowledge and Experts. The students are able to learn from successful professionals and then receive action plans to assist in their career pursuits.

Structure of the Program

Cal Poly selected five of its most promising business students to participate in the program; TrustedPeer selected seven of its vetted experts. The TrustedPeer Experts selected were Nancy Schaefer, David Burk, Don Transeth, Bruce Lincoln, Philip Bouchard, Brian Morris, & Rick Bragdon. The students and TrustedPeer Experts worked together to complete the program in two separate phases.

Phase 1:

The first phase of the program consisted of seven “group sessions” in which each TrustedPeer Expert engaged the student group in a conference call discussion. Prior to the call, the students researched the TrustedPeer Expert and prepared a list of questions about the Expert’s career, successes, failures, and advice for recent graduates.

Each of the seven TrustedPeer Experts then responded to the students’ questions in lectures that were recorded and transcribed, providing the students a 64-page library of career knowledge and advice.

Phase 2:

Next, each student selected two Experts to confer with individually. The students used TrustedPeer’s proprietary digital consulting platform (the same platform which TrustedPeer clients and business enterprises use) to conduct micro-consulting sessions with TrustedPeer Experts.

During the one-on-one consultations, the Experts offered graduate school recommendations, valuable career ideas and guidance, and a step-by-step plan on how to leverage themselves in the search of a career in a potential field. 

The students also received a TrustedPeer Session Summary Report outlining the discussion topics, their expert’s analysis and assessment, and the recommendations discussed during their sessions.

Conclusion

The Next Experts program proved beneficial for the students, for the Orfalea administration, and for the TrustedPeer Experts.

  • The students received invaluable preparation for the next stage of their lives along with access to an exceptional and exclusive professional network.
  • The administration gained knowledge on how to better prepare and educate their students for moving on to professional careers.
  • The TrustedPeer Experts gained a better understanding of how a technology-raised generation of new professionals will shape the business world of the future.

 

“These types of professional relationships offer significant rewards for students, the conversations with TrustedPeer Experts contextualized students’ learning, opened windows on new perspectives, and helped them think critically about the college-to-career transition.”

                                    -Lynn Metcalf, Cal Poly Marketing Area Chair

 

TrustedPeer’s Next Expert program represents a democratization of knowledge across generations. TrustedPeer Experts provide the next generation of business professionals a roadmap of successful practices for their careers; in turn, these Next Experts become a part of the professional network of TrustedPeer Experts and a valuable resource as the next generation creates new businesses amid rapidly changing technologies.

 

Future: “The Next Expert Network”

TrustedPeer is working to incorporate the Next Expert Network into the existing TrustedPeer web platform. The network is exclusive to selected business students at top schools participating in the Next Expert program. As the network grows, it will allow the brightest up-and-coming business minds across the nation to connect with each other on TrustedPeer’s digital platform to share entrepreneurial ideas, solutions to business issues, and business development strategies.

With functionality including instant messaging, forums, and sharing of presentations and documents, the TrustedPeer Expert and Next Expert networks provide the tools for incubating ideas and business solutions across generations. 


To see Cal Poly's press release on the Next Experts program please click here.Next Experts copy.jpg 

Left to Right: Lynn Metcalf (Cal Poly Marketing Area Chair), Kaulin Blair, Andria Posmoga, Alex Sortwell (TrustedPeer. Program Administrator), Samantha Foster, Rosie Toumanian, Taylor Sturtevant, Philip Bouchard (TrustedPeer CEO)

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David Burk

Why It's Called Digital Transformation

Newness Is Not the Same As Transformation


James Wynn of Stone Yamashita Partners did an interview in 2012, just about the time "digital transformation" was emerging as a concept, and told the story of Russell Brand, the English actor and comedian. Brand said his heroin addiction simplified life because he didn't crave new things all the time--new car, new house, etc.--he just craved one thing. He pointed out that we confuse newness with innovation.

"Specifically, the right way to think about innovation is transformation."

What so many companies are in need of right now is transformation. Digital transformation. I write about this frequently, but lately I've been working on making the definition shorter and shorter. Here goes.

Digital transformation is about increasing revenue and reducing expense by increasing the use of digital technologies and methods.


Digital Transformation Applies to Products and Marketing

For products, companies must think about how all products can contain a digital element or integration, hopefully with a sharing or viral component.

For marketing, organizations must be structured to create content. As legendary ad writer Howard Gossage said, "People read what's interesting to them, and sometimes that's advertising." Oh, and how about the stat that is two years old about how 70% of a buying decision is made online.


Digital Transformation Applies To How We Work

With a requirement that more and more deep expertise is required to manage just about everything we do now, systems of communication and collaboration are imperative. A client of ours has adopted a mantra: Transparency and Integration. They get it. You should, too.

There is no such thing as oversharing. As an entrepreneur many times over, I have always appreciated a small office space. Everyone hears everything and it means fewer meetings. Virtualize this with new communications tools (Slack, HipChat, etc.) or Project Management Platforms (Podio, Jira, etc.).


Digital Transformation Is Hard


Eggs get broken. People hate change. Hey, even plants hate change. Ever move a ficus?


The point is that digital transformation isn't like the old joke in which a fellow leaves his predecessor a note in the desk drawer that says, "Hire a consultant." It's a conscious and deliberate effort to avoid the "newness trap" and to grow into a business imperative of our time. A consultant can help (heck, call me), but hire a consultant to help you build it, not one to take it outside. You can ask an outside firm to model the behavior and methods to kickstart it; but you need to rebuild it. You need to make it better.


You can read the whole James Wynn interview here.



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Francis Bassolino

2015, The Year of the Goat (Rodeo)

Idle conversations in board meetings ponder if this is the year of the ram, goat or sheep. When the conversation turns to more pertinent questions on China strategy and the macroeconomic situation, the discussion is often not much more profound. Indeed many debates on China resemble a goat rodeo of six blind men describing an elephant, each recounting a story that is seemingly real but in the end reveals more about the storyteller than the subject. 

China continues to confound businesses looking to capture their share of the China Dream. Global business leaders and regional lieutenants struggle to get their messages across and strategies aligned. Is there a housing crisis with ghost towns as 60 Minutes and a collection of pundits would have us believe? Will the end of the one- child policy lead to a boom in nappy sales? Does the deceleration in topline GDP portend the beginning of the end? Will the ongoing anti-corruption campaign lead to the second coming of the Cultural Revolution? Faced with such binary questions and so little informed dialogue it is no wonder that many companies are cooling on the idea of expending more resources on capturing demand in China. 

Companies continue to waffle in the face of a market that poses formidable challenges that have become boring to recall—poor institutional infrastructure, irrational price wars, and overcapacity in everything—all leading to the conclusion that no one is making money. China is however still the world’s best growth story. Just ask the happy folks at Apple, Mercedes Benz and the host of other companies with solid strategies reaping rewards in China. 

By most accounts the past few years have been difficult. The decades of double- digit growth and fairly easy money have passed and the nation is now grappling with a collection of issues that often require skill sets that are not readily available. At the company level, performance improvement projects such as lean and post-merger integration programs are now in high demand as industries consolidate and supply has caught up with demand. Many companies for years could generate income just by offering a product, any product, first in the first-tier cities and then further afield into the third-tier and beyond. As the only distribution point for a product that is in demand, odds are that you will succeed just by showing up for work. But when industrial and retail consumers have a choice, it is important that you are not only good at what you do, but markedly better than the competition, particularly if you are asking for a premium price. 

In high-end fashion markets it has been clear for years that brands such as Louis Vuitton have been on a downward trajectory in relative terms as consumers were provided with more choice and realized that taking a quick trip to Hong Kong or Paris meant you could purchase the same merchandise for a deep discount to what was on the market in China not to mention that there was a higher probability that you weren’t buying counterfeit. Also more brands entered the China market. Michael Kors, Coach and Tory Burch all offered alternatives to flaunting your wealth and demonstrating fashion sense. The same story has been playing out in other markets as well. The consumers—industrial and retail—have been provided more choice and they are more discerning. 

Alongside the growth of product choice was the development of multiple channels to acquire your goods. Carrefour enjoyed robust growth for years, offering mediocre service and overpriced products. But with much better run convenience stores such as FamilyMart and fantastic online service from Yihaodian (aka Wal-Mart) as well as a multitude of niche online providers, the game to capture demand has become much more competitive. 

The problem with this change in the dynamics of the China markets is that many organizations are not prepared to identify the trends or articulate new strategies in response, modifying distribution channels or product offerings to adapt to the changes. Moreover, leaders on the ground are often ill-equipped to champion for change, particularly when lobbying regional or global leaders to adjust globally accepted norms for the industry or company. For example, many companies refuse to accept even modest changes in their business models such as adding direct sales support when such support is not required in other markets. 

Many organizations are handicapped by local leadership groomed in an education system and cultural environment that stifles creativity, rejects those who take initiative and suppresses collaboration. Students in China are built to pass standardized tests and regurgitate accepted knowledge. And this training works fine when there is a clear answer. But China today does not have clear answers especially in the merchandising, product development and distribution areas. The consumers have choices that did not exist even just a few years ago and they do not always want to choose standard products from channels developed for global markets. Of course this is not true across- the-board. Sales to Chinese consumers now account for more than 20% of Apple revenue if we account for gray channel imports. Unfortunately not all companies have such iconic and irreplaceable products to peddle. Most companies have products and service offerings that were designed for global markets and represent about 80-90% of what Chinese want. The tricky part is determining how to modify the remaining 10-20% to formulate a service and product proposition to capture demand. 

What is interesting about the mood this year is how sheepishly so many view the market. Pessimism is the dominant theme in most conversations. And headline news about China tends to reinforce the drama that China is on the precipice of disaster. Indeed a generally pessimistic disposition within the herd combined with a lack of entrepreneurship and leadership is the strongest indication that there will be many business failures and stagnant growth in China this year. But what is also clear is that while there will be many opportunities to play the blame game on a host of seemingly relevant statistics or events, the most probable reasons for failure are lack of leadership and a shortage of data-driven insight into the opportunities and challenges. 

And herein is the crux of the problem: for many businesses the conversation about China has become a theological debate where dogmatic mystics battle the non- believers in monologues where facts hardly matter. The country is so large and dynamics so fluid that you can find information and testimony to support any case. And unfortunately this is just what many people do, including business leaders, consultants, advisors and pundits who benefit from peddling their point of view.

 Chinese astrologers have fittingly not clearly proclaimed an animal to guide this year perhaps because they are suggesting that we choose our own mascot this year. We can sheepishly stick with the herd; Try to ram standard product offerings down traditional channels; or learn the disposition of our goat and determine what it needs to thrive so that we can milk the prodigious friend, as it is still the world’s most popular and economical source for milk. 

*Goat Rodeo: A chaotic situation, often one that involves several people, each with a different agenda/vision/perception of what's going on; A situation that is very difficult, despite energy and efforts, to instill any sense or order into. 

Francis Bassolino is a TrustedPeer Expert and the managing partner of Alaris, an advisory firm based in Shanghai. Francis_bassolino@alaris.com.cn 


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Philip Bouchard

Financial Accounting Foundation names TrustedPeer's Myra R. Drucker to Board of Trustees

Today, Myra Drucker, chair of the board of TrustedPeer, has been appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Financial Accounting Foundation.

The FAF is the independent, private-sector organization responsible for the oversight and support of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Ms. Drucker currently serves as an independent director and chairs the Risk and Audit Committee of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. LLC, a privately-held global investment management firm and is a frequent speaker and advisor on governance issues.

She serves as a member of the investment committees of the Kresge Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and an advisory member of the Boeing Company Employee Benefits Investment Committee. She is past chair of the New York Stock Exchange Pension Managers Advisory Committee, past chair of the board of Commonfund, and past vice chair and current honorary trustee of Sarah Lawrence College.

Myra was formerly managing director of General Motors Asset Management (GMAM) and chief investment officer of Xerox Corporation. She served on the board of directors of Interactive Data Corporation (until the company’s sale to private equity investors), and New York Stock Exchange LLC (a subsidiary of NYSE Euronext).

She has served on the editorial board of the Financial Analysts Journal, the Rockefeller Foundation Finance Committee, the board of the ERISA Industry Committee, the World Bank Pension Advisory Committee, the U.S. Department of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Equity Products Advisory Committee.

About the Financial Accounting Foundation 

The FAF is responsible for the oversight, administration, and finances of both the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and its counterpart for state and local government, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

About TrustedPeer

TrustedPeer® brings efficiency, transparency and accountability to the consulting process by enabling corporations and executives to effectively confer with world-class experts on-demand and online. Quick and easy access to highly qualified and rigorously vetted experts ensures immediate attention to critical business challenges.

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Philip Bouchard

TrustedPeer & TrustedPeer Expert Dave Summa mentioned in January 2015 Fortune article.

The January 2015 edition of Fortune Magazine features an article by Erika Fry that discusses the new age of digital business and entrepreneurship. In the article, Fry interviews and highlights TrustedPeer Expert Dave Summa and his expertise in "Business Model Innovation". The article also discusses TrustedPeer's innovative and convenient online consulting platform. The article appears in print as well as online.

To view the article please click the link below.

http://fortune.com/2014/12/29/startup-you/  


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Alex Sortwell

­The 3 Common Mistakes Traditional Consulting Firms Make

The 3 Common Mistakes Traditional Consulting Firms Make


David Maister is widely considered one of the leading authorities on managing professional service firms (such as law, accounting and consulting). He has taught and lectured  at a doctorate in logistics & transportation from Harvard Business School, where he taught and lectured until 1985.  In 2002, he was named one of the top 40 business thinkers in the world and he is the author of six bestselling books.

In his book Managing The Professional Service Firm (Publisher name, 1992), Maister offers practical advice for successfully managing a professional firm and brings to light the alarming realities of mistakes that consulting firms often make.

Although the book was published in 1992, well before the digital technology boom, professional service firms are still making many of the same errors Maister cited 21 years ago.

TrustedPeer now makes it possible for clients to avoid these issues. TrustedPeer’s proprietary online platform system harnesses advances in digital networking to enable client companies to sidestep common issues found in traditional consulting.  It The system allows companies to forego expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable consulting engagements and opt instead for carefully-targeted micro-consulting sessions with top-of-field experts rigorously vetted by TrustedPeer.

Here Below are three of the most common problems recognized by Maister that traditional consulting firms still make.


1.           Traditional Firms “Sell” Instead of “Solve”

 

As Maister states, “Buying professional services is rarely a comfortable experience.” Traditionally, a clients haves to give up some degree of control by putting their company’s’ affairs in the hands of someone else. Conventional consulting firms are often willing to take on the business of any client even if their knowledge of the client’s industry is severely limited. Firms provide clients with partners who are focused on personal incentives from the firm instead of solving the client’s issue.

Maister outlines the mindset of a potential client considering procuring professional services.

“I’m skeptical. I’ve been burned before by these kinds of people. I get a lot of promises: How do I know whose promise I should buy? I’m concerned that you either can’t or won’t take the time to understand what makes my situation special. In short, will you deal with me the way in the way I want to be dealt with?”

TrustedPeer goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure clients consult with Experts who have decades of experience solving problems in their industry and can deliver on client needs and expectations quickly. Each TrustedPeer Expert’s profile – detailing quantifiable and recognizable credentials and accomplishments – is only a starting point. Each expert also produces deep and robust content exploring common problems, key trends and best practices in his or her specific area of expertise.

Instead of buying a brand, clients can judge TrustedPeer Experts by the credibility of their content.  Before a nickel is spent, clients know exactly whom they will be working with and the depth of expertise their expert brings to solving their problems.

“Above all else, what I, the client, am looking for, is that rare professional who has both technical skill and a sincere desire to be helpful, to work with both me and my problem. The key is empathy—the ability to enter my world and see through my eyes.”

With TrustedPeer Experts, you gain knowledge from independent consultants who are not motivated to meet the quotas of a firm. TrustedPeer and TrustedPeer Experts are dedicated to solving client problems, not selling solutions. Experts are prepared to give objective, unvarnished guidance. 


2.     Traditional Consulting Firms Don’t Reinvigorate Their Assets

 

While successful firms may adapt and adjust, they rarely reinvigorate the talents of the partners they hire. As the environment changes and technology progresses, new issues arise that require specialized skills and knowledge. Traditional consulting firms can’t or don’t make the pivot to reinvigorate their assets because they become complacent in the skills that have previously brought them success. As Maister puts it,

“What you know now and are able to do now, what your current success is built on, will unavoidably depreciate in value unless you actively work on learning new things and building new skills.”

The network of TrustedPeer Experts is growing constantly by adding  new independent consultants in specialized fields ranging from cloud integration to agriculture.  New experts bring in new knowledge and new content. All TrustedPeer Experts regularly update their business topics and content as they work in real- time to solve client problems.

When an enterprise hires a consulting firm they often have to translate the language of their industry to receive a generalized solution to their problem. This is not a problem with TrustedPeer Experts, who on average have 26 years of experience in their specific areas of expertise. They are able to provide professional counsel that, as Maister prescribes, “does not require the client to do any mental translation of generalities or terminology into his or her specific situation.”


3.   Traditional Consulting Firms Don’t Pay Enough Attention to Existing Clients

 

Firms often overemphasize new clients, while overcharging existing clients for a lesser quality of service. As Maister puts it,

“When a new client is brought in, rockets go off, bells sound, your name gets in the firm newsletter and you can bank on a good bonus. If you bring in an equivalent amount of business from existing clients, the management yawns and says, ‘at last he’s doing his job.’”

For most firms, the acquisition of a new client is more exciting and potentially more remunerative. TrustedPeer avoids this tendency by frequently updating existing clients on expertise that could be of value and offering carefully-analyzed, personal custom recommendations of TrustedPeer Experts who can address new and evolving problems.

Existing clients can chose to spend their consulting budgets more wisely on frequent well-targeted micro-consulting engagements addressing different aspects of their operations than on a single large and expensive engagement of dubious and unpredictable value. In this way, TrustedPeer offers preemptive solutions to future problems before they are allowed to spiral out of control.

 

 

 

 

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John Carter

Are Quality Certifications A Waste Of Time?

Quality certifications, such as Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, were created for a laudable purpose. They were intended to professionalize quality improvement and support a standard of practice around it. They also codified a body of knowledge and provided an industry recognition for excellence in quality improvement.

Unfortunately, many of these certifications have been on the shelf well past their sell-by date. Despite noble intentions, in many cases the application of the methods associated with these programs waste time and effort. This means that today these programs are defeating the purpose for which they were created.

What’s Wrong With Certifications?

The problem with these certifications is two-fold:

1. In most cases the quality improvement curriculum is oriented toward traditional, high velocity manufacturing. The methods they teach are increasingly irrelevant to information-based economies. An economy based on IT, service, and finance industries or on network-facilitation (e.g. eBay, Facebook, and Uber) benefit little from implementing tools intended for the assembly of mechanical components.

Many certification programs teach arcane methodologies, dependent upon probability and statistics, that are irrelevant to business challenges in the world’s more developed economies. While statistical analysis is applicable to attribute data, such data does not require a strong emphasis on tools such as analysis of variance (ANOVA) techniques.

2. The more insidious problem is that these certification programs encourage students to follow to the letter a set of predetermined steps. The dogmatic adherence to these procedures diminishes the importance of judgment, insight and creativity in the domain of process improvement. Sacrifices are made on the altar of data for the sake of data. This results in wasted effort and wasted time – which are, again, the very defects that the quality movement was intended to mitigate. Improvement teams take far too long to diagnose and implement urgently needed improvements because they’re following by rote a set of prescriptive guidelines that were written for processes that are past their prime.

Once a set of standards has been institutionalized in the form of a certification with its attendant curriculum, it tends to take on a life of its own. Managers who have toiled to earn the certification defend the validity of the processes they have learned, convinced that following the right steps will ensure a positive outcome. But slavish adherence to a process for its own sake is devoid of common sense. Companies should have enough process, but not one iota more.

Further, the time spent in learning and applying archaic methods means less time for new process improvement innovations that are required to meet a host of management challenges that companies face today. The insistence on older methods slows down the pace of improvement and impedes process innovation.

A New Quality Movement

The quality movement needs a refresh. The first step is to change the orientation from an exclusive manufacturing focus to a new set of tools that will meet the needs of other sectors as well. Even in more traditional manufacturing environments much of the quality curriculum is out of date and creates wasted effort. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, professionals who have a stake in process improvement should re-evaluate the existing body of knowledge, preserving what is best in the older methods while modernizing the curriculum.

Second, there needs to be a new wave of process innovation. Today’s information and service-based firms need new methods, tools and remedies oriented toward qualitative in addition to quantitative skills. For instance, they need repeatable methods for ensuring high quality results in processing language data and attribute data (such as the Affinity Diagram). Just as Deming and others did in the post-WWII world, we need a new quality revolution to meet today’s challenges.

Finally, we need to encourage individual judgment, creativity and flexibility in quality improvement activities. The certification practicum and the courseware need to reflect the role of insight and business acumen in improving process quality. Methods need to be customizable and flexible to meet the needs of a world in which business model innovation has become an increasingly important basis of competition.

The original intention of the quality movement was to turn process improvement into a repeatable, sustainable capability. By making the changes described above, industry could serve this aim by retooling certifications to provide a far more powerful toolbox for meeting today’s challenges.

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Andrew Salzman

How to Make Billions with a Web-Based Consumer Business:The Four Gears Model

As web-based consumer businesses have taken root, we have evolved our thinking at the Chasm Group to reflect how technology adoption operates in this world.  Unlike enterprise B2B markets where mainstream adoption chasms happen in transitioning from high risk to proven solutions, the world of web-based applications and social media is one where systems of engagement rule.  For this sector, we created the Four Gears Model.

The Four Gears are Engage Consumers, Acquire Traffic, Enlist Evangelists, and Monetize.  Here, the market adoption gears spin in anything but a linear progression, and usually start with freemiums as a starting point. 

Let’s go a bit deeper.


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ENGAGE:  The first step for web-based consumer businesses is to create an experience that is so compelling and differentiated that users will want to repeat it.   Repetition creates a pattern of consumption that is a key underpinning of a mass market. 

ACQUIRE:  This second gear is about driving traffic, and seeks to answer the question…can this business scale.  But the Acquisition gear modifies the Engagement gear in what is an iterative process.  Acquiring new customers with additional needs places demands on your product to engage those new users.  So as you onboard new consumers, you onboard new content to broaden the offer to appeal to a growing, more diverse user base.

ENLIST:  As you approach your product tipping point, it’s time to scale like crazy.  Now you must hyper-engage with a small, vocal minority of users who have shown a propensity to evangelize on your behalf.  They love you because they believe in you so much that your product is part of their identity.

In a perfect world, your evangelists would definitely recommend you to a friend. This is what fuels viral marketing and drives down cost of consumer acquisition. But this vocal minority may be people who generally like your product and might recommend you to a friend.  This forestalls churn but doesn’t drive virality.  And if your vocal minority has concerns about recommending you, you can experience counter-evangelism (think “Super Size Me”, a movie about McDonalds).

MONETIZE:  Finally, we come to the topic of monetization.  The Four Gears model is about your URL…Ubiquity Now, Revenue Later.  This is where many web-based consumer businesses stumble.  Monetization slows the gears so you have to feather it in.  Done too soon or quickly, it pops the clutch and stalls the engine.  It takes a lot of experimentation to get the pricing right, and every money move you make requires ramping the engine back up as fast as possible. Interestingly, many highly successful web-based consumer businesses are sold to larger entities at very heady valuations without dealing with monetization. 

Putting it together, the number one priority for web-based consumer businesses is rapid adoption, number two is engagement (using your service intensively), and number three is enlistment/referrals.  Get that right and the money will follow.  If you’re a $20M company with 55 employees like WhatsApp, how does $19 billion grab you?

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Laura Goldzung

Getting to Know Anti-Money Laundering Expert            Laura Goldzung

In this "Getting to Know" post, we spoke with TrustedPeer Expert Laura Goldzung. Laura is the founder and president of AML Audit Services, and she has more than 30 years of financial industry experience including AML compliance and training, and securities firm operations and management.

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  1. Why did you decide to join TrustedPeer?
    The opportunity to join TrustedPeer presented itself through a colleague who is an adviser to the board. I thought it was a very unique opportunity because, as a service provider and consultant in AML, it’s hard to find the time to do develop consulting opportunities and get exposure to potential clients. TrustedPeer presented the prospect for greater exposure and added value to my practice.

  2. What are you most excited about in Anti Money Laundering right now?
    There are still many issues facing financial institutions with respect to AML that don’t seem to be going away. There is still quite a bit of challenge in maintaining required compliance. What I’m most excited about is that more and more people are getting into the field, and more of the financial institutions are getting better educated about AML compliance. It’s exciting to work with unique, emerging companies and platforms. It’s always a new day in AML.

  3. How has technology changed AML?
    Technology enables AML compliance, but it’s not the only enabler. A hybrid activity between automation, technology, and human skill is required. You can’t replace human skill with technology. You need to have the competencies to leverage what the technology tools and the advances in technology bring to the practice. For example, if you’re a large bank, you likely have many tools you use to monitor transactions and there are different facets to each transaction. There are many smaller companies that don’t use AML systems and instead use manual processes. Technology is exciting and enabling, but it requires human intervention.

  4. Can you tell us about an “aha” moment in your career?
    My first aha moment was when a new client called me again for new services. Beyond that, my “aha” moments manifest as more of a sustained stream of learning for me and for my client base. I do a lot of teaching, and there are plenty of moments when something just clicks for those audiences.

  5. Where do you predict the future of AML going?
    It’s just going to get bigger and bigger. There’s opportunity for an organic expansion in that there are new industry sectors that will be subject to AML compliance. Some already perform it as a best practice, and there are a couple of new sectors that will be facing a requirement to implement a program. There are also new and emerging products like Bitcoin and emerging issues such as marijuana dispensaries that come with a lot of controversy. There are many payment processor companies who now include AML compliance as a best practice because their bank and other partners may feel more comfortable if they have a program in place. All in all, AML is evolving rapidly.

To read more about Laura’s area of expertise or to book an Expert Session, visit her Meet The Expert page on our site.

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Philip Bouchard

Geoff McDonald on the Importance of Employee Wellbeing

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Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet with a new TrustedPeer Expert, Geoff McDonald. Geoff has a unique and well-developed philosophy on how employee wellbeing affects corporate growth, and it was a pleasure to hear his perspective. Here is how our discussion went:

Can you give me a quick download about your career background?

I worked at Unilever for twenty-five years; my most recent role being the Global Vice President of Human Resources for Marketing, Communications, Sustainability and Talent.  At Unilever, my main goal has been to embed our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace into the core of the business, with healthy purposeful employees working to achieve this purpose, and in so doing, grow and deliver profits in a more responsible way. 

How did you become so committed to this goal of purposeful business and the employee wellbeing?

In the last five years with the fall of Enron and other once respectable organizations/institutions and the financial crisis, companies are realizing they need to go back to their roots and think about why they exist beyond profitability. Organizations are looking for a purpose that will drive growth and profits in the future in a more responsible way. Despite the good intentions of capitalism, the system as we know it today has not served us well. Yes, there has been growth, which has been good for many, but it has left too much inequity and has not taken into account the physical and environmental limits of the planet. As a result, our capitalist society is suffering from a crisis of confidence and is fueled by debt. 

Wealth isn’t evenly distributed. As of a few years ago, the top 1 percent of Americans owns 40 percent of wealth in the US. All this points to the lack of a social form of capitalism. A more modern take on capitalism—one that I would like to see—is one that takes into account the physical and environmental limits that we have on this planet, that taxes on consumption rather than income, and that isn’t addicted to short termism and growth. This more modern take on capitalism would also serve a moral purpose, and success would be just as much about the wellbeing of the employees as it is about the organization. 

What is the best way to address this issue?

We need to create more purposeful organizations with wellbeing of employees at the core of these institutions. In so doing we will have to break the stigma around mental health issues by normalizing it. About one in five Americans will experience some mental health condition—the situation is much more common than we think. Therefore, we must ensure that there are ample resources to educate and improve the problem within organizations.

Do you have thoughts on the source of mental health issues?

Oftentimes, the source of anxiety and depression can be factors in the workplace. Simple acts of not giving feedback to employees regarding their performance on a regular basis can be a real source of stress, distress and at its worst, can lead to depression and anxiety. When you combine already-existing stress and demands with technology and the need to cut costs, the pressures are even higher. The New York Times article Why You Hate Work, documents that 87% of people today find their work disappointing, which leads to less productive work. Therefore, the competitive edge in the future might be to ensure that your employees are well in a holistic sense. In order to achieve this complete sense of well-being, we must focus on what The Energy Project calls the four levels of needs: physical (i.e. recharging your body through sleep, etc.), mental (i.e. your ability to focus), emotional (i.e. your level of happiness), and spiritual (i.e. your sense of purpose). 

I hear that you will be meeting with Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the The Huffington Post, this week. What will this meeting be about?

In her book Thrive, Arianna talks about well being as the third metric of success—so there are some parallels there. For me, the meeting with Arianna is exploratory. I am about to leave Unilever to try and build an institute to make purposeful business more commonplace, so I am excited to hear Arianna’s perspective on where we may find synergies.


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Scott Elliott PhD

How to Grow Your Market

Has your business growth flattened or even decayed in your market, and no amount of marketing or sales seems to be able to help it? What do you do? Develop new solutions for this market? Try to enter adjacent markets? Here is a process that we have seen used successfully in a number of different technology companies to recharge growth in revenue and profits.

Start with re-examining the Mission and Vision of your company. Why does your company exist, and what would it look like in 5 years if it was more successful in fulfilling that Mission? Don’t accept some generic statement like “to increase shareholder value.” Your Mission statement should be unique to your company, and not apply just the same to General Motors, Apple Computer, or Mrs. Fields Cookies. What will you NOT do?

The Mission and Vision statements give you the framework to take the next steps, illustrated below:

Grow Your Market

Gather the Strategic Planning team to kick-off a Strategic Planning session. This team is usually composed of the Senior Executive Staff along with some company thought leaders and maybe a key outside partner or two. An expert facilitator (such as one from TrustedPeer.com) can really help focus the effort and move things along, but the CEO should be the main driver. Give yourselves enough time to develop a robust and validated plan – usually 2 to 4 months, depending upon people’s availability and the amount to market research undertaken.

The first four steps should be done in parallel:

  1. Identify what must be done to defend your current market share. The plan may involve developing new solutions, refreshing older ones, and adding marketing and service resources to provide increasing value and love to your customers.

  2. Identify opportunities to enter new or adjacent markets, where you don’t currently play. This exercise is challenging because the opportunities (and the work to find them) may seem endless. Fortunately, the Internet and search engines allow efficient ways of finding and researching many opportunities. Don’t be afraid to engage outside experts or buy professional reports in areas of potential interest. Don’t just look in the most obvious and familiar places – encourage creative thought and cast a wide net. And don’t just look at areas where you have a “core competency” (see the blog: Tenet #1 of Ten Tenets of Strategy: Your core competency is not your strategy). Needed core competencies can be acquired and unneeded ones can be divested. What is important is that the new opportunities optimally fulfill your Mission and Vision. For each opportunity identified, do a short SWOT and market sizing. Pick a person in the team to “champion” each one and write a brief business case.

  3. Define the market criteria for markets you may want to pursue. What are the Total Available Market (TAM) and Segmented Addressable Market (SAM) sizes that you need to see to make it worthwhile? What are the minimum revenues and margin you would consider? How fast should the total market be growing before you would consider it? What barriers to entry would keep you from entering it? How much are you willing to invest to enter a new market? These criteria will be your filter for subsequent steps.
  4. Do a capability assessment: What are your company’s Core Capabilities? (Not your Core Competencies; see Tenet #2 of Ten Tenets of Strategy: Compete on Core Capabilities). We advise you to seek outside experts to help you figure out what you do that makes you successful in the first place. It’s a bit like medical self-diagnosis – too easy to be fooled by your own self biases.

  5. By this time, you should have identified 20 or 30 or more possible opportunities to either protect and grow your existing markets or grow into new ones. Now it is time to filter and prioritize. Look at the brief business case for each of those opportunities and apply your market criteria to them. How does each one stack-up against the others? Prioritize and pick the top 5 to 10 candidates.

  6. Have the “champions” for each of the top opportunities lead a “deep dive” market research effort and write a more detailed business case. Give them the time and resources to do a proper job so that the market size, potential share, achievable margins, etc. are reasonably accurate and validated. The business case should contain potential Value Propositions for your company: what customers will you serve, what pain or unmet needs are you addressing, and what would your solution need to add to have them choose it over other available solutions?

  7. Prioritize the opportunities based on comparing these business cases, and on your “bandwidth” – your appetite and resources available for such initiatives. Most companies cannot attempt more than 3 or 4 new such initiatives at the same time. The winning initiatives will form the basis of your market strategy; make sure that the whole team buys into pursuing them.

  8. Study how your market strategy matches your capability assessment: what are your strengths and gaps for entering these markets? What do you need to do to fill the gaps and strengthen your core capabilities? These factors are critical in deciding your market strategy.

  9. Validate your decision through further market studies, and develop a detailed market strategy plan, including goals, timing, investment, resources needed and scenario planning. Decide what events or metrics might trigger a change in your plans. Discuss these plans and tweak them until every member of the team is satisfied that it is a plan with the highest probability for success. This plan becomes the Plan of Record.

  10. Present the Plan of Record to the Board or Executive Committee for approval or modification.

Of course, this process or any other Strategic Planning process cannot guarantee that you will be successful. It needs to be followed by excellent execution, inspirational leadership, and a fair measure of good luck. But it does give you the best chance of success.

To book an expert session with Scott, go to Scott's page on TrustedPeer.









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Philip Bouchard

The Future of Training and Development

There is a widespread assumption that the world has somehow reached the peak of natural selection.  Everything has adapted perfectly and the world is in harmony.

Business is the great crucible where evolution is on steroids. One of the most interesting areas to explore is the employer/employee dynamic. After all, with minimal friction in a decent economy, employees can vote with their feet or their wallets, and employers are left carrying some heavy costs.

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I have always felt that training and development were the foundation of employee retention. In researching this, I found that dissatisfaction with career development is one of the top three reasons employees look for alternative career opportunities. And those who receive more training are less likely to quit than those who receive little or no training.  

Typically, training and development is delivered by sending employees to conferences. Unless the conference is an internal one, I view the travel as a nice-to-have. And, the ability to socialize with one’s peers leads to more lateral mobility than an employer would like. Worse yet, the employer is on the hook for the high costs of travel, hotel, conference fees, meals and "entertainment.”

If you really want to retain employees, I recommend employee development through TrustedPeer Expert Sessions. When I read the Session surveys and feedback, the level of enthusiasm for the amount learned is the standout. And, because TrustedPeer Experts are highly qualified in business strategy and tactics, both employees and the company gain from an immediate increase in skill level and value. 

If you agree with me that turnover is expensive, and that the costs of employee training and development - in its current form - are prohibitive, have your organization's HR group take a test-drive with TrustedPeer.

If you’re not 100% satisfied with your 1-hour session, TrustedPeer will refund your money. If you are, buy a 5-pack or a 10-pack and give the gift of professional development to your team.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Philip Bouchard

A Sneak Peek Into the Future of Work with Talent Management Expert Edie L. Goldberg


I had the opportunity to sit down with TrustedPeer Expert Edie Goldberg regarding her speaking engagement at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM’s) Annual Conference in Orlando, FL on June 23.  Here’s what we discussed: 

Philip: Can you share an overview of what you talked about at the #SHRM14 conference?

Edie: My topic was "Transforming Work: Are Your Ready for the Future?" My goal was to help HR leaders understand some of the trends that are dramatically changing the nature of work. In my presentation, I explored this rich topic from many different perspectives. 
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For instance, from the employee’s perspective, there is a move toward a redefinition of what career success means. Today, people define career success differently. They want to be constantly challenged while doing work they’re passionate about, fully utilizing the skills they have developed, and while creating their own sense of work-life balance. 

This redefinition has created a new segment of successful professionals, a segment that Silicon Valley leader Maynard Webb says is characterized by a particular mindset that embraces the self-motivation to become CEOs of their own destiny. 

Philip: Interesting. Is this Webb’s book called Rebooting Work that you’re referencing? 

Edie: Exactly. The book has been a huge influence on my personal approach to work as well. 

Philip: Any other major themes you discussed in your talk?

Edie: Yes, I discussed how we are now operating in the Connected Age, where people are connected 24/7 and able to work from anywhere. I urged HR leaders to rethink the relationship of talent to the organization, because often the best talent they may need to achieve their strategic objectives may be found outside of the walls of the corporation. For instance, we’re beginning to see more contingent workers, even at a senior leadership level. 

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasted that by 2020 40% of the US workforce will be comprised of contingent workers. So what does that mean? It means companies will have to innovate in order to be successful at attracting and keeping this type of modern, successful employee. You’ll also see new business models centered around this phenomenon beginning to emerge. For example, marketplaces for online talent are becoming more prevalent—Elance, oDesk, Guru, and LiveOps are just a few of the more popular marketplaces.

If you need consulting on Talent Management, contact TrustedPeer Expert Edie L. Goldberg.

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Steven Feinberg

Getting to Know Manufacturing Expert Steven Feinberg


This is the first in a series of “Getting to Know” posts that feature one of our TrustedPeer experts discussing developments in their area of expertise. We’re kicking the series off with  Steven Feinberg, who has over 20 years of experience consulting with clients in need of outsourced manufacturing worldwide, including from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Poland, Israel and the U.S.. 

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  1. Why did you decide to join TrustedPeer?  
    Although my companies, SF Global Sourcing and SF Video, are sourcing and manufacturing companies, a lot of companies that work with me aren’t buying in large volumes; sometimes they just want to pick our brains. So TrustedPeer, being a consultancy company, is another way for me to commoditize this knowledge.
     
  2. What are you most excited about in sourcing and manufacturing right now?  
    I’m really excited that manufacturing is coming back to the USA. With labor rates in India and China rising, the US is becoming more competitive, and creating predictions of insourcing. And the flip side to this is that I’m not excited about China becoming less competitive, because I source so much there. China has invested so heavily in their infrastructure, the quality and consistency of their goods has risen over the years. But with this quality increase, the costs have increased. So you get what you pay for.

  3. How has technology changed manufacturing and sourcing?   
    It has really increased communication. I can Skype or hop on a call with China in real time now. So as long as I’m okay staying up those hours, I can get so much more done internationally in real time.

    Also, I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about the Industrial Internet lately. The Industrial Internet is a term GE coined that refers to the connection between physical machinery and software, and the data that this connection serves up. I can see this trend being transformative for manufacturing in general. 

    In my own day-to-day work, I’m particularly interested in seeing how my customers utilize the video distribution platform I provide. I think it's just as interesting to sift through individual data around product features as it is to sift through the big data that the Industrial Internet can provide. The idea being that your next generation product can fulfill needs that the feedback and data surface.

  4. Can you tell us about an “aha” moment in your career/work? 
    When I figured out that my main function as a manufacturer is to translate what’s in a product developer’s mind into a real life object. This realization led to us creating a more rigorous process called the WOW process, which standardized our approach to translating a product creator’s vision into reality. It’s an iterative process that allows me to take a vague statement from an inventor or product creator like “I need a DVD, you know what I mean…” and turn it into a physical product. This process that become my core expertise, and a part of my company’s DNA. 
     
  5. If you had a crystal ball, where would you predict the future of Manufacturing Strategy/Supply Chain going? 
    There’s a continual pendulum swinging between manufacturing your own product and outsourcing it. I see the future as more of a hybrid approach where companies are manufacturing their core product, and then outsourcing ancillary goods. Each company will need to create their own criteria for what makes sense here, but this is the gist. 

    To read more on Steven's manufacturing expertise or to book an Expert Session, visit his Meet The Expert page on our site.

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Philip Bouchard

Turning Lean On Its Ear

The concept of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is giving way to the lean corporation. In the lean corporation, “The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.” That’s according to the Lean Institute.

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Saying zero waste is like saying you want a corporation with zero friction. Every employee is a high performer, they have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and they communicate perfectly. Sounds idyllic, no? Well, we stated this aspiration almost a year ago, and it’s still top of mind.

Over the last decade, especially with globalization kicking off a sea change and having internet-speed communication at little or no cost, we’ve noticed a decided move to hiring specialist firms to decrease waste and friction. To date, this level of outsourcing has focused on repetitive, paper-driven or time-intensive activities such as invoicing, accounts payable, or call centers.

We see a future in which senior management expertise is introduced just-in-time with strategic business skills. And, because of their experience, they bring a network of resources for you as well.

On the consulting side, highly specialized individuals do not have a cross-functional offering. They can’t support the multiple areas of specialization that clients demand. Enter TrustedPeer.

TrustedPeer has two compelling differentiators.

  • We are a full-service destination. With more than 100 experts and the number climbing all the time, an individual consultant who is a TrustedPeer Expert becomes part of a larger mission. If you don’t see a practice area covered, our Experts will source and qualify someone for you immediately.

  • We focus on experienced, vetted players - an entrepreneur could outsource the senior management to TrustedPeer, contradicting the idea that only narrowly defined, repetitive business processes can be outsourced.

It’s exciting times this week as we launched our new site, with streamlined design, 100 available experts and an improved workflow process. Come visit us and verify!

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Philip Bouchard

Have We Entered the Era of Internet Caveat Emptor?

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A failed method of decision support is Internet searches.  The Internet is completely algorithm-based now.  And the balance of transparency vs. being targeted has shifted heavily in the favor of advertisers. Where on the Internet can decision-makers find trust and authenticity?  There must be providers of trusted, skillfully curated and delivered information.  TrustedPeer is one of those sites.

My thoughts were ignited by David Segal’s May 4th New York Times Sunday Business article “The Great Unwatched."  As Mr. Segal points out in the article, "57 percent of two billion ads surveyed over two months were deemed to be unviewable," yet companies still paid for the ads.

Unfortunately, I think of dubious parallels:
  • Remember Collateralized Debt Obligations and other structured asset-backed securities? 
  • Remember in Casablanca when Claude Rains declares that he’s shocked that gambling is going on as he palms a payoff on the side?
  • Are we aware, while we “research,” the Internet can be gamed in so many areas? Think of Wikipedia content or LinkedIn endorsements or, per Mr. Segal, video ad placement.  
The fact is that we should all be skeptical of the Internet as a decision support tool.  However, any problem presents an opportunity.  There is a parallel trend where authenticity, quality and objectivity are being are being held in higher esteem.

At TrustedPeer, we're building our brand on trust, authenticity and quality.  One TrustedPeer Expert at a time.

If you need consulting on Business Management, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.
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Bruce Lincoln

Start-ups for a Better World:  Three Keys to Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs have a passion for solving real-world problems by using for-profit business models and behaving like start-ups rather than traditional non-profit agencies.  The New York Timesprofiled one company, D-Rev, that decided to create a more durable and easier-to-use phototherapy system to treat jaundice patients in rural hospitals.  As they went through the process, D-Rev discovered that not only did they need to design the phototherapy machine they envisioned, they also needed to become more involved in supply chains, licensing agreements, and procurement systems than they had previously expected.  

 

Another organization, the Apps Youth Leadership Academy, teaches at-risk youth to program smartphone apps and helps provide seed money for their own start-up businesses. It is another example of how the social entrepreneurship model can successfully bring the best products and services to their target audience.

Both organizations highlight three rules for creating a successful social start-up:

  1. Design Solutions For the Real World: 

    D-Rev:  CEO of D-Rev, Krista Donaldson, saw old phototherapy systems abandoned in hospitals due to burned out bulbs and other simple-to-solve problems.  She went back to her engineers and designers to develop one that was sturdier and easier to use.  She saw a problem and knew she could solve it.

    Apps Youth Leadership captured the interest of their target audience of 10th and 11th graders by using smartphone technology, in which they were already immersed and fluent.  At the Academy, students learn to build smartphone apps, building skills that they can use to enter into science and technology fields, either through higher education or through the marketplace.  This benefits them as individuals, increases minority participation in science and technology, and helps grow the economy as a whole.

  2. Combine the Best For-Profit Markets With Non-Profit Funding:  

    D-Rev made its own licensing deals, supply chains, manufacturing arrangements, and procurement systems to manufacture their phototherapy device.  By creating the enabling ecosystems to ensure the success of their device, D-Rev gained credibility with the social impact donors who invested in their work.

    Apps Youth Leadership combined monies from the Rockefeller Foundation (private philanthropy) and the Harlem Community Development Corporation (a state government agency) to successfully fund its activities.  Obtaining funding from a variety of options lended credibility to the project.

  3. Solicit Feedback And Use It To Improve:  

    D-Rev
    :  Design is an iterative process and getting feedback from users is crucial for a social start-up.  D-Rev introduced prototypes early on to get information that helped refine its phototherapy system until it was exactly what patients and hospitals needed. Using the speed and reach of the internet and social media, companies can quickly get feedback on their ideas.

    Apps Youth Leadership:  Students receive feedback on designing and coding apps from mentors in those fields, as well as business management mentorship from business professionals. Feedback allows the students to develop skills and products that are valuable in the real world.  

Non-profit organizations can advance their social missions through market dynamics.  By taking advantage of the connectivity and reach of the internet, information and expertise can be shared quickly as well, making social entrepreneurship more effective.

If you need consultation on Social Entrepreneurship, contact TrustedPeer Expert Bruce Lincoln.


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Ted Judson

Taking Chocolate to the Next Level: A New-Dimension Line Extension

Most product line extensions do not stray far from the original offering. For example, video games are commonly extended into movies, as shown by films like Mortal Kombat and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Similarly, television shows regularly prompt board game extensions, like the Simpsons® Monopoly® edition. Even the wildly popular internet video 'What Does the Fox Say?' is now being turned into a children's book! All of these examples are very natural extensions of the original product, because they fall under the general category of entertainment. This kind of closely-related extension is considered same-dimensional.

Rarer are extensions which are new-dimensional, representing a complete transformation into mediums which were not there at the start. A recent example comes from M&Ms®, the beloved chocolate candy, which will soon star in a movie! This is not the first line extension for this iconic brand: they have extended their original chocolate product to everything from pretzel and dark chocolate versions to Easter and mini-sized versions. They have also ventured further afield, making candy dispensers, mugs and even t-shirts celebrating their product. However, these extensions have all been in the food category or in the broader consumer packaged goods (CPG) arena. Their newest product bridges their offering from a food product to an entertainment vehicle.

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This is not an easy feat, and it did not happen overnight. What first paved the way for this revenue-generating extension was the brand's commercials. Initially, the creative team came up with the idea to anthropomorphize the candies in ads to help sell more chocolate by fueling a sense of connection. One way to do this, they found, was to make the product relatable, by pumping up its personality. This early idea resulted in ads in which different colors of M&M® candies had different personas: fun, mischievous and sometimes cheeky. The life of these personalities continued to evolve in subsequent ads with ongoing storylines for each color of candy. Finally, there had been enough exposure to these ads that the characters had come alive to consumers. With this series of small steps, Mars built up consumer demand for a movie featuring their candies.

But how did the brand know that their characters were ready for the big screen? The key would have been observing how consumers perceived the brand. For example, in focus groups, did consumers talk about liking 'that color' – or did they mention liking 'that guy?' Consumers who thought of M&Ms® as 'guys' were seeing them as peers, for whom certain actions would be in- or out-of-character. This is why an M&M® movie is hitting theaters, but a gummy bear movie is not: you would be hard-pressed to name or assign characteristics to any individual bear. 

New-dimensional product extensions like this are very rare – and have great potential. Though it is difficult to predict how successful the transition will be for M&Ms®, it is an opportunity that not many brands have.

The important question is: will watching M&Ms® on the big screen increase or decrease M&M® sales at the theaters themselves? How will viewers see it: happy convergence or disturbing cannibalism?

If you need consulting on Product Life Cycle Management, contact TrustedPeer Expert Ted Judson.


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Ted Judson

If Not a Line Extension, Then What? Exploring Brand Reinvention.

Every business seeks new revenue, and extensions of a product line are a good bet for driving it. However, as I mentioned in 'Sequel Products:  When Are They a Good Idea?,' extensions are only a good idea in specific circumstances. So, what can you do if your product does not meet any of the criteria for being extended? When a sequel product is not advisable, a brand reinvention may be the right step.

What is the difference between the two?

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  • A line extension is when a new product is added to an existing brand portfolio without changing the brand identity. For example, a hockey team can sell a new style or size of fan jersey. This gives fans a reason to buy something new from the team, without changing the team's name, colors, roster or brand identity.

  • A brand reinvention, on the other hand, is when an existing brand is redefined. This entails altering what consumers think the brand delivers for them. To achieve this, a hockey team would likely change names, trade players, movie cities, or change player behavior – to alter their image in the eyes of fans.

You may wonder why a brand would go through the work of reinventing itself, when they could make the potentially simpler move of producing new offerings under existing branding. After all, building a brand requires significant investments of time and money.

The answer is found in the product life cycle. If a brand is on the decline, management may not agree to fund a line extension. After all, a declining product may indicate a value proposition with decreasing relevance or a target audience with decreasing purchasing power.

However, even though your target or offering have lost relevance, your name may not have. In keeping the branding, you reap several benefits:
  1. You retain the consumer name recognition you worked so hard to build with the original product. Over time, in a successful reinvention, this name comes to mean something different from what it did initially, without having to start from scratch.
  2. You keep the value of the brand name among retailers or distributors. Using the name that they associate with a trusted supplier helps with distribution for your new offering.
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What does a successful brand reinvention look like? One example comes from Banana Republic®. This brand was originally a travel-oriented store, supplying books about voyages and excess military clothing store. However, they redefined the brand to be a high-end casual clothing store, allowing them to target a more affluent audience. Though the original store might have conjured the feeling of walking into a safari, the new store experience is more about clean lines and elegance.

If a line extension is not the right move for your brand, consider whether a brand reinvention would be worthwhile. If you have a mature brand with strong name recognition, but a declining product, you could be a good candidate.

If you need consulting on Product Life Cycle Management, contact TrustedPeer Expert Ted Judson.

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Denis Mehigan

Three Resolutions for Better Office Space


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No matter the time of year, your business should always resolve to get the best deal when looking for office space.  Here are three ways to ensure just that:

1.  Don’t Fall For the Scarcity Trick:  This is when real estate brokers claim that there are people in line wanting to lease the space your company is looking for.  Or the market is so tight that you won’t find reasonably-priced space.  Don’t let fear force you into overpaying for a space that isn’t right for your company.

2.  Investigate Shadow Space:  In addition to “public market” space, there are often additional offices that can be rented from businesses that have extra space.  A knowledgeable broker can often find space in places that don’t have anything listed officially on the market.

3.  Know Your Load Factor:  The load factor is the fee that landlords charge for the use of common spaces such as lobbies, elevators, restrooms, hallways, etc.  This fee can be anywhere from 15%-30% of your rent, and can drastically affect your bottom line.  Make sure you know what the load factor is and whether it is worth paying for your business.

When searching for office space, it is wise to look into these details to make sure the landlord isn’t overcharging you.  An experienced professional can help guide you in asking the right questions and negotiating a lease that is best for your business.

If you need consulting on Commercial Real Estate, contact TrustedPeer Expert Denis Mehigan.
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Philip Bouchard

How to Build a Special Forces Business Team

Businesses have been discovering good advice in military experience, as this recent LinkedIn article on using time wisely shows.  One of the most important things I learned from my own Navy SEAL training was how to deal with and overcome adversity.  It is a quality that I find crucial in the work I do now helping start-ups and other companies improve and grow.

Here are three lessons I've taken from my Navy SEAL training that can help businesses become more successful:

1.  Develop Resiliency and Nimbleness :  In a Navy SEAL team, all the members develop mental toughness so the team won’t collapse under harsh challenges.  You know your team, have the experience to know what to do, and most importantly, know how to convert the unexpected to your advantage.  In the recent Navy SEAL mission to capture Osama bin Laden, when one of the two helicopters became inoperational, the team adjusted its plan on the fly and executed it successfully.  Today’s successful businesses should be just as nimble, adjusting to new technologies or shifts in the economic terrain.

2.  Choose the Right Expert to Lead :  Each SEAL team member is a specialist. For example, I was trained as a sniper.  My class also had experts in explosives, rear security, weapons, parachuting, and other specialties.  If an operation needed your expertise in front, then you were the de-facto leader of the operation.  Any mission that focused on my expertise meant the team would look to me for leadership.  Similarly, companies should trust the person with the most expertise for the project and empower that person to lead the team.

3.  Augment the Team :  Not every company can have its own in-house SEAL team.  But a business can reach out to specialists to address challenging problems--and that can be a game changer.  If something has gone wrong in any area, be it sales, marketing, manufacturing or production, the right expert can come in and say, “I’ve got this; I’ve been through this many times before. I’m going to help you, and your business will come out better than before.”  Recruiting specialized knowledge on occasion can make a company more responsive to changing markets and ensure the growth of the business.

Navy SEAL teams excel at executing successful missions by undergoing rigorous training to deploy their expertise in real world situations.  I believe that companies of all kinds can benefit by applying these principles to their businesses as well.

Philip Bouchard
CEO – TrustedPeer.com
Former SEAL Team 2
BUD/S Class 99
 
If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard. 
 
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Ted Judson

Sequel Products:  When Are They a Good Idea?

In most cases, sequel products generate lower revenue than their original versions. Line extensions in new scents or flavors are rarely as successful as the flagship product.  Their sales are not meant to be as robust, as they are line extensions.  This is no less true of movies, where films with ‘two’ or ‘reloaded’ in the title expect to only attract a subset of the original’s audience. With each subsequent sequel, revenues continue to fall.

video_games1.jpgOf course, there are exceptions to this rule. Video games are an example with which I have extensive experience from my time at EA. The occasional success of sequel products in this arena is in part because the original games helped build the market to its current size. Initially, video gaming was a smaller business, but as console gaming advanced and early fans became advocates, the audience and revenues grew, as did the audience’s age! 

Given the stark view of sequel revenue potential, companies may wonder why to invest beyond the original product. Good question. There are three scenarios in which sequels are a wise investment:

1. If a line extension is a meaningful complement, rather than a substitute: For example, after The Sims® game was released, its popularity fed the desire for additional game play. Thus, The Sims Pet® edition, for example, was a profitable line extension, as it provided new accessories to enhance play among enthusiasts of the original The Sims® game.

popcorn1.jpg 2. If a line extension is a product improvement: This often occurs when technology advances after the release of the original product. To prevent being eclipsed by late entrants who can leverage the newer technology, a company can offer their own advanced version. Though the new product may replace the original on consumers’ lists, it also prevents the loss of overall share – and boosts reputation, by demonstrating innovation as a company value. (Don’t undervalue this attribute!). One example was the emergence of microwave ovens and the release of Orville Redenbacher’s Microwave Popcorn®. That could be an example where the new extension actually drove the technology; if you don’t believe me, check your microwave and see if there is a “Popcorn” setting!

3. If a line extension serves a new market: This occurs when factors like timing make the original product less appealing to the original audience. For example, in sports games, simulating play with the team roster from the year before is less fun: fervent players want the team to represent the one they see on the field. Rather than allowing the old game version to disappear, a company can re-package it for a more price-sensitive audience – and retailer. This was the case with EA’s complete line-up of video games: this robust content was repurposed for a new price-sensitive market.

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When considering a line extension of an existing product, companies should evaluate whether it fits one of these scenarios. In so doing, they can ensure that the new product does not cannibalize their sales, but rather extends the life cycle of the original product.

If you need consulting on Product Lifecycle Management, contact TrustedPeer Expert Ted Judson.

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Denis Mehigan

The Best Office for Your Business:  Five Rules for Leasing Commercial Real Estate Space

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Companies in San Francisco recently received a boon in their hunt for office space:  a six-year payroll tax exemption in return for helping develop the formerly neglected mid-Market Street area.  However, businesses everywhere can use these five simple rules when looking for commercial real estate space.

Five Rules for Getting a Better Lease: 

  1. It Pays to Shop For Office Space:  Office space is the second largest operating expense of a company’s budget, so it pays to have someone who knows how to find the right space and negotiate the lease.  For smaller companies, finding office space usually falls to the most recently hired employee, who may not know what incentives to ask for.  
  2. Think Outside the Real Estate Listings:  Don’t let yourself be limited by what’s officially on the market.  Large companies often lease a bigger space than they can use and are willing to rent part of it to others.  If there’s an area or even a building you’d really like to be in, you might be able to find space in it even if there isn’t anything officially for rent.  
  3. Make a List of Non-Monetary Lease Benefits:  Incentives aren’t always dollar bills.  One San Jose business asked the city to change a one-way alley behind their building into a two-way street.  After studying the issue, the city made the change, making it easier for their employees to get to the office.  Would your business benefit from building signage or some other non-monetary incentive?  Make a list and see what the landlord or local government is open to doing.  
  4. Timing Counts When Negotiating:   The internet gaming company, Zynga, signed a lease on a building a few months before the mid-Market tax benefits were proposed--and had to go to the mat with city officials over it.  They didn't get the payroll tax, but they did receive a tax cap on stock-based compensation--and a lot of bad press in the process.
  5. Mutuality Makes Good Leases:  There are incentives you can ask for from the city and and others that the landlord can address.  With respectful negotiation and a sense of mutuality, companies can ask for--and obtain--a variety of incentives that make it a win-win for all involved.   

There are many things to consider when renting commercial space.  Knowing the right questions and how to ask them can save you time and money while helping you find the best place for your business to thrive.

If you need consulting on Commercial Real Estate, contact TrustedPeer Expert Denis Mehigan.

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CE Shue

How to (Really) Drive Business Innovation

The NYT’s Adam Bryant recently devoted a Corner Office column to the Six Key Drivers that create a culture of innovation in business.  

TrustedPeer CEO Philip Bouchard points out that Bryant overlooks the most important innovation driver of all:  acknowledging and embracing change.  Bouchard shared his views on the 7th Key Driver, which are rooted in his business experience as a CEO as well as his previous training and experience as a Navy SEAL.

 Embracing Change: The 7th Driver of Innovation

  1. Balance change with stability:  Corporations focus on achieving stability.  In an ideal market with no competition, they can tweak the same product every year, work on more efficient manufacturing processes or optimizing solution sales tactics with no pressure and routinized processes.  Embracing change is a necessary counter-balance to moving toward stability.
  2. Don’t be blind:  Any product can be more than just another product, it’s a potential competitor – regardless of the market. The NYT article cited the case of Garmin, the GPS device maker who lost 85% of their sales to Google Maps.  Garmin didn’t see what was going on outside of their industry and got blindsided by Google, which wasn’t even targeting the GPS market.  
  3. Look outside—and listen:  Every company needs to look outside of their comfort zone to understand what consumers are looking for, now and for what’s next.  This process of looking and listening is the basis of creating a culture of innovation.
  4. Be adaptable:  Change happens.  It will happen whether or not we like it (let’s face it, even plants don’t like change).  Change has to be a part of your business strategy. 
  5. Talent matters:  Acquiring the right expertise to make intelligent, targeted change is crucial.  Sometimes companies need to bring in a new perspective to implement innovative changes. It’s not a coincidence that many successful Silicon Valley start-ups have maintained a trend of Acq-Hiring companies.

Change is an opportunity, a positive catalyst.  Smart businesses learn how to use change to their advantage.

What makes the SEAL Teams successful?  They expect change.  They know that no operation is going to result exactly as planned.

Look at the Bin Laden operation.  One of two helicopters critical to the mission became inoperational.  Hey, just another day.  Adjust and continue to execute because you have a culture of embracing change.

Philip Bouchard
CEO – TrustedPeer.com
Former SEAL Team 2
BUD/S Class 99

If you need consulting on business management, contact TrustedPeer Expert, Philip Bouchard.

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CE Shue

Alleviating CEO Stress in 2014

Sunday’s WSJ featured a piece on CEO pressure turning up in 2014.  

We talked to TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard about what CEOs can do to manage the pressure they are under.  Here are 5 simple rules, garnered in a 30-minute Expert Session.

  1. The primary responsibility of the board of directors is to hire and fire the CEO.  The tool the board has is blunt, so it needs attention.
  2. The biggest mistake a CEO can make is to over-promise on your plan.  Be realistic and push back on pressure if the expectations feel unreasonable.
  3. Managing the board isn’t about personal relationships; it’s about trust and straightforward information. This means open communications for both good news and bad.  A board member should never hear news about the company from a third party. Never.
  4. Board-level communications should always be inclusive.  Send an email to all board members stating that you will call each of them over a specified time-frame.  Phone or face-to-face is the only way effective board-level communication should happen.
  5. Use the board to manage strategy, not the details.  You don’t want to ask the board's advice about managing the company; they can hire a new CEO to do that.  You want to talk about your plan, how the company is performing, and what you see coming. Board members respect solid, well-thought-through arguments in which the CEO takes a position and provides a risk assessment.

If you do all of the above, your performance as CEO will burnish board members’ reputations with investors and limited partners. 

Make them look good!

Ultimately, straight talk and predictability earn trust and respect. 

If you need consulting on business management, contact TrustedPeer Expert Philip Bouchard.

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Philip Bouchard

The Cost of High Flying Cell Phones

The FCC recently voted 3-2 to allow cell phones on airplanes. However, popular resistance to this idea reminds us that air travel, especially for business people, is extremely important time.  TrustedPeer Expert Pete Agur offers many reasons for business to consider what aviation means to them.

  • Time is rigidly inelastic and completely perishable. It is the most constrained resource you have.  Wasted time is your enemy.  It kills deals. 
  • You save at least three hours, door-to-door, for every place you go, in comparison to traveling on the airlines.  And you can go to more places in a day and work en route, in a secure environment. 
  • The decision to consider business aviation has nothing to do with flying.  It is all about getting things done.  You can be conservative and continue to live with the consequences of losing time to commercial travel and getting less done each week, or you can do what 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies do and use business aviation.
  • The airlines continue to consolidate, which reduces your options and increases your costs.  They also continue to adjust their sales and operating models seeking to improve efficiencies and revenues.
  • Business aviation makes opportunity.  Opportunities lie in small, out-of-the-way places in Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe.  It could take you a week to get to and from some of these spots on the airlines.  Senior executives simply wouldn’t go there if they could not get in and out quickly and safely.

We think Pete makes the case for considering business aviation.  Others would call him elitist and the use of business aviation an abuse of corporate power and money.  What do you think?

 

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Philip Bouchard

Holidays In the Office

It's the time of the year when we think about others and what they mean to us, from our family and friends, to those we work with every day.  Whether you love shopping for gifts or would love to avoid the holiday shopping crush, it's often difficult to find a present that tells the person how much you appreciate having him or her in your life.

When I think of the people I work with at TrustedPeer, I think about all the conversations we've had, working on many projects toward our shared goal.  Every TrustedPeer Expert has special talents that we know will help people solve thorny problems they're facing at work now.  If you know someone who would benefit from having a one-on-one conversation with a management consultant, whether they need a second opinion or business ideas on a particular issue, you can gift them with a customized session with a TrustedPeer.

Our Sales Experts can help your coworkers solve a problem, sharpen their business savvy, and deliver a detailed business plan on topics ranging from Sales Management to Channel Partner Management.  Or contact us and we’ll find the best consultant for you.  

We'll also be posting lists of Experts in Marketing, AML, Innovation, and Finance, so come back and see us again.

Best Wishes and Season's Greetings!  May the holidays bring you all things warm and bright.

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Tom Cipolla

The Best Buy on Black Friday:  Kick-Starting Holiday Sales

Black Friday is a term marketing executives have come up with to kick-start billions of dollars in holiday sales.  Retailers, both large and small, give their Thanksgiving weekend sales effort an extraordinary push to accomplish two very important goals:

  • Invite retail customers to take advantage of great Thanksgiving weekend prices to increase yearly revenue.  
  • Build customer loyalty.  Retail customers typically reward retailers with their business if the perception of product value and quality and service is consistent with their first experience on Thanksgiving weekend.

Ads touting big discounts are the order of the day, but the second goal, establishing a long-term relationship with the customer, is a harder nut to crack, especially in shaky economic times.  How might a company ensure that consumers will come back after the Black Friday frenzy is over?

Best Buy, which specializes in electronics and computers, is a good example of a business that has an aggressive plan to increase sales and retain customers by:  

  • Matching competitors' online prices to disrupt "showrooming," which they fell victim to in the past few years. (Showrooming is the use of phone apps to scan the bar code of a product to show the lowest price among online retailers.)  
  • Introducing "My Best Buy," a new loyalty program consisting of three tiers of progressively added incentives that includes bonus points for purchases, concierge-type customer service, and extended return privileges.  

With their retail traffic at its peak in the next few days, Best Buy is hoping that the combination of discounts and perks will provide the right opportunity to increase sales and retain customers through the holidays and beyond.  Retailers don't want a one-time customer sale and great prices with great service initiates the feeling of customer loyalty.  Many businesses would do well to consider how to implement their own double-barreled approach this holiday season.

Have you experienced excellent sales and service recently?  Which stores have earned your loyalty?

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Philip Bouchard

Being Squeezed: The State of Senior Executives Today

We just watched Moneyball again.  It’s one of our favorite movies because it illustrates a common problem we've seen in business time and again.  Brad Pitt is great as the Oakland A's general manager, Billy Beane, who finds himself in a tough spot, with his team sinking to the bottom of the MLB's American League:

  • Billy (the general manager) is faced with the team's difficult financial situation, needs to reduce payroll but doesn't want to appear he’s forcing several terrible trade-offs to cut costs.  
  • Art Howe (the coach) wants to win games and believes the only way is to spend big money for talent.
  • Peter Brand (the expert) offers a win-win solution by approaching the problem from a new angle.  

These dynamics are very typical in today’s working environment.  Increasing demands from management, a team below you that doesn’t necessarily have the experience and track record required to navigate today’s complex world, and your job depending on making it all work.  

Any of you see parallels with your jobs?  What happened in your situation?  What expert saved you? Or did you have to fail and learn from it?  Leave a comment and tell us your story.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Dan Hodges

Healthcare Brokers for Employers:  Scam or Valuable Service?

As described in the recent New York Times article, “Con Men Prey on Confusion Over Health Care Act,” the number of questions about Obamacare is rivaled only by the number of scams targeting this confusion. The scams vary from convincing people to buy extra unnecessary insurance and charging exorbitant fees to “help” them navigate the new system, to stealing Medicare and Social Security information on the pretext of “updating” their Medicare records. Though these types of fraud target individuals, there are also scams focused on employers.

Employers need to accomplish two primary goals:

  • Decide what they need or wish to provide to employees, keeping in mind the new Affordable Care Act regulations.
  • Educate their employees on their healthcare plan options. 

Further complicating these tasks are the complexities of the regulations and the significant rise in the number of employed individuals reaching Medicare age. This creates an opportunity for fraud on a much larger scale.

To avoid falling prey to employee benefits program scams, executives and business owners need to distinguish between 2 different types of brokers:

 Health Insurance Brokers(Medicare) Education Brokers
What They Offer
  • Offer to "assist" employees in enrolling in the new federal insurance exchanges
  • Often offer rebates to businesses if they enroll employees in their programs
  • Offer Medicare education services: explain to employees how the employer plan interacts with Medicare coverage
  • Businesses refer employees on Medicare or reaching Medicare age to this optional service
What You Get
  • Potential legal trouble, as rebates are widely considered unethical in the insurance field and in many states rebating is explicitly illegal
  • Help with understanding the new system
  • Employees get a choice
  • Employers get goodwill for offering another resource resource
Bottom LineBe wary of brokers offering you rebates or offering to do your job for you.Be open to brokers offering to educate your employees on their options.
 Source: TrustedPeer.comExpert Dan Hodges

As with any new governmental program, there will be difficulties in its implementation.  Both individuals and businesses should be aware of the potential for fraud or unethical practices. If you have any questions regarding the new rules and regulations, seek assistance from known and reputable advisors. Most businesses are aiming to help demystify the healthcare enrollment process, but it’s always worth it to make sure you know who you are doing business with, especially in the brave new world of health care.

If you need consulting on Employee Healthcare Benefits, contact TrustedPeer Expert Dan Hodges.

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Philip Bouchard

Introducing TrustedPeer Expert Pete Agur

TrustedPeer Welcomes a New Expert, Pete Agur

Pete Agur is an expert on Business Aviation and how


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Dennis Lormel

Uncovering Fraud:  A Whistleblower's True Story of Courage in Compliance

This is the true and compelling real life story of a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Bank Compliance Officer. Cathy Scharf had been recently hired by a small community bank. Shortly into her tenure at the bank, she realized something was seriously wrong. The compliance officer determined that the bank was processing an inordinate and unreasonable amount of transactions per month; well in excess of what a bank that size should have been handling. She learned that the bank was dealing with third party processors and subsequently found out that the third party processors were transacting on behalf of internet poker companies. The compliance officer knew this activity was illegal. She went to the bank president and other executives to attempt to exit the business relationships and file suspicious activity reports (SARs). Although the compliance officer continuously attempted to do the right thing, she was constantly rebuffed or misled.

What became apparent was that the tone at the top was not compliance friendly. Regardless of how dedicated and committed to doing the right thing a compliance professional is, if executive management does not adhere to a culture of compliance and exhibit the proper tone at the top, the compliance function is destined to fail. For approximately one year, the cultural conflict played out until state regulators closed the bank.

During that year, as the gripping story unfolded, the compliance officer experienced many emotions ranging from stress and sleeplessness, to intimidation, guilt and fear for her safety. In addition, she incurred legal expenses to retain a lawyer. Despite her distress, she continued to try to do the right thing. As things progressed, the compliance officer cooperated with law enforcement and regulatory authorities.

The Players

This saga contained various backstories involving a number of colorful characters. The law enforcement investigation began as an organized crime investigation into gambling. Organized crime led investigators to information regarding offshore payment processing in Costa Rica. Investigation led to third party processing; processing for a range of illicit activities to include gambling on internet poker. Most banks would not wittingly service internet poker companies. Third party processors relied on shell and shelf companies, nominees, and other mechanisms, to create the appearance that funds were being moved for licit and innocuous activities and not for illicit purposes.

There were organized crime figures in New York associated with the Gambino and Genovese families. There was Anurag Dikshit, a citizen of India, who owned PartyGaming, an internet gaming business. Dikshit pled guilty to internet gambling in December 2008, and agreed to forfeit $300 million. There was Daniel Tzvetkoff, an Australian, who made an estimated $82 million processing for PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. In 2010, Tzvetkoff was accused by the poker companies of stealing about $100 million from them. He was subsequently arrested and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement regarding other payment processors, to include Chad Elie, a key player in the SunFirst Bank case. There were PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, along with their owners, who were taken down on what was known as poker’s Black Friday, April 15, 2011.

The focus of this case study is on third party processors working with an insider at SunFirst Bank to process transactions for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Developments in the multi-faceted investigation led the FBI to SunFirst Bank. SunFirst Bank was a small community bank located in St. George, Utah.

The most important player in this aspect of the case is Cathy Scharf. Cathy was the BSA and Bank Compliance Officer at SunFirst Bank. Her commitment to her compliance responsibilities is a demonstration of “courage in compliance.”  

Continue Reading Cathy's story here:

If you need consulting on AML, contact TrustedPeer Expert Dennis Lormel.

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Denise Sangster

Introducing Expert Denise Sangster

We're pleased to welcome Denise Sangster to TrustedPeer.  She is the CEO of Global Touch, Inc., which specializes in strategic consulting for the information technology industry, and finding, expanding, diversifying and accelerating revenue streams.

Denise's experience includes:

  • Producing Europe’s first Pan-European IT channel-focused conference, EuroChannels
  • Launching Wall Street's first global ‘PC Tracker’ for Morgan Stanley to identify emerging and early indicated in the IT industry

Denise is an Expert in applying the Five Points of Catalyst Using Amazon Web Services. More

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Philip Bouchard

Hobbies and Helpouts vs. Business and Solutions

We applaud the launch of Google Helpouts.

We‘re glad Google is validating the need for a cloud-based platform that provides experts to help people with problems. That’s what we do at TrustedPeer. But there’s a big difference: Helpouts are for fun; TrustedPeer is all business. 

There are other differences. Let’s compare Google’s vision against our own.

Google Helpouts

  • Platform: Video chat / Google Hangouts
  • Providers: Anyone passionate about anything
  • Users: Individuals at home

TrustedPeer®

  • Platform: A scheduled problem-solving call with pre-session discovery and a customized action plan
  • Providers:  Highly-qualified, vetted experts who have seen and solved your problem many times before
  • Users: Business professionals

If you need help learning to play the guitar, apply eye makeup or do yoga, Helpouts is for you. Because these are topics of personal passion, many of the Helpouts are free. And they have already been free for a long time on YouTube, eHow and many other sites. Helpouts adds a personal and social touch, which furthers the broad interests of Google like Google Wallet, Google Hangouts and Google’s search engine.

The problems you can’t solve on Helpouts are the ones that keep you up at night, have an impact on your company’s earnings, affect your prospects for promotion and enable business goals.  

TrustedPeer is here to further your professional success and give you peace of mind. You can’t get answers to important business problems – the ones that can make or break your career – on Helpouts.  Helpouts lacks vetted, experienced, subject matter experts for professional problem-solving. TrustedPeer includes a personal and professional combination that furthers the interest of no one but you.

If you need help with a hobby or personal interest, Google Helpouts is awesome. 

If you need professional help with a difficult business situation – and you need it fast, tailored to your needs and from a peer-reviewed expert – look no further than TrustedPeer.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Robin Boyar

Market Research for Digital Consumer Products

Market Research is a business discipline that provides actionable insights about consumers’ behaviors, attitudes and demographics. Typical market research efforts include:

  • competitive analysis
  • surveys
  • focus groups
  • usability testing
  • ethnography 

These efforts help capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors and motivations, providing insights that can help guide product development, marketing and positioning.

For example, a company developing a new product might want to understand the current competitive landscape. It might conduct focus groups and surveys to understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors around the product concept, and then test advertising and positioning to understand how to best market the product.

Digital products, such as games and apps, require a new approach to market research that differs from traditional product marketing. The digital product and service space is changing rapidly as consumer behaviors develop. Product cycles are much faster than for traditional products. A younger, tech-savvy market is demanding better digital products, faster and at a lower price. These market conditions combine to place an enormous burden on digital product developers.

Knowledge and experience in the interactive and media space is a core competency in this fast-changing market. An experienced market researcher, adept at garnering the deepest customer insights, is essential in this domain of exciting, new-to-the-world products.

Now more than ever, market research is an essential facet of product development. Integrating unbiased consumer feedback into the product development and marketing cycle is a critical success factor.

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Douglas Frank PhD

Organization Design:  A Key to Mergers, Acquisitions, and Divestitures

Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures continue to trigger organizational restructurings.

Worldwide merger volume in the second quarter of 2013 was half a trillion dollars, with 40% of that in the US alone. While merger activity is highly cyclical and is well off pre-crisis peaks, the overall trend is up and we can expect it to accelerate as economic conditions improve.

Yet one consulting firm estimates that 70 percent of mergers fail to increase shareholder value. This may be due to the fact that mergers often bring together two organizations with distinctly different designs and cultures, and harmonizing these is a serious challenge. This may be one reason why companies typically experience high turnover after a merger.

Careful attention to the organization design can help ensure that mergers achieve their intended results, and may even flag mergers in the future that have a good chance of failing due to fundamental organizational incompatibility.

Sources:

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Philip Bouchard

Disrupting Management Consulting

(Part 3 of 3)

DISRUPTING MANAGEMENT CONSULTING: A truly disruptive model offers immediacy, breadth, consistency, predictability, recognition of interdependencies and focus on client success.

I’m hearing a lot of noise these days about new business models that are disruptive to management consulting. So far, these purported “new models” and what they have to offer have underwhelmed the business world.

This much I know: The Internet is changing the knowledge economy. It can make high-level experts available to companies all over the world. And it can match expertise to need in way that is timely, targeted and efficient. 

The experiences I’ve had as a CFO, COO and CEO – not as a consultant – have taught me that what businesses really need is consultancy-on-demand with the right experts

Here is my definition of an expert: Experts have years of experience in their industries and have seen and solved business problems at all stages of a company’s life cycle. They know the best practices and can help businesses identify and implement solutions quickly.

Successful organizations will embrace a technology that matches needs with experts to gain competitive advantage.

This disruptive model has the following characteristics.

  • It provides immediate access to a vetted expert perfectly matched to you, your industry, your company’s stage of development, your operating function and your specific expertise need.
  • It covers the full breadth of problems you face – whether you need a second opinion, have an operational process problem, need to understand a new technology or market, want to validate an existing approach or need to risk-assess a compliance requirement.
  • It delivers with consistency in an ongoing relationship, with persistent data that is confidentially maintained.
  • It offers a predictable cost and a line-of-sight timeframe to problem resolution.
  • It recognizes that your issues are not functionally siloed, but are interdependent across internal and external areas of your business.
  • It is a model focused on your success and not on the consultant’s success.

In short, the disruption of management consulting has begun.  It’s about the right expert, right now.  That’s why I started TrustedPeer.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Rick Smith

Elements of Sales Compensation

Companies vary significantly on the structure of their sales organizations depending on their business model.  Understanding the business model is critical to developing sales compensation plans that will drive the goals of the company and excite the entire sales organization to meet or exceed corporate financial targets. 

But keep in mind that sales compensation is probably the most important compensation plan in the company. It needs to be clear in its components and transparent in its implementation. Every company should have a sales compensation governance process for developing and managing the sales compensation plan. (See Best Practice #5.)

In constructing a sales compensation plan, begin by determining its key elements. Always include these four components:

  1. Base salary
  2. Commission
  3. Bonus
  4. Sales incentives

Then, make sure it accomplishes the following:

  • It motivates everyone.
  • It sells the products or services you've developed, marketed and can deliver.
  • It is clear and easy to calculate, track and pay out.
  • It ties directly to corporate financial targets.

You also have to consider the types of sales distribution available to your company. There are different sales organizational structures you can use to maximize market penetration.

These first two groups will need a compensation plan and they should vary in some aspects: 

  • Direct sales group and field and national sales management, with a major focus on new customers.
  • Inside sales groups and management, with a focus on existing customers, targeting renewals, upgrade sales and customer satisfaction.

These next two groups reach markets where it would be too expensive to have a direct sales force, but a manager is needed to give support and direction:

  • VARs, or value added resellers, and regional dealers, which can target markets that may be too costly for you to cover with a direct sales group. A manager will be needed to drive and monitor their efforts.
  • Corporate partners, which sell your product or service to supplement their product or service. The manager for VARs and regional dealers can also oversee corporate partner relationships.
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Edie Goldberg PhD

Has Your Business Got Talent?

Talent Management is a strategic and deliberate approach to attracting the best people to an organization, managing and retaining them once they are in, and developing their talents as they move through the business. The approach needs to be linked closely to an organization's culture and strategic direction.

In today's competitive business environment, it is increasingly difficult for companies to find ways to outperform their peers.  In the past, reliable processes and execution were the keys to an organization's success.  Today, it is much more about an organization's ability to innovate quickly to meet the changing needs of a fast-paced world. Managing talent is now the key to enjoying a long-term competitive advantage.

The essence of Talent Management is:

  • Harnessing the collective abilities of the right talent for the organization.
  • Motivating that talent to provide their best efforts.
  • Enabling that talent to bring their full capabilities to the workplace.
  • Ensuring the right talent is in the right roles at the right time.

Having a Talent Management strategy that aligns with the business strategy enables the organization to proactively manage its workforce to make certain it is developing or acquiring the talent needed to succeed. 

Talent Management begins with defining the critical knowledge, skills, behaviors and values that drive success in the organization. It organizes human resources programs to attract people who have those skills, then it motivates and enables them to maximize their capabilities. Finally, it develops them for future roles, creating new leaders for the organization.

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Richard Butterfield

The Persuasive Power of Corporate Storytelling

The need for story runs deep in our species.

Cultures define themselves through stories called myths. Religions embody their values and beliefs in stories. Nations rely on stories – the Trojan War, the six wives of Henry the Eighth, the Great Depression – to conceptualize, understand, and pass down their histories from generation to generation. Parents tell stories to teach their children. Stories are what we use to try to make sense of the world and ourselves.

As the philosopher Kenneth Burke said, “Stories are equipment for living.” 

Stories are also highly effective equipment for professional communicators. Stories help us compare notes about being human.  In contrast to the proofs of logic or appeals to reason, stories speak to the heart and to the imagination. Stories go to our core. Stories drive home the point. Stories persuade. 

You can claim that your product or service is superior, but you can demonstrate its superiority through storytelling.

You can spell out your company's principles or cultural values, but you can illustrate and validate them through storytelling.

You can describe what differentiates your brand, but you can make your brand both unmistakable and unforgettable with stories.

You can suggest that people act or change, but with a well-told story, you can jolt them into action.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Some portions of Richard Butterfield's Corporate Storytelling were previously published on his website, www.butterfieldspeaks.com, or in his book, Richard Butterfield's Power of Persuasion: Communication and Presentation Skills for Every Profession.

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Denis Mehigan

Hidden Corporate Real Estate Brokerage Fees:  What It Could Be Costing Your Company

Companies are increasingly questioning whether to out-source transaction management functions or keep them in-house.

The decision to outsource transaction management functions to vendors, or to assume them in-house, is receiving increasingly thoughtful attention from top management. Historically, companies have perceived transaction management as external to their core business and in many cases they are not even aware of the amount they pay to brokers to clinch a deal.

Take the case of a venture capitalist firm in Palo Alto, California. When asked if they knew the amount paid to the broker for the lease they had just signed, they shook their heads “no,” adding that because the landlord paid it separately it didn’t really affect them. The reality is that the commission amounted to nearly half a million dollars, and in some way, shape or form these dollars were coming out of their rent! In this case the money was gone and there was nothing they could do.

But other companies are starting to wake up and understand that insourcing, or at the very least better managing of the outsourced party, is going to be a far more profitable and cost effective approach.

If you need consulting on Commercial Real Estate, contact TrustedPeer Expert Denis Mehigan .

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Philip Bouchard

Avoiding Management Mistakes

(Part 2 of 3)

AVOID BONEHEAD MANAGEMENT MISTAKES: We all make mistakes. But many of them could be avoided if business professionals had easy access to the right expert at the right time.

In my business career, I’ve made my share of regrettable, bonehead mistakes.  What made them regrettable was that they could easily have been avoided – because these were known common problems with known best practice solutions.  

It wasn't like I was creating a new technology or developing a breakthrough business model. I didn’t need to reinvent any wheels. These were operating problems.

Any of these sound familiar?

  • I built out an entire sales team before the company could support it.
  • I didn't follow my gut instinct and confront the board because I wasn't confident enough in my position.
  • I shipped a product before it was market-ready.
  • I brought on board a nightmare VP (more than once).
  • I entered a new market too late. And also one too early.
  • I purchased a new ERP system that didn't make sense for our stage of development.

In each case, I lacked an expert who knew my industry and had seen and solved my problem many times before.

Imagine conferring with the perfect expert who can quickly assess your situation, discuss the factors driving your business need and provide you with a clear, concise action plan to get you on track.

Now imagine that same expert following up with you and being available to make sure you don’t drift from the plan.

That’s the essence of TrustedPeer.  

We’ve all had a great consulting experience – and a terrible one.  Please leave your story in the comments.

Next Up:  What's This All About? (Part 3 of 3):  Disrupting Management Consulting.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Rick Bragdon

MiO and the World Language of Branding

Increased use of names beyond the United States require "world language" naming techniques, international trademark search and language analysis in multiple countries.

Successfully creating names to be used internationally requires familiarity with multiple languages and the idiosyncratic ways in which letters and letter combinations are pronounced by speakers of these languages. Not only that, but some words and names may have meanings that are positive in one language, but pejorative in another. "World language" is a way of naming that significantly increases the likelihood that a name will appeal to and be pronounceable by target audiences in many countries.  MiO, for example, is a name created by Idiom to identify a popular new water enhancer from Kraft Foods.   "Mio" means "mine" in Italian, but is readily recognized in America and all of the Romance language-speaking countries. So the name helps to communicate the product's position ("my water, my way") while transcending language barriers.

To read more by Rick on Brand and Product Name Development, click here

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Scott Ware

In Baseball and Business, Don't Run Afoul of OFAC

THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL: In the highly-regulated environment of U.S. government sanctions, baseball teams, Cuban players and businesses large and small face serious penalties if they don’t play by the rules. This is no game. 

Baseball fans need no introduction to Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes. Both have been in the post-season spotlight – Puig as the dynamic rookie for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cespedes in his second year as star slugger for the Oakland A’s.

Puig and Cespedes are two of 21 Cuban-born players in Major League Baseball. Next season, Jose Abreu, the most recent Cuban defector seeking big money to play baseball in America, will likely join their ranks. A bidding war this winter could land Abreu a contract in the $60-70 million range.

The emergence of these players and the huge sums being spent on them also call attention to an off-the-field story: the maze of political and financial regulations that teams and players must navigate because of the U.S. economic embargo with Cuba.

The New York Yankees, for one, have run afoul of the rule, but it is not just sports teams: Businesses from Walmart to ESPN to Playboy Enterprises have found themselves subject to large fines and reputational damage because of missteps involving Cuba or other U.S.-sanctioned countries.

The U.S. government agency that enforces economic and trade sanctions is the Office of Foreign Assets Control, better known as OFAC. As government agencies go, it is not exactly a household name. But its rulemaking has a broad reach. As TrustedPeer’s Saskia Reitbroek notes in OFAC Compliance and Sanctions, OFAC enforces laws that apply to all U.S. businesses, large or small, in regards to:

  • Countries and regions targeted for sanctions by the U.S. government.
  • Companies owned, controlled or acting on behalf of targeted countries.
  • Foreign individuals or entities targeted because they are involved in terrorism, narcotics trafficking or weapons of mass destruction.

Collectively, the individuals and companies targeted by OFAC are called "specially designated nationals," or SDNs. OFAC publishes a list of 6,000 SDNs worldwide. OFAC prohibits transactions with these SDNs, no matter where they are. Consider these examples:

  • A U.S. insurance company issues a property insurance policy to an international corporation that maintains a factory in Iran.
  • A U.S. broker-dealer opens a margin account and executes trades for a new customer and subsequently learns the customer is a "specially designated national."
  • A U.S. exporter sends licensed goods to Myanmar, but pays a dock fee not allowed under the sanction program.
  • Employees of a U.S. magazine paid for their hotel and other expenses while on a photo shoot in Cuba, but without the license OFAC requires for certain activities or business dealings.

For Cuban baseball players, the sanctions means they cannot sign with an American team unless they defect and establish citizenship in another country, such as Mexico or Haiti. Then, they can petition OFAC to be "unblocked" national. Once under contract, they face tight restrictions on money they can remit to Cuba. Then, they can petition OFAC to be an "unblocked" national.

For U.S. teams, it means they must carefully abide by restrictions on contact with players still on Cuban soil. This summer, Cuba’s national sports agency relaxed its rules to allow Cuban players to sign contracts in Europe and Asia. But not in the United States.  

That’s where the big money awaits, but only for defectors willing to leave their native country with the door firmly shut behind them.

Read more on Cuban players and their paths to the big leagues in America here.

Learn more about OFAC, read OFAC Compliance and Sanctions, by TrustedPeer Expert Saskia Rietbroek here.

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John Carter

Who's Driving Your Product Roadmap?

Our clients are finding that Product Roadmaps can attempt to serve two masters and fail both. For example, we’ve seen Sales teams insert a customer’s pet feature into the product plan in order to close a sale. At the same time, Product Management uses the roadmap to assure the CEO that they plan to support her vision even though Engineering has not even seen it. To use Product Roadmaps at cross-purposes misses the point of the tool.

In other cases, Product Roadmaps are cartoonish and made to satisfy eager B2B customers. They lack real meaning or vitality for an organization that desperately needs the strategic clarity that they foster.

A Product Roadmap is a visual representation of a company’s product strategy. It helps orient Engineering, Marketing, Sales, support, and the C-suite towards common product development goals. Its benefits include:

  • Inspiring the organization to see how they might get operational leverage by creating derivative products off of platforms
  • Setting expectations for when the organization will deliver products/services to market
  • Serving as an organizing principle for decisions around technology requirements, resource allocation, and product positioning
  • Moving the organization to think about conflicts in resources and potential bottlenecks.

A Product Roadmap spans two product cycles (about 24-36 months) with a monthly granularity at most. The vertical axis is the most important strategically. It represents the products, how they relate to each other, and how they might relate to the competition in ways that matter. Although cost is the most common value for the vertical axis, it can also plot speed or the key-feature parameter.

Articulating a common vision for success is hardly a new concept, although it is rarely the case that all stakeholders and contributors comprehend the vision fully. What is new is the emphasis on how product differentiation supports competitive advantage. When product innovation is more important than distribution strategy, or financial engineering, the Product Roadmap is your most important planning document.

Your company can generate a product plan from a variety of sources. Some, however, are based on a functionally-focused view of the problems you are trying to solve: Engineering sees it one way, Marketing another, and Sales yet another. Such views rarely incorporate sufficient inputs. They tend to be neither reliable nor comprehensive.

A robust Product Roadmap is driven by Marketing, but created cross-functionally and reviewed and approved by the C-suite. You should not communicate it outside of the company unless it is sanitized and approved by management. Rather, use it to focus the organization on the sequence of products you will develop over time.

The Product Roadmap is a living document that serves as a repository for project ideas that are ready to enter the product development process. Review and update it on a quarterly basis at a minimum.

Which Business Problems Does the Tool Solve?

Often individuals and managers in organizations say that there is no strategy, or if it exists, they say that it is poorly communicated. An often-referenced Product Roadmap allows for better strategic alignment and, as a result, greater engagement. It also helps the executive management team and product marketing to manage the inputs that feed the new product development process.

While a Product Roadmap should never preclude competitive reactions or innovation from “cutting in front of the line,” it does provide an active plan for what should be next in line for development. The active use of a Product Roadmap enables innovation in two ways:

  • It communicates what is important to the organization.
  • It provides a strategic context for engineers, researchers, and other creative individuals to create concepts that support, complement, and extend the strategic intent of the roadmap.

Finally, Product Roadmaps can communicate the international launch strategy. They enable the organization to plan the timing for entry into different markets and anticipate regulatory approvals, language, localization, and standards.

What Else You Should Know

The most useful Product Roadmaps anticipate and lead changes in the market, in channels, in the supply chain, and in the competitive landscape. “Shooting in front of the duck” is important because, in most industries, you have to anticipate what your competitors will have in the market when you launch your product 12 months from now.

Some Product Roadmaps are useless because they focus on the graphics. A meaningful Product Roadmap should be a two-axis graph showing, accurately and in detail, the timetable for launches and the relationships between products. The roadmap must show the delineated features of each product and how one offering differs from another.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The material in this blog originally appeared on John Carter's website, http://www.tcgen.com, as "Product Roadmap:  Clarifying Your Product Direction."

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Philip Bouchard

What’s This All About?

(Part 1 of 3)

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU NEED: Immediacy and laser-targeted relevance are now management consulting requirements. What we in business need and what we get don’t match. That’s why I founded TrustedPeer.

When I face a business problem and don’t have the expertise I need, I want precise subject matter expertise very quickly. I have three options for finding it.  Each option is risky and inefficient, and the time to resolution is unpredictable.

  1. Conduct an Internet search. Internet search is time-consuming and unreliable. How can I trust content that is dated, anonymously written or is link-bait?
  2. Turn to a personal network. Personal networks are great if I have the perfect network with no gaps. In addition, it is not always easy to reveal shortcomings to someone who may be conflicted about how truthful to be in response.  If I ask you for advice, you may decide there’s no upside to saying what you really think. What if you give me good advice and I don’t take it? Or bad advice and I do? Either way, you lose. Better to equivocate, right? Or put me off hoping I’ll find a solution elsewhere.
  3. Contract with a large firm for a full-on consulting engagement. A McKinsey partner would be delighted to sell me on a plan to bring in a bunch of new associates (really smart, but with no professional experience) to camp out in my conference room and eventually, after some undisclosed time, deliver a strategy that I can't afford to implement.

Since none of these are satisfactory, and what I really need is targeted and custom, I decide to seek an experienced professional. I ask logical questions. Who is responsive? Who is the best? How do I select the right expert? How much should it cost? How long should it take? What about project scope, discovery, contract negotiation, price negotiation and resources required?

It all boils down to one question: How can I get an opinion I can trust from an expert who knows my industry and has seen and solved my problem many times before?

Before I post with more details, tell me, how do you find that trusted expert?  We welcome your comments.

Next Up: What's This All About? (Part 2 of 3): Avoiding Bonehead Management Mistakes.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard .

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Dennis Lormel

Thinking Like a Bad Guy in Order to Do Good

When it comes to fraud and money laundering, can you think like a bad guy? The truth is, we all can. However, many of us do not realize this fact. More importantly, most of us possess a high level of personal integrity that precludes us from considering the temptation of accepting the opportunity to commit fraud. Unfortunately, a good number of people do succumb to the lure of fraud. The frauds these unscrupulous individuals perpetrate can be extremely devastating.  This was never more evident than it has been More

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John Carter

How Start-Ups Can Avoid Costly Crashes

Don't fall off that cliff!  TrustedPeer John Carter offers advice on using Predictive Metrics to ensure a successful Start-Up.  

Download his Keynote Presentation for the Clean Tech Open Conference here.

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Dennis Lormel

Recognizing Fraud in Your Midst

Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer and lacrosse are team sports. Although each sport is different, the objective is the same. Win the game. There is one interesting commonality each of these sports share when two teams square off against each other on the field of play. Having the most talented team does not always mean you win. It certainly favors you. Having the best prepared team is usually more advantageous. Come crunch time, when the game is on the line, preparation could well trump talent. Read more here:

If you need consulting on AML, contact TrustedPeer Expert Dennis Lormel.

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Dennis Lormel

Prying Criminals Out of Their Shell Companies

In order to succeed, terrorists, organized crime, drug cartels and major fraudsters must have the ability to raise, move, store and spend money. Anonymous shell companies, that shield beneficial ownership, are one of the primary tools used by bad guys to openly acquire and access nefarious funds.

These dubious dealings are not limited to Switzerland, Monaco and “offshore” tropical islands. The United States is among the most egregious offenders with its woeful lack of regulations requiring the true ownership of companies to be identified.

Russian death merchant Viktor Bout used at least a dozen shell companies incorporated in Delaware, Texas and Florida to operate an arms smuggling empire that fueled conflict around the world. Hezbollah created shell companies in North Carolina to smuggle cigarettes to finance terrorism. The Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel owned a quarter horse ranch in Oklahoma and used a shell company formed in Texas to launder money. Florida attorney Scott Rothstein used as many as 85 shell companies in his $1.2 billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

Why is the issue of beneficial ownership through shell companies so problematic in the United States? In most states, less information is required to incorporate than is needed to obtain a driver’s license or register to vote. In some states, you can form a corporation within 24 hours without any prior review by a state official. In Wyoming, four blocks from the state capital, you can obtain a mailbox that can be used as a “corporate suite” to establish your shell company, complete with faux directors and C-level executives. In Wilmington, Del., one specific address serves as headquarters for over 200,000 companies.

Those who do not believe that anonymous shell companies are a critical tool for criminals and terrorists are fooling themselves. I have dealt with money laundering, fraud and related criminal activity for 41 years, the majority of those years with the FBI. Following 9/11, I established and ran the FBI’s Terrorist Financing Operations Section. I am acutely aware of the roadblocks investigators encounter when they are trying to determine who is financing these illegal activities.

On two occasions, I testified before congressional committees and advised that shell companies were one of the primary vulnerabilities facing the financial services sector. The first was on October 3, 2001. The second was on May 18, 2012. If I were to testify today, I would again make the same statement.

It is time for Congress to act on this issue. For years, Sen. Carl Levin championed beneficial ownership legislation. He and Sens. Chuck Grassley, Dianne Feinstein and Tom Harkin just reintroduced the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, which would require disclosure of beneficial owners.

In order to pass this legislation, Congress and secretaries of state, who are responsible for incorporation, must work together and build consensus. It is time to demand beneficial ownership transparency and stop providing the criminals and terrorists with advantageous financial avenues to aid them in their efforts to harm innocent citizens.

Dennis M. Lormel was the first chief of the FBI's Terrorist Financing Operations Section, established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He retired from the FBI in 2003 following almost 28 years as a special agent and now runs an investigative consultancy, DML Associates LLC.

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