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    Thursday
    Jan232014

    Price vs. Value

    The simple comparison is; Price is what you Pay, Value is what you Receive.

    The true goal is to find the equilibrium where they both meet.  I pay $10 and I receive $10 in value.  I guess to break it down to the simplest example, a gift card would be pure equilibrium.  You pay exactly what you receive.

    However, when you think of a gift card, you don't think of value.  You paid for what you receieved.  I've never heard anyone bragging or referring friends to buy the $20 Starbucks gift card because the $20 was stretched out into some magic way.

    In the service business, the goal SHOULD be to create value.  To maintain the quality and integrity of your product or service while widening the Price vs Value gap as far as possible.

    I love it when clients say, "I love paying my invoice, because I know that for what I have paid, I have received X multiples more in value."  That should be music to any business owner or entrepreneurs ears.

    Value cannot however be confused with Volume.  Although there are example of  Value and Volume colliding (like a Costco Value Pack of Chicken) that's not true value.  True value, as I define it is when the product or service, when compared with similar products or services costs the same or less, but delivers relatively more service or product to a customer.

    A value pack is more more than bulk pricing.  Retailers pass on savings to the customer to drive top line says while maintaining a realtively fixed (but low) gross margin.

    So enough technical speak.

    Everyone loves it when feel the value vs. price equilibrium slanted towards value.

    Equally, everyone hates it when it slants the other way.

    Can you think of an example when you paid $10 and received $1 of value?

    Can you think of an example when you paid $10 and received multiple times more in value?

    What you pay is generally a fixed amount, what you receive is dependant on who is providing it to you and how realistic your expectations are.

    Tuesday
    Nov192013

    Lost and Leading

    It’s easy to get lost.  Let me rephrase…I get lost a lot.  Now if you were to ask my beautiful wife, she would probably tell you that I’m not “that bad” but see…she has tricked herself into believing that even when I look “lost,” I most likely know where I’m going.

    I find the tendency as leaders is to do just that, even when we’re lost, try to at least look like we know where we’re going because, hey…competent leaders don’t get lost..

    I’m sure Columbus made a direct line to North America without a wrong turn, and that the many esteemed Generals and military leaders plan of attack worked flawlessly and expelled the perfect amount of effort for the task at hand.

    Likely not.

    The fact is, getting lost is a part of learning, growing and especially leading.  It’s tough to admit when you’re lost.  I know I don’t look forward to the long stroll into a 7-11, casually trying to glean information from the cashier about where exactly “here” is…

    In business we set plans, cast vision and lead staff and customers to where we are headed…but sometimes, things don’t pan out.  Casting vision is the first step in executing, but flawless execution is not a necessity.  I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché stories of Michael Jordan getting cut from his High School Basketball team and Thomas Edison striking out on countless ideas before he stumbled upon the light bulb, but it’s much simpler than even those examples illustrate.

    Along the process of being lost, you go through a couple stages:

    • Panic – Where am I…What’s going on?
    • Doubt – What did I do…Why did this happen?
    • Pride – I can get out of this…I don’t need help
    • Humility – I can’t get out of this…I need help

    These four stages generally apply to most situations and while the timelines are different (each stage could be minutes, hours, days) most people will experience each one.

    The key differentiator that I find with successful leaders is their ability to embrace these four stages and learn from them.

    I struggle with each of these stages myself within various contexts and must continue to be reminded of;
    (a) my role as a leader
    (b) my responsibility as a leader
    (c) my commitment to the plan/organization/people 

    Navigating through difficult situations is a reality. Viewing them as anything but an opportunity to learn and grow is a failure.

    Friday
    Oct182013

    Casting Vision that Matters

    Vision is one of the most under-valued characteristics in modern day leadership.  In the fast-paced "get it done" environment that we work and live in everyday, casting a 2-year vision is difficult...casting a 10-year vision seems impossible.  "How could I cast a 10-year vision, when my business field didn't even exist 10 years ago?"  A valid question...but not a relevant one.

    If vision is defined as laying out a plan and path for what you and your organization will DO over the next 10 years...it is nearly impossible to have long-term vision in today's world.  If that was the definition, the writers and producers of "Back to the Future" would have us all commuting on hover boards and eating protein bars as our only food source.  Unfortunately...vision is a plan or path of what you will DO...but rather a plan or path of what you will BE.

    While vision has some elements of things you do...new service offerings or larger space requirements, it is funamentally based on what you will be and who you will become.

    Here's a quote from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

    "We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that's not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don't settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we're wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well."

    If we define clearly who we are and what we are committed to being defined as, the micro details and mission of our organization will follow.

    For example; If you build a profitable business model, then make decisions based on a faithfulness to that business model rather than the daily/weekly/monthly ups and downs of the market or industry, you will be successful over the long term.

    Taking a longer term approach to casting vision is critical.  To often to leaders get sucked into the mire of daily operations that they convince themselves that "growing by 10% next year" is them casting vision.  This is a mission.  A mid-level managers can do that.  Look that the trends, examine your pipeline and out spits 10%.  Instead, casting out "we want to grow from a localized business to a national organization within 5 years" commits a path and gives your team a goal to build their management plan towards.

    Don't cast mission...cast vision


    Friday
    Jul192013

    Self-Awareness...The Silent Killer

    One of the characteristics that I have really leaned into this year for myself and my staff is the need for Self-Awareness.  It is striking how many people truly lack a sense of self-awareness and specifically are completely out of touch with their present reality (strengths, weaknesses, constraints) when compared to the way that others (family, friends, co-workers, clients) perceive and evaluate them.

    Self-Awareness is the silent killer because if not dealt with in a meaningful way, it destroys relationships, careers and ultimately ones sense of self-worth.  This isn't to say that Self-Awareness can be boiled down to the simple "You are a B, thinking you are an A while often others perceive you as a C."  It goes much deeper than this, so actual characteristics and weaknesses not being dealt with because they are being denied any daylight at all.

    Example:

    Joe is a hard working, salt of the earth guy that doesn't say much.  He's a thinker, but keeps many of his opinions and thoughts to himself for fear that others will judge him if he's "wrong" or speaks out of turn.

    Problem is, Joe's introspective nature often comes across to others as judging himself, condescending and passive aggressive.  So while Joe thinks he's doing himself and others a favour by not engaging...he's hurting himself and his relationships.

    In business we see this all the time...a leader that thinks he is a charismatic "people" person, but really is nothing more than a abrasive jerk or slimy snake oil salesman.

    Our assessment of our skills and strengths is important...but can often become obsolete if not taken into context with our others perceive those skills and strengths.

    A few years back, our leadership team worked with the Flippin Group to complete some 360 Profiles on ourselves individually to assess how we worked as a team in relation to each other and as individuals.  It was amazing to see how close the results were with reality and how prescriptive the profiles were in ways for each team member to counter balance constraints with routines to ensure we were being perceived as we wanted to be and maintained a clear picture of our own reality.

    So before the silent killer gets you...ask yourself:

    What are my strengths and weaknesses?

    How do others perceive me?

    What is the gap between my self assessment and the assessment of those around me?

    Monday
    Mar112013

    I...am...Job

    I have seen this fallout in the many times that I have interviewed and screened candidates for our firm or one of the many businesses that I am involved in...where language (or a lack thereof) prevents someone who can DO the job from getting the job.  It's really unfortunate, but it is definately a reality.

    So how does one fix the problem?  It's not a simple answer for sure.  I remember watching the movie Mrs. Doubtfire when I was younger, and this scene always made me laugh but at the same time have a true sense of empathy.  While the situation in the clip is a joke (Robin Williams pretending to be a fake candidate) this exact situation plays out far too often.

    I think we do a great job at educating incoming Canadians and young people, but don't set them up with the same level of communication skills NEEDED to get the job.  When you can DO the work, but you get GET the job...that has got to be one of the most frustrating things to work through.

    "I am job."  How could the mother expect this Nanny-candidate to care for her children without a basic grasp of the English language? 

    I've always been intrigued by linguistic studies, and can't even imagine how difficult it is to immigrate to another country, learn the language and then look for work...but that said, if you are in a field where communicating with others (clients, vendors, etc) is critical, it's a skill set that is non-negotiable!