Archive for October, 2010

Do You Follow Through on Your Swing?

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

I am fortunate enough to live overlooking a golf course. One morning this summer I grabbed a coffee and watched from my deck as a number of players teed-off at the 5th hole. It was both entertaining and illuminating.

Some managed to hit good shots; some not so good. Some hit straight; some not so straight. After a while, I began to notice how few people actually followed through all the way on their swing. Everyone knows they should – it’s one of the basics of golf – but not everyone did it.  It is the difference between just playing and really being committed.

This got me thinking about taking actions and making commitments, and I wondered how well people follow through on all the “commitments” they make at work and in their personal lives. Sadly, particularly at work, many people don’t do a very good job. Of course there are reasons for not meeting your commitments (yes, there are always good reasons!). In Sales, for instance, here are some of the many entries in the “Book of Excuses”:

  • It’s no longer a priority
  • I want to spend my time on more productive efforts
  • I don’t really think this action will be successful
  • I just have too many things to do
  • Damn, I forgot!
  • I was never really totally bought-in to this action in the first place

There are many highly creative chapters in this book. Have a listen and see how many times in a day you hear someone (perhaps even yourself) quoting from it.

In Sales, as in life, you have to decide whether you’re just playing or are really committed.  Are you one of the few people known for following through, every time, on their commitments, or are you ready at a moment’s notice with your own copy of the “Book of Excuses”?  Maybe there’s even an app for that on your iPhone . . .

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Posted in Decision-Making, Sales | 1 Comment »

Doing Business in China? How’s Your Guanxi?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Stratford Managers welcomes John Hartley, our new VP Asia-Pacific.  With his years of experience in the region, John offers unique insight into doing business in China.

The typical translation of the Chinese word Guanxi is “relationships”, however it is more accurately described as relationships with mutual obligations, goodwill and personal affection.  While Western business culture is often transaction-based, Chinese business culture tends to be relationship-based.  To be rich in the West is to have lots of money.  In China you are rich if you have a strong and healthy network of relationships.   

As it has for centuries, even in today’s globalized financial environment, very little happens in Chinese business without the effects of Guanxi.  Of course Western business also relies on relationships and social standing, but it does not match the multi-layered Guanxi network in Chinese business. Any company seeking to be successful in China should have a conscious plan to secure its Guanxi.

In Western business culture once an agreement has been reached, or an order fulfilled, each party usuallly moves on to the next opportunity.  The Guanxi perspective is to maintain the relationship long after the transaction is completed. More often than not the relationship will flourish even when there is little prospect of further revenues, sometimes progressing to a personal level.

Trading, operating or selling in China is challenging in many ways.  Differences in time zones, language and business practices all must be managed.  However it is having the right Guanxi that will ultimately determine success or failure.  I have experienced Guanxi first hand on many occasions during my years in China.  I see it in practice every day and have often benefitted from its power both professionally and personally.

There is no secret to good Guanxi.  It is just about honesty, respect, doing what you say you will do and placing a high value on friendship and loyalty.  Honest relationships are one of the age-old Confucian values. Chinese people would generally rather work with someone they know, or someone introduced by someone they know, than with a stranger, even if the stranger appears to have a more compelling proposition. 

The more Chinese business contacts know about you, the more comfortable they feel and the more reciprocal Guanxi will take place. This is invaluable, but it must not be taken lightly.  Once you start you need to continue to invest in the relationships even when there is nothing immediate to be gained.  Good Guanxi takes time and has many levels; it cannot be bought, it cannot be rushed and it cannot be forced.

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Posted in International Business, Sales | 2 Comments »

Keeping your Innovation-Based Company Innovative

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Your company was probably created and funded because there was an innovative technology or idea that led to the development of a unique product or service that satisfies your target market hopefully better than your competition.

Once its first product reaches the market, a company frequently enters a mode of feature enhancements, customer support and quality improvement. For small to medium size firms, these activities usually consume the attention of the entire R&D and product management team and that of the CTO. There is so much to do in order to meet customer expectations leaving little time to continue to innovate.

Beware!  It was Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel who said, “Only the paranoid survive”.  You need a healthy dose of paranoia that your competitors will continue to innovate and find the next gem that will transform your market landscape, overcome your strengths and surpass you.

If time is a problem, holding monthly lunch & brainstorming sessions with your team is a great way to find new areas to innovate. Invite all levels of the company including new hires.  They often have a different perspective on things, but may not feel comfortable speaking out just yet.

Remember, innovation is not necessarily something that requires a patent. It could be a more efficient way of testing, a cheaper way to design or a more efficient code implementation.  It could even be a better way to serve your customers.

Boards of directors of innovation-based companies should set innovation targets on a quarterly basis, similar to revenue targets, which will positively influence the company to maintain a culture of innovation.

A true innovation-based company innovates continuously. It does not simply accept status-quo or wait until a good idea presents itself.

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Posted in Competition, Governance, Intellectual Property, Management, Product Management | Comments Off

Funding Your Business

Monday, October 11th, 2010

With reduced levels of funding from venture capitalist, delays in new product introduction or a slower revenue ramp, many innovation-based companies are seeing their cash flow diminish quicker than initially anticipated. Companies in these situations reduce or eliminate costs wherever possible. However, along with cost controls, management should consider sources of funding from governments or government-funded organizations. For instance:

  • Has your management team considered the Industry Research Assistance Program (IRAP) which provides funding for innovation-based companies?
  • If your company is forging a path towards a greener Canada, maybe funding from Sustainable Development Technology Corporation (SDTC) is in the cards.
  • If your company is developing technology with a Canadian university while working with a partner on commercialization then Precarn Corporation could be part of the answer to your funding needs.
  • Are you an innovation-based Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC)? If so, ensure that your Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SRED) claim is completed in a timely manner as a percentage of costs are recoverable with certain criteria and limits. There are also lending organizations that will advance your SRED claims based on your history with the program.

These programs are just a few of the many sources of funding that can provide your company with additional cash flow while your revenue ramp takes hold or more traditional funding sources materialize.

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