Monthly Archives: April 2012

Nobody Cares What Your 2007 Customer Survey Said!

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The recent recession and the lingering period of uncertainty that followed has had an odd effect on some business leaders.  Yeah, I know we all need to conserve cash.  I get that.  But most of us need MORE information about what our prospective customers are thinking, need, prefer, want, and would pay for…NOT LESS.  We can’t afford to make costly mistakes investing in products and marketing based on outdated information! Who cares what your customer survey results were in 2007! It’s like “dog years.” Those 5 YEARS are equivalent to 35 YEARS when it comes to marketing!

Even though museums competed against places like zoos and theme parks in 2007, area residents would still visit. Today, those same museums face funding cuts and are now competing more with children spending their time texting on smart phones than with zoos.  A secret shopper project we recently conducted as part of a strategic assessment/growth strategy planning assignment revealed how incredibly behind many businesses have gotten over the past 5 years.  Wouldn’t more frequent market research help family focused organizations catch up?

A community banker who was competing for a signature on the next subprime mortgage deal  in 2007 is just now coming out of his/her shell after cleaning up the book of bad loans, foreclosures, and short sales. A few years ago, community banks had a window of opportunity to compete against the huge financial institutions because so many people were angry about government funded bailouts and the underlying causes of the recession.  But today, many of us have almost accepted the realities of this “new economy” even though consumer confidence varies on a daily basis.  How frequently should community banks conduct their market research to guide decisions about how to compete for your and my trust?

In 2007, I was in my 3rd year hosting a weekly online peer to peer radio talk radio show with Presidents of midsized companies.  If we had ignored (or not done) market research, would we have missed the cue to become completely video based, use YOUTUBE, and shorten the interview segments?

There are many cost effective options out there, including secret shopping companies,  customer satisfaction survey firms, interviewers who can focus on specific targets, etc. Isn’t it more expensive and risky to fly without a net!

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

Are You Held Hostage by Your Beliefs about Initial Public Offerings?

As the President of a midsized privately held company, you have undoubtedly been reluctant to even consider executing an IPO.  Yes.  The infusion of capital that results from a public offering is very compelling.  But then you back off whenever you even think about all of the distraction/disruption plus the legal and accounting fees.  Your business had better be very resilient and highly profitable to withstand the IPO process.  And then there are all of those ugly stories you have heard about the amount of time that corporate CEOs must spend on investor relations, the tricky board meetings, and the onerous Sarbanes Oxley compliance process.  Like so many other leaders of midsized privately held companies, you may have decided that you don’t want to trade your independence for any amount of money.

It might be time to revisit your beliefs about IPOs.  We are seeing continued growth of an increasing number of privately held companies STALLED by indecision among the private investors and a lack of growth financing.  Are you so sure that you are actually free from investor relations and tricky board meetings now?

Consider what we see in our clients that are family owned or family dominated midsized business. Those business leaders had been spending as much as half of their time on succession, generational differences and unclear strategic direction.  Clear distinctions between professional management and owner board members would be a welcome relief for them.

Consider what we see in our midsized clients that received money from private investors.  Many of them have their hands tied when a former “silent” partner suddenly isn’t so silent…or they want to see dramatic return on their investment at a time when the President is proposing the acquisition of a complementary business through an equity swap.  Sometimes the noise and distraction from inexperienced investors of midsized companies is louder and more costly than from shareholders of publicly traded corporations.

Consider how much more your company could do if it had sufficient capital. Consider how different your life would be if your retirement was fully funded by an exit strategy. Consider the executive talent your business could attract if it were publicly traded.  Hmm.  Are you sure an IPO shouldn’t be at least one of your company’s options?

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

[video post] It’s Too Easy to Lose Sight of Your Mission

It’s Too Easy to Lose Sight of One’s Mission

You see it so often.  A politician crosses over to the dark side and trades influence for campaign contributions. That happens so often that many readers just stopped reading this blog and think I am naïve. “Isn’t ‘politician’ and ‘dark side’ in the same sentence automatically redundant?” Actually, I have met a few politicians in my life who still arrive at their offices each day in the spirit of service.

You see it in some speakers who made it to the “circuit” because they seemed to genuinely care about improving something important, achieving results, and making a difference. But now they come across like Prima Donnas caught up in their own celebrity status or are just focused on the money.

It’s not just public figures; entire businesses can lose sight of their mission.

We all know companies that have lost sight of their previously customer driven missions because financial challenges turned their real missions into just surviving.  Survive to do what?

Your mission may need to be dusted off and updated.  One of our strategic planning clients needs to change its mission statement to reflect the fact that it is no longer enough for them to be responsive and exceed customer expectations. In their industry, they MUST get ahead of their customers…WAY out ahead.

Over the years, our mission to be a positive force for economic development is behind important decisions to establish multiple businesses and to invest in advocacy.  It needed refinement to clarify our focus on helping midsized companies to keep growing, but having a sense of mission has been very useful.  On days you are tired, a powerful mission can feel like a burden while others seem free to coast, accept whatever comes, or just do what comes easily.

But having a powerful mission (a calling) is the reason you work. It can keep you young, centered, energized …and at peace when you fall asleep at night.       

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

[video post] Are You Inadvertently Losing Your Option for Succession From Within

Are You Inadvertently Losing the Option for Succession From Within?

Recently, we’ve been seeing more and more leaders of midsized companies struggle with succession and feeling forced to consider affiliation with larger entities because they have gaps in their leadership and no way to do succession from within.

Assessments are revealing that rigid work schedules and lack of choice in benefits may have played larger roles in sabotaging their retention, leadership development, and succession from within than they would have ever imagined.  Schedules and benefits impact every generation of employees.

In general, folks from the “Baby Boomer Generation” value self actualization, learning, and making a difference.  Their parents taught them to work hard and stay with one company.  But their life experiences have taught them that loyalty is no longer rewarded. Often referred to as the “Sandwich Generation” Baby Boomers need time to take care of grandchildren or an aging parent with Alzheimer’s disease.  Rigid office hours can chase Baby Boomers away.

“Generation Xers” can seem more cynical and self absorbed. Think about what they have experienced in their lives:  Presidents who lie. Wars with unclear mandates. Corporate corruption. Long term employees losing their pensions. Plus television, video games, computers, and cell phones going faster and faster and faster.  It makes sense that Gen Xers take a shorter term view and don’t trust long term promises. Why would they want equity in a company if they don’t trust that it will even exist in a few years? They value their personal time but are insulted if their bosses assume that means they won’t work hard.

Think about the “Radio Generation.”  They want to be and stay retired. Right? They have a strong work ethic but already put in their time. Right?  They just want to reminisce about the past and aren’t interested in learning anything new. Right?  It’s the younger people who want flexible schedules and benefits. Right?

Not necessarily. Life expectancy is extending longer and longer.  Many senior citizens view using their brains as very important to staying healthy.  I know several seniors who definitely have the capacity and interest in continuing to work.  They may not want to start the work day at dawn.  They would like a little time in the morning for a doctor’s appointment or a cup of coffee with friends at the local McDonalds. And the benefit package they want/need is long term care insurance.  Their dependability and loyalty can be worth a great deal to a company.

Are your scheduling policies and lack of a cafeteria plan for benefits sabotaging your succession plan?

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

 

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Since I’ve met and know most of the most respected strategic planners in the country, it is notable that I chose Aldonna Ambler to take us to the next level.

Roxanne Emmerich
The Emmerich Group, Inc.

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