High growth companies actively pursue “customer lock in” strategies

21/04/2015

Ambitious high growth entrepreneurs should spend at least 3 days of their official working week living in the customer’s world. Viewing the market place from the desk is extremely dangerous, being immersed within your industry and the needs of your customers provides real-time market intelligence. This helps to tailor propositions specifically to the wants and needs of your market place; it also supports new product and service development. Gazelle companies create a massive gap between them and their competitors because they deploy innovation and imagination to problems, this inspires and very often leads to development and evolution of propositions that the customer didn’t even know they wanted! They occupy uncontested space. Others will soon start to copy and replicate – your job is to stay one step ahead of the game.

High growth businesses we have studied stay close to their key stakeholders. More specifically, they spend time:

  • Looking at the factors that impact their customer’s performance – this provides opportunities to provide new solutions
  • Understanding their customers strategy – this facilitates a partnership working model
  • Looking at how they can help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance performance.

Getting close to the market helps to drive what I term “customer lock in” – that phase of the supplier/customer relationship were there is a true partnership, mutual respect and a genuine win-win. Moving to lock in can absorb an enormous amount of time effort and energy, however the rewards can be big. It also makes it very difficult for competitors to move in and occupy your space. Being embedded means any new entrant would have to untangle lots of relationships, systems and processes to get a foothold.

A word of caution – never take relationships for granted and be aware of performance vs. KPIs. Customer complacency represents a real danger zone for businesses. Lock in delivers true competitive advantage.

 

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Scale up companies – The cost of growth

03/12/2014

The scaling of companies is a topic I have been interested in for some years. More specifically why don’t more entrepreneurs go for more ambitious growth? A scale up company is defined as one that grows its employee or turnover at a rate of 20 per cent per annum over a three-year period. Taking entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley the home of scale ups, motivating founders to raise the bar through coaching and creating communities of like-minded business people have all featured in my quest to create more of them. My experience tells me that those who decide to have a go recognise there are two principle costs to growth. These costs are presented in two forms. Firstly, the emotional cost to the individuals involved, this usually manifests in self imposed pressure and the uncertainty that demands resilience and mental toughness to keep going when the inevitable road blocks are presented.

Growth Staircase

The second cost is money hemorrhaging from the till – this is the investment. Pivotal to building infrastructure and embedding the platforms companies of scale require. Within a scale up business costs can rack up very quickly – recruiting new talent, cost of raising finance, professional fees, new premises, IT infrastructure and administrative costs can shoot through the roof. Costs must be controlled and the execution of a growth plan needs to be effectively choreographed – clear roles need to be defined, people need to be accountable for delivering on their tasks. Very rarely can growth be achieved without impacting on profitability, sounds like a statement of the obvious, however as Sherlock Holmes said – There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.’

Coming to terms with the two principle costs of growth is the very reason why the majority of the 500,000 of last year’s new start up’s will never go on to employ one person never mind 10. It’s also why over 99% of UK firms employ less than 50 people. Busting through the natural ceilings of growth requires entrepreneurs to pass the alignment test – once head, heart and wallet are in sync then growth can at least have the chance to happen. Without it, business as usual prevails. So often it’s the financial cost of growth that holds individuals back – once you can get over it in your mind and accept the facts, only then can you move on. This is a hiatus that many entrepreneurs reach – very few get through it.

The UK needs more companies of scale; it’s these businesses that bring about the added value to the economy – innovation, graduate jobs, links to HE and hopefully international trade. Lets give ambitious individuals the trusted advice they deserve. It’s only with a good team around you that you can move forward in an aligned fashion.


Lock in with your customers

09/09/2014

Ambitious high growth entrepreneurs should spend at least 3 days of their official working week living in the customer’s world. Viewing the market place from the desk is extremely dangerous, being immersed within your industry and the needs of your customers provides real-time market intelligence. This helps to tailor propositions specifically to the wants and needs of your market place; it also supports new product and service development. Gazelle companies create a massive gap between them and their competitors because they deploy innovation and imagination to problems, this inspires and very often leads to development and evolution of propositions that the customer didn’t even know they wanted! They occupy uncontested space. Others will soon start to copy and replicate – your job is to stay one step ahead of the game.

High growth businesses we have studied stay close to their key stakeholders. More specifically, they spend time:

  • Looking at the factors that impact their customer’s performance – this provides opportunities to provide new solutions
  • Understanding their customers strategy – this facilitates a partnership working model
  • Looking at how they can help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance performance.

Getting close to the market helps to drive what I term “customer lock in” – that phase of the supplier/customer relationship where there is a true partnership, mutual respect and a genuine win-win. Moving to lock in can absorb an enormous amount of time, mini-padlock-912519-meffort and energy, however the rewards can be big. It also makes it very difficult for competitors to move in and occupy your space. Being embedded means any new entrant would have to untangle lots of relationships, systems and processes to get a foothold. A word of caution – never take relationships for granted and be aware of performance vs. KPIs. Customer complacency represents a real danger zone for businesses. Lock in delivers true competitive advantage.


Disciplined entrepreneurship

12/08/2014

High growth companies are disproportionately innovative to those that are not, and whilst I believe creativity is the ultimate source of competitive advantage, I must caveat my views. The importance of embedding a culture to allow free thinking that stimulates new ideas is well documented. However, without control you end up with pet projects, loads of possibilities and hundreds of potential initiatives that absorb time, energy and resource. Large companies have processes to deal with their ideas pipeline, but in smaller high growth businesses the danger is that there is too much innovation and entrepreneurship and not enough control and discipline.

Commercial problems potentially loom when there is too much lateral thinking and lack of order. Jim Collins in Good to Great uses a very powerful phrase – “Disciplined Entrepreneurship”. This embraces the notion of balance – innovative thinking and behaviours being guided within a framework of performance measures and KPI’s.

Too much Discipline – then a disconnection with customers, markets and new possibilities takes place

Too much Entrepreneurial Flair – nothing gets done because everyone is bouncing off the walls with great ideas

Successful high growth companies tend to have a disciplined approach to new idea generation and implementation – a form of commercial filter. I often wonder how much smaller high growth companies can teach large corporates about innovative thinking and entrepreneurship. The reverse is also important – how can big companies help ambitious founders gain a better handle on their organisation? Feels like a powerful learning forum!


Brave and Bold Awards – a great do !

07/06/2014

It was a privilege to have been invited to say a few words to close Thursday night’s GrowthAccelerator’s Brave and Bold awards. The session provided a visible platform to celebrate the successes of individuals who have done something pretty amazing for their organisation, staff, shareholders, local economy and indeed UK PLC.

Without events like “The Brave and The Bold” those enterprising individuals would have remained the unsung hero’s of society – it’s only right to acknowledge their achievements raising their profile and say thank you for what they have done and are doing for the economy.

We should not forget what a lonely journey growing a business can be. It takes mental toughness, commercial acumen and a big dose of emotional intelligence to translate ideas into a sustainable high growth business. The end product of job creation, exports and economic wealth is an achievement that must be applauded.

The quality of entrants to the GrowthAccelerator Brave and Bold awards was truly outstanding – they are living proof of how high growth businesses behave; a philosophy of disciplined entrepreneurship was clearly evident. More specifically I observed all the ingredients of getting growth right – a DNA comprising:

1. Clarity of vision and strategy – executed with effective leadership and ruthless financial/operational focus

2. A positive mindset – invisible forces powered by passion, energy, mental toughness and big ambition. An ability to overcome the roadblocks growth inevitably brings is crucial.

3. High performing teams – balanced with thinkers, doers, controllers and sellers all working to a clear road map and common sense of purpose

4. Customer focused culture – one that delivers a remarkable experience and ultimately “go to brands”

5. The innovative edge – making them stand out from the crowd. They use their IP and knowledge assets to engage all stakeholders with impact. They are memorable

The exemplar companies I witnessed on the evening are a source of inspiration to the entrepreneurial community. Both winners and nominees play a pivotal role in promoting growth and encouraging others to go for it – their stories of success should be a powerful motivator to others seeking business wisdom.

I certainly hope everyone who attended will keep flying the flag for GrowthAccelerator. The economic impact of this service is just amazing – its living proof that high quality external coaching from “been there, done it individuals” deliver breakthroughs in business performance, period.


Launch of the Winning Sales Academy

11/11/2013

Friday saw the launch of our Winning Sales Academy – Courtesy of Insider News here is the press release covering details of the event

More than 115 people attended the event, which was held to coincide with the launch of the Winning Sales Academy by Winning Pitch with support from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

John Leach, chairman of Winning Pitch, said: “Sales is the heart and soul of any business. It’s the engine. I see loads of companies with great products but they fail to recognise the importance of sales. There’s almost a fear of selling. Selling is not a dirty word. It’s a profession. Any entrepreneur knows that selling is the centre of their business.

“The idea for the sales academy has been in the background for the last five or six years but it only started to crystallise now into a business proposition.

“I’ve spent the last ten years researching what great businesses do in terms of sales and growth. The Winning Sales Academy is the way of coaching and passing on those skills. It’s the companies themselves who have been asking for these academies because they recognise the importance of sales.”

Scott Fletcher is the chairman and founder of Manchester-based cloud computing provider ANS Group, which has just reported a ninth consecutive year of profit growth and is one of a number of companies to sign up to the academy.

He said: “Nothing happens without a sale. You can have the best technology in the world but without a sales strategy it counts for nothing. There is a graveyard of companies with great products that didn’t get out there and sell it.

“Fundamentally there are not enough people with these skills out there,” he said. “I have been banging on for years about the need for a sales academy. That’s why we’re behind it.”

John Smyth is a director of the family-run Swansway Garage, which has a turnover of £350m and employs 625 staff. “We have learnt to recruit for attitude not experience,” he said. “It takes time, money and effort to develop and train a good person but it creates loyalty to the business and is worth the investment.”

Richard Millman was brought in as the chief executive of Total Fitness Health Clubs as part of a turnaround plan and has transformed the company’s sales strategy and seen membership rise.

Millman added: “One of the first things we saw was that sales needed to change, the challenge was to understand how sales needed to change. We recognised the value of existing customers just as much as recruiting new customers and we’ve put more sales/commercial focus onto our existing members. Our processes have changed to embrace technology.”

The other speakers were Paul Bailey, who owns Optimum Coatings in Morecambe, and Clive Memmott, chief executive of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce


The Winning Sales Academy – Why?

18/10/2013

We are in an era where growth seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Business owners are referring to a better economic climate and gearing up to take advantage of the up turn. In parallel, public sector policy makers remain focused on funding projects that will create new jobs. Whist it seems like a statement of the obvious but a company’s ability to grow is highly dependent on the quality of the entrepreneurial sales capability of individuals and teams. If an entrepreneur can’t sell then a business will not succeed, period. Business people regularly refer to the challenges they face when trying to recruit and retain high quality sales staff, they are difficult to find and when they emerge almost anything is done to keep them. In order for businesses to grow we must find a way for providing a strong pipeline of motivated, well-turned out ethical sales professionals who have passion and appetite to make a difference within the organisations that employ them.

One of the biggest problems with selling is, not many people like to do it and as a consequence they become a rare commodity. In the US sales staff are placed on a platform with other professionals such as accountants, lawyers, dentists and doctors in the UK a sort of stigma goes with the sales territory and consequently the new labels of business development manager and customer account executive feature in jobs advertisements. It will come as no surprise that having been in the job for 6 months the business development manager has not brought in one order, loads of relationships but no money. This is a wide spread problem is one that growth specialists Winning Pitch, in partnership with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce are keen to address.

The Winning Sales Academy has been introduced to both professionalize selling and provide practical resources to create high performing sales individuals and teams. The Academy is built on the principles of my books Pitch Perfect and Success Factor. As a result of over 15 years of observational research on how the most talented sales individuals and entrepreneurs perform, these strategies, tactics and behaviours have been translated into a practical set of training courses, workshops, masterclasses and accredited courses. The sales principles that underpin the Academy have been embraced by thousands of individuals and businesses over the years – the resultant effect being growth in revenue, personal performance and confidence.

The Winning Sales Academy’s aims to create the sales stars of tomorrow as well as tuning up the performance of those operating today. Embedding entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets, which are key to high performance selling, will underpin the growth of new and existing businesses. In turn this will allow businesses to reach their full potential and create the much-needed jobs over the coming years.

See here for further information -http://www.insidermedia.com/event/north-west-growth-through-sales-breakfast-2013