Blended leadership academies flying off the shelves.

Today I start another new Blended Leadership Academy with initial 121’s to set individual goals for the program, so the delegates and sponsoring company can measure the return on investment.

Quite a small program this time with 4 rising stars within a business. Love the fact I have been given responsibility to inspire, teach, coach and make a real difference to their lives.

Everyone wins. I am finding so many clients have a tier of great people who they don’t quite know what to do with. They aren’t perfect and a customised intervention can lift their skills, motivation, performance and promotional prospects quite easily, at a sensible price.

Traditional training courses are usually not money well spent as the learning is lost in a few weeks. The blend of F2F with online, training and coaching is the modern, effective way to embed and practice the learning on real issues, backed by 24/7 experienced support.

What are you doing with your rising stars?

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk

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Are you self-actualising yet?

It’s pretty exciting having just had my 58th birthday to feel that every day I’m doing the work I have been preparing for over decades.

By way of example:

  • a 4.30am start and in London today to run a soft-selling workshop for client customer services team as part of phase 2 of their Blended Leadership Academy.
  • A new project agreed yesterday with a global client on process improvement using the 7 wastes and project teams, coaching the operations director and change management for the team.

Some pretty cool work for what used to be a humble accountant.

John Maxwell said:

“Success: know your purpose in life; grow to your potential; sow to benefit others” – a bit philosophical perhaps for early on a Thursday, but I wanted to share this reflection for anyone who isn’t quite aligned with their purpose, especially in their work.

I believe it’s worth investing some time to understand one’s purpose and vision, then putting the right steps in place to start living it every day. It’s not just (or even) management speak from the life coaching domain, it’s totally practical and rather elegant.

In truth, I would give up most of what I learned at school to have been given some insight into this way of thinking at an early age.

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk

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Getting stuff done

The thing that has surprised me the most from running the latest client Blended Leadership Academy is that many senior people haven’t yet worked out how to fit things into their schedule. If I can teach them all how do fix that, I will have done them a great service.

We all seem to be harbouring the misapprehension that our lives are full, but that’s simply not the case. We all have 168 hours each week – always have, always will. We will never get more time. It’s the same time as everyone else – heads of state, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, et al. How is it that some people fit so much into their lives, yet many are simply “too busy” to have executed something that maybe takes no more that one hour.

It comes down to the internal dialogue that so many choose to play. It seems to be fashionable to be run off one’s feet all the time. However, it’s the same people who probably waste tens of hours each week that they’re not aware of.

20 years ago, I sat down for half an hour and analysed how I spent my typical working week of 168 hours. I was a partner in a large firm of accountants, working all hours and usually stressed out, never finding time to do all this things I wanted to do. Guess what I learned? I could only find 132 hours. What on earth was I doing every week for 36 hours? A whole working week lost, hidden from my view, every week for goodness sake! Well, the answer soon became obvious. I was wasting time everywhere. I gained 36 hours every week to fit in all the things I didn’t have time for.

Now, I read a book a week, exercise for around 10 hours a week, never miss a deadline and feel completely in control of my world (most of the time at least).

Max Whitlock (GB double gold gymnast) trains 6 hours a day for 6 days a week. Crikey, how can he not only fit that in but get anything else done? Well, if he sleeps for 8 hours and trains for 6, he still has 10 full hours every day to do all he wants. Go figure.

We’re not building rockets here, I know it’s obvious, but my experience is that most people have no idea how they’re spending their time. You won’t find the time if you don’t go and look for it in the first place.

So, how about a few tools to fix you? Here goes:

  • Analyse your typical week. It will amaze you how much time you waste.
  • Schedule an “hour of power” in your diary at least once a week. Get away from your desk, go to the coffee shop and plan your life back into control. If you’re really manic, make it an hour every day.
  • “Eat the frog” every morning. The frog is that nasty task you’ve been putting off. Plan to nail it tomorrow – get up early and before you even check your emails or have a cup of tea, work on that task until it’s complete. I bet you quite enjoy it, it won’t take as long as you thought and the rest of the day is a breeze. This habit has changed my life.
  • “Just 15 minutes” – if you really can’t face the frog or can’t see a gap of one hour, start on that task on the basis that you’ll only have 15 minutes of pain. The trick is to get started and once going, you’ll probably want to keep going.
  • With all tasks that come your way, if you can nail it in 5 minutes, get it done right now. If not, put the task into a “system” on a day when you can fit it in. I use a manual diary. The system will remind you on the day you have planned to implement the task and everything apart from today’s tasks are now out of mind.

If you learn to control of your time, you can fit whatever you want to into your schedule. Even all the things you tell yourself you haven’t got time for. Give it a try…

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk

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New term madness

Looks like people are back at work today. Roads gridlocked, pool full of the new-termers with their metaphorical new blazers and satchels. They won’t last, but the traffic is here to stay. Shame, it’s been nice to work over the last couple of months, being able to get around much more easily.

Why does everyone still drive to work and come home at the same time as they ever did? What happened to flexible working? Why don’t more people work from home a few days each week? Haven’t they heard of Skype, email or the telephone? My coach is in Melbourne and we seem to cope pretty well.

Not just a rant, though a rant it is. Seriously, the only way we’ll manage the population increase without total standstill on the trains and roads is if workplaces embrace technology better.

There we go, that’ll get you fired up for the new term…

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk

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Design the product around the customer

“Build it and they’ll come.” Well, they might…or they might not. It depends whether “they” want to.

The days of creating a mediocre product or service then throwing some money at an advertising campaign are long gone. The customers of today are far better informed as to their wants and preferences. They can tell the difference between a product that’s created to make money (i.e. supplier centric) and a product that’s created to satisfy a need (customer centric).

Any new product or service idea should emanate from a particular customer insight and ideally designed using customer input.

A nice way to check your focus is to see how well you can answer the following questions:

  1. What problem(s) is the product/service solving?
  2. What are the frustrations that customers typically experience when buying and using these sort of products?
  3. How does your product address those frustrations?
  4. What feedback did you get when you launched the first iteration of the product (MVP or minimum viable product) with a select group of customers?
  5. What aspects of that feedback have been built into the next version?

It is often a surprise to a supplier when a beautifully designed product receives a luke warm response from the target market. The trick is to engage the target market early in the design, or even before the design starts and build the product around the needs of the potential customer.

Good luck.

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk

 

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What ROI do you get from your management team?

If the employees of most organisations were lined up against the wall with the very best at one end and the least performing at the other (I’m not suggesting you do this by the way), the top third would be a group that you are privileged to have, the middle would be average and the bottom third, if you were honest, you’re probably better off without.

I’ve recently heard it said that the return from a talented, engaged and motivated employee can be up to 10 times than of a disengaged one. When I suggest this to my clients, I rarely get any push back, which tells me that it must be a fair, albeit staggering, possibility.

It’s also not unreasonable to apply the same sort of statistics to your management team.

If these ideas are any where near true for your organisation, then there’s a massive amount of potential that you’re not tapping. You invest huge sums of money in the directors and other managers, but are you getting the best bang for your buck?

Example:

Let’s play with some numbers here. Say you have 8 people in your management team. You pay them an average of £60k per annum, so nearer £75k when you include NIC, pension and other associated costs. Lets also assume you were tapping say 50% of their potential (probably the average I hear when I ask business owners).

If you were to uplift the all-round performance from that team from 50% to just 75%, the effect on the business, just at a cost level, let alone the opportunity cost level, would be a massive £150,000 (8 x £75k x 25%). That’s a direct hit in the bottom line with no more customers and no more effort. It is also a gain in each and every year, so over say 10 years it’s £1.5m. What’s more, I think these figures are probably conservative for most businesses.

I wonder what the average CEO, managing director or training manager is doing to tackle this issue? Like the most forward-thinking companies, I wouldn’t hesitate in setting up a Leadership Academy. A customised blend of training and coaching, both F2F and online to support, inspire and train the most expensive resource in the business. The cost is a fraction of the benefit and perhaps the most leveraged use of an investment budget.

What’s your approach?

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk/blended-learning.php

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Pricing strategy

As we know – if the price is set too high, we lose the sale. Set it too low and we leave money on the table. In other words, the customer will quickly provide us with feedback on whether we’ve chosen the right price for our product or service. So, what factors should we consider?

The following tips are meant to be practical and useful, based upon what I have seen work spectacularly well and what I have seen cause truly disastrous consequences. “Will I know which is which?” I hear you ask. I’m sure that you shall. Now, I only have room for 10 so I’ve had to choose my personal favourites. These are:

  1. No surprises. Always agree the price in advance – that prevents relationship breakdowns caused by misunderstandings. Remember vehicle service businesses getting this wrong in the past? The bill was always a shock when you picked up your car. Instant dissatisfaction and any compromise results in both parties losing out. I always agree my prices – if the prospect doesn’t want to pay, I don’t do the work. Test the temperature nice and early!
  2. Use price as a tool to vary demand for your product and thus choose customers you want to win, retain and lose. Probably obvious and rather a general rule, but increasing price will tend to lower demand and reducing price should increase it. Most businesses don’t want to attract everyone, so I usually recommend increasing the price just enough to attract ‘B’ grade customers, but deter ‘C’s. ‘C’s typically create too much effort compared to the reward, causing cross-subsidy of profit and focus away from the valuable ‘A’s and ‘B’s. Remember the Pareto (80:20 rule):
    1. 20% of your customers generate 80% of your sales
    2. 20% of your products generate 80% of your sales
    3. 20% of your customers generate 80% of your profit
    4. 20% of your customers generate 80% of your hassle!
  3. Never agree a discount without reducing something in the value proposition, unless you have a planned promotion. Controversial? Well, consider this: people subconsciously align the perceived value of goods and services with their cost.
  4. Arrive at your price from two angles:
    1. Traditional “cost plus” (materials, labour and possibly overhead + a little profit for you of course) and
    2. What is the market likely to pay for your product, based upon competitor products and prices? Research the market, so you have some certainty on how to position your product. So many businesses simply don’t bother to do this.
  5. Once you have done the research and carefully selected your price – you can have the courage to believe in it. Don’t be embarrassed by it. For example, I gained a different perspective on my day rate when I found out that the garage where I had my car serviced were charging £125 per hour for the mechanic. Remember the perception issue in tip 3.
  6. Allocate a percentage of sales to give away to a good cause – after all, you get your income from the community, so why not give something back? Be very selective and make sure you are benefiting the intended target. You win too of course, because you feed your self-worth.
  7. Check where your product/service is on its life-cycle – if it’s in the growth phase, it should be easy to grab sales as there’s plenty to go around and the price is less important to the buyer. If the product is in decline, or has commoditised, then demand may be shrinking. Awareness and knowledge will make the right pricing decisions obvious.
  8. Don’t copy everyone else – look at innovative ways to differentiate your offering through pricing policy. I don’t just mean being the cheapest. Explore other ideas. Can you fix, be transparent, guarantee in some way, link price to value or even let the customer decide?
  9. Be reluctant to promote price your key differentiator, unless you believe the customer prioritises price ahead of quality or service. Even if you believe they do:
    1. Check that your perception is the reality, not just an assumption. My experience is that pricing issues only tend to score about 7 out of 10 in importance. A focus group or survey should deliver the feedback you need.
    2. Remember that “cheapest price” isn’t the only option – you might get some traction from “fixed price”, “transparent”, “flexible”, “value-based” or even “most expensive”?
  10. Avoid common errors:
    1. Many businesses choose to be “bottom feeders”. They select a poor target market that delivers rather predictable outcomes – lack of money, low margins, bad debts, disproportionate time spent on servicing customer demands and even broken promises.
    2. “Mates rates”. If you offer discounts, your customers will recommend hoards of additional customers wanting the same deal. This can lead to you being a “busy fool” – working flat out or piling up stock, but not making any money.
    3. “Scope creep” – very common when selling services. Giving extras without agreeing an additional price at the time.
    4. Simply being too cheap, often caused by a lack of research or a lack of confidence in the product. There’s nothing wrong in being “Expensive, but really good value for money”. It’s so much better than “Good, but really expensive”. The “but” eliminates everything that precedes it!

Pricing policy is a critical success factor for any business. I have found that adopting a more strategic approach to pricing can have a major impact on the trajectory of the whole business.

http://www.paulhopwoodconsulting.co.uk

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