Perot had it right, “find a snake kill a snake”… 

 

The full quote, as I recall,ended, “don’t convene a committee on snakes”.

There’s a refrain I hear, almost every time there’s an internal delay or glitch in any piece of work my team do with pretty much any corporate customer.

It goes like this…

“It’s not worth trying to get this changed, we all know it’s wrong, but, it’s just too hard to fix”.

If you’re in a business and you are apologising to me as a customer, (or a supplier), for some evidently awful internal process that impacts on your business (and mine) you’re not just part of the problem, you are, for me at least, the problem.

La Fontaine's Fables

Vintage engraving from La Fontaine’s Fables, Illustraed by Gustave Dore. The Countryman and the Serpent

 

Sure it’s tough standing up for what you know is right, sure it’s tough being the one bold person who says what everyone is thinking, sure it’s tough to take on the pedestrian procurement process, the accounting anachronisms, the resourcing rubbish, the shibboleths of sales, the malaise of mediocre marketeers. It does take courage and integrity to challenge the corporate inertia, to take a risk, to fix the big stuff but hey, every other bugger is playing it safe, going with the flow, making no waves, keeping below the parapet.

You know it’s corporate bollocks, you know it needs fixing, if you don’t do it, it won’t ever get done.

Make a difference, make a mark, make a stand. Kill that snake

NB: No real snakes were harmed in the writing of this post.

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Bäuerin Frühstück* as a sales review tool, why not… it works

 

*(Farmers wife breakfast)

Talking last month to a sales director of my acquaintance who raised two issues, not necessarily linked but I thought that the solution might be…

Firstly he found it tricky to get his sales folk together in a social sense, the traditional pub gathering or team dinner didn’t seem to gel with a group of lone hunters, with lives of their own, young families and already working long days.

Secondly he found the regular sales reviews to which he summoned them were transactional, factual, data-driven, defensive.

The team were performing well but he just didn’t feel they were a team, working together and he wasn’t sure how to change that.
I remembered a couple of things, well three, my father-in-law telling me how as a young farmer, after milking, as the sun rose, the farmer, the family, the workers would all gather for a big breakfast, discuss the forthcoming day, share laughs, banter and good food, start the day in a positive way.

I recalled, from a former life, running a series of high level events for senior execs, breakfast-based briefings on critical subjects but the key was that these busy folk turned up, they could enjoy an excellent meal, learn, teach, share and network and still be in the office at start of play, they loved it.

iStock_000018247691_DoubleI remember working for a great consultancy  where one of the founders decided to turn the interminable board meetings into a breakfast event, one of the management team cooking for the others, taking it in turns, it got competitive, it became fun, it engaged everyone, the meetings were better attended, better natured, more constructive.

So I suggested that my chum rebadge his sales reviews as a breakfast meet, schedule them early, restructure them as a way to start the day in a positive way, conversation amongst peers, a round table not a star chamber, an opportunity to help each other, we’re social animals.

He tried it, they liked it, it worked.

He found that decisions and actions got done (or at least started) that day, and that it’s hard to be defensive with a mouthful of bacon.

Go on, try it, get your team to go to work on an egg.

The parting of the procurement ways

IMG_0032There is, slowly but surely, a growing awareness in the B2B marketplace that, (thanks to the web-driven commoditisation of pretty much everything), it’s not your product, your service or your price that makes the difference, it’s your relationship.

It’s getting to be all about the people.
Paradoxically however the organisations intended to deliver value to the people, paid for by the people, staffed by an enormous number of the people, our central and local government services, our public sector bodies all persist in the practice of building or buying teams of expensive resource to produce pointless questionnaires, RFP’s and ITT’s to verify  that the likes of IBM, BT, Oracle and Thales are not fly-by-night cowboys operating out of a railway arch in Clapham.
Why does the public sector persist in mandating a procurement culture which inevitably delivers the apparently cheapest but actually, invariably, over time, priciest solution with, thanks to penny-pinching procurement the highest likelihood of catastrophic and expensive failure?
Why do all the suppliers have to invest in expensive teams of expensive people jumping collectively through an ever-changing series of procedural hoops which just endorse what (if they are any good at all) the buyers must already know?
Why does the public sector spend a fortune (our taxes by the way) excluding the human element from all procurement when the commercial world is recognising, rewarding, investing and coaching on things like trust, integrity, longevity and respect?
I’d like to think that those who ‘serve the public good’ recognise the value of those things too.

Content, context, discontent and disconnect…

Websites, they’re still important, pundits opine that we’re seeing the death of the traditional homepage, that social media are now effectively the route for people to find our inspirational content but it’s rare these days that we arrive at a business meeting without our prospect having a pretty good idea of who we are, what we do, where we sit and they’ll have formed that opinion based on our web presence.

It’s tempting, as social media becomes the focus of marketing fashion to treat the classic website as an online brochure, a project for the intern or a must-have that just needs maintenance. But we’d suggest that’s not a good idea.

It’s very easy to create a website “they” say, and “they’re” right.

It’s easy to pop into WordPress and grab a template and add some words,cobbled together from your latest brochure, to stick a couple of images up, to make something that looks ok, and so very, many folk do just that.

I’m not advocating spending a fortune on the highly skilled HTML buffs in the pay of the multitude of increasing desperate web agencies, I am however pointing out the pitfalls, three in all, of this DIY approach.

1. There are people who find spelling errors, poor grammar and a casual approach to the language a turn-off, they might be potential customers, but you’ll never know that they’ve discovered a split infinitive, and they’ve split.

2. Content is increasingly the lure that brings people to your website,to any website, they’re looking for something of value and you’re looking to give them something of value, something fresh, they’re not enthused by that three-year-old case study or your turgid white paper explaining your thinking of last year that the cloud is a no-go area for smart businesses.So you have to keep it fresh, current and valuable, and that takes time, effort and a quality approach to content production.

3. Same old, Same old. Few of us are lucky enough to be gifted creative thinkers, no matter what our mum had stuck on the fridge, we’re not as good as specialists and we’re not keeping up to speed with the latest developments in user involvement and retention.

I’m not saying that using WordpScreen Shot 2014-06-04 at 15.18.18ress or Blogger as your weapon of choice is wrong, au contraire, there’s a lot of functionality built in, not least in terms of search engine optimisation but I do advocate a couple of things:

Firstly, involving an objective creative eye, a third party, a good graphic designer to spend a few days making it look good.
Secondly, if you’re not one of those unfortunates who can’t read past a misplaced colon: find a professional proofreader or gifted pedant and ask them to review your words.

I’m not advocating sticking lipstick on a pig, I am saying, quality matters, and it’s often worth investing in those who can ensure that you present yourself, your business, your clients and the work you do for them, in the best possible light.

I’m now going to sit back and see how many errors the internet grammar police can find in this epistle and the Adara websites, fair enough, bring it on.