Recent Posts by Learning Entrepreneurship

Consultants: How to Choose, Use, and Not Abuse Them

sold!  Help them, help you

Since my first consulting project over thirty years ago, I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage consulting projects and the client/consultant relationship.

Here are some ideas that may help you with your consultants (and your lawyers, accountants and other professionals):

  1. Before you introduce consultants to the process, be sure you need what you want and want what you need. Beware of consultants that agree to do whatever you want, whether you need it or not.
  2. Look internally to confirm the three “C’s” of consulting project readiness: Capacity in budget, time and resources; Commitment of management and staff affected by the process; and Capability to support the project and implement the conclusions.
  3. One more “C” – Compatibility. Select your consultants from an organisation that is compatible with yours – are you a corporate multinational or a local entrepreneurial business?
  4. Recognize whether your consulting needs are strategic: requiring outside expertise to inspire and facilitate your business planning process, or operational: bringing knowledge, skills and experience that are not available internally.
  5. Meet the operating consultant. It may not be the same charming, talented person that sold you the work.  And at those fee rates you don’t want to train a recent MBA, who started last week and studied your industry yesterday.
  6. Test Drive: Check whether the consultant arrives with questions, not answers; will operate as neither boss nor employee; and will win the hearts and minds of your staff. Successful consultants will listen, understand, empathize, analyze, strategize and persuade better than normal people.
  7. Remember you are hiring a consultant to challenge and push you. You are not renting a friend to tell you how smart you are.
  8. Can you confidently expect a solution that will be yours not theirs?
  9. Ask for references.  Call them.
  10. Ask who is not on the reference list and why not.  Learn what they think causes a project to be unsuccessful.  And ask which list they expect you to be on when this is over.
  11. Ask for fee rates and a work plan with estimated hours. Then agree on a fixed fee for agreed deliverables with dates, documents and milestones.
  12. Don’t let their progress reports interfere with your progress.  Get what you need, not what they need for internal “CYA” requirements.
  13. Check who else is billing time to your project.  Sometimes there is a very expensive partner back at the office who needs to keep his billing rate up. Your budget can be quickly consumed while he “supervises” from a distance.
  14. Avoid surprises.  Ask about additional expenses: travel, telephone and printing. Terms of payment?
  15. Do they have a satisfaction guarantee?
  16. Get the agreement in writing, read it before signing it.
  17. Watch for signs of trouble: such as, selling more work before the work is done; long delays between on-site visits; too much time spent “back at the office” and billed to you.
  18. And finally, remember consultants are people too. They want to boast about good work and satisfied clients.  You can help them help you.  Don’t be difficult.

With all due respect and best regards to my favourite clients and consulting associates.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Deadlines can be deadly

Don’t overdo it

mistakesMost of us agree that deadlines are necessary. They help us to scope the work and make a plan.  Awareness of the deadline helps us to focus and get the work done on time.

But, the stated deadline may be entirely arbitrary or self-imposed and it may actually not be very important. Seldom is it absolutely necessary to be on time or don’t show up at all. (Except maybe to catch a flight, make a tee-time or deliver a keynote presentation.)

Deadlines can be helpful until they become an obsession. Then they become a distraction from focusing on the work quality and content. Time is running out and you’re not yet finished? You’re not yet proud of the work you’ve done? Re-negotiate the deadline.

Don’t obsess over deadlines. Make sure they’re real, not arbitrary or imaginary.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

 

 

Juggling too many balls?

Maybe more than one is the first mistake

JUGGLING

 

It’s not the number.

It’s the amount of time you spend on each one before throwing it back into the air.

Try it.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

 

High pressure sales tactics

Because they work

beach resortIf you have recently strolled the beach near any southern resort hotel, you have probably been introduced to the “body snatchers,” timeshare salesmen offering attractive incentives – free dinner, golf, Cirque de Soleil tickets – for you to attend a brief sales presentation at their resort.

And then you can easily waste half a day being held hostage by a hierarchy of high pressure sales people persuading you to buy-in to the timeshare concept. It can turn into a very unpleasant vacation experience. Or you can learn something useful to take home for your own business.

Here are my thoughts, after four weeks in Mexico listening to the pitches and the complaints.

For Sellers:

  1. Train sales people well and ensure consistent use of the most effective tactics and pitches.
  2. Remember that every question, problem or complaint can be resolved by selling a solution – an upgrade, a new product, a new service package.
  3. Keep all the initial prices high enough to allow for negotiated discounts and package deals and still leave room for generous buyer incentives and sales commissions.
  4. Ensure sales reps are careful not to oversell or promise too much.
  5. Build in a process for confirming and clarifying the terms and conditions to ensure customer understanding and acceptance before sign-off.
  6. Ensure that operations and customer service staff have the same understanding of product and service offerings and can effectively resolve any “misunderstandings” that may be perceived as sales staff having over-promised and under-delivered.
  7. Generally, avoid the negative customer perceptions from high pressure sales tactics, but keep the effectiveness of a focused, motivated, well-trained and well-managed sales force.

For Buyers:

  1. Push past the prepared pitch and the recommended sales solution to every problem.
  2. Gain control of the agenda and lead them to your preferred solutions.
  3. Get all your questions answered clearly before making any decisions.
  4. Be as aggressive and persistent as the sellers are.
  5. Get it in writing. Read it carefully before signing.

All basic principles that you already knew, but reinforced by high-pressure timeshare sales tactics.

Be better. Do better.  (And enjoy your winter vacation in the south.)

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing list for regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Customer Service is Marketing?

Simply deliver what you promised 

customerserviceA recent Linkedin article argued that Customer Service is the new method of Marketing – do it right and traditional marketing is unnecessary.

I would argue that it’s an essential element of a three part process – Marketing, Sales and then Customer Service – to deliver the objective of attracting, satisfying and keeping loyal, long-term profitable customers.

The three elements must be complementary and consistent to be effective. Promote what you can actually deliver. Do not under-sell it, but do not promise and hope that it can be delivered. Or that the customer will not notice the deficiencies. That never ends well.

The sales effort has to be part of the process after marketing has introduced the customers. Continue to qualify and confirm that you can meet their needs and desires while avoiding the easy sale by telling them whatever they want to hear. The truth is better, even if it’s a disappointment.

Then customer service makes sure that the promises are met with competence, helpful support and a friendly smile that says, “Y’all come back now.” And they will.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing list for regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Exceeding expectations

Even if you’re not working for tips 

bartenderGood waiters and bartenders get it.

Prepare a good product and meet the minimum expectations for delivery, quality and price, then add the personal friendly touch, demonstrate your expertise and dispense your worldly wise advice to create a more knowledgeable buyer, who appreciates it all.

It’s good for tips. Even better if you’re not working for tips. You’ll win loyal customers and raving fans.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing listfor regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Lead by example

Show the way and how to behave getting there

Leading the chargeLeadership means more than showing the way to achieve your goals and improve group performance. It requires demonstrating your guiding principles on dealing with challenges and working with colleagues, associates, suppliers and customers.

People follow your example more than they will be persuaded by powerful rhetoric. Leadership by command and control may still work, but not as well.

Leading by example means more than “Look at me, I’m rich and famous. You can be too.” Yes, bullying and self-promotion may get you there, even get you elected to President of the most powerful and influential country in the world. But you will not remain in charge for long. People will resist. You will never receive the respect and have the influence that you seek.

Better to demonstrate higher principles of respect for others, good character and high moral standards, compassion and consideration for those who struggle to obtain what you already enjoy.

Leadership that sets those examples will generate loyal, long-term followers that we can all be proud of.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing listfor regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

The Power of No

Be willing to walk away

Saying-noIt’s not a tactic and it’s not a bluff. It’s a change in attitude that changes the relationship for both sides.

Now you are only here because you both want to be. And you’re working toward the same objective. Confronted with a firm no, both parties will find a better way to get to the win-win.

Or agree to walk away to other options and stop wasting each other’s time.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Pricing to please

Not everybody, but your target customers

“Can you do better?”

10-min-Guide-233ABack in the day, when I was selling computer hardware to resellers in Boston, that was usually their response, whenever I quoted a price. Actually, in Boston it was more like, “Can yuh do bettah?”

In any case, my smart-ass reply was often, “Better for you or for me?” Isn’t that the real question?

But that makes it a win-lose game, instead of a mutual benefit transaction. What price will satisfy both the buyer and the seller? Buyers want a price that compares favourably to their alternatives and delivers value to their business. Sellers want a price that exceeds their cost and delivers sufficient volume to be profitable to their business.

An acceptable price is defined by the market, the prior experience of your target customers with your competition. But the right price is a key strategic decision and must be consistent with your own prior choices for product quality, features, benefits and associated services. Price is an important strategic element in your market positioning.

Do you want the price to be the primary attraction to your business? Or is your product more unique and your customer more discriminating than that. If you win on price, you can also easily lose on price. Long-term loyal relationships are built on a consistent customer experience that confirms your integrity, expertise and business values. Price and availability are only the initial entry criteria.

You cannot please everybody, so use pricing to help select the customers you really want to do business with.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

It’s another New Year. So what.

It’s still a good time to reflect and plan

(Sorry for playing the old hits with a repeat of my message from January 2016, but it’s still appropriate and applicable to 2018.)

In the ditchYou have already looked at too many year-end reviews and predictions for the New Year. The consensus seems to be that last year was bad everywhere and this year will be worse: more terrorist events and political stupidity, extreme weather and natural disasters, investments at risk of a bursting bubble and volatile economic conditions that will challenge every industry.

So if you cannot control the environment, what can you do differently this year? Aside from trying to stay out of the ditch.

A good general rule is to keep it simple. Focus on just two memorable accomplishments for the year – one personal, one professional. Richard Branson suggests that you refrain from making another to-do list, but work instead on your to-be list.  It is more important who you are than what you do.

Work on making memories.

If you look back on last year, how would you characterize your achievements? Personally and professionally, what were the outstanding memories? Did they just happen or were they your intent? It may not have been something that changed the world, but were they significant memories for you and the important people around you?

So what will your memories be for this year? Will it be the year for a major turning point in your career, or your business direction or your personal development?

Of course a more detailed plan is required, but I recommend to start with some simple objectives that are easy to remember without getting distracted by external events. Work on the issues that you can control and the actions that will make a difference. Be prepared for surprises and disappointments that are out of your control and develop the resilience and strength to get past them.

Have a good year. Make it memorable.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

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