Category Archives: Strategy

Where are you Headed? Get Clear!

BizVidya Guide: The Ten Question Tool

Use this TEN QUESTION TOOL to Clarify Goals and Get Laser Sharp Focus in Achieving Timely Results

We had advised earlier to Clarify Your Goals in a previous post here. But then, temporary clarity using a few smart technology tools is not good enough in these “interesting times”.

Especially when you are in a critical business situation and decisions need to be made among a series of contradictions.

Often, we find ourselves overwhelmed with a large number of exciting options, immense possibilities, conflicting opinions, changing priorities, shifting bottlenecks, fluctuating market scenarios and unpredictable customers!

Test your situation with this TEN-QUESTION-TOOL to re-engineer and transform your situation into a workable strategy and a clear-cut plan!

1. What am I exactly doing?

List the tasks and intended results: List immediate desires, intentions and goals.

2. Why am I here?

My need or motivation: What is my intention? More revenues? More profits? More productivity? Better Lifestyle?

3. Where am I coming from?

Recent relevant past: What is my sponsoring thought for this? Am I launching this product because sales are declining? Or, because customers are complaining? Or, I need a higher margin product?

4. Why am I doing this?

Ask multiple nested Whys: Use the Five Why Tool recursively to break down answers to #1 , #2 and #3 above. Launching this product for more revenues or larger customer-base?  For new market segments? More customers in current market segments?

5. Where have I reached now?

What is working and what is not working: What are the good points, workable areas, benefits and strengths of the current situation? What are the threats and weaknesses?

6. Where do I wish to go from here?

Long-Term Results I would really like to create: Where would this ultimately lead too? Bigger Business? Best in the market? Most expensive in the market? Cheapest in the market? What is the long-term Brand Image desired?

7. How can I reach there?

Possible paths: What are the possible routes to success – Should I resort to cannibalizing? Should I explore a Blue Ocean? Should I spend on Research and Development? Should I use the Fail-Fast strategy on a series of products?

8. How would I know I have reached there?

Visualized Goal and Measurable Results: Convert goals into specific numbers and timelines.

9. What are the barriers?

What or Who is stopping me?: Put on the Black Hat and list all possible obstacles, barriers and whatever makes the project look difficult.

10. What is that One Thing that would make a dramatic impact on this area?

Who or What help can make a big difference?: Finally the juiciest part: What is that one big thing that can make this a big success – One Big Customer? Large Capital? Large Customer Base? Large User Base? Many Small Customers?

Decipher that (we are there to help) and Do That One Thing By Doing Which Everything Else Will Get Done!

 

Intellectual Property and its relevance to SMEs

Dr. Ashok M. Adur's Intellectual Property Illustration
Dr. Ashok M. Adur's Intellectual Property Illustration

Most medium and small scale companies in India do not leverage intellectual property as a strategic tool to accelerate their commercial success. For example, when you have an idea for a business that is unique, that has a value proposition, you have some intellectual capital. How do you derive value from it?

Intellectual capital is not just about filing patents. It is the aggregate intellectual material knowledge, information, intellectual property, experience that can be put to use strategically to create wealth in a company.

However, it is rare that an SME owner would have access to in-house IP expertise. One way out is to hire right consultants. This could be critical for your business if you wish to grow over a longer time horizon with a sustained competitive advantage.

What could be the benefits of hiring the right consultant to guide your growth and maximize the value of your intellectual property? We list a few benefits here:

  • Dramatically Enhance Value, Competitiveness and Market Share
  • Assessment and Transfer of  Technology
  • Product Development for Various Specialized Applications in Many Diverse Industries
  • Market Research, Competitive Analysis, Business Development and Worldwide Marketing
  • Material Selection, Formulations and Product Development for Optimization of Performance, Cost and Processibility
  • Accelerating Projects from Conception to Innovation to Patenting to Commercialization and Product Introduction
  • Productivity Improvement, Scale-up, Cost Reduction, Quality Improvement, Quality Control and Quality Assurance
  • Strategic Direction and Planning and P/L Turnaround
  • Patents and Licensing – Legally Getting Around Existing Patents
  • Trouble-Shooting and Technical Service
  • Helping You to “Go Green” by Utilizing Recycled and Bio-derived Materials and Using Recycle Materials for Value-Added Applications
  • Other Business and  Technical Areas in Plastics, Polymers, Composites and Packaging

 In subsequent posts I shall provide more insights on how to do so.

Author: Ashok M. Adur, Ph.D. in Polymer Science & Engineering

  • Innovations Consultant; Product, Business & Strategy Development; Optimization of IP, Cost & Resources.
  • Consulting Experience since 1992.
  • Published 13 papers in professional journals and presented over 45 papers at regional, national and international professional conferences. Also moderated and organized some conferences.
  • Listed in “Who’s Who in Plastics” and “International Who’s Who of Entrepreneurs”.
  • Developed several new proprietary inventions, over 66 patents applied, 26 granted so far, resulting in commercializing numerous value-added products to meet specific customer needs and in new annual business of over $1 billion.

Get Clear

How does an entrepreneur GET CLEAR?  Really clear about business, customers, profits and the entire spectrum that makes up an entrepreneur’s life.

How CLEAR are you about your business goals, most profitable market segments, long-term strategy, day-to-day business operations and the integration of all these with your life goals?

You may have an immediate sense of what you think you want. It could be one or more of the following:

  • Better Margins, More Profits, More Revenues
  • More Customers, High Ticket Customers, Customer Retention
  • New Market Segments, Products, Services
  • Get out of day-to-day Firefighting (Crisis Management)
  • Create more time for creating new avenues for your business instead of being stuck in day-to-day crisis handling
  • Find better employees (who own their work and are proactive)
  • Build Better Systems
  • Streamline your operations in such a way that your employees take ‘complete responsibility’ for their roles & solve problems proactively instead of making excuses

Whatever is on your list, it is often difficult to decide where to start.

Seth Godin has a riff titled “The Priority List”. He says, the ability to decide “what to do next” is an underrated skill. For example, he says:

Is it better to email an existing customer, send a brochure to a prospect or improve your product a bit? Should you tweet or post a new blog post? Should you have a meeting to coordinate your team or spend ten minutes returning phone calls instead?

His tip:

Do you have a list? Have you figured out which metric you’re trying to improve? Can you measure the impact of the choices you make all day?

I see this mistake in business development all the time. Assume for a moment that the goal of someone in this department is to maximize profit. Why then would this group spend most of its time tweaking existing deals (looking for a 3% improvement in yield) instead of spending the same time and effort doing new, game-changing deals?

If you already have your LIST along with corresponding MEASURES, and you are still struggling to “Get Clear”, then what could be missing is clarity regarding your goals.

When did you last review your Goals? What are you REALLY up to?

Stephen R. Covey said “Priority is a function of context.”

So, WHY are you doing whatever you are doing?

Is that CLEAR?

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Clarify Your Goals

First thing is to CLARIFY your goal. What do you exactly want out of your business?

Money for comfortable existence? Or, are you on your way to becoming a global tycoon?

Do you wish for a stable business? Or, a growing business? Or, an accelerating business which, perhaps, you can sell soon?

What is the most appropriate growth strategy for your business?

  • Higher Volumes? And/Or, Higher Margins?
  • More (any) Clients? And/Or, More Big Ticket Clients?
  • More Revenues? And/Or, More Profits?

Is organizational culture important to you? What kind of culture do you want?

For example, many small businesses in India find it cost-effective (often, inadvertently) to have low salary low retention employees, who may be damaging the internal culture and/or customer relations and business growth.  Would hiring the ‘Best’ make more sense for your business?

Should you allocate resources to enhance Business Processes & Systems?

Should you invest more in implementing Technology? Which Solutions? Why?

Whatever your questions, you don’t want to run around without CLEARLY articulated goals that are regularly communicated down to the last rung of frontline executives.

No fun in having all your people and resources run around in circles when they can actually deliver dramatic results with laser sharp focus.

Clarifying Your Goals is a recurring exercise because things change – business climate, technology, competitors, customer needs, your needs and so on.

One efficient way to do this is to categorize all your goals along TIME HORIZONS – from Immediate and near-term to long-term life goals.  In his book,  Getting Things Done, David Allen presented “The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work”:

  • Runway : Current Actions
  • 10,000+ ft:  Current Projects
  • 20,000+ ft: Areas of Responsibility
  • 30,000+ ft: 1-2 year Goals
  • 40,000+ ft: 3-5 year Vision
  • 50,000+ ft: Life

This is a useful first step to start de-cluttering your life and business. Another complimentary tool is a “Mind Map”.

Mind Maps help in creating a WHOLE business picture which can be drilled down to the “Runaway” level.

Created intelligently, it can be a powerful first step in organizing your business to clarify, track, and monitor business goals and results.

With Open Source around, freemind and xmind are great free tools to create Mind Maps.

You can maximize the power of Mind Maps by sharing Mind Maps with your team and asking them to contribute. Xmind, The “Social Brainstorming and Mind Mapping” Tool, allows users to share Mind Maps for collaboration.

Happy De-cluttering, Organizing and Creating What You Wish To in your business!

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