Managing for Success

Managing for Success

Guest writer Arlen Swenson takes readers through what makes or breaks a product in the market with his blog post, “Managing for Success.”

Managing for Success

Most of us look for ways to be successful in our work and business careers, but what are the basics of getting there and then exceeding and continuing with that success? In most cases it depends on your approach to each situation and whether you solicit and gain input from others. 

Certainly, you may already have good knowledge on a variety of subjects and management techniques, however it is always good to verify and insure you are up to date and aware of changes in the markets you serve and possible new areas of growth opportunities. 

Checking new areas of growth opportunities is what I call developing a Pathfinder’s Mentality. In its simplest form is having an inquisitive mind about what is happening in your business and what changes or opportunities that might be available if better understood. 

A more formal approach is forming an actual Path Finder Group charged with exploring identified business and market opportunities.  The role of the group is to investigate those opportunities to determine possible fits and what would be required to attain those opportunities. Many times, it starts with looking at a product your company already produces but is not selling at the level required or examining new end-user markets that could be available to you. 

The role of the Path Finder Group (PFG) is to study products and their use in various markets and determine what those markets are expecting of your product including comparison to existing competitive products and their strengths and weaknesses. To be accurate requires the PFG to go the field and study your product and competitive products in actual applications and hear from the voice of those users their opinion of the product’s strengths, weaknesses, and suggested improvements.   

Depending on the geographical size of the product’s market and complexity may require several months of study by the PFG to develop an accurate picture of the best path to improving your product’s success in the marketplace. In the process the PFG will become experts in the product and obtain the voice of the customers using the product and developing detailed knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of both the product and markets it serves. 

Certain discovery of basic market needs that your product needs improvement on would be communicated immediately to determine if basic design changes should be made now as part of the process.  As the PFG develops its knowledge of product and market uses, actual testing of their discoveries should be field tested to determine the effectiveness of those discoveries if those discoveries would be implemented. 

This requires the PFG conduct a firsthand study of their discoveries with the product in actual use in the hands of customers.  

It requires hearing directly from the end user their recommendations and/or questions about your product and its proper application.  In other words, why should your product be selected versus a competitive choice or a different method? 

Gaining accurate data will require a formal approach to hands-on study. 

  • How does your product compare to competition such as: size, operating ease, cost effectiveness, safety, reliability, serviceability, repairability, owning/operating cost, fuel economy, meeting OSHA standards, availability of parts and repairs, return-on-investment, customer support, customer knowledge of your product, customer misconceptions about your product, competitive mis reputations about your product, customer lack of knowledge about your product and various other market considerations. 

All of this and more must be understood to determine the best steps to gain success with the product. 

The PFG is charged with finding the right path to improve the product’s success in the marketplace.  

The time to complete PFG study and recommendations may take several months and require detailed study and changes to the product or going to the market approach.  However, sometimes proper solutions found by the PFG can be quickly implemented and they are economically viable. 

At the conclusion of Path Finder’s Group’s market/product study a detailed report would be provided to management for approval of changes recommended to improve the product’s success. 

The recommendation could include moving in a different direction, changing the design of the product, changing distribution of the product, expanding the product line offering or even elimination of the product. 

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Gaining Business Success Through Your Employees

Gaining Business Success Through Your Employees

Learning Without Scars is pleased to introduce our new guest writer, Arlen Swenson. He makes his blogging debut with LWS in “Gaining Business Success Through Your Employees.” Arlen is a seasoned, dynamic, competitive, influencer, motivator Sales and Marketing Executive.  Track record of success recruiting, building, motivating, and managing highly effective teams, developing and implementing product marketing strategies to capture market share.

Success includes being Vice President of North American Governmental Sales & Marketing for John Deere Construction Equipment with annual sales of $255,000,000 while increasing sales 17% annually and reducing selling costs by more than 15% and improved gross profit margins by more than $38,000,000.00.

Gaining Business Success Through Your Employees

Many equipment dealerships struggle meeting or exceeding their business goals due to unforeseen or unknown barriers within their organization. Sometimes top management will make adjustments based on their experience or knowledge only to see negative or lackluster results even though employees are doing as directed.

But the answer to improving business performance is available if management is willing to ask from the right sources and that starts with their employees – all of them – all departments – all branch locations. This will require an open door by management to receive employee input in a constructive manner without threat of consequences for providing input.

This can be accomplished by conducting an open employee meeting with representatives from all departments and branch locations at each meeting conducted. The basic rules of the meeting include hearing input and recording on a flip chart that input from each meeting participant. The other rule is when an individual is providing their input they cannot be interrupted or challenged by the other meeting participants. The meeting chair or person entering the comments can ask clarification questions to make sure they are recording the input correctly.

This part of the process will take some time to accomplish and when each flip chart is filled, and line separated for each person’s comments each filled flip chart is then pasted on the meeting room wall. At the end of the process, you will have several flip charts pasted on the wall. It now time to gain group consensus on what are the top four items recorded on the flip charts that should be addressed immediately and solutions obtained. The remaining items will be addressed and resolved in descending order later, and all reported back to the employees.

To obtain group consensus each meeting participant is given four different colored pasty dots to place on the flip charts entries they believe are the first importance (red dot), second (green dot), third (yellow dot), and fourth (blue dot). Placing of the dots is done in quiet and no talking among the meeting participants. Management will than assign the four dotted items to two meeting participants for each colored dot to work with management on the best solutions for solving the business issue successfully. Progress on completing the top four issues is communicated back through the organization with frequent updates and announcement of completions. The other issues in descending order will be resolved with frequent updates and announcement of completions.

This open exchange of solving problems will become habit and add to the success of the business.

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