2009: The Six Month Checkpoint

By claire |

http-_kunthyfileswordpresscom_2008_12_ar1198955162889581June 1… 2009 is officially halfway over.  Think back to the beginning of the year. Remember all of those promises and resolutions that you made to yourself? Expand business x%…cut costs by y dollars…hang on through tough times.  Well, it’s time to check in with all of those business promises we optimistically made six months ago today.

Not hanging on to your New Years Resolutions? That’s not surprising. A recent study shows that by the end of January only 64% of people are still hanging on to New Year’s Resolutions…by now that number has fallen to 44%.

Regardless of whether you care to keep your New Year’s Resolution or not, it’s time to check in and re-evaluate your business goals. Over the next few weeks, the members of the Perks Consulting team will provide you with tips to keep your business goals in check and your bottom line out of the red. For now, here are three quick tips about how to check in with old goals and make new ones:

1. Be realistic.

Keep the number and scope of your resolutions to a minimum.  This will minimize disappointment and make your goals attainable.

2. Push through obstacles and reward yourself for small acheivements.

Every goal is met with setbacks, but by pushing yourself throught them you can accomplish things you never thought you could. And when you or your team accomplishs something important (no matter how small it may seem in the big picture) reward everyone by calling in for pizza or throwing a small office party. This will give your team incentive to keep pushing.

3. Plan, plan, plan.

This month, the name of the game is strategy.  With a detailed plan and a dedicated team in place, no goal is too big or small for your business.

Feeling refreshed and motivated to make your 2009 goals?  Check out a few sites that will help you along the way and keep your eye on the Perks Consulting blog for a few handy tricks to help you get back on track.

  • Makeuseof.com provides you with six sites that help you keep your resolutions.
  • The Sideroad gives helpful and inspirational tips to resolution-setters of all types.
  • About.com helps you keep your New Year’s Resolutions.

SEO: What is it and Why does it Matter?

By claire |

chain_linkSEO, Search Engine Optimization, is the hottest new way to increase traffic to your website.  You know when you search from Google for a topic, and you get a list of sites relevant to your search? SEO is the practice engaged to receive the highest possible natural ranking of your website. Simply put, SEO is what makes sites appear at the top.

Why is SEO important

So, who cares? A lot of people, actually. Obviously, websites are competing for that number one spot for many reasons. While the key purpose of SEO is to increase traffic to your website, (since websites are, after all, built to be seen) there are several underlying benefits of SEO including:

Types of SEO

There are two types of Search Engine Optimization: onsite and offsite.

1. Onsite Optimization

Onsite optimization is an internal tool that must be kept in mind while creating or refining your company website.  This type of SEO is used to optimize the searchability of your website by creating content that is embedded with specific keywords. These keywords are the terms that search engines use to find your site and they indicate what your site is all about.

2.  Offsite Optimization

Conversely, offsite optimization is an external tool that encompasses the different strategies used outside of your website, specifically what sites you link to outside of your own. Using offsite optimization to link to relevant sites outside your own increases the chances of a high natural ranking.

So, how can SEO be integrated into strategy to increase the bottom line of your business? Stay tuned for Sumontro, who will bridge the gap between Search Engine Optimization and your business.

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The Merits of Focus: is your Business and Brand Strategy focused enough?

By perksconsulting |

Posted By: Sumontro Roy, strategy@perksconsulting.com

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Toyota’s incoming President Akio Toyoda said about the company founded by his grandfather: It has gotten too fancy for its own good.

Driven by the goal of “…becoming the world’s largest auto maker…” and “high operating-profit objectives”, Toyota presumed that American consumers would be willing to pay a premium pricing for a Toyota – a change from the long-held strategy of pricing cars at a value. Toyota’s recent new features have also occasionally been out of character with the company’s utilitarian roots e.g. a recent solar powered ventilation system designed to keep the interior cool when parked. Such gizmos have pushed the Pricing above its value price-point.

North American dealers recently told Mr. Toyoda that, “premium pricing was the wrong way to go. Toyota had built an image of sturdy affordability, but now they were wrecking it”.

As a result, consider some recent evidence:
• Toyota is expecting its first annual net loss in 59 years
• May shutter factories in Japan and North America
• Might be faced with its first layoffs since 1950

Mr. Toyoda blames more than just the recession: he is sending a message that his “predecessors worsened the problem by straying from Toyota’s core ideas of thrift and efficiency”.

Michael Porter identifies 2 essential sources of Competitive Advantage:

Differentiation: you offer a product/service with unique attributes that are valued by your customers; you charge a premium for the uniqueness of your offering
Cost Advantage: you are the leading low-cost producer in your market segment at a given level of quality

Importantly, focusing on either of the above is the mantra to sustainable success – otherwise you are likely stuck in the middle and offer nothing unique to any market segment.

Which brings us to the important question: why do businesses and brands stray from the focus areas of their businesses and operations? That which generates their Core Competency, their Unique Selling Proposition , their Competitive Advantage and their Barriers for Entry?

It seems an easy answer that, if you achieve success doing something, you must continue doing exactly that – and, in doing so, get better at what gives you your sustainable Competitive Advantage, thereby making it a perpetual model.

There are any number of reasons why brands and companies are pressured and tempted to do so, a leading one being to extend their brand equities to larger (and often more diverse) market segments to drive company growth and shareholder profit. Toyota appears to have become muddled with becoming “the worlds largest auto-maker” and “drive record operating-profits.” Nothing wrong with those objectives – however, in trying to achieve that, Toyota tried to shift its brand upwards and, as a result, out of its targeted segment.

But, straying from the original game plan means diluting the formula (your Value Proposition, Customer Segments, Pricing, Communication) that made you successful in the first place. Of course, keeping your ear to the market and staying flexible (especially in today’s global competitive scenario) is equally important – but not at the cost of losing sight, and focus, on the original attributes of your success.

In Toyota’s case, it is already the largest car manufacturer in the world, with deep levels of penetration in global markets. Around now, they do start to look at the Business Objective of increasing Profit-per-Unit sold – and that can often be contradictory to a company’s Brand Objectives. However, those pros and cons and that optimal path forward are part of another discussion. For this article, let’s stay focused on Focus ☺

To illustrate (click on diagram to enlarge):

So, for all you Small-Business-Owners, Inventors and Businesses-Looking-To-Grow: what pointed questions should you ask yourselves to make sure that you’re focusing on the relevant issues? Try these as a start:

• What do I do well? Is that central to my offering?
• Do I do it better than my competitors and the currently available options?
• Can I be copied? Bettered? If yes, what of my existence? If no, what can I do to keep it that way?
• Does my Business Model make sense? Why do I use it? Is it efficient? Sustainable?
• What are the curves ahead? Changes in Market/Customer Needs? New Inventions as options and substitutes? How can I stay relevant?

Have fun answering,
Cheers!

References:
1. Wall Street Journal: A Scion Drives Toyota Back to Basics.
2. Michael Porter, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.


Are you excited for CHANGE? 5 How to tips to implement change now!

By perksconsulting |

The glitz, glamour, and excitement of the new year are beginning to wear off. But with the inauguration of president elect Barack Obama just days away there is much excitement for change. Harness this excitement for your professional gain.

What changes are you making for the new year?
If you have change initiatives in place, set yourself up for successful implemention the these 5 tips to implement change. No idea where to start? It’s time to give yourself some change initiatives. Use the tips below or reference the January 6th post on Clearing the Professional Closet: Start. Stop. Continue.

1. Get Back to the Basics.
Each of us an individuals have the power to make changes professionally, regardless of the size of organization or the position you hold. What small changes can you implement? Or what changes will make the most positive impact? For businesses, customer service is crucial. Are you taking care of your customers? In this economy, keep track of your new business pipeline is crucial? Do you know what work or orders your firm has lined up? What opportunities might be available to increase the pipeline? These are fundamental to every business and a great place to start!

2. Prioritize.
The easiest way to make changes is to prioritize what changes you are looking to tackle. Then start at the top of your list. We often try to be superman or superwoman, when it comes to change we often fail because we fail to prioritize and set realistic goals. Set your sights on one change at a time. Once you’ve successfully implemented and maintained the change move on to the next on your priority list.

3. Break it down.
Take the most important change you are looking to make and break down into manageable bite size chunks. Breaking down a larger goal or project gives you constant benchmarks to keep you on track. What’s more, it ensures that the change as a whole looks and feels more manageable. Without short-term goals for each phase or “bite” a task can seem too large and deemed impossible. Give yourself a break, see the end goal and then break it down!

4. Ask for help.
If you’re having a hard time seeing the big picture don’t be afraid to ask for help. We often want to put on strong face and try to tackle our toughest problems solo. If there are changes you are looking to make create a list of the changes, and ask for help prioritizing the changes and breaking them down into manageable pieces. Outside perspectives can help a great degree in this regard as they are not personally attached to the situation.

Don’t have anyone in your network you can ask?
Post a question to our blog, find a business coach, or hop on a forum online to get additional advise.

5. Believe in Change!
This is the most important. You must believe deeply and passionately about the change you are looking to make. You must constantly remind yourself why the change is important and that you have the will power and tenacity to make it happen.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
Barack Obama

What changes are you making this year?


Have you cleaned out your professional closet?

By perksconsulting |

And I don’t mean your office supply cabinet or your ever expanding file cabinet. Have you taken stock of what worked in 2008? If not, there’s no better time than the new year! As you are making your personal resolutions, and setting your professional agenda for the year dig beyond the surface to determine what changes need to be made to ensure 2009 is a success.

During the month of January Perks Consulting will be focusing on what you as business, owners, managers, and employees can do to clear the clutter. A “Best-Practice” in business consulting requires an analysis of what is missing, what is not working, and what is working. A drill we often do internally and with our clients, simply put is: Start. Stop. Continue.

Start.
What is missing? There are always things that can have been overlooked or have been pushed to the side due to a lack of resources. The new year, is the perfect time to assess what things have been put on hold. Second to that, it is time to ask yourself and your colleagues: what can we be doing that we have not?

Stop.
So how do you make way for the items you just decided you need to start doing? Yes, that’s right. It’s time to evaluate what you have been doing and determine which tasks, projects, or strategies you have been working on tirelessly with little or no positive results. Cut the fat, this year and eliminate what is not working.

Continue.
This is a test of the tried and true! In your new year analysis when you are determining what has not been working you will and should uncover what you have been doing and what things are yielding the best results. Put your focus on the things that have been delivering time after time!

The core of what has been working will give you stability to cut away the fat and add strategic opportunities, Give this drill a try. You’re sure to find a couple things in each category where you can make improvements. We’d love to hear your feedback or questions. Did this drill help you? Your organization? If so, how?