How the NFL Draft is Like Selecting a New AMS Solution

Research, research, research...backed by evidence that what you read, heard, and saw was REAL! We promise to go into much greater detail over the next few days, but if you really want to learn how to avoid picking the "wrong quarterback" you should join us for a thought-provoking panel discussion about CRM and AMS solutions followed by libations. Grab a couple of people from your organization and get tickets to this intimate event. Click here for tickets.

Smartphones and Age Discrimination

First, my apologies to all of you smartphone manufacturers, distributors, and everyone else in the smartphone supply chain. I understand that none of you are intentionally discriminating against the over 50 years old, but your devices cannot help it. If you are under fifty you probably don't understand, unless you have "old" eyes.

If you have the eyesight of a fifty year old you know what I'm talking about. The screens are getting smaller, some now are growing a little bit, but certainly not approaching the size of my 22" monitor! The trend is to do more on your smartphone, but is that really happening with the fifty-plus set?I think not. The growth in smartphone use is definitely happening with the 13-19, 20-29, and probably even the 30-39 year old demographics because they can still see the screens that they are using.

Now to be fair to the smartphone manufacturers, they have figured out how to make the font size grow in the texting and e-mail applications. Most of them do a decent job with the presentation of websites, too. But once you increase the size so that you can read the print on your smartphone, it is ridiculous to try to navigate from one side of a web page to the other. Just in case you think I am just complaining, I'm not. I really just want to point out to all of those twenty somethings that in another 25-30 years, they won't be able to use their smartphones the same way as they do today. But there might be a solution.

Now if I was a brilliant software engineer, I would have already developed this solution. The problem as I see it is two-fold. First, the most brilliant software engineers have great eyesight, so this problem is not anywhere on their radar. Secondly, the growth in smartphones is not with the over fifty crowd, but is in the 13-29 years old's control. But I do have an idea.

What if there was a way to project a holographic image of your phone screen? You could resize it as you saw fit. Now, since I already told you I'm not a software engineer, I have no idea how you would "click" on something that is a hologram. I'll leave that up to the brilliant engineer that wants to capture the hearts and minds of us older folks. So when you see this new technology, remember that you heard it here first. And maybe send me a dollar, since I probably earned zilch for this fantastic idea!

How Do You Decide Which Car To Buy?

The first thing that comes to my mind when looking for a new car is…do I really have to do this? Until I am searching for a ultra high performance sports car, it will remain one of my most undesirable things to do. And I know the reason why. 

It is not that car sales people haven't changed (improved) over time, they have…thank goodness. It is not that cars haven't continually added great new features, what you can get on a car today is close to science fiction improvements. BUT the reason that I still detest looking for a new car is the outside-in approach that almost every car dealer utilizes to sell cars. They start with What the car does and not with Why do they make the car in the first place.

If they would start with why they made the car that I'm looking at, that would inspire me. Inspire me to make a purchase and I might even spend more money on a car with similar features, but a more interesting and inspiring why. There are very few people that I know that don't get excited about the Tesla. It has a fantastic WHY. Independence from oil and the countries that control much of our supply. A better environment for today and tomorrow. A statement that they believe in something contrarian to everything that we have known about the automobile. It is inspiring!

What can you do to change how your prospects and customers think about your organization? I would suggest that you read a great 2009 book by Simon Sinek, Start with Why. At the very least you should watch and listen to his TED talk in which he describes how to inspire people by starting with why before you get to the "what" you do. This process will help you go beyond how you are differentiated and increase your results beyond your imagination. I hope that you will consider figuring out your why and then let everyone know what it is.

Our WHY is to help organizations make sense of all of their technology choices so that they will make great decisions. We want people to feel less intimidated by technology and leverage it in ways that help them become more successful.

Let us know what your WHY is.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving...Thoughts to carry throughout the year

This time of year always makes me think of how thankful I am for so many blessings. It is also a time of year that I become more acutely aware of the strife that others are facing.

We are all getting phone calls from various charitable organizations asking for help in the form of money or time or both. The challenge for me is which organizations should I help during this coming year. The easy ones are those that hit closest to home; an illness that has struck a loved one, an organization in my backyard that helps my neighbors, and the local schools that are trying to do good in so many ways. But who else should I help? There are so many in need.

As heart-wrenching as it may be, I have only so much time and money that I can give. Some will not get my help, but I have to force myself to focus on those that I can help. I am sharing this list with you not to promote my good deeds, but to expose you to some very worthwhile organizations that you might want to help, too! 

PADS Lake County (http://www.padslakecounty.org)
They provide homeless families with a safe place to live and the guidance to help them get out of the cycle of homelessness by providing counseling and other important services for the entire family.

Feed My Starving Children (http://www.fmsc.org/
They are committed to feeding severely hungry children around. Their approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and they ship these meals to nearly 70 countries around the world.

University of Miami Scholarships
The money is used specifically to help students in need and allows them to get a terrific college education.

Stevenson Foundation (http://stevensonfoundation.org)
They support student scholarships for outstanding graduating seniors, the Kids in Need Fund, innovation grants, and many other worthwhile endeavors at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL.

Goodwill (http://www.goodwill.org)
They strive to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by helping people reach their full potential through education, skills training and the power of work.

AMVETS (http://www.ilamvets.org)
Supporting our veterans when they return home with a variety of services to improve their lives.

Alzheimer's Association (http://www.alz.org)
They are advancing research to end Alzheimer's and dementia while enhancing care for those living with the disease.

Children's Miracle Network (http://cmnwi.org)
Their mission is to generate funds and awareness programs for the benefit of children served by its associated hospitals, now numbering more than 170 nationwide.

American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org)
Helping to find cures and helping people who live with cancer every day.

I hope that you will find the time and money to help others. And let people know who you are helping; not to promote the good that you are doing, but to introduce people that may know you about some great organizations that they might be compelled to help, too. 

College Football and Business - Lessons That Can Be Learned

I love watching college football. I am writing this at almost midnight while watching a West coast game whose teams I don't really know and have no deep interest in the final outcome. I just love watching the momentum shifts, the adjustments that are made, and the coaches that talk about "their" kids on the field. I also think it is the balance between players that have been coached for years and have excellent skills and that 99% of them are doing it for the love of the game. It could also be the exuberant student sections that run onto the field after their team beats a higher ranked team. Now why I am writing about this, except to just continue to expound about how great college football is? 

Well, I cannot help but think about how a great football team and it's fans compare to great companies and their "fans" or customers. To me there are a couple important lessons that can be learned from college football and applied quite effectively to business. The first is the coaching and training and practice that happens continuously in the pursuit of excellence. The second is how raving fans are created by exceeding their expectations. 

Now I can tell you that when I am helping an organization implement new software, I always...yes, always emphasize the importance of training and education for every user. My clients that follow this advice typically have a much higher level of user adoption than those that think they can skimp on training and education. Now what about your organization? It doesn't need to be only about new technology, ask yourself honestly about the effort that your company takes regarding coaching, training and educating employees. Now I get it, you don't just play a game on Saturdays, so that the rest of the week can be singularly focused on coaching and training like a college football team. But there is definitely time during the week that can be invested in your people. Put an ongoing education plan together and you will see the results of your efforts in more satisfied employees, improved decision making and increased efficiencies. 

You may have heard the story about the CFO who went to the CEO to explain why a portion of their budget (training and education) should be cut. He explained his rational through his fear of employees that get smarter and smarter will leave for better opportunities, so why should they invest all this money in them just to see them leave. The CEO responded by saying, "what if we stop training and educating them and they STAY!" 

So what about the creation of "raving fans" for your business. There is almost no organization that is not facing the possibility that their product or service is being considered more and more a commodity. So exceeding people's expectations can be the only way to keep them loyal to your company. Think about the cell phone industry. It is hard to say that most phones today do just about the same things as every other phone. So how do you explain the phenomenon of the tents and huge lines outside just about every Apple store prior to the release of their latest phone. They have raving fans. They have earned them by exceeding their expectations.  

What are you doing to exceed your customers' expectations?  Is your team creating raving fans like the Alabama Crimson Tide? Are you recruiting the best possible people that you can? Are you coaching them to be extraordinary in everything that they do? Are your competitors shaking their heads in disbelief of what you "bring" every day. I suggest that you start and end with your people. They can influence your results in ways that you cannot even imagine if you give them the coaching, training and education that moves them to the next level. 

Good luck this season in winning your industry's championship. 

How long, how much; ERP questions

Are you considering a new ERP system for your company? Have you asked the questions; how long will it take to implement and how much will it cost in dollars and resources? If you have, you are probably still wondering what the real answer is. We have heard such a wide range of answers that it only begs asking more questions. You should know the answers to these questions before embarking on an ERP journey.

We'd like to offer some "rule of thumb" guidelines to help answer these questions. First, it depends on a few criteria:

  1. How many companies will be reporting financials in the new system?
  2. How many physical locations will be accessing the software?
  3. How many office users (people that are in sales, purchasing, inventory management, manufacturing, customer service, accounting, management, and others who will need regular access to the system)?
  4. How many people from your company do you plan to have on the implementation team?
  5. Will the implementation team devote 100% or some other percentage of their time on the implementation? (most of our clients have a team that commits to 10-25% of their time to the project)
  6. Do you have an employee with strong project management skills that will manage the project?

So, as you can see, there are some variables to consider before someone can give you a solid answer. We would be happy to give you specific answers based on your answers to these questions. Just send us a quick message through our website's contact us form. 

Let's take a look at an example company:

Manufacturer of widgets
$50MM in sales
200 employees

  1. This is a single company reporting financials under one federal ID number.
  2. Three locations - one main plant, two distribution centers.
  3. 75 people will be accessing the system. There are an additional 10 manufacturing cells reporting labor and the distribution centers each have 5 handheld devices for picking and packing.
  4. Eight people will be on the implementation team. 
  5. The team will devote 20% of their time to the project. Some work will be back-filled and other work may need to be done in off hours.
  6. We will contract for a project manager because we don't have any employees with the experience or time to manage the project.

Based on the example above, you should consider budgeting the following:

Q:  How long will the implementation take?  
A:  9-12 months

Q:  How much will it cost?
A:  The software will be approximately $4,000-5,000 per user and the implementation should be about $3,000-4,000 per user. This is assuming core manufacturing and distribution functionality. Adding engineering, quality and warehouse management modules may add some cost to both of these estimates.

Q:  How many hours of internal resources will be required?
A:  While the effort will ebb and flow, using the 20% effort that the team agreed to commit to on the project, that comes to about 8-10 hours per week for the 9-12 months.

If these numbers have not given you a mild stroke, then onward and upward. Here is a series of articles we recently wrote about the ERP journey that may help you navigate.

Software Selection - Part 1
Software Selection - Part 2
Software selection - Part 3

As always, if you want any degree of our help in either the selection or implementation of your next ERP system, please don't hesitate to ask. 

Are Referrals an Effective Marketing Strategy?

We've been talking to some very smart people, perhaps you are one of those we have recently talked to. The topic we were discussing was the value of strategic, purposeful business networking. But the real deep down subject matter was referral-based sales systems. We are proud, yes proud to say that 99% of our client base was created through referrals. When we first started to measure this statistic, we were doing so to help us figure out what type of marketing and sales efforts we should deploy to continue to grow our client base.

We came to realize and then had reinforced by those very smart people that we had been talking to was that our marketing and sales efforts should continue to focus on building a strong referral network. It is important to note that we do not pay commissions to our referrers. They refer us because they know that we will do everything in our power to exceed the expectations of anyone that we are referred to. So what are you doing to build your referral base? 

  • Are you accepting every invitation to a business function that hits your in box?
  • Have you joined a group of synergistic people that you can help with their business development plans as much as they can help you with yours?
  • Is the chamber of commerce the right place for you to be investing your networking time?
  • Are you active in trade associations that are relevant to your business?
  • Are you just waiting for the right networking opportunity to come your way?

If your normal business efforts build long-term relationships with your customers or clients then you should highly consider networking as one of your most important marketing initiatives. But don't expect immediate results. Building a referral network takes time. People need to develop trust in you and that doesn't typically happen overnight. That is the one reason that your current customer or client base is your best opportunity for referrals. They know your organization and what you deliver. They probably know people that are in similar positions  at other companies. This fact alone makes them excellent referral sources. 

Let us know what you are doing to drive strong referrals to your business. We would love to share your success stories with others.

Is Your Technology Helping Your Organization Grow?

The first thing that goes through most executives' minds when thinking about technology that can help grow their business is CRM. Customer Relationship Management gets top billing because of its emphasis on the sales side of the organization. Certainly not a bad place to start, but it should not be the only aspect of technology that you consider when trying to leverage technology in growing your business.

So if CRM is on your mind, how do you figure out which solution is the best for your company? Start with a review of your BEST sales processes. We say best because sales people have a tendency to not like to follow a strict process, so if you have 10 sales people, you probably have 10 different sales processes. Now we are not saying that your sales people must follow a strict process, but we can tell you that the highest performing sales teams do, in fact, have a proven process that is followed most of the time. It is also important to point out that CRM is not just technology, but it is how you want to interact with your prospects and customers. So as you look at technology, first consider how your sales people will communicate with your prospects and customers. This may help you narrow your choices down as you find certain technology that your team will adopt more easily and will have a more immediate positive impact on your sales efforts.

As you move your thoughts of growth beyond a CRM strategy and technology. There are other technologies that can have a positive impact on your growth. Here are some other technologies to keep top of mind as you pursue your growth plans.

  • Forecasting software
  • Warehouse management software
  • Redeveloping your website
  • Social media software

If you want some guidance regarding the above mentioned technologies, just let us know. In future blogs, we will dive into each in some detail to help you determine if one is the right one for you to pursue.

E-mail: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

It is hard to deny e-mail's place in the corporate communication world, but is it helping or hurting truly effective communication? I think it all depends on how it is being utilized.

You can call it a pet peeve of mine, but the proliferation of "reply all" is bloating e-mail boxes across the globe. You know what I'm talking about. The moment someone sends an e-mail and includes a cc: to anyone else, those folks on the cc line are included in every little back and forth communication FOREVER! Now I get it, we have this need to keep everyone in the loop, we promote "transparency", "knowledge is power", "inclusion" and often "CYA". But really, is every little word important to everyone or is it much more of an interruption in what could have been a more productive day for the poor soul that was copied from the very beginning!

Now sometimes it is needed or even asked for. I have a couple of clients, whose president likes to know what is going on and has asked to be copied on all communications. I think that is different. This is more like opting in to an enewsletter as opposed to receiving an unsolicited enewsletter on the dangers of eating exotic flowers grown in the Amazon. So the next time you decide to add people to the cc line in an e-mail, ask yourself "Will this make their life better" or "Is this information that if they found out after the fact would they be very upset". 

Now on the opposite side of this spectrum is the no response. I'm sure it has happened to you and perhaps you have actually been the one not responding, but really this is all about being polite and respectful of other people.

I'm not talking about the spam that we all receive in bucket loads. I'm talking about the e-mail from a colleague that sent you information that you requested and then you didn't let them know with a two-word response that you received the information..."thank you". Now this may seem trite, but really it is all about manners and good etiquette that you were taught when you were eight years old. Using those words, please and thank you. OK, so you might be thinking first you say to stop including everyone in your department or company on e-mails and now you want me to push back another e-mail just to let them know that I got their e-mail. Right! It is just the courteous thing to do. Think about it...what if someone was standing right in front of you and told you about an important new initiative at the company. Would you just blankly stare at them or would you say "thanks for this information, I really appreciate learning about it". So why wouldn't you do that via e-mail?

Now I have one more e-mail protocol to toss out there. This relates to the whole please and thank you theme, but it relates to people outside of your company. Let's say that you had requested a proposal from an outside consulting firm. You explained that the due date for the proposal was the last day of the month. Now their proposal comes in on time...what do you do? Right!! Send a quick thank you for the proposal and if you are very polite you might even tell them the next steps in your process. Remember, you asked them to send you something. Granted, they are trying to earn your business, but if you are really interested in working with them in the future, do you want to give them the impression that you are not polite. This just recently happened to me.

An organization reached out to us based on a referral and asked us to submit a proposal for our services. The first thing we did (I know obviously) was to thank them for the opportunity. Then we asked if we could meet them at our expense to learn more about them before submitting a proposal. They gladly accepted our offer. We met, got to know each other better and decided that it would be consulting work that we could perform rather successfully. We then submitted our proposal via e-mail. Oh no, you can see where this is going. We did NOT get a thank you. We then e-mail a couple of days later asking if they had any questions about our proposal...nothing in response. Then a phone call that went into voicemail. Again, no response. Then two more e-mails and still no response. Now you might say "I don't think they are selecting you to help them with their project". I know you are right, but what has also happened is that we DON'T want to work with them either because of how impolite they were during this process. So you know what happened?

About forty-five days after the proposal was due, we got an e-mail. You got selected to move to the next stage in our decision process. You know what we did...we politely declined to proceed. Now you might think...idiot! They could very well select RTG to help them. I know, but life is short and we would rather work with people we think are polite and fun to work with rather than those that forgot what their moms taught them when they were eight years old.

 

Software - Living in the Cloud

Software is taking over the skies...in the cloud, that is. We talk with companies every day that never thought they would be doing anything in the cloud but are there today.

The number of applications that are living outside the four walls of businesses today is mind-boggling. So is this a trend or a fad? Is this just for the 20 somethings or does it have no age boundaries? Are the security fears subsiding or are they just building silently until one day they will just explode?

We think the answers are:

The cloud or having software hosted outside your home or business is a trend and not a fad. The momentum is so strong that in 10 years it will be hard to remember when we actually had software ON a particular device.

Using cloud based software is for everyone. My mom, who is just over 80 years young is using cloud based e-mail, g-mail, although I think she does believe that it is on her computer. But isn't that the goal? Software should feel as though it is right there in front of us even when it may be hosted hundreds of miles away.

As far as security is concerned, there are always risks, but in our estimation the risks are far less with companies whose primary source of revenue is providing cloud based solutions. Is your current server room (if you even have a server room and not just an air conditioned closet) protected with biometric entry security and halon fire protection and 24/7 conditioned power...probably not.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Let us know what software you are using that is in the cloud. Tell us how it is working for you. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly so that everyone becomes better educated about the direction that software is headed.