I was out the other day catching up with a good friend of mine when he made a statement that I thought was powerful. In our case it was referring to a company that we had spent some time together, but maybe it will ring true for you in an organization you may have or still may work at today.

In any successful organization it is key for all the functional areas to be working together. Marketing, sales, procurement/ finance, manufacturing (where applicable) and a few other that are around to support the ultimate goal of success depending what success is for that organization. Over the last several years working well together has become increasingly challenging as organizations are challenged to keep manufacturing facilities manufacturing or keeping employees employed to achieve success. The definition of success often depends on where you are sitting within the organization and when there isn’t alignment around goals and objectives, things can go sideways. When each area focuses on their own goal without understanding the overarching goal, the results tend to suffer. If the finance/procurement teams are focused on keeping the costs down and buying the cheapest raw materials or marketing material, it can inadvertently eliminate the story for the marketers to market or the sales guys to sell. When the marketing function thinks that what they do is more important to the brand than sales or finance you usually end up with a bunch of activities that build the longer term health (no guarantees) of the brand, but there are no funds left for sales.  The finance guys end up wondering why the numbers aren’t coming in. Finally, if the sales guys focus only on their goal, which usually requires distribution and throughput (including discounting), but don’t worry about the cost or the brand strategies you can usually keep the boat a float in the short term, but the long term health of the brand will suffer.

As of late it seems that many organizations have been defaulting to having the finance team lead in order to count the beans.  The only issue becomes that it is a short path to the bottom (unless short term success is the ultimate goal). No offence to the finance folks out there, but if the true objective is to keep the company afloat in the long run, step back and look at the big picture. It is great that you can deliver the bottom line numbers, but at what expense. Are the brands still delivering great experiences, are the sales guys able to get the product into the right stores and in the hands of key influencers to try? Do the marketers have investments in sort and long term brand building activities? Without investment in those as part of any strategy there will soon be no beans to count and everyone will be looking for a new place to do their work.  Don’t let self interest (be it money or praise) get the best of you. Work together to achieve the team success. That way everyone wins and the long term prognosis should be good for the brand, the team and the organization.

Cheers,

Pete

So, you may have noticed the other day I posted my first blog in over a year. It has been a busy 12 months and even longer since I closed my consulting business to focus on another incredible opportunity that presented itself to me. Due to the amount of time that it took to build my understanding of the new business and the role that I played in it, my blog took a back seat even though it was the fun side of my consulting business. Well the time has come to delve back into the blog and to put some focus back on one of the creative things that I truly love to do.

I wanted to take a minute to restate the purpose of my blog other than just being an outlet for me to be challenged, supported and critiqued for some of the thoughts that I put out there. My consulting work and my passion for many years had been the customer experience and it is still something that I am truly passionate about as part of my new role and as a consumer every day. The blog was to help consumers understand that they had choices for their hard working dollars and should not accept a bad experience when there are so many other businesses that would bend over backwards to earn their trust, respect and loyalty. Often times the blogs encouraged consumers to take the leap, do the leg work and make the move versus sticking with the existing business that was counting on us not to make the effort. On the business side of the customer experience it was about pointing things out to businesses that provided great customer experiences and those that didn’t. For those that did well it was my pleasure to share the amazing things with my followers, even if it was the smallest of things, as they often are the things that make the difference. On the not so good side, I would tell the story and then make a suggestion or two (usually with a little humour) that I thought might help those businesses improve their experience and ultimately keep their customers. You can see what specific experience drove me to start my business and blog by looking back at one of my first blogs here http://www.bomberconsult.com/?s=dry+cleaner&x=0&y=0.

One addition to my original focus moving forward will be things that may not speak directly to the customer experience, but something that has motivated me to sit down and pull some thoughts together, like the RBC blog.  In the world we are in today I think one of our biggest risks is to remain silent while the world passes us by. As times presumably get tougher moving forward I believe the silent majority will start to rally and begin to speak up. Remaining silent will allow others to impact the comfort of our lives and I prefer to be a part of that conversation. Hopefully I can help rally others to stand up and make a difference as well.

Thanks for your support!

Cheers,
Pete

So, the Royal Bank has come out and apologised for outsourcing some business to an organization that was using foreign workers to facilitate some of its IT work. The effect of the move was that 45 Canadians would lose their roles at the bank….hmmm.

So who’s to blame? Gord Nixon or the bank? The tech company hired to do the work? The RBC employees for not doing a good enough job or not being productive enough? I am sure there would be people that would argue on any of these fronts, but I want to propose that there is someone else responsible for these continued stories of outsourcing, layoffs, downsizings, corporate restructuring or any other word that you want to use for a reduction in the workforce at any company.

YOU. (I include myself in the YOU, but YOU sounds more powerful than WE in this case.)

It’s a complex situation with many other variables (which I would like to expand on in future blogs), but specifically it is anyone who owns shares in a company (or a mutual fund) and continues to demand/expect high quarterly growth or share price increases and dividends without considering the consequences in the short and long term. You see, once sales start to drop (which is happening in just about every company in every sector) there are only a few ways for companies to maintain their profitability in order to keep YOU happy. First, as most companies have already done, you strip out all the fat in your logistics, production and any other cost centre that you may have. Once that is done you start to investigate other areas that create massive amounts of stress within organizations…How about cutting unique aspects of your product out or cutting back on the quality?… Not a good idea. How about cutting your marketing budget and hoping that it won’t affect sales?…I might suggest that it is more about the type of marketing that you are using that may be the issue, but in general if you cut your budget you are less likely to maintain awareness with the buying public…Also, not a good thing. Finally (and not always the last choice), how about cutting some staff or outsourcing to save money?…Well, obviously that doesn’t go over so well with those folks who are directly impacted, but even those that are left behind (I know there is a syndrome named after this) have all of the work that was in the hands of the fired employees dumped on them with no pay increase and no increase in the hours that they have available to get the job done. Outsourcing has a similar effect on the people removed, but the work is…supposedly…passed to others and in this case, the jobs left the country. Whatever choice the company makes, it usually cuts at the core of what and who the company once was, but those in the leadership roles who are most often motivated by short term incentives as well, really are not worried about the long term health of the organization.

In the short term there is upset and anger within the people that have been personally impacted by the downsizing/outsourcing etc. This creates personal stress, family stress, stress within their circle and it all leads to additional issues in society.  The assumption would be that there will be a period of time until these people are able to find a new place to work (if at all) and as a result will change their spending habits, buying less of everything, potentially increasing their debt and adding to the overall risk that they face. This extends to be a risk to our country’s finances should inflation and/or interest rates go up having another negative impact on the segment of the population caught in this growing group.

In the long term, if this type of action happens in more and more companies (open your eyes, it’s happening all around us) and more and more people face the same impact as the individuals above, then it means a lot less people buying a lot less of everything which completes the ugly cycle that we are in right now. Less people with jobs buying less of everything, those with jobs buying fewer products because they think they are next and the companies selling less of everything as a result…and what happens next?  These companies then fire more people to maintain their shrinking profit margins and the cycle begins all over again. It just keeps getting worse unless we start to do something about it.

So what is the solution? Well I am certainly no Einstein, Marx or Keynes and I am certainly not against people working hard and being rewarded for it, but it seems to me we all need to accept less. We need to understand that by accepting less individually (that includes the greedy individuals at the top of organizations making gazillions – when is enough, enough?) we all win as a society.  We need to see that a greater separation between the haves and the have nots is only going to increase the stress and pressure amongst us. That continuing to worry about the Jones’ and buying into continued consumerism will only require more access to money and we will continue to pressure organizations to keep filling our pockets (and theirs) with profits driven by the exact things that drove Gord Nixon and the leadership at RBC to make the decision that they did to outsource the IT roles…even though their first quarter profit for 2013 was 2.7BILLION dollars. Yep, first quarter.

So here is what you and we can do. The next time you show up to your Shareholder’s meeting or have an opportunity to discuss or impact any organization’s direction in whatever role you play, think twice about downsizing or outsourcing as a means to maintain double digit quarterly returns. For those of you who may not be in tight with such business decisions, speak up when you see other situations like the one at RBC. The more light that is placed on these issues in all businesses and industries the more likely it will be that organizations may reset their priorities to include the population that they ultimately serve and who buy their products.  In the world we are in today, the growth numbers of the past couple decades are not sustainable (of course there will be some exceptions) and if we don’t reset our expectations (profit and lifestyle), more Canadians than ever will be out of work, the government will have less people to tax and pay for what will be a growing need for services and we will ALL be worse off.

BUT, let me say this…There might actually be a beautiful golden pot at the end of this not so beautiful rainbow. If we can all (and it must be everyone simultaneously or it will fail) shift our expectations, accept that the past is the past and that the future will be different in how we value our life and lifestyles, if we can accept that he with more toys does not win and that work life balance really is a goal that is worthy of a achievement, we may actually create an even better society that is full of people who think about one another, share their wealth and take the time to smell the roses.

Fingers crossed.

Cheers,

Pete

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A few weeks back I was watching everyone’s favourite weatherman, Jeff Hutchison, on Canada AM as he introduced viewers to a recent posting on You Tube from a small book store on Queen Street West (Type bookstore 883 Queen Street West) in Toronto. You can check out this video on You Tube at  http://youtu.be/SKVcQnyEIT8. The video had been viewed over 600,000 times at that point and now is just under 3M views. Over a 24 hour period I saw print and television spots on the content and you can only imagine the media value that this little store created by crafting a unique and inspiring video that captures people hearts, minds and passion for books. Great work at driving awareness and  potential customers by engaging them in great content.

 Lancaster Ltd is another company I have worked with that does this really well. They are a history driven company that creates content that dives into the stories of its partners and then uses social media to drive the interest and engagement to get the message out. Their use of videos, interviews, photo shoots and their garments, often create unexpected results… This past Movember they connected their friend Snoop Dogg with Movember to ‘Keep it Neat’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cH8DdsmOow

 Most recently they launched a tribute film to Muhammad Ali on his 70th birthday. They connected current fighters, legends, and again, Hip Hop Icon Snoop Dogg. You can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi0zyAI4GNI

 In an ever changing landscape these guys have evolved into a company that is building great content to engage consumers in a very unique way. You can check out their website and some of the amazing content that they have created to date at www.lancasterltd.com.  They understand that spending money and time up front to authentically engage consumers, in expectation of driving authentic engagement and loyalty, is the way of the future for brands. Pull vs. Push.

 The two examples above really have to make you wonder about the organizations who continue to push their message out to consumers. The push is usually an easier sell to senior management as you can buy GRP’s and show wonderful charts to justify the spend and you don’t have to load up on department of young wizards that know more about social media than most. What the Type book store, Lancaster Ltd. and a few others have done is changed the landscape. They are leading with the consumer value. Giving the consumer what they are looking for (even sometimes things they didn’t even know they wanted) in exchange for their interest and loyalty, not making the consumer pay to allow them to be loyal as a result.

 The future is bright for the consumer and for those businesses that understand the difference and make the effective change of engaging their customers.

 Cheers,

Pete