Save your energy for the “right” battles!

I have seen too many people fighting battles, wasting resources and impoverishing the end results, just for the pleasure of winning. In other words, engaging in “lost” battles. And what are “lost” battles? You are asking. Well, lost battles are all of those situations that one cannot change and that are not critical to achieve the end goal. Imagine the following situation, you are implementing a project and suddenly something that puts the project at risk happens. How do you react? Would you prefer to fight to revert the situation although you have to spend more resources; or would you prefer to “lose” that battle by not engaging in reverse it but instead use your time and resources to find an alternative way so that you can be able to deliver alike results with no additional “pain” (higher costs, miss deadlines, etc) ? As a manager, I have seen too many situations where people fought just for the sake of winning, ending up with a missed Goal and higher costs. I also know that not engaging in a battle it is not as straightforward as we would like it to be. Securing the “war” it is much more important than winning a battle, unless that battle is critical to winning the “war”. Thinking in the long-term and focusing on the big pictur are, at least for me, “right” moves if you want to achieve goals, otherwise you may be wasting resources and increasing the likelihood of missing the goal.

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Attention: doing business domestically is not the same as going abroad!

ImageDoing business domestically is not the same as going abroad, new challenges and issues will arise and they can easily break your business if not controlled. Thus, it is of the utmost importance that you fully understand what is at stake and which aspects will differ from your domestic business. By listing and analysing this new challenges and differences you will be protecting yourself from unexpected costs and risks that may lead you to losses rather than profits. Sorry for me being blunt, but along the times I have seen too many amazing products and businesses failing to succeed due to this kind of mistakes – bad forecast of costs and revenues; fail to master the documents and licenses needed, payment methods, and sales conditions used in international trade.Therefore, I am here today to introduce you a checklist of domains you should cover while doing your business case for your export operation.

In order to do it in a systematized way and saving time, I like to divide the checklist into four main areas and although there is no special order or preference, I prefer to start with the Management  and HR, followed by Marketing, Operations, and end with Finance – as you can see in the figure.

Management and HR you should assess everything impacting the way you manage and organise your business domestically: extra time to start-up the export operation, new organizational needs, new decision-making processes, and new activities that you will need to implement. IP rights along with special licenses are aspects underestimated that can easily put your business in a tough position. Human Resources are also critical, assessing the key personnel and special training needs for this new venture is therefore crucial. You should start asking if the actual team is enough in quantity, skills and competences, and what kind of training they, and you, will need.

Marketing, in this area you should assess everything related to the market and the differences of going to an international market. Exporting is highly challenging because you need to find new markets and customers, and therefore it is critical to have information and data. Assessing the kind of Market Intelligence you will need, in oder to comprehend how the market operates, the customers’ needs and habits, and the local way of doing business is critical. Along with that you will also need to understand if your Product needs to be changed in order to penetrate the market. The Trade Marketing – sales materials, promotion campaigns, point-of-sale merchandising, and other materials and strategies – will probably need to be customised for the market. Along with this it is also important to understand that the trade marketing strategies and tactics will also need to be tailor-made for the market and region, and that may bring new needs. Cultural distance is a highly critical variable for any export business, understanding the market you are exporting its cultural differences it is crucial. I can tell you that this is one of the most underestimated aspects by the companies that can easily spoil the whole operation.

The third block of your export challenges checklist is the Operations side, in here I put everything related to executing on the field the business plan. Meaning, managing your production capacity and other special product customizations in time and linking it to an international supply chain that efficiently delivers your goods to the market, designing a distribution plan (distributors, reps, agents,etc) that meets your demands, preparing and handling special documentation and other needed certifications and licenses in order to be able to export and sometimes import your products into the new markets (depending on your distribution choice), and the needs for a tight project management and control of all the different variables involved when exporting. By project management I mean everything going from the moment you sell to the moment you deliver and collect the payment. A lot of small firms underestimate the importance of handling the part of collecting and sometimes delivering correctly what means not get paid in time or at all. As you know with the Incoterms is easier to be on the same page with your buyer concerning sales and payment conditions, and therefore is important to choose the correct Incoterm to use in the contract along with the correct execution otherwise it does not work.

The Financial aspects are the last but not the least export challenges in your checklist. Exporting means extra costs (trade marketing new needs, credit costs, transport costs, etc) different credit and payment methods, and extra risks (exchange rate, payment methods, default of payment, scams, etc). Thus, It is important that you understand all the changes so that you can have a competitive and profitable operation.

Be aware and prepared, and you will be fine. Good Luck!

The Art Of Brainstorming In The 21st century!

What I like more in the social media and all these internet and web stuff is the easiness of sharing, connecting and commenting on each others’ ideas. Social Media is doing its job and helping people getting more into sharing, communicating, and building up on others’ ideas. People is becoming more open to exercise their own creativity and innovatory abilities. People like to share and comment on other’s work, obviously that this is much easier today than it was a couple of years ago, nevertheless, this social change brought by the advancement in technology is boosting the whole phenomenon. Commenting, sharing and building up on other’s ideas is for me the basis of Brainstorming! Online or Offline, Brainstorming is a powerful tool and in my point of view, a competitive advantage for those doing it. Brainstorming has become a tool to generate a higher level of innovation and boost creativity. Honestly speaking I am a huge fun of brainstorms! I know that sometimes one ends up with a bunch of people trying to brainstorm and nothing happens. Though, the right question here is the Why! Why is it not working?

For several different reasons like, wrong people or place, or more important, wrong leader. So, another key question is, How can you take fully advantage of its amazing potential? For starters, Brainstorming only works if people is doing it in fully awareness of what it is at stake and able to speak freely. Meaning, only if you have a strong team spirit, a motivated team and you rewards their participation and willingness to share you will be able to profit from it. However, not having the “right” leader in charge of stirring, coordinating and conducting the whole meeting it is also a common and the most important mistakes! Even for brainstorms you need some order and rules, and nothing better to do that than having someone capable of leading the whole discussion. If you want to have a good, efficient, and fruitful brainstorming you must appoint a Leader to be in charge.

Another key question again, What kind of traits must be present in a Brainstorm Leader? In my point of view, first of all you will need someone with a good sense of what a Shaper and an Evaluator are. A Shaper will challenge people, be dynamic, provide the drive and courage to overcome obstacles and take some action. On the other side as an Evaluator, she will be sober, strategic, logical and more important she will see all the options and keep track on the good ones. And on top of everything, you will need someone who has a good sense of humor, a sharp common sense, an ability to stir ideas in order to think outside the box, a good moderator and communicator. Someone who knows how to ignite innovation and creativity, motivates people to build up on others ideas and suggestions, and more important someone who does not judge or inhibit people to take risks or share their opinions!

If Brainstorming can be seen as a competitive advantage, and I believe it can, companies must pay more attention to it and have better leaders to manage it. I have seen amazing brainstorm sessions where solutions are found, new ideas brought in to the table and a boost in creativity and innovation accomplished! If companies must innovate and be creative nothing better than start using social media to do it but also never forget to do it offline, in-house with your company’s employees. You will be surprised with what you end up with, an amazing set of creative and innovatory ideas.

Tip: Include brainstorming in your weekly tasks, do it at least once a week and you will see the changes after a couple of months! Your company will be much more open to new ideas, creating and innovating more, and your team will be more motivated and productive than ever.

Do not hesitate in contacting us if you want some more tips on Brainstorming or Share tips with us!

Similar Posts: Words for Starters, How much time would you like to invest innovating and creating?Don’t worry, Be creative!Being just a click away!Decisions: a headache or an opportunity?Vision, Strategy and Implementation! How About People?

Backwards or Forward?

Unfortunately, I keep seeing people, companies, institutions and governments trying to live backwards! Back to when they knew how things will happen and work or just when they felt more secure! Well, I regret to inform you but one cannot go back into those times, things have evolved, changed and now we live in a different time. Everything is faster, Innovation is the King and uniqueness the Queen. People is supposed to contribute in different ways, creating value not only as an employee or an owner. Individuals can do a lot of contribute, collaborate and share in a total different way and creating high value to the community. So, keep thinking backwards will not help you or your company. The sooner you acknowledge the world you are living in has changed, the sooner you will be able to build something new and add a higher value to you, but also to all of those supporting and collaborating with you.

The commencement of the 21st Century will be about innovation, technology, uniqueness, creativity and (global) collaboration! A faster pace for business and at same time a quest for quality will be also in demand. Trying to close your eyes and pretend that you still living in the 20th century will not help you and you will live bitter and unhappy live!

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago – A Premature Generation Gap! Can You Feel It? -, a new and faster generational gap is a reality and it is here to stay. A faster pace for change it is a recent phenomenon and it happens due to a quicker and “easier” innovatory and technological advancements. Everything is changing must faster meaning that, like I read on an amazing post at The Leadership Advisory Blog, wrote by William Powell – Adopt, Adapt or Adios! However, if you really want to be competitive and a leader of your industry you must also Innovate, Create and be Unique. 

One year ago I wrote How Do You Want To Play This New Game?, and I am still writing today about the same subject! Some people and companies are still not understanding that they have to chose between keeping looking backwards and live in the past; and learn form the past, move ahead, and manage forward!

Good luck! Ah, and move forwards!

Decisions: a headache or an opportunity?

I have been noticing lately that too many people face decision making with tremendous difficulty, like it was a headache or a negative thing…! Well, although I understand way people feel such a terrible pain, I could not disagree more with that behavior and negativism. Contrariwise, I look at decisions as an opportunity to do something differently or try something new. When I face a situation where I have to take a decision, I normally look at it as a positive thing rather then a headache!

As I mentioned in one of my latest posts – Stop the routine, before the routine stops youroutines can keep you off from being competitive, creative and also dynamic; three key traits for the 21st century. Routine can move you away from innovative paths and future oriented approaches, professionally or privately speaking. Decision-making can also be helpful and part of being creative, innovative or future-oriented! Entrepreneurship and Leadership is also about how to face decision-making, transforming this into opportunities. Opportunities to start something new or do something ordinary in a different and more competitive way. An entrepreneur should not let her company reach a point of no-turn-back, a position where it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to do a turnaround. Entrepreneurs and Leaders in general should be very attentive towards their company, avoiding being caught in a compromising situation such as a weak market positioning or an unappropriated team – a team with the wrong skills and profile. Decision-making situations along with a no-routine policy can help a company staying competitive and keeping a strong market positioning. So, in my viewpoint, decisions are an opportunity to do better, differently and fight routine back. Next time you face a decision-making situation look at it as an opportunity and not as a headache and you will see how great things can be when you have the adequate behavior toward situations like decision-making or routine stuations!

Decisions are opportunities, and opportunities are rare, so please take it wisely!

Diversity: the secret ingredient of success!

How important is diversity for your business? A question that any single entrepreneur should ask when starting a company. Nowadays it is quite common to hear companies saying out loud that they have a diversity policy regarding their people and teams. Though, I must say that too many times this is just a branding campaign made convey a message of “respect” by diversity to its key stakeholders. But, in some countries there are quotas ( a minimum percentage) that companies must fulfill regarding certain factors of discrimination, like gender or ethnicity. Nevertheless, a quota is just a quota, and unfortunately it does not change mentalities or real discrimination! Howsoever, it is some times the only way to achieve equal treatment and opportunity to everybody!

A more interesting approach to diversity can only happen after the acknowledgment of its positiveness toward human kind’s evolution. In my point of view, it is amazingly important what a company, a business, can gain with a strong and real diversity policy. However, for this to be truly accomplished, the Human Resources Department (aka People Department aka Human Capital Department aka other any name used for the department running the department related to everything related to people) should have a seat at the board of directors, the place where every single corporate and business strategy is discussed. Why? Well, how can a company define a business strategy without having a serious and well done analysis on the needs and impacts of it on the company’s most precious “asset”, its people? It is, in my viewpoint, impossible to define and implement a business strategy without having the responsible for the people strategy seated at the Board’s table discussing and brainstorming on the company’s key issues. I am leaving this subject for another post or posts, due to the complexity of the subject! I am now more interested in discussing a more specific subject: how can diversity be faced as a competitive advantage for your business? I have written about non-regular factors of competitiveness like happiness, sense of humor, motivation, or people in  general. I am here today to discuss diversity as a factor of competitiveness! How can it work? Well, let’s start by explaining what diversity means to me, it means people with different: cultural background, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or demographics. Although, my definition is not a scientific one, it is the way I perceived reality! Reality is full of differences, people absorb that differences, becoming different themselves! Globalization brought together people from different regions, countries, continents. People with different ways of living, believes or faiths. People with different social, cultural, educational, religious backgrounds, that are mixing and evolving together and generating an enriched melting pot full of diversity! These richness can and should be used by companies and organizations in a positive and inclusive way! Companies should be the privileged place where the melting pot happens, and grow! Why? Because diversity, in this sense, can help finding new ways of working, new ideas, innovation, new experiences, new approaches, …! An old saying says: Two heads think better than one! I would like to add that two “different” heads can make miracles! Creativity and innovation are boosted through diversity, and a company can gain a lot by having a diversity policy! Even us, mere human beings, can profit from the interaction with diversity, people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. However, to do so, companies and people must have an open-mind and a true respect by other’s opinions and believes.

Myself, I have learned a lot by interacting with people with different ethnicities, and cultural and religious backgrounds! I have seen the melting pot in action, and I must say that it is amazing the high level results companies can achieve if working with diversity!