Running a Business — Listen and Learn

Many businesses do not take advantage of opportunities to listen to their customers and improve the way their businesses operate. This article attempts to extract a few lessons learned from a routine household experience with driveway contractors.

Running a Business — Listen and Learn


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KPMG Financial Services Consulting – Defining a Market Strategy

During the period from 1993 to 2001, KPMG’s Financial Services Consulting practice on a global basis grew at an unprecedented rate. The market strategy that was defined for the practice was one of the major contributors to that growth. This article discusses the early steps in the practice’s strategic management process, and provides a good example of how strategic management can dramatically improve a business’s performance.

KPMG Financial Services Consulting – Defining a Market Strategy


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Strategic Management Process – The Operating Stage

The final stage of a strategic management process is the Operating Stage. A company that moves through the first three stages of the process, remains in the Operating Stage forever, or until the company’s business is totally revamped. During this final stage in the process, a company captures information that is fed back into the other three stages for management decisions regarding adjustments to key outputs of the process or improvements to operational performance. If implemented properly, the Operating Stage provides a solid foundation for a company to manage strategically and successfully over the long-term. Here is a link to the article:

Strategic Management Process – The Operating Stage


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Strategic Management Process – The Building Stage

During The Building Stage of a strategic management process, a business performs the work necessary to optimize the results from its strategic direction and market strategy, and to sustain those results over the long-term. This article discusses briefly The Building Stage and the tasks necessary to satisfy its requirements.

Strategic Management Process – The Building Stage


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Thoughts About Buddy Roemer and Money In Politics

Politics is not a topic to which I normally pay a lot of attention, perhaps because there always seems to be a lot of people talking, but very few of them are actually doing anything productive. Moreover, this is perhaps the first time that I have written something about a political topic. However, many Americans have become more and more concerned about the direction in which our country is heading. I am no different from those people, so therefore, I found myself watching a political talk show recently, where the guest was Buddy Roemer. Who is Buddy Roemer? Well, I had never heard of him either, before this talk show. It happens that he is a former Congressman and Governor from the state of Louisiana, and he is currently a candidate for President of the United States, running to win the nomination of the Republican Party. Based on this one talk show, it seems that Mr. Roemer’s central campaign issue is money in politics, and that captured my attention.

In his discussion, Mr. Roemer put forward a few intriguing points. First, he pointed out how severe the problem of money in politics has become. Members of Congress rely heavily on campaign contributions to pay the enormous costs of their future campaigns. Some estimates have said that a typical person in Congress needs to receive, on average, $113,000 per day in contributions in order to fund their next re-election campaign. This staggering flow of funds is what keeps getting them elected. However, it is also the reason that they find it difficult to vote for or against, literally anything. Regardless of how they vote, they are likely to offend at least a percentage of their contributors, and they can’t afford, in their minds, any loss of funds. Therefore, their safest position is to just vote along party lines, so they can point the finger at someone else if an issue arises. This point certainly seems to make sense to me.

Perhaps the point that Mr. Roemer made that had the biggest impact on me was that he believes that we as a country will not be able to effectively address any of our major issues, such as jobs, national debt, energy, education, or anything else, until we address the fundamental issue of money in politics. That point struck me as being profoundly true. The vast majority of political contributions come from special interest groups, in other words, people who are more concerned about their own best interests than the best interests of the nation as a whole. And, if there is anything my career in business has taught me, it’s that money always comes with strings attached. The old saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch is totally true.

Mr. Roemer went on to suggest two ideas for how the issue of money in politics could be addressed. The first one was to limit the amount of campaign contributions to $2,500. That may be a good idea, but I doubt that it would work. The Supreme Court just last year overturned decades of laws and precedents that attempted to cap campaign contributions at about $5,000. The Supreme Court said that those laws, regardless of how long they had been on the books, were unconstitutional. So, I suppose, implementing this idea would require a constitutional amendment, and that could take years. However, Mr. Roemer’s second suggestion was perhaps more practical. His second idea was to allow special interests to either lobby in DC, or contribute to political campaigns, but not both. As he put it, “you can lobby or you can come with a check, but you can’t do both”. I am not sure if this will solve the problem of money in politics, but it is something that could probably be done, and at least it’s a step in the right direction.

I don’t know anything about Mr. Roemer, outside of that one talk show. However, I believe he has his focus on the right issue.

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Why Does No One Seem to Understand Your Business Strategy?

Have you ever asked people you meet, or perhaps a group of your friends, to describe the business and market strategies of their respective companies? If you try it, you should expect to see a lot of confused faces and fumbling around for answers. Unfortunately, most people can not describe the market strategy of their companies, or how their companies match up against the market strategies of their competitors. Yet, most companies have teams of people who do nothing except analyze markets, customer segments, competitors, suppliers, etc., solely for the purpose of crafting market strategies for the companies for which they work. Obviously, there is a disconnect somewhere in the process.

Regardless of whether a market strategy is brilliant or just ordinary, it will not be successful unless it is internalized by all major stakeholders, such as customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders. Within a strategic management process, this internalization occurs during The Translation Stage. Surprisingly, many companies ignore The Translation Stage altogether. I wrote a brief article about The Translation Stage and its importance to making a market strategy successful. A link to the article is below:

Strategic Management Process – The Translation Stage


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The Strategic Management Process – The Definition Stage

In the definition stage of a strategic management process, a company crafts its market strategy, identifies its natural customer base, and defines key buying factors. The definition stage is the first step along the pathway to better sustained performance.

You can read more about the Definition Stage here:

Strategic Management Process – The Definition Stage


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The Strategic Management Process — The Whole Process

At McGee Partners, we are advocates for managing businesses strategically. Strategic management makes the job easier and the results better. What is needed, however, is a strategic management process. Fortunately, we have one that has been developed and refined for the past 30+ years, and has been used successfully in dozens of consulting projects. We believe our process is simple to understand and implement. We have worked hard to make it that way. A simple process is required when managing a business, but it cannot lose the depth needed to run the business effectively. Our process is simple, effective, and tested in the real world.

Last year, we decided that the time was right to document our strategic management process in a series of articles that could be published, and from which others could maybe benefit. It has taken me much too long to complete this basic series of articles, but the final one has just been posted on-line. There are 6 articles in this series. Here are links to them:

1. When Trying to Formulate a Business Strategy — Try to Avoid the Classic Mistakes
2. Implementing an Effective Strategic Management Process — Get All Stages of the Process Working
3. Strategic Management Process — The Definition Stage
4. Strategic Management Process — The Translation Stage
5. Strategic Management Process — The Building Stage
6. Strategic Management Process — The Operating Stage

In this basic series, we tried to cover the most important elements of the process, and many times, elements that are important but not obvious. It is our plan to write a number of additional articles that address certain elements of the process in more depth. We also plan to write another series of articles describing how this process was used to turn around a business that we personally managed — KPMG Financial Services Consulting.

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Ubuntu’s New Unity Desktop

Ubuntu’s new Unity desktop has certainly generated a lot of discussion. From what I have read, many long-time users of Ubuntu don’t like it, preferring the traditional Gnome desktop instead. Or, perhaps that criticism is coming from other Linux distributions, as I have read that too. I consider myself a long-time user of Linux, but not Ubuntu, having spent most of my Linux years on Debian. I switched to Ubuntu recently. However, I have spent almost all of my Linux years on the Gnome desktop of a few different Linux distributions. I have just never been able to get comfortable with KDE, and I have not spent enough time on any of the others to have a real opinion. However, I have always liked the Gnome desktop.

So, what do I think of the new Unity desktop? I like it, about as much as I liked the Gnome desktop. There are things that can be improved about both desktops, but, and this is the main point, they both work. They are both fast as needed and easy to use. I would have been fine with Gnome in Ubuntu 11.04, and I am fine with Unity.

However, Ubuntu has said their switch to the Unity desktop was based, at least in part, on an effort to make the desktop more visually appealing to new younger users and easier to use for new older users. In this regard, I believe they were right. My frame of reference is my family. Since the release of Ubuntu 11.04, both my wife and my son experienced severe virus problems on their computers running MS Windows. I asked each of them if they would consider a Linux distribution. I had asked them the same thing at other previous points in time, and they had always declined. This time, they took a look at the new Unity desktop, and agreed to make the switch. This represents a major change within my household. They are both now using Ubuntu 11.04, and they like it.

For long-time users of Linux, and viewed from an overall perspective, I can’t see a great deal of difference between Unity and Gnome. However, the new Unity desktop seems to appeal to new users, and from that perspective, Ubuntu appears to have made the right decision.


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Improving Your Strategic Management Process

As I wrote in a recent post, our strategic management framework is both simple and effective. It has four stages that, together, facilitate the management of a business strategically. And in our opinion, the best way to manage a business is strategically. Managing a business profitably day after day can be a tough job. Managing it strategically makes the job a little easier.

The four stages of our framework — Definition, Translation, Building, and Operating — form the foundation for a comprehensive management process. One of the insights that we have gleaned from working with numerous clients over the years on projects associated with strategic management, is that companies that have all four stages in place are more successful than those that don’t. In fact, based on our experience, companies are better served working to put all four stages in place than working to refine stages that are already in place. I wrote an article about it a while back.

Implementing an Effective Strategic Management Process — Get All Stages of the Process Working

So, a complete process is a better process.


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