Tag Archives: client relationships

The Decaying Morality of Big Business in Australia


Once upon a time…yes I am using a fairytale opening, because big business and morals in this country has now become a fairytale concept.

With the Royal Commission into Banks, who would be naive enough to think that all the other big publicly listed businesses actually do the right thing?

Why would they?

Their advertising says that you, the customer, are the most important thing to them when in fact it is hitting targets to gain bonuses. They couldn’t care less how they achieve their bonuses just as long as they receive them.

When was the last time you heard of a major Australian public company contributing to a crowdfunding campaign for someone in desperate need? I cannot remember one.

Small businesses have, however, and enjoy a far better image as a result.

The four major banks should have an ‘Humanitarian Budget’ which is allocated to the worthiest causes as judged by senior, or even middle management (remember them?). They can, and should, by any moral or ethical argument put some of the Billions of dollars in profit they make each year towards dozens, perhaps hundreds, of worthy causes. Their bottom line would barely be affected.

The one stupid, contrary argument (and unfortunately it is law) is that as publicly listed companies they must put shareholders interests first. In other words they must maximise shareholders’ dividend payments.

As mentioned they could easily give away $10M each and split it up into hundreds of worthy causes. However their shareholders would rightly ask “Hey, by law you have to put us first and by giving that money away I got $10 less in dividend income!”

With the law on their side unfortunately it is a circular argument, a Catch 22.

As long as that law remains as it stands, profits will always be put before helping people where public companies are concerned. Perhaps a ‘tweaking’ of the law is required?

Many large private companies (but still too few) are well known for their generosity. I argue it is because they decide what to spend their profits on, not a horde of needy shareholders.

At this stage I must put my own hand up, and reveal that I have owned shares and as a shareholder I lived for those dividends. Yes, I am two faced but at least I admit it and am ready to discuss badly needed change.

The big four banks might point to a number of charitable donations, but they seem to only contribute if they can place a huge logo on it, in order to achieve a return on investment for their marketing dollars. Yes, they call helping people in need “Marketing”.

Westpac used to have a lovely rescue helicopter flying around but only because it was saturated with their logo. Then they did some analysis and ROI (return on investment) calculations and ceased funding this rescue helicopter. Not because they couldn’t afford it, but because they need to put shareholders first followed closely by their bonuses (or is it the other way around?).

Putting bonuses ahead of helping people is disgusting and definitely unAustralian. Which is ironic because had they helped more families they would have received more favourable media coverage and may not be facing a damaging Royal Commission right now. It would definitely would change our perception of them.

But there is one final problem, and this is the biggest and by far the most difficult to understand. Almost everyone hates the big four banks, and will complain about them ad nauseum but they will not close their accounts and take their business elsewhere! The big four easily have 85% of the total market, so there is no incentive on them, at all, to change their ways. In fact it encourages them to behave badly because their customers do not leave them.

So, in the end, it is your own apathy and unwillingness to follow through on your complaints that makes them so comfortable. It also creates the perfect environment for corruption, because they know that no matter what they do their customers, by and large, will stay with them. So up go fees, down goes quality of service and contributing to the community.

Well done Australians, you reep what you sow.

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Build it…and they will NOT come


Before 2003 when Steve Blank wrote his now famous best seller, The Four Steps to the Epiphany, the dot com bust need not have happened.

His book became the basis of Lean Startups with his Customer Focused model. Before then it was all Product Focused, in that startups planned their product or service to the nth degree and ignored customers because “If you build it they would come.”

They didn’t.

Unfortunately their budgets went into developing and producing the best, shiniest widget they could possibly make.

There was just one problem – no customers. Their product was either too expensive, or didn’t have enough features or had too many.

It wasn’t their fault, this is the way they, and every other startup, were taught.

A precious few identified the one great but simple flaw in this way of thinking, in that the customer had not been consulted before the product had been produced. Until this ‘epiphany’ no-one had thought to ask the potential customer whether what they were building actually solved a problem for them, at a price they would be willing to pay.

One of the notable exceptions is Steve Jobs, who produced products we didn’t know we wanted until we saw them, and then we had to have them!

Until Steve Blank wrote his book pointing out this simple error, hundreds of millions of dollars had been wasted. True, some of them had successful IPO’s where the clever investors took their profit and ran before debtors came calling, but it was only a matter of time before the bust came after the emotionally charged boom finished.

Ignore potential customers at your peril.

And they did…and closed their doors.

Eric Reis wrote an excellent book nearly ten years later when the term ‘Lean Startup’ was born. He directly credits Steve Blank’s book as having been the catalyst for this.

Today one of the very first questions asked by potential investors, and on shows such as ‘Shark Tank’ is, “How many have you sold?” and “Have you researched the market to see if people want this and will buy it?”.

Strange as it may seem, but these questions are relatively new concepts to startups… except for the successful ones.

The idea of living on baked beans for six months to a year validating that your market exists, finding out what your customers want your widget to look like and how much they were prepared to pay for one (hopefully at a price point sufficient to make a profit), had only occasionally been considered.

Until Steve Blank wrote his book and out of it came the term ‘Lean Startup’.

It may seem obvious now that you must obtain customer validation before spending a fortune on manufacturing your goods and marketing them, but at the time of the dot com boom all investors wanted to know was; do you have a website and does it have ecommerce? That is, can customers buy online.

If the answers to both questions was yes then you received a rather large mountain of cash.

And ran out of it a year or so later.

So, if you are a budding entrepreneur, talk to potential customers before you build anything. Preferably, obtain contracts from one or three saying that if you make this product, and it does what they want it too at their acceptable price point, they would buy it. This way your first customer/s are already ‘in the bag’ and they can provide you with essential feedback as you make changes, fine tuning your product.

Knowing who your customers are, where they are and how you can reach them is critical these days. The dot com bust hurt a lot of people, thankfully most have learned from their mistakes and will not give you one cent if you cannot answer those simple questions regarding your customers. It also helps if you are already working with several customers, so you can receive their feedback and fine tune your product to make sure that when it is released it is successful.

Listen more than you talk, and do not spend copious amounts of money on your product until you know everything about your target customers.

Now we call this a Lean Startup, however I call it common sense.

Good luck to entrepreneurs everywhere, may your customers be eternally happy and grateful that you solved a real headache and seemingly insurmountable problem for them.

Or if you are Steve Jobs, or know where his crystal ball is, please ignore me entirely.

Craig Pickering, 31st March 2018

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Why Articles and Books on How to be Successful, Suck


Most business articles on how to be successful are crap. You do what works for you, we are individuals. Yes some basic humanity and empathy is required but articles that begin with “The 5 steps to…” are complete time wasters.

Of course this is just my opinion, but the way they make it sound as though it will work for everyone shows a complete lack of objectivity and, basically, reality.

If you’re looking for a magic formula you’d have better luck chasing the next rainbow.

Sales – The secret of a successful Lean Startup


The secret to a successful startup..? Sales. Without them no validation, no feedback, no customers, no business!

Follow the Lean Startup approach and do a controlled release of your product or service to some people (or businesses) you think would be interested.

By recording their feedback you will eliminate expensive future mistakes, discover that you were wrong and there is no market or receive a couple of orders which will allow you to beta test.

Another option is to contact one of the largest businesses you believe should be interested and offer to build your product/service especially for them. This gives you a real world test site, honest feedback (you can tell if they have been using it or not) and, if they stay with you until the product/service is finished, a testimonial and reference site for future prospects.

Much more efficient than spending a year building a business only to find there is no market for it!

Key Personal Qualities of a Consultant


What Qualities Are Needed To Be A Successful Business Consultant?

To succeed as a consultant requires a look at ones own business. Being self-employed, a consultant’s survival lies in their ability to find work, which involves promoting skills amongst peers and the individual’s network.

Centres of influence are also essential. Centres of influence are people in authority and who are well respected in their field, who recommend an individual to others. Their influence is such that when they recommend someone, that person instantly has credibility.

Others call these “referrers”, and they are, but the key is to convert a referrer into a centre of influence. Choose these people wisely and treat them with great respect.

In order to accomplish these tasks, and to be successful as a consultant, there are certain personal qualities that are considered essential.

Objectivity is Crucial for a Consultant

A consultant is required to establish trust and rapport with people at all levels of an organisation. This involves listening without prejudice, and not judging until they have all the necessary information.

Objectivity is crucial to any consultant. It allows them to view the situation from a helicopter point of view, and demands that they listen to both sides of every argument and idea presented.

If a consultant is to walk into a business and quickly assess where the issues are, then objectivity is essential.

Selling Skills are Needed by all Consultants

To be a successful salesperson there is a set of skills required. Some of these skills are also required by a consultant, and include being able to quickly establish rapport, the ability to listen, to empathise, and to quickly develop trust.

If a person cannot talk to everyone in an organisation from the receptionist to the Manageing Director, if they are uncomfortable in meeting new people, or if they talk and do not listen then they will fail as a consultant.

A Consultant Needs People Skills

This is the ability to interact with people in a respectful, relaxed manner.

The key word here is respect. Many intelligent people lack people skills, and hence do not know when to be tactful, when to just stop talking and listen, when to voice their ideas and when not to.

Put simply, people skills encompass the ability to interact with others in a manner that makes them feel comfortable and secure, and where they know their opinions and ideas are important.

Without people skills, a person cannot be a leader, and a consultant needs to lead.

Leadership In Consulting

The qualities of leadership required as a consultant are:

* Assertiveness
* Knowledge
* Experience
* Empathy

Assertiveness is not being dictatorial. Assertiveness is being able to vocalise an opinion and ideas in a confident and commanding manner. This is essential otherwise others are unlikely to believe what a consultant says.

Knowledge and experience are intertwined. Knowledge is needed to acquire experience, and experience in itself brings knowledge.

Empathy is the ability to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes”. To see an issue from all angles and viewpoints is necessary in order to develop and implement key strategies. If a person is unable to exhibit empathy, and take into account the needs, fears and expectations of all staff then their client will not implement the necessary changes they have recommended.

Summary of Consultant Qualities

In essence, the key attributes required by a consultant are objectivity and the ability to be aware of all the issues facing each stakeholder in the business.To be successful in this, a consultant requires sales skills, people skills, leadership qualities and the ability to articulate all of these skills assertively.

Read more at Suite101: Key Personal Qualities of a Consultant: What Qualities Are Needed To Be A Successful Business Consultant? http://management-careers.suite101.com/pages/article.cfm/key_personal_qualities_of_a_consultant#ixzz0t4ODicKb