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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Most Exciting of Times for Business

I believe that the times we’re in now are some of the most exciting for business – whether you’re a new start-up, the largest corporate in the world, or anything in-between!
Everyday we are seeing all kinds of amazing new technology become available (often free), everyday there are new markets opening up and opportunities for us to be successful and overarching all that are some very clear global and market trends which, if we can get our strategy right, represent significant opportunities for growth.
Nothing is a given anymore and we can no longer look backwards – even a few months, it seems, to help map out what will give us success in the future. What I’m seeing is that it is those businesses that have recognized this and as a result are challenging all their paradigms and are focusing on the basic fundamentals of business that are really flying.
 What I’m also seeing is small and medium businesses starting to run rings around the large corporates - simply because the large corporates have an in-built inertia that often prevents them from changing quickly and truly challenging the paradigms that once made them great.
These times represent real challenges for business leaders but if you can spend more time up in the helicopter with your eyes wide open and with no preconceptions, then there are some exciting, stimulating and highly rewarding rides to have in growing and developing your business!
I recently digested an extensive, and highly illuminating, global trend analysis prepared by a major European firm of consultants looking at world trends through to 2030. There are some key trends that I would suggest every business should have in mind when planning their growth strategy for the future:

World population is forecast to grow from 6.9 billion to 8.3 billion over the period and world populations are expected to age by an average of five years – a massive figure.
With this being an average, of course, it means that some countries are seeing populations age even faster and this opens up all kinds of business opportunities for us.
Nations, of course, have got to find a way to deal with this demographic but I don’t think the way to do it is what the Japanese Finance Minister Tiro Aso recently proposed:
He said that he sees elderly people as strains on the country’s resources. He called the country’s elderly who are no longer able to feed themselves “tube people” and noted that if he were in the same position he would feel increasingly bad knowing that treatment was all being paid for by the Government. He went on to say the problem will only be solved when the elderly “hurry up and die”!
Aso’s comments were especially harsh given Japan’s culture of showing the elderly the utmost respect.

Goldman Sachs have reconfirmed that the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will be the top economies in the world by 2030 and this research suggests that those economies will grow by an average of 7.9% pa throughout the period.
We should all be thinking about how we and our businesses could be benefitting from that growth. Our newspapers of course love to comment on how the Chinese growth has stalled or the Indian growth has stalled but, let’s be realistic, almost no matter what happens, those four countries will be seeing growth significantly higher than anything that will be seen in the so called ‘developed’ economies over that period.
Then there’s “Next 11” growth countries: Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam. They are forecast to grow over the period by a, still very attractive, average 5.9%pa.
These 15 countries represent significant opportunities for all of us running business – do you have a strategy to address them? – I do.

Resources and Climate
Energy demand is forecast to increase by 26% and water demand by 53% and, as far as commodities are concerned, there will be a global shortage of both rare metals and food.
CO2 emissions are going to increase by 16%, global warming is going to lead to temperatures rising between 0.5°C and 1.5°C and the ecosystem is going to continue to see extremes.
We need to factor all this into our strategies.

We are already seeing amazingly rapid developments of new technologies but this report suggests that we haven’t seen anything yet!
The diffusion of technology worldwide is going to be at very high speed. It’s going to streak around the world and people are going to assimilate it, adopt it and use it instantly. Innovation is going to change lives fundamentally worldwide and the “next big thing” will be life sciences.
What does this mean for us in our businesses?
Big or small, we need to develop a culture which is able to firstly gain knowledge of the new technology as it appears, be able then to examine it and identify exactly that which may be of use to us, and then adapt it and adopt it extremely quickly.
Already we’re seeing this with just the adoption of apps, with the use of very straightforward new technology like smartphones, QR Codes and the like.
- and of course this is no longer in any way country-dependent, wealth or economy dependent.
I use oDesk, a friend of mine with a business in Texas has all his graphic design and literature designed by someone in Vietnam who he’s formed a relationship with on oDesk. What you are reading now has been transcribed for me by a Kenyan gentleman in Nairobi.
We’re seeing this more and more. There is talk now about “Silicon Savannah” - an area of Nairobi where ground breaking new software development is happening. No longer does new technology have to emanate from California or Tokyo or from super computers – all that’s needed are bright people with access to broadband.
If we can do that we really can differentiate ourselves from the competition and can steal a march on them. But what I so often see is that this doesn’t happen because we are stuck with our ‘silos’ of responsibility – is it Marketing’s job? or IT? or if it might help our productivity maybe it’s Operations?
It’s none of these – it’s yours – it can only be the job of the CEO or business leader to make this happen, challenge the paradigms, remove the silos and get the organisation thinking differently.

The forecast is that by 2030 55% of children in the world will be in secondary education, the gender gap will be narrowing and finally, but absolutely fundamentally, there will be a war for talent. Demand for talented people will exceed supply from now through to 2030.
This requires us to take action now.
Harsh as this may sound, we can no longer afford to have passengers in our businesses. We need “10 out of 10” people everywhere. We need the most talented people we can find and if there’s going to be a war for that talent, then we have to start thinking about recruitment in a new light.
We need to “sell” ourselves and our business to prospective employees just as much as they need to sell themselves to us.
Our organisations need to be viewed as great places to work. Recent research clearly shows the increasing importance we are all placing on working for an organisation whose values we share. We also need to see that organisation “walking the talk” in terms of those values but the research shows, worryingly, that less than 50% actually do today.
It is no longer good enough to have a committee write a mission statement, put it up in reception and on the website and then ignore it. It is vital that you clearly identify the values and be seen to live by them if you are to recruit and retain the very best people.
Incidentally I was hearing recently that Google have a belief that B-type people only recruit B and C-type people whereas A-type people always recruit A-type people. I’m told therefore that as a result Google’s most talented people all have to spend time recruiting (and at any moment in time 10% of their employees are recruiters) because they want the very best people recruiting the very best people to protect their future.
What do you do?

It’s forecast that there’s going to be increasing cooperation between nations throughout the period and that NGOs are going to proliferate.
Philanthropy is going to multiply.
Are these opportunities for you?

I’ve just read a fascinating book: “Smart Customers Stupid Companies” by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff – and I have to say I agree with almost everything they say.
 For example, they say:
“Disruption favours the smart customer”
“Innovators look through the eyes of their customers”
and the byline to the whole book
“Only intelligent companies will thrive”.
All over the world, I am meeting with intelligent companies that are thriving – whether it’s in the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, Europe, Asia or America there are significant opportunities for all of us.
 Success does depend, however, upon business leaders spending more time in their helicopter than ever before, looking further over the horizon than ever before, challenging everything more than ever before and mapping out a strategy for their business that brings true success in sympathy with rapidly changing trends rather than despite of.

Roger Harrop

© 2013 Roger Harrop Associates

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Audi get it wrong - again!

I have now had two Audi TTs in succession and I’m looking to replace my latest sometime in the next few months.

Another TT is certainly a possibility and I went onto the Audi website to look at the specs and configure it. The standard colours, however, are very limited so I am thinking I will go for one of the non-standard colours that are available at a price only to find that you cannot configure the car with one of these online.

I then read in the press that, with much hype, Audi are opening their first ‘digital’ showroom in Piccadilly London. This is what Autocar said:

“Audi has opened the doors to its first digital showroom in London, dubbed Audi City. The compact showroom — that showcases the marque’s model line-up digitally – gives the firm new outlets in major cities.
Visitors to the new digital showroom can spec an Audi to their tastes and then digitally view the model on large computer screens that fill much of the showroom’s interior space.
Details such as drivetrain, bodyshell or LED tech can also be presented 'in order to make innovations understandable on an intuitive level' according to Audi.
Audi marketing and sales boss Peter Schwarzenbauer said: “Audi City combines the best of two worlds – digital product presentation and personal contact with the dealer.
“This new retail format brings us even closer to our customers – geographically, of course, but first and foremost in terms of the quality of our relationship. Audi City offers new freedom for tailor-made services and an even more individual contact with the customer.”
Sounds good?
So last week I went so I could have a look at the colour and specification of TT I might be interested in. In fact there was a strong chance I would commit to it there and then.
Well - Audi could not have got it more wrong - the showroom is a disaster, manned by miserable people who don’t understand their products and with inadequate technology - and the last thing they want to do, it seems, is for you to buy an Audi!
This was my experience:
I arrived mid morning and there appeared to be no other customers but about 6 or 7 members of staff. Two speaking German to each other immediately as you came in - who didn’t even look up, a guy with one of the electronic lecterns apart apparently repairing it and others, presumably salespeople, one sitting and the others standing around.
The showroom was bare floored, bare walled and felt somewhat cold and unwelcoming.
A lady came up to me and asked if she could help (no smile, and a little hesitant). I explained that I was interested in a TT, had heard about their new ‘digital’ showroom and would like to configure my car  (lots of buying signals I would have thought!). She took me to the first lectern, which apparently didn’t work, so we moved to the second. She then helped me get configuring but the touch screen was awful - it was like a first generation version - very user unfriendly. She had to keep telling me to be softer or harder or to be more precise in touching!
I then get to the colours and go for the non-standard, select the colour I am interested in and hey presto the large picture of my car on the wall shows - NOTHING!
She then enquires of a colleague, who then joins us (he does smile by the way), and explains that the configurator cannot show the non-standard colours as there were ‘too many’…...he then admits that in fact this highly hyped configurator is, in fact, just the same as the one they have on their website displayed on a digital wall. That’s all it is. 
I then ask how I can see the colour I am interested in and he says he thinks he has some swatches ‘downstairs’. He disappears for ten minutes and returns with some wooden swatches - each a few inches square ( hi tech stuff)
I explain that I appear to have wasted my time coming to London and that I felt very let down and went to leave - at which point there was no attempt to ‘sell’ to me.
The lady who had been sitting down throughout all this then stood up and said she was a researcher for Audi and would I mind answering some questions about my experience in the showroom. This was very long - and with some very biased questions- and you can imagine the replies she got - and would you believe that the moment I sat down with the researcher the salespeople came and stood a few feet away so they could hear every word I was saying!
I finally went to leave and the guy who had shown me the swatches came over and asked if I had finished the ‘inquisition’ and if there was anything else they could do. I made clear to him that when I had entered the showroom I was minded to buy an Audi but that was now very unlikely.
From beginning to end this was a case study in how not to do it.

Audi get another well deserved Ditched Helicopter Award
for their complete ineptitude.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Golden Helicopter Award to Hotel Pulitzer, Barcelona

We had a few days in glorious Barcelona in the Spring and stayed at the Hotel Pulitzer. It a very modern, very stylist boutique hotel right in the centre. 100 metres from the airport bus, the open top buses and the famous Ramblas area.

The staff were very helpful - and you can even rent a bicycle for the day in reception!

A Golden Helicopter Award goes to Hotel Pulitzer

Golden Helicopter Award to Cowscott House

Giving good service is nothing to do with size. My wife and I had a a few days cycling in the Yorkshire Dales recently and stayed a night at a Bed & Breakfast that was just delightful, Cowscott House. It is just an outstanding B&B with a lovely immaculate room and delightful, helpful and welcoming hosts, Liz and Mike.

On arrival there was a cafetiere of coffee in the garden with home made cookies and the next day a gorgeous breakfast with home made everything!

 We will be back as soon as we can!

A well deserved Golden Helicopter Award goes therefore to Cowscott House

Golden Helicopter Award to The London Olympics and ParaOlympics

I know I'm a biased Brit but I thought the whole 2012 London Olympics was absolutely amazing and an outstanding example of great service - absolutely everywhere. The volunteer "Games Makers" were always helpful and appeared to be really enjoying their work, the Olympic Park was simply wonderful - and will, hopefully, become an important ongoing asset to the country for the future and the sport, of course, was phenomenal.

My wife and I had a day in the Olympic Park and decided that we should treat the journey to get there (from Oxfordshire) as part of the fun - as we might encounter lots of delays. So we went to London by the Oxford Tube - a great, every 15 minutes 24/7 coach service down the M40 (no delays) and then we caught a Thames River Clipper from the Embankment and saw London at it's best with loads of Olympics stuff on the river - and everyone smiling!

Next we went on the brand new Emirates Air Line cable car over the river (fascinating 'new' views of London) and the Docklands Light Railway - where there we more people trying to help than travellers almost! From there straight into the Olympic Park - without hardly a wait.

I also went to the final of the mens football at Wembley Stadium and the most impressive thing there was how they got 90,000 people out and away in no time atall.

So I am very proud and pleased to give a Golden Helicopter Award to the 2012 London Olympics and Para Olympics

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Golden Helicopter Award to Waitrose

This from Thomas Coles:

" I think this Waitrose deserves a Golden Helicopter award, both for the customer service and the swift Twitter service too:

Tweet: Thomas Coles @thomascoles
01 Aug
Seriously impressive customer service from @waitrose Islington. Just dropped a bottle of wine and they wouldn't let me pay for it.

From Waitrose same day:
@thomascoles Hi Thomas, thanks for the great feedback. I'll pass this to the Islington shop."

I agree - EVERY company should be monitoring tweets for mentions good ior bad (use Twilert)

so a Golden Helicopter Award goes to Waitrose

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ditched Helicopter Award to the DVLA

This from Stuart Wayment:

"I feel compelled to nominate a ditched helicopter for the online car tax process from dvla

As self confessed petrol heads the annual car tax round is always welcome. ( I notice it is no longer called road fund licence - loosing the pretence that this money goes to fund our roads and is now simply called car tax), but this is an aside, so three demands drop through the letter box together at least two in the same envelope amounting to a sum in excess of £500 which I'm clearly keen to pay up. Supported by threats of fines impoundings and crushings for failing to tax.

So online to pay, two go through well pretty quick and painless, the final vehicle (my mid life crisis fair weather motorcycle) fails to process with a note telling me it has no insurance, and that I can use the link to check the national motor insurance database (which is what they use) hey presto that confirms I have insurance so leaving it a day or two I retry same fail, where are the "contact us" links oh there are none. Do I call the helpline which is simply a voice activated version of the on line system, surprise surprise no insurance and a message to say "I cannot process the transaction Goodbye"

A shame some of the money isn't reinvested to a system that works and why no sanctions for failure on the part of the dvla

Oh well off to queue at the post office if I can find one that does tax discs."

Very happy to award a well deserved Ditched Helicopter to the DVLA

Sunday, June 03, 2012

3 x Golden Helicopter Awards to Thee exceptional Businesses

I have been especially privileged recently to work with some spectacularly impressive organisations - working in all kinds of sectors - but are linked by their laser beam focus back on the basics of business and the motivation of their people.

Three stand out both as organisations and for the outstanding leaders who run them:

Adams Foods - sell the Pilgrims’ Choice cheese and Kerrygold butter brands in the UK and have a major cheese packaging factory at Leek. They have been transformed since the arrival of their new CEO, and are simply challenging all the paradigms in their business (like setting up a demo kitchen run by a top chef in the middle of their sales floor) and seeking out every possible way to achieve sustained profitable growth. Employee relations have been transformed - and this is, perhaps, best epitomised by everyone (including the CEO) having performed in an in-house rap video!

Qalhat LNG, based in Muscat, Oman is the first major corporation to be 100% Omani. It was set up with the current CEO and since then they have achieved that all elusive aim for most of a ‘family’ culture in a hard nosed corporate environment. Very unusually everyone is the company is called by their given name, with decisions challenged and a great deal of fun in the workplace.

Acumen Law, was set up in Brighton just 5 years ago with a vision to challenge the legal practice norms for doing business and, wow, have they succeeded! Fixed price contracts, a ‘Legal Director’ scheme for companies, the extensive use of social networks, approachable, accessible and unpretentious staff, an annual business conference and a strong brand that they are now franchising countrywide to name a few.

The leaders of these three businesses: Ian Toal, Harib Al Kitani, and Penina Shepherd respectively are all remarkable, visionary, people who each epitomise the leadership traits that came from recent research which asked the question:

“Why do you follow someone?” 

93% said:

"A feeling of fun, energy and excitement"

- and the three organisations they run have taken on board the first of the 4 basics of business - they are constantly striving to be truly exceptional at everything they do.

Congratulations! - and a Golden Helicopter award to each 

Ditched Heloicopter Award to WH Smith

WH Smith have introduced self service payment stations into their shops in addition to the normal tills.
I was in their branch in Henley on a Saturday in a queue of 18 people waiting to pay. There was one member of staff on the tills and one attempting to explain how the self service stations work. They are clearly not straightforward or user friendly as he was struggling.
Other staff were wandering about - apparently doing very little but finally after some mumbling by the queue one of them went onto a spare till.
When I finally got to her to pay she went out of her way to tell me that “I shouldn’t be doing this” and grumbling about the management.

Can you imagine any member of staff in a well run company like Pret a Manger or Apple ever saying something like that?

A Ditched Helicopter Award therefore goes to WH Smith

About Me

My photo
Roger Harrop, The CEO Expert, has spent over 25 years leading international business at the highest level, ultimately a plc, putting him in a unique position to deal with contemporary business challenges. He is ranked in the top 10 of Management and Strategy Speakers worldwide by Speaker Wiki and twice voted by the members of The Academy for Chief Executives 'Speaker of the Year' He is an, Oxford, UK based, international motivational business growth speaker who inspires and entertains his audiences with his acclaimed Staying in the Helicopter® programmess. Over 20000 CEOs, business leaders in 40 countries have achieved transformational change through his thought provoking and entertaining talks laced with real-life stories, anecdotes and humour. Roger is an author, accredited SME business advisor, mentor, and independent director and has run businesses for major multi-national corporations. He is a Past-President of The Professional Speakers Association, a former Vice-President of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and a Liveryman with The Worshipful Company of Marketers.