Monday, December 8, 2008

How quickly can an organization introduce change?

I had a most interesting discussion with a colleague the other day. We were discussing biggest successes and the question of approach to change management came up. How quickly can a company make significant change? What is the best approach? After several minutes of active dialogue, she asked about implementation – when do we actually start changing the way we do things? It struck me that the biggest revelation for me in moving from the world of operations, to the world of consulting is the pace of implementing change. That pace of implementation, and the expectation of the results that the change can deliver, is what separates the average from the great companies.

"There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success or dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things." - Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian diplomat, political philosopher

"By constant improvement, or should I say the improvement based upon action, one can rise to the higher level of practice and knowledge." Fujio Cho, President, Toyota Motor Corporation

When a new leader enters an organization, what is the approach? What should happen in the first few days, weeks, months? How long does the leader have to make their imprint on the organization?

I commonly hear that the best approach is to move slowly in the first few months, to ensure that the leader fully understands the current situation, and for the team to feel the new leader is listening. My own experience would argue that this is not the case. Early in my career I was introduced to a new manager who then became a mentor. His approach was to implement change from the start through clarification of the current state. Where any of the current state was unclear, he ensured the team reached consensus on how that issue should be managed from this point forward. All of the reviewed processes were well communicated through the organization. By taking this approach, systems that were working were re-enforced and validated by the new leader, and systems that were not working were re-invented as they were reviewed. By the end of the first week on site, this manager had imprinted his mark on the organization. From that point on, the pace of change was tremendous, and the enthusiasm and life that came into that organization was nothing short of remarkable.
The downfall of many organizations and leaders is that they take too long to implement. In fact, nothing is achieved until you do implement. Planning does not create change, implementation does.

This is not to say that we should not plan. It is imperative that we have a vision, a goal, a game plan for moving forward and that we achieve momentum at all levels of the organization with consensus at each level. But it is action that is the key dynamic in initiating change. What small thing can we change today, that will build to a huge change for the future.

We place the highest value on actual implementation and taking action. There are many things one doesn’t understand and therefore, we ask them why don’t you just go ahead and take action; try to do something? You realize how little you know and you face your own failures and you simply can correct those failures and redo it again - Fujio Cho, President, Toyota Motor Corporation

So by actual implementation and a game plan, we can see what is working, and what is not. And if we make a mistake along the way, we learn from it and move on. All the while, making sure that we engage the team, and communicate as best we can (more than we think we should).

How big of a change can we expect? When I was in operations, the moto was to under-promise and over-deliver. Promise improvements of 7% and deliver 10%. This approach, it turns out, leaves money on the table. My mentor from the past would have none of that. He would always present stretch goals to the organization, step change results that many felt could not be achieved. We would then put together a game plan to deliver those results. And 95% of these were delivered.

You get what you expect. If we expect a 5% budget reduction, that is what we will deliver. A recent client of mine did not expect to double production in 6 months. But by placing a stretch goal in front of a talented group of people, developing a plan to make it happen and EXECUTING the plan, it happens.

Don’t waste time making sure the plan covers every thing that could possibly go wrong. Just create a solid outline, gain consensus, communicate and take ACTION!

Norm Bain

Friday, December 5, 2008

How to make your website work as hard as you do

The internet became a reality in the early 1970's and has been termed the "Global Village". The internet, unlike any other medium, has transformed our world. The growth over the past two decades has been exponential and the internet now boasts over 1,463,632,000 people as users. What did we all do BG (Before Google)?

The magic of the internet is that anyone can get on line for very little investment. A personal computer, an internet service provider and a free hosting account on social networking sites … presto - you're on line!

Even a business user can have a custom web page on the internet within a matter of days for very little investment. Current technology and templates make your on-line presence simple and painless.

The best part is - there is no end in sight! By all accounts, the growth of the internet continues exponentially. The market for your goods and services is bigger than ever before - truly global. It’s a small world after all!

So why, with all the hype and fuss about the internet, must have toys and mobile computing are fewer than 10% of the people we talk with actually making any money from their web sites? I work with people every day who have had a site on-line for several years and still are not listed on the search engines. And those that have paid big money for SEO (search engine optimization) are seeing few visitors - the best are seeing about 10 per day when we start tracking real numbers. Some of my clients have paid other developers over $25,000 for their site and see no perceived return-on-investment.

While there are success stories out there … people who get thousands of site visitors every day - and within a week of putting the site up - this is not the norm. So how do you make the internet work for you. How can you capitalize on this "Global Village" and make your site start working as hard as you do?

I've been building web sites for over 10 years, and learned a few things along the way. I've put together a short report that may surprise you. I'll share the secrets to making your site a revenue producer for you. Because if your web site is not making money for you - you are missing out on a huge potential market.

The report is FREE for anyone who asks for it. Get your copy now by visiting my website at and entering the word "website" into the "get it" box. This will give you the inside scoop on how you can make the web work for your business.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

So ... what is 5S anyway?

Have you been introduced to Lean Thinking? Have you started your lean journey?

5S is a workplace organization and continuous improvement system that lays the foundation for all other lean improvement activities. By starting the lean journey with 5S, we discover tools and techniques required to be successful in eliminating waste from our processes.

5S is not a system, or program that can be started and completed. It is a continuous improvement process that provides a never ending methodology to continuously improve your operation. It has been proven to work in any business sector, every industry in any country and has been successful in changing the culture of organizations worldwide.

Many companies profess to have “done 5S” many times before. These comments, and the mindset “it won’t work here – we’re different” are common in facilities that have not fully understood, embraced or maximized the benefits that can be achieved through the concepts of lean. The company renowned to have the most success in implementing lean – Toyota, consistently states that they “have so much more to learn” as they travel on their lean journey.

For those interested in starting their lean journey with 5S, the consultants pocket guide to implementing lean may be of assistance. Visit my website at and enter "5S-guide" in the "Get It" Box.

Or take this short cut.

We'll send you instrictions on how to get the guide.

Best Success on your lean journey!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Elegant solution to remote email problem

Here is one of the downfalls of being a consultant - business travel. Most of what I do is outside the office and usually outside my home town.

Are you a business traveller? Are you always on the go between home and work, travelling to different cities, or even different countries? If you travel as much as I do, you have likely struggled with getting emails to work properly remotely.

Your favorite email software (Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Apple Mail likely does not work properly from hotels, airports and internet cafe's. Even at my customers sites, I have experienced this lack of connectivity.

I have, thankfully, recently found a solution to this dilemma.

This whole problem is caused by many internet service providers (ISPs) blocking what is called "Port 25". This is the port used to send e-mail. They are doing this to cut down on the amount of spam that is sent from their networks and allow traceability to spammers. All e-mail sent from a computer directly connected to the Internet is routed through port 25, the channel used for communication between an e-mail client and an e-mail server. Port 25 blocking is quickly becoming the industry standard.

However, this filter can create problems for travellers and e-mail servers, blocking legitimate e-mail as well as spam.Port 25 blocking allows ISPs to block spam sent out through their networks, but it frustrates those that have a need to send e-mail through servers other than those belonging to their own ISP. The ISPs that block port 25 require their SMTP server to be used instead of the remote SMTP server or a SMTP server running on your computer. But getting hotels or internet cafes using these ISPs to release their credentials to you is unlikely. In fact, my experience has been that most desk clerks don't know WHO their ISP is, never mind giving you email credentials.

What this translates to for the business traveller, is heartburn. Your outlook will not work from any connection other than your home base. Hotels, airports and other locations will allow you to retrieve emails, but will block you from sending them.

To resolve this problem, many mobile users switch between their regular email program and a web-based email program like Hotmail. Obviously it's possible to use a web-based program anywhere in the world, but these systems have their own drawbacks. Not only do you have to send mail from a highly unprofessional email address (, for instance), but it's also hard to keep track of your emails when you're hopping between your different email accounts. This is compounded by many companies now blocking "free" accounts like hotmail.

Who needs the drama? Wouldn't it be better to just use the same account, and the same email program, wherever you are?

That's what I think. I've recently found a simple and elegant solution that I'd like to share with you. Simply use this service as your outgoing mail server and never worry about problems sending emails ever again. Setup takes only minutes. You can send emails from anywhere in the world — from home, the office, I've used it all over Canada, the US and Great Britain with no problems - and use your favourite email program! They offer a free 7 day trial. Put an end to the hassle that plagues today’s business traveller. And get back to using your favourite email software (Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Apple Mail etc.) Chick here to try the service

Happy Travelling!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Marketing Strategies: Customer Retention

I really appreciated Jeffery Gitomers email this week and thought it deserved re-enforcing with some comments here. Several of my clients have been struggling with retention of both staff and customers, and looking for ideas on how to reduce this.

Most businesses spend lots of time and money going after new customers. Most businesses also have a turnover (loss) of current customers, some as much as 50%. Many of them know they are not getting repeat customers, but do not calculate the retention statistics. When presented with the facts, upper management will say “this is normal” because they wouldn’t want anyone to think it was abnormal. In fact, a 50% or more loss of customers is preventable.

What most businesses fail to rationalize that their present customers constitute 100% of all their sales, and 100% of all their profit. Yet by comparison of marketing dollars spent, they’re spending far less to keep their existing customers than they do to gain new ones.

Here’s what Jeffrey recommends you do this holiday season to keep your customer base:

1. Call as many customers as you can personally. No email, no letter, no card, just call. Leave a message telling them how much you appreciate their business this year, and how you look forward to earning their business next year.
2. If you are going to send a card, sign it personally with a note thanking them in addition to whatever your printed message says.
3. Resolve to help them over the course of the next year, so that you can be seen as more than a vendor or a product provider, and be looked at more as a partner.

Back to the issue of statistics, there is an old saying that goes 'you get what you expect'. This can be loosly translated to 'you get what you measure'. So if you are not using key performance measurements in your business, you should be!

A key in keeping customers is providing them with value - things they see as important and would be willing to pay for. So why not follow up with your past customers and give them something they would value? This keeps you on the radar as the goto person for what they need!

If you sold them a house, show them how to build equity. If you sold them a copier, show them how to be more efficient in the office.

Everyone has a value that they can share, and most don’t take advantage of it. By giving value that will make your customers appreciate you, they will think twice before they stop doing business with you. And they won't think twice about referring someone else to you.

If you have not visited Jeffrey's website, you can jump there by clicking here


Marketing Lessons from the world of MLM

90% of businesses report that they are not getting the business they expected from their web site. Many people do not realize the incredible value that internet marketing can bring to their business. No matter what your product or service is, the internet is by far the best and least expensive marketing opportunity to reach your target market. The trick is in learning how to apply the tools available to actually generate business for you. A website that is not generating business is a waste.

Social networking is the grouping of people into specific groups, like small communities or a neighborhood subdivision. Although social networking is possible in person, especially in schools or in the workplace, it is most popular online. This is because the internet is filled with millions of people who are looking to meet other internet users to develop friendships and business relationships.

Social Network Marketing covers many very different activities. The older and most disliked form of prospecting is where you jump every person within arms reach (the 3’ rule) and spew your opportunity all over them. Not a good idea - and not very effective! The newer and more popular form of network marketing - Attraction Marketing is where you develop a funnel of never ending qualified prospects who SEEK YOU OUT. You are then, network marketing by attraction.

Affiliate marketing and the world of MLM pioneered this approach, and it can be successfully adopted by 'real' companies.

Developing a prospecting system needs brain power, a certain amount of internet competence, a marketing budget and a little patience. Becoming a professional internet marketer will get you to the pinnacle of success. Making your website work as hard as you do, will be time well spent!

Here is what business owners are saying who have applied this strategy: “We have been running waiting lists for products for about a year now, and no one has any clue how we are doing it without spending big advertising money. I love this stuff…”

Many small business owners still think they can take a pass on the power of online social media tools, particularly if they reside in seemingly low-tech industries like plumbing, fishing, or lawyering. This is a huge opportunity to pass up. Take the time to discover how you can make the internet work for your business.

Ann Sieg has written an ebook that outlines the 7 lies of network marketing. Click here to download it. A good light read.


Welcome to the site

Its a Tuesday morning in a sunny Winnipeg and I've just created this site to share some thoughts and answer some questions about what makes businesses successful.

While we all have thoughts about what works and what doesn't, these pages will share my experiences of what has worked well.

Your business may be a large multinational organization, or a home based startup! In either case, these posts are designed to provide the best resources available to help you succeed. Your success is what this site is all about.

Whatever success means to you, I wish you more of it on your journey with your business!

NBI - Making sense of business improvement - Blogged