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Listen! An opportunity may be knocking at your door right now

22 November 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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An opportunity has a way of making a soft tap-tap on your door. Smart managers listen for these signals--they have ears specifically attuned to the sound.
During the past few weeks, we reviewed in detail the tangible problems faced by the managers in small companies. The issues may range from how you can sustain growth in a sluggish market to what strategies you can use to regain lost market share.
The following set of applications can apply to solving many of those problems - with potential relevance to your situation, as well: 
nSelect an area that could represent a competitive advantage and which larger competitors cannot match.
See the table about creating problem-solving strategies. You can identify this table as a comprehensive source for identifying strategies and opportunities. Within each of the five columns are numerous opportunities. As you examine the items, make certain you do so within a framework of a ‘two-zone strategy’. That is, does the item you select represent a need for your customer and does it surpass anything your competitor is likely to offer? Also, give particular attention to the column, ‘People’. Here, you want to pinpoint areas in which you have a unique personnel advantage. The aim is to gain a competitive edge over your rivals.
Wait and watch
Senior executives today are ‘watching and waiting’ for economic conditions to return to normal as a strategy for navigating the unpredictable business environment. However, since combinations of big and little changes in technology, workforce demographics, customer needs and legislation are happening every day, waiting for things to return to the way they were at an earlier time often leads to bigger problems and missed opportunities.
While we can’t always control circumstances and events, there are things we can do to minimize problems and leverage new opportunities for growth and profitability.
  • Add new value to your current customers
Three things you can do to create new value for current customers include:
Adapt products and services to meet customers’ new needs: For example, a small company that traditionally imports computer equipment started offering more services so their customers could more effectively and efficiently use the hardware they already owned. (Example: services include consulting, training and coaching in addition to different levels of hotline and field service support). As a result, the company has rebounded from its slump of a few years ago and has posted steady gains in revenue 
and profit.
Demonstrate how the same products/services can address new needs: Customers will continue to buy the same products and services at premium prices provided they recognize how the value of the product/service meets their most important objective at this time. (Example: If customers cannot justify renting your villas for ‘fun’, they may still justify it for business seminars and adventures due to safety, security and other ‘practical’ reasons).
Provide incentives that increase value: Find new ways to add value for buying now rather than later, for buying bundled service packages, or for buying 
in larger quantities by offering special 
deals (Example: a storage company offers two months ‘free’ if the customer purchases a one-year contract instead of a 
monthly contract).
  • Find new markets for your products 
and services
Increasingly, the answer to less demand from current customers is for companies to reach out to new markets. For instance, a small tourist agency – traditionally focused on leisure travel – may now aggressively pursue the business travel market. 
This approach has promise, but to be successful it’s important to remember one thing: the key to successfully entering a new market is to adopt an investment mindset. For example, the tourist agency discovered it needed to make a number of changes in order to be ‘business traveller friendly’. Everything from flight schedules, accounting systems and reservation management systems had to be adjusted to meet the needs of corporate travel departments. Clearly, the tourist agency is evolving in ways that will eventually impact every aspect of 
the company.

  • Uncover assumptions to create opportunities
One of the biggest areas of control we have is how we lead and manage our organisations on a daily basis. Today, collaborating with external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and alliance partners, had become more central to accomplishing objectives. Therefore, it’s important to engage them as well as those of employees in your organisation, asking and listening to answers regarding questions such as:
What needs to be done? Why? What else could be done to accomplish the same objective? Who will do it? Why should they do it? Who else could do it and still achieve our objective? Where will it be done? Why? Where else could it be done and still accomplish our objective? When does it need to be done? Why? At what other time could it be done and still meet 
our objective?
The way leaders tailor two-way communications to the specific needs of different internal and external stakeholders can explain why one company can excel while their competitor in the same industry fails. 
(Continued next week)
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at lionwije@live.com)
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