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A supreme Court Judge made the comment that mediation is a “no-brainer” for business and she particularly singled out legal disputes involving the banking and insurance sectors.
Speaking at recent Irish Commercial Mediation Association function (ICMA) Justice Fidelma Macken said that a significant amount of money was unnecessarily spent on litigation where it was obvious that a more appropriate and effective option may have been mediation.
In Ireland the cost of litigation is estimated to be over twice as high as in other countries. Typically costs for a €200,000 claim run to over €50,000 while in the rest of Europe the cost for a similar claim would be nearer €25,000.
When this is compared to the cost of mediation on the exact same amount, the figure drops dramatically down to €7,000.
Judge Macken also pointed out the significant amount of time spent preparing for and actually going to court.
“Anything that can be done to prevent people spending time away from their business at the moment needs to be taken seriously,” she said.
Statistics show that on average a legal business dispute can take up to 500 days to resolve where, according to the ICMA, mediation takes in the region of 40 days to decide.
Copyright © 2011, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved
The Synergy Group
Brands live in the hearts and minds of consumers. Brand managers can provide the oxygen for brands to live through high quality imagery, design and story telling. Powerful brands that match the customer experience to their promise and deliver in a consistent professional manner set themselves apart from the competition and ultimately lead to strong differentiated profitable businesses.
‘The market is hopelessly crowded. As a result brands are more, not less, important than ever - if you want to stand out, even a little, in that insanely crowded market place’
(Tom Peters - The Circle of Innovation)
I strongly believe that more Irish businesses need to develop, implement and continuously review brand strategies. Brands such as Baileys, Jameson and even the brand of Ireland are examples of major success stories However I believe we are only scratching the surface of what’s possible and there are countless opportunities for small, medium and large organisations to release true competitive advantage through strong brand delivery.
Above all, brands have the ability to inspire consumers, employees, onlookers as well as stir envy in the marketplace.
In the early part of the 20th century, brands were the physical identification symbol of an organisation or product. Coca Cola, for example was trademarked in 1887.
Towards the 1950s brands started to emerge as distinct personalities aided by the emergence of mass marketing media such as TV.
Now as we move through the early stages of the 21st century, brands are evolving further to encompass meaning and experience. Brands have a meaning that offers the consumer something far beyond the functional product or service benefit.
It could be argued that a brand is the modern day equivalent of what bookkeeping manuals used to refer to as the ‘goodwill’ of a business. Many people in business even at senior levels consider the company logo to be the brand and view it as something that needs expensive support through advertising and promotion.
These are components of brand delivery, not the brand itself.
The power of a brand
‘Ultimately the power of a brand lies in the minds of consumers and customers, in what they have experienced or learned about the brand over time… Everything a company does can help enhance or detract from brand equity’
(Kevin Lan Keller, Harvard Business Review)
In other words, a brand is what comes to mind and how we feel about a person, place or organisation based on a myriad of ‘touch points’ we as consumers experience over time.
All of these experiences have the ability to impact on our opinions positively or negatively and ultimately influence our next actions. Brands are the summation of all the touch points.
Traditional brand strategies may focus on the classical marketing techniques of advertising, promotion and public relations, paying little attention to a host of other brand influencer's, in other words focusing their efforts on the tip of the iceberg.
Our view is that organisations need to translate their brand values right through every area of their business to achieve differentiation.
Product orientated organisations: focus on product functional benefits - their product is quicker, faster, cheaper, tastier, bigger, longer lasting than the competition.
In this environment it is likely that only short-term benefits will accrue as functional benefits are usually copied and improved upon by the competition. Organisations competing on such lines will find themselves forever in a ‘dog fight’ with their competitors, chasing short-term tactical campaigns.
‘The increasing difficulty in differentiating among products and the speed with which competitors take up innovations will assist the rise and rise of the brand’
(Gillian Low/Nick Grant - New Zealand Marketing Experts)
Brand focused organisations: appeal to the emotional as well as the rational side of their customers. The functional benefits are usually taken for granted or in some cases may not even be superior once the brand has a strong emotional appeal to drive customer purchase and loyalty.
This explains why my son will only play football in Nike shoes, or my colleague drives BMW over Mazda. BMW allows him feel good about himself in ways he wouldn’t admit or even realise on a conscious level. It tells the world: ‘I am successful’, ‘I have done well’, ‘I drive a performance car’ ‘I feel good driving this’, ‘look at me!’ Consumers value these perceptions so much that they are often blind to the functional differences that may exist.
It can be argued that some production Japanese cars contain more comfortable interiors than the standard BMW. In fact consumers may very often find it difficult to articulate why they buy brand x over brand y as the purchase decision is driven by a deep underlying emotional need or attachment. This need may be based on image, status, comfort, or a host of other emotional factors.
Organisations and managers who understand this phenomenon don’t rely on advertising alone to build their brand but bring the emotional and rational benefits to life throughout the business.
The transformation of the car showroom experience over the past 5 years is an example of this.
Organisations that recognise the business benefits of a strong differentiated brand always outperform their peers in the long run. A strong brand is an asset to any organisation and indeed is priced into any business sale that may arise. Brands have the potential to outlive business changes, mergers and acquisitions.
There are examples of this in the Irish market where the businesses can change owners but there is a palpable relief among consumers that the brands remain. Guinness is one such example or the Fruitfield foods purchase of the stable of brands from Nestle and Jacobs.
‘If this business were split up, I would be glad to take the brands, goodwill and trademarks, and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you’
(John Stuart, Chairman of Quaker Foods)
I have personal experience of consumers who are devastated that they can no longer find their favourite brand in their local shop having loyally followed it through good and bad times, a clear case of emotional attachment. An Irish example of this recently was Walshes Spiceburgers. In 2009 a receiver was appointed, and 2 weeks after the company closed, there was such huge support that they started manufacturing again.
- Repositioning of the Andrews Liver Salts brand
- Development of the RoC Pharmacy skincare brand
- Development of the Neutrogena brand
- Building of the Friends First corporate brand in the Irish marketplace
- Repositioning of the Friends First Income Protection and Investment Bond Proposition in the marketplace
In all of the above, business targets were achieved by shifting the focus away from the functional industry benefits to the emotional consumer benefits, creating a point of differentiation that facilitated the selling of the story and the product
The challenge for indigenous Irish organisations in the print industry is to develop a culture of brand delivery in your organisations and ‘walk the talk’ through all elements of delivery. The brand message will get communicated to customers through corporate design and imagery, advertising, promotional materials and point of sale and store fit out. The customers’ experience in dealing with the organisation, it’s representatives at all levels, as well as the product performance will either match and reinforce the promise bringing customers back, or fall short and result in customers not returning.
Successful organisations also realise that branding is not a once-off project or initiative but rather a way of doing business. This is illustrated by the following table, which matches household brand names against their value:
Top Ten Brands in 2010
Source: Interbrand Corp, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley.
All of the above invest heavily in brand building strategies, continuously innovate to stay top of mind with their audience and communicate their stories through new and emerging brand techniques.
Copyright © 2011, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved
The Synergy Group
Successful networking is not about going to events and making friends with as many people as possible. Going home with a wallet full of cards is not success.
Success is about knowing who you need to meet, where they gather and what you are going to do to land a meeting with them.
These ten and a half tips will increase your results.
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Successful networking starts in your office. Have a succinct profile of your customer in your head; age, gender, socio economic status, location, buying and shopping tastes, spending power and any other useful indicators. You must see your customer in front of you to allow you to decide who constitutes a useful contact for you. When networking, focus on people who fit that profile or people who will lead you to them. Move graciously and quickly away from anyone else.
2. KNOW YOUR SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME
Concentrate on coming away from the event with the contact details of useful and relevant people who have agreed to a follow up meeting over a cup of coffee. It is pointless and stressful trying to sell to a stranger in the middle of a big room. Knowing this takes the stress out of networking.
3. HAVE A STRATEGY
Concentrate on networking where your potential customers or leads gather. Don’t waste time going to meetings on the off chance you will meet a lead. That’s what the pub is for. If you can get a participants list in advance you can plan who you definitely need to meet. You also want to meet potential suppliers and recommenders. Recommenders are gold dust as they will get you business.
4. READ THE ROOM
When you arrive take a breath and survey the room. Don’t panic if you don’t see any familiar faces; remember other people came to meet strangers. Divide the room into two; clumps of people and individuals. Start with individuals as they are easier to approach. Look at the clumps of people and read their body language to see if they are an open or closed group. A closed group is people having an intense private chat leaning into each other and the configuration leaves no gaps as they are all facing towards each other. Never try to break into a closed group of people.
The rule is to approach individuals and open groups.
5. LEAVE YOUR FRIENDS
Why go out to network and spend all the time with your pals. Make it a rule to only talk to new people and to actively seek them out. I know it’s scary - but so is bankruptcy.
6. SET YOURSELF A GOAL
Have a goal before you enter the room; decide exactly who and how many people you want to meet. The more you know about the guests in advance the more exact your goal. If a crucial contact is there, make meeting them your goal of the night. If a number of recommenders are there, reintroducing yourself to them may be your goal. Be specific, set a goal of leaving with five follow up meetings arranged.
7. READ THE PERSON
People divide into two; social or one-to-one types. Social types like to work a room and are always looking over your shoulder for another contact. They have a short attention span so get to the point sharpish. One-to-one types love to get into deep conversation and can be a networking death trap. Figure out each person you meet and adapt your behaviour to suit.
8. DON’T BORE PEOPLE
Don’t bore people by talking non stop about how wonderful you are. People do business with people they like, not egomaniac show offs. Good manners go a long way. Remember that everyone’s favourite topic of conversation is themselves, so be an interested listener and they will warm to you.
9. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU: IT’S ABOUT THEM
It is all about the other person not about you. Ask questions, be interested in their business. Remember the power of WIIFM, what’s in it for me? Get them to talk about their business. Ask good questions and probe to find out about their business challenges. Get them talking about themselves. Then talk about your business.
10. DON’T SELL YOUR SOUL ON THE DAY : GET A MEETING
Concentrate on a brief conversation to determine if you can do business together and if so set up a follow-up meeting. You should not bring all your marketing and publicity materials. Remember you want to meet them afterwards so save all that for the meeting.
AND A HALF
This may seem obvious but success depends on people being able to find you afterwards so bring your business cards. If you don’t have any, get them now. You may need to make notes so bring a pen and always have a name badge.
Copyright © 2011, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved
The Synergy Group
As an Industrial Engineer, one of the basic tools I learnt was Method Study. The aim of this method is to make your business more efficient, successful and cost effective. And you can make it work for you in your printing business.
Method study is the process of subjecting work to systematic critical scrutiny to make it more effective and/or more efficient. It is one of the keys to achieving productivity improvement.
It was originally designed for the analysis and improvement of repetitive manual work but it can be used for all types of activity at all levels of an organisation.
The process is often seen as a linear, working through a series of steps:
- Select (the work to be studied);
- Record (all relevant information about that work);
- Examine (the recorded information);
- Develop (an improved way of doing things);
- Install (the new method as standard practice);
- Maintain (the new standard proactive).
Although this linear representation shows the underlying simplicity of method study, in practice the process is much more one of repeated passes through the sequence of steps with each dominating at a different stage of the investigation.
The cyclic process often starts with a quick, rough pass in which preliminary data is collected and examined before subsequent passes provide and handle more comprehensive and more detailed data to obtain and analyse a more complete picture.
Work selected for method study may be an identified problem area or opportunity. It may be identified through a systematic review of available data, normal monitoring or control processes, high levels of dissatisfaction and complaint or as part of a change in management policy, practice, technology or location, and usually because it meets certain conditions of urgency and/or priority.
Before any method study investigation is begun, it is necessary to establish clear terms of reference which define the aims, scale, scope and constraints of the investigation. This should also include an identification of who "owns" the problem or situation and ways in which such ownership is shared. This may lead to a debate on the aims of the project, on reporting mechanisms and frequencies, and on the measures of success. This process is sometimes introduced as a separate and distinct phase of method study - the "Define" stage. It leads to a plan for the investigation which identifies appropriate techniques, personnel and timescale.
The Record stage of method study involves gathering sufficient data (in terms of both quality and quantity) to act as the basis of evaluation and examination. A wide range of techniques are available for recording; the choice depends on the nature of the investigation; the work being studied; and on the level of detail required. Many of the techniques are simple charts and diagrams, but these may be supplemented by photographic and video recording and by computer based techniques.
Especially with "hard" (clearly defined) problems, method study often involves the construction and analysis of models, from simple charts and diagrams used to record and represent the situation to full, computerised simulations. Manipulation and experimentation on the models leads to ideas for development.
The recorded data is subjected to examination and analysis; formalised versions of this process are critical examination and systems analysis. The aim is to identify, often through a structured, questioning process, those points of the overall system of work that require improvements or offer opportunity for beneficial change.
The Examine stage merges into the Develop stage of the investigation as more thorough analysis leads automatically to identification of areas of change. The aim here is to identify possible actions for improvement and to subject these to evaluation in order to develop a preferred solution.
Sometimes it is necessary to identify short-term and long-term solutions so that improvements can be made (relatively) immediately, while longer-term changes are implemented and come to fruition.
The success of any method study project is realised when actual change is made 'on the ground' - change that meets the originally specified terms of reference for the project. Thus, the Install phase is very important. Making theoretical change is easy; making real change demands careful planning - and handling of the people involved in the situation under review. They may need reassuring, retraining and supporting through the acquisition of new skills. Install, in some cases, will require a parallel running of old and new systems. In others it may need the build-up of buffer stocks and other planning to manage the change. What matters is that the introduction of new working methods is successful. There is often only one chance to make change!
Some time after the introduction of new working methods, it is necessary to check that the new method is working, that it is being properly followed and that it has brought about the desired results. This is the Maintain phase. Method drift is common - when people either revert to old ways of working, or introduce new changes. Some of these may be helpful and should formally be incorporated; others may be inefficient or unsafe. A methods audit can be used to formally compare practice with the defined method and identify such irregularities.
Copyright © 2011, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved
A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can’t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down the supermarket don’t get pissed off and buy someone else’s product instead.
Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their own engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.
The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and €8 million) later they had a fantastic solution — on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using some high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box weighing less than it should was put on the scales. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done.
A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” – he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.
It turns out the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after three weeks of production use. It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.
Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet was away from the scales stood a €20 desk fan blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.
“Oh, that?” said one of the workers, “one of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang”.
Copyright © 2011, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved