Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 02AUG10

August 2, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This week’s focus: innovation

Business process innovation can be as value laden as product or service innovation.

The San Jose Fire Department just laid off 50 fire fighters and will close a couple of fire stations due to budget constraints (and, frankly, the unwillingness of their unions to make concessions to save the jobs).

Sunnyvale, California, a major city in Silicon Valley, has an entirely different and revolutionary approach and, as a consequence, will lay off no one. Sunnyvale’s Public Safety Department combines fire, police and emergency medical services into one department. Those in police roles carry the equipment to take on fire fighter roles at a moment’s notice. Everyone is cross-trained to assume different roles. The officer in a police squad car this week might be stationed in a fire house next week. Sunnyvale’s lean approach drives great efficiency, agility and cost-effectively leverages total resources.

What process innovation is your team or company ignoring that can change the game and help you thrive?

Thought for the week:

“It’s a law of nature. Success breeds arrogance.” - Richard Martin, Alcera Consulting


Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

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What makes “Silicon Valley” Silicon Valley?

July 2, 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Silicon Valley during June 2010 to experience first-hand what has made companies like Cisco Systems, Google and Facebook what they are today. Medvedev was joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In different geographic areas all over the United States and the world, people want to emulate Silicon Valley to create jobs and vibrant economies. Silicon Valley is often imitated but has never been duplicated.

I grew up in Silicon Valley, graduated from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University, and have had the pleasure of working and living here in the world of high technology. I offer my random thoughts on the “secret sauce” that makes our beloved Silicon Valley truly unique in the world. While some attributes certainly carry more weight than others, e.g., access to capital, it is the collective impact of all these attributes that make Silicon Valley what it is.

  • Access to capital (angel investor money, venture capital) from investors willing to take risks in exchange for a future “big payday” event
  • Terrific higher education system: Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, strong junior college programs
  • The western U.S. was built by pioneering folks who made great sacrifices; that pioneering attitude must be in our DNA as it fuels great innovation and a drive to succeed in spite of what are often long odds
  • Competitive benefits: medical insurance, personal time off (vacation, sick-time), 401-K
  • Burning desire of entrepreneurs and employees to compete and win in the marketplace—“failure is not an option” even though some situations lead to failure
  • Risk aversion: there is some measure of safety in knowing that you or your company can fail and there will be another employment opportunity somewhere
  • No one expects to join a company and retire from it
  • Big paydays: these used to occur with great regularity in the 80’s and 90’s when a company would “go public” by offering its stock on a stock exchange. In the decade of the 2000’s, big pay days are rare. Today’s strategy is more about companies being acquired rather than going public. So, instead of seeing the value of your companies stock go through a meteoric rise, you now watch the value of the acquiring company’s stock rise.
  • Opportunity to be part of something exciting, have some impact on the world and your personal finances.
  • Work hard; play hard
  • Tolerance for less than perfect operational systems—some systems are simply “good enough”
  • Willingness to sacrifice family time and personal life for company time—usually for a “big payday”
  • Dress code—we invented “business casual” and it’s gotten even more casual over the years
  • Lack of pretentiousness
  • Open door policy—eschew hierarchical or “command and control” leadership
  • H1-B visas allow people from other countries to come to the U.S. to work in high-technology—provides rich diversity and sufficient talent to do amazing things
  • Embrace diversity—Silicon Valley tends to be pretty inclusive rather than exclusive—people who come here from other geographies or nationalities aren’t treated as outsiders
  • Wonderful year-around weather helps to attract talent to the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Great companies of the world thrive here: Apple, Google, Cisco Systems, Intel, Applied Materials, Hewlett Packard, Oracle; these companies routinely acquire other companies

What Silicon Valley does not provide?

  • Pensions or retirement programs
  • Attractive home prices
  • Low cost of living
  • Attractive California state income tax system

Does Silicon Valley always get it right? Certainly not! The investment community understands this better than any single group. The dot com bust showed irrational exuberance on the part of investors and executives to create any Internet-based company they could. Lots of money was lost and many folks lost their jobs when the question, “who wants to buy and why” wasn’t asked and answered appropriately.

So, can Russia create its own Silicon Valley? Yes, but, it won’t be like the Silicon Valley I know and love. Russia will need to see a cultural shift to be more open and trusting.

Russia has some fantastically creative and talented computer scientists and engineers who, given the opportunity, will do some great things for themselves, their companies and their country. Best wishes to Russia and President Dmitry Medvedev on their journey.

I would love your comments and reaction to this.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

You can sue for any reason

May 27, 2010

A woman who fell asleep on a flight ended up spending 4 hours sleeping on a plane after it had landed and the crew left.  If it were me, I’d laugh it off.

But, not this particular woman–she’s looking for a “big payday” as a result of this incident.  From MSNBC’s website comes this:

PHILADELPHIA – The woman left sleeping for four hours on a United Express jet after landing in Philadelphia is suing United Airlines, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

The lawyer of Ginger McGuire, 36, of Ferndale, Mich., said the lawsuit claims false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress and negligence, the paper said.

Are you kidding me?  Ginger, I hope you realize not one dime for your trouble.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

Toyota-Tesla joint venture announced

May 20, 2010

About 3:30 pm PDT today, I heard the fantastic news that:

  • Toyota and Tesla Motors have formed a joint venture to produce electric vehicles
  • The production will take place in Fremont, California
  • It will utilize the production facility that closed on April 1, 2010, known as the NUMMI plant, a joint venture between GM and Toyota

This is very exciting.  When the NUMMI plant closed, it displaced 4,500 workers and had a negative impact on nearly 25,000 jobs through the supply chain, shipping, logistics, etc.

The NUMMI folks fought long and hard to save their jobs and did not prevail resulting in the closure of the last automotive manufacturing facility in California.

Well, no more.  Here is an article summarizing this news story.

The news could not be more welcome here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thank you Toyota and Tesla Motors for reaching an agreement that will stand to benefit thousands and thousands of people right here in my back yard.


Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

Highest manufacturing growth since 2004

April 1, 2010

Great news this morning from the Associated Press:

The U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in March at its strongest pace in 5 1/2 years, a private trade group said Thursday, as industrial companies continue to lead the recovery from the recession.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its gauge of industrial companies rose to 59.6 in March from 56.5 in February. It is the eighth straight month of expansion and the fastest growth since July 2004, when the index was 59.9.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected the measure to read 57.

Very encouraging!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

Hilarious Indian call center experience

March 30, 2010

All of us have heard stories about how upset Americans become when forced to deal with overseas customer service call centers.  I’m not one of them.  I live in a part of the world that looks like the United Nations–there are people from all over the world.

Recently, I needed to speak to Dell Financial Services about a computer lease.

When a human finally comes on the phone, he says in his finest, thickest Indian accent:

“Hello, thank you for calling Dell Financial Services, this is Bob.”

Bob? I was taken aback.  Indian men have names like Sanjeev, Kumar, Satinder, but, “Bob?”

Did “Bob” think I would miss the fact that he was in India?  It the trend for people working in call centers for American companies to use more “Americanized” names?  It was hilarious.

I’m happy to report that “Bob” did a fine job of handling my call.  Thanks, “Bob” or whatever your real name is.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

How to improve the Department of Homeland Security

January 10, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security is not securing our safety from terror as we should expect. How should they approach this challenge to improve speed, accelerate collaboration and improve efficacy?

The unsuccessful Christmas Day terror attack (a.k.a. the underpants bomber) involving Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit has highlighted inefficiencies and process breakdowns that a reasonable person would have thought would have been eliminated years ago.

In spite of receiving what should have been considered actionable intelligence from the terrorist’s father, critical information was not acted on appropriately or in a timely fashion by governmental agencies. This breakdown could have caused the death of 288 people on the aircraft and perhaps more on the ground.

The American people deserve better. This predictable event was an entirely avoidable business execution failure on the part of those charged with protecting us.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security[i] (DHS) was established on March 1, 2003. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. This cabinet-level department’s mission is to protect the U.S. from terror attacks and to respond to natural disasters. This cabinet-level department was created after the September 11, 2001, terror attack by the Bush Administration. The Department of Homeland Security works in conjunction with other federal departments.[ii] Homeland security policy is coordinated at the White House by the Homeland Security Counsel.[iii]

A Simple Solution

I am for simplicity in business process and system design. I prefer speed and agility over elegance. From a simplistic viewpoint, here’s what should have happened after any human being in any government agency receives a report about a real, possible or potential threat.

  • DHS is immediately notified by any government employee about any potential threat,
  • The individual(s) is/are added to the terrorist watch list and no-fly list,
  • A report dispatched to all federal agencies and international partners who need to be aware of this intelligence,
  • Any outstanding U.S. visas are immediately revoked,
  • Appropriate post-report actions are taken

If it turns out the report is a mistake or a hoax, apologize and move on.

Political correctness, not having sufficient details of a threat, etc., is no reason to not immediately escalate our response to a potential threat.

How Anti-Terror Processes Should Be Designed

The business processes should consist of a series of business process modules with each module reflecting a likely scenario that may be encountered.

Example: Human #1 advises Human #2 within a government agency that Human #3 represents a specific threat. The response to the specific scenario should consist of very simple business process steps that can be executed with a minimum of delay and minimal need for training. The process described under “A Simple Solution” above could be adopted very quickly.

Information technology availability always lags the needs of the organization. Therefore, information technology may not take a lead role in a solution. As information technology becomes available to tie together the modules together, this can be implemented. It is not, however, acceptable to wait to eliminate gaps and breakdowns in current business processes until information technology is available. There can be incremental improvements over time.

Impediments to Change in the Federal Government

Forming the Department of Homeland Security has not immediately resulted in business process improvements or improvements in business execution. Lesson learned: we cannot legislate improved business execution.

The biggest impediments to improving business execution are leadership and culture.

All governmental departments are led by political appointees. The career employees in each department know that they need only stall for 4 years, 8 years or sometimes even less, and this new political appointee will be gone, they won’t have to radically change what they do or how they do it, and they can pretty much be impervious to all but the most minor amounts of change.

Whenever people want to push back on major change, one of the first things the change agent will hear is, “Well, you just don’t understand.” And, by the time the person does understand, the gig is up, a new department head comes in and the process starts all over. Net impact: almost none. The “line in the sand” barely moves.


Why is Change So Difficult?

Most people start with the details rather than the view from 20,000 feet, get clear on the required objectives or outcomes, and adjust the processes to fit the objectives or outcomes. It is so easy to get mired in details that one loses sight of the desired outcomes.

Making required changes to existing processes requires intense, laser-like focus on specific objectives and outcomes that have to be achieved within a rapid time frame. It is important to remember that, all the while, the culture is pushing against change.

The leader must keep pushing back to make sure that changes are not being undermined for the sake of delaying or denying change. The leader must also overcome the inertia and resistance to sharing information outside of agency silos.

Roles and responsibilities need to clearly defined for employees in each scenario. Employees need to be held accountable for executing the process in accordance with expectations and need to understand that there are immediate and dramatic consequences for non-compliance.

There is never a viable excuse for not being fast. Just as readers here are looking to become fast companies, government processes must become fast as well.  And, please, if you think I don’t understand, help me understand how you would make change to improve the efficacy of this critical need, not why change is not possible.


David Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author, blogger who specializes in eliminating business execution problems that threaten profitability and growth. He can be reached through his web site at www.gardnerandassoc.com.

[i] The Department of Homeland Security has over 200,000 employees in federal organizations that include:

  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • National Protection and Programs Directorate
  • U.S. Secret Service

[ii] Several key federal departments that are also charged with protecting the U.S. include:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Department of Justice
  • The Department of Energy
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Department of State

[iii] The Homeland Security Council is chaired by the President of the United States. The statutory members include the Vice President of the United States and the department heads from treasury, justice, defense, homeland security, health and human services, federal emergency management agency, FBI, and the homeland security advisor. Other cabinet-level secretaries may be called upon to participate as well as the chiefs of staff for the President and Vice President, and other key members of the executive branch.

Manufacturing grows at fastest pace in 3 years

January 4, 2010

The Associated Press reports today:

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its manufacturing index read 55.9 in December after 53.9 in November. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

That is the fifth straight month of expansion and the highest reading for the index since April 2006.

The ISM report said new orders, a future of future production, jumped last month to 65.5 from 60.3 in November.  Indexes measuring production and employment also rose.

A very positive trend indeed for the start of the new year.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Wayward NWA Pilots and Business Execution

October 27, 2009

While I’m sure the 2 pilots who were apparently too busy paying attention to their laptops to pay attention to flying an Airbus A320 this past week and flew by the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport by 150 miles have serious regrets about their actions, their behavior is reprehensible.

The FAA has suspended their licenses and Delta has committed that they will be terminated for their actions.  It is hard to argue for anything less.

These gentlemen were out of contact with controllers for 78 minutes.  Due to their lack of response, there was a real concern that the plane may have been hijacked.  Even the White House was alerted to this transgression while the event was in progress.

When I fly United, I always listen to the cockpit radio communications.  If you have not listened to it before, a pilot would be hard pressed to not have to communicate every 10 or 15 minutes along a route and much, much more on departure from and on approach to an airport. Air traffic control is constantly making slight route or altitude adjustments, handing off from one control center to another, etc.

78 minutes is an absolute eternity to not be paying attention while flying over US air space.

While I feel badly for anyone who loses a job and for their families, these pilots exposed themselves and their passengers to extraordinary risk.  They deserve to lose their jobs.

That said, these 2 knuckleheads would likely never again be so cavalier again in flight management.  Perhaps another airline should give them another chance (assuming the FAA will license them to fly again).  They are seasoned veterans who made a horrible business execution error.

What do you think?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Cell phones on airplanes? NOOOOOOOOO!!!

October 13, 2009

We all occasionally experience some rude person talking on their cell phone oblivious to the world around them.  It’s just like the people who pull next to you at a stop light with their stereos blaring–you are trapped until the light changes.  There is no where to go.

Well, Luthansa Airlines has just announced their intention to not only provide Internet service on their planes but also cell phone service.  I’m all in favor of the former but adamantly against the latter.

Imagine being trapped in a sealed metal tube next to or near some inconsiderate person who decides to chat idly for hours or close sales or what have you.  Imagine you really can’t escape this because, in a post-9/11 world, the airlines don’t want you out of your seat.

I once took a 2-hour train ride to Helsinki, Finland.  In each rail car, there was a “cell phone booth.”  Riders who needed to speak on the phone were expected to go into the booth.  In my mind, that’s a great idea.  If Lufthansa can incorporate such a booth (think “cone of silence”), I have no problem allowing cell phone use on planes.

Until then, my favorite moment of plane travel will remain when every traveler is ordered to turn off their cell phone.

What do you think?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Plantronics Enters Business Execution Hall of Fame

October 6, 2009

In August of 2008, I purchased a Plantronics Discovery 925 mobile Bluetooth headset.  The unit comes with a 12-month warranty.

In September of 2009, this product became unusable.  As I’d invested $125 plus California sales tax in this unit, I really didn’t want to throw the unit away.  I contacted Plantronics customer support to see if I could get it repaired.

Plantronics customer support let me know that they honored their 12-month warranty for up to 13 months and asked if I could locate the original receipt.  I found it immediately and I was on my way to a no-charge warranty exchange for a replacement unit.

Much to my delight, I received the replacement last week and it works even better than the original.   They sent it with only my verbal promise to return the defective unit after I’d received the replacement.  They did not ask for a credit card number to guarantee that I’d return the defective unit, something many companies do in similar circumstances.

For outstanding customer support above and beyond their published standards, Plantronics is hereby granted entry in Gardner & Associates Consulting’s  “Business Execution Hall of Fame.”  Congratulations, Plantronics!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Demise of GM’s Saturn-Another Business Execution Failure

October 1, 2009

13,000 employees and nearly 400 dealers received the news yesterday that GM failed to secure a deal to sell GM’s Saturn business to Roger Penske.  Why?  Penske could not find another manufacturer willing to produce the vehicles beyond 2011.

An automobile manufacturer without manufacturing support is doomed.

The problem didn’t happen overnight.  Saturn has not made a profit since 1994.  15 years with no profit.  This is beyond comprehension.

This is not only a business execution failure, it is a failure of leadership–management and the board–that a brand is allowed to flounder for 15 years.  This failure is going to create incredible pain for those who relied on this brand for their livelihoods.

Would Jack Welch have allowed this to happen?  Maybe for one year.

What do you think?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


PowWeb dumps customers–why?

September 29, 2009

This past weekend, PowWeb entered the Business Execution Hall of Shame for dumping with no notice a top Internet web entrepreneur after having solicited web hosting on the basis of:

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited disk space

Why would a company so arbitrarily and capriciously dump a loyal customer of 6 years with no notice?

One could speculate that PowWeb makes certain assumptions about how much bandwidth and disk space it expects a “typical” customer to use.  It is likely this web entrepreneur exceeded the norm, perhaps by a very wide margin.

What has happened in the last 6 years to the Internet?

Two important factors are driving the need for more and more bandwidth and disk space: audio and video. These factors really didn’t exist 6 years ago and, today, represent a significant drain on resources that normal html web pages do not.

I suspect that PowWeb took a close look at who the big consumers of disk space and bandwidth were amongst their customer base and unceremoniously dumped them to protect the infrastructure needs of their other clients.  It may well be that a very small number of customers tied up a sizeable chunk of PowWeb’s infrastructure capacity.

Is this excusable?  No.  PowWeb remains in our Business Execution Hall of Shame for its actions.  It is horrible to dump a customer with no notice.  They should have given notice and a reasonable period of time to migrate to a new web hosting company.

It is not realistic for PowWeb to offer the “earth, moon and sky” at the lowest price in their market particularly given the way the Internet has involved to require more and more bandwidth and disk space.  It is not, as has been proven here, a sustainable business model for them.

The question is who within PowWeb’s customer base is next to go if not now, next week, next month, next year?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Manufacturing sector still wobbly

September 26, 2009

From the Associated Press comes this report yesterday, the 25th of September, 2009:

Durable goods orders, a key indicator for the manufacturing industry, fell unexpectedly in August. The Commerce Department said orders for goods expected to last at least three years slid 2.4 percent, after rising 4.8 percent in July. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast an increase of 0.5 percent.

It was the second drop in three months and the latest sign that any rebound inside the nation’s factories is likely to be slow.

While some may want to declare that the worst recession we have ever experienced is over, there are indications that we have a ways to go.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Manufacturing Sector Growth After 19 Months

September 1, 2009

The U.S. manufacturing sector grew in August for the first time in 19 months as new orders from customers jumped to the highest level since late 2004.

The better-than-expected reading Tuesday by the Institute for Supply Management showed the highest number for its manufacturing index since June 2007.

What is your company doing to prepare for the coming turn-around?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Matrix management and business execution

August 9, 2009

One of my colleagues, Dr. Guido Quelle of Mandat GmbH, was invited to weigh in on the con’s associated with matrix management by Business Week.   Guido’s and his counterpart offer compelling thoughts.  I also commented in the blog post-available  here.

Please add your commentary here or at the site of the Business Week discussion.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Poor business execution undermines businesses

February 9, 2009

I stumbled across the following sub-head in a Reno Gazette Journal article yesterday:

“Food, service leave a lot to be desired at upstart eatery.”

If I were the owner of this restaurant, I’d feel like I’d just taken a direct hit from a cannon ball.   Besides ambiance, what else is there in a restaurant besides the food and service?

Some friends opened a new restaurant in San Jose, California, and had similar comments in a review of their restaurant.  I felt so bad for them as I knew they worked extremely hard on the menu, suffered months of unanticipated and costly delays in opening due to the permitting processes, etc. The reviewer felt that the chef had toned things down to the point of ruining the authenticity of  the ethnic food they were offering.  And, to add to the misery, the reviewer commented that the service in this fine dining establishment missed the mark as well.  How sad. All their hard work was being undermined by their business execution.

The restaurant business is challenging enough in this economy even with superior business execution.  Mediocrity or even a lower standard of execution is going to cause certain demise of these restaurants unless they can improve their execution quickly.

Poor business execution undermines businesses of all types, not just restaurants.  I encourage business owners to find out what it is like to do business with their own company from the point of view of customers.  What kind of experiences is your business creating across all aspects of your business, from sales to service?  Find out and correct deficiencies.

Complaints should be treasured as they give you the insights you need to take your business to the next level.  If you treat customers with indifference (and, sadly, roughly 70% of customers feel they are treated with complete indifference), you are putting the economic health of your business at risk.  If you fail to meet the most modest of expectations, you are putting the economic health of your business at risk.

At a minimum, I expect good service and good food served at an appropriate temperature.    I really want great service and great food consistent with the restaurant I’m dining at.   What customers want is a great experience, the kind of experience that makes them want to come back again and again and to tell their friends about it.

Are you aware of how well your company is doing meeting customer expectations?  Are you thinking that business is off merely due to economic pressures or could it be something else–your firm is failing to meet even the most modest expectations of your customers?

Business execution is not about doing one thing well and the other things poorly–it is the sum of all the customer touch points that makes customers want to come back again and again.

Dave Gardner http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

Fear undermining sales execution

February 5, 2009

I’m very concerned about the level of fear in the world and especially how it is impacting people involved in Sales.  The news is filled with little other than news of economic distress, layoffs on a scale not seen in years, war, people arguing in Washington about how to stimulate the economy, etc.  It’s disturbing.  And, the outcome of simply listening to the news is creating more fear.

I’m currently engaged in a project in Silicon Valley with a major high technology company so I’m observing this first-hand.  The fear is certainly palpable in the Sales and Marketing organizations and the executive suite.

Sales organizations are scrambling to do anything and everything they can to meet quota. You can feel fear backing up into the Marketing organizations trying to do so much to be “helpful” to the Sales teams that it makes one wonder whether all the programs represent a bigger distraction to the Sales teams than a help. More programs, more collateral, more communication pieces aren’t always the best answer.

Sales management, Marketing and the executive teams are competing for the attention of the front-line people who generate sales in spite of the fact the overriding concern of their buyers is that no one really wants to buy anything they don’t absolutely have to right now.

What are the answers if you are in Sales?  Tighten up execution which means:

  • Figure out what each customer is really telling you, not what you think they are telling you
  • Remember that people buy based on their own self-interests as well as the interests of their company–don’t forget to pay attention to your buyer’s self-interests
  • Look for ways to improve your personal productivity–a few extra meetings a week could make a huge difference
  • If your competitor is getting the business, ask your customer for insights
  • Plan your sales calls carefully–treasure each opportunity to get in front of a customer or prospect
  • Analyze your past successes and see what patterns emerge that might help you produce success now
  • Some companies may be better candidates than others in this economy–the top tier firms tend to be selective but make the investments they must make
  • Maintain quality relationships with your customers–think of the life time value of the customer, not just the next sale
  • When management starts going nuts, maintain your center about who you are and what your customers can realistically do–don’t buy into quotas that you can’t possibly meet
  • Maintain your perspective–not everything good or bad is about you no matter what you might hear
  • Keep your energy level up

Good selling!

Dave Gardner http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

Automotive bailout stipulates firms must be viable by 4/1/2009

December 19, 2008

The Bush administration has  finally agreed to a $17.4 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler.  I’m wondering how the Boards of these companies can, in good faith, accept the financial assistance.

One of the stipulations is that the companies be “viable” by 01APR09.  What does “viable” mean?

Does “viable” mean:

  • They don’t come back to Washington again and ask for additional financial assistance?
  • They guarantee some level of employment for automotive industry employees?
  • Does it mean that all the strategic realignments are in place?
  • Does it mean that any non-competitive aspects of labor agreements have been corrected?

How can the Boards accept money given that they are supposed to be “viable” in about three months?  It’s absurd.

And, so the Bush administration can further the illusion of providing  “sound leadership” in this matter, these firms have to rid themselves of perks like corporate jets.  What a bunch of hooey!

While this may play well with the American public, the American public has little insight in what air travel is like and the tremendous inefficiencies commercial air travel creates.  A private jet is a tool to create efficiencies, it’s not a perk!

It is unrealistic to expect these companies are viable 100 days from now.  If they worked diligently, they’d have the beginnings of a plan that they could begin to execute.

What do you think?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting  http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

How business execution improves survivability in tough economic times

December 8, 2008

NBC’s Today Show recently offered a segment called “Get Out Alive: Surviving a Plane Crash. ”  I was surprised to learn that 96% of people involved in plane crashes in the U.S. survive. The point of the piece is that not only is it possible to survive a plane crash, it is likely you’ll survive if you make the right split-second choices. 

Mac McLean, Civil Aerospace Research Institute, was interviewed at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Crash Training Facility in Oklahoma and offered the following insights based on their research and anecdotal evidence:

  • 15% of the people are prepared to “get up and get out”
  • 15% of people are incapacitated in a plane crash–either mentally or physically–and need assistance to get out
  • 70% of people are in between and can either be roused to act properly or lulled into doing nothing

We’re going to see the same phenomena occur during this economic downturn:

  • 15% of companies will thrive during this period of economic downturn
  • 15% of companies are going to suffer and either need assistance or die
  • 70% will either do something to improve their lot to come out of this downturn in a stronger competitive position or hunker down, do nothing and come out of the economic downturn in worse shape to compete in their marketplace.

It is said in nature that organisms are either growing or dying–there is no steady state.  This is true of businesses as well–there is no steady state. 

The marketplace is constantly changing and the top companies are constantly getting better.  Embracing a steady state is a prescription for an even darker future.

There is no better time to focus on closing  business execution gaps than a time when business is slower than normal.  This is a time when management has the bandwidth to properly examine issues and prepare for the next business upturn.

Where should you start?  Look at the core processes within your principal organizations:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Development
  • Operations
  • Service
  • Finance

Don’t just focus on survival; get ready to thrive.  That’s what your competitors are doing.  Shouldn’t you? 

What do you think?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting www.gardnerandassoc.com


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