Excel in Strategic Alliances … for Competitive Advantage

Strategic Alliance

An excellent way to quickly gain capabilities your business lacks is through a strategic alliance. The sad fact is, however, that 60% of strategic alliances fail, which is enough to give pause to the most confident. However, this presents an opportunity. Excel in strategic alliances to beat out your competition.

Generally the management of the strategic alliance is at issue, not the choice of an alliance itself. So, learn how to manage the new animal effectively and win. It takes patience and understanding. The new alliance will have challenges and difficulties – let the new structure learn. Also essential is letting the strategic alliance team build strong relationships – providing the opportunity for face-time is essential here, as is encouraging understanding of the different cultures involved.

Finally, focus on the long-term, the pay-off or raison d’etre. This will help the team move through the daily storms and end up sailing in the right direction.

For more information on this and over 10 more sources of competitive advantage -  complete with data behind each one – click here.


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Photo credit: Yvonne in Willowick Ohio

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Tove Rasmussen, your partner in business growth @ Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.  Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

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A Simple Market Focus can be a Powerful Advantage

Customer Value cartoonToo many companies merely give lip service to focusing on the market and customers. A real market orientation involves offering more customer value due to an outstanding understanding of the customer and competitors that permeates the organization.

Based on 9 years of data, Kumar et al find that ‘market orientation has a positive effect on business performance in the short and the long run.” It can take some time for the market orientation to have a positive effect, so management needs to provide support. At the beginning of the 9 year period, a company with a market orientation had an advantage. Later on, the nature of competition changed and a market orientation was necessary to compete successfully. Still, the study finds that under highly competitive pressure, a company can gain advantage with a market orientation.

At a multi-million packaging company, I led the shift from a product to a market focus. Initially, the company produced the plethora of products the equipment could produce. As a result, the company was mediocre in most markets, and poorly performing in some, having suffered a significant loss the previous year. I coached the management team to explore market options, utilizing the extensive knowledge in Sales, Production and market analyst assistance.

Given the company’s sophisticated capabilities, market trends and the high margins, we selected the high end market segment as an area of focus, shedding the high volume, low margin product lines. The company pulled together to pursue high quality packaging accounts and to move into a new, higher end product line. The new business added considerable profits to our bottom line, returning the company to profitability.

Over a dozen more options for competitive advantage are discussed in the article “14 Sources of Competitive Advantage.” The article is not only based on extensive experience but also includes considerable research and data on each option.




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Tove Rasmussen, your partner in business growth @ Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.  Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

 

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Excel in your Industry through Localizing in Global Markets

XinHui_RT-Mart_1st_floor_supermarket_19 Globalization in Local MarketsOne strategy to create competitive advantage involves localizing in global markets. Implementing simultaneous strategies of localization and globalization in global market returned Panasonic to a profitable growth path. In 2000, the company suffered its first loss due to Chinese competitors effectively exporting to the US, Europe and South Asia. In response, Panasonic shifted from a US-based to a global view. It set up a center focused both on local Chinese market needs and on globally available and soon-to-be available Panasonic products. The center uncovered a need for narrower refrigerators, allowing fridge sales to increase ten-fold in one year. It also found a need to sterilize laundry. Panasonic was the first major player to bring this capability to market. As a result, the front-loaded washer market share in China increased from 3% to 15%.1

Over a dozen more options for competitive advantage are discussed in the article “14 Sources of Competitive Advantage.” The article is not only based on extensive experience but also includes considerable research and data on each option.




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Tove Rasmussen, your partner in business growth @ Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.  Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: By Sanwuisusp (Own work)

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Some Banks Focused on Fostering Small Business Growth

Over the past month, I have talked with 3 banks that are working to foster small business growth with specific financing programs.  This is heartening news at a time when the regulatory restrictions on loans are intense; the backlash to the 2008 financial collapse is yet another factor slowing recovery. Below, I outline some programs tailored specifically for small business financing from Gorham Savings, Key Bank and Camden National Bank.

Gorham Savings Bank began its high profile LaunchPad program this spring, offering $30,000 to the best business idea to help the economy of Maine.  It is expected to be an annual event.  This year, the 7 semifinalists will have 5 minutes each March 21 to make a pitch for their idea, and the top 3 will be selected.  A video will be posted on the bank’s website fore each of the 3 finalists, and the public will select the winner.

This intriguing event definitely encourages submission of the ideas out there and will give publicity to more than the sole winner. LaunchPad can promote the many excellent ideas that Mainers have now to grow the economy, and provide them with the publicity to gain some sorely needed funding.

KeyBank also impressed me with their specific position for a Small Business Relationship Manager, someone dedicated to this niche, demonstrating a real commitment to this sector.  Small business brings in a smaller level of assets than larger companies; however, Key Bank has relationship managers dedicated to small, medium and large companies, to ensure each gets the attention it needs.

In addition, the bank has a specific financing option available to small businesses, or even start ups, the Small Business Key Equity Options (KEO).  It is a business financing option secured by equity in your home.  It combines a variable-rate line of credit with up to three fixed-rate loan options into one account.

Importantly, the U.S. Small Business Administration backs high risk loans for banks who are approved SBA lenders.  Camden National Bank, noted as a top ten SBA lender in Maine, spoke at a Maine Technology Institute event on financing options earlier this year.  The list of approved banks for SBA loans is extensive, and the SBA website has a quick search option to find the ones in your area.

The Maine District Office, SBA, lists the remaining top 10 SBA loan providers, based on the number of loans, as:
- Katahdin Trust Company
- Bangor Savings Bank
- Norstate Federal Credit Union
- The Bank of Maine
- TD Bank, NA
- KeyBank, NA
- Eastern Maine Development Corp.
- Saco & Biddeford Savings Inst.
- Machias Savings Bank

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of banks committed to helping small businesses grow in Maine.  These are small business programs of banks that I have come across in the last month or two.  However, if you are aware of other effective small business bank programs, please feel free to share them with the readers here.

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Tove Rasmussen, your partner in business growth @ Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.  Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: 401(k) 2013′s photostream

 

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How do you and I Grow the Economy?

We all know the economy has been a bear that is slowly coming out of hibernation, it seems.  As leaders, we consider what we can do to improve things, to grow the economy. For me, the answer is to grow the sales and profits of small and mid-sized businesses, as well as the organic growth of larger companies.

There are many solutions to growing a business -  offering more value to customers, getting word out more effectively on the value the company creates, or moving into new markets and product lines.  At PCW, we are a partner with our clients in growing their businesses. This supports our social mission of securing jobs and providing more jobs, in particular to help disadvantaged regions thrive.

In Maine, small business represents 97% of all employers and employs 58% of employees as of the most recent 2009 data.  Small and medium businesses have the clout to be the engine of growth.  Excel in this economy and companies are in good shape for a booming one.  After listening to the international business plan ideas of my students this fall, I was inspired by the opportunity that exists.  Contrary to what many believe, there are opportunities in a down economy – we see it in the home hardware business, in coffee sales (who doesn’t need some more caffeine?).

So, the question now becomes, what are the key areas of focus to grow your business in 2013?  I am curious to hear your responses to this question, client or not.  Insight into what will make your business tick intrigues me and helps me to understand where to focus our business services.

Together, we can grow businesses to contribute to economic growth and increased job opportunities. I look forward to your ideas, and wish you all health, happiness and prosperity in the New Year.

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Tove Rasmussen, your partner in business growth @ Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.  Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Banjo Brown

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Where are you going to?

The words of the old Dave Matthews song come to life as I sit in one of my best office chairs.  How do we know our direction?  How do we know what is important?

A lot of blogs like to tell people what to do.  Five ways to do this; seven ways to do that.  Apparently, people like to have succinct list of the potential answers to their challenge.  I understand that blogs can become very popular with this approach.

However, I can weary of reading someone’s view of what I need to do.  I wonder if others feel the same way, as I work to come up with yet another instructive blog.  Sometimes it just makes more sense to meet face to face and have a real conversation, talking about the specific situation.  Other times, it is more productive to take some quiet time and determine the best path forward.

The choices are ours to make.

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Tove Rasmussen, Business Coach & CEO of Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.

 

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Vision

What follows is FAKEGRIMLOCK’s perspective on the importance of vision in a startup. He understands that vision and iteration are allies, for there can be no science without vision. Only vision is worth testing. I’ll let him take it from here…

START UP IS VISION

 

 

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Merry New Year!

First of all, I wish you all a restful, joyous holiday connecting with friends and family.  May you enjoy your gifts.

Some despair of the commercialism and the bills.  However, to me, gifts goes far beyond the material.

As you can tell, I have always enjoyed this time of year.  The chance to get in touch with old friends through Christmas cards; the concerts, plays, parties; and the chance to give presents collected throughout the year to my family.  So many good memories.

It is also a time for many of us to reflect and look forward.  I had the good fortune to attend Rich Flyte’s How to Plan, Build and Promote a Business Blog held by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.  So stay tuned for some exciting blogs in 2012!

In the meantime, we wish you peace and prosperity in the New Year.

 

 

 

 

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This is How to Build a $1 Million Business

I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room awhile ago (lucky me, I know), and picked up a Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.  Yes, this dentist has some good magazines..

Of course, I flipped over to the articles on those who had made a million.  Why not?  And there was an excellent business coaching story, right before my eyes.

In that section was a fascinating story about Allison Evanow of Novatow, CA who has built a $1million business on organic vodka with flavour.

While working in the spirits business, she became aware of a trend of sophisticated cocktails.  “A lot of bartenders in San Francisco were focusing on using fresh, organic ingredients and taking a chef-like approach to making cocktails,” she says in an interview with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Culinary cocktails are savory, sweet or a blend of both.  We enjoy such cocktails over many foods, such as tapas or Thai.  Or we linger over these cocktails well into the first course of a meal.

“In August of 2004… it hit me literally in the middle of the night.  I woke up the next morning, turned to my husband and said, “I have this crazy idea.” I wrote the business plan that fall,” she told Kiplinger’s.

Unlike the usual vodkas available that have been stripped of their flavour, Square One Organic Vodka focuses on flavour.

Rye is at the core of the vodka, as it offers richer flavours than common grains and potatoes usually used for vodka.  Organic farming and fermentation was chosen so as not to mute the flavour in any way. “Square One worked with a master distiller for
nearly two years to develop and refine a proprietary process that is all natural, all the time,” according to Square One literature.

In addition, Square One uses only one distillation.  Though many vodka manufacturers boast of the many distillations, it turns out that each one removes impurities, and therefore flavour.

Square One uses the flavour strength in its promotional strategy.  Rather than spend on advertising and billboards, the company took the vodka to the bars and restaurants that create the great cocktails.  So, Square One was added to their repertoire due to its flavour, its potential for greater cocktails.  In this way, word has spread until it is sold in every state in the US, and in a growing list of countries outside the US.

Here is an example of a company with a well-defined competitive advantage – an advantage customers care about – with a promotional strategy to match.

Feel free to write and tell me of stories where you have done or seen the same.

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Tove Rasmussen, Business Coach & CEO of Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.

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How to Nurture Your Leads – to Bring Growth!

As a business coach, I am scouring the internet to bring you the best insights into growing your business.  The B2B Lead Blog recently covered how to create engaging lead-nurturing conversations that result in more and better selling opportunities in a conversation with Phil Dobbie, BNETAustralia, and Brian Carroll.

Here are the key points, reprinted below:
How can sales people strike perfect balance between nurturing existing leads and getting more sales in the pipeline? Brian explains that this involves both marketing and sales; they can easily duplicate each other’s functions, which is why alignment is critical. Inside sales is bridging the gap between them, Brian points out, and that’s more important than ever as companies are using the internet to research buying options and talking to sales reps later in the buying process.

Stop thinking that your goal is to attain a sales meeting. Lead nurturing is about engaging the right people in the right companies in a memorable conversation. The goal is to offer information that’s relevant. After all, 90 to 95 percent of your marketplace does not recognize they have a need for what you sell, but they will in the future. Lead nurturing engages them in your solution so that when they’re ready to buy, it’s top of mind.

You’re not selling to one or two decision makers anymore. Significantly more people are involved in the buying process, according to MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. Brian advises looking at recent sales and existing customers to identify which roles typically championed your solution to the rest of their team. Target similar roles in prospect companies. “These days, most of the selling happens when you’re not there,” he points out.

Research matters. Before you begin cold calling, make sure you have the best data possible. Brian relates how better data reduced the cost per lead by 67 percent for one MECLABS client. (Learn the details by going to timestamp 10:03 in this webinar replay.)

Optimize your teleprospecting funnel. Brian explains how to invest less energy making phone calls and more energy having conversations that matter.

According to MarketingSherpa, 92 percent of B2B buyers are open to receiving cold calls if they’re relevant, points out Brian. Relevancy means understanding their industry, their challenges, and their hot-button issues.

On the video, Brian demonstrates how to use relevant content to gain email opt-in.

Brian explains the power of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). He notes that CRM is critical if you’re going to manage multiple interactions along the buying cycle. Fortunately, it’s accessible to everyone, with free and inexpensive on-demand packages.

Develop a lead generation calendar to avoid the “teeter-totter effect.” That is, when prospecting is up, sales are low and vice versa. Be sure, when you’re involved in closing deals, that time is blocked out every week to do prospecting, and you’re “developing your plan and executing it,” advises Brian.

While Brian only had about 20 minutes to explain the value of lead nurturing in the complex sale, we’d love to know: What would you have added if you were being interviewed? Is there anything else you would have asked if you were the interviewer?

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Tove Rasmussen, Business Coach & CEO of Partners Creating Wealth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.

Photo credit: Cheryl @ EraPhernalia Vintage

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