Monthly Archives: August 2013

How Do You Respond to a New Competitor? Six Options

Situation: A company performs service that is primarily locally-based.  A competitor is establishing a new site less than two miles from the company’s location, offers a broader array of services and is larger than the company. How can the company protect its business by responding to this new competition?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Your most important asset is understanding what you are doing right, and what is most important to your customers.  Remember that business is more than just a product or service. It’s a relationship. Your customers depend upon your for more than just what you offer for sale. Reach out to your customers for these answers. Make sure that you respond to their needs. As a benefit you may also find new growth opportunities.
  • Ask current customers whether you need to expand your service offering, or whether your current offering and lead time is acceptable to them. Ask how their needs are changing and how you can better serve them.
  • Reestablish the connection to your customer and listen. Preempt new competition by contacting your customer base before the competitor gains a stronghold.
  • Study your options and avoid knee-jerk reactions.  You may be in better shape that you think.
  • Major retailers and service companies have moved into many locations. Local businesses who survive their presence do so because they are focused on their customers’ needs and are better at serving the customers that the big companies are.
  • Invest in key components of your business relationships:  services, payment terms, responsiveness, your facilities, and so forth.

How Do You Reduce Risk in OEM Agreements? Four Guidelines

Situation: A company is introducing a new technology. They are evaluating an OEM licensing model. They have been advised that if they go forward independently they will be perceived as a threat by OEMs, and this may inhibit their ability to form key OEM partnerships. How do you reduce risk in OEM agreements?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Consider moving forward with a mixed model – both seeking OEM relationships and also selling direct to the market. Because you will be actively entertaining OEM relationships the risk of threatening them will be reduced. In addition, this will help you convince OEMs that your market opportunity is real.
  • A purchaser of intellectual property (IP) will always try to go around your only offer is an IP license. They would rather own the IP than pay licensing fees. Therefore pursuing your own product applications makes sense to convince the market that you are more than just IP.
  • There is a risk to this strategy – being caught in the middle. You can end up seeking two clients, your own end users and the OEMs. They aren’t the same and don’t necessarily share common interests. Just be aware of this.
  • You must be able to succinctly explain your value proposition to client audiences, whether these are OEMS, end users or potential funding sources. In the case of the latter two, they also need to easily understand the critical value proposition to the end user, as well. This value proposition will be your 30 second elevator speech.

How are You Planning for Baby Boomer Retirements? Six Considerations

Situation: A company has a number of key employees who are nearing retirement. These employees possess software skills and company knowledge which will be difficult to replace. How are you planning for baby boomer retirements, and what advice would you have for this company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Following the loss of investment value after the 2008 market crash, Baby Boomers may retire very differently from their parents. Many don’t have the savings to support themselves during retirement and may well work 10 years later than their parents did.
  • Brute economics will force Boomers to continue to work. However, Boomers may want to work their own hours and on their own terms as they age. The focus may switch to part-time jobs just to maintain cash flow.
  • One solution is to offer more flexible working arrangements that allow individuals to keep working but with more freedom to work as they wish.
  • To replace in-house talent, develop mentor and apprentice programs now to pass your knowledge base on to younger workers.
  • The Internet has significantly changed the picture. People considering retirement may relocate to less expensive regions but virtual employment or virtual office solutions can keep them working.
  • Rising health insurance costs and questions about the viability of Medicare under the Affordable Care Act are concerns for Baby Boomers. This is another factor that may keep them working.

Does It Still Make Sense to Off-Shore? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A company is investigating off-shoring to lower costs. Trends are confusing with some companies returning operations to local production and others continuing to offshore. In addition, options include partnering with an existing company with expertise, or developing off-shore resources themselves. Does it still make sense to off-shore?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Instead of looking at broad trends, narrow your focus to what other companies in your industry or closely related industries are doing. You can get this from industry publications and trade associations, as well as from other companies with whom you have personal relationships. This will help to clarify trends that potentially impact you.
  • Consider whether there are complimentary objectives that will influence your decision. For example, do you want to expand your market presence abroad and would off-shoring operations help you accomplish this?
  • Look at other US locations – for example the Midwest. Midwestern moms working from home provide high quality customer service for Southwest Airlines. Part- or flex-timers may be less expensive than full-timers.
  • Make this move in steps. Consider breaking up your needs into distinct components and outsourcing each component from a different provider or vendor. This will help to preserve your “secret sauce” and corporate IP resources from those who might want to steal it if they saw the whole picture.
  • Good off-shore functions utilize as little management as possible. Distinct tasks are easier to off-shore than complex processes.
  • Look at scalability issues – based on your own past experience.
  • Tie the resources that you need to what is readily available in different geographies.