Updates from September, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • feedwordpress 00:19:11 on 2016/09/22 Permalink
    Tags: AARON RENN, , , , , , , , , environment, , innovation comes from the edges, james clear, John Carpenter, john hagel, Katy Lynch, metaphors, pearls of wisdom, peter thiel, , Roosevelt University, Scott Kleinberg, Shia Kapos, silicon valley, , stategy, strategy, , texas, the edge of innovation, thiel   

    Dear Chicago: Embrace the Edge 


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    Dear Chicago: Embrace the Edge

    Last week, Peter Thiel casually and brazenly denigrated Chicago, hyping Silicon Valley while speaking at a Roosevelt University Chicago event:

    In Thiel’s own words: “If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley.”

    Chicago has reacted with numerous self-depricating or defensive articles.

    Buck up, Chicago.

    According to the IRS, Five MILLION people have left California in the past decade. The exodus equates to a whopping net loss of $26 billion in annual income for the state. The majority headed to one of five states: Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Washington.

    The reason for the California exodus is no secret: exorbitant housing costs, a housing shortage, the second lowest home ownership rates in the country, high taxes, statewide unemployment higher than the national average, low wages, fiscal instability, systemic gender/race discrimination, increasing business regulation, not to mention a dearth of companies solving *actual* problems, severe droughts, a water shortage, earthquakes, dry lightning, and accelerating ozone pollution levels (also among the highest in the country).

    Peter Thiel paints a rosy picture of Silicon Valley. Meanwhile Silicon Valley’s restaurant industry is literally starving.

    Location is everything. Research has proven that environment has a surprisingly strong influence on success. Unless you fit the Silicon Valley’s very narrow niche “mold for success” (read: white, educated, technology-savvy males under age 40 — age 50 if you are lucky enough to be a VC — with money and family connections), look elsewhere for opportunity. The folks in Silicon Valley are not more talented; they’re merely more insular, provincial, protectionist, and elitist with regard to membership in their private club.

    Remember folks: DIVERSITY DRIVES INNOVATION and INNOVATION COMES FROM THE EDGES. In the words of brainy entrepreneur James Clear: “Life is a game; if you want better results over a sustained period of time, play the game in an environment that favors you.” James also wisely once advised: “worry not — aim for the subtle art of not giving a f*ck.”

    Embrace the edge, Chicago. Don’t kow-tow to Silicon Valley pundits and bullies. You’re better than that.

     
  • feedwordpress 22:56:39 on 2016/03/22 Permalink
    Tags: , competitive advantage, competitive benchmarking, competitors, decision making, , disruption innovation, , , hybrid electric vehicle market, , , innovation exercisees, innovation labs, McDonald's, non-competitors, , reverse reasoning, reverse thinking, Toyota, wining   

    How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win? 


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    How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win?

    In business, it isn’t easy to compete with industry leaders. It’s hard to anticipate your direct competitors’ next moves. Given the increasing occurrence of disruptive innovation, it can seem nearly impossible to predict the completely unpredictable — such as a non-competitor entering your market or niche and crushing you.

    Competition from non-competitors entering your industry, market, or niche can and does happen. Want to improve your company’s ability to predict unexpected competition (and even fortify your performance against current competitors)? Challenge your team with creative reverse thinking exercises.

    One of the reverse thinking exercises RE:INVENTION uses in our Innovation Labs and Workshops is called “How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win?”

    HERE’S HOW IT WORKS…

    Divide your team into small groups and then ask them to chart the path, process, and activities a non-competitor could take to proactively enter one of your sectors or markets and usurp your current competitive advantage. The more disparate the non-competitor the better. An example: how could McDonald’s enter the hybrid electric vehicle market and beat the hybrid engineering team at Toyota?

    WHY IT WORKS…

    How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win” changes the normal/logical direction of competitive benchmarking and shifts the focus from whether something might happen to HOW it might happen, thereby encouraging creative thinking and problem solving. It not only enhances your ability to predict unpredictable actions from non-competitors; it helps you hone your positioning and strategic advantage against known competitors. You’ll also reveal hidden assets, potential weaknesses, and profitable opportunities.

    Decision making involves both forward and reverse thinking. Improve your team’s reverse thinking capabilities and you’ll boost your company’s ability to innovate.

    ********

    Kirsten Osolind is a brand and business reinvention strategist with executive team transition and M&A due diligence / brand integration experience. A former Fortune 100 executive, she has worked for four of the world’s most innovative companies according to Fortune Magazine™ as well as advised numerous middle market and venture-backed growth stage companies.

     
  • feedwordpress 22:06:56 on 2015/12/30 Permalink
    Tags: agile, , business strategy, change agents, , , corporate change, , , , lean innovation, lean startup, prosci, stage-gate   

    CHANGE MANAGEMENT: PROSCI IS DEAD 


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    CHANGE MANAGEMENT: PROSCI IS DEAD

    PROSCI change methodology has been widely used in both private and public sectors to manage “the people side of change.” The methodology is based on three phases: (1) PREPARING FOR CHANGE READINESS, (2) MANAGING CHANGE, and (3) REINFORCING CHANGE. But PROSCI is fast becoming a relic – a dogmatic, outdated methodology based on old school management and business strategy perspectives that should be deemed obsolete.

    HERE’S WHY…

    Change has become much more multi-faceted. In today’s fast-paced, fiercely competitive world — a volatile world where ambiguity and fluctuation abound with an ever-accelerating rate of technology adoption — change is inevitable and constant. All organizations change, regardless of whether employees are “prepared and ready.”

    Executives and HR managers can no longer prod or coax people to change — and they can’t afford to wait until employees are “prepared and ready” for change. Neither can they merely be content to “manage” change; they need to be ahead of it. Implementing a three-phase change management control process, project workstream, and checklist will leave you the equivalent of three (or more) phases behind in the dust, struggling to recover pace.

    IF PROSCI’S DEAD, WHAT’S NEXT?

    Beyond communicating a clear vision, allocating the right resources, and aligning performance management systems, the key to successful organizational change is removing barriers and creating circumstances in which employees’ inherent motivation and drive is freed and channeled toward achievable goals. Every single day. Doing so requires a shift in perspective; where employees are not merely informed about change or trained to manage/handle change but rather deemed to be an integral active component of the entire change equation.

    Instead of managing change, you need to lead through change and create it. “Change management” has shifted to “change leadership.” You need to recognize that in today’s brave new world, every employee — top to bottom in your organization — is a change agent and a valued member of your “continuous change team.” As are your customers.

    MORE STRATEGIC METHODOLOGY OBSOLESCENCE

    When it comes to strategic methodology obsolescence, ANYONE who professes to have the silver bullet solution in today’s volatile, uncertain world is selling you a half-sighted, flawed manifesto. For instance: practicing lean startup without acknowledging/integrating aspects of design thinking, agile, stage gate, and other “best practice” methodologies will only impede your company’s capacity to innovate and create what’s next.

    An organization’s ability to adapt and integrate MULTIPLE strategic methodologies — or better yet customize their own approach based on their company’s unique capabilities, current environment, and future market potential — will define its’ ultimate competitive advantage.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:34:08 on 2015/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: antitrust, , bumble bee, bumble bee foods, , business integration, , , chicken of the sea, cooley, , DOJ, flakeboard, gun-jumping, Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, howard morse, HSR Act, , litigation, , , mergers and acquisitions, monopoly power, Rockefeller, tuna   

    AntiTrust Law and M&A Deal Value 


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    AntiTrust Law and M&A Deal Value

    RE:INVENTION, inc. helps companies with pre- and post-merger (M&A) brand and business integration. The process of combining and rearranging businesses to realize merger and acquisition (M&A) deal value and materialize potential inside-out efficiencies and synergies is complex and riddled with numerous antitrust and other legal issues.

    Because of our understanding of operational integration issues and antitrust risks in M&A transactions, we’re committed to sharing solutions in a forum for your review. Our discussion today involves the antitrust litigation related to Thai Union (Chicken of the Sea) and their recently dissolved M&A deal with Bumble Bee Foods. Bumble Bee Foods offices are located just a stone’s throw away from RE:INVENTION’s HQ in downtown San Diego.

    Our interview that follows introduces Cooley LLP AntiTrust Practice Leader, Howard Morse, one of the country’s leading antitrust lawyers.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background in antitrust law with respect to company mergers and acquisitions (M&A)?

    Howard Morse, Cooley

    Morse: I am a Washington, DC-based partner and chair of the antitrust practice at Cooley LLP, where we represent clients, particularly in high-tech industries – including tech, life sciences and telecom companies – as well as automotive parts and consumer product companies.

    Early in my career I spent 10 years at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where I was a staff attorney, deputy for policy and assistant director of the Bureau of Competition, and was responsible for more than 50 merger enforcement actions under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act.

    For the last 15 years, I have been guiding mergers and acquisitions through the regulatory approval process at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FTC.

    RE: Can you provide a basic overview of the nature/concept of “antitrust” for our readers?

    Morse: The term “antitrust” was coined at the turn of the 20th century, as the government established laws to counter the “trusts” or holding companies of the day, such as John D. Rockefeller’s oil trust (Standard Oil) and J.P. Morgan’s steel trust (U.S. Steel), which were recognized to have gained monopoly power.

    What we call “antitrust law” and much of the rest of the world calls “competition law” restricts agreements in restraint of trade, monopolization or abuse of dominance, and mergers and acquisitions that may lessen competition.

    The goal of antitrust is to prevent conduct, including mergers and acquisitions, that is likely to lead to higher prices – or lower quality, reduced service or less innovation – to the detriment of customers and consumers. It is not, as some mistakenly believe, aimed at protecting competitors from competition.

    RE: When is a merger or acquisition likely to run into antitrust concerns?

    Morse: The government focuses its attention on mergers and acquisitions among the largest competitors in concentrated markets, say when #2 and #3 of 4 major firms in a market propose to combine.

    The key question that the government asks is will the merged firm raise prices, compared to likely prices if the merger were not to take place, either unilaterally because the merging firms’ products are close substitutes or the merged firm will dominate the market or through coordinated interaction or tacit collusion among remaining firms.

    RE: When announcing the recent abandonment of the Bumble Bee / Thai Union deal, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) declared that “that the parties knew or should have known from the get go – that the market is not functioning competitively today, and further consolidation would only make things worse.” What do you make of that specific statement from DOJ Assistant Attorney General for AntiTrust, Bill Baer?

    Morse: Public reports indicate that the DOJ has issued subpoenas and is conducting a criminal investigation into whether the ‘big three’ canned tuna producers – Bumble Bee, Chicken-of-the Sea and Starkist – fixed prices. While the DOJ has not commented specifically on that investigation, there have been a number of civil lawsuits filed since the announcement that Thai Union was suspending its offer to acquire Bumble Bee in July.

    Companies considering a merger or acquisition with a competitor in a concentrated market ought to recognize that proposed transactions and the companies’ internal documents will be carefully scrutinized by antitrust authorities. If there are suggestions of price fixing or market division in company documents, the companies may find not only that they can’t complete their proposed deal but also that they become the target of a criminal investigation, which can mean large fines and even jail time.

    RE: To wit, Del Monte Foods originally considered selling Starkist to Bumble Bee before selling to Dongwon Industries back in 2008. Pre-deal information sharing has obviously already happened – with great frequency – in the tuna industry. At this point, is any merger and acquisition (M&A) in the tuna industry bound to be riddled with antitrust issues?

    Morse: Transactions involving smaller firms in a market – even deals in which they are acquired by one of the big firms – are likely to be looked at quite differently than those combining two of the big three players.

    RE: The Hart–Scott–Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (Public Law 94-435, known commonly as the HSR Act) guides the premerger notification and merger review process. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the Act and the waiting period?

    Morse: The HSR Act requires notification of proposed transactions that meet specified thresholds to the DOJ and FTC to allow the antitrust authorities to investigate whether they may lessen competition before they are consummated.

    Most deals are subject to an initial 30-day waiting period. If the authorities believe a thorough investigation is warranted, the reviewing agency will issue a so-called “Second Request” requiring the parties to produce additional data and documents before they can proceed with the deal.

    During FY2014, HSR filings were made for 1,663 transactions and 51 second requests were issued, in 3.2% of all transactions.

    The HSR rules are complex – much like the tax code – so firms are advised to consult with counsel but generally need to consider whether they have to make an HSR filing when they make an acquisition or will hold securities of the target company, valued over $76.3 million.

    Some transactions that firms may not even think of as M&A, such as entering into an exclusive license, may require an HSR filing if thresholds are met.

    RE: Due diligence and integration planning are vital for M&A deal success. But companies need to avoid unlawful premerger coordination. What are some of the things that a company can do to avoid antitrust issues during the HSR waiting period?

    Morse: The HSR rules prohibit firms not only from consummating deals but also from exercising control over the other party before the waiting period expires. And since the firms remain independent, allocating customers or coordinating prices can violate antitrust law.

    During due diligence, competitors need to consider antitrust issues when exchanging competitively sensitive confidential information. For example, they should ensure that they only share information required for due diligence and take steps such as restricting personnel that have access to information and limiting use of information shared, and in some cases setting up “clean teams” to review the most sensitive information.

    Firms can plan integration but cannot actually integrate during the HSR waiting period. Firms have gotten themselves in trouble when they started answering phones and handing out business cards at the target with the acquiring firm’s name, have had personnel report to managers at the other firm, or have sought approval from the other firm before giving discounts to customers.

    RE: What are some of the consequences or penalties companies face when their merger deals are scrutinized by the DOJ for HSR Act antitrust violations?

    Morse: A transaction may be delayed for months by a government investigation, even if the government never takes enforcement action. Keeping language out of offering memoranda, management presentations and other documents that must be provided to the government with HSR filings that may be misinterpreted by government can avoid such delay.

    If the government does conclude that a transaction will lessen competition, the typical remedy is divestiture of competing product lines. Where that is not possible deals may be blocked altogether or abandoned in the face of threatened enforcement, as we have seen recently with GE/Electrolux, Sysco/US Foods, and Comcast/TimeWarner.

    RE: Companies in a concentrated market with three or fewer competitors seem particularly susceptible to potential antitrust violations and tacit collusion. When companies are considering a merger or acquisition in a concentrated market, what if anything can they do to pre-empt collective dominance and collusion issues?
    HS
    Morse: Defending every case requires a careful examination of the facts. In some cases, one can argue the definition of the product or geographic market is broader and so not concentrated; in others one can argue that new entry will prevent anti-competitive effects; and in others one can argue that small fringe competitors or power buyers will constrain the merged firm. In dynamic, high-tech markets one can argue that the products are highly differentiated and rapidly changing, making collusion among remaining firms unlikely. In any case, it is important to consider the efficiencies that may result from the transaction, lowering costs or resulting in improved products to customers.
    RE: If companies in a concentrated market set the same prices for similar products does that always indicate an agreement to fix prices?

    Morse: Absolutely not. Two gas stations across the street from each other may well sell gas at the same price, posting their prices on a sign and their tanks for all to see, without fixing prices. Price fixing requires an agreement, though not an agreement in writing.

    RE: Originally there were rumors that Bumble Bee and Thai Union received subpoenas from the DOJ but Starkist didn’t, suggesting that Starkist may have been a whistleblower. Can you speak a bit about amnesty/corporate leniency for the first co-operator in an antitrust lawsuit?

    Morse: In order to encourage self-reporting of price fixing cartels, the government provides immunity or leniency to those that self report.

    The first company to report a cartel will be entitled to immunity if it does so before the government begins an investigation, it cooperates with the government, it was not a ringleader, it promptly ends its involvement in the cartel, and it makes restitution. Leniency may be available to the first company to come forward even after the government has begun an investigation.

    RE: Could seeking leniency for price fixing be a good alternative strategy for companies opposed to a proposed merger among competitors?

    Morse: For sure, it is a good bet the government will be skeptical of a merger in a concentrated market where there is a history of recent price fixing.

    Of course, while the first company to file for leniency may avoid criminal charges, it may still find itself liable for damages in civil antitrust suits. While in most antitrust cases, plaintiffs can recover treble damages, Congress in 2004 created an additional incentive for companies to report cartels, limiting civil damages recoverable from a corporate amnesty applicant to actual damages.

    RE: You provided expert commentary on the DOJ’s enforcement action against Flakeboard. What similarities or lessons learned (if any) do you see between the Bumble Bee / Thai Union DOJ investigation and the Flakeboard/Sierra antitrust lawsuit?

    Morse: DOJ obtained a $1.9 million civil penalty from both Flakeboard and Sierra Pine for violating the HSR Act, and they agreed to disgorge $1.15 million in “ill-gotten gains” for gun jumping.

    After announcing their merger, in the face of a labor dispute arose at one of the firm’s facilities, the firms consulted and reached agreement to close the facility and transfer customers to the other firm’s nearby facility, while the transaction was still being reviewed.

    DOJ alleged that conduct, which was undertaken without any assurance that the underlying transaction would be consummated, was per se unlawful under the antitrust laws, as well as gun jumping under the HSR Act.

    Whether what is at issue in the Bumble Bee / Thai Union matter is similar “gun jumping” activity, price fixing that pre-dated the merger, or lawful activity remains to be seen.

    RE: We’ve addressed what companies can do DURING the merger process and HSR waiting period to avoid anti-trust issues, Howard. Are there any steps pre-acquisition that companies can take to avoid running into problems with the DOJ? Meaning, as companies are considering an acquisition, what are the do’s and don’ts they should take to avoid running into problems later?

    Morse: Companies should avoid language in documents that suggest a deal is anti-competitive, for example, projecting that the deal will lead to price increases. At the same time, is important that companies consider, analyze and quantify efficiencies that will result from proposed transactions, and be able to explain why the deal will be good for customers. Certainly, companies should avoid writing documents that are a red flag for scrutiny, like I saw in one deal, when I was with the government, that said the proposed acquisition would allow the acquirer to “monopolize the industry … in an expeditious and timely manner.”

    RE: Are there any other Cooley anti-trust resources you can point our readers to for reference?

    Morse: Sure. Here’s a link to Cooley’s “How to Avoid Gun-Jumping” Article, a practical how-to for companies considering M&A opportunities.

    We hope RE:INVENTION’s interview with one of the nation’s leading M&A antitrust lawyers sparks thought and discussion among curious readers. We invite you to share your thoughts and stories in comments below. Many thanks to Howard Morse for sharing his insights.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:43:38 on 2015/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , eddie lou, employees, employers, employment, employment website, , freelancers, hourly workers, , job postings, jobs, labor, minimum wage, networking, oca ventures, private equity, shiftgig, startup, Startup Innovation, , , VC,   

    Innovation Expert Series: Shiftgig 


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    Innovation Expert Series: Shiftgig

    In this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re speaking with the CEO of ShiftGig, a professional networking and employment website platform that makes it easy for restaurants, hotels and retailers to post short-term hourly gigs and equally as easy for qualified and skilled workers to claim them. Shiftgig is changing the way people work.

    Every other week, RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to middle market companies that are transforming and innovating their respective industries or markets.

    Shiftgig Company LogoLet’s set the stage for our interview with disruptive Chicago startup Shiftgig. The U.S. economy has dramatically changed. The majority of workers in the U.S. are hourly workers rather than full-time employees or independent freelancers. Shiftgig is leading this trend, connecting employers with locally available and previously vetted hourly workers.

    In November, Chicago-based startup Shiftgig successfully raised $22 million in venture capital bringing the company’s total capital raised to date to $35 million. Shiftgig venture and private equity investors include: Chicago Ventures, DRW Venture Capital, GGV Capital, Garland Capital Group, KGC Capital, Pritzker Group, Wicklow Capital, Renren Inc. and numerous individual investors. Shiftgig CEO, Eddie Lou, is a former OCA Ventures venture capitalist who advised numerous technology startups prior to co-founding industry disruptor Shiftgig.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup company, can you give us a brief background about yourself and Shiftgig?

    Lou: My name is Eddie Lou. I am a co-founder and the CEO of Shiftgig. At Shiftgig, we connect people to business shifts on their mobile devices, and provide them with the flexibility to work where, when and for which businesses they like. For businesses, our platform solves the challenges of filling and managing short term job assignments, which traditionally has been expensive and difficult to manage.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Lou: In Q3 2013, we decided to begin monetizing our business. Prior to that, our business was completely free. We talked to about 20 business customers about what they would spend money on. Many of them asked for two things: 1) qualified, vetted workers and 2) workers for short term gigs ranging from a day to 90 days. At the same time, we email surveyed our members, who were applying for full-time and part-time jobs on our site. Many of them expressed interest in making money via additional gigs. We decided to take this feedback and allow the connection on a mobile device.

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial idea spark to implementable idea™. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch Wrapify? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Lou: Yes, MVP and continuous deployment; both allow us to test and iterate quickly
    We felt our best strategy was to test our idea in one market. We opened in Chicago in early 2014 and within a few months we knew we were on to something. By December of that year, we opened our second location in New York City. In 2015, we really got on a roll. We launched in Dallas in March, Atlanta in July, Houston in September, Memphis in October, and Miami in November.

    RE: Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Lou: While our founders believe in design thinking, web/mobile design and usability, we are not experts in design thinking. We think it is important and hired our Creative Director, who heads up UX, beginning of Q2 2015.

    Shiftgig's Team in Action

    Shiftgig’s Team in Action

    RE: Describe your company’s biggest challenge to date. How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

    Lou: Our biggest challenge to date has been learning how to scale quickly. We have been very successful, but it took a few bumps and bruises on the way to get there. It is very important for entrepreneurs to know when to get out of their own way. We did this by making several critical hires of experienced managers who had successfully scaled other startups in the past and knew what they were doing. We’ve got a great team right now, and we’re still growing.

    RE: How does your team promote internal and external innovation?

    Lou: First and foremost, we are a technology company. Many of the businesses we compete with to provide short-term labor are not technology companies. This distinction is why so many businesses give us a try and ultimately stay Shiftgig clients. Everyone from our systems infrastructure developers to our front line sales reps know this and communicate about Shiftgig in this way.

    RE: Have you found yourself having to pivot or reinvent aspects of your business since you started? How have you done so — and managed change?

    Lou: We re-invented the business at the end of 2013. Shiftgig began as a web based social network and job board focused on providing full-time and part-time job opportunities to the hospitality vertical. Today, we are a mobile marketplace that provides short-term gigs in the hospitality, marketing and retail verticals.

    RE: If you were forced to choose, which do you think is MOST important for a company’s long run success in your industry: great product, great people, or great execution?

    Lou: Great people — with great people, the company will launch great products and execute!

    RE: What do you think is most important for your company to do in order to keep up with the rapid changes in technology?

    Lou: Our plan is to stay on the forefront of the gig economy. We are the leaders in our space and have every intention of staying there by listening, adapting, and bringing in the best talent we can to keep our company moving forward.

    RE: So…what’s next for Shiftgig?

    Lou: Millions of shifts for millions of people!

    Shifting forward, that concludes RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series interview with Shiftgig. Many thanks to Shiftgig CEO Eddie Lou for sharing his insights. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 01:32:50 on 2015/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: acquisition, acquisitions, brand, brand consoldation, , brand itntegration, brand metrics, brand portfolio, brand reputation, , , , merger, , post-merger, pre-merger, , Whole Foods Market   

    M&A Brand Integration: How To Do It Right 


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    M&A Brand Integration

    During my days leading marketing and brand strategy at Whole Foods Market, we subsumed ten acquired individual operating companies and their brand names under the Whole Foods master brand. The six month M&A brand integration process was defined and implemented years after the initial mergers, thereby involving entrenched (and oft times, confusing and dissimilar) customer and employee perceptions and requiring extensive perception change management. Since then, I’ve advised several clients through sell-side M&A deals managing brand and executive transitions.

    Unfortunately, brand integration is often an afterthought in M&A deals. Companies get caught up in the deal bidding and negotiating process rather than assessing and planning for potential conflicting brand issues and creating a blueprint for future brand valuation/growth. Insufficient (or non-existent) M&A brand integration planning can have disastrous consequences including poor M&A financial performance and dramatically diminished future brand valuation.

    For M&A to work — if you want to leverage a CAPABILITIES PREMIUM in M&A — the deal needs to: (1) enhance your company’s distinctive capabilities, (2) leverage your existing competitive advantages, (3) complement your internal innovation processes, and (4) take your brand assets, brand strategy, and customer/investor/employee brand perceptions into account.

    Want to ensure BRAND is part of M&A pre-merger deal making and post-merger integration?

    Here are four tips:

    1. Evaluate Potential Brand Reputation Impact, Pre-Merger
    2. A successful M&A deal starts with an audit of current and potentially acquired brands pre-merger to determine how one brand might negatively or positively affect another in the brand portfolio or the company reputation. Are new brands congruent with the acquiring company’s overall brand promise? What legacy internal systems and equity assets do the brands associated with the deal bring to the table? These decisions require thoughtful analysis.

      Use common sense. An acquired brand doesn’t always have to take on the brand name of the acquiring company.

      At Whole Foods Market, we rebranded all acquired companies with one exception: a legacy brand (Mrs. Gooch’s) in Southern California. Local customers and employees were so invested in the Mrs. Gooch’s name that we permanently branded the La Jolla location in-store cafe as Mrs. Gooch’s to preserve the vested brand equity and recognize the brand’s heritage. It was a brand reputation win-win.

      Conduct thorough brand due diligence pre-merger and you will prevent unexpected, insurmountable post-merger brand integration challenges.

    3. Dedicate Resources to Manage Brand Integration Planning
    4. Consider appointing a full-time internal or external brand integration planning manager or partner during the M&A deal bidding and negotiating process, before the transaction finalizes.

      Having key full time integration resources in place early in the process can mean the difference between success or failure of any M&A deal. Without strategic leadership accountability, post-merger brand integration is doomed to fail.

      Give your integration team the responsibility of identifying the issues to be addressed and developing your internal brand integration plan – including spelling out “non-negotiables”. Integration project managers can ensure that executives and employees of both the acquirer and acquired entities understand and are committed to the same goals and communicate the same message.

      In the case of Whole Foods Market, our brand integration team included corporate HR employees, store team leaders, regional Presidents, regional marketing coordinators, regional art directors, store design engineers, and IT team members as well as a brand manager, investor relations manager, customer service manager and public relations (PR) manager. The diverse, cross-functional team helped us circumvent potential gaffes in store operational changes and multiple points of communication with quality assurance checkpoints.

    5. Pre-Empt Potential Brand Conflict Issues
    6. Customers, employees, and even investors can be fierce and territorial during post-merger brand consolidation. Executives need to clearly communicate the broad strategic purpose of the M&A deal to employees and investors, setting vision for the integrated brand portfolio (and unique individual brand assets). When it comes to customers, it is important to understand highly-charged emotional brand heritage and broaden customer perceptions of their invested brand while preserving aspects of the brand equity of the former entities. All three constituencies — customers, employees, and investors — need to feel involved.

      At Whole Foods Market, we were lucky to have well known, publicly stated visions and values to guide our post-merger brand integration process. In a company where vision and values aren’t well communicated to employees, you will inevitably encounter pre- and post-merger brand integration challenges.

      Employees help to define a brand. Engaged employees build strong brands. Thus, cultural integration goes hand in hand with brand integration. HR, PR, and Brand Integration project managers will need to work in tandem, addressing structural, political, and social variables. Awareness sessions and transparent internal/external communications can reassure employees and customers that pre- and post-merger brand integration won’t impact day-to-day business or their lives.

    7. Create a 90-Day Post-Merger Brand Transition Plan With Measurable Metrics
    8. A well-managed brand transition plan can provide a blueprint for growth. Integration is the key to future valuation creation. During the first 90 days post-merger, you need to verify due diligence data, gather additional intelligence information, create internal integration implementation teams, and identify/leverage internal integration resources.

      Your post-deal plan should be carefully coordinated in order to ensure successful implementation. An effective plan will:

      • align brand strategies,
      • identify and thwart cultural integration challenges,
      • establish operational transition parameters,
      • encourage and incentivize rapid decoupling of legacy internal systems,
      • dedicate resources and assign accountability,
      • identify “go-forward” initiatives and action plans,
      • define desired end states,
      • provide post-merger acquisition metrics such as EPS (earnings per share) accretive transactions value and EPS dilutive transactions value,
      • create mechanisms to monitor, measure, and manage customer, employee, and investor perceptions.

    Research suggests that companies that fail to bring brand into M&A discussions almost always underperform deals that are forged with deliberate, pre-planned fusion branding strategies. Proactive pre- and post-merger brand integration planning coupled with a sound implementation process can mitigate uncertainty, clarify the intent of the merger to customers, employees and investors, and ultimately determine a merger’s success or failure.

     
  • feedwordpress 00:09:02 on 2015/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: brand advertising, digital marketing, , entrepreneur, evonexus, , , innovation expert series, , , lyft, mark bowles, mobile advertising, mobile apps, on-vehicle advertising, , , , sharing economy, , , wrapify   

    Innovation Expert Series: Wrapify 


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    Innovation Expert Series: Wrapify

    In this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re getting up close and personal with the CEO and Co-Founder of Wrapify, James Heller.

    New to RE:INVENTION’s blog? Our biweekly Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to midsize companies, like Wrapify, that are notably disrupting, transforming, and innovating within their respective industries or markets.

    Wrapify LogoWrapify is building a disruptive Internet of Things (IoT) crowdsourced advertising platform that connects drivers and brands to create powerful on-vehicle advertising. The company pays drivers $400 to $600 a month to temporarily “wrap” their cars with mobile ads while providing meaningful metrics to brand advertisers via their app.

    Wrapify’s business model, which has been compared to Uber and Lyft, capitalizes on the “sharing economy” (aka the “sweat your assets” economy). Wrapify graduated early from San Diego tech startup incubator EvoNexus and the team has relocated to San Francisco. The company is in-part funded by Mark Bowles, a well-noted San Diego serial entrepreneur.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup, can you give us a brief background about yourself and Wrapify?

    Heller: I have a heavy background in B2B Digital Marketing and I have a passion for speed. Out of Home advertising has always fascinated me and I think the sharing/crowdsourced economy needed a market leader to pave the way for individuals to earn extra cash by advertising on their car.

    Wrapify is a disruptive advertising platform connecting drivers and brands to create powerful on-vehicle advertising. Through its proprietary mobile application and technology, Wrapify gives drivers an easy source of extra income, plus the power to choose the marketer and “look”: full, partial or panel advertising. Brands receive the security of control and benefit of trackable results. Ironclad controls ensure Wrapify’s powerful and intuitive platform protects both drivers and brands, while every member of the Wrapify Network ecosystem passes certification before they touch and transform a vehicle. Wrapify is the easiest way to make money on the road short of finding it in the street.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Heller: I assumed this concept already exists, but I later found out that many have tried and failed. We believe we have the missing component that this basic concept needs to be socially viable while also providing brands with the feedback loop they need to entrust that this is a positive way to get brand impressions in real life.

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial spark to implementable idea. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch Wrapify? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Heller: Yes, I believe we subscribed to the lean startup methodology. We created an MVP (minimum viable product) and tested our hypothesis before we closed out our seed round. We were bootstrapped for many months before we raised a single dime.

    RE: Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Heller: I am a big believer in less is more. Simplistic, minimalistic design is a core component to more than just the way Wrapify looks on the surface, we take it into the supply chain of our business and even many of the processes that power the lifeline of the business.

    Wrapify Team Members in Action

    Wrapify Team Members in Action

    RE: Describe your company’s biggest challenge to date. How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

    Heller: So far, getting big, national advertisers to leverage our platform and realize actual value and brand lift has been our #1 focus. Petco, Quest Nutrition, TriNet and Harrah’s Resorts have all experienced the power of our platform and are coming back for more.

    RE: How does your team promote internal and external innovation?

    Heller: If you are touting your breakthrough technology, internal and external innovation is not a choice, it’s a necessity. We are constantly looking for new ways to empower our drivers and provide value to our advertisers via innovative technologies added to the platform. Internally, we are constantly questioning why an age old practices are still used. Comically, we do everything we can to be a fax free, paper free company. Ha!

    RE: Have you found yourself having to pivot or reinvent aspects of your business since you started? How have you done so — and managed change?

    Heller: We are constantly making small pivots to achieve product/market fit. We monitor how our drivers leverage features within our app and the requests we get from advertisers quite regularly. One of my rules is, if three different people complain about or raise awareness to an issue with a feature, that’s enough to take action to make a change. Don’t wait for dozens or even hundreds of people to tell you your product sucks. Listen close to the early signals and make a change.

    RE: If you were forced to choose, which do you think is MOST important for a company’s long run success in your industry: great product, great people, or great execution?

    Heller: All three are critical but if I were to order them from most to least important; I would put execution first, people second and product third. It’s near impossible to execute if you don’t have the latter two.

    RE: What do you think is most important for your company to do in order to keep up with the rapid changes in technology?

    Heller: Don’t get so immersed in the microcosm that is your business to not notice the innovation and new technologies emerging outside your business.

    RE: So…what’s next for Wrapify?

    Heller: Stay tuned to find out!

    That’s a wrap on RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series interview with Wrapify. Many thanks to James Heller for sharing his insights. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 05:30:46 on 2015/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: community-run business model, Crowdfunding, , expert interviews, , , , , international startups, , , Kickstarter, LoRaWAN, Playstation, , , smart cities, smart city, Sony, , The Things Network,   

    Innovation Expert Series: The Things Network 


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    Innovation Expert Series: The Things Network

    RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to midsize companies that are notably disrupting, transforming, and innovating within their respective industries or markets.

    The Things NetworkIn this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re getting up close and personal with Wienke Giezeman, the passionately disruptive co-founder of The Things Network.

    The Things Network, an Amsterdam-based startup on a mission to build a global community-led Internet of Things (IoT) data network, could create abundant data connectivity and turn “smart cities” from an idealistic dream into a reality. The ambitious startup successfully crowdsourced a city-wide Internet of Things data network in Amsterdam earlier this summer. Now they are on a mission to connect cities across the world with the help of their new Kickstarter campaign.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup, can you give us a brief background about The Things Network?

    Wienke: We are building a global free and open Internet of Things data network. We managed to cover the city of Amsterdam with this network in six weeks. Four weeks later, we had inspired cities around the world.

    We used 10 LoRaWAN gateways for €1200($1325) each, funded by the people of Amsterdam to cover the entirety of the city.

    Based on our feedback from other cities, we realized that the cost for a single gateway was still too high for this to truly scale so we went and designed a gateway that cost only €200($220) per gateway.

    RE: The Internet is buzzing about how The Things Network is poised to spur Smart City landscapes. Can you explain what a SMART CITY is for our readers? In your opinion, what makes a city SMART?

    Wienke: Smart city is a fancy term for a city that is digitally connected and has a lot of components connected to the Internet and each other. Our lives get better if we get a better understanding of what the state of the city is. Is the air clean here? Is the light broken there? Is this trash can full? The quality of urban living can be increased significantly if we get a better understanding of what the state of a city is and when we can make better decisions based on that information. Our network can act as the glue to connect the information to the smart decision makers.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Wienke: The initial spark was when I saw LoRaWAN, the technology that is used by this network. It has 10KM reach, can connect up to 10,000 devices and the devices have very low power consumption so they can be placed anywhere just running on a battery. I first saw the technology at the IoT Meetup in Amsterdam and was immediately struck by it’s capabilities. In general, it looked like one of the first true solutions for all the promises people had put on what the Internet of Things should be able to deliver.

    The Things Network Co-Founders in Action

    [THE THINGS NETWORK CO-FOUNDERS IN ACTION]

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial spark to implementable idea. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch The Things Network? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Wienke: No, we just went for it. We were not “lean” at all. Initially we (me and Johan) were just two people who wanted to create a proof of concept, too small to consciously apply any process to it. You just do, learn and then you are there. Then working with the ten volunteers from our local meetup, when we covered Amsterdam with gateways, that went so fast, everyone fairly naturally found their role. You could call it “lean” in terms of the fast and fairly efficient way we turned it around, at the same time, I wouldn’t think of it as a consciously lean process. I believe real breakthroughs are rarely the result of applying process first. They tend to be chaotic, however you need to be the right type of person to be comfortable with the creative chaos and speed in such a project.

    RE: So you instinctively, but not purposefully, used a little bit of “lean” in terms of operational efficiencies. Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Wienke: No, at the moment we work on the technology push. The only design we apply is for the hardware devices we produced in beta before the Kickstarter. They are very first stage proof-of-concepts. They work well, but are not necessarily pretty. That’s not our focus at this stage.

    We have the strong belief that if we provide abundant data connectivity good things will come from that. So a rigid and sustainable network comes first.

    It is obviously very hard and distracting to work on a network with so many possibilities. The amount of awesome ideas and use cases coming our way are unbelievable and inspiring. The Internet of things has been suffering from a chicken and egg problem for a while, with the applications on one end and the infrastructure on the other. We decided to first build the chicken.

    RE: The Things Network seems to be a rare example of the combination of having both a highly impactful product and amazing execution. Which do you think is more important for long run success: product or execution? Or both?

    Wienke: Both. A car needs a motor and it needs fuel. For now execution is really key. We need to tell the world our story because we need people all around the globe to understand the potential of this vision. The product is at the center of this. It needs to be compelling. Ease of distribution is another element, this is where Kickstarter is such an amazing tool and it is playing its role very well for all of us at the moment. The third aspect is community of course. This is who we are doing this with and they are playing the most important role in this. Look at Google, Facebook, Uber — big ideas that need to scale are so dependent on how they can scale through people and how useful they become for them.

    RE: You’ve chosen to utilize a community-run business model for The Things Network. Why so? Do you think a community-run business model will impact your ability to scale or make money in the long run?

    Wienke: It is fairly easy to scale an open community-run model. There are no contracts and you can copy our code. The community members all personally benefit from what each are doing and help out each other as well. Isn’t that just awesome! It has way less managerial overhead. Think about it — everyone has a phone, but no one has to update their operating systems themselves. Our modern systems have become so automated, that managing communities is heavily automated and runs in the background, as much as it is personalized. We see it as a benefit for the hardware distribution and scale. In the long-run is another discussion and business models tend to circulate around the software, not the hardware. For example, Sony made huge losses on their Playstation 4 disk drives. The model was not to make money on the hardware. They still run a very successful gaming platform.

    RE: It seems like LoRaWAN technology coupled with your community-run business model have the potential to disrupt the entire telco industry. How do you think telcos will cope with this new disruptive idea of building networks?

    Wienke: For now it is not a threat to the high-bandwidth networks. But if we follow Moore’s Law we can predict that it will just be a matter of time, before it is true competition. In terms of speed of deployment and scalability we did probably scare them a bit with this social experiment we call The Things Network.

    RE: You reached 75% of your Kickstarter campaign goal within the first 100 hours – and it looks like you are ticking towards 100% today. Congratulations! Why did you choose to launch a Kickstarter campaign now? Any big “A-has!” or surprises?

    Wienke: Because everybody knows Kickstarter and not everybody knows The Things Network. Our initial target audience is highly represented there and it is their number one preferred platform. We are doing very well. At the moment of writing, we’ve reached 93% funding and we were featured on Kickstarter today. We have picked up more cities around the world and are adding new communities daily.

    As it is our first Kickstarter, we are learning every day. The shipping costs were an issue but we had very understanding feedback from the backers and worked very hard in the first 24 hrs to find a better solution that would make everybody happy. We proposed giving everybody who orders a gateway a free UNO. It was great, to be able to have an actual conversation with the backers and we are happy we found a solution quickly. We are trying to be as communicative as we can despite being a small team managing the campaign, conference talks, our developers forum and supporting our global communities, whilst working on the backend software doing all of this as best we can. Big learning process, but the communication tools that didn’t exist 10 years ago are an amazing help managing a project as ambitious as this.

    RE: So…what’s next for The Things Network?

    Wienke: Covering the world to help see IoT truly take off the way it is supposed to. The next step is to make sure we are represented in every large city in the world.

    We’ve had an amazing start so far. We haven’t even seen how big the Kickstarter campaign could be in 20 days. There are many things to do already, with the communities growing so fast. If everything goes well, in about 20 days we will be producing all the wonderful devices we raised money for — and that’s when the real work begins. If you want to take the lead in campaigning for your city, we can set you up with a page LIKE THIS. We are recruiting local initiators. SIGN UP HERE and we will get back to you shortly.

    Many thanks to Wienke Giezeman (and his co-founder, Johan Stokking) for sharing insights during this week’s Expert Series. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:07:33 on 2014/03/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , business success, , , executional excellence, implemention, , , , lego, , ,   

    How LEGO Learned How to Winch 


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    How LEGO Learned How to Winch
    Image credit: www.atvcourse.com

    Business experts will tell you that inertia — “paralysis or passive resistance” — kills companies. Other thought leaders suggest that active inertia — “relentless pursuit of the tried and true” — causes business failure. Neither is correct.

    What does inertia have to do with LEGO and winching, you might be asking. Bear with me, I will get there. But I need to make a simple point first….

    INERTIA DOESN’T CRIPPLE COMPANIES, CRUMMY IMPLEMENTATION DOES

    Few companies, if any, suffer from inertia. There is little to no evidence of companies being too paralyzed to take any action at all. Executives and employees are always busy doing something, even if only to justify their job. Alas, they are often accelerating the wrong activities and they aren’t doing the right activities well. They spin their wheels like a car stuck in mud.

    And active inertia (“relentless pursuit of the tried and true”) is rarely a company’s problem. Faced with mounting competitive pressure, most companies get desperate and unleash a flurry of new, oft ill-conceived initiatives to try to stop the bleeding. By doing so, they spin their wheels even faster and dig an even deeper hole.

    What causes companies to fail nearly every time is crummy (or sloppy) execution — akin to spinning wheels in mud. Crummy implementation cripples companies, not inertia. The biggest barrier to innovation is EXECUTIONAL EXCELLENCE. The world is littered with great ideas, poorly implemented.

    WINCHING IMPROVES IMPLEMENTATION AND EXECUTION

    My family hails from Michigan and South Carolina, a state that boasts its own Mud Run Guide. Here’s what I know: when your car gets stuck in mud, you are almost always better off if you stop digging your wheels into the ground. Leave the wheel-spinning to half-wits. To get out of a mudhole, you need to add traction or use a winch.

    A winch is a handy hand- or motor-powered machine used for hoisting and hauling. Winching improves traction and power….implementation….and executional excellence.

    LEGO LEARNED TO WINCH

    Today LEGO is the world’s #1 toy company. Sales are up despite a sluggish global toy market. Profits have grown 40%. But that wasn’t always the case.

    Faced with declining margins and value in the 80s and 90s, LEGO did what most ailing companies do. They got desperate and unleashed a flurry of new, oft ill-conceived initiatives to try to stop the bleeding. They binged on unbridled innovation – launching theme parks, clothing, jewelry, TV programs, electronics, video games, learning labs, publications, and ill-conceived strategic alliances.

    By 2003, LEGO was on the brink of bankruptcy. The company was virtually out of cash with annual losses mounting upwards of $300 million and a $400 million loss projected for 2004.

    How did LEGO recover from a 10-year period of declining performance? Company leadership stopped spinning their wheels and focused on improving execution.

    They shortened go-to-market product development time, organized to increase accountability and decision-making, shed unrelated businesses, built “change-readiness,” established global in-region manufacturing facilities, improved their safety record, and dedicated themselves to smarter 12 C’s of Commercialization performance. Instead of desperately pursuing uncontrolled innovation — spinning their wheels — they focused on improving their innovation success rates. In other words: they found a winch and added traction.

    ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THIS PHENOMENON

    Another example of the “wheel-spinning without a winch” phenomenon: Kodak.

    Contrary to media reports, Kodak didn’t suffer from inertia (“paralysis”) OR active inertia (“relentless pursuit of the tried and true”). The company was never short on new ideas. Kodak developed countless technology innovations over the years including the digital camera in 1975 but they failed to successfully commercialize it. They held $3 billion worth of patents, valued at more than five times the company itself. They suffered from numerous reorganization efforts, making it incredibly difficult to implement smart long-term strategy. Their eager and rash M&A and alliance deals — from Scitex to Imation to Verizon and Creo — lacked strategic due diligence and led to integration headaches. Kodak was undeniably IN MOTION, spinning its wheels like a car stuck in mud.

    Alas, Kodak never fully understood that their problem was crummy execution. They never sought or found a winch. They never improved implementation to gain better traction.

    RESEARCH STUDIES AGREE

    A 2013 Accenture study found that only 18% of CEOs have seen their investments in “innovation” pay off — fewer than one in five. And according to research conducted by the Doblin Group, a startling 96% of all innovations fail to return their cost of capital.

    The key to increasing innovation ROI lies in improving innovation success rates. A 2005 study by Boston Consulting Group concluded that companies that concentrate on IMPROVING THEIR INNOVATION SUCCESS RATES achieve the greatest gains. Instead of spinning your wheels, you need to learn how to winch and add traction.

    SPINNING YOUR WHEELS? LEARN HOW TO WINCH.

    Are you in an innovation rut? Instead of spinning your wheels and digging a deeper hole, get better at business execution. Create sound action plans but remember that execution and making strategy work is more difficult than the task of strategic planning (developing the strategy is never more important than the results). Hold people accountable, involve the right people in decisions, build “change readiness”, practice the 12 C’s of Commercializing Innovation. In other words: figure out a way to add traction. Learn how to winch.

    It’s basic physics. Winching can lessen the strain on any rig and increase torque. Winching can help companies that overestimate their capabilities. Winching can help your company overcome the most difficult of situations. Learn how to winch and you will always recover. Return on innovation depends on it.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:48:04 on 2014/02/26 Permalink
    Tags: actionable benchmarking, actionable results, audits, , brands, , , Coke, , General Mills, , , ,   

    The #1 Secret of Successful Benchmarking 


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    The #1 Secret of Successful Benchmarking

    Benchmarking can be a company eye-opener. Internal, competitive, and outside industry benchmarking all have merits. Internal benchmarking can foster best practices. Assessing performance versus competitors can reveal your shortcomings and tell you where to focus. Looking at other industries can generate creative ideas for growth.

    During my days leading marketing and innovation initiatives at Coke, General Mills, and Whole Foods, I participated in numerous company benchmarking exercises. We benchmarked quality measures, workload, product development, pricing, channel management, market information management, packaging design, and marketing implementation. Each company had its own unique approach to benchmarking — from searching publicly available data to primary research using IT-supported software tools.

    Here’s what I learned: the secret of successful benchmarking isn’t about HOW or WHERE YOU DIG. In other words, it isn’t about how you conduct your audit (there are no “right” or “wrong” rules). Or whether you benchmark performance inside the four walls of your company, against competitors within your industry, or outside your industry…

    The #1 Secret of Successful Benchmarking

    The #1 secret of successful benchmarking is knowing what to do with the information you discover — taking the results and making them actionable.

    Knowing where you stand provides a point of reference for what could be and reveals uncommon, oft surprising insights — but it’s only half of the equation. Discovery is not enough. Benchmarking data needs to support action to have any significant meaning or effect. And this holds true for companies of all sizes — from startups to global Fortune 100 corporations.

    How to Make Benchmarking Data Actionable

    Actionable data is always better than big data. The most important part of any benchmarking process is creating a plan of action that will improve organization performance. You need to leverage your new knowledge and implement changes.

    Some tips to get you started:

    1. Start with a Goal
      Before you launch any benchmarking initiative, define what you want to accomplish. Clear objectives. How will you use the data to create value? At Coke, our benchmarking exercise goal was to justify shifting from glass to plastic packaging in the Non-Carbonated Beverages Division.
    2. Schedule Collaborative Sessions To Review Benchmark Findings
      Facilitate internal discussion and interaction to identify ways that you can use results to improve business performance. After conducting retail industry benchmarking activities at Whole Foods, we held numerous cross-functional team member workshops to assess and plan store design and product merchandising changes.
    3. Improve Your Enterprise Asset Management Systems
      Despite IT asset management systems being at the bottom of the trough of disillusionment in Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle, a good asset management system can make actionable benchmarking less formidable. Sharing knowledge assets across your company can improve data utilization and performance. With nearly 40,000 employees worldwide, General Mills used benchmarking results to build a massive standardized system for managing enterprise learning. The result? Stronger total employee engagement across the organization. Early stage companies can do this too, simply by storing and sharing data between founders and future team members.
    4. Integrate Benchmarks Into Sales and Operations Planning Cycles and Day-to-Day Planning
      Help the front line. Ensure that benchmarking data is available to employees every time they make a decision about the future. This single act can boost innovation in your company from the bottom up.
    5. Reallocate Resources
      Consider realigning resources — tear down silo walls — to activate your company’s plan of action after benchmarking. Concentrate resources on realistic targets.

    Hungry for more benchmarking best practices? Check out this oldie but goodie from Harvard’s Working Knowledge titled, “Best Practices for Benchmarking,” originally published in 2003. Ahh, memories! That was the year I officially incorporated RE:INVENTION, inc..

     
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