Storytelling is a fundamental part of every great brand, business or institution. Every great brand or business has a story and that story connects to the emotions, the characters, the values of the people that live that product or business every day. Storytelling is always been a part of leadership. It is just now we’re overtly talking about it as a tool that leaders can use as opposed to just an aid in our brand’s and the products that we give to people. Storytelling says it’s not about the list of things we have to do, it’s about the connection that we give to people about a piece of information that we’re trying to share. A good story at its essence is simply conveying a message that has logic.
Here are the top 5 reasons storytelling is important for modern leaders:
#1. Storytelling can inspire people to act in unfamiliar, ambiguous and often unwelcome, ways. Tedious cascades of numbers or daze-inducing PowerPoint slides won’t achieve this goal. Even logical arguments for making the needed changes usually won’t do the trick. It is effective story telling that works, if done effectively.
#2. Good storytelling can act silently on our conscious mind. When we hear a story that touches us deeply, our lives are immersed with meaning. As listeners, we have transmitted to us that which matters. Once we make this connection, once a sense of wonder has come upon us, it does not last long, and we inevitably fall back into our everyday living, but with the difference that a radical shift in understanding may have taken place.
#3. Most business leaders are honestly bored with 90% of the conversations they have in a day. They sit at meetings and have power point after power point, and they have meeting after meeting, and they have to do list after to do list. And they’re looking to be inspired. If you have a compelling story, something that is of interest, something that has a connection then people are going to listen no matter what the medium is.
#4. Storytelling is by far the best way for leaders to communicate with people they are leading. It is inherently well adapted to handling the most obstinate leadership challenges of today – igniting change, communicating who you are, enhancing the brand, transmitting values, creating high-performance teams, sharing knowledge, taming the grapevine, leading people in to the future.
#5. Last but not the least; storytelling translates dry and abstract numbers into compelling visuals of a leader’s goals. Although good business cases are developed through the use of numbers, they are typically approved on the basis of a story—that is, a narrative that links a set of events in some kind of causal sequence, something that connects with the listeners and has depth.
At the end of the day, everyone tells stories. The stories that get repeated over and over—and become a part of an organization’s or business culture and/or heritage, and these can come from the CEO, a manager, a new hire, or anyone in between. All you need is to have context, logic and connection.
Automation or controlling something automatically is the use of systematic control system to operate, produce and deliver an output (product or service) with minimal or reduced human intervention.
The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves labor! However, it is also used to save energy and materials and to improve quality, accuracy and precision. Companies – big and small, are adopting automation at the very fundamental level. It is just not helping them save costs on manpower, but also helping them reduce time and waste.
Advantages of Automation:
Although many companies hire labor for a up to three shifts to run the business operations for the maximum number of hours, however business still needs to be closed for maintenance and holidays. Automation fulfills the aim of the company by allowing the company to run a business (operations) for 24 hours in a day 7 days in a week and 365 days a year, therefore high productivity. Online or internet banking systems are a clear example.
Automation eliminates the error associated with a human being. Further, unlike human beings, automated systems, specifically robots do not involve any fatigue, which results in products with uniform quality manufactured at different times. Car manufacturing units are a fine example.
Adding or deleting a new task in an operations or an assembly line requires training with a human operator, however, with the help of automation and with the right use of robotics, systems can be programmed to do any task. This makes any business process more flexible.
Adding automated data collection, can allow you to collect key business, production and operation information, improve data accuracy, and reduce your data collection costs. This provides crucial information with the required facts to make the right decisions when it comes to optimizing a process and reducing waste.
One of the biggest disadvantages of automation is its high initial setup cost. The automation of a new production or plant typically requires a very large initial investment in comparison with the unit cost of the production, although the cost of automation may be spread among many products and over time.
There are many automation tools and products out there in the market, but one of the most phenomenal and growing technology is – ROBOTICS. It is a branch of engineering and computer science that deals with design, construction, and as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. The fundamental technology deals with automated machines such as robots, this is because it can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior and also cognition. Automation is becoming one of the most essential aspects of any organization. Leaders and managers are starting to think more “automation” i.e. how to automate tasks, steps, process and functions within projects and operations. This has also given birth to a new profession, widely known as automation professionals.
Automation professionals are responsible for solving complex problems in many vital aspects of industry and its processes. The work of automation professionals is critically important to the conservation of the health, safety, and welfare of the organization and also the public, and to the sustainability and enhancement of business and quality of life.
If you think you are the only one selling a certain kind of product or offering a niche services, then think again! If you look around you would see that there are many entrepreneurs and business owners that are constantly trying to do things differently, or trying to solve a problem in the most innovative ways. So how does one get an edge over their competitors in the market? Though you might be offering the same product or service, but how can you stand apart in the competition and also get noticed?
With the changing global economy, finding your businesses’ competitive advantage has become the most critical aspect and to add to that, the way you market that advantage will eventually play a key role in how you succeed in the market place. In simple terms, competitive advantage is something that occurs when a business develops certain attribute or characteristic that allows it to stand out and outperform its competitors. This unique advantage could be things like access to specific resources, skilled manpower a specific business model and/or technology. All of this could help in creating a unique product or service or even act as a competitive aid in the overall business process (for example, better identification and understanding of customers).
While identifying your advantage, try to divide your competitive strategy into three broad categories:
– Expertise: If you are a specialist in your field and think that you are offering a cutting-edge product or service, then expertise is something you would need to focus on while marketing your competitive advantage. Also, if you or your business has been involved in one industry for a number of years, you can add that to your competitive advantage.
– Business Process: If you feel you manage your business better than your competition then that is something you could show as your competitive advantage. Focus on your results based and customer centric approach by including testimonials and case studies in your marketing material. While marketing your business process you would need to always keep in mind that your high quality staff is the most critical piece to the success of your business.
– Relationships: If you spend the time making your customers feel special and understood, then focusing on your customer relationships might be the way to go. Though there are potential risks involved in this option because you would need to dedicate time and energy to these relationships and that may mean you can only take on a select number of customers at a time. However, it helps if you are able to build a good ongoing business relationship with your customers and market that advantage at the right time.
As an entrepreneur it is important to analyze your business and find that unique aspect that will make your product or service stands out from your competitors. It is important to always focus on one area or aspect and market it as your competitive advantage, rather than focusing on multiple advantages and marketing them all together. It is always advisable to start small and slowly penetrate the market with your uniqueness that would eventually offer you a long lasting competitive advantage.
Getting more customers means getting more business; this in turn increases revenues and profits. All forms of businesses are directly or indirectly dependant on building loyal customers and it is all about how we strategically plan our customer engagement plans. With changing trends and technologies, businesses tend to automate their customer acquisition and retention strategies, which eventually becomes a problem. The essence lies in making sure that the approach is more customer-engaging rather than technological centric.
Here are the top five tips on how to attract customers and also retain them in the current business environment:
Build your business as a personality and make sure you create and utilize your online social profiles including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pintrest and Instagram. Give each channel a unique definition and strategy. The key is to post real-time behind-the-scenes content (photos, videos etc) to engage with your audience. Use these channels to inform customers of upcoming events, promotions and deals. Posting at least once a day shows that you are engaged. Your social media presence will help increase brand awareness for your business and will give a sense of reliability to your customers.
The most important aspect of going mobile is building a responsive website i.e. making your website device agnostic, so that your customers could access it from any mobile device and/or operating system. This gives the ease to your customers to access your content from anywhere and everywhere. The second most important step is to partners with mobile search platforms that have the scale, reach and local search benefits to get your business found.
Loyal customers are all that your business wants. Focusing on loyalty can help you increase profits up to 80-90%. Initiating a loyalty program that rewards frequent visitors and encourages them to stay with you is the essence of any marketing strategy. Such forms of loyalty programs can encourage customers to spend more with each visit and with each positive experience they can also spread the word about your business.
Email marketing is by far the most important and powerful methods for growing business engagement and maintaining relationships with customers. Use standard email marketing tools to send alerts and campaigns to your customer that keeps them engaged. Try to do this at least once a month. Such tools offer email automation, with makes it very easy to send mass messages to customers, which are also traceable so you can measure results of the email click through rate and retention.
All successful business thrives on reviews, so it is critical to have a presence on review sites. All businesses should take the extra effort to provide their complete information on these sites i.e. photos, descriptions, menus, hours and your businesses’ direct contact information etc. Displaying signs on your counter are also a great way to remind visiting customers to share their positive feedback about your great service. Now-a-days, 90% of customers state that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, so it is important to keep up with active reviews and comment politely to customers who have had a negative experience.
No matter how small or big your business is, these simple tips will help you organize, plan and kick start your marketing campaign with a fresh perspective and give a new outlook to your business. Try it and see the change.
There have been times when business owners have faced the challenge of improving and optimizing an ongoing process or a business activity. In typical business environments, entrepreneurs generally come across situations where they have to analyze their current situation or business and compare it to the desired or future state.
In simple terms, gap analysis is the comparison of such actual business states with potential business state or performances. This analysis can yield a lot of insights into an organization’s performance and functioning. This simple tool helps businesses identify the gap between your current situation and the future state that they want to reach, along with the tasks that businesses need to complete to close this gap.
Compared to other business analysis methods, Gap analysis is more organic, quantitative and conceptual in nature, using traditional Excel sheets or flowcharts. It gives the analyst (or business owner) more freedom in choosing what to focus on. In management theory, if an organization does not make the best use of current resources, it may produce or perform below its potential. At a root level, Gap analysis identifies gaps between the optimized allocation and integration of the resources, and the current allocation level. Such analysis is generally done at the operational or strategic level of any business.
Here are the steps followed in a typical GAP analysis:
• Recognize the existing business process
• Find the existing outcome
• Identify the desired outcome
• Pinpoint the process to achieve the desired outcome
• Identify Gap i.e. the difference between the actual and the desired performance, Document the gap
• Develop the means to fill the gap
• Improve and prioritize Requirements to bridge the gap
Such GAP analysis should be done carefully and objectively to realize any potential gains. Gap Analysis is useful at the beginning of a project or process, especially when developing a Business Case , and it’s essential when we identifying the tasks that need to be completed to deliver the project.
An entrepreneur should be comfortable with and knowledgeable about the data that leads their organization. It is always important to know if the data that you work with, governs you or do you govern it!
We all have a notion that numbers (DATA) speak for themselves, but are we actually sure about the facts we are looking at?
The data litmus test – Answer “yes” or “no” to the following statements:
– When I receive a report, the first thing I do is scan through all the data to see what the report is telling me.
– I make sure my presentations and papers are full of charts, graphs, and tables.
– I diligently read all the reports that I receive, in order to figure out the answers.
– I use standard, corporate reports to make decisions and take actions.
If you answered “yes” to more than three of these statements, you would be surprised that you might not be as effective as you think, and therefore your DATA is governing you.
A good business owner would thoroughly understand their businesses and the story that is unfolding within it. They combine their understanding and intuition with data to create a complete overall objective. Well, good entrepreneurs would always know that DATA is just one of the many inputs used to make effective decisions and take action.
Here are a few tips to govern your data:
1. Never look at your data blindly: Always use a question or hypothesis to guide your search.
2. Try to build your own reports: Most corporate reports are created by someone whose job is to make reports, not run your business. Those reports are often generic and not geared toward the decisions and actions you must take.
3. Ask the right questions: There is no such thing as an absolute, “right,” or “complete” set of data. Ensure that you’ve asked the right questions and that your data leads to a logical solution.
4. Deduce and recommend. Figure out what the data means and share that. The sooner you can get to passing along a recommendation or interpretation, the faster you will move to decisions and actions.
5. Never forget the big picture. Any data you look at is just a piece of the full story. Instead of looking at the data in isolation, figure out how it ties to the bigger picture of your business.
Last but not the least, never be bias with your DATA and try to keep it in check. Use your bias to generate questions rather than determine answers. At the end of the day it is all about leading your data correctly, rather than letting your data lead and make decisions for you.
Why should business goals change ?
There are changes that keep happening in all major fronts, and the key factors which FORCE change are:
1. Customer needs keep changing – technological and trends changes.
2. The speed at which these changes happen – This forces us to compete with innovative products which grab the market shares. Hence the budget for R&D has to increase.
3. Channel partners who take the product to the end users influence the sales, and makes us rethink our strategic approach to marketing , CRM, and distribution.
4. Non- availability of skilled manpower and attrition, force the organizations to have a proactive approach to HRM through appropriate performance management systems.
5. Increasing cost of raw material, labor, logistics, operational cost etc, force the organizations to work more effectively towards operational excellence.
The most effected are small or medium sized business. Hence, it is essential to have goals to succeed. With such transitions that a business encounters, a goal becomes very important in the success and growth of any business.
Most small companies plan to accommodate such changes as they know that these changes are rapid and plan to face challenges like market dynamics, expenditures towards R&D, distribution logistics, production etc., but fail in planning towards the Human Resource (HR) initiatives.
The major backlog in HR planning is the absence of the right knowledge, resources, skilled manpower for execution, and a well translated goal for every department which is linked to the vision and goals of the company.
There are several companies with goals like “We will double our sales volume in 3 years !” or “We will reach a turnover of XX millions in 2 years” etc. These companies force themselves to achieve what they had promised for themselves, which eventually damages the culture, as they were too busy developing strategies to achieve their goals. Instead, if organizations build goals relevant to the changes happening and grow a work culture to suit the same, they would see better long-term success.
Some key solutions:
• Culture in an organization is more important than a strategy – Hence develop a culture required for growth – for example when innovation is the key strength for growth, LEARNING should be prime culture of employees in R&D and production.
• Plan your human resources – If you have excess manpower, train them with new skills in their free time.
• Competition is not about doing all that your competitor does or challenges, but being vigilant that your profits are not destroyed by wrong investments in in turbulent times – hence plan to be in the market with your own USP.
Being focused on the following fronts helps the business succeed in the long-run:
1. Orientation towards the customer needs
2. Orientation towards a work culture that supports Product innovation, Market dynamics and Technical changes.
3. Orientation towards operational excellence that leads to better profits internally.
An organization with a clear goal and with an orientation for transitions accompanied by a proper mission is sure to have a journey of success.
Authored by: Nalina.R – BE, MBA – She is an HR consultant from Coimbatore, India with 16 years of experience in Recruitment, Training, Performance management systems and OD interventions.