Entrepreneur Profile: Reggie Ezeh, Data Value

Data Value, led by Reggie Ezeh, is a data management and analytics consulting firm.

Reggie has over 20 years’ experience in advanced analytics with Fortune 500 companies across the US and overseas. His experience spans Telecoms, Insurance (P&C, Auto, Health, etc.), Finance and Technology. He has managed local and global analytics projects in excess of $20 million dollars delivering top notch quantifiable value to the business in his previous positions.

Reggie saw a need in the market and a shortage of experienced professionals that can bridge the gap between analytics and business to provide strategic solutions. Having managed analytics, customer experience and marketing at local and global levels, Reggie has first-hand experience on how to transform an enterprise from a reactive, problem solving entity to a proactive and highly optimized one. And that is how Data Value was born.

 

Reggie does acknowledge that the greatest challenge is in helping potential clients – especially those who have never before focused on analytics – understand the profound impact that data can have on their business strategy. “Often times it’s an uphill task trying to sell fresh, insightful strategies backed by data to senior management who have not yet seen or understood the impact of data on today’s business playing field,” says Reggie. But he says that once senior management understands the value of analytics, Data Value is able to implement change that can be very impactful for a company. For example, a change to call center operations for one company led by Data Value resulted in a conversation rate increase from 1.5% to 3.5%!

Reggie plans to employ an intern in the Spring and a full time analyst by summer. When current projects can support it, he also plans to hire an 4-6 additional analysts, as well as local University interns to support clients. Reggie is also considering strategic partnerships with larger prime contractors for broader reach.

With the help of the Emerging Enterprise Center, Reggie now has good insight on how to plan his growth path.  Reggie says, “The EEC has also provided us with invaluable networking opportunities as well as beneficial seminars and workshops. Since joining EEC, we have made some great contacts that are sure be rewarding in the near future.”

The (Internal) Marketing Plan: Bridging the Gap Between Product Development & Sales

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

How often has a new product been launched and the Sales Team been tasked with the “simple” directive to “go sell” it, armed with little more than a data sheet and price list? One year later, everyone wonders why the sales figures never quite match the numbers projected by Marketing.

An ideal product launch should not only focus on marketing the product to the customer, but also on “marketing” the product internally to assist the Sales Team optimize its sales efforts. Too often, focus is placed on selling to the customer, without effectively training the sales team in the nuances of a product that requires more than just the presentation of features and benefits.

As technologies develop and products become more complex, the more information the Sales Team has on the product, the better they will be able to answer questions knowledgeably and overcome obstacles when working with their customers. Similarly, data gathered by the Sales Team should be cycled back to Marketing to ensure that product is being received and is performing as expected, and any potential issues or improvements can immediately be fed back to the Product Development Team.

 

 

Remember that the sales team is on the front line, so a Marketing Plan or Commercialization Plan should include an element that arms the sales team with as many preemptive answers as possible so that he or she can present the company’s expertise effectively and deliver a consistent product message. So what should be included in this Plan?

Product Positioning

Make sure your sales team understands how and why your product is positioned the way it is. If the product was developed as the result of a recurring problem expressed by several customers, make sure the whole team is aware of it. Just because a customer hasn’t expressed the particular problem, doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced it! If it was developed as the result of a new technology that makes the customer’s job easier, make sure they know it.

If you want your sales team to sell on value rather than price, then you need to make sure they understand the intrinsic value of the product and its benefit to the customer, not just its features and price. What problem does it solve? Will it make the customer more effective? Will it save time or labor?

Target Market

Make sure everyone is on board with precisely which customer segment(s) constitutes the target market, and that the sales team understands the criteria on which the potential market size was developed. If the numbers were developed based on a specific application, and a particular customer ends up using the product differently (it has been known to happen), this is critical information that should be fed back to Marketing and Product Development for further evaluation. Was the original data based on a false premise (hopefully this is never the case), or is this a viable alternative application? If so, can this application be extended across the entire market in which case the potential market has just increased and the information should be distributed to the entire sales team!

Competitive Landscape

What competitive products is your sales team likely to come up against? How does the product perform against these products? How are competitive products used versus pricing? Having spent many years in the chemical industry, I have learned that one of the first things to check for is the dilution rates of chemicals: if a product costs $10.00/litre and needs to be diluted at 1:2, it is NOT cheaper than a $50.00/litre product that can be diluted at 1:12 and offers comparable performance!

Sales Tools

 

 

Don’t just send the sales team off with a data sheet and price list. Testimonials, value calculators, editable presentations, how-to’s and trial protocols (if applicable) all help the sales team present a professional, polished image of a company that understands its market and is working with their customer to help them make an informed purchase.

Product Availability

If the product or service you are offering has customization options, make sure your sales team is fully aware of the criteria for customization: options, minimums, lead times and other requirements. As Carla O’Dell once said, “If you don’t give people information, they’ll make something up to fill the void”, and too often it’s something along the lines of “Of course you can have that in 2 weeks!” This not only creates chaos for the Product Development and Operations teams but can set unrealistic expectations as far as the customer is concerned. Most customers would rather have a realistic 6 week lead time, than constantly be given reasons why an unrealistic 2 week lead time could not be met!

As a final note, while many companies focus on training upon recruitment, they fail to continue this training as products and markets evolve, yet studies have shown that proper training can boost a salesperson’s productivity by 20% and profit margins by much more!

Emerging Enterprise Center by the Numbers

 

The EEC is a business incubator that helps startups and small businesses learn essential entrepreneurial and business skills, grow their business, and develop a long-term sustainable model. The key elements of the incubator program include: one-on-one mentoring, coupled with business growth workshops. These are used to provide guidance and context to entrepreneurs and small businesses alike.

Since its inception in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Center has worked with 38 companies generating over $61 Million in revenue and created 179 full time jobs in the County while they were in the incubator.

The EEC has 20 workshops/seminars scheduled for 2018.

The EEC uses the Growth Wheel to help mentor its participants. It is a toolbox built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. It is designed around the four challenge areas of business (Business Concept, Business Organization, Client Relations, and Business Operations).  It is a systematic approach to help entrepreneurs build their business through an action –oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work. The EEC has a certified Growth Wheel mentor on staff. Click here to see the program guide for the workshops.

Contact us at 302-737-4343 or info@EECincubator.com for more information on how you can get involved in the Emerging Enterprise Center.

How does Your Business Grow?

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

INNOVATE OR DIE has become a 21st century mantra, and rightly so. Today’s globe is smaller than ever, communications are instantaneous, competition is fierce and market expectations are high and ever-changing. Innovation is therefore a prerequisite for survival.

But what is this seeming “answer to all ills” that we call innovation? How do we make it succeed? And how do we do so while simultaneously meeting various business and ROI criteria that may be imposed upon us and are often at odds with a long term innovation strategy?

When we speak of innovation, many people immediately think of breakthrough developments that changed the course of the marketplace, industry or even history: the automobile, the telephone, the microchip, iTunes. However, innovation can be as simple as changing packaging, repositioning a product, or moving into an adjacent business space. Just yesterday, we saw the release of the 6th version of the iPhone together with the Apple watch: earth shattering? Maybe not, but people were standing in line for the new version of the phone and analysts are expecting a bullish next few months for Apple.

Some may think that this dilutes the concept of innovation, but a successful – and cost-effective – innovation strategy should incorporate a range of development projects that not only works towards breakthrough products and technologies, but also allocates resources to the improvement of existing products, the expansion of existing products into new markets, and the development of existing technologies into new products.

One of the best illustrations of this concept is Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff’s “Innovation Ambition Matrix”. Following a review of a number of high performing firms, Nagji and Tuff noted that on average, these firms allocated investments in similar ratios: 70% on the improvement of existing products or core, 20% on the expansion or existing products into new areas, 10% on breakthrough innovation. Their findings also showed that the return ratios were the direct inverse to the investment percentages. While breakthrough innovations yielded a greater return, core innovations required less time and money to develop, and as a rule were more readily accepted by the end user.

By understanding and defining innovation in terms of all of these elements – and not just breakthrough products – creating a growth strategy and implementing a new product development process that fits in with a firm’s core competences makes the entire concept of innovation, while no less daunting, certainly far more manageable and sustainable.

This also makes the concept of innovation far easier to disseminate throughout the organization so that it becomes a part of the organizational culture. When employees understand that innovation need not necessarily be limited to R&D or Engineering, they are more likely to contribute ideas that – while they may not lead to breakthrough products – could certainly lead to product improvements or cost reductions.

Redefining Profit Drivers

Additional routes to growth and innovation should also involve taking an objective view of your business model to clearly understand your profit drivers as they relate to your customers’ needs. This can prove a valuable tool and may lead to a reassessment of your market metrics and a redefinition of how you position your product and/or services and better align your offering to customer needs. We are seeing this more and more as businesses strive to offer insights and solutions rather than individual products.

 Free up Resources by Controlling Hidden Costs

While all of this is going on, there is one more important element that should be incorporated in the innovation process – and that is the regular and consistent review and maintenance of the existing product portfolio. Are the products still relevant and in demand? Are there any weak or inefficient products that could or should be repositioned, improved, or even removed to make way for newer products? Maintenance of inefficient products is a hidden cost and resource drain in many organizations. To allow innovation to function at its most effective, these resources should be freed up in order to be allocated to efforts that add greater long term value.

Strategy x Execution = Success

 

Of course – as with all strategies and my own personal mantra – it’s not just about the strategy but about the implementation and execution of that strategy. Often strategies fail – be they innovation, business, market or product strategies – not necessarily because the strategy itself is flawed but because the implementation and execution is flawed. As the entrepreneur Naveen Jain once said

“Success doesn’t necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won’t win a game or battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling.”

13 Lessons Verne Harnish Taught Me

Written by Cheryl Beth Kuchler, CEO Think Tank

It’s been almost a decade since I first heard Verne Harnish speak at a two-day “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” workshop in Washington D.C. about “Scaling Up” a small business. It was, to put it bluntly, engrossing, overwhelming and life-changing.

Listening to Verne Harnish is like drinking from a fire hose. More illustratively, as one of my fellow Lehigh alums would say, listening to him is like drinking from the beer bong of business learning.

There’s so much to absorb, it’s nearly impossible to keep up. And if you’re not quick enough, you could drown. Six or seven hours into his workshop, as my head was going under water for the umpteenth time, I decided I needed a life vest.

So I started to capture the “highlights” from my learning to help me remember as well as focus. Two days later, I had thirteen points that summarized my key insights, my takeaways, which in turn would guide my behaviors in the years to come – in my own consulting business – which I was working to grow as well as with my clients who were working to grow their businesses.

As pertinent today as they were ten years ago, I offer them to you to consider for your own 2018 planning.  My favorite? #3 – If you have a problem or an opportunity ask yourself, “Who’s already doing this and how are they doing it?” Verne taught me that most business problems have been solved by someone else. We spend way too much time re-inventing the wheel. You just have to figure out who that resource is, and reach out. (See Lesson #2 for your next step.)

And click here to read my complete list of Verne’s 13 Lessons. Which one will you be focusing on for the coming year?

Market Segmentation: Understanding Your Customers

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

“Any color-so long as it’s black.”  Why Henry Ford’s famous quote is no longer relevant.

When we utter Ford’s words today, they are often said in jest. Ford lived in a time of limited competition and his goal was straightforward:  minimize costs through mass production.  And the consumer was more than happy with the deal.  Today’s consumer is different:  he wants choice, lots of it, and with the proliferation of brands and channels, it’s there for the taking.  Whether you are a business or non-profit organization, selling a product or a service,  by segmenting  your market and customers into groups with similar needs and buying criteria, then adjusting your marketing mix to meet the needs of each group,  you enhance 

THE 5 CRITERIA FOR EFFECTIVE SEGMENTATION

  1. HOMOGENOUS—the needs within each segment should be               homogeneous within the segment and different from the other        segments.
  2. IDENTIFIABLE– the customers within the segment must be identifiable and specific.
  3. PROFITABLE—The more segments identified, the greater the opportunity to offer a targeted high value offer.  However, the number of segments identified should be balanced against the cost to serve those segments.
  4. ACCESSIBLE—the customers in the segments should be readily accessible in order to be able to serve effectively.
  5. ACTIONABLE—the segmentation should be such that the company can act on the segmentation to implement appropriate programs for each segment.

Once segmented, the business can then determine its business and marketing strategy on the segments themselves—their size, growth and profitability—the competition and the capabilities of the business.  Which segment(s) will you focus on?  Which segment(s) offer the greatest growth/profitability/maximum barriers to entry? Will your marketing mix (product, price, distribution, marketing message, processes, people) be the same for each segment or will they differ? The chart below shows the various marketing strategy options for business development based on market segmentation.

8 Priorities of an Enlightened Company

Written by Cheryl Beth Kuchler, CEO Think Tank
(ckuchler@ceothinktank.com)

In late 2014, right before what turned out to be the worst recession in the Oil and Gas industry since the 1970s, the team at Hawke Aerospace (Uniflight), a diversified helicopter services company, decided to embark on a journey to create a more enlightened and exceptional company.

Unbeknownst to them, it turned out to be the perfect storm. Given that the helicopter industry is positively correlated with the price of oil, Hawke Aerospace, along with many other companies in the space, was hit hard.

The Challenge

 

Deciding to implement “Scaling Up” best practices while entering a significant downturn might seem like an “addled and misguided decision”, says Chairman and CEO Joe Hawke, who readily admits to having had plenty of addled and misguided moments, but he recognized that there really is no “good” time to implement change. And, while the company is headquartered in Grand Prairie, Texas, it has additional locations in Pennsylvania and New York and does business across the United States and overseas. Pulling together such a far flung team requires an investment in time and money.

But Joe, who began investing in the helicopter industry while a partner in a private equity firm, knew that the discipline and proven methodologies of the One Page Strategic Plan™ and the “Scaling Up” Execution and People decisions were necessary mechanisms to achieve his vision of a sustainable $100 Million business. So, pulling together his team, they set out on their journey towards creating a sustainable and profitable company.

The Journey

Together they focused on eight priorities and slowly but surely the pieces began to fall in place.

1) They developed, then refined, the Company’s Core Values, Core Purpose and Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – Joe wanted to grow the business but his Leadership team had not spent time as a team determining the Company’s longer term goals, nor had the Core Values to support an engaging Culture and anchor behaviors been articulated. Developing the Core Purpose, “Superior Solutions” required the team to have numerous conversations with customers and other constituents in the industries they serve to understand better the challenges they face flying and maintaining rotary craft (helicopters).

Hawke’s primary line of business, through its subsidiary Uniflight, is the customization, maintenance and overhaul of rotary-wing aircraft for a wide variety of mission-critical civil applications. The emphasis on “supporting mission-critical operations” became the driver for their strategic positioning and their plan to deliver uniquely tailored solutions to their Core Customer – organizations who can’t afford to be without their aircraft. As a result of their efforts, the overarching purpose for the company became crystal clear, enhancing commitment and providing meaning for their employees.

2) They focused on a few, very clear priorities – Hawke’s major priorities for the first year became managing Cash (owned by the CFO) and driving Sales (owned by Joe as CEO). While there were a lot of areas that they needed to address, having a “one-two punch” helped the team and their employees to focus on the critical items, keeping them on track and out of the weeds.

3) Each team mapped out the Implementation steps – Driving Sales across multiple industries with a sales team that was spread across the country was a challenge. Using a Who/ What/ When framework, the Sales team “mapped” out the project plan, assigning deadlines and accountabilities that included fully implementing Salesforce.com, reaching out to Customers proactively and often to get feedback, bringing in key sales people with core contacts in the right vertical markets, such as law enforcement, and being very strategic with their approach to marketing and tradeshows. The Cash priority got the same treatment. This level of detail can be excruciatingly painful to document but the Who/What/ When format helped to keep everyone accountable and on track.

 

4) Operations started using written Systems and Checklists – Most priorities, as Joe’s team found out, can’t be accomplished in 90 days. But you can make progress – if projects are “mapped” out and assigned one key person to drive the project to completion. The third company priority, “Improving the Quality of maintenance and delivery”, was owned by the General Managers of each FAA-certified facility/ operation, with overall accountability resting with the Texas HQ-based COO. Inspired by Dr. Atul Gidwani’s book, “The Checklist Manifesto”, the Team’s mission was focused on not just fixing the Quality problems the business had had historically but, more importantly, putting in place the necessary systems that are required to prevent defects and poor workmanship from happening.

5) The team used Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) with Targets to drive accountability –  You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Driven by the CEO and owned by line of business and functional area managers, the company “Dashboard”also took some time to develop but is now what the Leadership Team uses to measure daily, weekly and monthly progress and to hold themselves accountable to the Plan.

 

6) Core Values were reinforced through relentless reinforcement – Joe will tell you that implementing the Core Values wasn’t a cake walk. Numerous conversations were held at Town Halls every quarter and in monthly Coaching conversations but it was the relentless grading and self-assessment of the Leadership Team at every Quarterly Meeting that really helped drive the behaviors they were seeking.

7) Employee Engagement and Input were actively cultivated – After a few mis-steps, the company implemented “Tiny Pulse” to help get employees engaged in the recognition process and are now living the Core Values more consistently and getting feedback regularly from their employees as well. While this priority was “owned” by the Human Resources manager, full implementation took the commitment of the entire Leadership team.

8) Bi-weekly Tactical Meetings for the entire Executive Leadership Team (ELT) held them to their Plan – This meetings became critical components of great Execution, enabling individual team members to report on hits and misses, and also establishing a regular forum to foster communication, requests for help, and problem solving. Holding effective meetings can be challenging but the Level 10 Formatprovided a solid guide to the team.

The Results

Over the next 24 months, as a result of their dedication and commitment to the planning process, Hawke went from less than $1M of booked backlog, a non-existent sales pipeline and negative operating profitability in Q4 2014, to over $10M of booked backlog, and more than $300M (gross), $120M (net profitably adjusted), of qualified sales pipeline at the end of 2016.

The Quality Improvement efforts have taken several years of hard work and a step-by-step disciplined approach. But the persistence and dedication of the General Managers and the techs on the floor and support staff has paid off. Feedback through informal conversations and formal surveys of customers has reinforced that the company is on the right track and getting high marks for operational execution and customer satisfaction. And as the team has learned, as goes the Leadership team, so goes the rest of the company.

As 2017 comes to a close, Hawke is on track to post 20% growth over 2016 following two years of top line contraction. And the company is poised to accelerate growth and achieve profitable operations in 2018. Most importantly, the Hawke Aerospace team is committed and on board to the plan and the company’s long-term direction!

There lots more to the story of course. There are no “magic wands” for Scaling Up. But if you’re interested in learning more about the tools and best practices that helped Hawke to be a successful company OR if you’re ready to begin your own journey to enlightenment, reach out!

Sign up and come to our One Day “Scaling Up” workshop in January! For more info click here!

The KISS Principle: From Innovation to Communication

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

KISS – alternately known “keep it simple, stupid”, “keep it short and simple” and “keep it simple and straightforward” – is an acronym reportedly coined by Kelly Johnson in the early 20th century, a lead engineer at Lockheed Skunk Works who created the Lockheed US and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. It’s also a design principle noted by the US Navy in 1960 believing that most systems work best when you avoid unnecessary complexity.

The concept is nothing new and has been embraced by innovators throughout the centuries, from Leonardo da Vinci “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” to Steve Jobs “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Lean and Six Sigma were both based on the simplification and optimization of processes to increase productivity and reduce the potential for error. Alan Turing – considered the father of computing and artificial intelligence – built the stunningly simple Turing Machine which is today the basis of all modern computers. The same applies in the business world. Whether it’s a go-to-market plan, the design of a new process, or implementing cultural change the key to success is simplicity.

By simplifying and communicating sometimes complex organizational strategies and discussions, it makes them accessible to the entire organization which in turn enables the entire organization to embrace them. So the concept of QA in manufacturing can be viewed less as a system of forms and check marks and more as a fundamental belief in manufacturing products of the highest quality possible. Innovation can be viewed less as a function of R&D or Engineering, divorced from the rest of the organization, and more an overriding vision that is integrated into the mainstream of the organization, engendering commitment at all levels.

Similarly, the communication of complex, technical products needs to be broken down into language understood by anyone involved in the purchase process, with clear explanations of the pros and cons surrounding their purchase decision and based on trustworthy information. Too often, marketing of complex products – especially at a B2B level – is communicated in language and concepts which may hold great value to some in the decision making process, but may hold little value to others. Ensure that the communication is clear enough to be understand by all involved in the purchasing decision.

In their excellent article published in Harvard Business Review, Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman discussed their findings after a 3-month long study on what drives consumers to opt for, or stick with, a specific brand. They found that “the single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity” – the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from marketers is, simply, simplicity.”

So how do you go about simplifying communication? The steps are simple (pun intended):

DECONSTRUCT: Break down the idea to its basic elements.

SIMPLIFY: Simplify the premise by taking out excess information that does not directly contribute to the value expected by the end user(s).

RECONSTRUCT: Reconstruct by focusing strictly on the value, bearing in mind that value may represent different things to the various members of your audience.

COMMUNICATE: Communicate in a language that is accessible to a wider audience. Use clear language, avoid the use of jargon and acronyms that only a limited audience would understand.

I’ll leave the final word to that great genius Einstein:

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”