Why Continuous Learning Matters

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”  Confucius

When I first entered the world of business more years ago than I care to remember, it was a very different place.  Word processors were just making an appearance and sending a fax was the ultimate in high speed communication, the internet barely existed, and Amazon wasn’t even a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye.

Fast forward to 2018 and while the basic principles of business remain the same, the way we DO business is infinitely different. Technology has changed how we make decisions and embark on a strategic direction, how we execute on strategy, how we transact business, how we communicate. Equally, we have access to more informational and educational resources than ever before. For the small business owner today – more than ever – to ignore the need for continuous learning is to remain stagnant at best, fail at worst.

The Emerging Enterprise Center’s Business Growth Workshops hone in on business processes that every small business and entrepreneur needs while tying into the ever-evolving business environment.  Among these:

Marketing & Communication:  30 years ago, sales and marketing were almost synonymous and advertising represented the main thrust of the marketing and sales effort.  Today the world of sales and marketing couldn’t be more different, yet too often small business owners still believe that, as long as they market their product or business “customers will come”.  This couldn’t be further from the truth, so it is critical that new entrepreneurs as well as small business owners are clear in their own minds of the differences between strategic marketing, marketing communications, advertising, and sales so that they can develop and implement a sustainable business growth plan.

Selling Value:  Probably the toughest thing for first time – and sometimes serial – entrepreneurs to grasp, is the difference between selling a PRODUCT or SERVICE and selling VALUE.  Entrepreneurs and innovators, rightly, are passionate about their product and their passion is reflected when they speak about it.  What it can do, how it can do it, how it was developed, the features, the benefits.  The more clearly those features and benefits can be articulated into end user value, the less important price becomes as a part of the sales equation.  This translates into a more valuable business model that generates greater revenue.  To quote Warren Buffet:  “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”    Are you clear about the value that you are providing to your customers?

Innovation: “Innovate or die” has become a 21st century mantra and rightly so.  Failure to innovate led to the slow demise of companies like Eastman Kodak, Blockbuster, Sears and, more recently, Toys ‘R’ Us.  In today’s world of rapid technological development, changing tastes and increasing competition, product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter.  Businesses that fail to update are gradually squeezed out of the market.  Innovation doesn’t have to be disruptive – it can be gradual and incremental.  The key is to remain relevant!

Globalization:  Globalization can be a hotly contested topic but has nevertheless had a profound impact on business with increased competition, expanded markets, increased resources, technology transfer.  The increased ease with which business can be transacted internationally means that even the smallest of businesses can access customers and markets which in the past may have seemed unreachable, either directly or through strategic business alliances.

In the end, while ignorance – at times – can be bliss, when running a business, it can be fatal.  As a business owner, I’m all too aware of the fact that the first step to growing a business is the ability to acknowledge that “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  So I make sure I continue to learn.

For more information on the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Business Growth Workshops, contact Erica Crell at (302) 294-2063 or via email.

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.”

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.

Breaking News – New Program Director Announced!

The Emerging Enterprise Center is proud to announce Dora Cheatham as the new Program Director. Dora has had a long career focused on sales, marketing and product development in a corporate setting. For the past several years, she has run her own consulting shop focused on assisting small businesses here in Delaware and throughout the region. She has also been a key player in organizational and promotional work for the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance.
Dora Cheatham was born in the UK and grew up in Europe, studying and/or working in the UK, France, Spain and Cyprus regions. She holds degrees in foreign languages and business from Thames Valley University and the University of London and speaks fluent Spanish, French and Greek.
She relocated to Delaware 25 years ago and has since held several positions in International Business Development and Marketing, most recently as International Business Development Manager with Celeste Industries Corp-a subsidiary of ITW, Inc. Where she implemented and managed New Product Development & Marketing procedures to create and commercialize new products on the global stage, generating over $5 million in new business and helping to establish Celeste Industries as a leader in aviation industry cleaning chemicals. On a local level, she has also worked as Director of Development at Kent-Sussex Industries, Milford, Delaware, where she coordinated a $2.2 million capital campaign and successfully increased non-campaign donations.
She has published several editorials for the aviation industry including:
  • “How Safe Is Your Water?”
  • “Complete Hygiene-Cleaning & the Disinfection Myth”
  • “How Green Is My Cleaner?”
Thanks to all of you for your patience and understanding during the time we have taken to search for a person to fill the role of EEC Program Director.  We are very excited to have Dora join the team at the EEC to continue to provide support, access to resources, and advice to our members.
Dora will begin work with us on Monday, June 26th. Join us in congratulating her.

Program Director, Emerging Enterprise Center

DORA CHEATHAM, Program Director, Emerging Enterprise Center
Dora Cheatham is the Program Director of the Emerging Enterprise Center. Dora has had a long career focused on sales, marketing and product development in a corporate setting. For the past several years, she has run her own consulting shop focused on assisting small businesses here in Delaware and throughout the region. She has also been a key player in organizational and promotional work for the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance.
Dora Cheatham was born in the UK and grew up in Europe, studying and/or working in the UK, France, Spain and Cyprus regions. She holds degrees in foreign languages and business from Thames Valley University and the University of London and speaks fluent Spanish, French and Greek.
She relocated to Delaware 25 years ago and has since held several positions in International Business Development and Marketing, most recently as International Business Development Manager with Celeste Industries Corp-a subsidiary of ITW, Inc. Where she implemented and managed New Product Development & Marketing procedures to create and commercialize new products on the global stage, generating over $5 million in new business and helping to establish Celeste Industries as a leader in aviation industry cleaning chemicals. On a local level, she has also worked as Director of Development at Kent-Sussex Industries, Milford, Delaware, where she coordinated a $2.2 million capital campaign and successfully increased non-campaign donations.
She has published several editorials for the aviation industry including:
  • “How Safe Is Your Water?”
  • “Complete Hygiene-Cleaning & the Disinfection Myth”
  • “How Green Is My Cleaner?”
Dora is a member of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce Marketing Committee, the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance Operations Team and is an active volunteer for the Biggs Museum of American Art.