It is the customer!

The typical answer from managers to the question “What is the purpose of your business?” is: “to make money”. Well, that is to some point right but the money comes from customers and therefore the purpose of a business is to find profitable customers. And financing your sales to your customers is only sustainable when you see the cash in your pockets in the end. That basic purpose got lost over the last years of shareholder value thinking.

I gave last week a workshop on business model innovation for a large Swiss technology firm. The firm is well entrenched with its customers, you can almost call the firm a purveyor to the court for some customers. But times are changing and therefore did the new management arrange a workshop on customer centric business model innovations.

The first question I asked was the classical Peter Drucker question: What is the purpose of your business? And I got the typical answer from the senior managers: “To make money or to make a profit.”

That is of course right but: Where is the money coming from? How can you earn money for your shareholders without somebody who pays you? Where is your salary coming from? Is it really the company or where is the cash coming from?

It’s the customer, stupid!

It is amazing how few say it is to create and keep profitable customers.

It is simple, it is a hard fact:

“It is the customer where all the money comes from.”

It is the customer who helps you to pay your salary. It is the customer who finally pays the dividends to your shareholders. Without a customer you can not have the top line (revenue) in your profit & loss statement to pay for all other items that come under the revenue line. Continue reading It is the customer!

Ask questions! Ask why!

In workshops participants ask me what business model innovation would be best for their industry. I am always surprised about these kinds of questions.

I am not the expert for all industries. You are! You are the expert for what you are doing. The participants are the expert in their field. They know the idiosyncrasies of their industry, the hidden mental models of how their trade works. They understand the accepted rules of competition. They should know exactly what the customer values. They should have the insights in the customers’ behavior.  And they should find starting points for innovations.

I am not very creative. I was not great in art at school. I was a lousy painter, my brother helped me, I must admit. I never wrote a poem or composed music. But I am extremely curious. I was a pain in the neck for many. Continue reading Ask questions! Ask why!

Money as the only differentiator

“We have to pay so high salaries otherwise we don’t get the right people” is often heard from firms even in the crisis.  Particularly the failed banking industry was very good in this salary death spiral. Salary was seen in this market as the only differentiators with great results.

I always wondered why the so highly paid managers could not find other reasons than money. Are they so uncreative that they had only the pricing mechanism as the only marketing tool in their recruiting process? Did they ever think about who they hired when money is the only reason why one should work for a particular bank? Can you develop a long-term oriented, customer centric bank when you have soldiers of fortune as employees? Have they every thought about what kind of culture they have created in this process? Have they ever thought about the customer experience they have created with a recruiting policy like that?

Well, the bankers will tell you they were driven by the short term orientation of the investors and the financial market in general. They will tell you that everybody was doing it so they had to do it as well. Continue reading Money as the only differentiator

Diversity and Mental Models

Diversity in teams helps to overcome mental models that frame and impedes fresh thinking. The solving of a case study gives an interesting example who diversity helps.

I gave recently a lecture on business model innovation for managers of a large German corporation. During the session they had to prepare a case study on Bosch Power Tools.

Bosch Power Tools faced at the beginning of the Millennium a crisis. China entered the market, trade and no-brands gained markets share, Bosch’s share decreased, the market stagnated and the business was loss making. So the division faced the choice of ‘fix it, sell it, or close it‘. Continue reading Diversity and Mental Models

How large companies react to the crisis

The current crisis could be a great start to rethink your business, but large companies do the opposite. Besides the usual and essential task to save cash they push their business units into more controlling and reporting of the existing business.

Today, I had a long chat with an executive from a business unit in a large company. We talked about the reaction of the headquarters to the financial crisis which is hitting his business hard. He is very busy in the moment to cut unnecessary costs and to save cash wherever possible. At the same time he is spending a lot of time with customers to find new projects. Besides pressure on the margin customers have canceled orders but his position is still better than of his competitors due to his excellent customer relation.

At the same time he feels that his business model is too similar to the strategies of his competitors. Continue reading How large companies react to the crisis