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5 Tips To Avoid ERP Failure And Turn 2020 Disruption Into Success

ERP

5 Tips To Avoid ERP Failure And Turn 2020 Disruption Into Success

The trials of 2020 have put many businesses in a mode of transformation. For some, that can mean changing anything from their internal operations to the services and products they offer.

Due to advancements in digital technology, massive change was well underway in numerous industries before the pandemic. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has been a central part of those changes as companies learn to organize and analyze data and use software applications to automate business functions.

But while the main goal in acquiring ERP is to streamline processes and increase productivity, it can be difficult to implement without the right combination of people, training, and technology. Failure with ERP implementation happens for many reasons, and knowing how to avoid those pitfalls is critical to a company’s growth and survival in these trying times, says Joel Patterson (www.JoelPatterson.com), a workplace culture expert, founder of The Vested Group and ForbesBooks author of The Big Commitment: Solving The Mysteries Of Your ERP Implementation

“Many businesses are aware they need to adopt digital technologies to compete in today’s market, but the fear of failure holds some back,” Patterson says. “Often, the barriers to successful ERP implementation have less to do with the software and more to do with communication- and employee-based issues.

“A change of such magnitude in a company requires solid and consistent change management, in which company leaders work well with outside consultants, but more importantly appreciate the importance of their workforce as much as the need for change.”

Patterson offers five tips on how to avoid failure in ERP implementation:

Tie ERP into long-term planning. One reason for engaging in an ERP project is to improve processes for the long haul. Therefore, an organization’s leadership needs to have a vision for the timeline that makes sense for their industry, typically at least 5 years. “It’s a key question for many businesses, especially in terms of selecting and implementing ERP,” Patterson says. “For example, it would be a big mistake to choose a product that doesn’t allow you to easily add new companies or service lines if expansion is a component of your strategic plan. Create a roadmap and share it with your IT partner.”

Put people first. Patterson says that having a solid work culture in which employees, their treatment and their betterment are prioritized is necessary for any ERP implementation to succeed. “You can have great ERP software,” he says, “but your employees are your greatest asset. Listening to them helps the overall effectiveness of the system going forward. If your culture is a mixed bag of nay-sayers and disengaged managers, projects of this magnitude are doomed to fail.”

Get buy-in across the organization. It’s common for people to fear or resist change, especially employees who have been with companies the longest. “When an organization is made up of people who understand the reasons behind what is being done, then they are more likely to be on board with the changes,” Patterson says. “How will these changes not only benefit the company, but more specifically, how does it impact their daily lives? These details need to be clearly laid out.”

Cut out bureaucracy, delegate responsibility. “The consulting team needs to be allowed to play the role they were hired to play, and you need clearly defined decision-makers on the project team,” Patterson says. “Otherwise, too many people wrestling over decisions can bottleneck projects. Your project team should walk you through each stage, and your company needs to establish a good governance structure in which each person knows their role.”

Prioritize aftercare. The next set of challenges comes when the company is running the new system on its own. “You can’t overlook the potential for problems,” Patterson says. “That’s why you want a partner who offers ongoing support. Assign teams to gather data about how employees are using the software, what issues they are encountering, and how to make it more effective overall.”

“In any ERP implementation,” Patterson says, “leaders need to stay connected with their employees and keep departments aligned while encouraging them throughout a sometimes challenging process.”

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Joel Patterson (www.JoelPatterson.com) is the founder of The Vested Group, a business technology consulting firm in the Dallas, Texas area, and ForbesBooks author of The Big Commitment: Solving The Mysteries Of Your ERP Implementation. He has worked in the consulting field for over 20 years. Patterson began his consulting career at Arthur Andersen and Capgemini before helping found Lucidity Consulting Group in 2001. For 15 years he specialized in implementing Tier One ERP, software systems designed to service the needs of large, complex corporations. In 2011, Patterson founded The Vested Group, which focuses on bringing comprehensive cloud-based business management solutions to start-ups and well-established businesses alike. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Baylor University.

 

strategic

Strategic Management for Competitive Advantage in Global Business

Today, a new managerial approach may be necessary as the new global business environment demands are increasingly difficult to sustain competitiveness. This article suggests new insights to identify strategic knowledge management as a primary driver of organizational competitiveness. Executives will see that creating a sustainable competitive advantage requires strategically managing information and knowledge within companies.

Executives are spending more time today concerned about operational risk than ever before. Operational risk is an operational approach to represent strategic knowledge management, but in this case, it seeks to apply organizational knowledge in order to satisfy and exceed customer’s expectations. Similar to customer relationship management, strategic knowledge management is an enabler for identifying and satisfying customer’s needs and manifests itself as a significant driver that motivates the development of relationships with customers. Executives can use strategic knowledge management to improve customer satisfaction through acquiring additional knowledge from customers, developing better relationships with them, and providing a higher quality of service and/or products for them.

Executives know that discontinuity exists at all levels of a product and services and they do not want to find themselves caught off guard, becoming obsolete. To remain competitive, executives must realize that they have to quickly create and share new ideas and knowledge to be more responsive to market changes. Knowledge held by organizational members is the most strategic resource for competitive advantage and through the way it is managed by executives.

Once the important paradigm of strategic knowledge management was accepted by both the scholars of the academy of management and executives, the knowledge cycle model began to make sense. Executives can look at the three-step processes of knowledge accumulation, integration, and reconfiguration. Executives can enhance knowledge accumulation which is associated with coaching and mentoring activities by sharing experiences gained by imitating, observing, and practicing. Executives can, in fact, help followers add meaningfulness to their work in ways enhancing a shared understanding among members to enhance engagement.

Organizational knowledge is also articulated into formal language that represents official statements. Organizational knowledge is incorporated into formal language and subsequently becomes available to be shared within organizations. Executives have their internet technology departments to create a combination that reshapes existing organizational knowledge to more systematic and complex forms by. For example, using internal databases. Organizing knowledge using databases and archives can make knowledge available throughout the organization- organized knowledge can be disseminated and searched by others. Most importantly, in knowledge integration, organizational knowledge is internalized through learning by doing which is more engaging.

It is important to note that executives have found that shared mental models and technical know-how become valuable assets. Organizational knowledge, which is reflected in moral and ethical standards and the degree of awareness about organizational visions and missions, can in turn be used in strategic decision making. Organizational knowledge can be converted to create new knowledge that executives can view and implement immediately in managerial decision making. Applying knowledge aimed at providing better decision-making and work-related practices and creating new knowledge through innovation.

Finally, when executives agree to share knowledge with other organizations in the environment, studies have shown that that knowledge is often difficult to share externally. One reason is that other organizations have too much pride to accept knowledge or are apprehensive to expose themselves to the competition. Therefore, executives may lack the required capabilities to interact with other organizations.

Learning in organizations is the ultimate outcome of knowledge reconfiguration by which organizational knowledge is created and acquired by connecting knowledge with other companies that want to share successes and failures. This leads to converting acquired knowledge into organizational processes and activities to improve processes that contribute to success. Executives can now see that a company’s capability to manage the organizational knowledge cycle is the most crucial factor in a sustainable competitive advantage. This core-competitive advantage relies on and among people.

This article raises a vital question as to how executives can successfully improve organizational competitiveness and might be the answer executives need. This model for managing knowledge takes a strategic, process-oriented approach and is relevant to operational risk. This model focuses on knowledge flows that executives use through embracing the processes of strategic knowledge management for strategic management decision-making. This model takes a task-based approach by translating the management of knowledge into various organizational processes.

The knowledge cycle model develops a firm-specific approach by which organizational knowledge provides a significant contribution to business objectives through the context-dependent way it is managed. This model can also help companies identify their inefficiencies in each process, and subsequently recover them on an instantaneous basis which enables executives to prevent further operational risk.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

knowledge

2 Phrases Business Leaders Use To Build Effective Knowledge-Based Companies

Executives are faced with challenging economic conditions today. Leadership is the new competitive advantage and the organizations that embrace it will survive, while those that do not will find their organizations facing possible acquisition. Additionally, knowledge management has been a focal point of the executive span of control but has not been associated with leadership enough to make it an integral part of business success. One tool for executives to use when considering lessening the gaps between success and possible failure is to adopt leadership and become a leader. Thus, executives must understand that leadership can effectively lead organizational change to successfully implement the projects of knowledge management and, therefore, remain competitive.

I indicate that to improve knowledge management effectiveness, leaders, and for the sake of this study Leaders, act as change agents who have developed competencies to better deploy corporate strategy. Better use of this organizational factor mediates the relationship between leadership and knowledge management to include aspects that have not been considered by previous studies. I offer a new and unique approach that can be easily adopted in the workplace. I do this by thoroughly looking at the aspects of executive leadership explained in the article: leadership, corporate strategy, and knowledge management.

Corporate strategy includes four dimensions: analysis, pro-activeness, defensiveness, and futurity. Analysis strategy focuses on identifying the best solutions for the organizational problem. Leaders apply this strategy to create more innovative solutions for organizational problems. The pro-activeness strategy emphasizes the effectiveness of long-term decisions. Leaders employ this kind of strategy to develop a vision of adopting more comprehensive information about the future. Defensiveness strategy can also be applied by leaders by taking into account the objectives of the strategic implication that seeks to decrease organizational costs and redundancies. While leaders focus on implementing changes, a defensive strategy can be used to modify the current processes to enhance organizational efficiencies.

The fourth strategy, futurity, incorporates a proactive strategy that identifies the opportunities that are available, but not always addressed in the business, the global environment, and the political regulation changes. This strategy can be also enhanced by leaders as they adopt a strategic posture that inspires employees to identify better opportunities in both the internal and external environments.

Corporate strategy can be employed by leaders to effectively manage organizational knowledge. For example, an analysis strategy could enhance the knowledge creation process by identifying new opportunities in order to provide better alternatives for managers to make a more effective decision. Michael Cohen and Lee Sproull have indicated that the analysis strategy is highly associated with a company’s capacity to create new knowledge. In many ways, a proactive strategy could enhance knowledge transfer by developing interactions with both departmental units and the business environment.

When adopting a more futurity type strategy, leaders can enhance the knowledge utilization process, thereby developing guidelines for future pathways and determine future trends in the external environment and allocate their resources accordingly. Leaders can, therefore, exploit organizational knowledge through embracing the four strategic aspects of analysis, pro-activeness, defensiveness, and futurity.

How Executives Can Use These Findings?  

Executives can now see how leadership can cultivate a strong strategy, which will enable knowledge management processes within organizations. This is my experience of working with a team of top-level management consultants in the consulting industry. My experience says that a firm’s ability to enhance knowledge management can be highly affected when executives adopt leadership as the primary form of managing people, resources, and profitability. This article also adds to a relatively small body of literature and develops our understanding of the indirect contribution of leadership in improving knowledge management through better use of corporate strategy.

This study was designed to find if leaders indirectly influence knowledge management by affecting corporate strategy. Previous researchers repeatedly uncovered leadership’s direct impacts on knowledge management. This article articulates a different approach. I simply extended the literature by showing how leaders can also contribute to knowledge management by fostering an effective corporate strategy. This organizational factor coupled with leadership and knowledge management is presented as a new approach for executive implementation.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

company

How To Build A High-Performance Company

There are some executives that like to look at academic journals but unfortunately, the crossover literature has not reached them enough. I attempt to blend scholarly concepts with real-world applications. For the executive’s corner, I place a great deal of emphasis on the literature of leadership and information technology as two significant indicators for financial performance. This article adds to a relatively small body of literature but pays homage to the scholarly contributions. I highlight the direct impact of leadership on financial performance, and also simultaneously portray the indirect contribution of leadership in improving organizational outcomes by implementing information technology as another important component of organizational performance. This article actually investigates the crossover potential of scholarly research and how it can be applied in the organizational boardroom.

Executives will also see that cultivating effective technological initiatives requires developing leadership within companies—not only at the higher echelons of the company but at every level. In light of the increased pressures of the global workplace that inspires executives to exert effective change at the organizational level, this article points out the vital importance of leadership in reshaping and, in some cases, manipulating a company’s internal resources to have access to higher performing technology within firms.

The focus of this article is based upon the critical role of leadership which allows a rich basis for understanding the mechanisms by which knowledge management and financial performance are influenced. Scholars repeatedly uncovered leadership impacts on knowledge management and financial performance. This article articulates a different approach. I simply extended the current literature by showing how executives can contribute to knowledge management and financial performance by fostering effective technological platforms. These two factors coupled with leadership are presented as a new approach for executive implementation.

I also suggest that executives embrace leadership. Leadership influences some of the spans of control of executive responsibility. My primary focus is on one factor (i.e. information technology) but there are many more important components of the managerial function that can be enhanced when leadership is embraced. The key here is that there are positive effects of information technology on knowledge management and financial performance.

Executives will also see that I expand upon the subject matter of a company’s internal resources. Through articulating the impacts of leadership on information technology, I add to the current and extant literature. Insufficient consideration of the impact of leadership on the companies’ internal resources has been exposed and I attempt to address this concern for the first time. For executives, this article can portray a more detailed picture of the effects of leadership on information technology, knowledge management, and financial performance that have been mentioned but not placed in a model in the past.

Leadership and Information Technology

The only thing we know is technological change is on the rise. With the inception of new technology, while services become obsolete so quickly today, executives are staid with managing the future that is somewhat evasive.

Executives can develop relationships and interactions within companies, set desired expectations, and inspire employees to identify further opportunities in their business environment. When executives view information technology as a vital important organizational resource that facilitates organizational communications and improves the search for knowledge, they begin to see opportunities for successful business ventures.

Executives also spend a great deal of time conceptualizing strategic endeavors. Scholars affirm that the strategic role of leadership is enhanced when the implementation of information technology successfully occurs at the right time and place. Thus, executives raise the levels of awareness on the importance of technology and empower employees to improve the effectiveness of information technology implementation within corporations. Therefore, executives can positively affect information technology implementation within companies. Executives must understand that leadership can highly support information technology to improve knowledge management and financial performance and, therefore, remain competitive.

Leadership and Financial Performance

Executives develop organizational communications aimed at providing valuable resources for all employees. Thus, executives can enhance knowledge sharing among employees and stipulate knowledge to be shared around the company. Sharing the best practices and experiences could positively impact some aspects of organizational performance such as innovation, providing learning, and growth opportunities for employees. Empowered employees can also enable a firm to actively respond to environmental changes and collective-interests. The key idea is to identify employee’s needs and show concern for both organizational needs and employee’s interests concurrently.

When executives show concern for the employee’s individual needs, individuals begin to contribute more commitment and they become more inspired them to put extra effort into their work. This extra effort improves the quality of services, customer satisfaction, and impacts the return on assets, sales, shareholder value, and improves operational risk management.

Executives can also inspire employees by setting highly desired expectations. The higher level of follower expectation can enhance productivity and perhaps decrease organizational costs. Scholars agree that executives positively affect financial performance through improving the price of stock, decreasing costs, increasing sales, improving innovation, increasing the rate of responses to environmental changes, improving the quality of services, along with a stronger customer focus and developing learning opportunities for employees. Thus, leadership is positively associated with companies’ financial performance.

Information Technology and Financial Performance

Information technology significantly contributes to corporations’ financial performance. Scholars acknowledge that information technology is an important enabler to effectively implement organizational processes. Communication technologies can, in fact, reduce paper-based transactions for companies that can potentially decrease costs and subsequently improve profitability for companies. Furthermore, it can be seen that communication technologies contribute to companies to effectively identify opportunities in the business environment that leads to identifying the best opportunities for investment in the industry that potentially leads to improve financial performance for companies in terms of return on investment (ROI).

Decision-aid technologies as another kind of information technology can also help companies to effectively create more innovative solutions for their organizational problems. Executives can, therefore, build a high-performance company through implementing information technology.

Information Technology and Knowledge Management

Information Technology is the new competitive advantage, and the companies that embrace it will survive while those that do not will find their companies facing possible acquisition. Information technology is a resource for knowledge management. With knowledge management, executives can sustain current operations while preparing future endeavors. Information technology, as a competitive resource, encourages employees to embark on technological facilities such as shared electronic workspaces to provide new ideas and possible solutions for solving problems. Problems that may leave a company to debunk and less competitive.

Scholars found that the lack of innovative workplaces adversely impacts on the company’s capability to manage knowledge, and they suggest that companies use information technology to successfully facilitate knowledge management. Information technology plays a critical role in managing knowledge by executives and is also aligned with the knowledge-based view of the firm which not only builds upon the dissemination of information but also how it is restored and retrieved.

The following figure provides a snapshot of how executives steering information technology enhances goal achievement.

 

Some Lessons for Executives

This article theorizes that leadership has significant effects on information technology. It follows that cultivating effective impacts on information technology is assisted by developing leadership within companies. The practical contribution of this article lies in explaining how executives influence information technology.

This article suggests that information technology constitutes the foundation of a supportive framework to improve knowledge management and financial performance. In fact, it can be argued that if information technology is not completely supportive of knowledge management, companies cannot expect to benefit fully from knowledge management projects. Both in theory and in practice, information technology is depicted as an important enabler for knowledge management and financial performance.

Scholars noted that a strong alignment exists between the success of knowledge management projects and information technology implementation and found that knowledge management projects are more likely to succeed when companies develop and use broader technological infrastructures. This article goes further and provides elaborative insights for executives by modeling how information technology mediates the relationship between leadership, knowledge management, and financial performance.

This article reveals that executives actively deploy this organizational resource (i.e. information technology) to improve knowledge management, and it is quite understandable that leaders are better suited to enable knowledge management projects within companies through channeling knowledge management efforts into employing supportive information technology. Therefore, this article suggests that it is critical that executives understand that leadership supports information technology implementation to effectively manage knowledge management projects.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

2021

Winning The Future: What Businesses Must Do To Prepare For 2021

Businesses bolted into 2020 with firm plans and optimistic outlooks.

All that evaporated by mid-March as the focus turned from thriving to surviving for most companies. Now, as this turbulent year enters its final months, a new question lies just over the horizon.

What will 2021 bring and how can businesses be ready?

“The future still seems so uncertain and the end of the pandemic still feels a long way off, but despite that there is a lot businesses can do to prepare for success in 2021,” says Adam Witty, a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“I’m sure 2021 will come with its own unexpected twists and turns, but I am also confident there will be potential.”

All the unknowns make planning a challenge, but Witty says it’s possible to begin gathering hints about how the world will operate going forward.

“You just have to know where to look,” says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

He suggests business leaders should:

Review what you learned in 2020. Think about what you did this year to maneuver through the hazards that came your way, Witty says. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently? “Use what you’ve learned to get your ducks in order to manage your business in a manner that meets both your and your customers’ needs,” Witty says. “Then, ask yourself what the future may hold and how you would handle whatever comes up.”

Talk to your best customers. Find out what they want and need, and how they anticipate their lives – or businesses – will look in 2021, especially post-pandemic. “Learn how your product or service will fit into the flow,” Witty says. “Do they want you to continue delivering your product line in some virtual way, or is it important for them to be able to come into your facility for a real sit-down to discuss what they need and view the options in person? Does your solution lie in providing the best of both worlds, offering virtual visits alongside opportunities for physical interaction? Or is the right option something you haven’t yet explored?”

 

 

Look at what your competitors are doing. Review how they are reaching customers and clients today – and whether you can glean any insights about what they may do tomorrow, Witty says.

Rethink how to use your marketing dollars. In-person events, such as speaking engagements, trade shows, or conferences where you could network with potential customers were put on hold because of the pandemic. They might not return all that soon in 2021, so Witty suggests exploring other options for getting the best use out of the dollars that would have been budgeted for those events. That might mean pitching the media more to land radio or TV interviews or publishing a book that tells your personal or company story and can be given to current or potential clients.

“Can your business handle the unexpected if something you couldn’t possibly anticipate were to arise, as happened in 2020?” Witty asks. “If the answer is yes, chances are you’re ready to play in a post-pandemic world.”

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Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant, is the CEO of Advantage |ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). Witty started Advantage in 2005 in a spare bedroom of his home. The company helps busy professionals become the authority in their field through publishing and marketing. In 2016, Advantage launched a partnership with Forbes to create ForbesBooks, a business book publisher for top business leaders. Witty is the author of seven books, and is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily and USA Today, and has appeared on ABC and Fox.

leaders

How Strong Is Your C-Suite Bullpen? Preparing The Next Generation Of Leaders.

About $350 billion a year is spent on leadership development, but many companies aren’t getting much bang out of their buck. Studies indicate that lots of senior executives don’t think the next wave is prepared well enough to assume larger leadership roles.

With many companies in a transitional phase, either due to people retiring or radical changes prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, having ill-equipped leaders taking over can compound problems. Some businesses will suffer if they don’t make major changes in how they develop leaders, says Jennifer Mackin (www.jennifermackin.com), ForbesBook author of Leaders Deserve Better: A Leadership Development Revolution and a leader of two consulting firms.

“With baby-boomer leaders nearing retirement, there are fewer people in the workforce that are capable of doing the work required,” Mackin says. “Generation X has smaller numbers of people and hasn’t been invested in leadership development like boomers have.

“Many CEOs complain that their people aren’t ready to lead into the future. The source of the problem is leaders don’t know what to do differently to strengthen their people. A leader’s primary role is to coach and to create an environment that perpetually develops new leaders. There are ways they can refocus on that.”

One of those ways, Mackin says, is for executives to align business strategies with their people strategies. She offers these tips on how senior management can link the two and develop leaders in the process:

See the need to prioritize people strategies. Strategic plans, Mackin says, must address more than the financial component. “Too often CEOs and senior leaders put their people at the bottom of their strategic plans and fail to connect their business strategies with their people strategies,” Mackin says. “People are the most integral component of your strategies. If you decide, for example, that your organization will enter new markets, you have to connect that objective to your people. Maybe you will need 500 new people or 10 new leaders with certain skills to achieve your objective. How do you prepare for that?”

Know the key components of a people strategy. “Your people must fully understand the business plan for the next one to three years,” Mackin says. “Broad strategies for people have been identified to execute the business plan. There’s a plan for succession for all key roles. Gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities have been identified, and an overall development plan for the organization’s leaders addresses those gaps. Once you have the people strategy, companies can acquire the right talent based on well-defined roles, measure the outcomes, and adjust the plan as needed.”

Continue to scrutinize leadership readiness. These are questions CEOs must ask regarding where both their business and their leaders are today – and how to get them where they need to be tomorrow. “This must start with a plan that compares current state to future state,” Mackin says. “What are the gaps and how are you going to fill those with business and people strategies?”

Build a clear line of sight. Once the alignment is determined, Mackin says it must remain in sight for all leaders and their direct reports. “The leader knows where the organization is going, and direct reports understand their role in getting there,” Mackin says. “A clear line of sight means there is a connection between leaders’ objectives, the business strategy, and individual contributors’ work. It is also important for direct reports’ engagement and feeling of purpose that they understand exactly how their work and objectives add value to the business.”

“All senior leaders should be involved in the business strategy and people plans,” Mackin says. “It is critical that executives prioritize the development of leaders who can drive strategic change.”

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Jennifer Mackin (www.jennifermackin.com) is a ForbesBook author of Leaders Deserve Better: A Leadership Development Revolution, and a leader of two consulting firms – CEO of Oliver Group, Inc. and president and partner of Leadership Pipeline Institute US. As an author and speaker with over 25 years of consulting experience, she is a recognized leadership development influencer, having worked with CEOs, human resources managers, leadership development leaders, entrepreneurs, and other senior leaders in healthcare, hospitality, distribution, government, manufacturing, higher education, banking, financial services, and social services. She earned her BS in marketing from Indiana University and her MBA from Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

crisis

5 Reasons you Need a Crisis to Drive Transformation

There’s a saying that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. What it actually represents is an opportunity–and the space–for change that normally isn’t available. Here are some of the key hurdles that usually stand in the way of change:

1. Change is uncomfortable

More to the point, the status quo is comfortable. We all take comfort in our routines, whether it’s a particular procedure for closing the books, taking comfort in a familiar organizational structure and close colleagues, or simply repeating the same stretches and workout routine every morning. Breaking out of that comfort zone is both difficult and not always seen as providing worthwhile rewards.

2. Incentives aren’t aligned

Every department and partner is driven by different objectives or KPIs. Revenue teams want to hire ahead of predicted growth, while finance wants to see proof, first. Companies with complementary capabilities to yours want to explore building the adjacent capabilities you deliver, rather than investing in partnerships. Suppliers and buyers are more invested in building long-term relationships and goodwill than in making sure every payment and collection is right on time. Without aligned incentives, finding a way to work together toward new and positive outcomes becomes arduous.

3. Stay in your lane

Teams tend to stay in their own swim lanes to avoid change. The tax department will keep to themselves, as will the invoice processing team. They have little need to talk to each other. If they need to align processes or computer systems, for example, they work methodically through that alignment, raising every possible objection and potential hurdle. The goal is to ensure the solution is correct, of course. But wading through the red tape of heavy opposition also serves to minimize change.

4. Competing incremental initiatives

In prosperous times, there are many attractive opportunities for an organization to invest in growth. From management’s point of view, focus is difficult to maintain and it becomes too easy to spread capital and management attention too broadly. Because there are many “easy wins,” more incremental, yet proven, ideas tend to fill up the investment budget.

5. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Persuading others to make changes is harder when the economic sea is calm and fortunate winds fill your sails. By definition, a crisis breaks things, and the fixes required can provide the impetus for changes that would be seen as too radical under normal circumstances.

Since you read this far, I’ve got two bonus reasons that you need a crisis to drive change:

6. A lack of momentum and energy

Those of you who remember chemistry class might recall that a chemical reaction requires energy to start, even if it releases energy overall in the course of the reaction (if no energy was needed, the reaction would have happened already).

A very similar logic exists for making major changes in a business. Although the outcome on the other side of the change might be a better situation compared to the status quo, it’s hard to get past the energy required to make a change.

7. The process doesn’t allow for change

Think about procurement processes, for example. For many large organizations, purchasing anything requires a request for quote (RFQ) from at least three pre-qualified vendors and a formal tender process. It’s a very prolonged, and actually quite inefficient, exercise.

What many enterprises often don’t realize is the ease with which adapting to a crisis can turn a seemingly untenable situation into an opportunity to thrive.

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Uri Kogan is VP of Product Marketing at AppZen, the world’s leading AI platform for modern finance teams

trademark

5 Ways to Protect Your Trademark Internationally

Every business has its trademark or unique symbol. If you are operating within the United States, you certainly have a US trademark to secure your business from any trouble. It exclusively belongs to you. A trademark distinguishes different products; it builds goodwill, which continues even after your death.

But what if you want to expand internationally? How will you protect the trademark if you plan to sell your goods in Asian or European countries? In such cases, you have to opt for international protection. This article will guide you thoroughly regarding the ways to protect your trademark internationally.

1. Selecting a Strong Symbol Is the Key

What is the very first thing that the customer sees when buying a product? Of course, the trademark! Thus, it should be both strong and unique to avoid infringement.

-Take your time to choose it. According to the USPTO or the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the trademark should give just a hint to your service; it should not be explanatory or generic. For example, you cannot understand their business from names like Nike or Starbucks, can you?

-How do international countries translate your trademarks? Whether they will do it phonetically or accurately? Keeping these pointers in mind is crucial if you have plans to have international customers too.

-You might have heard about Gerber, the repute baby food maker. But do you know that Gerber is used as slang in France? Thus, before fixing the trademark, check out whether it means something insulting in the international countries.

2. Going to USPTO for Registering the Trademark

To protect the trademark internationally, you first need to register it overseas, and registering it with the USPTO is vital. US registration is quite hassle-free, and after it is done, you can register the same trademark in any other country within 180 days from the date of US registration.

Next comes the extensive searching for the trademark to ensure that it does not have any similarity with any other brands in the world. You can opt for a DIY search to cut down the cost, but to be sure, give this responsibility to the trademark attorney for a better trademark office action. It is wise to avoid confusion or infringement by spending some extra bucks.

Which international classes should your trademark application contain? Which filing methods international countries follow? The trademark attorney will guide you in these aspects too. So, before registering the trademark, do not forget to have a thorough discussion with your attorney.

3. Finding out the International Markets Requiring Trademark Protection

Opting for international trademark protection might feel daunting in the beginning. Thus, if you have collaboration with any international distributor, first register your trademark there. Do you carry out your business online? If yes, then locate the place where the majority of your customers belong?

Also, determine your target market and the future of your business there. After that only, apply for trademark registration there. For instance,If you sell winter gears for adults, you should first register it in Canada instead of the Caribbean.

Using a defensive trademark protection strategy is sometimes very effective by which you need to file your registration in India or China, the first-to-file countries. So, first, prepare a list of the countries where you are planning to expand your business with the help of your trademark attorney. Next, it gets an idea about the cost of trademark protection in those countries. Now go for the ones that do not need you to burn a hole in the pocket.

4. Registering the Trademark Internationally

If you have already registered with the USPTO, do not waste time; apply for international registration immediately. It will give you an edge over others, especially the bad faith registrants. You can have some options for international registration.

-You have to abide by the Madrid protocol having 122 countries as its members. Following this treaty, you can send a single application to any of these countries in your mother tongue. This way, the filing method becomes easier. However, it has no guarantee of approval as it totally depends on each country.

-To apply in a particular country, you might need the help of the list of international trademark offices provided by WIPO or World Intellectual Property Organization. Though this process is time-consuming, the chance of approval is more as you can give accurate information as needed by the specific country.

-Are you planning to secure your trademark in those particular countries? Then this process is the best for you as the Madrid Protocol is an extensive process and often does not include the particular details.

-Opting for registering transliterations or registering the name in their language is very effective in this respect. Use the WIPO fee calculator to get an idea about the registering costs.

5. Your Trademark Is Ready? Now Keep an Eye on Its Use

Regulating and monitoring your trademark on a regular interval is imperative, and you should do it both in your own country and in international countries. After successful registration, the ® symbol should be used without fail. Whether you are showing your trademark on your products, or the banners or on your website, that symbol should be omnipresent. This way, everyone will know that your trademark is legal and secure, and you don’t have to face any dispute.

But to be on the safe side, always monitor both offline and online selling your products, and have a thorough idea about the trademark protection rights of international countries. International trademark protection is the need of the hour for every flourishing business as forging trademarks is now all over the world. So, despite following all the legal procedures, you need to be on your toes all the time.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, follow the five ways stated above, hire a reputed trademark attorney, know all the ins and outs of trademark registration and be alert and attentive. Then no one can stop your business from reaching the sky!

business plan

10 Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Many entrepreneurs and business owners make mistakes when they rush to start a business before considering important details.

A great business plan can help you anticipate important issues and possible challenges before you start your business.

In fact, studies show that entrepreneurs who take the time to write a business plan are 2.5 times more likely to follow through and get their business off the ground.

Here are 10 tips to help you write a great business plan.

1. Learn from other entrepreneurs and business owners

Start by reading as many business plans as you can get your hands on.

-Search the tables of contents and consider which parts are relevant to your business.

-Flip to the index and see how well organized and granular it is.

-Check out any exhibits or charts and consider how your business plan could benefit from similar exhibits or charts.

Remember, you’re not reinventing the wheel here. For example, you can get a free business plan template for a traditional business plan and a one-page business plan.

There have been many who did this before you and you can benefit from their experience and expertise.

2. Be prepared and do your homework

Don’t mess around – research everything.

Thoroughly.

If you expect to be the market leader in 2 years, you need to demonstrate why this is possible and how you’ll meet this goal.

If you say your product will be viral, you have to support this statement with facts.

If you say your management team is experienced and qualified to help the business succeed, you have to support that claim with resumes that demonstrate the experience.

It’s easy to lose credibility – and investors – if you’re making claims you can’t fully support.

Need specific insights on how to write a great business plan?

Read this definitive guide on how to write a business plan. You’ll learn about each section of the business plan, from the executive summary to the appendix, and you’ll be able to download free business plan templates for a simple one-page business plan and a traditional plan, and other important templates, including a SWOT analysis template, sales forecast template, profit and loss template, cash flow template, and a balance sheet template.

3. Know your market and your competition

Some business owners avoid talking about potential competitors.

This is a mistake.

Unless you’re creating a new industry, you will have competitors. And you’ll need to figure out how to beat them or at least to compete with them.

To understand your competitors and the industry, you’ll need to do market research.

Invest some time and effort and do it correctly. A business can’t succeed if the owners don’t understand their industry, target customers, or the competition.

4. The table of contents is your friend

The TOC is your outline for the plan.

Take your time with it; make sure you are including all of the relevant topics.

At a minimum, your plan should include sections on the company you are forming, your marketing plan, financial information, and your go-to-market and growth strategy.

Look to other business plans for inspiration.

5. Don’t give away your secrets when sharing your business plan

If you plan to share your business plan with potential investors, bankers, or others, require confidentiality.

And make sure you cover yourself with a strong disclaimer. The last thing you want is for a potential investor or partner to claim that your business plan misrepresented your business.

6. Write a strong executive summary

People are busy. Few read 50-page business plans. Even fewer read 100-page business plans.

Most will read only the executive summary and flip through other sections of your business plan.

This creates both a challenge and an opportunity.

If your executive summary is strong, you increase the prospects to have a further conversation with a potential investor or partner to make your pitch in person.

Bottom of Form

7. Know your audience

Who will be reading your plan?

Is it written for investors? For potential partners or board members? For a bank to get a small business loan?

Anticipate the kinds of questions those people will want to be answered and answer those questions. For example, if your audience includes bankers, think like a banker and write what they would need to see to fund your business.

A great business plan will show that you have thought through your business idea clearly and have developed a plan to develop the idea into a sustainable and profitable business.

8. Make the business plan readable

A great business plan should be compelling, interesting, informative, and exciting.

Make sure that you include detail, but not so much that people are overwhelmed.

Use appendices for the details and anything else (like resumes) that would bog down the body of the plan.

Do a careful edit for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and voice.

Get a second (and third) set of eyes to give you constructive feedback.

Do not be stingy with charts, graphics, illustrations, and tables. They are great ways to present detailed information in a digestible form.

9. Use Pro-formas wisely

People interested in your business plan will want to see projections of your performance, your costs, and your anticipated growth.

But, they are sophisticated enough to recognize when those numbers have been arrived at based on real data compared to when you simply make up the numbers.

So, be conservative in all financial estimates and projections. If you think you’ll get a 25% share of your market in 2 years, hint at those numbers but assume you’ll get only a 5% share for purposes of your financial projections.

One good approach is to show the best, worst, and most likely scenarios for sales and growth.

10. Keep it simple

Keep your language simple and use readable fonts and a clean layout.

And, let your personality show. If you believe in what you’re writing, your passion will show in the final product.

And at the end of the day, remember that most people don’t invest in a business plan.

Most people invest in a person.

You.

___________________________________________________________________

Ross Kimbarovsky is founder and CEO at crowdspring, where more than 220,000 experienced freelancers help agencies, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profits with high-quality custom logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. Ross mentors entrepreneurs through TechStars and Founder Institute, was honored as one of Techweek100′s top technology leaders and business visionaries, and enjoys wearing shorts to work after a successful 13-year career as a trial lawyer. Ross has founded numerous other startups, including Startup Foundry, Quickly Legal, and Respect.

localization

How to Use Localization Services to Improve Your Global Trading Prospects

One of the most difficult aspects of global trading is the language barrier that businesses face. The famous cultural faux pas of brands trying to operate overseas never reflect well on the companies concerned, unless you subscribe to the theory that all PR is good PR.

Cultural missteps are a major reason global brands can’t simply stop at translation. They also need localization services. Localization is the process of preparing all parts of a product or message for a certain region. Below, we’ll look in more detail at what localization is, why it’s important, and how it can help your business.

What Is Localization?

Localization covers far more than translating a message from one language into another, although that is part of what it entails. Localization is about making sure a product or a piece of content fits into another market or location.

Localization must take many factors into account while converting a message or product. First and foremost, it makes sure that the item in question stays consistent across cultural barriers while also fitting into the new culture.

What is the localization process? Well, it adapts a message in several ways. It also addresses graphics. The content itself might be modified to suit the habits or expectations of the new market.

The layout of the text could be altered to fit a new language. Some cultures read right to left instead of left to right, so localization takes this into account. Formats such as phone numbers, measurement units, currency symbols, and addresses might be updated as part of the process as well.

Another large and integral part of localization is making sure the message or product conforms to new market regulations and consumer habits. For instance, different jurisdictions have different privacy laws, seller licenses, or censorship rules that a company must adhere to. On the business side, what works in one market for a product might not work in another market.

Why Is Localization from a Translation Company Important?

Given how much localization handles, it’s a necessary service if you wish to do business in a foreign market.

Why is localization important? Business ventures are notoriously risky as it is. Business dynamism records the number of firms that are born and fail. A positive business dynamism means that more firms are born than fail. However, in the US, 12 new firms per business establishment were created in 1978; this had fallen to 6.2 by 2011.

If you plan to do business globally, it’s important to use a translation company for your localization efforts. No business can afford to fail in a new region simply because it didn’t take local cultural nuances into account!

How Can Localization Help a Brand?

Professional localization services can make the difference between a company succeeding and struggling in a new overseas market.

Groupon has become a major case study in how not to expand into overseas markets since it began trying to do so back in 2011. The company rushed its service into the Chinese market without understanding Chinese consumer habits or culture. It accumulated $46.4 million in net losses and $2.1 million in revenue.

One issue Groupon failed to realize was that it pushed margins on deals too much for the Chinese market. In the US, Groupon makes 40% margins on deals. In China, no competitor makes more than 14%.

One of the largest factors localization takes into account is consumer and business habits within the new market. Without a strong localization team, it’s hard to understand certain details about a new culture, its purchasing habits, and its business trends, as Groupon showed.

Products and messages cannot simply be copied and pasted all around the world; localization is necessary for successful expansion in global markets.

How to Find the Best Localization Services

Many translation agencies also specialize in localization, especially larger agencies. You may want to start by checking with prospective translation agencies to see how they handle localization

When searching for services online, make sure the company has a professional website and proof of past work. A professional agency will have testimonials or a portfolio showing past work. Some smaller agencies or individuals may also have references that you can call.

You can also check around your professional network to see if anyone in your industry has worked with, and can recommend particular localization services.

When looking for localization agencies, be sure to check to make sure they have a background in business localization. Ideally, they should have worked with marketing messages and global business expansion in the past.

Finding a top-notch localization service is important; it can mean the difference between a strong entry into a certain market and a dismal flop.