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Iteration Is A Strategy July 1, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Dealing with change, Solving Business Problems, Strategy.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

Does the Facebook of today look like the Facebook when it was first launched in 2004?  Did Amazon perfect its business model of today in 1994 when Jeff Bezos founded it?  Is the IBM of today the same as the IBM of say 40 years ago?  Here’s another question for you: How many businesses hit a genuine business model home run where sales and profits start cranking out right from the start?

The answers to the above questions are “n0”, “no” and “once in a blue moon – if ever.”  To iterate is to keep trying – keep pushing your business model forward.  It’s tinkering with the engine until it sounds like all cylinders are working smoothly.  In some cases, it’s challenging the very dream we have hold so dear in our business – the very vision we have might not be the vision that produces the life blood of any business – greater sales, growing profits and cash flow.

Iteration is a process that should be integrated into the culture of most any organization but rarely is.  Here are some thoughts on the process of iteration:

  • Don’t get married to your vision or dream.  What? How can we achieve greatness without a vision we can steadfastly commit to?  It’s not easy – if it was then iteration would be a breeze and everyone would be doing it.  They aren’t – which is just one reason why many organizations fail within five years or less.
  • Business plans are like war plans.  Everything changes when the bullets start to fly.  Yes, I know you spent a ton of time working and toiling over your business plan and it’s a great starting point but…when the reality of the business environment hits it, it’s over.  Competitors don’t play nice or according to the plan.  Customers are more finicky than the business plan sales projections call for.  Things have to change when the bullets fly.
  • Not everything has to change.  Sometimes iteration means tweaking only what needs to be tweaked.  Keep testing, changing, moving forward – throwing out what isn’t working and keeping what does.
  • Challenge yourself to iterate on purpose.  When you realize that iteration is a part of your business life if you want to succeed for the long run.

When you build a business…it’s about the long run isn’t it?

Dave

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Can the iPad Change the Newspaper Business? March 29, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Dealing with change, Dealing With Competitors, Solving Business Problems.
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Among all the things we ponder about the new iPad, one of the most talk about and debated issues is whether or not an iPad-like device can impact the newspaper business.  My answer, now that we know the capabilities (and that more will be coming soon in terms of software for the iPad), is a resounding ‘YES’.  More than anything, iPad devices will change the economics of the business in a positive way.

We’re so wedded to the printed page that it sounds crazy to suggest that any paper can afford to go totally online with a PAID subscriber base.  But it can be done.

How?  By allowing newspapers to cut costs dramatically.

Let me first explain what I’d do.  First, I’d offer only an online version of the paper and price it competitively.  That means eliminating the printed version, which accounts for a substantial percentage of operational costs.  Second, for subscribers that signed up for extended subscriptions, like 3 to 5-years or more, I’d also offer to sell them the device for a major price reduction.  Yup.  Just give it to them  for far less than if they bought the device from Apple or some other producer.  Or, if they don’t want an iPad, give them a netbook instead.

Why?

I thought you’d ask that question.  For one thing, if I can lock a subscriber in for a long term period by enticing them with a device they can use to read the paper and do other things, I’m all for it.  But there’s a far bigger reason for doing this: going online means you’ll take out substantial costs that are currently embedded into your publishing business.  Like printing each daily edition and the total production costs involved in doing that.

If you can take out major costs in your business but still deliver a valuable product everyday (via online instead of printed paper), you can improve your profitability dramatically.

How will subscribers react?

At first, there will be some short term gnashing of teeth and discomfort but only for those who are technologically slow-adapters.  Change has a way of doing that.  However, by reducing your production costs dramatically, you can offer subscribers a better subscription rate to entice them to the online version…or throw in a netbook or an iPad device for subscribers who are willing to lock-in their rate by extending it to 3-5 years.  Think bigger and longer here.

Improve the Subscriber Experience

I’d also make sure that the online version offers the ability to customize it to the readers needs.  You input the content and organize it then let readers determine how they want to see it online.  Wouldn’t be great if I could tag an article or column so that I’d get an RSS feed when new content on that subject is posted again?  Let’s find out how readers like to see and consume their information and re-engineer the online experience for them.  We need to move the online ‘wow’ factor up a few notches here.

Here’s another twist on enhancing the subscriber experience:

Combining the Best of Print/Digital/TV/Radio

If you’re not engaging your reader on a constant basis, then what’s the point?  Instead of having a shelf life of  day, a digitally accessed version of the paper breathes life into the content.  What a platform like an iPad really does is gives newspapers a chance to give local TV and radio a run for their money.  If you can embed an online news channel (via digital video feeds) with a radio platform (like podcasting), with an online print version of your paper, you’ve got the makings of an advertisers dream.

Of course, you see video along with podcasting embedded today with stories.  One of the best-in-class examples of this is the Wall Street Journal Online edition.  Not only that, but they charge for the online version too.  Media-driven tools like the iPad will allow publishers to move deeper into the value they can provide their subscribers.  With a digitally-focused product, publishers will be able to embed other types of media into columns and stories to make them come alive.  Adding additional content like pdf files that provide additional information for the reader who wants more info will be key.

The embedded video is something everyone seems to do these days.  However, what if you created an online, LIVE video webcast…with newsroom that looks the one on TV?  For local news and information, nothing beats my local paper, The Times Herald Record (full disclosure: I write weekly columns for the paper…but that doesn’t make it any less great!).  A live video webcast is the answer for providing real time updates of news events as they happen?  Or live interviews?

The iPad also serves as a way to more effectively repurpose the great content that is created by daily newspapers.  Special online ‘books’ of specific local information can be developed and then accessed by all those paid subscribers.  Normally, after a story or column is printed, it seems lost forever.  Why not look for opportunities to create information books for local and regional issues that can be read on a iPad?  Two issues here: repurposing content for revenue generation and organizing previous content so that it is easily found by subscribers.  How about links to previous related stories?  You could just go on and on.

For those who insist on reading hard copies of stories or want a copy for ‘old time sake’, they can print as many stories as they have paper for.

Say no to page count restrictions!

Today, section editors are restricted to daily page count restrictions.  Let’s unshackle journalism with this old-school financial measurement.  Content to advertising revenues…it’s a good financial measurement but what if you didn’t have the cost of printing paper anymore?  What if your only limitation was server space?  There’s no reason for having page counts  when

How would advertisers react?

Of course, nothing gets done in publishing if we don’t have advertisers.  I’m sure at first, there will be more than a few who will not know what to do or say if they can’t see or touch their ad on anything but printed paper.  However, remember that our goal would be to reduce production costs (no printed paper!) as more than an offset for any temporary reduction in advertising revenues.

If newspapers  stay focused on growing and retaining their subscriber base online by creating great and dynamic content that keeps them engaged on a 24/7 basis, the advertisers will be there.

Making Online Publishing More Effective for Advertiser’s

Think about this.  What if advertisers had their ads place next to topics in the paper directly related to their business?  In addition to random ad placement, advertisers could also get the extra benefit of multiple ads in different sections for one price?   The digital online platform gives advertisers the ability to pay an incremental amount above their 1st ad in order to place their ad in several different sections of the online ‘newspaper’.  In other words, the higher the reader ‘views’ on one section of the paper, the higher the price you pay for your ad to be there or some variation therein.  Special ‘instant coupon’ sections that make it easy for customers to download and print coupons.

My point: focus on building your market share with long term subscribers by creating engaging content that readers want and you needn’t worry about advertisers.  Advertisers will follow their customers.  Keep their customers engaged in your online content either in a PC or an iPad-like device and you’ll win.

Investing in More Journalism

At the end of the day, we want to preserve our heritage of professional journalism.  So let’s take some of the savings from not having to print an hard copy edition and invest in more journalism talent or work to retain the assets we have.  Give journalists the tools like the laptops and video camera’s they’ll need to capture the local news wherever & whenever it happens.

Cutting out the printed edition of a paper is a gut-wrenching experience for sure.  However, with media-centric and consumer friendly tools like the iPad, it’s only a matter of time before printed editions will be just too expensive to  produce. Besides, readers like me, who are loyal and pay the subscription fee aren’t too pleased to see all the freeloaders getting the same content online that we pay for.  I pay for the privilege of getting a printed paper delivered to our door even though I (and those who pay nothing) can get the same content online for free.  Who’s the crazy one here?

Announcing change March 2, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Dealing with change, Managing change.
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p5130012.jpg 

Most of us do not deal well with change. The Big Dogz make it easier for people to deal with change by giving all the data about the change. They make effective presentations about change and make it easier for people to understand and support the change. The Big Dogz construct effective change announcements by considering these three critical elements.

 

Information

What do you know about this change? What don’t you know? What are the goals and how will we know we are making progress. What systems are changing? Make sure your message is consistent with the message given by your manager. What are the benefits associated with this change? What obstacles might we encounter in implementing this change? Think about what questions people might have about the change. Try to answer those questions in your kickoff talk. The key here is to give as much information as possible.

 

Performance management

What metrics are changing? Does this change affect individual or team performance? What changes are there in how we measure our upstream supplier deliverables? How will our deliverables to our customers be different? What is the impact on compensation? What systems will we use to track results? How soon will we get feedback on our performance? What are the rewards for high performance? What are the consequences of not meeting the new metrics?

 

Training

What training will we get to support the change? When will the training be available? What support functions like FAQ or help desk will be available? What is the training delivery method — instructor face to face or computer based?   Will we have to train others on this change? Who is training our suppliers to adhere to the change?

 

Although these three elements are not the only focal points of a change announcement, they go a long way towards addressing the anxiety people have about change. Before you announce the next change to your group, take a few minutes to sketch out what you will say based upon reflection of these three elements. You will look more professional and your people will appreciate you taking the time to be clear in your announcement.

 

 

Tips to survive a layoff February 3, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, business strategy, Confidence, Dealing with change, Getting what you want, Performance issues.
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Are you worried about your job? The Big Dogz know that sometimes it is just a matter of the economy, but you can take steps to improve your chances of keeping your job. Of course, you need to be a good performer to be considered a “keeper”.  When it comes time to decide who stays and who goes, here are some strategies that can help you keep your job.

 

Pay attention to the small stuff

It may not seem important that you get to work a little earlier or stay a little later than others, but your boss will notice it. Look for opportunities to make observations at meetings — observations that add value. Keep the boss thinking about how much value you add. If you have been delivery near perfect results, focus on that last little bit to make your deliverables perfect. Anticipate questions before you talk to the boss. It is much more powerful to have an answer than to say you have to check it out.

 

Be a financial resource

In these tough times, the focus is on money. How do we make more of it and how do we spend less of it. When you are the employee making suggestions on how to reduce costs or to generate more revenue, management views you as a team player that is part of the solution; not someone we need to layoff. Look around you. Where is the waste? Where can we do it cheaper? What new markets can we go into? Once you identify some money, let the boss know the opportunity, the result and the process for doing it. It is even better if you present the results already implemented!

 

Display a positive attitude

Things are tough; everyone is depressed. Nobody likes depressed. Start looking at the positives around you. Frame problems as opportunities. Provide creative solutions to those opportunities. When faced with a difficult challenge, respond with what you can do, not with what you cannot do. Focus on associating with positive people; avoid the negative folks. When people start complaining, find a reason to go somewhere else. I am not suggesting you be Captain Sunshine or Pollyanna, but be a positive force. You will find others associating with you. People will follow your lead. The boss will notice it!

 

Pump up your skills and credentials

Now is the time to take that evening course or to get certified in your profession. If you have some special knowledge, prepare a short presentation and invite people to a lunch time session to share your knowledge. Create a “best practices” group with your peers. If you work in a global company, learn a second language so that you become more valuable. If you have skills that are not normally used on your job, offer to use these skills at work. If you are the treasurer of the local PTO, then you could help your manager with the budget. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to the boss.

 

Expand your job

Management is asking everyone to do more. This situation is an opportunity for you. Not only do you want to take on more responsibility when asked, you want to look for opportunities where you can take on more responsibility. Especially important are those critical functions that no one else wants to do. However, management will notice any activity that you perform outside of your responsibility.

 

Take credit

You can do all of these things, but if nobody notices, you are just like everyone else! Let management know you are taking action to increase your value. Let them know you are taking evening classes to sharpen your skills. Too often, we feel it is immodest to take credit. Taking credit can be the difference between having a job and looking for a job.

 

The Big Dogz assume a proactive role in keeping their job. You can also. If you have any other tips to help keep your job, please send them to me and I will publish them here.

 

rbronder@gmail.com

 

Dealing with change April 10, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Dealing with change.
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p5130012.jpg Want an effective strategy for dealing with change? The Big Dogz know how to deal with the constant change that occurs in the business world today. They use the support strategy to shape their reactions to change. Here it is:

 

Regardless of the change, always support it!

 

Now support does not mean you have to follow blindly and implement the change that happens in your organization. To understand this strategy better, let’s take a look at how change happens in business.

 

First some senior manager decides that a change is necessary. Change occurs for these and only these two reasons:

  1. We are not meeting our current objectives.
  2. We are not taking advantage of a new opportunity that we missed.

 

These are the only reasons for change. The first step in the strategy is to find out what is the reason for the change; and the way to find out is to ask.

 

The next step in the change life cycle is the senior manager calls a meeting with trusted colleagues, shareholders and people whose support is critical. You are probably not invited to this meeting! The people at this meeting can provide alternatives, do analysis, complain, gripe and many other actions. Once the meeting is over, a decision is made. This is where you come in — the implementation.

 

You have only two choices — support or not support. Support means you do everything you can to implement the changes and that you collect data to show the change is achieving its objective or it is not. If it is not, you present this data to your manager in private. Not support means you drag your feet, whine, complain and even sabotage the effort. What is the impact to you for choosing your reaction to the change?

 

There are two types of change — those changes that are good for the business and those changes that are bad for the business. Let’s look at how you benefit or are damaged by supporting or not supporting the change.

 

Good change, you support — You are viewed as a team player, someone who can be counted upon and actually you are pretty smart. Your personal power rises. The probability that you would be invited to the next meeting rises.

 

Bad change, you support — You are viewed exactly as above. In addition, if you have been collecting data and offered that data upwards, in private, you may be the reason this change is reversed. The added benefit to you is that you are perceived as a hero.

 

Good change, you do not support — You are viewed as a loser. You can not be counted upon to help management make the necessary changes to the company. Your personal power drops and you can forget about being invited to the next meeting. You are considered expendable.

 

Bad change, you do not support — At first glance this appears to be positive. After all, you were right about this change being stupid and not in the best interest of the company. In fact you went around telling everyone why it was stupid. Now, every change that fails needs someone to blame. You are the most convenient candidate. After all, we could have made this work if you had gotten behind it.

 

If you go back and read the 4 situations above, it is obvious that the only strategy that yields positive results for you is to support.

 

The Big Dogs understand the impact of their action. They get behind change initiatives and do all they can to make it happen. If they have data that shows this change is not good for the business, they share it privately.

 

How are you reacting to change? Over the next 30 days, identify some change that is happening in your company and figure out how you can demonstrate support for that change.