Management Consulting Insights – #24 “Integrity is Everything”

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Management Consulting Insights – # 24 ” Winning People Hearts & Minds”

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Management Consulting Insights: #22 “Niche is King but You Must Identify your Niche”

Source:  Posted on December 14, 2015Posted in Entrepreneurship

With the new year a couple of weeks away, entrepreneurs and business owners are evaluating their accomplishments in 2015, and setting new goals for 2016.
If I ask you what your goals are for the coming year, your answer will definitely include a growth strategy. Growth is great; growth means progress. However, if your growth goals include expansion into new markets and introduction of new products and services, you might actually be making a mistake.
Before you get up in arms, I am not the Grinch come early trying to kill your enthusiasm for your future. Instead, I am here to tell you that when it comes to business, less is definitely more.
Believe it or not, consumers prefer brands that offer specific and distinct products and services. So offering a new line of generic products will probably hinder the growth you are aiming for.
But don’t worry; I don’t identify problems without coming up with a solution. That’s why below we will look atwhy niche marketing is important for entrepreneurs and how to find a niche that you can succeed in.

busy mall

SECTION #1- What is a niche? And more importantly what is niche marketing?

Let’s start by clearing up the most pressing question; what is a niche?
Merriam-Webster defines a niche as “the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people.”
And the Business Dictionary defines niche marketing as “Concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well-defined segment of the population. Niches do not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.”

crowded pond

Here is some super personal stuff about me

When I started this blog, I wrote about everything. One week, I’d be talking about social media, the next week I’d be focusing on the technical parts of running a blog, and the next I’d have Infographics.
If you think I’m exaggerating, just check out my posts from May to around October. You might actually think I’m suffering from hyperactivity.

creative mess
While I had people visiting the blog and enjoying my content, the percentage of returning visitors was low. I honestly believe that most people were not ready to deal with an unfocused blog. Luckily for all my readers, I took a step back and decided to concentrate on one major area ‘entrepreneurship’.
So yeah; I’m now giving advice to budding/stalled entrepreneurs, and I plan to keep my focus here from now on.
I’m happy to say that this change in direction has given me clarity and peace of mind, and has allowed me to focus my attention on building a specific audience. No more promoting my content to every single man, woman, child, and pit bull terrier.
I also think that my content is much better than it was before; though this might just be my ego talking!
Anyways, that’s as personal as we are going to get today.

So why do you need a niche?

Many entrepreneurs want to market their product or service to everyone. After all, if you have the next big app, shouldn’t all 7 billion people on this earth here about it?
Absolutely not!
Not everyone will want a piece of what you have to offer, so what’s the point of talking to uninterested people?When you try and market to everyone, you will end up selling to absolutely no one. Furthermore, when you see that ‘everyone’ does not want your product or service, you will start to dilute what you have to offer in order to please everyone.
All of this is quite obvious; you are probably saying ‘duh Davina, what idiot tries to market to everyone.’ Well, chances are that you (yes you) have fallen into this trap at one point or another.
There’s this common misconception among entrepreneurs that if you only sell a specific product or service, you will miss out on tons of customers. Furthermore, specializing is riskier than generalizing.
But here’s the thing, when we make a decision to sell to everyone because we are too scared to sell to just a few people, we end up wasting resources, branding ourselves as generic, neglecting efficiency, losing out to competition, and failing.

general shoe market

Ask yourself this; if you had to invest a new pair of shoes for going to the office, would you go to a shoe store that sells women’s shoes, men’s shoes, kid’s shoes, and sports shoes, or would you head to a store that only sells professional shoes?

niche shoe shop
When you want to grow your business, you don’t do so by selling new services and new products to new markets, you grow your business by mastering the one product and one service that you have in that one market. Expansion can come once your brand is established and mature.
If you want to stand out and succeed in a world full of failing businesses, you need to narrow down your focus and kick ass in one area. And don’t be tricked into believing that niche businesses have restricted growth opportunities!

Niche marketing carries with it several benefits, including:

  1. Reduced competition
  2. Improved products or services
  3. Increased chances of success
  4. Decreased spending on resources and marketing
  5. Improved customer service
  6. Increased retail price

SECTION #2- The power of the niche brand

In the section above I poured my heart out and told you about my experience with switching from a general focus to a niche focus. But wait a minute, this is currently a small blog, will the niche focus still apply when I’m selling it for a million bucks?
Hell yeah!!!
The most powerful brands on earth are niche brands. From luxury cars, to golf clubs, to cooking appliances, to electronics; the brands that excel are the ones that are not trying to be a consortium.

macintosh
So let’s take a look at the one brand we all love; Apple. When Steve Jobs co-founded this company with Wozniak in 1976, their focus was on personal computers. This was before my time, but I know that the Apple II and Apple Macintosh were huge hits.
However, in 1985 Jobs was kicked out of Apple (watch the movie or better yet read his biography for more insight on the power struggle that preceded this). Between 1985 and 1997, Apple turned from a profitable company to a company that was treading water. When Jobs came back in ‘97, he noticed that Apple’s focus had shifted from personal computers, to a whole host of products and services.
So in true Jobs fashion, he stopped Apple’s foray into PDAs (Apple Newton), internet suites (Cyberdog), and compound documents (OpenDoc) to name a few. Jobs shifted Apple’s focus back to PCs, and invested time into making Apple PCs the most appealing and technologically advanced PCs on the market.
And the result? Well, sales went right through the roof. Only after Apple had dominated the PC market did they introduce the iPhone(s), iPod(s), iTunes software, iTunes store, and other Apple products and services.

apple products
And it’s not just Apple. It’s Tiffany catering to upper-class jewelry clients, Starbucks catering to coffee lovers, Target catering to shoppers on a budget, and M-PESA catering to individuals without bank accounts.
Niche businesses are winning! 
And if you need an example of a brand that went off the rails, look no further than General Motors. They had tens of subsidiaries making every car under the sun a few years ago, no wonder they filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Hopefully they can remain focused now that they have a second shot at success!

SECTION #3- Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none

While some people seem to find their niche in a seamless manner, most of us struggle to find that one thing that we can succeed at. That’s why below I’ve provided tips on finding your niche.

1. Identify your most valuable skill set

Whenever I read/watch an interview with a successful entrepreneur, they always mention their strengths, and then explain how those strengths played a big role in growing their business.
We are all blessed with skills, and those skills are what we need to exploit in order to achieve our goals as entrepreneurs. You need to build your enterprise on your most valuable skills. So how exactly does this work?

sand sculpting skills
STEP 1: Take note of your skills (writing articles, charming people into following your lead, hitting notes that Mariah Carey once did, telling jokes and stories, playing an instrument, solving problems)
STEP 2: Take a note of all your unique skills as these can help differentiate you from potential competitors. You want to give your customers something that no one else can.
STEP 3: You will probably come up with a list of things you are good at, so you need to order your skills based on your passion. The skills that make you the happiest should be at the very top.

P.S. Being great at something and enjoying something are two different things. You do not want to focus on a niche that your heart is not into.

2. Research and find your primary business stream

Now that you’ve identified the skills that you are passionate about sharing with others, your first instinct might be to make yourself known immediately. But you need to cool your heels cowboy. While passion is great, you cannot let it push planning, analysis, and research out of the way.
You need to move forward with a clear mind.

books and research
STEP 1: Find out if your skills solve a problem for your target customers. While you may be skilled in calming cats down, do people really need this skill? Will they pay good money for it?
The only way to definitively answer this question is to do your market research. When doing research you will segment your market based on demographics (age, gender, income, race) or psychographics (beliefs, interests, ideas).
STEP 2: Once you determine that your skill is desired by a certain segment of the market, you need to narrow down your focus so that you have a specific ideal customer.

For example, if your skill is in retail and your passion is in fashion, don’t just stop and say that you want to sell clothes to people on a budget.
Go further and say that you want to sell second-hand clothes to women who want casual outfits. Yes, this is very specific, but you will make a bigger impact in a smaller niche.

flea market
STEP 3: Go out and talk to your potential customers. Listen to what they have to say about the product or service that you want to offer them. They might tell you straight up that it sucks, or they might say that it caters to their needs perfectly.
Testing and regular feedback are crucial to the success of your ideas.
STEP 4: Pay close attention to the events taking place in the industry that you want to enter. Read and watch news regarding technology, innovations, expansions, cut backs, government regulations, industry leaders, local trends, national trends, and even international trends.
Keeping up to date with news will help you spot opportunities that you can turn into a valuable niche for your business. You can also use this news to shift your focus away from actions that will fail, and towards actions that will succeed.

newspaper

Don’t get frustrated when the process of following industry news, conducting research, talking to customers, making adjustments to your product or service, and testing again, takes you months. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of patience on your part.

3. Turn your crazy idea into a venture

Once you have followed the steps above, you need to take action. It is at this point that you will need to totally step out of your comfort zone. You will need to put fear on the back burner, and take the leap. This risky step requires a lot of courage; however, you will be more confident when you know you’ve done thorough research and testing.

Make your dream a reality!!

4. Don’t remain stagnant

If you want to fail in business, all you need to do is remain exactly the same when everything around you is changing. Change is hard, but it necessary.

time for change
Some people believe that niche businesses are a bad idea because niche markets can discontinue. And there’s some truth in this argument; if you were in the niche of selling walk-mans a few years back, you now have no market.
But here’s the thing, as an entrepreneur you should be flexible enough to evolve with your niche. That’s why we mentioned following industry news and getting regular feedback.
If the business owners selling walkmans were attentive, they would have seen that the industry was moving towards digital musical players. Therefore their next move would be to carve out a niche for themselves in the growing digital musical player industry.
Catering to a niche market does not give you an excuse to resist change. Adapt to big and small changes alike, and improve your product, service, and bottom line. Don’t just think of what your niche market requires in the short-term, figure out what they will need in the long-term, and then make plans to provide it to them.
Your aim should be to cultivate loyal customers, not to constantly look for new customers.
And remember, the species that did not evolve eventually became extinct.

5. Time for you to expand

The whole point of this article was to show you why narrowing down your focus will help improve your chances of success. Once you have dominated your niche like Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola, M-PESA, or Walmart, then you can start thinking of expanding into new products, services, and markets.
And how do you know whether you are dominating your niche? Simple; you will witness a regular flow of income.
Back to my point. Once you have solid footing in your niche, you can branch out without fear of spreading yourself too thin. But only once you have solid footing!

branching out

Final Verdict

Narrowing down your focus and identifying your niche will ensure that the business model you create will leave competitors in the dust. If you’re just starting your business venture, use the tips above to identify your niche market, and then create a marketing strategy that is centered on your niche brand.
On the other hand, if you are struggling with your current venture, take a step back and see if your products and services are a reflection of your skills and passion. If they aren’t, then it’s time for you to say goodbye. I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary for you to go back to the drawing board, and follow the steps outlined above to identify a niche market that you can dominate.
I know that I don’t always follow my own advice. There are several things in my professional life that I’m pursuing which do not fuel my passion. I am a work in progress, and so are you.
However, I vow to find my niche, and you should too.

If you found this helpful, share it with your friends, family, and colleagues. Also drop me a comment and tell me about any skills that you want to turn into a successful business. And don’t forget to subscribe; I promise I won’t spam you.

It was good talking to you today, and I’ll see you back next Monday!

P.S. It’s okay to tell your customers that you don’t offer a certain product or service, let someone else do it.

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Management Consulting: #19 “The Importance of Computer Science for poor students in STEM Programs”

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“What Students And Teachers Really Think About Computer Science In Schools The good, the bad and the disappointing”

Teachers who work at the poorest schools are more likely to think that computer science is vital to their students’ futures, but are less likely to think their school boards agree, a new survey released Tuesday reveals.

The survey was conducted by Gallup on behalf of Google, and looks at perceptions of computer science for different groups, including students, parents, educators and school district administrators. It follows an earlier survey released in August, which looked at access to computer science courses and found that lower-income students have fewer opportunities to study the subject. However, this latest survey shows that low-income students’ lack of access is not due to apathy on the part of their educators.

Twenty-one percent of teachers who work at schools where more than half of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch said they thought access to computer science is more important to a student’s future success than other elective courses, like music or art. Only 10 percent of teachers who work at schools where 25 percent or fewer students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch said the same thing.

Sixty-three percent of teachers at the schools with the poorest students said they think most students should be required to take a computer science course. Fifty-one percent of teachers at schools with more affluent students said the same.

Still, teachers from schools with more affluent students were 13 percent more likely to say that their “school board believes computer science education is important to offer in our schools” than their counterparts at schools with more low-income students.

Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup, called the findings a “huge call to action.”

“There are huge discrepancies between the will and the way,” Busteed told The Huffington Post. “There appears to be more will in these poorer schools but less access.”

He continued, “What seems to be missing here are school boards. There is such little conversation about this at a school board level … If I were to say, ‘What’s the one place I would want this data and research to land,’ it would be with members of school boards. They have to look at this and realize their constituents want this in schools.”

The study also looked at students’ perceptions of computer scientists. Unfortunately, their ideas of who is “good” at computer science reflected the field’s lack of gender and racial diversity. Males reported being more confident than females that they could learn computer science if they wanted to. Students and parents both reported that the people they see on film and television participating in computer science are typically white and wear glasses.

“Unfortunately, perceptions of who computer science is for and who is portrayed in computer science is really narrow,” said Sepi Hejazi Moghadam, head of research and development for K-12 and pre-university education at Google. “In your popular culture, media, television, etc., that narrow perception tends to be that of [a] white male and someone who is wearing glasses.” 

“Even though across demographics they value computer science, the important piece is students often don’t see computer science as for them, and it’s further reflected in who is confident to learn computer science,” said Moghadam. 

A majority of employees at Google are white and male. Part of the reason the company commissioned the survey was to learn how to increase diversity in computer science fields, Moghadam said. He also noted the company’s other efforts in this realm, including Google’s Computer Science Education in Media program, which works with television executives to feature more female characters in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related roles. 

“We know there are many students — especially girls, black and Latino students and students from lower-income families — who aren’t participating in computer science pathways equally,” said Moghadam. “In light of these trends, we decided we need a deeper understanding of these early stages, of the pipeline, to inform our own efforts around access and exposure to computer science.”

Management Consulting Insights: #10 | Focus, Field, Facts, and Flexibility — the four Fs of the African Lions.

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In Market Share Race in Africa, Local and Global Companies Vie to Be First

As Multinational Companies Scale Up Their Ambitions in Africa, They Are Coming Face-to-Face With Local Companies, Many With Capabilities Better Suited to African Markets, According to BCG.

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO–(Marketwired – Nov 10, 2015) – A battle for leadership is erupting in a variety of industries across Africa, with Africa-focused companies and multinationals vying for market share and each group counting on its unique strengths to gain an advantage, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The report, Dueling with Lions: Playing the New Game of Business Success in Africa, offers a concise analysis of Africa’s fast-changing competitive landscape and is being presented today by its authors in Casablanca Finance City, an Africa business hub in Morocco’s economic capital.

The multinational corporations that have been coming to Africa are looking to tap into economic growth that has averaged more than 5% a year since 2000. However, for many of these MNCs, success has been limited. Several MNCs that have enjoyed top-line growth on the continent have nevertheless been losing market share and have been outmaneuvered by local companies, the report says.

“International companies are absolutely right about the long-term potential of Africa,” said Patrick Dupoux, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. “The surprise that some of them have gotten is the quality of the local competition that has emerged. African companies have access to a local ecosystem of suppliers, customers, talent, and stakeholders that is beyond the reach of most MNCs. That makes these companies very formidable in certain cases.”

The report highlights several situations in which international companies have lost ground to local players in Africa. These market-share setbacks have occurred in industries as diverse as beverages, cement, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, banking, and insurance.

Equally Skilled but Very Different

The competition between locally based companies and multinationals is not one-sided. Local companies, which the authors call African Lions, have four main advantages over MNCs, the report says. These advantages are the Lions’ single-minded focus on African markets; the greater experience their executives have operating in local markets; their management teams’ superior grasp of market data and intelligence relevant to Africa; and their fast decision-making and adaptability. The authors call these attributes Focus, Field, Facts, and Flexibility — the four Fs of the African Lions.

“These local companies are at home in Africa and know the markets intimately,” said Lisa Ivers, a BCG partner in Casablanca and coauthor of the report. “They are fast moving and entrepreneurial. They sometimes play by different rules. These are all factors that work to their advantage.”

Multinationals have their own strengths. Some of them have been in African markets longer than the local companies themselves. In some of these markets, international companies have been able to use superior resources, brands, platforms, and processes to keep Africa-headquartered rivals at bay.

Each group of competitors has something to learn from the other. For instance, from African companies, MNCs can learn focus — which comes from having highly experienced management teams in Africa and taking a long-term view. If MNCs are to improve their positions in Africa, they must show some of this same focus, the authors say, starting with moving to longer tenures for their expatriate executives.

For their part, local companies can learn from MNCs how to offer a more predictable experience to end customers, to their supply-chain partners and to their own employees. Local companies can also learn how to manage volatility from MNCs.

The Continent’s Bright Future
The report doesn’t ignore the challenges that Africa faces, including the steep drop in oil prices (a blow to Africa’s oil-producing economies), the still-high incidence of infectious disease on the continent, and the high-profile attacks by militant groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. But the authors say these challenges aren’t enough to undermine Africa’s positives, notably:

  • A big uptick in outside investment. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, foreign direct investment surged by a factor of five from 2001 to 2012.
  • Favorable demographics. Within a few decades, the proportion of Africans in the workforce will exceed the proportion of Europeans and the proportion of Asians who are working.
  • A more stable political environment. More than half of Africa’s 54 countries now hold democratic elections, compared with fewer than 10 in 1990.

Africa’s favorable economic and demographic trends explain why so many big-company CEOs now make Africa a destination in their travels.

“The question for many companies isn’t whether to come to Africa; it’s how to do it profitably,” said coauthor Ivers. “In the next few years, there’s going to be a lot of investing and partnering as companies try to figure that out.”

Management Consulting Insights: #5

Your employee is your greatest asset, they drive your profits and engage directly with your clients. Treating your employee as your number one asset, is the most effective change you can make, as a Business Owner. Treat your employees well, they will treat your clients well, thus positively transforming your bottom line, and boosting your profits.

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