I ask you to be honest with yourself. When you hit this section of a website, what you are really asking is how does somebody like Michael Horesh work his magic.
So, here is a free tip. The first thing I test is your vision. Do you really have a detailed, practical plan that instructs you where you are going and how. More importantly, why have you set out on this journey? Without this stage, you cannot progress towards strategy formulation.
Three themes run through the work with most of my clients.
- No preset canvases; I listen. Then we create a bespoke, crushing solution.
- Assignments are delivered on time
- The ‘added value’ must be clear to all parties.
The case studies presented reflect the wide range of clients, issues and creative solutions that arise in a typical week. Additional insights can be found on my blog at LINK……Names, genders and places have been changed in respect of client confidentiality.
- Team development
- Vitality of a business model
- Overseas strategy
Danny is typical of many of my clients. Intelligent, articulate and well intentioned. He leads a team in Tel Aviv, providing sophisticated web services. He has top clientele on his contact list. He declared that he knew where he wanted to take his company. It was clear to him.
But something suggested that his eloquent explanations to me did not add up. And his thin profit margins confirmed this. So, I gave him a task, one that sounded simple enough, initially. Put down on a word doc his complete vision statement and send it to me.
He was surprised, even a touch reluctant. However, his dithering and delay confirmed my concern. Those clever sentences no longer connected. He was not making sense. Danny quickly reached the “aha moment” and asked for further direction.
The lesson I have learnt along the years is that your vision statement needs to be inspiring – something that you want to get out of bed for every working day. It should involve and excite all those around you; colleagues, suppliers, and clients.
Danny’s final copy did incorporate some of his original ideas. However, he had to dig deep. The assignment allowed him to realise two core attributes: what he specifically wanted to achieve, and why these goals no longer matched the resources and staff that he currently possessed.
At this point, the step towards embracing change became relatively short and painless. The workflow improved, as internal procedures were tightened and new employees were recruited with necessary skill-sets. The bank manager began to smile.
Who needs a business model?
A common question from an investor to a start-up is: “What’s your business model”?
Years ago, my answer used to be: “To charge as much as possible”! Nobody liked it, but in many ways I was right. After all that is how companies such as Microsoft started out and the Gates family is not complaining to this day.
There are millions of conflicting answers out there on Goggle. My own favourite is the one I tell all my clients:
Know what you are selling, to whom, for how much, why and how! Then go away and validate each and every one of your answers.
This has proved to be one of the most important theorems I have taught over the years. And a word of caution: the five sections of that short sentence may seem simplistic, but each on will demand much input from you.
Take my own career. As I started out as a strategist, I just expected that everyone would want to hire my services. Experienced, multi-disciplined, bi-lingual and much more, I was going to cruise it.
It took me a while to analyse my inability to move into second gear. Eventually, I noticed that I was stumbling over my pitch, no matter how hard I had practiced in advance. And then the painful truth hit me; I had not created a value-proposition for my prospects. Whatever I offered in those days lacked clarity and purpose. In the lingo of high-tech. I had to admit that there was no MVP.
Obvious? Somewhat, with the help of hindsight. Now think again! How come I continue to be sought by C-Class executives who have yet to learn this lesson?
It is amazing how many people try to cheat on the question of their business model. The truth is that no entrepreneur or business owner can afford to ignore it.
- Group identification
- Strategy creation / execution
- Deal closure
Just who are you selling to?
For several years, I worked with an international software outfit. One of the most crucial issues for them to accept was that they had two separate yet intertwined selling models. First, they would interest a specific department within their target company. Then, with that group’s recommendation, they would pitch to the decision makers. Bizarre as it may sound, both sets could have differing and even conflicting interests.
Defining your market is a subject that features regularly in my discussions. Paul came up with a medical device, based on an innovative approach to a known piece of science. Its potential to save lives and batter down the costs of existing treatment was enormous. Pauls’ strategic direction had been to play up ‘the wow’ of the tech in order to impress hospitals.
However, Paul could not be convinced (for now) that the focus needs to be the customer. In this case, we are talking about the medical insurance providers in America and civil servants in Europe. These are not people who are interested in ‘machines that go ping’ and possibly far less in Paul’s technology. They will be approving the purchase orders and thus they want to know how they can save cash (and lives, of course).
To date, after several years on the road, Paul has yet to make serious money. He has yet to grip what fully motivates people to make a purchase. As McDonalds is still teaching us, people turn up first for the family experience and then for the taste of the burger!
Michael – please help me to close the deal.
I frequently encourage my clients to role-play in advance how they wish to close off a deal with potential customers.
For example, I recall a digital marketing team that was making a pitch to an Israeli manufacturer’ seeking to strengthen sales overseas. They wanted my help with presentation. And thus they went into great detail with me about the history of how the potential deal had come about. The truth was that within a couple of minutes I had concluded that even if there was a potential deal, their chances to secure it were minimal.
First and foremost, the ‘target’ had never committed to what they had needed. In other words, from the get-go, the team had not secured his trust. Reconstruction of the conversations with the target revealed that they had focused on what the team could provide. In other words, the conversation revolved on the “I” of the supplier and not the “you” of the prospect.
Further as there was minimal trust, little information was divulged of what the potential client was seeking. Therefore, my client ended up delivering a pitch on the assumption that they knew what was best for the target.
I urged the team not to waste too much additional time with their prospect. They look dismayed. They had already begun to count the dollar signs before their eyes. Nevertheless, a meeting was arranged. It turned out to be fruitless. Enough said.
Selling demands authenticity at all levels. Being a nice guy and / or a well-intentioned CEO is not enough. With your smile and empathy must come an approach that determines what are to be the precise deliverables and why.
Most of us can learn the technique. Unfortunately, so few take the time to do so. Within minutes of your meeting kicking off, you have lost your prospect.
- Why you need a budget
- Cash flow management
- Securing new capital
- Tactical pricing
Budgeting – one of the great lies of business coaching
I would love to have a grand for each time somebody has told me that they will send me a budget, and either it is unprofessional or the work is never completed.
Either you know how to budget or you do not. There is no in-between.
As I prepare this text, I have been working with a service provider, who is at the start of an ambitious growth campaign. This will require additional resources. As with many other clients I have met over the years, they have volunteered to produce the necessary numbers and predictions, as this will save them the money paying for my hours.
At this stage, I usually ask two brief questions: What is the definition of a budget? What is the difference between a budget and cash flow?
For all the numerous talented and academically qualified people I have worked with over the years, very few have scored maximum points on the test. Budgting is a skill, just like plumbing or digital marketing.
Now consider what is the aim of a budget. It is designed to flush out any hidden curve balls in your business in advance.
The way you do that is by asking the toughest questions first: From where and how much revenue will you secure? Only once you can answer that in detail, you will know the level of resources required.
To clarify: The budget is an essential part of testing your business model, at least on an excel spreadsheet. And you start off by planning your revenue.
As for my service provider, I have yet to hear back from him for some weeks, which is not encouraging news.
Tactical pricing – How to charge, when you are new to the market.
Pricing is determined by numerous factors. Rule Number One – your prices must cover your variable costs. I recall a construction and delivery company that refused to raise prices, even they barely charged enough to cover their raw materials and drivers.
Of course, you have fixed costs like rent and back office salaries. And there many other factors that are not in your control such as market conditions, legislation, competitors, and much more.
But what do you do when you want to penetrate the market? I hear so many people rushing to offer tempting discounts. And yes, that is one possibility.
First, understand the value proposition of your service or product. What need does it meet? What makes you stand out, compared to others?
As I encourage clients to appreciate time and time again, if your own customers are buying from you purely because of price, then your business is not likely to be sustainable over the long-term. Furthermore, a low price may cheapen the perceived value of the product in the eyes of the potential customer.
Many of my clients use the traditional ‘3 card trick’ method. Your offer three levels of service: basic, classic and premium. The lower grade is standard yet unsatisfactory for most of the clientele. Everybody wants the top prize, but few can afford it. Thus, most chose the middle ground, which is just what you wanted in the first place.
The underlying message here is ‘to walk tall’. Never let a fear of others or a lack of self-confidence bully you into lowering prices. Be proud of what you are selling, and let your price reflect that, right from the outset.
- Cognitive changes
- HR issues
- Pain of time management
- Delivering through the jungle
Human Resources – A company’s most precious possession, and yet….
When an investor considers buying equity in a start-up, one of the most important considerations usually reflects on the team. Has the CEO built up a team of appropriate talent, who will stay the course for the long-term?
As intuitive as this may seem, blogs, seminars, newspapers are full of stories of poorly treated employees. In the era of millennials and despite corona, when the idea of job permanency has lesser importance, I am consistently appalled how some of my clients misunderstand their staff.
Some years ago, I was asked to map out the problems of an experienced sales’s duo, located in Europe. It turned out that they had no problem with their targets. However, they felt that the core product had lost its qualitative edge. Once restored, the numbers would rise.
The parent company, an Israeli moshav, listened to the report in detail. The CEO then dispatched a third person, new to the field, to act as their supervisor. There was no change of product. The sales team flatly refused to cooperate and the new guy lasted less than a month. Revenues remained low.
In a similar incident regarding a manufacturing concern in central Israel, my remit was to discover why production was stagnating. After chatting with all the key workers, who seemed very content, I sat down with the floor manager.
Here was a man, controlling his anger. The CEO had instituted changes against his wishes and ‘my guy’ was out to sabotage them for the ‘greater good’. The CEO was surprised at my findings. And after the two of them had parted ways, output began to hit the new targets.
However, the question remained: Why had the CEO been so short sighted? With a degree in business administration, did he ever count up how much he had lost in sales? And the cause? He had ignored those basic human needs of feeling wanted and feeling useful?
The corporate structure – cutting through the jungle of stagnation
While Israel is known as the country of start-ups, it has its own share of established corporate structures. As anywhere else, these places are governed by rules, regulations and procedures, when few remember their original purpose.
I was called into one such institution, which every year was awarded a substantial grant from overseas. In order to receive the money, conditions needed to be fulfilled. And these were often determined by the original application.
When I turned up, the process was taking years to complete. That meant that applications were backing up into each other. The annual average value of each package was around US$1 million. Current customers were served an inferior service. New customers (and extra revenue) could not be onboarded.
I applied a series of coaching and mentoring techniques. They would alter according to the department, the language required and the seniority involved. Rarely were voices raised. It was a lesson in how to get decent people to talk to each other and to understand the needs of each other, when they were all trying to work for the same cause.
Over a decade, the procedures were improved. Everyone learnt to anticipate the problems in advance. The timeline was reduced to around six months, acceptable given the paperwork involved. I can see the impact to this day on the city of Jerusalem.
Time management – what does that mean?
For the past few years, management gurus have bn reminding us that we cannot manage time. We can manage our behaviour.
Now comes the problem. As sales expert Bernadette Mcclleland argues, too much emphasis is placed on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a.k.a. sales’ targets. W get so lost with the numbers, we forget about KPAs, where the “A” stands for activity.
Can we change how our habits and how?
I am frequently faced with clients, who insist that they are too busy to take on any changes. I know they are wrong, because thy would not be talking to me in the first place if everything was just fine!
I recall the lawyer who could not find the time to call back potential clients. Too busy. He had a backlog of 30 names. After working with me, revenues rose by 10% in the first six months, mainly through new ongoing retainers. They are still climbing, despite corona.
I worked with a digital marketing company, where the CEO loved spending their ‘spare’ time posting fun things on Facebook. Gathering in debts from customers took second place. Development plans were just vague concepts. A new level of serious behaviour was introduced. Some years later (and after I was out of the picture), the company has raised millions.
A very bright CEO co-owned a manufacturing process. She did not have time to develop new marketing channels. When I showed her the effect this had on her profit margins (or lack of), hours miraculously appeared every week.
To quote Warren Buffet “I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time”