Blog

VENDOR ENGAGEMENT

You’ve identified a prospective group of vendors or suppliers that could present great growth opportunities for your business. Yet, you are struggling with how to engage them in a manner that will yield the needed buy-in and results you desire. Vendor engagement can make or break future partnerships and keep your business in a place of stagnation, if not conducted with attainable intentions and goals.

There are four main “partner” groups that vendors and suppliers will fall within. Adequately, organizing your prospective partners in the correct group will allow development of successful and purposefully engagement campaigns.

Two groups that present a strategic value to your company are Aligned and Transactional Partners.  Additionally, if you are seeking growth potential, then Transactional and Supplementary Partners will be of most benefit.  However, your mix of prospective vendors may present benefits in both areas on various spectrums.

To begin the process of strategically aligning your vendors and identifying the proper type of engagement, to benefit the future growth of your company, contact Lengo and let us help you focus your vision!

Advertisements

Where’s your focus?

Over my years of working with business owners, I’ve noticed that when I get the “elevator pitch” or ask them “What do you do?” the blank stare comes over their face and the awkward hesitation surfaces.  If only for a brief moment, it is a moment that I recognize and is now apart of their impression on me.  We all get caught up in finding the right words to present our businesses best attributes and capabilities, but sometimes it is not from a lack of knowing what to say but, from a lack of knowing what your business really does, and well.

The vision and thus forward momentum of your business is directly linked to your strategy and focus.  Without knowing what your businesses purpose is, you will have an uphill battle attaining the level of success you desire. Figuring out where your focus is, isn’t that hard…no it only takes a dedicated effort to get it done!

I have identified four main business strategies that most every company falls within- Cost Leadership, Differentiation, Niche Market Capture, or Value Based Marketing Strategy.  The strategy category of your business is what will shape the processes, procedures, and outcomes of your business.  Curious to find out why your business is stagnant or maybe you are trying to change the course of the company?  Contact us!

For more information visit our website Lengo or contact us at smorgan@lengo.us.

Networking to Network

I get asked all the time if I thought that there was value in attending a specific networking event.  I sometimes answer yes, if I feel like the venue and those in attendance brought value to the time spent.  In most cases, I answer no and proceed to explain the issues with the way many network functions are held today.  In my 15 plus years of attending and hosting outreach and networking forums, I have found that there are some keys to the success of the event.

I recently read an article on Forbes.com, 8 Secrets from Power Networking Pros, that I found interesting.  Many of the tips I have known or heard before, but with everything, we read it is always about the presentation of the content that sometimes triggers the “Ah-Ha moment”.  These were just a few of my favorites.

Ask For a Strategic Introduction

Many of us like to just put on the courage and walk up to someone we don’t know that could potentially impact our business, and sell our services and products on our own.  Well, this might not be the best way to make that initial connection.  I have found that when I am introduced to someone through a close contact or colleague I tend to remember that person and I am more likely to reach out to them to further develop the relationship. I also find, that when I introduce people to those I know that have the resources to positively impact another, the vetting of that prospect now has my “seal of approval” on it.  Long-standing relationships are not long-standing for no reason!  Utilize the leverage of your colleagues to bridge that uncomfortable first impression.

Deepen Your Network Pool

My mantra for many years has been to get to know people who are not in the same industry.  For many reasons, including the potential for business opportunities.  I would encourage small business owners to go to pre-bid conferences or a networker that had nothing to do with their industry and meet new people.  More than likely they are all there trying to sell themselves to the same few prime contractors or purchasing agents.  Meanwhile, you are in a room full of contacts for the picking!  Increase your margin of success by engaging with groups that offer a potential of increased business and partnerships.  On the flip side of that coin, it is also a great business practice to meet your competition and develop relationships.  Make sure your network has the same type of depth of a great football or basketball team.  Establish several strings of depth to provide you with a dynamic and diverse business base.

Don’t Just Collect Business Cards

Business cards can be costly for small businesses, especially start-ups, additionally, business cards only say so much about your business unless you have printed on both sides in font size 5.  Going to a networker and walking away with 50 cards doesn’t help you if you never collected the one card (sometimes that is all it takes) to make a difference in your businesses growth.  So, I hesitate to take cards from people and will sometimes politely tell them to keep their cards for someone who can best utilize it.  Yeah, I get a few looks but, I would rather be upfront with them about any type of further relationship development and use of their services or products.  If, as a business owner, you can’t handle someone telling you to keep your card, then you need to grow some tougher skin for this game! All seriousness, business card collection should never be the game plan of your networking.  If it is, then you do not have a clear idea of the intent and vision of your business.

Networking works!  Networking is fun! If done right and creatively it can be beneficial for the host and the attendees.  There is power in networking and there is potential in doing it strategically.

 

 

Relevance vs. Innovation

So each time I post, I want to leave you with something to think about as you move your business from one innovation to the next! Remember, that relevance and innovation do not go hand in hand, always. Sometimes you just need to “keep it simple”, however just in case you are have the itch to “Go Big or Go Home” here is a funny video that might give you a little something to sip on while you think! Pay attention to three primary factors addressed in the video.

http://www.business.gov.au/news-and-updates/business-videos/Pages/business-plan-video.aspx

1. Diversification, “The act or practice of manufacturing a variety of products, investing in a variety of securities, selling a variety of merchandise, etc., so that a failure in or an economic slump affecting of one them will not be disastrous.” (“Diversification”, Def.2, Dictionary.com, 7 march 2016) In order to diversify you must develop a strategy by identifying your potential clients/customers that this new product or service will impact. Ask yourself, do you really think they need it and if there is already something in the market – how will yours set your company above the rest. Then you need to conduct a GAP analysis, no not a SWOT, a GAP analysis and determine where the gaps are in your current processes and then within the development of your new processes, to address the diversified product or service. Finally, don’t forget about your core capabilities! Don’t leave your current client base in the dust and forget that you still provide a great service, that people are paying for right now!

2. Business Processes – pretty self explanatory (I think), however as you develop your strategy ask some critical questions such as how this process change affects your current company operations? What additional resources will you need to acquire to support the objectives of this new process? How does this impact your staff and clients? Will this change impact your supply chain process (that’s next)? Think critically about any process changes and if you haven’t already, find someone (a mentor) that you can trust to provide you with some critical feedback. Just a tidbit on mentors -because I will have a whole blog about this coming soon – your mentor needs to be someone that HAS BEEN where you are now. Someone that can identify the potential pitfalls of any plan and provide you with resources through consultation on how to manage those potential deficits.

3. Supply Chain Management – this is a critical component to any company and any change can cause a kink in the chain of processes. BusinessDictionary.com states that the supply chain is what underlies “value-chains” because without them, no producer has the ability to give customers what they want, when and where they want, at the price they want. I would have to agree. With any adjustment, diversification, or modification of your current business model, there will be an impact on your supply chain. Those companies that provide services or products to your direct supplier will be impacted. I encourage you to read “I, Pencil: My Family Tree” as told by Leonard E. Read which provides a pretty look perspective on the supply chain process for a simple product which we use everyday and costs little to nothing to purchase in a store.

There you go, your food for thought as you maneuver the course of remaining relevant in or making an innovative move within the market place!

http://www.lengo.us

Power of the Partnership

Can there really ever be too many small and diverse businesses? The quick answer is, no. Small businesses are the economic engine of the economy.  However, if you sit on that question for a minute…the answer could soon become, yes.  There is an oversaturation of small and diverse businesses in today’s economy in areas of janitorial, consulting, education and health services to name a few.   In Dallas, according to the 2015 Dallas Economic Development Profile, in 2014 nearly 85% of the businesses were considered small. This consideration is established through self-certification and size determinations outlined by the Small Business Administration (SBA).  The majority of these businesses fall within Trade/Transportation & Utilities and Professional/Business Services.  Nearly 20% of the businesses were classified as woman owned, with the majority them comprising areas of Education & Health Services with 25.7%; and 36.4% of the 15% minority owned firms being categorized in Education & Health Services.  Now, with the statistics out of the way, I ask again…can there really ever be too many small and diverse businesses?  (This is just a snippet of information related to Dallas, TX!)

Yes…there absolutely can, when these areas mentioned above are being oversaturated with companies who perform similar services. There is only so much potential to offer a value added service or product that sets you apart for from your competitor.  Additionally, there are only so many contracts and opportunities out there for businesses.  (Yes, that is the honest truth – whether you agree or not)  In my 17 years in the minority and small business industry, I have seen a hundreds of companies start up with the grand plans of capturing that lucrative contract with the public or private sector and hitting it big.  Oh, the dreams are awesome and I wished every single one of them well.  However, the reality of the situation is that they were vying for contracts, which sustainable incumbents held and had no intention of letting go.  Furthermore, the owners of the contracts had no true desires to change their current contractor or supplier, because frankly there was no problem with the supply chain process, product or service (these are the main reasons companies seek alternatives).

So, what would I suggest? A consortium, a technical and tactical group of professional businesses that could go after opportunities as a turnkey operation. Did you all hear me?  Ok…good because I thought I lost you at the same point that I lost the countless other firms I broached this topic with, “group”.  “Sheena, do you mean that we would all work together?” Why, yes I do!  You see, in this economy you can’t go in as the lone soldier to acquire a long sustaining contract, with a company who has incumbents that can perform to their clients’ expectations, without a full arsenal behind you, next to you…heck with you! The truth of the matter is that as a collective community – black owned businesses overlook the benefits of truly “partnering” with one another to obtain to the greater good. Build your wealth, by building your base. It is the same “good-ole boy” mentality just at your advantage.  Put your team together – general contractor, specialty trade contractors, landscaping contractors, materials suppliers, IT & Telecommunications contractors, and consultants.

It is no different than these “teams” who win large local projects like the Horseshoe (I35E) project, or the DFW Airport Revitalization project, or the Parkland Hospital project. It’s just in this case you are utilizing the same team members, each one building their own wealth while building the wealth of the group and making your mark on the industry.  How do you think these large businesses increased their capacity and capability?  Yes, they had partners.

I am not going to preach on the breakdown in the minority community, because this thinking of “one man for himself” isn’t as prevalent in the Hispanic and Asian business communities. You can see the benefits of partnering and the sharing of resources in these communities, more than in our own.  Not to say that there aren’t black business owners who are pulling resources together and partnering to create sustainable and relevant business models – but, there are few.  It is almost as if the “community” the “tribal collective” the “neighborhood support” focus has faded into the convoluted ideals that there is an “equal playing field”.  Honestly, it is either team up and establish some serious business presence or keep seeing statistics such as those above, where the same firms are vying for the same businesses and putting each other out of business.