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Are you a CEO or a Chief Everything Officer? January 25, 2012

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I was wondering about this concept. You need a team, but not just any team. You need the right team for the appropriate stage of a company’s life. You wouldn’t hire a professor to teach kids – for that, you need to find primary school teachers.

The same goes for start-ups and growing businesses. Find the right people for the right job, as well as the right attitude.
All businesses need drivers with A type personalities. In the beginning the two most important people to have on your team will be the one who can guide the operational processes and the marketing person who can start creating demand for your products and services.

Your team is not just comprised of the founders, owners, and employees. It is also the outside mentors, advisors, vendors, and consultants. Unless a start-up happens to have a lot of funding on day one, these outsiders are key to a new business thriving. Not many start-ups can afford to hire full time employees to do a specific task, and so it becomes easier to employ contract workers or outsource these tasks.

While founders often question why they should hire someone to do what they could do themselves, remember that building a company takes many people, and you can never do it alone.

CEO does not stand for Chief Everything Officer.

For more articles from Warwick be sure to check out BizAssist – your one-stop shop for business advice.

What you didn’t know about Steve Jobs and Apple January 18, 2012

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I was given Steve Jobs biography for Christmas and I have to say that from the moment I started reading it – I couldn’t put it down.

1) His maternal grandparents were German and his father was Abdulfattah Jandali – a Syrian born Muslim.

2) When his sister Mona Simpson was told she had a famous brother – she speculated it was John Travolta.

3) He often went to a restaurant in San Jose where Abdulfattah worked but never met him! Abdulfattah remembers him as a great tipper.

4) He dropped out of Reed college but was allowed to ‘drop in’ to his favourite classes.  With extra time on his hands he pursued his creative intuition by studying calligraphy and participating in dance classes.

5) Most of the ground breaking technologies come from outside Apple – such as when Xerox Corporation acquired a shareholding in Apple and as part of the purchase price was unfettered access to Xerox’s development centre. Being separated from Xerox’s mainstream activities – their executive team had no knowledge about the progress their scientists were making and of course no skills to know what to do with the information anyway.  Jobs knew what was going on because he had employed some of their scientists who told him.

6) Jobs had a passion about employing only ‘A team’ players – he maintained the moment you started employing B team players you were one step away from taking on C team players.

7) His staff developed an array of sign language signs to deal with his ‘reality distortion field’ tirades as he relentlessly pushed the technical and aesthetic boundaries simultaneously.

8) He was famous for saying that customers have no idea what they want – often quoting Henry Ford – who said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted – they would have replied ‘a faster horse’.

9) He had a minimalistic approach to household furniture and when deciding on a washing machine (after two weeks of exhaustive research) settled on a ‘Miele’. Expect to see Miele making use of this info soon.

10) The 1984 Superbowl final was used to launch the Apple Mac ‘Think Different’ advert – which was viewed and seen by 95 Million viewers – who had no idea it was an advert at all- and has become known as the famous ‘Ad of all time’.

11) His board room was a no-holds barred arena where you could either be a Fxxxxxx arsehole or a Fxxxxxx genius. Face to face screaming matches with Jobs were commonplace.

12) His premonition about an early death was well known – but when trying to defeat his cancer – he assembled and led the finest array of medical specialists who had his genetics analysed, and with the assistance of pharmaceutical companies, designed genetically profiled drugs. The whole sequence was described as tap walking from one lily-pad to the next on a pond. Knowing that eventually there would be no more…

13) He often used to cry in meetings.

14) Before his death he made sure that Apple would not disappear and implode like HP and Xerox. His apple campus is a masterpiece of design where his total user experience philosophy starts; because whenever you move around on the campus from canteens to meetings, toilets to parking  etc you are likely to bump into fellow team players.

15) When he resumed control of Apple he earned 1USD per year.

16) His first e-mail upon returning was to announce that – no emails were to be sent discussing Apple – (which was 45 days from bankruptcy). The following Monday morning – the offending staff members who had emailed outsiders were all fired!

SEO for Facebook? – Get ready for NFO. September 6, 2011

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Sick and tired of being bombarded with shallow information? Well now Facebook has introduced EDGE – a sort of a “News Feed Optimization” ranking or NFO and it has huge implications for the way in which news items will be ranked. The implications for business are obvious.

Most entrepreneurs have some idea of what SEO (search engine optimization) means in the context of their company websites. But what about NFO? This is Facebook’s latest attempt to try and rank our incoming news feeds depending on our prior activity history. This means one of my pet hates about Facebook is being tackled head-on, which is great news as over time I won’t have my news feeds cluttered with all sorts of useless information. And that applies to businesses who seem to have forgotten that the golden rule of social media is to engage, listen and invite and not force-feed daily sales offerings.
The challenge however for businesses now is to make sure that when posting to your fans, the news actually reaches them. Well, I am afraid the power is in your fans. If they are NOT engaging with you, your news may not even get to them and I think that’s a good thing.

So if you have been working on a brilliant marketing piece, how are you going to make sure your network will see it now? Chances are they may not. Even if it does end up getting through, it may be ranked so low on your fans’ news feed that it will be missed. So what can you do about it?
Currently received news is split into two different categories – “Top News” and “Recent News”.
So just what determines whether your news will make it into your fans “top news” news feed?

There are two major considerations.
1) Facebook has create an algorithm called Edge Rank which essentially consists of three variables:
AFFINITY, WEIGHT and TIME DECAY.
2) Your fans will need to engage with you before your content is pushed to the top of their news feed.
So what does Facebook Edge Rank means for your business?
Let’s explain the terminology…
An EDGE refers to any content you share on Facebook. (Status updates/posting a photo/Liking Something/Commenting/Getting tagged).
Whether and if you receive all your incoming news feeds is based on the following:

AFFINITY: This is a function of your engagement with another Facebook member. Essentially this means that if you are engaging (not just liking comments) but commenting and sending messages then Facebook will safely assume that you have an affinity with that Facebook member.
The best thing about it is that affinity is NOT bi-directional. Facebook calculates an affinity for each of your ‘friends’.

WEIGHT: Different content has different weights – for example photo content is more interesting than likes and friends’ comments about their friends is not interesting to you at all.

TIME DECAY: This is almost self-explanatory. With everyone wanting fresh content, EDGE rankings are highest with the quickest posts and interactions. The freshness will influence what news you get to see.
The secret to effective Facebook marketing is to continuously create engaging interactions such as “likes”, “shares” and comments with your Facebook fan page wall and tab. And that takes me back to the first rule of social media – Engage, Listen, Invite…

Customer Care – UNISA takes a brave but welcome step to shut down call centres. September 1, 2011

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As published on BizAssist.co.za

If you think about it, call centres are really a poor business solution – and for a variety of reasons. The list is endless. Staff are often contract workers, call answer times are notoriously slow, language and communications skills are often poor and above all there is no commitment, motivation and passion. They are expensive – and all this in the name of customer care! If you have a problem it is ‘escalated’ to another supervisor and much like when you experience bad service at a restaurant; unless you complain directly to management not much will change.

So what is the solution?
Give some of the people what they want. Many queries can be resolved without the customer dealing with call centres. With millions of South-Africans using pc’s , smartphones and tablets – there is a much better way.

How about an online ‘customer ticketing system’ which achieves the following:

Every query submitted can be followed and tracked simultaneously – by the client and by management. Clients can see the status of the query online, who is handling it, if it has been reassigned, what extra information is needed and when the expected resolution date is. And it’s all documented, dated and time stamped.
And product mangers get reliable feedback. Even the MD, if he wants, can log on and monitor staff actions. Perfect.

Funnily enough the software has been available on the net as an asp.net plug-in for websites at a cost of around R1000. Sort of makes you think why companies haven’t downscaled their call centres dramatically. The best is yet to come – You do don’t need a call centre. Staff anywhere in the world with access to an internet browser can access it. What’s more – the system can be set to trip when overload is reached and normal office staff can assist whether they are at work, at home or even on holiday.

So UNISA has taken this bold step and I believe it is the right one. I have used the system and although I get instant feedback – there is room for improvement. But a great step none the less.

Marketing students disappoint on the last day of Markex – Cape Town. August 29, 2011

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Markex Cape Town, after a gap of three years, returned to Cape Town’s CTICC.
In spite of years of success in Johannesburg – Cape Town did not exactly rush to Markex for new ideas and innovations. After two relatively poorly attended days, tertiary students were allowed in on Thursday. But adding a lot of colour, life and zest is no substitute for cerebral deficiencies as marketing students trawled through the stands looking for free gifts and samples! What’s free requests were driving exhibitors crazy! By and large the exhibitors I spoke to were quite prepared to explain to students the business concept supporting their products and services – If only the students would enquire! I mean how many caps, water bottles, lanyards and other promotional items do you actually need?

One unfortunate fellow pitched up at the http://www.bizassist.co.za stand and said – I want to get into advertising – do you think it’s a good move? His three year diploma finishes in November and he wants to work for a company that that can teach him – proudly stating that Marketing, Research and Consumer Behaviour were his courses; and can I help him because his lecturers are not able to point him in the right direction.
Relishing the opportunity to ‘take back the streets’ and thinking to myself that this sounded a bit like a 1990’s standard issue marketing text book approach , I said here is your plan:

1) Remember that everything you have been taught is available free on the internet (And of course http://www.bizassist.co.za
2) Everyone else studying has, by-and-large, been taught the same material; 50% of which will be no longer relevant within a year.
3) You are all graduating with the same qualifications – with the same CV’s which says absolutely nothing about your passion and commitment.
4) As far as companies are concerned when training staff – Passion and Commitment will always trump Intelligence.
5) Offer your services for no or minimal pay for the first 3 months. Then they will know you are serious!
6) The ultimate differentiator companies are faced with when going through a pile of CV’s is to show that you have a critical mind, can formulate a plan and communicate it.

At this stage I could see that he was reeling under the pressure and confusion – thoughts of his “Single mom/parent” paying for a life changing marketing course was rushing through his mind – and was seeming like a waste of time and money.

“So how do I change that?” he said.

Easy, get published. The world is engaging with each other on a daily basis. Go back to your lecturers and tell them to challenge all the final year students to write a 500 word essay on any small business marketing topic and submit it for publishing – to websites, article aggregators, magazines and newspapers.

Dismay and shock almost overwhelmed the poor chap. Interpreting his lack of writing skills as a serious problem. I jumped in and said don’t worry about grammar and style – all media companies have sub editors who can ‘fix up’ articles. Relief quickly set in.

One more point I said – noticing that I still had his attention but that maybe it was all a bit much.

Did you ever consider that you should have quit whilst you were ahead?

So I went for the jugular. The day you were accepted for a College/University- MBA program was the most profitable day of your life. You had been assessed, evaluated and approved on your individual merits. That should have formed part of your CV and then you should be researching the net daily and offering your services as an intern for no pay for the first 3 months. Financially speaking , from then on its all downhill.

Give me your opinions on my Walmart article published in today’s Business Report May 12, 2011

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Time is running out to get Walmart playing by SA’s rules

The Walmart/Massmart wrangle playing itself out at the Competitions Commission has all the signs of legal compliancy, but little pragmatism.

Someone should tell the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to make an appointment with Walmart to find out what Walmart’s purchasing needs are. Tell them that we need their international marketing expertise to sell our merchandise into their worldwide operations. After all, if local subsidiaries work with their international head offices and there is the will to make it work then anything is possible.

Just ask Mercedez Benz South Africa and Volkswagen South Africa about their export successes to the global car markets.

We need to think of Walmart as a country and not a company. Gosh, its sales exceed $400 billion (R2.7 trillion) annually.

Sadly, there is little news of any proactiveness from the department.

The dti’s mindset is all cock-eyed. If your mission is to save jobs, success will be measured by how many jobs will have been saved. How about using the same energy to maximise job creation by “encouraging” Walmart to buy from South African companies for their operations worldwide?

The time for getting our “prenuptial” agreement sorted out with Walmart is running out fast. If that happens then it will be business the Walmart way – and South Africa would have missed out establishing a “new way” of doing business between multinationals and local businesses which the world could have learned from.
Walmart’s sales a day exceed $1bn and, as they say, in the first five minutes of any sales course “just ask for the order”.

I would be surprised if Walmart would say no to a worldwide procurement programme for South African industry. We have to be bolder.

Fighting Walmart’s takeover on the grounds of accelerated Chinese imports that will supposedly flood the newly branded Massmart stores ignores the reality of what is happening under our noses.
Chinatown malls and independent Chinese retailers are being established throughout South Africa.
Often flouting town planning regulations, manipulating import tariffs, ignoring labour regulations, employing their own nationals ahead of South Africans, almost zero local purchases, paying minimal taxes of any sort and offering an array of merchandise that would hardly pass an SA Bureau of Standards test and you have the Chinese way of doing retail business.

As for good corporate governance – what’s that! Staff training schemes – not likely and they employ their own nationals largely. In these malls the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) will be largely toothless.
My assessment of the “Chinese malls” in South Africa may sound harsh, but if we are worried about labour losses as a result of Walmart’s Chinese import substitution then it is already happening.
Walmart on the other hand will abide by our nation’s laws and regulations and make sure that its corporate governance is top notch. More importantly, it will have corporate social investment programmes, staff training schemes and pay vast amounts of import duties, company tax, unemployment insurance funds, income tax, VAT, skills levies and so on regularly.

And the CPA will mean something. In fact, its staff training is bound to be world-class. Finally, the dti will have access to the group’s importation records, which will show where the possibilities for import substitution lie.

Walmart may not be perfect, but as Lyndon Johnson, that venerable US president, once said: “I would rather have them in my tent peeing out and not standing out and peeing in.”

Warwick Smith-Chandler is the chief executive of Cape Town-based BizAssist.co.za.

What are your thoughts as compared to Business Day’s article: “Walmart to cost SA jobs, state warns tribunal”

Who do you agree with?

Social Media Marketing April 28, 2011

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Social Media marketing is about persistence, persistence, persistence; and – Oh yes – Novelty.

How is this for a fantastic way to present your social media program which is captivating and highly effective; not to mention slightly unusual?
After all is using an old-fashioned billboard as a social media marketing platform! I liked it and I am sure you will too.

Read my full article on http://www.bizassist.co.za -> Here.

Democratic Alliance making the right noises for Cape Town Business April 21, 2011

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What a surprise it was to hear Patricia de Lille come on air and talk about re-invigorating the Cape Town business environment – in a post-DA-won-municipal election of course…
In spite of being cut short by Cape Talk/Radio 702 because of time constraints – (De Lille was only able to get through 4 of the ‘7 Pillars’ that make up the DA’s business growth strategy) – I was sufficiently impressed by what she was saying to want to find out what else was being planned.

A few emails and calls to the DA later – and I got the full plan which I have attached to my summary article that appears on bizassist.co.za. I was particularly excited to learn that the fibre optic backbone (which will help all businesses) – the review of outdated and restrictive legislation and bylaws and the setting up of one super development agency and more business incubators -are all well past the planning process and will be rolled out immediately after the elections -assuming a DA win for Cape Town.

I have my own questions for the DA and P de Lille and will submit them to her next week.

If you have specific questions that relate to ‘Cape Town’s Business Strategy’ let me know and I will gladly include it in mine.
I will report back as soon as I have a reply from the DA.

To view the DA’s full plan from my summary article on BizAssist please click -> here

When Loyalty Cards Become Average – Pick ‘n Pay’s Smart Shopper Card Proves It April 11, 2011

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As published in today’s Business Report in The Cape Times.

Pick n Pay’s incentive scheme- So much money for so little.

The recent press coverage that the launch of the Pick n Pay loyalty program received and subsequent letters and replies in Business Report requires further analysis.  R140m later and a decade after first considering a loyalty program and with an acknowledgement by the CEO of Pick n Pay that customers are no longer so loyal, the Smart Shopper card has been launched.


Perhaps some that R140m should have been spent on researching an interactive relationship between Pick n Pay and its customers?

Maybe that’s because for most consumers there is hardly a relationship. We pick the items most attractive to us, we pay, we walk out – and that’s it; the contract is over. As for a relationship the mere fact that we pick you for our next purchase is not something you can control one hundred percent – and loyalty cards can help with that but not when they are clearly just incentive-based programs.

Loyalty cards mean many things to many people.  Marketing executives see them as a route to greater revenue generation and thus probably a necessary evil , customers view it as a way to receive benefits that would otherwise have been unobtainable and everyone agrees that there are too many of them around and to a large extent they all look and feel the same.

The Pick n Pay incentive scheme is definitely not a loyalty scheme.  Here are my reasons.

1) My shopping experience hasn’t improved since the program started. For me to value the ‘benefits’ of accumulating points the total shopping experience needs to be considered and it needs to be above my expectation.

2) My ‘loyalty’ is only worth something if I have my Smart Shopper card with me, failing which I won’t receive any points.  My driver’s license, credit and gym membership cards take preference in my wallet. I have ‘wallet fatigue’, along with every other South-African.  Thereafter it’s a tossup between an assortment of ‘loyalty’ and other cards. And, since when is carrying a card a prerequisite for demonstrating loyalty? Rather give me a barcode sticker that I can put on the back of my cell-phone. That would be different because nobody else offers that option.

3) The relationship is not equal. I have to carry a card all the time and Pick n Pay has access to all my purchase data and what do I get for it?  A mere 1% cash back!

4) There is no ‘wow’ factor at all.  Smart Shopper is not that smart and it feels just like any of the other incentive-come-loyalty programs out there.

It’s 2011 and Pick n Pay needs to realize that they are no longer a ‘Challenger Brand’. Even with a remarkable CSI (corporate social investment) program Pick ‘n Pay has been squeezed by new ‘Challenger Brands’ in the market. Perhaps the real CSI has been missing (Customer Service Initiative or Customer Savings Incentive)?  In a world of ‘Me’ ,’ I’ and   ‘ I want it now’ the Smart Shopper concept represents an amazing opportunity to break from the staleness of other companies’ loyalty programs, and thus the concept may have presented Pick n Pay with an ideal opportunity to pursue their own unique ‘loyalty’ program?   After all, R140m is a lot of money; but put simply, loyalty is built up over a period of time by continuously providing excellent service or benefits, above what is expected or offered by the competition. What was the result? Loads of media coverage and a 1% cash back offer.  Clearly a traditional approach-but not much of an answer to the problem of declining market share; aggravated by less ‘loyalty’ from customers in general.

Smart Shopper could have wowed me but it hasn’t even come close. The technology is available and inexpensive, infinitely scalable and offers amazing potential considering that just about everyone carries a computer (cell phone) with them 24/7. Location based marketing, augmented reality, in store Blue Tooth communications and Mobile SMS vouchers, and sms communications are the way forward.

Here are some examples of how Pick ‘n Pay could ‘wow’ me, and thus retain my loyalty:

Send me an sms voucher for coffee at one of your stores that have in-house coffee shops – just because it’s lunchtime and I’ve just spent R500.  I would be impressed!  How about a thank you by SMS for detecting that I have exceeded my average monthly purchase by 100%?

Ask me if  I want to join an experiential purchase plan- maybe a trip to the 2016 Olympics or even a ticket to a show, or a breakfast  for two  at the Mount Nelson hotel.  Now that would get me going!

Let me know that if I spend a bit more, I’d move up a tier and get more. That would make me feel special.

Tell me by you will reserve red roses for me on Valentine’s Day so that I can avoid stressing about availability and rip-off prices. I would be eternally grateful.

Solve a problem that most of us have from time to time, by removing the need to have to produce a receipt for my defective product – because my Smart Shopper card has all the sales information linked to. Whilst on the subject of defective items in for repair, sms me a web-enabled email link so that I can track the progress of the repair online 24/7. That would save me from stressful on-hold waits with your call centre and save you money.

There is one product that I know of that has an intrinsic cost of 8% of the R80 selling price and it really irritates me every time I buy it. If I could get that information to you easily, that would let me believe I was making a difference-but you haven’t asked for my help or feedback –ever.  If you did that, you would ensure my loyalty.  I would then write on my Facebook page and other social media sites, about how wonderful Pick n Pay is.  I’d tell my friends and work colleagues and you would have my unquestioned loyalty.

Previously published articles have alluded to the UK’s Tesco and other South African companies as benchmarks which Pick n Pay has researched and have tried to emulate. In the process all they have done is add to the ‘loyalty card’ fatigue and not added any differentiation at all. Benchmarking, by its very own definition, is not designed to exceed what is known. In fact, by emulating it, you have just confirmed what average is – and average is no way to get noticed or remembered by your customers.

Traditional loyalty card programs have come full circle, and opportunities exist now for loyalty marketers to reinvigorate their markets. That in itself is tough because traditional marketers are used to ‘top down’ marketing. Engaging and listening does not come easily for non-CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) trained staff.

Pick n Pay was one of the last majors to launch a loyalty program. It had my attention briefly but it offers nothing new. Excellence, innovation and leading the way has always been a feature of Pick N Pays public persona. That I am afraid has long since disappeared.  Your incentive program is much like an attempt by a learner at school- desperate to be noticed.  I can distinctly hear the desperate pleas of ‘Pick me, Pick me’.

See this an other articles on our website, www.bizassist.co.za

Making the Walmart Deal Work for South Africa – a New Approach is Needed March 17, 2011

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Walmart and job creation – How can the whole of SA benefit?

Walmart Deal SA

Two reports in the local press got my attention this week. The first was that Trevor Manuel (Minister of Planning) admitted that in spite of vast expenditure over the years; service delivery has in some areas been a failure. The second was that Rob Davies – the minister of trade – was waiting to hear the ‘Deal and more details’ from Walmart who are seeking approval from the Competition Commission to buy 51% of Makro/Dions etc.

My view on all of this is that South Africa should ask upfront for a permanent SA trade delegation to be stationed at Walmart head office for the prime purpose of promoting SA companies’ products. Let’s face it; Walmart is probably the largest buyer of consumer goods in the world. We should be encouraging (forcing) Walmart to take buying our nations products seriously.

If we can build cars for Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen for worldwide delivery then we can manufacture ‘widgets’ for Walmart. It’s a simple as that. We couldn’t do it without VW’s and Mercedes Benz’ head office support and nor can we expect South African companies to do so without Walmart’s support. We just need them to take us seriously. That’s where Minister Rob Davies should, and must help. We just need to be humble and transparent about our needs and just say to Walmart: You have power to make a difference to SA manufacturing – we need your help! When the deal is done we can’t run to Walmart with demands!

I would like to finish this article by the end of the month and would appreciate it if you could post your comments on my blog. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions as I personally believe the Walmart deal can reduce the chronic unemployment in our country.

See more articles by Warwick Smith-Chandler at www.bizassist.co.za