Thursday, January 31, 2013

Previous issues of Newsletter

If you are looking for previous issues of The Language of Excellence newsletter; you can find the links on Select the tab Language of Excellence.

Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, and Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders.   For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Count the Teeth

Planning is not an intellectual forum for speculating on the determinable.  The Teeth icon is a reminder of the story about two Roman citizens debating the issue of how many teeth were in a horse’s mouth.  A slave overheard the debate and suggested they count the teeth.  They killed the poor knave on the spot for upsetting their enjoyable debate.
The excellent manager should insist that the teeth be counted not debated.  Who is buying our competitor's products and why are they buying theirs, is a question that can be answered by counting the teeth—don’t speculate!  Counting the teeth often means asking for answers.  When you want to know “how to do it better” or “what customers really want,” counting the teeth means asking.  However, you only get answers when you listen.  Too often organizations ask in an effort to validate their own view.

Do you really think those political surveys we receive in the mail are designed to get our input?  Excellence in management means asking—and listening to—customers, employees, vendors, etc. 

Novels by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, and Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders.   For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Long Tail Strategy

In modern times,enterprises have had business models that have been heavily influenced by the law of Disproportionate Results—the 80/20 rule.  In the world of brick-and-mortar, 80% of results were traditionally derived from only 20% of the activity—sales, inventory, paperwork, jobs, space, etc.  Management’s job involved constant diligence to eliminate low yield or nonproductive activities.  Unfortunately that often meant a decline in service and a slow but relentless movement toward sameness.  It was as Toffler had predicted a world of unlimited choices—all the same.  You can have anything you want as long as it is within the 20% of alternatives that 80% of the population wants.

The 80/20 rule is still important when dealing in tangibles but something important has happened.  No longer does the 80/20 rule dominate.  It is called the Long Tail, and it is the new dog on the block.  In the digital world, the right side, or tail end, of the bell-shaped normal curve goes to infinity without ever reaching zero.  When the cost of maintaining inventory, handling transactions, and distributing products or services drops to near zero, the Long Tail of the bell curve becomes as rewarding as its center—the center that used to account for 80% of all activity.  Today you can have any song, any book, and any video—even though they, long ago, became no longer economically feasible to keep on store shelves.
Today’s excellent businesses look for opportunities to operate in the Long Tail while being mindful of the 80/20 rule in other aspects of their business.  Nor does one's product or service have to be digital to gain some of the benefits of the Long Tail.  The key is to reduce the cost of maintaining inventory, handling transactions, and distributing the product or service.  When these cost are reduced, the Long Tail benefits become realizable.
When it comes to sustaining their financial success, we have seen printer manufacturers shift their emphasis from hardware sales to the profitable revenues produced by selling the ink used by that hardware.  The ink has low inventory and distribution cost when compared to those costs for the hardware.  We see coffee services shift from relying on the profitability of the coffeemakers to the revenues produced by selling the coffee used by the coffeemakers—the coffee having a lower inventory and distribution cost.  Excellence companies look for ways to capitalize on the Long Tail while being considerate of the 80/20 rule. 

Join me January 22, 2013 for a glass of claret.  I will be at Parnassus Book Store in Nashville signing the new hard cover edition of my novel, The Claret Murders. In keeping with the main character’s reputation as an epicurean, there will be also be caviar to go with your wine. We will have a lively discussion, some readings and prizes--one of those will be a thirty year old claret from my private cellar, a 1982 Chateau Sociando-Mallet.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blue Ocean

Blue Ocean

Creative excellent managers don’t accept the prevailing rules.  They don’t settle for coloring inside the lines.  They look for ways to reinvent how the “wants and needs” of customers and prospects can be satisfied.  They look for opportunities to increase benefits that have so far gone unsatisfied.  They look for ways to reinvent how products and services are delivered.  Today there are successful businesses that no one could even imagine a few years ago.  Peter Drucker would say they created utility where there was none.  Thomas Edison did that when he created the electric light, the phonograph, and moving pictures.
W. Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne gave this strategy a name.  They call it the Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS).  They call traditional businesses Red Ocean businesses.  In the Red Ocean, traditionally, businesses compete with other businesses for the same customers to fill the same need.  They compete in the same ways.  It is a game of one-upmanship—for one business to gain market share, another has to lose.  The Red Ocean is one where businesses ebb and flow in terms of competitive victories and losses.  In the Red Ocean no business will consistently succeed.  Leadership styles are transient.  Successful strategies do not continue in perpetuity.  Applauded leadership methods fail with changing circumstances.  The Red Ocean is a place where victories are only marginal improvements.
Under the creative excellent leader, a corporate team looks for opportunities to stop playing the Red Ocean game with all the other wannabes.  They create a new market, a Blue Ocean, where they are the only player.  It is the notion of reinventing the business, but kicked up a notch.  For example, it isn’t a matter of just reinventing how existing products or services are provided to existing consumers.  Instead, it is a matter of reinventing how the needs and wants of those customers are satisfied and inventing ways that those who currently don’t take advantage of a particular product or service can get the benefits.  With the Blue Ocean Strategy you reinvent the market, not just the business enterprise pursuing that market.  You break out of the box where everyone competes for the same business.
A pure Blue Ocean is an entirely new industry, created by bringing in neglected potential customer segments through offering them compelling buyer utility not currently offered anywhere.  Making the breakthrough to a pure Blue Ocean is not something every group—no matter how creative and how exceptional—will achieve.  But the constant effort to turn the water Blue is a mark of the excellent manager.  Imagine, for example, the impact on the hotel/motel business of breaking away from the fixed check-in and checkout time.  Why is that standard? Why can’t hotels operate like rental car companies—check in any time and check out anytime.  The fixed check-in and checkout time is an example of practices that become industry standard practices that do not serve the customer. Practices that reduce the customer's benefits should be the enemy of the excellent manager.

PayPal,, and Bazaar Voice are notable examples of Blue Ocean companies and so was Southwest Air who eventually changed how airlines compete.  So were FedEx and Starbucks.  Amazon is changing how people shop and read books.  A creative telecom carrier in Africa is creating a Blue Ocean by launching products that allow money to be transferred between mobile users across all mobile telephone networks.  Africa is a country where mobile devices, solar power, and wireless communication are transformative; and telecom carriers are in a position to bring brick-and-mortar-type services to the masses.
Kim and Mauborgne are the authors of the book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant.  It was the product of years of research by the authors and collaboration with fellow faculty and students at INSEAD.  The French graduate business school and research institute, INSEAD, is considered one of the world’s best.  It is particularly known for its influential alumni—a global network of business intellect and power.
Gabor George Burt, a graduate of INSEAD, is one of the apostles of BOS.  His blog, is a valuable supplement to the original work of Kim and Mauborgne.

In my Novel Mark Rollins’ New Career and the Women’s Health Club the main character, Rollins, reinvents the fitness center into a unique Blue Ocean business.  The WHC, as members call it, also serves as the “Bat Cave” for this modern day avenger and has continued to play that role for three more Mark Rollins adventures:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Common Courtesy

What kind of enterprise do you want to be?  What kind of company can get the right people on the bus?  What kind of organization can have customers who like that organization?  What one zero tolerance prerequisite should be maintained within the organization?  The answer is “CC”—common courtesy.  Achieving and maintaining excellence depends on successfully installing that quality throughout the organization—the quality of caring and showing it.  Customers accept nothing less.  If they don’t get it, then if they have an alternative, and eventually they will, they will take it.  The same is true with the organization’s best people, best vendors, etc.  Remember we are always judged by others, and “CC” is the gold standard.


A beautiful Nashville lawyer, an inheritance at risk, a devastating storm and wine to kill for—The Claret Murders, a new Mark Rollins adventure.