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Personal Development

System Migration

We have just installed a new till / PoS system into our shop.

Initial results have proved positive. The useability is good and the records appear accurate. Next week we will begin to reconcile stock activity as well.

Along side this, we are moving to Xero accounting software.  My aim is to modernise our system reporting structures and in doing so save time and improve accuracy.  Watch this space as I begin to share tangible results, progress and frustration!

 

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Some new courses!

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Recently I have been thinking hard about the best way to help businesses in South London.  For me, it is about working in collaboration with small management teams to inspire them to change, adapt, and achieve new goals.  I do this through working with individuals and in workshop environments.   Often having an external facilitator who is not close to the day to day running of the business can provide a clarity and focus which it is difficult to find on your own.

Feel free to contact me to discuss how I work and could add value to your business at any time.  More information is also available from this link.

 

Norman

Reading list!

Must try to read this before the new year.   So many business models are being shifted by the sharing economy but I wonder about the impact of a cultural lag.

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My Word Of The Day!

 

 

Can you guess?  Answer : Resilience

Willis Resilience Expedition

 

 

Naked Element

For a while now I have been working much more in the on-line space.  Many of my blog posts have shared experiences I have gained by working in this more entrepreneurial environment.  Over the last decade it has been fascinating to watch start-up businesses adopt tools and techniques primarily developed for the software industry and bring these into practice for much wider business development and product development needs.

In this context I was delighted to get the opportunity to become a Director at Naked Element.  My role is to offer clients a combination of project management and business management services that complement our core offering of software development.  This enables me to offer entrepreneurs and start-up organisations a cutting edge service that integrates software and business development.

We are currently looking for new opportunities to work with businesses across the UK, so please get in touch if you have a project you feel we may be able to help with.

 

 

Norman

The Testing Phase in Start-ups!

I have recently been working with a couple of start-up businesses who are going through a first phase of testing.

This is an interesting, scary, exiting, exhausting time for start-up entrepreneurs as they grapple to come to terms with how the market actually responds to their proposition.

Here’s a check list of learnings and out-takes I have picked up

– Keep the focus on usability and service – back end technical efficiency can follow later

– Test early and test as much as possible

– Don’t start testing unless you have enough resource to implement the learnings very quickly

– Don’t let technology be a barrier – simulate technology to understand its likely effectiveness

– Minimise the barriers to customers exploring your product or service even if this makes their overall experience seem more onerous in the longer term

– Being all over any customer response at all is essential

– Be agile

That’s it for now, but I’m sure I will find more things to add to the list in the next few weeks.

Are you working in the start-up arena?  If you’re interested to talk more about these issues then drop me a line – norman.comfort@getcomfortable.co.uk

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Minimal Viable Product versus Minimal Viable Business Model

During this year I have been working with a small team to build a minimal viable food brand and product for testing.  I have written about this journey under the title Project FB.  Early results appears pretty good.  We learnt lots about the product, the right recipes and flavour combinations.  We tried different ingredients and different suppliers.  We learnt more about the product than just this, we learnt how to sell it, what support you need, and how it performs in a small retail environment.  All of this is very encouraging and very valuable.

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The Importance of Winning at Product Level

Brands are an essential vehicle for getting consumers to love your product and buy into your values, but they become even more valuable if the product is truly best in class too.  In the food industry a great test is to say, “if my product was tasted alongside everyone else’s without packaging or branding, would mine still come out as the best one to buy?” If so you are in a strong position, because you can still overlay a great packaging format, a great brand with strong values and recognisable packaging, a competitive price, all to add even more competitive value and differentiation.

To find out just how good your product is, it is perhaps worth considering how the brain senses may evaluate your product.  So as an example using food, get your product out on the table alongside all your competitors and ask:-

Does my product look truly more appetizing than anyone else’s?

Does the smell of my product get my taste buds more excited than the smell of any other product?

Do I win on great taste?

Is the texture and feel of my product better than the competition?

If you can answer yes to all of these you have a winning product with the potential  to be underpinned with great branding and great marketing!

Looks good, smells good. feels good, tastes good…… probably is pretty good!!

Proto-type Research And Testing Versus The Retail Environment

Project FB – Update.

Since my last blog post about Project FB, concerning the “lowest cost viable product” with which to go and test the market, things have been moving in a positive direction.  Our testing and proto-typing has led to changes in suppliers, improvements to our packaging, changes to pricing, and finally a set of products we have confidence will work in a retail environment.

But retail is a very different environment to the areas where most product testing takes place.  We have done all of our market testing at local markets where you pay to spend a day listening and selling to customers but other routes we could have taken include more traditional market research including focus groups, or perhaps a larger scale test targeting one market segment with a full launch and evaluation.  Whilst any method will give you answers it will also give you challenges.

We have recently been working with one retail outlet to see how our product would perform and what we needed to do to get the right rate of sale for the product to earn its place on shelf.  Here are some insights for anyone facing similar challenges.

1)      Rate of sale is the only measure that really counts.  Your product must earn its space on shelf.

2)      Having a relationship with the store manager is key.  You must make sure everyone realises where the business is on the journey, what you are trying to achieve, and why it is worth it for both parties.

3)      Make sure you have the flexibility to move your retail price – it is likely that pricing in the retail environment will need to be lower than it first appears, however do not sacrifice your premium without understanding the rationale behind any move.

4)      The hardest thing about retail is that your product is stripped bare.  You are not there to promote it, talk about it, and sell it.  You much do everything to ensure a) the packaging does that job for you, b) you can maximise any opportunities in store to get your product noticed.

Since working with one retailer we have had to reduce our price point as customers felt the product to be too expensive.  Our tests at markets would have suggested a higher price point was sustainable, but I think customers evaluation of goods changes depending on the environment they are in and the kind of shopping they are doing.  We adjusted our packaging to simplify the messages and make the flavour names clearer.  We added posters in store to get people’s attention.

All this is not enough.  We are currently looking to add a sub-set of branded messages to a shelf strip and branded tray that will house our product and give even more impact on shelf.

On a busy shelf, full of products, how does my brand and product get noticed?

Getting a product right in retail is a critical success factor but I think any business regardless of size and financial resource can only maximise the retail opportunity by first understanding what is the right mix of price and promotional mechanics to generate the best rate of sale.

Life Long Learning

It has been over two years since I finished my MBA at The University Of East Anglia.  After finishing my dissertation I decided to have a break from academic study or personal development courses because I just felt I needed one.  Then last year I did the Common Purpose Leadership and Development Matrix course which I enjoyed and found very inspiring.  I have got to the point where I need something new to stimulate my brain!  I decided at the start of the year to look into ways of embarking on a PHD programme themed in some way around one or more of the following areas – strategic marketing, branding, and partnerships, business modelling, innovation and low carbon markets, social enterprise business models and sustainability.

I have found the process of trying to understand what opportunities may be available, what further study or qualification may be required before undertaking a PHD, along with the all important ways of funding the programme, to be very difficult to navigate.  Lecturers frequently fail to reply to emails, contact telephone numbers are often difficult to find, businesses are difficult to engage, and nearly every programme seems to have its own process, criteria and deadlines with little uniformity even within universities.

I am looking for people who can help me with this challenge.  Would your business sponsor me to do a research programme / PHD, are you a lecturer or business school leader who could help me, are you involved in funding for research, are you involved in supporting people who wish to continue to learn through academic study?  What would you do in my situation.  If you can help please get in touch!