Vantage Blog

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25
Oct
2018

Take the plunge…10 years on!

LinkedIn reminded me (not that I needed reminding!) that Vantage turned 10 this month.

I set off ten years ago from the so called security of a corporate career. And now have a mix of Board roles and strategy consulting gigs with a range of medium sized businesses. A hectic, challenging but oh so rewarding journey.

Not a long time, but given failure rate of many businesses, not short either. It did however set me to reflect on what I have learnt on the way…



It’s not such a fragile choice…in fact it’s the opposite. Many people offered their view that leaving the security of corporate job was risky. However my experience is that having a so called ‘portfolio career’ means you are not tied to one organisation as your sole ‘employer'. You have a natural hedge that enables you to dial up or down your focus and engagement.


Variety is indeed the spice of life…for me and who I work with. The ability to, not only leverage what I learnt as a senior executive, but to build on ten years of working with dozens of businesses and boards keeps me fresh and enables me to add value in ways I hadn’t expected. Whilst not underestimating the value of deep sector experience in many circumstances, there is a lot to be said for the value breadth can give…in particular when developing strategy as a facilitator and as a non executive director.


Flexibility is gold. Having a mix of boards and clients means that, most of the time, I can manage work around my life. Yes I have probably never worked harder, and sometimes there are multiple demands, but in general the flexibility to spend more time with my family, take more holidays and spend time developing my capability pays me back ten fold. Work life balance is often disparaged as unachievable because people talk about trade offs. In fact it’s about focusing on the life you want to lead…in all its components.

Your support team is critical. You cant, and won’t, do it on your own. People are only too willing to help by way of advice, support and introductions. And the really great bit? You get to do the same for others and that has a whole set of value in and of itself.

So if you are thinking of taking the plunge from the so called security of a corporate gig give it a go!

Happy 10th anniversary to Vantage!

James Atkins
LinkedIn reminded me (not that I needed reminding!) that Vantage turned 10 this month.

I set off ten years ago from the so called security of a corporate career. And now have a mix of Board roles and strategy consulting gigs with a range of medium sized businesses. A hectic, challenging but oh so rewarding journey.

Not a long time, but given failure rate of many businesses, not short either. It did however set me to reflect on what I have learnt on the way…

 ..
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23
Aug
2018

Connecting the Dots…making sense of disruption

Agility is without doubt the management buzz word of the moment. Great Leaders are agile; organisations must reorganise to be agile; your products and services, and how you go to market, must have agility at its core…or so we are all told.



But why?

It is increasingly clear to me that the pace of change, and in particular the impact of digital technology on competition and our organisations, is the reason.

The accelerators of change including artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, big data, augmented and virtual reality, and even Blockchain (ignoring the smoke and mirrors of Bitcoin!) will, I believe, enable new products, services and business formats to develop and scale at a pace currently only just starting to be seen.

However, there is too much emphasis on the specifics of the individual technologies themselves, and not enough on how these technologies can be used together and applied to real customer problems. The ability to remove customer friction by the smart application of technology is a clear differentiator for many already. Think Uber, contactless cards, Netflix to name a few. This will be what differentiates winners in the future.

It is the role of business leaders to figure out how to ‘connect the dots’ – the nexus of technologies, models, concepts and ideas.

We are moving from a relatively linear trajectory to one of exponential change. Some sectors and industries will move faster than others, so the need to respond will be different. The opportunity, though, is available to all.

And it’s not just about start-ups – though their adoption and application of new ways of working and digital technologies are a sign of things to come and should act as a cue and/or wake up call.

Agile organisations that are able to transform their culture and think about how they can partner and work in alternative ways will be the success stories of the future. Impenetrable moats around our businesses are no longer assured.

The unbundling and re-bundling of integrated value propositions – just look at what has already happened in financial services – enables new customer offers to be designed and delivered for customers in different and exciting ways. As a result, we are already seeing industry definitions change, with some sectors effectively disappearing.

A key consideration is a shift in many companies from offering products to overseeing, participating in or facilitating ecosystems. Nespresso was an early example where the offering was a combination of components that only worked together - an espresso machine, pods, milk frother and the physical coffee making experience - in a closed fully controlled (via patents) loop.

Apple is another early ecosystem participant. They effectively embedded their ‘hardware’ (iPhone, iPad, Mac etc.), all operating of a single platform, as the core with complementary products and services creating value for customers – the sum being greater than the parts. Not ‘closed’, like Nespresso, but orchestrated or controlled by Apple with app developers, musicians etc embedding their offer in the wider ecosystem.

Newer ones worth having a look, at that are leveraging new digital technologies, include Babylon and Nest.

Ecosystems are modular (re-bundling), and rely on mutual interdependencies, two-way value flow and shared data, held together with a variable level of hierarchical control specific to each one. As a result, the various players in these ecosystems are able to embed their offers in a broader set of customer needs.

This can be challenging. It requires business leaders to think beyond a traditional ‘value chain’ that their business model has been built on. We need to consider what could be the core of an ecosystem and its (typically) digital platform – the one or two features that drive customer take up and use. What can complement that core and ensures a broader set of needs are met – not just for customers but business partners and suppliers?

Will ecosystems be the business model of the future? Will thinking about how you could embed your product or service into a broader set of needs be a key strategic question to consider? Building, catalysing or joining an ecosystem (or ecosystems) could well become a core strategy for future growth. The legacy of an organisations cost base, structure and offering could be key barriers to overcome if you want to not just ‘connect the dots’ but work out how to win by being agile in a fast-changing world.

James Atkins
Vantage Strategy & Marketing

I recently attended the London Business School’s course on Exploiting Disruption in A Digital World where these, and many other such concepts were covered. The August Vantage Leaders Forum spent half a day exploring these issues and how they could be applied to their organisations.

If you would like to discuss running a workshop, or presenting a keynote, exploring the opportunities that these new ways of thinking open up, or how these models or technologies could be applied in your organisation, please feel free to contact me on 0419 516 655 or at jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au

WEBINAR: To view a complimentary 45 minute webinar on Connecting the Dots click here



Agility is without doubt the management buzz word of the moment. Great Leaders are agile; organisations must reorganise to be agile; your products and services, and how you go to market, must have agility at its core…or so we are all told. ..

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05
Jun
2018

Achieving balance on a Board

There is no doubt that Boards and their governance are headline grabbers at the moment. And for good reason. There’s clearly been failures in some of the bigger organisations. And accountability obviously rests at the feet of the directors in many cases.


However, a big risk in all of these discussions is an overreaction. Not just in terms of regulation, but just as importantly in terms of board focus.


One response could be for nervous boards to disproportionately focus on governance above all other responsibilities. Yes, in some cases governance clearly needs to be tightened, but not to the detriment of a clear focus on looking forward; tackling the big challenges and opportunities that face each and every organisation.


On the boards that I am involved with, and in particular that I have or am currently chairing, I have a 70/20/10 framework.


Our aspiration is to focus discussions 70% on strategy (looking forward), 20% on performance (looking back) and 10% on governance (looking both ways).


Not always easy to do, and urgent challenges can get in the way, but it is a good frame within which directors can think about their role and the value they can truly add.


However, the trick is to firstly ensure that the governance foundation is firm and is regularly reviewed against a changing environment. Culture is key. Having the right systems and processes are important, as well as ensuring they are regularly stress checked.


Similarly, for performance – what are the key metrics being used, and how open and transparent are management in discussing performance issues with the board. Insights around performance obviously are key inputs to the explorations in the strategy space.


Once there are transparent and robust foundations around governance and performance, the board should be able to focus on the most critical area in my opinion – strategy. As a board you need to agree the process and approach you are going to take with management to review, refine and stress test your strategy – today and into the future.





 I find it handy to have a board toolkit – a set of frameworks, tools and models that suit each board in the four areas of strategy, performance and governance. But also, in a fourth – capability. What processes, skills and experiences do the board need to do its job well.


I am happy to share my board toolkit - please feel free to contact me at jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au or on 0419 516 655.


James Atkins 

Vantage Strategy & Marketing

There is no doubt that Boards and their governance are headline grabbers at the moment. And for good reason. There’s clearly been failures in some of the bigger organisations. And accountability obviously rests at the feet of the directors in many cases.  ..

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27
Feb
2018

Mind the Performance Gap

Continuous improvement is critical when it comes to building business and leadership capability.

However investing time building capabilities alone is not enough. What are the high performance habits that successful leaders display over and above capability? How do they connect the two - capabilities and habits - to plug the performance gap and each success?

The recent Mindshop survey of global business leaders explored this very issue. The survey revealed the ‘must have’ capabilities and habits business leaders will need to succeed in 2018. Click here to access a copy of the report.

The report includes a diagnostic for you to rate yourself on the top 10 capabilities and habits. Which three should be your key areas of focus in 2018?

I welcome the opportunity to discuss strategies and learning options with you. Please feel free to contact me to organise a 20 minute discussion about your top 3 priorities.

James Atkins powered by Mindshop

Continuous improvement is critical when it comes to building business and leadership capability.

However investing time building capabilities alone is not enough. What are the high performance habits that successful leaders display over and above capability? How do they connect the two - capabilities and habits - to plug the performance gap and each success?
 ..

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21
Nov
2017

Winning through Resilience

There’s no doubt that to succeed in today’s challenging market requires a great deal of resilience. Personally and organisationally. Strategically and operationally. And, of course, most critically in leadership.

The Vantage Leaders Forum (a group of CEO’s, GM’s and business owners brought together by Vantage Strategy & Marketing) met again in November to explore this topic, and what it means for their teams and for themselves.

The forum kicked off with a focus on organisational orientation; in particular customer centricity. But not just in terms of the normal narrative which just about every business trots out via their values. The group instead explored the whole concept of Customer Success versus Customer Service. Is the organisation set up to engage with customers proactively or reactively? Is the focus around ensuring customers achieve real value from your product or service, or merely ensuring that they are satisfied? The concept has grown from SaaS or subscription based businesses but has a lot of resonance in how we could approach customer management.

Several of the CEO’s reflected that maybe their balance wasn’t quite right; too much time spent on servicing customers and sorting out problems, rather than ensuring that they are achieving ‘success’ in terms of the value they are extracting from the use of the business’s product or service.

We then added to this idea the concept of building emotional connection with customers, and the potential value that could deliver. The HBR article The new science of customer emotions generated a lot of discussion. Especially given the research data indicated that customers who were ‘emotionally connected’ were 52% more valuable (on average across 9 product categories) than those that were merely highly satisfied. 

This of course raised the question as to the customer data businesses are using to drive their customer engagement strategies – satisfaction research, or insights as to how to engage and connect with customers at a deeper level. Not all organisations have the capability to do the sort of in depth research espoused in the HBR article. However, determining how best to uncover the key emotional motivators, and then using those to structure your customer journey and critical touch points, is something in reach of most…and now on the action list for a few of the group. 

The second half of the forum collaborated on what was required to build a strong and tenacious team – a key requirement for organisational resilience. We brainstormed all the key attributes, and then ranked them based on impact, with our final six being…

A good discussion then ensued around where the strengths and weaknesses were for each business, and the strategies they should undertake to close key gaps. 

Additionally, we explored avoiding blind spots when developing strategy, in particular when using scenario planning. We finished the day with an exercise aimed at enabling some personal reflection on how they behave and present to others as leaders.

All up some fantastic and practical collaboration across the group saw a number of new insights and ideas for the business leaders to take away and apply in their businesses.

As one of the participants said afterwards… “today’s workshop, was engaging, insightful and provided thought provoking content as we continue on our transformational journey. The networking was also very valuable!”

The Vantage Leaders Forum will next meet in February 2018 to kick of the first of four workshops for the year. If you would like to know more please contact James Atkins via email on jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au

James Atkins

Vantage Strategy & Marketing......Powered by Mindshop

The Vantage Leaders Forum (a group of CEO’s, GM’s and business owners brought together by Vantage Strategy & Marketing) met again in November to explore this topic, and what it means for their teams and for themselves. ..

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