Get Out of the Building!

We had a chance to see Steve Blank in conversation with a couple of hundred entrepreneurs and their ilk on Friday, at Canada’s Business Model Competition. To be precise, he was chatting by video conference on a giant screen with Drs. Mary Kilfoil and Daniel Boyd, at Halifax’s Rowe School of Business.

It was a wide-ranging chat about all things entrepreneurial, but one of the key messages was the importance of getting out of the building – to talk to customers, of course, but also to just get a fresh perspective, and to look around.

As we’ve done this, we’ve discovered that in our corner of the world, at least, entrepreneurship is the new normal. Maybe it’s because we’re attuned to it, but businesses and business ideas are springing up everywhere. Within an easy walk of our home office we have conference organizers, forestry consultants, big data analytics experts, shopkeepers, software developers, and more. So while the prevailing wind of conversation says our province is on a downward trajectory and may soon implode, we’re sensing otherwise. Times are changing, most certainly, but outside of our building, they’re changing for the better.

So as our moms used to say, “you kids, get outside!” You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.

Megann and Steve

Left…Right…I’m their leader. Which way did they go?

Has the time come to get rid of the Left and Right labels in politics?  Given the recent actions on the part of Nova Scotia’s NDP government…it appears maybe.

To misquote The Who; “and the Party on the left is now the Party on the right.”

It’s supposed to be right-of-centre governments which give grants and tax breaks to private business, but things work differently these days in Nova Scotia.  In recent weeks we have saved a paper mill in Cape Breton,  “stolen” engineering jobs from Calgary, outsourced government IT jobs to IBM, and are now looking at buying back forests from bankrupt Bowater.

And the Irving shipbuilding contract hasn’t even started yet!

Public opinion seems divided as to the benefits of these moves, but it does make for exciting times in the province which, at the time of Confederation, was once the richest corner of the nation.

It’s actually refreshing to see a government sticking their neck out to try and create an atmosphere of sustainable success.  Not all of these scenarios will work out to everyone’s satisfaction, but that’s business!

Here’s to Nova Scotia…land of opportunity!

My Company Wants to Control Customer Research from Global…What Now?

Increasingly often, we hear this complaint from our clients. Suddenly they are being kicked out of the loop when it comes to research projects. Global sources the projects and then fields them in local markets – sometimes without even telling or involving the affiliates. These projects can go through many layers of handling and management before a moderator and respondent(s) sit down in the same room. In a worst case scenario, this can look like a game of broken telephone, with muddied objectives and watered-down results. Yet some of our best clients seem to have learned a few tricks for still getting an optimal result. Here’s what they have shared with us:

  1. The researcher or product team at the local affiliate has built a strong relationship with their counterpart(s) at Global.
  2. They have specifically requested that if moderation is to be outsourced, one of their preferred local suppliers should be considered.
  3. Local researchers take time to get involved with the briefings themselves, so they can contribute home field tips that will make the project go more smoothly.
  4. Global requires that suppliers at the top of the research chain facilitate a dialogue between the local moderator or field service and the home town affiliate.
  5. Field Managers or Project Directors ensure that everyone can reach the right person to answer a question or deal with an issue in the fewest number of steps.

We’ve seen some tremendous results when our clients have taken these steps. First, the local researcher has a chance to shine in front of more senior head office personnel. Secondly, there is often an opportunity to adapt questionnaires and discussion guides to eliminate questions that have been answered, or add probes about specific local issues. Some of our customers have also been able to pay for a local “advance copy” of their report, rather than waiting for multi-country results to be analyzed – allowing for faster decision-making – while keeping the field costs as Global’s line item.

These approaches can allow a result that is “glocal” at its finest – perhaps one of them will work for you! We’re happy to discuss how you can make the most of your research budgets.

Always optimizing,

Megann and Steve

Is the Medium the Message?

Today would have been Marshall McLuhan’s 100th birthday. The Canadian author, academic, and expert on all things communication is perhaps best known for coining the phrase, “the medium is the message”. He saw the arrival of machine printing as having had the equivalent effect of an atomic bomb on language and discourse. He foresaw a world where we would all be interconnected. But most of all, McLuhan saw a world where our devices would define us, almost more so than what we expressed by using those devices.

Was he right? Is your team spending more time talking about how and where to express your message, than the message itself? Are they asking, “Do we have an app for that?” or “Shouldn’t the field force be using tablets instead of documents?” We’d bet these kinds of conversations are taking place in your workplace, just as they are in ours. So it bears repeating that there are some simple rules of thumb that will help make sure your message is an effective one:

  1. Does it clearly differentiate your product or
    service from the competition?
  2. Is the benefit explicitly stated, or can it be
    simply decoded by the customer?
  3. Have you taken time to understand which medium
    is most appealing to your target, to deliver it where and when they need to
    receive it?
  4. What is the action you are calling the consumer
    to take?
  5. Are you sure you’ve let them know how to answer
    that call to action?

Hats off to Marshall McLuhan. We’d like to hope if the medium changes us; it will be for the better.

Express yourself!

Megann and Steve

We’re in a Canadian State of Mind

Canadian SouvenirsAround Panoptika’s place these days, we’re thinking about Canada Day. We make a big deal of our National holiday, uncharacteristically waving the flag (okay, we do that every day), and celebrating with friends and family. We like to listen to the CBC all day. We like to eat strawberry shortcake made in the shape of said flag. The main beverage is beer, although we’ve been known to partake in some wine from Niagara, or BC, or Nova Scotia, depending on where we are, on the day. We’ve spent the day travelling across the country in a hot car because one of our parents has been transferred from one end of the dominion to another. We’ve spent it at a friend’s cottage, lazily paddling around the lake. It nearly always involves a golf course. Or a barbecue party. Or a crazy household project. Or if we’re in Quebec, moving.

 
But this doesn’t just happen at our house. Across the pond, at Brother Rob’s place in Bicester, the annual Canada Day Golf Tournament will be underway. A motley crew of Brits will be thwacking a small white ball around, competing for a carefully curated collection of Canadiana. And this made us realize something. Being Canadian isn’t just about where you are. It’s not even just about who you’re with. This great country of ours is something we celebrate and carry with us, no matter where we travel. People recognize us as Canadians because of our inner Canadian-ness. You might say it’s because wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re in a Canadian state of mind.

Happy Canada Day, one and all,

Megann and Steve

It Never Rains…In Vancouver

It never rains in Vancouver…or so it seems to us!  Whenever we travel to the west coast for work, someone invariably says, “Oh, Vancouver.  Well have a nice time, but don’t forget your umbrellas”.  This, of course, has led to us really keeping tabs on the local meteorological state…and a funny thing has been happening.  Nearly every trip we have had to Vancouver, it has been clear and sunny, occasionally a bit overcast, but very rarely raining.  This includes our July trip, when we arrived in town on the first sunny day after an almost record-breaking run of precipitation. We like to think we’re somehow lucky in this regard, but as we have been pondering our good fortune, it occurred to us, that perhaps it’s just that sunny is an attitude.  As we head to Vancouver, or other destinations, for that matter, we set out with the mindset that all will be well, that the trip will be relatively uneventful, and that clear skies will reign supreme, both literally and figuratively.  You might see this as “Pollyanna-ism”, but we prefer to believe that we’re somehow influencing the positive outcome by embarking with a sort of “right-mindedness”.  Oh, it’s not that nothing ever goes wrong; we encounter glitches from time to time, as anyone might do.  But even when we’re thrown a (generally small) curveball, we approach it with the assumption that things will work out and that a speedy and simple resolution is waiting to present itself. So if you’re heading into a new project with some trepidation, or you’ve just been having “one of those days” (or more of them than you would like), remember, it can be sunny in your Vancouver, as well.  Some points to ponder, as you go on with your day… 

  1. Positive attitude can be a real driver of positive outcomes.
  2. You can “will yourself to happiness”…also known as the “fake-it-til-you-make-it” strategy (so start smiling!)
  3. Don’t let naysayers drag you down.
  4. Believe that things will work out.
  5. Know that for you, too, it can always be sunny in Vancouver.

 Affirmative thoughts, 

Megann & Steve