Market Sales Potential and Profitability


An essential activity in opportunity evaluation is the determination of market sales potential and profitability. Estimating market’s sales potential for offerings is a difficult task even for a seasoned marketing executive. Markets and offerings can be defined in numerous ways that can lead to different estimates of market size and dollar sales potential. For innovative offerings or new markets, marketing analysts must often rely almost entirely on judgment and creativity when estimating market sales potential. Therefore, it is understandable that market sales potential estimates very greatly for high definition television  (HDTV) and hybrid (gasoline and battery powered) automobiles. The underlying technology for both offerings is still evolving as is the physical form. In such dynamic settings, measures for identifying prospective market segments are uncertain.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Advertisements

Corporate Disclosures


Giving stockholders more and better company information is one of the best ways to safeguard their interests. The theory behind the move for greater disclosure of company information is that a stockholder, as an investor, should be as fully informed as possible to make sound investments. By law, stockholders have a right to know about the affairs of the corporation in which they hold ownership shares. Those who attend annual meetings learn about past performance and future goals through speeches made by corporate officers and documents such as the company’s annual report. Those who do not attend meetings must depend primarily on annual reports issued by the company and the opinions of independent financial analysts.

Historically, management has tended to provide stockholders with minimum information. But companies now disclose more about their affairs, in spite of the complicated nature of some information. Stockholders therefore can learn about sales and earnings, assets, capital expenditures and depreciation by line of business, and details of foreign operations.

Corporations also are required to disclose detailed information about directors, how they are chosen, their compensation, conflicts of interest, and their reasons for resigning in policy disputes with management.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Accrual Accounting and Cashflow


Before the end of World War 1 most managers kept track of cash out and cash in. many senior citizen owner-managers still do today. There is an inherent problem in keeping the records that way, however, if the business offers and receives much credit. Doing business on credit displaces the time of the exchange of cash from the exchange of goods and services. Sometimes very little cash comes in during a particular month and very much cash comes in during other months. The same is true of cash out.

Keeping in track of what you pay or get paid for credit transactions causes the monthly reports describing the operations to fluctuate from month to month even though the goods and services flowing in and out of the business may be very much the same. About 1920 the accounting profession began placing emphasis on the accrual method of accounting to overcome this difficulty.

The accrual method portrays the smoothed-out profit as if all the transactions had been for cash and as if the business had purchased only exactly what was needed to make the sale. It is not an accurate portrayal of everything going on in the business, but it is a good approximation of the net effect of those things that affect profit. The problem is that so much emphasis has been placed on the accrual method income statement and balance sheet that the importance of cash has been regulated to virtual obscurity.

Even this result is satisfactory when the reports are describing large businesses with access to external financing through the stock market, commercial paper, and bank loans at the prime interest rate. But companies that do not have access to these external sources of financing have a different problem. For them, the flow of cash through the business means life or death, whether the accrual based profit is great or terrible. When new or small businesses need cash they must turn to the bank, the banker will look to the personal savings and assets of the owner-manager for collateral.

Accountants have not forgotten nor overlooked the importance of cash. They recognize the need for cash in sufficient quantity to keep the business operating. For their purposes, however, they often infer the cash available to the business from the income statements and describe future cash availability with the balance sheets. They, and others, frequently describe it as: cash flow equals net profit after taxes plus depreciation and other noncash expenses, such as amortization.

This statement is incorrect except under some very stringent preconditions that rarely exist in practice for a small business. This statement is an approximation that is valid for large and stable businesses in which changes from year to year are small and the statements from which the cash flow is inferred are annual reports. For a small and new business looking at monthly financial reports this approximation is inadequate. In a small, growing business the net cash flow to the firm’s bank account does not equal the net profit plus depreciation. Profit is not cash nor is it cash flow.

Although this pronouncement may be unconventional, entrepreneurs are realistic. Successful entrepreneurs ask how it really works and then get on with building their business. In the conventional approach the analysts, having inferred cash flow from profit, depreciation, and amortization, stop there, allowing their readers to assume that the resulting cash is in the bank wiating to be spent.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Why Salespeople Sell?


The complexity and competitiveness of most industrial sales jobs makes successful performance a daunting challenge for even the most well-managed sales force. This challenges sales managers to recruit and select the best qualified salespeople, train and supervise them well, keep them highly motivated, and focus their efforts with appropriate sales strategies and account management policies. Unfortunately, the challenge of recruiting talented new salespeople is made an even thornier problem for many firms.

 For most industrial salespeople, it is precisely the complexity and challenge of their jobs that motivates them and makes them satisfied with their choice of careers. A number of satisfaction surveys over the years have found high levels of job satisfaction among industrial salespeople across a broad cross section of firms and industries.  While these surveys did find some areas of dissatisfaction, that unhappiness tended to focus on the policies and actions of the sales person’s firm or sales manager, not on the nature of the job itself.

 Why are so many industrial salespeople so satisfied with their jobs? Different analysts have offered a variety of answers to this question. Some attractive aspects of selling careers most commonly mention by these authors—as well as by sales people themselves—include 1) freedom of action and opportunities for personal initiative, 2) a variety of challenging activities, 3) financial rewards, 4) favorable working conditions, and 5) good opportunities for career development and achievement.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Knowledge Engineering


In the traditional approach to systems design, a system analyst, together with the ultimate end-users, or clients, for the project, will complete a functional specification of the system. At that point, the project is essentially in the hands of professional project management and programming staff, because that group possesses the knowledge and skill required to deliver the agreed upon features and functions. In the development of knowledge systems, this is simply not the case. Following the specification of function, a new problem arises. This is because it is not an algorithm that is being developed but knowledge that is being encoded for machine use.

 

The immediate problem is that traditional applications developers do not have sufficient knowledge of the applications area to complete the project from the starting point of a functional specification. This information generally exists in a variety of forms, depending on the application area. In some cases an individual or group of individuals may uniquely possess the relevant knowledge. In other cases, the knowledge may exist in the form of published materials like manuals or textbooks. In still other cases, the knowledge does not presently exist at all, and must be created and developed along with the system itself. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. Further compounding this problem is a critical factor: Regardless of the form in which the knowledge currently exists, it is not in a form that is ready for use by a knowledge system. Someone must decide what knowledge is relevant and desirable for inclusion, acquire the knowledge, and represent it in a form suitable for a knowledge system to apply. In all but trivial applications the task of representing the knowledge requires not only coding individual “chunks” of knowledge, but also organizing and structuring these individual components.

 

Historically, owing to the remoteness and enigmatic quality of artificial intelligence technologies, the person doing the actual systems development and the “expert,” or source of knowledge, were not the same. The availability of tools, in place of enigmatic technologies, has had an impact on reducing this problem. Even if one can imagine the case in which the “expert” whose knowledge is to be modeled is also an “expert” with the use of artificial intelligence development tools, there still remains a sizable problem.

 

In case where knowledge resides with some practitioner or expert, it does not exist explicitly as a series of IF …THEN rules, ready to be encoded. Most practitioners and experts find it difficult to explain explicitly what they are doing while solving problems. They are not cognizant of the underlying rules they are applying. Their expertise has been developed from numerous experiences and involves highly developed pattern recognition skills and heuristics.

 

In the case where the knowledge to be included is contained in text material like manuals, regulations, procedures, and the like, the information is still not in a form ready for inclusion in an expert system. It must be remembered that one of the most often cited advantages of expert systems is that they make explicit the knowledge that is most often implicit and unavailable for review, evaluation, dissemination, and modification. The task of making knowledge both explicit and available for systems application is that of knowledge engineering. Most literature on the development and application of knowledge systems has identified the need for individuals skilled in knowledge engineering as a critical factor to widespread use of technology.

 

Knowledge engineering involves acquiring, representing, and coding knowledge. The representation and coding aspects of systems development have been greatly impacted by these newly available tools. The speed with which prototyping can be accomplished has also helped reduce some of the difficulty in acquiring or refining knowledge. The knowledge engineer now finds it much less costly in time and effort to represent, code, and test early approaches to systems development, providing a more efficient feedback loop. This feedback loop is critical in the development of knowledge systems. The end-user/client for the project is, by nature, going to be much more involved in the systems design process. The “programmer” often is incapable of deciding if the system is behaving properly, owing to a lack of fundamental knowledge about the application area. This is simply not as strong a factor, where the programmer is capable of evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of algorithms. When the product is actionable knowledge rather than algorithms, the ability to evaluate project progress shifts to the end-user/client. This creates the increased emphasis on the feedback loop.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Closed-loop Teams


For years, banks have taken several days, and even weeks and sometimes months to get a decision to a personal loan applicant. The application would be passed around the various departments, traveling at its own pace. A series of supervisors, clerks, and internal mailpeople handled it. Today, aggressive banks take the application directly into a focused, coordinated group—a credit analyst, a collateral appraiser, and a senior personal banker—who decide and respond to the customer sometimes in thirty minutes and always inside a day. This is a small closed-loop team.

 

A closed-loop team includes everyone who is necessary to make the deliverable flow. The team includes all the needed functional people and decision-makers and is self-scheduling. Everyone the team is working for the same objective—to provide the deliverable on time. The team is empowered to make decisions and to act. It has all functions inside it with short lines of communication. Its leader is responsible for its overall performance and for seeing that it gets all the capability, both technicall and human, it needs. All of these are essential to flexibility.

 

The old bank loan approval process was open loop. There was no continuity in the process, no visible standard, little learning between the principles, only occasional feedback on the process, and no one responsible for making it better.

 

In order for the loop to close on a process it must be tightly organized around the deliverable; the same core group must be involved in the process every day; and there must be a working leader on the team.

 

Small teams work better than large ones because large groups create communication problems of their own. It’s best to include only essential functions and to exclude people whose job is peripheral to the deliverable. For example, the bank loan team excludes accounting and records people. Teams have to be self-managing and empowered to act because referring decisions back up the line wastes time and often leads to poor decisions. So the team ioncludes a bank officer because if the officer were not on the team, he or she would be prone to second-guess the group’s decisions. Its better if all the questions are asked and answers are exchanged just once.

 

Closd-loop teams handle variety better than open-loop teams because they can create new information and flexibility.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Avoiding Pitfalls in Case Analysis


Herebelow is the guide for evaluating analysis of cases:

1)      Inadequate definition of the problem. By far the most common error made in case analysis is attempting to recommend courses of action without first adequately defining or understanding the core problems. Whether presented orally or in a written report, a case analysis must begin with a focus on the central issues and problems represented in the case situation. Closely related is the error of analyzing symptoms without determining the root problem.

2)      To search for the “answer.” In case analysis, there are usually no clear-cut solutions. Keep in mind that the objective of case studies is learning through discussion and exploration. There is usually no one “official” or “correct” answer to a case. Rather, there are usually several reasonable alternative solutions.

3)      Not enough information. Analysts often complain there is not enough information in some cases to make a good decision. However, there is justification for not presenting all of the information in a case. As in real life, a marketing manager or consultant seldom has all the information necessary to make an optimal decision. This, reasonable assumptions have to be made, and the challenge is to find intelligent solutions in spite of the limited information.

4)      Use of generalities. In analyzing cases, specific recommendations are necessarily not generalities.

5)      A different situation. Considerable time and effort are sometimes exerted by analysts considering that “If the situation were different, I’d know what course of action to take” or “If the marketing manager hadn’t already found things up so badly, the firm wouldn’t have a problem.” Such reasoning ignores the fact that the events in the case have already happened and cannot be changed. Even though analysis or criticism of past events is necessary in diagnosing the problem, in the end, the present situation must be addressed and decisions must be made based on the given situations.

6)      Narrow vision analysis. Although cases are often labeled as a specific type of case, such as “pricing,” “product,” and so forth, this does not mean that other marketing variables should be ignored. Too often analysts ignore the effects that a change in one marketing element will have on the others.

7)      Realism. Too often analysts become so focused on solving a particular problem that their solutions become totally unrealistic.

8)      The marketing research solution. A quite common but unsatisfactory solution to case problem is marketing research. The firm should do this or that type of marketing research to find a solution to its problem. Although marketing research may be helpful as an intermediary step in some cases, marketing research does not solve problems or make decisions. In cases where marketing research does not solve problems or make decisions. In cases where marketing research is recommended, the cost and potential benefits should be fully specified in the case analysis.

9)      Rehashing the case material. Analysts sometimes spend considerable effort rewriting a two- or three-page history of the firm. This is unnecessary since the instructor and other analysis are already familiar with this information.

10)  Premature conclusions. Analysts sometimes jump to premature conclusions instead of waiting until their analysis is completed. Too many analysts jump to conclusions upon first reading the case and then proceed to interpret everything in the case as justifying their conclusions, even factors logically against it.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight