Primary Research Data


Primary data consists of data that is obtained directly from the source. It is generally captured through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or other direct interactions with individuals. The use of primary data has increased dramatically over the past few years, and with the advent of bar code scanners, home shopping, interactive television, and other electronic media, the number of channels through which primary data can be collected will increase exponentially.

Primary data consists of two major types:

  • Individual level demographic data such as age, income, and home value.
  • Attitudinal and behavioral data.

In the past, primary data was often the province of market research, and was used primarily to provide direction for marketing programs that addressed large groups of customers and prospects. Demographic data was used to get a better “fix” on the characteristics of the larger market, and attitudinal data was used to provide a sense of which issues were important to various groups of customers, and therefore should be emphasized in promotional materials.

Market researchers use primarily data to identify new product opportunities or new segments within the customer file. This is usually done by sending surveys to a representative sample of customers or prospects to determine what products and services they are interested in but do not currently purchase from the firm sending the questionnaire. In this way, primary data gathered through market research surveys can lead to the development of products that are either new to the firm or, in some cases, new to the industry.

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.

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The New Work of Leaders


Our traditional view of leaders—as special people who set the direction, make key decisions, and energize the troops—is deeply rooted in an individualistic and nonsystematic worldview. Especially in the West, leaders are heroes—great men (and occasionally women) who rise to the fore in times of crisis. So long as such myths prevail, they reinforce a focus on short-term events and charismatic heroes rather than on systematic forces and collective learning.

Leadership in learning organizations centers on subtler and ultimately more important work. In a learning organization, leaders’ roles differ dramatically from that of the charismatic decision-maker. Leaders are designers, teachers, and stewards. These roles require new skills: the ability to build shared vision, to bring to the surface and challenge prevailing mental models, and to foster more systematic patterns of thinking. Leaders are responsible for building organizations where people are continually expanding their capabilities to shape their future—that is, leaders are responsible for learning.

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.

Deficit Budget


If you do not earn enough to cover your expenses and show some profit, then you have to consider what to do about it. There are four possibilities:

  1. You can raise your rates, something that, ironically, freelancers seem most reluctant to do, it is the first thing most business owners would think of doing in such a situation, if they possibly could.
  2. You can increase your workload. This is feasible in some fields and not in others. Most editors, for example, cannot learn to edit any faster, and their income is limited by how much they can physically accomplish. On the other hand, you may subcontract, that is, hire someone to work for you and take part of his or her earnings. This works especially well if you can find someone to train who wants to learn you trade. You can also often subcontract with colleagues when they are in slow periods.
  3. You can expand into related kinds of work that pay better or that you can do faster. One editor, learned to do indexing. Fewer people have indexing skills compared to the number who copy-edit, and the hourly rate for indexing is higher than for copy-editing and proofreading.
  4. Finally, you can reduce your expectations. While freelancers can do and earn a healthy living, free-lancing will probably not make you rich. As a general rule, unless rare luck strikes, or you are willing to expand through subcontracting or finding new and more lucrative areas in which to work, your income will probably not soar dramatically. On the other hand, it should rise steadily, and it must keep pace with inflation.

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.

Realigning the Organization


Organization or reorganization schemes have been proposed ad nauseam as solutions to many business problems. As a general rule, organizational changes, especially those that simply reshuffle the same names into different boxes on the organization chart, don’t improve anything. This does not mean suggesting some new organization approach that is better suited for these turbulent times. However, many organizations are too top-heavy, over-structured, and over-satisfied to be responsive to market needs and too costly to be competitive. The structure and staffing of any organization must be rigorously challenged to ensure it is really geared to accomplish the fundamental objectives of the business in as cost-effective a manner as possible. An honest evaluation of the answers to the following critical questions will provide a good function for action.

a)        Is the organization structured to serve markets or simply to manage functions and sell products? Have priority markets been identified? Does someone have primary responsibility for ensuring that the product/service package is tailored to each target market? Do mechanisms exist to ensure cross-markets? Is there any kind of a market focus in the selling organization?

b)        Are there enough discrete profit centers? Do enough managers feel the burden of full profit responsibility? Is the business unit larger than its most successful smaller competitors? Are there any big cost centers that are not assigned or allocated to someone who has a profit and loss responsibility?

c)        Are there corporate group or division staff redundancies? Do the same titles exist at different levels (e.g., corporate controller, group controller, division controller, plant controller)? If so, does it make sense? Can staff position or groups show how they actively contribute to profit results? If so, do line managers agree that these functions are worth the cost?

d)        Are there too many layers? Are there more than five layers between the business unit manager and first level workers? Are there managers with assignments limited to managing one, two, three or four people? Why? Can any of these activities be combined under one manager? Why not?

e)        Is the ratio of supporters to actual results producers satisfactory? How many people actually make a direct contribution to results (e.g., first-line sales personnel, direct hourly workers, sales order engineering and order entry workers, handlers of incoming materials, and storing and shipping personnel)? How many managers, staff, and support personnel are cheering them on? If there is more than one support person for every two producers, what do they do? How do they contribute to profits?

The questions are not new, but the answers are more important now than ever. Traditional or experience-based answers are probably wrong because conditions have changed so dramatically. Moreover, it is doubtful whether existing management can or will ever come up with the right answers, because they have vested interests and the changes needed are simply too tough for them to swallow. These organization structure questions are not as serious for many small to medium-size companies since they are not as likely to be troubled with highly structured, functionally focused organizations lacking a dedicated market orientation. However, even managers in these companies must constantly fight the natural tendency to become more structured, bureaucratic, and lethargic.

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

Facing the Harsh Facts


Many companies that have lost profits or market share have managers who are still waiting patiently for their business to “get back to normal.” Others are looking for government help for their declining market and profit positions. Neither of these approaches is a viable situation. What is needed is less wishful thinking and rhetoric and greater willingness to squarely face the true facts about their markets and competitive positions. The demand changes that have occurred in many markets are structural, not cyclical, and it is unrealistic to expect any kind of a dramatic recovery or turnaround that will restore demand to former levels.

It is extremely difficult for managers who have built their entire careers around specific products and technology to accept the fact that their former business base has now leveled out from prior peaks, or worse yet, become obsolete or irretrievably lost to new competitors or technology. Obviously, many old-line steel managers could not imagine today’s world of aluminum cans, plastic auto parts and bodies, or Japanese, Korean, and small regional producers who constantly “beat their pants off.” Nor could managers in the high flying semiconductor business foresee the situation where their markets have not only ceased to gallop ahead, but decline dramatically, and where foreign sources, including Brazil, Korea, and Taiwan, have captured the bulk of the remaining business. Unfortunately, these are the facts, and an equally discouraging set of forces applies in many other markets.

It is understandable that managers who have grown up and lived through the growth years in any of these industries find today’s conditions difficult to accept. But they must change their myopic or unrealistic views of their business so they can tackle the hard work required to regain a profitable competitive footing. Otherwise, their situations will not improve and will most likely deteriorate further.

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

Facing up to Deficiencies


Many companies fail to objectively evaluate their products against competitive offerings in a rigorous manner. If they do go through some kind of an evaluation process, it is often superficial or biased, leading to a continuation of “business as usual” rather than dramatic cost or performance improvements. In some cases, management is not presented with the real facts because it is easier not to “rock the boat.” In other cases, management may see the facts but not accept or face them squarely, since it is not easy to admit that a product is no longer competitive. As a result, a surprising number of companies continue to try to get by with products that are not competitive and they fail to make the fundamental, essential changes in design or cost.

There are two important points that successful companies always follow. First, it is essential to ensure that products are designed for efficient manufacturing and assembly. Second, “me too” parity is never a solid basis for gaining or regaining position. Technical programs should always be designed to leapfrog the competition rather than play “catch up” against moving competitive targets.

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

Business Marketing Management


Many large firms that produce goods such as steel, production equipment, or computer-memory chips cater exclusively to business market consumers and never directly interact with their ultimate consumers. Other firms participate in both the consumer goods and the business markets. The introduction of laser printers and personal computers brought Hewlett-Packard, historically a business-to-business marketer, into the consumer market. Conversely, lagging consumer markets prompted Sony Corporation to expand to the business market by introducing office automation products. Both companies had to reorient their marketing strategies dramatically because of the significant differences between the buying behavior exhibited in the consumer versus the business markets.

 Products like cellular phones, office furniture, personal computers, and software are purchased in both the consumer and the business markets. What distinguishes business marketing from consumer goods marketing is the intended use of the product as we all intended consumer. Sometimes the products are identical, but a fundamentally different marketing approach is needed to reach the organizational buyer.

 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

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