Direct Response


You should, if at all possible, engage in direct marketing. The value to you is enormous. You get to pinpoint your prospects with amazing accuracy. You can be selective in regard to age, race, sex, occupation, buying habits, money spent on past direct mail purchases, education, special interests, family composition, religion, marital status, and geographic location. The list should naturally start with your own customers. From there you can expand it to include people who have recently moved into your area, and people who have recently been married or divorced, or become parents. You can eliminate people who have moved away.

You might engage in a simple direct mailing of postcards to customers, informing them of a sale you will have the next week. They will very much appreciate the early notification and will show their gratitude by purchasing from you. You might also engage a full scale direct mailing, consisting of an outer envelop, a direct mail letter, a brochure, an order form, a postpaid return envelop, and even more.

Whatever you do, the process begins when you decide exactly what it is you wish to offer. How will you structure that offer? Then you must select your mailing list. If you haven’t got the names already, you can purchase them from a list broker. Be sure, you buy a clean, fresh list. You must be certain that you know all  the costs involved: postage printing, writing the mailing, artwork, paper, personalization (individualizing each letter by name and address, and repeat mailing costs. Your gross sales, minus these costs and your production, handling, and shipping costs, will contribute your profits. Be sure you make financial projections and know your break-even point.

In the old days, a direct mail campaign meant a letter. Today it means a letter, two, three or five follow-up letters, perhaps a follow-up phone call or two, and finally, one more direct mail letter. Many entrepreneurs engage in weekly or monthly direct mailings.

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.

 

High Stress Level


A small business is likely to provide a living for its owner, but not much more. There are always worries about competition, employee problems, new equipment, expanding inventory, rent increases, or changing market demand. In addition to other stresses, small business owners tend to be victims of physical and psychological stress. The small business person is often the owner, manager, sales force, shipping and receiving clerk, bookkeeper, and custodian. Many creative persons succeed or fail, not because of their business concepts, but rather because of difficulties in managing their business.

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.

Customer Orientation


  • Do you know the objectives of your customers (and their customers)?
  • Is your service offer designed with the customer in mind?
  • Are your internal systems (ordering, billing, shipping, computers, financial, etc.), geared toward how the customers prefer doing business with you?
  • Do you constantly measure customer satisfaction?
  • Do you continually meet with your customers to determine their needs today and tomorrow?
  • How is value created, delivered, monitored, and maximized in your organization?

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

Inspect Products at the Right Time


Inspections used to be left until the later stages of the process – often just before the finished products were delivered to customers. As there was more chance of a product being faulty by the end of the process, all defects could be found in one big, final inspection. But the longer a unit is in a process, the more time and money is spent on it – so it makes sense to find faults as early as possible before any more money is wasted by working on a defective unit. It is better for a baker to find bad eggs when they arrive at the bakery, rather than use the eggs and then scrap the finished cakes.

Your first quality control inspections should come at the beginning of the process, testing materials as they arrive from suppliers – and there is a strong case for inspections within suppliers’ own operations. Then you should have inspections all the way through the process to the completion of the final product and its delivery to customers. Some particularly important places for insperctions are:

  • On raw materials when they arrive;
  • At regular intervals during the process;
  • Before high-cost operations;
  • Before irreversible operations, like firing pottery;
  • Before operations that might hide defects, like painting;
  • When production is complete;
  • Before shipping to customers.

This may seem like a lot of inspections, but remember that most of them are done by people working on the process. Quality at source means that the products are not taken away for testing in some remote laboratory, but are checked at each step before being passed on the next step.

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

Linear Programming


Linear programming is a mathematical method used to solve resource allocation problems, which arise “whenever there are a number of activities to be performed, but limitations on either the amount of resources or the way they can be spent.” For example, it can be used to determine the best way to:

  • Distribute merchandise from a number of warehouses to a number of customers;
  • Assign personnel to various jobs;
  • Design shipping schedules;
  • Select the product mix in a factory to make the best use of machine and labor hours available while maximizing the firm’s profit;
  • Route production to optimize the use of machinery.

In order for managers to apply linear programming successfully, the problem must meet certain basic requirements: There must be a stated, quantifiable goal, such as “minimize total shipping costs”; the resources to be utilized must be known (a firm could produce 200 of one item and 300 of another, for instance, or 400 of one or 100 of another); all the necessary relationships must be expressed in the form of mathematical equations or inequalities; and all these relationships must be linear in nature.

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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