Feb 21

Success Tips to Time Management: Work smarter

Over the course of your career and personal life, you could have taken a time management class, read about it in books, and tried to use an electronic or paper-based day planner to organize, prioritize and schedule your day. “While, with this knowledge and these gadgets,” you may ask, “do I still feel like I cannot get everything I need done?” It is at this point that you need to understand what time management means, but before you even think about time management, you need to understand what the word time means.

“Time” simply refers to the period when a particular thing happens. There are two types of time: clock time and real time.

Having known the two types of time, you may still ask yourself the kind of time in which you live. The good news for you is that real time is ideal. It is mental, you can create it bearing in mind that anything you create, you can manage.

Much like money, time is both valuable and limited: it must be protected, used wisely, and budgeted for. People who practice good time management techniques often find that they:

  • Are more productive
  • Have more energy for things they need to accomplish,
  • Feel less stressed,
  • Are able to do the things they want,
  • Get more things done and
  • Relate more positively to others

Finding time management success tips that work best for you depends on your personality, ability to self-motivate and level of self-discipline. By incorporating some, or all of the tips below, you can more effectively manage your time.

1. Set priorities

You could be that person that is very well organized and works hard, yet spend all your time on unimportant tasks. If you are this person, then you could be efficient but not effective. To be effective, you need to decide on what tasks are urgent and important and to focus on them. This is called prioritizing. Completing the most important tasks first is the golden rule of time management. Each morning, it is important that you consider at least two or three tasks that are most crucial and begin with those. One of the easiest ways to prioritize is to make a “to do” list. Whether you need a daily, weekly or monthly list depends on your lifestyle. Just be careful not to allow the list-making to get out of control and do not keep multiple lists at the same time. Rank the items on your “to do” list in order of priority (both important and urgent). Having a prioritized “to do” list allows you to say “no” to activities that may be interesting or provide a sense of achievement but do not fit your basic priorities.

2. Get organized

Most people find that disorganization results into poor time management. Professional organizers recommend that you first get rid of the clutter. This can be done in a commonly used method of separating all your activities into 3 categories that is: keep, give away and toss. It is important that you throw away all the items in the toss category. The items in the giveaway category are usually those that you would want to delegate, discontinue and offer or even sell to someone. It I also important that you find a way of eliminating these items one by one.

 3. Schedule time appropriately

Even the busiest people find time for what they want to do and feel is important. Scheduling is not just recording what you have to do (e.g., meetings and appointments), it is also making a time commitment to the things you want to do. Good scheduling requires that you know yourself. Using your time log, you should have determined those times during the day when you are most productive and alert. Plan your most challenging tasks for when you have the most energy. Block out time for your high priority activities first and protect that time from interruptions

4. Delegate

Delegation means assigning responsibility for a task to someone else, freeing up some of your time for tasks that require your expertise. This begins by identifying tasks that others can do and then selecting the appropriate person(s) to do them. You need to select someone with the appropriate skills, experience, interest, and authority needed to accomplish the task. Delegating helps you takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

 5. Avoid multitasking

If you are multi-tasking so much that you are just not getting anything done, then is important that you focus on just one key task at one time. Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Recent studies show that multitasking does not save any time. In fact, the opposite is true. There is always a lot of time wastage in switching from one task to another thus less productivity. Daily multitasking leads to less concentration and loss of focus when needed

6. Stay healthy

It is very important for one to know that the care and attention you give to yourself is an important life investment. Scheduling time to relax can help you rejuvenate both physically and mentally, enabling you to accomplish tasks more quickly and easily.

You may feel you are working too much and maybe planning to head for a burnout and have lost your enthusiasm and creativity. It is time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around “not having enough time,” or today not being “the right time” to start a business or manage your current business properly. Poor time management can result in fatigue, moodiness, and more frequent illness. To reduce stress, you should reward yourself for a time management success. Take time to recognize that you have accomplished a major task or challenge before moving on to the next activity.

By Mackline Ampurira

MACKLINE_22

Mackline  joined BLEGSCOPE Team as an Intern and is now a Management Consultant Trainee. She previously worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Health in conjunction with (USAID) Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Team as a Research Assistant. She has interest in Marketing, Management and Human Resources. You can follow her on Twitter >>@mackampurira

 

Feb 14

5 things you and your CEO are expected to know about digital technology

A few years ago, while I worked in a leading business and management consultancy firm, I became a huge fan of Management Guru – Peter Drucker. In one of his books called “Innovation & Entrepreneurship’, he articulated that the future is happening now and if you do not believe it, look around for yourself and see how many so-called traditional things are being challenged on a daily basis by new innovations.

One of these so-called traditional things being tested is the business marketing model. In a previous article on this blog, we learnt that marketing refers to everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them. Even the small tasks like writing thank-you letters, playing golf with a prospective client, returning calls promptly and meeting with a past client for coffee can be thought of as marketing.

So the question to ponder over then becomes, with this increasing advancement in technology, is #InYourFace marketing still going to be as effective as it used to be?

At BLEGSCOPE, we have learned/learnt to embrace innovation whether it is generated internally or is comes from an external source as long as it seeks to improve efficiency and the way we relate with our staff and clients. In our quest to improve our outreach, we stumbled upon digital marketing and as mentioned earlier by Peter Drucker, the future is indeed happening now.

Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing efforts. Various institutions whether commercial businesses, governments and non-profits) leverage digital channels such as Google search, social media, email, and their websites to connect with their current and prospective customers and stakeholders. Whereas in the early 2000s, marketing was clearly done and seen to be done on billboards and print media particularly in hard copy, there has been a strong shift in having a lot or marketing being done online. If you had not noticed, technology has allowed you to communicate faster and more affordably across the entire globe and this has led to a lot of shared information and lessons from different economies on how they can make strides in business.

The reality is, people spend twice as much time online as they used to 15 to 20 years ago. And while we say it a lot, the way people shop and buy really has changed, meaning offline marketing isn’t as effective as it used to be. Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time. Today, that means that you need to meet them where they are already spending time: on the internet.

Digital marketing is the promotion of products or brands via one or more forms of electronic media and differs from traditional marketing in that it involves the use of channels and methods that enable an organization to analyze marketing campaigns and understand what is working and what isn’t – typically in real time. Digital marketers monitor things like what is being viewed, how often and for how long, sales conversions, what content works and doesn’t work, etc. While the Internet is, perhaps, the channel most closely associated with digital marketing, others include wireless text messaging, mobile instant messaging, mobile apps, podcasts, electronic billboards, digital television and radio channels, etc.

Digitization is rewriting the rules of competition, with incumbent companies most at risk of being left behind. Here are 5 critical things you and your CEO are expected to know in order to compete in the era of digital marketing;

The digital technologies underlying these competitive thrusts may not be new, but they are being used to new effect. Smart mobile devices make that information and computing power accessible to users around the world.

Digital capabilities increasingly will determine which companies create or lose value.

ONE> New pressure on prices as many platforms are extremely affordable

Digital technologies create near-perfect transparency, making it easy to compare prices, service levels, and product performance. This dynamic can commoditize products and services as consumers demand comparable features and simple interactions.

TWO> Communication is all the time and is borderless

Digital media is so widespread that consumers (and your competition) have access to information any time and any place they want it. Gone are the days when the messages people got about your products or services came from you and consisted of only what you wanted them to know. People want brands they can trust, companies that know them, communications that are personalized and relevant, and offers tailored to their needs and preferences.

THREE> the war for talent is ever more present

In the digital space, software replaces labour. Now the focus shifts from extremely talented specialists to having digital analytical skills. A key challenge for senior managers and business leaders will be sensitively reallocating the savings from automation to the talent needed to forge digital businesses. One local company, for example, is simultaneously planning to cut a large employee base and instead add to its digital business. Moves like these, will have significant social repercussions, elevating the opportunities and challenges associated with digital advances to a public-policy issue, not just a strategic-business one.

FOUR> Converging global supply and demand

Digital technologies know no borders, and the customer’s demand for a unified experience is raising pressure on global companies to standardize offerings. They have come to expect payment systems that work across borders, global distribution, and a uniform customer experience.

FIVE> Business models are changing at alarming speeds

Finally, digitization is creating online platforms that bring efficiency and speed to production and cross-border exchanges. Thriving e-commerce platforms allow greater and faster flows of goods and services to new markets and help smaller players participate in expanding global trade. It is now certain that in the financial eco-system, of the numerous end-to-end processes in banks (e.g. opening an account or getting a small loan), more than 65% have been fully automated; just look at MTN’s Mobile Money lending platform MoKash which has a credit evaluation process that lasts all of 4 minutes. Diagnostics are being done at the speed of light thanks to the ability to scan and store massive amounts of extensive research and customer data.

Regardless of your role/position at your organisation, it is important to keep in mind that digitization is a moving target. The emergent nature of digital forces means that harnessing them is a journey, not a destination and thus a rare opportunity to reposition your company for a new era of competition and growth.

The marketing game is changing, and it is pulling businesses along with it. From the need to automate and take a data-driven approach, to relying on consumers for brand awareness, businesses are faced with the stark choice of evolving or being disrupted. The new face of marketing is a harsh but rewarding place where only the nimble survive only and only if you continue adding value.

By Edmund Kamugisha

Edmund Kamugisha Edmund is the Engagement Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 10+ years of   management consultancy experience notably in MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter: @edmokmg

Feb 13

Role of the Board of Directors- Business Tip

Different business executives and scholars have different on views about the roles and responsibilities of a board of directors (BOD). However, most of them have a lot in common. In simple terms, a BOD is a group of people legally charged with the responsibility to govern a corporation. In a for-profit corporation, a BOD is a group of individuals that are elected as, or elected to act as, representatives of the shareholders to establish corporate management related to making major or strategic decisions on company issues and control in terms of policies. In a nonprofit corporation, the BOD reports to stakeholders, particularly the local communities which the nonprofit serves. Here below, we share with you the 5 most important reasons why you need a BOD.

1. Nurtures Independence and Accountability

Boards are (or at least are expected to be) independent, act only in the interest of the organisation, free from conflicting interests that can compromise their judgment and be able to take a solid stand in times of difficulty. From a legal perspective, directors have a dual mandate of advisory and oversight. They are collectively or in rare cases even individually accountable for your company’s performance, compliance and risk mitigation strategies.

2. Development Strategic Direction

BODs have the utmost responsibility of establishing the organisations’ strategy. The level of involvement of the Board however may vary depending on the size of organisations. Rather than just being a “rubber-stamp”, engaged Boards take a lead role in devising Corporate Strategies, ensuring that the company and all its departments are aligned towards its Strategic goals and organisational capacity at the same time monitoring proper implementation and execution of these Strategic Plans.

3. Enhances Credibility and Legitimacy

An effective BOD depicts integrity and availability of balanced objective advice which minimises or eliminates risk. Funders, financiers, Investors and other partners view it favorably, which effectively lowers the cost of capital financing for organisations. Customers, employees and vendors view it as a safeguard of their interests. The vital safety of interests of various stakeholders of an organisation due to the existence of BODs further enhances the credibility of the business.

4. Supports Effective Corporate Governance

An organisations’ Corporate Governance structure is critical for its successes. Corporate governance is the system of rules, practices and processes by which a company is directed and controlled. Corporate governance essentially involves balancing the interests of a company’s many stakeholders, such as shareholders, management, customers, suppliers, financiers, government and the community. They are guidelines as to how your company can fulfill their goals to enhance value.

5.  Attracts Skills and Expertise

Many organisation (especially small ones) may not have all the skills competencies and experiences needed to operate effectively and continuously in an ever-changing environment. A BOD helps the senior leadership to step back from the daily operational grinds and focus strategically on its business. Directors bring expertise from Strategy, Human Resources, Operations, Finance, Legal, Marketing, ICT and specialised industry related skills are almost always sought after. Other directors can bring along business contacts and networks, especially relevant for start-ups and high-growth companies. BODs also stand to gain when they have Gender, Demographic and Cultural Diversity.

By Brian Ahabwe Kakuru

Brian is the Managing Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 12+ years of management consultancy experience notably in the finance & banking industry, MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter >> @BrianAhabweK

Feb 07

The 6 step guide to developing a marketing plan for your business

In our previous article “how a well-developed marketing plan simplifies your everyday marketing job”, we defined what marketing is and its importance in the day to day growing of your business. Today we share with you the guide that could help you develop an effective marketing plan for your business.

Marketing can take many forms and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts depends on an integrated approach. Remember, your written plan is only as good as the thought and planning that you put into it. Therefore, you should see the development of your marketing plan as an opportunity to gain an in –depth understanding of your customer so that all future decisions are based on the profitable provision of what your customer wants. It is important that your marketing plan is customer-driven rather than promotion-led. In other words, you need to get to know your customers first and then plan how you can best deliver what they need.

There are many different approaches to building a marketing plan. There is no single common approach, but there are essential elements which every marketing plan must have.

Originally created in the 1990s by writer and speaker PR Smith, the SOSTAC framework has built an authoritative reputation as the framework of choice for different scales of business including multinational and startup organisations across the world. SOSTAC is a widely used tool for marketing and business planning that is rated among the top marketing models. SOSTAC literally stands for the following: Situational analysis, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Actions and Control, and this is how you can apply them to develop an effective marketing plan:

1. Situational analysis: This gives an overview of your organisation that is; who you are and the kind of products or services you offer. There are various numerous potential customers in most markets, for your business to succeed faster and better, you must study the market broadly and determine the behavior of its best target customers, but before you can do all this and set out your objectives for the year(s) ahead, you need to find out what is happening in the market place and how fit your business is to meet the challenges for the year(s) ahead. This helps you to answer the key question: “where are we now?” and to answer that question you need to research the key trends in your sector, find out how you perform relative to your competition in the eyes of the consumer and you need to figure out what your key strengths and weaknesses are. This will help you to do a good SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.

2. Objectives. “Your marketing objectives are a clear expression of what your business wants to achieve in marketing terms in the future planning period.” As a company or organization, it is important that you figure out the core need that your products and services will meet.  You should be able to tell if: the product will help your customers get through the day more easily, be respected and admired by friends, and help them to carry out their job more efficiently. Thus your offerings to the customer should be well designed to solve clients’ problems or meet customer needs in a more effective way than the competition available can provide.  Each objective should be Strategic, Measurable, and Attainable, relevant and time bound.

3. Strategy. Strategy means how you plan to get there in terms of fulfilling the objectives set. The strategy section should also identify which segments of the market you aim to target with your plan. However much you may produce a high quality product or how good the service you provide may be, there is always high competition for your target customers on the market. Small businesses rarely consider spending time to study their competition in depth, or determine the competition that may be outside their industry but are just as capable of luring the customer away. This can be done by finding out who they are, what their competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering. This will help you figure out strategies to handle such losses. The strategy should be based on the 7P’s that is; pricing, product, place, people, promotion, process and partnerships.

The strategy section should also identify which segments of the market you aim to target with your plan. You should be able to state down a simple declarative sentence of how to meet customer needs and beat the competition.

4. Tactics. Tactics cover the specific tools taken in implementing your strategy. These actions comprise what is to be done, in what order, using which tools and personnel. You may employ a number of tactics and involve many different departments and people in this effort to reach a common goal. These tactics include; the kind of communication tools to use and how they can be used, the kind of message to be communicated and consistency across the different tools and messages, and the necessary resources and budget.

You may even recruit service providers to accomplish your objectives. Tactics typically requires the involvement of the organization as a whole.

5. Action. Telling the world about your organization’s new brand direction requires a sound action plan. This is mainly about the 3 M’s; Men (men and women and their expertise to do different activities), Money (the amount of money required to carry out the activities), Minutes (the time schedules and deadlines of completing the activities).

It is also important that you appoint the person taking up a particular activity, know when it is to be done, determine the resource allocation, the key performance measures and how performance will be measured.

6. Control. The final stage is to lay out how you plan to monitor and measure your performance based on the objectives set. Having considered the actions, then your control section is providing you with a series of dashboards tailored for each action. To keep proper control of your marketing plan, it is important that you do action performance measurements relating to the objectives, determine the responsibility for measurement and then review the measurement.

Whether you are a small company or a large corporation, one of the primary keys to your business’ success lies in preparing and implementing a good marketing plan. You can have the most awesome product or service to offer but without a plan in place, you may flounder for direction and waste a lot of time and energy as a result. Consider that your marketing plan, which is separate and apart from a business plan, is an essential element to the success of your company. The plan should contain data and specifics pertaining to your company’s goals, the product or service you are offering, how you intend to market it and a means for measuring your success.

By Mackline Ampurira

MACKLINE_22

Mackline  joined BLEGSCOPE Team as an Intern and is now a Management Consultant Trainee. She previously worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Health in conjunction with (USAID) Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Team as a Research Assistant. She has interest in Marketing, Management and Human Resources. You can follow her on Twitter >>@mackampurira

 

Feb 06

Need for compliance: Business tip

The concept of compliance is to make sure that corporations act responsibly. Compliance comprises of the statutory, company or organizational regulations on lawful and responsible conduct by the company, its employees, and its management and supervisory bodies. Compliance with regulations may be a complex issue, and with the regulations constantly changing, it may be hard to keep up-to-date. Most organisations are usually busy and usually spend time focusing on different issues thus fail to give all aspects of the business the attention they deserve. As a result, procedures and processes become out of date and this too brings serious complications in running businesses. What you need to note, is that Compliance can be broken down into two areas.

1. Statutory / Regulatory compliance, which is making sure that any business or action conducted by a company, is within legal parameters and/or that all “reasonable” actions have been taken in order to prevent incidents. These include taxes, licences and standards among others.

2. Internal Compliance is the other one. This often goes by a multitude of different names but they all concentrate on internal policies and standards and ensuring that a company operates according to its own created culture.  A good rule of thumb is to set internal standards higher than the regulatory standards. These may include preparation of monthly financial statements.

The three major reasons for compliance are;

  • Avoidance of Criminal Charges

This could probably be the most beneficial importance of compliance to an organisation. No business wants to face criminal charges for not adhering to the law. Depending on different countries or sectors, there are many regulations and laws in regards to how a business should be managed. This ranges from its employees, advertisements, production processes, quality levels, safety and many others. With a proper compliance kit and proper compliance management a company can stay on the light side of the law.

  • Building Positive Reputation

A company’s image is very key factor to propelling it to success. Stakeholders always shy away from enterprises which are known for not meeting basic expectations. When a company starts facing several court cases, the general public will lose their trust in the company and sales in products and services will eventually drop. Compliance enables a company to uphold a positive image and build stakeholders’ trust. This also helps build consumer loyalty, since customers are more likely going to return to a service or product from a company they identify as trustworthy. In the same way, it also helps with sponsors, advertisers, and government requirements.

  • Higher Productivity in an organisation

Internal compliance to safety, wages, employee benefits, compensations, and employee protection will create a positive environment in the work area. Employees are more passionate to work when they feel that that they are well compensated for their efforts and that they are safe within the business’ reach. It is important that internal compliance is adhered to, since it will ensure that employees are satisfied and that all complains or issues are monitored and addressed properly before they grow and affect the entire corporation.

By Brian Ahabwe Kakuru

Brian is the Managing Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 12+ years of management consultancy experience notably in the finance & banking industry, MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter >> @BrianAhabweK

Feb 03

Looking to grow your business? Here is how to develop lean business model.

Many startups and SMEs struggle with the concept of following a business plan. Most of them either do not know how to develop one and do not see the relevance of having one for their businesses. Most of them also struggle with getting the ideas out of their heads and onto paper with the fear that their idea may be stolen and implemented by somebody else. All fears aside, planning for your business is key and the common saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail” is not new to most of us. All your ideas and plans for your business need to be documented in a business plan.

A business plan is a critical business document that highlights the profile of a company, communicates its goals and how the business intends to reach these goals. A business plan clearly highlights and details key elements that ease the operations and specific functions of the business itself. Your business plan should have key elements such as the company profile, a marketing plan, human resource plan, operations plan, risk analysis, SWOT analysis among others. A business plan should be functional, accurate and comprehensively cover all elements of the business.

One of the most critical elements of a business plan is the business model. All businesses exist to make money and without it none of them can survive. A business model is therefore very vital for business because it shows the business how and when it is going to make money. The business model answers key questions such as:

  • What value do you deliver?
  • What customer challenge do you solve?
  • How will you generate revenue?
  • What is your cost structure and profit margin

In summary, your business model is focused towards profitability of the business. With the continual and rapid forces of disruption in today’s economy, businesses need to develop and regularly update their business models to avoid being kicked out of the highly competitive market.

The business model canvas is a relatively new phenomena and approach to developing business models that was first proposed by Alexander Osterwalder in his work Business Model Ontology. This approach has been adopted by new and existing business both large and small. Today, I share with you the 9 building blocks (from the business model canvas) to developing a lean and strategic business model for your business;

1. Identify your key activities

What are the key activities in your business? Is it managing the supply chain, is it manufacturing products? Is it providing knowledge? Is your focus driving down costs? The key business activities are the most important activities required in executing the company’s value proposition. Once the key activities have been identified, identify how you can streamline and restructure these activities to cut costs and increase profitability to the business.

2. Who are your key partners?

Today, the success and failure of an organization can depend on the quality of its partners, partnerships and strategic alliances. Business enter into alliances for reasons such as support in marketing, or brand reputation, geographic expansion, cost reduction, manufacturing, and other supply-chain synergies. Strategic alliances allow organisations to meet their objectives, while maintaining the flexibility to adapt quickly by switching partners, as appropriate. In many markets, strategic alliances are no longer a choice; they’re a necessity. Businesses therefore need to identify who their key, what key activities they perform, what new potential partners they are looking at and how they can build mutually beneficial relationships with them.

3.  What are your key resources?

Every business requires resources and it is only through them that the company creates value for the customer and ultimately profitability. A company’s resources can be physical (infrastructure, motor vehicles, stores etc.), intellectual (brands, patents, copyrights etc.), human (people) and financial. Once you have identified them, it is important to understand how these resources are creating value for you and your customers and how they can better be managed to sustain and support business growth and profitability.

4. What is your value proposition?

In a highly competitive market, it is every business’ desire to offer the product of choice in the market and attract a large number of buyers. This requires innovations and continuous improvement, offering of satisfactory services and designing unique product features to beat the competition in the market. The value proposition element describes what products your business offers to the market, it explains how your products solve customer problems or improves their situation, what benefits your product provides and why they should buy from you and not the competition.

5. How do you segment your customers?

A business’ customers consists of a diverse group of individuals and companies. It is therefore essential that a business divides these customers into groups with similar characteristics, interests and buying patterns in a process called customer segmentation. Ask yourself what are your key customer clusters/segments? Which is the most important segment where the company drives its highest profits? How can we uniquely satisfy the needs of each customer segment in a manner that derives the highest profits and benefits for the company?

6. How will you maintain customer/client relationships

Customer relationships are essential in offering the desired product/service, ensuring repeat purchase and receiving feedback about the products are services offered. In developing a business model, your focus in this area should be on how to get, retain and grow your customers, building mutually beneficial relationships with your customers, establishing the cost of maintaining these relationships and identifying how the business intends to relate with their customers in their segments in a way that blends with the overall business model.

7.0 What distribution or marketing channels do you intend to use?

A well thought out distribution channel can become a unique competitive advantage for your business. A company can chose either direct (personal selling, online selling, emails etc.) or indirect distribution channels (retailers, wholesalers, agents/brokers etc.) for its products. The choice of distribution channels depends on factors such as number of customer segments, amount of investment required, amount of control by the business and the relationship with the distributor, in case of indirect channels. In deciding what channel of distribution to use, consideration should be put on the customers’ preferred channel, channels being used by competitors, the most cost efficient channels and the most appropriate channel, depending on the type of product/service being offered.

8. What is your cost structure?

For any business to make a profit, the revenues should exceed the costs at all times. A company’s costs can be divided into fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs do not change however variable costs change from time to time. Ask yourself what are the most expensive activities? What resources are the most expensive? What elements of your business can attract a cost reduction? How can you reduce your operational costs without compromising the quality of your products?

9. What are your revenue streams?

A business needs to generate revenues/cash to support its day to day operations. What products does your business offer? What are your customers paying for? What pricing tactics are you using? These are only a few of the questions you need to ask yourself in regard to revenue streams. Revenue streams are more concerned with cash flows than with profitability. Is your company making money through selling products/assets, advertising, brokerage, subscription fees, renting etc.? How can you widen your revenue streams to generate more cash to run business operations?

The lean business model answers key questions in regard to the overall operations of any business. Whether you are in manufacturing (read our article on lean manufacturing) or in the service industry, developing a unique business model will allow you to focus key areas in your business to ensure efficiency, cost reduction, revenue generation and profitability.

By Sarah Achiro

Sarah_Achiro Sarah is our Business Analyst . She is a growing consultant with BLEGSCOPE and has 3 years’ experience in consulting for SMEs and in the service sector. She is keen on strategy, finance and procurement. She has previously worked for Riham Foods and MTN. You can follow her on twitter >> @achirosarah

Feb 01

How a well-developed marketing plan simplifies your everyday marketing job.

Many business owners today fail to see the benefits of incorporating a Marketing plan in the overall strategic business process. It is so sad how many businesses today do not know what it means to even have one. Perhaps the most vital aspect of any business is the marketing plan. This marketing plan at most times is buried within the larger business plan thus causing the business owners not to give marketing the time, research and attention it deserves, assuming that they have the knowledge they need about their customer base and how to reach out to them.

A marketing plan is a guide to successfully promoting and growing your business. A business cannot really get off the ground until it sells something.  This is really what marketing is all about. “If marketing is how sales are made, then a marketing plan is about figuring out how sales will be made.” Developing a good plan is a way to overcome your shortcomings and increase your business’s income. A marketing plan prepares your business to be proactive in what the market does. Without one, you end up reacting to changes and to competition, which means you are always a step behind those who are already prepared. So, then, a marketing plan is crucial to being ready to deal with the flows of the market. It is always better to anticipate and plan for a market change well ahead of time rather than find out about it later on.

The points below therefore explain why an effective marketing plan is a MUST and how important it is to your business:

1. Identifying the company growth opportunities

One of the most important aspects of any marketing plan is identifying growth opportunities by utilizing SWOT analysis. Once your company has identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the marketing scheme, it becomes easier to address those opportunities using the existing strengths and consider what course of action should be taken to mitigate any threats

2. Streamlining product development


A marketing plan helps you create products and services with the best chances for making a profit. This is because it starts with market research, taking in to consideration your optimal target customer, what your competition is doing and what trends might be on the horizon. Using this information, you are able to determine the benefit customers want, what they are willing to pay for and how you can differentiate your product or service from other competitors.

3. Determining optimal prices

Part of a marketing plan is setting the right price for your product or service based on what you learned from your market research. If you learn that customers want a high-end product in your category, your pricing strategy requires you to sell at prices that create a high-end perceived value. If your target customer is bargain conscious and is willing to accept fewer bells and whistles on your product in exchange for paying less, your pricing strategy requires you to sell at or below the competition’s price.

4. Determining a marketing communication channel

Your marketing plan also helps you create the brand, or image needed to suite your business. Without marketplace research and a strategic marketing plan, you might respond to solicitations from advertising sales people on an individual, reactionary basis, sending messages that do not even fit in with the brand identity created based on your product development efforts. A marketing strategy therefore lets you determine if a particular magazine, radio station or website fits into your selling plans

5. Organizational impact

Your departments can work better with each other when there is an effective marketing plan in place. This is because they are all working from the same plan. For example, the advertising people can talk to the product development team to determine what message should be sent about your product. The sales people can also talk to the people responsible for managing your image to determine if they can offer discounts, coupons or rebates without damaging your brand.

Other importances of an effective marketing plan include: saving company time and money by focusing the resources on attracting the right employees and investing only on marketing initiatives that support the overall business objectives, translating the company vision, mission, objectives, into effective marketing initiatives, identifying the tools that the company can effectively use to compete and gain market share and many more.

It is important to have a marketing plan, but it is just as important to keep it up to date. A marketing plan is not a document you create once and store in your bottom drawer. It is a living guide that you should develop as your business grows and changes. Set yourself a reminder to review your marketing plan regularly.

By Mackline Ampurira

MACKLINE_22

Mackline joined BLEGSCOPE Team as an Intern and is now a Management Consultant Trainee. She previously worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Health in conjunction with (USAID) Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Team as a Research Assistant. She has interest in Management and Human Resources. You can follow her on Twitter >>@mackampurira

 

Jan 26

If you could read one article about Focus, read this one!

In one of the whatsapp groups that I regularly engage, we were talking about Michael Jordan and one of the members asked how successful people manage to keep their high levels of focus and consistency. Right there and then it hit me that with all of today’s being “plugged-in” it becomes quite easy to keep track of everything else that is going on except yourself. In the same group, one of the regular contributors described focus as the ability to get things DONE. The energy, time and amount of single-mindedness attention are what he has come to be know as focus.

The question that comes up in my mind is how is focus measured? And how does one achieve it?

To be honest, we all struggle to maintain focus in our daily lives. Endless distractions keep our brains from focusing on a set of tasks as we struggle to get things done at work and complete projects around our homes. But what is actually happening in your brain when you’re lost in a project? And more importantly, how can you train yourself to induce that focused state? When you are focused, your perception of the world around you changes and you have a heightened ability to ignore things around you. This is being in “the zone,” or “the flow.” It is when you are focused and do not notice events around you unless something initiates your bottom-up attention system.

We are all different people and it is likely you know that one person who can enjoy reading with a TV on in the background or who has no problem concentrating on a task while blazing loud HipHop. Like most people, I find it increasingly difficult to focus at work these days. The endless flow of e-mail, text messages and social media plays havoc with my productivity more often than I care to admit.

We all get distracted by different internal things throughout the day. Those thoughts might be about what you’re eating for dinner, why the girl at the coffee shop didn’t want to go out on a date, why your son keeps using the word because, or that stupid thing you said to your boss. You can, however, limit those brain wanderings when you need to focus on a task by simply putting the brakes on the thought process.

You can set up your environment to diminish distractions, decide on a routine or ritual that feels to you like a good way to begin your focused work. But in reality, our minds are so busy multi-tasking and keeping track of so many inputs that it’s going to take a genuine decision, a commitment, to make that transition from “all over the place” to “right here, right now.”

Each time your focus is broken, you restart the process and use up your brain’s resources. Picture your attention system like a glass of water. When it’s still, it’s easy to see through the glass and concentrate on one thing. When you hit it everything is disturbed and takes a while to calm down so you can see clearly through it. Over time, the water evaporates and by the end of the day you’re left with nothing.

Have you ever noticed different routines that people take before embarking on an activity? Many professionals start their work with a ritual-like practice:

  • Doctors scrub up before surgery,
  • Tennis players bounce a ball three times before serving,
  • Superstar basketball player for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors Stephen “Steph” Curry has a complicated pre-game routine consisting of various difficult shots that are done to get him into the zone before the game tips-off.

These are things that researchers tell us done to enable the professionals get into “the zone” and get “locked-in” to their chosen craft.

Our ability to focus and concentrate lets us accomplish amazing things — when it’s working well.

Distractions are the main reason we lose focus, but often these aren’t as obvious as you might imagine. If you have poor focus, you may feel as if you simply have to try harder but this strategy probably won’t help. Instead, you can have better focus creating the conditions that make it easier to concentrate and complete your work, you can feel sharper and more focused especially when you have a specific task to accomplish.

Some factors that impair focus

a) Lack of sleep: This is a big one because if you don’t get enough sleep — even for just one night— your thought processes can slow down, you’re less alert than normal and your ability to concentrate suffers.

b) Hunger : Hunger is a distraction we’ve all had. Hunger is tied directly to low blood sugar which quickly leads to fatigue and low energy levels — and all wreak havoc on your ability to focus.

 c) Hormonal changes: Normal hormonal fluctuations and shifts, like those during pregnancy or menopause, can affect how well women concentrate.

 d)Stress: When you become mentally exhausted, you eventually will have difficulties with concentration and attention. If you have to reread things a lot because you can’t focus, your work may not get done, and of course, that alone causes even more stress.

e)  Lack of physical activity/ exercise: If you don’t exercise, you won’t know how deeply your ability to focus is affected until you actually get moving.

 f) Your environment: Is your environment filled with distractions like ringing phones, humming light fixtures, rattling heater vents, or visual disruptions? All of these elements can affect focus.

 Factors that will improve your focus

Good sleep every night: Just as important as the food you eat, is sleep — both are basic components of good brain function. Get seven hours of sleep per night, or up to 8 hours on occasion.

 Exercise: Exercise can do wonderful things for focus: just one session can improve mental focus and cognitive performance for any task you’re trying to complete.

Stress reduction: You can limit the effects of stress on your ability to focus by simply taking a break at midday and doing absolutely nothing for a solid ten minutes.

 Learning to deal with distraction is great, but what’s more sustainable in the long term is training your brain to focus better. Training yourself to take control of your ability to focus is not easy, but is the most recommended method. If focusing has become more difficult for you, do something about it now before it gets worse. You can also try the following techniques that you may have learned as a student.

They really help:

  • Work in “chunks.” Split your work into parcels and enjoy a timeout between each chunk.
  • Take a break. Staying on the same task or topic for too long fatigues the brain, just as too much exercise exhausts the body
  • Set a goal. Establish an endpoint for your task and reward yourself when you reach it with a refreshing drink, a social phone call, or a walk outside. For longer jobs, plan them out in phases and take little breaks between each stage — just enough time to rest without breaking your momentum.

It should be noted that whereas not everyone has that “focus”, it is something that people need to develop and practice very often.  One of the ways to nurture or increase focus is through meditation. Usually, people only get time to focus after they are “excluded” from their social networks for many reasons including stress.

Another approach to take when you can’t concentrate is to listen to your brain and your body and take a rest or switch to a different activity briefly. After all, everybody needs to hit the reset button now and then. But if being able to focus feels impossible for you, it’s time to make some of these changes. It will make a big difference in your quality of life now and in the future.

Lastly, as people we can have two lessons to learn from a Chameleon. Chameleons have a great capacity to focus and refuse to be distracted against all odd. To focus better, we must learn to adopt to environments so that we are not aliens to it. This way, we get accepted and tend to (pay more attention on what we want) focus better.

By Edmund Kamugisha

Edmund Kamugisha Edmund is the Engagement Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 10+ years of   management consultancy experience notably in MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter: @edmokmg

 

 

Jan 19

5 Strategies to managing multiple bosses in a Matrix Reporting structure

The dynamics of the workplace today are rapidly changing. Companies today are adopting more collaborative approaches to handling their day to day operations and these new approaches are breaking down barriers both between generations and between the traditional hierarchal approaches dictated previously by the tall organisational structures. Today, more than ever before, the rate of startups is growing and businessmen are forming partnerships especially at the start up level. More organisations are adopting flatter organisational structures, more organisations are taking on a project-based approach to handling assignments and more organisations are building dynamic teams from time to time to handle different assignments. These dynamics are all too common in startups and family owned businesses and the bigger and more complex organisations are equally adopting these new work approaches.

In such a matrix environment, it is more likely that individuals will have more than one reporting line which presents its own challenges. In such an environment, how can employees cope with reporting to more than one boss? Today, I will share the challenges and a few key strategies that you can use to manage your (multiple) bosses;

1.Disagreements: A direct report can easily get caught in the middle of supervisor disagreements. Your bosses may send you conflicting messages or fail to agree on the approach to take on a particular project or assignment. This may leave you more confused and unsure of how to handle a project.

Strategy 1

As us.hudson.com articulated in their article How to handle multiple bosses; “your bosses should be aware of each other’s projects and what they are passing off to you. Creating a project list is a great way to ensure that everyone involved is aware of each task that has been assigned, which will allow them to more equally distribute work to you. If you’re being given conflicting information or instruction, don’t get in the middle. Avoid speaking on behalf of one boss to the other. You don’t need to play mediator. Rather, try to get them to talk to each other. Define the problem or conflict and enlist them in the problem-solving. Let the managers sort it out themselves. Their job as managers is to align around a decision and communicate it to you.”

2.Managing assignments

With two or more bosses it is not easy to estimate your work load or anticipate when and from who an assignment will come through. This puts you under pressure and may even cause you to perform poorly on assignments. For some employees, it may mean you have to leave the office later and later, which may not be convenient or sustainable in the long run.

Strategy 2

Understand that you have time constraints; you only have 24 hours in a day and about 8 to 10 hours are all you have for work. Understand the urgency of each assignment and prioritize your tasks accordingly. It is important for each of your bosses to understand that you have multiple reporting responsibilities. Ask your bosses to be clear about project requirements and deadlines. Communicate your workload to your bosses because unless they know, you will have more work piling up on your desk. Finally, to be able to complete your tasks successfully, limit interruptions from colleagues who may have a lot of free time on them.

3.Managing expectations

As with any relationship, expectations exist on either side. Your bosses have expectations of you and you equally have expectations of them. Your expectations of them is a topic for another day. My focus in this case is how to manage expectations from multiple bosses.

Strategy 3

It is impossible to manage your bosses’ expectations if you do not know what they expect. What deliverables do they expect? What quality of work is required of you? What project deadlines are you working within? Do they want you to speak up more at meetings? Ask more questions? Do they expect you to take on more leadership roles? Are you expected to communicate more frequently, or perhaps take on more initiative?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing these expectations. So, once you know them, strive to meet and even exceed these expectations appropriately.

4.Politicking and power plays

In organisations, culture, power, structure and others determine the behaviour of individuals in their organisation. The multiple relationships involved together with performance expectations must be well managed and it brings to birth politics. By the virtue of their positions, your boss possesses some form of power. However, power plays and politics are not uncommon in the work place today. As a direct report, you can easily get caught in the middle of power plays and political tactics your bosses may be playing.

Strategy 4

Recognize the power plays for what they actually are. However, it is equally key to understand the motives behind these power plays. It is also important to know exactly who, of the bosses, has more power over you. As Harvard Business Review authors of Managing Your Boss, John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter put it, understanding your boss is very critical in the workplace. “Managing your boss requires that you gain an understanding of the boss and his or her context as well as your own situation. At a minimum, you need to appreciate your boss’s goals, pressures, his or her strengths and weaknesses. What are your boss’s organisational and personal objectives?”

Once you gain an understanding the motives behind the power plays, it is easier to handle the situation in such a way that both/all bosses remain content.

5.Managing the relationship

Your relationship with your boss is probably the most crucial one in the workplace. Your relationship may determine your promotion, pay rise or even longevity in the company/organisation.

Strategy 5

Ultimately, your bosses are only human. So, treat them with grace, kindness and respect. Display a positive attitude. Be resourceful, be flexible, support them in execution of their roles and remain emotionally intelligent in dealing with them.

Learning to handle multiple bosses is key in today’s complex work place. The strategies shared above are key in to today’s dynamic work environment.

By Sarah Achiro

Sarah_Achiro Sarah is our Business Analyst . She is a growing consultant with BLEGSCOPE and has 3 years’ experience in consulting for SMEs and in the service sector. She is keen on strategy, finance and procurement. She has previously worked for Riham Foods and MTN. You can follow her on twitter >> @achirosarah

Jan 17

IT IS BUSINESS UNUSUAL; Play a different game this 2017 to stay in Business

This year 2017 has been received with a lot of pessimism. The nature of my job exposes me to many people who are free to share their economic prospects. In many business circles, people are saying that business is tough and have little prospects for growth this year. From the reality side, I have also witnessed many firms that have silently grown and are focused to further growth this year. To the pessimistic ones, the question is; are you getting phased out? Perhaps.

Business has existed for several centuries and often times, history repeats itself. Uganda and the Great Lakes region are not exceptional to several global dynamics that shape the business landscape. Over the years, we have seen high business growth shift from one industry to another. We have also witnessed high growth firms where new players topple large traditional business empires and also countries defying the odds to realise exceptional growth and thus surpassing some powerhouses. Here below is an illustration of how the Top 5 Publicly traded companies by market capitalization have changed between 2001 and 2016. This is happening at different levels of business sizes, growth stage, geographical locations and many others.

Source: http://www.visualcapitalist.com

The above illustration is a clear sign that change is inevitable. Despite the fact that change is as old as human kind, we still resist it at all times. Like an old saying that “Uncertainty is the only certain thing”; Business people need to embrace the uncertain future though it comes with risk. We however need to remember that profit for all organisations is a reward for undertaking risky ventures in uncertainty. Uncertainty drives business and the reward is profit for those who get it right.

On understanding that the business environment is constantly evolving, let us first know why, and then devise appropriate coping mechanisms

  1. Disruptive business models: In this disruptive age, established business models are under attack. A disruptive innovation usually fuelled by technology is one that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.  A case in point is mobile payments like the MTN Mobile Money which completely changed how many payments were being made.

2. Generational diversity at the workplace: There are four generations in today’s workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers (Gen-X), and Millennials.  Generational differences are a key factor affecting how organisations perform. These differences are now not only important but also strategic in nature and organisations must consider when planning their future workforce. Millennials are the newest generation to enter the workforce and represent the most diverse generation yet. Generational experiences can surface in the workplace through differing values, expectations, and work habits.  The increasing diversity introduces new challenges for management which could potentially fail an organisation’s growth.

3. Changing mindset from asset accumulation to a shared economy: Uber is here and workplace sharing is taking shape even in Kampala. These are examples of the sharing economy platforms and many will only gain more acceptance overtime. In a shared economy, there is preference of access and use over ownership. An emerging, highly flexible economic network known as the sharing economy allows people to share resources – such as equipment, services, and skills – with one another, often at significantly lower cost than traditional retail or employment arrangements. You can now get a loan directly from your peers, share the same office space with dozens of different companies, and stay at a stranger’s house instead of a hotel when you’re traveling out of town.

4. Deglobalisation: Every business’ operations are affected by some external factors, and a country’s economics is one key factor of them all. Globalization is the process of interrelating and integrating people, ideas, companies, and governments across the world. Globalization efforts are sustained by free moving trade, high levels of investment and labour migration among nations. Globalization trend has been decelerating in the past few years. Since 2012, global trade has been growing at a rate of 3% which is less than half of its average rate in the past three decades. The World Trade Organization is predicting that world trade growth rates will drop to 1.7% this year; the lowest in 60 years. We are also seeing increasing protectionism for many reasons. The de-globalization trend will bring with it long term damage to some sectors and hinder economic growth in some countries thus directly affecting some businesses. This reversed trend is seeing less power coming from multinationals and a new breed of local and regional businesses gaining a lot of market share.

5. People are a major asset and their role grows by the day: The evolving landscape of business is calling for a wider, more comprehensive and strategic view with respect to the organisation’s human resources. These forces have generated a need for longer term perspective in managing people and consideration of people as a great resource rather than merely a “variable cost”. Knowledge has overthrown capital as the most important organisational resource which is an unlimited and fundamental ingredient for success. Knowledge has become a tool of competitive advantage for organisations. The growth curve of an organisation is attainable only if it attracts, develops and retains individuals who can add value to the system. It is now the businesses with a sharp outlook putting people first that are leading the way in high growth.

Certainly, there are many things that businesses would do to improve their strategy and operations for better returns. There are key take-aways to enable you flourish in this new year.

  • Change or perish
  • Appreciate people
  • Adopt technology

I appreciate that business is an art of balancing priorities. Add the above three points, give it the best shot and let us hope for the best.

By Brian Ahabwe Kakuru

Brian is the Managing Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 12+ years of management consultancy experience notably in the finance & banking industry, MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter >> @BrianAhabweK