DIRECTIONS - Architecture for revenue growth

April 2014


Richard (Dick) Van BelzenDriving profitable revenue growth has been our forte for more than two decades. And our playbook for achieving growth, often exponential, keeps getting deeper and more advanced. The process is based on experiences with several hundred clients, case studies, workshops, activities in think tanks, etc. We go after growth with knowledge, passion, relentlessness and confidence in our process, our clients, and ourselves. What’s so exciting about this area of focus is that our success helps clients meet their direct objectives—not only for the company’s growth, but also for individual income growth and career progression. A recent internal study found that when Northpoint was engaged in the growth plan and its execution, our clients met their objectives more than 90% of the time.

In our experience, execution isn’t always the main problem when driving growth with large corporations. More often than not, the selected strategy, tactics and approach plan weren’t executable. Certainly execution can always be more effective—especially when input, assumptions and process haven’t been properly market tested and connected. But this tends to happen when the creators of these plans are driven by internal factors, instead of customer needs and value propositions.

Richard (Dick) Van Belzen
Managing Director

Northpoint Advisors, LLC
1173 Pittsford-Victor Road, Suite 250
Pittsford, NY 14534
Phone: 585.233.6707


Succession Planning: Alan Mulally to Mark Fields at Ford

Ford Motor Company has been grooming Mark Fields, Alan Mulally’s successor, for more than a year. (Mulally will step down as CEO of the firm before year-end.) Fields, the current COO, runs a weekly review meeting and holds a regular Wednesday morning meeting with key executives, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Once a decision has been made, researchers from the Corporate Governance Research Initiative (Stanford Graduate School of Business) and The Miles Group say that the switch should not be drawn out. The longer the succession period from one CEO to the next, they say, the worse the company will perform against its peers. Yet, nearly 40 percent of companies they researched say they do not have an internal succession plan in place.

While the decision ultimately belongs to the board, many chiefs want to ensure their initiatives continue on after they’re gone, and feel it is their responsibility, or right, to choose a successor who will carry on their work. Jim Skinner, former CEO of McDonald’s, mentored his replacement for seven years before he retired, according to Workforce Magazine.

When implementing a succession plan, The Rawls Group suggests that companies look not simply for the best and brightest, as that is not an absolute guarantee of a good fit or of success. Instead, look at characteristics such as persistence, determination, average intelligence and a focus on outcomes.

“When you’re looking at the succession pool, look for people who have proven they can master a body of knowledge and apply that knowledge to real-world situations and produce results,” says succession strategist Dan Schneider, from the Rawls Group.

When thinking through your succession plan, look for someone with the skills your company will need five to 10 years down the road, rather than today. These include digital media, collaboration and even multiple languages.

Disruptions: Graphene, the Material of Tomorrow
from a New York Times article written by Nick Bilton

Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.

Only a single atom thick, it has been called the wonder material. Graphene could change the electronics industry, ushering in flexible devices, supercharged quantum computers, electronic clothing and computers that can interface with the cells in your body.

While the material was discovered a decade ago, it started to gain attention in 2010 when two physicists at the University of Manchester were awarded the Nobel Prize for their experiments with it. More recently, researchers have zeroed in on how to commercially produce graphene.

NewspaperJames Hone, a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, said research in his lab led to the discovery that graphene could stretch by 20 percent while still remaining able to conduct electricity. “You know what else you can stretch by 20 percent? Rubber,” he said. “In comparison, silicon, which is in today’s electronics, can only stretch by 1 percent before it cracks. “He continued: “That’s just one of the crazy things about this material—there’s really nothing else quite like it.”

The real kicker? Graphene is inexpensive. If you think of something in today’s electronics industry, it can most likely be made better, smaller and cheaper with graphene.


Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
In driving results, we work with any number of individuals at an organization. Our efforts center on providing tools, techniques, and processes on growth—NOT on managing people. (Our client contacts are plenty capable of managing their own team.) What we do observe is any number of behaviors in working with them. In producing new programs and reconciled thoughts, a lot of input is required. We often hear and observe contrarian and second-guessing behaviors. And we get it, not everyone needs to drink the Kool-Aid. But the same folks that often challenge approaches can only do that. While it’s good to point out problems and issues, productive leaders suggest alternatives and work to find solutions.

Hiring Consultants: Generalists vs. Specialists
In a recent newsletter, we talked about getting on the right bus and shared research showing that misdiagnosis of situations is at the root of performance issues more than 70% of the time. As we know it’s hard to execute an off-the-mark solution. This means selecting an internal or external specialist to address specific solutions can be fraught with problems and huge costs of lost opportunity. So addressing sales compensation, training, branding, the addition of sales reps, or attendance at trade shows, etc., can be good, but we need to stress test whether any of these will help us truly grow. Our recommendation is that we need to front load resources and expertise at the diagnosis stage to test out the needs, issues, and barriers to growth. We find that internal assumptions and tribal knowledge is valuable, but often reflects the past vs. the future needs. So whether it’s Northpoint or some other general practice consultant, you need someone to help you at the front end—to objectively develop the best solutions, and to provide the expertise and bandwidth needed to help you dig in. As an example, in our personal health care, we first go to primary care physicians, who evaluate us and then suggest a specialist, if needed. Similarly a strong generalist is trained to evaluate many variables and make suggestions. Going to self-diagnosis too quick and then on to a specialist can set off a chain of events that can be hard to reverse.

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As part of our expansion we’re moving to a new address. Effective May 1st 2014, our address will be:
1173 Pittsford-Victor Road, Suite 250
Pittsford, NY 14534


Resolve to Think Big
We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of running a business. As a result, it is easy to lose focus. But great leaders—whether they are great prophets or great entrepreneurs—keep an eye on the bigger picture. They are visionaries who Think Big. That is important to remember.
- Steven D. Strauss, a thought leader on growing businesses

Think Big

Growth Mindset
Growth doesn’t happen because managers decide to broaden the product line or spend more money on technology or beef up the salesforce or acquire another business. These and the other familiar tools and techniques for expansion are just that: tools. They are part of the execution of a growth strategy, no more. The mindset of growth starts with an insatiable curiosity about the world’s needs. It doesn’t accept the limits of existing products and existing markets; it quests endlessly for new opportunities to expand beyond these artificial boundaries. In a phrase we use, it’s about broadening your pond—enlarging the scope of your business activities by defining and meeting the new needs that change is always generating.
- Ram Charan, best-selling author and global advisor to CEOs

The Knowing-Doing Gap

The Knowing-Doing Gap
Written by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, this book details how to convert knowledge into action. And while it’s been out for more than ten years, it’s a nice primer for leaders to use, especially if they feel the organization needs help improving execution.

Strategic Planning Process
Now is the time to be thinking about your longer-term direction and 2015. What do you like about your process? What changes may need to be made?


The Value Stack
In our blog next month, we will discuss a concept we call the “Value Stack” which focuses on those areas that drive top line growth. All too often, leaders focus on the cost stack to make their company more efficient. Our position is that if the same resources, processes and commitment were placed on the value stack, new levels of growth could be attained. Don't miss it, subscribe to our blog.


For May, we’ll be writing about Business Development and Market Adjacencies.

1173 Pittsford-Victor Road, Suite 250, Pittsford, NY 14534
Email: | 585.233.6707
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