DIRECTIONS - Architecture for revenue growth

February 2015


Richard (Dick) Van Belzen2015 is well under way. As is in the beginning of each year, there’s a natural feeling of optimism and rebirth at this time. For you, the new year may have started with a new operating plan and expectations. Hopefully your leadership team and others worked really hard to put a plan in place for 2015. Which means it’s now time for execution and testing. But first...

One of the key learning points from the recession some five years ago is the need to be agile and have alternate options in place. Now, we’re not trying to tear down your best-laid plans for 2015. But we are reminding leaders about the importance of having contingencies in place. And we believe the first quarter is a good time to build these plans. Here are a few key items that can help you to effectively drive this year’s operating plan:

  • Business Playbook - The typical playbook contains a number of scenarios, both best and worst case, along with corresponding actions than can be put in place as remedies. We commonly hear about playbooks being used in American football. In football, coaches and players develop a plan before each game. They know their competitor is likely to introduce several surprises during the game, so the plan includes options to help deal with these surprises as they happen. In business, we often develop plans with the assumption that we’ll succeed. On occasion we’ll consider a worst-case option, like cutting expenses, but we need to take the time to consider the situation from all angles in order to prepare for anything the business throws at us.
  • Sources of Revenue AuditSM (SORASM) - We’ve observed a lot of revenue leaks over the years—and many of them in very well run, industry-leading companies. To counter this threat, we recommend an objective assessment of your channels and market access programs be run in parallel to your execution. From this evaluation, we typically help our clients to uncover 2-3% of low-hanging fruit in top line revenue. The SORA can be completed internally or externally using our 15-point plan. To learn how our 15-point plan can help you to uncover additional top line revenue, please contact us.
  • Relationship HarvestingSM - Strong relationships are the key to successful account management. But as we work with clients to examine various CRM systems and account reviews, we often uncover relationships that have grown dormant or have not been properly optimized. Relationship Harvesting is a method that looks at new ways to extend your value through highly intentional account management.

Best wishes for a strong start and success in 2015!

Richard (Dick) Van Belzen
Managing Director

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


Internal Consulting

It’s a major misnomer that all consulting is external. Internal consultants, as a result of their participation on a company task force, often bring about change and good ideas. In the corporate world, the purpose of a task force is to tackle and solve tough issues and challenges the company faces.

For a task force to be successful, the sponsor must properly frame the idea. It is often the consultant’s job to walk the delicate balance of supporting the effort, while also stress testing assumptions and expectations early in the process. Here are some other key challenges that may exist for the internal consultant:

  • Bandwidth - The task force is typically performed in conjunction with other full-time responsibilities. Are team members being stressed and/or other objectives being compromised?
  • Objectivity - Is the team able to step back from the task to realistically assess the situation and gain a fresh understanding? It’s important to stress the need for objectivity vs. overreliance on tribal knowledge and assumptions.
  • Skill set - Does the team have the requisite skills and experience to handle the task force objectives and area of study?
  • Internal acceptance of recommended actions - While a lot of resources go into forming the team and supporting their work, in the end deliverables or recommendations are not always well received. This lack of support can range from the team not delivering what the sponsor expected, to the team trying to fit the results to meet what they feel the sponsor wants to hear. Setting ground rules for how recommendations are provided can help the team and sponsor engage more effectively. In addition, the placement of external advisors on the team can help to add credibility to the team’s findings in order to gain support from top management.

One of the best ways to produce effective results is to combine internal and external consultants. Internal consultants can provide a level of objectivity, focus, and experience in similar situations. External consultants can perform the heavy lifting—adding process capability, expertise and credibility to the team.


Year in Review: The Six Biggest News Stories of 2014 and Their Implications for 2015
from Chief Executive Magazine, article written by Dale Buss

From data hacking to CEOs hacking their own reputations with missteps and mishaps, from activists rising up to companies themselves rising up and moving out, these six leading 2014 trends offer several lessons CEOs can learn from for operating their business in 2015.

  1. Hacking away: The year started and ended with major hack attacks. It ended with Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton trying fruitlessly to cope with the massive cyberhacking attack on his company’s intellectual property and prompting him to withhold release of The Interview for a few days under threat of terrorist attack. But 2014 also began with a CEO trying to cope with the immense fallout from a hack, as Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel tried—and failed—to right the company after a Christmas 2013 digital invasion. Home Depot, JPMorgan and other big companies and brands also were afflicted by significant data breaches. The proliferation of successful attacks last year—as many as 2,000 that the federal government admitted knowing about—ensured that many CEOs will be elevating the importance of digital protections of their companies’ data in 2015.
  2. Oiling the skids: Oil prices slid late in 2014, creating untold ripple effects in the U.S. and global economies and geopolitical ramifications as well. Most of these were positive for American companies, as CEOs saw spending rise because of the money that U.S. consumers were saving at the gasoline pump. The slide also kept U.S. car sales humming through December. The short-term losers, of course, were energy-company CEOs who had to decide how to ease the pressure of falling prices. Middle Eastern monarchies and Russia were other big losers from the oil-price decline that has been prompted in large part by the growing bounty of U.S. oil and gas supplies due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking. For 2015, economists say that CEOs should be betting on continued moderation in oil prices.
  3. Tempest in the corner office: CEOs themselves—and, often, their bad behavior—were at the center of many of the biggest business stories of 2014. They included those whom it was difficult to drag off the stage, such as Dov Charney at American Eagle, as well as those who stuck their foot in their mouths, such as Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries with his comments about why he doesn’t making clothing for fat women. Others were under glaring spotlights and dealing with immense challenges, such as General Motors’ Mary Barra, whose company faced huge safety recalls and liabilities; IBM’s Virginia Rometty, who was scrambling to revise IBM’s business model in the face of an unprecedented slump; and McDonald’s’ Don Thompson, who was trying to keep the Golden Arches from crumbling. It’s hard for CEOs to avoid new business challenges, but look for more circumspection in the corner office in 2015.
  4. Activism unleashed: Darden Restaurant Group CEO Clarence Otis paid the ultimate price of shareholder activism in 2014 by losing control of the company to one of the most effective agitators, Starboard Value. Such successes, and the continued struggles faced by many CEOs, emboldened activist investors generally as they also targeted companies including PepsiCo, Hertz, Family Dollar, Yahoo and even Apple. No doubt activist investors will grow in influence in 2015 as bloodless investors demonstrate less and less loyalty to ensconced CEOs, and as the still-treacherous business climate is sure to create new vulnerabilities in the executive suite.
  5. Undependable economy: The year-end comments by former Fed chief Alan Greenspan about a “very sluggish economy” underscored the fact that U.S. and global economic growth remains iffy, something that CEOs are keeping at the top of their list of concerns for 2015. Thanks in part to strong second-half growth in the United States, most American CEOs believe the economy at least has tipped decisively in a positive direction. But its vigor remains restrained by concerns such as underemployment, a tentative housing recovery and CEOs’ worries about continued over-regulation. Also, the economies of nearly every major emerging market, stretching from China to Brazil, have cooled.
  6. Aversion to inversion: CEOs of companies including Walgreen’s and Burger King turned to “inversion” strategies to merge with foreign-based companies and then move their headquarters abroad to avoid much higher U.S. tax rates. The trend gained momentum in the spring when New Jersey-based Pfizer tried to buy rival UK-based drug maker AstraZeneca, a deal which eventually fell through. Burger King then bought Tim Horton’s of Canada. Democratic politicians complained that U.S. companies were trying to dodge paying their “fair share” of taxes to the federal coffers. So after Walgreen’s bought UK’s Alliance Boots, the merged company kept its headquarters in Chicago. And the U.S. Treasury Department stepped in with new rules that would make inversion-based deals less lucrative.

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7 Technologies That Will Change Your Business
from Chief Executive Magazine, article written by Warren Strugatch

7 Technologies That Will Change Your Business - Chief Executive Magazine, article written by Warren Strugatch

  1. 3D Printing
  2. Internet of Things
  3. Wearable Electronics
  4. Predictive Analytics
  5. Smart Dust
  6. Brain-Computer Interfaces
  7. Private Social Networks
Read the complete article

Future Customer Trends, Consumers, Marketing, Products and Services

Here’s a message from Patrick Dixon, a Futurist, that’s worth viewing again.


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The Consultant’s Dilemma — Commenting on a client's business can be as personal as critiquing theirclothing attire. Getting the point across and being sensitive to clients requires approaches that connect but don’t leave them feeling poorly.


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