Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Friday, 27 July 2007
David Koopmans tagged me with the “8 things you don’t know about me” meme. He had been tagged by Nick Rice who in turn had been tagged by Greg Verdino. It’s quite the rage among Age of Conversation co-authors apparently. David admits that he finds it a "slightly daggy game" but given that I drove to work listening to The Fannies , very loudly this morning I am happy to be Bandwagonesque:
1. I grew up in North Essex near the River Colne and South Essex near the River Thames. Drifted west at the age of twenty moving to Chippenham, Bath and Bristol in turn and now live in Portishead in sight of the Severn Estuary.
2. There are no wild penguins in Portishead but my neighbours have woken a few times to find a large Stag grazing on their lawn.
3. I am addicted to music and at the last count had just over 1000 albums in various formats from vinyl to CD, before I count stuff I have bought digitally.
4. The first "record" I bought was Gangsters by The Specials. 7" single (vinyl of course!) on Two Tone Records. Cost 99p from Hi Tension records in Stanford-Le-Hope in 1979.
5. I am secret Harry Potter reader and Yes I have read the final book. Delivered by Amazon last Saturday a.m. Finished it last night. Rather good. Put aside The Herd to read it. Apologies to Mark Earls! (but Mark, am I not just running with the Herd?)
6. I did not go to university so do not have a degree. Same for an MBA.
7. My house was built in 1840, is made of stone, was originally called Bermuda House and now has a new roof. Not an easy thing to achieve this summer in England I can tell you!
8. I do not forgive. Ever. Under any circumstances.
The protocol is that I pass this on to eight bloggers. Strewth. Do I know eight bloggers? Not all personally but all on the list have visited PositiveChurn. Apologies to any of the following who have no idea who I am...
Mark Earls (who should like this example of Herd behavoir!)
Thursday, 26 July 2007
We are growing a long tail.
Seemed like a good idea. Our distribution is a little over concentrated so we have adapted our range to suit a more fragmented distribution landscape and put a system in place to allow us to supply anyone whether they want to buy 1 unit, 1 case, 1 pallet or 1 full truck.
So, being cautious fellows, we dipped a toe in the water. Three orders jumped out from small independent stores.
Problem being I need some tickets to attach to each individual item for 3 of the products. But I only needed 18, 18 and 30 of each. Too small for a commercial print run and I need them today... and we don't have any bar code generation software or printers to hand.
So being open source, open business, open process kind of people we wondered if maybe someone somewhere had already solved our problem... and of course they had.
"Bar Codes Inc. The Bar Codes Experts" have a free bar code generator on their site. Brilliant. Within an hour I had cut and pasted bar coded product tickets together, printed them on some quality paper. Cost: little more than my time a a few pence of paper. Phew. Means we can ship those first orders.
When the tail starts to scale we will need to put a more robust system in place.
Guess where we we'll look first for the software and printers to do this...
Monday, 23 July 2007
In years to come children will hear about ads (the same way we are hearing about horse drawn carriages and chamber pots) and say: You were forced to watch these short promotional movies in the middle of something you chose to watch to sell you something?! Why would you let them interrupt you?!
When I read this on Adriana Lukas's Blog last week it really hit the spot.
Not a week earlier I had sat with KB in a cinema in Bristol enduring a TWENTY MINUTE bombardment of adland rubbish, mostly for small cars and sugar coated cereal.
Apparently these are the things that you want to buy at a Harry Potter screening!
By the end of it I was pretty damn sure that I would never again purchase any of the products in question on principle.
I guess I found this doubly frustrating because I now consume virtually no visual entertainment at the time of broadcast save live football.
For one reason or another I seem to always be several weeks behind the handful of serial dramas that form my main TV diet and so watch from the hard disc and of course zap past the ads at high speed.
So as a "post-advertising" era kind of viewer I find any interruption rather hard to take.
My seven year old daughter is quite different though. Rationed as her televisual viewing is she soaks up everything she can set her eyes on with the result that Interruptive advertising works on her.
She see's stuff, digests the information and re gurgitates it as a want.
At the moment this is mostly "I want a Nintendo DS".
As she grows up I am sure this will change, but for now it makes me wonder if very young children are the last fertile fields for advertising interruptions because they are not consumers. They do not have purchasing power and do not for the most part make purchasing decisions. When they get older they will be, like the rest of us, irritated at interuptions that try to sell you stuff you do not want and do not need.
But for now the advertisers are targeting me by proxy by hitting her with their message, and that bugs me all the more.
One of the things I like about the 21st Century is the way I can can off at a tangent like this:
1. An alert pops up in my google desk top informing me of a new post from Mark Earls.
2. I click through to the post and hop straight off again to Bokardo
3. The words "Principles to Design By" catch my eye, I click and find this post
Packed with wise words but top of the pile is:
The Experience Belongs to the User.
No need for me to add anything to that.
But try making the same leaps with a newspaper article!
Thursday, 19 July 2007
As you may be aware we are planning to replace the ERP system we use at the moment with an open source alternative which we are customising ourselves in house.
Well we're manufacturers, making stuff is what we do!
Had a really good update this afternoon with Martyn (co-owner and FD/CFO here at Severn Delta) and Dave Easeman who is developer in chief.
Don't want to count my chickens but the project is looking good, and we are on track for parallel running and testing from end Sept.
We plan at some point to present a walk through of some of the features at an Open Coffee Club meeting in Bristol at some point between now and then. I'll agree a date with Simon and post more details in due course, but anyone who is interested will be welcome to attend.
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
My iPod is either protesting at the eclectic mix that I insist it stores or has simply died.
This is the replacement for the original which died back in May. I am not sure how long the warranty on the replacement will last but I am pretty sure it was not all that long.
For the record the pod in question is 30GB Video model in black. North of two hundred English Pounds and a life of about that many days.
If the deal had been £1 a day and we just send you a new one if it goes wrong I might have signed up.
As it is I suspect I shall be using it as a paper weight someday soon.
My view of the Apple brand (is that the right brand name to use...)?
Thursday, 12 July 2007
We are still on the path and learning to let our customers pull.
1. Our main export customer wants to completely change the specification we supply to match a big brand in their local market. The big brand is sold nowhere else in Europe and the change requested flies in the face of everything we are doing in the UK.
They can have what they want and have what they need.
2. Our biggest customer had an opportunity for our number one brand. Only problem was we had to completely redesign the pack to fit the restriction of the opportunity.
So we have made some capital investment, modified two machines, completely resized and redesigned the pack and gone down a packing route that is utterly new to us. In the process we took on board the feedback and suggestions of our customer.
They are going to roll it out into seven (yes SEVEN) times the distribution we were originally discussing.
The power of pull.
Posted by Clive Birnie at 08:20
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
I find myself short of hands at the moment.
A combination of a growing business and the departure of a key member of my commercial team has left me having to a) re-organise to keep the key projects on track and key customers well managed and b) having to absorb what is effectively another full time job in addition of my usual day to day work load.
Hence the dramatic slow down in my posting rate over the last few weeks.
The positive side of this is that I visited a prospective new customer myself yesterday.
We had pitched Sarah Smith at the company back in the early phase of the launch in 2004/5 and at the time they passed.
"You were a little ahead of your time back then." They explained yesterday.
I think there is a very strong chance they will take at least two products from the range in the coming months.
We just have to make sure we get back round to all the other prospects who rejected the proposition the last time round.
And in short order so again, I will be picking this up myself for the time being.
Sales of Sarah Smith have doubled this year and with the full year value of incremental distribution gains feeding through they will grow at least 25% next year before we make any further gains.
So its an ill wind and all that.
Reminded me of an important lesson.
If you are too early the market may not be ready for you. So you have to be patient. You have to keep going and just because a customer says no once, it does not mean they will keep saying no forever.
Friday, 6 July 2007
There is another magazine that lands on my desk which I have not asked for, subscribed to or paid for...
Accelerator from Management Today.
"Make you business grow faster"
"the Magazine for entrepreneurs"
The essential premise seems to be an assumption that anyone running an SME has not the faintest clue and needs to be thoroughly patronised.
In general anyway.
There is a reasonably good article in the July edition that may be online here somewhere about Cash. So OK I'll cut them some slack for that.
The article on creating as "online presence that will really boost your business" is feeble in the extreme.
No mention of blogs.
No mention of social media.
Twitter? Jaiku? Facebook?
Science fiction my friends.
So it is heading for the shredder.
I'll stick with my online library thank you.
If you need an Accelerator. Try this one...
Marketing Magazine have just informed me that they will no longer be sending me a free copy of their weekly tome.
They of course offered a discount subscription deal.
I of course filed it in the shredder.
The same thing happened with Marketing Week a few years back.
Has it left a hole in my life?
Will the absence of Marketing?
Did I ever read it before recycling it?
Very very occasionally.
Was it any good?
In a nostalgic kind of way maybe, you know, a taste of how the world used to be...
Thursday, 5 July 2007
Sunday, 1 July 2007
I am constantly astonished at how little attention payment terms get in negotiations. Terms can be as important as price. A good balance between the two being the ideal.
If it will get me the cash earlier I may be prepared to compromise on price.
If the prospect is unyielding in their corporate policy of stupendously long terms then I am unlikely to offer my best price. Or maybe decline to offer any price at all.
Such is life.
I am fortunate that I was introduced to the importance of trading terms within weeks of taking up my first position back in 1989. As I was working for an export company the training session was titled "An Introduction to Export". Rather than focusing on logistics however the chap at the helm for the day fixed our minds on the terms of trade and useful stuff such as INCOTERMS.
He started by asking us what term we thought was the most secure. A few minutes of conference produced the reply "A Letter of Credit".
He snorted with amusement. "That is what everyone says and they are all wrong."
He scanned our faces for a hint of the correct answer. None came.
"Cash in Advance!" He roared. "Cash in Advance. What can be better than getting your cash before you even ship the goods!"
Of course most of us will find ourselves offering credit terms most of the time. So it is important to get the right terms for your business.
A simple rule: If you offer terms longer than your average creditor terms you are going to suck cash out of your business.
Back in the dread days of 2003-04 when we were forging Severn Delta in the post receivership fire I re-negotiated shorter terms with a number of supportive customers because as you would expect our suppliers were offering rather limited lines of credit at the time.
The one customer who refused to work with us and in fact forced longer terms on us was managed out. The fact that they were our biggest customer in our first year made the decision emotionally hard but a practical necessity as I have described before.
Getting the length of terms right is crucial. Keep your debtor days longer than creditor days and cash is under your control, and that is something worth trading on price to achieve.