November 11, 2008

What is your process?

It’s a simple question, with complicated implications. Almost every company I work with has a “process” for how they get work done, and how their business runs. What I am finding is that although these processes are unique to every situation and company type, there are certain themes that are shared across the board. The main one I want to discuss today if the age, or maturity, or the process.

I find that many companies have a process for getting work done that is based on traditional tactics and workflows. Example; take a look at the picture below and ask yourself; does my office look like this?
I bet the answer is yes; there is at least one corner or cube with a similar layout somewhere in the building.

So the next question I have for you? When do you think this picture was taken? Would it surprise you to know that it was 1986! That’s correct; 20+ years later, and I’d wager that this office still looks the same today. The reason: process.

The process for design, for creating plan sets, documentation, and specifications is the same today as it was twenty years ago, dare I say 40 years ago. The only changes over the decades are the tools used to create them. We’ve gone digital, yes – word processing for the specs; computer aided drafting for the plans; excel spreadsheets for the estimating. The challenge I believe we are mired in today is that the process, the workflows, the way we do the design, the way make ideas a reality in the built world, has not changed. And because it has not changed, neither has our efficiency or profitability. I’d also be willing to bet that it’s gone in the opposite direction.
Here we see a study done that compares the productivity of the construction industry to all other non-farm based industries (Aerospace, Mechanical design, Electrical engineering, etc.). Note the problem; the construction productivity index, represented as the orange line in the chart, has fallen roughly 20% in the last 40 years!

I have several theories for this fall; AEC industry is one of the most heavily regulated, and we’ve seen a dramatic increase over the past 40 years in laws, codes, and regulations for construction. Consequently, this industry has a large amount of litigation ties to it as well; any owner that just paid their insurance premiums can agree with that. But I propose that a large amount of this productivity loss is due to our process – the fact that we haven’t changed that process in over 40 years.

So I challenge you to think about this; what part of my process could I change to be more productive? What new workflows, new techniques, and what new technologies can you take advantage of to increase your productivity, to make me more efficient, and ultimately, make me more money?

More to come on this, but in the meantime, I’ll give you a little hint:

November 7, 2008

Tax laws that can save money?

It may be hard to believe, but the government actually created some tax laws that can save you money instead of taking it out of your pocket. Some of you who are tax and economy savvy may have noticed that the government passed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, which contained several tactics for trying to stimulate the downturn in the economy we’ve suffered across the US this year. One of those tactics was Section 179. Now I am the first to admit that I am NOT an accountant, and I need to be clear that you need to do your own research and find the specifics of how this tax break can be applied to your business.

To paraphrase all the legal and accountant jargon, essentially Section 179 allows a business to depreciate an additional 50% of the cost of an asset acquired and placed into service in 2008 in that year with the remaining basis depreciated in accordance with the statutorily prescribed recovery period.

To make it simple, if you buy $10,000 of software this year, and install it before the end of 2008, you can depreciate $5,000 this year, instead of having to amortize that cost over a longer time period as most tax laws dictate (usually 3-5 years). Additionally the provision states that the business equipment (software) can be purchased or financed, which is important too, because you can get it purchased today pay for it over time, but get the maximum tax advatage today.

This is huge for companies that that need extra room in their tax profile as we reach the end of the fiscal year. So if you are considering acquiring some new technology, and preferably some Autodesk software is in the mix, you’ll want to take a close look at section 179, and see how it can save you money, and aid in your end of year budgeting.

For more information, please go to

Rising from the ashes, again…

Ok, so I had a bit of a false start with my “new” blog, and as you can see by the archives, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Let’s just say that I’ve been re-energized and will be posting more and sharing my views and thoughts on the business world. For those that are still tracking me, I thank you for the patience; for all others who stumble into my small part of the blogosphere, I say welcome!

November 20, 2007

Value of asking why?

Instead of learning how to sell our product, let’s learn why customers want to buy. There are tons of methods out there for selling, and many try to show you how to manipulate a customer into wanting what you are selling. Some offer tactics for getting the sale, and yet others offer ways of qualifying the customer to increase your chances of selling. What they all lack, or at least what we miss from all the methods, is that none of it works if the customer doesn’t want to buy.

How do we find out if a customer wants to buy; we ask questions? We ask questions, and then we LISTEN. The customer may not know themselves why they want to buy, and we definitely don’t know why they want to buy; you may think you know, you may even have a really educated guess, but until you hear it from the customer, and sometimes, until they hear it from themselves, you don’t know for sure.

No you are probably saying to yourself; But Govna, I ask questions, I qualify my opportunities, I know what my customer wants! Really? If that’s true, then ask yourself this; if the Governa were to pay you a visit, and he were to flip though your rolodex of customers, and randomly call 10 of them, and ask each of them; do you know why you bought this product from Jim? I bet 9 out of 10 of them aren’t going to have an answer. And if any of those 9 does have an answer, it’s something along the lines of;

· Jim gave me a really great discount
· Jim was a nice guy
· Or my favorite; I’ve been buying from Jim’s company for years
· We were going to buy anyway, and Jim just happened to call.

Those aren’t their real reasons, those are the reasons that Jim gave them; either through his actions, or though circumstance.

Now instead, if you, or Jim in this case, did a better job of asking the customer better questions, open ended questions, and then you listened to their answers, and you reflected back what you understood until you got it right, then you might, just might, start to get to the tip of the reason they want to buy. And after asking those questions, and listening to the answers, you then asked more questions, and listened again, you might uncover some real reasons. And then, if you continue to ask questions, and listen, then you get to the real reason, their personal motivation, their professional concerns, and their true reason for wanting your products. Now you are in the position of being able to sell to them, because you know all the information you need; and you can use all those interpersonal skills, all those techniques, all those methods for closing; cause that all comes easily, now that you and the customer know why they want to buy.

Is this some revolutionary method? No. Is this a hard concept to grasp; certainly not. But it is very hard to do in practice. But, it’s a skill, asking questions, that when mastered; lead you to great success, in anything you do in life, sales included. This is a skill I’m trying to master, trying to use more effectively every day, and so far, it’s working. I just ask all you sales people out there; how are you going to find the real reason your customer buy?

For the real methods of asking question, more specifically power questions, or open questions; I rely on two sources; Jeffery Gitomer’s Git Bits, and Situational Sales negotiation, by BayGroup International Both offer up examples and guidelines for asking and using questions to sell more effectively.

September 14, 2007

Selling the effect

I just returned from a whirlwind of a couple days in Las Vegas, NV where I attended sales meetings for the middle of the year (we call it H2, for second half of the year). It was a great three days, and I came away with some great ideas and expectations for the second half of our year. During our second day of meetings our VP of Sales joined us for about an hour to talk about the previous six months and the next six months, among other things. There was one statement he made that really resonated with me. Quite simply, he stated that we as salespeople should be selling the “effect of our products and the value of that effect”. A simple example given was that when a person buys a suit, they aren’t buying it because they need cloths to wear, they are buying it because it makes them look better (the effect). By looking better they might be more confident in their appearance, more comfortable in a business environment, or project a positive self image which will help them succeed (the value).

For me, this was a minor twist but a fresh perspective on selling value, and thus I really wanted to communicate it here. By thinking about the effect a product or service has we really get straight to the benefit that product has to offer. Once that benefit is understood, and more importantly agreed upon, now the discussion can move to value, and when we talk value, we are selling at a whole new level; a level of success. Remember we are all sales people, and we can use this simple concept in our day-to-day lives and work environments. Sell the effect, and sell the value of that effect.

Da Govna

August 27, 2007

Value – what’s the big deal?

Ok, so many of you might be thinking – “Ok Govna, what’s the big deal with value, and what’s this Ultra-Value crap all about?”. Well, let’s start by talking about where I’m coming from with the Ultra-Value or UV concept. First off, we are all sales people, whether you think of yourself as one or not, you are. We all have to sell something in life; it maybe an idea to coworker, the need for a new computer to a manager, your boss on how much you deserve that raise, or even to your spouse on how great that shiny new Ducati 1098S with the Black and Red paint scheme will look in the garage; it’s all selling.

And we all have varying degrees of success with our sales; getting buy-in from a teammate on moving forward with your idea, getting approval for that new laptop, or getting that raise you deserve. But maybe you don’t succeed at all, and sometimes have to settle for a nice picture of that Ducati on your desktop instead of the real thing in your garage. What I’ve begun to learn, realize, and see in practice, is that the more you can prove the value of what your selling, the benefit of the thing you want someone else to agree with you on, the more your chances go up for success. Let’s face it; your coworker isn’t going to care about your idea unless it has a benefit to them. Your boss isn’t going to give you a raise unless they feel you’ve earned it. Your spouse isn’t going to agree to a new Ducati, unless there is a clear benefit to them. So it comes down to value, and the ability to communicate and relate that value. All the books I’ve read on selling, all the classes I’ve attended on selling, and all the mentorship I’ve had on selling have shared this simple concept; sell value and you can sell anything to anyone.

So what’s Ultra-Value; well it’s just the way I choose to look at that concept; in a competitive world, I feel that just selling some value will work, but not enough to take it to the next level. I don’t just want a customer for one sale; I want a customer for life. In order to get that type of relationship, the value has to be the ultimate, has to be the best that they can get has to be Ultra. That’s where I want to be, and that’s where I want my partners and clients I work with to be too.

Da Govna

From the ashes, we rise anew

Like the Phoenix being reborn from the ashes of it's fiery end, Da Govna has returned to the public eye, different, yet still the same at the core. Although my career has changed direction, and thus my life, world, and reality has changed with it, it is time again for my public face to be seen and known. To this end, I've started anew, with a new blog that is independent of my corporate ties, is a different direction then my previous venture, and it is my hope, more valuable then my past efforts. Thank you for stopping by, I hope for your return, and future discussions.

Da Govna.