Our Thoughts – and its Value

The Value of a Thought Do you have a desire to become wealthy? OK! Then let’s play a little ‘mental monopoly game’ to set an imaginary value on your mental process. Let’s suppose that for every thought you have, you either gain or lose a dollar. Assuming you have one thought a minute, every hour would then offer a potential $60 gain — or a $60 loss.

Each successful 16-hour day would then equal a potential ‘gain’ of $960. But on the other hand, a single negative thought like ‘Forget it, I’ll never make it anyway’ might trash four hours – creating a loss of $240 on your ‘mental balance sheet.’ So, can you see how important a single thought can be to one seeking prosperity? The Power of a

Thought Your life is not just the result of the thoughts streaming through your mind. In truth, your thoughts actually create your life. How can that be so? OK. Suppose you were laid off from your job. Now it’s obvious you did not create the weak economy leading to that event. BUT – you ARE in total control of how you respond. Here’s how that works: Suppose you get depressed and just give up.

Your response would obviously create a negative reality in your life. But what if you instead ‘take the tiger by the tail’ and start a new business on the web. You will have then created an entirely different reality in response to the exact same event. Life doesn’t just ‘happen’ to us. It’s our response to what occurs that creates our personal reality! Think about this for a moment. You really ARE in charge of creating your own life. The Thought Streaming Process Many people go through their lives paying little or no attention to their active thought process. They are largely unaware of how their mind works: What it tends to pay attention to, what it fears, what it says to itself, and even what it chooses to simply ignore.

For the most part we eat, sleep, work, play, laugh, worry, hope, plan, love, hate, cook, drive, work out – all with little thought as to how we think, or even what we are thinking. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If we gave conscious attention to virtually every one of our movements or actions, we would likely overload our brain with unimportant decisions. But there’s another level of thinking we should give intense, dedicated attention to – the thoughts that create our life reality! Thought Stream Focus Successful people have success-focused thought streams. Wealthy people have prosperity-focused thought streams.

Powerful leaders have leadership-focused thought streams. Do you want to create a lifestyle more prosperous than your current lifestyle? Then you’ll have to develop and refine a ‘prosperity-focused thought stream.’ ‘That’s easy to say,’ you may be thinking. ‘When you’re successful it’s easy to think success, and when you’re rich it’s easy to think prosperity. But I’m not close to wealthy or successful! The conditions of my life are keeping me down.’ Not so! There’s only one thing keeping any of us down — our thoughts. Your thoughts got you where you are today – and they will keep you there, unless replaced with something more positive and powerful! But, you CAN learn to direct your mind to create any lifestyle you desire.

The only true requirement is that you take action! Just wishing for something to change has no effect at all! You will always remain exactly as you are today, unless you take action, and change the focus and content of your thoughts. Creating a Reality Shift Assuming you DO want more prosperity, the place to start is by building a solid prosperity-focused thought stream. Start with a review of your current thoughts! If you want financial abundance, but constantly think about your lack of money – you’re focusing your thought stream on the wrong end of the ‘abundance stick.’ You need to take charge of the internal messages your subconscious mind is broadcasting. Failure to pay attention leaves your subconscious mind in control. Then your subconscious will simply continue to reinforce the same thoughts that created the reality you have today. Focus on feeling prosperous.

Do not give attention to mental thoughts of lack. Replace them immediately with thoughts of prosperity! Does this seem too simple? True, this takes no special abilities, intelligence or talent. It only requires a decision to take control of your thoughts. That’s it! No matter what your past or present situation, or how many times you might have failed to reach your goals, you CAN change your life condition by simply paying attention to the thoughts streaming through your mind. Give it a try, and watch your reality shift! Your lifestyle is a mirror reflection of exactly how you think. Prosperity consciousness doesn’t just ‘happen.’ You create it. Or you just continue to accept the crumbs that life happens to throw your way.

Looking for New Steps in Islamic Finance

In the name of Allah, the Most- Merciful, the Very-Merciful
Islamic banking industry has grown rapidly during the past three decades spreading its
operations in many parts of the globe. Making its first debut in the small Savings Association
of Mitghamr (Egypt) in 1963, its strength has now reached over 250 financial institutions
operating in more than 40 countries with assets valuing USD 750 billions, and an annual
growth rate of 15 per cent. Almost all the giant conventional banks are in queue to establish
their Islamic units to capture the new emerging market. This rapid growth of Islamic
financial industry is, no doubt, encouraging for those who wished to relieve themselves from
the prohibition of interest on the one hand and to remain a part of the modern market
economy on the other. Now that a substantial period of more than three decades has passed
on the experience of Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions, it is imperative to review what
they have achieved so far and what they have missed.

It is, no doubt, a great achievement of these institutions that they relieved the Muslims
from clear prohibition of riba, and came up with some alternatives that might be adopted in
financial market without indulging in interest. In an atmosphere entirely dominated by
interest-based transactions, it was really a formidable task. I do not agree with those who
criticize them on the basis of utopian idealism, and claim that they should have brought an
immediate revolution in the entire pattern of the financial market and should, at the very
outset, have achieved the basic objectives of a true Islamic economy. This idealism that
accepts no breathing space between 0% and 100% always tends to support 0% and to
maintain status quo in practical terms. Looking from practical aspect, it is always a wise
policy to start something that can be done in a given situation, even though it is less
preferable from an idealistic approach. It was in this background that some instruments of
lesser risk like murabahah, ijarah and diminishing musharakah etc. were allowed by the
Shariah scholars. It is also wrong to say that these instruments have an element of
camouflaged interest. In fact, if implemented with all their necessary conditions that have
always been stressed upon by the Shariah scholars, they are substantially different from an
interest based financing. At the first place, all these instruments are based on real assets, and
do not amount to trading in money and financial papers, which is the case in an interestbased financing. Secondly, unlike an interest-based transaction, the financier, in each one of
these instruments, assumes the risk of real commodities, properties or equipments without
which the transactions cannot be valid in Shariah. Thirdly, these modes can be used only to
finance a commercial activity that is permissible according to Islamic rules and principles.

These basic distinguishing features are enough to draw a line of difference between the two
2 techniques of financing. Therefore, the notion that they are another form of interest is not

Having said this, one must not forget that these instruments are not modes of financing
in their origin. They are in fact some forms of trade that have been modified to serve the
purpose of financing at initial stage as secondary and transitory measures. Since they are
modified versions of certain forms of trade, they are subject to strict conditions and cannot
be used as alternatives for interest-based transactions in all respects. And since they are
secondary and transitory measures, they cannot be taken as final goal of Islamic Finance on
which Islamic Financial Institutions should sit content for all times to come. It is a matter of
concern for a student of Islamic finance, like me, that both these points are increasingly
neglected by the players in the field, and especially by the new-comers in the industry.

One should always differentiate between the transactions based on the original
philosophy of a particular system and the transactions resorted to in exceptional situations on
the basis of need. The former ones represent the real concept of the system, while the latter
ones do not. The original concept of Islamic financing is undoubtedly in favor of equity
participation rather than creation of debts, because it is only equity participation that brings
an equitable and balanced distribution of wealth in the society. Debt-ridden economy, on
the other hand, tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of the rich, and creates a bubble
economy which fuels inflation and brings many other social and economic evils.

That is why Islam has discouraged creation of debts, which should be resorted to in exceptional
situations only, and encouraged equity participation, which is the best way to a just and
balanced distribution of the benefits of commercial activities. Out of innumerable
instructions given by Islamic resources to that effect, I would like to quote only two
examples. It is reported by Sayyidah ‘Aisha ﷈, the blessed wife of the Holy Prophet ﷺ that,
during his prayer the Holy Prophet ﷺ used to seek refuge from indebtedness.
On the other
hand, the Holy Prophet has declared that ‘Allah Almighty remains with trade- partners (to
help and support them) unless one of them becomes dishonest to the other.’
These two
comments made by the Holy Prophet ﷺ are more than sufficient to show Islamic attitude
towards debts as opposed to the equity participation.
In the light of the above, Islamic financial institutions have much to do before they
achieve the desired objectives of a true Islamic economy. Although the trade-related
instruments like murabahah, ijarah etc. used by them in their operations, are not loans in
strict terms, yet they create debts on the basis of deferred sales or renting. As explained above,
debt-based instruments are not preferred ones, but they were suggested to be used as modes
of financing to start the wheel of interest-free financing, and to bring an instant relief from
interest in an atmosphere that was not fully prepared for immediate switch over to an equitybased system. It was a sort of first aid provided to a patient before he may have access to full
medical treatment. No one can deny the importance of measures taken as first aid, but who
can claim that they are the final cure of the disease, or that no further treatment is needed
after them? Pain-killers are necessary to give immediate relief, but they are not enough to
cure the deep-rooted ailments. The idea was that after starting their operations on the basis

I have explained this aspect of debt-based economy in my book The Historical Judgment On Interest.
Sahih-ul-Bukhari, Chapter10:149, Hadith no.832
Abu Dawood, Chapter 22:26, Hadith no. 3383iççâáåÖ=Ñçê=kÉï=píÉéë=áå=fëä~ãáÅ=cáå~åÅÉ=
of these instruments, they should gradually proceed towards the ideal forms of Islamic
Failure to abide by this idea has caused many problems resulting in total neglect of
equity-based financing. Despite the differences we have explained above between interest and
these instruments, they have many similarities in the net result, especially because of the
benchmark used for their pricing. This has prompted Islamic Financial Institutions to
compete with their conventional counterparts in all respects, and restrict themselves to the
debt-based products. In their zeal to compete conventional banks, they are trying to invent
‘Shariah compliant’ counterparts for each and every financial product available in
conventional capitalist market, regardless of whether or not they are in consonance with the
ethos of Islamic economy. Instead of gradual progress towards equity, the tendency is to
make maximum compromises to accommodate debt- related products matching with
practices of the conventional market. Even derivatives are being designed on the basis of
‘Shariah compliant’ methods. If some products had to be equity based, they too were
equated in some way or the other with a fixed return debt. ‘Sukuk’ was the best way to
proceed towards equity, but in order to restrict the return of sukuk holders, a threshold based
on Libor is applied after which the whole profit is given to a particular party in the name of
incentive for good management. In many cases, it is not even mentioned that after the fixed
rate the rest is incentive.
This situation needs serious consideration of the players in the field and of the Shariah
scholars who oversee the new products for Islamic financial Institution. Many conferences
and seminars are being held frequently to consider various aspects of Islamic finance. I think
it is high time now to find out ways and means to make our products not only compliant
with, but also founded on Shariah. Our research should now focus on how we can move
from debt-based to equity-based instruments in their true spirit, so that they may
demonstrate the beauty of Islamic finance based on its economic ethos. No doubt, there are
still some hurdles in their implementation, but they are not insurmountable for an industry
that is growing so fast, if serious importance is attached to this vital issue, which must be the
next topic of our discussion in a workshop devoted for this purpose. May Allah guide us all.

Niche Marketing – Find your way.

Lots of information has been published about niche marketing, and with all the help freely available, it should be possible to quickly and easily identify yours. The problem is, in niche marketing, how do you find your way through tough competition?

20th century history is full of the most amazing examples of niche builders and how they made them work. For example, in the 1920s, Walt Disney founded the beginnings of a huge empire on the unknown art of child-like sketches – later known as cartoons. This was to find it’s way through the toughest competition: the Wall Street Crash, Great Depression and World War 2. Who would have thought a business as silly as cartoons would have the ability to survive some of the worst crises of recent history?

Finding your way through tough competition in your niche market involves taking a few simple steps:

1) Identify unique needs. Are you offering a product or service that is new or exactly the right thing for now? Have you narrowed the market down to a potential niche that you can tailor make your product to – something that is relevant to the 2010 market? An idea to re-market the Biro pen, for example, is not going to have the same appeal to today’s generation of button-pushing computer geeks!

2) Test the market. Check out the competition to see what you are up against. What are their ads, websites and brochures like? If you are heading for a popular niche, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should not go ahead with your launch. It just means you need to fine tune it a bit more. Be careful if you don’t actually find any competition – tough or otherwise. It may just mean there is a high failure rate for your particular niche. Testing will enable you to try and work out why.

3) Use Personal Branding. In today’s internet, finding your way through tough competition will involve getting up close and personal with your target audience. You will have to ‘own’ your product in a completely different way to the sterile atmosphere of yesteryear. For example, you may need to learn how to set up a blog and use social networking to give your product and name higher visibility. That may even entail learning a new (techno) language!

Although there is a lot of information freely available on the internet, it is highly likely you will need expert help in learning how to successfully harness the power of the world wide web. Knowing the bare bones will not always be sufficient to crack the code of niche marketing enough to know how to find your way through tough competition and make it successfully work for you. Many an entrepreneur has boldly gone before and the wealth of information they have can really help get you right where you need to be.

How Important is Business Process Reengineering?

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is known as the secret to a successful business. It plays an important role in today’s business world but what exactly can BPR do for you?

BPR means understanding the processes which are involved in your company. BPR is a management approach aimed at improving your business by means of elevating efficiency and effectiveness of the processes that exist within and across organizations. The key to BPR is for organisations to look at their business processes from a clean slate perspective and determine how they can best construct these processes to improve how they conduct business.

BPR can also be known as Business Process Redesign and Business Process Change Management. BPR has become a viable way of implementing lean structures.

BPR is important to businesses for a number of reasons such as it is the organisational process, which is required to align people, processes and technology with strategies in order to achieve business integration. BPR can also be thought of as taking a business in its current state and forming an organisational and operational blueprint in order to redirect skills policies, information or data, cultural values, organisational skills and processing as well as incentives towards making targeted improvements to the business.

Below are some quotes from the best and most experienced people surrounding BPR:

Hammer and Champy (1993) define Business Process Reengineering as

o “… the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed.”

Thomas H. Davenport (1993) is another example of how well-known Business Process Reengineering theorist uses the term process innovation, which he says:

o “encompasses the envisioning of new work strategies, the actual process design activity, and the implementation of the change in all its complex technological, human, and organizational dimensions”.

Additionally, Davenport (ibid.) points out the major difference between Business Process Reengineering and other approaches to organization development (OD), especially the continuous improvement or TQM movement, when he states:

o “Today firms must seek not fractional, but multiplicative levels of improvement – 10x rather than 10%.”

BPR, if implemented properly, can give huge returns. BPR has helped giants like Procter and Gamble Corporation and General Motors Corporation succeed after financial drawbacks due to competition. It has also helped American Airlines to get back on track from the bad debt that was hanging over their company practice. BPR is about the proper method of implementation within a company.

So where is the best place to approach in order to gain full benefits from Business Process Reengineering? I recommend that you talk to a finance business, such as an entrepreneur and investor business who will be able to help you with your BPR.

Overloaded at Job? How to Manage –

The First Step in Managing Job Overload

We have all experienced that appalling sense of having far too much work to do and too little time to do it in. We can choose to ignore this, and work unreasonably long hours to stay on top of our workload. The risks here are that we become exhausted, that we have so much to do that we do a poor quality job, and that we neglect other areas of our life. Each of these can lead to intense stress.

The alternative is to work more intelligently, by focusing on the things that are important for job success and reducing the time we spend on low priority tasks. Job Analysis is the first step in doing this.
The first of the action-oriented skills that we look at is Job Analysis. Job Analysis is a key technique for managing job overload – an important source of stress.
To do an excellent job, you need to fully understand what is expected of you. While this may seem obvious, in the hurly-burly of a new, fast-moving, high-pressure role, it is oftentimes something that is easy to overlook.
By understanding the priorities in your job, and what constitutes success within it, you can focus on these activities and minimize work on other tasks as much as possible. This helps you get the greatest return from the work you do, and keep your workload under control.
Job Analysis is a useful technique for getting a firm grip on what really is important in your job so that you are able to perform excellently. It helps you to cut through clutter and distraction to get to the heart of what you need to do.
Note that this tool takes two forms – the short-form we discuss here assumes that your organization is already well organized and that its job descriptions, review criteria and incentives are well-aligned and correct. The long-form, helps you to deal with jobs where this is not the case – here, inconsistent job design can cause enormous stress.

How to Use the Tool:

To conduct a job analysis, go through the following steps:

1. Review formal job documentation:
  • Look at your job description. Identify the key objectives and priorities within it.
  • Look at the forms for the periodic performance reviews. These show precisely the behaviors that will be rewarded and, by implication, show those that will be punished.
  • Find out what training is available for the role. Ensure that you attend appropriate training so that you know as much as possible about what you need to know.
  • Look at incentive schemes to understand the behaviors that these reward.
2. Understand the organization’s strategy and culture:
Your job exists for a reason – this will ultimately be determined by the strategy of the organizational unit you work for. This strategy is often expressed in a mission statement. In some way, what you do should help the organization achieve its mission (if it does not, you have to ask yourself how secure the job is!). Make sure you understand and perform well the tasks that contribute to the strategy.
Similarly, every organization has its own culture – its own, historically developed values, rights and wrongs, and things that it considers to be important. If you are new to an organization, talk through with established, respected members of staff to understand these values.
Make sure that you understand this culture. Make sure that your actions reinforce the company’s cul
ture, or at least do not go against it. Looked at through the lens of culture, will the company value what you do?
Check that your priorities are consistent with this mission statement and the company culture.

3. Find out who the top achievers are, and understand why they are successful:
Inside or outside the organization, there may be people in a similar role to you who are seen as highly successful. Find out how they work, and what they do to generate this success. Look at what they do, and learn from them. Understand what skills make them successful, and learn those skills.

4. Check that you have the people and resources to do the job:
The next step is to check that you have the staff support, resources and training needed to do an excellent job. If you do not, start work on obtaining them.

5. Confirm priorities with your boss:
By this stage, you should have a thorough understanding of what your job entails, and what your key objectives are. You should also have a good idea of the resources that you need, and any additional training you may need to do the best you can.
This is the time to talk the job through with your boss, and confirm that you share an understanding of what constitutes good performance in the role.
It is also worth talking through serious inconsistencies, and agreeing how these can be managed.

6. Take Action:
You should now know what you have to do to be successful in your job. You should have a good idea of the most important things that you have to do, and also the least important.
Where you can drop the less-important tasks, do so. Where you can de-prioritize them, do so.
Where you need more resource or training to do your job, negotiate for this.
Remember to be a little sensitive in the way you do this: Good teamwork often means helping other people out with jobs that do not benefit you. However, do not let people take advantage of you: Be assertive in explaining that you have your own work to do. If you cannot drop tasks, delegate them or negotiate longer time scales.


Job analysis is a five-step technique for:
  • Understanding and agreeing how to achieve peak performance in your job;
  • Ensuring that you and your boss agree on the areas you should concentrate on when time gets tight; and the areas that can be de-emphasized during this time; and
  • Making sure that you have the resources, training and staff needed to do a good job.
By using the Job Analysis technique, you should gain a good understanding of how you can excel at your job. You should also understand your job priorities.
This helps you to manage the stress of job overload by helping to decide which jobs you should drop.
Job Analysis is just one of many practical action-oriented techniques for reducing the stress of job overload. These and other types of technique help you to resolve structural problems within jobs, work more effectively with your boss and powerful people, improve the way your teams function and become more assertive so that other people respect your right not to take on an excessive workload. These are all important techniques for bringing job stress under control, for improving the quality of your working life, and for achieving career success.

Constructive Communication for Teachers

Feelings and emotions–that’s what the child care profession is all about. Feelings for the children, the families, and yes, even co-workers is what makes this profession so fantastic. Yet, feelings make it so difficult to maintain professional boundaries and communicate constructively on an ongoing, consistent basis.

Perhaps you share, along with many of my clients, one of the biggest challenges in maintaining professional boundaries and consistently communicating constructively. This challenge is managing your feelings while communicating or while working to resolve an issue.

Here are a couple of case scenarios to illustrate how feelings can get in the way of communicating constructively.

Case Scenario 1: Misbah is Sara Ahmed’s teacher. Here’s what she said to a co-worker today. “Mrs. Ahmed just doesn’t care! I can’t believe she continues to send Sara to school with a doughnut and chocolate milk for breakfast in spite of our efforts to get the children to eat healthier. Not to mention the fact that Sara has a weight problem. And not to mention the fact that all the other children see Sara with a doughnut and they want one, too! She’s hopeless!”

Case Scenario 2: Misbah has to talk to a parent today about late fees that are owed for late pick-up. Misbah struggles with this because she knows the parent doesn’t have a lot of money and she can totally relate because she often feels she, herself, never has enough money, either. So she feels it’s better to put off trying to collect the money because that’s what she would like the people to whom she’s indebted to do for her.

In each case scenario can you identify the feelings and emotions that may prevent Misbah from communicating constructively?

In the first case scenario Misbah is feeling anger and resentment. Additionally, she’s judging the parent instead of empathizing with the parent. In the second case scenario Misbah is actually relating with the parent to the point where her own feelings are preventing her from addressing the issue at hand.

When it comes to communicating constructively, empathy is a vital tool to implement. Empathy allows you to understand things from the other person’s perspective without judging (including making snap judgments or jumping to conclusions) and without blaming. This is so important, yet requires much skill to implement.

So how can you master this skill of communicating with empathy? Here are a few tips to help you.

1. Focus on the facts and benefits of resolving the issue and solutions.

2. Remember another’s behavior is not an attack on you personally. So leave yourself out of it.

3. Ask yourself or brainstorm with others about the reasons the person may be displaying the undesirable behavior. Why is this person doing what they’re doing?

4. Ask yourself or brainstorm with others about the possible motivation the person has to make changes in what they’re doing. What is important to this person? Why would what I’m requesting be important to him or her?

5. When having positive and direct communication with the person, use phrases such as: “I value,” “I trust,” “I understand” and “I appreciate.”

Let’s put these tips to work to see how Misbah in Case Scenario 1 communicates with empathy and achieves positive, constructive results.

Misbah follows tip 1 and 2: She focuses on facts, benefits and solutions and removes herself personally. She asks herself: how can I best communicate with Sara’s mom to help her help Sara eat healthier?

Next Misbah follows tips 3 and 4: She truly seeks to understand things from Sara’s mom’s perspective through reflecting upon why Sara’s mom feeds Sara a doughnut for breakfast and what could possibly motivate her to change.

Did she want to give Sara a treat? Was she simply in too much of a hurry to feed Sara something healthier? Or perhaps was it a little of both?

After brainstorming with her director, Misbah now feels ready to communicate with Sara’s mom with empathy. She follows tip 5: Starting on a positive note, Misbah states, “I understand your wanting to give Sara a treat because you don’t get to spend much time with her. One of our priorities in working with children and families is to make sure their nutritional needs are met. We can’t do this alone–we have to partner with families to meet this goal. Is this a goal that you value? Great! Here’s how we can make this happen…”

The conversation continues and positive, constructive results are achieved!

Why better integration makes sense for business

The distinction is both wrong-headed and dangerous. It’s true that some people are natural born sellers, who are unhappy with ‘soft’ issues like strategy, planning and branding. But the strategists, planners and brand managers are a long way, sometimes inordinately long, from the front line. The lessons from the front, in peace as in war, bring the generals in the rear back to reality.

The first of those realities is that the customer is outside the company’s control. It follows that the sales person is a crucial contact in a critical activity – worth every bit of the double issue that the Harvard Business Review recently devoted to the discipline.
The contribution closest to my heart is entitled ‘The World’s Greatest Salesman’, advertised on the front cover along with all the heavyweight contributions from the academics, consultants, etc. However, the one-page contribution was well worth the billing. This is not to deny that the heavyweights possess great value. In fact, there’s a highly telling overlap between the heavier material and the one-pager. The world champion turned out to be Joe Girard, a car salesman who won his title way back in 1973.
The great feat that made the Guinness record book (and which still stands unchallenged) was to sell 1,425 cars in the year, including 174 in a single month. According to the HBR, the norm for the industry is four or five cars a month. The interesting question, in fact, is not how Girard achieved this fabulous level of turnover, but why the other salespeople in this sales-dependent industry are so poor: one deal a week is a miserable performance.
What makes it even more mysterious is that the sales staff work for independent dealerships whose franchises are only as valuable as their sales figures.
Yet the manufacturers find they must go to great lengths to motivate the dealers to improve their own effectiveness – I’ve attended dealer conferences at expensive venues where the delegates are royally entertained, in between lectures by people like me on how to improve their sales performance. Motivation dominates the discussions, and in the motivational mix the same item rules the roost – commission. Money is a great motivator, without doubt. So what can Joe Girard teach us about commissions?
The answer is nothing. The champ mentions the word only once, in describing his first sale. Having won over the customer by literally going down on his hands and knees and begging him to buy, Girard borrowed $10 from his boss against the commission owing. His monetary incentive was to earn anything he could to feed his family after a business failure.
The episode gave Girard an abiding gratitude for those who bought from him – he calls his emotion ‘love’. He had worked out that the customer wants more than a car; you want one that delivers exactly what you envisaged, or at least gets rapidly restored to full efficiency if anything goes wrong. Girard would make appointments to see customers, and have their problem fixed, often without charge, straightaway. He would send them cards every month with a changing picture and message, but always with the words ‘I like you’.
Girard’s credo goes deeper than that – ‘Love Thy Customer’. And not only your customer. The champ regularly entertained (at a nearby restaurant or his home) every fellow-employee who helped him to achieve his remarkable standards of customer service. This practice is endorsed by several studies which show that including supporting staff in productivity bonus schemes brings significant improvement in overall performance.
A business unit is a community with shared interests. Too often, the groups within the community are antagonistic. I once studied a company making construction materials where friction between sales and marketing was seriously affecting revenues. Nobody had thought of putting the two sets of people under the same roof and into the same incentive scheme, governed by the same performance measures. The obstacles to effective combined operations were artificial and easily removed.
But the Girard approach goes further, by co-opting the customer into the community of the business. Again, many studies have shown the benefits of this alliance. For one thing, the customer is a leading source of innovative ideas. The purchaser/user is also a sharp-eyed observer of what’s right and wrong about your operation. The sales people should be your conduits for accurate information about the level of customer satisfaction. But all too often reports are ignored. In particular, marketing people don’t want to be told by mere salesman that they – the marketeers – have got it wrong.
The lack of genuine community in companies was highlighted here a few years back when I published a questionnaire designed to show whether your company has entered the 21st century or is still stuck several decades behind. Here are the 18 questions I asked:
1 Is your company organized as a web or network, and not as a pyramid?
2 Is its focus external, not internal?
3 Is  flexible rather than structured?
4 Does the company draw its strength from change, and not from stability?
5 Does its structure consist of interdependent entities, not self-sufficient units?
6 Are its key resources ‘bits’ of information, not physical assets?
7 Are operations ‘virtually’ integrated, not vertically integrated?
8 Are products mass-customized, rather than mass-produced?
9. Is the company’s reach global, not just domestic?
10 Are financial reports real-time, not quarterly?
11 Are inventories measured in hours, not months?
12 Is strategy made bottom-up, not top-down?
13 Is leadership inspirational, not dogmatic?
14 Are workers treated as both employees and free agents?
15 Are job expectations built round personal growth, not security?
16 Are people motivated to build the business, and not only to compete?
17 Does the company look for and obtain revolutionary gains, and not just incremental improvements?
18 Is quality a no-compromise, total ‘must’, not merely the best that can be afforded?
As I remarked at the time, there may be some 18-yes companies around, but I have yet to meet one. You can see that a 19th question will fit perfectly well. Are marketing and sales partners, or adversaries? The question should not, of course, even arise. Sales can’t sell if the marketing platform is collapsing, and the marketeers can’t market if the sales side doesn’t implement and complement the marketing strategies.
You can call this ‘integrated’ sales/marketing – the highest state of evolution, coming after ‘undefined’, ‘defined’ and ‘aligned’.
These terms are used in the HBR by Philip Kotler, the doyen of marketing gurus, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswammy in an article on ‘Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing’. In their account, the integrated company blurs the boundaries between the two disciplines and exhibits the following key features:
• The twain share structures, systems and rewards (see the case described earlier)
• Both, but especially marketing, start to focus on strategic, forward thinking tasks
• Marketeers share fully and deeply in management of key accounts
• Everybody uses the same metrics
• Budgeting stops being contentious and becomes more flexible.
In sum, ‘a rise and fall together culture’ develops. This would be comical were it not so serious – because sales and marketing plainly always rise and fall together, and have done ever since marketing was invented. Lyndale F. Urwick defined the activity as far back as 1933. Where does the marketing leverage lie in your organisation?
• Who determines what the business shall make and sell – how many different lines and how many sizes and patterns?
• Who determines the price at which the business shall sell those lines?
• Who determines to whom the business can and should sell the lines?
• Who determines when lines should be added and withdrawn – including (critically important) ‘seeing that the supply of new products is adequate both as regards frequency and design to secure the established market and the winning of new markets?’
• When a new line is launched, are ‘the efforts of all departments (design, production, advertising and selling) united behind the new venture, focused as to time, quantity and range of effort?’
• Does the company make a constant and systematic study of the products and methods of competitors?
• Who determines the sales objectives for all the company’s lines?
• Who decides what standard of quality the business should aim to achieve?
In many organisations answers to these all-important questions are by no means clear. The questions may go unanswered until the disastrous results of negligence become all too apparent. But look at the Urwick questionnaire again. The issues covered cannot be left to marketing alone. They cover or touch upon every aspect of the business as a whole. ‘The efforts of all departments of the business (design, production, advertising and selling)’ are required, not only for launching new products, but to optimise th
e value created – starting with the numbers on the top line.
The trio of Harvard authors – Kotler, Rackham and Krishnaswammy – provide twenty short statements with which you may strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree or strongly agree. The statements range from ‘Our sales figures are usually close to the sales forecasts’, via ‘The heads of sales and marketing regularly confer about upstream issues such as idea generation, market sensing and product development strategy’, to ‘Sales and marketing actively participate in the preparation and presentation of each other’s plans to top executives’.
The higher the score on this searching examination, the higher the level of ‘integration’. My guess is, however, that most businesses fit into the ‘undefined’ box, where the two functions have grown independently, and ‘each is preoccupied largely with its own tasks and agendas’ and ‘doesn’t know much about what the other is up to – until a conflict arises’. In such circumstances, the top line, revenue, will inevitably be placed a very long way below potential – and nowhere near the performance of world champion Joe Girard.
You can argue that a retail car salesman, operating in a business which has no production, design or new product functions, isn’t a useful model for the typical company. But note the way in which Girard integrated his sales activity with the dealership’s after-sales services. Observe how he lowered the barriers that usually separate the two operations. See how the hero treated his customers as true partners in the operation.
Then compare Girard’s class act with the ‘biggest mistakes’ attributed to American sales reps by two HBR contributors from the Forum Corporation. A survey of 138 business-to-business buyers found that the biggest number (26%) were guilty of failing to follow the customer’s buying process. Another 18% ‘don’t listen to my needs’. Then, 17% ‘don’t follow up’. In other words, 61% of these sales people treated the customer within attentive disrespect.
Remarkably, ‘charge high prices’ is right down the bottom, in a bunch accounting for a mere 2% of the sales errors. The HBR, Urwick and 21st century management all point to the same huge conclusion. Either pull together, or the bottom line will be ravaged by the mistakes at the top: the errors at the top of the P&L that are created by top management’s failure to advance from ‘undefined’ to real integration.