Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Megatrends - Seven to Watch Out For

There have been plenty of previous books about the future, with a noted one Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. How right was he in his prognosis on the future? Have you read it?  

Then there were two books by John Naisbett on the 80s and 90s - both titled Megatrends.
Similar books have continued over the years, albeit slowly in recent years so it must be about time for another one.
It does not mean to say they are right or wrong either as thinking about how the future may unfold can be a serious planning issue.  Many factors of influence are already fixed in place NOW, and will influence what happens.
Then there are the so called "black Swan "events - rare but influential.  Can they be predicted?
Maybe read this new book and see what factors are at work now that will have influence.
No, I have not read it - quite new in fact, with the press release about the book only dated early May.  Not too many reviews round yet, as I write this on 8 May 2015.

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz is an expert in foresight, which uses economics, geography and decision theory to plan for an uncertain future. He is principal scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency.

What will the future look like?

How will technology development change the way we live, work and play?

How should we respond to change?

These are some of the questions that we need to answer if we're to make wise choices and make a better world.

In a new book from CSIRO Publishing, Global Megatrends: Seven Patterns of Change Shaping Our Future, author Stefan Hajkowicz identifies seven patterns to tell a story about how the world will change over the next 20 years.

"Megatrends are gradual yet powerful trajectories of change that have the potential to throw companies, individuals and societies into ‘freefall'," Dr Hajkowicz said.  "Moments of freefall will happen to you, your company, your society and the world.

That's assured.

It's not whether change will happen that matters, but when and how you respond."  "The financial collapse of stock markets, terrorist strikes, technology disruptors, democratic elections in eastern bloc countries and the fall of the Berlin Wall were relatively sudden events - when viewed over history - but they did not occur in isolation."  "The change heralded by megatrends lies beyond our direct control but not beyond our influence.

By getting a picture of how the world is changing and what these megatrends are, we can alter our destiny."

The seven patterns outlined in the book are:
  • More from less - Increasing demand for limited natural resources and a scarcity of these resources
  • Going, going... gone? -A window of opportunity to protect biodiversity, habitats and the global climate
  • The Silk Highway - Rapid economic growth and urbanisation in Asia and the developing world
  • Forever young - An ageing population, changed retirement patterns, chronic illness and rising healthcare expenditure 
  • Virtually here - Digital technology reshaping retail and office precincts, city design and function and labour markets
  • Great expectations - Changing consumer expectations for services, experiences and social interaction, and
  • An imperative to innovate - Technological advancement is accelerating and it is creating new markets and extinguishing existing ones.

The book captures the thinking of many dedicated scientists and researchers who have devoted their careers to exploring and understanding change, and draws on hundreds of reports and peer-reviewed references.

It is an easy-to-read tool that can be used by businesses, governments, researchers and students to anticipate and plan for the future.  "The seven megatrends are all about the signals that lead-up to a moment of freefall. They are taking the world into new territory, creating new risks and new opportunities."

Global Megatrends: Seven Patterns of Change Shaping Our Future, by Stefan Hajkowicz, available from 1 May 2015 in book shops and online, $35.00, paperback, 216pp, ISBN: 9781486301409.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Are YOU Making the Best Moves in Developing More Sales

If you are in business then you need to be a salesman.  That applies to rural industries as well.  Whether selling beef cattle, advising farmers or dealing with agricultural input products we all need to practice selling what we do and developing our product knowledge, to customers or potential customers.

The term “born salesman” is something that gets thrown around a lot in sales circles. Very often, when we think of a successful model for selling, we think of the guy who just oozes charisma. This is the type of person that can work a room like nobody else and has prospects and referrals booking up all their available free time.

But that probably doesn’t describe 99% of people in sales positions right now, and probably does not describe you, the reader. But does that mean that all hope is lost?

Of course not! Successful salesmen are made, not born. Here are 5 habits that can make you into a highly successful salesman:
1) They use CRM Software to track prospects – This is absolutely vital in this day and age. CRM software makes it possible to keep touching the prospects at set intervals. Most salesman are horrible at following up with prospects and that’s horrible for them because sales IS a numbers game. Even if you can’t physically see the prospect to make a call, very sophisticated CRM allows you to email/direct mail at set intervals. This is automated prospecting and needs to be in any serious salesman’s arsenal.

2) They use multiple channels to keep in touch – Like I mentioned previously about CRM Software, it’s sometimes not possible to actually see a prospect. So if that’s the case, you want to make sure you place a phone call, send a note, use cross referrals from close associates, create an online presence - send an email, or write a blog. Help them with their decision making and improve your visibility.  Attacking a prospect from all angles makes you more visible without necessarily being a burden on the prospect.

3) They keep in touch with customers post-sale – Successful salesman realize that their work is not done after the big sale. After the sale is where you establish the trust of being an advisor to them.

4) They ask for referrals – Most salesmen say they ask for referrals, but very few do it effectively. Saying “I’d appreciate it if you pass the word around about me” is not asking for referrals. Be direct and to the point about who they might be able to refer to you. If you are doing a good job for them, they should be happy to refer clients to you.

5) They treat customers like gold – This should seem obvious, but it’s not always. Current customers are your #1 priority and should always remain that way. Only after you exceed the needs of your clients do you begin your prospecting. That doesn’t mean that you go overboard, but you need to make sure they are happy. Retaining customers is every bit as important, maybe even more important according to many pundits, as getting new ones.

The above tips are hardly new or amazing, but still relevant.  

If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to sales success. 

Remember that being a successful salesman does not mean that you have to charm your way into every sale, but it does mean that you’re committed to following a system that will result in more leads into your sales funnel. The more leads in the funnel and the more touches you have with that prospect, the more sales you will have. The only difficult part is keeping track of who you talked to and when, but with technology these days, there is no excuse for not following up on quality leads.

Do not forget honesty - which might mean turning a prospect away, particularly where you believe the product you have may not meet their needs.  We need to sometimes do this with our turf seed, where possible clients have unrealistic expectations or are located in areas that are unsuitable.  You can sometimes be surprised how this approach can lead to new sales, often from unexpected sources.

[partially based on an article by Leslie Neal on www.entreprise.com

Friday, May 08, 2015

Northern Beef Producers Not Sustainable

It is beef week in Rockhampton this week, the biggest gathering of beef producers around Australia. A simple take home message from elder statesman of the northern beef industry assessment says that over 80% of producers are not sustainable - they are slowly going broke!
Methods to fix this and raise productivity have been developing over the past 40 years in many areas, with the less variable areas of the north better positioned generally.  Gains in productivity in some herds including a few modest sized ones were outstanding - with calving especially now being around 80% and still rising, often due to quite ruthless culling of non productive cows.

Whether it is better calving %, breed selection for higher productivity, bull performance, nutrition, new labour saving technology, remote operational systems and so on, many of the solutions to bring increases in productivity are well known...........and hardly rocket science.  Yes, they need integrating but a start can be made.

Some 20% are doing a-okay, but this shocking 80% are not.

I have not seen the regional breakdown.........but there has been a few years of drought across NW Queensland, which might be part of the story.  And the drier inland areas are inherently highly variable - but to some extent that can be planned for too, it happens inevitably!

Read the article.....sobering reading, but even better read the report on the industry. 

Do something - if you are a beef producer in the north.

Northern beef producers not sustainable
Prices received by Top End cattlemen were having no impact on their profitability

ONLY 20 per cent of beef producers in northern Australia are economically sustainable in the long term, says veteran farm business consultant Phil Holmes.

The other 80pc have almost no skills in finance and debt management, and little understanding of the key profit drivers in their herds.

They also have a poor attitude to adopting new technologies to increase the efficiency of their businesses, and have a poor capacity to manage climate risks.

Mr Holmes outlined this bleak view of the performance of beef farms in the Top End to a Meat and Livestock Australia producer forum at Beef 2015 in Rockhampton.

He draw on the findings of the latest Northern Beef Situation Analysis, which was first produced in 2013 and has now been updated. Mr Holmes was involved in the preparation of both reports, which covered 14 regions across northern Australia.

The latest report was based on 12 years of data and focused on eight performance criteria around the ability of a business to generate enough profit to cover operating expenses and capital investment, and repay debt on time while providing returns to the owners comparable to the standard average annual wage.

Businesses also needed to be able to maintain equity at 85pc, survive succession planning with the farm and family intact and the retiring generation with enough money to enjoy independent lives.

Only 20pc of beef businesses in northern Australia measured up, Mr Holmes said.

The “big picture” for the other 80pc was to lift the productivity of their herds, land and people, but he couldn’t see that happening despite the ready availability of the knowledge and research findings to achieve increased profitability.

He said the market would most likely solve the problem and suggested astute buyers may get some bargains in three or four years' time.

Many northern Australian beef producers had been swept up in the property price bubble in 2002 which had resulted in ridiculous land prices.

'High' beef prices

Equally ridiculous was current talk about high beef prices which, in real terms, were on a par with those of 1985, Mr Holmes said.

He said prices received by Top End cattlemen were having no impact on their profitability.

The big driver of profitability was productivity gains – or the lack of them for most producers – in herd performance, along with the need to reduce business costs.

Reproduction rates and genetics had to be improved and mortality rates reduced to lift productivity gains beyond their average of just one per cent a year in northern Australia’s beef sector.

Meanwhile, the industry’s terms of trade were shrinking by two per cent a year. The scene was set for many producers to go out backwards, Mr Holmes said.  A more productive herd would also reduce grazing pressure and improve environmental sustainability.  Operating costs such as labour and investment spending needed to be tailored to have the most impact in terms of productivity and profits.

The rule should be one full-time employee per 2000 AEs (adult equivalents), Mr Holmes said.