Profitability

Truth is elephants are not afraid of mice and traditional media is still more effective than digital age newbies. 

As context for our story, an early stage B2B service client was determined to test a comprehensive marketing campaign with significant emphasis on social media.  The premise was we would be effective in using Internet marketing along with traditional vehicles to build relationships with prospects in advance of direct sales meetings. 

This core effort was further supported by a significant free downloadable books and business evaluation guides, along with direct mail effort.  Traditional networking continued as well.  The target audience was top executives of middle market companies within a defined geographic area. 

The yearlong test failed to generate any new business for the client and thus was abandoned. While any failure is a composite of several elements, we conclude these are the five primary reasons for the outcome: 

  • The target audience was very resistant to the media used i.e. LinkedIn and Twitter. e-Mail drives and direct mail proved equally ineffective. Generational shift of business ownership may change behavioral disuse or distrust of Internet based campaigns. Further, the vast majority of the target market companies did not participate on either LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • Copy strategy and execution across all messaging was judged strong, tested well in advance of actual campaign but clearly missed the mark of being compelling. We conclude the media was the message, thus the copy failed to initiate a trusting relationship with prospects as expected.
  • While true social media as an advertising medium exchanges high media costs for high human capital costs
    • Operationally, finding and developing social media management required more time than allocated and longer continuity of effort than the client’s test plan afforded;
    • The cost of actionable lists of private company executives was the client’s budget limitations.
  • The comprehensiveness of the marketing campaign exhausted the time limitations of the client’s executive pool to execute consistently. Less may be more.
  • Even thought the test market was well funded, the expected efficiencies of using social media to reach a difficult to reach audience never materialized. Net, the cost of Internet marketing in a B2B environment is equal to or higher than the costs of traditional media campaigns.

 Do you have different stories to tell? Please share.

 

Virtually all executives and entrepreneurs I talk with focus on clarity of objectives, strategic initiatives and tactics as they help energize their team environments. They / we are cognizant of building team rapport to advance collaboration, establishing appropriate financial and other incentives based on performance and even exploiting technology to facilitate communication. We share a heightened awareness of task focus while achieving benchmarks that are tied to ROI attainment.

I was recently involved with a large project that failed to reach or sustain any major objective despite the fact that each member of the group was a world class knowledge expert, motivated to succeed and for the most part, energized. What was overlooked in the process was the cultural (belief and value) system individuals within the team held. Those individual systems filtered the interpretation or meaning of verbal and non - verbal communication.

We spent zero time exploring interpersonal value system differences even though the men and women were from three different cultures, lived in five different states, grew up under different social systems and even different religions. All these factors influenced how timetable driven, ROI centered project leader's behaviors were felt and acted on by others.

The end result was a break down in TRUST. This experience, where two separate team members held their own self - esteem as the priority value, was clearly out of line with what the balance of the team held as number one - shared achievement. This known but unappreciated reality continuously sabotaged the project.

As a result, I am now personally, and recommend to client presidents and leaders, conscious of the role trust plays in performance. The basic three components of trust must simultaneously be balanced: a) formal trust i.e. title, contract, b) informal i.e. personal communication - friendship and c) trust built around performance competencies.

When there is a breech in trust, behavior is affected. People grow frustrated, productivity declines, fear and even hostility increase which results in team conflict. Inter-personal barriers evolve and individuals disengage, ultimately crashing projects.

I see an evolving role of leadership and management re-balancing the goal and task, timetable driven orientation to one where awareness of cultural and psychological underpinnings of trust are championed. As academic as it sounds, in our culturally diverse world, we need to foster agreement on the hierarchy of values as they relate to project objectives and ROI.

From compensation for my daughter who is a junior sales executive at a national company to chairmen - friends at global ones is a critical topic in the righting of the American economic ship.

In my daughter's case the answer was a corporate wide pay freeze due to "business weakness" despite her and few others' personal high achievement. In the case of top executive at publicly traded ones the issue of re-balance total compensation between cash and stock options to insure long term effectiveness of  decisions.

Lost in the conversation is the topic of making public employees or government accountable for decisions along with private company executives and the subject of integrity. We'll talk about government issues at the end of this piece.

I believe any of the three alternative approaches above, i.e. total lock down. cosmetic rebalancing or status quo, are solutions to the fundamental problem of self - serving focus of people in authority.

What I am helping several private company clients do is position their businesses for eventual sale or IPO, is restructuring executive roles to be more strategic than functional and linking total compensation to the long term performance of the organizations. We are doing this through a gradual re-alignment of the organization to fit the concurrent evolution of the businesses in complexity and adding a layer of non cash compensation.

Revised compensation structure, along with standard cash, tailored insurance vehicles and bonuses are warrants that are exercisable with change of ownership or longer term under special circumstances if the executive leaves the company in good standing. This is a work in progress with counsel, compensation consultants and business valuation advisers, but offers owners an ability to encourage and reinforce behavior that is in the optimizes the total performance of the company and not the individual income for selected employees. It further does not dilute owners' executive control or create unfunded tax obgligation to executives.

The current Administration is trying to foster regulations that require banks and others financial institutions (except Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac employees) to craft incentives along lines proposed by Professor Kane of Boston College. His idea is to bonus senior executives with a special class of stock that has claw back provisions require a return of capital if the company becomes insolvent. This seems like a smart but unworkable idea.

The second proposal is to establish a "West Point for regulators" according to Jason Zweig at the Wall Street Journal. The concept is to instill "a sense of honor and duty" with those charged with oversight. With these goings on in Washington, I wonder where all the adults, all the educators, all the parents have gone so that smart people think we need an institution to teach adults in responsible position about honor.

Integrity and honor, traditional concepts, are fundamental to motivation. Beyond that, compensation issues are central to behavior that potentially maximizes executive conduct that benefits all stake holders. Contemporary boards and managers have arranged compensation to optimize personal returns while sub-optimizing benefit to their cohorts. Under a capitalistic system it appears to me a straight forward; tie wealth creation to long term performance whether executives stay or leave organizations.

Jason Zweig, in is WSJ article, rhetorically notes: "It's probably too much to ask for Congress to abide by the sample principles (honor, duty and long term accountability even after leaving office), but we can dream. Could anyone possibly doubt this would wake up the watchdogs?"

Recently we have seen a significant increase in merger and acquisition interest in our client base. That activity prompted me to review business valuations for businesses sold several years ago. The first lesson from this review was the need to lose the emotional attachment to businesses and accept the agnostic reality of how businesses are valued. The second lesson from successfully closed deals was the need for clarity of objectives in buying or selling companies.

As background, we are talking about privately held companies with no empirical market value. That said, valuation is as much art as science. For private companies on both sides of the buy - sell transaction these are emotional events. Thus, knowing this and understanding in crystal clear detail the objectives of a deal allow shrewd buyers or sellers to effect trades that maximize the probability of realizing a successful deal beyond the transaction itself.

Published research suggests that 80% of all M&A transactions fail to meet their stated objectives. Consideration of any transaction, which also impacts valuation, must include post closing integration. To see our approach on maximizing probability of success, see our Basic M&A Checklist. (This MAP is read clockwise from 1 AM to Noon.)

Owners need to be aware there are many valuation models but all fall under broad families: a) Asset Driven b) Income Based and c) Market Comparison. Each model offers ranges of valuation metrics, which means company owners not experienced in corporate finance retain suitable counsel. Each merchant bank, PE capital or M&A specialist focuses on different industries, deal sizes even buy or sell side of transactions. (A short list of favorites follows.)

For example, a family valuing a company for an estate may want to obtain an independent valuation on a low end for estate tax purposes. Remember that a low base now may translate to significantly higher capital gains in a following sale transaction or may reduce the ability to collateralize future transactions. But we will settle on the low valuation objective for this discussion. A special note on this example: All states have different regulations that apply so local counsel is critical.

Here is an actual range of trading ratios for a consumer products company based on publicly traded like-company values several years ago:

Trading Ratios

Guideline Company Range

Selected Multiple

Bus. Enterprise / EBIT

5.7 - 11.5

5.7

Bus. Enterprise / EBIDA

5.1 - 10.0

5.5

Equity / EBT

5.5 - 13.2

9.0

Equity / Net Income

7.6 - 21.6

15.0

The various metrics relate to income statement entries; EBIT = earnings before income taxes, EBITDA = earnings before income taxes and depreciation, EBT = earnings before taxes and net income is revenue minus returns and product costs. The use of any of these ratios as benchmarks again depends upon the nature of the industry and objective of the business deal.

In fair value determination, premium or discount salaries to family members paid are normalized to industry standard, as are premium rent payments and other idiosyncratic expenses that benefit a family. This normalization may either inflate or deflate valuation depending upon the objectives of the parties to the transaction. Examples of other variables influencing valuation are:

  • Market or business category in terms of size, volatility, growth / decline
  • Competitive concentration and market share of target company
  • Nature and quality of inventory
  • Revenue composition i.e. few large customers with constant order streams or many small accounts with few repeat orders
  • Patents, trademarks or factors that give unique, sustainable competitive advantage.

Awareness of different fair market value methodologies is important for owners using their companies as a means of wealth creation versus current income production. All readers can understand that the range of ratios applied to whatever valuation metric is wide and the attending company value dramatically changes from the low to high end of the relevant range.

The key for me lies beyond the historic performance of a company. As a general rule, sellers are selling the past and buyers are buying the future. It is the potential a business has for future growth, a view I hold whether buying or selling companies. This gets back to the intangible but real value of brand strength and how to package a sale or conversely see extraordinary value in a purchase.

Regardless of turnaround or high growth going concern, I personally focus on the nature and strength of a company's perception in the collective minds of customers. Financial experts are essential in identifying and appraising fair monetary value and deal structure, yet real wealth is derived from grasping how to translate historic performance into ongoing profitable revenue while serving customers extraordinarily well.

Here are selected companies I know and their roles in ongoing transactions with us: AME Capital for client financing and acquisition of technology companies; Touchstone Capital for consumer product company acquisitions and business valuations; Millburn Capital for technology company acquisitions;Castle Island Partners for larger, consumer based business. By way of disclaimer, none of these company principals necessarily agree or disagree with views expressed here.

Many business owners (going concern or pre-revenue) are surprised that a key starting point for MacDuff Partners' engagements, after conducting a 360° business audit, is to begin defining a company's brand. We start with "brand" based on experience that strongly demonstrate branded companies and products lead to superior profitability.

Brand is the character of a business, along with the essence of what is promised and delivered to customers every day. As important to company owners, brand strategy provides the organizing concept, a theme, from which to lead an entire company. By extension, having a clearly articulated brand integrates the company's vision and mission and is the platform for sustainable wealth creation when the company is sold.

As small business owners struggle accepting brand as the core asset for a company, it appears management of Fortune ones do as well. A recent article in Advertising Age discussed a finding that on a global basis only P&G and Reckitt Benekiser communicate the importance of brand to the bottom line. The article summarizes a global survey by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in the UK covering the top 50 marketing spenders on all continents.

Ad Age gives an example of P&G as a thought leader in business communication based on their annual reports. The article pointed out that P&G's marketing strategy was integrated into the company's overall business commentary. A.G. Lafley, Chairman, explained throughout the report on a brand-to-brand basis how his company's focus on innovation and understanding customer needs delivers high value. (See our discussion of customer focus.)

An analyst, Seamus Gillen, concluded:"There's a correlation between how a company talks about its business and how it runs its business. The stronger the role played by brands in generating a company's revenues, the more important it is for there to be appropriate disclosure on the role of brands in developing and delivering the value proposition." Net, net, even for publically traded companies, strong brands translate to revenue, and revenue to value, thus value to wealth.

Many books and programs are dedicated to methods and practices for developing brands. Look in the MacDuff "Resources" section from some tools to use. A terrific quick read on brand building was written by Allen Gorman, President of Brandspa, "Briefs for Building Better Brands".

All business owners must spend time re-thinking the value of their company's and product's brands. Despite day to day operating challenges, time conflicts and emotional hurdles we go through running our businesses, long term brand equity is the critical asset for wealth creation.

In a meeting last week, a business-owner client with about thirty full-time employees made a comment that the pending changes in health care would bankrupt him in several years despite reductions in his work force to control operating costs.

Later, I asked Scott Peloquin, CEO of benefEx, a leading New Jersey employee benefit consultancy for small and mid-market companies, how I should begin advising my clients to think about the upcoming changes in federal health insurance mandates.

Scott said: “First, I don’t think the reforms now being discussed could possibly go through.  Even if they do, the most efficient solution today is for employers to deploy a consumer driven program, rather than retaining more traditionally designed – and expensive - plans. This was innovative thinking to me about how to rebalanced risks and costs, so I rhetorically wondered how the program worked and what a representative cost impact could be.

“In a nutshell traditional plans charge about $4,000 monthly in premiums to insure about $3,000 of up-front risk, or ‘deductibles’ (think about this as though you were lowering your annual auto insurance premium by increasing your deductible from $ 500 to $ 1,000).  The current higher cost arrangement is profitable for the insurance company commission-based insurance brokers.  High-priced insurance also produces disproportionate revenue for state governments which further increases health insurance costs. 

This ‘dirty little secret’ rarely enters the discussion, that states embed a premium tax into insurance rates as a flat percentage of gross premiums.  New Jersey is so concerned by the potential loss of premium tax revenue as companies switch to consumer driven programs that it is requiring a “declaration of understanding” attestation – part of a effort to dissuade employers from offering these more efficiently designed health care financing programs.

For example,  a 7-employee company paying nearly $98,000 / year for their health care program, before proposed rate increases to more than $111,000 in 2010.  Working in conjunction with the company accountant and HR administrator, they were able to restructure the health care financing so the worst case scenario cost was under $75,000.

Employee contribution rates and out-of-pocket maximums were reduced, and – if the plan performs better than expected, the employer may recover as much as an additional $25,000, thanks to a federally approved ‘dividend’ structure  an important, recurring part of the plan’s architecture.

Though he did caution that each company situation is unique, he stressed “…the same principal applies whether an employer has seven, seven hundred, or seven thousand employees!”  He also pointed out that benefEx converted 85% of clients to some form of consumer-driven healthcare solution – as compared to an industry standard still hovering around 7%.  Not a single employer group has returned to a traditional plan, which speaks well to both the sustainability of consumer driven program, and their popularity with covered employees.”

This issue is of major interest to company owners.I believe significant tax increases targeting small businesses next year are inevitable, thus recommend that owners spend at full available. Invest specifically on building a rock solid team of employees, along with a strong brand.Companies that do so will be best positioned in their markets six – eight years from now (when tax policy reverts to a more rational structure) to gain profitable market share, or enter into a profitable merger / sell transaction.

Other insights Scott shared with me is that businesses must proactively assess their Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and COBRA compliance. Speculation is that federal regulatory actions positioned as worker protections may be launched as “revenue enhancement” initiatives. From a cost management standpoint, outsourcing the complex administration of these federal mandates is more effective than in-house administration and more efficient since outsourcing costs dropped by 50% over the last three years.

Business owners building a highly profitable company in this political and economic climate need consider implementing a thoughtfully designed disability program. Done smartly it could mitigate some risks associated with FMLA. Communicated properly, more than two thirds of employees may actually volunteer to pay these premiums rather than having employers pay, due to the adverse tax implications inherent in most employer-paid disability plans.

The lesson to be learned is that owners must ramp up innovation throughout their companies. Innovation is required not only for profitable new revenue production but also for ongoing cost management. Building a highly profitable company demands customer focus more than ever, supported by a cohesive employee team.

 


We are working with colleagues to construct new wealth creating business strategies in the wake of unprecedented growth in federal government control over free markets.

The first strategy is to actively pursue markets congress and the administration legislate into existence.The second is to pursue innovation and nimbleness to accelerate go to market efforts. The third is to investment spend on people and brand so as to minimize taxes while creating a strongly branded company with an up-beat, can-do team of employees. We believe those ideas, executed soundly, create a company the is ultimately more salable in any environment and is the platform for wealth creation and freedom.

The rhetorical question is this:"Is wealth, by definition, the new social quicksand?". In a period when local governments claim eminent domain to confiscate one taxpayer's property and deliver it to another for "common good", in a period when Government deems one company's bonus policy (AIG) unconscionable and another's  (Fannie Mae) acceptable,  one company too important to fail (GM) and another not (Lehman Brothers), we lose the connection between market performance and customers and enter one where bureaucrats decide winners and losers. 

Coincidentally, I have been re-reading "Civil Disobedience" written by Henry Thoreau, published in 1849. The US at that time was struggling with the political and moral "correctness" of slavery and the war with Mexico. His reflections are as relevant today when we face different problems, 160 years after he published them.

Thoreau speculated on individual responsibility in democracy and cynically observed:

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or  backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing  with right and wrong, with moral questions; and  betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the  voters is not staked.  I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not  vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am  willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation,  therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it.

Simply, voting is an essential part of a democracy, but generally is only a feel good exercise in personal responsibility. Elected officials do what they want, not necessarily what they were voted into office to do.

As a capitalist, I am shocked by the government's egregious seizure of power and consequential loss of our economic and personal freedom that directly and proportionately evolves. By simple ukase, industries are born like the one for ethanol, and others killed like domestic oil and gas exploration.

I stand in wonder over the seismic change we face. Thoreau made a statement that goes to explain the paradox private citizens encounter with government citizens:

There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State [sic. politicians, my translation]comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.

While Thoreau was talking about slavery and citizens' behavior / association with it he said:

...All men recognize the right of revolution; that is,  the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the  government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are  great and unendurable.

His solution was to stop paying taxes. A tax revolt to him was a non violent revolution. To me that is a naive but elegant solution that is not workable today but becomes a strategic element of a business practice. Together we may force government citizens to think hard about real solutions to our common problems.

In an prescient statement, Thoreau's conclusion about politicians is more apt today than probably it was 160 years ago:

There are  orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the  thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his  mouth to speak who is capable of settling the  much-vexed questions of the day.  We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any  truth which it may utter, or any heroism it may  inspire. Our legislators have not yet learned the  comparative value of free trade and of freedom, of  union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no  genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of  taxation and finance, commerce and manufactures  and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit  of legislators in Congress for our guidance,  uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the  effectual complaints of the people, America would not  long retain her rank among the nations.

Quicksand is the footing we are in now. There is no action certain, but know that "when in doubt, do something". Something to me is reinvesting in our businesses, our employees and our customers in terms of service and experience to build solid greatness in real terms and not simply with words.

Small companies generally have a significant advantage over global ones in terms of flexibility, innovation and speed to market but suffer a big disadvantage in available capital. The capital I'm talking about is not so much financial variety but intellectual. Crowdsourcing can help in a variety of disciplines to offset lack of human capital, from product innovation to leadership skills to sales. When the subject turns to comprehensive approaches to optimizing profitability, the specific uniqueness of an individual company's internal structure makes the crowdsourcing option less viable.

Virtually every accountant and CPA I've met see profitability through standard cost accounting approaches. For small businesses especially those standards fall short.

In larger corporations there is a budgeting concept sometimes called "fully burdened". Simply, costs carry not only physical costs (direct product, labor and freight).but also fiscal ones (direct and indirect overhead, loads to offset underperforming brands or divisions, etc.). Margin (M) calculations are based on selling price (sp) minus cost (c) divided by selling price or M = sp-c/sp. Thus getting accurate cost information is key to margins and profitability management.

A former client developed a sophisticated yet simple program available online called "Your Cost Center" at www.yourcostcenter.com. I preferred 'your profit center" but that didn't fly.

It forces business owners, especially those driven by hourly productivity, as in service businesses such as health care, construction, accounting, legal and consulting, to build into costs paid vacations, sick days, owner income goals (for wealth creation), taxes, insurance and related intangibles not often included in costs. The program helps owners determine how many more jobs (units) the company needs to sell to meet profit goals, analyze pricing alternatives and helps guide other strategic decisions.

This is not a promotion for the service but a recommendation that business owners rethink how they envision product / service cost and pricing.

Now is a time of change. President Obama has said so and it evident in everyday news.

It is also a seminal time when the recent historic momentum was toward big companies and big governments is cresting and the impetus to devolution is emerging. The question is two fold: 1) Is this observation true and 2) What does this have to do with realizing sustainable wealth from a family business as its cornerstone?

I think so and the fact that Washington is still amassing power and centralizing the apogee of this era. But as of September 2008 the era of huge corporations with power to enjoy economic autonomy from national governments began falling apart. GM, Chrysler, Citi and other institutions began breaking apart in order to survive We are discovering the diseconomies of scale and the evolution of greater opportunities for innovative, fast moving smaller companies.

That's where the Dandelion effect comes in.  In a highly provocative article in WIRED, "Waste is Good", Chris Anderson talked about the power of waste:" When scarce resources become abundant, smart people treat them differently, exploiting them rather than conserving them. It feels wrong, but done right it can change the world".

In our blog "Innovation Basics for Presidents" we talked about quantity leads to quality (of new ideas) and looking to nature as a catalyst to innovation. The dandelion effect - named by writer Cory Doctrow - reprises the basic notion that nature is wasteful in search of better life. It is wasteful because scattershot strategies are the best way to explore uncharted territory. The dandelion tries to fill every crack in every rock with dandelions and does not try to get a perfect copy of itself. That way it finds the best growth environment. So too with business ideas.

For business owners the time is now to instill a culture of innovation and pursue new opportunities during these watershed years. Just as cost control is a key discipline or supply chain management, so is innovation in terms of wealth creation.

Returning to centralization of power in Washington, in a  compelling essay by Paul Starobin in WSJ "Divided We Stand" http://online.wsj.com/article /SB10001424052970204482304574219813708759806.html forcefully argues that the devolution of USA is an incipient trend: "Devolved America is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition...a tradition betrayed by  creeping centralization of power in Washington...".

He asks us to "...Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy, but in freewheeling style, by an asemblage of largely autonomous regional replublcs reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society."

I believe these are mega trends business owners need to think about. I think we need to be prepared to ride the wave of change by fostering innovative, highly adaptable customer focused companies. This is the platform to create and sustain wealth during the 21st Century.

When asked, most business owners I have talked to define customers by geography, household size, SIC code, or simple demographics like age and income or heritage.

Those metrics are important but miss the point about understanding customers’ behaviors. Those data further miss the critical top of mind awareness that businesses relate to families of customers. Namely, there are distributors – regardless the industry – influencers and end users. Whether a service distributed entirely over the Internet or toys sold primarily through big box retailers, the triad of customers exist.

My view is all businesses start and end with satisfied customers. So to know what satisfaction means, owners need to know, really know who their customers are what aspects of the service or product is valuable. Said another way, all strategic plans and business efforts begin and end with the customer.

To develop a powerful brand, I believe the brand message needs to be integrated across the entire customer base. If this view is accepted, management will proactively lead the entire company team to deliver the relevant experience. Interestingly, once grasped, this concept frames strategic planning and annual budgeting, topics which will be addressed in the future.

By way of simple example, a toy company must sell kids on how cool and fun it is to have and play with friends. The same messages must be delivered to parents with added compelling support that the play value inherently reinforces appropriate family values. In turn, Sales uses those concepts to convince retailers that the toy line will increase profitability, increase the market, enjoy high sell through and extend the experience to being a company easy to deal with after the selling season.

When I discuss behavior, for small businesses I mean is qualitative terms, not more esoteric psychodynamics large ones study. For example, when had a physician or accountant or lawyer asked you at the end of an appointment about the best / worst aspects of dealing with the practice was? How often do restaurant owners ask you how they could make the experience better rather than how was the food? When was the last time you called your customers – think entire channel – and asked why they buy from you or how you are doing, the good, the bad the ugly?

These impressions need sharing with the entire company team from finance through administration and of course sales and marketing. Then any action to correct course is clearly identified. In this way the concept of brand is brought to life, taken off a written text and created into a physical experience both for customers and employees.

In working on complex projects several clients introduced me to the concept of idea mapping as a means of collaborating on and presenting the inter-relationship of ideas. Most company owners and entrepreneurs learn and gain understanding visually rather than by listening, so we found this is a preferred way to examine and vet decision options. Net, idea mapping is a preferred way to collaborate, clarify and agree on and achieve greater effective productivity.Simply, these maps visually connect thoughts.

The software I use to present complex projects is MindJet®http://www.mindjet.com/. If you look at some of the engagement samples shown on the MacDuff site you will get a sense of our approach from developing and launching new businesses, to annual budgeting processes and executing sales campaigns.

The engagements are shown in PDF versions. View the map from 1 pm clockwise to see the sequence of events as they occur, with branches that indicate action and decision pathways. You may need to expand the file to see individual elements. One advantage of the software is that it allows users to imbed comments as well as source files (not available on the PDF versions). Net, project organization is dramatically improved over linear methods.

If you are curious about this concept, I suggest you read “Idea Mapping” by Jamie Nast.