Archives for August 2011

A Memorable Celebration?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/31/2011 | 11:40 AM

A fresh issue of one of the (un-named to protect the guilty) trades contained an article about developments at a company identified as "a leader in the memory celebration industry."  I gasped.  At our house, we celebrate those rare occasions when I do remember something.  So, the idea that there was an entire industry built around the phenomenon was truly astonishing.

Reading a little farther, it turns out that the company actually sells photo albums, scrapbooks, and the like at in-home parties.  Might as well have a piece about a leader in the selling Ginsu knives in the parlor instead of at the home goods store industry.  Or, about a leader in selling over-priced plastic bowls in the family room instead of at the dollar store industry.

The issue is debasing the currency of language, and the consequences.  The article in question was perfectly good, and the application of technology described was completely appropriate.  But, I couldn't get past the over-inflation of the company's position; the "memory celebration industry" terminology kept pulling me off the path of the story line. And, the snorting was keeping my wife awake.

I do recognize that scrapbooking, photo albums, and other crafts, are big deals, and that there are alternative marketing and distribution channels to consider.  But the image of a niche, at best, being characterized as an industry?  C'mon!

There are times when fewer smaller words and terms communicate much more clearly than using language that could lead one to think that a pawn shop is a leader in the sub-prime consumer lending industry.  And, clear language, with mutually understood meaning, is a vital component of solid relationships among supply chain (and other) business partners.  

Trip or Treat - Hallowe'en Comes Early This Year

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/24/2011 | 11:10 AM

The almost-got-it-right seven-year old struck gold again this week.  Getting ready for the first day of school, he asked his mother to wait while he got "just one more thing for my bag of trips."  We all knew that he, an inveterate prankster really meant to say "bag of tricks."  I immediately thought of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's unfathomable taste in consorts, but that's a topic for another time, after the seven-year olds have all gone to bed.

Later, contemplating the pastoral scene on the label of a flagon of single malt, I began to wonder how many sales executives have a bag of tricks they carry with them on prospective customer calls.  And then, how many of the deals made trip up on some snag or obstacle that wouldn't be a problem for an open collaborative business relationship, but which bring mutual endeavors to a grinding halt.

In the end, making relationships work as well as they ought to requires, in addition to communications, collaboration, visibility, and honesty, the bedrock foundation of trust.

And, it's rare to find trust somewhere in the bag of trips.  It generally rises to the surface immediately after the unicorns emerge.

Purple Reign

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/21/2011 | 12:57 PM

A week ago this past Saturday, we were privileged to participate in Columbus' first PurpleStride event. It was a walk/ride/gathering to raise awareness of, and raise money for research on, pancreatic cancer.

A new park area on the riverfront was thronged with runners, walkers, friends, and relatives - and survivors.  There were very few survivors at the designated tent, and fewer still running or walking. That, regrettably, is the nature of the disease.  Our two daughters, and our grand-daughter, ran the 5k; one of our sons and I walked. I was there to celebrate; the others were there to commemorate a survivor - me.

Unfortunately, the color selected to represent the effort is a deep purple, and I could not help but think of the diminutive musical artist formerly known as Prince.  Purple T-shirts, purple balloon arches, purple ribbons, purple bags - I suppose that is what happens when the other diseases choose first.  All the good colors have been taken.

Even though we looked from above as if we had been subjected to a grape attack, I will take purple and cheerfully live with.  Hey, I would cheerfully live with chartreuse if the option is living.

But, I did begin to muse about the logistics of the affair.  How does one prepare and execute for a once a year - and first-time - event?  How difficult is it to maintain working relationships for providers of sporadic services?  How can continuous improvement be built into processes that are over before opportunities for correction can be analyzed?

I continue to stand in awe of people who lead, plan, and manage project supply chains and event logistics.  They live - successfully - in a different universe from those of us who are focused on continuous flow and replenishment in supply chain execution.

So What If You're Late To The Party?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/12/2011 | 6:59 AM

A recent inquiry to an on-line discussion forum asked whether we, as self-styled "experts," were seeing more collaboration as a means of dealing with the tough economic times we're entering.  I was uncharacteristically taken aback.  If the past couple of years didn't qualify as tough times, I'm not sure what would.  And, while we're not where we all want to be, we can now look back down at the bottom of the pit.

To be blunt (which, in response, I fear I was) when hard times arrive is no time to start thinking about collaborative relationships.  That has a bit of a deathbed conversion feel to it - and might not seem genuine to the newly discovered object of business affection.  The time to begin honest collaborative relationships is when times are good, building the foundation that will withstand turbulence and economic challenges.

And, to think about beginning collaboration - as opposed to death-struggle negotiation - now, while better than poking oneself in the eye with a spaghetti fork, might be frustrating.  You see, the companies that were already collaborating and treating their supply chain partners fairly overv the past two or three years now have an advantage over those that didn't.

So, for those who are really late to the party, don't turn around and go home.  But, be prepared - you're not going to have as much fun as you would have if you'd been on time.

Mind The Gap

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/04/2011 | 11:24 AM

Nothing to do with David Letterman's smile, how far Madonna can spit, or the very fine retail clothing stores.  Anyone daring enough to essay riding the Underground in the UK has seen the warnings intended to dissuade tripping, falling, or worse.  As has anyone who has stormed a souvenir shop at Gatwick in a panic to bring home a memorable T-shirt.

All this was triggered by last week's report in London's venerable and venerated Times that the govenment is considering legislation to counter the bullying of suppliers by big-box retailers.  Yes, it actually siad, "bullying."  At least one of the targeted offenders is a regular on Gartner/AMR's annual list of the top global supply chains.  The suspected miscreants, of course, maintain that they love their suppliers, and would be fools to fail in building strong long-term relationships with them.

Think about big box operators in the US.  Are, for them, suppliers valued strategic partners?  Or something they inadvertantly stepped in on the sidewalk? 

Is there evidence, beyond the anecdotal, one way or the other?  The mere supposition of a possibility does raise a question, though, of whether Gartner/AMR might ought to include an assessment of supplier relationships in its ranking equations.

In the business world at large, it is abundantly clear that there is a gap between those who talk the talk and those who walk the walk in building, maintaining, and continuously improving business relationships - with suppliers, customers, service providers, and others.

What's it like in your organization?  Should you post a warning to mind the gap?

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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