Contrarian, or just hipster?

August 29th, 2016

How to Identify Good Ideas - Episode 2

 

Today’s post is by Mike Figueroa, Project Manager at SafeSourcing

It’s popular these days to be contrarian, thanks largely in part to the disruptive entrepreneurs of silicon valley that have become just as well known for the products they create as any A-list celebrity. Reading business articles on the topic makes it sound like being contrarian is never a bad thing. However, while “contrarian” can mean just someone who goes against popular opinion, doing so just for the sake of being contrarian can be very dangerous. While there is some merit to the notion that doing something which everyone else thinks is crazy might just seem that way because it’s a hugely innovative idea, there are far more people who do crazy things that simply are monumentally bad ideas[1]. The way tech and investment entrepreneur Peter Thiel puts it, what matters is being “contrarian and right[2]. Being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian makes you a hipster[3], being contrarian and right makes you innovative.

The common thread that runs through these instances of unpopular opinion is the need to have the skills to identify a good idea. For some reason, business journalists repeatedly fail to see the obvious when they praise a business leader’s being different as the means to the success, without realizing that it was the business leader’s ability to find truths that lead them in a non-conventional direction that led to their success. The obvious danger here is that you can just as easily think differently from popular thinking, and be wrong. So how do we avoid falling into the trap of believing that thinking different is always a good thing, without missing the possible opportunities of truly innovative thinking?

    •  Slow the conversation: Contrarians thrive on rapid fire dialog, with the intention of getting your buy-in of their first point, by moving on to several other points before you’ve had a chance to think of reasons why their first idea might be a bad idea. Don’t allow anyone to gain your tacit approval by not giving you time to object.
    • Don’t fall for “mood bullying”: At times, a contrarian thinker will push to get their idea accepted not based on its merit, but by making it uncomfortable for anyone else to reject it. Don’t fall for bad ideas just because you don’t want to deal with the drama that will ensue for questioning someone’s ideas.
    • Contrarian and argumentative: A telltale sign that someone is being contrarian just to be hip rather than for the merit of an idea, is to observe how argumentative they are. If someone will argue against every idea that isn’t theirs, and perhaps even argue against their own previously mentioned ideas, there’s a good chance they aren’t trying to bring value to your organization, but to their own ego.
    • Fail quickly: If you come across an idea that goes against conventional wisdom, but the reasoning behind it is solid, iterate its implementation. Today it’s easier than ever to create prototypes quickly. Commit a small project to an innovative idea, and let it prove itself by succeeding or failing quickly and in a low risk environment.
    • Evaluate the foundation/first principles: When Pokemon Go™ exploded onto the scene; investors saw the trend and invested heavily into Nintendo™. However, in this case the contrarians were right to go against the flow: Nintendo™ didn’t actually create the Pokemon Go™ game, and once it became obvious, Nintendo™ stocks plummeted[4]. However, having the skill to identify underlying principles that lead to a market bubble for instance is a contrarian skill based on an understanding of economics that can be objectively evaluated.

Contrarianism should be a byproduct, not a goal. Innovation entails thinking differently about something because there is an assumed truth being bought into that is wrong, or an underlying truth that by and large everyone else has missed. There were contrarians in the 90’s after all, who thought the internet was a fad, and whose businesses were destroyed by other contrarians that understood the fundamentally exponential potential of network externalities and brought us internet connected devices of every shape and size. The act of understanding more deeply, having a wider breadth of knowledge, and learning a wider toolset of logical and critical thinking skills will result in having views that differ from others in ways that add value without even trying.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

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[1] “A Painful Year for Contrarian Trades – A Wealth of Common Sense.” 2016. 15 Aug. 2016 <http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2015/12/contrarian/>

[2] “E525: Peter Thiel (Founders Fund, PayPal, Palantir, Facebook) on …” 2015. 14 Aug. 2016 <http://thisweekinstartups.com/peter-thiel-launch-festival/>

[3] “http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/ 2014-12-18 monthly 0.5 http://www …” 2011. 14 Aug. 2016 <http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/sitemap.xml>

[4] “Nintendo shares plummet after investors realize it doesn’t … – The Verge.” 2016. 15 Aug. 2016 <http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/25/12269466/nintendo-stock-plunge-pokemon-go>

Tools used to make Olympic athletes more efficient.

August 26th, 2016

People watch the Olympics for different reasons.....

 

Today’s post is by Troy Lowe; Vice President of Development at SafeSourcing.

People watch the Olympics for different reasons. Some watch for patriotism, others watch to root for their favorite athletes, and others are just driven by the athletic competition.  One of the things that I find fascinating about watching the Olympics is seeing the different tools used to help athletes perform at higher levels.

At the last Olympics everyone watching kept asking, what is the weird tape the athletes are wearing? This method of taping is called the Kinesio Taping Method and is designed to help the body’s natural healing process for muscles and joints without restricting the athlete’s range of motion.  In this year’s games, if you’ve been watching Michael Phelps, you may have noticed the purple circles on his body.  This is a result of a method called cupping, an ancient Chinese healing practice that is used to loosen muscles, increases blood flow and helps relieve muscle pain and stiffness.  This method is used by athletes to help reduce the amount of soreness they receive from competing.

For the swimmers, Speedo continues to innovate new swimsuits that are worn by some of the US swimmers. The Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer was developed using NASA’s wind tunnel testing facilities and became popular during the 2008 Olympics.  The suit was designed to compress the body in certain areas and help the swimmers stay higher in the water to reduce resistance.  Below are some other tools that are being used to help the athletes for the 2016 Olympics.

  • Hykso Punch-Tracking Sensors
  • Solos Smart Eyewear
  • Nike’s Zoom Superfly Elite Track Shoes
  • Oakley’s Green Fade Sunglasses
  • Omega Underwater Lap Counters
  • Archery Electronic Scoring System

Interested in learning how SafeSourcing can help your company run more efficiently? Like to try a risk free trial?  Please don’t hesitate to contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. Our team is ready and available to assist you!

China’s New Face(book)

August 25th, 2016

Facebook and social media have had quite a checkered past in China

 

Today’s post was written by Christine McConnell, Account Manager at SafeSourcing.

Facebook and social media have had quite a checkered past in China. After being widely available for several years, Facebook was blocked following a series of riots that took place in northwest China in 2009. The government suspected that the activists were using Facebook as part of their communications network, (and they probably were). Apparently the Chinese government is still highly sensitive to any internet application that might be used to organize China’s masses beyond the reaches of their authority. As such, they also blocked access to YouTube after soldiers were filmed beating Tibetan monks, and to Twitter. In 2010 the ubiquitous search engine Google was also pushed outside the Great FireWall for refusing to allow the Chinese government to censor its search results. All this is of particular interest to me now because my brother boarded an Airbus A330 last Friday morning to begin a new chapter in China. He’ll be teaching US and World History at Beijing No. 4 High School International; and although I couldn’t be happier for him, I cannot imagine being unable to communicate with him regularly. He is one of my best friends. To that end, I am now exploring alternate ways for us to connect.

WeChat to the rescue! Since its inception four years ago, WeChat has become the dominant instant messaging service in China with nearly 700 million monthly active users to date. WeChat enables users to call, text, and send pictures. However unlike Facebook Messenger it’s not simply a messaging platform. Once inside the main WeChat app, you can check current events, manage and pay bills, book a reservation at a favorite restaurant, hail a taxi, or even schedule a doctor’s appointment. In fact, WeChat contains several million third party apps. From retail stores to brands to celebrities to start ups, almost any group or association can have their own account – each account acting like its own web page – turning WeChat into a kind of mobile web browser. If WeChat is as simple to use as it looks, my brother and I will be sharing stories again in no time. I can’t wait for his next update!

Would you like to learn how SafeSourcing could help your company communicate more effectively? Interested in a risk free trial? Please don’t hesitate to contact SafeSourcing. Our team is ready and available to assist you!

 

What is a chaebol?

August 24th, 2016

The SafeSourcing Wiki defines chaebol as.....

 

Today’s post is by Tyler Walther; Account Manager at SafeSourcing.

Chaebols are large, family owned South Korean business conglomerates, such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG. The word chaebol translates to “business family” or “monopoly” in Korean. Chaebols are multinational corporations, typically owning numerous international enterprises. Chaebol are owned and controlled by a family dynasty, generally that of the group’s patriarch.

Despite their economic dominance in South Korea and the belief that monopoly structures restrict smaller companies that compete against them, public opinion of chaebols in South Korea is generally supportive. Largely the public views the chaebols as the primary vehicle taking South Korea out of financial crisis.

Let SafeSourcing better manage your sourcing projects. We enjoy bringing this blog to you every week and hope you find value in it. For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

Supplier Relationships and E-auctions

August 23rd, 2016

Do you have a really good relationship with your supplier? And….

 

Today’s post is from our  SafeSourcing Archives.

Do you have a really good relationship with your supplier? Do you think an e-auction will harm that relationship?

If you said yes to any of the above questions, you are not alone. This is a common misconception within companies.

Research carried out by telephone interviews by CIPS  (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) in conjunction with Oracle and The University of West England, I-ADAPT (Independent Assessment of Development of Auctions as a Purchasing Tool) concluded that buyers and sellers, both interviewed, had shown no negative impact post e-auction. It helped organizations lower their purchasing costs by improving transparency and forcing buyers to be upfront with all purchasing requirements. Online auctions have strengthened supplier-buyer relationships without negatively affecting quality.

However, that may not always hold true if an online auction is thought to be executed unfairly or unethically. There are a few steps a buyer should consider before executing an online auction to maintain a strong supplier relationship post-auction.

1. Initiating the process:
• Assign a lead for the auction
• Select a commodity that is a good fit for multiple suppliers
• Ensure all specifications and terms for products/services are clear to a new supplier

2. Planning the Process:
• Decide what details you will need to make a decision (price, quality, service level, etc.)
• Develop an award strategy and criteria
• Set and agree on an auction schedule
• Notify the incumbent of your intention of the online auction. Nobody likes surprises!

When an e-auction is prepared in its entirety and has buy-in from the appropriate parties within the company, the live event will run smoothly without harming any supplier relationships. SafeSourcing is experienced with running the live events. We have the staff to provide all suppliers with direct communication and training. We want to make suppliers feel comfortable with the e-auction format, and based on our experienced SafeSourcing supplier database- we are doing just that!

If you are interested in seeing how an e-auction can bring great value to your company, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services Account Manager or call us directly at 888-261-9070.

We look forward to your comments.

Goals!!!!

August 17th, 2016

How do you set and achieve your business goals?

 

 

Today’s blog is by Margaret Stewart, Executive Assistant at SafeSourcing.

Today, businesses often set goals, not only for the company as a whole, but also for specific departments, teams, and individuals. The goals a business sets may be for different reasons, be it financial, team building, or development. Failing to meet certain goals can have negative consequences for a company, where meeting and exceeding goals can have an incredibly beneficial and rewarding outcome. So, how should a company set up and achieve its goals?

Figuring out the direction the business needs to head is the first step toward setting goals. Determine what areas of your business need the most work or improvement. You could set a sales goal for a month, set a goal for hours worked on a task, or set progress goals on a project. The goals set should be challenging, yet attainable. It’s okay if your team works a bit harder, but when a goal is virtually out of reach, efforts drop substantially and frustrations go up.

Next the level of goal you expect needs to be calculated. When first implementing goals, try setting one that is between current performance levels and the ideal level. Then, if goals are consistently met, then goals can rise as well. Setting goals too high or too low can hinder motivation in your business.

Finally, reward those in your business who meet goals. Often, the final reward is motivation enough for employees to put in the extra time and effort. Just as goals can be big or small, rewards can too. Some common rewards are bonuses, extra time off, prizes, or outings.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can help you with your business goals, or are interested in our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

Going, Going, Gone

August 17th, 2016

Going, Going, Gone

 

Today’s post is by Dave Wenig, Regional Sales Manager at SafeSourcing Inc.

There are many variations of auctions, each with its own particular use. In eProcurement, reverse auctions reign as buyers are seeking lower prices and higher value for the goods and services they require. Within reverse auctions, we see many variations of this theme. Of course, organizations have plenty of options when determining how to go about running a successful reverse auction.

Sellers have many options as well. Auction types that seek to get the highest price for a good or service are plentiful with options like silent auction and Dutch auction being two well-known types. One of the most common types of auction is the English auction. An English auction is one where a seller seeks the highest price that a buyer will pay for the seller’s goods. Here again, an English auction can be modified to take advantage of different options like a reserve price set by the seller.

Organizations often choose to leverage these different auction types, both reverse and forward. At SafeSourcing, we work with our customers to both buy and sell goods and services through our tool suites. Purchasing organizations reap the benefits of the reverse auctions. Sellers enjoy their own customized auction tool.

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, your goal is to get the best price and SafeSourcing can help.

Dave Wenig is a Regional Sales Manager at SafeSourcing. Dave or any member of the experienced team at SafeSourcing would be happy to discuss how SafeSourcing can help you reach your buying and selling goals. For more information, please contact SafeSourcing. 

We look forward to your comments.

Survival of the Fastest

August 16th, 2016

The retail business environment is changing quickly, how are you keeping up?

 

Today’s post is our SafeSourcing archives

The landscape of retail operations is changing faster than anyone thought possible.   With the change we are seeing new businesses born and quickly grow to huge levels and we are seeing long established companies who are unable to adapt begin their descent in total collapse.  The biggest reason for this is who the customer has become and how the changes and habits and in their “non-purchasing” lives have added to these huge changes.  So what are you doing to take advantage of these changes and keep your business relevant?

Will you sacrifice sales to do the right thing? – We all know that the lifeblood of a company’s survival is their sales.  If the sales aren’t happened the expenses don’t get paid.  Cuts are made and people lose their jobs.  This idea is so engrained into our way of thinking that the mere thought of purposely losing sales is retail heresy.  Several companies are finding that when they create programs for customers to facilitate the sale of existing used product to other customers, thereby losing those sales, that they actually increased sales during that time due to the fact that the sellers were buying newer products, extending service agreements and spreading the word that these companies worked with their customers to do the right thing rather than focus solely on making a buck.

Focus on the experience – We now live in a world where people’s lives are filled with social experience.  From the time they wake up they are checking news, sports scores, Facebook posts and Tweets before they even get out of bed.  All throughout there day these connections remain intact as they follow what is going on in the world and experience the news through a multitude of channels.  Retailers must take a cue from this change in lifestyle not only in the US but all over the world and create experiences for their customers both online and in their stores.  This may mean disproportionately investing in store floor sales staff or investing in new web design that does not always funnel the customer straight to a buying decision.

Work with, don’t fight technology – Technology changes everything and has been doing so for a long time.  It has removed some aspects of the corner store experience but it has created others such as selection, value and competition.  It has allowed companies to develop, manufacture, and sell more creatively and more efficiently than have ever been able to do and with fewer resources.  Every technology may not be right to adopt for your business but the awareness of what those technologies are and how you could benefit from them is something every retailer should embrace.  You don’t have to be the first adopter but being the last could put you out of business fast.

At SafeSourcing we understand and help companies every day embrace ideas like these and help them find partners and solutions that can help them leverage new trends and technology.  For more information on how we can help your business or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

More than negotiating contracts!

August 11th, 2016

What are different ways you can service your company today beyond traditional sourcing activities?

 

Today’s post is  from  our SafeSourcing archives.

If you are a sports enthusiast there is no doubt that you are probably familiar with the Buffalo Wild Wings chain of restaurants.  The fact that this statement is geared to sports fans and not food or Buffalo wings fans is the biggest reason this company is one of the fastest growing in the world.  By shifting the focus away from what they had traditionally done (food first; atmosphere second) to a primary sports fan destination that happens to offer good food, the chain has been able to explode with growth almost tripling revenue numbers in the last five years.  This effort to give customers more than the traditional offering and some of the ways procurement professionals can begin doing the same for their internal customers is the focus of today’s blog.

Get involved early – Negotiating contracts and handling vendor negotiations has always been a main focus of procurement teams.  Many times they are engaged well after the decision has been made for services and products.   The problem with this approach is that there is no longer any leverage for the procurement team to get a better deal for the company and often they are not equipped with the background details and project progress that allow them to execute the most beneficial contracts.  By getting engaged through annual or bi-annual meetings with the department heads, a procurement team can make themselves better prepared to help the department and the company get the most value from a new agreement once the decision has been made.

Provide Extra Information – With the assumption that they have been engaged early, procurement teams can offer their internal customers more than the traditional approach by helping departments better understand how they are spending money with their current incumbents.  Helping to track down the details of how well a contract has been executed, whether through internal means or directly from the incumbent suppliers, can provide very important details for departments in making decisions of who they do business with in the future.  Another way procurement teams can assist their internal customers is by helping them to understand how the company uses and feels about the products and services they have selected in the form of supplier scorecards.  These can be used as leverage for future contracts even if a supplier change is not made.

Offer New Tools – In some companies procurement teams are actively using eProcurement tools in conjunction with strategic sourcing partners to accomplish some of their goals on many sourcing projects.  So many times these solutions and partners offer functionality that other parts of the company can use.  Contract management, survey tools, and online RFx tools are just a few of the tools that procurement departments can bring to their internal customers that will provide extra value and support beyond what they have traditionally done.

At SafeSourcing we know that many procurement departments are looking for ways to be more involved with the purchasing projects that go on in the rest of the company. At SafeSourcing we want to work with your team to help provide extra value to your internal customers paving the way for involvement at a new level.   For more information on how we can help with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

Pros and Cons of Requiring Uniforms

August 8th, 2016

The current status of Uniforms in the Workplace.

 

Today’s post is by Gayl Southard, Administrative Consultant for SafeSourcing.

As a business owner, you might face the decision to require a uniform, or a dress code policy. There are many pros and cons to this decision.  Uniforms can make employees feel part of a team.  It can also give employees a professional image in the eyes of your customers, especially companies that have employees that visit customers in their homes, such as appliance installers, exterminators, etc.  On the negative side, the uniform may be made of heavy fabric, making it uncomfortable in warm weather.  Employees may not like how they look in the required uniform, or may believe the uniform is a symbol of control by their employer.  One major company has relaxed their dress code policy recently.

On July 25, 2016 Starbucks announced their new dress code. The Starbuck Dress Code allows their baristas their own individual style, while still presenting a neat, clean, and professional look.  Starbucks old dress code policy only allowed black or white shirt colors.  Now, gray, navy, dark denim and brown, including patterns are permitted.  Shorts, skirts, dresses and pants, including dark-wash denim are part of the updated wardrobe policy.  Employees are also permitted to make a “hair” statement with permanent or semi-permanent hair color – as long as it is within food safety standards.  Also beanies, fedoras, and other type of hats are welcome.  Some customer feedback was ”We like it.  We’re happy to see that you can wear expressive clothing to show who you are.”  There is some thought as to this dress code is what is already in their employees’ closet, making it easier to dress for work rather than to make their employees go out and purchase the white and black shirts previously required.

The iconic green apron still remains. Cosimo LaPorta, Executive Vice President, U.S. Retail Store Operations stated, “We want partners to be as proud of their look as they are when they tie on the green apron.”1 Starbucks prides itself on ingenuity, continual innovation and customization in every business aspect.  They are confident that this will uplift the Starbuck brand, as well as the customer’s experience.

Uniforms has historically been  a very aggressive bid  category that has driven great savings for companies that still require them in their workplace.

For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

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1Starbuck Newsroom, 7/25/16