Academy for Chief Executives Blog Rotating Header Image

Market Research: Start with the Basics

- By Carter McNamara

It is extremely difficult to develop and provide a high-quality product or service without conducting at least some basic market research. Some people have a strong aversion to the word “research” because they believe that the word implies a highly sophisticated set of techniques that only highly trained people can use. Some people also believe that, too often, research generates lots of useless data that is in lots of written reports that rarely are ever read, much less used in the real world. This is a major misunderstanding.

The chances are that you have already conducted at least some basic forms of market research. For example, you have listened (a research technique) to others complain about not having enough of something — that should suggest providing what they need in the form of a product or service. Continue reading →

Customers or Competence?

- By Paul Sloane

It’s a question that goes to the heart of your strategy. Should you base your new product or service development on your technical expertise, the things that your business is good at, or on the needs of your customers, even if those needs are in areas where you have little or no strength?

How should you go about new product development? Where is the place to invest your precious and limited resources? Ideally you should build new products or services that play to your competencies and meet clear customer needs, but sometimes that combination is not an option. Continue reading →

Get your R’s in Gear to Improve your Customer Service

- By Gerry Brown

Today’s customers are impatient, fickle and increasingly vocal about being forgotten in long phone queues, let down by poor web sites and misunderstood by disinterested or powerless customer service agents. And there’s nothing like a powerful personal experience to remind us just what good customer service entails – and just how badly many organisations do it.

My white paper on the Four Principles of Customer Experience: Culture, Commitment, Communication, Community, expands on the Four Cs every customer-facing business needs to grasp. But the result of my own great customer experience means that I’ve now moved on the letter ‘R’ in alliteration and game-changing concepts. Continue reading →

Case Study: The Power of Listening

Bonmarché, one of the UK’s largest womenswear value retailers, catering for women over 50, won the IPO of the Year Award at the 2014 Annual Small Cap Awards after is floatation on AIM in November 2013, having raised some £40m. What makes this so remarkable is that less than two years previously, the Wakefield-based company had faced an uncertain future after its parent group, Peacocks, collapsed into administration with debts of £250 million.

Bonmarché’s phoenix-like rebirth and turnaround from the ashes of what was one of the largest retail failures since Woolworths was masterminded by Academy Group 45 member, Beth Butterwick, who had joined Bonmarché as Brand Director in 2011. Continue reading →

Remember, the customer is always right . . .


Authenticity: You Can’t Fake It

- By James T Noble

The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. Customers today demand more than just a product or a service. They want an experience – one that  is honest and transparent, one that is authentic.

authenticity_flippedAuthenticity isn’t something that can be faked. That’s why authentic businesses inspire and prosper.  But it’s a thin line to tread.  Your customers today are far more informed, aware, socially connected and empowered  than ever before. They have high standards and they can sniff out a scam at 10 paces. Anything you put out there will be scrutinized. If it doesn’t measure up to ‘genuine’ it WILL get called out. More and more, making a wrong move in marketing can be catastrophic for your company kudos – with some seriously negative knock-on effects for your business.

Continue reading →

Perfectionism – the Unattainable Goal

- By Peter G. Vajda

Perfectionism is a common trait of successful business leaders. What about you? Do you sometimes berate yourself for not being “better” in some way? Do you strive for perfection in your professional or personal life and berate yourself for your perceived failures? Do you have memories of someone telling you you’ll never be good enough?

The thing about perfection is that it is unobtainable. There is no point at which we can say, “I’ve arrived – this is perfection”. Perfection is just an ego-driven idea. We think that being a “perfect 10″ means that we have no flaws or imperfections. Perfection excludes negative realities – an impossibility, no matter how hard our mind wants to convince us otherwise. Continue reading →

Unravelling the Secrets of Personality

- By Siobhan Twose

We might think that we’re a good judge of character, but the fact is that most people put on some sort of mask when they step into the office that obscures the core DNA of their personality and can make it very hard for their colleagues to grasp the subtle dynamics of their make-up and how their behaviours might play out at work.

Psychometric testing has long been used in the workplace. But now a more sophisticated generation of personality profiling is emerging that helps us to get behind the veneer that we all like to project, better understand each other and meet on common ground. Continue reading →

An Authentic Heritage

John Jones first entered into the fine art industry in the 1960’s when he quickly discovered that he had an aptitude for making high-quality bespoke picture frames. It was not long before he was framing professionally for artists such as Francis Bacon and David Hockney, designing and producing museum-standard frames specifically to complement their work. In January 2012, John Jones was awarded an MBE as Master Framer for his services to the arts.

In the intervening decades, John Jones oversaw the expansion of his company into a leading international consultancy business specialising in the protection and presentation of works of art. But he never departed from the belief that the firm should be family-owned and family-run, bringing his sons, Matthew and Kristian, and sister, Kelly, into the business and handing its stewardship over to them when he retired as CEO in 2013. Continue reading →

A New Take on New Clothes

In the story The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen, a foolish emperor is gulled by two conmen posing as weavers. They offer to make him the finest garment made of the most magnificent material in the world. Yet they warn him that this material is invisible to anyone who lacks intelligence.

newclothesWhen his chief adviser visits the “weavers” to examine the new clothes he sees nothing [for there’s nothing to see], but he lies and praises the new garments and informs his emperor of their magnificence.

When the emperor parades naked through the streets, everyone praises his appearance, all of them unwilling to appear stupid. Until a small child speaks up and states unequivocally that the emperor is naked. At last the truthful honesty of the child affects the rest of the crowd and they all now admit that their poor ruler is wearing nothing but an increasingly nervous smile. But such honesty came too late for the emperor.

Continue reading →