Articles on Economy

Sales Phenotype: observing a genuine sales professional

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

If he or she looks, has traits of and behaves “like a salesperson” then he or she is a salesperson. That means that this individual approaches the sales process seriously, meticulously and with a sequence of independent or linked procedures and activities. Those are based on knowledge and experience gathered in performing this profession. It is certainly helping to have some “pro-sales” characteristics inherited in one’s genome but what defines one as a sales professional is just the performance observable as a – phenotype. It is the result of constant practice and repeating of the same process. Thus ever learning, adjusting and optimizing it. This story is about one of those sales professionals. He performs as a tourist guide and I encountered him while recently visited Taj Mahal in India.

The site of one of the “modern seven wonders of the world” is a fertile ground for local services to “generate leads” out from a vast number of tourists from all around the world. All those tourists are coming in through just one parking and there’s where I was “ambushed” immediately as my taxi parked! The heavy rain additionally limited my options “to be missed”. “How now to get to and thru the complex with all this rain?”. Then a rickshaw just appeared in front of me. The moment I sat down He just jumped in and welcomed me with the most welcoming smile and respect: “Sir, welcome to the great Taj Mahal. I’m a state licensed guide who will help you get the most from this fabulous place!”. (of course, in case one doubts he had in his pocket, ready to display “an official” identification “proving” his license, competence and trustworthiness). Right away I “made some things clear” yet accepting his offer. At once he “helped me” and “brought me value” by providing additional discount of the rickshaw fare! More, promising “to negotiate for me” even better fare on the way back! Here, we had the first “linked sales” since the guide was obviously working in symbiosis with this rickshaw driver. Similarly he “brought me value” when I needed to rent an umbrella and buy a jacket (the air was unexpectedly cold). He guided me toward both products, services and their sellers. He negotiated (upon my part of negotiation) and he then clearly stated what was the value that he brought to me there (the jacket price down to 450 from initially asked 900, “discount which they would not offer to strangers”). At the entrance of the complex we skipped the queue again as per his influence (and he immediately announced that this will occur again at the main Taj Mahal entrance). Along the way he was saluting a number of persons, from local authorities and officials to inhabitants – to gain my confidence. I was on board. Lead generation- Initial contact – Prospecting. Attention.

Sales process is actually a conversation but basically consist of salesperson asking articulated questions, carefully and compassionately listening answers and then further questioning (down the funnel until the ultimate answer – yes). From the beginning he started with a sequence of questions aimed to identify and assess my needs and consequently optimize his approach : “What is your name? Surname? Religion? Which country you are from? Family? Do you like art? Handmade artifacts? What color do you prefer?” Also indirect and open questions from which he would deduct my purchasing power potentials. Brilliant! While pursuing to adopt my point of view was accordingly and constantly tweaking his “presentation”. He continued to talk about the history of the place, interesting moments, slowly and insensibly bringing out possible objects (products) of …desire. If my desire was not detected there for one service or product he would either try to emphasize more the interest or realign it to another. “Let me take a photo of you. Everyone wants to have a photo of himself with Taj Mahal! You don’t do that? …Do you know that it’s still possible to find that original white marble…”. Identifying and needs assessment – Cross questioning – Presentation – Meeting objections. Interest.

He was building a relationship through: confidence, trust and enthusiasm. “Magical” optical illusions, mystical knowledge that is still preserved with the local craftsmen’s true successors (“17th generation in straight line!”) of the original master masons who built this pearl of architecture, unique materials-the same as those of which the Taj Mahal itself is made of (provided by the Government exclusively just to them!). Constantly directing my interest – exactly toward those handmade artefacts, produced by local craftsmen (or to be precise – sold by them). Another “linked sales”. He was leading my interest to a self-discovery, that those products are so unique and for me is here and now to catch the occasion and advantage of! “When will you have another occasion like this? “I can’t let you leave with your hearth broken, please. I’ll just put a little mark-up on the bare cost of the material. We are modest people you know”. With that my resistance disappeared and I wanted to buy here and now! (ok, I put that here just for the sake of the story). Desire.

When my guide was preparing for asking for my final commitment on the price, finally now for his guiding services, pandering was more then obvious to me: “I don’t provide services for locals. No, they don’t care about true values. Foreigners, they understand, and pay gladly even 50% more of the ‘official’ rate”.

For the final closure a special scenario was adopted. On the way back as I repelled the rickshaw and we walked back to the parking where my taxi was to await me. Suddenly, he made an apparently usual phone call. But shortly after, just on the entrance of parking – a dramatic scene that was (maybe) prearranged took place! One minacious guy approached him, yelling at him, threatening. Soon the whole gang joined alongside. It could provide him a perfect stage for a scene where my closing positions would be shrank to the extreme – only if I hadn’t elegantly bypassed this masquerade (well I also have some experience there). He tried to gain the closing upper hand one last time, in front of my taxi, by asking to give him my phone to call my driver for me. “Very kind but no thank you” Final negotiation – Commitment. Action.

I paid him for his services and quickly left, leaving him free to hunt new leads. He looked not so happy about the fact that the rain ceased but he was not worried. Rain or not, he was confident in his professional sales approach.

How to achieve big (but defined) goals?

Camino de Santiago, Santiponce, Sevilla, Spain

Well, step by step. This is kind of obvious. Accepting that, next logical question is: what is needed to enter into this mode? The answer is also a logical one: traits like persistence and patience. Then, the solution to the title question would be in solving: how to be(come) persistent and patient and before that what is the premise of those traits?

As stated in the title question we have to have a defined goal. One could think:”wait, is it possible to call it a goal if it is not well defined?”. Of course it is not, yet it is crucial to be aware of this right at the start.

This type of goal is big, distant and hereof achieving it requests to invest a certain amount of consistent time. Although simple (defined) sometimes their magnitude and distance make us think about them as – impossible to achieve! But what is really impossible? Can I lift alone 1,000 kg? Absolutely not. Can I walk for 1,000 kilometers? Maybe.

Last year I acheived one big goal – walked the Via de la Plata of the Camino de Santiago. It is a very long walk (or pilgrimage) of more then 1,000 kilometers or some 2,000,000 steps between “start and finish line”. Some 36 days in a row with different challenges on the way. Again it is not a complex goal yet big since requires a significant time and constant performance.

For a long decade I had this strong wish and will to undertake the Camino. I wanted and waited for the occasion and because of that I can say that I looked at this goal with respect. It was a very defined goal for me. Of course I believed I could do it but yes – it looked almost impossible when thinking about all those steps and challenges that might arise on the way. I prepared best I could: did information intelligence (from various sources), bought the appropriate equipment, had regular walking trainings before departure.

And then one day, one magic day I passed my first step on the Way. This path was not a linear one of course. Ups and downs are natural. Maybe could define it as “linear with a constrained standard deviation”. One important advice (how to train persistence) I was given from veteran of this Way was:”don’t ever lose focus on the final goal but don’t just stare with disbelief on the horizon, look only the next few steps ahead”. Another advice (about routing):”in doubt which way to take, don’t just follow the crowd since they apply the same logic (of following others) and that usually leads to wrong decisions or routes in this case”.

Back to the question put in the beginning: what is the premise?…I believed I can do it and I was willing to take this challenge. Then, and only then I could proceed to traits and modes (or techniques). Those can be learned, practiced and adopted. But belief and will are something that you have to have first. And what is beautiful – those are completely in your control.

One more thing. In the beginning it was about achieving the goal. Upon successful completion one naturally feels accomplished and happy because of it. But the joy also lies in the way. In all those countless steps, in every decision that had to be taken while striving ahead. If you think that way – it is like life. Beliefs and will makes you “master of you fate and captain of you soul”.

Global village – enabled by overall reach and instant communication

Street, Mumbai, India

I noticed recently that in India and Asia a large number of people still live in close-knit communities. Whole city districts are composed of streets with one-story row buildings. On the ground level, facing the street there is a retail shop, service or dining and just above a small living space for the family of the shop owners. This togetherness of reside, work and live still exist in labor-intensive, service-oriented communities. In developing countries but in parts of developed ones as well. Those sights make one think what caused and from the other side constrained, that type of living and working?

People had to live in highly connected (many times also small) communities since the beginning of our civilizations. Customers had to be close to producers. Farms and farmers, blacksmiths, tailors, taverns and dancers usually produced, provided and lived in the same street, village or city. Their home-place, work-place/market-place and social places were consequently very close or even merged.

Particularly services had to be promptly generated and rendered to customer. Those services necessitated trust between provider and user. That would not be feasible without near proximity that enabled direct and instant interactive communication. Those were in the same time those germane, centripetal forces holding those communities so close. Simply, if they would distance between them beyond certain distances, all villagers wouldn’t not be able to communicate to all co-villagers in such a way!

They also had to share limited resources and they were able to do so because of their proximity. Some resources where indivisible (like open source water supply) or to big to build and run for individuals (like mills).

 On the other side transport limited trade of physical good.

As knowledge and tools developed, the advancement that made the biggest impact was in transportation. Trade and traders extended producer’s reach to all customers and customer’s choice rose on the other side, optimizing productions. We reached ends of the earth and didn’t have to live in close, self-sufficient communities anymore. Farmers became cooperatives and eventually agricultural corporations aggregating factors of production and delivering products to customers worldwide on the other side. Same with other production and trade of other physical goods. This, industrial way of production changed the way we live and reside. But still we didn’t yet live in a truly globalized world.

Truly globalization came only with specific advancements in information and communication. Just after almost all networks or single points were interconnected true globalization could come on stage! Enabling technologies for interconnection and mobility are now widely available, enabling networks of people and organizations to transact directly. Peers closed together. Physically liberated goods (digital and virtual) and services (digital) are now instantly available!

After a long time we became again constantly and instantly connected. We are again able to share excess capacity in goods and particularly services. Like in a village, now global village, we – the village people.

Business development ?


Every company, usually incorporated as legal person, in order to achieve its goals on markets, has first to survive and then to develop indefinitely for this is in its nature – immortality.

Company that I am working for started from scratch, based on innovation, scalability and growth. Performing on a truly global level. Development driven on focusing on core services, found a product/market fit placed in a specific niche within ICT industry and then growing it to the maximum. As one genuine start-up. Just later has evolved product wise broadside to become a lively “holding of start-ups”.

Seizing the momentum of perfectly matched product/market with those core services it was required from us to: “go out timely and develop our business”. To grab the opportunity as quickly and broadly as possible! To leverage by any mean. And when we were sent out to develop business in a certain region, on certain markets, to/from certain verticals of clients what were we actually expected to obtain for the company? How did we “develop business”?

Lifeblood of any business are revenues which have to exceed the expenses, costs and taxes and are needed to sustain operation activities. As revenues mainly streams from sales the business is actually fed with (or from) – sales. This is probably the reason why Business Development is often identified with Sales. But in order to truly develop a business and make it sustainable, assuring “indefinite” revenue streams, just bringing home new acquisitions, farming those and upselling is not enough. As a proverb says it’s not enough to be fed “just for today”. So, one have to have further dimensions and Business Development thus is:

…about creating and preserving the environment which is enabling our company for a lasting position on market. Those can be in form of obtained advantages on procurement or sales side, secured with strong agreements with various stakeholders (providers, clients, industry associations) in that industry/niche; reaching highest industry standards and licenses; securing long-term values;

…about identifying, establishing and preserving partnerships and leveraging those to scale up potential growth and this preferably in early development stages of particular markets;

…about business conceptualization through creating and applying adequate business models, again both on procuring or sales side in innovative and disruptive commercial, legal, financial or technological sphere; even beyond that – considering some of own business models as products thus offering them on market (as managed services);

…about identifying and focusing on the right market verticals and “minimum viable segments” (nice term by Michael Skok), aligning distribution and enhancing the product,

….generally about securing the company’s upper-hand market position.

An Business Developer is thus good in networking and establishing rapport, partnerships. Brand placement, (quick) market expansion, new user acquisition, awareness, negotiations and in educating the market. Also in profiling the main decision makers and influencers within target accounts.

Business Developers are usually Senior Sales who have the ability to and discuss key business issues with clients and other stakeholders. They will also engage all internal resources in order to achieve goals. Everyone should own part of the success or failure from the start and understand why the deal makes sense for the companyTheir mission is also foreseeing and removing all possible obstacles to achievement.

To employ and deploy

We can look at a company as an organisation of persons and in the same a „separate person“ that has a „personality“ (beyond juridical one). This, let us call it company’s character, consists of traits, patterns and ways how the company constantly addresses all kind of situations, how it makes decisions, how then executes those and learn from outcomes. Operating philosophies and principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct, behavior as well as actions and relationships with its customers, partners and shareholders. Usually those are generalized and formalized in company’s so-called company values and actually lived in company culture.

When one organisation is looking for new employees, it is looking for persons with characters, traits and experiences that a compatible or matching with the company’s ones generally and of course with the particular role’s ones. The same should be from the applicant side. This interaction is going thru few phases:

1.Recruitment. Recruiters are doing their best to identify those in candidates although it is a true challenge to do so within the short recruitment process (ads, letter, resume, few interviews) at their disposal. How can one figure out what a person may bring in the future from one meeting held in the present, which itself is based on past information? How to predict than relationship fit there? How to set an optimal Employee Value Proposition? A probation or trial period is giving a helping hand here. This is similar to dating. And the challenge then of establishing a good relationship is there even after those „flerting“ and „engaging“ phases. In other words, it can be said that after employment a deployment of the same individual is needed.

Knowledge has to be exchanged, culture has to be aligned.   Both processes are going from employment untill deployment and further on.

2.Onboarding. Now both the organization and new individual have the chance to start to demonstrate promises from the recruitment phase. From one side, the new employee has to acquire, adopt and use company’s knowledge in order to be productive part of the company’s working force. From the other side, inidividual’s knowledge can potentially contribute to company’s just if it fits into the organization (inclusion) or even by adding something on top of the existing company’s knowledge (diversity).

Company’s knowledge is about: organisation – structure, relations and processes, products and marketing of those, enabling technologies and internal or working tools. One has to get familiar with various documents, policies, markets, plans and the management and usage of the same. When this transfer of knowledge should occur in short period of time I like to call it – „catapulting the new colleague in“.

3.Mentoring. After onboarding, a genuine mentoring is needed to be sure that the new employee is engaged and really ready to operate at company’s standards. Usually this is in the same time probation or trial period. As even the best recruits coming to the best academy are still not an army ready to be deployed. Acquired knowledge in now applied and the individual should be already aligned with the company’s culture.

What is really important?

In my opinion is to be transparent and sincere from the very first moment. Both in regard what the organization does (knowledge) and how it does (culture). Because it is about a relationship though between „singular person“ and „collective person“. This requires fortitude.

Presenting, teaching or transfering formalized knowledge is important but helping a new colleague unterstand the comapny’s culture and then integrate into is crucial. And this cannot be just „presented“.

Having company values just written and proclaimed is worthless (and potenitially even harmful) if those are not aligned with the actual company culture and understood and adopted by all employees. Those have to be shown from tutors and present employees by example, adopted by doing and lived in everydays interactions in the end.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

And one can be inspired only by a greater purpose which can be fullfilled also with this particular job. Only then one’s engagement becomes meaningul to her or him. In that moment when I succeed in relating those two it is enough to look at their eyes and see a spark, a shine. In that moment, I’m sure the same can be seen in my eyes as well. Then I see my fullfillment.

“Tutto il mondo è paese” – human nature and global culture

Sky over Istria, Croatia

It is an italian proverb which literally translated says „the whole world is a village“. That would mean that wherever one goes one sees that the basic human behaviour is very similar to his own. To the one in his own place or village. Proverb primaily refers that human nature is shared by all humans, all over the world. It consists of general psychological characteristics, feelings and behavioral traits or basic ways of thinking, feeling and acting. Those characteristics humans tend to have intrinsically, naturally and outside of the influences of particular cultures (which are again independently developed in isolated societies, with different time lapses).

Thus all humans can perceive each other at this, „human nature“ level (biblical allegation to state before „Tower of Babel“). That means wherever one goes, assuming has the will and openess to, one is able to communicate the basic understanding with every community on the globe. At this level – we do not need translators! That make us able to go further, to establish contact, communicate and understand the local culture. Eventually even to integrate with it. The obvious prerequisite is to step out directly into those other societies.

My father was not allowed to travel to neighboring Italy until only some fifteen years after WWII ended. The regime ruling Yugoslavia back then, imposed those restrictions on its own citizens since many tried to escape the illiberal system (like in fact he had tried). He dreamed and immagined for years how „the outside world“ looks like. The only „view“ was through few letters exchanged with relatives living there. And when he finally had the chance to legally visit Italy he remained shocked! His mate asked him „Marcello, do you see the same as I do?“ and he responded „Yes, unbelievable! Look – the sky and clouds are exactly the same as in our village!“. Those were reactions to assumptions, prejudices about the outer, unknown, physical world. Those can be overcomed by stepping out in those „outside worlds“. The skies are very similar, like „human nature“ of the people living there, the differences lie in specific amenities and local cultures. At this level, in order to understand each other, an effort is needed in translation between local cultures.

Similar is in the business sphere. When a business operates just in one country it has just this, local perspective. If it is exchanging goods or services internationally the perspective expands but it is still not able to act genuily on the specific markets, in line with the local culture.

In one point our business realized, if we want to be genuine players on local markets, that we have to go out there and operate directly on the ground of those markets. It was decided, logically, to go first to our key markets. At that time, our single biggest market was Nigeria. Although previously visiting many countries, traveling to Nigeria represented for me a completely new challenge. I never visited sub Saharian Africa before nor had work experience with those countries and cultures whatsoever. Prejudices about that part of the world were present but as a have an open mindset I believed I can do it and consciously decided to go into this venture. Although we already had quite a number of Nigerian clients, those relations were remote, virtual and even proxy. There I had to build up ground operations and first of all put a human face to our company. Lagos – metropolis, „the New York of Africa“, heavy and hectic traffic, tiresome tropical weather, air pollution, sometimes hilariously insufficient infrastructure and in the same time most rapid developing economy! But the foremost challenge was to understand the local culture that was woven in: vivid market, defiant competitors, impatient partners, undeceived suppliers, „mystical“ bureaucratic procedures, legal framework labyrinths, “residential impediments“, inquisitive enterprise clients ready for „endless negotiations“…

Eventually I made it, I understood the local culture and we became a local player. It helped me that Nigerians are actually very outspoken, head-on and that I have a similar chararcter. Soon I was even given my Nigerian name – Damilola. I ended spending a large part of the 2009-2012 there and now I can say it was one of my most exciting business and life experiences so far!.

The headline proverb is often used with an „fore-word“ ormai or oramai and it says „Ormai, tutto il mondo e paese“ – „By now, the whole world is a village“. Indicating that the process of global integration already reached certain, significant levels and this has happened in recent times (and is still happening). We can trace that „internationalization“ mostly after „industrial revolution“ and getting boosted since so-called „globalization“ (more in Global village – enabled by overall reach and instant communication ).

In today’s, greatly instantly connected world we have, up above local cultures – the „global culture“. It was derrived from different local cultures but we must admit that was primarely defined and influenced by the cultures of the most dominant nations. However we define it and whatever we might think about it, it is presented to and accepted by the whole world as some kind of „common, global culture“ . Many times is perceived via trully global brands (like Coca-Cola®, Apple® or Big Brother®).

If understaning is implied with „human nature“ (cohesive force) and understanding between „local cultures“ is not, as it is something that have to be addressed (refractory force) – overall understanding of  „global culture“ is to be seen again as a cohesive force. And as said previously with „human nature“ we speak the same language as in „global culture“ while between „local cultures“ we need some „translation“.

In business „global culture“ can be interpreted as „company culture“ for trully international, global companies. Company culture then has to be seen as a cohesive force for the company. Therefore implementing it throughout the company is beneficial. The true challenge lies in avoiding being „lost in translation“.

Mediterraneo – una lezione fin dall’infanzia

Veruda, Pula, Croatia

Anni fa mi ero trovato in una situazione che a qualcuni poteva essere difficile da affrontare, ma per me non era. Sembra che in questo caso, la differenza era causata dal mio modo “innato” di riconoscere e affrontare certe frodi. Per esempio il metodo classico del “fatto compiuto”.

Si trattava di una di quelle situazioni, quando, in un paese in sviluppo, “certi locali” cercano di usurpare la (presupposta) ignoranza e la paura dell’ignoto, radicata negli stranieri. Stranieri identificati “primo-mondiali”, cioè almeno per come li vedono questi “certi locali”– come delle prede facili.

Nel mio caso, avevo bisogno di una perizia in riguardo alla regulativa sulle telecommunicazioni. Iniziando dal nulla, mi dovevo affidare ai contatti che, a quel tempo, avevo a disposizione. Un certo Chairman, di un albergho in quale soggiornavo in quel periodo, mi aveva promesso aiuto in riguardo. Guardacaso, il Chariman era un personaggio con un peso politico locale e con cio potenzialmente una buona fonte. Ma dall’altro canto, sembra che non aveva familiarità con il mondo di tecnologie moderne. Di conseguenza, gli “esperti” che mi aveva procurato, e questo mi é stato ovvio in poco tempo, non avevano ne conoscenze della materia al livello richiesto ne i contatti necessari per procurare informazioni e soluzioni efficaci.

Si erano recati ad incontrarmi nel mio attuale ufficio, cio’e nel atrio dello stesso albergo dove alloggiavo. Un tizio alto e ottenebrato e suo nipote “bassotto” e immaturo. La vista del “duo” mi portava ili sorriso sulla faccia e pur un po di pena. In parole povere – mi volevano vendere (sgorbiare) qualcosa che era essenzialmente gratuito e disponibile al pubblico. Delle forme e degli documenti presenti sulla pagina internet del servizio pubblico! Un paio di questi documenti stampati per – una “piccolezza” di un paio di migliai di US dollari. Si, come no?! La mia offerta, per il presentato era di pagarli 34 USD: 4 USD per le fotocopie e 30 USD per il taxi andata e – ritorno. A quel punto incominciarono gli insulti e minacce dalla loro parte. La mia decisione comunque non vera cambiata.

Il problema loro era che, essendo un Mediterraneo ero, cresciuto in un ambiente sano e in un quartiere competitivo. Questi tipi di trucchi li avevo superati ancora nell’infanzia. E percio avendo le viste di tante – ero pronto a identificare la frode e determinato a non accettarla.

Quando avevo diviso questa storia col nostro partner d’affari li, un Libanese, lui scoppiò a ridere, dicendomi, tutto in un sospiro, esultando: “Mio caro amico, questi non la vedevano arrivare…ma noi siamo Mediterranei – popoli antichi, abituati a tutto! Estorsioni del genere possono passare coi popoli Nuovi, magari coi Americani, senza esperienze del genere, lezioni da noi imparate fin dall’infanzia!”.

Qui ha ovviamente generalizzato un po’ troppo ma un punto della nostra cultura in comune eriditata Mediterranea – l’ha notata.

In fine, un mio piccolo omaggio al film “Mediterraneo” del regista Gabriele Salvatores e sceneggiatore Enzo Monteleone. 

If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid

Uncle Karlo Ritosa, Paris, France

My uncle Karlo had an auto-mechanic garage in the ground floor of our house. While growing up I used to watch him fixing cars. He lived and worked in France (in the 1960s) and there he specialized in repairing French cars. When I was just a pre-school little boy, cars like the Citroen CV2 were still hitting our roads. It was quite a cheap car and because of that affordable to many. It had a very simple, 2-cylinder boxer engine. Those cars were assembled en masse and thrown on the market very quickly and because of that many times they came out with some minor malfunctions of the engine. Owners couldn’t spend much for those repairs. So mecanics had to fix those engines within owner’s low budget. That consequntly ment they couldn’t loose to much time there.

Moreover, I figured out from my uncle that sometimes innovative and out-of-the box solutions were required from a mechanician, specially since proper tools were not so accessible.

So, one time I found my uncle, in front of an engine that he just had repaired, holding in his hands few „extra“ spare parts (from the same, just repaired engine). He was cautiously listening to the engine and checking if the engine was really running correctly and smoothly. „Is it repaired now?“ I asked innocently, -„Yes“ he replied. I wasn’t assured:„But…how, without those ‘extra’ parts?“. He smiled and just thrown those over his shoulder: „Hey – it is working!“. Uncle Karlo was smart and a great uncle. Thanks barba Karlo.

(in memoriam Karlo Ritoša, 08.03.1923.-01.03.2014.)

Thanks for the chocolate

Cousin Mario Toniolo, Monza, Italy

Needs are calling for their satisfaction by producing pain. Pain is then urging for easing and removing it by desperate search for relief. Relief then has some value for us.

Money is the so-called universal equivalent. Many of the reliefs of one’s pain can be bought with money.

My mother’s cousin Mario from Monza, Italy used to come visit us. He was a successfull entrepreneur, kind cousin and a generous person. In one occasion, when I was very little I remember him giving me a banknote of 100 German Marks and in the same time…apologizing?

Usually he would give me 100 Swiss Francs but this time he had just those German Marks, which were at that time some 10-20% less valuable. I was puzzled and worried by him „apologizing“. Was the value of that money, for some reason questionable now?! The measure of value was what I was missing. So I had to clear this off.

Almost sad, I looked at zio Mario and my parents and asked:“Can…I buy a chocolate with this?“ After a second of wonder they all burst of laughter and quickly reassured me „Sure you can. Many chocolates!“. A big smile returned to my face and I further joint them in theirs laughing over a kids’ ignorance of the general value of european currencies. Didn’t care much about those, I was just being happy looking for the chocolate to come.

(In memoriam Mario Toniolo, 17.08.1931.-29.06.1984.)

Using CRM and social networks

Hong Kong

Nowadays, if you don’t have your birthday marked on at least one of the social networks – it is like you don’t have birthday at all, practically you “don’t exist”. The same is on professional networks, platforms and applications – if data is not there it is practically not existing.

This is why collecting (relative and consistent) data is one of the essentials of successful business. Then, it is necessary to make a sense of it. Define and detect connections and correlations, put it in the business contexts and interpret it.

In that regard, CRM is like a social network service for every single user (primarily Sales and Marketing) within a company and the company as a whole. It helps everyone work together: Sales and Procurement, Marketing, Technical support, Legal, Finance etc. Communicating, collaborating and sharing respective information with team, company – in a single arenaAll those users are in the same time contributing and using data. On social networks, as users we are participating in this contributing culture and we are aware that our database increases in value when everyone works together on populating it with data.

Every single customer detail can get lost, meetings are often not followed up if those are kept in hand notes, laptops, spreadsheets, emails, heads etc. It is really not necessary to start every time from scratch again! Generally using multiple systems is a barrier to understanding data and getting a complete picture of our customers. CRM is thus “a single source of truth and a single point of engagement” enabling us to focus on the client.

As we engage and connect with our old and new friends on social networks – similar is with our potential and new customers (read: friends). In CRM we have a real-time, instantly accessible information about them and our relationships. Like on social networks, on important facts and moments in this relationship – we are notified and alerted. So we stay-in-touch and up-to-date.

CRM as a customer relationship building tool, is specially important in B2B where sales are not based on personal impulse but rather on sales purchase behaviors and rules. CRM re-personalize our customers relationships so we don’t just react to customer needs but we take a pro-active stand with the help of our knowledge about customers and their business behavior. A structured sales process is our great help and companion there. It is guiding us through business/sales processes through distinct and trackable sales stages with the help of sales plays and tools like templates, checklists, tasks etc. CRM is a sales cockpit helping us find the right customer, engage through most appropriate channels at right times. It is about sales with less administration and more selling.

Initially developed “just” for sales and marketing, modern CRM is advancing toward deeper integration with ERP and other core business applications in order to provide a holistic view of the company and its markets. This is opening entrance to Predictive Analysis, Artificial Intelligence and Customer Success Management.

How to evaluate which CRM system to choose? There are dozens of CRM solutions on the market and few renowned ones. Basic logic and setup, entities (or objects) like Lead, Opportunity, Account and Contact are uniform to all. Each of those systems can be modelled and customized to company’s specific needs. That means, that in the end, there are almost no wrong decisions is choosing one or another. What matters is – adopting it within the company!

CRM adoption is challenging, especially in global companies with sales teams across multiple geographies (imagine for example a company with: dozens and dozens of teams located throughout sixteen time zones consisting of all regional cultures, languages, writings…) yet forming a united virtual community. As CRM uses “global sales language” should be comprehensible to all. Genuine hand-on is needed so that using it becomes a routine, like routine is for us to use our social network(s) of choice.

In the end no tool will solve our challenges itself but yes it can help a lot in making us more effective and efficient. Taking a snowy hillside is much faster and easier with skis then without them. It is not about the tool it is about your business. If you know how to ski, changing skis is not an issue, just a matter of short adjustment. Else, if you don’t have the skill to ski, just changing skis will not help you ski whatsoever.

Zdravo tvoja glava na ramena, ti ćeš pušku drugu nabaviti, a u ruke Mandušića Vuka bit će svaka puška ubojita !“

Mission Command – Leading by Missions

Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, France

No army chief (Commander) should put himself in position to operationally execute units’ missions. It is believed that Hitler was victorious as long he wasn’t directly leading unit operations! As that would be an oversimplification it is also true that after he abandoned the traditional mission command tactics (overwhelmed by his sick ideology) and fully adopted command and control tactics on units’ operational level – defeats started. “The enlightened Leader must be free to conduct war without influence from Commander“- Sun Tzu. “I have never a plan for operations“- Napoleon. “No plan of operations extended with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force“ – Moltke the Elder.

Mission Command in warfare

As for all types of tactics, suitability and effectiveness of use depends on the context. Historically mission command was primarily adapted by countries that are small, surrounded by enemies and in imminent danger of destruction (like Prussia in 19th and Israel in 20th century). Two conditions are demanding for the use of a tactics like mission commandŸ:

  • slow internal communication (nowadays largely met) and
  • Ÿneed to quickly adapt to the situations on particular battlefields (nowadays required more then ever).

 Mission Command (in German: Auftragstaktik) was pioneered by Prussian Army Commander Moltke the Elder later capitalized by Wehrmacht and afterwords best adopted by Israeli Defense Forces. On the other hand, almost all Arab armies adopt mainly quite opposite tactics. Every time those clashed it resulted in IDF being victorious. Actually this is the point: mission command is about – winning: battles, missions and in the end wars.

 If we take a look on the Arab army tactics elements we may group them into two:

  • lack of trust and
  • lack of expert unit leaders.

Those armies are generally ineffective; unit leaders are poor in tactical leadership performance; leadership is politically given to the loyal (individuals with no experience and/or no moral); units don’t fight as a team (no cohesion, no coordination); discipline is established through fear; “balance of power” is used to retain commanders’ authority; commanders don’t care for soldiers safety; spirit of the unit is put on top; information are not passed down to units; there is no clarity of orders and operational initiative is punished.

 US Army Unified Field Operations doctrine adopts mission command to the end to enable disciplined and constant initiative to achieve a position of relative advantage(best temporary conditions) which has to be seized, retained and exploited. War is a collection of best temporary conditions. Those are achieved through fast decisions and actions by observing, orientating, deciding and acting. And those are all operational traits enforced by mission command.

 Centralized intent with decentralized execution

Mission Command is mission-type tactics, a philosophy and war fighting function, a style of military command on operational level, which combines centralized intent with decentralized execution. Promotes freedom and speed of action as well as initiative, all within defined constraints (the Commander’s framework of the mission).

Why – What (intent) and How (execution)

Units with and through their unit leaders understand the commander’s intent, their own missions and the context of those missions. They are clearly explained by the commander (not just told) what effect they are to achieve and the reason why it needs to be achieved. Unit leaders then decide, within their delegated freedom of action, how to deliver sustainable solutions and best achieve their missions. As they have the best local situation knowledge and first hand intelligence. There and then they show passion, creativity and focus – for it is their plan of execution. Once tasked, subordinates are trusted to complete the mission without direct command intervention.

 As opposite to Mission Command promoting subsidiarity and with so enabling fast operational reactions applying of Command and Control tactics includes that units have to wait for the order from above. Usually then decisions and actions are not taken and that’s the worst decision. „A favorable situation will never be exploited if unit leaders wait for orders. The highest commander and the youngest soldier must be conscious of the fact that omission and inactivity are worse than resorting to the wrong expedient“.

Make it clear

What is simple is clear, what is clear is understood, what is understood it gets done. “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”-Steve Jobs. Mission Command is thus is net centric as opposit to Comand and Control (or Directive Control) which actually gives a false sense of control.

Trust and understanding

Mission Command is founded on trust and understanding. Trust has to be given while understanding has to be developed. Commanders stays on strategic level of the mission (intention) – unit leaders on tactics level (understand intention). Mission command is not about boxing units into a course of action, it is about stewarding them in the right direction. In execution, commanders must have faith in their unit leaders – they will do their best with the training they have had.

Develop expert unit leaders

Unit leaders get appropriate guidance and have to be trained to act independently. They have their own way of execution. Unit leaders have to be experts and specialists in execution and they have to show extraordinary behavior.

 It is crucial to empower agile and adjustable unit leaders. Moltke the Elder was stressing out the importance of developing such unit leaders. In fact, the superb Prussian Army trained all unit leaders to be able to function two levels above their position! (“before the mission, a company commander would get a clear order of the mission goal and ensure that even a private knew what was expected of him during the mission. If platoon commander and sergeant would fall, the enlisted had and was enabled to take over”). Teams must be aware of making distinct contribution to collective purpose. Teams have to submit to the mission, take its ownership. Teams have to be organized, trained and equipped. Effective mission command is a powerful force multiplier – increasing the potency of soldiers – but it is a difficult philosophy for commanders to adopt.


Warfare mission command tactics is effective today in businessfare. It is responding to the need to quickly adapt to the situations on particular markets. It is helping to build an organization capable of executing strategy in a fast-moving, unpredictable environment by fostering both high alignment and high autonomy.

 As the organization is not a machine, but an organism, a set of human relationships the success on the markets depends on incisive leadership and a sense of personal responsibility for achieving collective outcomes. Management had to articulate their intent, give clear briefings and leave well alone. Operations had to understand the intent, appraise their own situation, and make rapid decisions to realize it based on situational knowledge.

 Mission command is agile.

What am I paying for?

Plaza Espana, Salamanca, Spain

Years ago I was working in a local insurance company. In marketing, closely with our sales teams. Once we organized a two-day field promotion and sales campaign on a targeted territory, marketing our „property insurance products“: fire insurance, flood insurance and earthquake insurance.

What are clients actually buying from insurance companies? -Peace of mind.

A promise that if something that they are feared by happens – the insurance company will cover losses that derived from that accident (insured event).The risk is transferred from they to the insurer. In fact they are insured –against. Against risks of losses that can be caused specifically by: fire, flooding, theft, earthquake etc.

Price of insurance is called insurance premium. It’s a Latin word where the prefix “prae” means “before”and the root “emere” means to “buy, take”. They pay in advance and they get the losses remunerated only and after the issued event happens. They don’t get a payback unless there is an accident (unless there are no losses to cover).

Back to our field campaign. In one of those house-to-house visits I remember one with an older couple of pensioners. They both complained me on our (and also their former) insurance companies earthquake insurance products.

-„I must tell you we are disappointed, very disappointed“. –„Could you please share with me why?“. –„Yes! We are paying premiums for that earthquake insurance for, for…decades!“. –„Yes…“. –„And …in all that time the damn earthquake – never happened!!! What was I paying all those years for?!“.

Obviously, a unique value proposition was missing in the first place.

Products and substance

Forum, Pula, Croatia

I knew my auntie Eva all my life. She lived with my uncle Karlo in the groundfloor of our house since we built it. She lived almost a century long life. From village poverty, big cities’ temptations, peace, war and recovery times. Building up, leaving all, emmigrating, immigrating, global and private tragedies and times of joy and tranquillity. She shared with me few of those life stories and she took with her a ton of others maybe too sorrow to share.

 Storytelling is for amusement, pastime but also to transfer some wisdom coming out from cognitions those stories tell us. Usually not to repeat mistakes that others already did. Many times lessons are derived from  careful observations. Stories start as personal and private while some end as widely known ones and become part of common wisdom. They tend to relate to everyone in the audience as anyone can relate to some extent those to themselves or situations they are, were or could be in. Sometimes stories are short just like an anecdote. This is one of those.

 In her older age I used to take my auntie out for a coffee. Usually to a nice caffe in town for a macchiato coffee. I would take a large one (1 EUR) and she would take a regular one (0,70 EUR). Once I asked her why is she not taking a larger one? Her response was: “I have been carefully watching how they are preparing them. They use the same amount of coffee for both, while for the larger they just leave hot water pour few seconds more. Why to pay 50% more for just a bit of hot water?!“.

Servant Leadership

Igrexa de Santiago de Barbadelo, Galicia, Spain

Servus servorum Dei (Latin) is one of the titles of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope, by definition is the supreme leader of the Church and that Church is by definition a congregation, an assembly or company of believers in God. By „serving God“ they strongly believe they are fulfilling their mission on this earth and find their self-realization, their purpose as individuals and as a collective.

They have to have individual commitment to live every day, the best they can, the values they preach. On this journey they are empowered to strive – by their leaders and by their colleagues. Pope believes his job is not just to administer their organization but primarely to empower them in this mission. By altruistically providing them service on that path, in achieving that common goal. He serves them to serve God.

For business ventures (companies) the higher cause or purpose is to improve lives of „their Gods“ – the customers. The only ones who are in a position to achieve that mission are the employees of those companies. It is crucial for them to believe in that mission. At any level and within any level their job is to serve each other. To empower by care, trust and empathy again with the same, common goal in mind, every day and through their behavior. Serve employees to serve customers, not to glorify theirselves.

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam (Latin, from Psalam 115:1) translated “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Thy Name give the glory“ is the motto of the order of Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (aka Templars). This motto or value statement also directs to the necessity of humility which enables them to contribute to the greater cause or the purpose.

This is not possible if the role models within the organization are not leading by example, if they are not communicating value standards, if they are not transparent, if they are simply not behaving in a positive way. If they are not serving those who are serving customers this chain of trust is lost. And trust cannot be „obtained by fear nor purchased by gold“. When they are not walking the talk the organization becomes cynical and thus failing to serve customers well.

Pontifex maximus (Latin) is another title of the Pope. Literally it means „the biggest bridge (or path) maker“. This title can also be related to the same call of leading by serving the customers’ servants. Preparing the path and environment which best suit them and so enabling them to be productive in their activities.

Recalling those two titles from the organization that is the „world’s oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution“ can indicate that this altruistic approach is actual even today, in business organizations. The important thing is not to forget who their God is.


Friedrichstraße station, Berlin, Germany

In transport, a platform is defined as „a long, flat raised structure at a railway station, where people get on and off trains“. Because of its flat form it is easily accessible for all thus facilitating quick and easy interactions. In politics or industry, a platform is a set of shared principles on which is easy to build upon and develop different variations.

Beside the „exchange through“ (transactional) businesses, platforms are catalyzing the „build“ upon (innovational) businesses.

Platform as a business model

Platform (circular) business model is considered as a counterpoint of the Pipeline (linear) one.

Platform business model enables exponential growth as sails on network effects. Platforms are so primarily associated with multi-sided platforms which are connecting producers and consumers (means of connection) while Pipeline ones is building products and services (means of production). Platforms invest in adding new participants (producers and consumers an their communites) while Pipelines in internal resources. Consequently, Platforms need just to access resources while Pipeline has to own resources. While Platforms add users at virtually no marginal costs Pipelines have at least to have the Life Time Value to exeed Customer Acquisitions Costs. Finally, unlike Pipelines, Platforms are allowing users to create and consume value.

A Platfrom business is an online marketplace, an intermediator between supply and demand. European Court of Justice recently ruled that Airbnb is an „information society service“ (without decisive influence on hosts) thus does not require estate agent licence.

Internet, mobile and marketplaces

As marketplaces existed since the begining of civilizations the question is what happend so dramatically to promote them as the „growth engine business model of our times“? Nowdays we are all instantly and constantly connected and enabled for global communications and interactions. Internet and mobile happend! Global village – enabled by overall reach and instant communication.

Making value

Platforms are primarely making value based on network effects and the economy of scale.

Platforms are increasing flexibility both on the supply and demand side. Helping generate demand by reducing search and access costs, giving more choice and on the other side, helping generate supply by reducing transaction costs and enabling them the economy of scale (very low variable costs – replicating at virtually no costs) and easying them with their distribution. But first of all Platforms have to enable trust between strangers (by being always transparent and providing a fair scoring mechanism) and by providing a compelling user experience of the platform itself (ease to use, self-service, support).

Platform companies are growing exponentially because of the exponetial growth of the number of users they connect. This progressive growth is in line with Metcalfes’s and even Reed’s growth laws. This make Platform companies, in the end, deliver better returns on capital and larger profit margins then other, Pipeline companies.

Platforms are flat.

*Etymologically the term platform comes from flat (Old French plat, Ancient Greek platus, Italian piatta) and form (from Latin forma).

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