Features vs Benefits

Often we are very good at communicating features of the products and or services we sell, neglecting to tell the customer about the benefits. So what’s the difference; the difference is that benefits are the real value to the customer, the ‘thing’ which every customer will use every time. Features can simply be a factual statement about the product or service and are generally the ‘things’ that only some customers may use some of the time.

When we sell features, we are making the customer do all the work to figure out why they want ‘it’. However if we answer the question “what’s in it for me” from the customer’s perspective, understanding the actual result for the customer, then we are talking value. So think result, value and therefore benefit from the customer’s perspective. Which of the following sells the benefit?

  1. “battery included”
  2. “ready to use out the box”
  3. “you’ll never have to see that disappointing look on your child’s face when his/her toy won’t work because you forgot to buy batteries”


Getting the Operations to Think Strategically

From my experience there are two areas in which strategic thinking amongst the operations is most effective; the scope of the business and the rules to win. Discuss the scope of the business and what it means to the ops team, and discuss the rules to win for the organisation and what these mean to the ops team.

Out of these two discussions, the executives will learn the perspectives of the operations and their impact on achieving strategic objectives. And the operations will actively engage in strategic thinking.

As a result of these inclusive conversations the organisation will more likely achieve its strategic objectives.

Strategic Decisions Require Action

Merely making a decision changes very little. Acting on a decision is what counts. It sounds very obvious but there are many teams who repeatedly will have a conversation amongst themselves and all agree on what the ‘right thing’ to do is without the follow through action. Call them Strategic Theorists or Pie in the Sky Conversations, it is often blamed on the ‘busy’ness of the business’. The point of the strategic conversation is make the necessary changes so that the business can get busy in the right direction; the ‘stuff’ that counts. Therefore the conversation is not complete without an action plan which holds people accountable to each other in implementing the decisions. It is a very clear, who must do what by when, first steps to taking action.

A Definition of Strategy

The word “Strategy” is used quite liberally and can mean completely different things to different people. Even if you had to take one team of executives, there is likely to be more than one definition amongst them. So before having a conversation about strategy, it is very important to start by defining what strategy means for the team.

The definition that has worked very well for facilitating strategic conversations is this:

Strategy is direction and tactics is how one gets there.

So, in business, what sets direction? It is the scope of the business that determines the fundamental direction, made up of four components; offering, to whom, where and how. Any decision to change any of these is strategic and changes the direction of the business.

Mining in South Africa

By Jason Myhill

Something that is fresh on our minds is the violent ‘Lonmin conflict’. In my opinion there are two key uncertainties with their respective extremities that determine three scenarios for mining in South Africa and in particular, Platinum mining.

Uncertainty 1 (largely outside the control of mining companies) – mine workers act violently, vs mine workers act calmly

Uncertainty 2 (within the control of mining companies) – mining companies are not transparent, vs mining companies are transparent

The ‘game-board’ that gets created using these uncertainties shows that the companies and government hold the action cards that will determine the state of play at any given point, to their profit or peril.

Scenario 1 (best case) – mine workers act calmly AND mining companies are transparent (high road)
In this scenario mining companies support a transparent and accountable sharing of the facts regarding the take home salary and lifestyle conditions of mine workers thus making the facts clear and easy to resolve. This will result in the self correction of unacceptable employment and clearly separate the stars from the rogues. This will make the responsibility of government to control the license to operate a relatively straight forward task. Mine workers act calmly accepting that there is some recognition for their plight but also that they cannot call wolf thus keeping the workers honest in the process as well.
Scenario 2 (worst case) – mine workers act violently AND mining companies are not transparent (low road)
In this scenario the frustrations of mine workers is exacerbated and with time there comes a radical co-ordination of high numbers of powerfully armed mine workers. Mining companies start ‘barracking’ their head quarters and management offices with very tight security on site. Very few workers attend work, making production virtually impossible. Mining companies move there head quarters and management offices out of South Africa leaving the operations. Some mining companies pull out completely.
Scenario 3 (intermediate, slow and precarious case) – mine workers act calmly AND mining companies are not transparent (slow road)
In this scenario mining companies continue to defend their traditional position of existence and the mine workers take the government and mining companies to the highest court resulting in major lawsuits that force the rules of the game to change dramatically. One can clearly see that this could turn into scenario 2 very quickly.

Mining companies have the best control of the situation in scenario 1. A significant point to this is that the companies hold the power to change and actually to a large extent determine which scenario plays out.

The way in which mining companies are transparent I think is critical.

This is serious stuff for the nation, the perceptions of SA and our economy!

Health and Safety in Mining

A Unique Bond

Mining and health and safety are uniquely bound. One cannot have a discussion about mining without including the prevailing health and safety issues inherent in mining, whether in South Africa or across the globe. Mining is one of South Africa’s most fundamental economic industries and begs the obvious need, at minimum, to keep people alive in this work environment. Are South Africans able to adopt a lifestyle where they can live without unsafe living conditions, crime and violence? It seems that a life of safety and comfort without daily risks would render people immobile. From the moment one travels by taxi, or walks seven kilometers to school, to traveling by car on treacherous roads where drivers are impatient, prone to road rage and drunken driving, South Africans seem nonchalant about the sacredness of life and are quite happy to gamble with it. Does this affect the attitudes of mine workers towards their personal safety and that of their fellow workers? Has the tolerance to living dangerously rendered human life worthless? Although China has some horrible statistics, coal mining being the most deadly, the South African mines have a fatality and injury rate three times the equivalent in developed countries such as Canada and Australia. This is despite having health and safety legislation on a par with those countries. It seems acceptable and endemic to the South African culture to survive the perilous and fatal. South African mine workers seem prepared to take higher risks with their lives because of prevailing circumstances and the need to work and provide for their families. Do mine workers feel that they are cared for and valued as individuals by mining companies in South Africa? Perhaps there is more that can be done to improve conditions for mine workers so that the attitude of individual miners toward their own safety and the safety of their fellow workers is more positive, valued and accountable. Being healthy and safe is a lifestyle; the adoption of living in a particular way. Are mine workers empowered and authorized to make safe and healthy lifestyle decisions?

Competitive Selection

Picking your team 

The South African skill pool is currently affected by a major withdrawal of accomplished and talented people from within our borders to foreign capitals worldwide. The majority of these proficient experts leaving South Africa is not entirely a newsflash. With a growing economy the demand for skills is rising, placing even more pressure on the supply side. With this movement of experienced hands, the knowledge transfer becomes modest to non-existent. This creates an even wider cavity within South Africa’s specialised skill set and the world. Our language challenges and cultural multiplicity broaden this chasm even further. Whilst the objective of the BBBEE policy is to ensure that the upliftment of the economy is represented by a broader collection of people from within our nation, the policy should not be inaccurately rushed or forceably applied, as this will only be detrimental to the industry and the growing economic needs of South Africa. It is imperative to consider the desired growth of the country and our ability to stand up as a compelling nation on the global playing field where competitiveness and knowledge are key factors to success. In order to turn this situation to our favour, South African companies will turn their attention to a key driver in a winning strategy; competitive selection. This implies that the most highly skilled, trained and talented individuals will be selected. However, retaining expert individuals for our economic mobility will advocate a future escalation in innovative remuneration and higher wages.