Business Rocks – The Key To Running Faster

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This week’s riff: I love coaching my U9 football team and am always looking for ways to improve my coaching skills. As a result, last week I attended the FA’s Coaching Conference at St George’s Park, the FA headquarters. One of the workshops I went to was on sprinting and movement technique. At one point the coach had a group of children jogging lightly on the spot. He then asked them to move their arms faster but to jog at the same pace. Of course, the children found this impossible. As their arms accelerated their legs couldn’t help but follow.

In business many managers are focused on ‘increasing sales’ or ‘growing profits’. This is the equivalent of demanding that someone run faster. Instead, you should focus on the actions under your control that you know will drive sales – the equivalent of moving your arms more quickly. At one opticians business I worked with, for instance, we focused on increasing the number of eye tests as the key to driving sales and profit, while at a bathroom manufacturing client, the company’s ability to guarantee overnight delivery of its entire range was the critical driver of its success and growth.

So how about you? What is the key driver of growth that you could focus on to deliver your growth ambitions and to run ahead of your competition?

Off The Record: Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry

Run, run Rudolph, Santa’s gotta make it to town

Santa make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down

Run, run Rudolph, reelin’ like a merry-go-round

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Business Rocks – Your #1 Goal

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This week’s riff: If you’re the leader of a business, what’s the most important thing you can do to deliver success? My answer is that your most critical task is to set the challenge for your organisation. Establishing a #1 goal – a single, quantitative performance target – that sits over and above all of your other objectives provides cut-through and focus for everyone to help deliver.

For the past few years, for instance, I have been working with the executive team at Topps Tiles. One of our first tasks was to clarify the retailer’s #1 goal, and the team settled on to profitably grow market share from 25% to 33%. In a little over three years, their share has already exceeded 30% and is on-track to achieve the 1/3 share goal. Over the same period profits have doubled.

Topps Tiles’ CEO, Matthew Williams, said, “At the time establishing a single and measurable #1 goal felt a little scary, but in reality it has helped align our people, made decisions easier and got our collective competitive juices going to enable us to make it happen.”

As you take your Christmas break, why don’t you think about potential #1 goals for your business and in January work with your team to settle on a preferred goal and then build your strategy and lead your people to make it happen?

You can find out more about our work with Topps Tiles here, access our archive of articles here or contact us to find out more.

Off The Record: Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield

Just move on up

And keep on wishing

Remember your dreams are your only schemes

So keep on pushing

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Case Study: Growing Share and Profits at Topps Tiles

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In 2011 the executive team at Topps Tiles plc were looking to refresh and strengthen their strategy and identify new avenues for sustainable growth

Our role

Since 2011 Morgan Cross Consulting has worked with the executive team to

  • Identify and embed a clear, #1 strategic goal for the business, that would drive ongoing strategic decisions and actions. The goal selected was to profitably grow market share from 26% to 1/3 of the UK domestic tile market
  • Establish focus around the retailer’s core competitive strategy, ensuring that it can deliver its sales and share growth ambitions. The strategy has been summarised as “out-specialising the specialists”. This meant delivering competitive advantage in three areas; customer inspiration, multichannel convenience and range authority.
  • Agree specific strategic initiatives and priorities for action, enabling the organisation to deliver the competitive strategy and achieve the #1 market share goal


Topps Tiles’s market share has grown from c.26% in 2011 to over 30%  by the end of 2014, and is on-track to achieve the 1/3 goal. Alongside this success, sales have grown 14% to £200 million and pre-tax profits have more than doubled to £17 million.

Client Testimonial

The successful delivery of our strategy has resulted from the hard work and efforts from all our colleagues across the organisation. Among other things, working with Stuart Cross helped us define a clear and specific goal that galvanised the entire organisation and has been a key part of our success. At the time, establishing a single and measurable #1 goal felt a little scary, but in reality it has helped align our people, made decisions easier and got our collective competitive juices going to enable us to make it happen. Quite simply, we wouldn’t have achieved these results without a #1 goal and I would recommend Stuart Cross to any executive team looking to create focus and growth for their business.” Matthew Williams, CEO

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved

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Business Rocks – Getting Your Paws Wet

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This week’s riff: Finney, our new puppy, has now been with us for six months. He’s a working cocker spaniel, a gun dog bred for field sports, and he loves chasing birds and animals across fields and hedgerows. But Finney suffers from a problem. When he first leaves the house, he doesn’t like to get his paws wet. He pads around the grass like I do when walking across hot sand on our summer holiday, and sometimes he can simply come to a stop at the door as if held back by an invisible force field.

Businesses too hold themselves back from taking the actions that could transform their growth prospects. Management’s fear of failure, unwillingness to take risks or experiment fearlessly leaves their organisation at the door of success, staring out at what could have been.

Goethe, the eighteenth century German writer and statesman, once said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” If Goethe had met Finney, he may simply have said that sometimes you just have to get your paws wet!

Off The Record: The Promised Land by Bruce Springsteen

The dogs on Main Street howl

‘Cause they understand

If I could take one moment in my hands

Mister, I ain’t a boy, no, I’m a man

And I believe in a Promised Land

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Business Rocks – Better vs Different

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This week’s riff: There are three ways that you can lead your market. The first is to be better than everyone else. That’s fine, up to a point, but in many markets most customers have already made their choice about what the ‘best’ is and are unwilling to spend significant time and effort on finding a new ‘best’. You would have to offer something absolutely amazing, for instance, if you wanted to become a new leader in the deodorant market. Consumers have already made their choice.

The second approach is to identify and focus on a new or under-served set of customers. Lynx, for instance, isn’t trying to be the ‘best’ deodorant brand, but it has grown and succeeded by becoming the first non-sports, lifestyle deodorant brand for teenage boys. And I can smell the evidence of their success every day in my sons’ bedrooms!

The third route to growth is to offer something very different to the existing players in the market. What if, for example, you developed a chewing gum that acted as a deodorant, or created clothing that would never smell? Well, a quick search on Google showed me that you can buy Deo Perfume Candy in the USA and that the clothing retailer, Uniqlo, offers sports shirts with deodorizing qualities. These solutions may not yet have hit the big time, but they probably have a better chance of success than another me-too deodorant.

All business need to invest in the ongoing improvement of their products and services, but to what extent are you also looking to identify potential new market segments or developing a totally different solution for your target customers?

Off The Record: Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking by Bob Dylan

Gonna change my way of thinking
Make myself a different set of rules
Gonna put my good foot forward
And stop being influenced by fools

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Business Rocks – Cool Innovation

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This week’s riff: A quick task for you: please spend the next 30 seconds creating a list of 10 white objects.

How did you do? Now, spend the next 30 seconds coming up with 10 white objects that you might find in a fridge.

If you’re like most people you will have found it easier to think of white objects that you can find in a fridge than white objects in general, which seems a bit counter intuitive. Rather than limiting your thinking, however, giving you the extra constraint of a fridge acted as a catalyst to your ideas and your creativity.

Over the past few months I’ve been working with two different clients that have been looking to grow through organic innovation. In a similar way to the fridge example, we have first been looking to identify and focus on where they have the potential to truly differentiate and lead. Once we agreed these specific areas of focus, the stream of new growth ideas shifts from a trickle to a torrent, and as the quantity of ideas grew so too did the quality.

What steps can you take to develop greater focus around the few points of difference you really want to be famous for, so that you can step change your creativity and deliver some cool innovation, with or without a fridge?

Off The Record: Money For Nothing by Dire Straits

We’ve got to move these refrigerators

We’ve got to move these colour TVs

Now that ain’t working, that’s the way you do it

You play the guitar on the MTV

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Simply visit click LIKE and you will get all our updates straight to your Facebook account. And, we are also on Twitter at @stuart_cross.

Look forward to seeing you there!

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Business Rocks – Aiming For The Stars

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This week’s riff: I must admit that up until a week ago I had never heard of the Rosetta satellite, the Philae space probe or even Comet 67P. All that’s changed, however, and I am blown away by the fact that humans have been able to send a rocket on a 10 year journey of over 4 billion miles to land on a small, rotating, duck-shaped piece of rock that’s only 2 miles wide and is travelling at 40,000 miles per hour 350 million miles from earth.

In last week’s riff, I suggested that giant leaps result from a series of smaller steps. The successful landing of Philae on 67P is a great example. Scientists first started planning the project 25 years ago, and step-by-step have been able to find solutions to all the issues and problems that they will inevitably have faced.

The project may not achieve all of its objectives, but in my eyes it has already been a stunning success. And the most important step in this venture was to define and commit to the goal of landing a probe on the comet to carry out scientific tests. Only then could the team organize and deliver the project. Too many business initiatives flounder because they have unclear, fuzzy goals that, in turn, deliver weak results.

What are the clear, specific and ambitious goals that you are committing to on your own particular ‘space missions’, and what are the steps you’re taking to ensure that you successfully shoot for the stars?

Check out our new Facebook page, download our white paper Small Steps, Giant Leaps, or contact us to find out more about how we can help you achieve your most important goals.

Off The Record: Sleeping Satellite by Tasmin Archer

And when we shoot for the stars

What a giant step

Have we got what it takes

To carry the weight of this concept?

Or pass it by like a shot in the dark

Miss the mark

With a sense of adventure

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Business Rocks – Small Steps, Giant Leaps

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November 7, 2014

For many years I’ve suffered from a fear of heights. At various times bridges, multi-story car parks, chairlifts, even the upper tiers of football grounds, have brought on irrational fears.

So, I’ve been trying to overcome my fear by learning to climb. Earlier this week I was out in the Peak District doing my first roped climb. After a few failed attempts I neared the top of the crag. As I did so I became increasingly anxious and only reached the top after a couple of big moves so that I could get back to ‘safe ground’ in the fewest possible steps.

My tutor made me do it again. “Don’t try and get there in one leap,” he told me, “Have a look at the rock, think two or three steps ahead, and make a series of smaller moves.” He was right. The second time round was easier, less stressful and, even though I took more steps, ultimately quicker than my initial attempt.

Delivering business growth is similar. It is tempting to look for a ‘silver bullet’ solution and achieve your goal in a single giant leap, but success tends to come from a sequence of smaller steps. Even transformational innovations are often delivered through a succession of incremental moves. James Dyson famously made over 5,000 prototypes of his bagless vacuum cleaner before launching the product commercially and the first iPod combined technology that was already available in different forms.

Where are you trying to reach your goal through a single giant leap, when you would be better off, and ultimately quicker, by taking a series of smaller steps?

Off The Record: Such Great Heights by The Postal Service

They won’t see us waving from such great heights
“Come down now!,” they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
“Come down now!”
But we’ll stay…

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Business Rocks – Made For Each Other

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From October 31, 2014

For a few years now, I’ve subscribed to Spotify, a music streaming service. I’ve mainly listened to it every now and then when I’ve been working in my office. A month ago, however, my listening rate went up dramatically. I bought a Sonos wireless hi-fi system of speakers for different rooms in my house, and I now listen to Spotify all over the house.

Sonos and Spotify are made for each other. Spotify gives you access to (nearly!) all the music you’d ever want to listen to, and Sonos gives you easy, immediate access to that music wherever you are at home. Spotify’s service is hugely enhanced by Sonos, and, in turn, the value of the Sonos system is dramatically increased by Spotify’s service.

What is the ideal complementary product or service to your brand, and what steps could you take to create a win-win-win for you, for thecomplementary business, and for your collective customers?

Off The Record: How ‘Bout Us by Champaign

Some people are made for each other

Some people can love one another

For life

How ’bout us?

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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