What’s Your Baseline?

 

Have you ever had someone tell you something is a “good investment?”  It could have been a salesperson trying to sell you a new piece of machinery; a broker presenting a new stock;  a business partner serving up a new opportunity, or that new condo your spouse found.

 

But, how do you “really” know it is a good investment?

 

While the complexity of the answer is dependent on the level of investment, your risk tolerance, and other external factors. The solution boils down to two fundamentals. Your forecast of that return and the baseline from which you are making your analysis.

 

Today, I want to focus on the baseline as I plan to tackle the concept of forecasting in detail in subsequent posts.

 

Time and money are not infinite. This is economics 101. If you choose to spend either on one item. You take the same amount away from something else. E.g. if you have $1 in your pocket and purchase a soda for $1. You cannot purchase that $1 bag of chips as well. In this simple form, it seems ridiculous that someone couldn’t comprehend that concept, but you would be surprised how things change when it comes to long-term investments such as stocks, machinery, or large-capital projects.

 

Part of the problem is that potential investors do not have a go-to baseline to gauge the true value for the use of their money. Something that isn’t arbitrary. For instance, you can’t assess the success of one project against something else for which the returns must also be estimated, such as a stock or even another plan you are considering. Simply, you need something with a consistent history of positive returns from which to analyze your investment.

 

Personally, I gauge all potential investments against the 20-year T-bond. While nothing is risk-free, this financial vehicle is issued and backed by the faith of the US Government making it an ideal baseline for your analysis.  This is why many investment advisors follow a diversified portfolio that includes a chunk of these assets.

 

Using my suggestion, you would forecast the return on your investment. For instance, if you plan to buy a piece of machinery that will last twenty years and increase your business by 3%. You would weigh that against what you would get if you placed your funds in a 20-year T-bond. If that bond’s coupon rate is 4%, you may want to investigate that investment, your forecasts, and your decision a bit further.

 

A few notes of caution here. If you crunch the numbers and the bond turns out to be a better investment. Try to avoid engaging in confirmation bias – “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.” Don’t re-do your numbers until your potential investment looks better on paper than your baseline. Second, depending on the current state of the bond market. You may want to use the yield instead of the coupon in your analysis as this metric takes into account the future value of the bond you are considering. Finally, keep in mind the gut instinct. If you trust your math and truly feel that the investment will be a wise choice. Go for it. However, give it a night’s rest before you sign the check.

 

Your baseline does not have to be a bond. It just has to be quantifiable, historic, and relatively risk-free. For example, if you are considering hiring musical entertainment for your venue. You could analyze your bar and food sales for six to twelve months before you bring in the talent and then weigh your current numbers against those historic metrics.

 

In a future post, I plan to discuss how you forecast possible returns. However, for today. Remember that to measure anything. You need a device from which to gauge the opportunity. You need a baseline.

 

 

KPI’s in Venue Management

I recently asked my LinkedIn network what KPI’s, besides revenue, they use for their entertainment venue analysis.

 

I figured this would be a tough question because I removed the most prevalent answer when it comes to venue management analysis – revenue generation. I wanted to omit the low-hanging fruit to force my network to consider other Key Performance Indicators regarding their entertainment space and how valuable they can be.

 

For those who do not understand what KPI’s are.  Here is a quick and simple breakdown from Investopedia. According to their site. “Key performance indicators (KPI) are a set of quantifiable measures that a company uses to gauge its performance over time. These metrics are used to determine a company’s progress in achieving its strategic and operational goals, and also to compare a company’s finances and performance against other businesses within its industry.”

 

The revenue metrics are the most important and fairly easy to digest in regards to entertainment booking. If you book a band and they sell out the venue. That is a positive KPI. Just remember, if you are in charge of assigning revenue metrics you should include ancillary income such as food and drink sales.  I have seen many situations where one act didn’t sell out the room but brought in a demographic that drank the house dry resulting in an overall larger return on investment.

 

Key Performance Indicators go beyond just revenue-generating metrics. Better institutions will assign them to other areas of the business eco-system such as cost reduction, process improvements, and customer satisfaction. All of these variables work off of one another and when assigned properly and analyzed consistently can lead to exponential growth.  Here are a few suggestions of non-revenue generating KPI’s to consider for an entertainment venue.

 

Cost Reduction: Is the venue overstaffed? Are your performance hours not in-line with your demographic (e.g. does the room die at 11:00 pm, but you are paying entertainment and employees to be on-site until 2:00 am)?

 

Process Improvement: Are you getting your guests in fast enough and moving them to areas of revenue such as the bar efficiently?

 

Customer Satisfaction: Are you monitoring the social chatter regarding your venue?  Are the reviews of your entertainment, venue, and operations positive? Are you surveying past customers to learn about their experiences to share with your team?

 

*BONUS – Employee Satisfaction: Are you talking to your team to see if THEY are happy? Do you survey guests regarding their experience with specific employees through analysis such as Net Promoter Scores and satisfaction surveys?

 

These are just a few suggestions regarding non-revenue KPI’s you can adapt for your entertainment venue. Just remember each business environment is different and you may have to tweak your analysis to uncover your areas of weakness and opportunity.  If you would like some help analyzing your entertainment venue, give me a shout.

 

 

Five Take-A-Ways from Five Years Booking and Managing Entertainment

I celebrate my five-year anniversary with Mike Moloney Entertainment on March 1st, 2018 and what a crazy, chaotic, and fun ride it has been. So, I wanted to share with you five take-a-ways from my time as a booking agent and entertainment manager.  Enjoy!

 

It’s Still About Opportunities to See

Gone are the days of malls, mom and pop stores, and various other brick and mortar outlets. They have been replaced by online merchants, specialty “long-tail sites like Etsy,” demand channels such as eBay, and social sales through Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram among others.

 

When the distribution point of your product changes, it is imperative that your marketing strategies change with it. Why? New distribution points suggest you are dealing with consumers who have adopted new purchasing behaviors or, perhaps even more challenging. You need to re-train existing customers on these new digital protocols without losing their business. A great example lies in the fact that online buyers can’t physically touch the merchandise before they buy it. For some, who have grown up in the “online” world. This isn’t an issue. However, for department stores such as JCPenney’s and Macy’s with a funnel full of brick and mortar customers used to handling the merchandise. This is a problem that must be addressed.

 

The savvy marketers at Zappos quickly found the solution to this problem with their free returns and exchanges policies. Today, major retailers (including the aforementioned) have followed suit and now offer free returns. Some go so far as to streamline the process by providing return labels inside their packages and expedited reimbursement paths through the customer’s account section of their site. While John Q buyer still can’t touch the product before he makes his purchase, these policies reduce the perceived risk of their pre-purchase rituals and help close the gap between the brick and mortar and online worlds.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the changes the new “online” marketing landscape has forced on firms large and small. Customer reviews have become imperative for a company’s success as well as PCI compliant websites, PayPal payment channels, mobile-friendly landing pages, and social listening and engagement by the brand.

 

However, one core marketing element remains unchanged.

 

Opportunities to See still dominates the marketer’s playbook. Ultimately, the adperson’s primary goal still boils down to getting the brand name in front of as many relevant consumers as possible, so you can get them into the sales funnel where they will start the buying process.

 

I will argue that it is even more important now than ever.

 

In the past world of brick and mortar selling, competition was somewhat limited by physical location. E.g. you had to have a store or place for your customers to go to compete. Today,  many barriers to entry like this have been torn down like the Berlin Wall. It no longer matters where you are located or how much intellectual and financial capital you have. If you have the will and an internet connection. You can compete. Last year, popular online commerce platform Shopify announced the company supported over 375,000 merchants alone by the end of 2016.  That’s just one “out of the box” provider that caters to the “limited entrepreneur.” Add in other services such as Volusion, Magento, Bigcommerce, Wix, WordPress, and proprietary sites and it is very likely your business (no matter how niche it may be) is competing with a plethora of other brands across the web for the same customer’s attention. However, it get’s even more difficult. Since it takes the average online patron numerous views across multiple channels before they click “buy now.” Getting your message in front of those customers as many times as possible becomes a key ingredient to your success.

 

Yes, the distribution channel has changed and, yes, marketing strategies have changed with it. However, don’t let modern agencies scare you with new terms such as bounce rate, page views, click-through rate (CTR), cost per thousand (CPM). It all boils down to one basic fundamental that hasn’t changed in marketing strategy.

 

Opportunities to See.

 

 

 

MBA’s – The Mad Scientists Behind the Scenes

 

I don’t think many get it.

 

I know I didn’t ten years ago.

 

Maybe it is because the “MBA” has lost its luster, and in some ways it has. However, for those who have successfully completed the program. We seem to understand just what an MBA entails and the knowledge it provides.

 

MBA students study leadership, operations, corporate social responsibility, project management,  international business, and marketing among other areas. All subjects you could pick up with a general Bachelor Degree. What sets the MBA, a graduate degree, apart from its predecessor is the depths to which MBA students dive into each subject. And, surprise, it’s not just reading, but a whole lotta’ math folks.

 

Much like traditional scientific studies, MBA’s collect and categorize information, create their thesis, and try to disprove said thesis through mathematical analysis that includes algebra, calculus, and plotting lines on a graph among other things. Through this information, the MBA trained mind can tell McDonald’s that if they lower the price of fries by 12¢ soft drink sales will rise by 4%. Teach Target leadership how to calculate the optimal order quantities to reduce overhead costs associated with held inventory. Or Amazon executives where to place the best distribution center in Europe based on mileage, load weight, product lead time, taxes and physical coordinates among other data points.

 

As a society, we like to celebrate great entrepreneurs like Jobs, Page, and Bezos. All are of the genius caliber and have become brand names in their own right. They created something from nothing and rose from the ashes just like any great movie plot, which is probably why we gravitate to their stories.  However, at some point, these great leaders needed to onboard people who understood the science behind doing business to complete the left brain/right brain development of their global entities. Perhaps more importantly, by bringing on leaders to “run their business,” these great minds were able to focus on creating new products, entering new markets, or even exploring their own blue ocean opportunities. As a result, their astonishing leadership skills and the scientific training of their top-level managers birthed dominant public brands.

 

Before I attended college, I was an entrepreneur. I learned everything from accounting, marketing, customer service, and management while also developing and delivering our products and services “in the trenches.” It wasn’t until nearly ten years later that I picked up my MBA. Every day I wonder just how much larger my brand would have been had I known this science behind doing business and how it could have helped predict, prepare, and position us for astonishing growth beyond what we already achieved.

 

At that time, like many, I was uneducated in the value of an MBA. The mad scientists behind the scenes of business.

 

 

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Si vis pacem, para bellum, translated  “if you want peace, prepare for war” is an exceptional mantra to adopt in both your personal and business lives.  While it sounds like something that would come from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. It does not.  Rather, the phrase comes from book three of De Re Militari by Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus. A first-of-its-kind war manual for Roman troops.

Business management is often looked at as a militaristic endeavor.  We have the war room, wear suits that dictate our prestige in the company, and even give marching orders. As such, we naturally gravitate to the military leadership and wisdom from war-tested individuals such as Tzu and Renatus.

It is important to note that when you read these manuals you will notice that much of the works are devoted to preserving life and, especially in Tzu’s work, avoiding a battle until absolutely necessary. As he points out, actual battle is costly – you lose both life and wealth in the process.  Tzu is consistent in his message of continually analyzing your opponent, the battlefield, and your position relative to both so that when the opportunity or need for war arises. You are better prepared to end the matter quickly and efficiently.

This is exactly the same in business. As a leader, you should always know what is going on in your battlefield.  Is a long-time supplier suddenly providing materials to a competitor?  Are there signs of your market shrinking… expanding… or disappearing altogether? Are your employees showing signs of complacency? Perhaps, your customers are discussing other options under their collective breath? These are all items a general should not only know but constantly analyze and calculate against the firm’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

These suggestions are not meant to create paranoid leaders. Rather, they are to remind said boardroom generals that peace in business is not achieved because you defeated a competitor. You will always have new competitors, fleeting customers, changing regulations, and world events that will impact your bottom line. Peace comes from accepting those fates and doing everything in your power to prepare for the wars that may come, so your army can win the battle quickly and efficiently.