Blog

Feb 26
Repost - Choices Vs. Decisions and Working Through Multiple Options

​Reposting an older blog post I like from a Sutton Enterprises' internal team blog area.

April 2014 
 
Choices Vs. Decisions and Working Through Multiple Options


4/1/2014 This is not an April Fool's joke, rather will help us all be less of fools... :-)

 

I came across a posting from Nov. 1, 2013 by John Cameron about making better business decisions that I liked: http://www.rock-solid-business-coach.com/better-business-decisions It emphasizes the relationship and difference between choices and decisions. It  reminded me of something I've tried to follow since my early days at Beloit College.

 

I like to say "You have Choices. You may not always like the choices you have, but you do have choices." The concept of your choices leading decisions is important. For example, choosing to do nothing can lead to a decision by default and it may not be one in your best interest.

This approach can be enhanced by incorporating a concept in science called "multiple working hypotheses" (note 1) or in lean development called "set-based development" (note 2) that can apply to most aspects of life. The methods are closely related and involve having a set of concepts that you work through. You don't pick one, rather you focus on evaluating the group of ideas and eliminating ones that don't meet your needs / criteria / set of requirements, then you refine or combine ones that meet most or some. Repeat! Your set gradually narrows and you make your choice at the latest point you need to make a decision.

No matter how short or long of a time you have to make the decision, the choice you make will address at least some your needs and interests. You end up with better and faster decisions because you don't spend the time and rework involved in starting over when you decide without considering the options and it fails.

Notes:
1. T.C. Chamberlain. Science. 1890 see: http://arti.vub.ac.be/cursus/2005-2006/mwo/chamberlin1890science.pdf
2. Durward K. Sobek, Allen C. Ward, Jeffrey k. Liker "Toyota's Principle of Set-Based Concurrent Engineering" Sloan Management Review 1999. see: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/toyotas-principles-of-setbased-concurrent-engineering/

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© 2014. Sutton Enterprises Inc.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tricia Sutton, PMP  is an innovator. As the leader of Sutton Enterprises Inc., she has been able to instigate strategic change in not-for-profits looking to improve their practices and performance. Tricia works relentlessly to be on the cutting edge of knowledge and technology, including authoring and co-authoring many articles and serving as a volunteer in professional associations.

 
Learn more: Sutton Enterprises
Connect on LinkedIn: Company Page 

Follow on Twitter –   Help4NFPs      SuttonTricia

Aug 28
If Your Nonprofit has Student Members, Do You Charge a Nominal Fee?

​Student members can be a great way to keep your membership pipeline growing and stay aware of emerging interests and needs of new generations of professionals. Engaging these potential members as they embark on their professional careers also benefits the students through networking, professional insight, and mentoring that an association offers its members. Such early engagement can help build loyalty too.

The concept of discounted student memberships has always seemed like a natural fit until I was speaking with a large healthcare association recently.  Our discussion revealed that the process of charging the nominal fee was actually costing the organization more money than it was receiving. This led to an interesting point around whether the money would be better spent on engagement.

For example, if your association charges student members $25 annually, yet your administrative costs average $65, how can the association improve the situation for processing a member at a fixed price?  Our group's answer was engagement.  Why not eliminate the cost of student membership and put the money that was the deficit into engaging those students?  Suggestions ranged from free local chapter pizza parties to happy hour networking events.

The thought was that these additional points of contact could yield even more student members who, upon graduation, would be readily engaged with the organization and even better, be committed to becoming full members. Alternatively, when I worked for TD Ameritrade, we would often discuss the value individuals place in something that has a cost associated with it.  The perceptions of goods or services that were free was that it had less value.

Pricing and sales professionals usually recommend charging a nominal fee for this very reason.  How can we get students to see the value in associations without having to charge them the administrative costs?  Could this perception of valuing something free be changing with younger generations who expect many services to be free?

What do you think? ​

 

(I have previously written about the cost of member acquisition - Read that post.)​​


 

© 2015 Nick Spencer & Sutton Enterprises Inc.

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Nick is an experienced Marketing, Brandin,g and Association Management leader. Throughout his career, Nick has developed various strategies to support the nonprofit and association management worlds. At Sutton, Nick develops Marketing and Sales Strategies and plays a key role in the development and implementation of special projects.​

Learn moreSutton Enterprises
Connect on LinkedIn: Company Page 

Follow on Twitter –   Help4NFPs ​​


 

Jun 19
Does Your Nonprofit Consider the Needs of Millennials or is Leadership Stuck in the Past?

I recently read an interesting article called, "Why Millennials in the Workplace 'Don't Care,' and 4 Things You Can Do." (Gillenwater, 2015) I thought back to my time working for a large Association Management Company (AMC) and how they quickly adapted and listened to their staff.  This AMC embraced change and valued suggestions from employees at all levels. While working in such an inclusive and innovative environment, I would observe the opposite practices from the associations we served. Many of these associations were unwilling to embrace change.

Embracing change and valuing the contributions of all individuals is something Millennials greatly value. So why are so many associations reluctant to change? Some of the concerns associations have about changes include: time to examine changes, possible voting requirements and bylaw changes, or board member attitude.

It got me thinking, if many associations and nonprofits are slow to change, how are they addressing the needs of current or future members of the Millennial Generation?  Millennials are generally referred to those born from the early 1980s through the early 2000s and comprise a staggering 76 million people in the United States (Rouse, January).  These individuals are quick to change and adapt since they have grown up with access to the computer and internet their entire lives.

On a recent project I, along with my team at Sutton Enterprises, have been working with a large national medical association, carefully examining their membership processes.  This organization has chapters or subsets in all 50 states and they each approach their membership recruitment process differently.  Some are more tech-savvy, using iPads at events to sign members up on the spot, while others prefer to use paper sign-up sheets or direct potential members to the website to apply.  After several discussions, they realized that although some members may prefer to speak with a live staff person, others may prefer to only have contact through the web.  The organization lacked the ability to capture all potential members because they were not catering to the preferences of their audience.

Being relevant to ALL members means not only successfully managing their needs, but looking ahead to see what trends are preferred by your membership base.  Take a look at your Mission Statement and ask yourself: "Is it only addressing the needs of a few?  Will your inability or reluctance to change make your organization irrelevant?"


Gillenwater, R. (2015, January 29). Entrepreneur. Retrieved June 19, 2015, from www.entrepreneur.com: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246437

Rouse, M. (January, 2015 Not Specified). http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/millennials-millennial-generation. Retrieved June 19, 2015, from http://whatis.techtarget.com: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/millennials-millennial-generation​



© 2015 Nick Spencer & Sutton Enterprises Inc.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nick is an experienced Marketing, Branding and Association Management leader. Throughout his career, Nick has developed various strategies to support the nonprofit and association management worlds. At Sutton, Nick develops Marketing and Sales Strategies and plays a key role in the development and implementation of special projects.​

Learn moreSutton Enterprises
Connect on LinkedIn: Company Page 

Follow on Twitter –   Help4NFPs ​​


May 19
Do You Know Your Member Acquisition Cost?

​Recently I was speaking to an association about the cost to acquire a new member.  A few individuals thought the industry norm for a nonprofit of their size was about $55 in resources, including staff time.  This spurred some debate about budgets, approvals, and how much the association should be spending on new member acquisition.

One of the largest budget items for many organizations is marketing. Knowing the lifetime value of each member will help set appropriate budgets for annual marketing campaigns.

To estimate the cost of acquiring a new member, you should consider the following:

  • How much does your organization spend in marketing to acquire new members annually?
  • What is the average number of new members each year?
  • What is the average number of years an individual is a member?
  • Do the numbers add up? Is your nonprofit actually increasing net revenue when it comes to membership acquisition?


Knowing the lifetime value a new member brings to your organization will help you prioritize your marketing budget. Annual marketing campaigns aimed at acquiring new members can be successful when you know how much value a member brings to your organization over the lifetime of their membership.

Do you know the average lifetime value a member brings to your nonprofit? How should this knowledge impact what you​ spend to acquire new members?

© 2015 Nick Spencer & Sutton Enterprises Inc.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nick is an experienced Marketing, Branding and Association Management leader. Throughout his career, Nick has developed various strategies to support the nonprofit and association management worlds. At Sutton, Nick develops Marketing and Sales Strategies and plays a key role in the development and implementation of special projects.​

Learn moreSutton Enterprises
Connect on LinkedIn: Company Page 

Follow on Twitter –   Help4NFPs ​


Jan 21
Not-for-Profits: Discounted Cloud Collaboration from Microsoft (Until 4/6/15)!

Collaboration & Productivity in the Cloud - Office 365

Easier Collaboration with the Cloud

Do you struggle to keep your tools and systems up to date and secure? Do you want better ways to collaborate and share information securely with your boards, committees, and volunteers? Moving to the cloud can really help.

Sutton Enterprises has used Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based productivity suite as our back-office business platform for over 5 years now and have learned a lot. We run projects with our not-for-profit clients using our SharePoint sites and like the ability to bring both client contacts and their volunteers together:

  • No more emailing large documents! 
  • Team members all contribute to the same documents online.
  • Automatic versioning - see the history of changes when needed. 
  • No longer spend hours merging input from different people manually.
  • The security and options for different levels of access are superior and easy to manage.

Volunteers and other guests, like your contractors and service providers, can join your sites securely without the cost of buying extra licenses for them, expanding your reach and ability to manage projects, committees ...

Project Sky Discounts

Not-for-profits have limited resources to manage technology and keep it current, yet many continue to try to host their tools and ​platforms in-house or on dedicated servers. Cloud platforms can help since updates and security are managed by the provider. Not that many not-for-profits have made the move yet, though.

Since we have experienced it, we understand that change can be very hard and there are costs to make change. If you are apprehensive​ of the cost, Microsoft is offering a substantial discount through early 2015  to help get you started.

Microsoft has a special project right now that it extended through 4/6/2015 to help business organizations move to the cloud with the help of Office 365 partners.

Project Sky Discount for the Business Organizations/Influencers:  

  • 50% off Office 365 E3 Plan
  • Discount for 1 full year
  • Organization must be 501c6
  • Organization size cannot exceed 250 seats
  • The offer expires on 4/6/2015

     

Project Sky Discount for the Business Organizations/Influencers: 

5% off Office 365 Business Premium

  • Discount for 1 full year
  • Up to 500 Customers
  • The offer expires on 4/6/2015

 

Note that the first discount is for you (the 501c6 organization). The second discount is a benefit you are able to offer members of your organization.

 

Getting Started

If you are interested in the discounts, contact me.  I would be happy to help you navigate the process.

© 2015. Sutton Enterprises Inc.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tricia Sutton, PMP  is an innovator. As the leader of Sutton Enterprises Inc., she has been able to instigate strategic change in not-for-profits looking to improve their practices and performance. Tricia works relentlessly to be on the cutting edge of knowledge and technology, including authoring and co-authoring many articles and serving as a volunteer in professional associations.

 

Sutton Enterprises liked the Office 365 tools so much that we became a Microsoft partner, mainly so we can help others benefit from what we've learned and have an easier transition.


Learn more: Sutton Enterprises
Connect on LinkedIn: Company Page 

Follow on Twitter –   Help4NFPs      SuttonTricia

 

Nov 18
Dangerous Assumptions - Maybe we should just ask?

Image: Question Assumptions. Magnifying glass with question mark in blue oval. 

Most people know about breaking down ASSUME into what it can mean about us when we make assumptions… Ass_U_Me.  I've found that to be especially true for "dangerous assumptions."

 

Back in October, I enjoyed a LinkedIn® Pulse article by Glenn Leibowitz(1) on "The 3 Dangerous Assumptions You Need To Avoid." After an anecdote about his childhood that could easily be a part of a family vacation Hollywood movie, he describes the danger of assumptions and three types of dangerous assumptions:

 

Assumptions about:

  1. What is expected
  2. Other people
  3. Our abilities

 

The post has kept rolling around my mind, especially as I plan some process improvement efforts for some not-for-profits I serve, so I decided to expand on it with an organizational perspective…

 

In processes, people make a lot of assumptions and they can be important and useful to help move forward in many cases. There are good reasons to make assumptions, like to get things started,  to test what is or is not true (part of the act of hypothesizing), to expedite things, to prioritize what a process will address, to mitigate analysis paralysis … Much of the risk or danger, though, comes from how we use the assumptions and whether we remember we are basing something on assumptions.

 

Some categories of assumptions that go across Mr. Leibowitz' three types are:   

 

  • Hidden Assumptions

    • Were they made consciously, intentionally, for good reasons?
    • Are we aware we made an assumption (closely related to the next category … assumptions treated as facts).  

We can uncover them by asking questions about why we are doing something a certain way, whether we know a good reason why we shouldn't change how we are doing something… Awareness of assumptions goes a long way to knowing what may or may not be open to improvement.   

 

  • Assumptions Treated As Facts 
    • Do we realize it is an assumption (especially that it was put in place for a specific reason)?
    • Do we recognize or provide for exceptions that may not fit the assumption?          

Again here, question things to test understanding. Probe into what we believe to be true and why we believe that.  Look at the basis, past documentation, data available to support the way we are doing things. We may decide it is an appropriate assumption, just call it out as an assumption so all are more aware of it.   

 

  • Forgotten Assumptions 
    • Are the assumptions visible so that the participants in the process are reminded the basis for the approach taken? 
    • Have we used an assumption so long that we take it for granted?  Forgotten we are basing our approach on an assumption?  

Assumptions can and should be made visible - called out and integrated into the process documentation,  as well as in systems that support a process. For example, add short notes and links to more information. Reminders and mental queues help keep assumptions top of mind and help us identify when to re-evaluate them.  

 

  • Outdated or Invalid Assumptions
    • Are the reasons for doing it that way still valid? Has the original basis for the assumption changed? (Do we even know the reasons or original basis?)
    • Have we reviewed the assumptions recently to evaluate whether they are still valid?  

For example, if a certain age group constituted the bulk of our members at the time the process was defined, we may have prioritized the process to handle the needs of that group, such as the information gathered and how it is gathered. Different groups tend to have different needs and preferences. Failing to recognize changing demographics can increase the work-arounds or exceptions or worse yet, make important member groups dissatisfied, potentially reducing retention. Look at whether the organization's demographics have changed.  Also evaluate whether / how does that affect the priorities and processes.

 

These types of assumptions can become evident when we have an increasing number of exceptions that don’t work well within the process. Something that only occurred rarely but is now happening frequently can suggest something may be changing. The more workarounds and exceptions to be addressed, the more likely we should look at analyzing and improving the process.

 

Questioning assumptions is a healthy part of continuous improvement, especially process improvement. Assumptions are powerful when made consciously and managed. So ask some questions! The answers often can be simple and easy to address and at least help identify and set priorities for improvement.

 

P.S. Now asking questions is a topic of its own so stay tuned for that topic in the future…

 

Source:

(1)  Glenn Leibowitz. 10/7/2014.  "The 3 Dangerous Assumptions You Need To Avoid." LinkedIn Pulse Article. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141007175115-98412130-the-3-dangerous-assumptions-you-need-to-avoid?trk=tod-home-art-list-small_1 

 

© 2014. Sutton Enterprises Inc.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tricia Sutton, PMP  is an innovator. As the leader of Sutton Enterprises Inc., she has been able to instigate strategic change in not-for-profits looking to improve their practices and performance. Tricia works relentlessly to be on the cutting edge of knowledge and technology, including authoring and co-authoring many articles and serving as a volunteer in professional associations.
Learn more: Sutton Enterprises
Follow on Twitter –   
Help4NFPs      SuttonTricia

Nov 06
Helping the Visually Impaired Navigate with 3D Audio

​Since working on a technology project related to the blind and deaf-blind last winter, assistive technology now pops up on my radar. Apple has been a leader here, though others including Microsoft & Google(1)  have gotten the message and are starting to innovate in this area.

So these reviews of a prototype device from Microsoft caught my eye(2):

 

It integrates GPS information with audio cues in a way that still allows the user to hold converstations and listen to the environment around there by using jaw bone conduction.

With some development, I can see it being expanded through physical signals like vibration to the deaf-blind.

 

Notes:

(1) I am aware Google has made efforts and has initiatives related to assistive technology. While others have written & presented about Google's efforts in this area, Google not yet made much information available publically yet itself about their initiative. (Try a Google search for Google Assistive Technology" and notice that no pages by Google come up in the top couple pages! Maybe Google needs help with SEO... :-) )

(2) Accessed 11/6/14.

 

Tricia Sutton, PMP  is an innovator. As the leader of Sutton Enterprises Inc., she has been able to instigate strategic change in not-for-profits looking to improve their practices and performance. Tricia works relentlessly to be on the cutting edge of knowledge and technology, including authoring and co-authoring many articles and serving as a volunteer in professional associations.

Learn more: Sutton Enterprises

Follow Us on Twitter –   Help4NFPs      SuttonTricia

Oct 03
Useful Tool to show relationships between things

​A systems engineer I know and respect, Randy Illiff, has developed a very useful tool that visually shows how things relate to, interacct with, or affect each other, including when they don't affect each other.

If you are interested in learning more, let me know and I'll introduce you to him.

 

Tricia Sutton

May 27
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