Selling Project Management to Senior Executives: Framing the Moves That Matter

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services.mwanzoni.com/athlete-vs-mathlete.php On a macro-level, the overarching principles and frameworks used to champion BOP ventures are weakly connected to corporate business drivers. On a meso-level, the approach toward making the business case and the recommendations for positioning ventures skips over the needs of the mid-level managers most directly responsible for and accountable to the ventures themselves.

And on the micro-level, field-level business development recommendations have all but ignored basic business economics, thereby failing to provide project teams with critical management tools and frameworks that inject financial rigor and discipline into their projects. It is the language of development agencies and non-profits.

The original BOP concept was framed through a business lens. The central argument was that the lowest-income demographic was a viable consumer base of potentially massive proportion. An aside to that central thesis was that selling products to low-income consumers could lift them out of poverty. Selling products to generate new sources of revenue, profit, and growth was the central goal ; poverty alleviation was merely an externality of the process.

Poverty alleviation, the development field has long argued, encompasses issues far beyond those of basic material needs to include ones of vulnerability, livelihood stability, gender equality, voice, economic development, and democratic accountability. Consequently, the center of gravity of the BOP concept shifted. Today, BOP is framed, first and foremost, as a market-based approach to poverty alleviation. Business growth and profitability have become lost concepts. The organizing principles behind corporate routines, systems, and controls are profit growth and maximization.

Social and environmental values are boundary conditions—they set the limits and parameters within which corporations pursue their goals. So from a corporate perspective, BOP is now talked about in a way that automatically marginalizes it within a Corporate Social Responsibility cost-center. But it is this management tier that is invariably tasked with translating a C-suite directive to explore BOP opportunities into a concrete strategy.

Management prescription invariably relies on an emotionally-tinged, exaggerated language: billions of un-served people, representing trillions in market value, and innovation spillovers that are likely to migrate up-market and transform traditional markets. Going native, immersing oneself in the local culture and social structure, building trust through dialogue and mutual exchange, and then co-creating the offering in close partnership with BOP consumers are presented as virtual cure-alls to the business challenge of BOP markets.

The ChotuKool was co-designed with village women to assure its acceptability, and is distributed by members of a microfinance group. Actually, at the time these quotes were written, the ChotuKool had yet to be launched nor sell a single unit! So even if unit-level profitability is accomplished, the investment model can be grim.

First, it was weighted towards poverty alleviation and drew liberally on development methods, like participatory rural appraisal. Lastly, the core methodology and focus of the approach was business co-venturing: deep engagement of the community from concept development through to enterprise creation. All three failed. What is instructive is how they failed. All of the projects experienced a vicious cycle.

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The business model was to be truly novel—some holistic solution to malnutrition that might leverage informal social networks to channel a new protein-based food product into the diet of low-income Indians. There was no strategic or operational link with the India country office. Together with a team of women from low-income villages and slum communities, we began co-creating business concepts.

In the name of co-creation, two months were spent trying to move the community team toward more compelling concepts while ensuring they retained a sense of ownership. Our goal of identifying a novel BOP business model seemed to have been met. Project leadership gave a green light to move forward, and we shifted into pilot mode. The women lacked basic business know-how. Additional time was needed to address the rift in trust. New leadership requested detailed background on the project and the financials for the business.

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The response, in retrospect, was predictable and reasonable: shut it down. A one-year extension was granted to fulfill a commitment to the communities. And repeat sales were low. That spurred the community team to move out to more distant villages in search of new customers. The much longer travel times, however, cut into the time they had for doing sales.

They also shifted focus to the easier to sell, low-priced snack foods fortified with soy protein readily consumed in the communities. But because of the low price point and very low margins on the snack foods, the volumes needed to cover the fixed costs required a much larger population base than what the business could reach cost-effectively.

The economic fundamentals were overwhelming the co-creation vision. But even the most optimistic growth projections in the DCF had the business generating significant negative cash flows for the next five years.

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So even if we could solve the revenue model dilemma of the business unit, our investment model was a non-starter. The game was over—and for good reason. Inside Solae and its parent company, DuPont, the concept of Bottom of the Pyramid became tagged as a kind of community-based development work. In other words, BOP was not about growth and profits, but about corporate social responsibility and philanthropic efforts.

Corporations start with grand expectations, task special project teams with curing a social ill, develop complex, holistic business models, and then fail to come anywhere close to making the numbers work. As heretical as it may sound to some, poverty-alleviation must be subordinated to business goals.

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Poverty alleviation has to become the positive externality—a by-product of the activities that drive business success in the most efficient and most rapid way possible. The project has the overarching goal of creating a consumer-focused business that helps reduce malaria transmission in low income, rural populations. While the project is still at a very early stage—at the time of this writing, the business is two months away from launching pilot sales—we and the SCJ team are seeing a significant change in internal understanding, receptivity, and field-level rigor.

Internal alignment will be a constant challenge. It is a consumer classification that business managers across emerging and developed markets have used for a long time. It refers more or less to the same socio-economic group that comprises the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid, but does so in a way that breeds familiarity and understanding. At the country-level, that simple change has helped clarify to local management how the project complements their business strategy and will contribute to their financial performance.

A similar impact can be noted at the regional and corporate level. Not all of Africa, nor even all of Ghana—just the consumers living in two districts. That has shaped expectations of the initial opportunity size and provided a concrete reference point for longer-term projections of business potential. And as the project moves into launch and pilot stage, these drivers are a critical management tool for focusing time and attention, ensuring alignment from leadership down to the field.

On the supply-side, it was the limitations and boundary conditions under which the business would have to operate, such as the scale of the business and the human resource base needed to service the target area. On the consumer-side of the equation, it was factors such as the pattern of behavior change that would be entailed with our underlying product categories, as well as the segments of the population that would act as change enablers and potential disrupters. How will I press they 're applied my download selling project management to?

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