Victoria Tifft

Monday, 28 February 2011 19:01

Victoria Tifft

Call it an elevator speech or a value proposition, but when it comes to communicating messages about your company, a solid 10- to 12-word statement that conveys who you are, what you do and what makes you different is imperative. If you’ve ever needed to apply for financing or venture capital funds, then you’ve been down this road. Creating the right value proposition for your firm takes a bit of thought and often a change of perspective.

Creating the right value proposition forces you to think about what your customers perceive as value. Ask yourself, ‘If you were in your customers’ shoes and they didn’t have your product or one similar — what would happen? Would they lose customers, would they be late for a regulatory finding? Would their car rust faster?’ Next ask yourself, ‘If they bought a competitor’s product instead of yours, what would they be missing? Would they have pretty graphs, but miss detailed information that could pinpoint a potential problem? Would they spend twice the money and delete their weekly pocket cash? Would they get their project started later and encounter administrative hassles that would slow their ability to deliver a critical project?’

Then go a step further. How does it affect the bottom line? Does the subsequent car rust decrease the car’s useful life and make them need to buy another car sooner; does the late project delay the release of a product, or even worse, let a competitor grab the initial market share? If they missed the critical information, could it cause a recall or even brand damage? Begin to think of your product in terms of how it affects the person you are selling to, and then how it affects their company. In very complex sales with multiple buyers, these questions also extend to the political affect on a player and often the impact on their compensation or status in the organization. However, to get a value proposition right, start by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and asking the basic questions we’ve gone through.

My firm is currently re-evaluating our value proposition to ensure that we are in alignment with what our customers perceive to be valuable. We’ve done our homework, met with several customers and feel that we understand their perception of our value. We entered into a two-stage process. In the first stage, we developed a broader proposition statement that captured who we are, what we do and what makes us different. This statement was: “Clinical Research Management Inc. helps government and commercial customers accelerate research and product development timelines for basic and applied research, through late-stage clinical markets for drugs, biologics and devices. Our customers repeatedly come to us for our extraordinary customer service and ability to craft successful, innovative and knowledgeable solutions for their needs.”

Next, we refined the broader statement and chose 12 words that clearly stated our value proposition. In the end, that gave us the following: “Our innovative and knowledgeable solutions accelerate customers’ research and product development timelines.”

As a corporate leader, once value propositions are truly identified as the path to a customer, you need to ensure that your infrastructure, services/products and capital expenditures align with delivering innovation and knowledgeable solutions for our customers. Requests for expenditures outside of these parameters are potential loss leaders because they won’t align with your customers’ interests.

The most successful businesses are born of ideas that fill an unmet need. Value propositions are the mechanism to institutionalize that concept as you grow. So listen to your customers, get your team together and craft a value proposition statement that identifies who you are, what you do and what makes you different from everyone else.

Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management, a full-service contract research organization that offers early- to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Reach her at vtifft@clinicalrm.com.

Thursday, 25 November 2010 19:00

Time for a change

In the year 1532, Niccolo Machiavelli penned, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

More than 450 years later, our organization has found that this is still true.

Clinical Research Management Inc. has spent the last five years undergoing an organizational culture change and the experience has tested every facet of our organization.

As a company, we’ve gone where most people don’t want to go and plummeted into multiple depths of despair as we realized the chasm that existed between where we were and where we wanted to be.

When we understood the enormous amount of heartache, discipline, effort and energy that would be involved in turning the culture around, we came close to giving up. The entire mission seemed like a daunting task, but hope, determination and optimism have a funny way of turning daunting tasks into challenging opportunities.

So with optimism and intense determination, we moved forward with our mission to change our culture. Here’s how we did it:

Reality check

You can’t travel to a destination if you don’t know your current location. Understanding our current location was critical and we had to take a good look at ourselves. To do this, we solicited input and collected data from every level of our organization. We candidly asked our employees and customers about our culture. We also engaged outside consultants to speak with staff and customers about our culture. This information took approximately one year to collect and understand.

Create the future vision

During the same time frame, we took our management staff off-site for a few days and concentrated on where we wanted our culture to be in five years. We envisioned that a media article had been released about our company five years in the future. Our job was to fill in the contents of that article. We created a positive, exciting media article that we could all be proud of and translated the essence of the media article into a vision for our desired culture.

How big is the chasm?

We began to examine the gaps between our current and our desired culture. We recognized that there were great strengths within our current culture that we could leverage. These strengths became the solid foundation that we used to bridge the chasm as we built a five-year plan to move us from one culture to another.

Execute the plan

We understood that executing our plan would be a critical phase of our culture change process. We sought assistance from every level of the organization and developed several tactics to help drive toward the new vision. We integrated aspects of the new culture throughout every facet of the company’s activities.

Clinical Research Management is now entering the third year of our five-year plan and we’ll admit that changing our organizational culture is clearly the most prolonged and difficult business endeavor we’ve ever tackled.

It has also been an incredibly rewarding experience, and we would do it again because we believe that culture drives our company.

From a personal standpoint, continuing to build a sustainable, positive, nimble, innovative and fiscally sound culture will always be my top priority as CEO.

Machiavelli’s statements from 1532 ring true today. Changing your culture will be hard but not impossible. You’ve got to believe in your vision and keep an intense focus on where you want your culture to be.

It won’t happen in a day or even a month — but it will happen, and you’ll be positively transformed along the way.

Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management, a full-service contract research organization that offers early to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. She can be reached at vtifft@clinicalrm.com.

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