The front page banner headline shouts the story: A deranged, enraged employee recently fired or passed over for a promotion returns to the workplace to exact his revenge.
He may head directly for his boss’s office with a revolver and a single bullet ... or unload a deadly spray of gunfire at the people who he perceives have slighted him or otherwise participated in his humiliation. He saves the final bullet for himself, leaving behind a grieving family and a workplace forever traumatized.
Incidents of workplace violence were virtually unheard of until the 1970s. Since then, however, cases have more than tripled. But the scenarios of revenge and mass killings are only a small part of what the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health calls an epidemic.
The majority of incidents are not fatal assaults, but everyday occurrences of physical violence, verbal threats and forms of harassment that cost employers millions of dollars annually in litigation, lost productivity and damage control. A recent survey by the Northwest National Life Insurance Co. shows that an estimated 2.2 million employees have been directly affected by violence at work.
According to Jodi Scott, president of Brighton Management Group in Cleveland, every company has a responsibility to implement a workplace violence prevention program. This begins with making sound hiring decisions using behavioral-based interviewing and thoroughly checking the references of applicants. It should also include a complete background investigation of a candidate’s criminal, driver’s, financial, military and other appropriate records. Fair firing practices are also critical.
“Another important part of the plan includes training all employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of violence prone behavior,” says Scott.
Research indicates that suspects will exhibit multiple behaviors or actions before the incident, including:
- Increase in absenteeism;
- Decrease in attention to appearance;
- Outbursts of anger without provocation;
- Verbal abuse of co-workers/supervisors;
- Repeated comments indicating suicidal tendencies;
- Sabotaging equipment or property;
- Increased mood swings;
- Resistance to changes in procedures
- Unsolicited comments about firearms and other dangerous weapons;
- Fascination with violent and/or sexually explicit materials.
“It’s also important to evaluate these behaviors relative to the company’s culture. What seems offensive or inappropriate in a professional setting may be ordinary in a less conservative atmosphere,” she says.
Scott adds that it’s critical for employees to feel that if they inform management about the unusual behavior of a co-worker, it will not be construed as tattling.
“It’s always better to be wrong than to overlook the early warning signs.”
Scott identifies factors that can contribute to workplace violence:
- Being downsized or fired;
- Witnessing work force reduction;
- Receiving a bad performance review;
- Subjection to disciplinary action;
- Confrontation with the boss;
- Loss of workplace status/self-esteem;
- Unresolved or ignored grievances;
- Change or trauma in personal life/social problems;
- Financial problems.
Preventing workplace violence means recognizing the common factors identified in offenders:
- White male, 35-45 years of age;
- Migratory job history;
- Loner with little or no family/social support;
- Chronically disgruntled;
- Externalizes blame; rarely accepts responsibility for things gone wrong;
- Takes criticism poorly;
- Identifies with violence;
- More than a casual user of drugs and/or alcohol;
- Keen interest in firearms and other dangerous weapons.
Scott cautions that these guidelines are general.
“It’s hard to say what actually causes a seemingly sane person to go over the edge. I think it’s a mixed bag of genetic, familial and social-psychological factors,” she says. “Above all, employers must establish an environment that promotes respect, dignity and civility.
“American businesses have become so bottom line oriented that we tend to forget we’re dealing with human life.”
Nicki Artese (email@example.com) is vice president of communications for The Reserves Network. She can be reached at (440) 779-1400.
Small companies and health care
Maybe it’s because small business owners have to look at their employees every day. No one can be really sure, but recent numbers about employee health care costs are a bit startling.
Only 75 percent of employers with fewer than 250 employees require their workers to pay part of their health care coverage. Meanwhile, 94 percent of large companies with 2,500 or more employees require employees to pay part of their health care coverage. These figures were uncovered by Watson Wyatt’s 1998/99 ECS Survey Report on Employee Benefits.
Health care compensation blues
CEO pay packages at the nation’s largest publicly owned, for-profit health care companies remained flat in 1998, reflecting Wall Street’s continued skepticism of an industry troubled by a stunning drop in market value, according to a new study by William M. Mercer Inc.
From fiscal year 1997 to 1998, the median increase in total cash compensation, which includes base pay and bonuses, among health care CEOs was 5 percent, due largely to a median salary increase of 9 percent. However, total CEO pay packages at the largest health care companies actually declined due mainly to poor stock performance, but nevertheless a rare phenomenon in the world of executive compensation.
What drug abuse costs your company
If one of your employees is using on the job, it could be costing you as much as $10,000 each year. That comes from Cyndy Cook, director of marketing and sales for Clinical Health Laboratories Inc.
“In addition,” she says, “the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discounts premiums from 6 to 20 percent for organizations that develop a drug screening program in support of a drug-free workplace.”
The best care everywhere
A research corporation announced that the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is one of the nation’s top 126 hospitals, according to the 1999 Consumer Choice Award winners. Hospital consumers selected the clinic as one of those having the highest quality and image in 101 markets throughout the United States.
This is the fourth year National Research Corporation (NRC) has bestowed awards on hospitals. NRC President and CEO Michael Hays said the company expanded winning criteria this year to reflect composite scores on multiple quality and image ratings provided by consumers in NRC’s annual Healthcare Market Guide Study. Of the 2,500 hospitals rated by consumers, the winning 126 rank highest in their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 1999 study surveyed more than 170,000 households representing more than 400,000 consumers in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Here’s to your health
According to Yahoo! News, Ohio’s Senate Finance Committee will recommend to the full Senate that the state’s share of the tobacco settlement be used for schools, research and health programs.
Some Republicans wanted to use the money for tax cuts. They claimed they had the votes to insert the tax cuts as an amendment to a bill being considered on how to divide the money. The amendment never surfaced, and Gov. Bob Taft’s aides say they do not expect it to be revived when the legislation reaches the Senate floor for a vote.
Dear H. R. Manager:
I am a manager in a large family-owned business. There are relatives who work in nonmanagerial jobs who come and go as they please and do not comply with attendance policies. This has created a major headache, because I have employees complaining, and I feel that my hands are tied. What should I do?
Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Dear Caught Between:
Its important that family members employed in family-owned businesses be good role models for employees. Otherwise, the message they send to employees is, Do as I say, not as I do.
To alleviate this problem, have a discussion with the owner and explain how employees interpret relatives noncompliance with company policy as a double standard. If the owner is sympathetic and understanding, perhaps he or she will talk to the relative and stress the importance of setting a good example.
If you get the impression that things are not going to change, sit down with your employees and explain that while you do not condone family members violating company policy, it is evidently a privilege that comes with being a member of the family, and not an uncommon one at that.
Dear H.R. Manager,
We have a clerical pool of three secretaries providing support to 15 managers. Many of them travel. The secretaries say that the work is not evenly shared or distributed, which has created bad feelings among them. To make matters worse, they do not seem willing to help each other out, and the managers complain of long turnaround times in getting their work back. The company will not consider hiring another person.
Confounded in Cleveland
Support perceptions with facts:
- Create a short questionnaire to serve as a needs assessment to ascertain how well managements clerical needs are being met.
- Meet one-on-one with the secretaries, getting specifics on workloads, priorities and deadlines.
- Meet with the secretaries as a group. They probably have some of the same frustrations. They may not realize, however, that theyll be more successful in dealing with these frustrations as a group dare I say the word team than they have been as individuals.
- Share with the secretaries summaries of both the positive and negative feedback you receive from managers.
- Provide them with teambuilding training at your workplace to give them the knowledge, skills and a common mission to work together as a unit and to empower them to take ownership of the problem.
- Assess whether a part-time or temporary person can be used during peak workloads to handle the more mundane but necessary tasks such as filing, copying or faxing.
- Absolutely, positively, and on a regular basis, recognize their progress as a team with a company-paid luncheon, a team pin or coffee cup, recognition letters from management or other rewards.
Dear H.R. Manager:
I have a production supervisor who runs a tight ship and gets product out the door on a timely basis good for business. He gets results, but is not popular with the people who report to him not good for morale. Weve discussed it during his reviews and hes better for a short time, but reverts back to his old ways. How can I get through to him?
Wanting It Both Ways
Dear Wanting It Both Ways:
You dont mention anything about sending him for leadership or communications training. A key to change is education. People must see things for themselves.
In addition, I recommend two assessment tools to help your supervisor learn more about himself and how he comes across to other people. The 16PF is a personality profile available from an industrial psychologist. The other tool to evaluate his performance and effectiveness as a leader is the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI:Self) available from Jossey-Bass, (800) 274-4434.
The self-knowledge that your supervisor gains will enable him to incorporate behaviors that have a positive impact on employees. As your supervisor demonstrates better people skills, give him positive strokes. Also, make sure that you arent emphasizing results at any cost. He needs to know that his lack of people skills may be injurious to his pocketbook and his career growth.
Almira Hercl, a former H.R. director, is president of Human Resource Solutions, which assists companies in improving organizational effectiveness through management of their number one asset, people. To obtain professional advice on those difficult-to-deal-with personnel problems that can be organizational barriers, write Ask the H.R. Manager c/o SBN, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While its unlikely well see a host of other young companies become billion-dollar successes anytime soon, more than a handful of local upstarts have, nonetheless, shown a serious potential to take off into the economic stratosphere. So whats the lesson for the regions aspiring entrepreneurs looking to bring the next blockbuster to market?
It will show that you dont have to leave Pittsburgh to become a billion-dollar company, says Ajmal Noorani, vice president of Mastech Corp. and manager of the founders new $50 million eVentures fund for Internet-oriented start-ups.
It may indeed be possible to create a billion-dollar company on your first stroll down Wall Street but only with the right kind of business idea, sharp management and adequate financing. FreeMarkets meteoric rise would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without the help of early-stage venture capital to develop its service, provide critical management expertise and demonstrate its promise for big returns to the first buyers of its stock.
Providers of that kind of risky investment capital finally appear to be gaining some level of comfort in this region. The managers of several homegrown funds, as well as those from outside the region, are beginning to see an alluring shade of green in the hills and valleys of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Another reason for the interest in local deals is that venture funds are once again flush with capital and looking outside the traditional geographical hotbeds to find places to invest.
Theres so much competition and so much hype in the valley, says Sean Sebastian, managing partner with Birchmere Investments, a $20 million early-stage venture fund started by wealthy steel industry entrepreneur Richard Simmons. Birchmere partners today cant help but celebrate their success, thanks to their early investment in FreeMarkets. In fact, the fund still maintains holdings in a number of local start-ups, including CoManage, another company lining up for sizable entrepreneurial success.
Mastech created eVentures in 1999, and Lycos Ventures was launched in July in a partnership with Triangle Capital, headed by local entrepreneur and educator Don Jones. Redleaf Management, a $150 million Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, opened an office in Pittsburgh last year, and the Western Pennsylvania Adventure Capital Fund, led by Pitt professor and investor Richard Patton, mounted a second round of fund-raising last September.
And a rejuvenated Innovation Works, a retooling of the former Ben Franklin Technology Center, got a $6.6 million grant from the state, earmarked for parceling out in $100,000 to $500,000 bits to promising upstarts.
For funds such as eVentures, the objective is a symbiotic relationship among entrepreneurs, investors and Mastech. Investments in new companies will provide not only a speculative opportunity for gain which stems directly from their success, but also creation of entities that could use the kinds of services that Mastech can offer, as well.
In effect, Mastech will find new customers for its products by spawning new ventures and foster the development of businesses that can feed off of its client base by offering services they can use.
Were the smart money because we can understand the technology, says Noorani.
Along the way, eVentures plans to provide the practiced guidance and mentoring that fledgling firms often need nearly as much as they need capital.
At the most fundamental level, Mastech is offering a select group of Carnegie Mellon University students, through the schools entrepreneur-in-residence program, the opportunity to get their ventures off the ground. University seniors get a monthly stipend, office space and administrative support. In exchange, Mastech gets a guaranteed stake in the new company and reserves the right to participate in up to 20 percent of any future funding.
Redleaf, too, sees the value of adding operations, marketing and legal support to the cash it pours into promising ventures. The fund is establishing offices in locations such as Pittsburgh, which offers a core of high-tech companies, local support for their development and a strong university community.
In addition to capital, Redleaf will offer a range of services, including operational support and a digital incubator systems integration capability to help seed-stage Internet firms mature into category winners, says C. Lloyd Mahaffey, director of Redleafs Pittsburgh operations.
Venture capital firms are spread thin, especially the top few, says Ashok Trivedi, Mastechs president and a co-founder with partner Sunil Wadhwani. What start-ups need is a committed investor who has a strategic interest in the success of the company, and who has the expertise and deployment capabilities to help them scale up quickly. How to reach: eVentures, www.mastech.com/eventures; Western Pennsylvania Adventure Capital Fund, www.wpacf.com; Redleaf Management, www.redleaf.com; Birchmere Investments, www.birchmere.net; Innovation Works, www.innovationworks.org
Ray Marano (email@example.com) is associate editor at SBN.
Hunting for a new home in Ohio? You may want to put a tour of the Internet at the top of your research list.
Simply pull up a search engine, type in real estate agencies and Ohio, then click, scroll and point your way to the offices and offerings of a majority of the states real estate firms.
Most of the states real estate companies have some sort of presence on the Web, says Waleed A. Muhanna, associate professor of management information systems at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. Another 13 percent are planning to do so within the next two years.
Muhanna, who also serves as interim director of the center for Information Technologies in Management at Fisher College, late last year released results of a telephone survey of real estate firms, conducted in collaboration with the colleges Center for Real Estate Education and Research.
He noted that the number of Ohio real estate firms with a presence on the Internet exploded in the middle of 1999. A study conducted earlier in the year showed only 50 percent had a presence on the Web, and the average age of the Ohio sites is 14 months.
The Internet is quickly becoming the place where customers first look to shop for products and services, Muhanna says. The activity of buying a home is no exception.
He cites statistics from the National Association of Realtors showing that the number of U.S. customers using the Internet to shop for homes rose from only 2 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 1999. A recent study of home buyers in Ohio showed 73.5 percent had access to the Internet and 38.7 percent used it in some aspect of their home search.
Those Internet searches are turning into profits for real estate firms, he says.
Eighty-eight percent of those we surveyed characterized their presence on the Web as a success, Muhanna says. They found that, on average, they could attribute up to 5.2 percent of gross sales to the Web marketing channel. But when we asked what they expected that percentage to be in the year 2002, their average was 20 percent.
Ohios real estate industry, he says, clearly sees an Internet presence as a competitive necessity.
Muhannas study sought to examine how residential real estate firms in Ohio are attempting to adapt to the new medium and satisfy the growing number of Internet-savvy home buyers. The study is based on telephone interviews of 150 firms randomly selected from a database of 3,200 principal brokers in Ohio, supplied by the Ohio Association of Realtors.
You have several choices: Turn and run, stand still and hope the dog leaves, carefully approach the beast in a friendly manner or snarl back. Your choice reveals something about how you view the world.
According to Hyrum W. Smith, of The Franklin Covey Co., everyone views the world through a filter, a belief window, a combination of experiences and attitudes, and it colors every decision made. Those beliefs also create rules, which govern actions. Choose the wrong action because of an inaccurate belief and the consequences could be painful.
In the case of the aforementioned dog, those actions affect your physical well being. In business, it could ultimately mean the survival or demise of your enterprise.
Smith devised the Franklin Reality Model, a system for analyzing beliefs and, if need be, for changing them. Case is point is something that happened in his company. Executives believed that cutting costs “no matter what” would ultimately benefit the company.
The result was the addition of a bad receptionist. Realizing the negative impact she had on the business, the company got rid of the employee and adopted a new belief: “We want the best reputation in the world.”
The basic human needs
How do you know if beliefs are detrimental? Measure them against the four basic human needs: survival, love, variety and the need to feel value. Every action should, over time, support one of those needs.
If one of those human needs is not being met, Smith says, all our energy is turned to the area. That is where addiction come from, he says. Smith defines addiction as “compulsive behavior with short-term benefits and long-term destruction.”
“If my grandpa missed a train, no big deal,” Smith says. “He’d wait 24 hours. If my dad missed a plane, he’d wait five hours. No big deal. If I miss a section of a revolving door, I go berserk.”
The belief window Smith had to learn to change deals with time.
Seven natural laws
The first step to understanding behavior is to recognize the beliefs that influences it. To do that, Smith developed the seven natural laws:
1. If the results of your behavior does not meet your needs, there is an incorrect principle on your belief window.
2. Results take time to measure.
3. Growth is the process of changing principles in your belief window.
4. Addiction is the result of deep and unmet needs.
5. If your self worth is dependent on anything external, you are in big trouble.
6. When the results of your behavior do meet your needs over time, you experience inner peace.
7. The mind naturally seeks harmony when presented with two opposing principles.
Six steps to follow
You’ve done a little self-reflection and realize that you have a few beliefs that need adjustment. Smith suggests applying the following rules:
1. Identify the behavior patterns.
2. Identify possible principles driving the behavior. (Ask why.)
3. Predict future behavior based on those principles.
4. Identify alternative principles.
5. Predict future behavior based on the new principle.
6. Compare steps three and five.
Daniel G. Jacobs (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at SBN.
It wasn’t the kind of cutthroat, bare-knuckled advice business owners often hear from a seminar presenter. But then, Stephen Covey is no ordinary speaker.
With a soft, delicate cadence more reminiscent of a therapist than a best-selling business guru, Covey opens his presentation with, “Good morning. Why don’t you give your spouse a hug and a kiss? Now, why don’t you tell them how much you love them?”
Covey introduced his newest empowering philosophy, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, to a collection of business owners at the national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Institute in Palm Desert, Calif. Too many business owners face the same problem, Covey says. They’ve reached the top of the ladder of success, only to find it’s been leaning against the wrong wall.
Studies show that, when asked, 75 percent of people say the most important role they will have is that of parent. And 80 percent respond that the most influential person in their life is a family member. So why is it that business owners often ignore their families in favor of their businesses?
“No other success can compensate for failure in the home,” Covey says. “You are not a product of your conditions, you are a product of your choices.”
Even knowing the role of family and putting it first isn’t good enough, explains Covey. Families, like everything else, require work. Like a plane which is headed in the right general direction but gets pushed slightly off course by wayward air currents, families are off track 90 percent of the time.
The important thing is having a sense of destination and knowing what the track looks like, and getting to the proper destination, he says.
Included in Covey’s seven habits are three important things a family can do to help it become highly effective.
Create a mission statement
Many businesses, whether they abide by them or not, have mission statements hanging on their walls.
“Developing a family mission statement will be the single most important and far-reaching leadership activity you do,” Covey says.
Every member should participate in the creation of a family mission statement, Covey says. Once the wording is agreed upon, a mission statement needs to be more than a piece of paper that hangs on the refrigerator door. Covey suggests families identify ways to remind members about the goal.
Date your family
The family needs to have dates. Before you became a husband and a wife, you were boyfriend and girlfriend. You developed a closeness that led to marriage. Those same ties need to be strengthened with each other and with other members of the family.
“One-on-ones are where most of the real work of the family is done. This is where there is the deepest nurturing of the heart and soul,” Covey says.
Hold a family counsel
By talking to your family, you begin to understand.
“I think the deepest hunger of the human soul is to be recognized, valued and appreciated and understood,” Covey says. “When you acknowledge others and adapt yourself in an effort to reach them, in effect you say to them, ‘You are a person of worth. You have intrinsic merit, and I’m not comparing you with anyone. You are precious. And if you allow me into your world, I know that I’m on sacred ground.’”
It’s important to understand, not just hear, he says. The key is empathic listening. Covey defines five types of listening. The first four are from one’s own frame of reference, the final from the other’s frame of reference:
1. Ignoring making no effort to listen;
2. Pretend listening appearing to listen;
3. Selective listening hearing what interests you;
4. Attentive listening comparing what you hear to your own experiences;
5. Empathic listening listening and responding with both the heart and the mind to understand words, intent and feelings.
Becoming an effective family takes work. It means being proactive, Covey says.
“The most important work we will ever do is in the four walls of our home.”
For more information about Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, call (800) 372-6839.
Daniel G. Jacobs (email@example.com) is senior editor at SBN.
“Ford was the Intel of that industry,” says Harry Dent Jr., author of The Roaring 2000s.
But it wasn’t long before that changed. Why? GM understood the people and the market. But more important, GM won the race for innovation. That allowed it to pass Ford and snare a greater share of the market.
So how important was it to win that race for innovation? Important enough that three straight decades (the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s) of poor management at GM couldn’t undo what had already been done, Dent says, adding, “Could anybody have run it worse during those years?”
The same race to innovate is taking place today in other industries, and the winners will ensure their future business survival.
“The Internet is to the new economy what the assembly line was to the old economy,” Dent says.
The business that becomes the first in its industry to master the new paradigm will become the leader.
Dent cites former Entrepreneur Of The Year winner Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, as an example of this new wave. He was the first to sell his product directly to the consumer, and although there are now dozens of imitators, Dell owns the lion’s share of the market.
But the true change isn’t in the Internet itself. The Internet is just the means to facilitate the changing way of business, Dent says. The paradigm shift is a network model of business. It’s a drastic difference from conventional theories taught in business schools, such as the top-down model.
“Nothing in nature runs this way,” Dent says.
The Internet is the epitome of the network principle.
“Why does it grow so fast?” Dent asks. “Because there’s no management to slow it down. It’s run by the end users.”
Financial markets are the same way. Investors, Dent says, drive the markets.
“Every morning, some poor guy runs up, rings the bell and then gets the hell out of the way.”
Today’s business revolution is in the organization. Technology is just the tool. To become a leader within your industry, Dent says you must first adopt four principles.
Develop a strategic focus. The first step is to figure out what you do best. Give your employees focus, train them to do their jobs and then let them go. To achieve this, business owners should ask themselves: “What role do we need to play in the market?”
Once you’ve decided on your area of expertise, stick exclusively to it. Outsource or partner with another company for areas that are not your specialty.
Organize behind your customers and front lines. Business owners need to start with the question, “Why can’t this be done on the front line?”
The front lines of your organization can react faster and add more value than by letting things filter down the food chain. Create a team with cross-functional skills. If you can’t automate it, outsource it.
Make every individual or team a real business. Now that you’ve created cross-functional teams, they need to be held accountable for their roles. Judge every team on its own profit and loss, Dent says. But in applying culpability, you must also allow your employees the freedom to work unencumbered.
Link everyone together on a real-time information system. Now that the human organization is working, it’s time to make an investment in technology. Start by linking the system that’s been created to automation. The company that is successful will be able to solve its clients’ problems quickly and effectively, Dent says.
“Sell a total solution. That’s what your customer wants.”
Daniel G. Jacobs is senior editor of SBN.
What you need is a way to get customers to come to your extranet and a way to get them to come back. The best way to do that, says Mark Fracker, president of Web site design company Double Infinity, is the same way you draw people to your Web site in the first place: give them something they need or want.
The Federal Express extranet is one of the better known sites. With tracking numbers, users can check on the status of their packages.
Even if theyre not buying products directly from the site, there should be useful information customers can access. The AFL-CIO Web site brings visitors back by keeping track of the salaries of CEOs around the country. Banks offer amortization tables. The latest research and industry news are also popular extranet amenities.
If you want someone to come back to your site, Fracker says, its vital you update the information regularly. No one wants to read about the companys August picnic in the middle of December.
I think its very important, Fracker says, that the freshness of somebodys Web site be kept up to date. You get a bad taste in your mouth that these people arent really interested in their Web site.
But if you have the ability to go in there and change that content by simply cutting and pasting out of an existing document or typing in a short paragraph or couple of sentences, well, the chances of that getting updated are much greater. And then (there is) the chance of people having more visitation and more respect for the information thats on your page.
Scott Manners, director of marketing at Double Infinity, agrees.
Thats another thing people overlook, Manners said. So when you say drive people to a Web site, people are thinking about the person making their first visit to your Web site. If I can make that guy come back, thats a great way to increase your traffic.
Cellular Concepts Online, one of Double Infinitys clients, offers a glossary of technological terms used in the phone accessory business. Owner William Delligatti Jr. doesnt have a traditional storefront, so if customers dont visit his site, he doesnt have a business.
Of course, before you can get customers to come back to your extranet, you have to get them there in the first place. And to get them, you must know where to find them.
Fracker and Manners offer traditional marketing services. Including your URL in newsletters, press releases and print advertising is one way to draw attention to your extranet. Visiting listservs and news groups such as Usenet is another.
Delligatti cautions against doing too much soliciting in newsgroups.
Ive done a little bit in newsgroups. You can sometimes really, really get yourself into (trouble) with them, because people dont like you advertising in newsgroups, Delligatti says. Newsgroups are a place for discussions on certain topics and not actual advertising. Ive gotten away with it pretty well. But the search engines are my main thing.
E-zines are another method for drawing attention to your extranet, Delligatti says, although he confesses he doesnt use them.
I am 100 percent search engines, he says. That is the only way I promote my Web site is search engines.
If a client is interested in finding out more about a product or service, they have any number of companies to choose from, including your competitors. A search engine is the easiest and quickest way to find a variety of sources for products with the least amount of work. The right key words are the best way to get your company to appear at the top of their search list.
Fracker likens it to a using a shotgun instead of a rifle.
You can go out there with a rifle and youre going to put one hole in the target, he says. And youre going to hope you hit it in the heart. When we go out there with a shotgun, weve got 50 little holes in that target. And three or four of them are in the heart and three or four are in the head. So weve got a kill.
Over time, though, a companys Web site will drift toward the bottom of the list or disappear completely.
Its an ongoing process, Delligatti says. It never ends. Your rank will drop. You have to really stay on top of it.
Delligatti has a trick, which he uses to make sure he will always be among the leaders. First, he says, do a search on a key word appropriate to your business.
Find out who comes at the top. Right click on them. Copy their source, their key word and paste it into a page. Its really working well for me already. You find somebody thats one or two, youre going to come up two or three.
How to reach: Double Infinity, (216) 589-0464; Cellular Concepts Online, (330) 468-5691
Getting into e-commerce is like buying a backyard pool: It looks real easy on the packaging, but when you start setting it up, you’ve got electrical, landscaping, insurance issues and a host of others that seemingly pop up out of nowhere.
With e-commerce, you’ll have to consider security issues, legal issues, network issues and compatibility, all the way down to nontechnical issues such as whether your nontechnical sales people know how to use the ’Net. Plus, you’ll have to consider supply-chain implications, such as what impact selling on the ’Net will do to your existing methods for getting product to market and what impact that will have upon your vendors, suppliers and customers.
The moment you begin thinking about integrating e-commerce and existing sales, break out the checklist and start at the top.
My company has an external sales staff and I’m considering buying them either laptop computers or handheld PDAs to use in the field. Is there much difference between the two?
Yep. PDAs have limits. Laptops are full-functioning computers, and some of them are really light, too. The question to ask is, “What are we going to do with this tool?”
If you’re just going to use e-mail applications, fPDAs will work fine. If your staff’s going to function on the road, just like you’d have them do at headquarters, you’d better give them laptops.
In the future, however, there will be little difference between the two. You’ll probably use your wristwatch to connect to your network. Think Dick Tracy, only cyber.
My customers are complaining that our company Web site is too cumbersome. We want to retool it, but don’t know where to begin. What should we do?
Look at your Web site from a home computer connected with a 28.8 modem. If you fall asleep waiting for pages to load, unplug it, fire your developer and start from scratch.
Think like a customer and build something that serves the customer’s need. Forget about how the site is built. Concentrate on what you want it to do and don’t settle for anything less. Otherwise, your company’s ability to compete on the Net could be at stake.
King Hill (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of marketing services of DigiKnow, a Cleveland-based digital marketing communications firm with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to professional sports teams. He can be reached at (216) 292-7259 or on the Web at www.digiknow.com.