Atlanta (1302)

Wednesday, 01 February 2012 10:55

The benefits of virtualization

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Parisa Perkins and Lance Kosmal, both National Account Managers at Aventis Systems, share the benefits of server virtualization for businesses.

For more information on Aventis Systems, visit www.aventissystems.com or call (866) 528-9313.

Whether a company is a 10-person operation or a corporation with thousands of employees, its employer has a need to protect itself in case of employee-related claims. To keep the potential for legal landmines, confusion, and false expectations to a minimum, all employers should ensure they have an updated and relevant employee handbook — and that employees read and understand it. From HR policies such as vacation days to legal issues surrounding discrimination and employment contracts, employers need to stay up to date on what to include in their handbooks.

While every company is different in its structure and culture, each business’s handbook should at least address the basics.

“When creating a handbook there are a few essential items that are important to include,” says Jennifer Leeper, major accounts manager at Ashton Staffing.

Smart Business spoke to Leeper about how to help protect the business through proper use of an employee handbook.

Why should a company have an employee handbook?

A handbook is an important communication tool that is vital to any company with employees. A key aspect to a successful business is trust between the employer and the employee. One of the best ways to establish this trust is to develop an employee handbook. Handbooks are designed to help create structured environments and build loyalty within the company. Having said this, there are some employee handbooks that are so poorly written that they can actually damage the relationship between an employer and an employee. A poorly written handbook can cause a hostile work environment and can bind the company to promises that it didn’t even know it made. With the right advice, each company can develop a handbook that will establish a concrete relationship between the company and the employee.

What should be included in an employee handbook?

? Disclaimer. The disclaimer is used to show that the handbook is not a binding contract of employment. This helps protect the employer if a fired employee decides to try to sue the company based on a breach of contract. The disclaimer should also include that the employment with the company is ‘at will’ and can be terminated by the employer or the employee at any time for any reason.

? Equal opportunity statement. This should simply state that the employee’s religion, race, age, or sex will have nothing to do with hiring decisions, promotions, pay, or benefits.

? Mission statement. A mission statement defines the question ‘Why do we exist?’ It should give the company a purpose and help boost morale. The statement should provide a better understanding of the values that the company has and its goals.

? Defined work week. This should include lunch and time allotted for breaks.

? General policies and procedures. All the basics should be included in this section. Policies such as dress code, vacation days, holidays, and telephone and Internet policies need to be clearly stated.

? Sexual harassment and discrimination policies. It must be known that the company has a no-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination of any kind. The company must also include different ways an employee may voice a complaint and who employees need to go to with concerns.

? Leave policies. Include policies on all types of leave that the company is willing to allow. For example, jury duty, maternity leave, sick leaves as well as bereavement. It should also discuss who is eligible for leave and what would happen if excessive time is taken off.

? Benefits. This is an important topic and should include who is eligible for benefits, the period of time that the employee must wait for coverage as well as how much the company will contribute towards the policy.

? Disciplinary polices. Define what is included and considered to be employee misconduct as well as what the  consequences are of such actions.

? Acknowledgment form. Every company needs a form for all employees to sign stating that they understand all of the rules and policies set forth in the handbook.

What are the most common mistakes employers make when putting together handbooks?

All companies can benefit from having a well prepared and thought out employee handbook. When creating a handbook it is important to make sure the following common mistakes are avoided.

Not having the handbook reviewed by a lawyer is one of the most commons mistakes employers can make. There are a lot of ways to state policies and sometimes being too vague may lead to potential legal issues. Having a lawyer who is versed in employment law review the handbook prior to distributing it to staff will help prevent any potential legal issues from arising.

Another common mistake employers make is not using straightforward language. If the handbook is too vague or too technical that the employees don’t understand it, then it won’t serve its purpose.

Failing to make sure that all employees read, sign, and have a copy of the handbook is another item that is often overlooked. A company must ensure that everyone signs a form agreeing that they have received a copy of the handbook. Employers need to keep that form in the employees’ files.

How often should employee handbooks be updated?

The world is constantly changing. From technology to society in general, it is important to make sure that handbooks are constantly updated to address new laws. What applied and was appropriate when the handbook was written may not apply or be appropriate now. Once a year, companies should review the handbook for any significant changes in company policies or laws.

Jennifer Leeper is major accounts manager at Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or jleeper@ashtonstaffing.com.

From South Korea to the Soviet Union and the United States to the United Kingdom, organizations around the world are looking to grow through global expansion. In fact, in most industries, the term “business without borders” is already a reality. By working in technology for more than two decades, I have experienced this move to a global economy for the past several years as tech companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, have long realized the revenue potential of expanding outside of the U.S.

However, more recently, I have had the opportunity to play a central role in building a global corporation. As a native South Korean, I had lived and worked in that country for most of my life. Several years ago, I found myself serving as CEO for a software company that was expanding outside of South Korea to the U.S. With that experience under my belt, in 2010, I helped $1.4 billion South Korean giant SK C&C strategize a plan for the global growth of its mobile commerce technology. I became CEO of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA, with the understanding that I would open its North American headquarters.

I was excited about bringing the mobile commerce lifestyle to its full potential in the United States — technology that South Koreans have embraced for nearly 10 years. However, I was equally enthusiastic about building a truly global company — one that would sell its technology platform around the world and partner with companies regardless of geography. I also understood that building and managing a global work force brought a unique set of challenges, or in business-speak, “opportunities.”

Think globally, act locally

While this phrase is often used to refer to environmental issues, the term’s essence was central to the decision-making process around building CorFire’s global operations. As CEO, I needed to create a vision for our work place and culture. To be successful on the business side, we would need to bring the best practices from South Korea. However, we also would need to establish a local presence and integrate new ideas and cultural nuances, from the U.S. or other countries, into the environment.

In order to do this, I was keenly aware that I’d need to surround myself (and listen to) other people who had experience in managing global workplaces. Together, we could identify the guiding principles for our new company, brainstorm recruiting strategies, set the corporate tone and, in sum, determine who we wanted to be when we “grew up.”

Communicate, communicate, communicate

It is no coincidence that successful companies typically have strong, effective communicators at the helm. Effective communication is even more critical for new companies and ones that are bringing diverse cultures together. For executive teams that are building diverse workplaces, it is critical to examine various communication styles and develop ones that work within the framework of the organization.

For example, there are many South Korean workplace practices that are similar to those in a U.S. office environment. Yet, there are South Korean business customs that U.S. workers haven’t accepted or even experienced. In setting the tone for our company culture, I drew on the value management system of SK, which is based on respecting the dignity and creativity of each employee. I also kept an open mind to other communications methods that worked best for the entire team — regardless of my comfort level or familiarity with them. In the end, we landed on a philosophy where employees are encouraged to talk openly and often and where divergent opinions are heard and respected.

More is more

The business of yesteryear was one where many ideas became synthesized into one. The world’s most successful companies have tossed that approach for one in which more ideas, more strategic thinking and more tactics to solutions are examined, accepted, and executed as they make sense. In a global company, the tenet of open-mindedness is especially critical. While fundamental processes to conducting business must be in place, there also needs to be the willingness to keep the door open for new ways to work, build teams and cultivate innovation.

To build a successful and innovative global company we need more diversity than ever, and we are not going to achieve that within the confines of a rigid, inexpressive workplace culture. Differences in culture and business backgrounds are good and, in fact, are a valuable asset. The richness and varying experiences of our new team is helping us deliver the passion that will, in turn, create the profits and help us be the global company we want to be when we grow up.

Sang Yook is the CEO of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.

When Bernadette Boas was given a pink slip from her very lucrative, global vice president type of role, she was happy.

But she didn’t understand why, so she decided to do some self-reflection.

“I was that bitch with the walls up, and there was no internal dialogue going on at all,” she says.

She recognized that her ruthless attitude had taken a toll on her health, as her body was mocking symptoms of a heart attack because of the stress and angst she was experiencing. She also saw that she had all the luxuries of life, but she didn’t have the things that really mattered — loving relationships and warmth.

“When I realized it was because of that nasty attitude, I was horrified at how many people I had hurt over the years,” she says.

She decided to write her book, “Shedding the Corporate Bitch,” as an apology to all the people she’s hurt over the years and to address how people can shed the ruthless leadership shell.

Smart Business also spoke with her about how business leaders can more effectively handle difficult people in the workplace.

How do you recognize toxic behavior in your team?

Any good, aware manager is going to see that an individual within their team or department or organization is toxic. It’s whether or not they’re willing to address it and not just look at their productivity.

For instance, that attitude for me produced a lot of great results for our customers. Our customers appreciated the fact that I would go at it with my own internal team and fight for them, and therefore I and created a lot of great results. But internally, what I did was create a lot of toxic environment among our organization.

The manager, they know when they have someone who is toxic, so they have to confront it and address it. When somebody is toxic, there’s something underlying that. There’s something underneath that. When someone is productive and good at what they do and is very much a leader but is taking on these attitudes and mindsets, they’re doing it for other reasons. Businesses don’t want to get under the covers and play therapist. When you think about coaching and why coaching and executive counseling is so effective, it’s because they are addressing that underlying motivation and underlying agenda underneath the behavior. Managers just need to pay attention to it, confront it and then just recognize that it could be easily addressed once they do — it’s not a lost cause when you have that individual.  It doesn’t automatically mean they have to be fired. It just needs to be addressed.

How do you effectively address it?

Often times the person afflicting on to other people, they don’t really see it. They don’t see they’re being as damaging as possible. Some of them breed off of it. They love the idea that they’re intimidating people or they’re making people uncomfortable or they’re demanding. At the same time, they’re not seeing what it’s doing to themselves personally and professionally. A lot of times it’s confronting that. If someone had confronted me, I’m a smart woman; I would have woken up to it eventually. I would have saved a lot of the personal and professional damage I did to myself.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies don’t do a lot of training and coaching on managing people in difficult conversations in the workplace. They need to arm their HR organization or their managers with the tools to sit someone down effectively and needs to facilitate a dialogue with someone. Depending on that manager’s own personality, some can just call you out on it right away. Some will just sit you down and say, ‘Look, you’re hurting yourself in your career with the attitude you’re bringing to the business.’ Other people aren’t very good at dealing with confrontation. They may need training or have someone in the HR to facilitate and mediate that type of conversation.

Very simply too, performance reviews, [need to be] done more regularly and effectively. They have performance review processes but they’re done reactively — they’re not proactive with a purpose or effective to where it shifts or creates change in that individual. Unfortunately, a lot of companies fall short on being able to leverage those opportunities where they sit down and have a conversation with their employees or managers to address those kinds of issues. That’s the time to do it — whether it’s during the process or a one-off because of an issue because someone is creating havoc within the organization.

How to reach: www.sheddingthecorporatebitch.com

Gregg Paradies started seeing signs of economic trouble in the summer of 2008 and knew right away he’d better take action.

Paradies’ company, The Paradies Shops Inc., had enjoyed a long, virtually unbroken streak of growth since its inception in 1960. In its lifetime, the retailer had grown from a single toy store at Atlanta Municipal Airport to more than 500 shops in 75 airports, plus a handful of hotels, across the United States. But now, suddenly, the winning streak was in jeopardy.

“We’ve had sales growth for 50 out of the 51 years we’ve been in existence, which is pretty remarkable,” says Paradies, who serves as president and CEO of the Atlanta-based company. “But that summer — 2008 — we started to see warning signs.”

The Paradies Shops’ business depends heavily on airport traffic, so when that traffic decreases, Gregg Paradies sits up and takes notice. And it had started to slacken, appreciably, in the middle of 2008 — a few months before the nationwide financial crisis hit its apex and the economic recession suddenly became front-page news.

“That summer, we saw enplanements — that represents the number of people getting on planes in airports, and we watch it very closely — we saw enplanements softening,” Paradies says. “And during that next year — during the 12-month period after the recession started — traffic in airports was down about 8 percent. In our industry, that’s as significant a decrease as we’ve had over an entire year, including 9/11, which was comparable.”

So Gregg Paradies faced a predicament: keeping The Paradies Shops on its growth path in the midst of a troubling economic climate going forward.

“That has probably been the greatest leadership challenge I’ve seen,” he says. “I guess the two are interrelated. The recession, of course, that hit throughout the country in 2008; that obviously was a major challenge in our industry, as it was in just about every other industry. And second of all, the growth we’ve experienced. So managing significant growth through these tough economic times has been my greatest challenge.”

Engage the teams

Paradies knew that tackling the problem was a far more complex task than he could manage on his own, so he enlisted everyone in the company — from his leadership team to the associates who work in the company’s stores — to take part in the effort to solve it.

“First of all, you have to get your senior leadership team involved in the decision making,” Paradies says. “It has to be a collaboration, a team approach to making the major decisions. We’ve always done this, and we always come out of these meetings with a better solution versus potentially what I had initially recommended.

“You sit down with the leadership team and you debate it, you hash it out. A lot of times it’s a lively debate. But by the end of the meeting, we’ve made a decision — I mean, the bottom line is I’m the one who makes the final decision — but we leave that meeting together as far as what we’re doing. And I always feel like we’re all marching together afterward. We may not all agree 100 percent, but we’re all marching together, because that’s the only way to come out as a leadership team: as a unified front.”

Paradies says he’s seen a number companies veer off course when facing major decisions because they failed to achieve a solid consensus among their leaders.

“That’s where companies have erred,” he says. “Where it’s a divisive leadership team, and they’re not all marching to the same drummer. And in turn the team knows that, so the team underneath the senior leadership group loses confidence in the leadership.”

The company’s senior leadership team wasn’t the only employee group Gregg Paradies enlisted to help tackle the problem. He also engaged his foot soldiers — the 3,500 associates who work in The Paradies Shops’ stores — via a companywide innovation-incentive program.

“I created an innovation award,” he says. “The way it works, very simply, is anybody in the company is encouraged, and this is on our website, to submit innovation ideas which benefit not only their particular location — so for example if it’s our Dallas manager or a Dallas sales associate, it may benefit their individual location — but it will also benefit the company as a whole. Through this program, we came up with some great ideas as to things we could do to reduce overhead, and ultimately to maintain jobs, because our team on the front line are the ones who see this day in and day out — where the opportunities are — better than we do here at our support center.”

Paradies says the company’s innovation awards are presented both quarterly and annually, and the prizes offer substantial incentives to employees to participate.

“We give out quarterly and annual winners,” he says. “Each quarterly winner, for the best idea of that quarter, gets a $250 American Express gift certificate. And the annual winner — actually winners plural, since we typically have two, three or four winners, depending on the ideas submitted — receive a major award, which includes an additional week of vacation plus a paid trip for two anywhere in the continental United States. So once again, there are a lot of great ideas, and the way it started was that as I traveled I would hear these good ideas, but it didn’t get outside that location. So we wanted to create a vehicle where it got to this office, so that the entire company could benefit, not just the individual location.”

Among the fruitful suggestions Paradies has received as part of the employee award program are merchandising and souvenir programs, new ways to set up store associates’ work and break schedules, green sustainability programs and cost saving ideas, such as paper-saving programs.

Rein in spending

When The Paradies Shops’ leadership team came to grips with the realization that the economy was headed toward a serious downturn, they made moves to tighten the company’s financial belt, challenging all overhead expenditures to eliminate “wants” while keeping “needs,” Paradies says.

“Yeah, we took immediate action as soon as we saw the recession coming,” he says. “And as we entered the recession, we obviously had to call some audibles, which we did.

“One of the first things we did was we looked at our overhead. And in some cases we reduced our overhead as we saw this thing coming. And then when the recession came, we once again closely evaluated the overhead we needed to run the business. We had to make prudent business decisions, as far as unfilled positions, travel expenditures. … So that was one of the most important things we did: We challenged overhead on a want-versus-need basis.”

The belt-tightening paid off, as many jobs were saved.

“Our team did a great job, because we were fortunate not to have a major layoff,” he says. “What we did instead was not fill open positions, which in turn stretched our people more than ever. But our people did a great job growing the business, in some cases with fewer people.”

Scatter seeds in new fields

Not long after the belt-tightening program was instituted, The Paradies Shops’ leadership team began to plan the company’s first foray into the airport food and beverage market. The impetus for that move came at the behest of business associates who observed the company doing a good job serving customers in one market and suggested they give it a go in a related sector.

“Airports for years had asked us to do their food and beverage, even though we were not in that business, because they wanted to maintain the same quality in food and beverage as we were presenting on the retail side,” Paradies says. “Many airports were frustrated because their experience in their food and beverage facilities was not nearly as good as their experience in retail facilities.”

Paradies says his company initially resisted those airport officials’ suggestions because they were hesitant to enter a realm in which they had little expertise unless the business climate dictated there was a good chance they could succeed at it.

“We waited; we told them, ‘No, we have our hands full on the retail side of the business,’” Paradies says. “But things change. And one of the things that was changing was airports started creating a lot more hybrid concepts — retail and food and beverage together — like bookstore cafes, or what we call travel marts, where you have food to go as part of a newsstand component. 

“So with all that happening, we knew, first of all, there were a lot of opportunities in food and beverage to grow the business. Second of all, we knew that to maintain our competitive position as the No. 1 airport retailer, we needed to expand, to build our expertise in food and beverage so we could compete for these hybrid concepts. And then the third thing that was happening was the food and beverage business in airports was outpacing the retail.”

The Paradies Shops’ entrée into the food and beverage market — coupled with some diligent preparation on the retail side, as well as some fortuitous timing with retail contracts coming up for bid — has paid off handsomely, Paradies says.

“A lot of times, these down times can be good opportunity times, provided you’re in a position to take advantage of them,” he says. “And we were well positioned, and ready. We had worked on a lot of these opportunities two and three years in advance. So we were ready to go on a lot of these opportunities that hit the street during the latter half of the recession. And we were in the financial position where we could do that, because of the way we manage our business.

 “And for that reason, right now we’re working on about 100 new stores in the next 18 months, retail and food and beverage combined, which is a record for us.”

Stay the course

Asked what philosophical advice he would offer other business executives, Gregg Paradies cited adherence to company values foremost.

“Always stay on course with your core values,” he says. “Never compromise them. We tell our people in the field, as well as our people in this office, that their responsibility is to do whatever it takes to take care of that customer, provided that it adheres to our core values and our mission statement.”

The Paradies Shops’ employees are thoroughly schooled in the company’s values.

“Every one of our associates can recite our core values,” he says. “It’s based on the acronym TRIFIC: Trust, Respect, Integrity, First-Class Service, Innovation and Family Culture.”

Paradies also says to make important business decisions promptly.

“I would tell them: Do not drag your feet as far as making the major decisions,” he says. “It’s easy to let these decisions linger. Make decisions quickly, and communicate them in a professional and timely manner to all those in the organization.

“A major pitfall is moving too slowly. When you see something coming that needs to be addressed, it’s better to be aggressive than to wait to make a decision. Err on the side of being more aggressive versus waiting, as far as the changes needed to maintain the profitability of your business.”

HOW TO REACH: The Paradies Shops Inc., (404) 344-7905, www.theparadiesshops.com

The Paradies File

NAME: Gregg Paradies

TITLE: President and CEO

COMPANY: The Paradies Shops Inc.

Born: Atlanta

Education: University of Texas: Degree in Finance, 1985.

What was your first job?

I went through the executive training program at Macy’s here in Atlanta. Straight out of college, I was running a $12 million business, and I had a lot of autonomy. It gave me great experience, especially in regard to managing people. When you’re right out of college, people sometimes try to take advantage of you. And I learned very quickly how to motivate people, how to deal with people. And I learned that as long as I was consistent and fair and had integrity, things went well.

Do you have any core business philosophies you use to guide you?

Yes: You can’t go wrong by doing right. Sometimes with tough decisions you don’t always win, but as long as you do the right thing — or as long as my team does the right thing — we win. We have a very strict code of ethics, and doing the right thing is, over the long term, the best decision. Short term it might not always win us a deal, but long term, that’s why we’ve been around a long, long time.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

When I was young, my mentor, Dick Dickson — our company’s current chairman — told me: Be yourself; don’t try to be somebody you’re not. I was going through a challenging negotiation, and that was good, sound advice. … Another thing I’ve learned is to have a healthy disrespect for the past. What that means is, even though last year may have been a very successful year, challenge what you do, because if you do the exact same thing as last year, you’ll end up doing less business. By having a healthy disrespect for the past, you’ll continue to improve. Because once you stagnate, your competitors will start to catch up with you.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:00

Figure it out

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Managers often spend a tremendous amount of energy attempting to answer the question, “What do my employees really want?” It can be a difficult question to answer and has stumped many well-educated leaders. In their new book, “The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide,” authors and management consultants Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz tackle this conundrum. The duo advises managers to carefully weigh their own actions in determining a solution. In this interview, the pair discuss the danger of managing on automatic pilot, the importance of the internal dialogue and how to handle the aftermath of a tough conversation.

You refer at the outset of the book to the state of automatic pilot under which so many managers operate. To what do you attribute this state?

Doug Katz: It is the grind of everyday operations and maybe something more fundamental. It’s the idea that a remarkable number of managers come to the job of managing assuming, not always consciously, that how they are naturally — their personality, their character — defines how they should manage. What’s remarkable about that is that there is an enormous number of organizational and relationship skills that are required of a manager. Who would assume that they would come to one naturally? The analogy is one of playing a role in a play and assuming you could walk up onstage without knowing the script.

What about the concept of the ‘Internal Dialogue?’ How does it help reduce drama in the manager/employee relationship?

Craig Wasserman: One of the biggest myths with which managers live is that good managers are able to think quickly on their feet.

Managers aren’t expected to have an instant answer. Problems need to be thought out. They have to be choreographed. It’s not easy to tell someone that you’re disappointed that his or her work is coming in late. But if you anticipate that he or she is going to blame it on one thing or another, what’s your response going to be? This internal dialogue becomes a tool that managers need to perfect before every conversation.

Katz: It might be useful for managers to keep in mind how disrespectful it is to come to a critical meeting about an employee’s work or his or her future without any preparation, without any choreography. What tends to happen, even to the best of us, is that our focus gets diffused. We start talking about other irrelevancies instead of coming to the point. Coming to the point does not happen naturally. It comes from having the respect for the human being across from whom you’ll be sitting to think in advance about what is it that you need to say.

Many managers struggle with what to do after an intense exchange with an employee. Is there an advantage to providing a little space?

Wasserman: Managers have to remember, again, that your people are thinking about you all the time. They will relive aspects of that conversation that they had with you. That time is their healing process. They will go through all sorts of rationalizations and reconciliations with themselves. ‘That wasn’t fair. He’s just picking on me. Maybe he does have a good point,’ etc.

The next day, that person is going to come through the door and be a bit distant. The manager has to live through the employee’s distance. You have to let people have their major ‘Aha!’ experiences when they are alone. We encourage managers during the days following the initial recovery period to engage the employee. Get his or her feedback about an unrelated issue. Get them in the game. Make them realize that the relationship between the manager and the employee is long term.

“The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide”

By Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz

CreateSpace, 154 pages, $15.95

About the book “The Invisible Spotlight” provides powerful perspective on the unique role of a manager in his or her organization. It is a job title that many professionals will hold during their career, but one for which many will be ill-prepared. Veteran management consultants Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz argue that managers are under constant scrutiny that has little to do with an annual performance review or quarterly earnings report. Their book offers a critical examination of the relationships, moments and trials that can make a manager’s career successful.

The authors Craig Wasserman, Ph.D., and Doug Katz are co-founders of Wasserman/Katz and share more than 35 years of experience as management consultants, trainers and lecturers. Their organization helps managers explore their ultimate responsibility for making critical organizational relationships work.

Why you should read it Regardless of your confidence level about your abilities as a manager, you should take a fresh look at the impact you have on the lives of your employees. “The Invisible Spotlight” dissects the make-or-break moments of which you may not even be aware. It removes the veil of mystery that occasionally cloaks the reasons why employees react in certain ways.

Why it’s different Wasserman and Katz remind readers from the outset that management is work, and it’s constant, difficult work. The authors instruct managers to both think from the perspective of employees and call upon the manager’s own experiences during his or her rise up the corporate ladder. Their book is among the best to bridge the gap between employer and employee to create a shared vision whose goal is to get the job done. If you’re in a results-oriented environment, “The Invisible Spotlight” is a must-read title.

Can’t miss “The Internal Dialog.” Wasserman and Katz recognize that a fatal flaw of managers is the desire to avoid uncomfortable conversations. This chapter provides critical steps to handle the tough, closed-door sessions with employees.

To share or not to share “The Invisible Spotlight” is a book that many of your competitors will miss, and it’s to their disadvantage. Make sure this book makes it onto the reading list of your management team.

How to reach For more information on this book, visit www.Summary.com.

The beginning of a new year often comes with a sense of endless time and possibilities. We often make aggressive business plans for many months out and then wait to execute because we have so much time.

Every small business owner knows time can easily get consumed by the daily running of the business, leaving you with a well thought out plan that never materializes. As you start the year, now is the time to schedule business coaching sessions with someone who will energize you into action or renewed action on a regular basis. To get the most out of your coach:

Identify the right coach for you. Successful business owners focus on continual innovation to remain competitive. They often seek out and rely on advice from others who are more knowledgeable than they are. Similarly, you should seek a coach who has experienced what you are facing and who has triumphed. In business, they are often outspoken, leaders in industry and trade associations or policy researchers in government and university settings. In life, they are frequently counselors, pastors,and retired volunteers in non-profits organizations. By selecting a coach that fits your need, you are more assured your coach will impart guidance that is based on real business experiences.

Set a goal for each coaching session. Good mentors are invaluable and often in high demand. Decide which one to two items you want to address for each meeting. Determine what one key question you want answered on each topic in advance of the meeting. By being prepared, you will show your coach that you value his or her opinion and time, and you will find your coaching sessions are more productive and useful to your own business plans.

Reach out before you face a crisis. The best way to avoid a calamity is to head it off when possible. Call your coach as you see potential changes developing to strategize on how you might handle the changes, if necessary. Some of the best new ideas come from free-flowing discussions and debate about possible solutions when there’s no pressure to show immediate results.

Periodically reassess your coach. As seasons change, so do family, work and professional relationships. A good coaching relationship offers ongoing useful guidance. If your coach has provided all the support he or she can and seems to be recycling the same messages, consider whether you need to pay closer attention to your coach or if it is time to find a new advisor.

A successful coaching relationship requires careful preparation and opening yourself to critiques. But it is an investment that can help steer your business to greater profitability, exposure and success in 2012.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s 2011 Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women magazine’s 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s 2011 Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zeitgeistwellnessgroup.com.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:00

The positives and negatives of jealousy

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At first blush, it might seem a bit perverse that jealousy can be a good thing, a motivator and a catalyst for change. However, like very rich food, ingested in moderation it can be quite good, while overindulgence can bring on a world-class case of heartburn and indigestion.

Like it or not, in life and in business jealousy is always lurking in the shadows. When it rears its ugly head and is not properly controlled in your organization, it can precipitate a problem, do irreparable harm and become a major distraction in the workplace. It also stifles productivity, turning otherwise earnest and collaborative employees into a bunch of rumor mongering, whispering backbiters.

Conversely, a small dose of good or “productive” jealousy can spur others on to new heights. A leader’s job is to recognize the point when good turns to bad and to learn how to manage jealousy. This involves encouraging it (read that as creating competition) but also putting one’s foot down with a loud thud to get everyone’s attention and stopping the bad jealousy in its tracks when it begins leading to potential negative and divisive behaviors.

One of the many challenges of running a business is acknowledging that not everyone is equal, not everyone is motivated by the same factors. Varying attitudes and personalities can challenge the people skills of even the most effective leader. The infamous Rodney King who was at the epicenter of the disastrous 1992 Los Angeles riots asked the rhetorical question in a nationally televised appeal for peace: “Why can’t we just all get along?” The reality was and is, “Rodney, we probably can’t, no matter how hard everyone tries.” The sobering fact is that anytime there are two or more people together in a room the risk of disagreement and unbridled rivalry emerges and troubles can ignite, many times for inexplicable reasons unknown even to the participants. This is when management has to manage.

Good jealousy is easy to understand and an aware leader knows how to use it effectively. Example: Someone on the team has a unique idea or does something out of the ordinary, which benefits the greater good. The accomplishment is rightly recognized and celebrated by management. There are always people, however, who on the surface join in praising the effort but deep down inside are envious of the other person’s accomplishment. You can read the negative expression on their faces like a bad poker player who’s bluffing and everyone knows it. Enter the smart boss who helps the seeming ingrate understand that he or she can also receive comparable accolades when warranted. The boss then directs the uninspired employee’s envy (jealousy) effectively toward a positive goal, subtly or not so subtly, illuminating a path for the glory seeker to follow to reach a mutually agreed upon outcome.

Bad jealousy, on the flip side, can be like a forest fire that starts quickly and jumps around erratically, destroying anything and everything in its path. The only way to handle this type of negative behavior, which turns cohorts against one other, is with an iron fist and a candid, behind-closed-doors meeting. Typically, this requires identifying the “ring leader” — and there always is one — and then having the boss engage in a very one-sided conversation with that employee to make it clear that this behavior stops when the perpetrator opens the door and exits.

Many times, once unmasked, the naysayers recognize that they’ll be under constant scrutiny and become instant cheerleaders for what was accomplished by the other colleague primarily to defuse any future damage in the eyes of the senior management. Good leadership is about steering the ship, managing behaviors, maintaining a constant vigil, watching for warning signs, and then reacting appropriately without hesitation. In the case of bad jealousy, speed counts, as measured in hours, not days or weeks, in stemming the spread of rumors and innuendos.

There is a delicate balance needed to keep a team on track and productive. However, knowing the difference between good jealousy and bad can keep the organization moving forward. We all know not everyone is created equal, and that means different people must be managed differently to accomplish goals and keep the employees and the company off jagged and potentially painful rocks.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

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Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:00

Avoiding the ambush

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If you were in the grocery business in the late 1990s, you already had plenty of competition. There were larger chains like Kroger plus all kinds of smaller IGA stores, not to mention the various convenience stores like Dairy Mart, all of whom were fighting for the same grocery dollar.

The market couldn’t possibly take another competitor entering the marketplace, but that’s exactly what happened. Walmart started selling groceries.

When the behemoth entered the grocery market, most smaller players couldn’t compete. The mom-and-pop stores mostly closed their doors and even the big chains suffered. Business was down and margins were hurt.

The surprising part about this is that most of the players in the market didn’t expect it. They were “business as usual,” and then, suddenly, Walmart came to town. Walmart now controls an estimated 16 to 25 percent of the grocery market nationwide, depending on who you ask. Before the late ’90s, Walmart’s share was zero. The market didn’t anticipate being attacked from that direction, but that’s exactly what happened.

The music industry suffered a similar fate. Remember all the retail record stores that were out there? There were multiple stores in each mall plus specialty retailers on every corner. If you wanted music, you drove to the store and bought a CD. Then iTunes and iPods showed up. It was a game changer. Most of those record stores have long since been shuttered. Who would have thought that you would just download music over the Internet and all those stores would be gone?

The lessons are clear: You will have new competitors, but you won’t necessarily know who they will be or what direction they will come from.

Too often, we are locked into studying our existing market, carefully watching every move our known competitors are making. But while we are doing that, an unknown threat is creeping up behind us.

The only way to fight these unknown dangers is to always be prepared for the worst. It’s the old “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound or cure” adage.

The companies that operate the most efficiently and leverage technology to their advantage will be the ones in the best position to fight off all threats, both known and unknown.

Your management team has to be open-minded to all new ideas and be structured in a way that can quickly adapt to market changes. If your team can’t do this, then either you don’t have the right team or the structure is wrong.

Making changes requires quick reactions, and people need to buy in as soon as possible. To be fair, you need to give people the opportunity to change, but if they can’t adapt with you, then you have to replace them or find a position better suited for them.

In today’s ever-changing economy, there are a lot of very difficult decisions that need to be made regarding your people. You can’t be an effective CEO and run your company like you are the head of a fan club with your employees as the members. Making the changes required to survive and thrive in the world requires fast action, and many of the decisions will not be popular. If you are constantly surveying them to see if they approve of your actions, you’ll probably be headed for failure.

Sell your direct reports on your vision and get their buy-in. After that, you need to get as many people on board as possible. Those that can’t do that in a reasonable time need to move on.

Most people don’t like change, but this is a new era we live in. Speed is imperative. In the time you took to read this column, some unknown future competitor just crept a little closer to launching an attack on your market share. Are you ready for them? Or do you need to send out a survey first?

Time’s up.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or fkoury@sbnonline.com.

Change is an inevitability of life.  Ironically, the fact that “change will always happen” is the only real thing we can count on in life!  We cannot always control change, but that does not mean our life path has to be at the complete mercy of random, unpredictable circumstance.

As a busy executive, are you at the mercy of events or are you in control? Do the changes roll in so fast that you find yourself struggling to stay afloat? How do you view the changes that are happening around you?

You can shake your fist at the sky, or sulk to show that you are mad at the world, or you can accept that truth that nobody escapes change. These tips are intended help you be mindful of your potential, to hone your ability to manifest positive results and to learn that sometimes you must simply “go with the flow.”

12 ways to embrace change to increase effectiveness as a busy executive:

1. CHAOS IS OPPORTUNITY.  Big changes, especially unpleasant ones, are like storms that clear the air.  Rather than perceive this as a disaster, strategically keep note of the pros and cons of the situation. Learning from a chaotic change and then implementing a series of positive changes can earn you kudos for your ability to handle a tough situation.

2. REFLECTION, NOT PANIC.  Be the calm at the center of the storm. Realize the need for rational, intelligent thinking and connection with your higher self. Often we receive answers that tell us exactly what we need to do when our mind is still. This is also a way to earn the respect of your colleagues and team.

3. AVOID STINKING THINKING.  When change happens unexpectedly, some people engage in “stinking thinking.” Try to avoid thinking negatively of yourself, your coworkers or the situation in general. Avoid words like “should”, “not” and “can’t”. Remember, the idea here is to increase your effectiveness – negative thought will not make that happen.

4. BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS. Being honest with yourself about what role you may have played to manifest an unpleasant change is one of the best ways to respect yourself and maintain your own integrity. If the change occurred because you made a mistake, then learn from it and move on. Accountability increases effectiveness.

5. DON’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME.  Rather than change, many people create reasons why they are incapable of change. One of the favorite tactics of ineffective executives is to blame all of their woes on others, especially their team members. Even if there is someone to blame, obsessing over it will not help in correcting the situation.

6. CONSIDER ALL OF THE FACTS.  When in the midst of change, many people find it hard to “see the forest through the trees.”  As an executive, try to develop a perspective that takes everything into consideration and not just your point of view.

7. BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.  A reactive individual is at the mercy of change. A proactive manager takes action to make the best of it. Acting first keeps you out ahead of change and in control of it.

8. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. During periods of great change it is very common to find every little thing to be just another source of stress. Learn to distinguish between what is worth worrying about and what isn’t.

9. AVOID MISERY LOVES COMPANY. During times of change an executive is likely to have coworkers or others who will want to sit and ruminate over the “terrible” situation. Refuse to participate in these types of pity parties. They breed self-sabotaging negative thoughts and behaviors. They also lead to a lessening of respect for your position.

10. BE READY WITH A SMILE. People who smile are considered to be more flexible and adaptable to change. People who look stern are considered to be rigid personalities that are not capable of personal growth. Change is all about personal growth, for you and your team. A smile can make all the difference in these times.

11. GO WITH THE FLOW.  Present an easy, casual and friendly attitude that shows off your flexibility, yet at the same time portrays your persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity. This attitude will lend itself as a helpful guide through the river of change that is happening all around your company or organization.

12. REWARD YOURSELF. Too many executives only reward the good behavior of others in their organization. Do not do this. If you have mastered some aspect of change that you have found very difficult to conquer in the past, remember to reward yourself. This reinforces your subconscious mind to repeat the beneficial behavior.

Remember, the only thing you can be sure of is change. Is there anything more boring than a life without change? Embrace the lessons that life has to offer you and grow from them. Use them to teach and lead as you strive for more effectiveness in all you do.

DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.

She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email at info@delorespressley.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.