Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

The cure for exhaustion

Warning! Your connection has been lost. You must re-establish your connection to continue working.

It was almost midnight when the message flashed across my computer screen. I was alone in my office, working on a report that was due the next day. I was tired and had no time to waste. But now, I was forced to wait, staring at the message that had unexpectedly interrupted my typing.

Your connection has been lost. There was truth in those words that went far beyond my company’s computer network. For months, I had been conscious of a growing emptiness as I worked each day.

On the surface, nothing had changed. I had a position that many would envy, and I was working for a good company that valued my contributions. But where once my job had been an exciting adventure, it had now somehow become an obligation that I had to force myself to fulfill.

Although I could still remember a time when I was excited to begin each day — a time when I faced both the challenges and the successes of my work with enthusiasm — I was now caught in a spiral that was slowly taking me down.

Are you in this same spiral? Do you feel more exhausted each day from the effort to fulfill your role? Whether you’re leading a team at work, teaching a classroom of students or managing a household, it happens to all of us. And when it does, there is only one answer, an answer that is one of the greatest lessons in the business of life — you must re-establish your connection.

Without the energy and inspiration of a real connection to your work, you will never experience the success, or the fulfillment, that you want. But once you find it, it can fuel a level of performance beyond your imagination.

  • Find a deeper connection to the people around you. Do you really know the people with whom you work closely? Do you feel that you are part of a team or are you an outsider with little sense of belonging?

    Start to build a connection to the people you work with by simply listening. Listen to their thoughts and ideas, as well as the stories about their families and their lives. Really listen to what they have to say without processing other background thoughts, interrupting or checking your Blackberry.

    The more you do this, the more you will create a connection of understanding and trust, a connection that will give you a sense of belonging and inclusion that can become one of the most important elements of the work you do.

  • Find a deeper connection to your personal excellence. Are you proud of the work you do? If not, challenge yourself to reach a higher standard.

    When you choose a personal standard, such as, “I will keep every commitment I make,” you set in motion a force that establishes what’s important to you and makes you accountable for living up to it. The pride you feel when you set a standard for excellence, and then achieve it, will forge a powerful personal connection to your work.

  • Find a deeper connection to your real purpose. Do you see your work as part of something important?

    If I view my job of running a staffing company as simply a series of business goals and financial objectives, I only tap into a fraction of the passion I feel when I remember that our real purpose is finding jobs for people who need them. Seeing a larger purpose in what you do brings inspiration to even the most mundane tasks and connects you to your work in a deeply meaningful way.

    Sitting in my office that night I vowed to reestablish my connection to the work I was doing and, in the end, I was successful. But in the process, I learned something vitally important.

The real cure for exhaustion is not rest. The cure for exhaustion is to establish a wholehearted connection to what you do. This connection will give you the sustaining energy of meaning, purpose and pride, not only in your work, but in who you are.

JIM HULING is CEO of MATRIX Resources, Inc., an IT services company that has achieved industry-leading financial growth while receiving numerous national, regional and local awards for its values-based culture and other work-life balance programs. The company was recently named one of the 25 Best Small Companies to Work for in America for the second year in a row by the Great Place to Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management. In 2005, Huling was awarded the Turknett Leadership Character Award for outstanding demonstration of integrity, respect and accountability. Reach him at Jim_Huling@MatrixResources.com.

Published in National
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Window of opportunity

Every time a customer or client is unhappy with your goods or services, your business stands at a crossroads.

Either that customer will become permanently disenchanted, or you can seize a narrow window of opportunity to strengthen the relationship, turning a negative into a positive. The worst-case scenario is when someone isn’t satisfied and doesn’t tell you; not only can the problem not be fixed, but the disenchanted customer will recount the unhappy experience to anyone who will listen.

Do the math, and you’ll quickly realize that one customer’s negative perception can spread exponentially at a rate that rivals the spread of E. coli at a bad fast-food restaurant.

There is no simple way to guarantee customer satisfaction, but a good first step is making sure that embedded in the hearts and minds of every employee is the company’s sacrosanct policy that customers are always right, even when they’re partially wrong. This doesn’t become a way of doing business simply because it’s written in a manual.

Instead, management must educate employees about the domino effect caused by unhappy customers who will repeat the company’s transgression every time there’s a lull in conversation. But make sure they also understand the power they possess in their role of problem-solvers to satisfy the customer’s problem then and there, with no ifs, ands or buts.

After a negative experience is reversed, the satisfied customer will tell everyone about the positive encounter and the company’s fairness. My experience is that the customer who brings up an issue not only wants to right a wrong but is also, many times, subconsciously looking for a reason to continue to do business with the organization.

And just as negative comments from the disenchanted can ruin your business, the new believer can help you prosper.

When I was CEO of OfficeMax, we had hundreds of telephone customer service representatives who were trained to do the right thing for the customer the first time around. The best reps were those who had previously been on the losing end of a negative customer experience, finding themselves trivialized and demeaned by a would-be problem-solver who only knew how to say “No.”

Periodically, tenacious customers who were outraged by a perceived transgression made it their mission to find a way to reach me directly. The more creative ones would get my private number from an accommodating company operator.

Actually, they could have gotten through to me directly by simply asking the operator. But sometimes the chase is better than the catch, as the complainant tried to beat the system to get to the boss by circumventing intermediaries. Plus, the harder it was to reach the CEO, the angrier customers would get, giving them an added dose of adrenaline and bravado.

When I personally answered my phone after-hours and identified myself, the irate caller would launch into histrionics, with suggestions that I take the product causing their angst and place it where it shouldn’t go and wouldn’t fit.

After the ranting and raving stopped, I almost always solved the problem by immediately saying, “I’m sorry. You’re right.”

Over time, I became more creative in dealing with customers who called after-hours. Instead of answering with my name, I would simply say hello and state that I was the computer tech working on the big boss’s computer, but all of us at the company were “trained to stop whatever we were doing and help our customers.”

The caller would then rationally explain his or her problem. Playing the role of the customer-centric tech, I would say I was writing a note to the CEO explaining the problem. I also confidently proclaimed that I was sure there would be a resolution by sundown the next business day.

Many times, the customer would ask my name. I would give them a pseudonym and a department number that, if they made contact again, would be directed to my office.

Over the years, I received many letters of recognition for that “tech” who took the time to listen and bring the dilemma to the CEO’s attention.

We are only as good as our reputations. In my role as the nighttime computer tech, I knew that when I hung up the phone, we had again turned a likely defeat into a resounding victory.

MICHAEL FEUER is co-founder of OfficeMax, which he started in 1988 with one store and $20,000 of his own money, along with a then-partner and group of private investors. During 16 years as CEO, he grew the company to almost 1,000 stores with sales approximating $5 billion before selling it for almost $1.5 billion in 2003 to Boise Cascade Corp. In 2004, Feuer launched another start-up, Max-Ventures, a venture capital operating firm that focuses on buying control and/or making substantial investments in retail-oriented businesses and businesses that serve retail. Reach Feuer with comments at mfeuer@max-ventures.com.

Published in National
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Self-promotion

Why is it that otherwise productive and creative executives are often dismal at marketing their own ideas or accomplishments? These business pros can do a credible marketing job for others but not for their team or for themselves. The reality is that many executives’ communications, self-marketing and spins often miss the mark and do not connect with their intended audience. It’s akin to flirting in the dark — if the other person doesn’t see you, then you’re not flirting.

There is nothing insidious, egomaniacal or inappropriate about letting others know what you do well, how you do it and why you’re doing it. I am not talking about shameless self-promotion or shallow boast-and-brag assertions.

Instead, substantive communications are the cornerstones of our free enterprise system. The positive effects of advertising, marketing and communications — not only on educating consumers but also on ultimately improving goods and services — have been proven. As more people become aware of something, that awareness breeds competition and forces the originator to continue to make it better, leading to improved efficiencies.

Henry Ford knew the drill well when he launched the first Model T in any color as long as it was black. Shortly thereafter, the spectrum of available colors covered the rainbow.

The creators of the likes of the iPod or Smart Phones have improved on this lesson, fine-tuning these products through further innovation, combined with communicating their increased attributes and creating demand, resulting in these items being used across all age and economic boundaries.

But what about marketing your own ideas? The streets are littered with good concepts created by clever people, concepts that never got out of the starting block because the promoters didn’t have a clue how to get attention focused on their undertaking.

There are some basics to creating a buzz, garnering attention and getting things moving. Whether you want to raise money for a business idea, get credit for something your team has achieved, or simply make sure your boss knows you’re the next best thing since sliced bread, the process is essentially the same.

Whatever you’re promoting must have substance, be fact-based and deliver on your promise, from a solution that solves a problem to that great “whatever” that the world just can’t live without. It has to be credible, and it has to be true. The next step is to make sure others know about it. In real estate, the three keys to success are location, location, location. Similarly, in marketing, it is communication, communication, communication.

Communication is limited only by your imagination. It can include simply telling someone of influence something that no one else knows. Tell the person to keep this news quiet, which will almost always ensure that the very next person he or she encounters will immediately hear your story, followed by, “This is very confidential, so don’t say a word.”

This applies to communicating what you’ve done or discovered to one person, all the way to wearing a sandwich board sign at a freeway exit. It’s all about communication that starts with a whisper and builds to a shout.

It quickly gains momentum, size and scope with each revolution. But there are two important caveats: You can’t bore people, and you have to make whatever you’re saying new — it must be news.

The Holy Grail of effective communication is creating attention, interest, desire and action. This formula is self-explanatory, but few follow this tried-and-true methodology.

If you don’t get people’s attention, you’ll never get them interested. If they’re not interested, how will they ever have desire? Finally, without successfully crossing these first three hurdles, they’ll never take any action, and you’ll be flirting in the dark.

But don’t get carried away. Never, and I mean never, fall in love with your own spin. A little can go a long way.

Creating new news about moi cannot occur on a daily basis. Pick your spot before you communicate, and make sure the subject matter will further your cause.

If you want to be recognized as a subject matter expert, improve your credibility or get backing for a new idea, you must stop doing business in the dark, or your ideas will never see the light of day.

MICHAEL FEUER is co-founder of OfficeMax, which he started in 1988 with one store and $20,000 of his own money, along with a then-partner and group of private investors. During 16 years as CEO, he grew the company to almost 1,000 stores with sales approximating $5 billion before selling it for almost $1.5 billion in 2003 to Boise Cascade Corp. In 2004, Feuer launched another start-up, Max-Ventures, a venture capital operating firm that focuses on buying control and/or making substantial investments in retail-oriented businesses and businesses that serve retail. Reach Feuer with comments at mfeuer@max-ventures.com.

Published in National
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Keep it short

Welcome to the premiere issue of Smart Business San Francisco, a monthly management journal for C-level executives of middle-market and large companies. Before you say it, let me do it for you: “The last thing I need is something else to read.”
I know how you feel. Running a growing organization is enough to keep anyone busy. The demands on our time from employees, suppliers and clients increase every day. That’s why we designed a unique publication.
After 18 years in the publishing business, we know to listen to our readers. The publication you hold in your hands — the 19th in our growing chain and the fourth in California — is the result of all our listening. Here is what readers like you told us they want in a local management journal.
1. Big minds, big ideas. Smart Business San Francisco taps into the top Bay Area business minds. In this issue, our cover story tells how CEO John Chen saved a dying Sybase and turned it into one the largest mobile technology companies in the world. In Smart Leaders, Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz explains how understanding psychology can help grow a business. Our Fast Lane interview with CEO Mike Faith delves into how customer service became his No. 1 priority at high-growth Headsets.com. In the coming months, you’ll hear from the best business minds in the Bay Area on issues ranging from leadership to motivation to growth.
2. Go to the source. To get the latest thoughts on best practices in business, we partner with key local service providers in areas including accounting, banking, benefits and management. They have front-line experience with the issues facing middle-market companies in the Bay Area.
3. Keep it short. Most articles fill just a page. Only our cover stories are longer because they delve into the management styles and strategies of top executives. And we plan to keep our page count low, so you don’t have to fight to find articles.
You will find these three principles carried throughout Smart Business San Francisco, just as our readers have come to expect from our other award-winning publications for the last 18 years.
So why are you getting our management journal? Because of your success in building a business to middle-market status or your senior management role at a larger company that values the middle market. I hope you enjoy our premiere issue. And I invite you to share your feedback with me.

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

Published in Northern California
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

The S-Curve

One of the great concepts I learned in business school was product life cycle. Products, technologies and industries go through life cycles just as people do, and business strategies have to change at each stage of the life cycle for a business to continue to grow and dominate its markets.

The S-Curve allows businesses to predict the rise and fall of new product life cycles within their market or industry. I got my first real-life lesson in the S-Curve when I was a consultant for Firestone Tire in 1979. Radial tires took seven years to penetrate 10 percent of the market, then just seven more years to move to 90 percent and dominance.

If you saw that trend coming, you made a fortune. If you didn’t, you lost a fortune, as Firestone did.

People have a distinct bias to predict trends in straight lines, when growth clearly occurs exponentially until natural limits set in, causing it to taper. These limits, in turn, create cycles of growth and decline. The chart shows how new products (after a period of invention and initial development) first slowly move into niche markets, although that growth is clearly exponential.

We go from commercialization at 0.1 percent market penetration to 1 percent, and then from 1 percent to 10 percent in approximately equal time periods. Each such period represents a 10-times growth in market penetration, clearly not linear. The higher the costs, learning or human resistance to the new product, the longer the S-Curve progression takes.

The 0.1 percent to 10 percent stage takes the product into the niche markets, to the consumers who are the trendiest and most cutting-edge. Once the product hits a critical mass of acceptance, costs tend to drop precipitously from increased scale, and acceptance increases once the product is more visible and proven.

At this stage, the product becomes popular and mainstream. As more of the market is penetrated, there are fewer customers to market to and limits to exponential growth start to set in. From 10 percent to 50 percent market penetration, the gains are five times, versus 10 times in the 0.1 percent to 10 percent stage.

Then, from 50 percent to 90 percent, market penetration gains are only 1.9 times. Hence, exponential growth clearly slows down. Then products enter the maturing, slower growth phase, from 90 percent to 99.9 percent penetration, which similarly takes the same time as the 10 percent to 90 percent acceleration phase.

It is in this phase that the last consumers, such as children and the elderly, finally adopt the product.

Over the entire life cycle of invention, innovation, growth, maturity and decline, 80 percent of market penetration comes in one stage, or 20 percent of the time. This is the principle behind the 80/20 rule.

For business strategy and planning, the implications are clear: You must have a strategy for each stage of the product life cycle. If your product is still new and just beginning to enter the mainstream (products such as satellite radio, MP3 players, digital TV recorders, or engines that use alternative fuels come to mind), you must aggressively gain market share. If you don’t fill the demand void, someone else will.

However, if you are selling a product that is already past the 50 percent market penetration level, your focus must be very different. Observe what is already happening with cellular phones and personal computers. Prices have fallen to the point that PCs are cheap commodities with mostly foreign parts.

Similarly, cell phones are now so commoditized that they are often given away free with new contracts. If your product is in this stage, your primary focus must be on controlling your costs and making sure your business is financially sound. The weakest competitors will fail; don’t be one of them.

Likewise, if your product is in the stage of virtually no growth — 90 percent to 99.9 percent — you may want to consider changing your product line altogether.

HARRY S. DENT JR. is a noted author who has written several books, including two best sellers. He has appeared on “Good Morning America,” PBS, CNBC and CNN/fn, and has been featured in numerous publications including Barron’s, Investor’s Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Fortune, Success, US News & World Report, and The Wall Street Journal. Dent received his MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar. For more information on his research, visit the new H.S. Dent Foundation Web site at www.hsdent.com or e-mail him at hsdent@hsdent.com

Published in National
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:03

Keeping it in perspective

Someone needs to tell you the truth about the economy. I need to put the economy in perspective by telling you that all the doom and gloom in the media is not the whole story.

There are cries of alarm as manufacturing jobs are eliminated and service jobs are sent overseas. This makes for great headlines, but it doesn't give you the whole picture.

Rising productivity is the root cause of much of the ruckus, generating higher profits, lower inflation and a strong housing market, and increasing stock prices. But productivity generates wealth before jobs.

Earlier this year, consumer net worth hit a new peak of $45 trillion -- up 75 percent since 1995. Corporate profits as a share of national income are at an all-time high, and so is the net worth of many individuals. So what's all the negativity about the economy?

According to Business Week, offshoring isn't really a problem. Unlike in most previous business cycles, productivity has continued to grow at a fast pace right through the downturn and into the recovery.

One percentage point of productivity growth can eliminate up to 1.3 million jobs a year. With productivity growing at an annual rate of 3 percent to 3.5 percent rather than the expected 2 percent to 2.5 percent, the reason for the jobs shortfall becomes clear: Companies are using information technology to cut costs -- and that means less labor is needed.

Of the 3 million jobs lost over the past three years, only 300,000 have been because of outsourcing to another country, according to Forrester Research.

As for those 3 million jobs, that number comes from a Department of Labor survey of mainly larger companies. This figure can be somewhat misleading because the department measures job loss in several ways. One survey of workers showed a job gain of more than 750,000 between January 2001 and January 2004. So it is reasonable to conclude that there may be 3 million jobs lost, but most are coming from large corporations.

Smaller and mid-sized firms are adding these employees back to the work force and driving the economy forward. It is the smaller enterprise that is the job-growth engine that hires the people Fortune 1000 firms cast off.

Don't believe the hype. The economy isn't as bad as it's made out to be. If your business isn't performing, then start looking for productivity gains before you fall hopelessly behind.

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 27 September 2005 06:38

Fulfilling your vision

Do you know the difference between a fantasy and a vision? Most people don’t. Both fantasy and vision involve imagining who we want to be and what we want to do. But the difference is profound — a vision is real and a fantasy is not. What separates them is the answer to a single life-changing question: What are you prepared to do?

Many people believe they have a vision for their career, their marriage, or their role as a parent or a friend, but because they never follow through on the actions required to fulfill their vision, they reduce it to nothing more than a fantasy. And a fantasy is worth nothing. At the end of your life, you will find no joy in all that you meant to do.

The people who lead great lives, who challenge and inspire us to be like them, are the people who actually do something to make their vision a reality.

There are three key distinctions between a fantasy and a vision that can move you from imagining the life you want to live to actually living it.

The first distinction is clarity. Do you really know what you want? Have you taken the time to thoughtfully define what you want from life? If not, remember this: fantasies hide in the mind, visions pour out onto paper. If you want it to be real, write it down. When I took the time to write all that I would want my children to say in a eulogy for me, I went from hoping to be a great dad someday to actually being one.

The second distinction is progression. Almost nothing of significance can be completed in a single step. In business, we’re familiar with breaking large projects into smaller goals or milestones, but we seldom apply this to our lives.

My vision of being a great dad includes spending time one-on-one with my kids, and this year, I’ve set the goal of planning a one-week wilderness adventure with each of them.

Last year, my goals were different, as they will be next year. But over the course of a lifetime, the cumulative completion of these goals has enabled me to become the dad I wanted to be.

I like to express my goals as newspaper headlines because of the extra energy I get when I read them. Headlines such as “Scott and Dad complete week-long rafting trip in 2005” not only give me a clear goal, but one that I can’t wait to accomplish. Setting at least one goal for the year in each major area of your life will give you the focus and the clarity to take action toward achieving it. The third distinction is regular investment. Even if you’ve set a goal for the year, you still must take the time to plan what to do each week.

Every Sunday for the past 22 years, I’ve spent a few minutes choosing actions that will take me toward my vision in the coming week. In the world of investments, this is known as the drip method. Alone, each weekly action might seem insignificant, but cumulatively, they add up to something great.

So, if part of my vision to be a great dad is to take a long rafting trip with my son, then my investment this week might be simply to research various rivers out west or to buy a map. By reducing this big goal to small, weekly investments, I can make steady progress while still balancing all my other responsibilities.

What are your fantasies? Do you want to be a great leader? A loving, engaged spouse or parent? A trusted and dependable friend? Fit and healthy?

Whatever it is you want from your life, it will not happen until you determine what you are prepared to do and then do it. Your fantasy can be transformed into a vision-filled life by simply deciding today to take action. Will you do it? Just think of the possibilities.

Jim Huling is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services company that was recently recognized as one of the 25 Best Small Companies to Work For in America by the Great Place to Work Institute. Contact him at Jim_Huling@MatrixResources.com or (770) 677-2400.

Published in Atlanta
Tuesday, 26 July 2005 12:33

Choosing the life you want

How many tomorrows do you have? Thousands? One? The answer is that you don’t know.

But the real question is about how you are living your life. Are you living on the assumption that there will always be a tomorrow to do what you want to do, to become the person that you want to be?

Three days ago, I was having dinner with my wife and daughter at a favorite restaurant and life couldn’t have been more perfect. A few hours later, I was in an emergency room with my blood pressure crashing and my family watching a monitor that no longer registered a heartbeat for a full three seconds.

Did I wish for the chance to send one more e-mail, review one more report or attend one final meeting? Of course not. But what about you? Isn’t that what you do day after day as you’re working late, taking cell phone calls at dinner and canceling your vacation? We consistently make these decisions based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that there is always tomorrow to create the life we want. And then one day, our tomorrows are gone.

Wouldn’t it be better to live each day making sure that we aren’t missing the things that matter most to us? Over the years, I’ve been able to combine a successful career with a phenomenal marriage, being a great dad to my kids, backpacking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, earning a third degree black belt, becoming an author and a speaker, and now being Papa to my three grandchildren. And I possess no greater talent, ambition, drive or luck than you do.

The difference is that I had a plan. Start right now to build your own plan by choosing an area of your life that is one of the most important to you, such as your role as a spouse, parent or friend. Now, think about what you really want in this role. What kinds of experiences do you want to share? What do you want the relationship to have meant throughout your life?

Stephen Covey recommends a powerful exercise in the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” for gaining a vision of all that you want from a particular area of your life — writing a eulogy. I want to warn you, this is not for the faint of heart.

Picture the face of the person who is the focus of this role for you. Imagine them standing before your friends and family one day when your time with them has passed. Hear them saying, “I’d like to tell you what my relationship with my dad/mom/husband/friend meant to me.” And then write the words that come from your heart.

As you do this exercise, use real language, resisting the temptation to settle for lofty words such as “He was a great person who dedicated himself to the highest use of his talents and to serving the common good.” Not only is this meaningless, it carries no emotional content. Without emotional content, you’ll be missing the spark that will inspire you to want to live it out.

In my eulogy for my daughter, Sarah, to give about me, I started by writing “My dad was always there for me.” It was a sentence that changed my life. I then went on to write about how much we loved each other, the times we shared and all the things we would do together. Today, I have a written statement of what I really want from my roles as Donna’s husband, Scott’s dad, CEO of my company and many others.

This is the plan that gives my life focus and a sense of meaning, the plan that lets me live knowing that I’m creating the life I want. In an emergency room three days ago, I was reminded that none of us is guaranteed a single tomorrow. Start today to win at the business of life.

Jim Huling is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services company which has received the Turknett Leadership Character Award and several other top employer recognitions. Reach Huling at http://Jim_Huling@MatrixResources.com or (770) 677-2400.

Published in Atlanta

You probably have read much about the basics of ethics, leadership, stewardship, morality and social responsibility. Accordingly, you have most likely formed a good understanding of them based on your experiences and thoughts.

However, most people do not really take the time to understand the true meaning of values, ethics and morality.

Values are core beliefs or desires that guide or motivate our attitude and actions. What one values drives his or her behavior. Some people value honesty or truthfulness in all situations; others value loyalty to a higher degree in certain situations.

Ethics is the branch of philosophy that theoretically, logically and rationally determines right from wrong, good from bad, moral from immoral and just from unjust actions, conducts and behavior. Some people define ethics simply as doing what you say you will do or walking the talk.

Overall, ethics establishes the rules and standards that govern the moral behavior of individuals and groups. It also distinguishes between right and wrong conducts. It involves honest consideration to underlying motive, to possible potential harm and to congruency with established values and rules.

Applied ethics refers to moral conclusions based on rules, standards, code of ethics and models that help guide decisions. There are many subdivisions in the field of ethics; some of the common ones are descriptive, normative and comparative ethics. Business ethics, more specifically, deals with the creation and application of moral standards in the business environment.

Morals are judgments, standards and rules of good conduct in the society. They guide people toward permissible behavior with regard to basic values.

Consider the following dilemma and how the terms values, ethics and morals apply.

A thief named Zar guarantees that you will receive the agreed upon confidential information from your competitor in five days. Zar is professing a value -- he will deal with you honestly because you, as the customer, are very important to his business. When Zar has delivered the proper documents within the agreed upon time (five days), one can say that Zar has behaved ethically because he was consistent with his professed values.

The following year, you ask Dar, who is a competitor to Zar, to do the same thing. He makes the same promise as Zar by professing the same values. Five days later, Dar only delivers part of the information, which is not totally accurate, and at the same time, blackmails you for more money. Dar says that if does not get more money, he will go to the authorities and the competitor to report this business dealing.

One can say that Dar has behaved unethically because his actions were not consistent with his professed values. And, you can conclude that all three parties involved in stealing insider information have acted immorally as judged by majority of the population.

Overall, values are professed statements of one's beliefs, ethics is delivering on one's professed values and morals are actions of good conduct as judged by the society that enhance the welfare of human beings.

With an understanding of values, ethics and morals while using ethical principles, a business owner or leader can form a framework for effective decision-making with formalized strategies. The willingness to add ethical principles to the decision-making structure indicates a desire to promote fairness, as well as prevent potential ethical problems from occurring.

Corporate ethics programs are part of organizational life, and organizations can use such sessions to further discuss the meaning of values, ethics and morals in the context of their businesses. Organizational codes of ethics should protect individuals and address the moral values of the firm in the decision-making processes.

Corporate codes of ethics are not merely manuals for how to solve problems; they are tools that can empower everyone in the organization to say, "I am sorry, that is against our policy or that would violate our company's code of ethics."

Doing so will increase the personal commitment of employees to their companies because people take pride in the integrity of their corporate culture.

Bahaudin Mujtaba, D.B.A., is an assistant professor and the director of institutional relations, planning and accreditation, for Nova Southeastern University at the School of Business. He is a former senior training specialist and manager of Publix Super Markets. Bahaudin recently co-authored a business ethics textbook published by Pearson Custom Publications. Reach him at (954) 262-5045 or Mujtaba@nova.edu.

Published in National
Sunday, 29 August 2004 20:00

Keep it short

Welcome to the premiere issue of Smart Business Philadelphia, a monthly management journal for C-level executives of middle-market and large companies.

Before you say it, let me do it for you: “The last thing I need is something else to read.”

I know how you feel. Running a growing organization is enough to keep anyone busy. The demand on our time from employees, suppliers and clients seems to increase every day. The sluggish economy only adds to the pressures of managing a successful business.

That’s why we have designed a unique publication. After 15 years in the publishing business, we know to listen to our readers. The publication you hold in your hands — the ninth in our growing chain — is the result of all our listening. In one-on-one conversations, CEO focus groups and written surveys, here is what readers like you told us they want in a local management journal.

1. Big minds, big ideas. Smart Business Philadelphia will tap into the top local business minds. Take this issue as an example. Our cover story tells how CEO Robert Toll keeps Toll Brothers — already a $2.8 billion business — growing an average of 20 percent a year.

Our Q&A feature, called One on One, showcases Tasty Baking Co. CEO Charles Pizzi, who talks with us about about the challenges of marketing his company’s Tastykakes in a market that’s focused on low carb and low fat products.

In the coming months, you’ll hear from more of the best business minds in Philadelphia on issues ranging from leadership and motivation to brand-building and innovation.

2. Go to the source. To get the latest thoughts on best practices in key business areas, we have partnered with key local service providers in areas including accounting and consulting, technology and executive education. They have front-line experience in dealing with the issues facing middle-market companies throughout the Philadelphia area. We work with these companies to develop commentaries on issues facing C-level management of middle-market companies. As I always say, wisdom comes from an abundance of councilors.

3. Keep it short. Most articles in Smart Business Philadelphia fill just a page. Only our major features are longer — because they delve into the management styles and strategies of top executives. And don’t look for us to drop on your desk some day like a phone book. We plan to keep our page count low so you don’t have to fight to find the articles you are looking for.

You will find those three principles carried throughout the premiere issue of Smart Business Philadelphia — and every subsequent issue — just as our readers have come to expect the same from our other award-winning publications for the last 15 years.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to have fun, too. We realize that not every minute of your day is spent planning or executing strategy. So from time to time we will include other offerings, such as reports on the latest luxury autos, high-tech gear, books and travel.

Also, we will summarize recent executive changes on our Movers & Shakers page so you can keep up on what’s happening with your peers. So why are you getting Smart Business Philadelphia? One of two reasons: Because of your success in building a business to middle-market status or your senior management role at a larger company that values the middle market. In either case, I hope you enjoy reading our premiere issue. And I invite you to share your feedback with me by e-mailing me at fkoury@sbnonline.com or calling me at (800) 988-4726.

Published in Philadelphia