Richard Branson is full of big ideas. The man who founded six companies that each rake in more than $1 billion annually dares to think big. For him, it’s all about the experience, making a difference and not doing things the same way as the competition. An idea captures his imagination and he sets out to turn it into reality.
For him, it’s not about the money. It never has been.
When he sees a situation where he thinks he can make a difference in people’s lives, he looks for a way to make a difference. He understands that “why” he is doing it is more important than the “what” or the “how.”
Author and consultant Simon Sinek agrees (see video link). He explains that Apple is wildly successful at what it does not because it can build computers better than anyone else but because it understands “why” it is doing so. It’s not that the competition doesn’t know what it is doing or that it doesn’t have talented people creating good products. It’s just that Apple understands why it is in business and focuses its message on that instead of what it does — which is build electronic devices.
Sinek says that people like to do business with people who believe what they believe, so they buy more on the “why you do it” rather than what you are actually doing. Notice that profits are secondary. If you do things the right way for the right reasons, profits come naturally.
You might already have a big idea for your business, but it will most likely never reach its full potential unless you understand why you are doing it. Have you ever stopped to think about why you are in business or why you are doing what you are doing? It can be an enlightening exercise.
With the demands of daily business, we seldom stop to think about the reasons behind our actions, and if we do think about it, the answer is often “to turn a profit.” But to what end?
When you understand why you are trying to make a profit and the answer goes beyond simple wealth, then you are getting to the heart of what differentiates a good business from a great one. Maybe the reason why is a social issue, such as eliminating hunger, or maybe it’s a medical issue, such as curing a disease. But it doesn’t have to be grand. The “why” can be something like “making computers easy for everyone to use.” The important part isn’t the scope; it’s understanding your business’s basic reason for existence.
When you’ve taken the time to understand that, your business will have the potential to do great things because employees and customers alike can unite around a common understanding.
It’s why Apple is a great company and it’s why Richard Branson is wildly successful. If you’re already doing it, you’re on your way. If not, take the time to think about it.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
Effective communication is the vehicle to bring board meeting decisions, annual strategies and initiatives, and support programs for your constituents to fruition in business.
Without a plan to communicate their importance and implementation, time spent participating in daylong retreats, creating charts, finalizing objectives and enduring the wearisome budgeting process are a waste of your time — and who has time for that?
Today’s technology has created myriad options for sending messages across varied time zones and locations inexpensively. I don’t know any business leader or CFO who doesn’t love to see expenses cut, including me. The challenge for all business leaders is to evaluate your communication approach, considering your audience, budget and desired outcomes using the following four topics.
I love my iPad, and in fact, that statement is included in my email signature. Skype is another way I try to tackle communication when my schedule is filled with frequent travel, days with back-to-back meetings and a to-do list with more items than hours in the day.
I appreciate the iPad’s mobility and Skype’s two-way video capabilities to stay connected when I need to.
At the same time, if I have an important point to make or am communicating a new change from an expected direction or have bad news to share, I prefer to pick up the phone or visit the person directly rather than send an email. The immediate connection allows a more substantial exchange with the other person, allowing us both to have a clear understanding of the message, its expectations and to discuss the outcome.
Use a variety of media to ensure the business-building information your team sends is well received.
Service Brands International has three home-services franchise companies under its umbrella. Each brand creates six-to-eight annual objectives agreed to by the home office team and its franchise advisory council during a series of planning sessions. If those initiatives were communicated only once, the opportunity for success is small.
A communication is like a marketing message — the sender or the brand will tire of it long before the audience does. If you’ve invested the time and resources to put a plan into place, keep your audience engaged by sharing it at a consistent frequency and with progress updates.
Whether it’s the technology you select to communicate or the written word itself, don’t lose your audience by overcomplicating the message. Use words that are clear, concise and memorable.
I have sat through hundreds of meetings, and I have received thousands of letters and emails throughout my career. I am most impressed by the well-prepared speaker or writer who shares their key points and leaves out unnecessary data and words.
Call to action
A fabulous message that you share across many media channels is not yet complete unless you consider what you’re asking your audience to do with the information. As the leader, it’s your job to create the map to success and make sure your team has a copy of it, understands it and knows what to do with it.
During your strategic planning session, it’s likely you identified specific, desired outcomes of your initiatives. Consider each communication carefully, and decide on your purpose and end result before you begin writing or speaking. Your personal call to action is to measure your results to ensure your communications are being well received and to adapt to your audience if they are not.
These techniques have helped me and my leadership teams manage businesses across state lines, country’s borders and a wide range of tenure and experience. What legend will your vision create?
David McKinnon is the co-founder and chairman of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Service Brands International, an umbrella organization that oversees home services brands, including Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman, 1-800-DryClean and ProTect Painters. To contact him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Merriam-Webster, management is “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.” While “controlling” is a bit harsh in my book, the definition is correct in it's focus on management of people. To be a good manager or team leader, you have to have an above average interest in people. Success in management is found in the relationship developed between leader and team.
The best managers see themselves as catalysts. They become that agent or force that provokes or speeds significant change or action. These managers get things done quickly by leading with solid people skills.
Here are 4 people skills that every good manager must possess:
1. Understanding the right way to give a critique.
The worst thing you can do if you want to get someone to listen to you is to criticize.
As human beings, we hate to be criticized. When we feel attacked, we usually attack back – even when we are in the wrong. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking “I know I am right and I am going to prove it to you.”
Over the years I have learned that this way of thinking simply does not work.
A good manager has the self-control and presence of mind to put aside the needs of his own ego and say “I've got a problem, will you help me?” Enlisting cooperation in this manner will always lead to better results.
2. Understanding the need to help.
If someone comes in to criticize you or to raise your game, under what circumstances would you be willing to accept the critique?
The answer for me is simple. If I think someone is really trying to help me, then I'll engage and listen.
On the other hand, if I feel that the person is just trying to get the job done or make himself look good, I may listen, but my heart will not be in it. My interest and creative energies will be lost.
The truth of the matter is: Managers will only have influence over their people to the extent that their people think they are sincerely trying to help them. It is simply the way human beings work. Good managers truly care about their team and work hard to help them.
3. Understanding no two people are the same.
As a manager, you do not influence everybody the same way. People do things for their own reasons – not for others and not for you.
Inspiring people to your company vision happens best when you help them to see what's in it for them. This varies from person to person. It is your job to discover what things motivate each member of your team.
Some people are motivated by a challenge, some by money and others by recognition.
It is about reading their needs, desires and wants and then leading in such a way that ensures their success at obtaining them.
4, Understanding the best way to get tasks completed.
An effective manager realizes that each time he has an interaction with someone about a task, there are two things going on:
a. A discussion about the task and how to get it done.
b. The way in which the interaction affects the managers relationship with the collegue.
The first is pretty straightforward, but it's success is determined by the tenor of the second.
It must be said that the task should not be sacrificed for the relationship at all costs. It must also be said that winning on the task is not good if the manager ruins the relationship. Both are important and the manager must do well in each area.
I refer again to the need for the manager to develop relationships with the team in order to understand the best way to get things done according to individual members needs, desires and strengths.
In the end, good managers know how to use their influence and power to help others achieve beyond their wildest dreams.
I like management guru Tom Peters' definition of power:
“My definition of power is understanding that all of managing — and this comes out of the old grade school book — is the notion of doing more than you and I can do by ourselves; that is, doing things through other people.”
He goes on to say:
“If you are interested in getting things done effectively and imaginatively through other people then what you're trying to do in the workplace is exactly what you're trying to do on the football field – which is to get people who work with you to achieve beyong their wildest dreams.”
Workplace managers understand that good people skills determine their success. They work hard to develop the skills needed to lead in ways that shows their interest in people.
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 email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
Peter Kellett is an attorney. He’s also the chairman and CEO of his firm, Dykema Gossett PLLC. But Kellett will be the first to tell you that he is more than just an attorney leading attorneys.
Behind Dykema’s approximately 400 lawyers in 11 nationwide offices is a support staff that interacts with the firm’s clients on a daily basis, handling administrative tasks, billing and accounting, and other tasks essential to prompt and comprehensive client service.
If those employees aren’t engaged in providing an excellent client experience, it can damage the relationship before an attorney has a chance to sit down with a client.
Since becoming CEO a year ago, Kellett has made it a point to recognize the important role each person plays in the client experience, and he has focused his efforts, along with the efforts of his leadership team, on uniting every person, in every position in the firm, around a common goal: serving clients with the highest possible standards.
“It is a work in progress, but I am deeply committed to improving all of our levels of client service,” Kellett says. “That is not to suggest that they have been deficient, but in this environment today, it is really important to distinguish any service — whether it be a legal service or any other type of service — in how you deliver service to your clients and customers.”
Driving that level of customer service throughout Dykema — which generated $174 million in revenue during 2011 — has required Kellett and his team to remain vigilant in listening to customers and maintaining a dialogue with employees, as he continually gauges the needs of clients and works with his staff to figure out the best way to meet those needs.
To start promoting a comprehensive client service philosophy, Kellett had to broaden the firm’s concept of what it means to serve clients.
“I believe, and our management team believes, that the notion that the only service a law firm provides to clients comes from the lawyers is mistaken,” Kellett says. “Survey data would show you the average client has more interpersonal contact collectively with the nonlawyer staff than with the actual lawyer who might be representing them in a given matter. There is so much support that goes into the client relationship. It could be making sure an invoice for services is properly formatted or making sure a communication is properly delivered. If a client wants to see something by email, we have to make sure it’s delivered by email and not snail mail.”
They are matters that might not be directly related to the actual legal work done for a client, but if the firm fails to handle the support tasks in an efficient and effective manner, it will eventually have a negative impact on business.
“The services delivered by people who aren’t lawyers comprise much of what the client sees, and quite frankly, you can fall down in that regard if you aren’t careful,” Kellett says. “It’s so important to the client’s overall feeling regarding how they’re being served by the firm.”
With that in mind, Kellett went directly to Dykema’s clients, soliciting feedback on the service experience that the firm was delivering. Representatives from Dykema interviewed many different clients, asking questions related to a number of different client service areas. The firm representatives brought the feedback gleaned from the interviews back to the leadership team, which then used the feedback as a component of a firmwide client-service training initiative.
“We report the information back to the membership of the firm in a way that is understandable and teaches different lessons about what we do really well, as well as the areas in which we can look to improve,” Kellett says.
“We have also brought in specialists to do client service training workshops — in fact, we recently had an officewide session for all our nonattorney staff, which was moderated by an expert in client service delivery. The goal of the session was to try to raise consciousness on everything related to client service.”
The feedback and the client service training workshops produced a set of client service standards that all staff members at Dykema are expected to know and promote. Kellett and his team fashioned the standards into a set of basic statements that clearly outline, in a straightforward fashion, what the firm will deliver to clients.
“It’s nothing that is high-level, but it is straightforward and understandable, and it transcends different practices and offices,” he says.
Kellett’s initial information-gathering process finished with a follow-up component. Late in 2011, firm representatives conducted a series of follow-up interviews designed to gauge the process that the firm had made in improving its approach to client service.
“We went back to the first group of clients we interviewed and talked to them again,” he says. “We asked them to honestly grade us. How did we do in responding to some of the things you wanted to see us implement on your behalf?
“Then we go back to the office and hold people accountable to that feedback. If someone here at the office is in charge of managing a client relationship, you are expecting them to lead on this issue of improving, responding to and being attentive to the things your client wants to see you deliver.”
Motivate your employees
Providing excellent client and customer service is important not only to the people you serve outside the organization but also to the people you employ internally.
A focused company is a healthy company with employees centered on a set of common goals. That, as much as improving the client service culture, was a motivating factor for Kellett.
“I would tell anyone in leadership that it is important to develop a comprehensive customer service plan, not just for the value proposition but also for the health of the organization,” Kellett says. “You’re trying to do more than just motivate. You’re trying to excite.
“If you are in a service business, you want to get your people excited and feeling very positively that they know what is expected of them. Because if folks in a service organization don’t know what is expected of them, they won’t always do what is optimal for service delivery.”
By training your people to deliver the best possible customer service experience, you’re investing in them. The end goal is to please your customers, but the entire process of customer service training is focused on allowing your employees to perform their jobs at a higher level.
“It is important that you are sending a loud message to your entire organization that you see value in your people,” Kellett says. “You are investing in them for a reason, and that is a powerful message to send. I found our staff has been very receptive and appreciative of the fact that management thinks they are important enough for management to invest time and resources in them.”
It’s especially important if you run an organization in which one group of employees often basks in the spotlight, while others toil in obscurity. With that type of setup, it can become extremely easy for resentment to build if those behind the scenes feel underappreciated.
Kellett prevented that at Dykema by ensuring that he crafted communication specifically aimed at the nonlawyer staff in the firm.
“When I’m communicating with the nonlawyer staff, it is certainly tailored more toward the likely activities they will be engaged in and the community they’re likely to be serving,” he says. “In fact, some of our internal staff’s client base is composed of their own co-workers.
“When it comes to our IT staff at the firm, a big part of who they serve is made up of users within the firm. That’s a really big part of the message, telling them that no matter what they do, they’re involved in client relations.
“If your service is internally focused, you’re still helping those who are externally focused to provide excellent service to your external clients. You are as important as anyone in that broad chain of client service delivery.”
Ultimately, the behavior you exhibit toward your employees is the behavior they will exhibit when dealing with clients and customers. If you communicate frequently and thoroughly with your people, they will do the same with your customers. And that leads to a stronger, more positive relationship between your company and the people who purchase your products and services.
“You can’t communicate enough with your people, and they can’t communicate enough with your clients,” Kellett says. “They want to be kept updated more often, rather than less often. You can never assume that they know what is going on just because they’re sophisticated or have been through the process before.
“Tell them more, when in doubt. Or you can always ask them to tell you when to stop talking and start listening. That is something we have learned collectively as a firm: Your people want to be kept apprised of what’s going on, as do your clients. And they want to know sooner rather than later.” ?
How to reach: Dykema Gossett PLLC,
(313) 568-6800 or www.dykema.com
The Kellett file
Education: B.A. in history, University of Michigan; Juris Doctor, Wayne State University Law School
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
I’ll give you two: One is to not try to do everything, or you’ll risk getting nothing done. You have to try to set priorities and not try to do everything at once. The other is something that I was once told: It’s amazing how much an organization can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit. We’re trying to build teams that are focused on client service, with a shared-credit approach to that, and it has been really beneficial for us. Credit will fall where credit is due, but let’s not worry about that. If you have that type of environment, you won’t have people insecure or worried about getting their due.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
First and foremost, it’s honesty. You also need to be a good listener. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone ad nauseum, but you do have to be a good and fair listener. And ultimately, you have to be decisive. Admit your mistakes, learn from them and move on. If you can package all of that, you’re well on your way to being successful.
What is your definition of success?
Achieving a reasonable performance from a financial and business-goals standpoint, which preserves the culture and integrity of the organization. It requires a balancing act. Businesses are in business to do well right now, but you need to preserve the long-term integrity as well. If you’re chasing the top dollar, it can’t come at the expense of the culture.
As businesses face the real risk of payment fraud, a 2012 Association for Financial Professionals survey shed light on the nature and frequency:
• Two-thirds of respondents were targets of attempted or actual fraud, while 28 percent reported increased fraud attempts.
• Fraudulent checks were used most often, then automated clearing house (ACH).
• The typical loss was $19,200 in 2011.
Kerri Werschky, retail and sales manager at First State Bank, relays the story of a business customer that had a former employee create bogus payroll checks on its account.
“Thankfully they were enrolled in Positive Pay and the system was able to recognize that the checks presented were fraudulent,” she says. “The checks totaled $35,000, which would have had a huge impact on our customer’s account and daily operations.”
Smart Business spoke with Werschky about ways to prevent check and ACH fraud.
Why are fraud losses on the rise?
Desktop publishing has made counterfeiting checks cheap and easy. The Internet has made it easy to commit fraud from international posts, often with organized rings in uncooperative counties. Cyber criminals can compromise large quantities of data with millions of potential victims for fraudulent checks with lottery scams, job postings and work-at-home opportunities. Faster check clearing has decreased the time it takes to identify and return checks.
What is your liability for check fraud?
Laws provide a negligence standard when determining loss liability, which means banks are not 100 percent responsible for the loss. Businesses have an obligation to inform the bank on a timely basis and limit the exposure. Your company must implement reasonable and adequate controls over bookkeeping processes, such as:
• Maintaining sufficient controls for check storage, issuance and reconciliation.
• Reviewing bank statements and reconciling accounts in a timely manner.
• Using standard fraud protection offerings such as Positive Pay.
What is ACH debit fraud?
ACH debit fraud is a transaction initiated or altered in an attempt to misdirect or misappropriate funds. Any ACH may debit post to your account, with no authorization, if fraud prevention measures aren’t in place. One critical element of this fraud is that account and routing numbers can be obtained from any check.
What are some fraud prevention tools?
Work with your bank to prevent the sizable risk of payment fraud. Some tools are:
• Positive Pay, which gives the ability to make pay or return decisions on checks presented against an account that doesn’t match. Check issuers provide a data file containing check amounts and numbers on a daily basis, and then receive a report detailing discrepant checks. Fraud is reduced through tighter controls and the ability to authorize payment or return the check prior to the return deadline.
Protection can also be extended to the teller line itself. If a check is not in the company’s Positive Pay file, the presenter is asked to contact the check originator.
• ACH debit blocking service guards corporate accounts against unauthorized ACH debit transactions. Benefits include added security and fraud protection by eliminating outside access to your account, as well as staff spending less time reconciling and investigating debit transactions. Your company also can use filtering criteria, such as blocking all debits, blocking all over a certain dollar threshold, or blocking or allowing all except from specific originators.
How can you prevent check fraud?
Convert as many payments as possible to electronic delivery, while implementing fraud prevention tools. Use online reporting and services for faster reconcilement. Provide training to employees, along with segregated duties and a limited number of official signers. Update account and bank records as staff changes, and screen new employees. Control your check stock, while enforcing procedures. Use separate accounts for collection and disbursement activity and payroll and accounts payable disbursements, along with monitoring high-volume accounts and low-volume petty cash or emergency payments. Finally, know who you do business with, whether vendors, customers or maintenance staff.
Kerri Werschky is retail and sales manager at First State Bank. Reach her at (586) 863-9485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on First State Bank’s Positive Pay and ACH debit blocking, visit http://www.thefsb.com/cashmanagement.
Learning how to deal with disaster during a crisis is not a good idea. Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath reminds employers of the importance of insurance, disaster planning and claim preparation.
“Always at a time like this, organizations who were not affected need to take a step back and ask themselves, ‘What if?’” says Neil Harrison, AGRC, group managing director, Risk Control, Claims & Engineering, at Aon Risk Solutions.
Smart Business spoke with Harrison and Ron O’Neill, senior claim consultant at Aon Risk Solutions, about best practices business owners can use to ride out any disaster.
How did Hurricane Sandy affect the insurance industry?
With an event like Sandy, the insurance industry plays a role in business specific and general economic recovery. Brokers and insurance companies expect to be judged on their performance and response. With a significant amount of claims, there is a lot of resource pressure. Resource scale and leverage become key, and operational efficiency is a prerequisite for success.
It’s too early to comment on the longer-term impacts of insurance pricing or coverage availability. With these events, everybody has an opinion, but nobody knows at this early stage. Property damage, business interruption and contingent business interruption all create the overall cost. Also, just because a company is based in Detroit or somewhere out of Sandy’s way doesn’t mean businesses didn’t have customers, suppliers or vendors affected.
How should you handle an insurance policy?
The first step is ensuring you’ve got the right insurance coverage — the terms, the conditions in place, definitions of perils — and that you understand items such as limits and exclusions. Business owners should aim to have claims preparation coverage on the property cover. Then you can engage an expert for accounting work critical to quantifying and making the claim, and, generally, the process runs more smoothly.
Also ensure the values at risk — asset values and business interruption values — are understood and accurate. Too often, an organization has a claim and is underinsured or overinsured. A best practice is having an external expert work with you on assessing values during your policy renewal process. The business interruption is particularly important because it’s complicated to work out in post-loss panic mode. Since the recession, everybody has different values at risk, but organizations may have continued to index link their values or sums insured.
Beyond insurance, what can businesses do to respond well to disasters?
Organizations that have responded well are those with business continuity plans that are well defined, kept up to date, frequently tested and broad. The plans cover not just the direct issues of building damage but also employee safety and welfare issues, supplier issues, customer issues, etc.
Insurance is an outcome, in many ways, of business continuity. Take a broad look at the business, plan for every eventuality, make sure everyone knows what to do and have restoration firms on contract, as well as access to alternative power.
How should a business submit claims if it suffers damage?
When a significant incident hits, the company has some responsibility to mitigate the damage and cost. Much of it is common sense, but that’s easier to apply when it’s written down with clear responsibilities. Make sure that you:
• Report the loss to a broker or insurer immediately and there are clear lines of communication.
• Take immediate action to minimize loss.
• Keep documents, invoices or receipts, which become part of the insurance claim.
• Take photographs of the damage.
• Engage an external expert, if needed. When a business is in trouble mode, it’s all about recovery. Outside expertise allows you to talk to customers, suppliers and staff, while the expert handles the tactical, and somewhat more mundane, issues.
It’s important to have continuity planning, follow insurance best practices, consider a claim preparation clause and ensure common sense is applied after a loss. Disaster response, claim response and claim preparation are specialist technical disciplines, and businesses find investments in these areas have a positive return.
Neil Harrison, AGRC, is group managing director, Risk Control, Claims & Engineering, at Aon Risk Solutions. Reach him at email@example.com.
Ron O’Neill is a senior claim consultant at Aon Risk Solutions. Reach him at (248) 936-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information from the Aon Situation Room, Post-Tropical Sandy, including videos on claim steps and business interruption, visit http://insight.aon.com/?elqPURLPage=3422 For an archived webinar on Post-Tropical Sandy, visit http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=90768.
Insights Risk Management is brought to you by Aon Risk Solutions
True diversity is not found in numbers. It is found in people with varying backgrounds using their experience to everyone’s benefit, says Lizabeth Ardisana, CEO, ASG Renaissance.
“What we’re trying to achieve is not actually diversity, although that’s the buzzword for all of this, it’s really inclusion,” Ardisana says. “It is one thing to say you have employees who are minorities, old, young, African-American, Latino or Asian, but you have to value those differences and use them to your advantage, not just tolerate them. That’s what it takes to be successful with diversity.”
She says inclusion adds value to companies by providing diversity of thought, access to understanding other markets and a more interesting workplace.
“If no one told me I should do this, I would still seek out people who are different than I am because it would add significant value to me and my company. Until we get to that level of understanding and position, we have not truly experienced the value of diversity,” Ardisana says.
Smart Business spoke with Ardisana about diversity and its value in the workplace.
You hear a lot of talk about diversity, but do companies follow through by taking action?
Counting the number of people you have who come from different backgrounds or putting a diversity section on your website isn’t enough. It doesn’t give you the value. You have to follow the talk with action. You have to move past diversity to a level of value in order to truly have inclusion.
Does that mean you need diversity in promotions as well?
Absolutely. You can’t just talk about it; you have to do it from the bottom up. If you’re going to embrace diversity of thought and diversity of ideas, you must also embrace it at the senior management level. Otherwise, you are not valuing it. If you’ve never promoted someone of a different background, you would be sending the wrong message to the rest of your company.
How do diversity and inclusion benefit companies?
First, you have to accept that an innovative and creative business is going to be a more profitable business and that new ideas, new capabilities and new markets all add profitability. Diversity of thinking comes from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures and that creates more new ideas and more innovation.
Additionally, if you have a reputation for being an interesting and creative place to work, it attracts better overall talent. We’re all in a race to get the best talent and you have to make yourself attractive. Look at the companies that post one job and get hundreds of applications. These companies have a reputation for innovation, for being fun and interesting. If you look at really successful companies today, they have a significant amount of diversity, or inclusion, in what they do.
Are workplaces becoming more inclusive?
It is improving. One thing that’s dramatically improved is companies are valuing age and experience, combining older employees with employees who are young and aggressive. This creates unique opportunities when they are blended together.
Diversity has to be looked at as broadly as possible and some of it is simply awareness. When I started my company, I looked around and thought about how all the people in this department look alike and all the people in this other department look alike but they don’t look like each other. We hire people we’re most comfortable with and don’t think about it. We weren’t getting the benefits of diversity and inclusion so we consciously started to think about it and took actions to practice it, and it has made a huge difference in our success as a company.
Lizabeth Ardisana is CEO at ASG Renaissance. Reach her at (313) 565-4700 or email@example.com.
To view more about ASG Renaissance’s Diversity Services, visit http://asgren.com/diversityServices/diversityServices.asp.
Companies typically want to do what’s right for those they serve. Key priorities should be customers, investors, employees and the communities in which the company is located — but not necessarily always in this order. The dilemma, however, is that many times short-term decisions can prove to be long-term problems that cause more pain than the initial gain.
It’s difficult to make all constituents happy every time. As a result, management must prioritize decisions with a clear understanding that each action has ramifications, which could manifest themselves in the short, intermediate or long term. Seldom does a single decision serve all of the same timelines. There are no easy answers and anyone who has spent even a short amount of time running a business has already learned this fact of life. So what’s a leader to do?
It’s a sure bet that investors want a better return, employees want more money and benefits, and customers want better quality products, higher levels of service and, oh yes, lower prices. This simply all goes with the territory and is a part of the game. The problem can be that, most times, it’s hard to give without taking something away from someone else. Here are a couple of examples.
Take the case of deciding to improve employee compensation packages. Ask the auto companies what happened when they added a multitude of perks over the years, as demanded by the unions? The auto titans thought they didn’t have much choice, lest they run the risk of alienating their gigantic workforces. History has shown us the ramifications of their actions as the majority of these manufacturers came close to going belly up, which would have resulted in huge job losses and an economic tsunami.
Basic math caused the problems. The prices charged for cars could not cover all of the legacy costs that accrued over the years, much like barnacles building up on the bottom of a ship to the point where the ship could sink from the weight. Hindsight is 20/20, and, of course, the auto companies should have been more circumspect about creating benefit packages that could not be sustained. Yes, the employees received an increase to their standard of living for a time anyway, but at the end of the day, a company cannot spend more than it takes in and stay in business for long.
Investors in public companies can present a different set of problems because they can have divergent objectives. There are the buy-and-hold investors, albeit a shrinking breed, who understand that for a company to have long-term success, it must invest in the present to build for the future. The term “immediate gratification” is not in their lexicon; they’re in it for the long haul. Another type of investor might know or care little about a company’s future, other than whether its earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates. These investors buy low and sell high, sometimes flipping the stock in hours or days. And, actually, both types are doing what’s right for them. The issue becomes how to serve the needs and goals of both groups. When a company effectively articulates its strategy, it tends to attract the right type of investors who are buying in for the right reason. This will avoid enticing the wrong investors who turn hostile because they want something that the company won’t deliver.
When interviewing and before hiring employees, it is imperative that candidates know where the company wants to go and how it plans to get there. Many times, this means telling the prospective newbie that the short-term compensation and benefits may not be as good as the competitors’ down the street, but in the longer term, the company anticipates being able to significantly enhance employee packages, with the objective of eventually outmatching the best payers because of the investments in equipment being made today.
The key to satisfying employees (present and prospective), investors, et al, is communicating the types of decisions a company will make over a specific period of time. Communication from the get-go is integral to the rules of engagement and can alleviate huge problems that can otherwise lead to dissatisfaction.
Knowing what is right for your company, based on your stated plan that has been well-communicated, will help ensure that you do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In our world of quick text missives, sharing the daily joke via inner office email, and generally more relaxed workplaces, informality can become a workplace hazard. Studies show that employers and managers often assess an employee’s career potential based on how that employee carries himself or herself in the workplace. None of us wants to be judged by the externals, but our respective “book covers” matter.
Poor manners at work – however unintentional - can lead to workplace conflict because they distract fellow employees from working or, in the worst cases, offend co-workers who have differing viewpoints and cause potential legal liability for the employer.
Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid these 8 bad work habits:
- Talking loudly on telephones and in person in common areas.
- Interjecting comments into conversations between other employees, unless your opinion is solicited.
- Taking supplies – even if they were bought by the office – from other employee’s work areas without getting prior approval.
- Wearing perfume that can be smelled even after you leave an area.
- Gossiping about co-workers or people outside the workplace.
- Sharing racial, religious or sexual jokes in any format.
- Arriving late to meetings.
- Regularly using large chunks of work time to resolve personal and family matters.
Most employees want to be viewed as valuable, contributing members of the company team. Thus, it’s worthwhile to periodically assess our workplace demeanor and, perhaps, adjust our behaviors, to help convey that image. Your future with your employer likely depends on it.
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 Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s 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.zwgroup.net.
One of the signs of a boom — or at least a boomlet — is that companies start wanting to drive their competition crazy. This occurs when “survival” is no longer an issue and optimization or maximization can become a goal. However, the desire to do things to the competition can lead a company astray — or drive it to even greater heights.
Companies go astray when defeating the competition becomes more important than taking care of customers. When companies become obsessed with the pursuit of excellence, by contrast, they often reach new levels of greatness. Here’s how to avoid the former and achieve the latter.
1. Know thyself. Before you can drive your competition crazy, you have to understand what your company stands for. Otherwise, you’ll succeed only in driving yourself crazy. For example, Apple stands for cool technology. It will never represent a CIO’s safe bet, an “enterprise software company,” or service and support. If it decided it wanted to drive Microsoft crazy by sucking up to CIOs, it would drive itself crazy — that is, if it didn’t perish trying.
2. Know thy customer. The second step is to truly understand what your customer wants from you — and, for that matter, what it doesn’t want from you. One thing that your customer seldom wants to do is to help you drive your competition crazy. That’s in your head, not your customer’s. One more thing: A good company listens to what a customer says it wants. A great company anticipates what a customer needs — even before the customer knows it wants it.
3. Know thy enemy. You cannot drive your competition crazy unless you understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You should become your competition’s customer by buying its products and services. I never truly understood what it was like to be a customer of Microsoft until I bought a Sony Vaio and used Windows. Sure, I had read many comparisons and competitive analyses, but they were nothing compared with hands-on usage.
4. Focus on the customer. Here’s what most people find surprising: The best way to drive your competition crazy is to succeed because your success, more than any action, will drive your competition crazy. And the way you become successful is not by figuring out what you can do to the competition but for the customer. You succeed at doing things for the customer by using the knowledge that you’ve gained in the first three steps: understanding what you do, what your customer wants and needs and what your competition doesn’t do. At the intersection of these three factors lies the holy grail of driving your competition crazy. For most companies, the key to driving the competition crazy is out-innovating, out-servicing or out-pricing it.
5. Turn customers into evangelists. There are few things that drive a competitor more crazy than unpaid customers who are evangelists for a company. Create a great product or service, put it out there (“let a hundred flowers blossom”), see who falls in love with it, open up your arms to them (they will come running to you), and then take care of them. It’s that simple.
6. Make good by doing good. Doing good has its own, very sufficient rewards, but sometimes you can make good and do good at the same time. For example, if you own a chain of hardware stores, you can help rebuild a community after a natural disaster. You’re bound to get a lot of publicity and create bonds with the community — this will drive your competition crazy. And you’ll be doing something good!
7. Turn the competition into allies. One way to get rid of your competition is to drive it out of business. I suppose this might be attractive to you, but a better way is to turn your competition into allies. My favorite author of children’s books is Tomie DePaola. My favorite DePaola book is “The Knight and the Dragon.” This is the story of a knight and a dragon that train to slay each other. They are smashingly unsuccessful at doing battle and eventually decide to go into business together. Using the dragon’s fire-breathing ability and the knight’s salesmanship, they create the K & D Bar-B-Q. For example, if a Home Depot opens up next to your hardware store, let it sell the gas barbecues, and you refill people’s propane tanks.
8. Play with their minds. If you’re doing all this positive, good stuff, then it’s OK to have some fun with your competition — that is, to intentionally play with their minds. Here are some examples to inspire you:
- Hannibal once had his soldiers tie bundles of brush to the horns of cattle. At night, his soldiers lit the brushwood on fire, and Hannibal’s Roman enemies thought that thousands of soldiers were marching towards them.
- A pizza company that was entering the Denver market for the first time ran a promotion offering two pizzas for the price of one if customers brought in the torn-out phone directory ad of its competition.
- A national hardware store chain opened up right next to a longtime community hardware store. After a period of depression and panic, the store owner came up with a very clever ploy. He put up a sign on the front of his store that said, “Main Entrance.”
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, and The Art of the Start. He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at email@example.com.