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 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.
One of the questions I wished I focused on earlier in my business career is, “How do I ensure my company remains a great place to work?” The answer: You consciously craft its culture.
What is culture? Try to think about your company as a person, with a specific personality. Do you like it?
You may be thinking the personality (culture) of your company happens organically, or that it’s simply an extension of you. Most founders I’ve met start their companies with a strong vision and a passionate belief in what they’re doing.
When a company is small, it often adopts the personality of its leader because the leader is in direct contact with every employee daily. His or her personality is so dominant that it outweighs all others.
But before you know it, you’re on the road to success and it’s time to hire more people to grow your business — and this is when culture can get away from you.
New people bring new attitudes to work that may be different from yours. But in the spirit of working together, accommodations are made to try to keep people happy. Soon, the company isn’t what you imagined. People aren’t handling customers with the same care you would. Going to work every day isn’t fun. You find yourself thinking: How did we get here?
Assessing an individual’s fit is always a challenge. We all want to hire smart, hardworking, creative individuals. A touch of genius is nice too. Yet if you’ve ever hired anyone, you know that the hiring process is tricky. All kinds of personalities show up for interviews. One candidate arrives with an extensive skill set or impressive resume but a questionable work ethic or flat personality. One shows up with a great personality but less-impressive resume. Whom do you hire?
Use the ultimate test
A friend of mine, who had a successful career as a venture capitalist, once told me about an ultimate test he would apply when investing in a company, called the “Toledo Test.” Here is a variation: Imagine a massive snowstorm in Toledo, Ohio, and you and your hiring candidate are stranded. The airport is closed. You must spend the weekend sharing a hotel room with this person while the storm passes.
If the thought of being with this candidate in this situation strikes fear in your heart, do not hire the person. If the thought sounds fun, evoking images of the two of you solving the world hunger problem over a few drinks, then hire the person.
We can’t always accurately assess someone right off the bat, and that’s OK. Mistakes happen.
Admit your errors
The other key to building and maintaining great culture is admitting when you’ve made a mistake and fixing it. The greatest mistake I made in all my years of business was not firing people fast enough. A bad fit negatively affects the business and also the good hires — employees who are killing themselves for the cause, sacrificing family time and vacations while they watch others goof off.
Now some of you may feel this sounds a little harsh. However, I’ve learned that firing a person who is clearly a bad fit is not only good for the company, but it’s good for the individual. Don’t believe me? At a wine tasting in California, I ran into a woman whom I had fired years earlier. Now she owns the beautiful winery and is so much happier.
So the answer to crafting a successful culture is hire better, fire faster. Spend more time finding the right people so you make fewer mistakes hiring. And when you discover you’ve made a bad hire, remove the person as quickly as possible, before they affect the “personality” of your company.
Terry Cunningham is president and general manager of EVault Inc., A Seagate Co. He founded Crystal Services, which was purchased by Seagate in 1994 and integrated into the company’s software division, which then became Seagate Software. His accomplishments include serving as president and COO of Veritas Software and founding, building and leading two other successful software companies.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was biding its time. Like many other professional service firms, the recessionary years of 2008 and 2009 kept the company’s leaders conservative in their people strategies, but they were also waiting and ready for growth to resume. Because when it did, they were ready for it.
“During the recession, we were really focused on retaining the people that we had across the firm, expecting that when things started to turn around and client demand increased, that No. 1, we’d want to make sure that we kept as many folks as we could by avoiding reduction in force during the recession — a big investment,” says Jim Henry, who was PwC’s U.S. client and industry leader before becoming the managing partner of the San Francisco market in 2010. “And then No. 2, coming out of it, we knew that we’d need to significantly build up our resources to match client demand.”
As the new managing partner, Henry walked straight into the hiring blitz. In just 24 months, he helped PwC San Francisco grow its head count from 1,000 to 1,400 people, all while retaining a top team in one of the most competitive talent markets in the country — the Bay Area.
Here’s how Henry builds a team of talent that can serve the needs of PwC’s clients.
Expand your search
At PwC, building a top-performing team starts with the hiring process.
Historically, the firm has been a big recruiter of entry-level employees, using local campus hiring as a primary source of new talent. However, as other Bay Area businesses have rebounded, it’s been more of a struggle to attract enough local students to build out the firm’s advisory, assurance and tax business lines.
“To meet the demand, we’ve really expanded our recruiting network to bring in people from schools outside of the Bay Area,” Henry says.
Today, about half of the firm’s entry-level hires come from outside the Bay Area, a significant change from the past. Companywide, PwC has also opened its campus recruiting programs, which used to target only local accounting graduates, to students from a variety of backgrounds — information systems majors, engineering majors and MBAs.
The firm has also put a greater emphasis on acquiring experienced employees from other companies to help broaden its capabilities in strategic and high-growth areas. And again, it’s achieved better results by taking the search national.
“It’s all about us having the right capabilities to serve clients in the areas of their growth strategy, their operation effectiveness, and making sure that they’ve got efficient and effective risk and compliance processes,” Henry says.
“We prefer to find local people, but given that the Bay Area is a really attractive place right now, how vibrant the economy is and that it’s a very desirable place to live, it’s becoming a bit easier to attract people here from out of the area. So we’re really approaching it as a national search in most of our experienced hiring.”
Today, the company utilizes a combination of internal recruiters and outside search firms to identify experienced hires who would be a good fit with the firm. Still, whether these efforts are local or national, the best recruiting leads tend to come from the firm’s existing employees.
“We’ve asked them through our internal communications, and then offer recruiting referral bonuses to help them identify talent that they think would be a good fit in the firm,” Henry says. “As a result, we’ve had more than 40 percent of our experienced hires come through employee referrals. That’s absolutely the best source.”
Offer helping hands
Just because someone makes it through the screening process doesn’t mean that he or she will have immediate success at your company.
As PwC has hired more people in entry-level positions and management roles, Henry has found that many people need help and support as they integrate into their new job and corporate culture.
“It’s critical that both the new people who join the firm and our existing employees have very clear and frequent feedback about how they’re doing and get the support they need to make sure that they’re successful,” Henry says.
One way the company helps employees adapt to the new environment is by plugging new hires into teams where they can quickly understand what’s expected of them. Working in teams allows people to seek guidance and feedback from more experienced peers, who can also serve as coaches and mentors.
“That’s really key to success,” Henry says. “As people are working in teams they better understand how their background and experience fit together with the rest of our people when they are out serving the needs of our clients.”
It also provides opportunities for different teams to learn about each other’s activities. For example, as it began adding more new people from other companies, the San Francisco office began holding a monthly “meet and greet” for its experienced hires.
“They bring their own lunch and meet at our office in a conference room,” Henry says. “It’s an open door thing for whoever is interested and available just to talk about their backgrounds and share some of what we’re doing in PwC.”
New teams are also encouraged to get to know other teams and find ways to complement their efforts if possible. The company’s new national sustainability team recently visited San Francisco to share its goals and learn how it can incorporate them throughout the firm.
“They’re getting their goals and priorities aligned and then trying to understand how they fit into the rest of the firm, someone who might be doing supply chain consulting or tax advice on moving operations,” Henry says. “Just about everything else that we do in serving our clients could have some element of sustainability. And that can be brought into making sure we’re creating the most value for our clients.”
Give people success models
Of course, offering competitive compensation is an easy way for employers to show people value when they bring them on board. However, long-term retention requires that companies show people an ongoing commitment to their financial and professional sucess.
As more people integrate into the company’s culture, Henry and his partners have looked for new ways to connect them to the goals of the business. One way is by helping diverse talent excel in the organization by having each partner sponsor three diverse individuals in the firm who represent strong leadership abilities.
“The sponsorship piece of it originated in our diversity programs, looking at the goal of trying to have the same diverse mix of talent at our leadership levels as we do at the entry levels,” Henry says. “What we find is with all the best work and coaching and development, we still have attrition for different groups at different career points.”
The sponsorship relationship goes beyond coaching. Each partner serves as a personal advocate for their sponsees, whether it’s by creating opportunities for advancement or nurturing their professional growth.
“That’s reflective of the work that we’re doing to make sure that we’re creating opportunities for people who really demonstrate the leadership abilities,” Henry says.
In addition to prompting positive feedback from clients, PwC’s diversity efforts have earned it the No. 1 spot on Inc.’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity in 2012.
Establishing a “milestone rewards” program is another innovative step the firm has taken to show employees their growth potential. The rewards program gives employees special incentives as they rise to different levels within the firm. So a promotion to manager is now accompanied by a large cash payment or an employee who reaches the level of director is rewarded with a brief sabbatical.
“So when you’re promoted, there’s actually something that’s unique to that promotion on top of the normal compensation and reward system,” Henry says. “It’s those kinds of things that change the conversation from comparing dollars to dollars with one job to another to really understanding what people need and value at different points in their career.”
Build a rep
One of the chief reasons that PwC is able to entice experienced hires and new grads to its ranks is its reputation as an enjoyable and attractive workplace. In 2012, the company was named on Fortune’s top 100 best places to work for the eighth consecutive year.
“The really important aspect of people retention to me, aside from all the programs and different focus areas, it’s got to be an environment that people feel connected to, that allows room for innovation and that they can have fun,” Henry says.
Creating an enjoyable workplace requires leaders to be responsive to their people’s needs. Companies that consider options such as flexibility and work-life balance in addition to compensation will have an easier time keeping employees happy long-term.
“Flexibility seems to be the No. 1 issue that comes up as we talk to people in our surveys and direct feedback about areas that they think we can support and help them in their personal and professional career development,” Henry says.
Ask people what they need to be successful in their jobs, and then look for ways to support that, Henry says. PwC has each team work closely with its members to plan for their desired flexibility as they organize client service work. The firm has also adapted certain company policies, such as the flexible summer Fridays program, to account for the way employees want to work.
“Instead of telling people what day we think would be good for them to take off, we’ve now changed it to just say summer ‘flex days,’” Henry says. “Each week everyone should be working with their team, determining what flexibility they would like to have in their work schedule and building that into their team plans. For one person, it might be that they need a Tuesday afternoon off to do something, and for others, it may be a Friday. But that’s got to be something that’s very individual-based.”
Henry knows that another key ingredient in an attractive workplace is an atmosphere where people can let their hair down from time to time. So when it comes to having fun, he is happy to lead by example.
“We’ve done a lot of things here to just put a little humor into work and allow time for people to get together and hear the strategy but also have some celebration and some fun in the process,” he says.
For the firm’s Promotion Day celebration in June, Henry coordinated a celebration at San Francisco’s Port Mason entire office, emceed by an employee who works as a part-time comedian. And when the Giants made it to the World Series several years back, he showed his team that he was more than game for a practical joke.
“Someone got the crazy idea of the Giants wearing beards,” Henry says. “Therefore, I had to have a beard. Even though I didn’t grow one, because I can’t grow a good one, any time I sent out a memo with my picture, my assistant would Photoshop in a beard on it. And then I started wearing fake beards to meetings with our people. We had some real laughs with that.”
In just two years, Henry’s office has added more than 400 new employees, a clear sign that these people strategies are working. But, of course, the number that says the most about the firm’s success is its employee turnover rate.
“Studies generally show that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses if they go somewhere else,” Henry says.
“We are at record low numbers right now in San Francisco as well as in PwC for voluntary turnover. That’s maybe the best indication considering, in most cases, people vote with their feet.” ?
How to reach: PricewaterhouseCoopers, (415) 498-5000 or www.pwc.com
The Henry File
PwC San Francisco
Born: Pontiac, Mich., and grew up in San Diego
Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting from San Diego State University
What would you do if you weren’t doing your current job?
Working in an emerging technology company.
What is one part of your daily routine that you wouldn’t change?
Working out in the morning — after my first cup of coffee!
What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?
I enjoy surfing.
What do you do for fun?
My wife and I entertain a lot at our house, and she is teaching me how to cook.
What are best pieces of advice you’ve gotten in your career?
First, as a leader you’ve got to have a clear vision of what’s important. And by that I’d start with what really are your values. What are you really trying to accomplish from a broader mission perspective? Then agree with your team on a few things that for the next year are most important that you are trying to accomplish. Consistently reinforce that in communication and monitor progress. The other thing I’d say is always be thinking about creating opportunities for people who may be your successor down the road.
Entrepreneurial companies are facing headwinds going into 2013, including fiscal cliff uncertainty, the prospect of higher taxes, more regulation and continued slow economic growth, says Tullus Miller, Bay Area partner-in-charge at Moss Adams.
“Having a trusted business adviser to help navigate these uncertainties and measure the impact on your key business decisions is most important,” he says.
Smart Business spoke with Miller about how a trusted business adviser gives you the information you need to know — not what you want to hear.
What should entrepreneurial companies consider in a trusted business adviser?
Entrepreneurial companies are very dynamic and have various business needs during their life cycle, including, but not limited to, expanding business offerings nationally or internationally, developing new revenue sources and restructuring operations. These types of activities are generally complex and require substantial capital investment, so trusted business advice can help make decisions simpler, while shortening the timeline. For example, with a growing startup company, an entrepreneur can get advice on what kind of systems to use; how many people to have in the back office; or what kind of tax structure to implement, e.g. a pass-through or corporation.
In considering a trusted business adviser, weigh a few key questions:
- Does the adviser understand your business and how the activities might fit into your long-term goals?
- Does the adviser have insight into complex areas such as tax consequences and how it affects profitability?
- Has the adviser provided sound, practical advice over time that helped the business?
- Does the adviser have your best interest at heart and tells you what you need to hear as opposed to what you want to hear?
- Does the adviser have a deep network of professionals from which to help provide you with appropriate counsel, including legal, banking, etc.?
Having appropriate business advice — based on your medium- to long-term goals and objectives — from an unbiased, trustworthy and experienced source is, and should be, an important part of any decision-making process.
What mistakes do some entrepreneurs make when seeking an adviser?
A lot of times entrepreneurs are impatient, just by nature, as they are go-getters who want things to happen. Therefore, they need to guard against not taking the appropriate time to vet the business adviser. It’s critical to talk to two or three different advisers to ensure you find the right fit, looking at your personality and their knowledge base and reputation, etc. And, then it’s going to come down to pretty much a judgment call. There’s very little science in this. It’s mostly art.
You want to get as much information, even in a dynamic environment, as possible because you must minimize capital-intensive mistakes in an entrepreneurial company.
Do you have any tips on how to organize your adviser(s)?
Depending where you are in your business life cycle, the more nascent you are, the more external advisers you want to use, while making sure you control their costs, too. As you move up the business life cycle curve to maturity — even in a high growth mode — you have to decide at some point to bring experts in-house, and there’s no bright line on how to do that.
A trusted adviser with integrity will tell you what you need to hear, even at the short-term expense of his or her own business. Someone who says, ‘It looks like you’re spending a lot of money here, and you’re starting to grow. You either need to upgrade your staffing, getting people who are more experienced, or expand the number of folks to help you do what you need to do.’
Once advisers are in place, what can be done to maximize the relationship?
Before you close a deal — even if you’re anxious to move ahead on an expansion, re-organization or a new compensation plan with more performance indicators — you allow your trusted adviser to look at the agreements being drawn up. It may not be in the adviser’s area of expertise, but he or she, or others in that firm, could see something that needs to be changed, allowing you to avoid unintended consequences.
Tullus Miller is Bay Area partner-in-charge at Moss Adams. Reach him at (415) 956-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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What is sustainable IT? As many companies deploy sustainability strategies aimed at improving energy efficiency, preserving natural resources and lowering operating costs, IT is becoming a major part of this initiative.
“Over the past few years, many companies have focused on LEED Certification and sustainable design methods to achieve these objectives,” says Rich Garrison, Senior Principal at Alfa Tech. “Now, IT organizations are continually pressed to deliver more by way of applications and content, while being asked to lower capital and expense costs. This is combined with the fact that for many organizations, IT is one of the largest consumers of energy and natural resources to operate data centers, labs and office environments.”
Smart Business spoke with Garrison about the impacts of sustainable IT in today’s business world.
How does sustainable IT work?
Information technology leaders are turning to sustainability-focused initiatives to reduce costs and align with corporate sustainability strategies. Sustainable IT is simply the process of planning, designing, and implementing technologies that improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact.
How is virtualization and cloud technology impacting sustainable IT?
Sustainable IT examples include the wide adoption of virtualization technologies intended to reduce the number of physical servers and increase the utilization of these hardware assets. The next level beyond virtualization is the adoption of private or public cloud service offerings, which allows companies to utilize computing hardware, often hosted by third-party service providers. The primary objective is to have ‘just in time’ capacity, improved reliability and more predictable costs. While cloud is not for everyone, the adoption rate is high and on the radar for most IT professionals.
What role can Wi-Fi play with sustainable IT?
Another technology having a significant impact is wireless or Wi-Fi technologies. In today’s workplace, employees have an average of three wireless devices each. With the adoption of smartphones, tablets and laptops, some analysts predict conventional desktop workstations will be obsolete within the next five years. This adoption of wireless devices in the workplace combined with the evolution of a more collaborative workspace means there’s a demand for more reliable wireless networks with adequate bandwidth.
With new or remodeled facilities, it’s important to weigh the impact of architectural considerations on the performance of wireless technologies. The selection of materials and the building’s physical layout can significantly affect the wireless network’s performance. Predictive tools can help design a wireless solution during the building project’s design phase and eliminate potential issues in advance. As companies adopt wireless solutions, it also creates an opportunity to reduce and, in some cases, eliminate traditional structured cabling systems. From a sustainability perspective, this has major advantages when eliminating the use of copper material.
How are building monitoring and automation systems influencing sustainable IT?
As facilities organizations focus on building monitoring systems (BMS) and automation systems (BAS) to optimize the use of lighting, HVAC and other energy consuming resources, these BMS and BAS solutions are becoming more advanced and sophisticated. The products are becoming more network-enabled and require more advanced and reliable network infrastructure to support them.
For many companies, building management and control systems have become critical applications requiring the same level and support as traditional business applications. As part of the IT sustainability strategy, IT organizations also are leveraging these systems to monitor and trend their consumption of power and energy efficiency. There’s a significant need to engage IT professionals earlier when designing buildings or data center facilities to provide input or solutions for a well-architected network capable of supporting these building systems and applications.
While other IT-related sustainability initiatives can be considered, virtualization, wireless and BMS are greatly impacting both IT organizations and facility planning.
Rich Garrison is Senior Principal at Alfa Tech. Reach him at (408) 487-1209 or email@example.com.
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Your company’s goals aren’t just a to-do list of action steps, they’re a vision of where you want to be. Employee engagement can be a way to make your business exciting while unleashing the creativity of your intellectual capital.
“It can seem overwhelming if you don’t have experience setting goals, especially if you’re a business owner who is really working in business,” says Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. “So, it’s not a sign of weaknesses to ask for help and bring in someone who knows how to coach you, train your organization and facilitate those discussions. If it can move your business forward, energize it and make your life easier so you can enjoy being in the business, it’s really worth it.”
Smart Business spoke with Victorio about what steps to take when setting goals and following through to ensure your vision comes to fruition.
How should business owners set goals?
Once the company’s growth and revenue goals have been established, ask your team for their ideas regarding how to get there. Engage your employees in building the road map to success.
Create breakout groups to work on an annual Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats (SWOT) analysis. By graphing these and seeing correlations, employees help prioritize the two to five opportunities that will significantly help your company. With employees sufficiently motivated to take full ownership in the idea, they can then work in teams to help see the project through development and ultimately reach the goal, which is done in addition to the day-to-day duties.
How can you tell employees aren’t engaged?
There will be complacency and all kinds of reasons, excuses and blame for why employees can’t accomplish the goals set before them. They sit around waiting to be told what to do. There’s a sense of isolation and feeling that nobody is paying attention. You’ll see flat production and even downward trends, as well as higher absentee rates.
Lead employees, rather than dictate assignments, and then get out of their way. A leader removes obstacles so the team can achieve the goal. By giving employees authority, you show respect for their intelligence and ability to solve problems. Successful organizations recognize intellectual capital goes beyond the executive circle. If all employees engage in the company’s vision, regardless of their level or position within the organization, then leadership trickles down so everyone contributes to furthering the company’s goals, which are their goals, too. Actively engaged employees do more than you would have asked and hold themselves accountable to goals they helped set.
In addition to treating employees with respect, acknowledge what’s being done right. Recognize that if there’s failure, it’s more the manager’s failure than the employee’s.
Once you’ve set goals, what’s the key to keeping on track throughout the year?
At minimum, hold quarterly or monthly check-ins that provide opportunities to make course corrections. With the business plan and goals, you can create an action spreadsheet to see progress and identify what’s stopping forward movement. The more intimate the check-ins, the more effective they’ll be.
Also, communicate back to employees to keep them engaged. Some companies have adopted a report card with updates on strategic projects. The strategic projects that change the way you do business are exciting, creative and generate a lot of energy.
How can you learn how to lead this way?
There are books and successful examples, and you can work with a coach who knows the process, can motivate people and teach managers how to lead meetings. It’s hard to facilitate your own meeting and take an objective, honest look at how you’re doing.
Setting and achieving goals doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you put these practices in place and overcome the learning curve, life will be easier. You won’t have to spend all your time feeling like you are grasping at loose ends — and you’ll begin to see the grand design weaving together into a cohesive and beautiful creation.
Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, is managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. Reach her at (415) 788-1952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A truly great bank will go beyond standard financial services and provide value-added assistance in partnership with client businesses.
“I think the lost art in banking is the bank being a partner. It isn’t just about taking deposits, doing loans and putting people in a box. If you’re really doing your job you should provide far more than just your standard services, which, frankly, every service provider should do,” says Ed Lambert, senior vice president, marketing manager, Technology Banking Group at Bridge Bank.
Smart Business spoke with Lambert about what it means to be partners and what you should look for when choosing a bank.
What criteria should someone use in evaluating a bank?
The first question a bank should be asking is, ‘How are you doing as a company?’ Not, ‘Who are your investors?’ or, ‘Are you profitable?’ The bank you chose to work with should want to learn as much as they can about your company so they can find ways to meet your needs.
The banker should sit down with you and listen to your background and then, and only then, respond. What you don’t want is a banker who walks in and opens the conversation by talking about their bank and what it provides without having a conversation and getting to know something, anything, about you.
The second criterion for evaluating a bank is, ‘Do they have answers for me?’
The third criterion is whether the banker is limiting his or her answers to what benefits him or her and his or her bank. If there is a need they cannot fulfill directly, they should be able to tell you that and point you in the direction of someone who can help. They should be ready to provide a solution to your problem, whether directly or indirectly.
What kind of added value should business owners expect in a banking relationship?
A bank should be in a position to provide solutions to whatever situational issues could divert you from focusing on growth. It could be banking issues such as how to best manage your cash or what kind of debt works for your business, or possibly an overall solution process. It also could be something as mundane as finding a solution to the problem of you not liking your CPA or attorney. There have been horror stories about the CFO of a company making 30 phone calls to find a new CPA, taking a lot of time to find answers that a bank should be able to provide in terms of what their Rolodex holds.
If a bank is really providing a good level of service, those things should inherently be part of what they offer to its customers. The supposition is that the bank has been doing this for a long time and has built up a substantial list of contacts, so why should it not share that with its customers?
The bottom line is this: What a company should be looking for in a bank, as well as in any other service being provided to it, is what they bring to the table beyond the array of services that one would assume are standard.
If credit decisions are based on numbers, why would a good banking relationship matter?
The banker’s job is to tell the client ‘yes;’ ‘not yet, and here’s how to make it a yes;’ or ‘here’s somebody who can help you where you are today.’ Those are really the only three acceptable answers that a banker should be providing to his or her clients.
The role of a bank should be to solve issues for its clients that go well beyond just managing deposits and credits. Banks should really be a resource for a company to have at any stage of its life because each phase has a different set of needs. A truly good bank provides for those needs, even if that means telling a business owner something he or she doesn’t want to hear.
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Whether your day in court resulted in a jubilant victory or disappointing defeat, the verdict may not stand as thousands of cases are appealed in California every year.
Given the complexity of appellate law and the uniqueness of the process, savvy executives don’t wait until the trial is over to devise a winning strategy.
“Any company that is concerned about a trial outcome, good or bad, needs to be thinking about the possibility of an appeal from the outset,” says Susan Handelman, a partner at Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. “It can hurt your chances if you wait until the last minute to understand the process or seek expert advice.”
Smart Business spoke with Handelman about the appeals process and the benefits of proactive preparation.
When is it possible that a company will face an appeal?
Once a judgment is entered in the trial court, the losing party has the ability to seek a review of the judgment by a panel of appellate judges. Appellants often cite a procedural error or the way the law was applied by the trial judge or jury as the impetus for their appeal.
After reviewing written submissions from both parties, the appellate court has the option to affirm, modify or overturn the lower court’s verdict, or even order a new trial. Because it puts the original outcome back up for grabs, this can mean that an appeal can be, for both parties, a truly crucial interaction with the court system.
How does the process differ for appellants and respondents?
Appellate court proceedings are very different from those in trial courts, given that the judges focus on the actions of the lower court instead of hearing lengthy factual arguments and witness testimony to reach a decision.
The appellant is responsible for initiating the appeal and generally has the burden of proving that a prejudicial error was made in the trial court. The respondent must validate their win by providing a thorough and accurate accounting of the trial and must legally and factually support the efficacy of the original decision.
Since the appellant files only two written briefs and the respondent gets only one brief to make their case, it’s imperative that the attorney’s logic, reasoning and legal arguments resonate with the appellate judges.
How long does the appeal process take and what’s involved?
An appeal can take anywhere from 18 to 30 months once the appeal is filed. If the parties don’t want to wait, they may have an opportunity to settle their differences in the interim by participating in mediation that is fully or partially funded by the court.
Having an appellate attorney who knows the ropes is critical because, other than briefing, the only presentation to the appellate panel is an oral argument that lasts just 30 minutes and must be on point.
Since success in appeals court hinges on different issues and tactics than a traditional trial, some companies take a long view and hire an appellate specialist from the outset to monitor important litigation.
Is the appeal final or are there more options?
The decision made by the appeals court isn’t necessarily the end of the road. The party that lost can request a rehearing by the appeals court and they may try to appeal the decision all the way up to the California or U.S. Supreme Court.
However, it takes considerable time, money and expertise to continue the appeals process and you may run out of options, since the high courts don’t hear every case.
The bottom line is that waiting and seeing is not the most viable strategy when an appeal can be a real game changer.
Susan Handelman is a partner with Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. Reach her at (650) 780-1759 or email@example.com.
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Whether it is for technology or consumer products, the global market is now the best place to grow sales and profits. To fully realize the potential of these opportunities, executives must undergo a paradigm shift, strategically analyze data and build alliances before the first dollar changes hands.
“To sustain growth and allow the next generation of Americans to have a better life, we have to rethink globalization, identify opportunities and be contributors to the global economy rather than consumers,” says Dr. Yi Jiang, associate director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay.
Smart Business spoke with Jiang and Dr. Glen Taylor, director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay, about the process of identifying and making the most of ripe opportunities in the global marketplace.
What prevents U.S. executives from capitalizing on the best global opportunities?
Taylor: U.S. executives need a different approach to analyze and select global opportunities because our country is no longer the dominant market in the world. Our loss of supremacy means that we need to learn how to do business in other countries that don’t always comply with our culture and business practices. We must put ourselves in their shoes and see things from their perspective.
Jiang: We’ve had a tendency to view globalization in simplified terms and think of other countries as a resource for outsourced services and cheap labor. But when executives apply a different perspective to the analysis process and develop innovative products and solutions, they stand the best chance of succeeding outside the U.S.
What’s the first step in the identification process?
Taylor: The first step is demographic analysis, but unless executives take a deep dive into the data, they may overlook emerging trends and target the wrong customers. For example, a superficial analysis of Chinese demographics reveals no net population growth, but an in-depth study shows that social change is under way and people are urbanizing at the fastest rate in the world, adding tens of millions of new global consumers each year. This creates unprecedented demand growth.
Jiang: Each country has regional and generational differences that create unique opportunities on the consumer side. U.S. executives must consider dynamic industry cycles and a county’s openness and resources before attempting to position each country in the holistic picture of global strategy.
What’s the next step?
Jiang: Travel to the country to experience the culture, validate your hypothesis, and establish strategic business partnerships and networks. You’ll need seamless collaboration to understand the cultural nuances and build a supply chain. Infusing yourself in the culture will help you identify additional opportunities, since the best ideas often come from prospective partners, suppliers and customers.
Taylor: Business relationships are like a marriage, so prospective partners must get to know each other before making a commitment. And your travels may yield additional opportunities, especially if you view things with an eye for the innovations being developed in other markets.
What else must executives do to succeed in the global marketplace?
Jiang: Remember that global opportunities and situations are fluid, so what seems like a great idea today may not work tomorrow. Conduct extensive scenario analyses so you are prepared to perform under a variety of circumstances, and keep your finger on the pulse of prospective customers by garnering feedback through open source social networking.
Taylor: The key is to search out opportunities in global markets to develop innovative products and services that build on our strengths while embracing new ideas from other countries.
Dr. Glen Taylor is director of the MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Yi Jiang is associate director of the MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay. Reach her at email@example.com.
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