Monday, December 24, 2007

Tailored advertizing?

For all the hype about tailored advertising on the net, I don’t remember the last time I got an ad for anything I would be interested in buying. True, I don’t buy online much because I need to handle most of the things I buy to make sure that it’s really what I want.

I’ve also found that most cost savings from buying online are eaten up by shipping charges, so I can support local merchants and get the product in my hand RIGHT NOW instead of 3 days to a week later.

I know that antidotal evidence is always suspect because its such a small sample, but since I retired I spend a lot of time reading and researching online. I should be getting at least some targeted adds. I can’t remember ever getting any thing but the regular spam.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Manage your business and your stock price will take care of itself.

If a business does well, the stock eventually follows. - Warren Buffett

If you manage your business to control your stock price, then your business is your stock price. If you manage your business to produce (and sell) your product, then your business is producing (and selling) your product.

Companies issue stock to raise money. Generally, the money is used for capital investment to produce a product. If you’re not raising capital, why issue stock? With the advent of executive stock options, the price of stock and not the level of profits determine compensation for the top executives.

Investors used to use a company’s profit as part of the equation to establish “market value” for a stock. Now, investors seem to be using an estimate of what other investors might pay for the stock tomorrow.

As this is written, initial public offerings (IPOs) for companies expecting to sell over the Internet are selling for several times their IPO price without the company having made a profit. The feeling of investors seems to be, “We think they’ll make money sooner or later, but we think someone will pay more for this stock tomorrow anyway”.

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s, there was a rush to “conglomerate” creating large “holding” companies with many divisions having little business relationship to each other. This diversity was supposed to be hedge against the downturn of a single business unit. That is, if washing machine sales were down, cell phones would be up. By the early to mid 1980’s, companies were shifting back to their “core competencies”, that is, re-focusing on washing machines and selling the cell phone division. Stock prices jumped in the 60s as companies merged. Then the same stocks jumped again years later when the company sold those same acquisitions, sometimes after losses.

The investor has a different set of priorities than the manufacturer. Your company has to decide who its customer is; the investor in its stock or the buyer of its product. This decision-making process gets thrown out of whack when the manager’s compensation is keyed to stock prices and not directly to profitability, sales, or production.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Seems simple to me.

In an article titled "iPods Win, Record Labels Lose, Study Says" at the Red Herring web site,author Ken Schacter quoted David Card, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research as saying “The key message is that if you’re in the music business, particularly the record business, you have to be in different businesses”.

The problems the record business is having with song sharing caused by the explosion of iPod and other MP3 players seems to me to have a simple solution. In fact it’s not really a solution, its a return to the way music used to be sold. I’m old enough to remember 45 RPM records. “In the day” music was sold by-the-song, or rather two songs at at time, one on each side of the record for about a buck a record.

Of course a buck was one hours work at that time so maybe a song should be worth about $2.50 in todays market, roughly half the minimum hourly wage. Elvis Presley may cost more than Elvis Costello, or maybe it’s the other way around by now. I’m too old to know who is Hip, Slick, and Cool any more.

I learned at my daddy’s knee that you can sell one unit at $1,000,000 or a million units at $1.00 and the gross is the same. With the ease of “sharing” songs now, the record companies are faced with a simple choice 1) fight sharing and spend a lot of money to not stop it, or 2) charge a small fee and get a lot of money on many transactions.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why traditional networking didn’t work for me.

At the various points in my life that I was looking for work, I tried networking according to the experts. Networking, as I understand it, is someone in your group of associates identifying a suitable opening and telling you about it.

Here’s a sample of the kind of advice you get about how to network

The problem for me is that my personal network consisted of two distinct groups of people.

First my work peers are my competition for any available jobs. Obviously only a few of my competitors will either tell me about possibilities or recommend me for something they want themselves.

My second group is made up of people in completely unrelated fields. These are the people who I use as cross-pollination for new ideas and methods. Many times what they are doing is completely useless to my daily work, but just often enough they provide the nugget of a great idea. Besides, just looking at new ideas keeps you looking. Since they are in unrelated fields, the odds on them turning up a suitable job opening is pretty low.

Since I “semi-retired” I’ve keep reading about networking, assuming that I must have been doing it wrong. The results of my research are in, I’m actually following the common wisdom pretty closely and it’s not a viable technique.

In a 45 year working life that crosses half a dozen different kinds of work I’ve only gotten two (2) jobs by referral. This means that while I have gotten a lot of benefit from my relationships with friends and coworkers those benefits didn’t include job referrals.

While personal and antidotal evidence is not a scientific survey, it is telling in that if networking really worked, any working professional should be about tell countless stories about getting a job by referral, and I can’t think of a single friend who did so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Teachers should teach

I watch a lot of History channel on the cable. It caused me to think about why I like the history channel but didn’t much like history in school - which in turn caused me to think about why I didn’t much like school at all.

Nearly 50 years later I think it was too theoretical. What we learned was more about this is what you need to know to learn something else later in school than about here is how you do something today. Student’s get board by things that don’t seem to have a point so the teacher must show them that point.

The student's job is to show up and pay attention, the teacher is responsible for getting and holding the student's attention. Teachers may not like it, but part of their job is to teach the student why the student should care about the class.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Is it just me?

I was just reading CCN’s on line news page and saw how many items are video clips. Is this the trend for on line news? I really don’t want to take the time to watch a 30 second video clip when I can read a more detailed story in the same time.

Could this be a case of the media overshadowing the message? I am beginning to think we are so in love with a technology that we are loosing sight of when and where to use it. Watching a talking head or even a subject matter expert talk seems to take more time to deliver less information than just reading the article.

Is this just me or are you seeing the same thing?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bring me the solution, not the problem

Ever here the phrase “Don’t bring your boss the problem, bring them the solution”? That attitude is causing most american business to miss systemic problems and to mask them with point solutions.

If your subordinates are “quick fixing” problems in response to your unwillingness to listen to their day-to-day problems, those problems may be getting hidden from you.

The following quote from General Colin Powell helps illuminate the problem “The day people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”

You need to know the day to day problems your workers are solving to figure out which processes still work and which need updating. How do you grow a business without constantly improving your product or service? The first place to improve is with current practices that no longer fill your needs?

You must make time to listen to what is not working and test that against operating practices to discover what to change and how to improve. The tools you use can be as complex as a full blown Six Sigma review of a particular process or a simple as counting the number of times the customer complains about that issue.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Too easy for government

I just read a report on Red Herring about midwestern governors agitating for biofuels at the pump by 2025. Here’s the quote:

Governors of Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the premier of Manitoba endorsed the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord. By 2025, they want 33 percent of gas stations, or around 9,700 locations, in the region to offer E85.

Now here’s a simple solution that will drive the oil companies nuts - The state builds E85 stations, sells the fuel at cost without taxes. Think that will drive people to the pumps? Try treating it as a public service not an income source.

The other way is to have the state build the stations, price the product competitively, and use the profits to cut taxes - make the state a profit making enterprise.

A third way is to have the state make tax lean properties available at the cost of the tax lean to companies that will build E85 and biodiesel stations at selected locations.

The GM website claims 2.5 million flex fuel vehicles on the road now so there is a market waiting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What would Richard Nixon have done with the patriot act?

My biggest fear of government is of the well intentioned folks who are honestly trying to protect me. In their attempt to find the people who are truly trying to harm me they are putting in place an information collection process that puts my freedom at risk.

I remember an over zealous staff member under President Clinton who requested and received a series of FBI files on member of congress that he should not have accessed. The FBI kept the files as part of their ongoing tracking of threats to the members but, there was information that might be embarrassing to the individuals (like any of us might have in our backgrounds) but not really related to the performance of their duties or to threats against them.

The story at the time was that the staffer was looking for things to use politically. I believe the information would have been used, I would like to think without the President’s knowledge, if the press hadn’t gotten the story.

One thing history has taught us is that if something can be misused it will be. Can you picture a government official with access to information about the people he deals with (either personally or professionally) not accessing that information?

Remember that honest discussion of government policy can use a lot of the same vocabulary as the terrorists and that the people listening to a telephone conversation or reading an email are predisposed to put the statements into the most dangerous context.

It their job to see a threat so they will err on the side of caution and put the information in the database, just in case. Once it’s in the database it will be there forever.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Job search notes

A couple of years ago the company I worked for closed the division I where I worked and I couldn’t find a job. The job search process can be very difficult for those of us who aren’t self promoter personality types.

Most of us are good at our jobs but showcasing our talents is not our specialty. We read the books and listen to the advice of the unemployment office, the advisers at the job fairs, and still can’t seem to get it right.

The biggest problem I found is that there is no “right” to get. Each reviewer has a personal view of how the applicant should present their resume and while there are some generalizations, mostly, if it doesn’t match that particular individuals expectations, REJECT.

Its a trial and error process with only one chance to get it right and no feedback. As the big group of baby boomers retire and the smaller group of the next generation moves into the work force the process will have to change to accommodate the the new fact of life - there aren’t enough workers!

The companies will have to put a lot more effort into finding workers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is the next step?

Two years ago I was laid off for about the 20th time in my life. All the other times, I hit the ground running and found another job. At times in the past, I changed fields to use the same skills, what we now call “cross over skills”. This time at age 60, the only thing I could find was to go back to construction work by starting my own handyman business.

At about age 35 I sold my partnership in a burglar alarm sales and service company and went to work for a large aerospace company because I didn’t want to get to be 60 and still crawling under houses. Now here I was doing just that.

I did that for about a year before a former customer called to see if I could support a special project scheduled to last about 45 days. Turned into an 18 month gig. Sounds great, but now that source has dried up and I am looking for the “next step”. Since I turned 62 I started to draw my pension and social security so the money angel is not the issue, I spent the last 45 years working and defining myself by my work - just like most of us.

So, who am I now? What is the next step in feeling productive?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Falling over rocks

A lot of what I know, I learned so long ago, I no longer remember when or how I learned it. When I was in the army (over 40 years ago) we had a label we used to cover make work - painting rocks. This referred to painting the rocks lining the walkways white to both make them look pretty, in the first sergeant's opinion - we could have cared less, and to make them visible. Calling it make work came from the practice of having solders who had no other work repaint the rocks.

Over the years I came to use the idea of rocks in the road to symbolize the business problems that seem to always be there. No matter how hard you try you keep finding the same road blocks and problems cropping up.

My lesson for today is on how to deal with these kinds of problems. Think of them as rocks in the road and either: Mover them out of the road or Paint them white. If you can move them out of the road, you never fall over them again - a permanent solution. If you can’t move them because you don’t have the resources or the authority, paint them white so the rest of your company can see and avoid them.

This helps to create a system that you and others in your company can follow to create to replace the corporate memory that is disappearing from most companies with the change to shorter tenure in specific job functions.

As people shift functions or companies their experience is lost and the person replacing them is fated to repeat the mistakes (fall over the same rocks in the road) of their predecessor. If the the previous worker had moved the rocks or painted them white, the next person would be able to avoid the rocks and move forward more smoothly and quickly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reinventing the wheeI

I was just reading a column about Apple’s stock prices by Leander Kahney and found the following quote “Who isn't kicking themselves that they didn't buy a few shares in February 1997, just before Steve Jobs took the helm again, when Apple was trading below a split-adjusted $4 a share?”

Steve Job’s has a clear vision of what that great product is and the market place is proving his vision right. Fitting computers to the natural working style of people is a key component, but if the product does what it’s supposed to do with little or no fuss most folks will change their work habits to take advantage of that product.

Mr. Job’s reengineering at Apple echos Lee Iacocca’s rebirth of Chrysler where (according to his autobiography) he resold the idea that “first build a great car” and then we’ll figure out how to make money.

How many times does this have to be repeated before the boards of directors of American companies learn that the first thing is to create a great product not a great financial plan. Everything is subordinate to the product and anything that cuts into the product is wrong.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


In an article at the CNN web site they reported that “Rising wages are good for workers but if they are not accompanied by strong productivity gains, they raise concerns among Fed policy makers about inflation.”

Every time I read something like this I wonder if the policy makers at the Fed are living in the real world. Anyone who works for a living knows that wages always lag behind performance. Raises are the reward for workers who perform. But the performance comes first. If I’m right, then raises can’t drive inflation since the products were produced at the lower cost before the raise.

Any one who works for a living knows that inflation is caused by increasing the cost of goods or services without increasing the value. If workers created more products or delivered more services in the same time frame a raise should hold the cost per unit at the same level.

Once again we have people circulating a theory that fits their thesis but not reality. A job actually producing a product besides conversation would go a long way toward educating the “theoreticians” in how the real world works.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Forced Retirement

A New York Times article (Leaving Corporate Live at 60 by Paul B Brown) discussed the advantages of CEOs retiring at 60 or thereabouts. According to the article while we might be loosing a great resource, we are making way for fresh ideas.

This resonated with me because I have seen what I call the “prophet” syndrome. This is where a person has a new idea, but in order to get it accepted they have to become an evangelist. During the process of getting their new idea accepted, they have to fight so hard that any question of it becomes a personal attack.

Eventually the new idea the “prophet” had years ago is ready to be replaced by the next new idea, but the former rebel is now fighting change. Giving up the old idea can be too hard for some when they’ve spent a lifetime fighting to gain acceptance for it. Those are the people who need to move aside for the next generation of ideas.

One problem I have also seen is that many of the new ideas are old ideas that the less practically experienced person just discovered. This is where the “older” or more experienced person need to educate the “younger” worker. The biggest problem is that it gets hard to separate the person who is saying “we tried that years ago and it didn’t work because ..” and the person who is just fighting a new idea.

Are the advantages of replacing senior managers outweighed by the advantages of not falling over the same rocks in the road that we fell over before? Once again, no single answer. It depends on the individual senior manager.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The politicians are crazy

I started this blog to force my self to start writing something every day. I found that the best way to improve my skills is to practice - even when I’m not particularly motivated. I didn’t have a particular theme or subject in mind. I most especially didn’t want to get into political debate and the personal attack that seem to fill the news.

One issue for me is the craziness in politics. I’m talking about the lack of common sense about some really important issue. I just finished reading about the Democratic presidential debate last Tuesday and I am appalled at some candidates support for drivers licenses for illegal aliens.

Most of us use the terms illegal and alien in there Webster’s dictionary meaning of

Illegal - “ not legal; contrary to existing statutes, regulations, etc”
Alien - “one born in or belonging to another country who has not acquired citizenship by

People who visit the United States either as tourists or with the intent of becoming citizens are our guests and we expect them to act as good guests. Just like guests in our private homes, we expect them to follow our rules. My wife’s niece and her husband don’t smoke inside our house (my wife an I are non-smokers). It’s not about “our rules”, it’s about being polite as guests in our home.

We have rules of conduct as a country and that includes who can visit and for how long they can stay. By entering illegally these people have put us on notice that they don’t intend to be good guests and follow our rules, so why should we accord them the privileges reserved for family members and “good” guests?

Nobody in their right mind thinks that we are going to try and round up several million people - some of whom were brought here as small children and don’t remember living anywhere else - and ship them “away”. But just like my latest home remodel I didn’t try and get it all done in one big jump. I did the addition, then the kitchen, and finally the landscaping, one step at a time.

First, stop or cut down on the number breaking the entry rules, second create a legal status for those already here, last overhaul the entry rules and process. Doing all three things as part of one big revision to the regulations it is almost impossible to get people to agree on everything, but we should be able to find enough common ground to solve each smaller part one at a time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Privacy in the digial age

I just finished an article about how news providers shape our understanding of the news by how they word the headline and which elements of the story they focus on. When I was in grade school (some where between the second and 7th grades) my father sat me down with the two Philadelphia Pennsylvania newspapers and compared the stories. Now it was not quite an even playing field because one was a morning paper the other was published in the late afternoon so sometimes the later paper had new information but usually the differences were editorial choice.

The morning paper might choose to feature a story on page one above the fold - a high focus story, while the evening paper might place the same story on page 2 below the fold - a less important story. One paper might tell the story as a positive change while the other slant it as a negative change.

When I asked my father why the story seem to change, he told me that it was like watching a house being painted. One side is still the old plain white color while the other side is the new green. “It all depends on where you are standing”.

Lets give the writers and editors the benefit of the doubt and accept that they are trying to be objective. They are still prisoners to their own ideas of what the story means and how they think it will impact the readers. Editors, like the rest of us, tend to hire people that fit their “idea” of who will do the work the way the editor thinks it should be done. They tend to feature articles that fit there particular “idea” of how the world works. We are all prisoners of what we think we know and it takes a real effort to break out of that prison of “knowledge”. We’re not talking about hard knowledge such as “rain falls down” but the “the world would be a better place if ...” kind.

The story that started me thinking was about privacy in the new digital world, where our cell phones track our location and so much personal information is on the web for those who know how to find it. We all know that our phones “know” where we are but we rely on the cell provider not to release our whereabouts to third parties. The surprise is when we find out that the phone provider is releasing the information with out asking us for permission in each particular case. In this case, what we know is wrong; that our personal information is ours and only we can grant permission to release it.

The truth is that the fine print in our contract with the phone company grants them permission to give the information to other parties. Exactly who they can release it to is spelled out in the fine print. Unfortunately, it will take the combine power of all the people to change that, and that only happens in the form of government regulation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Moving to management

Anyone in business at any level has seen bosses at all levels who don’t understand the work place relationship between management and workers. Remember in this context everyone is considered a worker to the next higher level in the organization.

If I work alone and have to make a product that takes one hour, I can make 8 units in a working day. If I manage 20 workers, the team can make 160 in the same 8 hours. Who is more important, me as the boss or the 20 workers? For each worker I loose, I loose 8 units of production. The more often I loose a worker, the lower my production overall.

This concept is called “force multiplication” and takes my original idea and multiplies it by the number of workers following the plan. The workers need the bosses direction, but without the workers the boss alone can’t make the same volume of product. Since both parts are necessary, how do we decide who’s more valuable?

Scarcity of skill is the most common method. That is, many people can be taught to put part A in slot B, but how many can design the product or how to assemble it? Since fewer people can create a new idea, those few people get a bigger share of the results than the easer to replace assemblers. The same is true for managers. Think about it, how many of your coworkers do you think could create a plan for the work, balance the personalities of your department, and ensure that the “production” levels are met?

We accept that the knowledge necessary to create a jet engine are very different from knowledge needed to create a laundry soap and that each take years to learn. Managing people is just as difficult a skill as designing the product but is just a different set of skills.

Peter Drucker created the “Peter Principle” which stated that "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." The main idea is that people get promoted until they land in a job that is beyond their ability. This concept seems to fit the facts, but we inherently fear it because of what it says about each of is. That at some point we will “hit the wall” of our own limitations.

Why do we find it so surprising that not everyone promoted to management has the skills to manage, and in some cases the capacity to learn those skills?

Friday, October 5, 2007


Loyalty isn’t given, it’s earned. And it has to be re-earned on a regular basis. Whether its your customers, your employees, or your friends, their loyalty costs you effort.

My experience is that loyalty starts with the more powerful person and is returned. That is, then boss is loyal to his/her employees and THEN the employees return that loyalty.

OK, but why should you care? Does employee loyalty matter to your business?

One reason you should care is that employee loyalty translates directly into the quality of their performance. If your employees are loyal, they go the extra mile for your customers and that helps create a great experience that will keep your customers coming back.

Beyond a certain level, money stops being the prime motivator and quality of life becomes the driver. While most people do a good job for the personal satisfaction, being treated like a valued contributor goes a long way toward creating job satisfaction.

Now, if that employee really is a valued contributor, you would do a lot to keep that person. You’d make sure that they had the right tools, the right training, and the right support to do their work. You’d make sure that they got prompt answers to questions. And above all, you’d make sure that they knew they were secure in their job - that it would not be shopped off to just anyone who would work for less money.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Call it what it is!

Are you as sick of business euphemisms that hide the facts or over simplify issues as I am? The current practice of calling problems challenges drives me nuts.

The thinking is (I think) that by calling obstacles challenges you energize your people to “meet the challenge”. I think this practice trivializes the complexities of your business and reduces your peoples sense of accomplishment.

We all “know” what words mean, even when we might not remember the exact dictionary definition. When we hear words misused we do recognize the misuse even if we can’t clearly say why that particular statement is wrong. There is an old Confusion saying “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a tiger have?” The correct answer is “Four, calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one”.

It might be useful to look at the Webster’s definition of both problem and challenge.

Challenge (From Webster’s)
1 : to demand as due or deserved : REQUIRE
2 : to order to halt and prove identity
3 : to dispute especially as being unjust, invalid, or outmoded : IMPUGN
4 : to question formally the legality or legal qualifications of
5 a : to confront or defy boldly : DARE b : to call out to duel or combat c : to invite into competition
6 : to arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties
7 : to administer a physiological and especially an immunologic challenge to (an organism or cell)

Problem (From Webster’s)
1 a : a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution b : a proposition in mathematics or physics stating something to be done
2 a : an intricate unsettled question b : a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation c : difficulty in understanding or accepting

Challenge has 7 accepted definitions and only the sixth deals with removing difficulties while the first definition of a problem includes the idea of a solution to a difficulty. Since we all know the generally accepted meaning of words, using the correct word to describe business events is critical to a common understanding and in creating a common purpose.

By styling something as a challenge and not as a problem, you loose your teams ability to overcome that problem. Remember, you can’t overcome a challenge BUT you can challenge your team to solve a problem.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bad customer service

The attached link leads to Brian Reich's article about shopping for a new car. While we've all had this experience, how many of us have looked at our own business to make sure we're not making these mistakes?

Lessons From a Car Shopping Experience

I still think that we can learn good business practices by keeping an "I'll never do that" book listing bad experiences and what should have been done to earn or keep our own business.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

World class customer service

Mostly I write about bad service because thats what lights me up. For a change, here is a story about customer service done the right way.

My wife an I were gong to Las Vegas for a couple of days and made the reservations on the internet. When my wife made the reservations, she thought she was at the Paris Paris web site. As it turns out, she was at a web site called and when we got to the hotel, the reservations had been canceled!

This is where the good part starts; because the reservations were make through a third party we had to call to get it straitened out. The first desk clerk gave us a phone number to call that turned out to be an out of service number. Roberto, the second of three desk clerks who helped us, got on his desk phone, talked to with us, and found that we had been double booked. That is 4 rooms rather than two. We needed an extra room because this was a birthday trip for our niece. Roberto made sure that faxed the correction to the hotel and that the folks updating the reservation computer were waiting for the information and updated the computer right away.

We had to go and play in the casino (what a hardship) while the hotel sorted it out. When we came back the desk, Shirlene (a third desk clerk) was waiting for us and knew all the particulars of our problem, Roberto had briefed her well. She went through the check in process as quickly as possible and joked with us, making a potentially frustrating experience more like visiting with a friend.

Things happen and sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we would like. When that happens the true test of your staff is how painless they make that occasional problem for your customer. In this case we saw the very best of Paris Paris’ staffs customer service skills.

Thanks to to Roberto and Shirlene for making an irritating situation as painless as possible and helping us start our vacation with a laugh!

If getting your customers to come back again and again is important to your business you are going to have to invest in your people so they know how to fix things quickly AND how to make your customers feel that they care. That takes a real commitment from management to seek out and reward the employees who do it right. Remember that in customer service rewarding those who succeed is more effective than punishing those who didn’t do it right.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The question of the day

Do you spend as much time and money “maintaining” your employees as you do maintaining your other production equipment? How much time and effort do you spend each week (on the clock) to service computers, drill presses, lathes and the rest of your production tools? How much did you spend in the same time frame on employee training or retraining?

If you have a computer sitting on a desk with out someone to operate it, it’s just a paper weight. In the movie Conan the Barbarian, James Earl Jones asked “What is the sword compared to the arm that wields it?” In the same way what are your tools of production compared to the person who operates them?

Is it cheaper for your company to go find someone with a particular skill set or to train current employees? When you bring in someone from the outside, you send a subtle unspoken message to all your current employees - this company does not value your experience and knowledge of our company and product enough to use it at the next level.

If you think of your employees as replaceable and disposable they will soon think of your company as replaceable and disposable. This means they will take the value they are adding to your business down the street to your competitors for the smallest salary increase. If you’ve ever asked “Why doesn't that person care about their work?”, perhaps it’s because the company doesn’t care about them.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

How to loose customers

My 2 year old Magellan GPS needs new maps, unfortunately Magellan has decided that there is more money in selling me a new unit than supporting what they sold.

This may sound harsh at first, but one of the selling points for Magellan was that I could update the maps. I just tried to order new maps and was told that “we don’t support that model any more”. Magellan will give me a small discount toward a new unit for my now outdated one.

One question for Magellan, why would I buy another Magellan so that in 2 years you can tell me that you won’t support that one either?

There is an old adage, Once bitten twice shy.

In business it’s much cheaper to keep a customer than to gain a new one and almost impossible to get one back if you loss them. Each business has to decide if they want to keep their current customers or not. If they do want customer loyalty, than every business decision has to be weighed against how many customers you’ll loss because of it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Risk versus risky

I am building a woodworking shop next to my house. Last week I was shingling the roof, stepped on the felt and the staples gave way. I fell off the roof.

I claim I’m a coward, my son claims I don’t take risks. He says I do risky things (like working on a roof) but do all the things to reduce the risk. I was not hurt because I was wearing a safety harness clipped to a well anchored rope.

The harness and rope are left over from my rock climbing days and I use them whenever I need to climb around high enough off the ground that I could be hurt if I fell. That’s doing risky things (climbing on the roof) but not taking risks (working without a safety harness).

I try to apply the same thinking to my business life. I have and use the correct equipment or procedure to take as much risk as possible out of the task I am trying to accomplish.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hardly worth mentioning

Today I started my term of office as president of the Pondorosa Park Association. This is a neighborhood group promoting a sense of community for this little (200) home enclave in the middle of the national forest. The large tract was granted by act of congress in 1884 and subdivided in the mid 1950. Not a big deal, but it should be fun and I'll get to meet my neighbors.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Business failures are management failures

All business failures are management failures. Don’t believe me? Think about it this way;

All poor results can be traced to poor motivation, poor training, poor tools/equipment and/or poor planning.

The manager’s job is to motivate, train, equip and plan. Whose fault is poor employee performance (employee motivation, training, equipment and planning)?

I repeat: “All failures are management failures.”

Are you a good manager? Answer these questions then you decide:

1. What have you done to make your employees passionate about their work?

2. What new skills have you helped your employees learn?

3. What have you done to get your workers the best tools and most efficient equipment?

4. What planning have you done to make the work go faster or with fewer problems?