Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney-StarWars - Destroying value in post-acquisition integration

For all of us who lived through post-acquisition integration, the above cartoon absolutely characterizes the actions led by the ego of the overtaking-company's executives.

And there is no greater executive egos than in Hollywood!

Friday, October 26, 2012

[VIDEO] Endless Strategy Sessions about Nothing

Have you ever sat in these endless meetings about strategy brainstorming, and found yourself looking around the conference table and wondering, how productive is this exercice?

Should I be doing something else with my time? my life? 
You wonder if this is another worthless corporate exercise where we're piling ideas just to obfuscate the ability for a company and its leaders to make real decisions and to show the way. In fact, the meeting is about Nothing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

5 Steps to a Successful Seller Financing Deal

Although the economy seems to be improving slightly, tight credit markets mean the days when you could simply get a large check and be done with the sale of your small business are long gone.

Because of lending restrictions implemented after the 2008 recession by banks large and small, even the most enthusiastic buyer candidates may not be able to find the capital to fund a business acquisition. And as an owner, there is nothing more frustrating than having listed a business that garners plenty of attention but attracts no buyers who can meet your asking price.

In most of those situations, the business is actually a great candidate for sale. But because of challenges in the lending market, you as an owner are left with two options: either lower your asking price or work with the buyer to overcome their financial barriers.

Since most sellers don't want to leave money on the table by lowering their asking price, more and more are deciding to finance part of the sale themselves. In this case, sellers usually receive a portion of the purchase price up front and the rest (usually around 20-50 percent) will be paid by the buyer over time, with interest.

The trend has become so common, in fact, that a recent BizBuySell.com survey of national business brokers found that nearly 90 percent of brokers cited seller financing as "important" or "essential" to speeding up the business sale process. Only two percent found it unnecessary in today's market.

So how can you effectively execute seller financing without compromising your long term business sale goals? Here are a few tips:

1. Evaluate the Risk

A cash sale is an essentially risk-free transaction for the seller. Once the deal is done, you can comfortably walk away from the business with money in the bank. In a seller-financed transaction however, you continue to be tied to the business for several years after the sale is complete, until all purchase payments have been made. If the business succeeds, the new owner pays back the principal with interest and everyone wins. But if the new owner struggles and can't make the loan payments, you could suffer the loss of interest income and incur additional costs to collect the debt. In the worst case, the new owner can't make the payments and you get the business back through the loan default; something nobody wants to have happen.

The bottom line is that an owner-financed sale needs to be evaluated as a business investment.

How to Create a Professional Attitude in the Workplace

Acting professional in the workplace can have long-reaching effects. It can influence the overall office atmosphere as well as position you for a promotion over less professional colleagues. A professional attitude in the workplace can also have a more positive influence on customers; professionalism generally leads to trust and credibility.
  • Start at the top with management. Most employees will look to their immediate supervisors as well as the top management of the company to see what type of behavior is acceptable within the office. Management should always act in a professional manner and display work ethics that they would like to see emulated throughout the office staff.
  • Maintain a sense of formality in the workplace. Greet others with handshakes and address people as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” unless you are directed otherwise. Answer the phone in a professional manner with a greeting, the company name and your name. If you communicate by email, avoid any "text-speak" or emoticons that are common in instant messaging.
  • Dress according to the job. To act professional, it helps to look professional. Your dress should represent the job you would like to have within the organization. Set an example for others by dressing in neat, pressed clothing that fits appropriately and matches the office environment.
  • Establish professional conduct guidelines. Gather employees in a meeting to discuss the guidelines for professionalism that should be included in the document. Once the document has been drafted, have each employee sign it and display it in a prominent location. Ensure that all management figures are setting professional examples by following the outlined guidelines in all aspects of their work.
  • Treat employees, customers and business associates well, regardless of rank or title. Part of a professional attitude is the acknowledgment that all contributions to making the workplace run effectively are important to its success. Let employees witness you treating others with respect on all occasions.
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Ways to Improve Company Productivity

No matter what your company does, improving the productivity of your work force can boost your bottom line. Doing more with fewer resources is a fact of life in today's competitive business environment, and that dynamic is not likely to change anytime soon. That means the companies that can get the most productivity from every worker and the best results from limited resources are the most likely to succeed in the long run.

Computer Technology

Adding computer technology to your small business is an excellent way to boost the productivity of your company and help each worker get more done in less time. When evaluating your business and your need for computer technology, examine the manual processes your firm uses and think about how those time-consuming manual processes can be automated with the right computer technology.

Empowered Employees

Giving the front-line employees the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively can be good for productivity. Allowing workers on the floor the flexibility to solve customer problems frees up supervisors and managers to do more important tasks, such as planning for the future of the department and addressing training needs.

Flexible Schedules

Requiring all employees to stick to the same rigid schedule regardless of job function or actual company needs is bad for morale and company productivity. Allowing your workers to have some flexibility with their schedules and working hours actually can enhance productivity, build loyalty and encourage workers to do more for the company. Allowing some employees to work from home also can enhance productivity and boost morale. A 2010 study conducted by IBM and reported by the Telegraph found that workers who have the flexibility to work at home actually clock more hours and suffer from less stress than their office-bound counterparts.

Internet Filtering

10 Ways to Get More Sales From Existing Customers

If you are looking to increase your revenue per customer, here are some tips on getting your sales staff focused on inside sales, upselling, and marketing additional services.

Every business needs new customers, but don't ever forget that your easiest and most predictable source of new revenue is right under your nose: It comes from the loyal customers who already know your company.  Acquiring new customers is expensive (five to ten times the cost of retaining an existing one), and the average spend of a repeat customer is a whopping 67 percent more than a new one.  So, sure, put some energy into new business development, but make sure your salespeople know that coming up with creative ways to sell more to your current customers is just as important. Here are 10 proven techniques to do just that:

1. Think lifetime value, not transactional value. To keep customers coming back to Zane's Cycles (and away from the superstores), Chris Zane offers a wildly attractive incentive to parents who buy their children's bikes from him: He'll credit the full cost of last year's bicycle toward an upgrade every year up to a 20-inch wheel. "We won't make money until they buy their second bike from us at full price," says the Branford, Connecticut entrepreneur. In the meantime, parents buy accessories for their growing children and, predicts Zane, are impressed enough with his commitment to service that they become customers for life.

Dig Deeper: Chris Zane on Attracting the Best Customers

2. Go for a no-brainer upsell. "We started noticing that our clients wanted us to store their media files because they had a habit of re-editing their sizzle reels several times over the course of the year," says Scott Gerber, CEO of SizzleIt, a New York City company that produces short promotional videos. The process became time consuming and tedious for the company, so Gerber started charging clients monthly and annual fees to store their data. "This created a whole new revenue stream for the company," he says, "not to mention it allowed us to get rid of large amounts of media files when clients didn't want to pay."


Restructuring a Problem Company

Your company is in trouble. Your orders are down, your customers don't pay, your employees are scared, and the ATM consistently spits back your card at you with disdain. Certainly you'll have to make some changes if you intend to survive. But what can you do?

Plenty, believe it or not. It may not seem like it now, but it's possible to dig yourself out of that hole and even come back stronger--provided you're willing to commit yourself to making some adjustments in the way you do business. We must warn you, this process is probably not going to be terribly pleasant. But walk yourself through the following 12 steps, in no particular order, and it'll all be worth it.

1. Find out how long you have to live.

You know it's all about the green. It doesn't matter a lick that you are close to profitability or have thousands of satisfied customers if you run out of cash. So if you're not obsessed with your OOC ("out of cash") date, you should be. Write it backward on your bathroom mirror in red lipstick.

Improving your cash-flow position starts with awareness. George Mueller, 31, CEO of digital lighting company Color Kinetics Inc. , is all too familiar with this concept: "At Color Kinetics," says Mueller, who has grown his Boston-based company from two to 80 employees in just about four years, "the CFO e-mails our exact OOC date to all senior management on a weekly basis, so that everyone is aware."

2. Get paid.

Go to work on your working capital. Howard Anderson, senior managing director of venture capital firm YankeeTek Ventures , says you should work on your accounts receivable every day. That's right, every day. It sucks, yes, but if you don't, two things may happen: 1) Some other guy gets paid first, or 2) Your customer goes out of business before paying you.

Mueller expands on the concept: "Bring the small-company aspect into it. Get your relationships to drive the payment process. You need to be able to say, 'Look, we are just a small company, and we need to be paid on time to work with you.' " In other words, work your contact, and stop dealing with that accounts payable department in Ireland.

In addition, don't be afraid to ask for upfront payments, offer special discounts for a limited time on accelerated payment and tighten up your credit policy. "Be careful about who you extend credit to," advises Anderson. At this point in the economy, you should have no reason to assume that the other guy isn't having the same financial problems you are.

3. Negotiate everything.

You have to balance your moral obligation to your suppliers with your goal of staying alive. Your major vendors constitute important relationships, particularly those that aren't easily replaced, and you also have a reputation to uphold. (Remember, for most entrepreneurs, you are your business.) However, your vendors would rather be paid later than never at all, and they would rather be paid 50 cents on the dollar now than 10 cents two years from now in bankruptcy court. You can negotiate with your vendors, as long as you're forthright. Say, "Look, I can pay you X percent now, and if we make it, I can pay you the rest later and we'll all win. Otherwise, you'll wind up getting a lot less."

4. Diet and exercise.

The key to survival, says Anderson, is to cut your burn rate. 

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What Marketers Are Getting Wrong About Loyalty

The biggest mistake brands make with loyalty programs is to model them on human loyalty. Human loyalty is an admirable, deeply emotional bond that unites us. It’s irrational, inexplicable and often counters our survival instinct. The marketing world, ever the imitator, often looks to these emotional bonds as its guide to creating loyalty.

This is a mistake. It’s time not to make loyalty more "human," in the traditional way, but to treat it as a question of economics and behavior.

It’s an old obsession of marketing to make us care about products as much as we care about each other. Brand building is, in the words of Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, to “inspire loyalty beyond reason.” It’s all about turning brands into human bonds. But at the same time, most loyalty programs don’t take into account some (non-emotional) very human preferences and behaviors. Consider the typical loyalty program from an airline like Delta. The point-building process is painfully slow and there’s a single-year window for customers to keep their Medallion status. After that, the process starts over. Customers begin with an impossibly high minimum point requirement, making gratification too delayed. Those who don’t give up on the spot await laborious redemption (they can use their miles for certain destinations but not for others), often irrelevant partner benefits, and disinterested customer service.

Marketing is not where loyalty programs belong. Their place is within a company’s revenue structure and within users’ decision-making process. With loyalty programs, companies are dealing with customers’ clear expectations of tangible economic benefits. To their interactions with a company, customers bring a specific assessment of some form of economic gain with behavioral dynamics to match. The new model for building loyalty capitalizes on these dynamics. It is based on decision-making, business design, and experience design for tangible outcomes.


One thing to know about human decision-making is that we want to be happy. And we prefer many small repeated gains over anything else. We’d rather find two $50 bills in two different places than a single $100 dollar in one. Since money usually doesn’t just lay around, we use mental accounting to multiply this small-gains effect in everyday situations. Mental accounting is responsible for our perceptions of value, utility, costs and benefits of something. It decides whether we are going to redeem that Groupon deal, or if JetBlue’s offer is really a good one. It shapes all of our shopping, saving, and retirement decisions. It is a great starting point for any loyalty program. Knowing what mental accounts its customers are using and how they manage them helps a company maximize the impact of its offers.

Business Design

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Incorporate Team Building Into Strategic Initiatives

Teams implement corporate strategic initiatives along with management. Effective teams make the difference in marketing, acquisitions, restructuring, divestitures and product development plans. They help launch new products in multiple regions, facilitate post-merger integration and help in implementing corporate restructuring actions. Changes in business conditions, customer preferences and government regulations are some of the driving factors behind strategic initiatives.

Step 1

Select and nurture your middle managers because they are your team leaders. Project and product managers, shift leaders, marketing and finance managers are the mid-level managers who determine the success or failure of strategic initiatives. Companies should systematically nurture managers because they implement virtually all major strategic initiatives.

Step 2

Break down barriers to effective team building, such as turf battles and incentive systems that reward individual rather than collective achievement. This is a difficult but necessary step for the successful execution of strategic initiatives. Remove or reassign disruptive elements from teams if one-on-one or group sessions to encourage more collaboration do not work. Botched restructuring implementations and poor merger integrations are some of the reasons for mistrust and other barriers to effective team building.

Step 3

Start building and nurturing teams from the very moment you take charge. Managers often find themselves in a dilemma because they depend on the expertise of the very teams they are supposed to evaluate. An integration session early in your tenure could clarify expectations that you have for the team and the team has for you.

Step 4

Share information about the corporate initiatives, and explain why they are necessary. You will receive more cooperation if employees and managers know how the strategic initiative will benefit them directly. This also means being brutally honest with the bad news. Open communications often motivate teams to put their differences aside, rally together and get behind the leader and the corporate mission.

Step 5

How to Create a Killer Personal Branding Campaign

Call it self-marketing, personal branding, professional development, or any other buzzword you’d like. In any case, both finding a job and climbing the career ladder are all about investing in the business of you.

As a professional, you are a brand unto yourself. The target market for the unique value you provide are employers who are constantly bombarded with messages from your competitors and also always on the lookout for innovation. Develop and market your personal brand effectively by using traditional marketing techniques.

The 4 Ps of Traditional Marketing

Though the boundaries of traditional marketing no longer exist due to online media and new digital technologies, its core tactics can be reworked to guide your self-marketing strategy online.

The four Ps of marketing are product, price, promotion and place. In the realm of self-marketing, you are the product that’s up for sale, which means you must successfully apply the traditional marketing model to you: the person, the professional and the brand.

Product: Be Consistent and Recognizable

To develop an online self-marketing strategy, you must determine who you are as a professional and build a personal brand around your core strengths, skills and experience. What do you bring to the table that others in your industry do not? Know your strengths and play to them by creating a consistent brand around yourself that’s complete with mission, objectives and recognizable visual brand elements. Today’s hiring managers are social consumers who are more apt to hire you based on the experience you’re selling rather than your ability to carry out a few specific tasks.

Just as you instantly know a can of Coca-Cola when you see one, your audience should know exactly what you bring to the table and what they’re getting by working with you. Whether you’ve branded yourself as a no-nonsense people mover who’s apt at managing staff, or an industry expert and consultant who provides fresh insights and innovates the way a company operates, be consistent. Decide on your core messages and stick to one brand name.

Read the rest here..

Strategic Plan for Your Business

You know it when you see it

More years ago than I care to say, as a vice president with Creative Strategies International, I gave up trying to define strategy. During the years I was in that business, I discovered, slowly, that most people believe they are naturally good at strategy. They may not be able to define it, draw it in business diagrams, but they understand it. I think I’ve seen that most of strategy development is intuitive.

  •     People generally understand that strategy involves focusing on priorities, and why that’s good for a business.
  •     People generally understand that strategy involves playing towards strengths, and away from weaknesses.

So, whether or not you can define strategy, you know it when you see it. That’s what I’ve seen through the years.

The real problems with strategy

In one of my long-term consulting relationships, a large and very successful company would send groups of managers to 2- and 3-day offsite meetings to develop strategy. I watched in wonder as groups of very bright young managers developed brilliant strategies at these meetings, but failed, year after year, to implement them. The ideas that energized the offsite meetings were lost back in the office, drowned in the daily routine, putting out fires, answering the telephone, solving the every day problems.

I learned the hard way that the problem with strategy isn’t as much developing good strategy as it is in implementing strategy. Not that we should underestimate the importance of strategy, but we should at least be cynical about how much of business strategy remains in the realm of ideas only, and doesn’t really change a business.

Continue Reading..

10 Ways Business Leaders Can Turn Ideas Into Execution

One of most frustrating challenges facing business leaders today is closing what is commonly known as the execution gap (or sometimes the strategy gap). The execution gap is a perceived gap between a company’s strategies and expectations and its ability to meet those goals and put ideas into action.

Due to the complexity of people, businesses, and the societal constructs in which we operate, it is more difficult than it might seem at first glance to close this gap. A survey in 2007 found that 49% of business leaders perceived a gap between strategy and execution; 64% lacked confidence in their company’s ability to narrow it.

However, there are some simple rules for closing the execution gap.

  • Clearly Define the Desired End Result
A big problem with going from idea to implementation is simply a lack of clearly defined vision and goals. Leaders who cannot define what they want accomplished can hardly expect others to understand their strategy and participate in their projects with any level of meaningful contribution. Fuzzy definitions will produce fuzzy results, if any at all. The more specifically you can define your expectations, the better it will allow employees to wrap their minds around what they’re supposed to be working toward. Without this clarity, they will often end up stumbling around in the metaphorical dark, trying to divine what the leaders really want instead of accomplishing it.

  • Concisely Articulate the “Why”

Since leaders need the effort of others, they must be able to effectively communicate to them what they want done and, more importantly, why they want to do it. Clear and concise communication is vitally important because employees are more likely to disappoint if they don’t understand what you expect.

Furthermore, explaining the why behind strategic decisions gives employees a deeper understanding of how their knowledge and work will be a contribution to the larger whole. Without this understanding it is easy for them to feel isolated instead of feeling like actively engaged participants in a meaningful enterprise.

Get Your Customers to Sell for You: 5 Tips

When it comes to selling, referrals are the Holy Grail. It's much easier to make a sale when the sales process starts with a customer recommending you to a friend or colleague.

Ideally, you want to turn your best customers into a "volunteer sales force," according to Rob Fuggetta, author of the newly published book Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Force.

1. Identify your best customers.

First, find out which of your existing customers are likely to join your "volunteer sales force." Use your website, blog, newsletter, or other customer touch points to ask the following question:

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company or product?
Any customer who responds with a "9″ or a "10″ is a candidate to become what Fuggetta calls a "brand advocate" who will help you sell your product to other people. Capture the contact information for these customers, and you're well on your way to getting those easy-to-close referral sales.

2. Make it easy for your best customers to post reviews.

Once you've identified potential brand advocates, invite them to write reviews of your company or product on sites that post customer reviews (e.g., Yelp, Amazon, Best Buy) and provide them with links to the appropriate pages on those review sites.

According to Fuggetta, about 20% of customers who answered "9″ or "10″ will write reviews. Therefore, if you've got 10,000 customers and 2,000 answer "9″ or "10," you'll end up with 400 customer reviews. That's a lot of reviews.

Customer reviews accomplish two things. First, they make your product more attractive to new buyers, because buyers are more influenced by the opinions of their peers than your advertising or marketing. Second, when existing customers make a public commitment to your product, they are more likely to follow through on the next three steps.

3. Encourage your best customers to write testimonials.

How Good Are Your Leadership Skills?

Who do you consider to be a good leader? Maybe it's a politician, a famous businessperson, or a religious figure. Or maybe it's someone you know personally – like your boss, a teacher, or a friend.

You can find people in leadership roles almost everywhere you look. However, simply having the responsibilities of a leader doesn't necessarily make a person an effective leader. This is a shame because, with a little study, humility and hard work, all of us can learn how to lead effectively.

So, how can you bring your leadership skills to tip-top condition?

You can start by analyzing your performance in specific areas of leadership. Complete the quiz below to help you identify where you already lead effectively, and where your skills need further development. In the analysis sections underneath, we'll direct you to the resources you need for exceptional leadership.

There are many leadership skills and competencies that, when combined and applied, go toward making you an effective leader. You have the ability to develop each of these skills within yourself. Read on for specific ideas on how you can improve your leadership skills!

How Good Are Your Leadership Skills?


For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test. 


Why You Must Not Block Employees from Social Networks

Companies of all sizes still fear social media, yet it can serve as a major recruiting tool to attract Generation Y employees. Ten years from now, companies who aren't enabling social networks in the workplace will be deemed irrelevant and their Gen Y talent pool will suffer as a result.

A new survey on workplace Web access by OfficeTeam reports that 53 percent of employees say their company doesn't block social networking sites. For those workers who are blocked, 22 percent admit to use their own personal mobile device as a workaround. Companies tend to worry about security, privacy and a loss of productivity. This is especially common in both the financial and healthcare industries, where data is more strictly regulated.

Many companies still don't understand that if you ban social media use in the workplace, Gen Y won't want to work for you. The 2011 Cisco Connected World Study shows that more than half of college students wouldn't accept a job offer, or would accept it and find a way to circumvent corporate policy, if they couldn't access social networking sites. Two out of five respondents said they would accept a lower paying job that had more flexibility with regard to social networking. The Great Place to Work Institute reports that none of the top one hundred companies to work for block social media access at the office. Here are the top reasons why companies should enable it:

1. It builds morale.

Companies that enable social media use are seen as trusting. Employees want to be trusted with their daily activities and are more productive as a result. In addition, younger employees don't' separate work and life, or personal and professional, like older generations. They want to be connected to the people around them, including family and friends, wherever they are. Employees need a mental break from work and companies should put more emphasis on results than when and where work is done.

2. It builds connections.

Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making

The 50 years I’ve worked with business leaders have been marked by a dizzying rate of economic, social, and environmental change. In response, senior managers and scholars have produced a flood of research, articles, books, and consulting programs offering countless methods for adapting to new circumstances. Strangely, just about all those efforts overlook four basic behavior traps that thwart organizational change, particularly its elusive human dimension.

Deeply rooted in the managerial psyche, the traps are extremely difficult to recognize because they are almost always mechanisms for avoiding anxiety. They serve to protect egos and prevent discomfort.

In advising companies on organizational and cultural change, my colleagues and I have seen hundreds of clients fall into these traps again and again—but we’ve also found some ways to mitigate their impact. Drawing on that experience, I’ll describe the traps and share examples that show how executives can manage them.

Behavior Trap 1: Failing to Set Proper Expectations

Everyone has seen senior managers announce major directional changes or new goals without spelling out credible plans for achieving them or specifying who’s accountable: for instance, “We are going to reduce the use of cash by 40% next year” or “We are going to cut train accidents significantly” or “We are going to shift focus from midmarket customers to the upper end during the next two years.” Such efforts go nowhere.

More than 35 years ago, in “Demand Better Results—and Get Them” (HBR November–December 1974), I asserted that setting expectations that actually evoke maximum performance was executives’ single weakest skill. Nothing has changed. In all the organizations I have observed, managers commit several transgressions when making demands of their people (see the sidebar “The Seven Deadly Sins of Setting Demands”).

Here’s an example: A large iron mining and processing company was receiving many angry complaints about quality from its largest customer. The CEO met those complaints with apologies and vague promises, and strongly reprimanded the general manager of the guilty operation. The GM in turn held management meetings and communicated with employees about quality—month after month—but there was no discernible improvement. He would have been affronted by the suggestion that his expectation setting was faulty, even though he’d never established specific goals or explicit plans for achieving them.

Another common offense is to describe what must be done and then signal, albeit unintentionally, “if you possibly can do it”—as in, “I know you’ve lost some people, Stan, but you have to give it a go; we really need to increase sales in your territory.”

Such problems are especially insidious because senior managers often lack insight into their own behavior. I vividly remember watching the world-renowned head of a major media company wave his financial reports in the air at officer meetings and refer to them as “confusing junk,” much to the consternation of his CFO. When I quietly suggested that he was reinforcing the CFO’s behavior by not explaining clearly what improvements he wanted to see, he brushed me off. His dramatics continued with no impact whatsoever on the quality of the reports.
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5 ways to avoid burnout at work

1. Get away and review

Dave McLurg runs a business in Phoenix that helps his customers find their ideal careers -- and employers. But sometimes he has to do the same thing for himself. How? He books a day at a local resort and figures out whether he's spending time on the right tasks -- or just wasting it. After a recent trip, he hired a scheduler to straighten out his frantic work life. "It's really about focusing on my ideal role," he says.

2. Schedule small regular breaks

Many entrepreneurs feel guilty about taking any time for themselves, because their business already consumes most of their week. But if you don't, you'll begin to resent both your family and your company. Me? I find that the best way to keep my energy up is to plan something fun every Wednesday night -- even if it's simply watching a game with a buddy -- or have coffee with friends on Friday mornings.

3. Hang out with the family

Dale Donat, CEO of Mid America Metals, travels frequently for his Springfield, Mo., building-restoration business, which projects $8.9 million in sales for 2012. He's found that taking a week off to babysit his granddaughter while her parents are on vacation renews his perspective more than any company offsite. "It's just a breath of fresh air from dealing with business situations all the time," he says.

4. Lock down your vacation

Thursday, October 4, 2012

[VIDEO] Firing employees whose productivity will not be missed

[VIDEO] Restructuring for Fantasy Land Founders

When I walk into a restructuring situation, my biggest challenge is to understand the interaction between the CEO and his executive team. Most frequently, I find a CEO who is the only one believing his own direction, a founder who dreams with no rational action plan, a leader without followers.

While team members realize the situation, they are prone to stay silent as they have seen former colleagues get thrown "under the bus" and shown the way out. And so my dialogue starts with trying to bring that CEO to perform a reality check on his surroundings, to self-assess his behavior, to come down from his make belief world and put his feet on the ground.

If these contained steps fail, and they frequently do when the emotions of a founder are involved, it becomes imperative to push towards a hands-on board governance. In other words, to induce board members to get more involved with the company so they themselves come out of the fantasy land that the CEO has painted for them. Unfortunately, boards do not react until red ink shows up in a major way on the books. But by then it is too late, too difficult for the company to raise further funding, for customers to continue involvement. Key resources leave and spread the word out about the company.


No video can paint a better picture of the "Fantasy Land Founder" preaching to his staff than the professor in the Rodney Dangerfield classic "Back to School".


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to improve employees' work performance

Performance improvement has never been more important in business so it is crucial to get the best out of your employees.

Encouraging your employees to produce premium results can be difficult and many organisations employ the services of performance improvement consulting professionals to help them enhance business processes and staff morale.

Performance improvement consultants will have the appropriate hands-on experience to enable an organisation to deliver first-rate results in an ever increasingly competitive business environment.

There are a number of simple methods that employers can use before they hire performance improvement consultants to apply proven business theory to allow organisations to reach their potential.

One way to motivate your staff is to give them a goals-alignment chart as this will let them know where they fit into your organisation and the more they understand, the more they are likely to deliver the kind of performance you require.

Sharing information about the organisation's goals with your staff will create a clear connection between an employee's work and the ultimate aim of the business and this should motivate them to improve their performance.

Such a chart should be placed in a visible place as this will given staff a tangible and constant reminder of what the organisation is attempting to achieve, which will enhance focus as everyone will know that they are working towards a shared goal.

Put the chart in a place where employees are likely to congregate such as meeting rooms and break rooms as this will maximise its visibility and reinforce the benefits of positive performance.

Once this chart has been established, the next step is to make goal-achievement part of your standard conversations with staff through team meetings and one-to-one discussions.

If an employee's performance starts to slip it is important to reinforce the importance of your organisation's goals and you should not wait until you are ready to terminate their employment before the issue of productivity is addressed.

Continue Reading..

How to Get Rid of Work Stress

On-the-job stress is a fact of life, but there are good strategies to fight it.

American work life is hard, particularly in this day and age of persistently high unemployment. Employers are demanding more from their staff, and it's not uncommon for a worker to put in extra hours on a regular basis or to perform more than just their mandated job. As a result, on-the-job stress levels quite frequently are at least as high as they've ever been, if not higher. Withstanding prolonged, intense pressure is unhealthy and counterproductive, so what can be done to mitigate it?

Fortunately, this problem is well acknowledged and there's a fairly deep body of expertise addressing it. One critical early step is to recognize when stress is coming - many people don't see the train until it's about to run over them. The non-profit health consultancy helpguide.com enumerates some of the most significant initial warning signs. These include, but are certainly not limited to, stronger than usual feelings of anxiety, depression or anger, problems falling asleep and increased consumption of "crutch" substances like drugs or alcohol. The sooner incoming stress can be detected, the easier it is to deal with.

Canada's Centre for Occupational Health and Safety points out that many stressors are physical rather than psychological. If the employee is subjected to constant loud noise, for example, or pain deriving from the way he or she is required to perform that job, it's a relatively easy fix - management should be alerted to the difficulty and address it in a timely way.

Most of the really crippling pressure isn't physical, however. Fortunately, the deeper mental variety can be mitigated using a fairly big bag of tricks. Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, organizational and motivational psychologist Paul Baard suggests, for the many employees in a team environment, that the affected stressee make a concentrated effort to encourage his or her co-workers in order for the team to ……….

The Advantages of Multiple Goal Levels for Employees

Setting goals is a fundamental strategy companies use to steer employees in the direction of the company vision and objectives, as well as to measure success. A basic idea behind setting goals is that the goals should be small -- in other words, managers should provide multiple goal levels or benchmarks. Doing this is advantageous for a business in multiple ways.

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Evaluation and Assessment
Having multiple goal levels for employees means that you have more opportunities to measure what the employees have done. This makes it easier to determine whether the employees are staying on task and to remedy problems you find within their work. Multiple goal levels also mean that you can assess whether it is worthwhile to continue on toward the next planned goal or to modify your plans toward a different goal given the results you've seen the employees produce.

Forward Movement
When you have multiple goal levels for employees, you can identify what has been accomplished and what employees still must finish with high frequency. When you evaluate and assess the employees more frequently and are able to remind them of the next step, this gives the impression of progression or forward movement in operations or a specific project. This keeps the employees from feeling stagnant and getting discouraged.

Any goal a company has communicates something to the employees about the business's objectives and visions. The more goal levels are present, the more opportunity there is for the company to confirm for employees what those objectives and visions are. On the other side of the coin, employees have more chances to discuss the underlying principles fueling managerial decisions. This increased communication may help reduce or eliminate conflicts.

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Ten Strategies That May Improve Your Business

Over the last few years, we have seen some exceptional strategies implemented by some of our portfolio companies and others in the market to give them an advantage over their competition. I decided to make a list of the ideas that stood out in my mind that other companies could implement - regardless of the industry focus.

1. Service your competitor's customers when they have problems

Are some of your prospects using the competition, but they struggle to get help when they need it most? Offer your assistance at this pivotal time. Furthermore, tell them to call you anytime. Eventually, they will bring their business to you as they realize that you are readily available and your competition is not.

2. Understand your competitive advantage

Why do your customers do business with you? What attracts new customers? If you don't have these answers, find them out. To gain market share and create a company of long-term value, you need to understand what makes your company different and unique. Once you have the answers, focus on these strengths to attract other customers.

3. Hire smart people

Don't ever wait on this. Hire the smartest people you can find for all positions without delay. The good thing about hiring the best and brightest in your organization is that it snowballs. Smart people hire smart people. One word of caution, hard workers aren't necessarily smart workers.

4. Create a positive image in the community for your company

There are a lot of opportunities to this in the Research Triangle Park area with a growing number of networking events and fundraisers to attach your company's name to. If you don't have the resources for a sponsorship, find a meaningful organization and encourage your employees to volunteer or flood a local networking event with a bunch of people from your company. Making a positive impact like this creates more interest in your organization from potential employees and customers.

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