What would your workplace be like… [ September 30th, 2008 ] Posted in » Fresh Ideas, Human Resources, Reflective Practice, Thought for the Day

… if your Mother ran it?

In my case it’d be just great. Ok, so in your case it’d be different. That makes your smart or funny or something.

So here’s the really big question.

Not for you.

For your kids.

What would your school/office/whatever be like if your ma or pa ran it?


Have a grateful heart

Grateful Heart
Grateful Heart Art Print
Pope, Katherine &…
8 in. (200 mm) x 20 in. (508 mm)
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Sometimes things don’t go as you, in all your wisdom, want them to go. The best business books – you know the ‘scratch with the turkeys or soar with the eagles’ ones will tell you to redouble your efforts even if it means bursting that vein and going to the great beyond…

My experience (learned with some pain, mind you) is that some time it’s best to just let go that particular idea, and see what alternatives present themselves. Often the solution that appears is so magical, so innovative you would never have thought of it in common hours. I believe it is best to approach things with a grateful heart and be open to the gifts that the challenges bring. And, yes, I know the pain of not getting my own way, but I generally try to avoid acting like a spoiled brat when the universe has another plan.

Have some faith in yourself, change your thinking, be grateful for the challenge – lesser people than you would’ve given up by now. Prove something to yourself.

September 29th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Management Style Evaluation

1. I keep good staff members — (Yes / No)

2. My management style ensures that my staff feel warmly appreciated — (Yes / No)

3. I have a well developed training programme for each member of my staff — (Yes / No)

4. I have a fundamental belief that the people who work with me are success orientated — (Yes / No)

5. I make an effort to get to know the people who work with me and I care about them as individuals — (Yes / No)

6. I provide clear job descriptions for all members of my staff and they clearly understand their responsibilities — (Yes / No)

7. I spend time regularly with each member of my staff — (Yes / No)

8. I provide opportunities for my staff to grow professionally and personally — (Yes / No)

9. I always support the members of my team to whom I delegated responsibility — (Yes / No)

10. I always maintain the dignity of any member of my team when dealing with a disciplinary matter — (Yes / No)

11. When I need to reprimand a member of my staff I always reprimand the inappropriate behaviour only — (Yes / No)

12. The people who work with me understand each other’s responsibilities — (Yes / No)

13. I plan to give my staff the recognition they need regularly and this ensures I do so — (Yes / No)

14. I help to develop positive attitudes by being positive myself — (Yes / No)

15. Every member of my staff is aware of the value of their contribution to the success of the business /department — (Yes / No)

16. Each member of staff knows what performance is expected — (Yes / No)

I do have a further item (ties in with 11) – 17. I recognise in public, I reprimand in private — (Yes / No)

I grabbed this information from a conference handout. If this is your original work, please drop me a note so I can give you credit for the work. I think this is something of a wish list for those who’re still working for a manager. Good managers are a rare commodity. If you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself working for one of these rare individuals cherish the experience. The opportunity seldom occurs. When you find yourself managing other people – note – other PEOPLE – they’re people, not staff, you’ll be able to use this list to refine your approaches.

September 28th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Now I Know

Now I Know
Now I Know Art Print
18 in. (457 mm) x 24 in. (610 mm)
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Easier said than done – being yourself, that is. I believe the way forward is to remember yourself – your best self – and then be the person you always wanted to be.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~ e.e. cummings, 1955

If we work, however, on ourselves, and on our business or trade, without negative compromise, it is reasonable to expect that you will achieve mastery. Don’t expect instant results – I have yet to find anything of real substance that can be mastered in less than 10,000 hours. Perhaps I’m wrong. Come back to me after you’ve spent 10,000 hours mastering something, and then tell me how you really got it after 2,000 hours and the rest of the time was just to prove me wrong.

September 15th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Basic English

Charles Kay Ogden (1889-1957), English linguist, philosopher, and writer compiled a list of some 850 words, published in The ABC of Basic English (Kegan Paul 1935). These 850 words, or their equivalents, in any language, cover the majority of the requirements for most normal communication. The vocabulary is a a great quick test of your knowledge of foreign languages. The online translater (see sidebar) can assist with basic translations, unfortunately human quality translations are still a way off for machines.

Operations words – 100 words

a, about, across, after, again, against, all, almost, among, and, any, as, at, be, because, before, between, but, by, come, do, down, east, enough, even, ever, every, far, for, forward, from, get, give, go, have, he, here, how, I, if, in, keep, let, little, make, may, much, near, no, north, not, now, of, off, on, only, or, other, out, over, please, put, quite, say, see, seem, send, she, so, some, south, still, such, take, than, that, the, then, there, this, though, through, to, together, tomorrow, under, up, very, well, west, what, when, where, while, who, why, will, with, yes, yesterday, you

Things – 400 General words
account, act, addition, adjust, advertisement, agreement, air, amount, amusement, animal, answer, apparatus, approval, argument, art, attack, attempt, attention, attraction, authority, back, balance, base, behavior, belief, birth, bit, bite, blood, blow, body, brass, bread, breath, brother, building, burn, burst, business, butter, canvas, care, cause, chalk, chance, change, cloth, coal, color, comfort, committee, company, comparison, competition, condition, connection, control, cook, copper, copy, cork, cotton, cough, country, cover, crack, credit, crime, crush, cry, current, curve, damage, danger, daughter, day, death, debt, decision, degree, design, desire, destruction, detail, development, digestion, direction, discovery, discussion, disease, disgust, distance, distribution, division, doubt, drink, driving, dust, earth, edge, education, effect, end, error, event, example, exchange, existence, expansion, experience, expert, fact, fall, family, father, fear, feeling, fiction, field, fight, fire, flame, flight, flower, fold, food, force, form, friend, front, fruit, glass, gold, government, grain, grass, grip, group, growth, guide, harbor, harmony, hate, hearing, heat, help, history, hole, hope, hour, humor, ice, idea, impulse, increase, industry, ink, insect, instrument, insurance, interest, invention, iron, jelly, join, journey, judge, jump, kick, kiss, knowledge, land, language, laugh, law, lead, learning, leather, letter, level, lift, light, limit, linen, liquid, list, look, loss, love, machine, man, manager, mark, market, mass, meal, measure, meat, meeting, memory, metal, middle, milk, mind, mine, minute, mist, money, month, morning, mother, motion, mountain, move, music, name, nation, need, news, night, noise, note, number, observation, offer, oil, operation, opinion, order, organization, ornament, owner, page, pain, paint, paper, part, paste, payment, peace, person, place, plant, play, pleasure, point, poison, polish, porter, position, powder, power, price, print, process, produce, profit, property, prose, protest, pull, punishment, purpose, push, quality, question, rain, range, rate, ray, reaction, reading, reason, record, regret, relation, religion, representative, request, respect, rest, reward, rhythm, rice, river, road, roll, room, rub, rule, run, salt, sand, scale, science, sea, seat, secretary, selection, self, sense, servant, sex, shade, shake, shame, shock, side, sign, silk, silver, sister, size, sky, sleep, slip, slope, smash, smell, smile, smoke, sneeze, snow, soap, society, son, song, sort, sound, soup, space, stage, start, statement, steam, steel, step, stitch, stone, stop, story, stretch, structure, substance, sugar, suggestion, summer, support, surprise, swim, system, talk, taste, tax, teaching, tendency, test, theory, thing, thought, thunder, time, tin, top, touch, trade, transport, trick, trouble, turn, twist, unit, use, value, verse, vessel, view, voice, walk, war, wash, waste, water, wave, wax, way, weather, week, weight, wind, wine, winter, woman, wood, wool, word, work, wound, writing, year

Things – 200 Picturable words
angle, ant, apple, arch, arm, army, baby, bag, ball, bank, basin, basket, bath, bed, bee, bell, berry, bird, blade, board, boat, bone, book, boot, bottle, box, boy, brain, brake, branch, brick, bridge, brush, bucket, bulb, button, cake, camera, card, cart, carriage, cat, chain, cheese, chest, chin, church, circle, clock, cloud, coat, collar, comb, cord, cow, cup, curtain, cushion, dog, door, drain, drawer, dress, drop, ear, egg, engine, eye, face, farm, feather, finger, fish, flag, floor, fly, foot, fork, fowl, frame, garden, girl, glove, goat, gun, hair, hammer, hand, hat, head, heart, hook, horn, horse, hospital, house, island, jewel, kettle, key, knee, knife, knot, leaf, leg, library, line, lip, lock, map, match, monkey, moon, mouth, muscle, nail, neck, needle, nerve, net, nose, nut, office, orange, oven, parcel, pen, pencil, picture, pig, pin, pipe, plane, plate, plough/plow, pocket, pot, potato, prison, pump, rail, rat, receipt, ring, rod, roof, root, sail, school, scissors, screw, seed, sheep, shelf, ship, shirt, shoe, skin, skirt, snake, sock, spade, sponge, spoon, spring, square, stamp, star, station, stem, stick, stocking, stomach, store, street, sun, table, tail, thread, throat, thumb, ticket, toe, tongue, tooth, town, train, tray, three, trousers, umbrella, wall, watch, wheel, whip, whistle, window, wing, wire, worm

Qualities – 100 General
able, acid, angry, automatic, beautiful, black, boiling, bright, broken, brown, cheap, chemical, chief, clean, clear, common, complex, conscious, cut, deep, dependent, early, elastic, electric, equal, fat, fertile, first, fixed, flat, free, frequent, full, general, good, great, grey/gray, hanging, happy, hard, healthy, high, hollow, important, kind, like, living, long, male, married, material, medical, military, natural, necessary, new, normal, open, parallel, past, physical, political, poor, possible, present, private, probable, quick, quiet, ready, read, regular, responsible, right, round, same, second, separate, serious, sharp, smooth, sticky, stiff, straight, strong, sudden, sweet, tall, thick, tight, tired, true, violent, waiting, warm, wet, wide, wise, yellow, young

Qualities – 50 Opposites
awake, bad, bent, bitter, blue, certain, cold, complete, cruel, dark, dead, dear, delicate, different, dirty, dry, false, feeble, female, foolish, future, green, ill, last, late, left, loose, loud, low, mixed, narrow, old,, opposite, public, rough, sad, safe, secret, short, shut, simple, slow, small, soft, solid,, special, strange, thin, white, wrong

September 10th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Easing buyers away from their existing suppliers

I think there are few things more frustrating than trying to sell to a buyer who is already happily buying from another supplier. You know you’ve got a good product or service, maybe even better than the competitor’s, but your buyer is perfectly happy as is.

Don’t give up. I’m the kind of person who will the same thing for lunch every day, so I relate to the buyer not wanting to change suppliers. But here’s the deal. If my lunch place puts the price up, or the quality goes down, or the staff suddenly change and are no fun, then I quietly go and find somewhere else to eat. Your buyer might well be just the same. Resistant to change, sure, but not impossible to change.

And things do change. If you are patient and work at it, you’ll become part of the buyer’s landscape too. When they become dissatisfied with the supplier they will come to you because they know you.

If you are working in sales (and if you have your own business you ARE working in sales) you have two issues to address – a) maintaining your existing customers, and b) finding new customers. You have to do this ALL the time.

In the same way that you are maintaining your customers, your buyer’s supplier should also be doing the same thing. The question is – are they better at maintaining than you are at finding?

Thing change, all the time. I like to take the approach that, “the supplier’s goods are good, sure, however, in the event that you’re looking for a new choice, this is what my product has to offer. In fact, here’s the comparison. Today so many things are much the same, so, let me point out the difference that makes the difference… and here’s my card. Call me, I’ll be standing by to help.” And I move on fairly quickly, to either service an existing client, or find a new client. It is vital though, to leave your doors open for communication. Under promise, over deliver.

If you come up with a new product, go back as soon as possible and touch base with the buyer. Could be just the thing they’re looking for. Service existing or find new customers. I’m also inclined to ask for referrals – if this is not for you, can you suggest someone who might be interested?

Buyers can also be interested in window-shopping – out of curiosity or comparison, or long term planning. They’re not making a decision today, or indeed any time soon, but they need to know what’s available for strategic purposes. Things change all the time. If you give the impression of being a credible performer you will have an edge over the long haul. Existing suppliers can grow fat and complacent – their service might lose some of the gloss over time.

Buyers also change – they move on for one reason or another. Their manager can equally move or change. I know very few people who are doing exactly the same job, in exactly the same way, that they were doing five years ago. Read the papers and trade journals to spot change – you might even get a chance to preempt it because of your excellent business intelligence. Keep up to date on the changes and diversifications in your field.

Quick Questions:
1. Do you know of an existing buyer/seller relationship that might be eased apart?

2. Are you calling regularly on buyers who buy elsewhere, “just keeping you informed?”

3. Do you thoroughly inform buyers of the benefits of your products?

4. Does this include delivering great presentations, even if the buyer is otherwise committed?

5. Do you stay up-to-date with finance/business intelligence via papers, net, journals?

6. Do you give outstanding service to your existing customers?

7. Do you ask for referrals? How about any upcoming changes in the buyer’s organisation?

8. How many new accounts have you landed in the last three months?

9. How many of these were previously serviced by another supplier?

10. Who is a prospect, right now, whom you think you can make into a customer? Call them, set up a meeting.

September 9th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment


Encouragement: Climbers

Encouragement: Climbers Art Print
28 in (711 mm). x 22 in. (559 mm)
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The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they need to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond the wildest dreams. We would have more than one Einstein, Edison, Schweitzer, Mother Theresa, Dr. Salk and other great minds in a century. — Sidney Madwed

Sometimes being in business can be incredibly lonely. If you are in a partnership and you are having issues with your business partner who can you talk to about it? If you are a sole trader things are even worse. Your bank manager perhaps, if she or he are genuinely as friendly as the tv ads suggest. Your accountant or lawyer – sure – have your wallet handy. It’s a good idea to join a local business association and seek out like minded company – note – get people with strong minds – misery loves company and you don’t need more company misery. I’ve done plenty of bar tending in my time – don’t expect me to listen to you weeping in your beer unless you’ve got a big tip to go with it. Despite that flippant comment, the way can be long and the burden can be heavy for some people, and you can make a difference.

We live by encouragement and die without it – slowly, sadly, angrily. — Celeste Holm

I’ve worked with so many people who have died in their jobs – slowly, sadly, angrily – bitter people who were once bright-eyed kids. Get up, get out of your swamp, and take some action. At the very, very least, offer a word of encouragement to fellow pilgrim. En – courage – to put courage into others. Be the difference in someone’s life – who knows, you might save their life with your encouraging words.

September 8th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Gross Profit to Mark-up


When you first start out in a retail business it can be tempting to friends and family discounted prices of things. Fair enough, they’re family, right? About 25% discounts seems about right, right?

That’s ok, so long as you have more than 33.3% mark-up on your product.

Do the sums. You buy something for $100. You add 33.3% markup – you’re selling the item for $133.30. Your friend arrives and you want to give a good price, so you say, “I’ll give you 25% off the sticker price.” You take off the 25% discount = $ 33.32. Your friend pays $99.98 and goes away happy. Not only did you make no profit, but you actually sold the product at a loss.

So what about the shops that sell things – shoes for example – at 70% off the sticker. Easy. They simply add 233.33% (and probably more) because they don’t want to sell below cost. Of course the item could be a lost leader – the retailer knows they will lose money on this item, because they can sell you other items while you’re there. Be assured, no retailer staying in business is selling below cost.

The secret of good retailing is good buying. If you can buy low enough you can take off huge, crowd inspiring bargains, and still make a good margin. It is the ultimate fusion of art and science.

September 7th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Creating a well rounded business

Becoming a well rounded person is an almost universally desirable objective – creating a well rounded business is also a desirable objective. How might you go about the process of creating a well rounded business? After all, you can’t exactly send your business off to finishing school, a gap year, or the big OE (Overseas Experience).

Take some time out and select some areas of your business to serve as initial headings. It’s ok to use a fairly broad brush at this point, you can drill down to more detail later. You’ll probably end up with headings such as sales, finance, accounting, strategy, communications, training, marketing, staff, R+D, plant and equipment, and so on. You’ll need to adjust the headings to reflect your business.

The next step is to rate where you and/or your business is at on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is equal to the very best. Because I’m a visual person, I like charts – create a radar chart (aka spider chart, star chart, clothesline chart, umbrella chart), and then from a distance you can see gaps, or signs of unevenness.

In this quick sample chart I built in Excel we can see the business sales are ‘lagging’ compared to marketing – these would be working in concert, and the measures we’ve used are little better than guess work at this point. In general terms it appears our company has got communications, finance, and accounting well in hand, the staff seem trained and ok, however, strategy, plant and equipment, and research and development (R+D) seem to be problematic. This doesn’t mean the business is necessarily in trouble – this is when you would start to drill down and find out more information.

Looking at this chart I imagine it could be of a manufacturing business that has been established for years, with long term staff and experienced management. The low points suggest ‘slipper’ levels of comfort (“We know what we sell, we know our market, we know how to make it and sell it at a good profit, and we don’t need any new computers to tell us this”). The company would probably hold good information about turnover, variable and fixed costs, gross and net profits, earnings, working capital, stock, debtors, cash, creditors etc; and perhaps rather less information about sales and marketing, and less again about the development of new products and/or business opportunities. Anything below 30% requires further investigation, however, none of this means anything is necessarily bad or wrong. It is possible for a well run niche business to have a chart like this, and be very comfortable all around.

Once the big picture is resolved, the next step would be to look at each of the topic areas, and tease out more specific information. In my case I’d chart them again, with subtopics forming the arms of chart. In the case of marketing I’d use the standard marketing mix split – price, place, product, and promotion – and then look at aspects inside of those topics in more depth. As an example, for promotion I’d look at the advertising (press, journal, radio, tv, point-of-sale, web, publicity etc) and see what information was available there, and then I’d take the numbers (0-100) and average them for the point on the chart.

Creating a well rounded business requires you to focus on areas for development without losing sight of the big plan. The object of the exercise is to find areas of your business that could do better, and then work on that area to improve it. It’s vital that you don’t ‘optimise’ one part of your business at the expense of another. In six months time, take another look at the overall business. If you keep the charts and overlay the images, over time you’ll see where the business has become more rounded. There’s a further benefit in this kind of regular review – again, over time – quality is likely to improve.

September 6th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

Everyday evolution

Malcolm McLaren (impresario and cultural plunderer) had this to say in Design, August 1981:

Now we’re entering a period in which fathers can be as childlike as their sons. Children will be teaching their parents at least as much as they learn from them. ‘People of all ages’, McLaren argues, ‘have been forced by the recession to adjust to the prospect of permanent insecurity and unemployment. The work ethic is being undermined and, in its place, fresh attitudes to leisure are evolving. People want adventure whether they’re 14 or 40.’

Recession? In 1981? Seems like we have a recession every 5-10 years these days. It’s worth having a look at McLaren’s thoughts nevertheless. In the west it is probable that insecurity and unemployment remain common prospects. In 1981 we blamed El Nino rather than global warming. It’s interesting that McLaren saw the work ethic being undermined, so much for the Gen-Y garbage.

Every day I see adults playing games on their cellphones, or sending txt messages in the same way they passed notes at school. I’ve seen more than one workplace monitor with a half finished solitaire – people being childlike.

Quick Questions:
If adults are becoming more childlike what goods and/or services can you offer?

Are adults becoming more childlike or more playful?

Nintendo Wii – I think it’s become the first intergenerational ‘toy’. Kids are trying to figure out ways to pry Gramps away from the bowling/boxing/fishing/tennis etc… high tech, high touch, low level learning curve – even using them for yoga – what could you offer to add value to this? Exercise mats? Extra software? Music to play along with? Apparel? Fragrances?

September 5th, 2008 | You are welcome to leave a comment

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