Educating the workforce = strategic advantage?

5 12 2007

Yesterday I mentioned the move toward global government investment in education as a means to assume leadership status and to remain competitive in the future.  Link

Are individual companies dedicating resources for the education of their work force in order to insure future success?

There are a multitude of options available to the employer and employee in order to increase knowledge;  graduate degree programs, continuing education courses, specific industry training, seminars, conferences, short courses, books, magazines, blogs, the Internet, mentoring and travel.

How many formal or informal programs are in place at your workplace for employees to increase their knowledge?

Formal programs might include subsidies, grants, loans or co-participation in the employees education costs.  They might be specific courses run by consultants or experts, focused on improving specific skills.

Formal programs also include the participation in seminars, workshops, short-courses and other short term events.  They provide opportunities for networking, information, motivation and even a “breath of fresh air” from day to day operations.

How much money and time are set aside in your business for these education events yearly?   Why?

Who determines which events are important, and is there an evaluation as to which events provided valuable material and concrete results to the company?

Mentoring programs also provide opportunities to pass on knowledge, explore and share ideas in a “non hostile environment” and create valuable internal networks.
Informal programs for learning would include providing books or magazine subscriptions to industry press,  monitoring of industry blogs and the Internet for news and trends, attendance at trade shows and business travel.  These provide opportunities to receive new information, create dialogue, learn about trends and tendencies that are or will influence the business.

After any “educational” event, is there a formal feedback program that asks the employee “how can we implement this in our company” Link?   There is room for improvement here.

Will the continuing education of their workforce result in a more competitive future for the company, or will business always be able to “purchase” top talent in the marketplace without having to invest in education?

Related LinksSerendipity as part of business development

Maximize the impact of business conferences, seminars and special events in your organization

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Commoditization, is it happening to you?

28 11 2007

“We are living in an era where there are too many retailers serving too few customers and where there is no longer any brand loyalty or retail loyalty” Kevin Burke, President/CEO. The American Apparel and Footwear Association.

From this comment by Mr. Burke I believe the apparel and footwear industries are in the midst of an important struggle, to move away from their current status of a commodity business.

The winners will be those with strong design, distinct brand, and smart developed distribution systems. The same can be said for almost any current industry.

Too many retailers and points of sale? I doubt it. What I interpret from this comment is that there is intense competition between retailers, and instead of seeking exclusivity or innovation to attract and maintain customers, they are using the oldest,simplest trick known….lowering product prices and with it, the quality of the shopping experience.

It is a classic example of commoditization.

Manufacturers are also to blame. The rush to sell their product to high volume buyers insures loss of control of the marketing and retail channels.

The rush to sell everywhere, to everyone, at the same time allows and promotes price competition and price wars between the various manufacturers and retailers.

Too few customers? The real problem is overproduction. Current manufacturing focuses on high volume production and this encourages the standardization of product. The desire to reduce fixed costs drives manufacturers to seek out cheap world labor, increase productivity through mechanization (which encourages product standardization) and the outcome is a mountain of finished products, created all over the world, that are indistinguishable from one another.

Commodities. Most apparel and footwear companies focus on low cost, high volume manufacturing, they sell to wholesalers or retailers that also focus on volume. So suddenly branded products can be found in department stores, boutiques, grocery stores, flea markets and the Internet. The product is everywhere, consumers have learned that one should just look for it where the price is lowest.

This also makes it easier to pirate and sell a product to a growing network of sales outlets focused on offering a brand name for less.

No brand or retail loyalty?
If there is no customer loyalty (read as no perceived advantage to shopping with you versus the competition), and loyalty is important for continued growth, profit and success, then it’s time for a serious reevaluation of how one is doing business.

How can one stand out from the crowd, do something different and unique, and create a sense of exclusivity and prestige for the consumer?

This is the future.

Related Links

The easy way

10 top reasons for poor customer service and their solutions

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Are you listening to what the customer needs?





No shortcuts to being a great leader

27 11 2007

There are no shortcuts to effective sustained leadership.

It is not easy to be a leader, or to maintain a position of leadership.

There is no book, movie, seminar or short course that will turn one into a leader.

We can learn about certain elements of leadership that we may or may not possess, and incorporate these ideas into our lives and behavior.

But leadership is not about what information we possess, our good intentions, or a business title and corner office.

It’s all about what we show to others.

It’s about what we do.

Day to day actions.

Sustained leadership success comes from; listening, attention to detail, implementing ideas, perseverance in the face of adversity, willingness to embrace innovation, training and mentoring others, planning and risk identification, and the most important factor of all, providing a living example to others.

A true leader provides a model to others.

Leaders will consistently provide examples of; honesty, integrity, ethics, dignity, passion, diligence, capacity to learn, and unwillingness to be defeated.

A true leader will also provide examples of how to lose, how to accept defeat and move on, because leaders are not always winners

Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a way of life.

Related Links

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Top 10 reasons for poor customer service and their solutions

13 11 2007

Customer service, the interaction between the client and the supplier is an integral part of the purchasing and user experience, and as such, is the key to continued success in business.

What are the reasons for poor customer service?

Top 10 Reasons for poor customer service and their solution

1.    People are not trained.  When an organization does not spend the time to fully train their people the consequence is poor service.

Solution:  Dedicate resources (time and money) for training and reinforcement.   Employees should be fully informed about company goals, the products and services.  Emphasis and training should be focused upon the importance of listening and responding to the customer’s requests.  People can only do the job if they are given the right tools and objectives.  It costs money to train people.  It will cost more if you decide not to train them.

2.    People don’t care.  Selecting the correct personality is crucial for your business success.  Apathetic or self centered personality types have no place in a business that requires customer contact.

Solution:  Focus the selection and evaluation process to identify personalities that do not fit the required profile.  Get the wrong people out immediately, it also sends a clear message to everyone.

3.    Sabotage.  Angry or frustrated employees can actively work to sabotage and try to destroy the company.

Solution:  Keep honest and open communications with employees.  Informally and formally review performance, goals, objectives and feelings to stop potential problems before they reach the customers.  Get these people out of the front lines immediately.

4.    Employees don’t believe in the company, product or service.  If the image, marketing and promotion of the company is quite different from the reality, workers will not be able to sustain a positive attitude in the face of problems they know exist.

Solution:  Be honest.  Work closely with customer service, marketing and quality control to identify real problems and fix them.  Don’t let  marketing advertise over problems, solve them.

5.    Personal problems reflected in work.  When an employee’s personal life is in crisis or out of control, they may exercise control, aggression and negativism toward customers in an attempt to put some part of their life in order.

Solution:  Clear communications with employees:  If their personal life is affecting work performance, talk about it.  Time off, access to counseling or just listening may prevent more serious problems.

6.    Burnt out.  Too much negative, too many complaints can lower a person’s level of commitment and move their positive and helpful attitude to an apathetic one.

Solution:  Constant communication helps to identify who is burning out and why.  Get customer service people together to talk of success and how to deal with the frustrations.  Provide recognition or incentives for excellence in dealing with problems.

7.    Not providing the correct solutions to customers, lack of empowerment.    There is nothing worse than dealing with an employee who listens to a problem, then shrugs and says they have to ask someone else in the company to intervene and provide a solution.

Solution:  Give the people on the front lines the authority, power, tools and ability to solve problems.

8.    Don’t see the benefits – don’t understand their role in the company. 

Solution:  Employees project an image of the company.  They are the company.  They should be reminded of their importance and value to the customer and to the company.  Incentives, recognition, training and constant reinforcement are important.

9.    Apathetic from hearing the same problems over and over.  A fundamental role of the customer service division is to provide constant feedback on how customers view the company, the products and the service.  If this feedback is not analyzed and acted upon by upper management a feeling of apathy and frustration is created.

Solution:  Set up a model and procedure for the accumulation, analysis and implementation of solutions for the problems identified by customer service.

10.    Incentives/salary not tied to results.

Solution:  If you insist that the company depends upon people, and that people are the key to success, implement compensation packages, evaluations and incentives that support and reinforce this.

Related Links 

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Maximize the impact of business conferences, seminars, and special events in your organization

15 06 2007

Attending business conferences, special events, lectures, seminars, classes and courses are part of our professional lives.

Events provide great information, professional tips, up to date industry information, inspirational and motivational ideas, and fantastic opportunities to expand your business network.

Unfortunately not all the events are interesting, useful or entertaining.   At times it is a waste of time and money.

But the occasional great event is inspirational, we leave the room vibrating with ideas, enthusiasm, motivation and the desire to put the words and concepts to work in our own lives and business organization.

Two days later we forgot about what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, and why it was important.

Then we sign up for another event, and the cycle repeats itself.

How can we take full advantage of the ideas, knowledge and opportunities from business events?

To get the most out of these events a bit of planning and follow through will allow you to maximize this knowledge and it’s impact in your professional and personal life.

Before you go

  1. Main reason why are you going to attend?  Write down your reasons for attending; to gain specific business knowledge, exploration (don’t know what to expect, but it might be good), my boss thinks it might be important, seek inspiration or motivation, networking opportunities.
  2. Why do you expect to learn, or who do you expect to meet?
  3. Can you do anything to prepare before you go?  Contact people before you go, read works from the author or about the topic, prepare specific questions?

After the event

  1. Write a brief,  one page, executive summary.
  2. Include the name of the event, place, date.
  3. What was the conference/event about.
  4. Note any reference materials given at the event, where are you going to file or save them?
  5. What did you learn that is applicable to you or your business?  This might be a general concept, or specific information, it’s what you want to bring back and implement.
  6. Who else in the organization should know about the information or is affected by it?
  7. Who did you meet while there, full contact information, how can they be interesting to your business in the future.
  8. What follow-up required (thank you notes, contact specific people, more research, share it with others, file it, forget it).
  9. What should be investigated further, and who should do it.
  10. What does it take to implement or disseminate the idea or knowledge in your business (resources, people, attitude, commitment).
  11. Personal comments or observations, what did you feel.
  12. Retain all these executive summaries in a file titles “Events, Conferences, Seminars, Classes, Lectures” or something similar, organize events by date, subject or month.
  13. Review your summary in 30 days and note progress or lack of progress.   What happened or didn’t happen?

The key to maximizing the impact of a special event in your organization is to take a few moments to reflect upon your objectives before attending and then summarizing your learning, next actions and follow through required after the event.

Simple, focused and effective.

Highly recommended that each attendee from your organization be required or encouraged to keep such a file, and share it with their co-workers or managers.

Related Links

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Can we allow ourselves to work and enjoy it?

5 06 2007

 I’d like to work with Tim Smit.

I determined that halfway through an article in the BBC News article by Peter Day entitled  Tim Smit’s Monkey Business

I think it would be quite an experience.

A supportive and demanding environment, requiring the daily application of personal and professional skills.

Optimal results would be demanded, incompetence not tolerated and everyone would be focused on achieving positive and focused results.

Creativity and innovation are sought out and rewarded.

It might even be fun.  In fact I’m sure it would be.

Fun and rewarding in the sense that the people working with Tim are doing what they want do to, have the skills to do it, they work with people they like, and are focused on achieving something, together.

That’s a great definition of my ideal workplace.

Take a look at some of his management “rules” for his current project, The Eden Project

  •  Wants to work with people he likes, interviewers must provide a 10 minute performance of something entertaining
  •  Seeks extroverts with opinions, not seeking “yes men”
  •  Job interviews take two days and include potential subordinates
  •  Don’t make important decisions at work, do it over dinner or a glass of wine when you are relaxed and more “human”
  • Take responsibility for your job and actions, don’t pass it on to others
  • Once a year make dinner for your co-workers, read a book you don’t want to read and report on it, forced activity in order to broaden your horizons

We focus too much on specific business skill sets and abilities in business and management as a “guarantee for success”.

We forget that we are human beings, and work and interact with other human beings.

Business is all about participating in a community.

If you, your product or your service is wanted and desired by the community, they purchase it, a profit is probably generated.

We are successful.

Is there anyone who comes to work and doesn’t think they have to have the skills to do their job, to interact with others as a team, and be productive?

Do we need to hammer this into our people any more?

A little fresh air, creativity and innovation is in order.

Time to create a community and social organization, with the goal of creating a product or service.

Creating an active, open environment where ideas can be developed, forcing ourselves to learn new skills, having a relationship with those around us,  great ideas.

Keep on eye on Mr. Smit, his project and his ideas.

Some sort of financial, social or commercial success for his project will turn his ideas loose upon us and maybe change the world.

I can hardly wait.

Related Links

Tim Smit’s Monkey Business 

The Eden Project 

BBC Four Profile – Tim Smit

Successful Managers should be breaking the rules

Weird ideas that work 

Are you on the right team? 





Give this away

30 05 2007

Right now I’d like you to copy, paste, print, and send the following quotation to everyone in your company.

Post it on the front door and in the break room.

Put it on every desk.

“Maybe the reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is…… that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” Seth Godin Seth’s Blog: Price

Send it to all your suppliers.

Sure to start some discussions, finger pointing and overdue dialogue about the product or service you’re providing.

What do your customers think they are paying for why they buy your product?

What do you want your customers to CARE about, and pay for, when evaluating the purchase of your product?

What are you doing to make this happen?

Related Links

Seth Godin’s blog: Price

The power of something extra

The Easy Way