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

The future of our entry level workforce, gloomy

Our future depends on education





Our future depends on education

4 12 2007

Over the past months I have noticed a new trend among forward thinking governments.

Massive investment in education as a tool to increase their advantage in the world economy.

The trend is on supporting education, and countries are lining up and investing in education to insure they are poised to take advantage of the future.

Read this excerpt from Value Driven by Geoff Colvin in FORTUNE.

“We’ve known for a long time that this day was coming, and now it’s here: Countries are finally realizing that their future prosperity depends not on natural resources or even on financial capital, but on human capital. Companies have been battling for years to attract and keep the best people. Now countries are engaging in the same fight”

Read the entire article here: The battle for brainpower.

For years the USA, Europe and Japan had the money, universities and jobs that attracted talent, and paid for it.

These countries are filled with national and imported global talent, and the benefits can be measured in dollars and cents, Gross National Product, number of patents, and technological leadership.

Things are changing.

What happens when this imported talent stays home?

The ability to attract or retain top talent in a country will result in more patents, more and better processes and products.

The overall increase in education in a country plus the import of talented people, will provide huge economic benefits to a country.

Future economic growth, it’s not about cheap labor anymore.





Top states for business in Mexico – World Bank Report 2007

17 11 2006

I highly recommend that you download and read the Doing Business in Mexico 2007 report, released on November 15, 2006.

For anyone currently doing business in Mexico, or thinking about doing business in Mexico, this is a must read.

The World Bank Group has announced that “Doing business became easier in many Mexican states in 2005-2006, according to the new Doing Business in Mexico 2007 report, released today in Mexico City. The report finds that some states compare well with the best of the world, while others need much reform to become globally competitive.” – November 15, 2006

Quick results of the top ten Mexican states based upon the factors of; starting a business, registering property, obtaining credit, and enforcing a contract include:

  1. Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes (Easiest)
  2. Guanajuato, Celaya
  3. Nuevo Leon, Monterrey
  4. Sonora, Hermosillo
  5. Campeche, Campeche
  6. Zacatecas, Zacatecas
  7. Queretaro, Queretaro
  8. Michoacan, Morelia
  9. Sinaloa, Culiacan
  10. Mexico City (Most difficult)

A full listing of all the 31 Mexican states is available in the report.

Excerpt from the report: “If you were to open a new business in Mexico City, the start-up procedures would take 27 days on average, 8 days fewer than in Shanghai. If you decided to open a business in Guanajuato or Aguascalientes, you would have to wait 12 days—only one day longer than your competitor in Amsterdam. But if you needed to take a customer to court for a simple debt default in Guanajuato, resolving the dispute would take 304 days—far longer than the 217 days it takes in Dublin,1 but significantly shorter than in Baja California Sur where it takes 581 days. These examples illustrate two patterns. First, some Mexican states compare well with the best in the world. Second, many states need much reform to become globally competitive.”

Related Links

Press release on Doing Business in Mexico 2007 (PDF, 75KB)

Doing Business in Mexico 2007 (PDF, 1.26MB)

World Bank Report – Doing Business in Mexico 2005





Sourcing and supply chain strategy – Mexico

16 11 2006

Purchasing from Mexico and Mexican suppliers?

Don Gringo at Catemaco News and Commentary brought these items to our attention.

Sourcing in Mexico gets easier.  The article points out that doing business with Mexico is easier than in the past.

  • The proximity of Mexico to the US markets impacts communication, logistics, costs and time factors.
  • Mexico has a history of dealing with the US, and are familiar with competitive manufacturing techniques.
  • Relationships are critical to success.
  • Beware of stereotypes.
  • Take the time to find the “right” partner.
  • Do’s and don’ts for doing business in Mexico

Does your supply chain strategy include Mexico?  It should.  Al Brown president of SupplyMex writes that Mexico offers:

  • Logistics infrastructure, highways, rail and port system that has been improved over the past 10 years.
  • Free trade agreements with 42 countries.
  • Global production and quality standards.
  • Stable political and economic environment.
  • Skilled workforce.

Thanks Don.
Related Links

Purchasing.com

Why you should pay attention to free-trade treaties 

Maquiladoras in Mexico

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico





World Corruption Perception Index 2006 – Transparency International

7 11 2006

Interesting look at perceived corruption worldwide.

Transparency International has released their 2006 index of corruption perception on November 6, 2006.

Mexico lands at number 70 on the list, which puts it close to the middle of the pack out of a total of 163 countries.

Since 1995, Transparency International has published an annual Index of perception of corruption ordering the countries of the world according to “the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians“. The organization defines corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gain. ” – excerpt from Wikipedia Corruption Perception Index.

As this index is based on polls, the results are subjective and are less reliable for countries with fewer sources. Also, what is legally defined, or perceived, to be corruption differs between jurisdictions: a political donation legal in some jurisdiction may be illegal in another; a matter viewed as acceptable tipping in one country may be viewed as bribery in another. Thus the poll results must be understood quite specifically as measuring public perception rather than being an objective measure of corruption.

Statistics like this are necessarily imprecise; statistics from different years are not necessarily comparable.” – Wikipedia Corruption Perception Index.

Related Links

Internet Center for Corruption Research

Corruption Perception Index – 2006 (EXCEL)

Transparency International

Wikipedia





Mexico manufacturing, US inventories and safety stock

21 10 2006

Manufacturers are returning to Mexico after “experimenting” in the Asia Pacific region. Some of the big reasons for this return are ; to reduce time to market, eliminate the financial costs of inventories in transit, lower the logistics costs, and to strengthen the supply chain by moving closer to just-in-time deliveries.

But moving to Mexico isn’t going to solve all the problems.

A September 2006 article in CFO magazine points out how US businesses are increasing safety stocks “just in case”. Delayed in the USA The article points out how supply chain disruptions are being provoked by an increasingly saturated US highway system and bottlenecks in deepwater ports and railyards.

The good news is that Mexico is close to the USA, a truckload of goods can leave any point in Mexico and arrive at the US destination in as little as 4-5 days. The railyards and new multimodal Interior Port in Guanajuato, Mexico allow manufacturers to establish production facilities in the interior of the country. Exporters can now clear customs and load the sealed container onto the rail-car at the new (2006) high capacity Customs port located in the geographic center of Mexico.

The bad news is that unless the US begins to upgrade their highway, port and rail facilities, supply chain managers in the US will be buying and storing higher levels of inventory to assure continuity of operations, “just in case”.

Related Links

Delayed in the USA – Supply Chain

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico

AMPIP Mexican Association of Industrial and Business Parks





The future of our entry level workforce – gloomy

19 10 2006

Will our future entry level workforce be competitive and competent?

Are we ready to build a nation full of entrepreneurs and world class workers?

I highly recommend you read the study published by the The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, entitled:

Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce”

According to this study of 431 companies in the US, representing over 2 million employees in a variety of industries and geographic areas, the future is bleak.

“The future U.S. workforce is here—and it is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.”

The basic skills and knowledge identified and considered to be very important elements for future employees include:

  • English Language (spoken)
  • Government/Economics
  • Reading Comprehension (in English)
  • Humanities/Arts
  • Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Foreign Languages
  • Mathematics History/Geography
  • Science

The applied skills, which are increasing in importance as criteria for success in the future:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving—Exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking; use knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems; apply math and science concepts to problem solving.
  • Oral Communications—Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills.
  • Written Communications—Write memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration—Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts.
  • Diversity—Learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
  • Information Technology Application—Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task, apply computing skills to problem-solving.
  • Leadership—Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
  • Creativity/Innovation—Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work; communicate new ideas to others; integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Direction—Be able to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills; monitor one’s own learning needs; be able to learn from one’s mistakes.
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic—Demonstrate personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management.
  • Ethics/Social Responsibility—Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior; act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.

Excepts from the study:”Business leaders must take an active role in outlining the kinds of skills we need from our employees for our companies and economy to thrive.”

“As business leaders, we must also play a role in creating opportunities for young people to obtain the skills they need. Businesses can partner with schools and other organizations that work with young people to provide internships, job shadowing programs and summer jobs. Businesses can encourage their employees to serve as mentors and tutors. Businesses can invest in programs at the local and national level that have demonstrated their ability to improve outcomes for young people.
Finally, business leaders can use their expertise in innovation and management to help identify
new and creative solutions.”

We assume that our schools are producing graduates with fundamental business abilities, why isn’t it happening?

Are we going to accept that the training of the future workforce is in the hands of private business, and not the educational system?

What is the cost to business when new employees must be given remedial training, just to get them up to entry level?

What is your organization doing right now to ensure, or create talent for the future?

Read the study, pass it around the office and makes sure the boss and human resource people get copies.

This is no longer someone elses’s problem.

“ The numbers don’t bode well for the future—the future of our workforce. It is in our interest to help solve the problem. And business has the capacity to help solve the problem by partnering with education and community leaders to create opportunities for young people to practice the skills they need to be successful.” – Bill Shore, Director, U.S. Community Partners, GlaxoSmithKline

Related Links

The Conference Board: Are they really ready for work?

Are they really ready to work (PDF)

Most young people entering the US workforce lack critical skills essential for success

Young Workforce is “Ill-Prepared”





Global competitiveness 2006 – Mexico and China

11 10 2006

The Global Competitiveness Report 2006 – 2007 (Link), released by the World Economic Forum on September 26, 2006 has some statistics and rankings of interest if your organization is expanding into new international markets.

Based upon a mix of economic factors, information and the opinions of international business leaders, the report lists how competitive nations are in relation to one another, and compares this to last years ranking.

Mexico has clicked up a notch from 59 in 2005 to 58 in 2006.

  • Mexico’s ranking has remained broadly stable, moving up one place to 58. The country’s somewhat uneven performance over the various pillars of the GCI is shown by relatively high scores for health and primary education, goods’ market efficiency and selected components of technological readiness, e.g., FDI and technology transfer, no doubt reflecting the close links of the Mexican market to the US in the context of NAFTA. However, this is offset by the same institutional weaknesses as are prevalent in the rest of Latin America.”

China is the big surprise, dropping 6 points this year (48 in 2005, 54 in 2006).

  • “On the positive side, China’s buoyant growth rates coupled with low inflation, one of the highest savings rates in the world and manageable levels of public debt have boosted China’s ranking on the macroeconomy pillar of the GCI to 6th place – an excellent result. However, a number of structural weaknesses need to be addressed, including in the largely state-controlled banking sector. Levels of financial intermediation are low and the state has had to intervene from time to time to mitigate the adverse effects of a large, non-performing loan portfolio. China has low penetration rates for the latest technologies (mobile telephones, Internet, personal computers), and secondary and tertiary school enrollment rates are still low by international standards. By far the most worrisome development is a marked drop in the quality of the institutional environment, as witnessed by the steep fall in rankings from 60 to 80 in 2006, with poor results across all 15 institutional indicators, and spanning both public and private institutions.”

Related Links

World Economic Forum

Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness

U.S. tops world competitiveness index 2006





What can we learn from the piracy business model

10 10 2006

Here is a interesting way to view, prepare for and compete against businesses copying and pirating your content or products.

Piracy is a business model. Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, announced during a keynote address at MIPCOM. While her focus was on the pirating of media content, the same message applies for manufactured goods.

“It exists to serve a need in the market….. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We don’t like the model but we realize it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.

What’s so amazing about this?

Taking the piracy is a business model approach allows us to analyze the business model and how it is acting or reacting to the economic fundamentals in the market.

Instead of locking up our company secrets and seeking punishments for the pirates, we can analyze why and where our “competition” is taking advantage of us in order to strengthen and modify our business model.

None of this changes the actual situation. But it might change business strategies and planning when you realize they are competitors and they are here to stay.

What are the advantages of being a pirate, and the disadvantages?

Why are there opportunities for them? What should I be doing that I’m not?

How can I change my organization to take back the market from the pirates?

Once weaknesses in the piracy business model are identified they can be exploited. When strengths are discovered, they can be integrated into our own business model.

The fight against piracy should begin with a focused analysis of the market environment, existing business models and new strategies on how to adapt to the changing market conditions and exploit them to your advantage.

We can stop focusing on the individual “pirates” and their control or capture, and move toward competing intelligently against them.

Related Links

The easy way

The power of something extra

Netribution – Disney Co-Chair recognizes ‘piracy is a business model’

Boing Boing – Disney exec: Piracy is just a business model

@MIPCOM Piracy is a business model


 





The easy way

9 10 2006

Despite all the attention on the power of marketing in order to create and maintain a successful product and business, there are still many organizations and people who don’t want to, or don’t know how to market their products.

They want others to buy their product because they are less expensive than the competition.

It’s the easiest way to sell, requires no planning, no marketing, no effort on the part of the salespeople or the organization. Quick short term results.

Everyone is in the market with the same goods, all screaming and shouting for the customers attention. The customer finds the seller by accident or luck, and proceeds to bargain and negotiate for the lowest price in the market. Very colorful.

It shows a lack of responsibility, lack of marketing, and lack of imagination on the part of the seller.

The owners say: “We need more profit, cut costs and sell more”.

The sales managers say: “We can sell more, but the product is a commodity, what can we do, cut the costs and we can corner the market”.

Production says: “We’ll cut costs, get cheaper raw materials and tweak the design”.

Buyers tell suppliers: “We can try your raw materials or products and see if the market accepts that price, but you have to give me a better price if you want me to buy more”.

Salespeople tell the sales manager: “I don’t know if I can meet that sales quota, it’s not up to me, it’s up to the market to decide”.

Salespeople tell the customer: “We’re cheaper than the competition, buy now”.

The competition is doing the same thing you are.

The customer faced with similar products and lack of information says: “Give me the one that costs less”.

Where was the marketer during all this?

What should they have been doing and saying to the organization and the customer?

If your product isn’t distinct, different or better than the competition. If you are not educating your customer about the advantages of your products and services. You will never have to the chance to market your products.

You will only be able to offer them for sale.

Related Links

Seth’s Blog: Cheaper

The power of something extra

Sales and marketing terrorism





The power of something extra

5 10 2006

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more that what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

What defines an exceptional leader, a great manager, a super business, or remarkable experience? Something extra.

There are two words (one French and the other Spanish) that convey and represent the concept of something extra, lagniappe and pilon.

Lagniappe (hear it) is the word commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

Pilon is the Spanish word used in the southern US and Mexico to describe a gratuity given by tradesmen to customers settling their accounts, it’s something extra, and not expected.

Incorporating something extra in our actions, results and as a business philosophy can be incredibly powerful.

Something extra:

  • forces creativity and innovation.
  • demands clear understanding what is expected of us by others.
  • focuses our attention of adding value, and not on cutting costs.
  • is positive.
  • is rewarded with good will and positive reactions.
  • will lead to continual improvement.
  • is fundamental to continued success.

Something extra is all about the little things and details.

Something extra is not just something “free”, it must arrive without anticipation, unexpectedly in order for it to be special and make an impact.

Something extra allows you to surprise the customer.

Something extra will make think about your results and expectations. It will make the difference between simple compliance and outstanding results.

Something extra will make you and your results different from all the others.

Embracing something extra and applying it on a daily basis, will make you great.

Giving something extra is not a difficult task. It’s all about applying small acts of innovation and creativity to your results, especially for routine and day-to-day tasks.

The power of something extra can change your life, your products, your processes and how others perceive you.

“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step… the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: What ELSE could we do?” Dale Dauten

Related Links

Motivation – Heroic moments

What defines an exceptional leader





Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

27 09 2006

Globalization, transnational companies, global sourcing and outsourcing, free trade, do any of these terms sound familiar?

Obtaining products and raw materials for the lowest price possible is a fundamental concept in business. Today organizations are looking for manufacturers and locations worldwide where they can find lower costs of production in order to remain competitive.

Combine the factors of: quality control, low cost production, logistics costs, and the time involved to get the product to market from the factory, and you understand the challenge of doing business and sourcing products in today’s global economy.

To truly determine the final cost of the product, all these factors must be calculated. This will determine which country offers the best competitive advantage. Make sure you are analyzing any existing free trade agreements when you are seeking suppliers globally.

Free trade treaties between countries have a significant impact upon the final cost of goods. These free trade agreements eliminate the tariffs and taxes on imported and exported goods between the countries involved, depending upon their concentration or percentage of “local” or national raw materials (including labor), as specified in the free trade agreement.

Free trade agreements between countries are of great importance and value only if are exclusive and not accepted by all trading countries. The more free trade is embraced by the international community (through treaties or elimination of import and export tariffs) the less impact the current free trade agreements have in determining competitive advantages for a single country.

Here is a simple example of how the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) free trade treaty between Mexico and the USA, would favor the US supplier over a Chinese supplier.

Example of free trade agreeement competitive advantage:

US supplier to Mexico. If I want to purchase paint made by a US paint manufacturer and have it shipped to my warehouse in Mexico, my total cost to bring the goods to my warehouse in Mexico would be the cost of the paint, plus freight and customs clearing costs. There is no import tariff on this product due to the NAFTA free trade treaty. It would take 4 – 6 days to arrive in my warehouse in Mexico once the product has been shipped from the USA.

US paint $ 20.00 + Freight $ 4.00 + Customs $ 1.00 = $ 25.00 total cost of the US product in my warehouse in Mexico

Chinese supplier to Mexico. If I purchase the same product, from the same transnational company, but it is manufactured in China. Transportation time is 40 days from date product is shipped from China.

Chinese paint $14.00 + Freight $ 8.00 + Customs $ 1.00 + Import tariff (13% of CIF value) $ 2.86 = USD $ 25.86, total cost of the Chinese product in my warehouse in Mexico.

In this example the final cost of the product is $ .86 lower from the US supplier as compared to the Chinese supplier, despite a lower initial product cost. Factor in the financial cost and time required to move the product from the factory to my warehouse, and the lowest final cost in this case would clearly come from purchasing product from the US supplier.

Mexico’s aggressive free trade strategy

Since the 1990’s Mexico has bet heavily on international free trade agreements as a method to improve their competitive advantage and increase their manufacturing base and attract foreign investment.

Mexico has signed 11 existing free trade treaties and 2 complementary economic agreements with 42 countries. It is the only country in the world to have standing free trade agreements with North American and the European community.
The free trade agreements have greatly increased international competition (imports) in Mexico (good for the consumer).

Free trade agreements have allowed Mexican exports to increase and reach destinations and markets that were closed before due to tariffs and costs. There has been increased foreign investment from countries that desired to use Mexico’s free trade competitive advantage for international manufacturing and export projects.

The Mexican manufacturers and suppliers of the national Mexican market were given a “sink or swim” option. Virtually overnight (many of the treaties were phased in over a period of 3 – 10 years), their previous protected market was filled with imported goods (more competition, lower cost, higher quality).

Those that have survived the “invasion”, have had to improve their efficiency, quality and costs. Making them much more competitive in todays global economy.

Britannica’s Definition of free trade:

“Policy in which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports. A free-trade policy does not necessarily imply that the government abandons all control and taxation of imports and exports, but rather that it refrains from actions specifically designed to hinder international trade, such as tariff barriers, currency restrictions, and import quotas. The theoretical case for free trade is based on Adam Smith’s argument that the division of labour among countries leads to specialization, greater efficiency, and higher aggregate production. The way to foster such a division of labour, Smith believed, is to allow nations to make and sell whatever products can compete successfully in an international market.”

Related Links

Mexico and international free trade agreements





Mexico and international free trade treaties

19 09 2006

Mexico has signed 11 international free trade treaties and 2 complimentary economic agreements since 1993.

Mexico is the only country in the world with active free-trade treaties that cover North American and the entire European Community.

These free trade agreements have made Mexico highly competitive in terms of manufacturing for export to world markets, for the importation of raw materials for manufacturing and for the import of consumer goods for sale in Mexico.

The free trade agreements currently in place include:

  • TLCAN – Includes Mexico, USA and Canada – Initiated January 1, 1994 (NAFTA in English)
  • TLC-G3 – Includes Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela – Initiated January 1, 1995
  • TLC Mexico-Costa Rica – Includes Mexico and Costa Rica – Initiated January 1, 1995
  • TLC Mexico – Bolivia – Includes Mexico and Bolivia – Initiated January 1, 1995
  • TLC Mexico – Nicaragua – Includes Mexico and Nicaragua – Initiated July 1, 1998
  • TLC Mexico – Chile – Includes Mexico and Chile – Initiated August 1, 1999
  • TLCUEM – Includes Mexico and the European Union (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Cypress, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) – Initiated July 1, 2000.
  • TLC Mexico – Israel – Includes Mexico and Israel – Initiated July 1, 2000
  • TLC Mexico – TN – Includes Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – Initiated on March 15, 2001 with El Salvador and Guatemala and June 1, 2001 with Honduras
  • TLC Mexico – AELC – Includes Mexico, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland – Initiated July 1, 2001
  • TLC Mexico – Uruguay – Includes Mexico and Uruguay – Initiated in July 15, 2004
  • AAE Mexico – Japan – Includes Mexico and Japan – Initiated April 1, 2005

In addition there are Complementary Economic Agreements (ACE’s) in place with Brazil and Argentina.

Related Links 

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties 





How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

24 08 2006

The ability to analyze and make decisions is one of the most important qualities of anyone in a leadership and management position.

How to systematically analyze any situation

  • What does the information I have really mean or reflect?
  • What are the questions I should be asking in order to increase my understanding of the situation?
  • Who are the people who have the information and answers to my questions?
  • Ask the questions and accumulate the required information.
  • What are the fears, expectations, limits and points of view of the involved parties?
  • What have I learned, and what am I going to do about it?

Example: Imagine that your salesforce reports that customers are demanding delivery of your products to their store two times a day, at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, instead of the current delivery schedule of 3 times a week. What do you do?

Begin the analysis.

What does this mean? The customers needs or desires have changed. Our salesforce has detected a change in the marketplace.

What questions do I need to ask to understand this? Why is the customer requesting the change? Who requested the change, is it driven by costs, lack of inventory space, new management, competitors? What do our people think about this? What customers are requesting the change?

Who are the people with the information and answers to my questions? Your sales-force and logistics department. The CEO, purchasing managers and warehouse managers of our customers. Who is going to contact them and get more exact information about the situation?

Expectations and points of view of those involved? The sales-force knows that without this change they will lose customers and market share. The customer’s executives and purchasing managers have found an method to reduce inventory and stocking costs with your competitor. The warehouse managers are losing personnel and control and are unhappy. There are significant costs associated with implementing and operating the program. Your competitors are aggressively investing in order to take away your market share.

What have I learned and what am I going to do about it? You discover that a competitor is providing deliveries twice a day, and stocking the customers shelves, reducing costs for the customer. They have made significant investments in trucks and personnel in order to provide this service. Your top 20 customers are affected now. Failure to provide equal or improved service will result in the loss of the customers and your market share. It’s time to bring in the company decision-makers and create an appropriate solution and response.

Related Links

Was Peter Drucker right, is it all about attitude?

9 Steps to better decisions





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.




Build your organization, don’t destroy it

14 08 2006

Pragmatic business people know that strategies must be reviewed before, during and after implementation. Difficult questions must be asked and answered throughout the organization. Results analyzed and reviewed in order to identify flaws and errors.

Many times this exercise can push us into seeking and identifying problems instead of solutions. Too much time spent on what can go wrong and not enough focus on what can be created. Gridlock sets in, no solution is good enough, there is always a flaw.

All to often we find ourselves criticizing the work of others and the efforts that did not succeed as expected. We spend time taking things apart to find out what went wrong, and seeking to identify who was responsible for the “failure”. Our days are spent destroying the ideas of others.

Why not focus an equal amount of time on the positive aspects?

What did or will work, and why?

Creation is much more difficult than destruction. Support the creation of ideas and solutions in your organization, make your first analysis focus on the successful or positive aspects.

Ask yourself, “what am I creating today”.





Sales and marketing terrorism

10 08 2006

The recent media coverage of political terrorism throughout the world has me reflecting on terrorism and extreme sales and marketing tactics in the business world.

Every industry has individuals or organizations that use drastic, pointless, unethical or dangerous economic tactics in order to increase income or market share in the short term. This use of drastic and irresponsible actions can be called sales and marketing terrorism.

The goal of sales and marketing terrorism is to create immediate change, instill panic and chaos, or further the goals of one group who cannot or are not willing to work with the current system of rules, regulations and norms.

Many times the reaction to these isolated incidents will severely impact the industry, market or specific businesses. Reactions can result in increased government legislation, more government or industry intervention, increased costs of doing business, loss of revenue and reduced customer confidence in the organization or industry.

Some examples of “sales and marketing terrorism”:

A competitor who initiates a campaign of extreme discounts or low prices (dumping) in order to eliminate a competitor or increase market share.

A marketing campaign that uses lies and innuendo to reduce the reputation of a competitor or industry segment.

Products of extremely poor quality (below expected consumer beliefs or expectations) substituted for products known for their quality.

Don’t confuse sales and marketing terrorism with innovative ideas and paradigm shifts in how to do business. The difference is that a sales and marketing terrorist has no plan other than disruption.

Sales and marketing terrorism is a short term strategy or single event that has no regard for long term collateral consequences. They believe their actions will be justified because of short term increases in profit or market share. Rarely do they succeed, but often create chaos and disorder in the marketplace that have an impact on the industry and consumers that can last for a long time.





The “Lightning and Thunder ” sales and marketing strategy

7 08 2006

Thunder and lightning are impressive natural phenomenon that have the power to frighten, exhilarate, and inspire awe. We’ve seen severe lightning and thunderstorms hundreds of times, and yet can be continually surprised or shocked by the power and ferocity of the thunder and lightning.

Lightning is swift, if you blink you might miss it. It is always an unusual and unique form that appears in the sky. It is dazzling, it can light up the entire sky for an instant. We cannot predict where it will strike or what type of damage it may cause. It’s wild and uncontrollable. Unforgettable because it is unique, elusive and enormous.

Thunder always follows the lightning. You can’t miss it, whether it’s a sudden roaring clap or a booming rolling bass note. Thunder is often impressive, and one relates the sound of thunder to the power of the lightning bolt that precedes it. In fact thunder is all about power. It’s the announcement that lightning has passed through, and the thunder’s volume and duration represent an event that has passed away. People rarely forget a huge thunderclap.

Are you giving your customers thunder and lightning with your products, service, sales and marketing?

Do your customers see a brilliant “flash” from your organization, do they hear and feel the power of the thunder after the event?

Are you offering products or services that dazzle and amaze, that light up the customers sky for a moment?

Do they see the lightning and hear the thunder from your efforts?

If your organization is only creating cloudy skies or drizzle for your clients, it’s time to change and create something to make them sit up and take notice. Make some lightning and thunder.





The Cronos Syndrome – is it affecting your career?

27 07 2006

The Cronos Syndrome is a term used to describe the behaviour of managers who deliberately attempt to destroy the careers and successes of their subordinates.

Not to be confused with the Greek god Chronos, the god of time.

Cronos (Kronus or Kronos) was a Greek god (known as Saturn in Roman mythology), the son of Uranus, father of Zeus, he became ruler of the universe. He was told in a prophecy that one of his children would eventually dethrone him. In order to protect himself and stay in power, he ate several of his children at their birth, but eventually was tricked by his wife and Zeus was left alive.

The Cronos Syndrome affects managers who have been in their positions for 7 or more years, have moderate or limited education and suffer from moderate to severe personal and professionally insecurity. They fear and take action against persons under their control, who they perceive as threatening their power, therefore the comparison “they eat their young”.

It’s a frightening proposition to discover that your boss is out to get you….we all imagine they are…but how many are suffering from the Cronos Syndrome and actually are plotting and planning your downfall?

Related

Greek Mythology – Cronos

Greek Mythology Link – Cronos





First jobs and “front line” workers – are we willing to accept mediocrity?

27 07 2006

Everyone starts out with a job at or near the “bottom rung” of the career ladder; initial positions are often low paying, low level of decision-making required, repetitive and/or part-time positions.

These first jobs are often “front line” jobs and require the following skills and abilities in order to do the job well:

Retail – Discipline and punctuality, attention to detail, active listening, power of persuasion, work under pressure, time-management, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, problem solving, enthusiasm.

Restaurant, Food and Beverage – Discipline and punctuality, attention to detail, active listening, work under pressure, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, communication skills, and enthusiasm.

Manufacturing, Assembly Line – Discipline and punctuality, consistency, attention to quality, communication skills.

Services – Discipline and punctuality, consistency, communication skills, power of persuasion, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, problem solving abilities, enthusiasm.

It appears that the skills and abilities required for these positions are important and sought after for ANY position in the company no matter the title or salary level.

There is a massive difference in the quality of your experience when you interact with a superior retail employee, a motivated trained restaurant worker, or diligent member of a manufacturing company.  We all know this, so why are there more bad or neutral experiences as compared to the good or great ones?

Why doesn’t your organization spend more time on training, motivating and compensating these critical “front line” employees?  They are critical to the company’s image, sales and quality and eventual success or failure in the marketplace.

The argument used by many employers is that it doesn’t pay to train this level of employee.   Upper management is content and satisfied with paying low salaries, avoiding training costs, and live with high employee turnover…. and by logical association are willing to accept mediocrity and sub-standard performance in their organizations.

Perhaps the problem is not with the employer, but lies with the educational system.  Are we teaching and reinforcing the skills and abilities required for life and career success?  What is the role of our schools, to “baby-sit” for 12 years or prepare the minds and develop the skills required for success in the future?

Is it all about money? 

Are consumers and employers willing to accept mediocrity and poor service as a trade off for low costs?  

Is this as good as we want it?

Related 

First impressions, what can you do to change yours? 

Leadership is not about watching the competition