How to determine who is your best customer

21 12 2006

How do you determine who is your best customer or best employee?

The usual method is by analyzing revenue or sales.  The customer who buys the most, or generates the most profit is the best customer.

We almost never pin the “best customer” award on the client who pushes us, complains and forces us to change, unless they meet the sales volume or profit test.  It is exactly the “uncomfortable” customer who may be providing the new ideas required in order for your organization to survive in the future.

The same criteria applies to your employees and staff.  Who is the “best employee”?  Is it the conformist, the one who never makes any waves, never creates conflict or challenges your ideas?   The disruptor, the individual who questions and challenges the status quo,  might be your organizations best friend.

There are three types of organizations; one that creates the future, one that adapts to changes in the future, and one that fails to survive.

Your “best” customers and employees should be helping you prepare for tomorrow, not just sustaining your operations today.

Related Links

The Easy Way

Does your company like new ideas 

Individuality and chaos in the workplace 

Successful managers should be breaking the rules





Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

19 12 2006

I have just discovered the piece written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899, A Message to Garcia.

Inspirational and as relevant today as when it was written 107 years ago. A must read.

In 1495 words Elbert Hubbard has captured the essence of what being responsible is all about. A magnificent example of how independence, clear objectives and discipline can generate desired results.

Excerpt: “In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do!

Some one said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia.

How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia – are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”

By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing“Carry a message to Garcia!”…….. Link

The majority of analysis I have found related to this piece focuses upon the employee. How we all wish to have individuals who do the job, who don’t require complex instructions, supervision and followup.

Disciplined individuals who are able to adapt to unfavorable circumstances and maintain their sense of mission. People who get the job done without whining, complaining, negotiating outcomes and deadlines.

Take a look at A Message to Garcia from the point of view of the leader, President McKinley. Faced with the need to notify Garcia in the jungles of Cuba, he trusted one man, Rowan, with the nearly impossible.

McKinley was satisfied that his instructions were clear, and did not give Rowan tips and tricks on how to get the mission completed. He was confident in Rowan’s abilities, or was prepared to accept failure. There were no committee meetings, no majority votes, no back-up army or alternative plans considered.

Here are some questions related to mangement and leadership to reflect upon.

  • Have you surrounded yourself with capable individuals, and trained them?
  • Do you trust that they have the capacity and abilities to do their job?
  • Do your people understand and embrace the mission and objectives of your organization?
  • Do they know you will support their actions and in order to reach that goal?
  • Have you enough confidence in them to let them carry the message to Garcia?

Related Links

Leadership – who do you want to lead

Are we killing team performance by over-communicating

What defines an exceptional leader

Motivation – Heroic Moments

Wikipedia: Elbert Green Hubbard

Quotations by Elbert Green Hubbard

A Message to Garcia





Indirect messages and business etiquette in Mexico

28 11 2006

A comment from .hj highlighted an important issue when doing business in Mexico.  He wrote ” (Mexicans) will try to deliver a message using indirect messages and almost never telling things directly for it is consider unpolite”

Etiquette and formal behaviour is expected in Mexican business negotiations, especially with international clients or suppliers.   This will become more relaxed and informal over time, as the trust is reinforced and expectations are met on both sides.

It is all about mutual respect.

The formal rules and behaviours (etiquette) that enhance and create an atmosphere of respect have been broken down or eliminated in the USA, but in Mexico they are critical and very much a part of business dealings.

The Mexican business person does not like to create a confrontation or criticize openly, it is considered rude and ill mannered.  One should be very perceptive to what is being said by your Mexican partner, what is being avoided and the implications of each behaviour.

One should avoid open criticism of the Mexican partner.   They expect the same formality given to you, it is embarrassing and awkward if one begins to point fingers and rant and rave.

Make comments and observations about areas that need attention, strategies and solutions that must be adapted and challenges that must be met instead of criticism of past performance.  Discuss what is working and what isn’t working, but don’t personalize it.

You may not hear direct criticism of an idea or proposal, instead there might be suggestions of alternatives.

Your ideas, proposals and solutions may be greeted by nodding heads and smiling faces, but it may only signify that the audience is listening, and not in complete agreement.

Decision-making on sensitive or unpopular issues may be delayed and not openly debated.  Give your Mexican partner time to deal with these issues, and don’t force a decision in public.

If able to plan the meetings in advance, propose an agenda, and include the issues you need to discuss, or that require a decision.  Give them time to prepare for the meeting and the decision-making required.  Don’t demand a decision in an open meeting.

Lunches and informal settings are where the real business discussions and dialogues will take place, and even then, will be presented may be in a vague and non-confrontational manner.  Use these moments to explain and explore the ideas, benefits and alternatives.  Listen.

Present yourself and treat your business relationships as a well educated respectful gentleman, not like a threatening conquering warrior barbarian.  Participate, listen and react to business situations with poise, calm and politeness.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

How to speed up doing business in Mexico

Speeches and Protocol in Mexico





Christmas parties and holiday business gifts in Mexico

27 11 2006

The month of December is Mexico is filled with Christmas and holiday parties and social events.

The population of Mexico is 95%+ Christian and openly celebrates Christmas in private industry and government displays. Be aware that there are other religious groups in Mexico that do not celebrate Christmas in order to avoid offending suppliers or clients.

These Christmas and holiday reunions are usually mid-day dinners or late suppers. There will be get-togethers for friends, business acquaintances, associations and any committees or other groups that you might belong to.

There is also the company Christmas party.

Failure to attend the holiday events are noticed and considered rude. It’s better to arrive and steal away early than to avoid the reunions all together. Remember Mexico is a very socially oriented culture, failure to attend and participate in the social events will not help you, it might work against you.

Corporate and business gift giving is very important, and in many cases expected at Christmas time. The low end gifts range from the traditional; calendars and pens, agendas, calculators or other promotional type gifts to the higher end: fine liquors (Tequila, Scotch whiskey, Cognac, Red wine), fine food baskets, electronic equipment (Palms, IPods, etc.), gift certificates to restaurants, etc.

Unlike the USA, it is common in Mexico to give holiday gifts to the decision-makers in the purchasing department unless the companies have a policy against it.

Cut flowers or live plants are not considered an appropriate business gift.

Holiday gifts are given to important (and not so important) clients or to key people in the clients organization with whom you have a personal/business relationship (for example the secretary who answers all your calls or the logistics person who solves problems all year long).

Some transnational companies have tried to limit and reduce the amount and quality of business Christmas gifts in the past few years. It is not looked upon kindly by customers who always reflect upon the amount of money they have spent with the supplier, and believe the Christmas gift is a “thank you” and recognition of their support and loyalty throughout the year.

Work begins to slow down in Mexico at the beginning of December, and after December 12 (The Day of Guadalupe) efficiency grinds to a halt. It’s impossible to get major decisions, and many times difficult to locate business owners and managers due to events and social engagements.

Most Mexican businesses (not in tourist areas) are closed during the week between Christmas (Dec. 25) and the New Year (Jan 1). The Mexican government prohibits highway transport of certain goods and tractor trailers during this peak family vacation period.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico

Mexican official and unofficial holidays

Tipping guidelines for Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

Advice on what to expect when doing business with Mexico

Corruption, bribes, mordidas, tips – doing business in Mexico





Mexican politics – what business people should know

22 11 2006

In order to begin to understand Mexican politics (an impossible task), it’s important to learn some fundamentals of the political system in Mexico.

  • There is no re-election for political officials for the same post in Mexico. Current office holders can sit-out a term and run again for the same office, or they can run for another political post.
  • The political parties control the selection of party candidates who run for office, at Federal, State and local levels. Political parties, and their leaders are very important.
  • In order to be remain in politics one must please both the party and the electorate.
  • The term for the President of Mexico is for 6 years, with no re-election.
  • The term for State Governor is 6 years, with no re-election.
  • The term for Senators is 6 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for the Camara de Diputados (similar to the House of Representatives in the US) is 3 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for local mayor is 3 years with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for State representatives and local elected positions is normally 3 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • Changes in the Mayor, Governor or President, cause major reshuffling of bureaucrats and administrative officials. This causes a slowdown or “unofficial” shutdown of some government offices between the election date and the date of the new administration start-up.
  • The lack of re-election encourages and favors the current politicians and parties in power to seek out projects with short term visible benefits. They are pushed to show successes, infrastructure projects or other tangible benefits during their term of office in order to get promoted and elected to future political posts.
  • In the Mexican states with stable, well defined political party tendencies and majorities, there is more focus on medium and long term projects and planning as the benefits can be attributed to the party.
  • If selling a long term project to the government, it should include short term benefits, or tangible results, so that the politicians involved can claim credit.
  • Never try and initiate the sale or negotiation of a major project to the State government during the last 6 months or year of a Governors term. It will be stalled, and you will have to “resell” it to the new administration.
  • Get to know as many local and State and Federal political officials as possible, in 3 to 6 years they are all sitting in different positions of power and influence in the government.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico, Politics and Political Parties

How to speed up business decisions in Mexico

Patience, chaos and doing business in Mexico

Official websites of the Mexican states

Best States for business in Mexico – World Bank Report 2007





How to tell if your Mexican banknotes are counterfeit

18 11 2006

How to tell if your Mexican banknotes are counterfeit.

The handling of foreign currency creates a whole new set of challenges for the business or vacation traveller.

The Bank of Mexico has a webpage dedicated to explaining the security features of the Mexican coins and banknotes so you don’t get bamboozled. Verifying Mexican banknote authenticity

Learn about the security features in Mexican banknotes to eliminate the possibility of receiving “funny money” during your travels.

Security features in manufactured Mexican banknotes – A quick chart to help identify the security features in the current banknotes in circulation in Mexico.

Security features in the 20 Peso polymer banknote

Security features in the 50 Peso paper banknote

Security features in the 100 Peso banknote

Security features in the 200 Peso banknote

Security features in the 500 Peso banknote

Security features in the 1000 Peso banknote

If you believe you have counterfeit Mexican currency, bring it to the attention of a Mexican bank for verification. If the banknote is counterfeit you will not be reimbursed for it’s value, but you might avoid going to jail. Passing counterfeit currency is illegal in Mexico.

The US Department of State Consular information sheet for Mexico states A number of Americans have been arrested for passing on counterfeit currency they had earlier received in change. If you receive what you believe to be a counterfeit bank note, bring it to the attention of Mexican law enforcement.”

Related Links

Mexican currency, monetary policy and financial systems – BANXICO

Banco de Mexico – BANXICO – Bank of Mexico





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