Thursday, September 29, 2005

Trusty Texting

The article “All E-mail (All the time),” from Inc. illustrates the pervasiveness of Email in the workplace. Alpine Access is a company where employees are based in their homes and conduct business by phone and e-mail. Here are some principles that govern their interoffice email protocol.
  • Clarity is everything —important messages need to be carefully vetted for style, grammar and nuance before they’re sent.
  • Trust but verify — employees are required to acknowledge receipt of e-mails. Managers constantly check back to see that employees are in the email loop and not missing any messages.
  • Know when not to type —e-mail may be a great convenience, but for sensitive issues like work appraisals or conduct issues it’s far better to have a face to face meeting or a phone conversation.

Understanding the best way to use email across your company can help you build a stronger business.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Win More Business by Sharing the Risk

Motivating customers to buy your product can be the biggest challenge for a company trying to build its business. Inc. article, “…Or Your Money Back?” shows readers how they can transfer the risk of a transaction from their customers to themselves.

That’s the strategy Matthew Smith enlisted to develop his Shoes for Crews business. He offered to pay workers’ compensation claims to give peace of mind for managers concerned about injuries and workers compensation. It was too attractive an offer to resist and nine of the 10 largest restaurant chains buy the shoe brand or actively encourage their employees to do so.

Initially Smith put a $500 cap on the warranties but that was extended to $5000.

Introducing the warranty had an enormous impact on Smith’s business. Sales of his $25 to $75 shoes multiplied and he was able to secure impressive contracts with large companies.

Here are some suggestions for warranty offers:
  • Test your warranty offers on a handful of key accounts.
  • Do exactly what your warranty pledges you will do.
  • Fulfill your promises and clients will return.

By figuring out a way to minimize your customers’ risk, you can build a stronger business.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Offshoring Not a Panacea for Businesses

Inc’s article “Cost-cutting: Offshoring isn’t Such a Sure Thing,” highlights the downside of using contractors in other countries to reduce work and costs for businesses.

Offshoring may be one way to reduce costs, but companies report that it can cause problems as well as solve them.

A survey by Chicago based DiamondCluster International (now Diamond Management & Technology Consultants) found that the number of executives satisfied with outsourced IT vendors plunged 17 percentage points in 2005 compared with 2004 – the first decline since 2002.

Early termination of relationships between buyers and offshore service providers soared 51% in 2005, double that of 2004.

Delays in resolving customer issues topped the list of reasons for the dissatisfaction with offshoring.

Despite the growing level of dissatisfaction with outsourcing, 74% of participating companies said they planned to increase IT outsourcing in 2006 by reducing their domestic workforce and increasing overseas spending.

Building a stronger business means managing costs and that may mean offshoring. Before you make a move, however, thoroughly weigh the risks involved.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Etiquette for Entrepreneurs

The “Mind Your Manners” article from Inc. reminds us that thinking globally isn’t just a mantra for dealing with supply chains and foreign markets. You also have to be a bit of a diplomat to navigate the sometimes complex waters of foreign protocol.

After all, what’s acceptable in the US may be a grievous deal-breaking faux pas in other countries. All the business acumen in the world won’t save a business deal unless you mind your manners in whichever country your business dealings occur.

Here’s an introduction of protocol tips pulled from Norine Dresser’s updated 1996 book “Multicultural Manners”.
  • Business cards: When you accept a business card in Asian countries, writing on a card or shoving it in your pocket is considered insulting.
  • Desk etiquette: don’t lean against or place objects on the desk of a prospective Asian client; it’s considered disrespectful.
  • Deal-making: In China, Korea as well as many Middle Eastern and Latin American countries, don’t rush the deal. A decent rapport must first be established through informal meetings before the negotiations begin.
  • Public displays of affection: in the Middle East it is customary for men to greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks and holding hands between two men is common, but take your host’s lead.

Having insight into foreign protocol will win you respect and good sentiments in whatever country you do business, essential to building a stronger business.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Phishing Raises Risk of Online Transactions

The issue of PayPal security is addressed in a recent letter in the Ask Inc. section of Inc. For small businesses, PayPal can be a useful device for paying employees. But just like many software programs it can be manipulated by professional scammers. Although physical goods are covered by a seller protection policy, it does not yet cover digital goods. Here are some ways you can protect yourself by improving security.

  • Software can be easily purchased to plug PayPal security holes. Companies such as Cybersource offer antifraud services.
  • Flag orders for shipping addresses more than 50 miles away from the billing address for computer IP addresses.
  • Monitor customer behavior; check for any unusual transactions that veer away from normal practice such as someone whose orders average $50 per transaction suddenly jumps to $1000.
  • Call for verbal authorization.
  • Look at how much you spend on refunds and set aside enough money to cover them.

By protecting your online transactions, you can improve your customers’ confidence as you strive to build a stronger business.