Thursday, December 29, 2005

Keep Those Water Cooler Conversations Under Control

With the national landscape swiftly changing, even the "water cooler" discussions about the prior evening's television-viewing have heated up from rehashing season premieres or the weather to highly-contested political debates and controversial government bailouts. Rich Masters, a specialist in teaching people how to prepare for televised talk shows, has several suggestions for keeping a cool head during these possibly heated discussions.

  • "Zing it!": Have one or two "zingers" ready, quotes that can help you break the ice or clinch the conversation. Think like Jon Stewart...have something amusing and memorable to add to the discussion that supports your argument.
  • "Don't Squawk Alone": Having someone like-minded to "jump in" gives you a chance to collect your thoughts.
  • "Give in-- a little": Don't be afraid to concede a smaller point to win the larger argument. Besides, being agreeable can throw your opponent off-guard as well.
  • "Stay Calm and Polite": As Masters explains, "If you are smiling it will leave the person with a positive impression." And luckily they cannot hear your thoughts.

Remember, injecting humor into a situation with a pithy saying or a witty retort, maintaining relationships with like-minded people, being willing to concede on the small stuff, and remembering to take conflict in stride will help you maintain relationships as you build a stronger business.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Are You Watching Your Numbers?

In the and post-Enron era, one would think stock inflation had been outlawed altogether. But according to the article “Soft Numbers” in The New York Times Don Durfee’s research in CFO magazine tell a different story.

Durfee reports that more than half of chief financial officers say they can legally influence reported earnings by 3 percent or more.

“When presented with various scenarios in which their companies would either beat or miss analyst expectations, a third of respondents said they would try to influence the results,” notes Durfee.

“If your percentage of sales uncollectible could fall anywhere between 2.1 and 2.5 percent with equal likelihood, you might choose 2.1 percent if you wanted to increase your earnings,” says Michael Peters of Villanova University School of Business. Peters helped survey 743 senior finance professionals worldwide, along with Rich Houston of University of Alabama and Jamie Pratt of Indiana University.

Finance chiefs don’t believe many auditors would report any manipulations, even if they caught them. Every company must ultimate make their own decision about ethics policies. But decisions made for short-term gain can have long-term repercussions. Keep that in mind as you work towards building a stronger business.