Thursday, December 28, 2006

How Can You Show Auxiliary Benefits of Being a Customer? “Way Station” Gives AmEx Members a Second Wind

Christmas shoppers dragging their feet in the throes of holiday shopping were given an upgrade by American Express, which has introduced an upgrade to the shopping experience, according to The New York Times article, “For Card-Carrying Members, Lounging at the Mall.”

A 3,400 sqft lounge for weary, thirsty customers at the Mall at Short Hills is a variation on the airport lounge; it includes Internet access, cell phone charging areas, coat checks, a bathroom and gift-wrapping service.

“This is a test our way of demonstrating why it’s important to keep that card in your wallet,” said senior vice president and general manager of membership rewards for American Express.

Nothing like a little brand reinforcement through generous rewards to help you build a stronger business.

Abracadabra Paper Under Development

The Philadelphia Inquirer article, “Putting It on Paper — Temporarily,” reveals that company security and paper management issues may be significantly reduced if Xerox’s latest invention is green-lighted.

The document management company has developed a paper technology in which ink will disappear after 16 to 24 hours. A spokesman for the company said the paper could be reused 20 to 50 times. The paper relies on chemicals that alter color when exposed to a printer’s light and then fade.

“What people really want is an enhanced paper product…The idea is you can do all the things you normally do like organizing in piles and putting the high priority stuff on top,…while feeling good about not killing trees,” said Eric Shrader Xerox principal researcher for the project at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center.

A paper that reduces your storage needs and helps the environment; sounds like a good tool to help build a stronger business.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Build a Stronger Business Through Ethical Behavior

In the Parade article “World’s Top Bribe-Payers,” the most corrupt places for doing business are revealed.

Transparency International questioned more then 11,000 businessmen to discover which nation’s businessmen are the most likely to take bribes. The least likely bribe-takers live in Sweden and Switzerland. Here are the worst offenders:
  1. India
  2. China
  3. Russia
  4. Turkey
  5. Taiwan
  6. Malaysia
  7. South Africa
  8. Brazil
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. South Korea

Be on your guard and tread carefully if your quest to build a stronger business takes you to these countries.

Best of 2006 from Scientific American

In the Offline section of The New York Times the article “Best of 2006” insurance company Swiss Re was singled out for praise by Scientific American in its 50 best of 2006 for its “history of sensitivity to climate change concerns”.

Three years ago the company established a 10-year plan to become greenhouse neutral to “reduce or offset the net carbon emissions of its employees to zero.”

Having a positive environmental policy can help you build a stronger business.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What Does It Say When the Boss Yearns for Competitors Products?

The New York Times article “The Power of Heresy,” from the What’s Online section reveals that leaked emails may be embarrassing, but they offer a revealing glimpse of a company executive’s mindset.

When Microsoft Windows Development Chief Jim Allchin opined in 2004 in a message to Microsoft Windows chief exec Steven Ballmer and chairman Bill Gates that he would buy an Apple if he didn’t work for Microsoft, it was no exception.

“In my view we’ve lost our way,” decried Allchin.

Almost three years after his email was leaked, Allchin acknowledged that his dramatic email message was intended to raise the alarm that things must change or else the future will be grim. It attempts to jerk the upper management awake by acknowledging it can no longer afford to stick to the script of the status quo.

While there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on the competition, it’s your own product that should be your primary focus. It bares thinking about as you work to build a stronger business.

Weak Links in Your Chain?

You can be one of the best companies around, but one of the best ways to distinguish yourself is how you handle complaints as revealed in The New York Times article “You Got Served,” from the What’s Online section.

So many companies get it wrong, particularly large companies. There are just so many layers of bureaucracy that individuals can get lost in the shuffle.

Look at Dell. They are a large, profitable company. Yet Pat Dori of Hackensack, NJ could not get the corporation to fix her broken laptop. So she sued. But instead of filing the suit with corporate headquarters in Plano, TX, she filed the court papers with a Dell shopping mall kiosk.

“Quite unsurprisingly, no one from Dell turned up in court on the stipulated date,” wrote Conrad Quilty-Harper on a personal technology blog. Dori took home $3,000 for a default judgment It can be difficult for customers to find their way around a large, unwieldy company, especially if they want to file a complaint.

If you want to build a stronger business, always address your customer complaints, no matter how large or small they may be.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Savvy Buyers Look at Total Cost of Ownership, Not Just Purchase Price

While there may be nothing new about sourcing low-cost merchandise overseas and reselling it for higher prices in another market, the Internet has accelerated gray market growth, according to USA Today article, “Some See Red Over Gray-market Goods”.

The surge in online shopping in recent years has spurred the development of lots of e-tailers that resell goods sourced from abroad. The Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement values the tech product gray market at $40 billion

Not surprisingly, technology companies such as Sony despise the practice. Many companies such as Nikon have initiated policies to discourage consumers from turning to them with their gray market gadget woes.

Here are some strategies you can adopt to protect your business.
  • Shop only with reputable merchants
  • Be aware
  • Ask questions
  • Be wary of pricey extras
  • Use a credit card
  • Check your product carefully once it arrives

If you source your products wisely and consider these pointers you can build a stronger, more secure business.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Changing Your Name is Easier than Changing What’s Associated by your Business Name

The article, “Final Take” from the What’s Offline section of The New York Times, calls attention to KFC’s branding strategy.

Sometimes the bigger the brand, the bigger the sign needs to be in order to be viewed from space. Still, when people see KFC as they orbit the earth, at least there’s a good chance they won’t associate it with trans fats. That’s how the people behind KFC’s 87,000sqft sign in the Nevada desert might see it, in any case.

The sign shows the company’s new logo in all its Colonel Sanders glory. For the terrestrials among us who send snail mail, KFC is also lobbying for a postage stamp of founder Harland Sanders.

Whatever the associations of its fried goods, the company has worked plenty hard to shift the media focus from fried food and health to branding exercises, generating lots of publicity for the company. It will be interesting to see if KFC’s branding strategy helps it build a stronger business.

Know These Costs – May Be Easier than You Think

The article, “What’s in a Name” from the What’s Offline section of The New York Times gives some useful peek behind the scenes of the data brokerage sector.

Like most industries, data brokers see people as valuable commodity for their businesses. But would you care to know the price tag?

Quick and Simple’s Dave Ramsey has done the math and this is the per head value:

  • Bankruptcy details run $26.50.
  • Workers Comp history runs $18.
  • Unpublished phone number is $17.50.
  • Date of birth fetches $2.

If you know the exact value of getting database information, it can provide vital tools for helping you build a stronger business.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Stingy by Nature

According to a journal article in Science, when it comes to money, sharing isn't our natural impulse. Benedict Carey reports on this claim in "Just Thinking About Money Can Turn the Mind Stingy," in The Wall Street Journal. In an experiment involving 52 undergraduates, individuals who were primed to think about money worked on a difficult problem longer and were less likely ask for help or offer help. These "money thinking" students also placed themselves physically father from other people in a room (16 inches farther apart). The researchers in this experiment suggest that the effect of money on people's interactions can be seen in everyday life, as those with financial resources often hire people instead of asking acquaintances for help. George Lowenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, says "'this study shows its pernicious side, how the pursuit of money can be isolating.'"

Build a stronger business by emphasizing aspects of business other than money.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pick Well When You’ll be in Tight Quarters

Extreme work environments call for a rigorous vetting system. No matter how much enthusiasm people might have for, say, working on a submarine, they may not be suited for it. But after the submarine has left port and after it descends several thousand leagues below the surface, it’s too late to make those conclusions; pre-testing is a must.

When the United States Navy fills the ranks of its submarine crews, it depends on detailed psychological screening for its officers and enlisted men to determine who is the most vulnerable and place them in a position better suited to their abilities.

An intimidating 250-question evaluation is administered and from this, 27 aspects of mental fitness are evaluated and compared with previously tested students. The screening is designed to weed out the obvious – people with claustrophobia, as well as those vulnerable to depression, isolation, anxiety, depression, aggression and suicidal thoughts.

If you take the time to properly screen your employees, you can filter out ones who don’t match your expectations or work environment and you’ll build a stronger business.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mind Over Money Goes Further

Money. Sure it provides you with merchandise, keeps a roof over your head, puts food on your table and keeps the tax man away. But the real incentives are things we reward ourselves with for good work. Travel or a piece of furniture has a trophy value in a way that cash on its own does not possess.

A reward in the form of a vacation to a tropical paradise can offer mind share – a psychological boost and improved attitude.

Staci Fleecer, a marketing team group leader with ITA Group, says timing is an important consideration to generate mind share from your initiatives. If the goal is to educate, gain mind share or change attitudes, motivation or behavior, it can be more effective to reinforce those efforts over a long period of time such as between six to 12 months.

Often a psychological pay-off can be more effective than money when you are working to build a stronger business.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Survey Reveals that Ethical Aspirations Do Not Always Jibe with Reality

The majority of people would prefer to deal with ethical companies even if they charge higher prices, but given Americans’ passion for bargains is that really true in practice?

Hubert B. Herring’s article in The New York Times, “A Company’s Ethics Do Concern Shoppers (Or So They Say)” looks at a survey of 2,000 adults in December 2005 by Opinion Research for LRN a consulting firm for business ethics and governance. It revealed that 74% of participants said they would prefer to buy products from a company with ethical business practices and higher prices. About 18% said they would opt for products with cheaper prices from a company with questionable business practices.

Herring muses that the results reveal a basic tenet of human nature — that people would like to believe they are principled enough to avoid the lure of a cheap price tag.

If you appeal to people’s better nature and understand the market realities that drive consumer purchases, you will build a stronger business.

Dig Up Some Good Prospects

The Internet is a veritable goldmine of leads, prospects and networking with other prospectors. Here are some useful urls to get you started.
The website encourages business owners and salespeople to meet up and trade leads. Weekly 75-minute meetings provide a forum in which members make a brief presentation and exchange leads collected the previous week.
Contact: 1-800-783-3761
For getting mailing listings this is the place to go. Go to DMA Service Locator Database to track down 1800 supplier listings and service providers. Contact: 212-768-7277
Provides access to 360,000 U.S. manufacturers and their decision makers. Users can hyperlink to relevant companies and download leads to contact management software such as GoldMine or SalesLogix
Contact: 1-800-888-5900
Dun and Bradstreet’s website offers a customized approach for users; a cross sell model evaluates whether the customer is a good prospect. Another feature identifies common characteristics of a user’s most successful customers.
Contact: 1-800-440-3867

By equipping yourself with the best prospect leads and networking websites you can add to your resources and it will help you build a stronger business.

Monday, October 30, 2006

How to Really Scare Away Business

Skype provides a cheap way for people around the world to make phone calls through the Internet. So a move by the United Arab Emirates to shut down the Internet phone provider was greeted with outrage.

The crackdown was unannounced and prompted by Etisalat, the primary telecom and Internet provider for the Emirates. The company was losing money to Skype and other Internet phone companies. Its rationale for the shutdown was that Skype and other Internet phone companies had no license to sell phone service in the Emirates.

The local press went wild. An editorial in a newspaper considered to be pro-government, Gulf News, complained that the ban would stifle technology that should be embraced. Expatriates railed against the shutdown and complained it hurt foreign businesses and families.

Predictably, Etisalat’s profitability rose after the ban. Its second quarter profits jumped $403 million, 30 percent more than the same period a year earlier. Its third quarter profits were even more spectacular at $427 million, a 41 percent increase.

But the UAE is far from the only country to ban Internet telephony. Bahrain is the only Gulf state that has not made the service illegal.

Harvard law professor John Palfrey, who has studied Internet censorship, says he has received several reports of Internet telephony blockage or censorship in a wide variety of countries from North Africa, China, Southeast Asia and former Soviet republics.

Palfrey says blocking efforts by countries ultimately fail because people will always find ways around a ban. He advocates finding ways to monetize the new technology even at the expense of the “old industry”.

Unfair bans may kill competition, but they also prevent the betterment of business. If you have competition, there is constant pressure to improve your services and technology; the customers win and so do the best businesses. As with any decent service, if it’s good enough people will find a way to use it. If you learn to compete with strong competition, you’ll build a stronger business.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Greatness is within reach if you're willing to pay the price

The cover story of Fortune magazine, What it Takes to Be Great, validates the message of hard work in a chosen area over a period of time.

Greatness is within reach of those who are willing to pay the price of discipline, hard work, focus, and applied effort. Talent helps, but it's not the barrier to great achievement that many make it out to be.

A book gets written by creating hundreds of thousands of characters on a page, one after the other. There's no shortcut.

A company gets built one customer at a time, one employee at a time, one product at a time.

Tony Robbins observed that most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade.

Focus on what you can do today to build a stronger business and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish over time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Catalog Crisis

If the catalogs you receive in the mail are piling up higher than your interest in them, it may be time to call in the specialists.

Instead of taking the time to write to each catalog firm to cut you from their mailing lists, several companies provide time-saving devices to cut out the catalogs. You can save time on your letter-writing campaign by visiting website which provides free letter templates that users can download.

Abacus Alliance lets users request removal from their database – run for mail order companies. The Direct Marketing Association also has the power to remove you from its direct mail listings. You can either request the deletion by mail or at its website If you shell out a $1 registration fee, the catalog deliveries will stop.

By using your time for busywork efficiently and effectively, you will have more time for higher priorities and you’ll build a stronger business.

Reduce with Vitamin C

Taking 500mg of Vitamin C can help you burn more fat when you exercise, according to a study published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

People who took Vitamin C supplements while exercising burned 39% more fat than people who took less Vitamin C.

Supplements are necessary because mere fruits and vegetables do not provide the Vitamin in sufficient amounts.

If you take the advice of medical experts you’ll improve your health and you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Retaining Customers is Everyone’s Business

People departmentalize companies for the sake of efficiency, but by doing so they lose something in the process. People need to think of the company as a whole business where everyone understands each other’s roles and shares a common goal – the success of the business. They also need to grasp that having a vested interest in each other’s success is to the company’s benefit.

  • Share Goals
Shared goals are critical for encouraging people to be on equal footing. If one department’s staff feel subservient to another it creates friction and competition which run counter to the objective. But establishing shared goals takes time. For a mid-sized company of 1,000 to 2,000 employees it can take 18 months.

  • Understand the company
If your staff doesn’t understand the company they work for and the internal mechanisms that make it hum, how on earth will their customers? Effective communicators will be able to transmit what clients’ expectations are and what promises can realistically be made.

  • Improve relationships
Make sure the message of shared goals does not simply become a director vs. support staff issue. Otherwise your company will be divided by the perception that there’s a disconnect between the executives and the rest of the staff.

  • Make the most of current data
It’s estimated that most companies lose 10 percent to 30 percent of their established customers each year. Listen to your current customers and respond to their needs. Every company needs prospects but it’d important not to lose your customers once you have them. Listen to what they tell you. Measure current customer retention, review account goals and referrals. It may take two or three years to reverse the trend, but stay with it.

  • Sell results
Do you research and get figures from middle management to get executive level support. If you can demonstrate to them that there are problems affecting the bottom line, but ones that can be corrected to the benefit of the company, you’ve got their ear.

By getting everyone to see they share a stake in the business by understanding how it functions, you’ll build a stronger business.

Tread Sensibly

Good advice never goes out of style, especially when it comes to footwear. For your walking regimen the shoe you buy needs to be flexible for the ball of your foot but not the arch. You should also ensure that the heel is cushioned.

Melinda R Reiner, DPM, advises in Bottom Line article “Your Fitness” that people should make shoe purchases in stores with sales staff on hand to help rather than relying on the Internet. There should be a thumbnail’s width between the end of your longest toe to the end of the shoe. When you have your shoes fitted, wait until late afternoon, if possible, because your feet tend to swell during the day.

How do you know when you’re due for a new pair? When the interior padding loses its cushioning and stability which happens when you’ve walked 500 miles in your shoes.

By shopping sensibly, you can make the best of your purchases and you’ll build a stronger business.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brother, Can You Spare Some Megaflops?

Who would have thought an idle computer could be productive let alone produce the kind of power you could only find in a supercomputer? But when a team of scientists at Stanford University called for extra power, some charitable computer owners responded.

Some linked into a screensaver website.

By harnessing the power of 40,000 Folding@Home screensaver users, the university scientists were able to replicate the power of a supercomputer. They used it to map the folding sequence of proteins to arm them with greater insight into incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Sometimes you can find help and energy from the most unlikely sources. By taking an unconventional approach, you can build a stronger business.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How to Scare Up Attention

Ghoulish stories, ghost hunters and amusements are some of the pickings of Halloween websites catering to the not so niche market of people who want to be freaked out.

A website for self proclaimed ghost hunters, reveals the proof of ghost sightings and includes an introduction to the subject through a link to South Jersey Ghost Research’s website called Ghost Hunting 101.

Reviews of horror movies and books, interviews with film makers and authors are the focus of website . This website also offers a link to horror interviewer “The Gravedigger.”

There is a website that tackles almost every aspect of the horror industry in a collection of links to the supernatural. One website offers users theatrical contact lenses. A website that caters to the vampire obsessed – Bite Me magazine.

If you have a specialized audience, you can use the Internet to bring would-be customers together and you’ll build a stronger business.

Budget Your Reading

The old-fashioned book swap is alive and well on the Internet. Two websites allow users to trade paperback books. Users of and list books they want to trade and browse the websites for new interests. The only cost to users is the postage on the books they send – less than $2.

By taking advantage of budget-minded websites you can improve your business acumen one book at a time, save money and build a stronger business.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Send a Piece of Yourself in an E-mail Message

The next time you send an e-mail you can turn it into a 3-D experience by including a video message. Springdoo’s website, offers users the ability to send up to three minutes of video or 10 minutes of audio to anyone free of charge. You need to have a web cam and a microphone set up to create the messages. Although the website will deliver your email, receivers need to follow a link to get the video or audio message.

If you punctuate your e-mails with a personal flavor, you can ensure your recipients are seeing or hearing the real you. By adding another layer of security to your e-mail, you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take Care in the Hospital

Hospitals save lives but the people who administer treatment to sick people aren’t infallible. According to a study by healthcare rating company HealthGrades, up to 195,000 patients die each year in U.S. hospitals because of medical errors. Here are some tips that you or family members can follow to stay safe.

Make sure you have a list of prescribed medications with dosages. You can get a list from the attending physician. When you’re given a pill or intravenous (IV) bag, ask what you’re being given and check to see that it’s on your list of prescription medication. It’s healthy to be curious without undermining the authority of the physicians trying to treat you. Ask them to explain what each medication does and double-check that the drug provider knows your name and birthday.

Some drug names have similar spellings – make sure you are getting the right prescription.

If you are having an organ or limb removed, write on the correct appendage “this one”, to ensure there is no confusion in the operating room.

Inform the doctor or nursing staff if you are allergic to any medication and make a note to this effect by your bed.

Avoid elective surgery in July when interns, residents and medical school students start their assignments at teaching hospitals. If you do get an intern or resident and they want to perform a common hospital task, ask them how many times they have done this task before.

Establish a rapport with the medical staff. Take a friendly interest in them and they will be more likely to do the same for you.

Save questions for your attending physician as answers received from other medical staff are less likely to be definitive. Avoid having an unlicensed assisting personnel or nurse assistant insert an IV or catheter or change a sterile dressing. If you don’t see a name tag identifying the person’s role, ask them what their training is.

Unless it is emergency surgery, you shouldn’t necessarily settle for the first doctor offered.
Find out if they are board certified using website – the American Board of Medical Specialists. Registration is required but free.

Ask the doctor how many times they have performed the procedure. Ideally, advises David Sherer, MD, you would want a doctor who has done the operation hundreds if not thousands of times; if it is a rare procedure, then at least 12 times per year.

Find the right hospital using the assistance of guides such as “America’s Best Hospital Guide” published by US News and World Report or access its website and click “Best Hospitals”. Note that your health insurance may limit your hospital and doctor options.

Before you need one, ask your doctor which emergency room in your area he considers best, although consider that in an emergency, the closest one available may be your best bet.

Let the doctor know how you feel. If a procedure causes you pain, shortness of breath, lose feeling or makes you lightheaded, it is important to express yourself.

Encourage bedside visitors so more people can keep an eye on hospital staff and so hospital staff k now that you’re well looked after.

Inform anesthesiologists of lose teeth that could be knocked out during intubation when a breathing tube is inserted in your throat. Also ask the doctor about removing dentures or artificial teeth before you are taken to the operating room

If you protect your health it may just mean your life, and you’ll be around to build a stronger business.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Computer Whiz Wozniak Visits Philadelphia

Steve Wozniak and Bill RingleLast Saturday, September 30, Steve Wozniak visited Philadelphia and shared his perspectives with several hundred business owners, students, and computer enthusiasts.

I had the good fortune to meet Woz and connect around our mutual passion for tecchnology and pranks.

Woz is a wonderful story teller because he balances his love of detail with his enthusiasm for surprises and lessons learned along the way.

Here is my synopsis of his engaging talk:

  1. Woz never wanted to be an entrepreneur. He was happy being an HP engineer working on calculator designs because it's what he loved doing and HP was a great company to work for at the time. Electronics was a way to play pranks, and that fueled so much of his passion. He always was the one to take a prank "one step further."

  2. Even though he's shy, Woz likes being first at things. He's very proud of building and operating the first "dial-a-joke" service in the Bay area. Sometimes he would answer the line instead of his device and practice telling jokes to over come his shyness. It paid off -- that's how he met his wife.

  3. When you think of resourceful people showing their gifts at a young age, you ought to think of Steve Wozniak. As a teenager, he figured out a way to get access to technical specs on chips that were available. He and a friend would go to the Stanford Linear Accelerator research center and read the magazines in their tech libraries on weekends. Then he'd send in the reader response cards in the magazines and journals to get component catalogs, technical manuals, and complimentary subscriptions.

  4. Steve Jobs met Woz in high school and they did start their company in a garage. Jobs picked the name Apple Computer. Woz thinks it had to do with the orchard picking work Jobs had done as a teenager.

  5. As Jobs saw opportunities to work together in the early days, he'd make promises, then come back and tell Woz about it. For instance, Jobs had heard Woz talk about being able to build a "pong" arcade game, so he got a contract to do it. Woz was excited to hear that they would be paid to do something he's wanted to do for months; he figured in 4-5 weeks, he's be able to put something really elegant together. Oops, Jobs promised a prototype the next week, so Woz pulled 4 consecutive all-nighters to deliver. And he did!

  6. The Homebrew Computer Club was an organization in Silicon Valley to have an open exchange with others interested in home computers at a time when few people were thinking about having a computer in their home. The closest people came to to a computer at home before dedicated mainframe terminals and acoustic couplers became popular was having gigantic IBM punch card machines. At the Homebrew Club, hobbyists from all ages and industries came together to openly share what they were working on and how they figured it out. It was a very open community, much the way the Open Source community operates on a global scale today.

  7. To know Woz is to realize he's all about optimization. He's known for creating the Apple II and it had "half as many parts and twice the capability" of any other low-cost computer on the market at the time. Before that, he honed his skills as designing circuits in high school, than later for HP. He would spend days designing and redesigning circuits to save a chip here or there by changing the order or doing something tricky. It was his passion and an outlet for his enormous creativity and energy.

  8. When the Apple started, Woz was reluctant to take any kind of leadership position, even as an engineering manager. He said, "I really wouldn't know how to tell someone that his work was crummy. It would just be easier to do it right myself." After an airplane crash, Woz went back and finished his degree at Stanford under a pseudonym to avoid notoriety.

  9. When Steve and Woz started Apple, they needed to raise $1,000 to invest in components. Woz sold his prized HP calculator to raise his $400. (It was a three-way, 400/400/200 investment with a third partner who soon cashed out after the company was formed.) But Woz didn't part with the calculator capriciously -- as an HP employee, he knew that the next model was coming out in a month for even less money!

  10. While Woz works with former Apple executives Gil Amelio, and Ellen Hancock at Acquicor his heart is still in helping people of all ages use technology to enrich their lives and do cool things. He boasted to have bought every iPod model that Apple has produced. He's still a gadget guy to the core.

Afterwards, he stayed around and signed copies of his book.

When you connect with others who are passionate about their work, it can't help but rub off in your own work as you build a stronger business.

Special thanks to Jason O'Grady, editor of, for recording this talk and publishing it to iTunes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How to Get Your People Moving

It’s true. We’re all different. What inspires one person will leave another cold. That’s why you need to tailor your motivational strategies for each of your employees.

Cynthia Berryman-Fink and Charles B Fink’s book, The Manager’s Desk Reference, offers some useful tips to help you on your way.

Some people are driven by the need to prove themselves and do an effective job on their assignments. These are among the easiest people to motivate because they are self-motivated. Just delegate the right projects and if they’re challenging enough they will consistently produce.

Others are driven by power. They derive satisfaction from driving others. If you give them the power to lead people and direct projects they shouldn’t disappoint.

For those whose mantra is there’s no “I” in team, respond by ensuring they collaborate with other people on projects providing plenty of opportunities for the human interaction they crave.

Some people work best independently. If you give them the power to make their own decisions and set their own schedule it will help liberate them to be more productive.

Positive reinforcement drives some employees to strive higher. For these staff members, give them the praise they crave and provide plenty of feedback whenever appropriate.

Still other people need to feel safe and protected to function to the highest expectations. Do them a favor and make them feel rewarded. By ensuring they have a steady income, a safe work environment and predictable work, a decent salary and benefits they will reward you with hard work and loyalty.

Equality is important to everyone but some are more sensitive about it than others. The perception of equality is more important to them so try to respect their sensitivities.

By understanding what makes your employees tick you’ll play to their strengths and to your own which will help you build a stronger business.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Web Tools to Help Build Your Business

Here's an example of someone who made a false start with e-marketing, reported in "Help With Your Business, Often Free, on the Web" in The New York Times. Jennifer Gordon, a Chicago based handbag designer, attempted to promote her products through an e-mailed newsletter. However, she found that incorrect e-mail lists and outdated addresses led to undeliverable e-mail. Additionally, once a newsletter was sent out, she had no means of knowing if the document was ever opened.

But there are tools that can help you avoid the same pitfalls. Google Apps for Your Domain is a free group of web-based services. Small business owners can access tools to manage their website, as well as tools such as e-mail and instant messaging.

Numerous sites can also assist you with blogging. Ramon Ray, the publisher of, suggests that small business owners create blogs to increase Web rankings. Tools on (owned by Google) and provide free assistance. Also, provides advanced blog features for $5/month. Another useful web tool allows numerous individuals to share and edit a document, kept on a company's server ( and

Build a stronger business by using powerful tools readily available on the web.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Making Connections through Visual Art

Photo Periodic Table Posters is a really interesting example of how through pursuing a vision an entrepreneur can produce a unique product in a crowded category.

Theodore Gray has produced:
The Most Beautiful Periodic Table Poster in the World!

Take a look at the detailed views and gain inspriation that you can apply to your own product line.

When you want to build a stronger business, standing out through superior products is a great way to go.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Who Done It for Business Decision Makers

It’s what separates the management from the staff, but decision-making responsibilities can stress you out or make you lose sleep and make you vulnerable to making the wrong decisions.

Author Hari Singh’s book, “Framed! Solve an Intriguing Mystery and Master How to Make Smart Choices”, wraps his solutions for managers in a mystery novel.

Singh teaches a course on decision-making to his MBA students at the Seldman College of Business at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One reason that decision-making is so hard for some is that the decisions they make affect them too.

Singh presents an overview of three models for decision-making highlighted in his book.

• A woman is deciding whether to move her business to a new shopping mall because the downtown location is losing its luster. The owner lists the two options and gives favorable factors for each. Add the value of the factors up to decide which one is the best choice.

• Suppose there are other factors to consider with this same business. Perhaps the woman wants to sell the store or move to a suburban location. List the options horizontally and list the attributes vertically; give each attribute a numerical score. Multiply the score by the significance rating and tally the results below.

• Say the store owner has made a decision about the location, e.g.: the shopping mall. The challenge is to then identify: the objective, the main players (the landlord, work force, customers); the driving forces (growth of the area around the mall, the influence she can have such as community involvement and advertising) and project likely outcomes (will it work?).

• When you have an important decision take the necessary time to not only think about what you need to do, but to gain perspective. So many business decisions are made on the spur of the moment.

• If you ask the right questions you’re more likely to reach the right conclusions. Seek out viewpoints that you disagree with, get external options and develop ideas to adequately look at all possible options.

• Get new information.

If you take the time to review your options in a measured and considered way, you’ll make the right decisions and build a stronger business.

Financial Advisors Become Life Advisors

It’s important to articulate your deep-seated interests when you sit down with a financial advisor so they can advise you the best way to plan sensibly while meeting your life goals, says Jonathan Clements in “Touchy-Feely Finances: How to Find Out What You Really Want from Your Money,” in The Wall Street Journal.

But just try asking someone such a simple, direct question and watch how long it takes these desires to bubble to the surface.

Compounding this is the need for financial advisors to be objective and not seen to be exerting undue influence over them.

Values-Based Financial Planning author Bill Bachrach advises people to have a considered chat with their partner to at least initiate a soul searching process to flesh-out their spending priorities in life.

Bachrach recommends asking basic questions such as “What’s important about money for you,” and using that as a leaping off point for free association, getting more and more specific with each question.

Another exercise to formulate spending interests is drawing a wheel hub with nine spokes representing work, finances, interests, relationships, physical and emotional health and obligations and rate each aspect of your life on a scale of one to 10 according to your level of satisfaction with each one. Put “10” on the rim of the wheel and a “zero” at the hub. Connect the dots to determine how well-rounded your life is.

If you can develop a spending strategy that is sensible while meeting your leisure interests you’ll improve your quality of life and build a stronger business.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Complaint is the Mother of Blog Invention

Business travel bloggers do not have the numbers to make a substantial difference because their Business travelers can be a demanding bunch because their travel experience informs them what makes for a good hotel stay and what leads to a poor one. Steve Broback thought he negotiated a good deal on a hotel room in New York City until he found that Internet connection was not included in his bill, even though he had been assured it would be.

So he got out his computer and created a blog called starting with how annoyed he was at his experience. The hotel saw it and offered to refund the difference. VoilĂ ! A blog is born.

One blogger blanched at Northwest Airline’s proposal to slap a $15 charge on certain popular economy class seats a fee that would also be applied to its elite-level. Travelers. Mark Ashley, who writes Upgrade: Travel Better , as well as other bloggers, criticized the move. The outcry led to an about face by the airline which hastily dropped the policy.

Marriott Hotels takes bloggers so seriously it offered to include them on press trips before extending the invite to print media. A member of its communication department was assigned to monitor blogs and find out what they were saying. It also started pitching exclusive news items to bloggers, ensuring Marriott’s information would get on the Internet faster. One of those bloggers on the receiving end of Marriott’s campaign is Gary Leff, a blogger who publishes View from The Wing .

Some bloggers have not let the euphoria of success go to their heads, though. Edward Jasbrouck is quick to point out that even though he wrote a “horror story” about the Transportation Security Administration, on his blog, The Practical Nomad the comments received no response.

Time is limited as they are, well traveling frequently for business, reckons JD Lasica of Shel Holtz, author of the blog Road Weary is a seasoned business traveler who believes that the business travel community isn’t blogging to its full potential. However, she is convinced this will change in a few years.

It will likely take a momentous story for business travel blogging to make its influence felt, says Alex Halavais, a “blogging expert” and assistant professor at Quinnipiac University.

Like most things, blogging does not become a compelling argument for change unless many people take the time to participate. By calling on people to share their experiences online, an argument for change can be effectively made. Companies like yours will benefit and you’ll build a stronger business.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Giving Spam Attention Perpetuates It

The platinum rule when it comes to reducing spam is:

"Spam only exists because it works."

If it didn't work, it would die out quickly because no one would pay the spammers to propagate messages to the multitudes.

Why does spam work? Easy -- because it targets base human motives including vanity, lust, and greed. Those are the big 3, and they're not going away anytime soon.

However in a NYT business article Stocks Tips from Spam aren't Just Silly. They're Costly, Mark Hulbert provides an analysis of how spam works to inflate a stock's price in certain circumstances. The stock price of a targeted Pink Sheet company goes up during the peak of the spam initiative, then drops back down within a few days.

Look at this chart and guess when the spam sponsors bought and sold their shares. The perpetrators buy how and sell high basedon a predictable pattern; their "suckers" pay for the price lift up and take the loss when the stock price deflates.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Ultimate Product Demo

Q: What's one of the most coveted outcomes for effective marketing?

A: The amount of buzz it generates.

  • Buzz = people talking.

  • Good buzz = people talking favorably and remembering what your product/service is called, generating priceless mindshare and name recognition.

  • Great buzz = increase in sales.

Let's take a quick look at a bold marketing demonstration and analyze what elements can be used in our businesses.

The company is Caballero, named after its founder. They make bullet proof clothing. No, not bulky SWAT flack jackets, but rather stylish bullet proof trench coats that unpopular diplomats can wear out to dinner.

Miguel Caballero does a brief, but dramatic demonstation for the Business 2.0 writer who has traveled to Bogata, Columbia to cover the story. He points to a new store employee and instructs him to don a Caballero suade winter jacket. Then he takes aim with his .38 caliber handgun, smiles, and shoots at his staffer at point blank range. BAM! The staffer relief that the clothing has stopped the bullet.

Now, if you're a potential customer, do you need any further convincing? Didn't think so. They're reaching for their credit cards, not for a brochure.

With a demo like this, do you think Caballero needs to hire a PR firm? Nah, he'll put the money he saved into more bullets for demos.

OK, so you know this would be a good thing to have for your business, but your firm isn't as flashy as bullet proof clothing (with style).

First, let's identify what makes this a killer demo. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

  • It's memorable. Definitely something to talk about at dinner that night.
  • It's got real skin in the game. A life is at risk.
  • It's emotional. You worry that the poor sales clerk will die in a foolish, freak accident, then feel relieved that he lived.

Let's stop there, because if you get these three elements you'll be well on your way to a demo that generates great buzz.

This example bowls over the carefully scripted television infomercials where the audience gasps when the grass/oil/ink stain is removed from the volunteer's white shirt. It's compressed that whole sales cycle into 2 minutes. That's part of what makes it so powerful.

What great product demos have you seen lately? Share links, even if it's to your own site.

When we all learn to do this, we'll be building a stronger business on a whole new level.

Monday, August 21, 2006

New Businesses Face Real Challenges

Although starting a business can involve a steep learning curve, the number of companies that fall over the edge in the first few years has not been adequately quantified.

According to Amy Knaup, a researcher at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66% of 212,182 employer businesses started in the second quarter of 1998 lasted two years while 44% lasted four years.

Brian Headd, Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy economist, used Census data available on 12,185 firms started between 1989 and 1992. Headd discovered that while 66% remained open after two years, 49.6% persisted after four years, and 39.5% were still around after six years. But success is truly in the eye of the beholder. The one third of businesses that shut down or were sold were still considered successes by their owners. That’s because some of the owners chose to shut them down because of retirement or ill health or wanted to turn a profit.

But the Achilles heel of this study is that while it is possible to get solid stats on companies with employees, it is virtually impossible to ascertain the fate of non-employers which account for ¾ of all U.S. businesses; they file little information on their companies.

It helps to know the odds of success however confident you are in your business venture. Whenever businesses do succeed it’s a triumph of a well researched understanding of a sector and your unique response to it. If you keep a steely-eyed composure in the face of overwhelming odds, you will continue to build a stronger business.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Visibility and Profitability

If it wasn’t for the Internet, bands like Scene Aesthetic would barely be more than a local sensation. But social networking websites like MySpace and PureVolume have amplified their sound and carried it to more listeners.

Click on a band’s MySpace page and you’ll hear the band’s music right away. MySpace members are asked by numerous bands to include them in their friends’ list, providing an instant coffee-house sized audience and more chances to be heard by a wider audience.

One social networking website entirely devoted to music is aptly named PureVolume which has a whopping 300,000 bands. But despite having a presence on this website, only a fraction of them get heard thousands of times.

Another band used the Internet to launch an album one song at a time. The Brooklyn-based duo behind the Bishop Allen band released four new songs each month on the band’s website. They have sold 1,500 CDs from their website at $5 each and are on course to earn $35,000 each this year.

Thanks to the Internet, an infinite number of websites are available for one’s use. But conversely, with a multitude of options available, it goes without saying that competition for users’ attention is fierce.

Just as websites enabled local retailers to expose their businesses to a much wider audience, MySpace and PureVolume have upped the ante to facilitate word-of-mouth and allow bands to create a greater impact on listeners. But just because the systems are in place to grow a band’s following beyond their local nightclub, it won’t matter if people don’t like what they hear. Talent is still important. If you figure out the right way to use the Internet to amplify your company, you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Email Addresses

John Valincius details the pros and cons of various email services in The Trend's article, "Choose an E-mail Address That You Can Live With".

The email address(es) your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides can be quickly and easily accessed, but is not transferable if you switch your ISP. America On-Line (AOL), sells unrestricted access to email inboxes to known spammers and are immune to spam blockers.

While Google, Yahoo and Microsoft provide sizable storage, are free and easily accessible, they are often subjective to abusive advertising and some workplaces are able to block access to them.

The final option is setting up your own email account on the Web, which won't be blocked by an employer and can last a lifetime. There are fees for registering and keeping a domain name, but it becomes less expensive with extended registration.

Personalized e-mail can create a professional online presence, and is a sure way to build a stronger business.

[For $139 Nitrum, LLC (, one of the professional computer consulting agencies, can help you create your own email account, if the process seems too daunting.]

Customization is Pleasing to the Ear

It's exciting to hear of businesses taking mass customization, also known as individuation, seriously.

Contrast mass production with mass customization. The former model produces blue jeans in fixed waist and length styles and allows the consumer to pick from its offerings. The latter takes a detailed profile of measurements and produces a custom-cut pair of jeans, albeit for a higher price and slight delay as the denim is sewn and shipped.

Some businesses have jumped into the gulf and created business models to maximize mass customization using technology.

Let's take a look at one contender in the personal music category called Pandora, accessed at, of course.

Think narrowcasting instead of broadcasting.

The Pandora site really gets what it means to deliver a great user experience. My three favorite aspects of the site:
  1. It doesn't require any special software to download -- I was able to use Firefox to open the home page type the name of a favorite artist, and within 10 seconds, I was listening to music I liked.
  2. No registration required. They want to prove themselves of value before asking for personal contact info or money. After playing half a dozen songs, you're asked to register with the understanding that can opt- out of the ad sponsored messages (audio and web-based, not via e-mail) by paying about a dollar a week.
  3. They enhance the experience on a number of levels: let's start with showing, rating, and buying. They have a clean, informative interface that displays what albumn on which the song played originated. As other songs are played, they are based on what people who liked your initial song liked. You can fine-tune this playlist based on your own preferences, indicating whether you liked a given song, didn't like it, want to take a break from hearing it (a service feature to which popular broadcast radio is oblivous), or understand the rationale behind the recommendation. Lastly, since you're being introduced to new artists and new songs, Pandora makes it easy to purchase music from iTunes or, or just pass along an interesting song to a friend (thus spreading the word about Pandora via viral marketing).
When you're building a stronger business, it pays to study models that work.

Now, go implement.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Remember to Lock the Door and Turn Out the Lights When You Leave

eWeek reports that another laptop has gone missing this week at the Veterans Administration department.

See the story in eWeek.

What an embarrassment!

When the first laptop went missing last May, the VA cried mea culpa and promised stronger security and enforcement of their existing policies in the future.

They're not alone of course -- even big Internet companies make these kinds of mistakes. Look at AOL who also admitted a privacy slip up yesterday.

It's not only a loss of data, but a loss of faith and of integrity when an organization mishandles confidential information.

Build a stronger business by reviewing your security and privacy policies and procedures with staff on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Publisher finds Novel Way to Court Romance Novelists

What do you do when your audience is in danger of falling out of love with your product? Try to figure out what they want and find a new way of providing it for them.

That’s the strategy Harper Collins and its Avon Books imprint developed in the face of depressing market research compiled by Simba Information that revealed a dramatic drop in sales for the romance novel from $1.4 billion in 2005 to $1.34 billion in 2006. The reason? Supermarkets’ expansion of their women’s fiction offering to reflect an increased diversity in the genre.

Pushed for a way to find new talent, Harper Collins teamed up with consumer content generator, to develop an eight week contest for romance novel fans.

Avon Books also used the contest to promote its established authors. To generate revenue, Avon Books and Harper Collins sold advertising space for the website, <>.

In the contest, users voted for one of six story premises and then were asked to submit six chapters for the book. Each was voted on by a panel consisting of fans and established authors until the six chapters were published as an e-book.

The contest website will remain open for the long term part of the strategy – to provide new ways for advertisers to reach users by developing a two-way dialogue with companies and the legions of romance novel fans.

If you are losing customers, don’t let them go without fighting for them. Don’t be afraid to be creative with advertising and marketing ideas. If you remember what attracted customers to your business in the first place you’ll have a solid base for your campaign to woo them back and you’ll build a stronger business.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Resources for Combating Identity Theft

If you or someone you know has become an identity theft victim, the FTC recommends the following steps:
  1. Make a fraud alert. Contact the three major credit houses and place a fraud alert on your accounts.
    1. Equifax (800.525.6285;
    2. Experian (888.397.3742;
    3. TransUnion (800.680.7289;
  2. Close affected accounts. If you know of an account that has been fradulently opened in your name, close it. Use new PIN numbers when you open new accounts.
  3. File a police report. Send a copy of the report to your creditors to show proof of a crime. Be sure to keep a copy of the report for your files.
  4. File a complaint with the FTC. The FTC provides assistance to victims of identity theft and provides a free credit report. Contact the FTC Consumer Response Center at 877.438.4338.
Here are 3 additional links for finding out more about Identity Theft:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Should Mom’s Pay be $134,121?

Finally a price assessment on mother’s work. But is it inflated?

If being a mother were a full-time job, what would it pay? According to, quite a lot; it values mothers’ would-be salary at $134,121 per annum.

But according to Carl Bialik’s article from The Wall Street Journal, “Putting a Price Tag on Working Moms,” has come under fire from those who argue that it used questionable tactics to arrive at the figure.

The Waltham, Mass. company conducted a focus group of mothers to detail daily tasks. The company whittled the list down from 25 to 19. e-mailed 30,000 visitors to its website and asked them to detail how many hours they spent carrying out each mothering function each day. It should be noted that the website listed the job functions without definitions. Based on 400 respondents –mothers with children 18 years old and younger — it further narrowed down the mother task list to the 10 most popular: housekeeper, day-care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO, and psychologist. The number of hours for each task was multiplied by the salary for each job to arrive at the total salary.

The study revealed that stay-at-home moms worked a grueling 91.6 hours a week. After 40 hours the remaining time was clocked as overtime and time-and-a-half pay was added. Stay-at-home moms decided that 34% of their role amounted to CEO work, while working moms worked out that 50% of their time was spent as a household CEO.

One dilemma was that the CEO time was impossible to quantify. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, bristled that no one would pay a CEO anything if they headed a company that neither produced anything nor could quantify what they did on a daily basis.

Other shortcomings cited with the report include the fact that mothers aren’t usually professionally trained to be cooks or computer technicians so their work would be overvalued in the survey.

Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation, rejected the criticism and pointed out that the business pages of the press were full of stories of CEOs who are unproductive and yet are paid millions. If anything, Coleman added, the survey undervalued a mother’s work because it didn’t include time spent by mothers outsourcing work.

When you guestimate the value of a job, make sure your calculations are logical and you’ll build a stronger business.

Find Deals on New Wheels

If you are looking for a new car, The Wall Street Journal article “New Ways to Score Car Deals Online,” flags up some excellent websites to jumpstart your research.’s website provides users with a personal space where they can save information on cars that spark their interest. Users provide a valid e-mail and password to register and can save up to 10 searches and 25 cars at once. Users have reached the 165,000 mark since the website was launched

Capital One Financial’s website lets users create their dream car and get a guaranteed price at or below Kelly Blue Book’s New Car Blue Book Values’ starting price. However, the upfront pricing option is only available to limited markets has a social networking website called CarSpace, where gear heads can trade information. With almost 12,000 registered users, the website sends out automotive news feeds and other features. has started allowing users to write their own reviews of cars and has over 1,000 reviews to date. The consumer reviews tend to be used with more authority than the professional reviews.

By making the most of available research and reviews you can find the best match as you drive towards building a stronger business.

Resources: Cut Down on Catalog Influx

Here are a few resources for reducing the number of unsolicited catalogs that arrive in your snail mail box:

  1. Best solution: Contact the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry at: or by phone 1-888-382-1222.
  2. Use the letter templates on to request that your name be removed from catalog firms.
  3. Go to the Abacus Alliance web site and request to have your contact info removed from their database. Many mail order companies use their services. You can send a request to an e-mail address or send a snail mail request. Read specifics on their privacy page.
  4. The Direct Marketers Association also maintains a list. Ask to be removed from that one, as well. This site charges a $1 fee for the service.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fly Through The Internet One Travel Blog at a Time

The increasingly travel savvy public, combined with blogging, has resulted in some informative blogspots that give travel journalists a run for their money. Joe Sharkey’s article, “Blowing the Horn for Other People’s Blogs,” in The New York Times highlights blogs that give users access to price comparisons between hundreds of airlines as well as specialist news for the airline industry, for business travelers and frequent flyers. So well-informed are some of these websites that some travel journalists refer to them frequently for contacts and leads.

Here are some of the links:
  • : allows user to search hundreds of airlines instantaneously for the best deals
  • : a blog that sells itself as “a place to save money, travel more comfortably and make better travel choices”;
  • : frequent flyer mileage programs
  • informed guide for business travelers complete with acerbic commentary and links;
  • : a consultancy offering research, forecasting and independent research;
  •; is a travel portal with a smorgasbord of options with sections such as travel health, weather links, specialty travel links for traveling with pets, travel for singles, as well as links to travel guides, magazines, theatres and restaurants;
  • it’s pretty much what it sounds like – traveling on the cheap;
  • : a wealth of personal travel accounts from journeys all around the world organized by continent and by country. Travel diaries, photography and blogs abound;
  • : You’ve heard of web portals, but this is a blog portal with links to blogs arranged by country and topics such as “worst places to be poor”;
  • : provides news on airline route updates and links to the airlines.

Some of the best websites or blogs are by people who saw a gap in the market and responded to it. By looking for areas where people are underserved, you can respond by providing much needed products and build a stronger business.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Breakthroughs Require (Learning From) Failure

In an upcoming BW article, read about the approaches corporations take towards mistakes.
  • Corning involved prospective users in the design and development process early on to provide needed feedback for the Epic drug testing technology.
  • Gore-Tex rewards outside managers for seeing obstacles and problems that project team members might be biased to overlook, creating a culture of high risk and high accountability.
  • When Virgin Atlantic flubbed an opportunity to increase market share of business class travelers by being the first to introduce sleeper seats in this category, they lost out to British Airways and had to face a $67 million dollar mistake. BA's seats were introduced earlier and provided a better experience for passengers. However, chief of design Joe Ferry showed resilience (and Virgin showed a great deal of faith in him and his team) as he took on an even bigger and costlier challenge with the airlines' upper-class seats and it has paid off.
William Boulding, Duke Univeristy b-school professor, explains in the April Journal of Marketing quoted in the article that personal emotional investment by team members is onse of the hardest factors to cournteract in product development. Wanting to "save face" or show something in return for the sunk costs can steer a company to spending good money after the opportunity potential has evaporated.

Whatever size business you lead, it's important to examine why a particular initiative did not turn out the way you expected.

It could be the product/service lacked critical features that the market demanded. It could be quality issues. It could be the marketing, the timing, inability to deliver, or any of a hundred other reasons.

When your aim is to build a stronger business, you know both the reasons for your success and learn from your failures.

Job Growth Up in Philadelphia Region Continues

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Employment in region 1.2% more this May than last

May employment in the Philadelphia region was up 1.2 percent from a year earlier - less than the national job growth figure of 1.4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Total nonfarm employment for the region was 2,825,000, an increase of 34,500 jobs. Sheila Watkins, regional commissioner for the bureau, said May was the 28th consecutive month of "over-the-year" growth in local payrolls. The region includes Philadelphia and its four suburban counties in Pennsylvania; Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem Counties in New Jersey; New Castle County in Delaware; and Cecil County in Maryland. - Reid Kanaley

Monday, June 26, 2006

Networking Exemplars: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett

Announcements of Warren Buffett pledging to donate over $30 billion to the Gates Foundation proliferated overnight.

What savvy business people know is that this event has been in the making for 15 years.

That's how long Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have known each other and developed both a business and personal relationship.

When Mr. Buffett reached the point where he needed to decide where his wealth could do the most good, he had options, of course.

When you have important decisions to make, you turn to people you know, like, and trust.

Buffett has four family foundations that could have been the beneficiary of his generosity -- one named for his late wife, and three run by his children.

Rather than expand one of his family foundations, however, he saw the infrastructure and results that the Gates Foundation, run by his friend Bill Gates, was achieving.

Three important lessons that will help you build a stronger business:

  1. Expand your network with highly competent people who have integrity. Are there some people who you deal with who do not ascribe to the same ethical or performance standards that you do?
  2. Your closest business relationships aren't necessarily your best customers/clients. Warren doesn't buy the most Microsoft software titles, and Bill isn't Hathaway's biggest shareholder.
  3. Avoid urgency in your business relationships. 15, 10, or even 2 years ago, this wasn't the right thing to do for Warren Buffett. When the time became right, he acted swiftly and significantly.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Monitor Your E-Mail before The Company Does

Companies are monitoring employees’ e-mail to guard company secrets and enforce rule violations, according to a survey by Forrester Consulting.

In a study with 294 participating companies, 37.8% said they employed e-mail monitoring staff. Nearly half of the surveyed companies audit outbound e-mail. Perhaps not surprisingly their suspicions are well-founded. Approximately 21% revealed that they had arranged for their employees e-mail to be subpoenaed in the past year, a figure that has doubled since 2005.

Inevitably, when companies make such a decision, they risk violating employee privacy, says Keith Crosley, Proofpoint director of market development. He emphasized that the use of mobile phones for e-mails blurs the line between personal and work settings and that people will inevitably send personal e-mails from work e-mail accounts.

If you encourage your staff to create a clear line between their personal and professional lives and encourage them to use a non-work e-mail for their personal correspondence, you will take the fear of privacy violation out of the equation and you will build a stronger business.

If You Want to Know How to Build a Stronger Business, Ask Your Staff and Don’t Take Yes for an Answer

When Ken Thiry, chief executive of a dialysis business, DaVita, gave all of his employees the opportunity to offer feedback for the business, he was initially surprised by what he heard; passive acceptance.

Surely, with all the changes he made since taking over at the company, there would be more mixed reviews. Frankly he just didn’t buy that all the staff could be pleased with everything he did. He demanded the staff’s frank responses to specific questions addressed in an initiative designed to return the company to profitability and improve the company’s steep staff turnover.

A recent company takeover had managers of the newly acquired business furious with new guidelines such as having greeters at dialysis centers and having them wait with clients until they received their treatment. With the freedom of frank feedback, the management was able to bluntly explain that such behavior would be rejected by patients.

He included “frontline” employees in the decision-making process, from equipment maintenance to inventory management. Management was made to work in the dialysis centers for one week so they could fully appreciate the demands of the employees who staff them.

Executives revise programs staff say aren’t working and collect data to highlight problems. Additional training and a more simplified approval process number among the improvements.

When Thiry took over the business, staff turnover was 45%, and it had defaulted on bank loans. But by encouraging his staff to tell him the truth about the realities on the ground of his business, he was able to turn around the 27,000 staff, 1200 dialysis center business into a firm. Six years after he arrived, DaVita has $5bn in sales and staff turnover has been cut by 50%.

If you want to get frank staff feedback it’s not enough to simply ask for it; you need to ensure the right systems are in place so they can comment freely and honestly. By getting feedback from staff and using it to solve problems you can improve the confidence of your staff as well as efficiencies in the company and you will build a stronger business.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What to Look for in a Financial Advisor

At a time when baby boomers are approaching retirement age, finding the right financial adviser is a hot topic.

But the pitfalls are many and the consequences for picking the wrong adviser can be costly. Jonathan Clements offers some advice on how to choose wisely in his article “Due Diligence: The Five Key Rules to Heed Before Hiring a Financial Advisor,” in The Wall Street Journal.

  • Know this going in: financial advisers are paid by commissions based on the investments they sell. It is in their interest to sell products that yield them the highest commissions. To avoid being lured into buying a product that’s not best for you, Clements suggests using fee-only advisers who will charge an hourly fee or a percentage of your portfolio’s value or a fixed annual retainer.

  • Pick an adviser who is a Certified Financial Planner; only 5% of financial advisers possess this qualification because U.S. financial planners are not required to be certified.

  • Avoid advisers who won’t commit to acting as a fiduciary.

  • Although many advisers limit themselves to choosing stocks you may have additional priorities such as getting help with your mortgage, college tuition expenses, insurance, taxes and estate planning. Make sure your financial advisor is willing to advise you on these issues.

Financial advisers often charge too much. You may wind up paying them 1% of your portfolio value each year. If you add on fees charged by mutual funds and other investment items you may only have an annual total of 2% or 3%. Consider investing in treasury bonds. They are less risk and hassle and will earn 5% a year.

Have a look at some of these websites for additional information:

  • : search for a certified financial planner
  • <>
  • : find a fee-only financial adviser in your region

If you do your research and plan well, you can continue to build a stronger business with the added confidence that you’ve invested well.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Trade Tricks

Developing contacts is essential to growing your business, but remembering them on sight is crucial to establishing a solid rapport.

Scott Hagwood, former USA National Memory Champion winner, shared his secret in The Wall Street Journal article, “The Tricks of The Trade”.

To ensure that he can remember the name of a new acquaintance, he repeats the name out loud, because hearing a name a second time greatly improves the chances of recall. When introduced to a large group, he pauses and reviews the names between introductions. He then attempts to make a personal remark to each new person so he can form a connection that will stick in his head.

Time permitting, he will chat with the new acquaintances and search for ways to compare them to people he knows well. He’ll examine bodily traits, personality traits, body language, eyes, and job titles.

Taking an interest in someone, says Hagwood, is the best way for people to remember each other

You can build a solid network of contacts if you make the effort to commit the people you meet to memory. It will help you expand your contacts and to build a stronger business.

Entrepreneurs Channel Rejection into Creative Forms

When you lose a bid for a project you really wanted, it hurts. When a client chooses a new provider rather than renewing a contract with your firm, that's painful. When you get a rejection letter from a publisher, that really cuts close to the bone.

So what's a creative entrepreneur to do with rejection pain?

You've got a lot of options, of course, but here's one that struck a symbolic chord: turn your rejection letter into toilet paper.

Yes, that's right, tp.

Without burning bridges or breaking laws, you can show the editor what you thought of his/her prose.

The self-publishing house offers this service for $90. Check it out and have a laugh. Let the healing begin!

Friday, June 02, 2006

U.S. Tech Talent Grows Scarce

The shortage of technical talent in the U.S. has driven companies to develop desperate measures. While firms have worked to shore up the positions they have already filled with attractive benefits, the search for more staff is taking these companies overseas to countries such as China and India as highlighted in The Wall Street Journal article, “U.S. Firms Search for Technical Talent”.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the U.S. needs to fill 135,000 new computer jobs each year, but American universities are only generating 49,000 computer science graduates annually. The bureau also predicts that there will be a 26% increase in the need for science and engineering graduates to 1.25 million by 2012. China, by comparison, produces significantly more science, engineering and computer technology students; in 2004, Chinese universities generated 351,000 graduates in these fields. India was second, though significantly behind, with 112,000 graduates.

One of the fields that will be among the hardest hit by a lack of interest is the mining industry. The lack of technical ability and the retirement of 2,600 of the 5,200 practicing mining engineers in the next 12 years hangs like an ominous storm cloud over the sector.

The oil sector also looks vulnerable. According to the Society of Petroleum Engineers 1,732 students were enrolled in petroleum-engineering university programs in the U.S. in 2004 compared with 11,014 in students in 1983.

The problem with sourcing staff from overseas is that the federal government restricts short-term visas for foreign workers in the U.S. – H-1B visas -- to 65,000 a year. However, there was a temporary suspension of that figure in 2001 to 2003 when H-1B visas were raised to 195,000. Another 20,000 visas are open to foreign-born workers who received a masters or doctorate from an American university.

If the course of staff shortages in the tech industry is to be reversed, young people need to be given more incentives to enter these fields. If you provide the right balance between offering a rewarding job and providing the right incentives for employees to stay, you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Search for Scarce Resources Drives Innovation

When we see ingenious inventions that make our lives easier, little thought goes into pondering how they came into being. It may be surprising to learn how often innovations are developed not by choice, but because of a distinct lack of them. Stephen L Sass calls attention to our innovative ancestors in his article, “Scarcity, Mother of Invention,” from The New York Times.

Iron may have been the stuff of kings’ weaponry and bronze the raw material of choice for the masses, but it wasn’t until tin resources, essential to making bronze, dried up that artisans developed smelting and were able to provide iron to a majority of 12th century BC consumers.

In 17th century Britain, there was such a hunger for wood for energy, as a raw material for ships, and smelting that the country produced a timber famine. Coal was a natural alternative, but ran into problems when it was used for smelting because sulfur would make iron weapons brittle. A process was developed to extract the harmful ingredients from coal in 1709 and the end result was called coke.

Coke became cheap enough for mass market use and people began to acquire cast iron pots and pans.
But coal mine shafts are very deep and were vulnerable to flooding. The steam engine was developed to pump water out of coal mines, a device that would become the driving source of power for the Industrial Revolution.

When your business runs into obstacles, take the time to research new ways of overcoming these challenges. You’ll build a stronger business by taking a pioneering approach.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Resource: Travel Sites Worth Visiting

As summer approaches, travel plans need be made. When traveling for pleasure rather than for business, I have much more flexibility, and so I rely on reviews and advice from the travel community who post their experiences, for better and worse, on the web to share.

Here are several sites worth considering:
For flight info, check out -- it's got every detail about real time flight status worldwide.

Travel blogs:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Weak Managers vs. Dangerous Managers -- Can You Tell the Difference?

A 2,400 person enterprise can more easily absorb a dangerous manager compared to a 24 person start-up.

Identifying, developing, and retaining talent is a vital competency for entrepreneur business leaders, yet what I've found in my coaching work with founders is that it's one of the most overlooked and poorly planned functions.

The ideal of course is to hire top people: strong technical skills, strong communication skills, strong industry background, strong intellect, strong all around.

However, the ideal candidate doesn't walk through our door everyday, so compromises are made.

That's where we've got to be very thoughtful, because the difference between a manager who is weak in a particular area and one who is dangerous to the organization makes a world of difference.

A weak manager is aware of his weakness and is often smart enough to surround himself with the systems and people with the skill sets to compensate for that weakness. A dangerous manager minimizes, disregards, or neglects his weak areas. Thus, it should not surprise anyone that decisions made by that manager in this particular area are poor.

A weak manager may be well-intentioned as she develops a new capability. A dangerous manager lacks integrity between her words and her actions, and that can spread like a cancer through a company. One executive I've met said for a year at monthly meetings that she was handing her top priorities, yet the reported numbers and results didn't support those statements. At first her excuses were entertaining and amusing. Then when challenged, she became defensive. The president had to let her go because simple decisions and simple actions were not being completed in a reasonable timeframe.

Layoffs may seem cruel, but the costs of keeping a dangerous manager around are enormous.

Look at the cost of lost productivity in the department of a dangerous manager. Look at the quality of the hiring decisions a dangerous manager makes. Look at the cost of the scutteled initiatives, loss of customer goodwill, and drained morale a dangerous manager leaves as a trail.

I've gotten pretty good at spotting the differences between a weak but improving manager vs. a dangerous manager. How about you -- what do use to tell the difference?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Internet Cookies are Crumbling

Today's NYT Business article covered the February 2006 Jupiter Research that found that 2/5 (41%) male Internet users deleted cookies at least once per week, while 1/4 (25%) of female users polled wiped them out.

This is an increase in manual cookie deletion from previous year's surveys, such as the Revenue Science one that took place in December 2005, indicating two trends:
  1. Capability awareness: As more people learn how to do this to prevent advertisers and other marketers from compiling statistics about site visits, they exercise this capability.
  2. Risk awareness: As more stories are reported about privacy breaches (from credit card/insurance companies/ etc losing sensitive data or safeguards being breached by hackers to government agencies collecting telephone records to scan for potential terrorist contacts), users are taking preventative security measures.
If your business relies on Internet cookies to evaluate the effectiveness of its web traffic or ad campaigns, perhaps it's time to look into other technologies or methodologies for your metrics.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Internet Facilitates Fans and Foes Because of the Power of the Organized

The Internet is many things to many people, including a stellar trumpet blower to call likeminded people together, as highlighted in The New York Times’ article “Groups Opposing Wal-Mart Get Help from New Web Site”.

There is no shortage of small businesses getting in line to protest Wal-Mart. But the web is allowing two groups, Wal-Mart Watch and Sprawl-Busters to pool together their resources to launch the no-holds-barred Battlemart .

Launched this year Battlemart’s goal is “to level the playing field”.
  • The website offers users:Information on grants for citizens groups
  • Reports on the economic impact of Wal-Mart
  • Names of local traffic engineers to testify at zoning board hearings
  • A guide to brand names for your citizens’ group
  • Fundraising tips (“avoid labor intensive events like bake sales and car washes”)

According to Sprawl-Busters founder Al Norman, the website is intended to make it easier for people to organize against the big box retailer.
“It’s a grab and go. You download it and take it to your Sunday night citizens groups.

Wal-Mart Watch, the host of Battlemart, has received a cash injection of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Service Employees International Union. Wal-Mart Watch has awarded start-up grants from $500 to $3,000 to at least 10 groups such as Gresham First in Gresham, Ore, and Great Falls First in Great Falls, Mont.

Norman will work as a blogger for Battlemart to cover local campaigns to block stores and answer questions.

People will rally passionately around an idea, particularly when they believe their businesses are threatened. The Internet has proved again and again that it can bring people with mutual interests together to help build stronger businesses or help them rally together in solidarity.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Government Intrigue in Internet Privacy Grows

Internet privacy is a hot topic of debate following the Bush administration’s policy of gaining access to phone conversations and email messages in the name of national security. ran a story on AT&T’s cooperation with the government, including details about secured rooms used by government spies to access private e-mail messages and monitor Internet traffic in a story by Kim Zetter. Zetter noted that no proof was available to confirm that the National Security Agency was using the room for spying. But interviews with company employees featured in the interviews appear to build a case for that theory. AT&T and the government declined to comment on the article.

Employees told that the room required retinal and fingerprint identification and that employees were informed by the company that the room was being used by a government agency.

A report in the revealed that the NSA was financing research into harvesting information that people post about themselves in social networks such as This data combined with banking details as well as retail and property records could be used to build comprehensive personal profiles of individuals.

The revelations in these publications give pause as to how information on seemingly innocuous social networks like MySpace is being used by the government. Is it specifically tied to the war on terror or is there a broader agenda? Companies need to ask themselves these questions and use these revelations to have a frank discussion in the business community and with the government about how information is being used and be informed of their rights. By doing so you can build a stronger and more secure business

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Time for Women to Get Even

Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce wrote an important piece on equal pay for women last week.

In the 1960's women earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned; today, it's closer to 77 cents.

As a society, we've made gains in the last 40 years in this respect, but we're nowhere near done.

Check out this well-done wage comparison calculator on the site to see how your salary compares to others in your industry and geographic location. I was amazed at the disparities!

Equality begins locally. Raise awareness of this issue at your company.

Fair compensation is another very important way to have a stronger business.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Marketing that Works - Tips from the Trenches

Mike Lieberman, co-founder of Square 2 Marketing, presented some excellent advice to members of the Philadelphia Drexel alumni Club at the Union League today.

His remarks were directed towards business people involved in marketing functions.

The title of his presentation was: My Marketing Isn't Working, and I Don't Know Why.

Here is a summary of his key points:
  • Make your product or service remarkable (Seth Godin's book Purple Cow was recommended.)
  • Narrow your focus so that when your prospect reads your pitch, she/he can relate to it.
  • Use language that targets the pains and problems of your prospect.
  • Provide unique solutions to those problems.
  • Design a series of messages to send to your prospects, because a single marketing effort is worthless.
  • Create a no-risk offer as a way to get a prospect involved.
  • Be sure to capture contact information so that you can continue to communicate with each prospect.

Mike also shared with us his method for creating a monthly calendar of marketing activities to stay on track.

Many participants stayed around afterwards to talk about the presentation with each other and with Mike Lieberman.

I found Mike to be a personable and knowledgeable marketing professional. It was great to meet at the Drexel Alumni luncheon.

For more information about Square 2 Marketing, visit their web site at: to find out more about marketing that works.

Bill Ringle is a business growth strategist and eBusiness Expert. Visit for more info on Bill's companies and projects.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Charm Offensive

Swarthmore College was featured in an article in today's New York Times on how colleges woo students who have made the cut.

It's not an academic exercise. Far from it, with annual tution and fees cresting at over $40,000 per year at top schools.

Here are a few of the techniques schools use to create a bond with accepted students:
  • Denison University pays up to half the airfare of any admitted student from outside Ohio who wants to visit campus.
  • Colgate hosts receptions in cities around the country.
  • Swarthmore, as well as others, hosts a multi-day event filled with activities and opportunites to make friends and develop an affection for the campus.

This is similar to how businesses reward customers and clients, yet goes beyond giving a new customer an umbrella for opening a checking account at the bank.

I encourage my clients who are looking to grow their business or expand into a different market to calculate the cost to acquire a new customer and also the lifetime value of the customer as you decide on the appropriate level of expenditure.

For instance, when attempting to influence a prospective undergrad to enroll at a university, you are discussing influencing a $120,000 plus decision per customer. The $20 cost to send a t-shirt is neglible. The real question is whether it's an effective use of an incentive.

How are you using incentives and rewards to build a stronger business?