Monday, February 27, 2006

To be Better Informed, Get Closer to The Action

Driven by shyness or an intense fear of being called on, many people avoid sitting in the first two rows of a classroom and immediately lower their chances of success.

If you find yourself in a seminar or lecture, try to sit in the first two rows. The closer you are to the instructor, the easier it is to concentrate. You won’t be distracted by chatterbox classmates and you’ll be in a better position to hear. It will also make it easier to take notes, particularly in a large lecture hall.

By eliminating factors that can undermine your learning, you will benefit and will be better positioned to build a stronger business.

To Code or Not to Code

In a rush to secure their websites from loathsome spammers, companies have introduced a security system that has angered another segment of the population — advocates for the visually impaired, observes David Kesmodel in his article “Codes on Sites ‘Captcha’ Anger of Web Users,” from The Wall Street Journal.

Captcha forces users to type in a code of distorted and scrambled letters to gain access to websites such as Yahoo Mail and in order to protect them from spammers who make up lots of email accounts or buy dozens of tickets for scalpers.

Captcha is short for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. The system was inspired by mathematician Alan Turing, a code breaker and pioneer of artificial intelligence, who developed a test in which a person in one room would ask questions of another person and a computer in another room and try to determine which one was human.

Organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium have advocated for the development of more palatable alternatives to captcha so vulnerable customers, such as those who are visually impaired, dyslexic, or have short term memory problems, are not needlessly excluded.

Companies with captcha counter that the solution represents the most effective balance between accessibility and protecting themselves against automated malicious attacks.

When it comes to accessibility some companies have been more accommodating than others. News website simplified the backdrop of its captcha code from multicolored to gray and allows users to type capital or lowercase versions of the scrambled letter codes. Google added an audio captcha for its email service.

When you are developing new systems for your company try to ensure that everyone has equal access to them and you will build a stronger business.

Don’t Write Off Snail Mail; It’s More Important than Ever

Few people rely on the US Postal Service to ferry their personal musings to friends and loved ones when a handy e-mail can do the job in mere seconds. Yet Internet-based companies like NetFlix, EBay and Amazon absolutely depend on the post office to deliver and receive goods ordered through their websites. As a result, the amount of posted mail has increased dramatically, says James Fallows in The New York Times article, “Why The Internet Isn’t The Death of The Post Office”.

Two million Internet orders are delivered each day through the mail — accounting for one-fifth of all first class mail.

Even though people may do their banking on the Internet, many still insist on having a print version of their bills mailed to their homes.

The U.S. Postal Service has even taken a page from FedEx’s book and installed scanning equipment used to track packages. For a fee it can scan envelopes and postcards and track them.

Commercial mail to residences has also increased. But companies are beginning to tailor the timing and focus of their attention to consumers most likely to want to stay informed of a company’s activities. According to Michael J Critelli, co-chairman of Mail Industry Task Force, response rates to targeted mailings are better than traditional direct mail campaigns.

There remains a strong psychological resonance with snail mail. Two-thirds of people don’t expect personal mail, but when they do get a personal letter it makes their day, according to the Postal Service survey. About 55% of people look forward to seeing what the daily mail brings, perhaps in the hope that they will get another thrill of personal correspondence.

The death of snail mail has been greatly exaggerated. If you can get your old and new delivery systems to work in tandem, you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Open Source ≠ Anonymous Source Wikipedia Shows

According to Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, predicts that the process used in Wikipedia in which entries are open to innumerous input and editing will overshadow the process used in Britannica, in which editors review a piece and an article is published. Stross also notes in "Anonymous Source Is Not the Same as Open Source" (The New York Times), that Mr. Wales is concerned about entrusting the "Wikipedian culture" on to new individuals. Wikipedia currently offers 923 "feature" articles which have been double checked and edited. However, only about one new article gains feature status per day. Mr. Wales would like to improve this by looking at open source software models. This would include the inclusion of many contributions and then a restrictive policy to prepare for release. According to Mr. Wales, Wikipedia has "'half the model.'"

On the other hand, though Wikipedia is far from Britannica, Jess Bates, a vice president of the Open Source Technology Group who oversees, the host of more than 80,000 active open-source projects, suggests that Wikipedia is still not an open source, since one individual takes responsibility of the informations, though many contribute.

Build a stronger business by listening to industry and customer feedback and evolving your products.

Think Like a Coach to Develop a Better Team

If you want to be a strong leader you have to ensure that your management style is appropriate to gaining the trust and respect of your employees, according to Perot Systems director Mort Meyerson in Bottom Line column Lessons in Leadership.

Don’t impose strategies for a department until you have the staff’s point of view. Stress the need for them to offer their insight into their clients, what has worked in the past and what can be done to solve problems in the future. Make it your responsibility to motivate them

Eliminate managers, even those performing above their goals, who mistreat their staff and they refuse to change their ways. Classic mistreatment can include: disregarding their staff’s input, bullying them, or holding back entitlements such as training

Make yourself accessible to employees in a timely manner. Respond to emails at your earliest convenience.

When you negotiate, don’t set out to totally vanquish your rival. If you can give them something they want, they will walk away believing they’ve been met with a reasonable compromise instead of the bitter taste of defeat which may fuel resentment later.

Even if your goals are based on numbers and raw monetary values, try to express them to your staff in a way that is meaningful to them and that reinforces the company’s values such as, “We want to do this to ensure a rate of growth that will allow us to gain experience, be rewarded and get promoted.”

By tweaking your management style to reflect the needs and realities of your company’s staff, it will help you build a stronger business.

Nine Tips to Sharpen Your Rhetoric

Some people enjoy confrontation and other people recoil from it. If you are to get anywhere in the business world, however, you have to be prepared to argue your point, says William A. Rusher in his Bottom Line article “How to Win Any Argument”.

1. Decide why you want to argue. What is the objective? Whatever your conclusion may be, it is critical to shaping your strategy.

2. Know your opponent – what is their attitude to the subject and to you personally? What are their weaknesses and strengths? Is it a longtime foe or a mild-mannered person who simply disagrees with your idea?

3. Be measured in your response to the opposition. If you overwhelm your opponent, he may gain sympathy for appearing to be the underdog. Another risk is that you will create an atmosphere of ill-will and damage your relationship.

4. Make sure you have all the facts to support your position.

5. Use basic principles to support your case and appeal to common sense.

6. If your opponent invokes principles too, have a ready strategy. Cite extreme examples that highlight the flaws in your opponent’s principles or at least their limitations. Ask your rival questions to gain information, and which force him to acknowledge facts that may undermine his case.

7. Be sure to make eye contact.

8. No matter how emotional or passionate the subject matter may be, it’s important to maintain a polite demeanor. Listen to your opponent and try to avoid interrupting him.

9. Use exaggeration or understatement to stress your point and make your approach seem more sensible.

10. If you make a mistake, admit it quickly and briefly and then move on.

11. Know when not to argue. Rusher says that if your opponent is “frivolous, stupid or mean” you should avoid getting into a confrontation with them.

If you know how to defend your principles and have a civilized argument with your opponent, you’ll persuade your friends and business partners to respect your viewpoints, maintain your vision for your company and you’ll build a stronger business.

Facebook Brought to Us by Microsoft

Microsoft is getting into the social networking business in an exclusive advertising deal with Facebook, a student website developed from the Harvard University website, according to the article “Microsoft Nabs Facebook Deal in Reach for More Online Ads” from The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook is the second largest social networking website on the Internet after Newscorp website MySpace, according to market researcher Hitwise.

Microsoft no doubt views the move as a way to take its message to the next generation of customers who will soon be young, successful professionals with the money to buy the company’s latest technology. The social networking environment also lends itself to the free flow of messages. And Microsft probably hopes that its presence will generate plenty of chatter.

By tapping unconventional forums to market your products, you set your business apart. By turning a younger generation on to your products, you develop a foundation for future sales which can help you build a stronger business.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Create the Ideal Work Environment at Home

It would seem like the ideal solution for working parents with children, but working from home won’t work unless you create a professional and efficient setting conducive to maximizing your business potential, according to Kelly K Spors The Wall Street Journal article, “Five Rules for Working at Home — and Surviving”.

Time management is of the utmost importance. If you can’t manage that you won’t be the effective executive you want to be.

Have a routine and stick to it. It can be tough to work at home with constant interruptions from your children and personal phone calls and yet you need to maintain a professional atmosphere.

Have a separate room or separate space where you do your office work. This way your work doesn’t get lost or mixed up with the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house. It’s a lot to ask of young children to be seen and not heard so outsource a babysitter to handle your kids.

Try to avoid splitting up your day so that you are not working late into the night and early in the morning. Make a special effort to keep to a regular set of hours to ensure that you are well rested and at the peak of your performance.

If you are meeting with clients in your home, make sure it is as clean as possible and ensure that kids are under the care of a babysitter in another remote location. Have a separate phone line so that no one but you is dealing with your clientele to maintain a professional workplace. Rent an office space for meetings, if you can.

Working from home can be isolating. You need to make time to meet with people in your industry to have people to share experiences with, to share ideas and valuable tips to improve your home office. Check the Internet and see if there are any networking opportunities in your area.

Outsourcing time-consuming aspects of your business such as accounting or some clerical duties, can save you time and in the long run as well as a lot of money and stress. It’s the type of work that you would probably be delegating if you were in an office.

Set boundaries. Yes, you need to be able to respond to your client and family needs, but unless you do a reasonable job of demarcating your professional and family life, it will create needless stress for you and those around you.

With a lot of planning and self-discipline you can create the work environment that best suits you and you’ll build a stronger business.

Friday, February 10, 2006

World Mapper Gives Perspective!

Check this site out:
World Mapper

It's stunning to see in grapic detail how little the USA exports to the rest of the world. No wonder our trade deficit is so hard to balance!

When you're building a stronger business, you've got to know the big picture.

What Hotels Know About You

Hotels know a lot about you. They may keep track of your pillow preferences, your food choices, and even your favorite sports team - all in the hopes of providing great customer service. Here's a summary of what certain hotels are currently doing to help win you over, as reported recently in The Wall Street Journal.

The Ritz-Carlton has a new database called Mystique that catalogues employee observations about guests for all of the company's 60 hotels. It replaces an old system that couldn't share information as easily between hotels. Since this system relies on hotel staff to notice what guests like and dislike, it allows the company to tailor services without asking guests to fill out any forms.

Marriott's "Rewarding Welcome" system asks guests for their preferences in pillow type, bed type, room location, extra towels, or refrigerator. It now shares the information with eight brands, and 2,600 hotels. Guests fill out a form to participate, so the system is entirely optional.

This year Hilton's guest recognition technology is being expanded to include in-room preferences, such as pillow, blanket, need for a crib or rollaway, and early or late check in. In 2007, the hotel company hopes to roll out RFID-tagged cards for frequent guests to carry so that the hotel can track them around the property. This would allow a bartender to have a guest's favorite drink ready as soon as the guest walks in the bar, for example. The company is also testing a way for its TVs to greet guests with a customized message when turned on.

In April, Hyatt is rolling out an "e-concierge" system so that guests can tell the hotel in advance about their preferences for amenities like golf, spas, and restaurants. Hyatt currently has a centralized guest history system that captures preferences like room type, amenity type, bed type and location near or far from an elevator. It has special codes employees can log into the system for preferences such as a guest who prefers grapefruit peeled and sliced in a certain way.

Starwood (which includes brands like W Hotels, Westin, and Sheraton) doesn't have a tracking system other than its Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty program. The properties on its more luxurious end, like W, have internal guest-recognition systems, however. If a guest expresses a love for a certain sports team, the welcome desk will always provide that guest with a game schedule and a list of TV channels on which the team is playing. W asks guests if they want information about preferences to remain with one property, or expect it to be honored throughout the chain.

Build a stronger business by paying attention to your customers and showing that they matter when they return.

A Good Alternate for Your Sweet Tooth

Did You Ever Wonder About...?

Xylitol is a natural substance found in fruits (ex. raspberries). It only has 1/3 of the calories of sugar, but tastes similar. It is sold as a powder, approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food additive, and harvested from birch wood or other natural substances. Items that utilize xylitol, such as sugar free gum or candy, can help one avoid sugar and therefore improve oral hygeine. Mutans streptococci is a bacteria that uses sugar to make energy. Lactic acid is released in this process, which can harm teeth by dissolving minerals. Xylitol does not feed these bacteria and can interfere with their functioning, although method in which this occurs is not fully understood. Jason Tanzer, a dentist and microbioligist at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn. suggests that the bacteria produce less lactic acid in the presence of xylitol. Other scientists believe that xylitol interferes with the bacteria's ability to adhere to teeth.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Deadlines Come Out on Top

You better meet your deadlines if you want to succeed in your job, according to a survey of 150 executives by temporary accounting staff agency, Accountemps.

Asked what the single most important characteristic for the workplace is, 36% answered meeting deadlines.

Avoiding office politics and being pleasant to work with tied for second place with 20% each. Supporting your supervisor was the single most important characteristic for 17% of participants.

If you complete your work on time you will fulfill your clients and colleagues expectations and build a stronger business.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Highest Priorities Include Reactive and Proactive Steps

Look at this chart from Sage Research:

IT pain points from survey

What I noticed immediately is that company IT leaders are mired in managing unwanted e-mail messages and preventing network security problems before they can get to their biggest return on tech investment, alignment with business goals.

Is your business in a similar situation?

Things have been different for the companies surveyed (as well as your company, perhaps), if 5 years ago you implemented simple policies and directory protection measures.

It always makes sense to spend a portion of your time looking ahead at what you can take care of now while it's a small matter.

It's a habit of company leaders who are focused on building a stronger business.

Sharp has rapidly carved out a niche for itself in the LCD TV market

Sharp Inc. has taken larger electronics companies by surprise by carving out a 23 percent share of the LCD market and becoming a market leader in a very competitive market.

Its latest product to build on its lead in the sector is a 65-inch Aquos LCD TV. Under Katsuhiko Machida’s tenure, Sharp has raised its profit margin to 5.9 percent, the highest among Japanese electronics producers for the fiscal year ending March 2005.

With sales of $2.5bn, the company enjoyed profits of $715 million. Machida. Sharp’s fourth president says he has benefited from the advice of his original predecessor, Tokuji Hayakawa, who counseled: “Create products that others will strive to imitate”.

When Machida took over a Sharp, he scaled back its semi-conductor business and took an enormous risk by investing 75% of the company’s annual capital outlay into a state-of-the-art LCD production facility, the only such plant to produce and assemble LCDs from beginning to end. Machida did this to avoid the worldwide practice of manufacturers to outsource, because he sought maximum quality control assurance. He later decided to expand the screen width from 40 inches to 45 inches.

Between World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2006 and the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing the LCD sector is expected to see double-digit growth.

It flies in the face of conventional business practices to manufacture start to finish in a developed country but Machida believes he can maximize profits by managing tighter control over the entire process. If you can take an unconventional strategy and make it work, you’ll build a stronger business.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Don't Network this Way!

For business owners, networking is a great way to expand your circle of contacts and increase your chances of meeting your next client, employee, or supplier.

However, this Washington Post story cautions us about the need to erase your personal phone numbers, PINS, and other secure info from your cell phone before turning it in or donating it.

With high end phones, this isn't always as easy as it seems. When I did this on a Kyocera phone last year, each entry had to be selected, deleted, and confirmed. Then you had to go back to the main menu, go to the Contacts list, and begin the process again.

It's worth the effort, though. Be safe and take this precaution.

Dealing with identity theft can range as a minor nuisance to a major distraction.