Friday, December 05, 2008

10 Steps. 3 Areas. Emerge from Recession with Success.

Want to emerge from the recession with your organization ready for success? Then The Forum Corporation says they have the answer for you -- 10 steps spanning financials, people, and climate.

“By looking at past recessions we’ve identified 10 steps that can make the difference between success and failure in managing through our current downturn, and they all come back to leadership,” said Ed Boswell, CEO of The Forum Corp. “Following these steps will be particularly valuable in organizations that are undergoing cost-cutting and layoffs, which challenge managers to do more with less.”

The 10 steps recommended are as follows:

  1. Move quickly to reduce costs and control spending by narrowing focus. Winners in a downturn focus on a few critical priorities where they can develop a clear lead, and they walk away from bad business. Losers chase unprofitable sales in an attempt to hold their top line.
  2. Refrain from across-the-board cutbacks, being sure to preserve areas that customers value most. Businesses that uniformly cut costs often find that they end up damaging their ability to sell and deliver their products and services. How do you find out what customers value most? Ask them.
  3. Consider alternatives to layoffs. Downsizing tends to bolster the bottom line and stock price in the short term, but often creates long-term negative repercussions. Alternative strategies include cutting management bonuses, freezing salaries and reducing compensation options. It’s critical to clearly communicate the rationale and impact to employees.
  4. Invest in opportunity. A bad economy can present bargains, both in new assets and in new talent. Good areas to invest in are R&D, marketing and customer-perceived quality. By contrast, investing in working capital, manufacturing and administration doesn’t pay off as well.

  5. Retain and develop top talent. High-impact workers are often more susceptible to being poached by a competitor in a downturn. Organizations that provide development experiences and rotational assignments have better employee retention rates.
  6. Make sure everyone’s on the same page. When alignment on key goals is absent, performance suffers, according to studies on strategy execution. Top leaders frame an agenda and meet with key stakeholders to gain support and build commitment to overarching goals and values. Ineffective leaders let inter-office politics fester and hidden agendas dominate.
  7. Encourage questions and new ideas by making it safe for employees to raise them. Leaders who admit they don’t have all the answers and ask for input empower their people to contribute their best ideas.

  8. Manage the heat. Leaders are often tempted in difficult times to relieve the organization’s stress by making unilateral, tough decisions. That’s often a mistake. Leadership by dictate often doesn’t take because it lacks a broad base of support, and it often eliminates constructive conflicts that challenge the status quo and fuel good decision-making.
  9. Communicate authentically. Strong leaders acknowledge the challenges they struggle with and, by doing so, build trust among followers. Rather than being a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
  10. Create a positive vision and attitude that acknowledges reality. Businesses at the top of their markets often fall while “sleeper” companies sometimes jump to the top in a tough economy. When leaders exercise discipline and focus by mobilizing employees to respond to customers’ interests and values, they increase the chance that, when the downturn ends, they’ll come out on top.

Engage your managers to discuss and adopt these steps in your organization and you'll build a stronger business even in the toughest of economies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness for Entrepreneurs

Experts validate what successful people already do by making effective choices both at home and at work. Consider these 6 tips and to what degree you're employing these in your life, especially as we approach the holiday season:
  • Relishing the Day. Beware of "hedonistic adaptation," hold on to accomplishments for as long as you can. Celebrate career accomplishments by going out to dinner and have pictures and souvenirs from trips - these will help you remember them longer. According to David Schkade, a management professor at the University of California at San Diego, "'when something good happens, you want to find a way to hold on to it for longer.'"
  • Dodging traffic. According to Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at England's Warwick University, "'lack of control is what tends to induce stress in human beings.'" People find it difficult to commute since they can never rely on traffic. Therefore, Oswald recently moved closer to his office, cutting him commute from 60 minutes to 20 minutes.
  • Seeing friends. Surveys suggest that time spent with family and friends is among our happiest times. Richard Easterlin, an economics professor at the University of Southern California comments, "'Earlier on, I tended to sacrifice my family time to try and push research ahead. I do that much less now. Going out to dinner with family for me is always an enjoyable experience.'"
  • Buying memories. Spend your time on memorable experiences. Professor Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economics professor, recalls taking his father to the 2001 Super Bowl as an example.
  • Limiting options. Limiting your choices may help you be more content with your decision. Professor Gilbert of Harvard University comments that those who were the happiest with their choices were "'those for whom the choice was irrevocable. When options are open, the mind generates debate. When options are closed, the mind generates satisfaction.'"
Really successful entrepreneurs not only build a stronger business, but do things that lead to greater personal satisfaction.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Stay Calm to Maintain Good Health

According to the article "If You Keep your Cool, You may Heal Faster" in the New York Times, a new study finds that people who are stressed and have trouble controlling their temper may take longer to heal from an injury.

Researchers from Ohio State university say cortisol, a hormone related to stress, seems to interfere with the healing process. The 100 participant study led by Jean-Phillipe Gouin, appears in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Researchers focused on anger and identifying which patients were more likely to keep angry feelings to themselves and which ones expressed their feelings. They made a blister on each partipant's arm and covered it with plastic to see how long it healed. Those who expressed anger in a controlled fashion and those who did not express it healed quicker. Hot heads were about 4 times more likely to take more time to heal.

Another reason to keep your cool.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Close A Few Doors

Keeping too many options open is not always the best idea, according to "The Advantages of Closing A Few Doors" article in the New York Times. In the third century B.C. Xiang Yu, who took his troops across the Yangtze River, performed an experiment in decision making by crushing his troops pots and burning their ships. He explained this was to focus them on moving forward. In a series of experiments at MIT, students played a game that paid cash to look for money behind three doors on the screen. (you can play yourself, without pay, at Students were allotted 100 clicks and once they opened a door with the click of the mouse, each subsequent click earned a varying sum of money. The students could switch rooms to search for higher payoffs but each switch used a click. The best strategy was to quickly check all three rooms and stay in the one with the highest rewards.

A new feature was soon introduced to the students which baffled the students. If they stayed out of any room the door would shrink and eventually disappear. Instead of ignoring the shrinking doors, the students wasted time rushing back to reopen those doors that their earnings dropped 15%. The penalties for opening the shrinking doors increased (a cash fee was assessed) they still frantically attempted to keep all the doors open.

Another feature was added-the players had the option of making the door reappear at no cost if it had disappeared yet they still persisted on frantically preventing the door from disappearing. The players would probably say they were fixated with keeping their doors open because they wanted to try and keep their future options open. Dr. Ariely disagrees. They did not care about maintaining flexibility in the future; instead, they were motivated by the desire to avoid the immediate pain of watching a door close.

"Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of a loss" says Dr. Ariely. The cost in the game was lost cash; however, the costs in life can be wasted time, missed opportunities which are less obvious.

Since conducting the experiments Dr. Ariely has made a conscious effort to cancel projects and give away his ideas to colleagues. He suggests we should resign from committees, prune holiday card lists, rethink hobbies and remember the lessons of door closers like Xiang Yu.

Sometimes you've got to say "no" instead of "yes" to build a stronger business.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Please Fire Me

Here is a letter from a frustrated customer featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Sprint Nextel, you win. Please fire me. I am very upset that I was not included in your recent firing of customers who called your customer service too often to complain. Why not me? I have spent countless hours every month calling to have my bill adjusted. I have called your customer service more than my friends and family. You should have a plan that offers 10,000 minutes for customer service and 1,000 minutes for friends and family.

I beg you, please release me, let me go. You don't need me anymore. I am a bad customer like thousands of others and deserve to be terminated. Thank you.
Tom Froschle Ridley Park

When customers feel frustrated and unable to communicate with someone who can make a difference, they resort to sarcasm and cynicism.

Pay attention to customer feedback when building a stronger business and you'll avoid PR nightmares like this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Customer Service Experience

A reader of the The New York Times submitted the following letter about a recent experience with customer service:
Dear Diary:

While I was waiting for the L train at Union Square, a performer started singing the Beatles hit: "All My Loving," with just one problem:

Close your eyes and I'll miss you
Tomorrow I'll kiss you....

After he finished I dropped a dollar in his guitar case and told him I thought the lyrics went:

Close your eyes and I'll kiss you
Tomorrow I'll miss you...

He shook his head, smiled, and said, "I knew it didn't sound right." He then reached down into his guitar case and gave me back my dollar.

A.J. Jerome

Does a street musician have you beat in delivering customer service?

Being responsive and collaborative with your customers is a sure way to build a stronger business.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's Happening Now Around the World

Did You Ever Wonder About...?

A (theoretical) timetable of events around the world, gleaned from a variety of news sources:

  • Every 2 seconds someone in America requires a blood donation. (American Red Cross)
  • Every 6 seconds someone dies from tobacco use. (World Health Organization)
  • Every 6 seconds an Australian buys an item of clothing on eBay. (The Age)
  • Every 6 seconds someone is killed or injured on a road somewhere in the world. (Make Roads Safe)
  • Every 15 seconds the Large Synoptic Survey telescope in Chile photographs a section of the night sky. A complete panorama of the firmament is completed every three days. (The Guardian)
  • Every 25 seconds someone in the United States is burned or scalded in the home. (Health News Digest)
  • Every 26 seconds a student drops out of an American public high school. (America's Promise Alliance)
  • Every 30 seconds someone in the world commits suicide. (W.H.O.)
  • Every 30 seconds a child with birth defects is born in China. (China Daily)
  • Every 30 seconds someone in the world loses a limb as a consequence of diabetes. (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Every 35 seconds a child in the United States is reported neglected or abused. (
  • Every 45 seconds a plane takes off or lands at Heathrow Airport, London. (The Economist)
  • Every minute 1,000 people around the world sign up fr a cellphone. (
  • Every minute 253 children are born into the world. (U.S.Census Bureau)
  • Every 4-8 minutes violent, profane, or sexual content appears during prime time "family hour" television programming. (Parents Television Council)
  • Every 8 minutes a woman in a developing country dies of complications from an unsafe abortion. (W.H.O.)
  • Every 15 minutes someone in Scotland has a heart attack. (British Heart Foundation)
  • Every 38 minutes Louisiana loses a football-field-sized portion of its wetlands. (Science Daily)
  • Every hour & 44 minutes there is a case of "dowry death" in India. (The Guardian)
  • Every 2 hours someone in New Zealand fractures a hip. (Osteoporosis New Zealand)
  • Every 10 hours a driver with a suspended license crashes in Maine. (The Morning Sentinel)
  • Every day more than 1.6 million blog posts appear online. (Technorati)
  • Every day 6,800 are infected with H.I.V. (United Nations)
  • Every fortnight a language falls out of use. (The New York Times)
  • Every month 300 specialist nurses leave South Africa. (W.H.O.)
  • Every month the American government adds around 20,000 names to its terrorist watch lists. (A.C.L.U.)
  • Every month about 130 million rides are taken on the New York City subway. (M.T.A.)
  • Every year the average American eats nearly 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish. (The New York Times)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Prosperity Made Easy with YouTube

"Using YouTube For Prosperity" in the Wall Street Journal explains that many senior citizens are seeking to preserve their legacy through videos showcasing their famous recipes or hobbies, on YouTube.

Seniors ages 65 and older are the fastest growing segments of the online population, according to Jupiter Research. 39% of all seniors in the U.S. will regularly access the Internet by the end of 2007.

By 2010, half of the U.S. senior population is expected to be online. In response, Internet companies are launching services targeted at older online viewers.

Some grandchildren in their 20's are intimidated by the process of creating an online video so it is not surprising that grandparents are seeking their help with this process. Millie Garfield, 81, decided to feature herself in a series of videos documenting her son's pet peeves -- namely, her persistent requests for his helping opening coffee cans, rethreading dental floss, or opening tightly sealed bottles. Her son has helped her film and post the series on a blog, and on YouTube.

When you open your experiments up to the general public, like Google has done with YouTube and Blogspot, you find uses that you might never have imagined within your own company. When you spot trends like this, you gain the opportunity to build a stronger business.

Listen, Then Speak

In The New York Times article, "Read My Ears", Thomas Friedman explains why President Bush needs to do less talking and more listening, particularly when visiting Europe.

After George Bush's image in Europe became severely damaged as a result of the Iraq war and U.S. Foreign Policy, Friedman suggests that his priority to Europe should be listening to their complaints, rather than making speeches.

Friedman suggests that only once he hears and understands Europeans' view of America as a once welcoming, optimistic country turned into a hostile, aggressive one, should Bush consider speaking.

Even the most experienced of us can make mistakes.

Listening to customer complaints with an open mind, is an essential part of building a stronger business.

Business Tips TV Launches

Saturday, April 05, 2008

An Easy Way to Replicate Files is used to replicate and synchronize files across various computers, and also can also help you backup files by having them saved to a source outside your computer. SugarSynch offers a 35 day free trial with 10 gigabytes of file storage. After the trial, the 10 gigabytes can be maintained for $25 a year. Five other storage plans exist, from $50 a year for 30 gigabytes to $250 a year for 250 gigabytes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Outsourcing Chutzpah

The article "Calling In The House Therapist" in The New York Times recommends hiring a coach to get through the remodeling process. Ms. Lund and Mr. Coccoluto selected an architect whom they felt was most qualified to renovate their 1820's colonial-style farmhouse; however, the architect wanted to place the garage doors at the back of the house which would cost more and make the backyard smaller and the homeowners preferred the garage doors on the side of the home.

The homeowners consulted with Bruce Irving, a remodeling coach who helps homeowners negotiate the challenges of renovation. He recommended they talk about their feelings with the architect so as to prevent ending up with a home that would make them feel uncomfortable.

They did so and expected her to grow angry but instead she quickly agreed with the change and redid the blueprints within ten days.

"Bruce gave us the chutzpah to tell our architect what we wanted," said Ms. Lund. "Sometimes you need someone to tell you that, because we're so used to internalizing our emotions. He's almost like having a house therapist."

Renovating a home can be a difficult and frustrating task so it's not surprising that coaches like Mr. Irving are proliferating. Remodeling coaches act more like marriage counselors than like building consultants, and, like therapists, they are best when brought in as early as possible.

They can help homeowners figure out what they want in a renovation and make sure the project is actually carried out properly. In the past only multi-million dollar jobs had project managers btu with the housing boom and growth in remodeling there is a new market of homeowners who know nothing about building and are searching for help. Some in the field estimate that there are about 100 such coaches around the country. Remodeling coaches help to reduce confusion and help homeowners make knowledgeable decisions.

Sometimes you need to outsource chutzpah to sufficiently convey your preferences to build not only a better house, but a stronger business. Have you heard from any of your customers lately?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Online Learning Pros and Cons

The Internet has made the online learning experience much like that in a real classroom. In the fall of 2006, 3.5 million students were taking online courses, up 10% from the previous year, according to Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit group that studies trends in online learning. Today, more than two-thirds of all higher education institutions offer online classes.

Professors and students have more flexibility learning online; however, there are disadvantages. Online professors are working just as hard as full time professors who meet with their students in person, but are being paid less. Many professors who do online learning are part timers, typically getting paid $1,000 to $1,500 to teach a course while a full time professor gets about ten times more than that, according to Professor Ruth at George Mason University. Spencer Anderson, an adjunct professor at North Lake College, says he was supposed to teach two traditional courses with about 12 students each but many students chose to take the online course, so he ended up teaching 40 students online and was only paid for one course, which has effected his income.

The biggest growth in online teaching has been at two-year colleges, and public colleges are at the forefront, according to the Sloan Consortium. The University of Phoenix has about 12,500 online faculty members. Online teaching gives teachers the opportunity of having a flexible schedule and supplemental income, while maximizing profits for the universities by decreasing expenses on salaries.

Building a stronger business is about scaling up, and there's a lot to be learned from the virtual education model.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Online Ads

In the New York Times article "Online Pitches Made Just For You", it describes techniques used by Alaska Airlines that many consumers are most likely unaware of. Alaska Airlines is introducing a system on the Internet to create unique ads for people as they cruise the web.

This is slightly different from direct mail or telemarketing because companies do not know the consumers name; instead, consumers are identified by their computers, using cookies.

Alaska Airlines uses a range of information to select the ads for each individual consumer surfing the web, including the person's geographic location, the number of times they have seen an Alaska Airlines ad, whether the person visited the company's website, the persons purchase history with the airline and their experience with lost bags, delays and flight cancellations.

Since Alaska Airlines is a small operation,it is important that its ads narrowly aim at people who might actually fly to the particular areas they service. The first phase of the new system even offers different flight prices to different people by analyzing how price sensitive certain consumers seem to be. Another data practice used at Alaska Airlines is called "re-targeting" which records who visits the web site and then turns that information over to the airline's ad delivery company. Next, when those people are elsewhere on the web, they are shown the ad. This means that people who visit Alaska Airlines' site receives ads that are different from those seen by people who have not.

Tracking individual actions and responding intelligently is a sure way to build a stronger business.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bringing Improvisation to the Workplace

According to Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up, an effective way to improve your business to take a fresh look at what and how you are doing in your business.

Learn to work with situations that used to be interpreted as mistakes in a new light. Improv consultants can help alter a work environment by creating novel situations and encouraging individuals to react in new ways. This addition of humor and decrease of the fear of making mistakes can help reduce tension in the workplace. Ms. Madson and other improv consultants, including a team out of Portland, OR, called On Your Feet (, are hoping to create "'a culture of 'yes.''" Developing a culture of yes can allow entrepreneurs to consider ideas that they previously may have discarded. Often "'happy mistakes'" can occur when one idea opens the door to another pathway of thinking.

Robert Poynton, a co-founder of On Your Feet said "'if anything, we know rather less about what is coming next, and how it will affect us, than our ancestors did,'" in "A Turtle and a Guitar Case: Improvisation and the Joys of Uncertainty." The On Your Feet site also refers to a "'cool mistake,'" something seemingly negative that has a positive outcome when interpreted in a different light.

As all business owners know, even the best made plans can fail. According to Ms. Madson, "improvisers avoid spinning their wheels because they see quickly what isn't working, or simultaneously, what might be successful that didn't occur to them at first. Improvisers, by definition, take risks and make mistakes, lots of them, but that's what leads them in fresh directions.'" Ms. Madson acknowledges that this change away from structured planning can be difficult; however, she suggests that this method can still help your business move forward.

Mike Kwatinetz, a venture capitalist who is co-founder and general partner at Azure Capital Partners in Palo Alto, embraces improvisational thinking as a way to get companies moving. This way you are reacting to what is happening around you and making appropriate changes and improvements.

Build a stronger business by letting go of the future.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bill Gates Asks How to Encourage Tech Careers

Bill Gates, listed as a technologist/philanthropist, asks the 25 million plus members of the business networking site LinkedIn, "How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?"

In less than 3 days, he's received close to 3,000 responses -- some very intriguing and well thought-0ut ideas have been posted.

When you build a stronger business, you cast a wide net and seek ideas from a diverse population.

Everyone Say 'Aye'

Did you ever notice that everyone is for free speech, as long as the speaker sounds like them?

When you build a stronger business (or any team/organization for that matter), you've got to be able to hear and even solicit input from different perspectives, and some of it is bound to be contrary from what you were expecting.

As you learn to incorporate and learn from that feedback, you will become a better leader and the organization will benefit from it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Book of All Species

According to the article "The Encyclopedia of Life, No Bookshelf Required" in the New York Times, if Scientists created the Book of All Species, a single volume made up of one-page descriptions of the 1.8 million known species, the book would have to be more than 300 feet long. The bookshelf would also require the ability to expand because scientists estimate that there are 10 times more species waiting to be discovered.

Though it sounds surreal, scientists are building a Web site called the Encyclopedia of Life ( On 2/28/08 its authors, an international time of scientists, will introduce the first 30,000 pages, and within a decade they predict that will have the other 1.77 million.
The encyclopedia will have a budget of about 50 million in its first five years.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

More About Business Travel Blogs

Business travel is now the subject of many blogs. is a directory to blogs that address issues of interest to business travelers. Tracy Gamble, VP for business development at Propylon, reads three or four travel blogs regularly, including the Informed Traveler, CloudTravel and Gridskipper. Also, J.W. Marriot Jr, chairman and chief executive at Marriott International, began a blog called Marriott on the Move. He loves reading the customer responses to posts. Starwood, the hotel chain, started a blog to provide information to customers in its loyalty program.

Blogs can also be a quick way to gauge customer reaction to policies. Southwest Airlines has a blog, Nuts About Southwest. A schedule planner wrote in a post that the airline sold its inventory only three months in advance; however, after an outcry online it changed its policy and now sells inventory four months in advance.
Delta's blog,, has posted proposed screen shots for its self service kiosks on the blog to get feedback from travelers.

Bringing the voice of your customers into your company is another way to build a stronger business.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Google's Looking to Do Good

According to Kevin Delaney's Wall Street Journal article "Google: From 'Don't Be Evil' to How to Do Good", Google, Inc. has engaged in a project that will blur the boundary between the profit and non-profit areas. In this $30 million proposal, efforts will be made to predict and prevent disease pandemics, increase the poor's access to public services, and create new jobs. They will also be joining other efforts to improve access to plug-in cars and renewable energy sources. According to the Foundation Center, these grants and proposals "make it larger than any in-house corporate foundation in the U.S." Both company and foundation resources are being utilized in this initiative. Other groups, such as eBay and Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network, are also working to merge the profit and non-profit worlds.

Thinking outside the box and expanding your business' reach will build a stronger business.

Friday, January 18, 2008

We All Need Sleep

According to the article "Scientists Are Still Searching in the Dark For the Secrets of Sleep" in The Wall Street Journal, if we lose too much sleep we become reckless, emotionally fragile, and more vulnerable to infections and to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Sleeplessness is a self-inflicted epidemic in which lifestyle overrides basic biolgy. On average, most people sleep 75 minutes less each night then people did a century ago. However, more people are spening more money on sleep aids. By one estimate, pharmacists filled 49 million prescriptions for sleep drugs last year.

There are dire consequence of too little sleep. Almost half of all heavy-truck accidents can be traced to driver fatigues and decisions leading to Challenger space-shuttle disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor meltdown and the Exxon Valdez oil spill can be partly linked to people drained of rest. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimated 15 billion dollar costs a year in reduced productivity due to sleep deprivation. A nap can do a lot more good then people may think. People who take regular naps of 30 minutes of more at least three times a week, have a 64% lower risk of heart-related death, researchers at th University of Athens reported last February in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Oddly enough, the well-rested entrepreneur gets more done, not less, than his sleep deprived counterpart. Tale time to be well rested as you build a stronger business.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Free Games Online

Free games that can be found online:

* Excit -
* Portal: The Flash Version -
* 5 Differences -
* Desktop Tower Defense 1.5 -
* Campaign Game -