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Marketing

Inherit the earth, inhale the opportunity

All around us, people are being laid off.

The companies in (and near) my little town in rural, northwest Montana – have seen more than 800 layoffs.

Thankfully (if there is a bright spot), not all of the 800 people laid off live here in our town of 4500 people – but it still affects everyone as it trickles through the town’s economy.

A local banker told me a few weeks ago, “You can see it on them when they come in…they’re wearing it”.

“It” being the weight of unemployment.

The bright spot

There is a bright spot to all of this. Our local community college has seen a massive peak in registrations.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” –   Eric Hoffer

You know that a lot of the folks who are getting laid off are unprepared to move on. Not all of them, of course, but a substantial percentage.

As a business owner, you already know that you have to be careful who you hire in these situations. Many folks will bolt back to their former job as soon as it opens up – because you probably can’t pay them what a manufacturing job does, for example.

Scout motto – “Be prepared”

How are you preparing your staff and *your company* for the world that doesn’t yet exist?

You might think that you don’t care because tomorrow isn’t here, and those newfangled things won’t appear for a while.

Or you might be the town’s Yahoo and the new business in town just might be the Google that makes you irrelevant.  Heaven help you if that new business actually has some funding and isn’t bootstrapping like so many others.

It isn’t about Silicon Valley, Yahoo and Google. This conversation is just as applicable to them as it is to your dry cleaning store.

It isn’t just laid off employees that need to be learning. You likely recognize that they should have updated their skills BEFORE they found themselves in a position to be laid off.

Look in the mirror, cuz the same goes for you.

Your business needs to learn and grow as well if it is to inherit its rightful place as the dominant innovative business in your niche.

That has to happen before your Google arrives on the scene.

Categories
Competition Employees Management Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

The valuable assets your competition is giving away

Classic photo of a distress sale -- Great Depression $100 will buy this car
Creative Commons License photo credit: onohoku

I‘ve always been amazed that a large company can lay off 20,000 or 30,000 workers and not fail soon after. These days, layoffs of 5,000 to 20,000 are regularly in the news.

In January 2009, 241,749 people were laid off across the U.S. â?? and that likely only counts the firms large enough that they have to report layoffs to the U.S. Department of Labor.

It likely doesn’t include the people who are working fewer shifts or short shifts. Not a layoff, but just as impactful to those folks. That number could easily be in the millions.

Still, it’s the companies with tens of thousands too many white collar workers that are stunning.

What are they thinking?

If you can lay off 30,000 workers next week â?? what in the name of standing around the water cooler are that many people doing to create value and generate revenue this week?

How critical could their work really be if a company can afford to send that many people home with less than a day’s notice?

Weâ??re not just talking about manufacturing companies where an extended shortage of orders could result in having too many people on staff. Even in that sort of environment, sales don’t change so quickly that 30,000 people who are providing value and generating revenue on Monday are suddenly not needed on Tuesday.

What management team would allow such a glut to get to the point where you’d not only have to lay that many people off, but you’d have to do it all at once?

How was the performance of those people being evaluated?

For that matter, how was the management over those folks being evaluated if their company could afford to layoff that many with one massive cut?

Gluttony: Also one of the seven deadly business sins

Just so you get an idea what kind of impact we’re talking about, let’s do a little math. 30,000 people who are paid an average of $35,000 a year is a total payroll of ONE BILLION, 50 MILLION dollars. 20 million bucks a week.

That doesn’t count benefits, the employer half of SSI and Medicare, unemployment insurance (much less the increase caused by laying off 30,000 people – YOW) and so on â?? nor does it count the human resources team necessary to handle the various work that has to be done to handle the paperwork and such that’s necessary for 30,000 workers.

Nor does it count the office space necessary to house that many people and all the assets necessary to give them something to do (desks, computers, chairs, etc).

How do you waste $20,000,000 a week â?? plus all those costs – on that many people who are easily expendable (proven by the ability to lay them off all at once). How can you afford to discard the experience and business knowledge that 30,000 people have gained in your industry?

Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

What about your business?

For the small business owner â?? it’s not just a cash flow issue, it’s about not hiring people you don’t need, being smart about the ones you do hire, and cross-training the team you do have so that you don’t ever have to lay them off.

There are a few large companies who have never laid someone off. You can read about them here: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/fortune/0901/gallery.no_layoffs.fortune/

As for everyone else – now is the time to strengthen your business, train your people, test new product lines and services and start competing harder in your market while many of your competitors are in a possibly weakened condition.

If your direct competitors – or those in similar fields – are laying off people,  put the word out on the street that you’re interviewing.

Why? So you can get a look at the folks everyone else has laid off. There just might be a gem in the bunch.

Why not use their sharpest knife against them?

Categories
attitude Business culture Competition Customer relationships Customer service Management Restaurants service Small Business Starbucks

What makes you shine like a Ferrari?

Imagine getting laid off at 63 years of age simply because you’re old.

Now they won’t tell you that because you could sue them for that. Instead, they lay you off because another (ie: younger) employee doesn’t have to make as much.

Like a kick in the gut, you’d think.

But not for this guy. Despite health issues, a divorce, a failed consulting firm and getting fired simply because he (wink, wink) made too much, Michael Gates Gill proudly says he can make a toilet shine like a Ferrari.

He says “Starbucks saved my life“, but I think he’s wrong. 

More on that in a minute. 

More than ever, service matters

Some businesses offer great service. Some do not.

More often than not, the difference is in the attitude of the person behind the counter. They do what no one else will do (much less try) – just like the dog in the photo. 

In Mr. Gill’s case, the right attitude is really what saved his life – the attitude of both his and those of the people he works with. 

I’ll bet it comes across the counter at his shop. In fact, I’ll bet it impacts the attitude of many of his clientele and causes people to want him to wait on them rather than someone else.

Do you have anyone like that?

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Employees Entrepreneurs Hiring Leadership Management Productivity Small Business

Passion or productivity – Which can you handle?

Today’s guest post comes from David Armano, who provokes the manager in you by asking if you can handle the truth. 

No, wait. That was a movie..

David’s question is more challenging. Can you handle a passionate employee? Do they even belong at your business – even though you probably think and say that you want them? 

Anyone who has worked for someone else and felt like they were the only one who really, truly gave a rip will find themselves nodding their heads. 

http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2008/12/passion-vs-productive.html

BUT…now that you’re in charge, could someone like you excel at your business? Or would just rather have someone who is “just” productive?

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Competition Creativity Employees Entrepreneurs Leadership Personal development Small Business

Don’t tarnish the silver lining. Polish it.

This TED video is about education, but it could easily apply to opportunities that you give your staff to learn, to be creative and invent great new things.

Google gives their employees a percentage of their work time so that they can work on that next big thing they are pumped up about or interested in.

How many new businesses are started by employees who were not allowed to be creative and explore their ideas?

How much more successful would their employer be if they let the employee pursue that interest in-house, rather than forcing them to bail out in frustration – only to create their own company and flourish?

Who in your company is frustrated by things like this? While they are doing your company’s work, do they have a new product floating around in their head that has the potential to be the next Post-it Note? The next iPod? The next Gutenberg press?

Do you have a budding Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Lee Iacocca, Trump, Randy Pausch or Dan Kennedy lurking just below the surface of your business?

Are your people forced to keep their ideas to themselves, feeling like a seedling struggling to reach through the soil and feel the sun, air and rain? How would you know?

How are you encouraging your staff to grow and create things that not only push your business to the next rung on the ladder, but instead push your business five rungs up the ladder?

As you watch Sir Ken Robinson speak, think about your employees in the same light that Ken talks about children in our education system.

And then do something about it. Don’t let the creative ones go out of boredom and frustration.

Categories
Employees Entrepreneurs Management Small Business

5 entrepreneur lessons from Guy Kawasaki

Today’s guest post is from Guy Kawasaki. You probably know of Guy from his books, from his time at Apple or Garage, or maybe from Alltop. Who knows, you might even have played hockey with him. 

Regardless, his last post as a blogger for Sun is definitely worth reading.

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Customer service Employees Leadership Management Restaurants Retail Small Business

If you find a Foster, hire him. Don’t just tip him.

Last week Andy Andrews told a story about an excellent Atlanta Hartsfield Airport staffer that he met years ago.

Airport management fired him because he did his job too well.

Rather than letting someone continue in that position…just hire them away. Don’t let the bureaucracy break their spirit, much less their heart.

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Employees Management Motivation Personal development planning Productivity Small Business systems

An in-your-face reminder to GET. STUFF. DONE.

Today’s guest post comes from internet marketer Trey Smith, who offers up a simple, in-your-face way to regularly remind yourself to GET THINGS DONE as your day progresses.

It might seem like “nothing”, but having it in your face all day is exactly the kind of thing that productivity experts recommend, and it even jibes with the “How the ultra-successful get that way” findings reported by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich.

Give it a shot. Trey’s free template makes it easy.

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Education Employees Leadership Motivation Small Business

Is it better to be smart, resilient or hard working?

My vote would be a combination of all three, and there’s a good discussion of this in today’s guest post at OpenEducation. It isn’t just about kids, though I strongly suggest you consider it in that light.

It’s also something to look for in employees.

It isn’t how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up – and what happens next.

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Competition Corporate America Creativity Education Employees Management Motivation Personal development Small Business

Know someone who has no time to learn?

Wouldn’t surprise me if some of you regularly encounter folks who just don’t think they need to keep learning.

Ask them to get used to saying “Do you want fries with that?” because their industry will quickly leave them behind.

Daniel over at Idea Sellers hits the nail on the head with today’s guest post about continuous education.

Don’t assume you can discard this thought if you aren’t in sales, as his point is valid regardless of what line of work you’re in.

One of the things I admired most about EDS (my first real job four score and twenty years ago, or something like that) was that they never stood in the way of improving yourself. If you wanted to take a class, the door was open. They realized that the more educated their people were, the more they were likely to gain.

I strongly advise you to do the same. Offer as many educational opportunities as you can to your staff.

I know, I know. Someone out there is thinking “But what if they leave?”, yet they should be thinking “What if they don’t leave?”

Set the example yourself and place the opportunity in front of them so they’ll follow suit.