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Humans & Computers: Recipe for Trouble

I’ve just spent a week fighting desktop and laptop issues for too many hours.
A client is suing a former executive who took client lists, then approached them to transfer business to his new firm before he left their firm.
JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot… and the list goes on of huge system data breaches.

While many solopreneurs rely on family or friends for ‘IT support”, once you have employees you cannot do that. The employee issues related to computer, communications, smart phones, ‘bring your own devices’, security, and cloud usage are critical to your business.

Do you – and your employees – understand what information is where and how it is safeguarded?
Do you have an information repository? Retention guidelines? Policies to protect your organization?
Do you know which laws apply to your electronic communications and software?
If an employee took a lot of company proprietary information would you know? Could you trace it or delete it remotely from the smartphone or other device used?
What if the person revealed sensitive data on social media?

I regularly have dealt with clients:

* whose employees who took company data on clients, critical intellectual property, or pricing info to use at another employer or to start their own business.
* who are investigating an employee and need to search out any relevant information which may be online or in electronic files.
* with ex-employees who ‘forget’ to return company laptops and data.

All I have lost this week is time, a few documents – and my patience. Before you lose anything, talk to your IT advisor or support company. If you do not have one, now is the time!

What do you need to know about that might affect your organization?
What services can they provide to protect you from employee […]

RETIREMENT – MORE THAN A BUCKET LIST ISSUE

Have you actually thought much about retirement? Do you, like many, intend to get around to thinking about it …. sometime?

Do you love your work so that you fool yourself into believing that you will never retire? That your circumstances will never change?

For years I have talked to CEOs and organizations that did not see any reason to think about the changing nature of retirement. Anyone with relatives over 85 (the fastest growing demographic in the USA) caught on fast though.  What happens when our lifespans are commonly passing 80 years but our work-lives are barely half that? And our systems and many mindsets are still geared for early retirement with some years of play…. then simply disappearing?

A century ago, we worked until we died or became disabled. The Depression and WWII gave us Social Security and pensions. Starting in the 1970s, a ‘golden age’ of retirements was supported by personal savings plus defined pension plans plus Social Security – at least for those in larger companies and government.

Retirement has both financial and personal aspects: many of us don’t plan for either.

Most important: do some personal ‘what-if’ planning. Studies show that women still are more likely to be the care-givers. But anyone can, as I have, end up caring for several older relatives in their last years. Dealing with the medical, emotional, and physical issues is not easy. All these and others related to aging family take far more time and energy than you expect — even if you can afford good help. And this hits your business directly, often disastrously.

For those of us fully invested in our work, planning the personal side is even harder than the financial. Yet it is critical too. […]

TO HIRE … OR NOT TO HIRE?

Some entrepreneurs rush to hire too many, too soon and cannot support them. Others wait too long and do too much low margin work hindering their success.

The decision about whether and when to add staff is always a tough one. And these economic times make it more emotionally charged. Getting the help you need to grow and succeed is critical.

So how do you decide when or whether to hire?  Ask yourself:

Question 1: Is the need actually long-term and at the core of my business?

In this case, an employee may be the best bet. Example: if you are a small organization and can hire a person who will directly support current clients, you free some time to grow the business. A retailer may be able to add hours or serve customers faster and thus increase revenue with an extra hire.

Question 2: Would out-sourcing be worth considering?

Even with a core mission and long term need, you may want to consider other options. Some functions are smart to out-source due to the technical nature of the work or the need for constant personnel/equipment upgrading. IT services come immediately to mind. Others that are critical to your success may also be in this category. Functions may also be done by a contractor, such as a bookkeeper or a virtual assistant.

Question 3: Is the need for a specific period of time?

Such work, whether for a brief period or many months, may be most effectively done by hiring someone specifically as a short-term employee or via a temporary staffing agency.

Question 4: Does the work require expertise you don’t have?

Here you may consider hiring a management or specialized consultant or a freelancer, depending on the type of work, project demands, and […]

By |September 8th, 2014|hiring|0 Comments

LABOR DAY

So what do you really think about when you hear “Labor Day”? Big sales? School starting? Last beach holiday? Last summer BBQ?

Labor Day is designed to recognize the contribution of labor to our society and economy. It has been around since President Cleveland recommended it in 1887!

All of us who work – at whatever job – are ‘labor.’ Yet recent research indicates over 55% of workers say they did not receive any recognition from their bosses in the past year. And nearly 3/4th say they did not receive any feedback. Which may be why 65% feel underpaid and nearly 70% are interested in changing jobs.

Labor Day may just be another three-day weekend to you.

But what if you harnessed the concept of recognizing the contributions it represents within your own organization? Which ways can you think of to do so which will reinforce the culture you want to have? What might actually matter to your employees?

Enjoy the Labor Day holiday. Take a bit of time off from all your electronics to do so.

Then, starting next week, put an hour aside weekly for two-three weeks and look at what you can do effectively to recognize the value of ‘labor’ to your success and future. Consider asking a few informal leaders for ideas – but only if you plan to actually do something. Or chose a small team – say a leader, a good employee, a rebel – to define some options.

One client CEO keeps a running record of employee achievements – things he notices, those managers report, client comments, and employee thanks to other employees. He includes one in each week’s memo to all staff. A continuous record exists too. They are highlighted in client communications, […]

Tips – Culture and Success

I talk often with clients on the topic of their culture and how it is manifest in their daily activities, procedures, and practices. Culture is critical to business success.  Yet many organizations have not designed or managed theirs, so it exists more by default than intention. Even more have developed significant differences between what they say and what they do. Think how many say they want teamwork but all rewards and raises are done individually, for one common example.

This SlideShare presentation by Reed Hastings is an excellent example of how to think about an organization’s culture and what it really values. It is clear about many of their choices and decision points. Their culture is not something you want to copy, you may agree with it a little or a lot. Still, it should give you ideas to consider. But the presentation is a great way to get your brain thinking about culture and what that really means in daily actions.  http://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664

Your organization’s culture needs to be based on your business reality and values. It needs to support your business goals and drive your policies and practices to be effective.

An effective culture also reduces your risks and enhances productivity as people understand what it takes to be successful and what is valued. Changing a bad culture is far more difficult work. Far better to think about your organization’s regularly and tune-up as needed.

One of the interesting assignments I have done recently was a part of a turn-around process that included culture reassessment. The client CEO and team worked through a values clarification exercise together and then turned that into behavior expectations. We developed practices based on that. Several years ago I did a similar […]

By |August 5th, 2014|culture|0 Comments

COMPENSATION & CULTURE

Now is the time many organizations start thinking about the next year’s pay raises. Before you start the hunt for ‘market rates’, projected pay raise averages, budget or other data – think a bit about what you are paying for.

Very few founders, CEOs, or senior executives have thought about their philosophy of compensation directly. Fewer still have tied it to their desired culture.

And so, over the decades, I have talked about these issues with many senior folks. Often I also use a short quiz and set up the scenario:
You have two people in the same role, both are equally productive.
And I ask a series of questions about how one would calculate the pay raise for each. One question is: John comes in early and stays late every day, he works many long hours each week. Tom works his regular schedule but rarely puts in extra time unless asked to help others.

And nearly 3/4 say that they would give John a larger raise.

Do you see the issue? Most do not until I ask why they are rewarding the person who cannot get their work done in a timely manner over the one who does. Remember – the conditions were that both were equally productive. So Tom is doing the same amount and quality of work in less time than John.
As you think about your salary planning for next year, here are some questions to ask yourself. Pick the top three in each and rank order those.

1. Do we want to compensate for:
– individual productivity
– teamwork
– cost of living changes
– our financial success
– increased productivity
– market pricing changes
– seniority
– client growth
– revenue growth (funding growth for non-profits)

2. Will an individual be rewarded with a base salary […]

Problems: Are You a Victim or Moving Forward?

My own work history is replete with examples of times that being a woman was a negative and made my life more difficult, but I moved on. Small business owners often complain that the business world and government rules are stacked against them, yet many succeed. Military in transition regularly fear that employers discriminate against them, yet most become quite successful in the private sector.

Each of us chooses whether to use these perceived and real problems as stopping us, hindering us, or just life. In 2007 Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, gave a commencement address I have kept as a reminder – or a kick in the tuckus, as needed.

Need a bit of inspiration? Read on.

“My message to you is that you have to work harder for yourself. Unfortunately, and this sometimes affects us as African Americans, we say: ‘The deck is stacked against us. There’s racism. There’s Jim Crowism. There’s sexism. There are glass ceilings. There are all these things that cause us to say we can’t achieve because the deck is stacked against us, and we can’t break through.’ That to me is a basic surrender to some other force controlling your destiny. (…)

I’m telling you: Welcome to life. Welcome to the business world. Welcome to where you are not going to get breaks. (…)

In my opinion, racism is like rain. It’ll always be out there. You know what you do? You put on your raincoat, grab an umbrella and go out there.”

If you own a business, your success and that of your business is directly tied to your ability to solve problems and to create a culture that does also.

Most days I love my work. I have great clients. I […]

STRENGTHENING YOUR BUSINESS MUSCLES

Whether your business is old or new, clarity about your vision and goals is critical. Make a bit of time to think about these soon! Don’t just go back to some old statements but look to the future. Your goals, your organization, your industry, and external factors change. What do you want to keep and what will you update?

The three week plan
Think about each question over a full week. Make notes. Then spend an hour alone defining your answers as clearly and concisely as possible. In a partnership? Do this process separately and then get together to discuss afterwards.

Week 1. What is my vision?

Week 2. What is my definition of success?

Week 3. What makes our company unique?

 

Inspiration and ideas: quotes from successful local business women on growing and strengthening your business ideas.

“Be sure you really love what you’ve chosen to do. Your passion will help you cope with the reality that pretty much every task and project you undertake along your journey will take at least twice as long to complete as you anticipate.”  Linda Rivero,  Global Action Women

“Get comfortable with ambiguity. Don’t let not knowing stop you.”  Julie@ileadstrategies.com

“Ask for help.” Diane Cohen, Coaching2Connect

“Know what you don’t know! So many of us feel we have to be wonder-women that we don’t honestly assess our own weaknesses and plan accordingly.” Joan Porte, CTC,  www.joanstravelpartners.com

“Pay careful attention to cash flow. My annual earnings have been great since year one, but it is only now (year 3) that my cash flow isn’t causing me palpitations.” Carlisle J. Levine, Ph.D., BLE Solutions

“Have a solid support network built upon experience and trust. Don’t discount the information given from others but use all information to draw your own conclusion.” Jennifer […]

By |July 11th, 2014|values|0 Comments

TIPS TO READ APPLICANT RESUMES EFFECTIVELY

Most businesses look at resumes when hiring people. Whether you asked your network for referrals or posted a sign in the window or placed an ad somewhere, your stated requirements are the minimum standard. But do you really know how to read a resume?

Start with a basic screen of the resumes received to find the best matches. For each:

What does it’s overall structure and appearance tell you?
Does it show actual achievements or just position responsibilities?
Does it show a pattern of increased knowledge, skill, and/or responsibility?
Has the person solved business or technical problems similar to yours?
Does it show a pattern of achievement, with adequate details provided as proof?

Once you have selected those resumes closest to your needs, take the time to actually read for details and content.

Tip 1. Has the person done work which prepared them for your job?

Unless you are seeking an entry level person, you want to see whether the applicant has specifically demonstrated the knowledge and achievements related to what you need.

Casting a wide net is smart – you need to know both their technical or skill specific qualifications and how they work. Evaluate where they worked, what they did, and how effective they were. Job titles can be misleading but details tell the story. Look for candidates who provide information clearly.

Match your needs first, then your other ‘wants’.

Tip 2. How close is the resume to your needs?

Did the person use the keywords you use? Tailor it to the specific job you are trying to fill? Does the resume demonstrate progress, attention to detail, and any important ‘soft skills’ you want?

A resume is usually a person’s ‘best foot forward’ – is their best good enough to meet your expectations?

Is there a cover […]

By |June 30th, 2014|hiring|0 Comments

3 Top Tips for Reference Checking

Smart employers still check references and learn a lot about their preferred hire. But many small businesses just assume that they will not get any info beyond title and date confirmation. Or they think they know the applicant already and do not bother to check.

How do you get useful information?

1. Ask finalists for the right references – request at least four or five previous bosses, project leaders, others with knowledge of the person’s performance, each with current phone or email information. Entry level person? Ask for part-time work bosses, volunteer managers, professors/teachers. Tell the applicant when you are going to call the reference and who will make the call.

2. Create a basic script to use with the references. Tell the person a bit about your organization, the specific position, and that you need their help so you can hire the person. Build rapport. Ask questions about the critical elements of the job, starting with the easy questions. Remember to ask some questions to help you assess if they can succeed in your culture.

Listen to what each reference says and how they say it. Enthusiastic descriptions of past work are valuable but so are the long pauses and polite but limited responses.

If you get told that they cannot give a reference due to company policy, ask if you can call them at home. If they say no, ask for someone else they think can give a real reference but who is no longer with the company. Most references want to help IF the applicant has asked them to do so and told them you are calling. If they have not, what does that tell you about the applicant?

Think about the applicant – do you know […]