Consulting, Small Business
The US Army’s motto of “Be all you can be” served them well for years. But it applies equally well to any businesses, organizations, and even families for that matter. Many organizations see themselves as somewhat contented with the way things are, but of course it’s hard to think of anything else when there are real issues to be discussed.
Still, for our businesses, we aspire for something deeper and more meaningful.
In our businesses, we all have issues and challenges to overcome. But that should not keep us from striving to become not only all that we can be, but also to set our sights higher. Dreams and goals established when we are young, or when our businesses are just getting started should continue to live within us.
Is the old adage goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” really true? Or, can we?
Ask yourself the following questions, and the answers to what drives your business, your personal life, and ultimately your success may become magnificently obvious.
1. What do you really want your business to become?
This is a question for the ages. There are so many things you want to do in your business and seemingly so little time to even think about accomplishing them. Finding something that your organization does well can help you realize that small step towards improvement will result in major steps towards accomplishing your long range goals. Diligence and perseverance are the keys to knowing that it is worth it.
Consulting, Small Business
The 80/20 rule, otherwise known as “Pareto’s Principle” is going through a revival. Marketers, business analysts, and academics are all calling for an increased focus on this seemingly, set in gold, business and life ‘standard’.
In simple terms, what the 80/20 rule says is that 80 percent of the work done, or sales made, or service given (depending on your industry or point of view) is performed by 20 percent of employees, customers, or clients. In other words, from a business perspective, the vast majority of your revenue, and hence profit, should be coming from a mere 20% of your customers.
Business analysts and financial advisors are now advising their clients, in these trying economic times, to focus their efforts on those customers, or areas of your business, where you receive the most revenue from. That spending your time with the other 80% will result in higher costs, and less attention to the areas of the business that make you the most money.
In concept this is a great idea. Spending less time on those areas of your business that contribute the least to your profit is certainly a worthy goal. But, I wonder if we are being a little short sighted here.
Distance Learning, Online Education
Whether you know it or not, you have spent your whole life learning. You just may not have a fancy printed certificate hanging on your wall to show for it. Is now the time to make that step to get your degree? Taking that step in the past was a scary, and for many, impossible, feat. You don’t have the time to attend classes at night, you cannot afford the tuition and travel expenses, or maybe you are uncomfortable in a classroom setting. With the advent of the internet, learning online may be the key to achieving your goals and overcoming those challenges.
For many adults, continuing, or even finishing, their education seems like an impossible task. The reasons will be as varied as the individuals. Some may include:
- There is just not enough time in the day to deal with the challenges at home and work, and then attend classes at night, or on weekends.
- For many it may be a fear associated with failing in the classroom. I think we can all dig bad memories out of the abyss of our mind about classroom experiences that may still give us nightmares.
- For some it may just be impossible to physically to get to a school. You may live in the backwoods of Alaska, or on some remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where there is not a school available.
- The list could go on for ever…
This does not have to be the case anymore.
Distance Learning, Small Business, Technology, Telecommuting
The dream of working from home in your pajamas has probably been on the back of almost every ‘white collar’ worker at some point in their career. Not having to hassle with spending an hour or more in the car every day just to get to and from the office has always sounded pretty good. But that dream has never turned into a reality for most people. Even as recently as 2006 some suggested that there was more myth than reality to the idea of telecommuting and flexible work schedules (Gragg, 2006).
However, as gas prices have risen past the $4 per gallon mark, a renewed interest, and maybe even, sense of urgency, has again brought telecommuting to the forefront of employees’ minds.
If your total commute to work is 100 miles (50 miles each way) and you get 20 miles per gallon in your vehicle, at just $4.00/per gallon, it is costing you $20.00 per day, just to get to and from work. If you work 50 weeks per year, not counting holidays, it is costing you roughly $1000 per year to drive to and from your office.
Assuming the above costs and car mileage you could save $200 per year by working from home just one day per week. These figures also do not include maintenance and insurance costs which could be impacted by the amount of mileage you put on your vehicle.
Consulting, Small Business
The world of management consulting at times appears to be clouded with uncertainty and confusion; it can require the patience of Job and the Wisdom of Solomon, the serenity of Gandhi and the confidence of Churchill, all at the same time. It can also be the most rewarding experience outside of family that a person can have. Seeing the impact a successful project implementation can have on an organization, even beyond the monetary rewards, makes the headaches and frustrations all worth it. The experience of being part of something that not only impacts your own life but the lives of many others allows one to transcend the drudgeries of the everyday work week, and turn it into learning and life experiences that can rarely be felt in the corporate employee world. This makes it sound akin to a spiritual experience, and in some ways it can be, if the situation is right. But, it is more about being able to participate in a partnership, between the consultant and the client that enhances the professional life of both, and may, maybe in rare cases, promote the well being of society.
Management consulting is about the collaboration of two entities, the consultant and the client. I have found, in the last 25 years of IT consulting, that my role is not the ‘all knowing, ever seeing’ oracle, but that of a partner in the development of successful organizations. In many cases, I may know going into an engagement what the solution for a client is. But my job is not to simply offer my perfect wisdom, collect a check, and run. My job is to listen to the client first and foremost; to let them describe their concerns and issues. Many times, the concept or idea, that presents the ultimate solution will be right in front of the client, they just need to stand back and recognize it. The experiences we have gained through various prior engagements can be called on to help the client see that vision. As Gable (1996) suggests, “client learning or improved client understanding is an important object or result of many consultancies” (p. 1177). Our role as expressed by McLarty and Robinson (1998) is to “provide substantial expertise to the client and while so doing to contribute added value” (para. 11).
Normally, the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a well heeded thought. Unfortunately that is not always the case when it comes to technology.
Recently a client brought to us a computer that was extremely old. This computer had been working for many years and was used to control equipment used in a manufacturing environment. There had been no need to monitor how this equipment was functioning, or the software it was running, because it ‘simply worked’.
The problem that now surfaced was that this particular computer was failing. Simple enough to solve; or at least that is what we thought. The problem, unkown to anyone, was that the software running on this computer required a very specific processor speed and would not run on newer computers.
So, now we are scrambling around trying to find computers that were made 10 years ago, but still function: Not an easy task.
The lesson we have learned from this is that all computers and applications become obsolete at some point in time. With the every changing world of computers, no software will run forever, and no computer will function likewise.
All organizations need to periodically review their software applications and hardware to determine where they stand in relation to the long term goals of the organization. Do they need upgraded? Can they even be upgraded? Or, do they need to be replaced with new software and hardware?
How old is your oldest computer? How long have you been using your current software applications?
These are questions you need to ask yourself, before it becomes to late.
Recently I spoke with someone who had purchased a car through an online auction house. Unfortunately they found out too late that the car was not what it was supposed to be. They attempted to cancel the check, they wrote, before it was actually sent from the bank, but it was too late.
Buying something on an auction site can be a thrilling adventure. You may have the opportunity to buy something at a price far below the normal cost of that item. You may also find items that are not available through normal stores and retailers. You also need to be very careful about what you are buying, there are many stories about items not being delivered and the wrong product or a defective product being shipped.
Below are 10 things that will help you have a more satisfying experience when buying through an internet auction site:
1. Know the value of the product before you bid. If the product is brand new, check to see what price retailers are charging for it. If the product is used or reconditioned, you will want to pay way less than the retail value.
2. If the product’s description or picture isn’t detailed enough for you, contact the merchant to get more information before you bid. You don’t want to take a chance to waste your hard earned money.
3. Know the highest price you will bid for the product and stick with it. Don’t get caught up in a bidding war; you may end up paying more than the product’s worth. Don’t forget to add in the shipping price with your bid.
4. Visit a few online auctions before bidding because some merchants auction the same product in many auctions. You usually can purchase the product for a lower price in a unpopular auction because there are less bidders.
5. Know the time the auction begins and ends. You also want to know how long it will take to ship. If you need the product by a certain date, you’ll want to estimate the time it will take to receive it.
There is nothing in the world more nerve-racking than starting a business. Nothing, and that is the whole story. This, however, should not discourage you from trying to start your own business – it can be done.
There are all kinds of start your own business schemes that take advantage of people’s natural desire to make as much money as possible with as little effort. Unfortunately many, if not most, are pure and simple ‘scams’.
People will actually fall for scams advertising profitable businesses that are supposed to make you thousands of dollars a day while you sit at home in your pajamas! I am not saying that you shouldn’t check out these business opportunities out. Who knows – you might find that one in a million which is actually legitimate. All I am saying is that there is no point in your life when you need to use your common sense more than when your financial future is at stake. Taking stupid risks does not make you brave. It just makes you stupid.
The best way to start a profitable small businesses is with good advice and good sense. Being part of a business network, of course, is always helpful. You would not believe how many business entrepreneurs are willing to share advice, and even resources with people who are trying to start a business. Profitable businesses are often willing to work with other ones for mutual benefits. This is what makes a business network so useful for anyone who wants to succeed in the competitive world of business.
Here we offer a place for you to come and share you thoughts, concerns, and successes. Help us build a community of successful businesses that can assist others in this challenging but worthwhile endeavor.
Visit our forums and become an active participant in helping both yourself and others fulfill their dreams.
Who doesn’t dream of owning their very own business? John is a successful small business owner, making a tidy profit off of ownership of a chain of restaurants in Chicago. He is living the American dream, you might say, but getting to that point was like a nightmare.
It’s been a tradition in his family to own small businesses – or at least to try. His uncle ran a small construction company, another uncle ran a furniture store, but when John started his business, times were so lean that neither of them had any work for his cousin who was looking for a summer job. His cousin was in high school, but there wasn’t much for him to do but follow the mind-numbing American tradition of flipping burgers that summer – that is, until John called him.
At the time, John showed off, pretending he had charmed the money to start the business out of a bunch of wealthy investors. Now his cousin know that he probably just got a small business license, but he was so taken by his finesse growing up, that he believed him. The first month of work was just getting the shack he rented up to health code. There were birds nesting in the walls and rats in the floor, but finally it was sparkling clean and ready for business.
The first week, nothing worked out. Opening day was deserted, the fryer broke, the power even went out once for six hours! It seemed John’s small business had a small run. All summer was spent just trying to get the place on its feet. Finally, his cousin had to go back to school.
So what worked for John? Plain old persistence. He worked day and night, posted flyers all over town, sent out circulars, and made connections everywhere he went. There was never a “big break”, but rather, a series of little ones which added up to success. He was featured once in the entertainment section of the local newspaper. He sponsored a little league team, and found his place soon patronized not only by them, but by several of their rivals every week after practice. Soon he was opening up a second restaurant on the other side of town, and then a third. It took him years of hard work, and twice he almost went under. But he’s always told his counsin that hard work just made the success that much sweeter.
Think about this for a minute…
Someone can walk up to any computer in your office, insert a thumb drive (memory stick, flash drive, etc…), reboot that computer and potentially access everything on your system.
Now, this is a major over simplification of the problem. But nonetheless, it is possible. Mandriva , several months ago, brought forth just such a device that can be inserted into any computer that has been setup to allow a boot to take place from a portable USB device. Once their operating system has booted up on that computer, any device attached to the computer is susceptible to access. Is there secure information on its hard drive? Is it a laptop that holds confidential client information? Or, could it even hold the names of covert operatives working for the CIA?
If sensitive information resides on the hard drives of computers within your organization you must take steps to secure it. A very basic way to prevent this particular danger is to password protect access to the BIOS on your computers and then disable the ability of your computers to boot from portable devices.
These simple steps will keep unintentional access to your systems from occurring and hopefully make it easier to secure sensitive information.