Friday, June 8, 2012

If You Build It, Will They Come?

I recently launched a website for my sporting goods business. Do I need to do anything special to attract customers to my website? I know nothing about search engines and marketing as such. Please tell me where to begin. -- Sean M.

Sean, that is a question that has been asked by every business person who has ever launched a website. If I build it, will they come? Of course they will -- if you’ve built a website that appeals to dead baseball players.

For those of you who didn’t get the “Field of Dreams” reference, let me put it this way: No, Sean, if you build it they will not come, at least not without some effort on your part.

Assuming that a website will automatically attract customers is the single biggest mistake that many business owners make. It is this mistake that eventually leads them to dismiss their website as a failure and abandon their online sales efforts.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “Well, I threw up a website, but nobody ever came to it and I didn’t sell a single thing from it! Dang thing was a waste of time, if you ask me …”

Forgive me, but “threw up” is the operative term there. These short-sighted entrepreneurs (God love them) mistakenly think that all they have to do is throw up a website and that their business will automatically double overnight. And when nothing happens they blame it on the infallibility of the Internet, on El Nino, on the Bosa Nova, on their customers… everything but their own lack of marketing efforts.

If you build it, will they come? That, Sean, depends totally on you.

When it comes to attracting customers, opening an online business (or an online branch of an existing business) is no different from opening a traditional brick and mortar shop. Without a little fanfare and a well-devised marketing plan, chances are your website will become just another spot of roadkill on the Information Superhighway.

The first step in devising your marketing plan is to ask yourself this question: Who is my customer? Who is it that I want to attract to my website? Believe it or not, this is a question many entrepreneurs fail to ask. The identity of your customer is incredibly important because if you don’t know who your customer is, how can you expect to market to them?

The next question concerns the locality of your customer. Do you want to attract a local or global clientele to your website? If the answer is local, then you will gear your marketing efforts toward customers in your own backyard, which means incorporating your website launch with your offline marketing efforts.

If the website is the online branch of a brick and mortar business, include the website URL in all your print materials and advertising campaigns. Consider running ads in the local paper, on radio or TV announcing the launch of your site. Use direct mail or in-store posters to announce the site launch to your existing customer base. In short, keep doing what you’re doing to attract customers to your physical store, just add your website address to the mix.

Just remember, it’s important to consider your website a branch of your brick and mortar business because that’s exactly what it is. A good business website will help you sell more products, widen your range of clientele, and increase your revenue without adding overhead. Don’t sell your website short. Make it work for you.

If you are seeking a global audience, your marketing efforts will be quite different. Attracting customers from around the world is a more difficult task than attracting customers from around the block. Fortunately, the task is not impossible. The Internet has leveled the playing field in many ways. Now every business, no matter how large or small, has the ability to do business internationally.

In the most basic sense, an online marketing campaign to attract global customers should include the following efforts.

Register With Search Engines

There’s not enough room in this newspaper for a thorough discussion of search engines and their effectiveness (or lack thereof) in driving traffic to a website. Suffice it to say that 95% of search engine traffic comes from Google and Yahoo, so start there. It’s also important to realize that just registering with search engines does not guarantee you traffic, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the free search engine lunch ran out a couple of years ago when search engines figured out that people would actually pay for listings and higher placement. Since that time the only way to guarantee a high (or at least higher than others) ranking is to pay for it. The two most popular pay-for-placement programs are Yahoo’s “Yahoo Express” and Google’s “Adwords.” Visit their respective websites for details on these programs. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars at a minimum to get your site listed.

Exchange Links With Similar Sites

One free – and potentially effective - way to drive customers to your website is through link exchanges with sites of similar interest. Locate sites that make a good match to your own and contact the owner to ask if they will link to your site in exchange for you linking to theirs. If you sell golf balls on your website, set up a link exchange with another website that sells golf clubs. You post a link to them and they post a link to you. It’s called digital back scratching, and if done properly, can work well to drive traffic your way.

Go To Where The Customers Are

If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain. One little known way to attract customers to your website is to market your products on a mega-site like eBay. There are thousands and thousands of people on eBay at any given time and each one is potentially your customer, so it's a great place to drum up business. Your goal is not to make a living selling on eBay, but to use eBay as a marketing tool to drive traffic back to your website. Go to where the customers are, then bring them back home with you.

Let’s use our golf ball example. Post a few auctions on eBay selling your golf balls at a ridiculously low price so your auction attracts plenty of attention. When customers make a purchase, add them to your client list and send them an email inviting them to visit your website for more great products. eBay also lets you create your own “About Me” page that you can use to advertise your business.

We have just scratched the surface, but hopefully this is enough to get you started. I wish I could tell you that attracting customers to your website is easy, but the truth is, it's anything but. It takes hard work, creativity and above all, perseverance.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How To Be A Business Success

Through observing business people who have been successful, and how they achieved their success, I have concluded that there are a number of factors that must be present for business success to occur. As I like to keep things simple, these success factors can be condensed into a formula. It is:

Success = Startup Business Person + Product/Service + Market

Let us look at this formula in a little more detail. Firstly, what is success? The definition of success depends on what you want to get out of the venture, that is, what your goals are. Business success usually means creating a viable entity (business) that returns its investment and earns a profit.

Appropriate and realistic goals include to be challenged, to achieve, and to build something good. For example, your definition of success could be to earn $100,000 a year from your home business so that you can replace your full time job income.

The most crucial element of the above formula is the "Startup Business Person". This element decides all the others.

Ultimately, a successful startup business person is someone who opens, manages and runs a successful startup business and can repeat the process. This is someone who has accepted the responsibility and learned how the job is done.

Successful startup business people usually always start small and grow the business. They do not have too many irons in the fire at once so that their efforts are not diffused. They give it everything they have and believe that hard work counts. They try repeatedly until they achieve the success they are looking for. Moreover, most of all, they possess a positive mental attitude.

They have learned to emulate success. Do you know what emulate means? To emulate means to attempt to equal or surpass. In other words, if you were to attempt to emulate someone else's success, you would imitate them and as you gained further knowledge and skill, you would attempt to do better than them. Remember that emulation takes things one step further than imitate.

The next part of the formula is "Product/Service". Without something to sell, there can be no business. Generally, the product or service needs to be of a high quality. It also needs to be something that people are prepared to pay for.

The last component of the formula is "Market". A successful business person knows who their market is and how to reach it in the most cost effective manner. The market is defined as the people who want and are prepared to pay for the product or service.

I would now like to run through with you what I consider are the basic principles of home, small or online business success.

Believe in Your Product or Service

First, you need to believe in your product or service. If you do not believe in it, you will have a great deal of difficulty selling your product or service to other people. You also need to have confidence in your ability to provide and promote your product or service. An old saying sums this up best: "All things are possible to he who believes".

Aptitude for the Business

Secondly, you need to have an aptitude for the business. You will also need the motivation to acquire at the very least basic skills and experience before you start your business. If you were to set yourself up as a home electrician but did not have any skills or training in this area, then you will almost certainly fail. However, if you are employed as a bookkeeper and you enjoy the job, then setting up your own bookkeeping service would be a sensible choice with a greater chance of success.

Be Responsible

Thirdly, you need to be responsible to your customers. This is achieved by only making commitments you can keep and by not engaging in misleading or dishonest advertising. If you want to build long term success in your home business, then you need to develop long term satisfied customers. When their needs are being satisfied, customers are at their happiest.

Aim for High Quality

The next principle is that you need to have a high quality product or service. This will be your best advertisement. Inferior quality products usually generate poor customer satisfaction. A dissatisfied customer can be very dangerous for your business. Usually they tell on average about fourteen other people who will then be disinclined to buy your product or service based on the experience of that one dissatisfied person. Therefore, always aim for a top quality product or service.

Make a Profit

However, it is not enough to have a top quality product or service. You also need to have a product or service that will generate enough income to cover all your business expenses and give you a satisfactory wage. A friend of mine once said that business is only about two things: satisfying customers and making a profit. A simple statement but very true.

Sufficient Startup Capital

You also need to have access to enough cash to set up and run your business, and enough income to meet your private expenses during the startup phase. A major problem with many home and small businesses is that they fail to have enough money available to ensure their success. There is nothing more discouraging than having a great idea, getting it started on a shoestring, not being able to expand due to cash shortages and seeing a competitor come along and steal your market.

Start Small

Another fundamental principle of home business success is that you start small. This will enable you to minimize your overheads until you are confident of your success in the marketplace. For many of you, this would mean starting part-time while retaining your full-time income source. When you can, expand your business into a full-time venture. This is a great way of minimizing the risk of failure.

Be Well Organized

Successful home businesses are well organized. They have a system for keeping track of expenditure and earnings. This level of organization in your business will help to ensure that you are providing your customers or clients with a top quality product or service. It will also ensure that you have enough information available to maximize your profitability and to satisfy your legal requirements for record keeping.

Be Prepared

Preparation is another important ingredient in your business success. This preparation will include being aware of the regulations and laws affecting small, home or online business in your area or country. Armed with this knowledge, you should not have any nasty surprises from unintentional violations of the law.

Have a Business Plan

Finally, successful home businesses have developed a comprehensive business plan. This is their road map to success. It tells them where they are going and how they are going to get there. It is very useful for comparing actual performance against what you planned and enabling you to make adjustments to lead to greater success. There are many useful software packages available to assist you with your business plan preparation.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Popcorn and Other Marketing Mistakes In a Changing Economy

Copyright 2006 Dave Kahle

Ten years of competitive hell!

That was the title on the seminar brochure I received recently. As I survey some of the forces flowing through our economy, and witness the way in which they effect my clients, I have to agree. The Information Age is certainly one of the most turbulent times business people have ever seen.

And the force causing the greatest turbulence is rapid, unrelenting change. Consider this. In 1900, the total amount of knowledge that mankind had was doubling about every 500 years. Today, it doubles about every two years. And the pace continues to increase. One futurist predicts that today's high school seniors will have to absorb more information in their final year alone than their grandparents did in their entire life.

At the same time that things are changing rapidly, competition is increasing in almost every industry. Foreign competitors have entered our markets, the wave of corporate downsizing has transformed thousands of displaced executives into reluctant entrepreneurs, and the knowledge explosion continues to evidence itself in new technologies that often provide radically different ways of accomplishing some task.

The result?

Burgeoning competition in almost every industry. I have yet to meet an executive who has said, "I have fewer competitors today than I did three years ago." Continually growing numbers of competitors seems to be a characteristic of our economy that we are going to have to live with for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, these forces of rapid change and growing competition have brought a cloud of confusion to CEOs and sales executives trying to grow their businesses.

One common response to this cloud of confusion is what I call "Popcorn." Imagine kernels of popcorn simmering in hot oil in the bottom of a popcorn popper. As the heat grows, one of the kernels explodes and rockets off against the side of the popper. A few moments later, another kernel explodes and shoots off in another direction. Before long, the canister is full of careening kernels bouncing in every direction.

That's my analogy to the way in which many businesses attempt to increase their sales when the temperature created by growing competition gets hot. As the heat of the situation grows, they know they have to do something. Then along comes a good idea and, pop, like a kernel of exploding popcorn, they lunge at the good idea.

The good idea can be anything. Maybe it's a media representative who suggests a new advertisement. That sounds like a good idea. So, "pop" off they go after that. Or it could be a salesperson suggesting that a computer program will solve their problems. That sounds like a good idea, so "pop," off they go after that good idea. Next is an advertising agency suggesting a new brochure. That also sounds good, and "pop," like kernels of corn exploding in every direction, they expend money and energy in short term "good ideas."

Like kernels of popcorn, they frantically chase lots of good ideas hoping that one will be the answer to the marketing problems. The problem is that these good ideas rarely have any relationship to one another. And, they generally present superficial solutions to problems which are often deeper. The company's time and energy is diverted toward these superficial "good ideas," and away from the deeper solutions.

For example, an advertisement in a trade journal may be a superficial solution for a company that does not have a system for identifying qualified prospects. And a new brochure may be a superficial response for an organization that doesn't have feedback mechanism in place to adequately understand its customers.

The unfortunate consequences are often more pressure, more confusion, and more energy expended in the wrong places.

Is there a better way? Sure. A far more effective response is to create a powerful sales and marketing system. A sales and marketing system provides an interconnected, measurable set of processes and tools that ultimately result in increased sales. Where would McDonald's be today without a system to consistently produce hot hamburgers? Where would Ford be if they had no system to design and build new automobiles? The keys to success for these businesses has been their ability to create and manage effective systems to accomplish their goals.

Sales and marketing can be treated in exactly the same way. The process of acquiring customers and then expanding the business with them can be systematized. If you're successful in creating a working system, you'll be investing your resources in the most effective way, and producing predictable, regular sales results.

Your sales and marketing system should start with a thorough understanding of the needs and interests of the prospects. Fold into that an honest awareness of the unique value your company brings to the market, and you have the beginning framework for your system. Your system should focus on the highest potential market segments, and develop segment-specific processes and tools to help you reach your market in the most cost-effective way.

When your system is designed, you'll also have a set of criteria in place to help you adequately assess the potential in such things as advertisements, brochures, computer programs, etc.

A well-designed system allows you to move out of the desperate reactive mode characterized by "Popcorn" and into a confident pro-active mode.

Here are seven questions to determine whether you're operating from the "Systems" perspective or the "Popcorn" mind set.

1.  Do you have specific, realistic objectives for your sales and marketing efforts?

2. Have you precisely identified your highest potential markets segments?

3. Have you identified the sequence of decisions that a typical prospect goes through to come to a decision to buy your product or service?

4. Have you identified the key activities and processes that must take place on a monthly basis in order for you to reach your sales objectives?

5. Do you have a monthly measurement of the quantity and quality of your key marketing activities?

6. Are you able to track exactly how much it costs to create a customer?

7. Do all of your marketing collateral (brochures, ads, etc.) directly support the purposes and processes of your system?

Obviously, a positive answer to those questions indicates that you have a well defined sales and marketing system in place. That means that you have gone from reactive to pro-active marketing, and that you're well on your way to regular, predictable sales. Negative answers mean that you have some work to do to bring your sales and marketing efforts into a proactive mode to allow you to successfully compete in the turbulent 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Having Fun With Thought Crimes

Becomeing a thought criminal means thinking your own thoughts and going after what you and deciding to get it no

matter what.

Patience for the operator comes from having a clear outcomes. “Outcomes” are defined as goals that are under the

control of the operator. Anything that is not under the control of the operator falls into the category of wishes and

hopes and the operator is advised to ignore them.

With an understanding of outcomes, the rest is a matter of time hence the need for patience. The operator has an

understanding that while the end outcome has  value the next most recent outcome is the most important outcome.

This mindset prevents the hurried rush of urgency that is often accompanies unrestrained youth.

The Mystery of Silence
Silence, as you'll learn, creates a unique sense of mystery. The operator does well to apply the following rules when

considering his outcomes:

Conceal your intentions.
Being open with your intentions invites people who will obstruct, steal and hijack what you've intended.

    Demonstrate through actions never through argument.
Telling people what you do will invite the thought that you are a braggart and  you risk boring others with stories of

your accomplishments. If these stories are remembered they are likely to be retold with scepticizm.  People remember

what is done and build stories and mythologies around your actions by combining their story with their own emotions.

Use this to your advantage and let other people speak of your actions.

Always say less than necessary.
There is a mystery that comes from the “strong silent” type. Saying something outright can be forgotten but if you

allude to something, even something you know will happen, when it occurs the mystery will be confirmed.
This does not mean that you are unemotional or cold. Instead you behave as if you know something that most people

don't know or something that they shouldn't know.

Make what is difficult seem easy.
This again adds to the mystery of the operator. There are several ways that this can be done, one such way is guile

like slight of hand or prestidigitation. One method using guile is to allude to an unforeseen incidence as if you did

knew about it before hand but this should be done sparingly. Another such way to make the difficult seem easy is skill

and experience and has the strongest impact.

With this strong emphasis on mystery it does not mean that you act completely unaccessible. Instead, what you teach

should be treated as a mystery. What you know is for few to discover and only those rare individuals who are ready can

learn it. This will allow you to mix in any social circle, tease, laugh, flirt and cajole while the mystery of your

knowledge and understanding follows you like compelling lover.

Conviction is a fairly simple concept. It means that you are certain of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Conviction means that you are so convinced that what you are doing it right, justified and good that it compels you

act. Strong conviction will compel you so powerfully to face any opposition without fear or hesitation. Conviction

will also cause you to ignore any personal fears or anxieties.

With that as a definition of conviction ask yourself if there is anything you feel that strongly about? If there is

the dive into it and use it as a resource.

If you don't yet have something that motivates you to that level of conviction it's not too late. Think about the

things that you love to do and be active in. remember times when committed yourself to do something simply because you

knew it was right and felt good.

If you ever want to watch two people empowered by their conviction speaking to the public just watch any old videos of

Rev. Billy Graham or Adolf Hilter. Ignore the message  and  turn off the sound. Just watch them. Both are compelling

speakers that are hard to ignore.  That is the level of conviction you might want to aspire.


If you have a strong conviction that what you are doing is right. You won't need too much help to build your focus.

But let's assume you have no idea what focus really is.

First, your sense of focus is to be used and demonstrated whenever you are with someone who could be a prospect,

recruit or initiate. When you are in their presence there should be nothing more than them on your mind.

Your goal it create an experience for them (you're a guru remember?) that they are the most important person in the

world to them at that moment in time.

In order to do this let's take a look at how most of our lives are like.

First, there is no secret to the fact that no matter who you are shit is going to happen. You are going to have to pay

bill, feed your belly and think about where the next dollar is coming from... this is just a part of life.

Your ability to focus and get what you want with a prospect, recruit or initiate can be directly effected by all of

these things if you let them. Even if they never come up in conversation. If those distracting details are on your

mind during a conversation you will not impact anyone to the degree that you could. 

What you have to do at those moment is intentionally put aside everything that could distract you from paying

attention to that person. When you do that nothing else is important and it will affect them in a very powerful way.

Winning no matter the outcome; The God Complex

The God Complex is my favorite subject and so I hope I do it justice.

The God Complex has absolutely nothing to do with a growing sense of infallibility and megalomanical behaviors.

What makes up the God Complex is really a perspective that is far more distant than your next outcome. 

Let's face it. With every goal you have a possibility of failure. That's just life. It does happen and it will happen.

But if you incorporate any possible failure into your “big picture” and find a way so that you can benefit from it

there will never be a disappointment or surprise.

Most people “fail” only because they invest too much of themselves in their success so that when it falls short they

are devastated. Some never recover. However if they realize failure is possible and incorporate it... should it happen

all they do is continue on with their business.

They have a bigger picture of themselves, Life, and their goals.

The result is they are more flexible to respond to what life throws them. Nothing surprises them except 1) when

someone truly “gets it” or 2) when someone who should get doesn't.  They are kinder to themselves and to the people

around them because they feel in control no matter what the situation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Identity Document Scams

International Drivers Licenses - These are sold on the Internet. Legitimate ones are issued by the recognized auto club in your country and are ONLY valid with the normal government issued drivers license. The legitimate International Drivers License is little more than a translation document in numerous languages enabling authorities to see that you do hold a valid drivers license from your country. It is never a permission to drive by itself. It is never an identity document by itself since it was not issued by any government agency and if it is a real international drivers license you would have had to show a real drivers license to get one, so where is your real drivers license. Occasionally someone asks us if we would accept this as a form of identification and the answer is of course not.

Drivers Licenses - There are replica or false drivers licenses sold on the Internet. The banks are quite capable of knowing what is real and what is not real. People that buy these licenses are fooling themselves more than anyone else.

Passports - A few times a year our law firm gets presented with a hand written passport. Most large countries have not used hand written passports for over 35 years. Some of the less developed countries used them until the post 9/11 era, say around 2002. While it is possible to have a valid handwritten passport that is still current, the offshore banks will never accept one as an ID document. It must be a machine-readable passport. I would also say that traveling on a handwritten passport into the modern world would be difficult if not impossible. Most countries have machine readable passports with digitized photos, some even have RFID chip passports now and along you come with a handwritten passport and a picture glued into the passport with a stamp and signature across the bottom of the picture. I would think big problems. Get your country to issue you a new machine-readable passport with a digitized photo.

Camouflage Passports - A camouflage passport is a non-official document printed in a passport type booklet. Such passport booklets could be ordered from printers in Asia, not sure if this is still allowed to go on, doubt it. The camouflage passport was issued from a recently defunct country like Rhodesia. So the name of the issuer sounded quite real because at one time it was. When these first came out some offshore banks opened accounts based on them. After they were on the market for a while that soon stopped and the people who used them to open the accounts had their funds locked down. Perhaps they were allowed to show new identity documents; perhaps they were treated as criminals defrauding the bank and lost their money. Not sure since these countries at the time had bank secrecy. We are going back a number of years here. We are sure that numerous memos have been sent to offshore banks warning them of this and it was also a topic at numerous due diligence seminars. Again the person fooled the most by one of these camouflage passports is the buyer. Using one of these in the event of a terrorist detention in an airplane, hotel or elsewhere is unwise. You would be treated as a person of interest and probably questioned vigorously. If they simply decided you were nothing more than a person who likes to play games they would possibly lose interest in you but then again you came to their attention and became singled out and that is never a good thing is such a scenario. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies serious terrorists would be likely to do what any self respecting Mexican Road Bandito does and that is strip 100% naked the victims. This does not play out well on family oriented TV shows. This enables the bad guys to find things like identity documents, official credentials, keys, discrete weapons, money, contraband, and anything else that might have been concealed. So they will now find your other real passport and again you are a person of interest to the bad guys.

Traveling with a camouflage passport is of course idiotic. If the authorities of some country find one on you it would be likely that you get detained and experience a long interrogation or worse especially if the name was different. This is a novelty item, not a second passport. These camouflage passports can only come back and hurt you. If you really fear traveling on your own passport go through the trouble of processing through immigration in another country and get a real second passport. Then you should have a government issued residency card, a driver?s license from the country and a visa card from a bank in that country, as we suggest and help our clients obtain. This is a full set of real legitimate ID that will pass scrutiny in any country.

Fantasia Passports - These are passports issued from non-real countries. A famous one is Hutt River. There is a fellow who has a very modest parcel of land in Australia. He read some law and as a result declared war on Australia. They apparently did not mobilize the army and just ignored him, which left him able to declare his independence, or so he thinks, claims, or whatever. He calls himself a country and issues passports. He bought the passport books most likely in Asia. I believe his are printed but not machine readable so he probably is not able to get newer ones or he just wants to use up the ones he has. I even saw a diplomatic version of one of these once.

These passports are not good for much. Maybe if you were in a real depraved third world country and tried a land crossing through an obscure border crossing going from one depraved third world country to another depraved third world country and there was an illiterate guard there it might work. People often take these fantasy passports and submit them for entry visas to third world countries in Africa who are happy to sell anyone a visa stamp. They collect a few entry visas and then try using it since it looks more real in that other countries have accepted it. Of course all the countries they have allegedly visited have only entry visas without an exit visa, which will raise many red flags in a civilized country.

Another instance of these involved an old WWII oil platform a few miles off the cost of the UK called Sea Land. This was an oil platform that declared itself sovereign and issued passports. For a funny touch of humor. Over the years counterfeiters have printed their own versions of the fictitious countries selling passports and sold them thus cheating the original promoter out of sales knowing a prosecution would be almost impossible since the country in question is not real. The Florida Keys tried issuing their own passports some years back issuing Conch Republic passports. Conch is a fish used in seafood in the Florida Keys. These are very real looking fantasy passports. I imagine by now they have been pressured into stopping this practice. In a nutshell you are far safe and better off without one of these fictitious country passports than with one.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Apply for a Job Online

In an increasingly online marketplace, applying for jobs often means sending your resume and cover letter electronically. Some companies have online application forms right on their Websites. Here, you can choose the job you wish to apply for, plug your work experience, skills, and education into online fields, then submit this information with a single click of a button.

Online application forms differ from another and will require different information. For example, some companies ask that you "copy-and-paste" your resume and cover letter into two fields. Others ask that applicants fill in multiple fields such as "work experience," "education," etc. Still others ask that you do both-submit your resume and cover letter, and fill in fields that require the same employment-related information.

Whatever type of online application form a company might have, be sure that all your information is posted in one field or another. Don't be afraid to repeat information, especially if the form requests a resume and a separate breakdown of your work history. Your information will be automatically uploaded into an online database, where hiring managers will likely scout for keywords. The more times your keywords come up, the better.

While some companies-especially large ones have online application forms, many others simply ask candidates to e-mail their application materials to the appropriate person or to a general employment address like "" Here, caution is warranted. Be sure to send your resume and cover letter exactly as the hiring manager requests. Some employers prefer that the resume and cover letter be attached as separate documents (usually in a Text Only format or as Microsoft Word documents). Other employers want the cover letter to be in the body of an e-mail, but the resume to be attached separately. Still others prefer that both the resume and the cover letter be pasted into the body of an e-mail. For the latter, be sure that your documents are easy to read. Resumes, which have a rather complicated format, often look messy when they are transplanted into the body of an e-mail. Says recruiter Beth Camp: "If you e-mail a resume, it has to look as good as a written resume. I would advise sending a resume both as an attachment and in the body of your e-mail." This is a good way to sidestep a possible formatting fiasco. Another way is to send your resume and cover letter electronically, then to send hard copies as well.

Some jobseekers opt to purchase domain names and to create their own Websites for the purpose of putting their resumes (and other application materials) online. The advantage of formatting your resume using HTML and making it a static Web page is that anyone can see your resume in its proper format simply by visiting your Website. Thus, instead of mailing or e-mailing your resume every time you want someone to see it, you can simply give the interested parties the right web address and they can find it for themselves. An added bonus of having your resume on a Web page is that you may attract the interest of recruiters and employers whom you hadn't even considered. To make downloading your resume easier, you may want to include on your Website copies of your resume in PDF (portable document format) and Microsoft Word files.

Unfortunately, there are downsides to putting your resume on a Website. One downside is that your information becomes accessible to everyone, even unwanted visitors. For this reason, you should never disclose your home address, social security number, or any other personal information. Another downside is that not all hiring managers will go out of their way to visit your Website. Even if your resume is only a click away, many hiring managers would nevertheless prefer that you mail or e-mail it.

In terms of how you send your application materials, it would be unwise to go against the explicit wishes of an employer. For example, don't send an attachment when copy-and-pasting is requested. Some companies shun attachments because they fear getting a virus, or because they don't have compatible software, or because they simply don't want to be bothered with the extra step of opening a document.

When assembling your application materials and putting them into an e-mail, don't fill in the "to" field until you are finished. It's all too easy to accidentally send a half-finished e-mail to a company, thus eliminating your chances of making a decent first impression, and most likely, of getting an interview. If you were asked to copy-and-paste your resume and cover letter, be sure to scan the final outcome at least once for formatting problems, then to use a spell checker a final time.

If you are attaching your documents, be absolutely sure you are attaching the right versions (i.e., the company-tailored and updated versions) to the employer. Also, be sure that they are labeled in a professional way. One jobseeker laments his decision to save different versions of his resume under headings like "Resume for Strategic Sourcing Jobs." Says the jobseeker: "I was applying for three different types of positions. But I didn't want every prospective employer to know that. By labeling my outgoing resumes the way I did, I pretty much broadcasted the fact that I didn't have a clear career direction." Probably the best strategy for saving your resume is to do so under your name only (example: Simone Piette  resume) or under your name and the name of the company (example: Greenfield resume from Simone Piette). Be sure to say in your e-mail what you have attached, and also, what software you've used. For example, you might say in the body of your e-mail: "Please see my attached resume in Microsoft Word version 2002."

Before a hiring manager even opens your e-mail, she should know exactly who you are and which job you are applying for. In the "Subject" line, write your name, the position name (and job number, if listed), and the contents of your application (example, "Simone Piette resume and cover letter for Executive Assistant Position").

If you've been referred to a position by another person, be sure to "cc" (carbon copy) or "bcc" (blind carbon copy) your reference when you apply. That is, add that person's e-mail to the "cc" or "bcc" field, which will enable that person to receive an exact copy of the e-mail you're sending to the hiring manager. The reason you want to "cc" or "bcc" your referrer is because you want to keep him in the loop. After all, if someone has offered to help you, he should know what stage you're at in the application process. (Note: Some e-mail programs don't offer "cc" or "bcc" fields, in which case you'll want to e-mail your reference separately.)

Finally, be sure to save a copy of your outgoing e-mail in your "Sent Mail" folder, just in case the e-mail doesn't go through and you need to send it again.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Is PR Really A “Soft” Discipline?

If so, what is a “hard” discipline? One that involves HUGEmoney or personal pain? One that absorbs all the general counsel’s time? Or, is it the blinding success of a brand new business or, maybe, something that affects individual careers? Or must it simply employ clubs and brass knuckles?

I believe public relations is as “hard” as ANY discipline can get when it puts together for a business, non-profit,   government agency or association, the resources and action planning needed to alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors among their most important outside audiences. When it goes on to help managers persuade those key folks to his or her way of thinking, then move them to take actions that allow their department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed, that’s hard, real hard.

Since, plain and simple, that can mean success or failure for the organization, yes, I’d call it a very “hard” discipline indeed!

And that notion isn’t just sitting out there all by itself. Its foundation is the underlying premise of public relationsitself: People act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors affect the organization the most, the public relations mission is usually accomplished.

That’s why many managers are comforted by the thoughtthat the right public relations planning really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences!

Should you be that manager, try to remember that your PR effort must demand more than special events, press releases and brochures if you are to receive the quality public relations results you want.

It will all seem worthwhile when capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; customers begin to make repeat purchases; membership applications start to rise; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures start showing up; politicians and legislators begin looking at you as a key member of the business, non-profit, government or association communities; welcome bounces in show room visits occur; community leaders begin to seek you out, and prospects actually start to do business with you.

Close by are your public relations professionals who can be of real use for your new opinion monitoring project because they are already in the perception and behavior business. But be certain that the PR staff really accepts why it’s SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Above all, be sure they believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Before you monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences, go over your plans with your PR staff. Rehearse asking questions like these:  how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? Are you familiar with our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Be ready for an epiphany when you discover that usingprofessional survey firms to do the opinion gathering work will cost considerably more than using those PR folks of yours, who already happen to be in the perception monitoring business. However, whether it’s your people or a survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

Goal-setting time has arrived, a goal that calls for action on the most serious problem areas you uncovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Will it be to straighten out that dangerous misconception? Correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentially painful rumor cold?

The facts of life say that setting your PR goal requires an equally specific strategy that tells you how to get there. Only three strategic options are available to you when it comes to doing something about perception and opinion. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick will taste like Hollandaise Sauce on your waffles, so be sure your new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You certainly don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.

Good writing is always important in public relations, but never more so than now.  Here, you’ve got to put together a persuasive message that will help move your key audience to your way of thinking. It must be a carefully-written message targeted directly at your key external audience. Select your very best writer because s/he must come up with corrective language that is not just compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if it is to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and wind up with the behaviors you have in mind.

Selecting the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience can be a fun chore. There are many available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Take time to assure yourself that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

Another reality we labor under in PR is that the credibility of any message is fragile and always suspect to some folks. So the method you use to communicate it is a very valid concern. Which is why you may wish to unveil such a corrective message through smaller presentations and meetings rather than using higher-profile news releases.

Many eventualities can lead you to begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. But nothing like talk of progress reports. You’ll want to use many of the same questions used in the benchmark session. But now, you will be on strict alert for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

Not all programming runs apace, so should momentum flag, you can always move things along by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

Calling tactical devices tactical devices (like the communications tactics discussed above), avoids confusing them with the broader, more comprehensive mission known as public relations. A mission that we now seeallows managers of all stripes to alter individual perception in a way that leads to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.

A discipline you certainly could call one of the “harder” disciplines insuring the success of any manager’s operation.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Firing Someone – Does it have to be painful, for them and you?

Copyright 2006 The National Learning Institute

The need to write this article came about through the recent experience of two of my friends.  Both had been fired.  One for supposed poor performance (although she had never been counselled and at the time was in fact on sick leave) and one because the start up facility she was employed by, suddenly closed down.  Both were senior managers.  Both were loyal, hardworking employees but are now very angry and taking legal action against their former employers.  Why are they so angry?  One could say it’s because they have lost their jobs and this would be quite understandable.  However, the main action that has triggered their anger and catapulted them down the legal pathway (in both cases), was that they were informed of their dismissals by emails.  Yes, that’s right by email!  They were never given the courtesy of a face to face discussion.

Many managers, when faced with the challenge of firing someone, forget, or are unaware of the emotions that are experienced by the person being fired.  Nor are they aware of the behaviour that most often results from these emotions.  It has been well documented that the death of a loved one, a marriage or long term relationship breakup and the loss of one’s job, have an equal and similar impact on one’s emotions.  Think for a moment about the loss of one of your dear relatives or friends through death – how did you feel?  That’s exactly the same feeling that people have when they suddenly and unexpectedly lose their jobs.

The psychologists tell us that there are 5 stages that people go through in this “grief cycle” – Shock, Resistance (often manifested as anger), Acceptance (of the current situation), Exploration (of new opportunities), Commitment (to a new future).  Can any of these emotions be managed via email?

I can well recall the first time as a manager I had to fire someone.  It was for poor performance and I was scared.  I did not sleep the night before wondering what I would say and what would be her reaction.  I carried out the interview in the morning with great fear and trepidation.  I was not sure how the interview went, but was relieved when it was over and then took a break for lunch, but was unable to eat.  I did not know about the “5 stages” at the time, I only knew that I had to do the right thing by the organisation and by the employee.  I arrived back from my break to find a box of chocolates on my desk with a very nice note from the employee saying how much she appreciated my courtesy and kindness.  I guess, intuitively I must have got something right.

Now, from years of experience, I know two things about firing someone:

1. Firstly, the person at all times must maintain his or her self esteem.  This is one of the most basic and important needs that all people have (emailing someone, or even worse as I heard since starting this article, texting, sends a clear message that they are not worthy of a face to face discussion)

2. Secondly, it is vitally important to realise that all people will go through the five stages of the grief cycle (quite often at different paces) and as a manager, it is our role and responsibility to help them progress through these stages, particularly the first two that are likely to occur when they are still with us.

How do you do this?  Well, in my usual style when writing an article such as this, I did my web research.  Sad to say there was not much there.  Under “firing someone” there seemed to be a plethora of articles about the legal requirements and many about the steps to take.  For example, one article suggested the following steps:  Give warning, Document, Document, Document! Time it right, Prepare the paperwork, Don't go it alone (ensure you have someone from HR there), Ensure privacy, Be brief, Watch your tone, Seek feedback, Give a good send-off.  Few of these steps would address the 5 stages of grief.  Many could probably be done by email with the same impact and result!  If these steps were followed, I wonder what “feedback” the manager would receive – would there in fact be a “Good send-off”?

I’m not suggesting that we don’t have to address some of these.  For example, you must cover all of the documentary and legal responsibilities pertinent to your country and organisation’s requirements.  But keep in mind that the fired employee is first and foremost a person just like you with feelings and emotions that must be managed.

Here are some suggestions (assuming of course that you have fulfilled all the other requirements) for the next time that you have to fire someone:

• Before taking any action, ask yourself: “How would I feel if my boss came to me today and said – you’re fired!”  Write down a list of words that describe your feelings.

• If you were in the situation of being fired, how would you like your boss to handle it?  What would you like him/her to do and to say?  Jot down some of your thoughts.

• Now write down a list of the words that best describe your feelings about having to fire someone.  Review all the words you have scribbled down so far and pick out the two or three strongest.  Also keep in mind how you would like to be handled in similar circumstances.

• Script the start of the conversation using the two or three words you have discovered.  e.g. “This is really difficult for me.  I feel apprehensive and worried that I won’t get it right.”

• The next part of your opening script will depend on the circumstances.  For example in a “lay off” situation, it might go something like; “I have been advised that I have to terminate the employment of a number of people.  I am really sad to say that your name is on that list”.  Or, for a non performance issue, it could be something like;  “We have discussed my expectations about your performance and unfortunately they are still not being met.  It now really saddens me (or whatever your feelings are) that I will have to terminate your employment”.

• Be careful.  You can only script the opening few lines, but they are important because they set the scene for the entire interview.

• It is most likely that during the remainder of the interview, the employee will travel backward and forwards between “shock” and “resistance”.  Give your reasons for the termination clearly and succinctly, but do not get into a discussion about justifying yours (or your employer’s) reasons.  Doing so will keep the employee fixed in either of the first two stages and will not help them to progress.  Only sincere listening and clear questioning (not reasoning) will help the employee progress to the acceptance stage.

One factor that is often overlooked when firing someone, is that the way it is done can have as much impact (positive or negative) on the people who remain.  They will be watching (and will invariably get a first hand report from their colleague) about how well or otherwise the process was managed.  The people who remain in the organisation, and whom I assume you want to keep, get a good look at both the manager’s and the organisation’s real people management skills when under the stress of firing someone.  They’ll most certainly ask “Could this happen to me?”

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grow Your Business By Finding Your “Hidden” Organization

Have you ever wondered what enables some entrepreneurs to exponentially grow their businesses while others go flat, or worse? Their secret lies in their ability to find and lead what I call their “hidden” organization. You may think you don’t have an organization, hidden or otherwise, especially if your business consists of a “gang of one” or there are only a few employees on staff. But the fact is that even the smallest businesses have an organization, and your success or failure is determined by your ability to find it and then lead it in a way that gives you more of the results you want.

This may be a totally new concept to consider. It’s easy to think of giant corporations as having organizations. These are the “internal stakeholders” consisting of employees, departments and committees on the payroll. However, large companies are realizing that independent consultants, suppliers, outsource providers, alliance partners, customers and other “external stakeholders” also play a critical role in their organization’s ability to achieve high performance results.

Just as your business is part of your customers’ external organization, it also has external stakeholders of its own that make up your hidden organization. The better you become at recognizing and leveraging the power of these many relationships, the more likely it is that you’ll survive unexpected twists and turns in the economy, minimize problems, and take your business to the next level of growth.

Who makes up your hidden organization?

It can be challenging to identify the many stakeholders who impact your business. While some of these relationships are obvious, it’s easy to overlook and underestimate the impact of others. However, if you think of an external stakeholder as any person, group or organization that has a stake (whether they recognize it or not) in the success of your business, your organization includes, but is not limited to:

•Outsource providers (payroll services, virtual assistants, etc.)
•Advisors (attorneys, accountants, bankers, business coaches, consultants, etc.)
•Alliance partners
•Business and trade associations to which you belong
•Advisory boards

When you uncover the wide variety of support, knowledge, skills, capabilities, and resources that are available through your stakeholders, you can offer services and products in ways that you may never have considered before. For example, a specialty-clothing designer with one store location teamed up with an online distributor so that she now runs a global business, reaching customers around the world. Even competitors have found that there are a number of ways to benefit through limited collaborations. The possibilities for growth are there if you look for them.

While large companies have organizational charts that map out functions of departments and roles of employees, you can also create your own “organizational chart” to map out how external stakeholders fill essential functions and roles that are essential for conducting business. For instance, your accountant, attorney, and insurance agent are important parts of your “executive team.” Your organization also includes your customers, along with the alliance partners, outsource providers, and sub-contractors who may work with you to deliver products and services.

As you continue to identify stakeholders, be sure to update your organization chart on a regular basis. Depending upon, your own goals, customers’ objectives and needs, new technology and shifts in the economy, some stakeholders will take on increased importance while others play a less important role for a period of time.

Realigning your vision of your organization so it includes these and other external stakeholders will enable you to think about new ways to reach your customers, expand your capabilities, and discover new opportunities for increased revenue and profitability.

Leading and managing your hidden organization
Now that you’ve discovered your hidden organization, the next challenge is to lead and manage it so that you are achieving your growth objectives.

Clients often tell me that unexpected and persistent problems seem to come out of nowhere (this is what I call “strategic gridlock”). However, when we look back, it’s possible to trace the source of problems to one or more common but mistaken assumptions that we all make about our organizations, based upon our individual perceptions of reality.

As you lead and manage your hidden organization, here are three questions to ask yourself on a regular basis to begin to uncover assumptions, avoid gridlock, and grow your business:

• What is the uniqueness of each stakeholder? Just as no two people are alike; no two stakeholders are alike. Yet it’s easy to adopt an approach to dealing with others that doesn’t allow for these variations. This can lead to persistent problems, especially if their values and practices are different from yours. Understanding the uniqueness of each stakeholder will help everyone get the most out of each relationship.

• Are my stakeholders capable of doing what I want? Since external stakeholders have other priorities outside of yours, unexpected changes in direction can easily happen. Consistent communication with your external stakeholders minimizes the risk of being blindsided by these issues, and allows you to make contingency plans. It also alerts you to developments that could result in new opportunities for your growth.

• Are my stakeholders willing to do what I want? External stakeholders don’t always share your objectives or sense of urgency. The more that you understand how they perceive your objectives and what their needs are in relationship to yours, the more likely it is that you can head off conflicts, improve decision making, and negotiate solutions that represent a “win” for everyone.

To fully meet organizational challenges and lead your organization to high performance results, it’s essential to know not only who your stakeholders are, but also what issues they face and the impact those issues may have on you. When you seek out the perceptions of your stakeholders on a regular basis, you’ll be able to address any potential challenges from a position of organizational reality, not individual assumption.

Discover the power of your hidden organization

Many entrepreneurs, especially those who are used to working as “gangs of one”, overlook and underestimate the many ways that they can leverage and grow their businesses by working in collaboration with their external stakeholders. .

Once you recognize that you are the architect of your own organization, the issues of leading and managing organizations of all sizes are the same; the same organizational principles apply to mega-corporations as well as to solo entrepreneurs, because even the very smallest businesses have “hidden” organizations within them.

Harnessing the power of your hidden organization will help you to discover untapped opportunities, avoid organizational jams, and grow to new heights of success.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Has the time come for a reconditioned forklift fleet?

Every industry has its accepted truths. These are the things that everybody knows - the obvious answers. The problem is that yesterday's truths may be out of date, and things that appear to be common sense on the surface may be a lot more complicated when you look a little deeper. When the question is a potentially expensive one like the purchase and maintenance of your forklift fleet, it's a good idea to examine both possibilities. The industry is changing, and old truths should be re-examined. In addition, your options have grown, and the old easy answers may no longer be the best solutions.

<b>The single Manufacturer Fallacy</b>

Most operations that run a large fleet of forklifts select a primary new truck manufacturer (for example, Toyota or Hyster for pneumatic/cushion trucks, Crown or Raymond for electrics). It's more convenient, dealing with a single company when arranging purchase or lease agreements, but that is not the primary consideration. The big issue is maintenance.

Full service leases are supposed to cover maintenance costs up front. Ideally, they allow you to plan maintenance schedules and costs, and then forget about it for the duration of the lease. There are two problems with this pretty picture. For one thing, most full service leases do not cover repair costs on the failure of components that are out of factory warranty, or on the failure of wear items such as brakes, etc. You can never be absolutely certain what maintenance costs will be.

On the face of it, this is an additional argument for selecting a single supplier, since it means that you will only have to stock one set of parts and train your people on one machine (or at least machines from a single manufacturer). True, this will save you a little, but at what cost?

Not all forklift manufacturers are good at everything that a forklift does in your operation. There are just too many variables. Electrics are quiet, inexpensive and nonpolluting, but of limited range. In some narrow aisle warehouse applications, turning radius can become a major consideration. In extreme cases, turret trucks may be required.

To get the most efficient vehicle for every job, you would have to determine the features and characteristics required for that job, and then buy the necessary number of trucks from the manufacturer who makes the best forklift with those features and characteristics - and then repeat the process for every job in your operation. A multi-location facility could easily end up with four or five different makes of lift truck. Is this the making of a maintenance nightmare? Not necessarily.

Remember, you are still only using one brand of fork lift for a given task, and because you have selected the brand with the best performance for that function, your maintenance for that brand is likely to go down. The periodic service requirements are the same, and component failure is less likely to occur if the vehicle is better designed for that specific application.

Keeping a larger inventory of parts may cost a little more to begin with, but maintaining that inventory over time should result in no significant additional expense. As for training, it may be possible to specialize there as well. For example, instead of training two people on maintenance for a single brand, you might train each of them on one of the brands in use - for little or no additional expense.

<b>New vs. Refurbished</b>

Another accepted truth that may no longer be true is that refurbished forklift trucks, while less expensive than new ones, are less reliable and therefore not a good investment.

With the ever-increasing costs of capital equipment, refurbishing used lift trucks has finally become big business. Only a few years ago, the market for reconditioned forklifts wasn't big enough to justify the expense of setting up an assembly line to tear down, inspect and re-assemble a vehicle with enough quality control to insure reliable operation in heavy use conditions.

The term refurbished means different things to different people. Before you even consider this option, make certain that the unit has been disassembled to the bare frame, sandblasted, painted and rebuilt. Even the engines should be completely broken down, refurbished and repainted to work and look like new. Purchasing used forklifts can be risky, but buying quality refurbished ones doesn't have to be.

For years, third parties have been refurbishing trucks for small users who could not afford new units. They had to do it by themselves to insure quality, and the number of quality refurbished trucks on the market was extremely limited. That is no longer true. The market for renewed trucks has grown to the point where there are now factory reconditioned forklifts available at perhaps one third the cost of new trucks. Not only that, but they are available in quantities that should be attractive to a fleet user.

The quantities are there, and the price is certainly attractive, but what are you really getting when you buy a refurbished forklift truck? Is this where you can find yourself in a maintenance nightmare? Again, not necessarily.

Renewed vehicles have had some run time, a kind of shakedown cruise after which the weak components are replaced. The result is a more reliable unit. Obviously, a refurbished truck has less of its reliable service life left than a new one, but consider the following scenario. You purchase a refurbished unit at one third the cost of a new one. You have already skipped the first wave of high maintenance cost that occurs during the run-in phase. You maintain it regularly and retire it perhaps a year earlier than you would a new unit, thus avoiding the last stage of high maintenance as it nears the end of its useful life. You have saved considerably in terms of capital investment, and your maintenance costs may actually go down as well.

<b>Name Brands</b>

There is one last accepted truth I would like to address related to the issue of maintaining a fleet of forklift trucks - brand name versus off-brand parts. It seems obvious that an operation running a particular brand of forklifts will be safest stocking spare parts from that manufacturer, even if they do cost a little more. Fortunately, that isn't always true.

Many of my friends and customers in the manufacturing business are up in arms over China because they have become such a tough competitor in recent years. However, the same pricing that creates this frustration with China as a competitor can be helpful to forklift buyers. Factories in China that have produced parts for other name brand trucks for years are now starting to sell direct in the United States at significantly reduced prices over name brands.

Notice that these are often the same people that made the brand name parts. The parts are not less expensive because of lower quality. They are less expensive because of the distribution strategy. There is no dealer taking a percentage off the top. There is no forklift manufacturer using overpriced spare parts as a profit center in order to lower prices on new trucks and in order to lock in brand loyalty.

With these lower prices for spare parts, there is less reason to fear the possibility of higher maintenance costs with a multi-manufacturer and/or refurbished fleet of forklift trucks. More than ever before, it is possible to put together a fleet based on the only questions that should really matter: what do forklifts really do in your operation, and which forklifts - new or refurbished - can most effectively and economically do the job(s)?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

IT Project Governance And Prince2 Project Management: How To Keep Major IT Investments On The Rails

In today’s fast-changing information economy, IT project governance has emerged as one of the most vital corporate responsibilities. The relentless pressure to innovate whilst simultaneously driving down costs means that organisations are increasingly ‘betting the farm’ on the successful development and deployment of new IT systems. However, the business environment now evolves so quickly that the original assumptions on which projects were based can often become fatally undermined prior to the projects’ completion. With technology at the heart of most businesses, the ability to maintain tight executive and board control over such projects throughout their lifecycle has become a deciding factor in determining which businesses thrive and which founder. In response to this challenge, Prince2 project management has emerged as the world’s leading methodology for ensuring that IT projects stay on track and deliver real value.

No large scale or business critical project should ever be managed on a standalone basis. The need to involve and secure buy-in from functions right across the organisation means that a project governance approach is essential. While project management is the key discipline within this, project governance is broader in scope and has six interlinked objectives:
1. Ensuring real business value through project and business alignment.
2. Controlling costs through centralisation.
3. Maximising resource allocation, particularly of high value resources.
4. Risk management through portfolio balancing.
5. Uniform application of best practice.
6. Organisational coherence.

IT decisions expose an organisation to significant risks – financial, operational and competitive – so it is essential that project governance be a concern for the board as a whole, rather than any one individual. The board must insist that project risks are assessed within the organisation’s strategic planning and risk management framework and ensure that the right investment and management decisions are made, so that competitive advantage can be enhanced and measurable business value delivered.

The board’s project governance responsibilities can be summarised as follows:
•    To approve product initiation, manage the project portfolio and pull the plug on any underperforming projects.
•    To make one or more non-executive board members specifically responsible for overseeing project governance. They must have independent and informed oversight of progress on all business IT projects – including attending program (or large project) board meetings.
•    To ensure clear accountability at all levels, with detailed, rigorously tested project plans based on a critical path analysis with clearly identified critical success factors, regular milestones and ‘go/no go’ checkpoints.
•    To ensure that every project proposal contains a full business case with a fully costed estimate that can stand up to independent audit, with clearly stated assumptions that can withstand rigorous analysis.
•    To manage all IT related projects as part of a portfolio.
•    To adopt and deploy a recognised project management methodology.
•    To adopt a clearly defined risk management plan at programme and project level that reflects corporate level risk treatment requirements.
•    To institute a monitoring framework to inform the board of progress and provide an early alert of divergence or slippage in any of the critical success factors.
•    To commit funding only on a phased basis.
•    To ensure that internal audit is capable and accountable directly to the board for providing regular, timely and unambiguous reports on project progress, slippage, budget, requirements specification and quality requirements. Where there is project divergence the board should not release further funds until the cause of the divergence has been fully dealt with.

In selecting a project management methodology the organisation needs to choose an approach that is appropriate to its project objectives and development environment. By far the most popular methodology is Prince2, the successor to PRINCE ('Projects in Controlled Environments'), which was developed by the UK Office of Government Commerce. While PRINCE was originally developed for IT projects, Prince2 project management has incorporated substantial feedback and is now a generic, best-practice approach for all types of projects. Since its introduction in 1989, Prince2 project management has become widely used in both the public and private sectors and is now a de facto global standard.

Prince2 project management uses a structured methodology, which means managing a project in a logical and organized way, following clearly defined steps and well-understood roles and responsibilities. It perfectly matches the requirements of a project governance regime by delivering the following attributes to any project:
•    A controlled and organised start, middle and end
•    Regular reviews of progress against plan and against the business case • Flexible decision points
•    Automatic management control of any deviations from the plan
•    The involvement of management and stakeholders at the right time and in the right place during the project
•    Good communications channels between the project, project management, and the rest of the organisation.

The effectiveness of Prince2 project management results from its four cornerstones, which define what a successfully managed project should be:

Planned: Prince2 has a series of processes that cover all of the activities needed on a project from starting up to closing down. This process-based approach provides an easily tailored and scaleable method for the management of all types of project. Each process is defined with its key inputs and outputs together with the specific objectives to be achieved and activities to be carried out.

Controlled: Prince2 project management divides a project into manageable stages, enabling efficient control of resources and regular progress monitoring throughout. The various roles and responsibilities for managing a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the size and complexity of the project, and the skills of the organisation.

Results-driven: Project planning using Prince2 is product-based, which means the project plans are actually focused on delivering results and are not simply about planning when the various activities on the project will be done.

Measured: Any project using Prince2 is driven by the business case, which describes the organisation’s justification, commitment and rationale for the deliverables or outcome. The business case is regularly reviewed during the project to ensure the business objectives, which often change during the lifecycle of the project, are still being met.

There are clear reasons why Prince2 project management has become the world’s leading methodology. In addition to its best practice approach for the management of all project types, around 800 people per week take Prince2 project management examinations, with all training is carried out by accredited organisations. It is widely used and popular in both public and private sectors, and can easily be tailored to all varieties of projects in many different markets and businesses. For any organization that is serious about managing its IT investment, Prince2 project management is the natural choice.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Renegade eBay Strategy - Feedback

Let's talk about feedback. We all know that feedback is an essential component of eBay, in fact it's probably a large part of why the company has been so successful. In marketing terms we might refer to feedback as social proof. I'll explain what I mean. We all make decisions based on what others do, yes we are influenced by others to an extraordinary degree.

If someone tells us that they enjoyed a great meal or watched a really good movie, chances are that we'll do the same, based on their recommendation. That's social proof.

The principle works on eBay too. When we read the feedback comments left by buyers and sellers we take note. If those comments are predominantly positive then we naturally trust the person behind that account.

So not only is feedback an essential aspect of eBay that virtually all buyers and sellers devote significant amount of time to reading, it is one that deserves more attention than you give it now.

For most sellers, leaving feedback is a few rushed words, fairly generic, and posted without much thought. The renegade seller on the other hand realizes that there is an opportunity to make more of this important aspect of eBay.

Firstly, don't leave feedback to chance. Rather than letting buyers write the first thing that comes into their heads, prompt them a little. How can you do that without seeming impolite or demanding?

Send out an e-mail around the time you expect them to have received their item, and politely ask them not to leave feedback until they are 100% satisfied. If there's something that needs to be fixed, tell them you want to do that. Let them know that you live for happy customers!

Next, guide them as to what to write. Suggest to them that your customers are delighted because of the fast shipping, friendly service, fair mailing costs, quality of items, and any other benefits you can think of. This is an NLP technique that plants the thought in their mind, so that when they come to leave you feedback, you've already told them what to mention! Is this deceiving customers? No, not if you genuinely do deliver these benefits. You are simply helping to remind them.

Another important renegade feedback strategy is to include a marketing message in the feedback YOU leave. For example, instead of the usual, "Great transaction, recommended eBayer etc etc" that most buyers and sellers default to, use the space to further promote your items.You might say, "Thanks from -- eBay's #1 Collectable Poster Store."

In the above example, notice that the feedback message points people back to a domain name, which would be either the eBay store or your own website. Also, notice that the first letter of each word is capitalized -- an effective marketing technique to make the wording stand out.

Remember, feedback comments stay on an account for a very long time, so use that precious 'real estate' wisely.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rent To Own Homes

Are you someone who wants to own a home someday? Who does not? But what is holding you back? For most of us the answer is finance. If you have a bad credit record, it is unlikely that you will get a house loan to buy your dream house.

For most of us the only way to start living in our dream house depends on factors such as, having good credit, making a large down payment, and going through a landlord, but all that is history now with the introductions of the rent to own home facility. Now as a buyer you can lease the home of your choice for a few years before taking the big leap and finally buying the piece of real estate.

Both buyers and sellers alike can benefit from a rent to own transaction.  Nowadays it is really hard to find a buyer who has all the factors running in his or her favor, such as having good credit, or the ability to make a large down payment, but the rent to own home makes it easier for people with fewer resources to get a chance to buy their dream homes.

Buyers these days prefer to go for the rent to own homes because of certain added advantages provided by this kind of a transaction. Firstly, this type of a transaction helps the buyer get a good first hand experience regarding the house, because you know the price of the house only when you start living in it.  Minor problems that are not visible from the outside, for example leaking pipelines, paint falling off etc. become more imminent when it prospective buyers start living n the house.

Secondly, for the first time real estate investor it is always a good idea not to buy a property with cash through an outright sale, rather it will be a good idea to lease it first and then buy it.

Thirdly, people who have bad credit can buy their dream homes by this process as they can repair their credits during the lease period and build up equity. Besides getting a rent to own home is almost the same as leasing to own a car where the buyer leases the car to find out more about the car and whether it meets his requirements or not, and finally he buys the car if it meets the standards.

For the sellers the rent to own home facility brings in more customers than the outright sales. There are many homeowners who have listed their properties but there is a significant lack of prospective buyers in the cash buying market, most of the investors nowadays prefer to buy houses through their rent to own homes.

Most of the sellers can benefit from the fact that  most of the times the deal does not go through and they might end up with the entire rent amount to their discretion as the rent credit is considered non refundable. Besides this lease to own home feature allows the sellers to derive the benefits of the houses a bit more before actually selling it off to someone else.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Replace Your Lost Income with a Successful Online Business

With the economy in constant turmoil, many are experiencing a financial crunch with lost jobs or at the very least, lost income due to slow business. Fortunately, you don't have to settle for less income. There are many income opportunities online to fit your schedule, business budget, and skills. Let's explore two main ways to replace lost income with online profits.

Work from Home through Online Marketing

Marketing online and helping others promote their business is a great way to get started. Thankfully, there are companies that will help you with minimal cost. You can automate your business to sell services for you while you're away or asleep. Also, you can promote products and services to your potential customers through e-mail automatically with a follow-up system.

With this type of business, the marketing company that provides the service usually charges a one-time sign-up fee or an ongoing monthly or yearly fee to help you start and operate your business. All you do is set up your home business website, and then start promoting their services or products. The business will run on autopilot to sell and provide customer service to your new clients. Usually, this type of business operates similarly to an MLM business, but may also offer products or services for sale. Many are earning 6-figure incomes with this type of set-up, but they do work hard at promotions and marketing on a day-by-day basis as with any other type of business.

Replace Income with Your Personal or Business Skills

Think of the skills you have developed over the years. Can you type, sew, cook, write, design Web pages, or conduct research? Can you make crafts, design graphics, or offer counseling in some area? The possibilities are endless. Only you know what you love doing the most and what skills you possess. These can be turned into an amazing business earning a 6-figure income once the business starts to grow.

To start a business based on your skills, determine what you will offer, how much you will need to charge, and how you will handle customer service, shipping, and so forth. Then, create your own website to promote your products or services. Make sure your website offers plenty of useful content pertaining to your products. Also, create an e-mail newsletter (or e-zine) to follow up with your visitors. This will boost your income more than any other technique. With some services, you might also offer your talents through freelance websites to find new clients.

Promotion Tools to Replace Lost Income

Once you determine the type of online business that's right for you, it's time to promote your website. Some promotion tools can help you replace income while others may only cost you more money. Methods that are costly but might not be targeted include banner ads, pop-up ads, and classified ads. These three methods can be targeted to certain types of websites, but be sure the marketing company allows you to specify the audience you'd like to reach. Otherwise, it's a waste of advertising dollars.

Promotion methods that are affordable and effective include pay-per-click search engines, e-zine advertising, and content-based ads. These can reach your target audience without breaking your wallet because you're able to select the very audience that would be interested in your products.

Full-Time or Part-Time Income Opportunities

The Internet offers many income opportunities for either full time or part time, depending on your schedule and income needs. For part time income, it's probably best to sign on with a company that can set up a business for you. This will save you much time and energy so you can focus on promotions only during your limited hours.

Many entrepreneurs start out online as part-timers, but end up quitting their day jobs once established. You can earn a great income online too by allowing others who are already successful to lead the way!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reselling Web Conferencing Services: How To Profit From The Coming Boom In Web & Video Conferencing

If you want to make money in an online business, then you need to find a product or service that is fresh, up-to-date and that hasn’t been beaten to death with hundreds of copy-cat affiliates. Web and video conferencing are relatively new applications, and becoming a reseller of online conferencing services could be a good way to start up or add to an already existing online business. Let’s take a look at the prospects for this type of online enterprise.

First of all, web and video conferencing is an up-and-coming field of activity. Business is becoming increasingly globalized and many companies now have staff or clients located in distant locations, sometimes in other countries or on other continents. Online meetings are being used by some of the leading enterprises, but there are many more organizations that have not even begun to take advantage of web or video conferencing.

This is a huge market waiting to be tapped, and with the increasing penetration of broadband use both in the workplace and at home, the market grows larger with each passing month.

Just as there are relatively few companies using web and video conferencing, there are comparatively few resellers or affiliate sellers of these services to compete with. If you would like to get into this business then you should do an online search for web conferencing resellers or affiliates, and choose a program that you can effectively handle.

Typically, affiliate programs for these kinds of services are easy to enter. In many cases all you have to do is sign up and get an affiliate code or url and paste it onto your website and you are in business. However, if you want to be an effective affiliate for web and video conferencing, or for that matter, any other product or service, the best way to sell it is by using it yourself and really knowing what it is all about. Only then can you truly recommend the product in a convincing way.

A step above an affiliate is to become a reseller. Usually this requires a comprehensive training in the web and video conferencing system and there may also be an entry fee attached to becoming a reseller. Whereas affiliates simply refer potential clients to the conferencing service, Resellers are responsible for signing up the clients themselves. The advantage though, is that a reseller is likely to get a higher percentage of the signup and monthly subscription fees paid to the conferencing service by his or her referred clients.

If you are successful as a reseller then you will earn a residual income for as long as the people signed-up by you subscribe to the conferencing service.

Whether you decide to become an affiliate or a reseller, the key to cashing in on the coming boom in online conferencing is to study the market, know the product thoroughly and then place it before your web visitors or mailing list audience in a compelling and convincing manner. Another key factor to success is to make a timely move, a product or service that is “new” today will be commonplace tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Residential Telecom Audits

No business can flourish without an efficient and advanced telecommunications infrastructure in its offices and factories. All employees need a communication device to maintain their efficiency and save precious time. Obviously it means the establishment of an extensive telecom network in your offices. A big chunk of your budget has to be allocated for the successful operation and optimum utilization of telecom resources. You need to maintain a separate department to oversee the functioning of the telecom network and its finances.

This means that you can employ a team of expert auditors to keep an eye on the billing of the telephone vendors, in-house misuse or fraud in utilizing the network devices, and regular contact with the vendors with timely references to the anomalies in their billing. And in case the overcharged bills have been paid, they will have to be recovered or credited into your account.  Your in-house team needs to do a detailed planning of your telecom network and make important and timely decisions about the budgetary allocations to implement the plans. Besides auditing the billing and other financial aspects, your auditors can also use the software to automatically audit and validate the invoices.

You must also note that managing a telecom network is a very complex and confusing affair because the data comes from a variety of sources, such as contracts, invoices, vendors and customer services. The software can easily analyze this data, which is a daunting task for your residential auditors and can encroach upon their time, which can be more usefully spent on other important aspects.  The software can therefore reduce the time-consuming manual processes and increase efficiency. It can also display and track unresolved billing errors.

Despite the detailed and comprehensively programmed software that you may be using, it cannot resolve unexpected billing problems. It is here your Residential Telecom Audit Team can step in. It can ensure that your company is getting the optimum services from your telecom infrastructure and network. It should help to rein in the uncontrollable costs, besides replacing the outdated telecom devices by getting the latest ones and including the latest technologies to optimize the returns on investments. In this way your Residential Audits team can organize the entire telecom environment to promote the growth of your organization.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Restaurant Merchant Accounts

Some eatery entrepreneurs enjoy the old fashioned style of cooking and serving customers themselves, while others are experimenting with the latest technological enhancements via restaurant merchant accounts. While it is always enjoyable to dine at a restaurant where the owner or manager employs a personal touch, there are times when a customer appreciates modern conveniences like a server’s use of a pager or paying by credit card that are unavailable at many old-fashioned establishments. If you are an owner or manager who appreciates customers’ needs for fast, up-to-date service, you may want to learn more about a restaurant merchant account.

Restaurant merchant accounts help owners to provide the latest technology to their clientele. We all know of restaurants that don’t accept credit cards, and when we’re in a hurry or low on cash, we avoid such places. But other eateries, from fast food to fine dining, are increasingly choosing to implement credit card payment options, electronic check processing, and even wireless payment processing for merchants on the go who deliver food at home or to businesses and public places for special occasions. A server wearing a pager will be greatly appreciated when someone at your table chokes or a little one spills her beverage. Scenarios like these, as well as a host of others, show why it makes sense to consider an upgrade to a restaurant merchant account.

If you are unsure about the benefits of restaurant merchant accounts, you can readily find information on the Internet at a variety of Websites. Merchant accounts come in many forms and offer a range of advantages depending on your company’s specific needs or your long-term business growth plan. For example, you may want to start with a simple credit card processor on-site at your restaurant. You will get a feel for the degree to which your customers appreciate the new technology by their comments at checkout. If they appreciate the option of using credit, you will know that further upgrades may likewise be valued down the road. But if they complain about your establishment losing its old fashioned appeal, you may want to hold off on additional improvements until the clientele has time to get used to the initial changes.

Restaurant merchant accounts will provide the means of setting up a restaurant Website and accepting online credit payments for reservations, business accounts, or bulk purchases, among other things. Your Website can attract visitors from all over the world who may come to visit when in your part of town. The site can also offer local customers helpful information, such as hours and days of operation, driving directions to your location along with a map, regular and banquet menus, and special services. Your merchant account status will let them order online and confirm reservations without the need of a human voice, thus reducing staffing hours and human resource costs. If you want your restaurant to attract fast-paced customers who pay with plastic, check out the limitless possibilities that await you by browsing the available restaurant merchant accounts.