Saturday, January 14, 2012

How Good Is Your Big Idea

Q: I want to start my own business. I have tons of business ideas that all sound great to me, but my husband is not so sure. He says that we need to figure out a way to test my ideas to pick the one that has the best chance of succeeding. I’m ready to just pick one and go for it. What is the best way to determine if a business idea really is as good as it sounds?
-- Hannah C.

A: Heather, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but your husband is right (first time for everything, huh): before you just pick a business idea and go for it you should test the feasibility of your ideas to make sure they really are as good as you think they are.

Every business idea, no matter how good it sounds while bouncing around inside your head, should be put to the test before you invest time and money into its execution. Success lies not in what you think of your idea, but what the buying public will think. Many entrepreneurs find out too late that the public’s opinion of their idea differs greatly from their own. Wasted time and money aside, the last thing you want to do is hear “I told you so!” from your husband, so take a deep breath, slow down, and let’s look at the ways you can test the feasibility of your idea.

There are many ways to test an idea’s feasibility, though some ways are not nearly as effective or accurate than others. Most people start out by asking everyone they know what they think of their big idea. This is a good way to start the wheels turning because you may get feedback that you have not considered before, but be warned: this is NOT the best way to test the true feasibility of an idea. Never start a business simply based on what your friends and family think.

There are two things that will happen here. First, your mother will tell you what you want to hear and your best friends will be equally kind. No one who really cares for you will want to rain on your parade no matter how insane your parade might be, so take the wisdom you gain here with a hug and a grain of salt.

On the flip side, your coworkers and casual acquaintances will probably tell you the opposite of what they really think. If they think your idea stinks they’ll tell you it’s great and if they think your idea is great they’ll tell you it stinks. Please don’t preach to me about human kindness. Human kindness is often bested by human nature and we humans, by nature, are an envious lot. We hate to see anyone doing better than we are doing and we hate to see anyone who has the potential to leave us behind. Go watch the movie “Envy” and consider this: why would someone who is broke or stuck in dead-end job with no other prospects want to see you succeed? They wouldn’t. End of story.

Instead of conferring with friends and family you should run your idea past a number of neutral third parties who are knowledgeable about business and will give you an honest opinion. Contact the local Small Business Administration (SBA) or The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) offices and ask to speak with someone knowledgeable who has time to listen to your idea (don’t run it past the receptionist). Or speak with the small business liaison at the Chamber of Commerce. Or seek out a successful entrepreneur who is willing to listen and give you an honest opinion about your idea. Just remember, opinions are like belly buttons: everybody has one and they are all different.

A more accurate way to judge the feasibility of an idea is to create a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis will not only help you gauge the feasibility of your idea, but also help you build on your idea’s strengths, identify and correct the weaknesses, and spot ways to take advantage of potential opportunities while avoiding potential threats.

Here’s how to perform a simple SWOT Analysis. On a piece of paper draw a vertical line down the center of the page. Then draw a horizontal line through the center of the vertical line. The paper is now divided into four quadrants. Label the upper left quadrant “Strengths.” Label the upper right quadrant “Weaknesses.” Label the lower left quadrant “Opportunities” and the lower right quadrant “Threats.”

Now fill in each quadrant based on what you see as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business idea. You should repeat this process for every idea you have and each quadrant should have something written in. If you can think of no strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for a particular idea, that means that you do not have enough information to complete the SWOT analysis, which means you also do not have enough information to effectively execute that idea.

Strengths are those things that make your idea a strong one. Strengths can be personal or product-oriented and may include: prior business experience and success; sufficient funding to start the business; having a customer in hand; having a unique product or service to offer; having an established market; etc.

Next list all of the weaknesses of your idea. It is important that you are honest with yourself and list as many weaknesses as you can. Don’t pretend that your idea doesn’t have any weaknesses because every idea does. You will hurt no one but yourself if you pretend that your idea is bulletproof. Weaknesses might include: lack of capital to start the business; lack of business or management experience; a crowded market place; large competitors; etc.

Opportunities are those things that you can tap into that might fast track your business idea. We’ve talked about opportunities before and how smart entrepreneurs seek out new opportunities rather than waiting for opportunities to come to them. Opportunities might include: a potential partnership with someone who sells products in the same market; a prime storefront location that is coming available; a competitor going out of business, leaving a hole in the market that may be right for you; etc.

Threats are those things that threaten the success of your business idea. Threats might include: uncertain marketplace conditions; strong competitors in the market with lower prices; possible laws or taxes that may impact your idea; etc. Like weaknesses, it is vital that you are honest when it comes to identifying threats.

Once you have filled in all four quadrants, you should have enough information to begin testing the feasibility of your idea. Do the strengths of your idea outweigh the weaknesses or do the weaknesses outweigh the strengths? Are the opportunities available to you ample or nonexistent? Are the threats many or few?

With this information in hand, you can move on to the most accurate method of testing your idea and that is the creation of a detailed feasibility plan, which we will discuss next time.

Here’s to your success!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Grabbing Buyers From Reviews & Guides

One of the lessons that eBay has learned in recent years is that content is king. To be honest, until recently even eBay themselves admitted that the site lacked content. In other words, the site did not have much in the way of useful information; it was purely a place to buy products or services.

Some of the most recent developments to encourage user-provided content were: eBay Wiki, eBay Reviews and Guides and eBay Blogs. By eBay's own admission the aim of these sections is to build valuable content that will encourage users to come back to the site more frequently, as well as to influence the search engines in a positive way to increase the visibility of the site overall.

These features have been largely ignored by most eBay users, but they present a powerful opportunity for the switched on seller (that's you). How so? In return for providing content to these sections of the site, eBay promises a nice payback. It's a ‘you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' kind of arrangement.

The opportunity that exists in eBay Reviews and Guides is great because it's a flexible and open format.

According to eBay's own definition, Reviews and Guides (which are actually independent sections of the site in their own right) were provided as a way for users to research suitable products and benefit from the wisdom of eBay members that have experience in a particular product category, either as a seller or as a user. ‘Reviews' contains comments and ratings about all kinds of commonly sold items on eBay.

Note that eBay limits reviews to specific types of products that they list. ‘Guides' are short articles or reports that contain information and opinions about almost any topic you can think of.

There are two key ways to benefit from these sections of eBay:

1.Use the free information as a research resource for creating your own information products.

2.Write informative and useful information about the niche that you sell in, and then promote your own products.

The first point should be self-evident. Reviews and Guides is a rapidly growing information resource that's available for free, so it's a great tool for research when creating information based products.

The second area is a little more complex, but don't be put off, because it represents an outstanding way to generate interest in your eBay listings, for free. Here are some of the ways you can use Reviews and Guides:

1. Have a friend or relative post an objective review of your product. Make sure it's realistic and credible, and be sure to include details of what makes your product superior to the competition.

2. Write a Top 10 products review for your industry (guess which is No.1?)

3.Write a ‘white paper' report about a product that you sell.

4. Write a guide that explains how to use your product.

5. Write a guide that explains unusual uses for your product.

6. Write a guide that explains the pitfalls to look out for in hiring a service you offer.

7. Write a guide that gives tips and advice within some aspect of the niche that you sell in.

8. Write a guide that explains how to replace or repair a product.

Be as creative as you like, and remember that you can include pictures, photos, illustrations, basic formatting, and eBay links to specific products or eBay searches. If you do use any kind of photo or drawing, make sure it closely relates to the content and that it enhances rather than detracts from the text (that's a common mistake).

Also, in preparing your writing, ask yourself what people would be most interested in reading about. After all, you want to attract as many readers as possible. As with any copywriting, the headline (and title) that you select are the most important aspects to consider in drawing readers in.

Obviously, don't stop after producing your first one, aim to produce a steady stream of reviews and guides to increase your presence and influence on eBay (and the search engines that love this type of solid content). Set a goal of producing at least one review and one guide each week. If you can do more, even better.

Both reviews and guides can be voted on by readers, so make sure you keep an eye on that, as you want to maintain a favorable impression.

Please read and re-read the following information so that you fully grasp it. The two most important aspects of writing an eBay Guide are the links and the tags. Links are clickable text that will redirect the user automatically to another page within eBay. There are two types of links available to you – links to specific product pages, and links to eBay searches. I recommend that you use the latter because product pages will change from time to time, whereas searches will always be valid.

When you create a guide, eBay will help you create a search link by prompting you to enter relevant words to search for. This is much easier to do than it sounds.

For example, if you are in a niche selling guitar accessories, you would include words like guitar pedal, guitar stand, guitar amp, guitar strings, and so on. In identifying the most suitable words and phrases (tags), ask yourself, “If I was to search for this type of article, what search words would I enter?”Now, this is the clever part. If you give this some thought, it's possible to create a search term that's so specific that it only brings up your items in the results page!

For example, going back to the example of selling guitar accessories, if your store name was ‘ABC Guitar Accessories' and your listings had the word ‘ABC' in them, your search terms would be ABC guitar pedal, ABC guitar stand, ABC guitar amp and so on. Again, the aim is to create search terms that are so specific that your listings are the only ones that match, so they are the ones that are displayed.

This is a very powerful tool because you are now able to influence readers of your guides to visit your listings, and yours alone. Since you've just provided them with useful information in your guide, it makes sense that you are starting to build a rapport with them, and they are far more likely to buy from you than another seller as a result. It's simple human nature at work.


The other element of an eBay Guide to give attention to are the tags.

The word ‘tags' is simply ‘eBay speak' for keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that eBay prompts you to enter when you create your guide, to help others locate the guide in the future. It's the search terms that will cause your guide to be found, so you can see how important they are.

As an example, if your guide was ‘Tips for Planning the Perfect Hawaii Vacation', your keywords would likely include:


There's a balance to be had in how specific your keywords are because you are only allowed to submit a maximum of four. For example, if you used the keyword expression ‘Hawaii surfing vacation' you would lose out on a lot of other more general searches.

Finally, as you might imagine, it's easy to spend hours in these areas of the site, so be careful not to fall into that trap. Use these features as tools to increase your presence on eBay, but don't get bogged down with them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How To Select A Consultant - The Three Imperatives

Copyright © 2006 The National Learning Institute

As a manager many years ago when faced with my first challenge of selecting an external consultant, I found myself all at sea.  Fortunately for me, I intuitively hit two of the three selection targets.  The project was to produce a communication video, so it was relatively easy to see and compare what each consultant had previously produced.  I had a number of consultants to choose from, but finally chose the one that I felt most comfortable with and whose work impressed me most.  The project was succesful and in the process, I learned a lot.

Since that time, I have had to employ a number of consultants, I have been a consultant myself for almost 20 years, and I have worked with many other consultancies both large and small.  The following suggestions for selecting a consultant are based on my experience as a manager and in the consultancy field.

What are the three targets that one must hit to successfully select a consultant?  (Note; I am using the term “consultant” to refer to either one person or a consultancy firm).  Firstly and most obviously, the consultant must be able to actually do the work.  Secondly, the consultant must be able to fit in with the people in your organisation and particularly those who will be working on this project.  Finally, if the consultant is good, you should always improve your own knowledge as a result of the project.

1. Can the consultant do the work?  Seems obvious, but there are some traps.  For instance, I remember when starting out as a consultant in partnership with another (who was also new to the role), submitting a tender for a fairly large job and being selected in the final few for interview.  Individually, we’d had some experience in the type of work, but not as a partnership, nor had we worked in the prospective client’s industry.  We won the job.  Why?  The client saw in us some creativity and freshness that was not evident in our competitors.  However, this was an unusual client.  Normally, I would not suggest taking on a consultant (like us) who has not had the depth nor breadth of experience in the project.  So, unless one of your criteria is “freshness”, in terms of selecting for experience here are some tips:

• What are your specifications?  Be very clear on the outputs you will require in the project.  These should always be measured in terms of quality, quantity, time and cost.  Use these output criteria to compare consultants.

• Who has recommended this consultant?  Check their references – ask for the contact of the last job they did.  When checking references, use your above “output criteria” as a guide.

• Are you looking for someone to implement solutions to a problem you have identified, or are you looking for someone to help you identify and clarify the problem?  Or both?  Sometimes it can be useful to split the project into these two parts.

• In discussion with the prospective consultants, do they really give you the time to say what you want before jumping to conclsuons?  If they appear to “have all the answers”, chances are they do not listen very well.

• Does their suggested solution appear to be specifically designed for you or is it a “one size fits all”?  Be wary if it is not specifically designed to meet your project criteria.

• Do they explain the things they can’t do as well as those they can?  This is always a good test of integrity, truefulness and reliability.

• Is their initial response to your request up to your quality standards, sufficiently detailed (but not overly so) to make a decision, and within your time expectations?

• Does the consultant have depth of expertise in the subject matter and breadth of expertise in its application?

• Ask the consultant what is unique about him or her?  What makes them stand out from all the other consultants you might choose?

2. Secondly, will the consultant fit in with the people they will be working with?  This is a critical implementation issue, as whilst they might be able to do the work, if they can’t work harmoniously with the people, the results will be less than optimal.  For instance, we once worked on a major government project (total budget in excess of M$43) where the client continually kept us at arm’s length (for example, on a residential workshop, we were not encouraged to eat or mix socially with the client project leaders).  We met the output requirements for the client, but had we been allowed to work more closely with the client, they would have received a lot more value added service.  In this case, the client should have selected another consultant.

The following tips will help ensure you get the right client/consultant match.

• Is the consultant likely to be able to gain the respect and trust of your key stakeholders?

• Could you trust this person (people)?

• What is the process they will use? i.e, How will they work within the organisation?  How will they be seen?  Try to visualise the consultant working with you and the other people as they complete the project.  Will it work?  Is it likely to be a good partnership?

• Who specifically (from the consultancy) will be working on the project and what will be their role?  For example, will the people you are interviewing be carrying out the work?  Be wary of consultancies that have “front people” that win the jobs, then send in less experienced people to do the work.

• Ask the consultant to describe what a “good working relationship” looks like to them.  Is the description the consultant gives you of a “good working relationship” likely to be, and to be seen to be, a partnership?

3. Thirdly, will you be able ot learn from this consultant?  One of the reasons you hire a consultant is that you (or your organisation) does not have the depth nor breadth of experienece to successfully carry out the project.  One of your aims should be to increase your own experience through this project.  For example:

• Why did you decide to employ a consultant?  What were the gaps you could not fill internally?

• What will you be likely to learn from this consultant?

• Will you increase your knowledge of both process management (how the consultant works) as well as content management (their area of expertise)?

• Will the consultant strengthen and support your role in the organisation?

Finally, if all of your criteria have been met and you cannot decide between two apprently equal consultants, consider setting them a small task or part of the project to complete as part of the selection process.  For example, some years ago we were in competition with another large consultancy for a sizeable project with an initial budget in excess of M$1.  The client could not decide between the two of us, so he asked us each to undertake a small project (for which he paid us both), which would ultimately become part of the larger project.  When we each completed the small project, he had an excellent idea of both our capability and the manner in which we worked.  After all, isn’t the final selection criterion is actually trying the consultant out?

Oh, yes.  In case you’re wondering, we won the job!

Delaware Ranked #1 In The United States

Each year the United States Chamber of Commerce announces which States have the best and worst legal system. For the fifth year in a row, Delaware has received the top honors, being named the State with the fairest legal system. Additionally, a survey of U.S. businesses ranked Delaware as the State doing the best job of creating a fair and reasonable legal environment. As many of the top businesses in the United States, and a growing number of small and medium sized businesses, have chosen Delaware as the place to incorporate, that ranking should not come as a big surprise.

The results of the 2006 study, which was officially conducted for the United States Chamber Institute for Legal Reform by The Harris Poll, surveyed a national sample of in-house general counsel or other senior corporate litigators to explore how reasonable and fair the legal system is perceived to be by U.S. business. In order to ensure the integrity of the results, respondents were first screened for their familiarity with States, and those who were very or somewhat familiar with the litigation environment in a given State were then asked to evaluate that State.

When deciding where to incorporate, there are a number of considerations that businesses must take into account. Perhaps the single most important consideration for any business is the legal environment within the incorporation State. Over the past few years, several States have tried to create more favorable climates for businesses; but year after year, it is Delaware that provides the most fair and competent judges, the best and most efficient handling of litigation proceedings and juries that are competent, fair and predictable. It is also Delaware that provides the most flexible and business-friendly incorporation laws, including minimal regulation and minimal yearly filing requirements. (visit

Recently, formation companies in the State of Nevada have been mounting an advertising campaign to drive businesses into the desert, touting the State's minimum regulation. What is missing from Nevada, however, is a fair, competent and predictable legal environment. In fact, in 2006 Nevada ranked worst among the States in terms of creating a fair and reasonable legal environment while ranking 37th overall. Additionally, according to several magazine publications, venture capitalists and angel investors they will all routinely throw away business plans they receive from companies incorporated in Nevada. What this means, of course, is that if you are a legitimate business you could get inappropriately labeled as unsavory simply because you have incorporated in Nevada.

Additionally, many, if not most of the Nevada companies who help individuals set up companies, tout the fact that when you file a Nevada LLC the owners of the LLC can remain anonymous. To some, such anonymity may be helpful, but the Nevada promise is misleading at best and completely disingenuous at worst. While you can anonymously create a Nevada LLC, the company must provide the Secretary of State with the names and addresses of each manager or managing members on or before the last day of the first month after the filing of the Nevada LLC. See Nevada Revised Statutes 86.263. Therefore, the promise of anonymity in Nevada can be a hollow promise.

While anonymous ownership may not be important to all, in some situations there can be a legitimate business interest in keeping matters private. Unlike Nevada, Delaware truly does offer an answer to those in search of privacy. Simply stated, in Delaware, if you want to create an anonymous LLC you can do just that. No where in the Delaware laws is there any requirement that the managers or members be identified in any filing. In fact, the Delaware law relating to the formation of LLC's specifically says that the names of the managers or members may be included, but are not required. See Delaware Code § 18-102. Therefore, if anonymity is what you want then Delaware is the place to incorporate, not Nevada.

When deciding to incorporate in Delaware, companies of all sizes receive the benefit of the most developed business laws in the United States. The Delaware Chancery Court is renowned throughout the country for its handling of complex business matters. In fact, other States attempting to copy Delaware's successful business climate turn to and defer to the Delaware Chancery court and its rulings, thereby acknowledging the superior climate provided to businesses by the State of Delaware.

Where you incorporate is a big decision, but for companies of all sizes Delaware has made the decision very easy. Whether you are a start-up business, family business, small business, large business or subsidiary, Delaware is the place to incorporate. Whether you are forming a LLC, a partnership, a general corporation or a C-corporation, you will benefit from the nation's premier legal system.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Net Promoter Scores: 7 Fast Ways To Raise Them

Net Promoter Scores is one of the hottest business measurement tools. In fact your next promotion or bonus may be based on your Net Promoter Score – which asks customers one question – “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend us to your friends or colleagues?”

Customers who respond zero to 6 are detractors, all who respond 7 or 8 are passive, and 9 or 10 are promoters. The percentage of promoters minus that of detractors is your <a href="">Net Promoter Score</a>.

So, let’s suppose your company just implemented the Net Promoter Score. That means you, your pay, and your future promotions are tied to your ability to turn customers into promoters. At <a href="">Customer Focus, Inc.</a> ( we’re a <a href="">customer service training</a> company who helps raise Net Promoter Scores. We’ve discovered fast ways to raise your scores.

Whether you use a <a href="">professional customer service training</a> company or do it yourself, have your people learn and practice these seven techniques. Then observe, measure, and reward them. They may sound simple, but they work and do so quickly.
<b>1. Welcome and thank every customer</b>

Begin with every customer “Welcome to…” or “Thank you for calling …” And use a warm and sincere tone of voice that lets the customer feel like an invited guest. And if you recognize, say “It’s good to see (hear from) you again”. Score 2 or 3 points already.

<b>2. Use names as often as possible</b>

Quick quiz: What’s the most important word customers want to hear? In an increasingly impersonal world, customers thirst to hear their name. Train your people to use each customer’s name at least twice. Each time is worth a point up to three points. Then, to lock in those points, have your people state their own name twice. The first time, the customer didn’t hear it. Then after you use the customer’s name, they hear your name the second time you say it.

<b>3. Say glad, happy, pleased, or pleasure for every request</b>

There’s a reason at Ritz Carlton they say, “My pleasure.” Train your people to respond to every request with, “I’d be glad to take care of that,” or “I’d be happy to do that,” or even, “Sure, that’d be no problem.” Let them use their own words and let the positive feelings rub off onto your customer.. Rack up at least two points the first time you say it, and one or two more for saying it consistently.

<b>4. Apologize whether you’re sorry or not</b>

You work hard to build up your points with a customer, but you could lose 3 or 4 points in a blink. When customers feel wronged or upset, apologize and show empathy to keep your points.  Take responsibility and never blame anybody else. The customer will feel they can trust you to take care of them and who they recommend. Sincere apologies create promoters. A person in one of our <a href="">training classes</a> once said, “We were told never to apologize. You never want to admit blame.”
Employees don’t have to admit blame or say, “We were wrong” to apologize. Apologize for the customer’s inconvenience, or for having made the customer upset, or for the situation. In the Net Promoter world, such words are magic.

<b>5. Provide GEMs to meet Uniqueness Need</b>

We start our <a href="">customer service training</a> by saying that customers have three TRU needs: Task Need, Respect Need, and Uniqueness Need.  You create a Distractor by not meeting either of the first two needs, you create a Passive customer when you meet just the first two needs, and you create a Promoter when you meet all three.
To make a customer feel Unique do something extra that exceeds expectations. We call those extras GEMs™ for Going the Extra Mile. We provide many guidelines and examples of GEMs, but one thing is common in all GEMs – you cannot standardize them. Train your employees to think, “What else can I do for this customer” or “What more can I do?” And the greatest opportunities are with your greatest challenges. Give a great GEM and do the first four above, and you’re good for an 8 or 9.

<b>6. Train your employees to create an “experience” for the customer.</b>

Net Promoter is all about getting people to talk about your company in a positive way. <a href="">Great experiences</a> generate great stories, and terrible experiences generate horror stories. What stories are your people generating? As a manager, you can encourage <a href="">great customer experiences</a> by collecting stories of those experiences and rewarding those who create them. You can set the bar for the rest of your company by featuring and publicizing these stories, as well as receiving the high Net Promoter scores these experiences engender.

<b>7. Create a “Cheat Sheet” for your employees to use with every customer</b>

If employees don’t know how to turn detractors and passives into promoters, a company’s Net Promoter scores will never go up. Ongoing training and reinforcement in these skills is crucial for high net promoter scores. After training, create a “Cheat Sheet” for your employees to use with every customer. Then, either hold a team meeting or coach your people individually, or both. Do ongoing role-plays with each employee to practice these skills. Observe them in action and give them feedback, especially praise. Companies are adopting <a href="">Net Promoter</a> because it is remarkable in its power and simplicity. By taking all these actions, you just might get to keep your job, get that bonus, and move on up.

Go to our website at or call us to find out more about getting fast training to increase your Net Promoter scores.  

<b>About the Author</b>

<a href="">Customer Focus, Inc.</a> is an international <a href="">customer service training</a> company that provides innovative, world-class <a href="">customer service skill building</a> and culture-building training programs at low cost. Contact Steve Fugate: (817) 303-5256<br><br>
&#169; Copyright 2007 Customer Focus Inc.
This Article is Copyright protected. Republishing &amp; syndication of this article is granted only with the due credit, as mentioned, retained in the republished article. Permission to reprint or republish does not waive any copyright. The text, hyperlinks embedded on the article and headers should remain unaltered. This article must not be used in unsolicited mail.

Delivering "The Right Stuff"

The following is an excerpt from the book Creating Competitive Advantage
by Jaynie L. Smith with William G. Flanagan
Published by Currency; April 2006;$19.95US/$26.95CAN; 0-385-51709-2
Copyright © 2006 Jaynie L. Smith and William G. Flanagan

Your customers, or would-be customers, need to be informed and reminded of what added values you provide them -- extras that can save them money, time, and aggravation. Yet too many business owners and managers can be ignorant of what those competitive advantages are. The seafood supplier didn’t communicate that he was selling fresher salmon with longer shelf life, and thus enhancing his customers’ bottom lines, until a competitor threatened his market share.

You could be providing a lot of extras to your customers without realizing how much you are actually saving them. Or, if you do not provide meaningful extras now, you might consider adopting them. They can be critical competitive advantages. Consider the following:

Terms. If you are a small or medium-size company up against a category killer, you might have flexible financing terms that the big guys can’t match. For example, a lumber company in the Northeast enjoyed a robust business with little substantial competition until Home Depot began to close in. One Home Depot box opened twenty miles away, and then another just ten miles down the road. Observers predicted that the lumber company would soon be bulldozed out of business.

Surely, it couldn’t compete on price, not against Home Depot's buying power. Lumber is lumber. So it concentrated on hitting Home Depot where it was vulnerable. It offered more -- flexible credit arrangements for its most important customers -- small contractors who often lack lines of credit from banks. The lumber company didn’t have to drop its prices to stay in business. It adopted new competitive advantages.

Guarantees. It is common for attendees at my seminars to tell me that their companies are “the only ones in our industry offering multi-year guarantees” on their products. But when I ask if they make a big deal about the guarantee to prospective buyers, most admit they do not.

The reason is usually the same: “If we emphasize the guarantee, too many customers may take advantage of it.”

That’s a pretty lame excuse. Either you offer a guarantee or you don’t. If you are confident enough in the product to guarantee it in the first place, make a selling point of it. Statistics show that a very small percentage of customers in any business actually use the guarantee. But the guarantee takes a lot of risk out of the buying decision and clinches a lot of deals.

Inventory turns. One of my favorite stories about inventory turns involves a clothing manufacturer who sold women’s clothes to boutiques around the country. When I asked him what differentiated him from his competitors, he said he thought his clothes were “wearable.”

“As opposed to what?” I asked, trying not to laugh. He began to talk about design, fabric, cut, and so on. When I queried what his competitors we're saying, he shrugged and said, “I suppose the same thing . . . but I know my stuff sells much better.”

I asked him what his customer, the boutique owner, cares about most. “Whether or not it sells,” he said. So I asked if his shop owners measured inventory turns. He answered that some did, some did not. I suggested that he teach them how to measure inventory turns and then he could prove to the shop owners his clothes sold better. My point was that he should stop selling “wearable clothes” like everyone else and start selling inventory turns. Moving the goods is what matters.

Note: Be sure you can back up your boast. Your buyers will know soon enough if you can’t. As with any competitive advantage you claim, make sure you deliver.

Materials. One client in the home-improvement business who sold siding knew his product was “stronger and better” because of the materials he used. But he didn’t know how to convey that without sounding biased and subjective. Upon asking his employees a series of questions I learned from one of his engineers that the company’s product has a higher wind load rating than any competitive product. In many geographic markets, the higher load rating influences buying decisions. So if your materials are stronger and provide customers with a benefit, shout about it in a way that is measurable.

Delivery. If you provide the same product as your competitors but you offer better delivery service, you have a competitive advantage. But how important is it? The Compleat Company, which sells promotional products, decided to find out. The Seattle-based company polled its customers about the importance of its on-time delivery. It found that its customers not only valued that service highly, they had a pretty low tolerance for being late.

Eighty-eight percent of its customers defined “on-time delivery” as being on schedule 97 percent of the time or better. Only 4 percent of its customers would accept an on-schedule rate of less than 93 percent. A manager from Compleat told me that the company is now focusing its energy and resources to make sure it meets that expectation. When Compleat’s customers want their deliveries, they will get them.

Information. In business as in war, intelligence can be priceless. In Business @ the Speed of Thought (Warner, 1999), Bill Gates writes: “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.”

Knowing what your competitors are doing, and keeping up with trends in your industry, are basic forms of intelligence, and essential if you are going to run a successful business. So is listening to your customers. (Your own and your competitors’.)

The more competitive the business you are in, the more important the role of intelligence. You can’t afford to get caught flat footed if, say, a labor strike shuts off deliveries of critically needed material. Or if commodity prices suddenly spike or drop. Or consumer confidence sinks. Or if new products being developed by your competitors threaten your markets.

No matter what business you are in, failing to keep a weather eye on changes in your industry can be fatal. A lot of this “intelligence” is hardly proprietary. It simply amounts to smart business practices born out of experience. If you are a B-to-B supplier who sells to retailers, your customers’ success determines how well you do, too. Your experience can help your clients avoid common mistakes.

Small and medium-size businesses are often in the dark about key developments in their industries. They lack the time, money, and expertise to gather and evaluate that information. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Consider the prices they pay for the goods or services they buy. Advance word of radical price shifts, or new products that will make others obsolete, can save them from missing a buying opportunity, or from laying in inventory that will soon become obsolete.

Keeping your customers informed of trends can only make them healthier, and in turn create more business for you. Word of mouth from your sales force is one time-honored way to accomplish this. But in this age of the Internet there are other effective ways, too, from e-mail to Web sites that keep clients posted on prices and other industry developments.

One of my former clients, the Institute for Trend Research, in Concord, New Hampshire, analyzes market and economic trends and makes accurate predictions as to when those trends will change. Its business is its forecasting expertise in a wide range of sectors, from industrial construction and agricultural market movement to interest rates, commodity prices, and inflation.

Subscribers to the company’s publication EcoTrends get an important bonus: a discount on EcoCharts. EcoCharts, using raw data that the subscribers provide themselves, tells them which indicators included in EcoTrends correlate best to their specific businesses. ITR has defined four phases of economic movement; if the trends that affect your industry are in Phase C, then you are expecting a downturn. Your actions might include a reduction in inventory and training, an avoidance of long-term purchase commitments, and deeper concentration on your cash and balance sheet. On the other hand, during Phase B, an upward trend, you would accelerate training, increase prices, consider outside manufacturing, and open distribution centers. This kind of information can provide companies with powerful competitive advantages.

Training. Many large companies offer specialized training for their customers, free or at cost, so they can run their business better. McDonald’s runs its own academy for new franchise owners, for example, so they can learn to avoid common pitfalls and maximize the return on their investments. The company draws on the experiences of thousands of other franchise owners and shares that knowledge, because it is vital to their own business. I often recommend to clients that if they invest heavily in training they should make a competitive point of it. For example, “We invest half a million dollars each year training our employees” or “. . . training our customers.”

Excerpted from Creating Competitive Advantage by Jaynie L. Smith with William G. Flanagan Copyright © 2006 by Jaynie L. Smith with William G. Flanagan. Excerpted by permission of Currency, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Jaynie L. Smith is the founder of ICS Marketing and president of Smart Advantage, Inc., a management consultancy whose clients include hundreds of middle-market businesses. She also serves as the Florida chair for The Executive Committee (TEC), an international organization of over 11,000 CEOs. She resides in Hollywood, Florida. Visit her website at .

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Meeting New Business Challenges - The Next Generation Project Manager

Copyright 2006 Dennis Sommer

Are you tired being an average project manager, working on average projects, being passed over for promotion, and getting an average performance review? You need to understand something right now. Being a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), proficient in the PM knowledge areas and having successful projects under your belt, is not enough to be a top performing project manager. There are new challenges and expectations today that require every project manager to evolve to the next level. If you do not take action now, you will be left behind.

New Challenges

Think of all the challenges you face on a daily basis: Motivating teams who are harder to mold and direct than those in the past. Introducing new services more swiftly to keep up with competitors. Managing change in all its variations from new company regulations, methods, policies, etc. Managing higher customer expectations. Managing higher company expectations.

Being a project manager with a traditional “tyrannical management and control” management style does not succeed in this new business environment. This is one of the reasons why there have been so many project managers, from all industries, let go in the past 3 years. Business executives realized their traditional project managers were not adding value to the organization. They could not meet new challenges and expectations. Traditional project managers are considered dead weight and on the endangered species list.

Meeting these challenges demands leadership. Why would you want to change your management style? Well, let’s see. Who is the best motivator? A Leader. Who gets the greatest effort and most insightful thinking from people? A leader. Who always meets stiff challenges and goals? A leader. Who summons from people old-fashioned workplace virtues like loyalty, commitment, and on-the-job exuberance? A leader. Who gets promoted? A leader.

Traditional Project Manager vs. Leader

So why are there so few leaders? Many believe the traditional “tyrannical management and control” management style based on ordering people around, kicking butt, and taking names gets results quicker. This can work, but there is a huge negative impact to employee morale, team performance, and long term success.

Review the following list, A Leaders 13 Core Competencies, and see whether you are a traditional manager or leader. To keep your current project management position or advance your career, you need to understand the difference between the two and which leadership core competencies you will need to work on for future success.

A Leaders 13 Core Competencies

Management Style. Traditional project managers supervise, control and correct. Leaders strategize, inspire, and motivate.

Goals. Traditional project managers focus on short term goals and follow endless series of internal processes to the letter. Leaders think and act like an owner of the company, recognize the importance of long term goals, have vision, and are committed to succeed.

Thinking Style. Traditional project managers are satisfied with incremental gains and follow ideas that worked in the past. Leaders are constantly searching for new knowledge and new ideas, willing to learn better methods and make sure employees expand their knowledge base.

Communication. Traditional project managers engage in one-way communication, give orders, and talk at people. Leaders encourage interactive communication, are receptive to both positive and negative feedback, and listen to employees and customers.

Emotion. Traditional project managers are analytical and coolly detached. Leaders produce emotional energy. They inspire employees and customers to consistently achieve goals.

Trust. Traditional project managers are firm believers in Murphy’s Law. They constantly monitor their employees. Leaders maintain a high level of trust with their employees.

Openness. Traditional project managers are closed minded, need everything proven to them, and take pride in saying “NO!”. Leaders embrace diversity and are highly receptive to new ideas and people who are different.

Action. Traditional project managers gather good ideas and rarely implement them. They over analyze, resist making decisions and avoid risk. Leaders are self starters and action oriented, they think fast on their feet, come up with solutions to critical situations, and take calculated risks.

Mentoring. Traditional project managers rarely coach or mentor employees. They focus on how things should be done and strictly follow procedures and checklists. Leaders help employees develop the habits they need to be more successful, empower employees to make decisions, observe performance and provide feedback.

Change. Traditional project managers like things the way they are, will do anything to avoid change, and see change as a threat. Leaders stimulate and relish change, adapt quickly to change, do not fear it, and see it as an opportunity.

Attitude. Traditional project managers are pessimistic and not approachable. Their first priority is to satisfy the boss, then customers and employees. They are judgmental and push blame down the line. Leaders realize the impact of a positive attitude, they treat everyone as special, remain objective, apologize and admit mistakes, and maintain a positive frame of mind.

Value System. Traditional project managers do not have personal or team values documented and they don’t know their own corporate value system. Leaders document and refer to personal and team values daily, they believe values guide people, and values are something considered worthy in and of itself.

Performance Measurement. Traditional project managers rarely measure or review performance. When they do, the measurements are judgmental, and employees rarely know how they are performing on a day-to-day basis. Leaders are always measuring data based performance, track employee progress, involve the employee in tracking their own performance, and use the performance measurements as a training tool.

How To Become A Leader

Were you born a leader? Of course not. Can you be a leader? Yes.

Leaders are made rather than born. To be successful and meet the new business challenges, traditional project managers must concentrate on developing the 13 Leadership Core Competencies. Leadership training, mentoring, experience, and daily dedication to the core competencies will be the key to your success in the future.

To get started on your path to becoming a project management superhero, you need to take the first step.

The following is a list of my favorite project management and leadership web sites that will help you take the first step:,,, and

My favorite leadership books include: “One Minute Manager”, “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, “Who Moved My Cheese”, “Not Bosses But Leaders”, “The Leader Manager – Guidelines for Action”, “Enlightened Leadership”, and “First Things First”.

Good luck with your future success.

Decorate a Sophisticated Office for Less than $2000

You started a business.  You bought a suit.  You received your business and license and all you need now is an office where you can spend the next year of your life getting your business off the ground.  The last thing you want is to look to customers like your company doesn't make enough to stay in business.  Let's face it.  Appearance is everything.

So how do you put an office together without much money?  We found a few companies that you can bet on for all the high-quality stuff you need, at affordable prices, and no hidden charges.  Ready? Pay attention!
The most important online company we found was Versa Tables.  Never heard of them? You have now!  Versa Tables designs and manufactures high-quality, affordable, computer furniture for offices and schools, and best of all, ships directly to the consumer without a middle man.  And anyone can order from their online site.

For our demonstration, we ordered five attractive black vinyl side chairs (two for your office and three for the reception area), two 48-inch Enclosed Classroom Desks, two task chairs, and two ergonomically enhanced Deluxe Keyboard Arms and Trays for comfort.  The whole thing cost us less than $1800, leaving an extra $200 for a few framed pictures, plants, or even a fish tank.

The best thing about Versa Tables—besides their high-end, attractive furniture—is that they don't charge for shipping at all.  So what the site says you'll pay, is exactly what you'll pay.  No hidden handling fees or weight fees for shipping heavy desks and chairs.  They also accept PayPal.

In addition to the basic office furniture, you'll need some supplies:  staplers, pens, paper, desk organizers, calendars, etc.  We found an impressive variety of products from file containers to pencil sharpeners at Target online.  Another great online source is Green Light Office.  The site actually tells you if they have the lowest price or not on each item.

When decorating an office, keep in mind that aesthetics are everything.  You want your office to look inviting, clean, neat, and convey an image of success.  Avoid furniture that's too big for the space, plastic plants, and colors that don't match.  Purchase all your office furniture from one source, ensuring the colors work together and the style of the pieces you've chosen are compatible.  You don't need to be an interior designer to do this. 

Purchasing everything from one source will guarantee that they'll work.
As a small business, you probably won't have retailers bending over backward to get your business, but that's okay.  Going direct to the manufacturer's websites can often give you the same prices the 'big guys' get without having to prove yourself first.  It's always a good idea as well to start building good credit as soon as you can so that your application will pass when you'd like to begin using purchase orders.  The privilege of being able to send a purchase order (which is basically a written guarantee that you'll pay for whatever you're buying so the company will process your order prior to you actually paying for it) only comes with good credit, which is priceless.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Like New, Only Better

<b>Like New, Only Better</b>
   Material handling systems (conveyors, sorting systems, shelving, etc.) represent a major purchasing decision, no matter how you slice it. The wrong decision can be costly, and making the right decision can be difficult, largely because of the number and nature of the options available.

   Of course, you could just pay top dollar for new equipment. You know exactly what you are getting, assuming the equipment performs up to specs. Your only concern is the possibility that you have paid more for it than you really had to.

   You could save money (or at least spend less, which is not always the same thing) by purchasing used equipment. Now all you have to worry about is dependability-or, at worst, the cost of replacing the equipment if it doesn't do the job it was intended to do.

   Finally, there is reconditioned equipment. This saves some money, but not as much as buying used. On the other hand, it should perform better than used, if not as well as new. That's the theory, but you can never really be sure what was done to the equipment other than a quick paint job. Ideally, reconditioned equipment should be the perfect compromise between the quality of new and the cost savings of used equipment. However, unless you know exactly what to look for, you will have a hard time predicting performance and measuring it against the cost of the equipment.

   Fortunately, there is a fourth option which attempts to eliminate this uncertainty by specifying - and guaranteeing exactly what has been done to used equipment before it is once again offered for sale. "Renewed" equipment permits informed purchasing. You can calculate, as with new equipment, the value of the purchase based on anticipated performance versus cost.

<b>Who Do You Trust?</b>
   Of course, anybody can slap a "renewed" label on some old piece of reconditioned equipment, so you have to ask yourself who you are dealing with. How do they "renew" equipment? How do you know what is done to the equipment? If the equipment doesn't per-form as promised, what is the supplier going to do about it?

   If possible, work with a material handling equipment supplier you know. Barring this, it is important to identify a supplier with experience in refurbishing the kinds of equipment you are considering, and who has an established reputation in the industry for standing behind the products they sell. Talk to other customers. To be on the safe side, try to talk to customers that aren't on a list given you by the supplier.

   Visit the supplier's facility, if at all possible. Do they have the engineers and qualified shop personnel to inspect, test, rebuild and retrofit the equipment? Do they make the product cosmetically attractive, but neglect the additional work needed to revitalize the equipment's performance. Do they have a process that includes extensive inspection and testing? Do they offer a guarantee that the equipment will perform as advertised?

<b>The Renewal Process</b>
   A true equipment renewal program adds value to the equipment at every stage, from disassembly at its previous location until it is installed and functioning in your facility.

<b>Disassembly.</b> Material handling equipment undergoes wear and tear throughout its working life. Regular maintenance and intelligent operation of the equipment can keep this to a minimum, but all this good work can be wasted by careless disassembly. Before accepting the equipment as potentially renewable, the supplier must examine the equipment on site, along with any maintenance records. Even more critically, an experienced, reliable crew must be employed to tear the system down, categorize, palletize and transport it to the renewal facility.

<b>Evaluation.</b> As mentioned earlier, a certain amount of wear and tear is inevitable. Some is acceptable, and is one reason that renewed equipment costs less than new. Excessive wear, however, is not acceptable. Some elements of a system may be rejected, or sold as used at a lower price. Frequently, the wear and tear is concentrated in easily replaced parts such as seals, rollers, bearings, etc. A good renewal program will replace critical parts in this category even if they still look good.

<b>Testing.</b> Renewed equipment should operate up to the specifications of the equipment when it was new. (It may not hold to those specs as long as new equipment would, but that's why you're spending less.) A good renewal program will test each component, so that you know exactly what performance to expect from the reassembled system.

<b>Design.</b> You probably won't be using this equipment exactly the way the previous owner did. A good design and engineering team can help you integrate the equipment into your existing system.

<b>Cosmetic Work.</b> You'll get a repaint job with any reconditioned equipment, but the paint on renewed equipment is not there to cover up flaws. It's simply there to enhance appearance.

<b>Reassembly.</b> Renewed equipment may not assemble as easily as new, although it is easier to work with than used equipment. A certain amount of additional adjustment will probably be required, along with the re-drilling of holes and other minor modifications, to retrofit the system so it integrates properly. A trained crew can be a real asset here.

<b>Living with Renewed Equipment</b>
   Renewed equipment will continue to perform within spec for a certain amount of time (less than new, more than used). However, this is not a simple "you get what you pay for" compromise. The fact is that most material handling systems have a limited shelf life. Growing volume changes in business processes or materials handled, the availability of new material handling technologies-all of these can and will make your new system obsolete at some time in the future. Why pay for more time than you need?

   Of course, taking advantage of this factor requires careful planning. Sometimes it's a fairly simple matter. For example: your present system is completely inadequate for your needs and absolutely must be replaced. On the other hand, you are planning on consolidating material handling operations at a single facility in four years. Paying extra for a new system that will last ten years simply makes no sense. Renewed is the obvious choice.

   On the other hand, it's not always an either/or question. Frequently, some combination of new, renewed and even used equipment makes the most economic sense. For example, you may wish to take advantage of recent developments in control systems. You may want the newest, quietest and fastest-rated conveyors for your high traffic, populated areas. Buy new in these cases. Renewed, on the other hand, may be the best answer for the bulk of your conveyor component. Used or conventional reconditioned equipment may be adequate for all or part of your shelving requirements.

   The point is that you should examine all of your options, realizing that complex systems may benefit from a combination of those options, and then make the best choices to suit your requirements, your budget and your future plans.

Decision To Transition — Lead Follow Or Get Out Of The Way

Every Direct Selling Company that has reached the pinnacle of success in today’s competitive market began its business by offering unique products or services that served a recognized need. But quality product alone didn’t sustain a multi million dollar growth pattern. By necessity the company provided a solid marketing concepts and a compensation plan which offered the serious minded distributor a significant financial opportunity. In addition it was critical to provide the part timer and “consumer/ distributor” an easy way to stay involved at their own specific levels of interest. Add to this a competent management team and motivated professional sales leaders, and you have a text book formula for success. However, my continued research into this ever evolving industry has made me aware of a “paradigm shift” in progress in direct selling methods, compensation plans, communication and support.

The direct selling industry is changing and changing rapidly. In years past, the direct sales single level compensation structure ruled. According to Neil Offen, president of the Direct Selling Association in an article in Network Marketing Magazine, single level direct selling companies accounted for 75% of the organizations membership in 1990 with 25% being Multilevel. Now, 77.3% of DSA members are structured as MLM verifying a new age of marketing has arrived commanding the long awaited accompanying respect. Even the established pioneers of MLM are feeling the pressure as these new age MLM companies demonstrate growth unparalleled by previous standards.

But, look what has happened for the MLM distributor today. Enhanced telephone services, the personal computer (PC) and the Internet have created an environment for the tremendous increase we have seen in the Multilevel Marketing home based business success.

Today, the telephone has become the most important tool in sponsoring. Self initiated three way and six way conference calling is now available from most local phone service carriers eliminating geographic restrictions. The Internet solves the instant support information need and is the vehicle for quick enrollment. Payment for distributor kits and product is easily handled over the phone or Internet by credit or debit cards making same day shipping of goods possible. Add next day delivery services, andwe can literally complete a sponsoring transaction having the new recruit in business in 24 hours.

Just a few years ago, only a few people knew what the Internet was. Many companies are finding that they can use the Internet to extend their sales and marketing reach, to improve the quality of their customer service and even to conduct multimedia conversations with their distributors. For the price of a local phone call and a few hundred dollars spent on-line, you can send bulk e-mail over the Internet to your potential as well as existing customers and distributors. The same message sent by conventional mail, including printing and postage would cost a great deal more. In short, the Internet is quick, cost-effective and easily accessible all over the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In the same way the internet has altered communication and traditional business thinking forever, Multilevel Marketing has infected the direct selling world with such a powerful energy that even the oldest and most conservative direct selling companies are taking notice. Unlike the Internet’s effect on business, which seemed to come at us like an unexpected tidal wave, MLM is a known methodology traced back over 50 years. Although considered a fringe concept by the established direct selling community, MLM flourished spreading its tentacles and silently implanting itself creating a growing army of mostly part time independent contractors. Soon MLM accounted for billions of dollars of product sales. While many direct selling company executives ignored the MLM revolution regarding it as a distant cousin not to be taken seriously, companies like Nu Skin, HerbalLife, A.L. Williams, Malaluca and Excel Telecommunications powered their way to sales growth unparalleled by any previous traditional or direct selling standard.

As a direct selling corporate executive hoping to build a strong and geometrically growing organization to help your distributors meet their financial goals, understanding the compensation plans of the growing number of MLM companies could become a full time job in itself. “Stair Step - Unilevel - Matrix - Binary - Australian ... it’s enough to drive even the most experienced corporate executives mad. I’ve debated theory for hours on how the compensation plan is like a piece of art with every twist and turn, every level and qualifier, every bonus pool or discount incentive carrying a specific action and positive reaction from the distributor base. New Age compensation plans are no longer “pure” MLM, but can be better catagorized as hybrid systems which attempt to be all things to all people. A little more discount here - another level in depth there, infinity bonuses, compression, roll-up, pass-through bonuses -- We need an MLM dictionary just to decipher the written explanations of the plans.

If you are considering the “Decision to Transition” your present compensation structure to an MLM model, please take note!

Radical change may be necessary but don’t jump on the first fad compensation plan that rings your chimes. Your corporate and product mission along with distributor culture must be considered. Adopting a plan that maintains your long established principles while incorporating current trends should be your goal.

Today’s plans must address the following:

1. Cost of new distributor entry sales kit should be modest making it easy to get started.

2. Early payout of initial commissions and bonuses paid weekly or bi-weekly is becoming the norm.

3. A good plan provides bonuses balanced between the beginning MLMer who is just trying it on for size, the committed part time business builder who is building an organization through multiple levels, and the totally committed leader who can benefit from bonuses from sales generated by a significant downline community.

4. Distributor monthly maintenance qualifications to receive downline organization bonuses should be reasonable and achievable for the consistent part timer as well as the dedicated and committed full time participant.

5. Program should incorporate Auto-Ship ordering programs with a bonus volume relationship to monthly distributor qualifications.

6. Plan should mandate distributor minimum personal retail sales while rewarding for building an organization in depth.

7. A “Plus” plan. This means that there are no sponsor disincentives created by lost or reduced centers of profit as the downline advances that might encourage leaders to suppress downline advancement. All earned bonus levels are in addition to those previously earned, never in place of them.

8. Distributor ranks and titles should be permanent once received, but distributor bonuses should be “Paid-as” the position for which they actually qualify during the pay period.

9. Compression of levels or generations should occur to properly reward performers through maximum depth of income stream.

10. The plan should be “Capitalistic” in its design to reward the business builders who contribute regularly to the company growth. Beware of plans that are “socialistic” in design dividing available profits among many and encouraging a something for nothing philosophy.

If you are a traditional direct sales company considering transitioning to MLM or an established MLM just trying to play catch up in the evolving marketplace, a competitive compensation plan tied to today’s technology is only part of the equation for maintaining and growing your market position. You will be competing for your distributor’s time, not just their product sales or consumption loyalty. Show them how to leverage their time while geometrically growing their income and you will put your company in the winner’s circle.

 Of course, technology and a hot compensation plan cannot replace person-to-person communications. People still do business with people, and the more you embrace technology, the harder you should work at building personal relationships with your distributors. Make yourself accessible at every opportunity by arranging occasions that will bring you together with them face-to-face. However, keep in mind that the world of sales and marketing is changing rapidly. Some companies are recognizing these opportunities and rushing reinvent themselves. Others are watching intently and will soon follow, if only out of the need to stay competitive. As we have heard it said many times in business, “Lead — Follow — or Get Out of the Way!”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Outsourcing The Building Of Websites To Low Wage Countries

Understanding Outsourcing

Outsourcing is the delegation of tasks or jobs from internal production to an external entity. At present standards, it has become more related to hiring the services of staff overseas where salaries are markedly low as compared to the local existing standards. It is primarily done by companies to save money, improve quality or free company resources for more important activities.

Low-cost countries such as China, India and Venezuela continue to attract companies to move things offshore and outside their own boundaries. However, outsourcing should not only be seen as a cost-cutting maneuver but also as a way to produce important strategic benefits. One thing that is slowly being recognized is that there are savings to be gained in sourcing knowledge and talent as there are cost savings in sourcing things.

The sourcing of knowledge and technology provides access to better processes or efficiencies as well as more efficient management procedures. Outsourcing opens the way to make use of specific specializations of entities that would otherwise not be available. More and more companies are starting to realize that the probability for attaining excellence is much higher if it concentrates its efforts on its core activities. Other tasks such as building of websites are better left to professionals. The good thing about the present status of building of websites is that the service can also be outsourced to offshore companies. A company can now have the benefit of a much bigger and better site for the same amount of money spent in the US for a regular site.

The forerunners of outsourcing have exhibited much competitiveness in terms of well-developed telecommunication and IT infrastructure, good business services and having a pool of qualified people. This is the very reason for the so-called India advantage. India ranks first among the most favored outsourcing destinations due to its varied inherent strengths. It has a booming IT industry which is recognized all over the world. It has the largest English speaking population after the USA and has excellent training infrastructure. India’s government is also very supportive of outsourcing activities. Not to be forgotten of course is its cost-effective manpower which caught the initial attention of companies seeking ways to reduce costs.

Outsourcing should not be construed as abdicating responsibility but rather as leveraging outside capabilities. When organizations outsource, they do so because they would want to leverage the distinct skills and resources of other organizations to the benefit of their company and their customers. The basic business philosophy underlying outsourcing is the delegation of business activities that isn’t of core competence. It is about accepting the fact that no single company can be particularly good at everything. It is about using this known fact to assess a company’s strengths and weaknesses. Once a company is clear about what it considers essential, then it will be able to focus on broader business issues while having operational details assumed by external experts. Outsourcing has long ceased to be a strategy used during bad times only as in cutting operational costs. It has also become a business strategy used during good times to focus on the company’s growth.

Building of Websites

Outsourcing has introduced teleservices to numerous organizations worldwide. It can be broadly referred to as information-based work performed at a distance from the customers. Its market can be divided into three categories namely tele-processing, software export and interactive teleservices.

The first category covers tele-processing which includes all back-office functions performed in remote information processing factories. Specific tasks such as data conversion services, remote technical staff and content management are performed by an outsourcing company. Content management would in turn include content services for websites, database maintenance and refresh, various design services and even animation. The second category includes website development and related e-business applications development while the last category provides technical support to owners of PCs and peripherals.

Website development requires a special touch that only experts in this field would know. It is not just about producing a website but ensuring proper full scale websites that incorporates web design and placement, Internet marketing and optimization to gain the right listing on search engines. A web services firm specializes in the planning, design and development of web based business-to-business sites.

Optimal website placement is crucial to the success of any website. Web services firms are expected to provide a complete, professional design that is based on a client’s specific business environment. The design and layout of text, logo and graphics is as important as the ease of navigation. Special attention is given to color, white space, type fonts, background elements and other related items as these make up the artistic elements of a website. The aim is to create a website that projects a professional image, while at the same time, pleasing to the eye. The design should also be search-engine friendly and scalable for future add-ons.

The high-quality content of websites is the leading reason for repeat visitors followed by ease of use, quickness in downloading requested information and frequent updating. One area of a corporate work load that is best outsourced is website management and maintenance handled by web professionals. A company stands to reduce costs by eliminating the need to maintain a full time website specialist, web developer, artists, designers and network administrators.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to website development providers. The important thing to consider is how well they would be able to respond to each company’s unique specifications. A company will do well with the services of a provider that guarantees proper maintenance and updating of a website for the least possible costs. Most website development firms offer affordable hourly and retainer agreement based contracts and plans.

A company may wonder what logic lies behind outsourcing the building of websites to low wage countries. Offshore outsourcing firms located in developing countries have a wide range of world-class website development services to offer at affordable prices. Generally, they are always interested in building mutually-beneficial partnerships with overseas companies. India has opened the way as it revealed its most important natural resource which is the abundance of technically skilled manpower. Cost-effective services are provided without compromising the quality. Other developing countries are making their presence felt in the industry. Common sense tells us that any company stands to gain more if it is able to access the same quality of services and products for a considerably reduced cost.

Deciding On A New ERP Solution? Choosing Working With The Right Microsoft Partner Could Make The Difference In Your Systems Success.

Whatever the nature or size of your business, your success with a new accounting solution depends entirely upon the skills, talent and commitment of the Microsoft Certified Partner that you choose to implement your new solution. Without the right Partner your business may never realize the full potential that a new ERP solution has to offer or attain the critical financial return that such a substantial investment demands.  The Partner you choose truly can take control of your project, harness costs, in turn increasing productivity and efficiency long-term, or they could become your projects worst nightmare. Inflating your budget and wreaking severe havoc on your core business processes.

The right Microsoft Certified Partner will prove invaluable as your new ERP solution is implemented, but having your solution set up correctly in the first place is only half the battle.  Your chosen consulting firm for implementation should do much more than integrate and optimize your solution.  They should be responsible for training your teams and providing ongoing service and support in the long-term.  How well your Partner functions will impact your business every minute of every day long after your new accounting software solution has been put into place. 

As a leader within your organization you are responsible for your systems, your budget, and the ease of use for a new accounting system resulting in a seamless and successful implementation. By selecting the right Microsoft Certified Partner, you guarantee:

•    Your business receives benefits from expert analysis and consultation regarding a new ERP Solution

•    Your implementation is managed and completed by a team of specialized, seasoned professionals

•    The capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics GP are tailored to your business’s unique needs.

•    Your targeted Go Live date is met without costly downtime or delays

•    Your implementation budget remains intact and you are not overcharged for parts of a solution, or services that you do not need

•    Your disparate systems are managed, integrated, or streamlined accordingly

•    Your important business data remains secure

•    Each member of your team is comprehensively trained during and after implementation
•    An ongoing relationship with a trusted support team is established and maintained long-term

When implemented correctly, Microsoft Dynamics GP is the premier accounting software solution for businesses of all sizes, across all industries.  A top quality Certified Partner can ensure Microsoft Dynamics GP integrates all aspects of your business, from human resources to inventory management.  Virtually every financial aspect of your operations can be managed by Microsoft Dynamics GP to the benefit of your business, and a quality Microsoft Certified Partner can help you develop and meet your goals.

Integrity Partners is the ideal choice for implementing Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly known as Great Plains) in the NY, NJ and Tri-State Areas.  Since the company’s foundation in 2002, Integrity Partners has managed over 200 successful Microsoft ERP implementations. They possess the knowledge and experience that will enable your business to transition to Microsoft Dynamics GP easily and efficiently. They are experts at tailoring the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics GP to business’s unique needs.

The Integrity Partners team consists only of highly skilled, thoroughly trained, seasoned professionals.  Other Partners may claim to offer a comparable level of service, but the Master Certified Consultants Integrity Partners has on staff guarantee world class quality.  In addition, Integrity Partners continually strives to set new standards for customer care.  When you contact Integrity Partners for support, you automatically access one of the highest ranking members of the company, from the owner to a consultant with no less than 9 years experience in the industry.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Monday Morning Mindfulness - 05/01/2006

You are receiving this newsletter because you subscribe to Monday Morning Mindfulness. You may also read this newsletter on-line at my website.

May 1, 2006                                  Number 223

Table of Contents
1. On Special Offers and Invitations
2. On Valuing Values
3. On a Great Speech
4. On Global Ageing
5. On Recommended Reading
6. On Announcements
7. On Subscribing and Canceling (at the end of newsletter)


Welcome to Monday Morning Mindfulness . . . to my clients, colleagues and friends. Join me every other Monday in getting motivated and inspired to act/think/feel differently.



Would you like to be more successful with your business? Scroll down the page and listen to an audio message from Coach Sandra.

Have you ever thought about being a well paid speaker? Learn how to connect with your audience? Persuade people to act on what you say? You can get answers to these questions and more at: Approach the Coach. Ask me your number-one question about speaking skills or speaking professionally. I will answer your questions by email within 48 hours.

What if you could have two coaches sitting by your side and guide you through the skill of speaking confidently and persuasively? Now you can. An Audio CD , Power Presentations for Professionals, will help you master a few simple, yet sophisticated strategies. Do you want to learn how to give a compelling speech? Would you like to know what sets leaders apart? Are you ready to prepare a speech that hits your audiences hot buttons? In this audio CD, two professional speech coaches share the lessons they've learned from their combined 46 years in the field. High content and useful application for business professionals, emerging speakers and coaches. Look below for the link.


Would you agree that the 20th century brought us a staggering amount of knowledge? We experienced huge changes while creating the worst century for making trouble to the environment and massive killings of human kind. So I ask, how can we be so smart and yet so stupid? Albert Einstein put it this way: Ethics is what should be (values). Science is what is (facts). It is driven by questions and influenced by cultural values and religion. It appears that science and technology were developed without any ethical values in the 20th century.

The Coach wonders . . . can we correct this in the 21st century?


Here are a few points to keep in mind when you are delivering a speech , whether you are trying to inspire or persuade an audience to take some action.

Always have someone introduce you - include your credentials, your experience in this area, why you were selected to speak vs. someone else.

Grab the audience's attention with a strong opening- ask a question, make a startling statement, tell a story.

Provide a concise statement of purpose of the speech Challenge your audience - tell them what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.

Present the solution- provide the plan to solve their problem.

Keep to three major points - this helps with retention Conclude by asking for something: action, willingness to think differently, make a change.

The Coach asks . . . when you speak, are you a service provider or a broadcaster?


The largest global survey into attitudes towards ageing and retirement ever conducted has found that, around the world, people want to abandon traditional models of retirement in favor of self-sufficiency and a mix of work and leisure. Given a choice, most people (36 per cent) think their government should enforce additional private savings, rather than increase the retirement age (23 per cent), raise taxes (12 per cent) or reduce pensions (12 per cent). Personal bank HSBC's Future of Retirement: What the world wants study surveyed 21,000 people and 6,000 companies in 20 countries and territories and found that, while many older people want to work, and most employers recognize their skills, opportunities are still limited.

The Coach sez . . . there are enormous challenges and opportunities presented by global ageing.


Paul Coelho's personal legend is the journey he takes in his Book, The Alchemist.' It's 'a saga of sudden journeys, chance encounters and fellow travelers arriving at timely moments, a story in which the asking of questions is more important than the answers, for the answers are different for each of us.' This book has been read by over 100 million people in 56 languages. The fable, about a shepherd boy leaving home to find treasure, is the author's effort to try to find a meaning for his own life. Read more about this book on my website.

The Coach thinks . . . there may be some questions that have no answers.


Visit my new Blog (an online journal) to learn about the benefits of having a Niche, 'Twelve Step Process For Effective Email,' 'What Makes a Successful Speaker?' and 'Ten Tips to Motivate Your Audience in to Action and on to Your Website.' Tell me what you think . . . and add your own comments.

'Speak Like a Pro for Profit': Struggling to get clients? Want to have a full speaking calendar? This e-book contains proven tips and techniques to become a polished presenter to speak effectively to anyone, anywhere, with confidence. I wrote this for speakers, coaches, authors and business professionals who want to deliver persuasive presentations and/or grow a profitable speaking business. Only $8.95.
'This book provides practical and sound advice. I have worked with Sandra and find her knowledge and guidance invaluable.'
--Dr. Christine Wood, Pediatrician, speaker, author

Let's meet in; Denver, May 9-13; Phoenix, AZ, May 21-23; Palo Alto, CA, June 20-28; Orlando, FL, July 22-25 (NSA convention) When you are visiting San Diego, contact me. Lets share conversation.

About the Author

Coach Sandra Schrift shares a few easy-to-read insights in this bi-weekly broadcast, and welcomes positive responses and input. Her 13 years as the founder/owner of The Podium Speakers Bureau in San Diego afforded her the privilege to work with many outstanding professional speakers and meeting planners nationwide. She knows what the Meeting Planners want . . . and knows what speakers need to know!

If you are an executive, you will benefit by strengthening your presentation skills, so that whatever audio-visual aid you use will enhance, rather than distract from, your message.

As your coach, Sandra provides you with greater focus, increased ways to prospect, more ideas for getting referrals, and just more business.

E-mail Sandra for your Complimentary 30- minute Coaching Call.

'Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.'
--Ray Bradbury

Thank you for reading this issue of Monday Morning
Mindfulness Look for your next issue on May 15, 2006
--Coach Sandra

If you have a comment you would like to share, please email me. I appreciate hearing how this newsletter is influencing your personal and/or your professional lives. Once a month, I will feature one individual for all of my subscribers to read about.

Invite a friend, speaker, coach who would enjoy reading MMM to subscribe. Copyright 2006, Monday Morning Mindfulness. This content is copyright please copy it right when you pass it on!

Deauville LaMagnifique

Les grands hôtels de Las Vegas, Macao et Monte Carlo font tout pour obtenir le privilège de les faire jouer. Ils sont la source assuré de gros profits car statistiquement, ils vont perdre. Les hôtels n'hésitent pas à mettre à leur disposition un avion privé pour les faire venir ainsi que leurs meilleures suites. Quant on est en mesure de perdre des centaines de milliers de dollars, tout le reste peut ètre offert. On peut dire en français "un flambeur".

Mais pour nous, simple debutant ou joueur non encore confirmes, je vous propose de decouvrir le casino a la francaise: DEAUVILLE.

Le Casino de Deauville est l’un des premiers casinos du groupe  qui comprend entre autre les casinos  Barrière de : Besançon, Ribeauvillé, le Palais Casino du Touquet, Carnac, Dinard, Enghien-les-Bains, l’unique de la région parisienne, Chamonix, Cannes, Sainte-Maxime, Biarritz et bien d’autres répartis entre la France, la Suisse, la Belgique et Malte.

Depuis 1990, le capital de l’empire est répartit entre Barrière-Desseigne, le Groupe Accor (34%) et Colony Capital (15%).
Le chiffre d’affaire du casino de Deauville s’élève à lui seul à :215,3 millions d’euros en 2004.

Découvrez à la fois le luxe et la sobriété du Casino Deauville!Son immense palais blanc vous ouvre ses portes sous ses prestigieux tapis moelleux et une architecture incomparable, pour mieux vous faire vibrer au son des
cliquetis rythmé des jackpots, les tables rutilantes, ses bars et ses restaurants toujours avenants…

Dans cette ambiance festive et chaleureuse, venez retrouvez au Casino Barrière de Deauville tous vos jeux favoris.
Casino Deauville c’est 325 machines à sous réparties en 3 salons, 6 tables de Boule, sans oublier ses Machines à Rouleaux et Vidéo Poker de 0,10 à 20 euros

Entrez dans la salle de la Boule.</b> Vous y retrouverez 6 tables avec mise minimale de 2 euros.

Le Casino Barrière de Deauville porte l'héritage de la splendeur du passé. Dans ce décor somptueux, vous pouvez varier les plaisirs à chaque instant.

Vous y retrouverez les jeux à mise minimale d’un euro :
2 tables de Roulette Française (mise minimale de 5 euros),
1 table de <a href="">la roulette</a> Française (mise minimale de 10 euros), <br>
4 tables de Roulette Anglaise,
10 tables Black Jack,
4 tables de Stud Poker,
1 table de Punto Banco,
1 table de Craps.

Mais Casino Deauville, c’est aussi ses spectacles tels le festival swing et ses loisirs tels le Golf. <br>
Celui-ci,  situé sur le Mont Canisy, à quelques minutes du centre de Deauville, offre une vue exceptionnelle à la fois sur la mer et toute la campagne environnante, dans une tranquillité absolue. Vous y retrouverez les parcours à 9 ou 18 trous. Des compétitions y sont aussi organisées.
Alors pourquoi attendre plus longtemps ! Rejoignez vite le Groupe Casino Lucien Barrière à Deauville ! Le seul Casino à vous offrir en plein cœur de la Normandie le plaisir des jeux mélés au plaisir du sport !

Friday, January 6, 2012

Deauville La Magnifique

Les grands hôtels de Las Vegas, Macao et Monte Carlo font tout pour obtenir le privilège de les faire jouer. Ils sont la source assuré de gros profits car statistiquement, ils vont perdre. Les hôtels n'hésitent pas à mettre à leur disposition un avion privé pour les faire venir ainsi que leurs meilleures suites. Quant on est en mesure de perdre des centaines de milliers de dollars, tout le reste peut ètre offert. On peut dire en français "un flambeur".

Mais pour nous, simple debutant ou joueur non encore confirmes, je vous propose de decouvrir le casino a la francaise: DEAUVILLE.

Le Casino de Deauville est l’un des premiers casinos du groupe  qui comprend entre autre les casinos  Barrière de : Besançon, Ribeauvillé, le Palais Casino du Touquet, Carnac, Dinard, Enghien-les-Bains, l’unique de la région parisienne, Chamonix, Cannes, Sainte-Maxime, Biarritz et bien d’autres répartis entre la France, la Suisse, la Belgique et Malte.

Depuis 1990, le capital de l’empire est répartit entre Barrière-Desseigne, le Groupe Accor (34%) et Colony Capital (15%).
Le chiffre d’affaire du casino de Deauville s’élève à lui seul à :215,3 millions d’euros en 2004.
Découvrez à la fois le luxe et la sobriété du Casino Deauville!Son immense palais blanc vous ouvre ses portes sous ses prestigieux tapis moelleux et une architecture incomparable, pour mieux vous faire vibrer au son des
cliquetis rythmé des jackpots, les tables rutilantes, ses bars et ses restaurants toujours avenants…

Dans cette ambiance festive et chaleureuse, venez retrouvez au Casino Barrière de Deauville tous vos jeux favoris.
Casino Deauville c’est 325 machines à sous réparties en 3 salons, 6 tables de Boule, sans oublier ses Machines à Rouleaux et Vidéo Poker de 0,10 à 20 euros

Entrez dans la salle de la Boule.</b> Vous y retrouverez 6 tables avec mise minimale de 2 euros.

Le Casino Barrière de Deauville porte l'héritage de la splendeur du passé. Dans ce décor somptueux, vous pouvez varier les plaisirs à chaque instant.

Vous y retrouverez les jeux à mise minimale d’un euro :
2 tables de Roulette Française (mise minimale de 5 euros),
1 table de <a href="" target="_blank">flash roulette</a> Française (mise minimale de 10 euros), <br>
4 tables de Roulette Anglaise,
10 tables Black Jack,
4 tables de Stud Poker,
1 table de Punto Banco,
1 table de Craps.

Mais Casino Deauville, c’est aussi ses spectacles tels le festival swing et ses loisirs tels le Golf. <br>
Celui-ci,  situé sur le Mont Canisy, à quelques minutes du centre de Deauville, offre une vue exceptionnelle à la fois sur la mer et toute la campagne environnante, dans une tranquillité absolue. Vous y retrouverez les parcours à 9 ou 18 trous. Des compétitions y sont aussi organisées.
Alors pourquoi attendre plus longtemps ! Rejoignez vite le Groupe Casino Lucien Barrière à Deauville ! Le seul Casino à vous offrir en plein cœur de la Normandie le plaisir des jeux mélés au plaisir du sport !

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Death Penalty Is Preferable to Life Imprisonment

Kane, Gregory Current Controversies: Capital Punishment Mary E. Williams Greenhaven Press 2005

Frederick Anthony Romano remembers the night. More than 15 years later, he remembers it as if it happened within the last week.

It was Sunday night, Nov. 1, 1987. Seventeen-year-old Romano had gone to bed. His mother, Betty Romano, was in the house with him and his father, Frederick Joseph Romano. Soon the father received a call from his son-in-law Keith Garvin, a Navy petty officer who had returned to his base in Oceana, [Virginia]. Garvin had called his wife, Dawn Garvin, to let her know he had arrived back safely. But there was no answer.

After two calls to his daughter's house, Frederick J. Romano headed to the newlywed couple's White Marsh apartment. He found his daughter beaten, tortured, mutilated and dead.

Frederick A. Romano remembers his mother's panic-filled voice as she talked to his father, of himself grabbing the phone only to hear his father tell him that his older sister had been hurt.

"But he knew she was dead," Frederick A. Romano said.... Yes, Frederick A. Romano-who prefers to be called just "Fred"-remembers it all. He remembers the man who murdered his sister and two other women-Patricia Antoinette Hirt and Lori Elizabeth Ward-and how he has waited for 15 years for one Steven Howard Oken to, in the younger Romano's words, "meet his maker."

The Pain of Victims' Relatives

"It's caused a lot of emotional problems for me and my mom and dad," Fred said. "They're on so many drugs to keep themselves calm, it's unbelievable."

That is a suffering death penalty opponents can't or won't understand. The pain of homicide victims' relatives never ends. It chips away at their souls and psyches year after depressing year. So what's the appropriate punishment for that?

Death penalty opponents would have us believe that squirreling Oken away in a cell-where Frederick A. and Frederick J. Romano, Betty Romano and Keith Garvin would be among the taxpayers footing the bill for his housing and meals-is punishment enough. If the correctional system offered any college courses, the Romanos and Garvin would pay part of the cost if Oken wanted to take them. Dawn Garvin never got to finish her education at Harford Community College.

Justice but No Closure

Capital punishment foes figure that's justice. Here's what death penalty advocates feel is justice. Execute Oken the week of March 17, [2003], as a Baltimore County judge ordered.... After Oken is dead, death penalty advocates can then defy death penalty opponents to show us why and in what ways Oken's execution was not justice.

That's what it's about for Fred Romano. He doesn't buy into the closure argument some death penalty advocatesmake. (It's just as well. Death penalty opponents, ever noble with grief not their own, dismiss the notion of closure, too.)

"It won't bring closure," Fred Romano said. "Dawn will never be back. I'm not looking for closure. That's a bad misconception on the part of some people. I want Oken to die for the murder of Dawn, Patricia Hurt and Lori Ward."

Not About Revenge

This isn't even about revenge, another rallying cry of the anti-capital punishment crowd, who chide death penalty advocates for seeking vengeance.

"It's justice," Fred Romano said. "It's not revenge."

His wife, Vicki Romano, agreed, then elaborated.

"Revenge would be going out and killing one of [the murderer's] family members," Vicki Romano said. "The death penalty isn't revenge. It's the law."

Fred Romano believes the man who's supposed to uphold that law, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, has inserted himself squarely in the path of Oken's execution. [Early in 2003], Curran called for abolishing Maryland's death penalty....

Fred Romano called Curran after the announcement, to give the attorney general a piece of his mind. Curran, to his credit, called Fred Romano back and heard him out.

Curran, Fred Romano said, asked him if he had a problem with a sentence of life without parole as opposed to the death penalty. His response was what you might expect from a guy who organized the Maryland Coalition for State Executions [in 2002] and who's had the group's Web site ( up for [several] months.

"My problem with it is that 10 years from now some other idiot will come along and say life without parole is too harsh," Fred Romano said. "Then they'll pass a bill granting them parole and then we'll have a bunch of murderers walking the streets."

In Maryland's bleeding-heart liberal legislature, that's exactly what would happen.