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A Hidden Gold Mine in Every Business

In many companies, most of the company seems to operate by a completely
different set of rules and communicate in a different language than those the
IT or computer services sector of the business. This division is somewhat
artificial and partially maintained by the IT people themselves because of a
certain culture technical people have about their specialized knowledge and
application areas. But at heart, those strange people down in IT have the same
goals as every other business person which is to succeed both personally and
corporately in shared projects.

But those of us on the business side of the corporate landscape depend on the
computer folks to let us know how things are going with that highly valuable
asset that we have in our IT systems, hardware and software. Most medium to
large businesses run very high capacity computers or multitudes of computers
connected through a network and those systems must perform at top capacity each
day to accomplish the goals of the business.

The upgrade and maintenance budgets for the computers that run your business no
doubt represents a fairly sizable percentage of the corporate budget each year.
But because those systems are what make you competitive in the marketplace,
that investment is worth the money to assure that the mission critical jobs
those powerful systems do get done on time each week and month.

When a computer begins to show signs of straining under the load of work, we
are giving it, that can be a cause of significant concern for a business. If
your business paradigm dictates that the load of traffic or system resources
could be pushed to beyond what the computers can do with their existing
computing power, that weakness in the IT infrastructure represents a
significant risk to the company should the system become overloaded when there
is a large body of work to be done by these machines.

What not every business person knows is that there may be a hidden goldmine of
computing capacity already resident in your IT resources that simply is not
being tapped to its fullest. You know that it isn't uncommon for your IT
professionals to report that your systems are at 80-90% capacity and must be
upgraded to handle the next big increase in business.

That hidden goldmine is a discipline that has actually been around for quite
sometime but is infrequently tapped in the modern business world. That
discipline is called "capacity planning". By implementing a capacity planning
office and monitoring function, you can put the tools and the talent in place
to precisely measure scientifically if your computer systems are at capacity of
if there is just a need for system tuning or realignment of computing schedules
to get more out of the systems you already own.

Recently a large oil company in the Midwest noted that many of its mission
critical functions were being delayed in processing, seemingly because the
computer systems were overloaded and in dire need of an expensive and time
consuming upgrade. Capacity planning measurements were taken and the system was
diagnosed to determine what the real problem was and it was found that job
priorities of new functions were not tuned to the load of the system at
critical time frames. The adjustments were made by talented systems
administrators and the IT infrastructure continued to perform at top-notch
capacity and the delays were eliminated with no additional hardware or upgrades

By utilizing capacity planning software tools and enabling your IT team to take
advantage of this highly scientific computer measurement and prediction method,
the business can get the most out of its computer resources and use its
corporate resources to further the business objectives of the company. And that
benefits everyone.

The Minimum Wage

In January of 2007, the federal government raised the national minimum wage.
This was old news in some states where the minimum wage had been raised months
before congress took action. No matter how you look at the increase in the cost
of labor, it is going to have an impact on the business climate and on how
businesses will make key decisions in 2007 and going forward.

In theory a raise in the minimum wage should be a nonevent economically. It
should be a simple adjustment for inflation which the business has already
adapted to. In fact, as inflation raises the cost of goods and the prices the
business charges, one might expect the wages of workers to rise naturally to
match that upward slope caused by inflation.

How you view the good or the bad of the minimum wave increase may depend on
which side of the fence you reside, the employer side or the employee side. To
the employer the rise in employee costs makes doing business more expensive and
affects the bottom line. To the employee, the employer is just being competitive
and paying his or her employees a salary that they can live on. In many cases,
you may be on both sides of the issue if you own or operate a business but have
people in your family who are trying to get by on the minimum wage.

The hardest hit businesses by this upward push in wages is small business.
Enterprises that employ a large amount of unskilled, lower paid workers can see
a huge jump in the cost of keeping employees because of state or federally
mandated increases in employee pay. Many times small business enterprises
operate on a thin margin of profit and any change to the cost structure can be
a deadly hit to their budgets. Moreover, since the small business model is
intensely competitive, there is little room to raise prices to clients or
customers without risking losing business to a larger competitor who can absorb
the minimum wage increase without increasing prices.

These concerns are part of the reason that from a governmental stand point,
congress is slow to increase the minimum wage. There is already a tremendous
resentment in the population for businesses that are relocating their
production or support facilities over seas to take advantage of low paid
workers to keep their bottom line on track. You have to know that employee
costs are a big issue when a business is willing to relocate much of their
operation to a foreign country and incur all of those costs just to tap an
employee base that will work below the minimum wage.

From the worker perspective, it's hard to understand how this trend to take low
paid jobs out of the country can be changed. We are slow to stop businesses from
taking actions they need to take to compete in the markets which is why passing
legislation to stop the exporting of jobs is not a popular idea. While it might
help the plight of the worker in this country, it goes contrary to our priority
on letting the free market and capitalism play out. Sadly, when the free market
does reign, sometimes good people get dealt out of the program.

The best way for American workers to combat competition from unskilled workers
overseas is to stop being unskilled. By taking advantage of educational
opportunities and gaining valuable skills, they can enter a new market where
those skills will land them a good paying job that is not likely to go overseas
because of the specialized skills the worker offers to employers. So the best
way for government to fight the export of jobs due to high employment costs is
not to artificially suppress the market to hinder free trade. The best move is
to make our workers more skilled, more valuable and for workers to simply
outwork their competition overseas. This is capitalism at work at its best and
if that line of attack is followed, the outcome for everybody is a stronger
work force, the retention of jobs in America and a stronger national economy as

Cyberspace on Aisle Five

It doesn't take a lot of research to find out that in this day and age,
virtually every business of any real size has developed some form of internet
presence. Now, for many businesses, that may mean little more than an online
business card that can be used to get the phone number and store location of
the business into the mind of the prospective customer. But in this new
century, the idea of having a business without a corresponding web page to
support it is pretty much out of the question.

But if you look at the two business worlds, the internet business environment
and that outside of cyberspace, there are some pretty big differences. While
many companies like bookstores or concert ticket promoters have learned to
build what might be viewed as parallel universes in which their business
operations are just as sophisticated online as outside of cyberspace, other
businesses have just not found that balance.

But as the legitimacy of the internet as a valid marketplace and business tool
becomes more understood, more and more businesses are learning that cyberspace
can become another valuable part of an overall marketing plan that drives
business to the store shelves directly from their internet web presence.

So just as that billboard or newspaper coupon program are just as much part of
the businesses corporate plan, that online effort out there in on the corporate
web site can become a vital part of the stores operation so much so that the
store manager will come to depend on the sales driven by the internet. To that
store manager they will look for cyberspace on aisle five as a vital part of
their plan for business success.

There is a systematic process that businesses go through to use the internet as
a way of capturing web traffic and turning it into store traffic. Make no
mistake, there is one principle that should seem evident but is the key to
turning cyber visitors to in store shoppers and that is that -- Internet
Shoppers are People Too!

When a businessperson looks at those strange internet traffic reports that show
that they web site has X number of "hits" and that Z number of web browsers went
to Y number of web pages, all of that cyberspace mumbo jumbo just means that X
number of PEOPLE were on your web site and looked at Y number of products or
web page advertisements or services. And those PEOPLE are the same living and
breathing humans who will walk in the front door of your store and buy products
and services from you.

All we need to do is devise methods to drive those internet shoppers off of
their computers and into the businesses retail operations. And more and more
you are seeing a businesses trend of internet promotions that are geared to put
the customers feet down in the retail space. Some great methods for doing that

*  Online coupons that can be redeemed only in the retail store. *  Online
sales that can be picked up in the store. Many online shoppers might prefer to
have the product shipped to them. So you will have to "sweeten the pot" by
making shipping charges out of the question or by adding a promotion if the
customer picks up his or her purchase in person. *  Contests. Need we say more?

*  By promoting special events that will occur in the store. You can stage a
major cyberspace promotional campaign for a book signing of an author or
celebrity that will occur live at the store itself. The costs of the promotion
and having the in store event will be offset by the increased sales.

If your web site routinely uses promotions that result in positive incentives
to the customer to come to the store, before long a customer base of loyal
consumers will get used to first going online to see what this week's big deal
is and then going to the store to cash in. That kind of ongoing momentum is
what makes such a synergy such a success and what makes even customers come to
your retail outlet and look for "cyberspace on aisle five."

Management by Walking Around

The MBWA method is a management concept that has gotten a lot of "buzz" and
popularity in the last decade or so because it is part of a business model for
cultural change within the enterprise that has proven successful in a lot of
businesses. The original concept was created by David Packard during the early
days of the Hewlett Packard organization, a Silicon Valley company that was
well known for its loyal and highly creative employee base that seemed to
achieve levels of productivity and employee satisfaction far beyond the norm.

"The HP Way" which the "management by walking around" method was a part of was
based on the concept that employees, particularly the subject matter experts in
their fields, are capable of being part of the problem solving process and that
a team approach to creating new business ideas and innovate ways to solve
problems was far superior to the "top down" approach of management coming up
with all the answers and dictating them to a mindless but obedient staff.

Packard was a believer in the open space, no walls and easy access to
management corporate culture that MBWA exemplifies. By enabling frequent and
unscheduled interactions between employees and between management and staff,
new ideas were given maximum opportunity to be birthed and encouragement to be
developed which leads to a more responsive and flexible business culture and
one that has a robust approach to growth and change.

In order to implement MBWA, the manager must embrace the concept of a flexible
and relaxed relationship with staff. The details of the method that MBWA
promotes is summed up nicely in the title, management by walking around. It
suggests that instead of only meeting with employees at scheduled times in
formal settings away from other employees or in a staff meeting where the
agenda is published in advance, many opportunities for employees to talk to
management are encouraged. When the supervisor or manager walks freely amongst
the employees throughout their work day, the opportunity to ask questions and
to interact about new ideas the employees are considering is frequent. From
those unscheduled and frequent visits as the manager walks from cubicle to
cubicle, great concepts can be birthed which can then be nurtured into new
product ideas or novel solutions to problems.

However, if the relationship between management and employee is formal, based
on fear or intimidation or not otherwise grounded in warmth and friendship, the
MBWA system will go from a powerful method of collaborative problem solving to a
tremendous nightmare for everybody. You don't want your employees dreading your
"drop in" visits and seeing their productivity drop as you enter their work
space because they are so concerned with impressing and serving management that
they dislike your arrival in their world. It is amazing how quickly a network of
employees can detect and set up an early warning system when the manager is
walking around so everybody "gets ready" for what they perceive will be an
unpleasant sudden visit by management.

To avoid this, the supervisor should in other ways foster a relaxed
relationship with staff. The employee must feel free to discuss issues and
questions openly with management without fear of being scoffed at, mocked,
belittled or punished. Many a company has generated a "HP Way" concept that
comes out of the human resources department that amounts to little more than
color posters on the wall and a suggestion box but nothing changes in the
corporate culture or how each manager interacts with the staff. Employees are
quick to notice the hypocrisy of such a program and the result is management
because an object of ridicule instead of inspiration.

By making your visits enjoyable, a welcome experience and one where the
employee doesn't fear your arrival, you can expect outstanding results from the
MBWA method. And you will know you have achieved true change in your corporate
culture when not only do you walk around to visit employees but employees "drop
in" on you by walking around if for no other reason than to share a joke or a
donut. That is an ideal setting for team work and proactive problem solving.

Project Management of a Global Team

The world is getting smaller. Well, it isn't physically getting smaller but
that is one way of saying that global communications have become so fast paced
that the world is really one community in a lot of ways. With the advent of the
internet, email, instant messaging and VOIP, it is entirely possible to do
business with trading partners around the globe
without ever leaving your office.

For many businesses who are on the cutting edge of new business paradigms, the
concept of a geographically isolated business is becoming obsolete. It is
entirely possible to put together a business consortium or a project team made
of subject matter experts spread across all time zones and from around the
world. In fact, this kind of decentralized management of business projects is
becoming more of the norm than the exception in the twenty first century
business environment.

So just as those in marketing, product development and investments have already
learned how to maximize a project team that is separated by hundreds or
thousands of miles, the project manager must also adapt the project management
methodology to accommodate a similar approach to getting business done.

Conventional project management is a systematic approach to taking a project
from scope to implementation that has proven successful in thousands of
companies. We have no reason to abandon this well developed methodology. But as
new business paradigms come to play, we have to adapt even a standard
methodology like project management to fit the way business is done in this

Communications is the key to any successful project. This is the challenge of
utilizing a team from across a great geographical divide. It is entirely
possible you may execute the entire project with team members you never see. So
to facilitate frequent and up to date communications, we must exploit the
technology we have at our disposal such as:

*  Blogs, wiccis and shared working environments. Group sharing environments on
the web are becoming more and more common. By setting up a tool set on line in
which team members can post status reports, leave emails, update the project
management software, file expense reports and stay in touch with each other,
you facilitate the kind of communication that keeps the team moving forward
successfully. Blogs, private message boards and wiccis are also excellent means
by which an ongoing "conversation" can be carried out between team members that
anyone can check into and get caught up with the content of what has been done
and what is being planned for the project.

*  Controlled email trees. As the project manager, email is an obvious way to
quickly stay in touch with team members. However, it can get chaotic trying to
keep up on fast moving email trees. That may be a good reason to trap all
emails trees within your online project management software so the
contributions of everyone on the team can be captured for further review.

*  IM staff meetings. IM can be expanded so it doesn't just bring in two
participants. You can schedule your weekly staff meetings using an IM
conference room and capture the entire proceedings in the IM log thus assuring
yourself that nothing that was said will "fall through the cracks.

By becoming adept at using cyberspace as the primary "location" of your project
team's interaction, you can literally create a team of highly specialized talent
that can be located from anywhere in the world. This vastly expands your ability
to tap the best minds for your work and to streamline the project management
process. It will take time to get used to and there will be some missteps along
the way. But if you can conquer global team management using internet tools, it
will be a valuable skill for successfully executing global projects for your

The Client Coworker

The idea of being customer service and customer satisfaction oriented is not a
new paradigm in the business world. Even in businesses that are not directly
working with the public, the idea of structuring the company to satisfy the
needs of the people that make it possible for the company to stay in business -
it's customers -- is a core value for a large percentage of businesses,
especially those that are successful.

But there are segments of every business that have no contact with customers so
it is difficult for them to develop a customer service mentality. And if the
business itself is not structured to deal with the public or have conventional
"customers", that approach to the business world can be lacking in the
workplace. That is why a big business trend in all type of business settings is
to change the work ethic internally so that workers view those who use their
work as customers.

When properly implemented, each employee actually begins to view each other,
their bosses and especially people who rely on their work in other departments
as customers or clients. In theory, this approach has as its objective to build
that customer service mentality even in workers for whom the outcome of their
work is only for internal departments or other workers in the company.

Its an innovate approach to changing the corporate culture of any business. By
altering the mindset especially of an office worker to that of someone who
comes to work with that entrepreneurial or retail oriented outlook, the
employee is freed to become more creative, more aggressive about completing
quality work for their "customers" and get a greater feeling of satisfaction
from satisfying their internal customers.

It's a noble effort to try to alter the traditional culture of an office based
business setting. The traditional culture of a "cubicle farm" type of office
setting often resembles the comic strip Dilbert. That strip can be painful to
read if you are a manager trying to keep a creative and proactive team moving
forward in a business setting. But Dilbert does point out some of the
communication problems that are common in an office setting. The distrust of
management, the tendency by employees to drift toward unproductive attitudes
and behavior and the low morale of many office settings is lampooned by the

The client coworker business concept attempts to empower the employee to strive
to perform to his or her best even when only performing duties for the
department or another department internal to the company. The client customer
model calls for viewing that other department as a customer and providing
customer service to that internal relationship with the same "eager to please"
attitude that is necessary when serving external customers whose revenue drives
the company.

There are some real values to be had by introducing a customer service attitude
even to internal support functions within the company. When combined with other
empowering techniques such as process improvement and open communications with
all levels of management, it can unify an office and put some real life into
your staff.

However, the negatives of the client customer model have to be avoided. This
approach can create animosity between coworkers and hard feelings when one
employee feels that he or she is not being treated like a customer by another.
The client customer model can create distance between peer employees and reduce
comradery which has a great deal of value in a team oriented corporate culture.
But a wise manager can implement the client customer model to a business
setting and harvest from it the productivity gains while skillfully avoiding
the pitfalls.

Business goes to Cyberspace

It is a well known axiom of doing business in any industry that those who do
not stay in step with the times will be those companies that eventually die
out. There is no place where that truism is more evident than in the way that
companies in virtually every business sector are finding to integrate an
internet marketing strategy with their traditional communications and to
provide the public with an internet "presence" to supplement their public
profiles in other venues.

Of course, the value of the internet for sales and promotions has been well
known in the industries that service the youth markets and for the companies
dealing with entertainment and the arts. Because the internet is in virtually
every home and even now on hand held devices of every description, the access
it gives to reach a target market are phenomenal.

This explosion of an entirely new marketing model has introduced the world of
business to entirely new paradigms of marketing and new ways to achieve greater
market penetration and sales. And so any business who has had to get out on
cyberspace to keep up with the competition has already had to learn a whole new
vocabulary that has grown up around the internet marketing phenomenon. Now terms
like "Search Engine Optimization", "Auto responders" and "Viral Marketing"
become important and powerful tools to any business that wants to tap the power
of the internet to increase sales.

The second wave of businesses that, perhaps reluctantly, ventured out into
cyberspace were traditional retail business that you would not associate with
cyberspace at all. This includes sport teams, restaurants and even retail
giants such as Wal-Mart and Border's Book Stores. In fact, the wave of change
in how products and services are sold has been so rapid that entire market
niches have been virtually revolutionalized by internet sales techniques. Book
and music outlets have been virtually hard hit as a large percentage of their
customers have abandoned the "brick and mortar" sales outlets entirely to use
the more convenient tools of internet shopping.

This has made it tough on some retailers to keep up. For the "mom and pop"
business, the change has been particularly devastating. Already small, home
grown businesses were struggling to compete with the giant mega-stores like
Wal-Mart to keep their loyal clientele coming back. Add to that the migration
of customers to the internet and the need for change just to stay in business
became even more urgent.

But even businesses who do not depend on marketing at all have seen the need to
build and maintain a well functioning business web site so they will have a
"face" in cyberspace. In the modern marketplace, the consumer will go to the
internet first to find out about a company and it's goods and services. This
has turned traditional ways of connecting with existing and new customers
upside down entirely.

The good news is that these rapid changes in how modern markets work have made
the business world more diverse, more able to adjust to changing business
dynamics and more open to the creative and innovative minds that have always
been the real life blood of the business world. And, ironically, it is often
the small business that is most capable of making rapid changes to its online
presence and ways to doing things.

In that the internet is a phenomenally dynamic place, new ways of reaching our
customers change almost annually. Where one year a simple web page may have
been sufficient, soon we had to have chat rooms, MySpace pages and YouTube
compatibility. Any business that sees these changes as chances to do something
new and exciting with their business will be the companies that thrive in this
modern world. And, as always, those who do not thrive with change will be
destined to be made obsolete by it.

Employee Retention in the Twenty First Century

The business paradigm in virtually every department of the modern business has
been undergoing continuous change in the last ten years to such an extent that
it becomes necessary to step back and review how we do business in all aspects
of corporate life in light of new markets and new ways even our employees do
business. This is as much true in our Human Resource Department as it is in
Marketing. The labor pool is changing and the impact on the bottom line of the
business can see be serious if we don't change how we go about recruitment and
view employee retention in light of the changes to the available educated labor
"out there" to draw upon for our staffing needs.

Employee retention and how we approach the concept of keeping employees over
many years is an area where certain assumptions must be challenged if we are
going to stay competitive. Some assumptions concerning employee retention that
are rapidly becoming obsolete include:

*  That there is an unlimited resource of eager employees out there to fill my
   staffing needs. 
*  That it's a good idea to cycle employees in and out of the company because 
*  that keeps benefits costs down. 
*  That the "my way or the highway" approach to management is the right way to 
   go to enforce your vision for how work will get done. 
*  That employees are commodities. There are always more where they came from. 
*  That employees should be grateful just to get a paycheck. 
*  It is better to keep a youthful staff and to move older employees out of the 
   work place.

The labor pool in changing with shifts in the demographics in the country and
those changes make these assumptions obsolete and dangerous if we expect to
keep a staff that can provide quality support for our business objectives.
Because the "baby boom" is leaving the market and being replaced with a smaller
and less skilled youth population, we have to adjust our expectations both in
terms of hiring and retention.

Probably the biggest change we have to get used to is to begin to view
employees as valued assets and to give significant attention to retention, not
just once a year at performance review time but on a daily and weekly basis.
The assumption that employees will work for us for a paycheck and that we can
exert leverage in the management situation because of a large labor pool we can
tap to replace unhappy employees has become a flawed approach to people

The truth is the pool of talented labor is shirking at an alarming rate. If you
have a staff of skilled people who you have invested in to bring up their
knowledge and skill levels, that is an investment worth. Skilled and educated
employees are in short supply and, above all, they know they are in demand so
they can move from job to job without difficulty if they become dissatisfied at
their current work place.

These changes to the paradigm of emplacement justify a corporate wide
reevaluation of retention policies and strategies. The HR Department should be
on the forefront of changing the business's attitude toward employees from one
of "us against them" to one of employee empowerment and partnership.

The managers who will excel at retaining valuable, productive and trained
employees will be those who see the employment relationship as a contract in
which management has responsibilities to employees to assure their continued
growth and success just as the employee must pull his weight in the company. A
partnership approach to management will go a long way toward improving the
company's retention profile which will benefit the business in a multitude of

Creating Traffic

Perhaps you have followed the trend in business to create an internet web site
for your business that can be used to supplement your marketing efforts. If so,
you have joined the momentum to create a corresponding "place" in cyberspace
that can be used to reach customers online. The need for such an internet
presence is entirely market driven. Internet sales have soared, particularly in
certain market segments and more and more, the first place people go to in order
to learn about your business is the internet. If they find a well designed web
site that is full of features, that works fast and draws them in, that can be a
tremendous tool for promoting your business.

When you set up a marketing tool outside of cyberspace, the first concern is
how will that new marketing effort get noticed. So we are drawn to places where
there is already an active traffic of people who would qualify as our customers.
That may mean putting up a billboard where it will be seen by people going to
work. That target audience may be the best population to respond to your
message. Or if your business appeals to youth, advertising on MTV or on popular
radio stations is a natural place to put your marketing money because the
traffic is already there.

We have to approach the internet differently. Yes, the traffic is already there
but we have to enter the world of cyberspace marketing with a different kind of
strategy so we can reach the customers who are traveling certain "internet
roads" and make sure those roads lead to our web site.

There is whole a cottage industry that has sprung up around the need for
knowledgeable internet marketing gurus. And, yes, it's a good idea to use their
talents to make sure the search engines put your web site in front of the right
kind of client or customer. These talented internet geeks can put your business
web site into the flow of web surfers so you get your fair share of that traffic.

That said, you don't have to wait for the internet marketing experts to make
your web site more successful. If the business has made the effort to put that
web site up, you want to see it start to pay off right away. That is why you
should consider some creative ways to drive people to your web site from your
traditional markets thus educating your current customers, clients and partners
about the site. Ways to do that include:

*  Promote the web site at the retail level. Some creative signage at your
retail locations can create some momentum and interest in customers to go see
your exciting new web site.

*  Put the link on all correspondence. If you have flyers, a magazine or other
current means of communications, your URL should always be listed there. Add
your URL to your email signature and on business cards and all other forms of
communication so your community of clients, customers and partners get used to
associating that web site with you as much as they do your business name.

*  Create excitement. It is easy to operate a business contest from your retail
sites that drives people to the web site for clues or to claim their winnings.
That kind of momentum can create huge surges of traffic through your web site
with the corresponding surge of sales and leads.

The modern customer or client is used to seeing the promotion of a web site
included with other forms of promotion and advertising. You are not
"assaulting" your customer base with this information. If anything, when your
audience sees that the business has burst into the cyberspace world in a big
way, they will be thrilled and as likely to respond with, "It's about time.".

You know how much you depend on the internet to keep you informed about areas
of interest and about businesses you like to patronize. So you can see that not
only putting up a good web site but letting people know that it is there and
that there are big things there for them to enjoy is doing them a favor as much
as it is creating new marketing opportunities for your business.

Squeezing Blood from an Onion

There is a new to the business paradigm that can be easily noticed if you pay
attention to trends in the business climate that we see in the business news
sections of our local newspapers. It's odd when we notice that even in good
economic times, there will often be sudden waves of lay offs in businesses that
we know are doing well.

Anybody who has been the victim of a lay off can empathize with the disruption
and emotional trauma such a change can cause. Studies in business trends have
documented that the phenomena of large scale business lay offs has been much
more prevalent in the last ten years than in previous eras of the history of
our business communities. So one has to ask, what has caused this shift in
behavior by employers?

While economic conditions and sudden shifts in the marketplace can have a lot
to do with how employers manage their staffing, that is not sufficient to
explain this dramatic change of behavior in the business relationship between
employer and employee. The real base cause of this change comes from a change
in philosophy of employers.

The historic business model between employer and employee is one of a mutually
supportive contract. Whether the contract is agreed to or just understood, the
agreement is the employer will pay the employee and provide him or her with the
basic needs they have to work on site for them. The employee will, in return
perform his or her duties on time and well, come to work reliably and to be a
loyal employee. This model is mutually supportive, creative and based on trust.

The business paradigm that has resulted in a lay off based model with a basic
change to how employees are viewed such that:

*  Employees are viewed as a nuisance and a cost that many times the employer
resents. This resentment is especially acute in regards to employee benefits
such as insurance and vacations which the employer sees as not his

*  Employees are expected to fulfill their role in the previous business model
but to do so strictly from gratitude for the paycheck and no more. As such, the
employer expects the same return from the previous model but they want to change
the model in terms of employer expectations with no change from the employee

*  Long term benefits can be suppressed via a frequent turn over in the
employee base. By replacing experienced staff, the need to see salaries rise
and to provide vacations and eventually retirement benefits is reduced because
the employer keeps the work force at the entry level status indefinitely.

*  The base assumption of this new model is that there is an inexhaustible
supply of skilled labor "out there" in the unemployed labor pool. Therefore,
current employees can be easily replaced with eager unemployed people so the
human resource equation becomes exploitive.

While this business model does make some economic sense, like any equation, the
base assumption has to remain perpetually true for the model to work long term.
But this equation only works in a depressed economy where there are a large
amount of skilled people on the labor market. This approach to human resource
management can backfire badly if there is a shift in the labor markets that
eliminate that abundant supply of replacement workers.

This exploitive approach to management of employees changes the assumption of
trust between employee and employer to an assumption of distrust. It can have a
devastating affect on employee morale so that even employees still being
employed will deliver poor performance because they no longer are in a
supportive relationship with management. The answer of "Well, then we will just
fire those dead beats and get new ones" is not a working solution because once
the employee morale is low, productivity across the work force goes down and
stays down.

This affects the ability of the businesses to support current projects and
deliver quality good and services to the marketplace. And as an exploitive
attitude toward workers results in poor products and services for clients, the
business will begin to lose market share which is the early signals that the
business is destined for extinction. This is reason enough to reexamine the
business model of employment and reconsider returning to a trust relationship
with the employee base in our companies, for their good as well as for our own.

What Google Knows

It wasn't that long ago that a tremendous scare went through the internet
community. The issue had to do with the huge amount of data that can be
collected on individuals using search engines online. This large body of
information naturally drew the attention of the Homeland Security agencies who
are charged with the job of finding out all they can about potential sleeper
cells of terrorism in this country.

The stand off came when the government began to demand access to the search
records of all users of the major search engines. When this upcoming struggle
for privacy began to come to a head, many of us who depend on search engines
for both personal and business research began to get that "big brother is
watching" feeling.

It's a tough compromise. We know that our government must have the ability to
find and put a stop to security risks that might result in another disaster
like September 11th 2001. But at the same time, Americans are tremendously
protective of their liberties, their privacy and their right to be left alone
by the government.

Of all of the search engines who were in the spotlight during that struggle,
Google's resistance to allowing undue invasion of privacy of their customers
stood out as an act of courage in a difficult confrontation. It turned out that
Homeland Security really wasn't becoming "big brother" and was simply
researching how to use statistical data to possibly find terrorist patterns in
search engine usage. But many of us remember that while Yahoo and others
knuckled under quickly, it was Google who stood up and protected user
information rather than immediately turn it over to Uncle Sam.

This stand reflects a long established business ethic that Google has
maintained to be protective of the data it collects about users of its search
tools. That protective nature has more benefits than just building our
confidence that Google is a safe tool for all of us to use. Google indeed has
at its disposal a tremendous library of personal information on anyone using
its search tools. And as the dominant search engine in the industry, this
potential includes just about anyone who accesses the internet.

The information that can be collected from you and I as we use the internet can
tell an interested party a lot about your interests, what kind of business you
are in, your religious views and your political affiliations. Powerful
analytical tools are available to take large volumes of search information and
translate that into profiles that would be of great interest to the government
and to marketers who would love to be able to target specific populations for

For Google, this information has significant value to them as they fine tune
their search engine methodologies. They can methodically analyze this data to
draw conclusions about how their search tools are working and how they should
update the formulas that drive those tools to be more in step with how the
internet audience is using cyberspace. Yes, this is taking advantage of their
already dominant position to secure that position and make their toolset even
more capable of staying ahead of the game. But we really cannot fault Google
for using this data in that way. That is just good business.

It turns out then that Google's protective posture when it comes to that
massive database of search information serves their purposes extremely well. If
they can keep this mountain of very specific data secure and proprietary, it
represents a trade secret of tremendous value to Google to help them maintain
their market superiority for a long time to come.

This is a case of the needs of the market serving the public good well. For as
Google protects our search information so only it can benefit from such
knowledge, they also are protecting our privacy from the prying eyes of
overenthusiastic government agencies, hackers, marketing campaigns and even the
terrorists who could use that information for insidious purposes. Therefore we
can be thankful that Google jealously guards this data for its own uses because
in the process, they are protecting us along the way.

Virtual Employees

When we say something is "virtual" in modern terminology, we are almost always
talking about something related to the internet. So Virtual Dating is dating
using the internet. "Virtual" does not mean something that does not exist. But
it implies you are replacing a normal physical entity with a real but for the
most part unseen entity that lives online.

The trend in strategic business planning is to incorporate an aggressive
"virtual marketing" plan with your traditional plans. So it makes sense that
eventually the move to virtual resources would reach human resources with the
availability of virtual employees.

In the last two or three years, virtual employment has taken off and become a
very real resource for businesses wishing to tap into valuable experience and
subject matter expertise that cannot be found locally. Agencies such as Team
Double Click and Rent-A-Coder provide an army of ready to work professionals
that can step in and get a job done quickly and efficiently for an employer.

The obvious first application of virtual workers is to subcontract to an online
employment agency certain task specific projects that have a short beginning,
middle and end. Building a new function into a web page is a good example of a
project that can be packaged into an understandable project and signed over to
a virtual consultant to perform the work and return to the online employer. The
handling agencies collect funds via escrow so neither the employer or the
consultant are at risk and the handling company claims a percentage of the fee
as part of their pay for facilitating the partnership. Everybody wins.

But the concept of virtual employment is going beyond providing another
variation on outsourcing to a consultant. Many virtual employment agencies
provide administrative assistants, sales support and many other functions
normally associated with a full time employee but those services are done
"virtually". A virtual office manager can have calls routed to his or her
remote phone, emails redirected and conduct office meetings and negotiations
with vendors via email or instant messaging. Using these modern tools, a
virtual assistant can provide almost every function an on site assistant might
be able to do but do so at a lower cost to the employer.

The virtual employment trend in business has obvious benefits for businesses
that are in need of qualified help. It opens the door to recruitment sources
that can supplement the local talent pool. Many times virtual staffing agencies
may have on their "employee roles" people with a specialized background or
skill. The agency is skilled at defining exactly what their client businesses
need and matching up the right virtual employee to the job so the business has
the right skill sets where they need them, when they need them and only for as
long as they need them.

In addition to the benefits that virtual employment has for businesses to fill
needs for skilled workers, it's an excellent resource for talented workers who
want to make a contribution to the business world on their own terms. Virtual
workers almost universally work at home or where they chose to work. Often the
work is task based with a deadline so the worker can select the hours that fits
their family and personal schedules best. And, like working for a temp agency,
the employee can build a resume with the agency that improves the quality of
work they get over time.

Virtual staffing is a trend that has been a success for all involved as it has
matured in the last few years. We can look for this twenty first century
methodology for bringing in talented workers to continue to grow as more and
more businesses get comfortable with staffing their employee ranks "virtually".

Going Retail in Riyadh

Much has been said and written about the globalization of the marketplace in
the new century. More and more, business no longer sees their markets as
limited to their community, state or even this country. To be successful in the
new world economies, we have to see our markets as international if for no other
reason than that our competition and our customers are seeing these markets.

The press likes to make a fuss about the effect of international trade on the
national workforce. While that is a concern, the old axiom that every problem
represents an opportunity applies well to this business paradigm. If we as
business people begin to see the international business community as our
opportunity to tap into markets and revenue streams otherwise unimaginable in
another market environment, we can capture a new profitability that can come
with success in those markets.

However, doing business in foreign markets demands some changes to how we go
about structuring our contracts and sales and distribution networks. One of the
most explosive markets that is just beginning to become available to western
businesses are the wealthy cultures of the Middle East. With the explosion of
the Dubai projects and the westernization of many of the Middle East cultures,
it is becoming possible to "go retail in Riyadh" if we are willing to learn the
culture and how to approach those markets. To do so, the following constraints
should be taking into consideration.

*  Middle East markets are self protecting. Many Middle East countries restrict
commerce to occur only between business entities within the country. This can be
worked around utilizing partnerships with local businesses who can bring in your
product and create a local franchise. The business is still yours, as are the
profits, but the localization of your presence in a Middle East economy is set
up to honor these restrictions.

*  Middle East markets work under Islamic Law. There will be interruptions for
daily prayer and for Islamic holidays that you will be expected to honor. So be
prepared to be respectful of these customs. Also be sensitive that nothing in
your product offerings makes reference to other religious viewpoints. This is
not being timid about our own culture. It is just being savvy about how to work
profitably in an Islamic culture.

*  Distribution and management must be internationalized. You probably will not
be able to set up a warehouse in the middle of Saudi Arabia with your company
name on it. Because of the local bias of the states where you want to do
business, take advantage of any existing distribution channels that go through
Europe or other surrounding countries to route your product to the Middle East
and turn over ownership, management and distribution of the product within the
Middle East to your Arabic partners before the product enters the country. This
careful set up of your network will pay off in the long run.

*  There are friends and enemies in the Middle East. Many fear doing business
in the Middle East because of dangers due to recent conflicts. Just be aware
that the west has many allies in these countries and there is a desire to
partner with us within the more sophisticated economies in the Middle East. By
taking care as you forge your relationships and using local wisdom to craft
your business dealings, you can do business in the Middle East safely and

These are significant issues when considering whether it is time for your
company to start offering your products and services to the wealthy nations of
the Middle East. But if the time has come that your business is ready to start
building those international commerce channels, the results can be tremendously
profitable for your bottom line. The investment is worth the effort if the
business structures are developed wisely.

Looking for Cheese

Every now and then a business book comes along that revolutionaries how the
business world views an area of focus. One such book had the amusing title "Who
Moved my Cheese" by Spencer Johnson. This short book that is illustrated like a
children's story has some profound ideas in it that will radically change how
any business approaches the marketplace. It is a book that has had his biggest
impact in helping employees who have been displaced view their job change. But
the ideas that are made simple in "Who Moved my Cheese" can impact virtually
every area of business dealings.

The book communicates its message through a story of a mouse who finds that the
place where he can find his cheese is no longer reliable. The mouse's friend
continues to go to that same place to find more cheese only to continue to get
hungrier and hungrier. But the hero of the story finds the new location of his
cheese. When he finds his new source of cheese, he not only is astounded by the
bounty but that even after telling his friend of the new source of cheese, that
friend continues to insist that his cheese will be there where it always had
been before and that in fact, the hero of our story is mistaken about the new
location of cheese.

This, obviously, is not a tale about cheese location. It is a parable of how to
handle change. The core value being taught by "Who Moved my Cheese" is that we
cannot always look to the same resource for our supply. Markets dry up,
businesses go through slumps and have to lay good people off and revenue
streams change.

But one thing is for sure. There is always a new reservoir of funding somewhere
in some market. And the wise business can foresee a change in the marketplace
well in advance and make the changes they need to make so that they go where
the money is, or move with the cheese to find the new source of rich funding
and tap into it.

It is more than just a parable about looking for a new job. But it sheds light
on the plight of the unemployed. So often someone who loses their job gets
stuck in a mental cycle of waiting for their old job to hire them back or
looking for an identical job in a very similar industry. However, if that
industry is under economic pressure or if the business paradigm for that
industry has changed dramatically, there may no longer be rich sources of
funding and employment availability there that was once so reliable. In short,
the cheese has moved.

This lesson has rich wisdom in business beyond the employment scenario. The
businesses who have learned to be adaptable in a changing marketplace and have
made the changes to follow the changes to the new source of "cheese" are the
businesses that survive decade after decade. The grocery industry has seen that
kind of change. Many grocery chains went belly up waiting for the cheese to come
back to the old paradigm. But others saw the invasion of the big discount stores
such as Wal-Mart and found ways to combat that change, to find new niches in the
industry where an untapped market need existed or to compete in the new business
paradigm. Other industries where such dramatic changes have forced businesses to
find out who moved their cheese are the record industry and the book sales
business environment that have been so heavily impacted by internet sales.

But those businesses have survived. And if they can be aggressive and adapt and
change with the markets, it's a good example for all of us as we continue to
look for the new source of "cheese".

The Roller Coaster Oil Market

There is a public mythology concerning the oil markets that has been fueled by
a sharp rise in oil prices in the last few years. That perception is that the
oil companies whose job it is to acquire the raw materials to make petroleum
products, including gasoline for transportation, are the source of the rising
prices. It is easy for the public to pin the blame on big business.

The truth is that those on the inside of the oil business know full well that
the oil business is tremendously cyclical. That means that the old adage,
"whatever goes up must come down" definitely applies to the oil markets
domestically and around the world. The current high prices are more a
reflection of problems with refineries and with supply due to tension in the
Middle East than it does with the profit objectives of the oil companies
involved. In truth, oil companies have to cope with sweeping shifts in supply
and demand and it impacts how they plan their economic futures as much or more
than it affects the average consumer.

This upswing in the price of gas is not the first time the oil business has
seen huge profits and gains in their returns. And anyone who has been in the
oil business for a few decades knows full well that the current high
profitability economy which is benefiting oil companies tremendously will turn
the other direction at some point. Just as there is a shortage due to problems
with repairs or temporary shut downs at the nation's refineries, there will
come a time when all refineries are producing at full capacity and there will
be a glut on the market which will drive prices down.

Similarly just as oil shortages dominate the market and are on the minds of
consumers because of Middle East tension, oil supplies can shift dramatically.
A new discovery in Asia, The Soviet Union, Europe, South America or off shore
in America can suddenly send a glut of supply into the market that will send
the price of crude oil plummeting and with it, gas prices worldwide.

This is not just pie in the sky forecasting but an industry trend in the oil
business that is supported by years of experience, research and tracking by the
businesses most impacted by sudden supply and demand turns in the markets, those
big oil companies. The oil business is so used to the roller coaster nature of
the market that even though the market is good now for the oil companies, they
are already preparing for the next downturn and how they will survive when
supply exceeds demand and prices drop leaving them with big adjustments to make
in how they do business.

As with any smart manager of a business or investor for that matter,
diversification is the way to prepare a strategy for handling volatile markets
like we see in the oil business. And that has been a cornerstone of the
strategies that have kept the oil companies able to ride the ups and downs
their industry undergoes on these huge swings in supply, demand and
profitability. While the oil industry is enjoying unprecedented prosperity now,
there is coming a time when they will see their profits drop and they will have
to brace for a downturn of unknown length and survive it until the next swing
of the pendulum back out.

Even now, you can bet that every big oil company in the world is already
investing heavily in diversified business interests that can generate revenue
to keep the company afloat when oil revenues are not as lucrative as they are
now. Those investments will be in real estate, the stock market and even in far
flung unrelated industries such as retail or the entertainment industry. The
more diversified a company can get, the more prepared they are to ride out the
roller coaster oil market.

And this shrewd business practice is a good signal to those who are investors
in the oil industry as well. Just as the companies who are fattening up our
portfolios now are strong investments, we should know that the downturn is
coming and diversify while times are good. Then we can ride out the next oil
slump just as handily as the companies that live or die by the oil markets do
year in and year out.

Will DRM Save the Record Industry?

Without a doubt the single most influential agent of change in business trends
in the last ten to twenty years has been the internet. There is virtually no
business segment or market that has gone unchanged by this powerful force. But
of all of the various businesses impacted by cyberspace, the music industry has
to the one that has seen the most dramatic change and the greatest challenge to
keep up, adapt and survive an onslaught of change unprecedented in its history.

The first major challenge that cyberspace brought to the music business was a
complete shift to how music would be sold to music fans worldwide. In what can
only be described as an avalanche, the music buying public virtually abandoned
conventional record stores and retail outlets and took the majority of their
music purchasing business online. But this mass influx of business could not be
tracked to any one web site that was executing the revolution. Because of a
revolution in how bands and Indie record labels do business online, the music
audience followed and began buying their CDs and even concert tickets directly
from artists or record labels online and getting those products instantly via

But as drastic as the market changes this paradigm shift in consumer behavior
represented, it was nothing compared to what the internet had in store for the
music world. The next wave of change represented a threat to the music business
so serious that it had the potential of putting the music industry out of
business forever. When music consumers began to share digital music
electronically over the internet using file sharing software such as Kazaa,
Limeware and BitTorrent, suddenly it was possible for a music customer to
access all the music they wanted for free by simply downloading this music from
another internet user's computer.

The plummet in music sales as result of these two forces was drastic and
traumatic to the music world in general. At first, the music business
executives were at a loss of exactly how to go about stopping the widespread
file-sharing phenomenon. They tried to shut down the software services that
provided the networks to users with lawsuits and other punitive actions. These
litigations took a long time and cost a huge amount of money and all the while
the flood of free music going out over the internet continued to increase.
Worse of all, when they did slow down one file sharing network, it seemed many
more cropped up to replace it which began to look like a nightmare scenario of
constant lawsuits against a never-ending and constantly growing enemy.

Public pleas to the music loving public were another attempt to appeal to the
conscience of the music world that if artists could not get paid, there would
be no more new music. But the opposite seemed to be the case. As more and more
Indie musicians began to capitalize on file sharing and using it as a method of
marketing, the quantity and quality of good music only seemed to increase in
this new music marketplace.

The final attempt seemed to be this technology called DRM. DRM is a digital
"lock" that would be required to go on every piece of music released on the
internet. Music with DRM would not be playable except to customers who had a
legal right to use it. At first, this seemed like a viable solution. But even
DRM didn't stop the flood of lost revenue through file sharing. And hackers
seemed more than happy to learn to undo any technical locks the music industry
could come up with.

So as we move into the last half of the first decade of this century, the music
industry is learning to work with this new music marketplace rather than fight
it. And by learning lessons from the Indie labels and how to serve customers in
a digital world, there seems to be a new solution on the way but one that is
dictated on the customer's terms rather on the terms of the big music labels.
Somehow, that seems like it is the way it should have been all along.

Catering as a Successful Business

You may begin your own catering service business, which can be financially
rewarding and enjoyable. You may do this business in a full or part time basis
because events that you may cater may vary from the service they will get from
you. In this kind of business, opportunities are very great and there are a lot
more benefits that you may not expect.

Every catered occasion can be a new experience to meet different kinds of
people from all lifestyles. It is important that you have the stamina and the
ability to work under pressure because of the demanding work that awaits you.
You may need the help of some friends first before you may hire employees who
are experienced in this kind of field.

It is a requirement for a catering business to have a license to operate like
those permits that are issued to food establishments that have also catering
services as well. Catering services are inspected by the Board of Health to see
if they have the right materials and the capacity to prepare and handle food
that is safe to the public.

You may get your license at the local Health Department. You have to apply
first before you obtain the permit to operate a business catering service. An
inspection will be needed to check if you will pass the food sanitation
requirements. After you have acquired your license, there will be regular
check-up routines to ensure that you will sustain cleanliness and sanitation of
your catering service.

There are states that require a catering service must have a separate area for
the food operation and the kitchen facility of the house. This is important
because they will not issue a license if you have a set up wherein they may see
food sanitation is not your priority. If you want to remodel the set up, you
must pass the plans and remodeled features to the Health Department for
confirmation that you are following the required construction to your home
facilities and to your food operation area.

It is important to target your market in this business if you are given the
permit to operate already. Know your competition and be aware of their
strengths and weaknesses. If you are stable with your finances, you may hire
applicants that are experienced in this kind of business.

When Banks Explode

The proliferation of branches of banks in most American cities has become so
epidemic that it is hard not to notice the dominance of this kind of business
on any street corner in your town. In many cases, a busy intersection which
might be used for retail operations such as fast food restaurants, cleaners,
gas stations and quick stop stores has been taken over by banks. In some cases
you will see three of the four corners of a popular intersection in town
occupied by different bank branches.

It makes you wonder, just how many banks do we need in town and why are the
banking institutions spending so much money to put branches in virtually every
location that has open space? It is a business trend that gets your attention
and it makes you wonder what is driving this bank explosion. After all, in many
cases there are not more customers for those banks. You have to wonder how banks
can cost justify such expansion when the growth of bank branches is not even in
step with population growth in a given community.

The phenomenon has become more profound in the last ten years than ever before.
And much of it has to do with changes in how banks are regulated and the
financial objectives that these branches are targeting, financial objectives
that bring big money to the banking institutions spreading all over town.

*  Regulatory Changes. The rules for how many branches a bank can own and where
they can open them have changed significantly in the last decade. Now banks can
open branches inside grocery stores and at a greater density than before. And
this has set off the growth war of branch banking that we notice going on all
over town.

*  An explosion of services. Along with a freeing up of the branch banking
laws, commercial banks can offer many more services than ever before. While we
think of banks in terms of checking and savings accounts only, if you walk into
the bank, you will be buried with offers for a huge variety of financial
services including varieties of investment services and different forms of
credit arrangements. And these services are huge money makers for your local

*  How banks really make their money. Obviously banks don't make much money
just keeping your checking account working correctly. But using checking as a
loss leader, banks can capture your business to offer credit services and
investment vehicles that yield them much
higher returns on the use of your funds. Further, the fees that can be applied
for overdraft accounts and other fee based services are a pure profit mechanism
for banks.

*  Visibility counts. Each new customer a bank lands takes revenue out of
competitor's banks. And if they can capture your banking business, the money
you store in your accounts is available for loans and interest they can realize
by using your money while it is in their care. So they want to be visible to
assure you think of them first when it is time to open a new account.

This trend is not likely to change any time soon. The competition in the
banking industry is fierce and bankers are aggressive business people. So we
should expect them to continue to work hard to capture the consumers business
and make themselves available to consumers to steal your business away from
competing banks. And while it might be troubling to see every street corner
filled with bank branches, its part of the market system that makes our economy
strong. And that is a good thing.

The Quiet Explosion of Cell Phone Limitation Technologies

It is no secret that the explosion of functionality the world of cellular
communications is nothing short of phenomenal. Scarcely a month goes by when
something new is added what people can do with their cell phones. Now cell
phones can take pictures, keep your calendar, let you send text messages or
emails, surf the internet and do virtually everything except make the toast and
burp the baby. But along with the technological revolution in what cell phones
can do, there is another quieter revolution that has as its objective the
opposite goal, to stop cell phones from doing what they can do.

It stands to reason when a technology as pervasive as cell phone communications
enables virtually every man, woman and child to communicate to virtually anyone
virtually anywhere that at some point there would be a need for some controls.
That need has become more and more compelling when it comes to certain types of
facilities where it is not only undesirable for cell phones to be operative but
in some cases downright dangerous. Some outstanding examples of where you do
NOT want cell phones operational are:

*  Prisons where inmates can use them to plan illegal activities. *  Federal
buildings to protect classified areas and to restrict terrorist activity.  
Religious buildings such as mosques where cell phones can disrupt the
ceremonies. *  Banks and financial institutions where cell phones could be used
for robberies or for terrorism. *  Theaters and music halls where you want cell
phones turned off during the performance. *  Hospitals or airplanes where the
operation of cell phones can disrupt machinery.

The problem with securing a building from cell phone operation is that putting
up a sign that cell phones should be in use is not getting the job done. The
phones can still be on and used as a homing device or create disruption to
sensitive equipment. So to be effective, the facility needs to have cell phone
blocking technology in place to stop the operation of every cell phone that
comes inside that facility for the time it is there and then returns operation
to that device as soon as it passes out of the facility area.

This is a tough challenge and the technologies that have been developed for the
most part bring as many problems as they solve. There are basically three
solutions to the problem.

1.  Alarming. A device is put in place that can detect the signals coming from
user's cell phones. When the signal is detected, alarms go off to alert the
user that the cell phone should be disabled. The problem is that this is not
that much better than a sign on the wall informing people that cell phones are
not allowed. It depends on compliance and the user can easily turn the phone
right back on once inside.

2.  Disruption. Otherwise known as jamming simply sends out a disruptive signal
to jam the cell phone while in the facility. Jamming is destructive to
machinery, dangerous to people and animals and in many countries, illegal to

3.  Distraction. This approach detects the signal that the cell phone is
sending to the tower to be recognized and sends a false signal back to the
phone so it is distracted and thinks it is in communication with the tower when
it is in fact off line. No calls can come to the phone because the tower doesn't
know its there and no calls can be made because the phone isn't actually on line.

Of the three, distraction has the best chance of solving the problem
permanently. The business trend to look out for is the rapid expansion of any
company that uses the distraction method for cell phone management. That will
be the business that thrives in this market.

The Steps to Finding the Perfect AD Agency

A good Ad agency can take a business and propel its success forward in ways
that few other business partners can do. If the business is one that will
benefit from promotion or advertising, the right AD agency bring to the table
the talent, the creativity and the resources to put together just the right
advertising campaign and then to deploy it in a way that is a perfect fit for
the business's marketing objectives and for the market that the business serves.

But for every success story of how an AD agency took a business to the next
level of success, there are plenty of horror stories of terrible advertising
campaigns. A bad advertising strategy not only fail to escalate the sales and
success of the business, it may damage the business in the eyes of the consumer
and cause damage that could take years to fix.

There comes a time in the life of any business when the decision is made to
either employ the business's first AD agency or to change agencies to find one
that can fit the marketing objectives of the company. To be sure that this
process results in one of those success stories and not one of those horror
tales, some precautions are in order such as:

*  Nail down the company's marketing objectives before you meet with candidate
agencies. Don't allow the AD agency to dictate what your marketing goals are.
By taking charge of what you want before you begin the process, the chances of
finding just the right agency are vastly improved.

*  Put together a review committee for the search process of finding the right
agency. This team is well informed about the company objectives and the
marketing goals that lead to the decision to bring an AD agency on. They can be
kept together throughout the selection process so you have wisdom from many
different parts of the company management structure to guide the process.

*  Nail down the budget for the project before you put the invitations out to
AD agencies to bid on your business. If you know exactly how much you can
spend, that will help in the selection of the right agency and in setting their
limitations early in the relationship.

*  Establish the schedule of how long you have find an AD agency and then the
time frame they have to put a campaign together, get it approved, produced and
activated so the outcome is in sync with the company objectives. If you have a
major product announcement coming along, the time to start finding an AD agency
is months before the week when the product goes public. By timing the project so
adequate time is allowed for each step, you don't rush the process and end up
with an inferior promotion which will result in unsatisfactory results.

*  Make sure the AD agencies you invite to bid on the business understand your
business, what you do, the product to be promoted, your market and your
business image. They should also be aware of previous marketing efforts that
were done by the business. If the previous efforts were successful, there may
be a strong tie in to the next promotion that would work well. If that last
promotion was bad or needs major improvement, the AD agency should know that so
they can steer clear of the same mistakes.

By doing some planning up front and being ready when you begin to bring AD
agencies in to discuss your goals, you will vastly improve your chances of
selecting the right firm. And by finding the right AD agency, you vastly
improve the success your advertising will bring to the company which can be a
tremendous boost to the corporate profitability.

The Project Management Method -- Curse or Blessing

Project management is an area of expertise that has undergone some significant
development in the last decade. A business project can have a far-reaching
effect on the business and result in either tremendous improvement in the
businesses ability to function in the marketplace or a significant setback to
that business entity.

The idea of a formalized project management approach has been around for quite
some time. So it was not uncommon for any manager to find themselves learning
the discipline of a structured project management system. That project
methodology takes any given business or IT project through the same
standardized steps from conception through implementation. Those steps would

*  Project definition 
*  Needs analysis and requirements definition. 
*  Cost benefit analysis. 
*  Project scope. 
*  Project schedule and budget. 
*  Detailed specifications 
*  Development 
*  Testing 
*  Training 
*  Deployment

By utilizing a standardized process of doing all projects the same way, using
the same reporting methods and tools, there is an economy of skills in that the
project leaders and team members become adept at navigating these steps.
Further, by using the same systems and criteria, a scale of evaluation as to
the effectiveness of the system is developed so the ability of project teams to
do well over time improves.

It was natural that this standardized method would become codified and finally
developed into a well-developed system that could that molds all projects to a
single standard. By developing an industry wide method that requires strict
training and adherence to the same terms, tool sets and definitions of success,
the "intuitive" nature of judging project effectiveness is reduced. And so "the
Project Management Method" was developed whereby project managers can undergo
strenuous and exacting training in a standardized method that would be enforced
via certification across the whole of the business community.

Whether or not the PMM represents a curse or a blessing to the business world
depends to a large extent on individual applications of the method and
measurements and observations on whether the method itself introduces
efficiency to the process of project management or just another layer of
bureaucracy. .

There are some strong positives to utilizing a methodology that is standardized
at an industry level. Those project managers who have gone through the
certification process can be depended on to implement that system the same way
in each business setting. As such, the process of finding qualified project
managers becomes simplified because the certification process alone
communicates to the business that it can expect the PMM system to be
implemented correctly.

By putting into place an external method of certification and measurement of
excellence, the project manager career begins to take a high level of
professionalism similar to in the legal and medical fields. So the PMM movement
represents a maturing of the IT and project management disciplines as they move
toward greater levels of accountability and control.

The dangers come in implementation of the PMM methodology on a project by
project basis. In order for a PMM certified manager to live by his credentials,
all projects must conform to a standard mold. The unique nature of each project
may not easily fit into the PMM process of systematization.

In addition, the PMM system is heavily dependent on a large amount of meetings
to document that the project is adhering to standards and a methodical
documentation process from which there is little room for variation or
accommodation. The PMM is a complex methodology so the tool sets that must be
used to track the process can be expensive and difficult to use.

The outcome is that the introduction of the PMM system can cause the actual
business objectives of the project to take on a secondary priority to the high
standards of PMM itself. Project leaders working under the requirements of the
PMM can become more accountable to the methodology itself and lose sight of
what is good for the business or what is efficient in terms of getting the
project completed.

There is very little room for creativity or individual judgment within the
confines of the PMM and that is problematic because the nature of business
problems have historically depended on the judgment and creative problem
solving skills of middle management. By dominating the project process with the
needs of the PMM methodology, excessive cost is introduced as well as cumbersome
requirements that do not benefit the business or the project itself.

Making Money from the Inside Out

It is a well-understood axiom of the business world that there are two ways to
improve the bottom line of the business. Stated simply, those two ways are to
make money or to cut costs. Now no business can cost cut their way to
profitability. But by the same token, waste and excessive internal costs for
any business can eat away any profits that business is enjoying. So to get
ahead in a competitive business environment, both methods must be employed.

When a business turns its eye to cost cutting, there is a stated or unstated
business objective that the business owners will discover significant bleeding
of revenues that are going on within the systems of doing business. So if those
systems can be improved to eliminate that waste, the business would literally
make money from the inside out because the overhead of the business would drop
so dramatically.

The usual progress of such a cost saving campaign by a business is to find "the
low hanging fruit" first. By that we mean that in order to satisfy the demands
of management, middle management will identify superficial savings in hopes of
satisfying the requirement. Hence switching from disposable cups to mugs or
cutting back on break room amenities often go on the chopping block first.

Sadly, while there may be some superficial savings to be found in such places,
the significant introduction of efficiencies for any business lie at a deeper
level and take a more in-depth process of locating problems with how things get
done internally. The methodology of finding these "money pits" within a business
is often called "Process Improvement." The concept of process improvement is to
diagram a particular business process from inception to completion and document
the stages it goes through, the handing over of authority for the process and to
pin point places where inefficient methods are causing excessive cost in
executing that process en route to the final stage of process completion.

Routinely, the areas of business structure that most often identified as being
candidates for a process improvement examination are:

*  Excessive overhead between departments. Departments within a business are
notorious for taking on the atmosphere of a fiefdom and becoming resistant if
not suspicious of other departments in the same company. When that happens,
department managers will introduce paperwork and unnecessary processing to
cause "work" to move to his or her department from another or for completed
jobs to continue along their path. This excessive overhead can be costly at the
department level and bog down the business as a unit enough to actually reduce
the profitability of the organization.

*  Communication problems. A business process moves through the organization as
each department or entity adds value to the process through to the completion of
the job. However if communications between departments or people along the
process chain are flawed, a process can grind to a halt and wait for hours if
not days before the missed communication is discovered and the work is put into
the cycle to be completed. This slow down or break down in communications can be
a tremendous drain on the company. To correct the problem, modern tools of
communication should be reviewed so each significant person along the
chain is quickly made aware of work that needs to be done and can signal to the
next agent that their step is complete and that the process is moving to the
next stage.

*  An inefficient IT infrastructure. Out of date computer programs that are not
integrated with each other cause needless work to be done to take data from one
system and moving it into the next computer program only to be entered again at
the next stop along the chain. Standardization and integration of data and
systems will introduce huge efficiencies to the process.

By streamlining the process of moving a business requirement from inception to
conclusion, we can remove much of the inefficiency and waste that has become
inherent to that process. We can introduce up to date integration designs both
at the IT and process level to quickly move the process from one department to
the next upon completion. The outcome is a streamlined organization that is no
longer "bleeding money" due to inefficiencies and as such is making money "from
the inside out".

Courting Public Favor

At first glance, it is a bit surprising when you see how much some powerful and
prominent businesses in every community bend every effort to court public favor.
Almost any community of significant size in the country has a business section
in the paper. And subscribers to the local news see their ability to stay in
touch with what the strongest and up and coming businesses in town are doing as
an important part of their business awareness.

Sometimes it's good to read the business news in your local paper both for
information and with an eye on the question -- "Did the business being discussed
work to get this article printed about them in the paper?" In some cases, it is
blatantly clear that the business went to great lengths to get noticed. Many
businesses actually employ public relations and advertising professionals to
tailor how they will be viewed in the press and to court public favor by
romancing the right kind of press coverage for the business.

There are some solid business reasons behind such aggressive work being done by
the business community to have good press coverage. On the surface, it might
seem like the intent of managing public approval for a business is just a
desire to be a good citizen and so that public opinion is favorable and
everybody thinks of that business as a bunch of "good guys". But the
motivations for courting public favor for a business are far more complex and
entrepreneurial than that.

*  A good reputation means better sales. Public opinion is a funny thing. If a
retail company gets a bad reputation in a community, it will have a tremendous
impact on their bottom line. But the business that is well regarded at the
neighborhood level will be one that sees strong customer loyalty.

*  A strong reputation makes for better business dealings. Running a business
means entering into dozens of business relationships, making deals and drafting
contracts with other businesses in town. If your business is well regarded in
the public eye, that will reflect favorably when you need a deal to fall your
way at the negotiating table.

*  Investors like to see a good public image in a business. Investors like to
know that the business they are interested in partnering with will be able to
complete its business goals and endure year in and year out. Part of that
stability means that the business can live up to its mission statement and its
statement of values. When the business the investor is interested in has a
strong public image, that reflects that this is a business that conducts itself
with integrity, is interested in the public good as well as private profit and
is looking for the long-term gain as well as the short-term profitability.
These values translate directly into dollars in an investor situation.

*  A strong relationship with city and state government is important to
long-term business health. Many businesses seek concessions or to enter into a
relationship with local government so they can have a clear path to get
building permits or conduct other business that impacts the public good. A
local or state government can be a businesses best friend or stop your projects
in their tracks and keep them stopped. But the thing that pleases the political
world is public opinion and the public good. So if your business has a good
public profile, that translates to votes for the politically minded people at
city hall. And that means influence which can help a business go a long way
toward completing its long-range plans.

*  A good public image impacts recruitment. When you put an advertisement in
the local paper to recruit talent, how you are viewed by those looking for jobs
will directly influence if they will respond to your recruitment efforts. Many a
business got a bad reputation locally and saw dismal responses to recruitment
efforts which can mean a less talented staff and poor performance of the
business in general.

These are solid reasons for a business to put some energy and capital into
courting a good reputation in town. Whether that means a strong representation
on United Way weekend or holding blood drives once a month, the business that
has a reputation for reaching out to the community will be a business that

Decentralizing IT

For decades, the classic model of how a business organizes its computer
services department was to establish a separate IT department with an
independent management structure which may extend all the way to the executive
suite. Over the years, the autonomy of that centralized IT function took on
almost mythic proportions and in some cases resulted in abusive attitudes and
ways of doing business that almost gave the impression that the business
existed to serve the IT department rather than the other way around.

This was a particularly prevalent model when all business computer processing
was done by a large centralized mainframe computer, usually made by IBM. These
mega computers are and were expensive and complicated to program and operate
which dictated that to be successful, a business had to keep on staff a small
army of computer specialists, many of whom seemed to speak an entirely
different language and come from a different culture than those in the rest of
the business.

This was a natural and necessary business paradigm under the circumstances when
"big iron" ruled the IT community. However, the last several decades have seen
changes to how IT gets its business done. First was the introduction of
smaller, powerful systems driven by operating systems like UNIX that were
capable of great efficiencies that challenged the supremacy of the mainframe in

The movement toward network computing which was a natural business evolution to
facilitate greater data access and to build stronger communications between
spread out departments in the business world further eroded the need for one
centralized powerful computer operated by a select few who spoke a cryptic
language. Network computing started the process of democratizing computing
power in the business world. With the new dominance of the internet and the
need to take the business paradigm into cyberspace, the business model of
decentralized data processing has taken on new meaning and importance.

In many businesses, the final stage of IT decentralization has begun to become
a reality. By locating centers of operations and development authority and
responsibility directly at the department level, the efficiencies of IT
decentralization have become possible at every level of the business.

This trend in locating department specific applications along with the
computing resources to support them to the department level is a significant
change to the business culture. Not only do the departments who benefit from
those applications take ownership over the operation of those computing
systems, programming and development resources will be become part of the
department structure as well.

For example, if the HR department has a suite of applications that are used to
tracking payroll, benefits, etc., that application will be placed completely
under the authority of HR. As such, areas of authority that were formerly the
sole responsibility of IT such as systems analysis, development, programming
and computer operations will become part of the HR management structure. As a
result, each department develops an ability to converse in IT terminologies
which results in a higher IT awareness across the business that is healthy for
long-term analysis of needs and resources to meet those needs.

This is not to say that new problems and challenges do not come along with the
decentralization of IT. Some IT issues must be addressed at a global level
because they impact the business as a whole. So there is still need for a CIO
and some high level IT controls to which each of the departmentalized systems
must be accountable.

Further, the issue of systems integration and finding synergies between systems
to maximize the efficiency of systems becomes more difficult when each
department operates its own IT operation. If each department owns and operates
its own hardware and network, communications across the business are challenged
and there is a higher chance that underutilization of systems will be a result.
Quality control at the systems administration level is more difficult because
systems administrators may be answerable only to the department level more so
than to the business in general.

These organizational issues must be resolved at a high level so the transition
from a centralized to decentralized way of doing business can be successful.
But the rewards of putting computing power at the department level outweigh the
risks of failure and justify the effort that will go with such a large change to
the corporate culture.

Courting the Millenials

Recruitment of top notch young talent who can enter your work force and provide
that kind of long term growth potential and can only come from a smart and
productive staff is always a challenge. One of the big reasons any business
works to keep its public image high and to project the concept that they are an
employer of choice is to recruit the best and the brightest from the youth ranks.

Young employees bring a lot to a business that can compliment an older work
force and make the business much more vital. Younger employees are savvy to the
wants and needs of their peers. So instead of trying to guess how to market to
the current generation of 18-28 year olds who are the age segment with
disposable income, by keeping such employees on staff, you have the inside
track to the priorities of the current generation. Further youthful employees
are often optimistic and out to change the world. Their sense of mission and
belief in the system as a means to make the world a better place results not
only in a better morale internally but in business philosophy that shares those

The tendency to name the upcoming generations can be a bit trite but it helps
in knowing who the target group for recruitment are. And that group of youthful
future employees that will be hitting the job market in the next few years has
been dubbed "the millennials". And despite the traumatizing events of world
terrorism, war and the decay of the environment, the millennials come to you
with that youthful enthusiasm and desire to make a big difference in the world
that sets them apart from previous generations.

To lure the brightest minds coming from the nation's colleges, some rethinking
of what we put in front of these young people is in order. They are not leaving
academia strictly with the objective of making a lot of money. So to turn the
head of youth workers who can make a change for the better in your business:

*  Don't just make the potential job about money or your recognizable business
name. The reputation of the company can be as much a negative as it can be a
positive. The millennial recruitee will look past the sign on the building at
what the company is really all about.

*  The millennial is more internet savvy and wants to use modern technology to
accomplish business goals. It's in our best interest to facilitate that goal
because it will keep us in touch with the marketplace.

*  Corporate culture is an important factor for both recruiting and retaining
good employees from this generation. Millenials are looking for a business
climate that is creative, able to change when new things become available,
highly accessible upper management and responsive.

*  Corporate values mean a lot to the millennial crowd. That means that those
high minded values printed on posters and plastered all over the Human Resource
department have to actually mean something. By demonstrating that the business
lives up to its ethics and values, that will appeal the idealistic side of
youthful workers.

*  The values that the business supports must reflect a modern attitude toward
diversity and "going green". If you walk a millennial around the office during
his or her interview, they will notice the recycling bins scattered about. They
will notice the diversity of culture and race in the employee mix.

*  Be prepared to recruit from various disciplines. Even if you are recruiting
for a financial services function or some other specialization, keep your mind
open to recruiting students with a focus on liberal arts or teaching. These
millennials can be trained to the specific job and they bring a fresh approach
to the job description that comes from their college area of focus.

These are things that might take time to change if the corporate culture is
behind the times. But it's worth the effort to start now to attract the kinds
of workers that mean long term growth for the company. By doing some serious
analysis on how up to the date the business is, you can begin to affect change
now so by this time next year, you will be in better shape to court the

Businesses Learn to Make SEO Work for Them

One of the most important talents any management team of a business can have is
to be able to detect changes in the marketplace and adjust how the business
operates to function in that new market. Some call it "thinking outside the
box" and others refer to this talent as "working with a new paradigm". Whatever
the term of the day is, without the flexibility to change as the market changes,
a business is destined to fade away.

Of the many business and market trends that have changed the paradigm by which
business is done in the new century, internet marketing ranks near the top of
the most drastic and sweeping change that virtually every business has had to
adapt to in order to survive and thrive in the new business world.

At first, most in the business world considered the internet to be a toy and
perhaps a good communication tool. But in the last decade, the power of
internet marketing and the need to compete in that marketplace has never been
more evident. And just as business learns new marketing and communication
methods when they enter a new market such as learning to do business overseas,
the internet has brought with it entirely new tools and weapons that the modern
business must learn to use skillfully to succeed in a cyberspace business

Of the many new acronyms that have been added to the business vocabulary, "SEO"
is one that is central to success in the internet marketing world. SEO stands
for "Search Engine Optimization" and it is an entire discipline unto itself. By
learning to utilize well developed SEO methods, a business can learn to dominate
their particular market niche even in a cyberspace business world.

Just as in the conventional business world, to be successful with a particular
market, you have to go where they are and learn to get noticed and get your
message to the consumer even as your competition is doing the same thing. In
the world outside of cyberspace that may mean various methods of advertising,
promotional campaigns, good customer service and a long term promotional
strategy that will grow the businesses market presence over time.

All of these business objectives remain the same in the world of internet
marketing, but the "places" customers can be found are profoundly different. As
such, it becomes critical that a business builds a modern and up to date web
site that appeals to the customers perceptions of what they will expect when
they come to shop with you and that stays up to date continuously s the
internet continues to change and evolve.

But it isn't enough to just have a state of the art business web site up for
modern internet business web site to succeed. Just as to be successful in the
physical world, customers must come to you or you must go to them. And the
primary method of letting customers know who you are and drawing them to your
well designed web site is to connect to them through a search engine such as
Yahoo, Google or MSN.

Search Engine Optimization methods are powerful techniques that can be used to
assure that when your customer looks for a business such as yours, they will
notice you first and your competition second, or not at all. That means when
the customer "searches" for your product or service on Google or another search
engine, your business comes up on the first page of selections that the search
engine finds.

SEO takes time, investment of funds and talent and skill to work with the
search engines so your business gets that kind of attention. But it is worth
the investment because the outcome can be an internet business presence that
bring the kind of success every business wants.

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