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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

HOW ABOUT SOME LOYALTY REWARDS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 4, 2019

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– What freebies do we get for being a long-time member? ZIP.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

On a recent visit to my gym, the manager had erected an inflatable air-dancer puppet by the front door along with a sign encouraging membership. Under the program, they waived the initial sign-up fee, as well as the first month’s membership fee. Added to this was two free sessions with a trainer and a t-shirt. Okay, fine, I get it, they want new members. What about those of us who have loyally paid their bills but didn’t receive any freebies? I paid all of the initial fees and have been a regular-paying member for three years now. What have I received? Zip.

I have seen this same phenomenon over the years, particularly with magazines. We used to regularly subscribe to a multitude of magazines, including news and sports. For many years we paid the full rate and received no “freebies.” Then, in the 1990’s, as printed magazines started to succumb to the Internet, they offered a myriad of gifts, such as clocks, radios, cameras, special edition publications, etc. Again, what did the long-term subscriber receive? Zip.

Credit cards typically allow you to earn points for such things as travel and gifts, but there is still no loyalty incentive. Not long ago, I had a minor problem I reported to one of my credit card companies. The agent I talked with on the phone pulled up my records on his computer and said, “Oh, Mr. Bryce, I see you’ve been a member of ours for over thirty years now; Wow!” His reaction led me to believe I had been a member longer than the agent had been alive.

I had called the company to make a simple correction to a payment I had made (something incredibly minor). The agent said he would have to have it reviewed with management before he could update the correct entry (even though he recognized I had been correct). When he said it would take a month or two to correct, I told them if they wanted to keep me for another thirty years, he better make the change in the next thirty seconds or I will cancel my membership. Instead of trying to correct the problem right then and there, he said there was nothing he could do. In other words, he called my bluff. Regrettably, I wasn’t bluffing and cancelled forthwith.

I was amazed they were willing to let a long-term customer go, but this is not the only time I have seen this occur. I have had to do similar actions with banks, trash collectors, phone companies, and cable companies (which I think are perhaps the worst). I have changed cable operators at least a dozen times over the years, going to a cable operator who was offering new members lower rates. I guess they count on the older customers to just grin and bear it. I do not.

Like I said, I understand the need for a “come-on” to engage new customers, but what is the benefit of remaining a loyal customer over a number of years? Zip. This is why it is becoming more common for people to quit a service, only to return to it later to get the new cheaper rates, and any “freebies” along the way. To me, this sounds like a “make work” scenario and is certainly not smart from a customer service and sales perspective.

There should be some sort of benefit for customer loyalty, maybe something simple at first, and something more pronounced later. As a company, imagine the cash flow from a loyal clientele, but people do not think long-term anymore, just “quick and dirty” (or is it “agile”?). I know this mindset disturbs managers and executives who hate to lose market share. Let me give you an example…

A few years ago, I had a manager from a cable company come to my neighborhood. He knocked on my door to ask why I had quit his company. I told him I recently saw an increase on my bill, and another cable company offering comparable service at a less-expensive rate. I talked with one of his company’s agents and asked if they could match the lower price. Of course, the agent said “No,” but perhaps worse, there was no concern for the possible loss of business. The manager shook his head in disbelief. “If I met the price right now, would you switch back to us?” he asked.

I told him, No, for two reasons; first, the installation of the new service had recently been completed and I was in no mood to change it again, and; second, I was offended by the disregard the company showed for their loyal customers. He thanked me for my time, but went away frustrated with his own company.

Interestingly, the same phenomenon happened with the new cable provider; rates increased progressively until I decided to go to a new cable provider. Again, the agent did nothing to retain my business.

If companies started to implement a true loyalty program based on length of service, fewer customers would drop service, meaning less maintenance costs, and improved profit-margin.

Then again, I am still a creature of the 20th century.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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THE TROUBLE WITH JOB INTERVIEWS

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 21, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– How about some pertinent questions instead?

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Something that really irritates me in the corporate world today is how companies interview candidates for a job. Instead of having you describe who you are, what you’ve done in your professional life, and what skills you possess, Human Resource types today ask questions like:

“Where do you want to be five years from now?”

“How do you handle pressure?”

“How do you deal with conflict?”

“Tell me something nobody knows about you.”

“Did you notice the receptionist outside had six fingers?”

“What is your favorite color?”

“If you were an animal, what would you be?”

Instead of getting to the meat and potatoes of what the person knows, interviewers are asking pseudo-psychological questions aimed at examining the personality of the candidate. It kind of reminds me of the asinine question Barbara Walters asked of movie stars years ago, “If you were a tree, what kind would you be?”

These questions are aimed at determining what your personality type is (such as A, B, C, D) and how you present yourself, e.g., how articulate you can present an argument, and how well you can fit in with the corporate culture.

Instead of dancing around the issue, and using amateur psychological techniques, why don’t they just ask for a psychological profile of the candidate instead, as prepared by accredited professionals? Somehow the interviewing questions asked today remind me of the neurotic Personnel Manager, Granville Sawyer, in the movie classic “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Another interviewing phenomenon I have trouble with is what is now called “speed interviewing,” which I’m told is derived from “speed dating,” whereby a number of people are interviewed briefly in a rotational format. It kind of reminds me of how people audition for a reality show and other entertainment contests. It might be nice for a first blush, but hardly a way of honestly getting to know someone.

The last thing I think is lacking in interviewing is professional courtesy. It used to be if you sent in a job application, you would get a written note acknowledging the company received it and what they intended do with it, which perhaps was nothing. Further, after an interview, the candidate would be sent a letter thanking him/her for their time and let them know what their status was. However, you don’t see such letters anymore, not even in this age of e-mail. To me, this says a lot about the professionalism of the employer, which is probably not very good.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DEATH OF THE BUSINESS LETTER

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 11, 2019

BRYCE ON COMMUNICATIONS

– Texting is destroying our ability to communicate effectively on a corporate basis.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I have noticed I do not get much mail anymore from the post office. Of course, I still get bills and junk mail, but aside from this, little else. I surmise only a handful of people know how to write a business letter anymore. Most of the true correspondence I get nowadays is by e-mail and telephone (both of which have their share of junk).

When you do get a business letter today, it is typically poorly written in terms of style, layout, and grammar. I know we have made a lot of progress in word processing technology over the years, but it sure seems people do not know how to run such things as spelling and grammar checkers. I think the real culprit here though is text messaging which has basically annihilated any sense of syntax and word formation.

Now, instead of this…

Dear Sir,

It was a pleasure talking with you today.  Concerning your order, I have made the correction and credited your
account accordingly.  Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  If I can be of any further assistance, 
please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

We now have this…

Dude,
don't tabooma. cy. all is kewl. cm.
stys
plo

Actually, I don’t blame the younger generations for these bad writing habits as they are only innocent victims of technology. Instead, I blame my generation for not teaching them how to communicate properly in a corporate setting.

I first learned to write business letters in my high school typing class and have written numerous letters over the years. However, the kids today do not take typing anymore and are definitely not familiar with writing for business. Text messaging may be fine for quick and dirty interpersonal communications, but it also leads to some horrible writing habits. I do not care what your age is, a well written business letter can work miracles in terms of sales and service. Too bad it is slowly disappearing from the corporate landscape.

NOTE: for text messaging syntax, see NetLingo.

One last note, it has been proven that old techniques like Shorthand and Morse Code can record and transmit messages a lot faster than any electronic technique used today. Who-da-thunk-it!

First published: September 22, 2008. Updated 2019

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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FIRST LESSONS IN JOINING THE WORK FORCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 26, 2019

BRYCE ON LIFE

– “Got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy.” – Ringo Starr

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

My book, “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force,” is designed to help young people make the transition from school, be it high school or college, into the work force.

In my introduction, I indoctrinate the young reader into the first basic truths we must all face as we enter adulthood:

* You are entitled to nothing. If you want something, you are going to have to go out and earn it.

* Nothing is free. Forget what the promotion says, people do not offer something without wanting something in return.

* Life is not fair. In fact it can be downright cruel and dehumanizing. Keep in mind, with rare exception, companies are not democracies; they are dictatorships. As such, they operate at the whims of the person in charge.

* Becoming an adult means assuming responsibility, be it on the personal or professional sides of our lives. Knowing this, put your best face on and act like a professional, someone you want others to respect.

* Becoming an adult also means making decisions. In theory, if you make 51% of your decisions correctly, you will be successful. Also, do not procrastinate; if you do not make a decision, the decision will be made for you (and probably not to your liking).

* If anything in life is constant, it is change. Some you will like, others will have trouble swallowing. Nonetheless learn to accommodate change. Learn and adapt.

* People act on their perceptions, regardless if they are valid or not. As an old systems man, I can tell you authoritatively, if the input is wrong, everything that follows will also be wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions; always seek the truth.

* The only good business relationship is when both parties benefit (aka “Win-Win” relationship). Avoid situations where one party benefits at the expense of the other (aka “Win-Lose” relationship).

* Everything begins with a sale. All of our efforts, regardless of how mundane they may seem, should be geared towards producing income for the company. Without sales, everything else will eventually come to a halt.

* There is only one problem with common sense, it is not very common. The obvious is not obvious to a lot of people. You will undoubtedly discover that decisions are based more on emotion as opposed to logic.

* Your personal and professional lives are one and the same. Some people like to separate the two, but the fact remains, there is only one you.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a thought from a good friend of mine who survived over thirty years of corporate politics:

“You cannot move to the top of the ladder by breaking rungs and breaking rules….
we all must move through the learnings, the little successes, the disappointments, to develop and grow.”

– Michael B. Snyder

Originally published: October 1, 2012

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD FEASIBILITY STUDY

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 21, 2019

BRYCE ON PLANNING

– Let us look before we leap.

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“Those who do not do their homework do not graduate.” – Bryce’s Law

In its simplest form, a Feasibility Study represents a definition of a problem or opportunity to be studied, an analysis of the current mode of operation, a definition of requirements, an evaluation of alternatives, and an agreed upon course of action. As such, the activities for preparing a Feasibility Study are generic in nature and can be applied to any type of project, be it for systems and software development, making an acquisition, or any other project. It is equally applicable in business, nonprofit institutions, and at all levels of government. Frankly, if you are going to do anything of substance, it is wise to perform a Feasibility Study. Instead of looking at it as a series of a regimented steps, it is a thinking process for specifying needs, assessing risk, and making an intelligent decision. Basically, it is nothing more than common sense.

There are basically six parts to any effective Feasibility Study:

1. The PROJECT SCOPE which is used to define the business problem and/or opportunity to be addressed. The old adage, “The problem well stated is half solved,” is very apropos. The Scope should be definitive and to the point; rambling narrative serves no purpose and can actually confuse project participants. It is also necessary to define the parts of the business affected either directly or indirectly, including project participants and end-user areas affected by the project. The project sponsor should be identified, particularly if he/she is footing the bill.

I have seen too many projects in the corporate world started without a well defined Project Scope. Consequently, projects have wandered in and out of their boundaries causing them to produce either far too much or far too little than what is truly needed.

2. The CURRENT ANALYSIS is used to define and understand the current method of implementation, such as a system, a product, etc. From this analysis, it is not uncommon to discover there is actually nothing wrong with the current system or product other than some misunderstandings regarding it or perhaps it needs some simple modifications as opposed to a major overhaul. Also, the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach are identified (pros and cons). In addition, there may very well be elements of the current system or product that may be used in its successor thus saving time and money later on. Without such analysis, this may never be discovered.

Analysts are cautioned to avoid the temptation to stop and correct any problems encountered in the current system at this time. Simply document your findings instead, otherwise you will spend more time unnecessarily in this stage (aka “Analysis Paralysis”).

3. REQUIREMENTS – how requirements are defined depends on the object of the project’s attention. For example, how requirements are specified for a product are substantially different than requirements for an edifice, a bridge, or an information system. Each exhibits totally different properties and, as such, are defined differently. How you define requirements for software is also substantially different than how you define them for systems. (See, “Understanding the Specifications Puzzle”).

4. The APPROACH represents the recommended solution or course of action to satisfy the requirements. Here, various alternatives are considered along with an explanation as to why the preferred solution was selected. In terms of design related projects, it is here where whole rough designs (e.g., “renderings”) are developed in order to determine viability. It is also at this point where the use of existing structures and commercial alternatives are considered (e.g., “build versus buy” decisions). The overriding considerations though are:

* Does the recommended approach satisfy the requirements?
* Is it also a practical and viable solution? (Will it “Play in Poughkeepsie?”)

A thorough analysis here is needed in order to perform the next step…

5. EVALUATION – examines the cost effectiveness of the Approach selected. This begins with an analysis of the estimated total cost of the project. In addition to the recommended solution, other alternatives are estimated in order to offer an economic comparison. For development projects, an estimate of labor and out-of-pocket expenses is assembled along with a project schedule showing the project path and start-and-end dates.

After the total cost of the project has been calculated, a cost and evaluation summary is prepared which includes such things as a cost/benefit analysis, return on investment, etc.

6. REVIEW – all of the preceding elements are then assembled into a Feasibility Study and a formal review is conducted with all parties involved. The review serves two purposes: to substantiate the thoroughness and accuracy of the Feasibility Study, and to make a project decision; either approve it, reject it, or ask that it be revised before making a final decision. If approved, it is very important that all parties sign the document which expresses their acceptance and commitment to it; it may be a seemingly small gesture, but signatures carry a lot of weight later on as the project progresses. If the Feasibility Study is rejected, the reasons for its rejection should be explained and attached to the document.

CONCLUSION

It should be remembered that a Feasibility Study is more of a way of thinking as opposed to a bureaucratic process. For example, what I have just described is essentially the same process we all follow when purchasing an automobile or a home. As the scope of the project grows, it becomes more important to document the Feasibility Study particularly if large amounts of money are involved and/or the criticality of delivery. Not only should the Feasibility Study contain sufficient detail to carry on to the next succeeding phase in the project, but it should also be used for comparative analysis when preparing the final Project Audit which analyzes what was delivered versus what was proposed in the Feasibility Study.

Feasibility Studies represent a commonsense approach to planning. Frankly, it is just plain good business to conduct them. However, I have read where some people, particularly government legislators and people in the I.T. field, consider Feasibility Studies to be a colossal waste of time. In their haste, they will sincerely claim, “We don’t have time to do things right.” Translation: “We have plenty of time to do things wrong.”

First published: March 20, 2008, updated in 2019.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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CRAFTSMANSHIP IS A STATE OF MIND

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 14, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It is also a universally applicable concept.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I have been writing on the virtues of craftsmanship for many years now. I have also given presentations on the subject and discussed it at length with different types of companies. Surprisingly, I find few people truly understand the concept. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that it is reserved for certain types of work effort. Some believe craftsmen are limited to furniture makers, machinists, or watchmakers. And, No, we are most certainly not talking about a line of tools from Sears. People seem surprised when I explain it is a universal concept applicable to any job. My message is simple: “Craftsmanship is a state of mind.”

Years ago, Arnold Toynbee, the legendary historian and economist from the UK, made the observation, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” Whereas some people like to separate their personal and professional lives, Toynbee rightfully makes the point there is physically only one person, and their personal and professional lives should be viewed as one and the same.

Craftsmanship is based on three rather simple principles:

First, in order to build self-esteem and give an individual a sense of purpose, we need to acknowledge, “Man must lead a worthy life.” This means people should be given meaningful work to perform, thereby creating the desire to master one’s craft. However, not everyone can be a wood worker, machinist, or watchmaker. Instead, they must find meaning in their chosen profession, which leads to our next principle…

Second, “There is dignity in all forms of work.” We should never look down our noses at anyone’s profession, assuming they are doing it competently and professionally. Regardless of the task, it is always a pleasure to be among people who know what they are doing, and perform it seemingly with little effort and a sense of class. In contrast, there are also workers who are apathetic, put forth minimal effort, and only watch the clock as opposed to the work product they are assigned to. Personally, it is difficult to respect such people.

Third, a simple recognition there are “right” and “wrong” ways for performing tasks. It takes discipline not to skip steps and put the work product in jeopardy. Understanding the differences between “right” and “wrong” is more than just training and experience, it also represents the morality of the worker. One reason craftsmanship is in decline is because of the eroding moral values of the country, such as the inclination to cheat.

These principles highlight the fact that craftsmanship is universally applicable. We can find it in any industry and any type of work, be it janitors, waitresses, programmers, managers, assembly line workers, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, athletes, musicians, the medical community, you name it. Craftsmanship is a state of mind. Think about it, who has impressed you not only by the job they did, but how they went about doing it? Inevitably, it is someone you respect, someone you will gladly give a reference to, someone you would like to emulate.

Craftsmanship requires more than just talent, it is a determination to be the best someone can be. Not surprising, there is a close relationship between craftsmen and the products they produce. Expressions such as “I built that” or “That was mine,” denote the pride they take in their work. Conversely, when someone makes a compliment about a product or service, the craftsman takes it as a personal compliment. The bond between craftsman and work product is so strong, the worker sees the product as tangible proof of their quality of work.

Years ago, people learned their craft through apprenticeship programs. Ben Franklin learned to be a printer at his older brother’s print shop. Likewise, young men learned a variety of crafts through such programs. Over the years though, we have drifted away from apprenticeships. Today, we rely on certification programs and college degrees, but this does not necessarily make someone a craftsman. It only denotes the student has learned something and passed tests and exams. Rarely does it give us insight into a person’s mastery of a craft, which cannot normally be evaluated until it is put into practice and studied over time.

In terms of skills, the craftsman must master several things:

* The resources used in the product. For example, a wood worker will know the differences between types of wood, their strengths and weaknesses, their suitability for the product, and how to work with it. Likewise, a machinist will understand the nature of the different metals he must use in his work.

* The methodologies to produce the product, representing the steps or processes of the project.

* The tools and techniques to be used in the development of the product, all of which may change over time. This means the craftsman is a student of his profession and possesses a sense of history to his craft.

Craftsmanship is something we have taken for granted for many years. Consequently, it has been fading from view. Interestingly, when I teach these concepts to students and business professionals, they are usually surprised by the simplicity of the concepts involved. I warn them though that craftsmanship requires a personality which includes such things as discipline, an intuitive mind, pride in workmanship, a willingness to be the best in your chosen profession, and some good old fashioned morality. Craftsmanship is not for everybody, but we should celebrate those willing to lead such an existence, for they are the people who create the products we admire and cherish.

For more information, see my earlier paper, “Craftsmanship: the Meaning of Life.”

If you want a presentation on craftsmanship, please do not hesitate to contact me.

First published: February 26, 2014

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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UNCOMMON SENSE IN BUSINESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 15, 2019

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Common sense is no longer common in the work place.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Probably the main reason why Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” comic strip enjoys the popularity it does is because it is a clever parody of the corporate world. It now appears in hundreds of newspapers around the world. As readers, we can relate to the corporate situations the characters are put in and the inevitable results. What is considered logical and practical is often sacrificed to suit petty personality traits. The underlying theme in the strip is that common sense is not common in the corporate world.

I have assembled a list of items as found in business and compare and contrast how they should be applied in practice (common sense) versus how they are applied in reality. This provides some interesting insight into the philosophy of our corporate culture. Who knows, this might be nothing more than fodder for Scott Adams.

APPEARANCE

Common Sense: Impressions make a difference as people react to our appearances. How we dress and act send subliminal messages to the people we meet and work with, but we must be wary of facade; an actor rarely assumes the characteristics of the people they portray. The same is true in business; looks will carry you for a while but you have to be able to produce results in order to achieve the confidence and respect you desire.

Reality: Appearances and conduct are no longer considered important. A lot of managers are grateful simply because employees show up for work on time. Slovenly looks are often not disciplined accordingly. Our appearances also influence behavior; if we look bad, we typically lack respect for ourselves and others and treat them accordingly; looking better promotes pride and self-respect.

BEHAVIOR

Common Sense: Our perceptions, right or wrong, dictate our actions. Whether we perceive a situation correctly or not is irrelevant; we will act according to how we see a situation. Knowing this, we should make every effort to correctly interpret a situation so we make the right decision and take the appropriate action.

Reality: We see only what we want to see. Little effort is made to clarify a situation and act on impulses.

BRAIN POWER

Common Sense: The brain should be fully engaged in order to strive to achieve.

Reality: Companies establish working environments that do not stimulate thought. They prefer to have human robots as opposed to encouraging people to exhibit a little initiative.

BUSINESS

Common Sense: The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit. The intent should be to create “win-win” situations where both parties prosper, not just one. This promotes cooperation and trust.

Reality: Its a dog-eat-dog world out there. Most companies have little regard for vendors and customers, let alone partners. “Win-lose” situations are still the norm today.

COMMUNICATIONS

Common Sense: Talk and write to communicate, not to impress. An eloquent vocabulary tends to alienate as oppose to recruiting support for your argument. As such, it is important to know your audience.

Reality: Pompous speeches using a seemingly cryptic language does, in fact, impress people. Your audience may not understand what you are talking about, but they will be buffaloed into believing you. Don’t have any new ideas? Just change the vocabulary and make people believe you have invented a new idea.

CORPORATE CULTURE

Common Sense: All companies have a culture, a way by which their people think and behave. In order for new employees to succeed, they must adapt to the culture or face rejection (e.g., people refusing to work with them).

Reality: New people care little for the thinking and behavior of others. They believe they know better and act like loose cannons.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Common Sense: The customer is treated like a king. By providing excellent service, the customer will offer referrals (new business) as well as repeat business.

Reality: The customer is treated like sheep. By creating bureaucracy, consumers have learned not to expect too much and realize objections are exercises in futility. By vendors creating an aura that their products are “state of the art,” people will react like Pavlov’s dog and purchase the latest gizmo upon its announcement (usually sight unseen).

DECISION MAKING

Common Sense: Business decisions should be based on sound logical facts, such as a Cost/Benefit Analysis with “return on investments” and “break even points.” People are typically not afraid of taking a risk if the facts are presented to them clearly.

Reality: Business decisions are based on emotions with an appeal to the frailties of the human ego, e.g., greed, stature, perks, etc. Politicians and marketers have known this for years, which is why Government initiates actions based on polls as opposed to what is really needed. People are not afraid of taking risks since they know liberal government bankruptcy laws will bail them out in case of failure.

DOCUMENTATION

Common Sense: If something is important, write it down. By doing so, we are providing the means for companies to carry on in the event of a catastrophe or a turnover in personnel.

Reality: Rarely is anything written down, particularly designs as it is considered a waste of time. Without documentation, people such as engineers promote job security; e.g., they cannot be fired since they maintain the designs in their heads.

INFORMATION

Common Sense: Information is not synonymous with data. Information is the knowledge or intelligence required to support the actions and decisions of a business. People act on information, not data. Data is the raw material used to produce information. Consequently, data should be cataloged so that it may be shared and reused to produce the necessary information.

Reality: Information and data are treated as being synonymous. Rarely is data shared and reused outside of a single computer program. As a result, data redundancy runs rampant in business causing end-users to question the integrity of information from which it is based.

INTEGRITY

Common Sense: Tell the truth; if you don’t you’ll eventually get caught in a lie which could potentially cost the company business.

Reality: Lying is considered an acceptable form of behavior. In other words, say or promise anything to secure a contract. Let the corporate lawyers figure out later what to do if entanglements ensue.

LEADERSHIP

Common Sense: Lead by example. Never ask someone to do something you are not prepared to do yourself. This will earn you the respect of your workers.

Reality: Most managers have little sensitivity for the type of work their people have to perform. In fact, they prefer a master/slave relationship thereby elevating their ego.

MANAGEMENT

Common Sense: Create an environment that empowers employees and treat them like professionals, thereby giving them a sense of purpose. An empowered employee will be more dedicated and loyal to the company.

Reality: Promise recruits anything, sweat them, then let them go at the end of the assignment. Let us also not forget, employees will jump from job to job. Free-agency saw to that.

ORGANIZATION

Common Sense: Insist on a clean work environment thereby forcing employees to be more disciplined and organized. By doing so, it will be easier to find and manage things, such as products, parts, and paperwork.

Reality: “A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind” is the normal cop out. By maintaining a pigsty, it is harder for managers to find out what the employee is up to.

PLANNING

Common Sense: Plan and set goals, but recognize that change is constant. As such, it is necessary to be flexible to adjust and adapt to changing conditions.

Reality: Plans are often cast in concrete thereby making it impossible to accommodate change. If a change is requested, blame the developers of the plan. Oh yea, don’t forget to print plans on fancy paper so it might impress others.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Common Sense: Treat problems, not symptoms. To get to the root of a problem, work backwards until you come to the starting point. Still can’t find it? Work forward, from start to end. Better yet, have a second pair of eyes look it over.

Reality: Treat symptoms, not problems. Apply Band-Aids where tourniquets are really needed (thereby pacifying the situation for the moment). Companies tend to develop a punchlist of symptoms and than take a shotgun approach to diagnosing them. Further, corrections are rarely delivered for free but, instead, are issued as updates (for a price).

QUALITY

Common Sense: Build quality into the product during development. By breaking the development process into stages, the product can be reviewed and inspected in increments. By doing so, it is rather easy to backup and correct the problem upon discovery. A quality-built product requires less time to maintain and, as such, reduces maintenance costs.

Reality: Companies inspect products after they have been built, normally by people unfamiliar with the processes and tools used to create the product. The rationale here is that it is seemingly cheaper to discard a product afterwards as opposed to during the development process. The cost of quality is normally bundled into the price of the product, thereby customers assume the price for corrections, not the company.

SHARING

Common Sense: Share and reuse parts of products. By doing so, it reduces development costs and promotes integration between products. Further, it simplifies maintenance of products through the use of standardized parts.

Reality: Sharing and reuse is avoided (primarily due to the “Not Invented Here” phenomenon). Consequently, considerable redundancy ensues, both in terms of parts and the labor required to redesign each part. The resulting overhead is buried in the price of the product.

SOLUTIONS

Common Sense: The best solutions are the simple solutions. Complicated solutions add to the expense of a project or a product (as well as the time to develop them). Do what is practical, not necessarily what is elegant.

Reality: Companies tend to prefer complicated solutions since they tend to pacify inflated egos or as part of a shell game in marketing the product. Complicated solutions inevitably add costs to the product (as well as markups).

TEAMWORK

Common Sense: A team of players can outperform any individual effort. As such, companies should be promoting teamwork and a spirit of cooperation.

Reality: Companies offer rewards for individual initiative (not teamwork), thereby resulting in a spirit of competition as opposed to cooperation. The thinking here is along the lines of “natural selection” as contained in Darwin’s theory of evolution whereby the individual with the strongest characteristics climbs to the top of the heap.

TECHNOLOGY

Common Sense: Technology should be applied in business on a basis of cost effectiveness. An elegant solution to the wrong problem solves nothing.

Reality: Technology is purchased by companies to “Keep up with the Jones” or as a status symbol. Rarely is it ever purchased for practical business purposes. Companies have been so conditioned to purchase technology, it is like taking their morning vitamin pill; a habit they believe is good for them. This train of thought is so pervasive today that technology often supersedes management. In other words, we do not try to manage our way out of a problem, we throw technology at it instead (this way, when something goes wrong, we can blame the technology).

THEFT

Common Sense: Do your own work. Give credit where credit is due.

Reality: Piracy is an acceptable form of behavior. It is quite common for employees to take intellectual property from one company to another as they move from job to job. Let the lawyers fight it out if a problem ensues.

WORK

Common Sense: Stay focused on the work product (the result or deliverable) and doggedly see something through to completion with your best effort, thereby creating pride in workmanship. Further, accept constructive criticism so that we can learn and improve. Our goal, as employees, is to become craftsmen in our area of expertise.

Let us also not forget that everything begins with a sale. Without a sale, there is no customer service, no development, nada.

Reality: People will only work on those items they deem important, in no particular priority. Further, people like to “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic” and, by doing so, try to make things look better on the surface than they really are. This is usually done by juggling the books. Companies avoid tackling major projects for two reasons; first, they no longer possess the management skills to accomplish the work, and second; rewards and systems of remuneration are based on a short-term mentality.

THE HUMAN SPIRIT

Common Sense: Since the inception of our company in 1971, the underlying theme in our methodologies and writings is the recognition of the vital role the human being plays in business. You have heard us say on numerous occasions:

* Everything begins and ends with the human being.
* Systems are for people
* Business is about people, not numbers.
* Information is for people, not for the computer.
* We accomplish projects through people.
* Our corporate slogan: “Software for the finest computer – the Mind”

Knowing this, there should be greater respect for the human spirit and, as such, we should be sharpening our people skills as opposed to our technical skills. Technology will always have a role to play, but humans should never become subservient to it.

Reality: The human element is too often overlooked or forgotten. Technology is having an adverse effect on our social skills. For example, we can now electronically contact just about anyone anywhere on the planet, but we do not know how to effectively communicate or work with others. Some people believe the ideal business is one run totally by machines and not by people, thereby affording us more leisure time, a sort of “business in a closet.” But as long as we have people as customers, people as vendors, and need people to execute projects, we should always respect the dignity of the human spirit.

CONCLUSION

Some would suggest the Common Sense items listed above are naive concepts; that business doesn’t work this way. They are probably right, but then again, this is what makes “Dilbert” so funny. We all look for Common Sense in the work place, but are no longer surprised when things go awry. Consequently, these Common Sense items are considered “Uncommon” in today’s world.

I’ll close with one final Common Sense maxim admonished by my grandmother years ago which I have always found to be true, “In every person’s life, you must eat at least one spoonful of dirt.”

First published: September 18, 2006. Updated 2019.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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HEIGH HO, HEIGH HO, IT’S BACK TO WORK WE GO

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 3, 2019

BRYCE ON THE NEW YEAR

– Now is the time for management to stimulate the work force.

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Okay, the holidays are over, our friends and relatives should have returned home, the retailers had their way with us, we’re back in debt, the holiday decorations should have been stored away for another year, and a sense of normalcy should be returning. The holidays strangely reminds me of the Bataan Death March where we are forced to go through a perilous ordeal against our will. We’re worn out by the celebrations, large or small, gained weight, and live in a constant state of fear over our January credit card statements. Whereas the Death March was a one time event, the holidays come every year and we voluntarily subject ourselves to this torture over and over again.

Nonetheless, it’s a new year, and time to go back to work. January is when we reset the statistics, brace for a new year, and try to prove ourselves once again.

Some people have trouble getting back into the swing of work after the holidays; they’ve probably slept too much, partied too much, and ate way too much, which explains the five-to-eight pounds they’ve put on. This is why dieting and temperance are among the top New Year’s resolutions. Regardless, they are having trouble focusing on their work.

People tend to believe December is the worst month for productivity. Hardly. In addition to general retail, December is when companies try to finish spending the money in their corporate budgets thereby initiating a flurry of activity. Companies would much rather spend money on technology, office furniture, construction, or their employees as opposed to giving it to the government. Instead, January is more difficult as managers have to encourage lethargic employees back to work. The cold weather doesn’t help either.

Now is the time for some imaginative management techniques to motivate the work force. Basically, I’m suggesting some changes to the corporate culture. Physically, you might want to consider a new coat of paint, changes in lighting, some aromatic plants or flowers, new uniforms, new screen savers, a cleanup of office files and furniture, some changes in music, or perhaps something different to eat in the corporate cafeteria. In other words, consider changes affecting the five senses of the workers. It doesn’t have to be lavish either, just something subtle the employees will notice and appreciate.

You may also want to rethink meetings, including when they are conducted, location, and format. For example, instead of a boardroom setup, how about a u-shaped set of tables allowing the manager to easily move about? A change of dress code may also be wise; if you’ve been too lax and sloppy, perhaps it is time to become a little more formal. If you’ve been too formal, perhaps it is time to loosen things up. Believe me, employees notice and respond.

It shouldn’t be the manager’s objective to make radical changes in work habits. Such changes will be resisted regardless of the time of year. Instead, small changes will be noticed by employees who will see them in a positive light, that management appreciates them and is willing to invest in them. “Hmm…, a New Year, some new changes… I like it.”

Your objective is to demonstrate you are investing in your people, and not taking them for granted. Whatever the twist may be, January is the time for management to try it. In all likelihood, it will capture the attention of the work force and help reinvigorate them for the new year.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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GOODBYE SEARS, FAREWELL OLD FRIEND

Posted by Tim Bryce on October 25, 2018

BRYCE ON LIFE

– We’re going to miss you.

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No doubt you have heard about Sears recently filing for bankruptcy. The one-time retail giant has been facing crippling losses over the last few years which caused vendors to stop shipping supplies to their stores. It now owes billions of dollars which will likely not be paid back.

At one time there were over 4,000 Sears stores throughout North America. That number has dwindled to less than 700 with liquidation sales to begin shortly.

Sears originally started out as a mail order house, then expanded to stores both in urban and suburban areas, but they eventually felt the competition of discount retailers and specialty stores, such as Walmart and Home Depot, and their market share fell. The knockout punch was the Internet, an area they entered too late allowing others to dominate the market.

To me, it seemed like Sears was with us forever. No matter where I lived, there was always a Sears store nearby. It was dependable, consistent, and good value. It was also clean and meticulously organized, making it easy to find whatever you were looking for. If you couldn’t find it, the clerks would be glad to direct you to it and answer any question you might have. As such, the store was like an old, reliable uncle or friend in the neighborhood. You were comfortable in it and, unlike other stores with unthinking clerks, you liked to visit if, for no other reason, than to browse the aisles. This is why I consider this news about the company closing as a sad sign of our changing culture.

As a kid, my brother and I would love to page through the Sears catalog as we approached Christmas time, oohing and ah-hing at the latest toys, and dogear the pages we wanted our parents to see.

Sears was the home of Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, and DieHard batteries, products you always had confidence in. A Craftsman tool case was perhaps the most coveted prize to have in your garage. My family bought many a lawn mower at Sears over the years, and had them serviced there as well. Their hallmark was fast, reliable, and dependable service.

The Sears auto repair centers also had a good reputation for reliable work at reasonable prices. If the service man said you needed a new belt on your engine, you knew it wasn’t a con job. Nearby was their key center where you could have a duplicate key made quickly. As a lad, I loved watching the people make keys.

Having lived in Chicago, we were all familiar with the Sears Tower which, at the time was the tallest building in the world. It was a dramatic symbol of stability and strength for the company. Chicagoans would later be shocked when it was sold and renamed the Willis Tower, but even today, natives still refer to it by its original name.

This is why the passing of Sears is so troubling and unimaginable to a lot of us. It was a beloved institution which was trusted, possessed a great reputation and was a pleasure to frequent. We were so confident in its durability that it causes us to reflect on our own frailties. Maybe the problem was they simply overextended themselves and no longer could compete with the discount houses anymore. I find it rather ironic that Sears, which was originally devised as a mail order house, fell prey to the 21st century version of the same; you know, the Internet.

And so we turn another page in our culture.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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WHO REALLY ASSUMES RISK?

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 25, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– The employee or the employer?

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“The amount of risk we assume is proportional to the responsibilities we accept.” – Bryce’s Law

Not long ago I was meeting with some software developers from a small company who expressed their concern about the risk involved with a project they were working on. They weren’t so much concerned about the viability of the project in terms of its impact on the company as they were with the potential effect it might have on their professional careers. In other words, they saw this as a high risk project that could affect them for years to come. This may be true, but from their description I saw their risk as minuscule in comparison to what their employer was gambling which, frankly, was the company’s future.

This got me thinking about how we perceive risk in our professional lives. Most employees perceive risk in terms of how it affects them professionally, particularly as a source of income. In reality, it is the employer who assumes all of the risk. If something goes wrong, it will be the employer who will be sued, not the employee. It will be the employer who has to deal with government regulators and creditors, not the employee, It will be the employer who loses financially and faces bankruptcy, not the employee. In fact, most employees do not appreciate the risk required to simply open the company’s doors for business. Their life is rather simple as compared to the business owner who agonizes over the company’s survival.

Risk is not for everyone, it is for those entrepreneurial spirits who are not afraid of taking a gamble; who recognizes both the risks and rewards for taking it. True risk requires a “Type A” personality (which we have discussed in the past) who knows how to study variables, calculate odds and return on investment, and is willing to assume the responsibility for taking it. It is most definitely not for the faint of heart.

This brings up a point: The degree of risk increases the higher you go in the corporate hierarchy. Whether you are cognizant of it or not, as you assume additional responsibilities in a company, through a promotion for example, you are also being saddled with additional risks, and your success depends on your ability to assume the risks and conquer them. Some people rise to the occasion, others face the Peter Principle whereby they cannot rise above their level of competency. Nevertheless, true risk is assumed by the highest echelons in the corporate structure, regardless of the size of business. And it is this sense of risk that greatly influences our style of management.

We should also understand the difference between taking a risk and being rash in judgment. The two are not synonymous. I always exemplify it by using a game of Craps as found in a casino; the rash person simply throws his wager on the table without thinking, but the person who studies the game and knows the odds before he places a bet is the one taking the calculated risk. The higher you go up in business, the more you appreciate the need for studying the odds.

As any business owner will tell you, employees really do not grasp the concept of risk. I think the following quote pretty much sums it up:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails Daring Greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
– President Theodore Roosevelt

First published: December 7, 2007

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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