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Archive for January 2012

One Less Problem Makes The World A Better Place?

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Dry hands in about 10 seconds

What you see above is the answer to a simple problem that took decades to solve – the XLERATOR XL-SB.  Now, there is one less problem in this world.  Isn’t that wonderful?  It seems we always are hearing about new problems that have arisen in this world.  Whether it is a European sovereign debt crisis, identity theft or a variety of malicious cyber attacks the new issues seem to grow daily.  We never seem to hear about things we no longer have to worry about.

Please allow me to share my joy with you and let you join me in a celebratory dance as we forever put to bed the aggravation of the poorly designed and long despised public restroom hand dryer.  I feel so good about the demise of those awful wastes of metal.  Not only did they replace and improve the product, the replacement is an absolute home run.  These new hand dryers work wonderfully well and the only question I have is; what took so long?  Was it really so hard to put a turbo on the motors of these things?  We put a man on the moon over 40 years ago but it took until recently to get a decent hand dryer that actually dries your hands in about ten seconds.  The improvement over the former standard is completely unparalleled.  The only thing I can compare it to is when Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927 when the entire league only hit 425!

What other things do I want to go the way of the old, low powered hand dryer?  Below is a list of things that I want the people who solved the hand dryer problem to get working on pronto:

  • Good cell phone reception.  I constantly drop calls in the Atlanta suburbs that I frequent.  If I can’t good reception there then where can I?  I have literally been in the shadow of a cell tower cluster and have dropped calls.
  • Ala carte cable Television.   The technology exists to do it, let’s make it happen.
  • Better climate control at hotel/conference and similar facilities.  Why do I have to wear a sweater in the middle of summer when I go to one of these things?  The same goes for movie theatres.
  • An easy option to skip the outgoing message on cell phone voicemail.  I takes 47 seconds for me to listen my wife’s message and the standard message by the cell phone company.  I spend almost as much time using my cell phone as I do repeatedly listening to that stupid 47 second message. Why do I have to search extensively through the manual and internet to find out how to skip the outgoing message?
  • Hmmm, so far 2 items are related to cell phones.    While I am at it, how about a speaker in the earpiece of my cell phone that is loud enough for me to hear soft-spoken people?
  • Photoelectric eyes that work all the time, without fail, without delay or re-trying.  These failures of technology are mostly found in public restrooms so I guess we solve one problem and get a new one.  I spend almost as much time trying to get these things to work as I do listening to that 47 second outgoing message on my wife’s cell phone!  I saw a study that cited attempting to get one these things to work as the second worst time waster in the workplace after Facebook. Let me make a preemptive statement to defend myself.  I really do not spend that much time in public restrooms.
  • How about a side view mirror for your car that shows objects to be as close as they appear rather than being closer than they appear?   In my opinion, when they made the mirror that shows objects closer than they appear it just added more confusion in this age of technology overload.  When I look in the mirror I don’t want to re-calibrate what my eyes see because spending that extra amount of time might make me look at the mirror too long and I will run into the guy in front of me.  So how did this really help anything?  I don’t remember the old mirrors being a problem.  Why don’t they put this trickery to good use and make a scale with this warning: “objects on the scale are heavier than the display shows”?  I would much rather appear be 10 pounds lighter when I step on the scale.  Deceptive and possibly dangerous you say?  Well, it is just as dangerous as having a mirror from the fun house for my car’s side view mirror.

I guess that is enough ranting about the wonderful world of failed technology.  This was supposed to be a celebration of a technological triumph.  I am going to start my celebration dance now, have a great week knowing you can have dry hands in 10 seconds or less.

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Written by pacelinebiz

January 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

What Is Your Most Valuable Business Asset?

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Is this your most valuable asset?

How will you answer that question?  Is it your computer system capabilities?  Perhaps, you have manufacturing equipment that is valuable.  Maybe it is a delivery vehicle, bulldozer or dump truck.  You might say how you answer that question depends on the business you are in.  I say you might be wrong.  None of those responses consider human capital, your employees.

Over the past several years the economy has been terrible but you have probably maintained your equipment and machinery to keep it running properly.  What have you done for your employees?  Are your treating them as an asset or as a liability?  The “problem” with employees is they have feelings and are just as easily affected by neglect or abuse.   What can you do to keep them happy and working at top speed? 

First of all, money is not everything.  So I am not necessarily saying to give out raises when the times are tough.  Many studies have shown that money is usually not the number one priority for workers.  What you can do is treat them with respect and be up front with them about prospects for wage increases.  My recommendation is to lead by example and show that the belt-tightening is affecting you as an owner too.  This means you should not be having extravagant expenses such as getting a new company car or a plush remodeling of your office. 

Below is a list of some small things that can go a long way to help morale:

  • Recognize employees by “catching” them doing something right
  • Be accessible to employees don’t hide from them with a bunker mentality
  • Be a leader and keep positive. They should take the cue from you and the positive tone at the top will spread through the company.  You must be authentic because if you are phony it is easy to see and will work in the opposite direction of what you want.
  • Relax the dress code if appropriate or offer some flex time or establish a telecommuting policy if applicable.  That will save you some overhead and they will save time and gas money even if only for one day a week. 
  • If possible, you can give an early quit day once in a while.  An hour early on a nice Friday afternoon goes a long way and really doesn’t cost much.
  • Buy donuts or bring in pizza for lunch if possible.
  • Find creative ways to keep the mood light and positive, ask for suggestions.

By the way, all of the above can and should be done during good times as well as the bad.  It doesn’t cost much to be nice.  If you have a happy workforce it will pay dividends through better productivity and happier customers.  Good luck, I encourage you to take a step to keep your most valuable asset running at top speed.

Have a great week applying the soft skills of managing your employees.

Written by pacelinebiz

January 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

Things I Want To Stay In 2011

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Stay in 2011, please

In no particular order here is my list:

  • My stupid mistakes, other people’s stupid mistakes – forgive and forget!
  • The lousy economy
  • The European sovereign debt crisis – but can our politicians take a look at what we are heading towards here in the good old USA?
  • Billionaires and Millionaires fighting over how to spend their customer’s revenues – DO YOU HEAR ME NFL AND NBA?
  • The NFL and the NBA
  • 10 year $260 million dollar contracts
  • Performance enhancing drugs, steroids and the cheating cheaters that use them
  • Data plans for cell phones that cost $30 per month.  I thought the price of technology went down over time?
  • Gutless politicians from both sides of the aisle
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes and floods
  • The BCS and NCAA hypocrisy
  • Lack of leadership in all areas
  • Hollywood movies.  How about making something that I want to watch that isn’t a sequel or a remake.
  • $9 movie tickets
  • Chocolate, without you I would not have a problem keeping the weight off
  • “LOL”,” JK”, “UR”, “U” and any texting terminology creeping into non-texting use.

Many phrases such as:

  • “The New Normal”
  • “At the end of the day” – can we please stop using this? I was tired of it 7 years ago.
  • “Really?”  This phrase apparently applies to anything but it has run its course.

Have a great week and say goodbye to the silly things of 2011.

Written by pacelinebiz

January 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

Business Lessons From… A Street Vendor

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Come and get it!

I had the opportunity over the holidays to watch my Alma Mater play a basketball game on ESPN. Despite the foul mood I was in due to the defeat handed to them by a team that had not beaten a ranked opponent since the 1970’s, I began to reflect on my old school and on things I liked about it.  The first thing that came to mind was Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop located at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street.

This blog, however; is not about The University of Pittsburgh or The Original Hot Dog Shop.  It is about business lessons we can learn from the old-fashioned street vendor. 

Street vendors typically have a loyal following and a long history.  In a commercial airing recently, Pink’s, a famous hot dog place in Hollywood explained how they started as a street vendor over 70 years ago and built their business into a famous restaurant serving their dogs to everyone from the Hollywood stars to the common folk.  What can we learn from these street vendors?  How do they survive in such a competitive market with typically no advertising?   Here are a few reasons:

1)      Location, location, location.  Even if you are not a retail establishment you can learn something about this.  I have mentioned this before.  How convenient is it to do business with you?  Do you have a website for online orders and purchasing?  Do you accept credit cards?   Are your hours adequate and are you open when your customers need you?  Take time at the beginning of the year to look at you from your customer’s viewpoint and adjust where needed.

2)      Word of mouth advertising.   This is often described the best form of advertising and can also be called referral business.  Is your business getting enough word of mouth referrals?  If not, why not?  Is it because you aren’t that good?  Take an honest look at your business and step up your game if you aren’t meeting expectations.

3)      A quirky intangible.  Many street vendors have something about them that makes going to them special.  Maybe it is the owner’s personality, the ordering procedure or something else.  Find a way to get that “thing” that sets you apart from everyone else.  If you are a small company the best way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to make the difference YOU!  No one can sell yourself better than you and no one can be you.  I can thank my friend Mark Zangari for this one as he tells me this all the time and he is right.  I highly recommend him.  How’s that for word of mouth advertising.  Check out his website here.

Have a great week applying lessons from our friends the street vendors.  I am going to get a Hot Dog, I am hungry…

The 30 Year Old College Dorm Refrigerator

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Old reliable

(I have to thank my brother for suggesting this blog topic.)  Back in 1981 I bought a refrigerator for my dorm room; it cost $99 from Sears.  That same size refrigerator today is now $49.  In today’s dollars that $99 purchase in 1981 is equal to $251 after adjusting for inflation.  I don’t know what to think about that but I guess we can thank cheap labor in China for the decrease in price over time.  To run your own calculation for inflation adjusted prices click here.

After my first year of living in on campus housing, I moved to apartment living and I gave that refrigerator to my brother to use at his business.  It is still there and working to this day!  Incidentally, so is my brother’s business but that is probably a topic for another day.  That got me thinking about things that I have replaced over those 30+ years.  In that time span, I have had 8 cars, 8 watches, 4 computers (starting in 1992) and 12 addresses in 3 states.   In that same time we have had 5 U.S. Presidents, 4 Economic recessions, 3 NFL commissioners, 2 Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and 1 appearance by Halley’s comet. 

Even though the $99 price tag was a good bit of money in its day, I guess you could say it was a worthwhile purchase.  I checked with my brother to see if he could tell where that refrigerator was made and the only thing that he saw was a sticker that gave the vital statistics but no official information about where it was made.   I wonder if the $49 dorm room refrigerator made today will last for over 30 years.  My guess is no, it won’t. 

Have great week.

Written by pacelinebiz

January 2, 2012 at 10:32 am