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Archive for January 2013

Finding Good Employees

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They All Look Good to Me

They All Look Good to Me

About a year ago I asked the question; “What is your most valuable business asset?”  In that message, I suggested taking care of your employees and offered several inexpensive suggestions to keep them happy in hope of retaining them.  Today I ask the question; “How do you find them in the first place?”  I have managed an accounting department and have hired people and will tell you it is difficult to find good employees.   In my current role as a consultant to small businesses I see employees from an outsider’s perspective and can say that an employee problem can be devastating to the productivity and to the morale of an entire company.  A small business cannot afford the drag that a bad employee can cause.  From my experience in a large company, I can attest that even larger companies are stymied by a bad employee.   That is why I believe it is so important to treat them right once you find a good one. 

When hiring an employee you need to take it seriously as the chances are they will be with you for a relatively long time.  The average tenure at a job in the U.S. is about 4.5 years according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.   Read the BLS report here.  Unfortunately that is only several years shorter than most marriages.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau , the average marriage last about 8 years. (See page 18 of 24 of report)

How do you find a good employee?  I will offer a few suggestions that might not seem too rigorous but many companies do not bother with them.   Even if you follow these suggestions you cannot be guaranteed to find a winner.  To increase your odds, take the time and effort to do the following:

  • Do a background check, including a credit check
  • Check work references; be careful if any offer lukewarm responses
  • Before hiring; order a drug test
  • Use multiple people to do interviews and have a standard list of relevant questions
  • Ask questions to assess their ability to deal with uncomfortable situations such as “how did you handle this…”
  • Check them out on Social media sites
  • If you don’t have an HR professional, find a consultant to assist.  In the big picture the cost is minimal.

Many small businesses use a “seat of the pants” approach when hiring employees.  This is simply a bad idea.  I implore you to take hiring an employee seriously since there is so much at stake.  The amount of work you can get from a good employee is so much greater than a poor employee and is even greater when compounding the length of employment which can be many years.

Have a great week carefully adding valuable assets to your company.

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Written by pacelinebiz

January 28, 2013 at 7:46 am

Alertly Going Over The Hump

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Alert Level

I travel frequently on long distance trips and have discovered a strange relationship between the distance from my destination and my level of alertness.  There are some variables that can affect this such as the amount of sleep I had the night before, the number of hours before sunrise I began the trip, amount of coffee consumed during the trip and the need for a “comfort” break.  The amount of coffee consumed has a direct correlation with the need for comfort breaks but that can be discussed some other time.

The graph that can be seen above depicts the level of alertness and the distance from the destination.   There is an unexpected tendency to become more alert the closer you get to the destination but this only seems to begin after you have reached the midway point for your trip.  I suspect this is because at the half way point there is a feeling of having a tailwind since you have gone over the hump so to speak.  As you can see by the shape of the graph, the hump is quite readily apparent. 

I have simplified the graph for our discussion by eliminating spikes in the alertness level that can be attributed to the sudden unwelcomed appearance of a deer, waking up in a cornfield after going off the road while nodding off, the desperate need for a comfort break after guzzling coffee and the sudden urge to strangle the moronic caller from “Five Points” on the syndicated talk radio show.

I hope you can use this information to your advantage when planning your next long trip.  Have a great week, fully alert no matter where you are.

Written by pacelinebiz

January 21, 2013 at 8:27 am

Business Lessons From…Voting

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Lessons are found everywhere

Lessons are found everywhere

Over the last several years, I have written 25 topics with a tag or sub-category of Business Lessons. Many have a title that begins with “Business lessons from…”  I am pleased with this concept which I have stumbled upon.  Many are lessons learned which I have observed as they played out in front of me.    

Today, the lesson is to be aware of what you see and to keep that small business owner hat on at all times.  As you go about your day at work or after business hours, pay attention to what you like and dislike about your interactions with other businesses.  There is a good chance you may be doing some of the same things – both good and bad.  Keep and enhance the good and correct and improve the bad.

Let me leave you with an example of a lesson I learned while voting this past November.  I decided that I would participate in early voting this year to avoid the expected long lines on Election Day. As it turned out, this was a mistake because the lines for early voting were longer than on Election Day.  I waited for 90 minutes to vote.  As I waited, I was analyzing the process as is my nature. 

As I evaluated the situation, it became clear the problem was the election workers could not keep the voting machines full.  The line was very long and weaved its way to an initial set of tables that had the voting form that needed to be completed.  Once the form was completed you moved to another line to wait for a person who would enter your information into a computer and issue you a card to insert into the touch screen voting machine. To move things along much quicker they should have had clip boards with the forms to be given to people closest to the front of the line so that the first table of election workers would only review the forms for accuracy and move the voters along quicker to the second table.  By only doing a review of the already completed form, they could have diverted extra people to entering the data into the computers that issued the voting card.  There were times when only half of the 8 voting machines were being used while people waited to get their voting card.   We should have taken advantage of the waiting time to have our form already completed!  This was frustrating to me and many others.

The business lesson we need to learn from this is we are only as strong as the weakest link in our chain. Do I know exactly what the problem was with the voting process?  I probably do not know the entire problem.  There may be certain regulations or other information I may not know.  The idea is there was definitely a bottleneck the needed to be fixed – the weak link. What is your weak link?  Take some time in the coming weeks of this New Year and do an honest assessment of your business.  Is your weak link in processing new orders or is it in fulfilling them?  It doesn’t matter if you are filling a prescription or stamping out widgets in a manufacturing facility.    Can you imagine if that long line was full of customers trying to buy your product or service?  How long would you be in business if that was the case?

Have a good week eliminating the weak.  Your weak link, that is.

Written by pacelinebiz

January 14, 2013 at 8:45 am

Almond Joy? Not If You Ask The Coconut.

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I am a person too!

The Almond Joy candy bar was originally made by Peter Paul candy which was bought out by Hershey in the late 1970’s. It is the cousin of the Mounds bar the difference being the dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate and the 2 almonds found in the Almond Joy.  It was introduced in 1946 and the Mounds bar in 1920.  The two candies are usually linked together in advertising with the 1970’s era slogan of “sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t” continuing to this day.  The Almond Joy is a wonderful candy bar.  It is not my favorite but I have a very positive feeling about it.  Since I don’t have it very often I would probably choose it if given a choice between several of the famous names like Reese’s Peanut butter Cup, Snickers or Butterfinger.

Now that I have given you a brief history of the 2 candy bars and my opinion of it, let me begin grinding my axe.  Today, it finally occurred to me that this candy bar, the Almond Joy, is quite frankly poorly named.  It is not the Almond that should get top billing but the coconut.  I understand that the reason the Almond is emphasized is to differentiate itself from the Mounds bar but why not call it the Almound?  At least that would be a neat play on words and relate it to its older cousin.  I am outraged by the total and complete snubbing that the coconut gets from the maker of this wonderful snack. 

Have a great week and hug a coconut next time you see one, it probably wouldn’t mind the attention.

Written by pacelinebiz

January 7, 2013 at 9:05 am