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Archive for February 2014

What We Did At Work After The Computer

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Technology Can Be Your Friend

Technology Can Be Your Friend

One of my most popular blogs was a non business topic I published on June 27, 2011.  It was entitled What We Did For Fun Before The Computer.  Today I am going to talk about changes in communication technology brought about by computers.  With changes comes new expectations and a new standard of acceptable use must be adopted.  This usually takes place informally over a period of time and the standard can vary by company culture of within an industry.

Before the desktop computer became commonplace, business communication was mostly done via the telephone, the post office or perhaps a cross-town messenger service.  This type of communication was standard for decades.  A big change to this that I experienced first-hand in the mid 1980’s was the fax machine. 

Once a computer was on every desk, email services revolutionized the pace of communication.  Now we have instant messaging, text messaging, cell phones, twitter and so on.  E-mail is on the decline and so is the use of the land line phone.  I know some people who no longer bother to listen to their voice mail.  How do we deal with the changes and what are the rules? Am I expected to respond to a voice mail on my cell phone over the weekend and what about the text message from my boss or client during the week at 9 PM?  Technology which can make work easier can also lead to expectations of immediate responses and 24 hour availability.

What are we supposed to do?  My suggestion is that if there is not already a policy for what to expect when communicating at your business (internally and externally) I suggest you develop one.  It must be communicated to all concerned parties (internally and externally).  It should balance customer service with marketplace expectations and also respect traditional non-business hours. Once people are aware of what to expect from your policy and it is reasonable, most will be able to manage without excess stress.  Without “boundaries” created by your policy it leads to a wild west, anything goes environment which is not good.  To some people, a non-response to a late night call or text message may be insulting because they are assuming that you communicate the way they do and they would respond right away. 

I am a big believer in providing responsive customer service but I urge you to develop a communication policy for current and future technology that will satisfy your customers that will have both of you in a “happy place”.  The first step is to develop those boundaries.

Have a great week letting computers and technology work for you, not the other way around.

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Written by pacelinebiz

February 24, 2014 at 8:01 am

14 Predictions For ‘14

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Irrelevant Picture But No One Is Paying Attention

Irrelevant Picture But No One Is Paying Attention!

At the publishing date of this blog post, we are more than halfway through February and the newness of year is beginning to fade.  Before the year gets any further along I thought I better give my fearless predictions for 2014. 

  1. On Saturday 12/13/14 nothing special will happen.
  2. Some new craze will sweep the nation and I will miss out yet manage to survive to blog another day.
  3. Certain pop singers will flame out and will spend the next decade going through rehab and making failed comebacks to squeeze out the remaining seconds of their 15 minutes of fame.  For past examples see: Lohan, L, and Spears, B.
  4. At some point during the year I will complain about the amount of rain, wind or lack of sun.  Undoubtedly, I will complain about all 3 in one day.
  5. Baseball season will be great!
  6. I will look up at the sky on a sunny day and it will make me happy.  It will cross my mind why it does; but only briefly.  
  7. Global warming will get worse unless it gets better or it will be called “climate change” which makes so much more sense.  See also: myopia
  8. I will order a hamburger and secretly wish I could get it with mayo, bacon and cheddar cheese.   The hamburger I will eat will come with mustard, ketchup, pickles, tomato and lettuce.
  9. Jimmy Sad Eyes will be a subject of a future blog topic.
  10. Cats and dogs will continue to harbor ill will towards one another. 
  11. I will think I am losing it and I will think I still have it – sometimes almost simultaneously. I will laugh at myself and it will make me happy.  You should not take yourself too seriously.  I will take myself too seriously.
  12. An event will happen and it will be sensationalized in the media.  Yes, I am going out on a limb with that one.
  13. The formula for the best selling soft drink in the world will be changed to taste more like the second best selling soft drink.  You might say that makes no sense whatsoever and I would agree with you but if this were 1985 and I was talking about Coke I would be spot on.  They really did that; and almost 30 years later it still baffles me.
  14. “At the end of the day”; overused words or phrases will continue to be used.

Have a great week and a great 2014.

Written by pacelinebiz

February 17, 2014 at 8:01 am

The Story Of Mordecai And Ebenezer

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Mordecai and the horseless carriage

Mordecai and the horseless carriage

This is the story* of the buggy whip industry.  There was a time when it was really lousy to be a buggy whip company.  The first buggy whip company, BW Co., had a difficult time finding enough customers to use their product and they spent a lot of money and time developing a good buggy whip that the consumer would want.   Eventually BW Co. figured out how to make a good buggy whip and the number of buggies in the world was increasing every year. This offset the few competitors that were coming into the buggy whip market and thus BW Co. business was good.

Over the years the market became increasingly crowded with a lot of competitors and the advantage BW Co. had in the buggy whip making process was eliminated and it became a rather easy product to make. Actually, over the many years of buggy whip making it had become a commodity- if you saw one buggy whip you saw them all.  This fact saddened BW Co. and business was not so good.

One day BW Co.’s owner, Mordecai Wentworth, saw a very curious thing and it made him sad.  Mordecai was a very smart man and the “horseless carriage” was the cause of his sadness.  Since Mordecai was so bright he knew he had few options.  He thought to himself; “my business is in danger of becoming obsolete.  No matter how good I make my buggy whips, it won’t matter if these horseless carriages eliminate the horse and buggy as a popular mode of transportation.  I need to act upon this information and quickly.”  He went home that night and had a very restless night of sleep.  Business was bad again.

Ebenezer McNulty the owner of EM co. and the largest rival of BW Co. was not a very bright man and was largely successful due to an inheritance.  He also saw the horseless carriage but doubted it would be popular any time soon and was too busy improving his buggy whip making process to devote much time to this oddity.  Ebenezer thought to himself; “I am well positioned in the buggy whip business and a market leader, I will improve my buggy whip and beat the competition.  Business is good.”  Ebenezer went to bed that night and slept well, dreaming of his buggy whip empire.

As the years rolled on, Mordecai invested no money in his buggy whip business and took all his buggy whip profits and spent them on a new process he called tire making.  Mordecai said; “Someday there might be as many as 1,000 of these horseless carriages made every year and they will need 4 tires each.  4,000 tires is a lot of tires and I want to make all of them if I can”.  Mordecai then thought to himself; “business is not good but it will be getting better someday soon.”  Across town Ebenezer was delighted at the margins he was making on his buggy whips and was happy to see that he was gaining share as smaller buggy whip makers left the business.  Someday soon I will own the entire market once I put BW Co. out of business. 

A few more years passed and Ebenezer achieved his goal. As he said it, “I put Mordecai and those hill-jacks at BW Co. out of business.  I am the king of the world!”  Business was fantastic and then 4 months later he went out of business.  Meanwhile BW Co had changed their named to BW Tire Co and was a major player in the tire business for years to come.  Eventually they made a little more than 1,000 of those horseless carriages a year.  In fact, multinational companies now make about 15 million more of them every year in North America.  That is 60 million tires in case you are counting.

The moral of the story is to be aware of dangers to your business.  Don’t be one of the complacent buggy whip companies that went out of business.  If you see a threat to your business take the profits you are making and look for a place to invest them for the future like Mordecai. 

Many factors play into the threats you may face but technology has the ability to cause quick disruptions in the way we do business. Just look at the list below of businesses that are struggling due to changes brought on by the internet and digital technology revolution:

  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Television broadcast networks
  • Traditional advertising
  • The popular music Industry
  • Brick and mortar retail businesses

What changes will occur if the Unites States can safely extract all that oil and gas via horizontal fracturing?  If you can stay ahead of the curve you will stay afloat.  I urge you to think like Mordecai and not like Ebenezer. 

Have a great week.

*Disclaimer – Yes, this is a story to prove a point and any similarities to persons, companies or an event is purely coincidental.  No animals were hurt during the writing of this cautionary tale, although I did have a chicken sandwich for lunch.

Written by pacelinebiz

February 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

2014 Winter Olympics And A Forgotten Hero

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Eric Heiden Won 5 of These in 1980

Eric Heiden Won 5 of These in 1980

The 2014 Winter Olympics begin on February 7th and end on the 23rd.  It is hard to believe it has been 4 years already since the last Olympics.  If you recall, that was the 30 year anniversary of the miracle on ice. When I began writing today’s topic, I thought I would take a look at the progress athletes had made over the years in getting faster at some events. I decided to look at speed skating and cross-country skiing.  Even though the events are a set distance they are held outdoors and are subject to weather conditions which can affect the speed and thus the time to complete.  I have two races listed at the end; men’s 15 Km cross-country skiing and men’s 10,000 meter speed skating.

As I was doing research for this topic I realized that there is another story that needs a mention.  One that gets forgotten since it happened at the same Olympics as the “miracle on ice”.  That hockey victory over the USSR was very dramatic but many people forget that it was not the gold medal game.  The unforgotten story of the 1980 Winter Olympics was that of speed skater Eric Heiden.

What he did in that Olympics was never done before and has never been done again.  He won all 5 Gold medals in the speed skating events.  He won them in grand fashion by setting 4 Olympic and 1 World record while winning his events.  That is not the most impressive thing about his success in that Olympic competition. His most amazing feat was that he won at all distances, sprints and long-distance events.  His events were; the 500, 1000, 1500, 5000 and 10,000 meter and he swept them all! 

Heiden went on to a career in bicycle racing winning the US professional cycling championship and competing in the Tour De France.   He was named by ESPN as the 46th best athlete of the 20th Century  in 1999.  After his bicycle racing career he graduated from Stanford with an M.D in 1991.

Faster, Better, Stronger

Faster, Better, Stronger

Have a great week and enjoy the Olympics.