Archive for March, 2005

Older workers a resource–and a challenge

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

Sadly, many younger people who don’t have a good relationship with at least one older person who has a lively intellect, who’s current with technology and who is always–just like them–learning something new, are prejudiced against hiring older workers. Listen to this:

“The first of the nation’s 76 million baby boomers will turn 60 next year. By 2010, nearly one in every three workers will be at least 50, and the pool of replacement workers won’t be large enough to fill their shoes when they retire, according to AARP.”

Could be that those younger managers may have to develop new ways of dealing with older workers–who have not only substantial knowledge and the wisdom of experience, but may also have a hard time taking orders from a younger person.

The AARP has stepped up with a plan, and a number of companies (including a few job placement agencies) have said yes, they will consider 50+ workers. AARP has signed them on to its new website designed specifically to link older workers with jobs. Word is that a number of companies applied but were turned down–no indication of why was given–but AARP plans to add more very quickly.

Most interesting point: Home Depot is a popular spot for older workers because it gives health benefits even to part-time people. I’ve always wondered why so many of the staff at Home Depot seemed so nice and friendly. That’s a first-class way to treat people, Home Depot, older, part-time, green-colored or whatever.

Are bloggers journalists?

Friday, March 11th, 2005

Well, well. Have we come a long way, or what? Now the courts are adjudicating whether a blogger who allegedly revealed company secrets can be afforded the same protections as a mainstream journalist. We’re talking Apple Computer, the White House, and the Harvard ‘Old Boy Network’ in on the act.

This, I submit to you, is validation of the highest order. Or, it will be when the judge decides that yes, bloggers are indeed practicing journalism. Apple sues blogger Incidentally, to further roil the waters, the young man being sued just got promoted to a position as a White House correspondent.

There will be lessons to be learned on many levels from this struggle. Keep your eyes and ears open.

The big guns get into wi-fi

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Cisco is about as big a gun as it gets. And recently they decided to add wi-fi capabilities to their routers and switch products. Could there by any greater blessing to a new technology than the giants incorporating it?

Gotta love this. Cisco was losing accounts to a company called Airespace (they had better software) for adding wi-fi to its high-end switches. But now Cisco’s acquired the company…there’s certainly more than one way to beat the competition.

Well, it’s good to know the big guns are adding wireless excitement to an ever greater array of corporate technologies. What that means for us average guys on the street is that we’re going to have more and more wireless capabilities. Check this out on the “future of wireless.”

SOX compliance killing small businesses?

Friday, March 4th, 2005

Didn’t know they’d made up this catchy acronym for Sarbanes-Oxley–henceforth we will call it SOX. Anyway, this set of rules for keeping businesses honest is costing small public businesses BIG. One guy reports spending 12% of his pre-tax profits–collective total spending by public companies is estimated at $1.2 billion–to comply. …and we small entrepreneurs thought self-employment tax was bad.

CIO Insight says a panel has gathered to decide 1) what qualifies a business as “small” ($200 vs. $700 million revenue), and 2) what can be done to keep the cost of SOX from destroying their competitiveness.

Hope not too many businesses had to pay their way into oblivion to evoke this corrective measure.

Corporation execs tackle ethics–as do government officials

Friday, March 4th, 2005

Here we go again, Chicago. When I was growing up on its northwest side, Mayor Richard J. Daley ruled thecity with an iron hand, thumb, fingers, arm and every other appendage you can use to control things. Over the years evidence accumulated that Mayor Daley had questionable connections…

But damn, the city worked. You didn’t, for example, find highway workers mucking up the rush hours with construction messes. They did a lot of their work in the dark–you’d pass by them at 10, 12, 1 at night, digging and pouring and all-that-stuff-that-highway-construction-folks-do, their worksites shining with powerful lights, so people could get to work in the daytime with the least hassle.

Now Daley’s son, Richard M. Daley (like the elder Bush, he wanted a namesake but didn’t want to stick him with the “junior” tag) is up to the same tricks as dad. The Economist writes:

Federal investigators looking into Chicago’s hired-truck and affirmative-action programmes are moving the probes ever closer to Mayor Richard Daley’s inner circle. Gary Shapiro, the Assistant US Attorney in charge of the investigation, said that corruption in the hired-truck programme was endemic: former city officials have been charged with extracting more than $200,000 in bribes, gifts and political donations from firms hoping to keep city contracts. A plumbing company owned by a sister of Victor Reyes, a mayoral aide, was found to have worked on a construction project at O’Hare Airport, a tie that has raised eyebrows. This scandal surfaced less than a week after James Duff, a contractor and major supporter of Mr Daley, pleaded guilty to defrauding the city after falsely claiming the business was female-owned in order to win more contracts. Jesse Jackson, Jr, a Chicago congressman who is usually a staunch supporter of Mr Daley, has blasted the mayor.

Well, I wonder how many big-city mayors don’t get caught up in this kind of thing? “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (attribiuted variously). If you’ve ever been in a position of power, you know how relentless the assaults can be–compromise can quietly and easily slip from meaning a sensible solution for both sides of a difficult issue, to being the sad condition in which you find your principles.

What’s the answer? Life’s a balancing act anyway. Maybe the answer is just that that’s life, and our challenge is to negotiate it with grace and good will.

Highway travel expensive as flying?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

I used to market for a high-flying company that makes software for, believe it or not, over-the-road trucking companies. I think they might even have developed a package for less-than-truckload (LTL) by this time (LTL just means their trucks pick up at a bunch of locations and drop off at a bunch of stops–kind of like UPS but over longer distances).

Anyway, some senator is introducing a bill to allow states to put tolls on the interstate highways that you and/or your salespeople have to travel to get to your customers. I’m not sure what the bill is intended to accomplish (other than collect more revenue for the states–which I have no doubt they need), but let me tell you, from my experience with the trucking business, those truckers are already paying through the nose to get our goods delivered. Tolls, taxes, assessments by weight, etc., etc. Did you know that everything you eat, wear, sit on or build with has been on a truck at some time in its life?

These endless expenses are why this software company, TMW Systems, is so successful–trucking companies these days (it was different before deregulation) measure their profits in tiny fractions of a percent per mile. Every penny they can save helps keep another company in business, and good software helps them save lots of pennies.

So read this if you’re interested. It might not make complete sense at first (I understand that business pretty well and it took me a while–maybe they need a reallygoodfreelancewriter to do their press releases) Truckline: Legislative Affairs You can even send a letter to your congressperson at this site to protest the proposed tolls.

And I don’t know about you but, even though I don’t send salespeople out on the interstates constantly, I sure don’t want to be spending any more in tolls when I drive to visit friends and relatives and enjoy a vacation. It already costs nearly as much to drive to Chicago from Cleveland as it does to take a plane.

Come on. Something’s wrong with that picture.

RFID for in vitro eggs, sperm and embryos

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Never thought barcodes would get into this arena. Apparently a UK couple finally conceived a child by in vitro fertilization (IVF)–but the child turned out to be of mixed race while they were both Caucasian.

Employees at IVF clinics are just as likely as any worker to make a mistake–except the consequences of mixing genetic material can be much weightier. The solution may be to apply electronic tags, a la RFID, that set off an alarm if the wrong eggs and sperm are brought too close together.

Now all they have to worry about is whether the low-frequency waves might hurt the eggs or sperm–and/or whether the electronic alarm that’s loud enough to alert a possibly sleepy employee might cause undue harm to the genetic material–or just plain scare the bejeepers out of the embryos.

While you’re at it, check out some other uses for RFID on a blog published by Cleveland-area business executive Anita Campbell.

Inflation on the way–for large and small businesses

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

It’s coming. Prices are pushing up. Like crocuses determined to break through the late-winter snow, they will have their way.

“Take Eaton Corp., a diversified manufacturer headquartered in Cleveland,” a Business Week story says. “Last year, its outlays on steel and other metals jumped by $140 million. The company was able to offset only about half of that through other cost cuts and some price increases and had to take the rest out of profits. It doesn’t intend to do that again this year. With others making similar moves, government data show that prices of semifinished goods, even excluding energy and food, jumped sharply in January, and their yearly inflation rate is now 8.5%, the highest since the early 1980s.”

Whether your numbers are floating in the hundreds of millions range or hanging out in a somewhat lower one, you’re going to have to decide how you’ll handle higher prices. Where will you cut costs? Most likely not in health care benefits–a touchy enough subject already. No bonuses. No raises. Can you cut your staff any further?

These are the times that cry out for consorting with our deepest sources of creativity. Love to hear your ideas. Email ‘em here.