Archive for December, 2005

CIOs winning awards for innovation

Friday, December 30th, 2005

It’s always good to look back over the year and recognize people who’ve done good work. CIO Insight does just that in How to Keep IT Up With a Rapidly Changing Business. The winners all stress different things: “collaboration/alignment,” “disaster recovery,” “selling in the streets as a new business model,” “accountability” and so on.

What’s your claim to fame for this year? What did you do right? What did you do to make your customers happier or your employees more empowered? Today take a few minutes, list the good stuff, pat yourself on the back, and then express your gratitude to all those who helped you get it done.

Have a peaceful New Year’s eve and a prosperous new year.

New: "Online resource for digital life"

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Marc Majercak (a web interface designer out at entrepreneurial online-insurance-quotes company Comparison Market in Solon) and several other Clevelanders recently created a blog that highlights ideas and new developments in technology as they relate to kids, teachers and parents–and by extension, the rest of us. It’s called LeadingHands.org and on one page, for example, lists resources you can use to help keep it clean and keep it safe when kids get on the Internet.

The blog is a great idea to help parents keep up with what their kids are seeing/doing/learning from the web and web-enabled technologies. And supplying wisdom from business giants like Steve Jobs can only be inspirational.

Change is inescapable–and usually costs more

Monday, December 26th, 2005

USA Today, the Plain Dealer and half of the rest of the world have written about the fact that Ford is asking its retirees to help pay a slightly greater portion of the cost of their wonderful benefits. GM had already done so. Then the New York transit workers went haywire over the fact that that new workers were asked to contribute more than current workers to the pension fund.

And now the city of New York faces another outrageous financial burden. Under new accounting rules, their annual cost of supplying health care to retirees and familiies will quintuple, from around $900,000 to nearly $5 billion–for exactly the same benefits. (Insane? Yes. Read more.)

As the cost of living grows exponentially, city governments and businesses struggle to meet the new demands without passing too much of the burden on–to customers, workers, taxpayers. And while it’s natural for us human beings to resist change, to do so in the face of its happening everywhere else is ludicrous. No doubt, things ain’t what they used to be–and we can’t for long put our heads in the sand about who’s going to bear the costs.

But some areas are making real strides. Northeast Ohio, for example. Long painted as a place languishing in its own self-confessed provincialist attitudes and negativism, the city’s and region’s cries for change have echoed down empty corridors for decades. But things are changing.

Leaders of the region’s business and foundation worlds got together recently and called for a public forum of the people. Held a couple of months ago, the 900 people who attended Voices and Choices produced some creative thinking about helping success build on itself. Read more here.

Their answer is that everybody’s got to share the burden of the momentous changes they anticipate. Now it’s up to the people to choose to invest in the vision.

The press of business…and blogging

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

It’s easy to get bogged down, isn’t it? Been striding mightily on a couple of big projects and have neglected to blog for a while. But I couldn’t let the holidays go by without wishing everyone a beautiful, peaceful time these last few days of the year.

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect. A time, yes, to look at your revenue/expense ratios, but even more to think about whether you’re doing what you really want to do with your business.

Are you satisfied that you’re going in the right direction–so that you’ll be proud to describe your business career to your grandkids? You know, Bill Cosby once told the AARP magazine that he’d learned it was more important to spend your time with the people who will be there for you when the chips are down. You can look at your products and services the same way–if all the things you do consistently bring you not only revenue but personal satisfaction as well, you can’t go wrong. If you’ve got a cash cow that doesn’t make you feel very good, watch it closely. Sometimes those things have a way of outliving their profitability before you realize it.

And if you haven’t considered whether to start a corporate blog, now’s a good time to do so–these two Clevelanders just added another way to make it easier for you. Other easy programs include Blogger.com and WordPress. Need help with the writing or advice on what to cover? Call us or email.

The old standby wins

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

When it comes to kids, I’m nothing if not opinonated. Today I read that Little Tikes, the big, bright-colored, plastic toy manufacturer is of similar opinion about kids–and it’s meeting its revenue goals by sticking to the old (big indestructible plastic cars, stoves, etc.) instead of caving in to the new (technology-powered gadgets).

Great article in USA Today about how the company brought in a marketing guy to “turn the company upside down” and he refused to do it. Instead, he added a few lines of smaller toys (priced at $10 to $20)–which now make up 50% of LT’s sales–and added some items made of fabric and wood.

I love this: They want to keep making toys that kids will actually play with longer than the box they came in. Yeah, stuff that lasts for a really long time–and leaves the kid to use his/her imagination (unlike video games).

And like the great auto manufacturer Honda, they are winning by keeping it simple and making it last. Bravo and hear, hear, Little Tikes.

How to make a million more a year

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

When you’ve got a volume business, you can make your budget people happy with small changes. Take FedEx, for instance. Starting in January FedEx’s recently raised express rates (up 3.5%) are joined by jacked up ground rates (average 3.9%). I’m recalling the time not too many years ago when employees began to think of that as an acceptable percentage for a raise…

Found some interestingly different answers to a web search on “statistics FedEx”–FedEx reports its package load at 2.5 million and the Pittsburgh Technology Council rings in at 1.8 (1.5 of them ground).

Well, either way, at $.25 to $1.00 a package increase, we’re talkin’ a nice fat hit to the bottom line with an increase that won’t kill a small shipper, though it could begin to impact a major one. Oh, and look at the January, 2006 U.S. Post Office increase that starts in January–5.4% (letters to 39 cents and postcards to 24 cents). That’s a nice hit, too.

So, if you can think of a way to up the volume on your business without hurting the quality, raising your rates a little is a nice tool.

Hey, at least they waited until after the Christmas season.

Well, yeah, utilities should do PR

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

So? It’s not your fault you’re a utility company and you’re going to be charging customers up to 38% higher for their natural gas service this winter (out-of-the-natural-order deep freeze temps in the midwest are jacking the stakes up early). Well, that’s what they’re telling us now, in fliers and with special training for operators who have to handle irate calls from people who might just decide not to pay their bill on time–or at all.

The utilities folks are facing the same outrage that hundreds of gas station owners have been, too. But the big utilities are using a marketing tool that–scattered as they are–the gas station guys couldn’t have put together. Public relations campaigns can be inexpensive or pricey–depending on who you hire and how bad the situation is. But they’re an essential tool for any business that’s doing something that will PO its customers–whether it’s the business owner’s fault or not.

If you’re a small to mid-size business owner and you’re facing a situation like that, think about issuing a press release–or a series of them. Just make sure it’s written by a professional and distributed to the right audiences.

In case you want to try doing your own, give me a call. I’ll pass along my outline–The 29 Things You Should Put in a Press Release.

Speaking of proofing…

Tuesday, December 6th, 2005

I got such a kick out of the proofreading one below that I couldn’t resist sharing this one I got in one of my newsgroups. Talk about not paying attention to the way things look on paper… Read ‘em and weep.

* Who Represents?, a database for agencies to the rich and famous:
www.whorepresents.com

* Experts Exchange, a knowledge base for programmers:
www.expertsexchange.com

* Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island:
www.penisland.net

* Mole Station Native Nursery:
www.molestationnursery.com

We are all guilty of blindness on occasion. If you don’t have a close relative who has a talent for it, hire an editor.

Proofreading

Monday, December 5th, 2005

Got this in my email a couple of times in the last few weeks:

Try to read this……

Olny srmat poelpe can.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a
wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be
in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed
it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed
ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and
I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

There you have it. The definitive proof (pun intended) of why proofreading is such a tough job.

Have a politically incorrect December

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Business gifts can be a nice way to say thank you to your customers. And people like to know it’s something you personally thought of for them. Here’s quick tip: This year, skip the ubiquitous–and insipid–”holiday” greetings. Instead get to know your customers enough to know whether they celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, humanist day, or whatever.

And here’s another nice thought: give your customers gifts you buy from among the products and services of your other customers! That’s saying thank you on both ends. Read more here.