Archive for May, 2007

Respect for internal customers goes far

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Not surprisingly, this study reveals that hospitals with understaffed ICU units have higher incidences of infection and patient mortality. What a perfect metaphor for businesses of all kinds–when you overwork your employees to the point of stress, the results for your customers suffer. The Deming quality studies from decades ago confirmed this understanding, yet we continue to disregard it in our organizational imperatives.

Why is there such a severe nursing shortage? No doubt lots of factors count, but clearly these are biggies: nurses are consistently overworked and, compared to medical doctors, underpaid, and women now have other options where they can count on receiving a) similar or better money, b) far less stressful working conditions, c) get more respect from employers and have more opportunities for pleasant interactions with coworkers (being around disease and illness is taxing), and d) not have to work excessive overtime.

So it seems reasonable to conclude that we don’t necessarily have fewer people who care about nursing. Seems more like the practitioners don’t get the respect they deserve. And it’s the patients–that’s you and me–who pay the price. And nursing is one industry that can’t be outsourced.

If you treat your employees with the respect they deserve–fair pay, benefits as reasonable as you can afford, opportunities to learn and advance–that kind of thing is worth bragging about on your corporate blog. So go ahead–point out the good things you do for your employees. Not only will your customers respect you for it–they’ll also get better service.  Because in the area of treating people with respect, what goes around, comes around. Even when some of them work overseas…

Small business: make room for the boom in entrepreneurs

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Some people get paid to look into the crystal ball for business. At Intuit, the Quicken/Quickbooks accounting software people, they decided recently to collaborate with the nonprofit Institute for the Future by sponsoring a study on small business trends. Smart business! If you know where your customers are headed, you can be like the wolf in the Red Riding Hood story–get there early and be ready for them.

Predictions at the Institute this year focus on the changing face of small business. More young people, more baby boomers, women, women-as-moms, and emigrant and minority entrepreneurs are going to mean more large companies can outsource–increasingly to people working from home or small offices rather than to other countries.

Multicultural marketing must reflect the growing diversity of both business owners and customers–and that doesn’t mean just language, according to Steven Aldrich, vice president, Strategy & Innovation, Small Business Division at Intuit. It also means identifying “the right media, influencers and distribution channels. One size does not fit all. Businesses will need their marketing to reflect the unique cultures and needs of their audiences. …small business[es that] may have been…serving a local audience…are now thinking globally in terms of marketing outreach, such as broader exposure on the Web and multi-lingual marketing campaigns…may discover new multi-cultural markets they hadn’t thought of before.”

More entrepreneurs can mean good news on the “green” front.
 
“As more and more entrepreneurs begin businesses in their homes,” says Aldrich, “the commute to work is reduced to a quick walk across the hall to the home office. These types of shifts can positively impact the environment by reducing traffic congestion.” As more talented people begin working on their own, fresh, creative ideas on all fronts–including the environment–are likely to come from these sources. An example, says Aldrich, is the small business Act Now Productions now working with Wal-Mart to help them become a sustainable enterprise.

Any way you cut it, if you’re an entrepreneur–whether self-selected or reluctant–you’re the future of small business. Corporate America is willing to do business with you, so get your ducks in order. Now we need to marshall more resources to help entrepeneurs find the funding and the support they need to meet the ongoing challenges of growing into their futures.

Write in your corporate blog about how you will reach out to small businesess. If you’re a small business, write in your business blog about how you’re preparing to help solve some of corporate America’s thorny issues. I think what this comes down to is two main differences in how we operate: 1) we’re becoming more personal (small business owners are personally engaged in delivering customer service), and 2) we’re going back to the frontier mentality…not finding jobs, as such, but exercising more passion and creativity in finding ways to discover our strengths and use them to earn a living.

Here’s the INTUIT-sponsored report on the Future of Small Business.