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Posts Tagged ‘Business

It’s a common misconception that people with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)are unable to focus. ADDers are able to focus. It’s just that we have a hard time staying focused.That’s especially true when the activity calling for our attention isn’t one that we find especially engaging. Ever struggled to pay attention to a boring lecture? Or stay involved in a business meeting that drags on? Here are six strategies to boost the ability to focus:

1 Get it in writing.

If you’re preparing to attend a meeting, lecture, workshop, or another gathering that requires close attention, ask for an advance copy of the relevant materials (meeting agenda, lecture outline, and so on).Take the materials with you to the gathering. Use them to guide your active listening and—just as important— your note-taking. Writing as you listen will help you stay focused on what the speaker is saying.

2 Get a good seat.

Where you sit is critical. You may find it easier to be attentive if you sit up front, facing the speaker. Arriving early will increase your chances of getting a seat far away from distractions, such as a noisy fan or a doorway that opens onto a busy hallway. If the event is scheduled to run for several hours, change your seat after each break. That will give you a new perspective and allow you to refocus your attention. If you will need to work independently for some time, such as in a science lab or during a lengthy exam, ask ahead of time for permission to take occasional breaks and, possibly, to change your seat. Standing up and walking around will help you stay fresh and focused.

3 Ask for a review.

As soon as possible after the class or meeting, ask your teacher or co-worker for a brief review of the main points. Explain what you think the points were, and see if he or she concurs. This is a good time to fill in any details you might have missed when your focus flagged. It’s also a good time to find out exactly what is expected of you next—assignments to turn in, succeeding steps on a project, and so on. Don’t forget to confirm deadlines.

4 Avoid fatigue.

It’s hard to pay close attention when you’re tired. Whenever possible, sign up for classes that meet early in the day (or whenever your focus is greatest). At work, you may not be able to control meeting times, but, whenever possible, pick a time that works well for you.

5 Move!

Feel the urge to fidget? Go right ahead. As long as you don’t disturb others, clicking a pen, playing with your hair, knitting, and so on can help you pay attention. If discretion is an issue, chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, or even sipping from a glass of water might do the trick. If there is any doubt as to what’s permissible, ask the speaker—before the lecture or meeting begins. For more ideas, see the book Fidget to Focus, by Roland Rotz, Ph.D., and Sarah Wright (iUniverse).

6 Choose your leader carefully.

Picking classes? Look for an instructor who is well-organized, flexible, and dynamic enough to hold your interest. You also want someone who announces deadlines well in advance and provides students with lots of feedback. You may not be able to choose your supervisor at work. However, you can ask for accommodations that allow you to function at your best and get the job done. Getting deadlines in writing,working in a quiet spot, and scheduling frequent short meetings to confirm that you are on track will help enormously.

Over the last thirty years or so, group think has become a term against which all employers rebel because it signifies the end of creative and independent thought. When you have a tightly-knit group of people who work together, they are likely to conform to one another’s thought processes, making it almost impossible to foster independent thought. This is something that should be avoided at all costs, so here are a few tips for avoiding group think during a business meeting.

Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Don’t Get Mad

One of the ways that you can promote groupthink is by getting angry every time an employee opposes your viewpoint. If you send the message that contradicting the boss is “bad”, the group as a whole will avoid inciting conflict. Instead, make new ideas and arguments a pleasant experience, and take every idea into consideration. Further, if one or two members of the group consistently berate another member for their ideas, take them aside and advise them that all ideas are welcome. Make the business meeting a positive atmosphere.

Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Appoint a Co-Leader

Often, one leader of a business meeting can seem overwhelming to the rest of the group. Since you have your own opinions, they may assume that there’s aren’t welcome, which promotes groupthink. To battle this problem, appoint a co-leader for your business meetings — preferably someone who is likely to disagree with you. Show your staff that new and previously unmentioned ideas are not only acceptable, but welcome.

Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Assign Discussion Leaders

You might take a page out of the educational rule book and assign discussion leaders for each meeting. For example, let’s say that there are four topics on the agenda, and there will be twelve members of the meeting. A week before the meeting takes place, assign those four topics to groups of three. This gives each group a chance to brainstorm ideas and to come up with possible solutions for the meeting. This will help battle groupthink because they won’t be asked to come up with ideas on the spot in front of all their colleagues.

Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Give Breaks

A business meeting doesn’t have to be a three-hour-long marathon; it can be broken up. You might want to schedule two meetings for the day — one before lunch and one right after. This will allow your staff to come up with new ideas, to argue those ideas, and then to take a mental and emotional breather. When you reconvene, they’ll feel fresh and ready to start anew.

Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Provide a Venue for Anonymous Feedback

One of the reasons why groupthink is so prevalent is because people are reluctant to voice a controversial idea in front of their colleagues. In order to allow everyone a voice, come up with a venue for anonymous feedback. For example, after every meeting, you can leave a closed box in a room with small slips of paper. Allow your staff to write down their reactions to the meeting as well as new ideas they weren’t comfortable with bringing up. Make sure the box cannot be opened and that there is a slit in the top for the pieces of paper.

Source: http://www.associatedcontent.com

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Your level of working capital is intimately related to the flow of cash into and out of your business. Simply stated, you need enough working capital to setup the business, pay operating costs, and continue to operate until payment arrives 30, 60 or maybe even 90 days later.

But if you’ve used a lot of that working capital to pay for fixed assets, you may come up against a crash crunch that prevents you from paying suppliers, buying materials and even paying yourself a salary. It’s a good idea then, to maintain a level of working capital that allows you to make it through those crunch times and continue to operate the business.

Short-term financing such as a line of credit (LOC) can be used to make emergency purchases or to bridge the gap between month’s-end payables and receivables. An LOC can be negotiated with your financial institution, and this should be done before any need actually arises. It’s usually easier to negotiate an LOC when you don’t really need one. A good time to go to your financial institution is immediately after the end of a good year or quarter. Bring your financial statements.

In growth situations where you have to suddenly increase inventory that will be sold on credit, you may need to increase your working capital. Shareholders and other investors can sometimes provide this cash injection and BDC can also provide long-term financing for working capital.

Large asset purchases such as equipment and real estate should be financed long-term which allows you to spread the payments over the average life of the assets. Yes, you’ll be paying interest but, you’ll still have a big portion of your capital on-hand for business operations.

The federal and provincial governments provide loan-guarantee services for the purchase of operating equipment and fixed assets, making it much easier for small businesses to obtain loans from financial institutions. Under programs such as the Canada Small Business Financing Program, the government agrees to pay up to 85% of the value of the loan, back to the financial institution if you the borrower default on that loan.

And it’s always a good idea to make a cash flow budget. Your bookkeeper, accountant, accounting software and even spreadsheets downloadable from the Internet can help you anticipate inflows and outflows of money over a period of time. Budgeting allows you to see when a cash crunch is likely to occur.

Manage the business risks

There are many risks involved in running a business, and serious challenges should be expected at some time in the future. You need to consider a number of scenarios such as “What if that big order suddenly comes in?”, “What if that big order is cancelled?” or “What if that important client goes under owing me money?” This kind of risk analysis can become part of your cash-flow budgeting process. For instance, if you’re using a spreadsheet to enter cash inflows, simply reflect that situation by adding or deleting. The repercussions in the weeks and months to come should be immediately visible, so that you can consider what you would do if that occurred.

You can reduce the risk of cash-crunch due to this type of situation, by planning ahead and having a more diversified client base. If you’re not dependent on one large order or client, your livelihood doesn’t hinge on the health of someone else’s business. Finding new clients will increase revenue, improve your cash flow situation and make you less susceptible to marketplace adversity.

Another risk associated with running a business, especially among startups, is mixups between business and personal bank accounts and credit cards. Since initial financing often comes from the owner’s personal savings it’s easy to see how that can happen. This situation has a simple remedy which consists of opening a separate bank account and credit card for the business. Your business account should be where you deposit customer cheques, draw your salary, and pay your employees and suppliers. Similarly, get a separate credit card for the business, make business-related purchases on that card, and pay for that card using your company cheques. Some credit cards provide management reports that detail the types of purchases made over the month and over the past year, and this type of information can then be used in your cash flow budget for next year.

Collect quickly

To guard against late payments, bill as early as possible and make those invoices as clear and as detailed as possible. It may also be worth changing other billing practices such as invoice frequency: instead of waiting until the end of the month, generate an invoice as soon as the goods or services are delivered. Make sure those invoices are addressed to the right person in the right department.

For those big orders, you may want to consider progressive invoicing while you manufacture the goods or deliver the service. For example you can ask for a deposit with the order and then a percentage of the payment at various agreed upon milestones.

Keep track of your receivables. It’s easy to lose track and then neglect to follow up on an overdue account. Experience shows that the longer you remain out of contact with a customer, the less likely you are to recover the full amount owed, so if you can’t take care of it yourself, hire someone to do it for you.

Monitor your costs and your inventory

Make sure you’re getting the best possible deal from your suppliers. You can do this by shopping around and getting quotes from other suppliers. They may not be able to give a better price, but may be able to offer better payment terms making it easier on your cash flow situation.

Analyze inventory turnover to determine which items are selling and which are duds that are soaking up your working capital. Try to keep inventory levels lean so that your working capital isn’t tied-up unproductively and unprofitably.

Finally, if you feel you need help managing inventory or making cash flow projections, BDC Consulting can help you implement working capital strategies that are just right for your business.

Source : http://www.bdc.ca

Michael Porter

Michael Porter

Michael Porter argued that a firm’s strengths ultimately fall into one of two headings: cost advantage and differentiation. By applying these strengths in either a broad or narrow scope, three generic strategies result: cost leadership, differentiation, and focus.

Cost Leadership Strategy
This strategy calls for being the low cost producer in an industry for a given level of quality. The firm sells its products either at average industry prices to earn a profit higher than that of rivals, or below the average industry prices to gain market share. In the event of a price war, the firm can maintain some profitability while the competition suffers losses. Even without a price war, as the industry matures and prices decline, the firms that can produce more cheaply will remain profitable for a longer period of time. The cost leadership strategy usually targets a broad market.

Some of the ways that firms acquire cost advantages are by improving process efficiencies, gaining unique access to a large source of lower cost materials, making optimal outsourcing and vertical integration decisions, or avoiding some costs altogether. If competing firms are unable to lower their costs by a similar amount, the firm may be able to sustain a competitive advantage based on cost leadership.

This strategy has its risks.. For example, other firms may be able to lower their costs as well. As technology improves, the competition may be able to leapfrog the production capabilities, thus eliminating the competitive advantage. Additionally, several firms following a focus strategy and targeting various narrow markets may be able to achieve an even lower cost within their segments and as a group gain significant market share.

Differentiation Strategy
A differentiation strategy calls for the development of a product or service that offers unique attributes that are valued by customers and that customers perceive to be better than or different from the products of the competition. The value added by the uniqueness of the product may allow the firm to charge a premium price for it. The firm hopes that the higher price will more than cover the extra costs incurred in offering the unique product. Because of the product’s unique attributes, if suppliers increase their prices the firm may be able to pass along the costs to its customers who cannot find substitute products easily.

Firms that succeed in a differentiation strategy often have access to leading scientific research; highly skilled and creative product development teams;
strong sales team with the ability to successfully communicate the perceived strengths of the product: a strong brand image.

The risks associated with a differentiation strategy include imitation by competitors and changes in customer tastes. Additionally, various firms pursuing focus strategies may be able to achieve even greater differentiation in their market segments.

Focus Strategy
The focus strategy concentrates on a narrow segment and within that segment attempts to achieve either a cost advantage or differentiation. The premise is that the needs of the group can be better serviced by focusing entirely on it. A firm using a focus strategy often enjoys a high degree of customer loyalty, and this entrenched loyalty discourages other firms from competing directly.

Because of their narrow market focus, firms pursuing a focus strategy have lower volumes and therefore less bargaining power with their suppliers. However, firms pursuing a differentiation-focused strategy may be able to pass higher costs on to customers since close substitute products do not exist.

Some risks of focus strategies include imitation and changes in the target segments. Furthermore, it may be fairly easy for a broad-market cost leader to adapt its product in order to compete directly. Finally, other focusers may be able to carve out sub-segments that they can serve even better.

A Combination of Generic Strategies
– Stuck in the Middle?

These generic strategies are not necessarily compatible with one another. If a firm attempts to achieve an advantage on all fronts, in this attempt it may achieve no advantage at all. For example, if a firm differentiates itself by supplying very high quality products, it risks undermining that quality if it seeks to become a cost leader. Even if the quality did not suffer, the firm would risk projecting a confusing image. For this reason, Michael Porter argued that to be successful over the long-term, a firm must select only one of these three generic strategies. Otherwise, with more than one single generic strategy the firm will be “stuck in the middle” and will not achieve a competitive advantage.

Porter argued that firms that are able to succeed at multiple strategies often do so by creating separate business units for each strategy. By separating the strategies into different units having different policies and even different cultures, a corporation is less likely to become “stuck in the middle.”

However, there exists a viewpoint that a single generic strategy is not always best because within the same product customers often seek multi-dimensional satisfactions such as a combination of quality, style, convenience, and price. There have been cases in which high quality producers faithfully followed a single strategy and then suffered greatly when another firm entered the market with a lower-quality product that better met the overall needs of the customers.

Source: http://www.mccraigh.com

When operating in a market it is not the competition that is very different from you that matters – in fact your most dangerous competitors are those that are most like you. This is because for most products and services there will be many features in common which give customers a ‘comfort’ factor and allows customers to differentiate between offerings without feeling that they are looking at something so completely different that they will disregard it.

It is, however, the differences between you and your competitors that are the basis of competitive advantage and leads you to offer a distinct customer value proposition that compels customers to use you rather than the competition. To be successful in business you must have some kind of competitive advantage, no matter how small or how subtle.
This allows you to construct a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) which distinguishes you from your competitor’s products but which also equalizes the price/value trade-off in the customers’ mind – in your favour. A superior CVP will exist because your competencies are more in tune with market ‘needs and wants’ than the competition – otherwise you will lose customers to those competitors that have organisational competencies that are better or more in tune with the customers. It is important to keep abreast of customers’ needs and wants which change constantly – as shown in the diagram – and update your competencies accordingly.

Usually insufficient attention is paid to CVPs and organizational competencies – but that is exactly where benchmarking can add value.

In this context competency refers to all aspects of the organization that are inputs into the CVP (IT, customer handling processes, premises etc) – not just staff skills. This set of competencies is unique to you and is why you have competitive edge. It is not set in tablets of stone, however, and an edge can be dulled or even worn away. To maintain and enhance it you must:

  • keep evaluating the needs and wants in the market place and how they will metamorphose;
  • understand what your customers’ value now and their needs moving forward;
  • take a long term time horizon;
  • understand competitive movements (current and potential);
  • keep a close eye on changes in the substitutes market; and
  • put in hand the changes to your own competencies to continue to meet the evolving market needs and therefore sustain your competitive advantage.

This is where benchmarking can be of great value and successful benchmarking, therefore, will involve focusing on key, cross-functional business processes that support the long-term strategic intent and enable you to develop process capability, or focusing on those areas that develop and enhance core competencies.

Source : http://www.training-management.info

Here the issue that generates conflicts is emotion, and frustrated comments, is conflict within the organization. We generally do not look at conflict as opportunity — we tend to think about conflict as
unpleasant, counter-productive and time-consuming.

Conflict that occurs in organizations need not be destructive, provided the energy associated with conflict is harnessed and directed towards problem-solving and organizational improvement. However, managing conflict effectively requires that all parties understand the nature of conflict in the workplace.

Two Views: The Good, The Bad

There are two ways of looking at organizational conflict. Each of these ways is linked to a different set of assumptions about the purpose and function of organizations.

The Bad

The dysfunctional view of organizational conflict is embedded in the notion that organizations are created to achieve goals by creating structures that perfectly define job responsibilities, authorities, and other job functions. Like a clockwork watch, each “cog” knows where it fits, knows what it must do and knows how it
relates to other parts. This traditional view of organizations values orderliness, stability and the repression of any conflict that occurs. Using the timepiece analogy we can see the sense in this. What would happen to time-telling if the gears in our traditional watches decided to become less traditional, and re-define their roles in the system?

To the “traditional” organizational thinker, conflict implies that the organization is not designed or structured correctly or adequately. Common remedies would be to further elaborate job descriptions, authorities and responsibilities, increase the use of central power (discipline), separate conflicting members, etc. This view of organizations and conflict causes problems. Unfortunately, most of us, consciously or unconsciously, value some of the characteristics of this “orderly” environment. Problems arise when we do not realize that this way of looking at organizations and conflict only fits organizations that work in routine ways where innovation and change are virtually eliminated. Virtually all government organizations work within a very disorderly context — one characterized by constant change and a need for constant adaptation. Trying to “structure away” conflict and disagreement in a dynamic environment requires tremendous amounts of energy, and will also suppress any positive outcomes that may come from disagreement, such as improved decision-making and innovation.

The Good

The functional view of organizational conflict sees conflict as a productive force, one that can stimulate members of the organization to increase their knowledge and skills, and their contribution to organizational innovation and productivity. Unlike the position mentioned above, this more modern approach considers that the keys to organization success lie not in structure, clarity and orderliness, but in creativity, responsiveness and adaptability. The successful organization, then, NEEDS conflict so that diverging views can be put on the table, and new ways of doing things can be created. The functional view of conflict also suggests that conflict provides people with feedback about how things are going. Even “personality conflicts” carry information to the manager about what is not working in an organization, affording the
opportunity to improve. If you subscribe to a flexible vision of effective organizations, and recognize that
each conflict situation provides opportunity to improve, you then shift your view of conflict. Rather than trying to eliminate conflict, or suppress its symptoms, your task becomes managing conflict so that it enhances people and organizations, rather than destroying people and organizations. So, the task is to manage conflict, and avoid what we call “the ugly”….where conflict is allowed to eat away at team cohesiveness and productivity.

The Ugly

We have the good (conflict is positive), the bad (conflict is to be avoided), and now we need to address the ugly. Ugly occurs where the manager (and perhaps employees) attempt to eliminate or suppress conflict in situations where it is impossible to do so. You know you have ugly in your organization when: • many conflicts run for years • people have given up on resolving and addressing conflict problems • there is a good deal of private bitching and complaining but little attempt to fix the problem • staff show little interest in working to common goals, but spend more time and energy on protecting themselves When we get “ugly” occurring in organizations, there is a tendency to look to the manager or formal leader as being responsible for the mess. In fact, that is how most employees would look at the situation. It is true that managers and supervisors play critical roles in determining how conflict is handled in the organization, but it is also true that the avoidance of ugliness must be a shared responsibility. Management and employees must work together in a cooperative way to reduce the ugliness, and increase the likelihood that conflict can be channeled into an effective force for change.

Result of conflicts

Result of conflicts

Ugly Strategies

Most of the ugly strategies used by managers, employees, and organizations as a whole are based on the repression of conflict in one way or another. We need to point that, in general, you want to avoid these approaches like the plague.

Ugly #1: Nonaction

The most common repressive management strategy is nonaction — doing nothing. Now, sometimes, doing nothing is a smart thing to do, provided the decision to do nothing is well thought out and based on an analysis of the situation. Most of the time, people “do nothing” about conflict situations for other reasons, such as fear of bringing conflict into view, or discomfort with anger. Unfortunately, doing nothing generally results in conflict escalating, and sets a tone for the organization…”we don’t have conflict here”. Everyone knows you have conflict, and if you seem oblivious, you also seem dense and out of touch.

Ugly #2: Administrative Orbiting

Administrative orbiting means keeping appeals for change or redress always “under consideration”. While nonaction suggests obliviousness since it doesn’t even acknowledge the problem, orbiting acknowledges the problem, but avoids dealing with it. The manager who uses orbiting will say things like “We are dealing with the problem”, but the problem never gets addressed. Common stalls include: collecting more data, documenting performance, cancelling meetings, etc.

Ugly #3: Secrecy

A common means of avoiding conflict (or repressing it) is to be secretive. This can be done by employees and managers. The notion is that if nobody knows what you are doing, there can be little conflict. If you think about this for a moment, you will realize its absurdity. By being secretive you may delay conflict and confrontation, but when it does surface it will have far more negative emotions attached to it than would have been the case if things were more open.

Ugly #4: Law and Order

The final “ugly strategy”. Normally this strategy is used by managers who mistakenly think that they can order people to not be in conflict. Using regulations, and power, the person using the approach “leans on” people to repress the outward manifestations of conflict. Of course, this doesn’t make conflict go away, it just sends it scuttling to the underground, where it will grow and increase its destructive power.

Conclusion

The notion that conflict should be avoided is one of the major contributors to the growth of destructive conflict in the workplace. The “bad” view of conflict is associated with a vision of organizational effectiveness that is no longer valid (and perhaps never was). Conflict can be directed and managed so that it causes both people and organizations to grow, innovate and improve. However, this requires that conflict not be repressed, since attempts to repress are more likely to generate very ugly situations. Common repression strategies to be avoided are: nonaction, administrative orbiting, secrecy and law and order.

Source: Bacal, R, 2004, “Organisational conflict – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”,