Why “Business Common Sense”?

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Common sense is one of the most rare business skills.  Over a business career that started in 1976, I’ve seen a lot of people who would be much better off if they possessed more of it.

My goal is to provide you with perspectives that will enhance your career.  Some will reflect the conventional wisdom.  Others will attempt to show that common sense dictates a different course.

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About Business Common Sense

Common sense is one of the most rare business skills.  Over a business career that started in 1976, I’ve seen a lot of people who would be much better off if they possessed more of it.

My goal is to provide you with perspectives that will enhance your career.  Some will reflect the conventional wisdom.  Others will attempt to show that common sense dictates a different course.

Why should you listen to what I am saying?  Here are some of my career highlights:

  • Education:  MBA, BS in Computer Science, BS in Management Science all from Penn State
  • Large Company Experience: IBM, Penn State, and Armstrong World Industries
  • Entrepreneurial Experience: 3 successful startups
  • Industry Experience:  Consultant to over 30 Motor Vehicle OEMs and hundreds of wholesale distributors
  • Job Experience:  Started as a janitor, worked on assembly lines and as an inventory clerk, computer programmer, salesman, and President and CEO.

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If Ferrari had only used my firm’s software …

… they wouldn’t have been as likely to be fined $3.5 million dollars by NHTSA for not filing TREAD ACT reports!

http://fortune.com/2014/10/31/ferrari-fined-3-5-million-for-failing-to-report-three-fatalities

People often think that the price of software is high. What they seldom do is to consider what the costs of not having / using software can be. It looks like Ferrari found out this lesson the hard way!

Strategic’s Product Support / Service / Warranty / Recall product gives motor vehicle manufacturers and importers an integrated tool to manage ALL of their aftersales product support efforts … including Emissions and TREAD ACT reporting..

For more information on this product, please go to http://www.vehiclesystem.com/

How can we help you?

Why carry multiple business cards in a LinkedIn world?

Business_Cards

In today’s world, most of us play different roles within one job!

When I started my career my view of the world was simple. I felt that I had one job with one title and would only need one business card until I was promoted. That view of the world only lasted until I took my first job in sales.

Working in hardware sales at IBM in the early 1980’s, I was first exposed to “situational titles”. In addition to my “standard” business card with my official job title, I often found that I was often called in for “situational expertise”. Soon, I had a second card printed proclaiming me as an “Apparel Industry Specialist” to establish my credibility with our office’s largest customers. It was clear that apparel industry customers valued my opinions far more when they saw that card than my “job title” card.

When I started my flagship company (Strategic Business Systems, Inc.), I found that I had the opposite problem! I chose to use the title of “Managing Director” on my job title card. It implied that I had some power, but was ambiguous enough to allow me to not “negotiate as the ultimate decision maker” (the kiss of death in deal making). As I developed a sales force, that card became a problem. While I was trying to build up my sales personnel, my “more powerful” title card meant that customers would look to me rather than the person who I hired to manage and negotiate deals with accounts. It was time to call the printer again to get a deck of “Senior Consultant” cards. On a sales call, this implied that I was knowledgeable and respected, but not someone who possessed power. That card clearly placed my sales people in the role that I wanted for them. It worked well … and after the deal closed, some sharp customers got a laugh when they saw my signature on the Agreement.

Over the years, I’ve had to expand my business card inventory several more times. As I’ve started additional ventures, I’ve had to add cards for each. Luckily, I haven’t needed to use multiple cards for these ventures … yet!

As you view your own business interactions, consider the roles that you play in the world. A business card is part of a first impression. Perhaps you can be more effective by having people look at you by more than just your job title.

I’d love to know your opinions?

Business Leadership Continuity – Up Close and Personal

Crash_Front_End If case the picture above is unclear, it is the front of my car after a head-on crash … in case you are wondering, its replacement is a bright red tank of a vehicle!

As the Founder, President, and CEO of a privately held information technology company for over 30 years, business continuity was always a subject that occupied space in the back of my mind. While this is a well defined process in large companies, I would argue that it is even more important for SMB (Small and Mid-size Business) companies. On January 17, 2015, business leadership continuity ceased becoming an academic exercise for my company.

On Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 8:38am, our business leadership continuity was put to a test. A delivery truck (whose driver was more intent on his phone than his driving) drifted into my lane and struck my car head-on. I spent the next month in a hospital bed and then three and one half months recuperating at home. As I write this, I am in the process of returning to work after a four and one half month unexpected absence.

From the company’s startup in 1982 to the present, I defined my job description by three simple responsibilities:

  • I do what no one else in the company can do
  • I do what no one else in the company wants to do
  • I’m constantly trying to work myself out of a job

Over the years, this means that I have historically done every job in the company, currently do jobs that we do not have the internal staffing to fill, and am constantly trying to “put myself out of a job” by building up my staff. 31 years ago when my business partner and I hired our first employee, after he finished product training I assigned all of the “good projects” to him and did the “scutwork” myself so that he could grow. That leadership precedent continued over time shaped the nucleus for our company’s successful growth in size and leadership developed from within.

Our leadership is more of a network than a hierarchy. People have commensurate well defined levels of responsibilities and accountability. Because our leadership has been grown internally, we have significant overlap in corporate knowledge. I have to smile when I read about the recent management changes at Zappos. They are adapting the leadership strategy that we created a generation ago!

One of our key rules is that we want to ensure that no one employee becomes “the hub of the wheel”. We cannot afford to have any employees who are indispensable. That includes everyone … even me. Other than providing management oversight, my current primary responsibility has been business development to firms within the Motor Vehicle Industry. To me, that is the more long-run task of building and maintaining business relationships with prospects, customers, and complementary firms. A secondary responsibility is ownership of our product development mission.

When times are good, everyone is happy and with the program. The key test is what happens when the SHTF (something bad happens). My organization faced a test. I’m happy to tell you that they passed that test. Here are some insights from their experience that I would like to share with you:

  1. Starting from the top of the organization and descending to the lowest job in the company, leaders need to know the jobs of every one of their people … and what to do if they were suddenly unavailable to the company without notice. The CEO needs to know their specific responsibilities and define a “leadership will” documenting how their responsibilities will be fulfilled in their absence.
  2. As you find / encounter “indispensable individuals”, resolving this situation must be addressed ASAP by your hiring / employee development plans. For small businesses, this is easier said than done but costs of this not being done can potentially be enormous.
  3. In the middle of a crisis, one person must be in charge. At the same time, that person must listen closely to others with different opinions and strive to gain a consensus before moving forward.

I’d like to hear from you how we can continue to improve our process.

Does it make sense in both Manhattan & Montana?

Manhattan vs Montana

Urban NYC vs Rural Montana

 

Our “political class” situated in Washington, DC likes to make laws and regulations that affect the entire country. More often than not, while well intentioned, these work for some Americans and not for others. People in places like Manhattan island in New York City face vastly different realities than those who live in places like rural eastern Montana!

In considering national regulations related to matters like a minimum wage or else gun control, legislators should ask themselves one question:

Will this make sense in both Manhattan (NYC) as well as Montana?

If the answer is no, then the issue should not be addressed by the Federal Government … period!

Your opinions?

The Entrepreneur’s Job Description

Employee Empowerment

Being an entrepreneur is probably the world’s most unstructured job. You start with a blank sheet of paper and a few bucks of seed capital. If things work out, you create something much greater than yourself. Part of that process is to build a team that will conduct the operations of that company. It is a big job … and you need some rules to help you.

If you have $50 million or more of initial funding, stop reading now! For the rest of us who have bootstrapped their organizations, here are three rules that have been vital to my success:

1. You do what no one else can do

A critical part of running a venture is to build a team of individuals who have all of the necessary skills to operate all phases of that venture. Unfortunately, reality and capitalization will often dictate that there will be holes in that team. In the absence of better candidates, those holes will often define part of your job until you can fill them. As the founder, hopefully you will have as good a grasp of most responsibilities in your venture than the person you hired to assume that responsibility.

Everyone likes to say “hire people who are smarter than you”. The reality is that if they were smarter, they would be hiring you! In many situations, you will be the best person to do a job (in the short run). I’ve often stepped in to temporarily assume the responsibilities of s who I’ve fired or else just didn’t have the perspective needed at the time. In addition to keeping things running, it has given me better insight into what I need to look for in future candidates for those responsibilities.

2. You do what no one else wants to do

You are the “human glue” of your organization! Too often, people (who you desperately need) have problems with portions of their responsibilities. Perhaps they are temporarily unable to travel … or they hate dealing with customers. In the short run, be prepared to fill in for them.

3. You need to be constantly working yourself OUT of a job!

As an entrepreneur, you need to build an organization that will thrive without you. You need to build a leadership structure and get out of their way … as long as they deliver the results that you expect. Your “job security” is based on your company’s results, not your job!

My first hire into my first company was a guy who was good at his job, but showed the potential to be an even better leader. After receiving some training in the technologies that we used, I made sure that he received the “good assignments” that would build his stature … while I did the “grunt work” that was necessary to be done. As we hired additional employees, they soon reported to him … and he chose to build up those employees as I did with him! 32 years later, he’s still going strong!

My “replacability” was tested without notice on January 17, 2015 when I was in a head-on car accident. My company continued to flourish in my absence. Since I returned to the job, one of my biggest challenges has been not stepping on the toes of everyone who did so well without me!

Perhaps it’s time for them to take over and for me to move on to other challenges???

What do you think about this?