Saturday, November 10, 2012

Workplace Violence Prevention and Awareness

The Threat of Violence is On the Rise...
A safe and productive workplace is in everyone's interest, but
the number of violent acts, including threats of violence, has
increased over 400% over the last decade. Workplace Violence
Prevention and Education initiatives are paramount before an
incident happens, saving businesses considerable time, resources
in addition, legal fees, but most importantly, the implementation of mandatory changes to the workplace to protect employees from any future threat of a violent act. It is important to note that when experts refer to violent acts, they are referring to acts of violence by employees and criminal predators that commit armed robberies or assault employees while on the job.
Reality Hitting Home...
OSHA & NIOSH Statistics show that the risk of being attacked
while working is seven times greater in the U.S. than in Europe. Did you know that the number of managers killed has doubled over the past 10 years. Moreover, that only 40-50% of workforce victims report crime to the police. The threat of Workplace Violence has proven to be a challenge, it can occur internally (co-workers, self-inflicted) and externally (customer/employee, domestic violence, robbery/assault/rape) and can be physical or non-physical. Recent trends suggest that places of work are now the victims of domestic and international terrorist demands.
The Hidden Cost of Workplace Violence...
Organizational effectiveness, productivity, the culture and image are adversely impacted by a violent act at work including:
Lost work time (average of 3.5 days per incident for those
directly impacted); Increased security and facilities repair
costs; High probability of litigation; increased workers
compensation claims & costs; Increased medical claims; Personnel
turnover; increased incidents of stress between labor
organizations and management, significantly reduced performance & productivity & Negative internal and external publicity & press are but a few symptoms of the hostile workplace.
Personnel turnover is deeply rooted in an employee's unwillingness to be perceived as a troublemaker and resigns or asks for a reassignment rather than complaining. Such personnel turnovers are a company's worst nightmare, as they will undoubtedly volunteer to testify against the employer in the aftermath.
No one knows the exact dollar figure associated to workplace violence related exposure. Such costs are absorbed in increased medical and injury compensation claims under other unrelated ailments related to a workplace violence exposure. In this category might be the victims of harassment, verbal abuse and other forms of non-physical assaultive behavior but victims of psychological assault.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Economic Studying Digging for Reality

Working in a market such as Dayton, OH requires business savvy and complete understanding of demographics. For instants the difference between Ohio on the whole and the Greater Dayton Area MSA, which includes such county areas as: Butler, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Warren. The demographics of Montgomery and Miami are excellent for an expanding company to put in a service type outlet.
The population backdrop is somewhat similar to the entire state of OH. Ethnically speaking it is mostly white with Asian populations and Black Americans at about 10% to 11%. In Montgomery County it is 19% Black American and only 10% in Clark County, but the middle class Black Americans are moving in and fixing the diversity issues. There are quite a few people who commute to work in Marysville at the Honda Plant and Proving Grounds. Also a huge distribution center there with many large carriers located and Rail Service by CSX and also huge numbers of Auto Haulers. About 13,000 at Honda work there. One of the reasons that the Japanese wanted to have competing rail service with their plant in San Antonio as part of the negotiations. So they could squeeze the price point out of the rail companies similar to Rockefeller’s exploits. One thing that is unbelievably nice about the area is the many colleges and Universities in the area, 29 in all the biggest being University of Dayton with 10,000 enrolled, Wright University with 14,000 and Sinclair Community College with 22,000. This makes for a very good young and energetic group of people. The clientele is equally as inviting with 202,000 inhabitants between the ages of 25-34 not including the part-time college students. 35-44 representing nearly 250K pop and 45-54 at 215K.
The population South of Town is expanding and we see Scarsborogh to Centerville with great markets and everything in between is golden. The USAF also has Wright Patterson AFB with excellent inflow to the economy even though much of that is deployed presently, still it impacts the city in an extremely positive way. About 25,000 people work there and that is after the lay offs and discharges previously. They expect with BRAC that they will be on the receiving end of additional attachments and squadrons serving in Dayton as well as R and D since the colleges offer that level of researching. Also with the huge museum of flight and being the history of the inventing flight makes it good also for tourism and positive PR for the Military. Other large employers included Delphi but they have had significant labor lay offs and GM is a biggy there. In health Care about 9000 workers. Airborne Express and Emery Air freight also claim fame to the area. 7500 people work there and you may recall the merger with DHL? The good weather of the region provides Airborne a much better chance at this hub facility than in other parts of Michigan, IN, IL, NY, KY. The Seattle based company has brought many jobs to the region. Emery has laid off people but at one time employed over 3000 in the area. Emery has really worked hard to work with the Manufacturing industry and helped OH The just in time world of manufacturing has to take into account rush situations for total capacity scheduling, leading that charge was it’s bay area parent company and they manufacturing sector did rely on Emery for that;

Also of significant value is it’s ability to deploy new wave technologies at it’s hub and custom clearing houses. Much of this technology was in response to FedEx’s market advances and UPS shear size making it difficult to compete. The University of Dayton employs 4500 folks all fairly high wage earners like their blue collar UAW counter parts at the GM SUV and Delphi centers. Here is some recent news as of today’s watch: Dayton Recent News contains some Blues; For instance we all know the state of the Union when it relates to the steel industries.
At one time employing 4200 people. But Dayton is not primarily a steel town, it is a manufacturing town and the birth place of aviation. Today the market sectors which are up in the greater Dayton area include: Construction in residential, Retail is up, Real estate, Healthcare and services is big. Commercial construction is being primarily boosted with school projects recently. Square foot costs on the robust side of town south side is anywhere from $2.30 to $12.00 per square foot. Retail space is $2.30 to 3.00; Office is $7-12.00; Industrial runs the the entire spectrum. Office Parks include; Franklin, Heritage and South Tech Center all good for professional service businesses and small businesses. Industrial Parks are also plentiful with Emery Logistics Park 265 acres in all. Lebanon Commerce Center for 200 acres, Moraine Industrial Center and Park center Industrial. Although Manufacturing has declined drastically over the last decade the Industrial Parks have life. Downtown Office buildings include Kettering, Mead, First national, Reibold, 5/3 Bank and the Key Bank Buildings. Over 3 million square feet with a convention center right in the middle. There is significant space underutilized and unoccupied. Close by Cincinnati has done what academics think is unthinkable;

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

8 Tips For Spotting Early Warning Signs

One of the greatest threats facing both employees and the companies they work for, is workplace violence. It has become the leading cause of death for women and the second leading for men, following closely behind motor vehicle accidents. In fact, the best estimates now being reported show that 1-in-4 employees will be the victim of workplace violence this year alone.
While the media is quick to highlight the most deadly attacks that occur, the fact is that most employees will be lucky enough to only suffer from simple assaults. However, this is not to downplay the almost 400,000 aggravated assaults, 51,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 84,000 robberies, and nearly 1,000 homicides reported each year. I simply want to acknowledge that the average employee will not have to worry about death so much as being intimidated, struck, or threatened to comply with the assailant either through force or the threat of violence.
Spotting Early Earning Signs
As with all self-defense situations, correct action requires proper understanding so that we can know where to direct our awareness. Knowing what to look for will allow us to notice when something may be brewing and thereby allow us to take preemptive measures to prevent the danger from ever manifesting at all. After all, the ultimate goal of any reality-based protection program should be to set things up so that danger never touches you at all.
Workplace violence situations can be seen to have three aspects or characteristics that work together to produce the damage that inevitably results. Assaults always stem from a causal-based conditioning and never "come out of nowhere." These three parts or aspects are:
1. The assailant or perpetrator of the assault,
2. The preexisting or conditioning factors that cause the assailant to see violence as a justifiable means for attaining their goals, and...
3. An environment that allows for or permits the violent act to be committed without intervention, deterrence, or resistance.
Assaults never happen in a vacuum. They, like everything else, are the products of cause and effect. And, once set into motion - once these three factors are present - the force or conditions will play themselves out sooner or later.
In her book, "Risky Business: Managing Employee Violence in the Workplace", Dr. Lynne McClure describes eight categories of high-risk behaviors that may indicate the need for management intervention. She says these high-risk behaviors are everyday behaviors that occur in certain patterns. While the following clues are just that, possible warning signs, they will give management and employees enough of a basic understanding to cue in on the possibility of danger brewing on the horizon. The warning signs that may signal an impending workplace violence issue include:
  • Actor behaviors: The employee acts out his or her anger with such actions as yelling, shouting, slamming doors, and so on.
  • Fragmentor behaviors: The employee takes no responsibility for his actions and sees no connection between what he does and the consequences or results of his actions. As an example, he blames others for his mistakes.
  • Me-First behaviors: The employee does what she wants, regardless of the negative effects on others. As an example, the employee takes a break during a last minute rush to get product to a customer, while all other employees are working hard.
  • Mixed-Messenger behaviors: The employee talks positively but behaves negatively. As an example, the employee acts in a passive-aggressive manner saying he is a team player, but refuses to share information.
  • Wooden-Stick behaviors: The employee is rigid, inflexible, and controlling. She won't try new technology, wants to be in charge, or purposefully withholds information.
  • Escape-Artist behaviors: The employee deals with stress by lying and/or taking part in addictive behaviors such as drugs or gambling.
  • Shocker behaviors: The employee suddenly acts in ways that are out of character and/or inherently extreme. For instance, a usually reliable individual fails to show up or call in sick for work. A person exhibits a new attendance pattern.
  • Stranger behaviors: The employee is remote, has poor social skills, becomes fixated on an idea and/or an individual.
It can no longer be seen as a luxury or add-on to include procedures and training for dealing with workplace violence in your company's health and safety system. The costs, financially as-well-as to productivity, employee stress, and more, are far too great. Understanding and awareness are always the first step in to developing an effective plan. But, a solid, intelligently throughout and administered plan includes procedures, strategies, and techniques for, not only prevention and intervention, but deterrence and defensive action as well. The safer employees feel at all levels of an organization, the more relaxed the atmosphere and the greater the productivity.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Monopolies, Reality, OPEC and the FTC

It is interesting the OPEC Nations and the cartel, which affects the quality of our daily lives, personal success, the number of people who can enter our middle class, and all of our businesses and industries including your job. In our country we have rules about monopolies that we enforce on every large super heavy weight business in every industry. A recommended read would be the book on Rockefeller. If you have already read that book then you understand the remaining points and why we bring up the importance of flow and we are discussing it and comparing it to OPEC. Rockefeller was beholden to the market place and the supply and demand issues of the day. If his price got too far out of line, then others would jump into the game. OPEC constantly screws with our supply, much worse than the anti-trust issues of yester year.
If it is okay today for OPEC to play these games then certainly Rockefeller did nothing wrong, as a matter of fact, I have never heard of such an important concept such as Anti-Trust, which has so little reality based thinking and has undergone so few changes in the past 200 years. With all the ridiculous patch work within is regulations it throws out the entire idea of capitalism and competition. The laws are vague, utterly preposterous and reward the weak. The notion that bigness is automatically evil, dangerous to the welfare of free men or bad for the society as a whole makes no sense in a free market economy. The attack on Gate's Microsoft, by the FTC, after the people choose them and bought their products and continually wait until the next windows upgrade is beyond me. People vote with their dollar, they chose a company that fulfills their desires, purchase products and services from that company and this is bad? It appears that the FTC only attacks the visionaries and market winners. Well it must be something like that. Competitors who lose in the market place (Sand Box) go crying to momma or the liberal teacher of academia and liberal media?

Then at the same time when companies want to merge to share costs and use the efficiencies to get maximum use of the economies of scale they are forced into a box of questionable divestitures, all of which end up making the merger less of a good deal as it would have been and all these costs are past onto the consumer who would have had the greatest benefits in the long run. Yes that is right the very consumer that the FTC is sworn to protect. I give this example due to all the Tiger Marts, which closed after the Chevron Texaco merger. All the jobs lost and the hardship of customers to find a place to fuel up causing longer lines and therefore more demand and therefore higher prices, check the statistics if you disagree. Great so now you have high fuel prices, long lines and you are to thank the FTC for protecting you? From what, they caused it.
The theory that Monopolies, which started small and grew big due to the consumer choosing them over the competition is a testament of a strong free market system with tough competition forcing the best athlete forward for the gold metal and is merely survival of the fittest. It is about the most natural thing mankind has created. If growing big is evil then and anti-trust laws are to be enforced upon bigness then the entire government, by the people and for the people should be immediately shut down, because it was voted for by us, we chose it over other forms of government and it is friggin huge, talk about out of control with regulations. This alone would make it ready for anti-trust lawsuits, with it's finger on the flow of everything and in the colon fudge cake of everyone, every company and obviously up there own. You are looking for a retraction, doubtful if you would get one from someone who studies the flow and the cogs in the wheels of commerce, no apologies here, I am absolutely serious because a complete overhaul is needed. It is a complete joke, only it is NOT funny, because we are talking about the future of the greatest nation in the world and the rest of the planet's future depends on our example to follow in the next time one following this present period. Let's look at this from a distance.
When our Oil Companies here in the US wish to merge to create the economies of scale to compete, they go through 18 months of regulatory review and every congressman wants to go up to the podium to tell us what they think (actually why we should keep voting for them). Then these same oil companies are told they must divest themselves of certain pipelines, retail outlets, subsidiaries, trading rooms, etc. The consumer gets a better price when these larger companies can compete with the Cartels and can deliver for less. We force them to go offshore and own interests in the cartels to stay competitive.
Our stock market, your mother's 401K and father's pension do better when subsequent market sectors are more efficient and profitable. Especially those involving large industry and when the flow of fuel has profitable years and decades, steady growth in the market helps the strength of our nation. It is interesting that we allow foreign competitors more latitude than our own companies and then we create a hostile environment in the regulatory bureaucracy and cause our companies to move jobs, factories, refineries, etc to those same foreign lands. One might have to ask exactly whose team are we on? Let's face it, the growth of a business from small to large is a testament of commitment and hard work by the team running that company and their value to the consumer and my friends that is merely survival of the fittest and best prepared to take advantage of opportunities to serve the desires of the customers. Just like the republic or Democracy government voted into power by the people is a sign of the strength, trust and will of the people.
John D Rockefeller was a great man and delivered fuel to the people and enabled us to move the ball forward as we modernized our civilization.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Typical Questions and Answers

Technical support offered by MBS depends on the region. For North America (NA), support is available to both partners and customers who availed of the support plan. In Asia Pacific (AP), Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) though, support is only available to partners.
Unfortunately, not every customer in North America can avail of support from their vendor. Some who opted not to renew their annual enhancement plans are orphaned from their vendors and do not receive free upgrades. If they need immediate support, they can contact the MBS Support Team directly but they are charged a higher premium. In this case, it is best to get support from partners such as Alba Spectrum Technologies or the like instead of directly from MBS.
Below are some questions and answers that the MBS Support Team (Asia and EMEA) receive:
Q1. Will Microsoft Great Plains run on operating systems other than Microsoft Windows?
A1. Microsoft Great Plains was first developed to support both Microsoft and Mac operating systems. However, later versions of Great Plains do not support Mac specially when Microsoft acquired the company (Great Plains Software).
Q2. What database platforms are supported by Microsoft Great Plains?
A2. Version 8 and above of Microsoft Great Plains supports only SQL Server and MSDE. Versions lower than 8 support SQL Server, MSDE (version 7.5), Ctree (for Great Plains Standard), and Pervasive SQL (formerly Btrieve).
Q3. We are currently using a different ERP system but we're interested in migrating to Great Plains (GP). Is this possible?
A3. This is very much possible depending on the ERP system being used. Migrations have been done from Peoplesoft to GP as well as JD Edwards to GP. If interested, we will conduct studies for possible migration between your ERP system to GP.
Q4. Is integration possible between Microsoft CRM and Microsoft Great Plains?
A4. This is definitely possible but it will either rely heavily on MS Biztalk Server (if you follow the MS CRM to GP Integration document) or on Dexterity customizations.
Q5. Can Microsoft Great Plains be accessed via the internet using an internet browser?
A5. There are some eProducts for Great Plains which will allow the company to create an online store. However, this only pertains to the Sales Order Processing side of Great Plains. To access Great Plains remotely, you would need to have Citrix  installed. If you want to access Great Plains on the browser itself, you need to configure the web server component of Citrix into the web server that you're going to use GP from.
Q6. What if I am having some problems with Great Plains or if I want to satisfy my curiosity on certain aspects of the ERP system without bothering my vendor?
A6. All Microsoft Great Plains customers have access to CustomerSource. This is an area in the MBS website specifically catered to MBS Customers. Here, you can search the extensive KnowledgeBase relating to any MBS products as well as download service packs and patches for your GP install.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Consolidated Freight

There was a lot news on the Bankruptcy of Consolidated Freight, which rocked the transportation industry, but what most failed to realize is that CF was founded in 1929 and this nation lost a great company.

One of their largest customers was The Boeing Company. With Consolidated Freights help we were able to move logistics around the country so we could out produce and deliver our industrial might to the Germans in WWII. Despite the immense volume of logistics CF provided for America they had an incredible safety record un paralleled in the industry and could even hold a candle to the Wal-Mart logistics teams. One of the best safety records in the nation;

Anyone in the Transportation Industry or who reads Commercial Carrier Journal or Transport topics understands that they too were leading edge on many issues, like B2B, Same day, expedited services and routing plans including trains, planes, ships and trucking and god only knows what else in the future had they still been in business? Leading the industry in high technology for logistics as well.
In business since 1929, 15,500 laid off effective immediately after their bankruptcy, a Delaware Corp. with HQ in Vancouver WA, which as of this year is the highest unemployment in the country. Think about it a company formed in 1929 after the depression made it through the war only to be caught up in this latest cycle of terror, high fuel prices and sluggish recession, this was a bad day for all of America. It is the heart of this country. But such a large company like CF has its tentacles in all sorts of other vendor operations, for instance they were the Third largest buyer of Freightliner Trucks in the World. JB Hunt recently passed them with a 1 billion dollar purchase in 1999.

The two companies have a long history. Consolidated Freightways Manufacturing Division eventually became Freightliner. This folks is the backbone of America. Freightliner eventually sold out to Daimler Chrysler. This is very serious as the region got hammered by steel, to make trucks, lumber and timber industries buying trucks, then the trucking lay offs in manufacturing sector, along with buy back leases all killing the prospects of getting out of dodge under German short term gain lookers pledged against America heart and sole and fiber. The massive consolidation of trucking manufacturers, dealers and the like were hurt. Also Pac Car Leasing was hurt with holdings connected to CF, more used trucks for sale again just a used truck prices were starting to rebound. Pac Car bought into Rush Peterbuilt who was also consolidating sales offices and now a new glut of 18,000 used trucks on the market. This is not all, which plagued the CF Companies. High Fuel Costs in summer of 2001 hurt Consolidated Freight and in August 1, 2001 they had to raise prices, meanwhile competitors such as Fed Ex Ground waited until way after 9-11. UPS followed and so did JB HUNT, Swift, Covenant and Schneider. Many independents went out of business. In 2000 CF Consolidated Freightways with $2.2 billion in annual revenues, consolidated was going strong. The Company’s 18,000 skilled professionals specialize in freight transportation. Raised prices again in May 2002.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Truth About Grants

I don't know about you, but hardly a day goes by I don't receive spam emails about grants. Spam that absolutely promises me I can buy a book and get a $30,000 grant, just for being alive on the planet. Spam that assures me there are grants available to pay my credit card bills, start any kind of business, or buy a shiny new car.
To some degree, those spam emails are why I established a website devoted to grants. Because I have been a grants consultant for thirty years, I know the truth about grants, and I want to share that truth with you.
The truth about grants is a good news/bad news proposition. Let's get the bad news out of the way first:
Nobody is going to award you a grant of $20,000 or $30,000 to spend at Saks, or pay your bills. Nobody is going to give you cash to start a network marketing business. Nobody is going to buy you a new Mercedes to drive around the neighborhood.
But really, in your heart of hearts, you already knew that - right?
Now for the good news about grants...and there is some very, very good news indeed:
Every year in the United States alone, $360 billion is available in grant funding for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. This is the real thing, money that is genuinely available from solid, dependable funding organizations.
There are grants for college, grants to pay for medical care and drugs, and grants to support research and study projects. There are some government grants available to certain established businesses, and a very limited number of grants to start new businesses.
There are grants for women and for minorities, grants to buy homes, grants to acquire and repair rental properties, and grants to develop new products that will help the environment. There are grants to fund a virtually unlimited number of community projects. If you have a project that offers some social value, there is probably a funder who has a grant for which you can apply.
Government agencies, foundations, and corporations all make grants. Almost universally, grants do not need to be repaid, and grants are tax-free.
Are you beginning to see the scope of this?
To help people understand just how much potential there is in grants, I often describe grants funding as a "parallel economy". There is the standard economy, where goods and services are bought and sold, and taxes paid. Then there is the parallel economy of grants, where gifts are requested and received.
Not just a few gifts. Three hundred sixty billion dollars in gifts.
So is there a trick involved in getting grants? No. But, as is true in any situation in life, there is a framework within which the successful grantseeker must operate. If you want to profit from grants, you must put forth the time and effort to learn how this parallel economy operates, and how to play by its rules.
First, grants are all about purpose. Every grant is offered and awarded in order to accomplish a specific purpose. Every funding agency has a mission it wants to carry out, and grants are given to further that mission. So if you want to start a children's orchestra in your town, you must find the funder who considers musical programs for children part of its mission. If you have invented a better trash compactor, then you are looking for a funder with an environmental mission.
Second, there are a host of resources for finding and identifying grants. You must learn about the types of grants, who is making them, and how to locate them. You must learn how to tailor your project to potential funders.
Third, there is a specific format for requesting grants, called a grant proposal. Although there are many different types of grants, the basic grant proposal format can be adapted to all of them. You must learn how to write a good proposal, and assemble all the information a funder will want to see.
This all sounds a bit more complicated than just buying a book, right? So the question becomes, is it worth the effort?
Well, I've raised millions of dollars in grant funds for my clients, and for myself. I bought an apartment complex free and clear, without a penny of my own money, with a grant. I absolutely believe it's worth the time and effort involved. Where else but in the parallel economy of grants, can you ask for what you need, and receive it as a gift?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recognizing The Talents in Our Own Midst

According to experts in the field of hiring and training development, there is a great potential within our own companies for talented individuals.
Why are we not recognizing those already in our midst? An explanation is: when people are working at lower levels than their management abilities, we can't see what they can really do.
And in this day and age, we have a lot of people laid off from downsized companies who have to take lower level positions for survival.
We just don't recognize who's working for us or with us. We limit our people by their current titles, functions and departments.
Yet getting to know our people is not hard to do - we just need to talk to them! It's up to management to initiate such talks.
Some companies have implemented "Talent Development Programs". What we really need are "Talent Recognition Programs". Management needs to take the time to recognize whom we have amongst those employees currently working as "latent talent".
There are scores of qualified, skilled individuals who have had to take on jobs many levels below their business capabilities and experiences because of economic downturn or simply because nobody has recognized their abilities and given them a chance to prove themselves.
Dig up your employees' resumes again, from the interviewer's forgotten files, and get familiar with them. Let's not leave these highly personal information papers to die in the aftermath of the initial interview. Then let's talk to our people and ask the right questions.
Test with projects that the individual can work on for short periods of time - say a week, a month or three months and find out what they can do. All this should happen with proper delegating, empowerment and regular meetings.
Finally, let's assess ourselves and REGOGNIZE the assets that we have in our people.
/end of article.
You may print this article in your ezine or web site or pass it on to others providing nothing is changed and the bio is fully included at the end of the article.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Merchandise Delivery Time & Federal Law

The federal Mail or Telephone Order Rule spells out the ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumers' money.
Enforced by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Rule applies to orders placed by phone, fax or the Internet. Compliance with the Rule can have bottom line benefits for your company, because satisfied customers are repeat customers.
You must have a reasonable basis for stating that a product can be shipped within a certain time.
If your advertising doesn't clearly and prominently state the shipment period, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days.
If you can't ship within the promised time (or within 30 days if you made no promise), you must notify the customer of the delay, provide a revised shipment date and explain his right to cancel and get a full and prompt refund.
For definite delays of up to 30 days, you may treat the customer's silence as agreeing to the delay, but for longer or indefinite delays - and second and subsequent delays - you must get the customer's written, electronic or verbal consent to the delay.
If the customer doesn't give you his okay, you must promptly refund all the money the customer paid you without being asked by the customer.
Finally, you have the right to cancel orders that you can't fill in a timely manner, but you must promptly notify the customer of your decision and make a prompt refund.
You can change your shipment promises up to the point the consumer places the order, if you reasonably believe that you can ship by the new date.
The updated information overrides previous promises and reduces your need to send delay notices.
Be sure to tell your customer the new shipment date before you take the order.
You must provide a delay option notice if you can't ship within the originally promised time.
The Rule lets you use a variety of ways to provide the notice, including e-mail, fax or phone.
It's a good idea to keep a record of what your notice states, when you provide it, and the customer's response.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Can't Afford A PR or Publicity Campaign

It's a phrase I hear over and over again from many entrepreneurs, small businesses owners and inventors: "I'd love to hire someone to launch our publicity campaign professionally, but we can't afford it, so I'm just going to have to do it on my own."
Over the past several months, I have been conducting an informal survey among entrepreneurs and business owners who have contacted me about my services. I have found that due to their lack of information or knowledge on the topic, many businesses typically over-estimate or over-budget the cost of a prospective public relations/publicity campaign. During my PR consultation with them, I asked: "How much do you think it will cost to launch a solid, effective PR/publicity campaign for your product/business?" Of the 102 people I've queried:
  • 11% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $10,000+ per month
  • 32% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $5,000-$10,000 per month
  • 39% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $3,000-$5,000 per month
  • 12% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $1,000-$3,000 per month
  • 6% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost less than $1,000 per month
The truth is -- you can get a publicity/PR campaign in all of those price ranges. What you get for your money and how effective the campaign will be is the real question. It is true that the more you pay the more you get. But getting the most publicity/PR exposure doesn't mean you have to get most expensive PR agency or specialist.
A good rule of thumb is to align yourself with a PR business that best reflects your business size. Most times their rates will be in line with your prospective PR budget. If you are a small business owner with two employees, you need not hire a high-dollar PR agency with dozens of employees. Find a PR business whose office size and capabilities closely resemble your business.
Case in point -- there is a large PR agency in a fancy building downtown a few miles from my office. Frankly, we are not even competition to each other - in fact we have even referred clients to each other. Why? They typically work with large corporations and implement campaigns of around $10,000 per month. My business works with smaller businesses/individuals -- a PR/publicity campaign with my company would be about $10,000 for an entire year - not just a month. Mechanically, the downtown firm and my business do the same thing when it comes to PR campaigns: professional media release composition; extensive media market research; articulate personalized distribution to the media; months of media relations (article placements/interview scheduling/media request fulfillment, clipping/tracking of media placements, etc.).
Signing up with the big firm doesn't mean you'll necessarily get an experienced associate working on your campaign. So are you getting what you are paying for? A friend of mine who works at a major PR firm gave me the following breakdown of billing fees in his office:
  • Interns/Junior Executives - bill at $75 / hour (Very little, if any professional experience)
  • Account Executives - bill at $100 - $125 / hour (1-3 years of professional experience)
  • Senior Account Executives - bill at $125 - $200 / hour (Multiple years of professional experience. Agency decision makers.)
Compare those prices to many small PR shops or individual PR specialists. Many have started their own PR businesses after years of experience in the industry and typically charge $50 - $100 per hour to professionally launch and maintain your campaign. Many times, you can get a seasoned PR veteran who will work directly with you and your staff for cheaper than the "Intern/Junior" executive rate at a downtown firm.
However, one word of advice -- when choosing a smaller firm or individual to do your PR, make sure they have the same tools that the bigger agencies do: updated media lists/contacts; personalized media distribution capabilities; professional clipping/tracking services to get copies of each of your media placements (articles, tapes from TV/radio shows) as well as the intangibles of expert communication/media relations skills and professional pitching prowess. If they are cheaper, but don't have all the tools to help you in the best manner possible, you are probably better off spending a little extra money to make sure your campaign is launched and maintained correctly.
The major benefits of hiring a professional (individual PR specialist or PR firm) to launch your campaign are:
  • Proper Campaign Implementation - Improperly composed or poorly pitched campaigns are the major downfall of many PR efforts. Poorly written, over-commercialized media releases; uncalculated, misdirected mass e-mailing of the release pitch; no follow-up media relations/media request fulfillment; etc.. Your first impression to the media is a lasting one - make sure it's a good one.
  • Media Contacts - Most PR agencies have established multiple media contacts over several years that can lead to much better and more numerous media placements for your campaign. Let their foot in the door benefit you.
  • Efficiency and Effectiveness - PR specialists/agencies generate publicity full time, 8-12 hours per day and know the ins and outs, shortcuts and secrets to getting the job done better and quicker. Sure you could hang your own drywall or do your own plumbing, but do you have the tools, the time and the expertise to make it cost effective. I always tell my clients, "You do what you do well, I'll do what I do well and we'll collectively move this business further up the ladder."
One caveat when it comes to choosing a professional PR agency or individual to work with - signing up for a higher priced campaign doesn't necessarily mean you will get better results than a cheaper campaign. And the inverse is true as well. Over the past year or so, many "low-cost PR/publicity services" have begun to pop up all over the Internet. Ones that promise to write and launch a press release for as low as $99. They are low in cost - because frankly many are low in quality. Bigger is not necessarily better, and cheap does not always mean a good bargain.
If you have the time, tools and talent to launch and maintain your own campaign, you should definitely do so. If not - there are a number of public relations/publicity firms, specialists and services out there. Research to find the one whose services and fees match your business plan. Once business owners, entrepreneurs, and inventors learn more about their options when it comes to launching a PR campaign -- many find that they can't afford NOT to have one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When the Media Calls

If the media were to call you today for an interview, would you know what to do or say? That question was posed during a recent conference on small-business ownership and micro enterprise creation, which was held here in Paris. I watched the reactions around the room, and it occurred to me that for most small-business owners, the only thing more frightening than conducting a follow-up phone call with a reporter is having that same reporter actually interview them.
There is only one way to overcome the fear. You have to simply adopt and apply an old U.S. Army recruitment slogan, "Be Prepared." Don't get caught without an answer the next time the media calls. Follow these quick tips for success:
Ask the reporter to describe the subject and story angle for the interview.
Establish the medium for the interview (i.e. live or taped television, print, radio, etc.)
Discover when (date and time) and where (by phone, e-mail or in person) the interview will take place. Also try to determine if the reporter will need additional information from you, as well as the story's deadline.
Research the reporter's past articles so that you'll be comfortable with the story's tone.
Create talking points. These are brief positive statements about you and your company that you will want to be included in the story.
Anticipate the types of questions that that reporter might ask, and prepare truthful answers for them.
Assume that everything you say to a reporter - jokingly or otherwise, will be used in the story. Always be aware of what is being stated, and if an awkward silence develops, don't feel obligated to keep talking if you have no more to say on the subject matter.
Avoid speculation or hypothetical situations. It could lead to being misquoted. You are the expert so stick to what you know.
Admit when you don't know the answer to a question. However, make it your top priority to find the answers and deliver them to the reporter immediately. It is also fine to take a moment to think before answering a question.
Avoid using technical terms or jargon. You must be able to explain your ideas simply and concisely.
Take notes and don't be afraid to ask the reporters questions as well.
Make yourself available by phone or e-mail in case the reporter has additional questions or wants to do a final fact check before completing the story. This will help give clarification to something you've said or give an opportunity to fix something if you've misspoken.
Thank the reporter for selecting you for the interview.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Little Known Pitfalls of Traditional Publishing Industry

As many small-time authors and self-publishers have discovered the hard way, the traditional book publishing model is fraught with problems that conspire against an individual author/publisher making a decent living from their work.
The traditional model normally involves two basic choices: 1) use a commercial publisher, or 2) self-publish.
This option involves the author submitting book proposals or full manuscripts to commercial publishing houses in hope of acceptance.
Once a manuscript is accepted by a publishing house (the vast majority are not accepted) a contract is signed between the author and the publishing house. This kicks-off a time- consuming and often complex process involving printers, shippers, wholesalers, distributors, marketers, and finally, booksellers, all managed on the author's behalf by the publishing house.
Typically, it takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months from the time the author finishes a book manuscript, until the actual book gets onto the bookshelves.
The self-publishing option is one in which the author eliminates some of the middlemen and manages the overall publishing, distribution and marketing processes him/herself.
This option gives the author much more personal control of the whole process and allows him/her to earn more money per copy than through a commercial publisher. It also involves a lot of work by the self-publisher who is responsible for performing all of the functions and services that a commercial publisher would normally look after.
This model is normally less time-consuming in terms of elapsed time, since there is no manuscript submission and approval process involved. On average, the self-publishing process can save 6 to 12 months over the commercial publisher model.
Based on my first-hand experience with the North American book publishing and distribution industry, I have to say that it is one of the most archaic and poorly run business models that I have ever encountered. The entire industry seems to be decades behind current-day business practices of other industries.
Very few people know from the outset what they're getting into when they choose to publish their book via the traditional publishing route. They have no idea at the beginning just how backward, outdated and dysfunctional the entire conventional book publishing industry business model really is.
Here's what the conventional book publishing industry WILL NOT spell out to you before you sign-up...
Give Away Half Your Book's Value Up-Front
If your book's cover price is, say $30, you will be forced to discount at least 40% to 60% right off the top when selling your book to wholesalers and retailers. So, you'll really be working from an actual price of somewhere between $12 and $18 -- not the $30 you first thought.
Don't Count On Making Big Bucks
If you choose the commercial publisher option, the best you can hope to receive for your book is a royalty somewhere between 6% and 10% of the "net". The "net" is the amount the publisher receives AFTER discounting to retailers.
Example; cover price = $30; discount to large retail chain = $15 (i.e. 50%). Your cut would be somewhere between $0.90 and $1.50 per sale. So, for selling 3,000 copies (a very good sales figure) you would receive a grand total of somewhere between $2,700 and $4,500!
You'll Have To Write Lots Of Books
If you choose the self-publishing option your main distributor will pay you somewhere around 45% of the cover price of your book. Using our $30 cover price example; that works out to $13.50 per sale that goes to you under this scenario. Then you have to deduct your costs which include: printing the book, overheads, and marketing, publicity and advertising expenses.
Example: cover price = $30; distributor payment to you at 45% of cover = $13.50, before expenses. Deduct: printing costs - $3.50; overheads - $1.00; marketing, advertising, publicity - $1.00 = ($13.50-$5.50) = $8.00 per book sale. So, for selling 3,000 copies you would make only $24,000.
And don't forget, this option involves your ongoing direct personal time and effort involvement.
Wait Forever To Get Paid
Typically, you will have to wait between 90 days and 120 days after an actual book sale before you will receive your payment for that sale. I still shake my head at this one. How does the publishing industry get away with such an archaic practice in the 21st Century?
In normal business the standard wait for payment is usually 30 days, sometimes as much as 60 days; but 90 to 120 days to pay a poor struggling author? It's a crying shame that they still manage to get away with it. This kind of payment delay is the norm, whether you go through a commercial publisher or if you're a self-publisher.
Issue 100% Refunds On Unsold Books
A trademark feature of the conventional book publishing industry is the way in which it deals with "returns". In almost all cases -- publishers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers - they maintain the right to return unsold books to you, the author, for a 100% refund, even many months later!
Example: Say you sell 200 copies of your book to a particular retail chain through your publisher (commercial publisher model) or through your distributor (self-publisher model). Then, let's say that after five months, various stores in that retail chain find that 45 unsold copies of your book are still on their shelves. The retailer would simply send those books back to your publisher or distributor for a 100% refund. That company would would then routinely pay that retail chain a 100% refund for each book returned and in-turn would deduct that total amount from your account!
I'm not kidding folks, this is how it really works!
There is absolutely NO incentive for bookstores or publishers/distributors to make any extra effort whatsoever to move your book off their shelves since they know you will provide a 100% rebate for all "returns" in any case. Go figure?
Pay Them Extra Money... Just In Case
And just to add insult to injury, many publishers and distributors will also withhold funds from your regular royalty payments (20% or more) as insurance to cover the costs of possible future returns.
So, not only do you get paid 90 to 120 days late, you will NOT receive the full amount to which you are entitled, as your publisher/distributor hedges against the possibility of eventual returns of unsold and/or damaged books months down the line.
Get Stuck In Someone Else's Time Cycle
Most commercial publishers operate on a time-frame of 18 to 24 months from approved/accepted manuscript until the book is released for sale. If you are a self-publisher you can whittle this down to maybe 3 to 6 months depending on when your book is ready vis a vis your distributor's catalog publication schedule.
If you time it perfectly, or just get lucky, there might only be 6 to 8 weeks between your book being ready to ship and it getting it onto store shelves.
In addition to the foregoing, there are other problems with the traditional book publishing model which I won't go into here. So, as you can see, from an author's point of view it is a highly dysfunctional, badly flawed business model that wouldn't survive in most industries.
In fact, the system is so stacked against the average author I'm amazed that some people actually try to eke out an ongoing living in that thankless industry. I guess they feel they have no other choice, or they are hoping against the odds that they will one day get lucky and pen a mega best-seller.
So, if you are an aspiring author, and you're hoping to make a modest living writing and publishing your own books or ebooks -- the traditional book publishing and distribution model is definitely NOT the way to go.
The good news is that over the past couple of years a new publishing model has evolved that eliminates all of the negative aspects of the traditional publishing model and adds a number of additional benefits.
It's called the "Online Publishing Model".
It's a combination of online digital download delivery and print-on-demand (POD) publishing that sidesteps most of the pitfalls of the traditional book publishing model.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Six Sigma Tools for Process Control

Aim for perfection.
That's a pretty lofty concept. It's definitely not easy - especially when speaking of core business processes. Moving toward perfection requires measurement, analysis and documentation. And if you really want perfection, then you need more sophisticated tools. But is driving toward that ideal of perfection worth the effort?
If you want to increase quality and dramatically save costs in production, then, yes, the road to perfection is definitely worth the driving time.
Forward Steps, Quality and Processes
Last time, we discussed process mapping to increase communication and understanding within an organization and to effectively develop a system of procedures. Now, let's take a forward step, and look at how Six Sigma tools can decrease variability and increase quality in your processes.
Six Sigma, Pyramids and Systems
The Six Sigma methodology is an advanced set of tools designed for problem-solving and quality improvement. A 'sigma' refers to the standard deviation from the mean of a population. Standard deviation indicates the likelihood that your next data point will deviate from the mean of the data set.
At the bottom of the Six Sigma pyramid begins a system's current process capability. Usually at 1 or 2 Sigma levels is "tribal" knowledge based on first-time experiences. An organization moves up the pyramid to 3 Sigma as systems are put in place. To hit 4 Sigma, statistics and modeling tools are used for significant process improvement. And, finally, to aim for that near perfection, organizations apply DFSS, or Design for Six Sigma.
Measurement, Analysis and Documentation
Why do (and should) organizations use these concepts to move up the pyramid and toward quality improvement? Why is it necessary to measure, analyze and document processes - and, if needed, make those desired changes? Why drive toward perfection, and what does it mean in real terms?
If your current process capability runs at 1 Sigma, then that effectively means you have two defects (unusable products) out of every 3 parts. That means 67% of your costs simply become waste, with no return on your investment. At 2 Sigma, quality improves with 1 out of 3 parts as defects. But that still has an error rate of 33%. Not until 3 and then 4 Sigma levels will you see dramatic improvements. Put in these terms, you quickly see how such errors keep you from realizing a greater potential.
Transactions, Multiple Steps and Tolerance
Organizations most effectively utilize Six Sigma methodology in two situations. One, if a business works with a very high volume of transactions per year, then they can not tolerate low sigma levels. For example, a 99% effective rate for 1 billion transactions per year still yields 10 million defects. In any industry, that is not acceptable.
Another situation that calls for Six Sigma methodology is when an organization (i.e. manufacturing) has processes with multiple steps. Here total error rate is critical. For example, the effective rate is 99% for each step; however, that does NOT give the total error rate as 1%. You must take the 99% for the first step and multiply it by 99% for the second step, the third step, and so on. With a great number of steps, your total effective rate could significantly decrease. So, to avoid high volatility, this organization can not tolerate low sigma levels.
Organizations can also determine error rate by effectively reversing the typical process of Six Sigma. You can calculate the mean and variance in your process to define the error rate. This tells you where you are currently on the Six Sigma curve. For example, if your calculation tells you that you're on a 1 or 2 sigma level, then this is an area in need of improvement. This gives you an opportunity to look at the data more carefully, take the mean and variance of each step of the process, and determine in which step the process is having problems. Or it could tell if you there are many steps causing the problems and, thus, the cumulative increase in error rate.
Processes, Procedures and Control
Organizations use the Six Sigma methodology, because you can't get any higher than 2 Sigma ("tribal" or basic knowledge) without putting strong processes and procedures in place. And without strong processes and procedures, you can not move toward higher quality and system optimization - toward perfection. Are you really satisfied with 67% of your product lost as waste? Are you satisfied with such high variability in your system?
Problems, Resources and Results
If needed, you can change your process to reduce or eliminate this variability or error. Six Sigma methodology tells you when to take action to solve a problem. It moves an organization to consistently meet the requirements and minimize the resources used in its management system. And it creates the desired results for which the system was designed.
Systems, Control and Perfection
Remember, though, you can only get to 3 or 4 sigma by developing a system of policies and procedures of measurement, analysis and documentation. And with this you will easily see that reducing your error rate and moving toward perfection with Six Sigma tools is well worth the driving time - and, more, crucial to your system's control.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Worth of Health Insurance

This article relates to the Compensation and Benefits Competency, commonly evaluated in employee satisfaction surveys. The questions included in this competency will help your organization determine whether your employees feel they are fairly paid for the work they perform when compared to a similar job at a different company. This competency also queries their feelings regarding the adequacy and quality of their benefits package. A fair and attractive compensation package is critical for hiring and retaining quality employees. A high satisfaction level in this competency requires that your compensation structure and benefits package be fair, balanced, and understood by your present employees.
This article, The Worth of Health Insurance, is part of AlphaMeasure's compilation, Tales from the Corporate Frontlines. It focuses specifically on the value of employer provided health insurance to employees in today's workplace and economic climate.
Anonymous Submission:
Large salary increases are rare these days, especially for mid level, mid career employees. Having worked at the same small, family owned business for about ten years now, my fellow employees and I were accustomed to getting about the same raise every year. It never varied very much, and we considered it fair, especially since the business was quite solid and successful with a steady profit stream for the past several years.
That's why we were all so shocked this year when our expected increase amount was cut in half. After the shock faded, the office was abuzz with speculation "the company is going under, that sales rep, Mr. Brown, lost that lucrative account, I knew this would happen, the owners are just getting greedy, they're thinking of selling to a large multinational" - were some of the stories considered.
Finally, our general manager caught wind of the discussions and settled us down for a meeting. He told us that the reason the increases had been cut was that the health insurance program premiums had risen very sharply. The owners decided that rather than require the employees to pay more for the insurance, it would be better to pay the extra premium and give smaller salary increases. He told us that many companies are handling rising premiums in much the same way.
Many employees, myself included, were skeptical. Sure, we told each other. That's a good story. And we picked up where we'd left off with our previous speculations.
That night, I received a phone call. It was my sister, and she was crying. She's a stay- at- home mom, her husband has been downsized, and the family is at the point where it has to pay for health insurance. As my sister tearfully recited the rates she'd been quoted, I was beyond shock. It amounted to a small fortune. After she hung up, I went online to my health insurance provider website. I checked the rate I would pay without my employer contribution. The price difference was far higher than my raise reduction, and the coverage wasn't as good.
Humbled, I went to work the next day and told my coworkers what I'd discovered. We'd all underestimated the worth of a solid benefit plan with good health insurance in today's workplace and economy. Suddenly our salary increase seemed a lot larger.