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Category >> Management
Jan 21

Improve Your Productivity

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

Most businesses want to improve productivity. Usually the more efficient the business is, the stronger the profits. Often a business owner will seek a great breakthrough to improve productivity. Then, the breakthrough fails to materialize. The truth is that you increase productivity by putting together a series of small improvements that generate a major change over time.

Jan 19

Inaction Becomes Approval

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

I recently encountered a thorny issue with a company I work with. I will avoid the specifics because I want to protect the confidentiality of others. I assist a company to market a product as a side business. I do some of their advertising and sales and earn a commission from each sale.

Advertising is a key part of my efforts. I create and use my own advertisements and pay for the exposure. I sent “Linda” the sample advertisement last July for review with a request to let me know if they had any changes they wanted or had any issues with the content. They confirmed receipt of the ad and never raised any issues. I took this as approval.

Nov 24

Effective Process Limits Conflict

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

No one likes change or being passed over for promotion. To minimize bad feelings over disappointment and change, employ effective steps focused on limiting conflict.

Paul instructed, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40, NIV) An orderly process is an important first step. An orderly process requires that you think through how you will work through decisions in a fair and orderly way.

Many years ago when smoking was legal in many public buildings, I wanted to initiate a no smoking policy in the building where I worked. At the time, making offices non-smoking was a trend. In my building, some staff wanted to get rid of smoking while smokers were adamant about keeping the privilege. We started addressing the change by appointing a committee of colleagues which included management, supervisors, and hourly staff. They were tasked to develop a proposed policy to address smoking in the building. The committee was not told in advance what to suggest.

The committee consisted of smokers and nonsmokers. They were employees who would have been considered leaders by others. One member was someone whose manager, a smoker, was recently diagnosed with cancer of the throat. The group conducted research, reviewed the health considerations, and looked at different options.

Finally, the group recommended a policy of no smoking in the building. In addition they suggested that smoking be permitted outside in a covered area that would be provided. The committee also recommended support for any employee who wanted to enter a stop smoking program. Management accepted the policy in full. While some smokers did not like the result, they understood that the process was fair especially because they had an opportunity to weigh in.

I could have written a memo in five minutes designating the building as non-smoking, however; it would have created conflict. The process was effective to help those who, though they did not like the outcome, accepted the results.

Another part of the process is to treat everyone with kindness and respect even if you believe they are completely wrong. Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, NIV) In the same way you want respect, those you work with want you to respect them.

The committee assigned to develop the smoking policy, treated each person with respect. Some took an early position saying, “If I want to smoke that’s my business. Don’t tell me what to do.” Others thought, “My life is in danger with all of this second-hand smoke so smoking needs to stop now.” While feelings were intense on both sides, everyone was treated with respect.  Each had an opportunity to express positions, gather information, and participate.
The ultimate result must be as fair and reasonable to all as possible. Micah wrote, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV)

Since feelings were strong on both sides of the smoking issue, it was important that the policy implement accommodations. Smokers were permitted smoking breaks outside. Some resented this saying “Why should they get a break just to smoke?” The answer was that this was part of the compromise to remove smoke from the building.

Implementing change is not easy.  Not everyone will like the change. Using an orderly, fair, and respectful process will make executing tough decisions easier.
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May 16

Trusting Customers

Posted by Steve Marr in Untagged 

President Reagan had a slogan, “Trust, but verify.” This is sound advice when dealing with customers.  Businesses may seem to treat customers as guilty until proved innocent. This doesn’t build good relationships.

I ordered a $14.95 e-book from a website. The seller accepted only PayPal, which, in my view, was a mistake. Some customers want to bypass PayPal, but with this site; you could not.  I placed my order and received a message that the link to the book would be sent after my payment cleared. PayPal takes up to five days to process.  The seller was so worried that a customer like me might cheat him out of $14.95 so he held up the order.

Dec 05

Managing a Lawyer

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Since I work with attorneys at times, clients ask me for advice on how to best manage a client- attorney relationship. One client struggled with an attorney while he started a business. The lawyer seemed to be a perfectionist. This costs time and money.

I have set up basic businesses in one or two days with the attorney I use. We cover the basics, and then get going. The cost and time benefit of taking several weeks for a detailed review is a waste of money. I recently asked my attorney to review a promissory note contract I wanted to use in my business. He told me that the basic agreement was fine.  He could have rewritten the agreement, charged a large fee, and I would have gained little or nothing from the changes.

Another client experienced a problem when an employee departed and started contacting customers in clear violation of a non-compete agreement. The lawyer was still reviewing the agreement after four days while the ex-employee was  attempting to take customers. At the client’s request, I spoke with the attorney who was concerned that “everything needed to be correct before moving forward.” I explained that he had the signed non-compete agreement which provided evidence that the former agreement was being violated.  I told him that time was not our friend. I explained that a simple letter sent immediately doesn’t need every legal argument spelled out. I suggested writing the employee with the following reminders:  1) they signed a non-compete agreement;  2) they were in violation of the agreement; 3) they must cease and desist;  4) if they did not, you would file a request for an injunction and monetary damages. The lawyer should be able to draft and send that letter in one or two hours.