Entrepreneurial News®

Rethinking Remote

Our local Business Journal had a good article recently about rethinking remote working for your employees.

Our local upsurge in Omicron cases has probably influenced some firms to keep more employees remote or be more lenient in allowing remote work.

It’s a fact that many companies’ workforce decided that they liked to work from home, software could be redesigned to accommodate working from home, and many workers say that if they can work from home, they are less likely to change jobs.

Among our clients, one large civil engineering firm remoted all of its employees to cope with COVID, and has changed to keep employees remote if they want to be.

A large mortgage company allows its employees to go back and forth between working in the office and working remotely.

Employees of an investment firm in New York all want to return to the office.

So, be sensitive to what your workers want before you make any non-reversible decisions about working remotely.

Disrupt Yourself

It’s now late January, and maybe, just maybe you’re still thinking about what you want to do in 2022.

Courtesy of CEO Magazine, one of their more original ideas is to disrupt yourself. And, of course, they have several ideas about what you might do to rethink what you do in ’22.

  1. Think like a new business. Maybe what you’re doing as a company or as the CEO/owner is the same things you’ve done for years (I encounter people like this all the time). What did you do as a startup that you’re not doing now?
  2.   Commit to an experiment, whether it’s a new product/service line of a new way of doing something in your business. Maybe it’s a new service. Set a time line to get the service launched and evaluated.
  3. Be generous with your team, and not just your senior management. Not necessarily with monty, but maybe survey them all to see if they’re happy. Happy people make a happy company, and happy customers which means growth.
  4. Get some of your most enthusiastic employees to lead the rethinking…. it’s not necessarily just your responsibility.  If they know they’re driving the project, they might work harder, better and smarter.

7 Ways to Deny a Promotion W/O Demotivating

OK, It’s January, and everyone is back at work in most states.

I’ve shamelessly purloined much of this post from Ivy, which has good articles from time to time on running your business.

I’ve seen this scenario play out many times among our small business Solutions Forum clients, so I’m passing along their article paragraph headers (you can fill in the paras):

  1. The person who wants to be promoted doesn’t really have much basis for his/her belief, other than Johnny/Susie down the corridor got promoted.
  2. They’re not very entrepreneurial, which means they haven’t bugged you lately about the idea they had about improving xyz.
  3. They’re not a team player, but in a small business that might not be too important, as long as they do what they’re asked to do. Do they do more than asked?
  4. They come to you with problems, not solutions to your challenges. You’re not Dr. Laura.
  5. They ask for a lot of overtime. If they can’t get their job done in regular time, there’s a problem, and you should discuss it.
  6. Conversely, they’ve got track shoes on ready to bolt at 5 pm. Normally, a little overtime should be expected by you.
  7. They do their job exactly as they’re asked, with no ideas for improvement. Everybody has ways to improve their job, even on an assembly line.


New for ’22

I got a seminar requrest for attendance from a webinar house a couple of days ago wanting me to attend a seminar on 5 things to be aware of in 2022.

Most of the five items had nothing to do with marketing or sales. One was people related, one was fixing processes, and one was leadership related. The other two didn’t even make my top of mind.

If you don’t improve marketing and fix sales, your company isn’t going to grow, your competitors might run over you and life won’t be as much fun.

Not that being an entrepreneur is a day at the beach.

We continue to see problems with websites, usually that they’re not locally focused, are hard to use, or the design isn’t too functional.

And it’s even happened to one client, sorry to say. His sales have gone down in one division because he hasn’t fixed that division’s website in two or three years, and I wasn’t too happy with the design the last time.

And he wants to sell the company. Potential purchasers will spot this website weakness a mile off.

So, another client, whose websites I like (he’s done three for me) is fixing the division’s website.


COVID Comotion

We are sitting down here in Arizona, land of the free and home of no COVID restrictions and not many masks.

Our governor has been pretty sane about school restrictions too; the state  money follow the child, with the result that there’s a general shift away from public schools towards private and parochial

The coasts and Chicago need to get on board with the new reality, and the Illinois governor or the Chicago mayor should fire the teachers who aren’t in the classroom.

The Supremes are also likely it seems to declare the vax mandate unconstitutional. Enough of the nutty regs. OHSA wasn’t supposed to be in the vax biz anyway.

Unions have a place, but it’s not to be obstructionists.

So, You Want to Be An Entrepreneur?

There is quite an interesting article in this month’s INC magazine entitled ‘Out the Other Side’ about the struggles some entrepreneurs have had in their entrepreneurial journey with depression and feelings of failure, resulting in bad decisions. But they came out the other side, which is the point.

Everyone who has ever started or run a business has experienced feelings like this….I have, and several of my clients have. It’s one of the reasons I do Solutions Forum.

As far as I know, none of them has ever taken our Entrepreneurial Questionnaire, which we’re going to put in this blog, before year end to get all you people who are thinking about taking the plunge some insight.

One of the things that I noticed is that the people seemed to suffer in silence, not getting help from anyone.

Another thing I noticed is that not many of them did any market research before starting the business, which seems to have caused some problems, mostly anxiety at having possibly made a wrong decision. A couple pivoted after launch when they discovered that a certain segment was doing better, and then they did do some market research as to why a segment was doing better.

The bottom line, kids, is if you’re struggling, we’re just a group meeting or a Zoom call or even a Facetime away.

Stop Those Annoying Meetings

Since we’re all back at some form of work (in office, remote, or a combination of the two), meetings are back.

Notice that I didn’t say ‘in style’. They’re not.

One of our clients, PADT in Tempe, run by Eric Miller, wrote a good article published by the Phoenix Business Journal, entitled ‘A Word About Those Annoying Questions’. Eric runs a civil engineering firm, staffed with a bunch of engineers, who have all sorts of ideas on how a particular project should be run or a client should be handled, so he’s used to annoying meetings.

What makes the meetings annoying is that some staffers, in Eric’s opinion, and we think he’s right, delight in asking annoying ‘challenge’ questions of whoever’s running the meeting, or even some other meeting participants.

Discussion is good, but only to a point. And the annoying questions may not have anything to do with the subject. Since all Eric’s staff is probably highly paid and he doesn’t want unhappy employees and wants to foster creativity, he probably tolerates annoying questions in meetings.

In fact, about halfway through his article, Eric admits that challenge questions, which might be initially annoying, aren’t really that bad and usually lead to better solutions.

So, bottom line, don’t worry about whether a meeting was annoying. So your ego got a dent and a bruise. Did you get to a better solution?

Are You a Socially Responsible Business?

Scattered through the text of this book are references to a ‘socially responsible business’, so here’s a section dedicated to the term.

It also arises from doing a projected entrepreneurship curriculum for my college, Antioch, which emphasizes doing things in a socially responsible manner.

In my experience, most business owners start businesses for socially responsible reasons, such as providing gainful employment to themselves, and others, but they don’t think of themselves as socially responsible.

I did a survey of my approximately 20 Solutions Forum and Profit Growth Acceleration clients and they didn’t think of themselves as socially responsible, but they do operate in a socially responsible manner. (Otherwise they might not be clients)

Being socially responsible means openess in how you operate your business, and running it in a manner that benefits society. Benefitting society means making positive changes that benefit society while benefitting stakeholders and making a profit.

Being socially responsible is characterized as being open about all facets of running your business. Some examples of business practices that are considered socially responsible are:

  1. Opening your financial statements to your employees (you might wish to have them sign a non disclosure when you do, to prevent financial data being disclosed to competitors and the government without your permission).
  2. Being open and honest in hiring your employees.
  3. Being open an honest in your employment practices, usually through an employment manual, to which employees can contribute.
  4. Honest and forthright employee evaluations at reasonable intervals, such as quarterly, and allowing employees to make a commentary on the evaluation, and have them sign the evaluation.
  5. Allowing your employees to contribute suggestions on how the company is run, its leadership, and any other topic they wish. Such suggestions should be acknowleged, and a course of action designed to either implement or ignore the suggestion. If the suggestion is going to be ignored, management should say why.
  6. Regular feedback and interchanges with employees, such as on Friday afternoons. As a company grows, this feedback process might have to go through departments, and might have to be staggered so that customers are taken care of.

The qualification and quantification of being socially responsible is a relatively new phenomenom, and one that arouses a great deal of comment, so we expect our fair share of readers will let us know what they think of the practice and how their business practices being socially responsible.

57 Million Credit Card Machines Likely Compromised

Anders Coor reports in The Epoch Times that Chinese manufactured credit card machines are sending data back to China.

We don’t know what data, but presumably it’s your credit or debit card information that was entered in one of the Chinese made point of sale (POS) machines.

These are the machines that your credit/debit payment processor gave you for free in return for processing all your payments through them.

The US Treasury Department in charge of these payments reports that China bound payment transactions are larger and more frequent that one might expect from normal payment transactions.

PAX Global is apparently one of the Chinese manufacturers of the payment machines, and it has had its sole US office raided by the US Treasury and machines seized. No word on where the manufacturer placed its systems, or any banks that might be using its systems.

Florida- based FIS Worldpay, a payments processor, was forced to replace its PAX Global machines with machines from US and French manufacturers (Corr doesn’t name them).

The big US based processor of credit card payments, Square, was not mentioned in the article.

No big bank payments processors, such as Chase and Wells Fargo, were mentioned in the article.

Other China-based companies, such as Zoom and TikTok, as well as cellphone users, may also have data hacking vulnerabilities. In addition, Zoom has been found to be sending unauthorized data to Meta (the former Facebook).

As of late September, Zoom software allowed remote code execution, that is possible hacking of Zoom users over the internet. Zoom has reportedly fixed the vulnerability, so if you’re using Zoom, make sure you’re using the latest version.

TikTok is reportedly worse than Zoom on security, but we are not aware than any US companies are using it for payment processing. Their employees, yes. We would recommend that employers share this post with employees.

90 percent of computers and 70% of cellphones are manufactured in China and are therefore subject to this hacking risk. We haven’t recommended that one use cellphones or computers for payments online (this latest problem is just the latest reason why), but we know that most people do use such devices for online payments. We would guess that using US or French made computers with US or French chips in them, would minimize one’s risk.

Corrs says, and rightly so, that we need laws and executive orders that mandate for a secure tech environment, but good luck getting those out of the Biden administration, given its coziness with China.

Just the latest reason not to trust the Chinese.


Why Should Anyone be Led By You?

The title of this post comes from a series of lectures that I and another Navy Captain, Fred Reis, did under the aegis of the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Frank Kelso.

I was called in by Sen. John McCain’s office, who knew me and my civilian company leadership record, and wanted the two of us to try leadership theories on Navy Captains, many of whom had not evolved their leadership styles since the era of wooden ships and iron men (and proudly in some cases so stated to us).

Fred and I ultimately published a book called ‘Leadership Secrets’, and about 4,000 copies went out to all Commanding Officers in the Navy as well as many middle managers who the Navy thought had potential. It took us three two week tours, plus some admin support, to get it done, but ADM Kelso finally blessed the product and issued a CNO order implementing it.

In addition, we did a one week course for those who wanted more leadership training (including a few hardcore yellers and screamers) who got put in our leadership course, or who faced being cashiered from the Navy.

How these secrets apply to you, as a company owner, is that somewhere around 10 employees, folks might question your leadership qualities and ability, and the ability to demonstrate both is critical to your company going further.

In all honesty, you might decide at 10 employees that’s as large as you want to get, and your golf game needs more attention than your sales curve. Fair enough; I encounter people like you all the time. My Dad, who had started the Heinrich Company, was like this; he’d worked hard since he was 12 or so, and his company provided him and my mother a very nice lifestyle.

But, many owners want to do better by their employees, give them a vision and a career if they chose it.

For starters, you don’t have to keep all your employees happy all the time, but you do need to  listen to them.

If you listen rather than just issuing edicts, and your employees have the feeling that they’re being listened to, you’ll have happier employees, ones that stick around. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s the lowliest warehouse guy or gal, or the production line guy or gal, or your business partner, you should listen.

I often think, in retrospect, that I exercised my 51% ownership of the Heinrich Company too often, and probably had more employee turnover and poorer decisions as a result. We still achieved 25% compound growth rates, and nearly outstripped our financial resources, but we might have done better by listening more.

There are several leadership styles that you can use, such as the command and control (the old Navy model) where everything is written down in orders, to a more modern coaching style of leadership where decisions are reached by consensus.

Personally, I discovered that the command and control Navy way didn’t always work when I was a plane captain of a surveillance plane flying around over Viet Cong strongholds; There were a couple of times when the crew asked to talk over a decision and, after realizing that we had time to discuss it, we did.  And a couple of those people turned up in my commands years later when they found out I was leading a Navy Reserve unit.

You’ve got more time to make a decision on something than you realize. So, take some time. Look for opinions. Wander around on the production line or warehouse floor. Even Alan Mulally, the retired CEO of Ford, used to wander around the Ford production lines. And he was very well thought of by Ford’s rank and file. And he popped up at the Phoenix intro of the Ford Fusion, just talking to the inviteds, no big hoohaa.

Jim Farley, Ford’s current CEO, is much different. For openers, he’s a product guy, having come up through Lexus and Lincoln. But he also turned around Ford of Europe, so he’s got operational chops (no pun intended). And he races Fords of all kinds, which is really different. Farley driving the wheels off a Ford Mach E on the Dearborn test track is a sight. Another sight is Farley asking the Twitteratti of their opinion of a Mach E door handle.

But, both Mullaly and Farley share a common trait: they both work from consensus, although Farley showed a willingness to make major personnel cuts at Ford of Europe while revving up the product side.  Mullaly created the ‘One Ford’ vision to unite the warring units within Ford, which was a major leadership accomplishment, and I know heads rolled over that vision.

Farley and Mullaly also demonstrate a couple of other leadership tenets: leadership is doing the right things  while management is executing on the vision of right things.

We recommend the consensus form of leadership, as long as there’s time to build a consensus. In business, there usually is time, despite one of your sales reps yelling that you should have made a decision on ‘x’ yesterday.

As you become more confident as a leader, you’ll take the time you need to build your consensus and get the buy-in that you need to have successful decision, not just one made on the fly that no one is happy about.

When you have to make a decision, make it. As my wife would say, ‘Don’t sit on the pasture post’.

The key think once you make the decision is execution. You and your team need to execute, and be alert for signs of problems with the decision as you go along.

You might find that there’s a better decision, based on more complete information to be made down the road. Or, you might find that you were just flat wrong in the decision you made.

Don’t waste time agonizing about bad decisions, either. If a decision appears to be incorrect to you, talk to your team and find out what could be better. Don’t be hesitant to admit you were wrong.

You might be right, you might be wrong, but don’t be indecisive.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.