Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cross Cultural Differences

Status exists in all societies but varies in fundamental ways. Cross cultural differences in they way in which we perceive status, gain status and react to status differ from culture to culture.
In this article we examine the cross cultural differences with relation to status and analyse how they manifest in certain areas in the workplace. For the sake of simplicity we identify two types of status; 'ascribed-status' and 'achieved-status'.
Ascribed-status refers to those cultures that base status upon external qualities such as age, wealth, education or gender. If one has the right external characteristics, status is ascribed to them. In such cultures there is little room for others to gain status through actions and achievements.
Achieved-status, as its title suggests, is earned. Internal qualities are valued more than external ones. Therefore, status is achieved through accomplishments such as hard work and contributions to a company or community. In such cultures status is malleable, in that it can be lost as quickly as it is gained and status can shift to other individuals.
Status and Hierarchy:
An area that status impacts within businesses is organisational hierarchies. In ascribed-status cultures there tends to be rigid hierarchies that define roles, practices and processes. For example, employees will tend to focus solely on their own responsibilities and generally not offer suggestions to those above them in the hierarchy, as to do so would be disrespectful. In such organisations, change is very rarely bottom up.
In achieved-status cultures, hierarchies exist but are less formal. The egalitarian nature of such cultures usually means that more value is placed on development and progression rather than respect for status. Consequently, lower level employees would generally feel empowered to make suggestions directly to seniors.
Status and Formality:
The formality of a culture is usually a good indication of the significance of status. The use of names between colleagues is one of the more observable manifestations of status in the workplace.
In ascribed-status cultures colleagues will generally address each other using titles and surnames. Professionals, such as doctors, architects and lawyers, would expect to be addressed by their professional titles. First names are usually only used between family and friends.
In achieved-status cultures, people commonly use first names. This is because individuals will usually feel of equal worth with one another and see no need to demonstrate deference to a more senior ranked colleague.
Status and Management:
A manager in an achieved-status culture will usually take on the role of a mentor. The manager will be a reference point and will guide those under him/her to develop their skills and perform their duties with minimal guidance. Subordinates can and do challenge a manager's decision.
In contrast, in ascribed-status cultures, the manager is expected to give orders and know all the answers. The manager is seen to be experienced, knowledgeable and able to deal with problems effectively. Rather than a mentor, the manager in such a culture takes on more of a parental role as he/she is expected to take care of employees by ascribing duties and overseeing how they handle them. Manager's decisions are typically not challenged.
Status and Information:
The flow of information between people in companies and organisations is another area affected by cross cultural differences in status. In cultures where status is achieved, information usually flows easily between ranks. Directly approaching a senior colleague of another department for consultation, advice or feedback will have a certain amount of protocol attached to it, but is commonplace.
Conversely, in achieved-status cultures information flow is a lot less fluid. There are only certain avenues one can take to either relay or gain information. For example, if the scenario mentioned above occurred in such a culture, the senior colleague would probably feel offended. In this circumstance, the correct protocol would be for the lower ranking colleague to approach his/her manager and ask them to approach the manager of the other department for information or feedback.
As we have seen from the few examples cited above, cross cultural differences with relation to status can and do impact upon a business. If a business is multi-cultural, problems can occur where differences in hierarchy, status and protocol lead to poor communication between staff and frustration with colleagues.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Apprentice" Is Good For America

Donald Trump and executive producer Mark Burnett have a hit on their hands:
"The Apprentice." This NBC reality series plays rather like Burnett's old CBS hit
"Survivor"-- except that the contestants split up into teams face the challenges
of the business world, rather those of untamed wilderness. If they fail, instead
of being "voted off," they are fired by Trump, who brings his years of business
experience to bear on the strategies of the newcomers.
Those who noted the silliness of "Survivor"'s various incarnations will note
some of the same flair for melodrama here. And Trump's hairstyle is as
shudder-provoking as some of the infamous highlights of "Survivor," like the
contestants' drinking of cow's blood. Despite all the goofiness, the show's 20
million viewers also get a lesson in fundamental business principles-- more
people, in fact, will draw valuable lessons from the show than from business
school. The trappings of popular TV shows like "Survivor" provide a palatable
packaging of principles of finance and leadership for the TV-watching masses.
What kind of lessons do viewers learn?
1. Sex sells, of course, and several of the female contestants have learned this
rather quickly.
2. Results count; this sounds self-evident, but it takes failures of the sort
witnessed on the show for the supreme importance of this idea to really sink
in. In the private sector, one bears one's own costs; and it will be quickly
apparent if one's achievements are inadequate.
Lessons like these are vitally important in a nation like America, since the goal
of personal success constitutes a major part of the nation's history and
founding ideals. America is a country of immigrants. Millions of people around
the world have dreamed about moving to the United States to achieve the
"American Dream"--to start over, work hard and achieve a life of success. The
very basic foundation of America comes from the Protestant work ethic
brought by Pilgrims in the 16th century. Prosecuted for their religious beliefs,
they moved to the New World in search of a better life. In the span of only a
couple hundred years, America underwent a major transformation from being
the colony of the British empire whose "sun never sets" to an influential,
wealthy nation of its own.
It was American dollars and common sense that have made America rise from
its status as a relatively new country. Business has always been the essence
and core of America's intrigue to the rest of the world-- the means to produce
a comfortable living in a land of boundless opportunity, regardless of personal
background. Andrew Carnegie, one of the nation's richest entrepreneurs, was
an immigrant from Scotland and started working in a textile mill as a boy in the
dawn of the industrial revolution. He later founded US Steel, the largest
steelmaker in the nation to this day.
Many like him have done the same and moved up through the ranks to
become highly successful. "The Apprentice" gives us one of the foremost
modern-day examples: Donald Trump, who got his start in his father's real
estate business and quickly moved up from there. A decade ago, he found
himself in huge debt but managed to come back bigger and better than ever
before. The unrelenting drive to succeed and to maintain that success
especially in times of trouble is now dramatized in his own show.
3. Finally, "The Apprentice" fulfills the vital task of promoting
entrepreneurship in women and minorities. Contestants like Amy Henry and
the African-American Kwame Jackson provide positive examples with their
ambition and intelligence. In these days, when so many college humanities
departments teach students, minority or otherwise, to view
themselves as victims of capitalism rather than its potential masters, "The
Apprentice" provides encouraging and empowering ideas and information for
the masses of people on their way to the top. While one can get a more in-
depth training at business school, "The Apprentice," whose teams feature
"street entrepreneurs" as well as contestants with college educations,
demonstrates in an entertaining and accessible fashion that even without
technical study, holding the right values can get one far in life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Move Slowly Into Your First Office

Q: I have outgrown my home office and need to find office space for me and two part time employees. I am really excited about opening my first official office, but never having rented commercial space before I don't know anything about how this process works. What are some things I should consider before signing a lease? I'm really eager to get started!
-- Jay P.
A: Congratulations on the growth of your business, Jay, and I understand your excitement. Putting your name on a commercial lease is one of the first tangible commitments an entrepreneur makes to his or her business and searching for that first office or retail space can be a truly invigorating experience.
We entrepreneurs like to imagine ourselves as modern day explorers, going out into the cold, cruel, commercial world to plant the company flag in our own little piece of rented real estate. I remember that feeling of triumph when I rented my first office so many years ago. Funny how you never get the same feeling when laying claim to future office space. For us old timers searching for new office space is about as exciting as watching paint dry on a new office wall.
For entrepreneurs who have never rented commercial space before, however, moving into that first office or storefront serves to validate their membership in the Official Entrepreneur's Club and makes them feel that they have arrived.
They are like business-minded debutantes at a grand cotillion. They stage an elaborate ribbon-cutting ceremony that involves the mayor and a pair of giant scissors. They invite the entire membership of the chamber of commerce, all their customers and vendors, total strangers they meet on the way to work, and all their friends and family. The more the merrier!
There's a big cake with their logo on it and they hand out twenty-five cent pens that have the company name screened on the side and a good time is had by all.
Then reality sets in and they realize that they used one of those twenty-five cent pens to affix their name to an ironclad lease that is invariably slanted in favor of the landlord. By the time they use that pen to sign the next month's rent check, they often find themselves sitting in a leased space that does not suit their needs, staring at a 5 year lease that they really don't understand, wondering just what the hell they have gotten themselves into.
Many entrepreneurs get so caught up in the swell of their first commercial space that they fail to look beyond their immediate needs. You can't predict the future, but the biggest mistake you can make when leasing space is to put very little thought into whether the space will suit your needs for the long term.
So my first advice to you is to curb your excitement and call in a professional to help you find the perfect space for your business. A good realtor or commercial leasing agent can not only save you time and money, but can also help you avoid mistakes that can cost you thousands of dollars over the course of your lease. They can help you locate property, negotiate with landlords, and possibly spot problems with the space or neighborhood that you might have missed.
My second bit of advice is this: once you find a space that suits your needs have an attorney look over the lease agreement before you sign it. A commercial lease is a legally binding agreement that should not be taken lightly. I have found that many entrepreneurs never even take time to read the lease until they try to get out of it, which is always impossible to do. When you sign a lease on behalf of your business, you are the one on the hook for the remaining cost of the lease should your business decline and no longer have revenue to cover the rent. It's worth the money to pay an attorney to make sure you that your interests are covered.
My third bit of advice is to imagine your needs down the road, not just in the here and now. Rarely will you find a landlord willing to grant a one year lease. Most leases are three to five years in length, which means you must take future growth into consideration when looking for space. It wouldn't be wise to sign a 5 year lease on a 1,000 square foot office if you think you might outgrow the space within a year or two. That's why it's a good idea to request a clause in the lease that gives you an out if your company outgrows the space.
Here are a few other points to consider when shopping for commercial space:
Location, location, location. Is the location convenient to your customers? Is the neighborhood growing or going downhill? Are there major improvements or renovations taking place or are businesses moving out in droves? Also make sure the property is zoned for your kind of business.
Is there sufficient parking for customers and employees. Parking is especially important for a retail store, but also for any business that may have customers coming and going. Very few customers will park four blocks away and hike back to your door. A lack of parking can drive you out of business.
How many employees do you have? The amount of bodies inhabiting the space will help dictate the amount of space needed. Employees get awful grumpy when stacked up like cordwood (trust me on this one). You should have enough space for everyone to work comfortably.
When leasing commercial space the devil is often in the (overlooked) details. If you will be using computers and lot of electronics, make sure the building's electrical system will support your needs. It's a terrible feeling to turn on your computer and blow every light bulb in the place.
If you like a quiet work environment and your office windows are twenty feet from the street, you'll be in for a rude awakening when the rush hour traffic hits.
If the air conditioning in your office is controlled by the thermostat in a neighboring suite that is inhabited by an old lady who freezes in ninety degree weather, you will be in for a very long, very hot summer.
Move into that first office space slowly or you may find yourself quickly regretting it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10 Ways To Improve

1. Determine your current situation. How are you currently positioned in the market? How do you compare to the competition? Where would you like to be in a Year or in five years and how would you like to get there? Or more appropriately how can you get there, as it is not always the way that you want that works. Planning requires that you understand how you currently stand.
2. Calculate your operational budget and determine how much you can afford to spend on an Ad campaign. Also, this is the stage to decide your campaign mediums and the effectiveness of different mediums of advertising as it applies to the specific nature of your product and or services. It also helps to retain a percentage of your earnings towards future Ad campaign on an ongoing basis.
3. Since customers are the life-blood of any business, be sure to develop a good rapport with your customers. To keep your customers visiting, buying and begging for more; let them know how much you appreciate their business. Do not spare any personal touch you can invest in the relationship. It will pay for your time and effort tenfold. Create an Ezine to communicate with your customers and to generate new leads. This can be achieved by offering an opportunity to your visitors to subscribe to your ezine from your website or purchasing leads from a leads company.
4. Now, depending on your current position, you may not even have customers yet. If you are starting from scratch, your first order of business would be to start growing a customer base within your budget of course. Create or have a Strong Sales Copy done for your promotions. Consider targeted Ad campaigns through Google or other search engines. You may also consider some of the other 'Viral' marketing Traffic Exchanges out there. Online campaigns consist of generating traffic to your website as this would improve your ranking with the traffic exchanges. Your ultimate goal is to generate free traffic which comes from a high ranking in the traffic exchanges. In other words, you need to generate traffic first and then you can work on converting the traffic into buying customers or better yet, return customers.
5. Hire, rent, or buy a coach/mentor; and if you can not afford one, get some of the informative ebooks and magazines out there. Your decision making prowess would be much better with this kind of backbone. Take note that even with all the information you may acquire from books and magazines, nothing compares to experience. Now, if you have to go on your experience then you are setting yourself up to learn the hard and costly way.
6. I hope you are getting warmed up by now. This one is a must-do for all Internet marketers. I am talking about Forum participation and membership. In fact, this whole article could have been written around link promotion, and only one other means compares to Forums when it comes to promoting your link/website and increasing your ranking. Join a Forum that concerns your line of business. The Forum would promote your link as a result of your participation in discussions and postings. The flip side is that it also provides you for free, knowledge base that compares to hiring a mentor.
7. Position your business to benefit from other webmasters traffic. There are several ways to achieve this. The most prominent is link exchanges with other websites that are similar or complementary in nature to your business. You can do this by writing to the owner or webmaster of other sites, you can buy a link exchange program or join a link exchange. Most are free to join and some charge very minimal fees.
8. As your customer base grows and you start to reap the benefits of your actions. Be sure to acquire an Auto-responder to manage email campaigns and Ezine delivery. By now, your actions should start to show returns and you can complement your campaigns by purchasing a leads building campaign if you do not have one in place from the start. It is common knowledge among the big hitters that a lot of sales come from email campaigns. Use your Sales copy Ad to develop an email campaign, and stay in touch with your existing customers. This can also be used to sell new subscribers you generated using step#3.
9. Is your head spinning yet? Well if it is, you are on the right track for success and should now learn to relax and balance work and social responsibilities. This is a very crucial step to achieving anything in life. We all need to step back a little, so we can see more, refresh and increase performance. Everything contained here would be useless if you can not find balance. As you find relaxation, in whatever way you choose, remember to build a support system and share your experiences with acquaintances. You just might increase your network while doing something that relaxes you. The country club offers recreation and relaxation but, it also comes with networking opportunities.
10. At this point you should evaluate your performance and how much you are on Target or off. Go back to step #1 and reinvent the wheel again. By now you have some experience with your business and know what works best for your business. If at any point you find yourself too comfortable, go over your business plans with a fine toothcomb until you experience a little discomfort. This step would always keep you sharp, focused, and abreast of what needs improvement and adjustment. Remember, your goal is to increase sales and not to get too comfortable. Stay motivated and fairly dissatisfied.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Deciphering Office Lingo

No matter what business you are in, there is a culture in your office. The language of the office is fluid, changing as quickly. Keeping up is important because clear communication is the key to success in everything you do. Here a few terms you might have heard but were unclear as to their true meaning:
Office Creeper- a person who sneaks into an office during business hours and steals personal items and equipment.
This is done often in plain view of others who may be confused as to whether or not that person is supposed to be in the office. These criminals are well dressed and pleasant to all staff while in the building.
Butt Calls- These are calls made when someone accidentally sits or their cell phone or an object in their purse accidentally causes the cell phone to call. The recipient of the call will hear nose or the conversation of the accidentally caller with someone else. They are a big problem with people who have phones that have one-touch 911 dialing. These calls plug up the emergency system.
Multicolor Collar Workers:
Gray-collar workers- skilled technicians, emplpyees whose job descriptions combine some white and some blue-collar duties
Black-collar workers- Coal miners and oil workers
Pink-collar workers- Secretaries and other clerical staff
Green-collar workers- Environmentalists
Gold-collar workers- Professionals or those with in-demand skills, also employees over 55
Dog-collar workers- Priests
Open-collar workers- People who work at home
Frayed-collar workers- The working poor or workers having trouble making ends meet
Steel-collar workers- Robots
Masstige: These goods occupy a sweet spot between mass and class. While commanding a premium over conventional products, they are priced well below super premium or old-luxury goods. It's how you sell an 11 ounce bottle of lotion for $9 instead of $3.29.
Google Bombing: Setting up a large number of Web pages with links that point to a specific Web site so that the site will appear near the top of a Google search when users enter the link text. (Note that Google(TM) is a trademark identifying the search technology and services of Google Technologies Inc.)
Metrosexual: An urban male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.
Phantom Load: The electricity consumed by a device when it is turned off. Energy Experts use this term for vcrs and electric clocks which suck power even when turned off.
Marzipan Layer: In a business or professional firm, the level of managers and other senior staff just below the topmost level of directors or partners. It can also be called the marzipan set.
Stop-Loss Job: a job taken to pay one's bill and stop depletion on one's savings.
Survival Job: a job taken to make ends meet until something better comes along
GOOD job: a Get Out Of Debt job.
Geezer glut: the large number of seniors that will result from the baby boomer generation aging.
The generation that has grown up with and is completely at home with digital devices and digital culture.
Irritainment: Entertainment and media spectacles that are both annoying and compulsively watchable.
CNN Effect: The negative effect on the economy caused by people staying home to watch CNN or some other news source during a crisis such as a war.
Goomby: A person who hopes for or seeks the removal of some dangerous or unpleasant feature from his or her neighborhood.
Duppie: A depressed urban professional; a person who once had a high-status or high-paying job and must now work in a menial or lower paying job.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Extended Enterprise In The Nesting And Cutting Business

In Italy there are a lot of small and medium enterprises (SME) that often act as subcontractors to bigger firms.
For example, most of the Italian shoes come from industrial districts, where the organization heavily relies on subcontracting.
Many problems usually arise in this kind of organization:
Although the whole process leads to a finished product and is coordinated by a single subject, different phases are carried on by different companies, most of which are extremely small, with a very informal information system and the usage of internet rarely goes beyond simple e-mail communications.
Each district is organised in a specific way and has its own habits and rules: therefore communication between companies belonging to different districts is very difficult.
Most companies are very reluctant to technological innovation as they come from a craftsmanship culture. They can hardly perceive how a new machine or, even worse, a computer, can help them.
The lack of standard data descriptions implies that most information is tied to physical objects, e.g. the quality of a hide is "incorporated" in the hide itself. Therefore to transmit the information, it is necessary to move the physical object.
Our products can help in this situation in three ways.
  • Automatic nesting system: even the most traditional company can see a possibility to save material and time, if it is properly presented and our products are simple enough so that potential users are not scared by complex interfaces, unfamiliar language, and other common problems. Moreover our products are affordable even by very small companies and can work with different brands of cutting machines.
  • Data exchange: our software can easily export data that can be sent to other subjects and imported with no loss of information. This means that new possibilities of organization become possible: e.g. reports about the cutting, the nesting, the orders and other information can be easily transferred from the place where the information is created to the place where it is elaborated.
  • Supply chain management: Cutweb (, our online solution, is a outstanding instrument to organize, manage and control the whole supply chain and subcontractors' network. It is possible to instantly share data and set permissions for each data category and user, so that only the authorized subjects can see, edit or use those data. Cutweb eliminates even the need to install special software on the computers at the subcontractors'.
Using CutWeb it is possible to activate a communication network between the manufacturer and its subcontractors and reorganize the supply chain with advantages for all the subjects, shortening lead times, saving costs and allowing a better use of information.
You can find a full presentation of cutweb . A free demo (covering several industries and delaing with different material kinds) is also available online here.
On our site you can read full case studies that show how Cutweb can enable new ways to organise your business and how you can gain competitive advantages against your competitors using this innovative tool.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

5 Steps to Build Stronger Communication and Understanding

Did you know that you should always create a process map for every procedure or system of procedures that you develop? And did you know that, like a table of contents, this will create stronger communication and better understanding in your organization?
How do you do this?
Identify Core Processes
Last time, we followed the money trail and identified your business' core processes. We discussed where to best start a change in one of those core processes. And we introduced the technique of producing a process map. So this week, let's take a further look at how to create a process map - and see how it creates knowledge to benefit you and your organization.
Use Process Map as Communication Tool
A process map is a flow diagram of the primary processes within an organization. It very specifically shows you both who and what is involved in a process, as well as the requirements for that process to be effective. The primary goal is to use the map as a communication tool. It is to show the sequence of interactions of the elements involved in the process. And so process maps are drawn and used by organizations to achieve several benefits:
o Increase process understanding
o Clarify process boundaries, ownership and effectiveness measures
o Identify process sequences
o Isolate core processes, bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement
o Clarify the interaction of Customer, Supplier, Management and Operations processes
o Provide a tool for training and discussion
In other words, a process map details what happens first, second and third in a process. It shows what happens in each step along the way. And this is drawn in graphical form for easier communication and understanding.
This type of map shows the "big picture" of 10-20 core processes within an organization. The map also shows the critical elements within each section and its importance within the whole system. And these sections, or bands, are what relate the processes to each other AND to the outside suppliers and customers.
Link Suppliers and Customers
Although there are several ways to draw a process map, the basic diagram is typically constructed in four bands. And these four bands link together Customers, Primary Processes, Secondary Processes and Suppliers.
You improve effectiveness by showing the specifics of a process. And sometimes we've learned the hard way that the development phase of a project or a process is far more expensive than the planning phase. And so by thinking through and perfecting your processes beforehand, you decrease waste in development time. With a detailed process map, you identify and decrease such waste wherever it occurs in the process.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind while process mapping:
o Identify core processes to support mission and goals
o Determine how to create value for the customer throughout the process
o Map ownership and performance metrics along with the process
o Engage your people in process mapping to define problems and solutions
Now, let's break down the process map even further.
Define Steps of the Process
We've just defined the big picture process map as a sequence of interactions of multiple processes. These multiple processes consist of multiple steps. As we've discussed, the benefits are better communication and understanding and a decrease in waste. And this offers a great "big picture" view of your organization's processes. But...
When you go to write your organization's procedures, you need more detail. You'll need a method to define the sequence of interactions of each step. And you do this with a procedure map. Here's an example of a typical procedure map:
With this refined procedure map, you can see the steps that go into an organization's competency process, including the suppliers and customers for each of those steps. This is also called the SIPOC method. This method identifies the Suppliers of the specific data used as an Input for the Process to create Outputs for the Customer. The map also gives you both effectiveness and performance criteria for this process' owner(s). With such measurement criteria, you set the mark for continuous improvement of the process.
And so by creating a procedure map, you will further increase communication and understanding within your organization. Procedure maps become a strong tool in training, either to familiarize new employees to their jobs or to increase efficiency and performance with current employees.
Communicate, Understand and Apply Knowledge
Both process and procedure maps are crucial in an organization. And so as a rule of thumb, never develop a procedure or system of procedures without first creating a process and procedure map. Acting like a table of contents, a process map helps organize the chapters of a complex book in a way that this knowledge can easily be communicated, understood and applied.
Next time, we will discuss Six Sigma problem-solving tools and answer the question: how do you move from seat-of-the-pants decision making to measurable and continuous process improvement?
Chris Anderson is the managing director of Bizmanualz, Inc. and co-author of policies and procedures manuals, producing the layout, process design and implementation to increase performance.