At Work or at Home


At work we feel in control. More importantly, our efforts are generally noticed and rewarded. Apart from financial rewards, we get ego gratification at work in countless other ways. Co-workers compliment us on our new outfits. Customers thank us for good service. The boss turns to us for help on an important contract because no one else can handle it as well.

At home, on the other hand, our good work may be taken for granted; we may be noticed only when we do things incorrectly.

With the frequent disparity between the ego-strokes received at home and at work, it’s hardly a wonder that more men and women than ever before are giving in to the siren call of their work, choosing to stay late at the workplace. It is for this reason that many workaholics frankly admit that they seldom need to be forced to work; they simply like to work, more than they like to spend time at home.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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The Concept Lifecycle


The new products process essentially turns an opportunity (the real start) into a profit flow (the real finish). It begins with something that is not a product (the profit). The product comes from a situation and turns into an end.

What we have, then, is an evolving product, or better, an evolving concept that, at the end, may become a product. There are stages, like individual frames in a movie film:

  • Opportunity concept-a company skill or resource, or customer problem.
  • Idea concept-the first appearance of an idea.
  • Stated concept-a home or technology, plus a clear statement of benefit.
  • Tested concept-it has passed an end user concept test; need is confirmed.
  • Full screened concept-it passes the test of fit with company situation.
  • Protocol concepts-a statement (product definition) of the intended market user.
  • Prototype concept-a tentative physical product or system procedure, including features and benefits.
  • Batch concept-first full test of fit with manufacturing; it can be made. Specifications are written, exactly what the product is to be, including features, characteristics, and standards.
  • Process concept-the full manufacturing process is complete.
  • Pilot concept-a supply of the new product, produced in quantity from a pilot production line, enough for field testing with end users.
  • Marketed concept-output of the scale-up process either for a market test or full scale launch.
  • Successful concept (new product)-it meets the goals set for it at the start of the project.

Some firms have as many as three production models or prototypes. So, the idea that a new product suddenly “emerges” from R&D-like a chicken from an egg-is simply incorrect.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Why Firms are Nationalized?


One might assume that government ownership of the factors of production is found only in communist or socialist countries, but that assumption is incorrect. Large segments of business are owned by the governments of many countries that do not consider themselves either communist or socialist. From country to country, there are wide differences in the industries that are government owned and in the extent of government ownership.

There are a number of reasons, sometimes overlapping, why governments put their hands on firms. Some of them are 1) to extract more money from the firms—the government suspects that the firms are concealing profits; 2) an extension of the first reason—the government  believes it could run the firms more efficiently and make more money; 3) ideological—when left-wing governments are elected, they sometimes nationalize industries, as has occurred in Britain, France, and Canada; 4) to catch votes as politicians save jobs by putting dying industries on life-support systems, which can be disconnected after the election; 5) because the government has pumped money into a firm or an industry, and control usually follows money; and 6) happenstance, as with the nationalization after World war 11 of German-owned firms in Europe.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Sales Forecasts


From a sales manager’s point of view, the importance of timely, accurate sales forecasts cannot be overstated. There is nothing quite as needlessly frustrating as being surprised at the month end sales results because the forecasts from the field were incorrect, untimely, or inadequate.

More than simply keeping sales managers up to date, accurate sales forecasting can have an important impact on other areas of the company as well. Sales forecasts give management the information that is necessary to implement a product plan that ensures that the right product is available for salespeople to sell.

It is true that a sales force automation system cannot compensate for poor forecasting skills of salespeople in the field. What a sales system can do, however, is to move the information from the field management instantly. Perhaps more important is the fact that an automated sales system can deliver the information in a format that allows the forecasts of several salespeople to be automatically rolled up into a consolidated regional report. Since the information is in a more usable format, it is more valuable to management. It is more likely to be useful in preventing end-of-the-month surprises.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Learn the Language


If you are going to spend a year or more in a country—definitely, absolutely, do your utmost to learn the language. It will make a tremendous difference to your state of mind. Ability to understand the local language seems to play a major role in adjustment to culture shock and personal success in a foreign world.

It is not clear why speaking the language makes such a big difference, but it does. Obviously it makes getting around a lot easier. In hundreds of moments of struggling to get something done, from shopping to household repairs to getting directions, just knowing some of the language removes huge portions of aggravation and helps you gain a sense of safety and self-assurance. When people around you are babbling away in a foreign language, you become vaguely insecure and feel isolated. Knowing the language gives you a sense of mastery in situations where you may feel vulnerable.

The more process of learning the language gets you more in tune with the culture, and breaks the ice, putting you in the right frame of mind to adjust. In some places, speaking a second language is important to enhance your image as a well-bred, educated person—you may be somewhat better off if the language you learn is not the language spoken in the country.

The frequent traveler should think about learning languages too, of course, depending on the amount of travel and bilingualism of the business community. Speaking a language fluently can permit you to attain levels of relationship and business advantage unattainably by someone who doesn’t.

Fluency in the language will allow the traveler into otherwise exclusive realms of local business. The process of negotiation often depends on behind-the-scenes information flow.

Learning the language is no substitute for learning the culture and appropriate behavior. People who are fluent in a language but not sensitive to the culture can make worse mistakes, perhaps because the local experts more of them. And there are dangers in speaking a language if you are not competent in it. Not knowing the nuances of words or being careless with intonations, you might say things you don’t mean. In most languages, some common words have extremely vulgar meanings if pronounced incorrectly. Or you may hear unintended meanings.

If you don’t speak the language well, it is best to reveal that you have made the effort to learn—but then rely on English or an interpreter. Experts advise that is generally best to speak the language for socializing and daily activities, but not when transacting business. As a rule of thumb, if you are not fluent and your foreign counterpart does not speak fluent English, always transact business with an interpreter. Traders who meet frequently with foreigners say that while English is the business language around the world, buyers are far more comfortable talking in their native language, and even if they can speak English, it is often better to have an interpreter. They don’t have to struggle so hard, and it puts them at ease.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Accrual Accounting and Cashflow


Before the end of World War 1 most managers kept track of cash out and cash in. many senior citizen owner-managers still do today. There is an inherent problem in keeping the records that way, however, if the business offers and receives much credit. Doing business on credit displaces the time of the exchange of cash from the exchange of goods and services. Sometimes very little cash comes in during a particular month and very much cash comes in during other months. The same is true of cash out.

Keeping in track of what you pay or get paid for credit transactions causes the monthly reports describing the operations to fluctuate from month to month even though the goods and services flowing in and out of the business may be very much the same. About 1920 the accounting profession began placing emphasis on the accrual method of accounting to overcome this difficulty.

The accrual method portrays the smoothed-out profit as if all the transactions had been for cash and as if the business had purchased only exactly what was needed to make the sale. It is not an accurate portrayal of everything going on in the business, but it is a good approximation of the net effect of those things that affect profit. The problem is that so much emphasis has been placed on the accrual method income statement and balance sheet that the importance of cash has been regulated to virtual obscurity.

Even this result is satisfactory when the reports are describing large businesses with access to external financing through the stock market, commercial paper, and bank loans at the prime interest rate. But companies that do not have access to these external sources of financing have a different problem. For them, the flow of cash through the business means life or death, whether the accrual based profit is great or terrible. When new or small businesses need cash they must turn to the bank, the banker will look to the personal savings and assets of the owner-manager for collateral.

Accountants have not forgotten nor overlooked the importance of cash. They recognize the need for cash in sufficient quantity to keep the business operating. For their purposes, however, they often infer the cash available to the business from the income statements and describe future cash availability with the balance sheets. They, and others, frequently describe it as: cash flow equals net profit after taxes plus depreciation and other noncash expenses, such as amortization.

This statement is incorrect except under some very stringent preconditions that rarely exist in practice for a small business. This statement is an approximation that is valid for large and stable businesses in which changes from year to year are small and the statements from which the cash flow is inferred are annual reports. For a small and new business looking at monthly financial reports this approximation is inadequate. In a small, growing business the net cash flow to the firm’s bank account does not equal the net profit plus depreciation. Profit is not cash nor is it cash flow.

Although this pronouncement may be unconventional, entrepreneurs are realistic. Successful entrepreneurs ask how it really works and then get on with building their business. In the conventional approach the analysts, having inferred cash flow from profit, depreciation, and amortization, stop there, allowing their readers to assume that the resulting cash is in the bank wiating to be spent.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Grabbing the Ball


What are some of the methods of interrupting? One is to raise your hand and say, “Just a second, may I . . .” and continue speaking. Another way to interrupt is to stand. The person speaking will usually pause, and calling that person by name, you can say, “Mr. so and so, there’s something else,” and continue speaking. You can also just speak, raising the level of your voice above the person speaking. Be sure, however, that when you ask permission to interrupt you don’t wait for permission to be granted but continue directly to your message.

One of the most difficult things to do in a brisk meeting is to hold back and allow others to finish presenting what you consider to be incorrect assumptions and actions when you know you have the right and perfect answer to the problem. Have the urge to jump in and interrupt a thousand times and do so in many cases.

Interruptions can lead to digressions, which prolong the length of a meeting. But a polite interruption that cuts off a digression is an excellent way to save time.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight