Travel Stress


We travel to get to work, we travel during our work, and we travel to get to distant meetings. Travel comes in all forms: short and long timeframes and short and long distances. For most people, the commonest hurdle is the daily grind to and from work. This is most acute in large cities. The problems are truly international, but some of the ugliest and best-studied traffic jams are now everywhere.

The levels of stress that this brings are extremely significant. For those who handle it poorly, it can be damaging  to their health, and may even endanger the lives of others. Medically, we know that stress mechanisms all fire at once when the body identifies a crisis. Adrenaline pours out, the stomach shuts down, the pulse races, and the hair stands up on end. The blood pressure soars, muscles clench in spasms around the shoulder tips and jaw,  and primal aggressions rise, ready for fight or flight.

With immediate flight brings out of the question, more and more frustrated drivers are turning to the fight option—either inside their cars as they tip at the heels of slower drivers, or outside their cars, where they may stomp up and beat a dent into the roof of an offending vehicle. Even the mild and polite become aggressive when they strap themselves into their bumper cars to drive to work. This means they usually arrive late, enraged and spent before they even start to face the day’s stresses on the job.

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.

Good Maintenance


Good maintenance is fundamental to productive manufacturing system; try running a production line with faulty equipment. Total productive maintenance is keeping the current plant and equipment at its highest productive level through cooperation of all areas of the organization. Generally, the first task is to break down the traditional barriers between maintenance and production personnel so they are working together. Individuals working together without regard to organizational structure, using their skills and ingenuity, have common objective—peak performance or total productivity.

This approach does not mean that such basic techniques as predictive and preventive maintenance are not used; they are essential to building a foundation for successful total productive maintenance environment. Productive maintenance is the process of using data and statistical tools to determine when a piece of equipment will fail, and preventive maintenance is the process of periodically performing activities such as lubrication on the equipment to keep it running.

The total maintenance function should be directed towards the elimination of unplanned equipment and plant maintenance. The objective is to create a system in which all maintenance activities can be planned and not interfere with the production process. Surprise equipment breakdowns should not occur. Before the advent of computer-aided manufacturing, operators in some organizations were responsible for their machines and took a certain pride of ownership. With the help of maintenance technicians, operators spent part of their work time keeping their equipment in good running order. Recent technical advances have given us more tools to perform the maintenance function.

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.

 

Meeting Management: The Thank You Note


The common thank you note is applicable to large and small meetings. It may be handwritten and should be as informal as your organization style will allow.

If you send thank you notes, your message will stand out in memory. You must be sincere and never, repeat, never, attempt to curry favor by using a thank you note.

Thank you notes may be sent by the group leader or any participant. If you are a participant and wish to send one, only do so if you were honestly impressed by any event. Some examples:

  1. Excellent Presentation: A high-ranking executive of your organization makes a presentation on some aspect of a problem you face. If the presentation was exceptional, send a note, thanking the executive for time spent helping your team.
  2. Clarifying Remarks: A specialist visits long enough to clear up a few technical points. If this was a real contribution to your knowledge, send a note.
  3. Outstanding Work: Someone on the team does an exceptional job. Send a note if it is deserved.

These are only a few examples. More will occur to you as you consider this technique.

The thank you note must be written. A telephone call, while nice and possibly appreciated, will not have the same impact.

The thank you note is a reminder to the thanked individual that your group exists. It will make it easier to get him or her to come back for another meeting, and on return, be in a cooperative mood.

With thank you notes, be sincere; falseness shows. Use it as an expression of earnest thanks and appreciation for a job well done

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.

 

Direct Response


You should, if at all possible, engage in direct marketing. The value to you is enormous. You get to pinpoint your prospects with amazing accuracy. You can be selective in regard to age, race, sex, occupation, buying habits, money spent on past direct mail purchases, education, special interests, family composition, religion, marital status, and geographic location. The list should naturally start with your own customers. From there you can expand it to include people who have recently moved into your area, and people who have recently been married or divorced, or become parents. You can eliminate people who have moved away.

You might engage in a simple direct mailing of postcards to customers, informing them of a sale you will have the next week. They will very much appreciate the early notification and will show their gratitude by purchasing from you. You might also engage a full scale direct mailing, consisting of an outer envelop, a direct mail letter, a brochure, an order form, a postpaid return envelop, and even more.

Whatever you do, the process begins when you decide exactly what it is you wish to offer. How will you structure that offer? Then you must select your mailing list. If you haven’t got the names already, you can purchase them from a list broker. Be sure, you buy a clean, fresh list. You must be certain that you know all  the costs involved: postage printing, writing the mailing, artwork, paper, personalization (individualizing each letter by name and address, and repeat mailing costs. Your gross sales, minus these costs and your production, handling, and shipping costs, will contribute your profits. Be sure you make financial projections and know your break-even point.

In the old days, a direct mail campaign meant a letter. Today it means a letter, two, three or five follow-up letters, perhaps a follow-up phone call or two, and finally, one more direct mail letter. Many entrepreneurs engage in weekly or monthly direct mailings.

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.

 

Maintaining Accounting Records


Firms must maintain accounting records. The most important number in these records is the one at the bottom—the “bottom-line” net profit or loss. To compute this number, the firm keeps track of the number of products sold and the amount of money spent on production, salaries, rent, insurance, interest on loans, building repairs, and other items.

Large firms produce a tremendous amount of accounting information. Managing this information and using it wisely are great challenges. All business firms—large and small alike—produce accounting information for three basic purposes: internal decision-making, financial reporting to lenders and investors, and tax reporting to government.

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.

 

Translating Information into Action


Information must be actionable, if it is to be of value to you. That means it must include a customer profile (most often consisting of demographics and buying behavior—psycho-graphics—that enables you to assign all of your customers to one or another of your defined segments. Unless you’re both ready and able to use the results of all this effort to alter your marketing strategy, your money is probably better spent elsewhere. Segmentation only pays off if you use it to fine tune your marketing program.

If you have computed the lifetime value for each segment, you can now make a very scientific assignment of resources to customer groups. You can be selective in this process. If you choose, focusing on just a few segments—or even one. In fact, that may be a good way to validate your ideas before you institute any large-scale changes in your marketing strategy. The important thing is that you use the information to adapt marketing into a more customer-focused and less product-centered approach.

Often you can finance new marketing initiatives by re-deploying the budgets previously spent in pursuit of unprofitable business, because you can now recognize it for what it is. Screening out can be as important as targeting.

You can then assign an appropriate percentage of your marketing budget to each segment which merits pursuit, echoing the percentage of profits that segment has the potential to generate. Consider members with lower grades within a well-defined, profitable segment as areas of opportunity. You know that companies with a given cluster of needs and buying behaviors can be profitably attracted to your offerings and way of doing business. All that remains is to focus on expanding penetration there.

Put your marketing imagination to work. Because you now understand the priorities of each segment so well, you’ll also know how to determine the most potent messages for each, and the media mix that can best deliver it. In addition, because the economics of each segment are clear, you can develop a plan that matches communications alternatives to allotted budget on a cost-per-contract basis.

As a result, most of your money will be invested where the profit potential for developing loyal customers is the greatest. Whilst this strategy appears to be self-evident, it too seldom happens in real life decision-making, since quantification of potential profitability by market segment is sadly lacking.

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.

Commitment to Principles


We are increasingly convinced that there are several principles which tend to lead us to good process management. They are tough and often sacrificed.

Focus: In very competitive situations managers often go to focus; that is, they try to zero in on part of the playing field, part of the market, or part of the technology. Narrowing focus yields greater capability and a shared vision, like the power of a laser. However, in a reverse twist, focus always means we try to solve the customer’s whole problem, at least as much as we can. Ours is not a point solution. For example, product disposal is now getting attention in the design stage, and designers resist the rush to completion mentality of cycle time.

End User Drive: During technical development today, the end user’s problems are the top of every page. Technical development isn’t over until the customer agrees that we have solved the problems we began with.

Productivity: Everyone seems to agree that we must destroy oppressive bureaucracy in the new products operation. Any organization, however, even on a kid’s baseball diamond, needs some bureaucracy, and even ventures teams that have been spun out from their firms need a little. It is a glue, and its policies reduce the time spent on routine decisions.

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.

Law in Business


A person who is involved in business is also involved in the law concerning business. Making contracts and using negotiable instruments—both of which are legal concepts—are the essence of business. Business and law were closely associated even when there were few lawyers and business managers spent relatively little time with them. The growing importance of law in business, however, is shown by the rapid increase in the use of lawyers by people in business. In recent years, the number of corporate counsel, the full-time lawyers who are employed by corporations; has been growing faster than the number in any other category of attorneys. Law firms that serve primarily business people have also been expanding at a great rate. Even the smallest businesses turn to lawyers frequently.

In the past quarter century there has been a qualitative as well as a quantitative change in the concern of business managers with law. In earlier times, business managers generally employed lawyers only in emergencies. A lawyer might be engaged if a summons to appear in court was received, if a businessperson could not collect a debt that was due, or if a supplier’s goods were defective and no settlement could be reached. Lawyers are still sought out when such things happen today. However, more and more, business managers employ lawyers to help them plan to avoid such emergencies and comply with a rapidly growing mass of legal rules imposed on business operations by government bodies. This use of lawyers by business people is called preventive law.

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.

Inspect Products at the Right Time


Inspections used to be left until the later stages of the process – often just before the finished products were delivered to customers. As there was more chance of a product being faulty by the end of the process, all defects could be found in one big, final inspection. But the longer a unit is in a process, the more time and money is spent on it – so it makes sense to find faults as early as possible before any more money is wasted by working on a defective unit. It is better for a baker to find bad eggs when they arrive at the bakery, rather than use the eggs and then scrap the finished cakes.

Your first quality control inspections should come at the beginning of the process, testing materials as they arrive from suppliers – and there is a strong case for inspections within suppliers’ own operations. Then you should have inspections all the way through the process to the completion of the final product and its delivery to customers. Some particularly important places for insperctions are:

  • On raw materials when they arrive;
  • At regular intervals during the process;
  • Before high-cost operations;
  • Before irreversible operations, like firing pottery;
  • Before operations that might hide defects, like painting;
  • When production is complete;
  • Before shipping to customers.

This may seem like a lot of inspections, but remember that most of them are done by people working on the process. Quality at source means that the products are not taken away for testing in some remote laboratory, but are checked at each step before being passed on the next step.

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

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

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