Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

How to out-manage Google in six steps

August 14, 2008

When we look at industry leaders in any sector, it seems their managers do so many things so well that it’s impossible to imitate or surpass them. But that’s not necessarily true.

If you’re a manager, you can get key pointers from the survey below. It lists six specific areas in which the managers of America’s most reputable companies make a difference their businesses. Google managers used them to give Google the best reputation in the US.

First, the leader list. Each year Harris Interactive, Inc. ranks the 60 most visible US companies. These companies get to the top because management puts into place specific programs that all stakeholders appreciate. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the janitor or the biggest client, these changes are perceived at all levels.

This year’s top ranking company, as reported in the 7/15/08 issue of the AMA’s Marketing News, is Google. No surprise there. What other company is so big, and yet managed so well?

The full rankings are:

1. Google
2. Johnson & Johnson
3. Intel Corporation
4. General Mills
5. Kraft Foods
6. Berkshire-Hathaway, Inc.
7. 3M Company
8. The Coca-Cola Company
9. Honda Motor Company
10. Microsoft.

How did Google and the rest of these household names make it to the top? Based on six criteria. This is your crib sheet to excellence:

1. Social responsibility

2. Emotional appeal

3. Financial performance

4. Products and services

5. Vision and leadership

6. Workplace environment

The value of this list is that it gives you specific ways that big companies improve their reputations.

Most readers of this blog do not run a company big enough to contend for the top 60 list, let alone make “social responsibility” a key area for improvement. But every company can choose several specific areas from this list where it can make a concerted effort to improve. If you can build your rep among your own employees, customers, and stakeholders, you’re also laying the foundation for future profits.

For example, “workplace environment.” The addition of a microwave, a small fridge, an air conditioner, a water cooler, or any small appliance can make a big difference for the people who work there. None of these items costs more than a couple of hundred dollars, yet they can boost employee attitude and performance by showing that management (that’s you) cares about employee comfort.

And you know what? Happier employees are more productive, get sick less often, and take fewer days off.

If you don’t know where to start at your workplace, ask your people! Bring them in on the decision, even if it’s a small one. Multiple good suggestions? Make a second upgrade in six months. Your one-year investment in a better workplace comes to less than $300. How many saved sick days does it take to make back a $300 investment?

That’s just one example. You should look at all six metrics, decide which ones apply to you, then pick the area where you’re weakest as a place to start.

Or not. The important thing is to get started. Building your rep, even if it’s only with your own employees and in your own town, is not accomplished by some mysterious amalgam of voodoo, blind luck, and consumer whim. It’s based on concrete, tried-and-true management techniques that have worked for the most successful companies in the US. You don’t have to conduct research to find out what those techniques are – it’s been done for you. All you have to do is apply them to your organization.

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Why is this post so short?

July 1, 2008

I’ve tried to make my posts informative and interesting, not just short blurbs. However, according to an article in the June The Atlantic, I’m swimming upstream. You can’t deliver both quality and length any longer, not in most media. People won’t read them. According to the article Is Google Making Us Stoopid?, the Internet is retraining our minds how to read. A century ago, people were accustomed to read long books and articles, often spanning tens of thousands of words, to explain a single concept.

That’s all over now. Text messaging, blogs, Web articles, Web sites divided into discrete pages and sales points, etc., all retrain the mind to think in a different way. And we’re all being retrained whether we like it or not. If you’re reading this, your mind no longer absorbs concepts the way your parents’ minds did.

In a related article in the same issue, Rupert Murdoch, the new owner of the Wall Street Journal, wants to cut down the long articles on page one. Those are the articles that have set the Journal apart. Murdoch goes to war to change the paper to what he feels is the current market demand for brevity (as well as in a number of other areas).

How long is this post? It’s about 240 words. Blog pundits advise us to limit posts to 250 words. Otherwise, no one will read them. If you read this far, I’ve achieved my goal.

Customer loyalty extends to the Web

April 9, 2008

When you buy a product or service from a Web site you like, you tend to go back to it. The site might be Priceline, Amazon, or Target, but if your first shopping experience there is good, chances are also good that you’ll return when you’re in the market again. The same applies to bricks-and-mortar stores.

 

You may have known that intuitively, but now the stats are out to prove it. According to the most recent Nielsen Global Online Survey, as reviewed in the 3/1/08 edition of the AMA’s Marketing News, 60% of on-line shoppers say then usually buy from the same site again. And if you think that there aren’t enough on-line buyers to make a difference, think again.

 

The same Survey reports that there has been a 40% increase in on-line shoppers worldwide since 2006, from 627 million to 875 million. Doesn’t sound like so many? It’s more than twice the population of the United States.

 

Surprisingly, the US is not among the leaders, although we’re in the Top Ten (number eight, to be precise). In this country 94% of Web users made a purchase last year. Compare that with leader South Korea, where 99% of users were also buyers, including 79% in the 30 days preceding the survey.

 

The most popular purchases, as you might imagine, include books, clothing/accessories/shoes, videos/DVDs/games, airline tix and electronic equipment. But today you can find almost anything on the Web, very probably including your product or service.

 

What does this mean for you as a business person?

 

1. If you don’t have a Web site, you are ignoring one of the fastest-growing categories of purchasers in the world.

 

2. If you do have a Web site, make sure is it the most user-friendly in your competitive group. Who else is selling your product/service on-line? Look at their sites! Remember, if your first-time visitor likes your site he’ll come back. If you competitor snares him, though, there’s a better than 50-50 chance he’ll never find you again. So look at your competitors, see what they’re doing right and imitate it. As well, see what they’re doing wrong, and do it better.

 

Building (or rebuilding) your Web site is too expensive to do frequently, so put in the time to do it right.

 

Not rebuilding your Web site, of course, will prove even more expensive.

Outsourcing on a small scale

March 18, 2008

One of the costs of doing business is office machines. When I started out, i there weren’t even a copy machines. People used “onion skin” and carbon paper to make copies, typing on manual typewriters.

 

Today, those and many other functions are done with in-house computer programs. But that may not be the case much longer.

 

Many office functions are moving on-line. One of the most recent full-featured applications to do that is Google Apps. Popular office programs such as word processing presentations are available on-line, and they should be updated automatically as improvements are made.

 

I have been using Microsoft’s XP Professional and Office 2003 for several years, with pretty good results. Now the next upgrade, Vista, is on the market. I am thinking it over carefully. I am sure there are product improvements, but maybe I can get the same thing in another format, for less money, and that I won’t ever have to replace. So I am trying out Google Apps for myself. You may want to consider it for your business, too.

 

Will this be as good as Microsoft? I’ll let you know in a future post.