Business

Corporate Responsibility: Companies That Give Back and Make More (Guest Post) 0

illustration of many color handsCorporations take social and environmental responsibility by giving back to their communities and practicing sustainable and ethical modes of business. Is your company interested in getting involved? One of the best ways to give birth to a successful foundation, non-profit partnership or philanthropic campaign is to find a corporate role model. Find a great company with a similar brand, culture and goals and see what works for them.

The type of business you’re in and the type of product you create will vary the type of charity you involve yourself with. See how some of the world’s most successful corporations are changing the world, and find what inspires you. Depending on the way your business is financially run, research what type of tax exemptions each charity type is applicable for and meet with different financial institutions to learn about your options. For example, the Plum card at American Expressgives you access to a recommendation engine that will help you find a non-profit addressing a concern that you care about.

Saving the Arts

The Hard Rock Cafe expanded its philanthropic help from music and the arts to humanitarian and environmental efforts; for over four decades it’s been looking for ways to help change the world. From its Local Ambassador Program that directly works in local communities on a daily basis to their Signature Series T-shirt line where artists create custom artwork on T’s and profits are donated to a good cause. Working with dozens of partners for their efforts.

Education

For a decade, BetterWorldBooks.com has been built on on social responsibility, selling books, donating books and funding literacy projects around the globe with the belief that education and books are basic human rights. For every book sold on the site, a book is donated. According to their website, they have converted more than 58 million books into over $10.4 million in funding for literacy and education (and) diverted more than 40,000 tons of books from landfills. This September, Sonic opted to make a difference in the amount of personal money teachers put into their classroom with the Limeades for Learning program. Participants voted on selected classroom projects and at the end of the campaign half a million dollars was awarded to 1,457 teachers around the nation.

Philanthropy

The vegan elf-like hybrid slipper shoes, known as TOMS, set an example that many apparel companies followed. Starting in 2006, TOMS set out with the idea of making products with little environmental impact and large social impacts on communities. It uses animal-free products, down to the ink, and 80 percent recycled boxes, store-front sustainable day-to-day functions, and company employees and employers believe in fair and ethical business practices within their supply chain, according to the Toms.com website.

Disaster Relief

In the wake of recent natural disasters, many companies stepped up to help. Tide’s Loads of Hope program brings mobile laundromats to devastated areas. One of their biggest breakthrough projects was the effort put forth post hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Cancer

Many companies have helped raise money for breast cancer research, since 1996 Lee jeans has spread breast cancer awareness with Lee National Denim Day. Where participating businesses donate $5 per employee wearing jeans to work. Over the years over $80 million has been donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Beauty company L’Oreal Paris has donated over $18 million to Ovarian Cancer Research with its Color of Hope cosmetics collection,with the goal to improve survival rate and help find a cure.

Going Green

Producing environmentally conscious products in a sustainable way is becoming more standard than fashion. Burt’s Bees makes eco-living easy with its affordable lines of eco-friendly bath and beauty products sold at most retail stores like grocery stores and Target.

The Alcoa Foundation, established by the global provider of aluminum, is one of the largest corporate foundations in the nation. Working for over half of a century and grossing hundreds of millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations supporting the environment and education.

Thanks to Guest Blogger Alex Davis

QA specialist for a PR company by day and a freelance blogger by night, Alex loves having online discussions with business analysts and offering his company the quality it needs to grow.

With only 346 days left in 2013, what future are you going to create? 1

Joel Quass asks what are your goals in 2013?

What do you see this year?

I have read dozens of articles about making New Year’s resolutions, both pros and cons. Many state that the very act of writing resolutions down helps solidify them in your sub conscious, and you are more likely to achieve them. Others quote Napoleon Hill and say, loosely paraphrased, “New Year’s Resolutions made without any action towards their achievement, are merely dreams”.

This morning I read – Strategy? Gut or Intuition? on LinkedIn. The author ends stating:

THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO CREATE IT.

Without going into the debate about self-determination, I want to encourage finding that scrap of paper where you wrote your New Year’s Resolutions. If they are not on paper yet,  jot them down and tape them to the side of your computer monitor.

Sure there are only 346 days left in the year. But if you use them wisely, you can create a future that more closely mirrors your expectations.

Now, more than ever, you need focus 2

focus, Linked in Summary

Where will you focus in 2013?

This morning I updated my Summary Information on LinkedIn. Why? Because my focus this year is more targeted than last year. Going over my written goals for 2012, I realized that I hadn’t been specific enough. I hadn’t really drilled down, to understand what I wanted to accomplish.

To put it in interviewing terms, when asked about my customer service skills,  I had said “I’m a people person”.  Well my dog is a people person, but you wouldn’t hire my dog to give a keynote presentation.

A focused response to the question about customer service would be my relating the story of when I was a Store Manager for Best Products in Hopewell Virginia. It was 8PM on Christmas Eve when I got a phone call from a customer who had bought a ride-on car for his 8-year-old son. The father was putting the car together after his son went to bed when he found the battery for the car was missing from the package. The father had called me to ask what I was going to do about it?

I told the man I would meet him at the store. I called my Assistant Manager, just in case it was a set-up (it wasn’t) and I drove to the store. We found the battery he was missing and his 8 year-old son’s Christmas was saved. Now that’s a targeted response to the question of customer service skills.

In reading my Summary statement on LinkedIn, I realized that I was talking as a “people person”, without clear focus. This caused me to think more precisely about the specific, measurable goals I have for 2013. Then I took that focused information and re-wrote my Summary statement. Now, my Summary more closely reflects my focus, my goals for 2013.

While the year is still young, I encourage you to focus.

Start by reviewing your LinkedIn Summary statement.

Is it focused? Is the information current? Does it really identify your value?

While you are on LinkedIn, take a moment and  Customize your public profile URL . It only takes a moment to get rid of all of those letters and numbers behind your name.

If you really focus, 2013 will be your best year yet. I, for one, can’t wait!

Managers – Are you paying enough attention? 4

Lessons from the Worst-Performing Companies in America
What’s caused U.S. firms to lose the most shareholder value in the last 10 years? A new Booz study — actually, a repeat of one it did in 2004 — once again came up with the same result

As I read this article, my mind flashed back to my years with Best Products Co. Inc. I had joined them right out of college. I was hired as an entry level Department Manager, but within a year I was a Store Manager for the company. I managed seven stores in as many years, moving frequently for the company.

After arriving in Hampton, Virginia, there was talk among our Senior VP’s of my taking on a District Manager role. Life was great and the possibilities limit-less. Then we bought Modern Merchandising.

We went from a one billion dollar company to a two billion dollar company over night. Everyone was very excited. In fact, we even had T-shirts made.  And our Senior Management spent the next twelve months assimilating the acquisition into the company.

We changed the names on our buildings; out with Dolgins, Miller Sales and the rest, in with the Best Products logo’s. We consolidated distribution centers, creating new efficiencies and re-aligned regional support offices.

The entire process took 12 months. And then we were ready.

But in the past twelve months, retail customers had gone off in a new direction. We had been so busy focusing on the acquisition and re-structuring that no one noticed our customer base was  leaving.

When I saw the hand writing on the wall, I left , purchasing the vending company I would sell two years later.

Every time I think things are running really well in my business I have a  flash back to my Best Products days. The lesson I learned then has stuck with me for over 25 years. So please, pay attention to your business.  

Did you go far enough? 3

Will you go far enough to find the gold?Have you ever had trouble locating something or have a problem you couldn’t solve?

When this happens: 1. You can try to figure it out or locate it yourself 2. You can ask someone else to find it or solve the problem for you or 3. You can just give up.

Yesterday I overheard a man talking to his wife in the supermarket. He couldn’t find the brussel sprouts. She took him further down the aisle and there they were. I heard him say to her, “I didn’t go far enough”.

If you are looking for brussel sprouts at the supermarket, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t find them. Not going far enough only means you may have creamed corn for dinner instead. But what if it’s your business we are talking about?

What if you have invested your life savings along with the savings of your relatives. What if you have purchased drilling and mining equipment valued at a million dollars to excavate a gold mine? Now what if you can’t find gold?

During the 1848 California Gold Rush, this happened many times. One claim in particular was talked about by Napoleon Hill. The story was of a man who had purchased a claim and had found a very large seam of gold. He had mortgaged everything and borrowed from his relatives to mine the claim. After a few weeks, the “mother lode” went dry. No more gold. What did he do? He sold his equipment to a junk dealer for 10 cents on the dollar and went home. He didn’t go far enough.

The junk dealer hired a surveyor. The surveyor went to the mine and told the junk dealer, “dig ahead a few more feet and you will find the seam again”. The junk dealer did that and found one of the richest gold mines in California.

Whether shopping for vegetables for dinner or running a business, make sure you go far enough. Don’t settle for creamed corn when you have your heart set on brussel sprouts. And never, ever give up your business or your dreams before you have gone far enough. Because, during the act of going far enough, you will almost always find your answer.

The junk dealer learned that in 1848. And because his wife went a little farther, the man I saw in the supermarket yesterday learned it too.

“this job” vs. “I’ll take whatever” – Three ways to focus 1

Resume must match Job listing, management position

Is your resume specific enough?

As the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, it is easy to say “I’ll take whatever job comes along”. This then changes the tone of your cover letter and resume. You start to show yourself as a jack-of-all- trades. The downside to this is you may be perceived as a master-of -none.

The more you tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific job listing, the more likely someone reviewing your information will see a connection. Being one of several hundred generic applicants, you will not stand out. Some recruiters would say that the more generic the résumé, the more desperate the job seeker. So stay the course and focus on the following:

1. Take the time to read the entire job listing

2. Craft your cover letter and resume to specific, measurable requirements for this job

3. Do this for each listing you apply for; never just copy and paste your resume

Doing this you may feel you are limiting your possibilities for employment. But how many generic resumes and cover letters have you sent out? How many have resulted in a call for a first interview?

Focus on the key requirements for the position and highlight them in your cover letter and resume. Then be ready to talk about them because the phone will be ringing soon.

What’s a good manager worth? 2

As a manager, what are you worth?

Much has been written about the value of CEOs. Companies justify huge bonuses and compensation packages to keep top talent from moving on. But what about middle management, department managers, shift managers? How can their worth be measured?

The National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper written by Edward P Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw and Christopher T. Stanton . It is titled The Value of Bosses. What I found exciting is they looked at value from a productivity standpoint.  There were three conclusions:

  1. The choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. The average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker
  2. A boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist.
  3. Efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.

Simply put, you can get more out of your better workers when they are led by a better boss. Better bosses teach. Better bosses inspire.

Better bosses make their employees more efficient. Michael Quinlan as President of McDonald’s Corporation said that “one of the most important aspects of his job-and one at which he spends approximately one-third of his time-was cutting red tape.

Productivity is a wonderful measure of worth. As a manager, you create value for your team (and for yourself) when productivity increases. Every one of us as managers should look at the value we are currently providing and make sure we are doing the things that will continue to show our worth as boss.

Who Should Think Big? 1

Are You Thinking Big?

Traveling to Yorktown, Virginia from New Jersey, I cross the Potomac River on Route 301. Three miles from the river, at the top of a rather steep hill, is a furniture and carpet shop. The shop has been in business for decades. I’ve been driving this road for 21 years, but the store never stood out in my mind until….

On a recent trip, I saw a giant chair in front of the store. I had a flashback to Lily Tomlin and a character she developed that sat in a humongous rocker. Now, as I cross the bridge into Virginia from Maryland, I am anticipating the chair.

I might have the radio on but I’m concentrating on the road as the two lane Potomac River Bridge is very narrow and Route 301 is a major tractor-trailer highway. Then, out of the blue, a vision of the chair flashes in my mind. I think, “is it still there”? As I drive up that steep hill from the riverbed area up onto the rolling hills, I spot the chair at the front of the parking lot.

I don’t think I will ever drive this section of highway without thinking about this chair. Thinking BIG paid off for this business. I certainly remember them.

Everyone should think big. In business, stores don’t take 75 cents off a $300 TV, they slash prices to the bone! As a candidate for a job, you don’t say you can do slightly better than the next guy, you spell out the tremendous skills you have and then share stories that highlight those skills. As a parent, you don’t encourage children to be average, but to reach for the stars, to follow their dreams. Even in our personal relationships, there’s a place for thinking big.

If you are ever on Route 301 in Virginia, between the Potomac River Bridge and where Route 3 crosses it leading into Fredericksburg, look for the chair. And when you are going to do something, choose to do it BIG. Big gets remembered!

Are You Using Your Vacation Time This Year? 1

 I met Steve when he spoke this spring at a WCBS and The Wall Street Journal sponsored Small Business Breakfast in Connecticut. He’s a fascinating guy with an interesting background. The story of how he became the spokesman for Jobs on WCBS is a story to itself.

Take a listen to Steve’s thoughts on vacations from his recent Podcast.

Then weigh in on your vacation plans.

 

In Your Business, Do You Tack On A Header? 0

A good friend of mine from college sailed in a regatta last weekend to raise money for charity. When I went on-line to make a small donation, the website, Mississippi Leukemia Cup Regatta, asked me to send a comment of encouragement. I told Cathy to “always tack on a header”.

If you are not a sailor, I offer the following paraphrased quote from Steve and Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School:

More can be gained or lost in one healthy wind shift that can usually be made up by any amount of boat speed or superior sailing. Racing skippers are often so concerned about whether their boat is sailing faster than the one next to them that they neglect to consider the effect of wind shifts.

To the layman, this means if you are being pushed off course, you need to do something to get yourself back on course.  In this case the wind is changing so the boat is forced to move further away from its goal of reaching the next marker. If the captain of the boat doesn’t do something to change the boat’s relationship to the wind, the boat will stall, the energy of the wind will just rush past the sail and not provide lift to move the boat forward. To get moving forward, closer to the next marker, the captain must tack, change the direction of her boat in order to get the most advantage out of the new wind direction.

In business, you must be constantly ready to tack, to change your approach in order to keep your business moving forward, growing and expanding in a changing sea of challenges. The changes I’m addressing here are subtle, not cataclysmic. When  you tack on a header, you are adjusting your relationship to the goal, not changing the goal. When the captain of a sailboat tacks, her goal is still to get to the next buoy. Changing the direction of the sailboat at that moment is necessary to keep it moving towards the goal.

Sometimes you can just ride out a small change in the wind. But if the header is severe enough, you are being pushed further from your goal. On top of that, those who have already tacked are being helped by the change in wind direction. In business, this means that those who saw the wind changing are already reaping the benefits because they adjusted their course first.

So keep your business growing, moving forward by staying up on the latest wind movement, and don’t be so concerned about whether your business is moving faster than another. If you stay on the right side of wind shifts, you will reach the finish line ahead of the competition.