English politician Henry Boyle once said, “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.” It more then adequately sums up the importance of negotiation. From an early age, we are taught the importance of give and take. As a child, it proved a tremendous challenge for most of us, and for some adults, it still does. Yet, it’s a skill, which when mastered, can reap tremendous rewards in terms of not only gaining what we want but in solidifying relationships both business and otherwise.
Deepak Malhotra, an assistant professor in the Negotiation, Organizations, and Markets unit at Harvard Business School, recently wrote an article called, “Four Strategies for Making Concessions”. The article presents strategies to help you maximize the likelihood that others will acknowledge your gestures of goodwill and reciprocate in kind.
- Labeling your concessions – don’t assume your actions speak for you. By labeling your concessions you make them relevant to the other part.
- Demand and define reciprocity – increase the likelihood that you will receive something in return for your concession, try to explicitly and diplomatically demand reciprocity.
- Make contingent concessions – don’t nickel and dime each other to death. Be prepared to make good-faith efforts to achieve joint gains.
- Make concessions in installments – research suggests that we like to receive good news in installments. Therefore, those same concessions you were ready to throw down on the table all at once, may be more positively received if broken into installments.
Non-reciprocity can sour any relationship, making it difficult to facilitate trust and work together in the future. Good negotiators not only ensure that their own concessions are met, but that they acknowledge and reciprocate the concessions that others make as well.
Everybody loves the story of David and Goliath mainly because it’s the triumph of the underdog over the giant. It is also true in big business. Whenever you hear stories of the underdog challenging – and doing it effectively – the big guys, you can’t help but find yourself rooting for them. Then, you ask yourself, how do they do it?
Craigslist, Mozilla, Pom Wonderful, Travelzoo and countless other continue to challenge their larger competitors and remain a constant thorn-in-their-side. They have done it largely by building formidable brand power through a dedicated group of clients/customers who remain loyal and steadfast.
They have done that by keeping an open dialogue with their customers/clients. They want to know what their clients/customers want and have worked diligently to provide it. Secondly, these small but mighty challengers have developed products and/or services that define their market. Their name has become synonymous with the market they now define. Finally, good management, dedicated planning, and sound execution brought their ideas to fruition. The old adage, “its all in the execution” definitely applies.
So, if you are starting out, listen to your customers, find creative ways to meet their needs, and develop a realistic, executable plan to deliver it. If you can effectively do that, your business is bound to be a success.
Quote of the Day from Ghandi: “First, they ignore you. Second, they laugh at you. Third, they fight you. Finally, you win.”
Most of us, regardless if we are an employer or an employee, are familiar with the concept of employment at will. In a nutshell, it means an employer can hire, fire, promote, demote, transfer, discipline or otherwise alter the terms of a worker’s employment for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all (that’s the at will part of the equation). However, as with all things in life, the issue is not that cut and dry. There are significant shades of grey that need to be considered when utilizing employment at will.
For example, if the employer and employee somehow reached an agreement that employment was not at will. What’s that mean? You formed either some type of expressed (written contract) or implied (verbal promise) agreement either knowingly or through misunderstanding. It’s important to keep in mind that your employee handbook speaks for you when you are not there. Therefore, it is imperative that if you plan not to limit your employees’ employment-at-will status that your employee handbooks and manuals aren’t drafted in such a manner as to run counter to what you intend. Review applicable state law for more information on compliance.
The other way in which employment at will is no longer applicable is as it applies to illegal termination procedures, such as firing someone based on discrimination or revenge. While you may feel confident that you are not discriminating, take a moment to review traits courts in one or more jurisdictions have ruled are protected:
Age, Race, Color, Religion, National origin, Veteran status, Union activity, Disability, Pension rights, Polygraph, Plant closing, Family and medical leave, Public policy, retaliation, sexual orientation, marital status, height, Weight, Political affiliation, Genetic trait or test, Tobacco use, Recreational activity, and Lawful consumable product.
How a business will respond to situations where their employment at will or other policies are challenged will vary. They are largely dependent upon each company’s individual circumstances. However, regardless if you have one employee or five hundred employees, one important “to do” item should be high on your list. Be sure that you have a policy in place as to how you will handle employee issues and remain consistent and methodical in its application. Furthermore, it’s in your best interest to treat every employee with dignity, respect and fairness. You’d be surprised at how far those basic principles will take you in your current and future employer/employee relations.
Webpronews.com expert, Alicia Harper offers 6 Do’s and Don’ts for launching a small business website. They include:
(1) DON’T focus on images and how pretty your site will be. Your website is there to educate and inform customers of your services. Alot of pictures and images can prove distracting.
(2) DON’T compare web designers by their price. Services provided by web designers vary greatly. You need to thoroughly research what is included in the price you are paying.
(3) DON’T hire a web designer until you are ready to go. You should purchase your domain name, set up your hosting service, and have a general idea of how your site will work before you bring the web designer on board.
(4) DO request several quotes from web designers before selecting one.
(5) DO plan on regularly updating your site with new information.
(6) DO find a web designer that specializes in working with small businesses. A small design firm understands the needs of another small business and is more likely to be more personal with your questions.
Computers, technology and the Internet have not only transformed the way we think about business, but the way in which we conduct it. Opportunities abound for almost every type of business to embrace these new innovations, and most have. Technology is truly an asset.However, with all good things also come risk and potential liabilities. As businesses become more information-based, their vulnerability to possible attacks by cyber-criminals also increase. And, do not assume that this is just a problem faced by large corporations because its not. More and more small and mid-size businesses are being targeted daily because they lack the adequate resources to shore up their computer systems. As a result, not only is sensitive proprietary and client information at risk, but so are your sales and customer-base.
By taking the time to review your current business practices, you may end up not only stopping a would-back cyber criminal from hacking your system, but reducing your chances of a lawsuit. Business owners should:
- Assess and Prioritize Vulnerabilities
- Evaluate Security for Intellectual Property
- Enforce In-House Security
- Extend Security Beyond Technology to Employees
- Create Security Audit Checklists
For a detailed explanation of these and other tips on how to shore up your security and protect your information, read “Cyber Risk: Insuring the Escalating Threats from New Technology Exposures” by Brad Gow.
Donald Rumsfeld was once quoted as saying, “Think ahead. Don’t let day-to-day operations drive out planning.” All too often having to deal with day-to-day operational issues do tend to consume us as business owners. However, it shouldn’t keep us from developing contingency plans should something go wrong such as a natural disaster, fire, or other major event that threatens the continuation of your business.
Now, there is even more evidence to suggest that contingency planning has additional benefits outside of the obvious. According to Wayne A. Hochwater, an associate professor of management at Florida State University, sensible planning also has a big impact on employee health, wellbeing and engagement.
Hochwater’s study found that the impact of contingency planning on employee attitudes was substantial. Employees demonstrated significantly higher levels of job satisfaction and a greater willingness to do things beyond what is expected by management when they knew that preparation and planning was being done. Additionally, enthusiasm and a greater willingness to work harder were also noted.
Other benefits cited by Hochwater of involving employees in contingency planning included: opening lines of communication, increasing employees’ feelings of importance, and building camaraderie.
Remember the lyrics to that old Go-Gos song? “Vacation…All I ever wanted….Vacation…Had to get away…” While many American may say they value their vacation time, and need to take time off to avoid burn out and increased stress, most aren’t taking it.
According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive and Ipsos Reid for Expedia, workers give back an average of three to four days of unused, paid vacation each year. Put it all together and you are talking about 574 million days of unused vacation, totaling an estimated $75.7 billion in wages this year alone.
Why are they giving up their time off?
· Need to schedule them in advance – 14%
· Workload – 11%
· The assumption that they will be paid for unused days – 10%
Even when on vacation, we still can’t seem to disconnect. Twenty-three percent of us are always checking our business voice mail or e-mailing during our vacation, and 65 percent are saying they experience work-related stress even when not in the office.
With the negative effects of not taking time off being found in decreased productivity and increased stress levels, the simple fact is that vacation time needs to be taken, and encouraged by managers and owners. Many companies are now seeing the importance and are gently pushing their employees to take those well-earned vacations.
Resolving workplace conflict can take up a significant portion of any manager’s time. Some studies suggest that anywhere from 24 to 60% of management time and energy is spent dealing with anger and conflict in the workplace. If not dealt with correctly, workplace conflict can lead to increased stress among all employees, decreased productivity, lowered performance, high turnover rate, absenteeism, and even violence and death.
A recent article by Dr. Fiore in Employment News outlines four specific steps managers can take to reduce workplace conflict. They include:
- Communicating and listening effectively.
- Establishing healthy boundaries.
- Improving emotional intelligence (the ability to effectively combine both intelligence and emotions in the workplace).
- Setting up behavioral consequences for employees.
As Dr. Fiore aptly points out, “As employees, the more we can learn to speak up, to be able to say what our needs and our wants are in a healthy way, and not let it fester to the point of rage or explosion, we can use our anger as a motivator to help us take action.”
When an investor reviews your business, they are looking for more than just the basics, i.e. type of business, location, structure, and operations. They are looking for very specific information as it relates to:
The Management Team: Investors will review your background and business experience in relations to the industry of your business. How much business experience you and your management team have to offer is a major factor for many investors.
The Marketplace and Your Product/Service: Investors want you to prove that not only is your product/service unique, but that there is enough market potential for that product/service to make it worth their while.
A Sales and Marketing Plan: You will need to demonstrate that you have done your homework in regards to product/service-user demographics and your target market. Pricing and sales strategies have to be clearly defined, supported, and in line with industry norms.
Concrete Financial Projections: Investors expect to see a return on their investment that is supported by realistic financial projections.
Before you hire your first employee, it may prove beneficial to you to have your employee policies in place. There are several good reasons for formulating your employee policies early. First, you can make your employees aware of the policies and procedures prior to signing on board, thus leaving little room for surprises. Secondly, written policies provide you, as the employer, additional protection should there a question in the future. Finally, and most importantly, employees need to know what is expected of them.
One specific policy to address is sick time. While you are not required under federal or state law to pay employees when they miss work due to illness, you will find that more and more employers are doing so in order to remain competitive.
You need to:
- Become familiar with the federal and/or state laws that will affect your sick time policy. Be sure to pay particular attention to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). The FMLA requires employers to grant unpaid sick leave under certain conditions. For more information go to www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/.
- Decide how much sick time you want to give. In order to calculate this aspect, you need to consider the demands of your business and the role of your employees. For example, if an employee is ill, will you need to pay someone else overtime to cover their shift? Will you need to hire a temporary worker?
- Decide how you will enforce your sick leave policy. This is probably one of the hardest things you will need to figure out. However, it may become an issue particularly in cases where you have an employee who calls in sick frequently.
If you believe an employee is abusing your sick policy, you do have the right under the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act to require an employee to get a doctor’s note that states they have been under medical care. Fore more information, visit www.eeoc.gov/.
If you need help in drafting your policies, consider consulting a human resources provider. If you’re on a tight budget, contact Score. Score is an organization of retired executives who advise small business owners. They also have human resources experts who can help.
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