Archive for February, 2012

Mr Cameron, I’m No Trotsyite!

I must admit to being concerned that people are being pressed to gain “work experience” by working for free for companies. I’m not against the project to enable young people to gain work experience, just that the work is unpaid!

A Panicked multi-millionaire
The label given by David Cameron describing those that oppose the programme as “Trotskyites”, as reported by the BBC, is untrue and shows how panicked the multi millionaire happens to be about getting the peasants back to work!

I agree when Mr Cameron told MPs: “The whole country wants young people given the opportunity that work experience provides.” . It’s essential that young people gain work experience but one aspect of that experience is the individual being given a sense of achievement that’s been appreciated with a reward. In this instance some sort of payment. Even the boy Scouts understood the relationship between reward and service with their “Bob a Job” scheme.

Concern from Business
Concern about the project comes from Supermarket Tesco who changed its policy within days of a protest
at one of its stores, saying it would start to pay those on work
experience and guarantee a job when placements went well.

Baker Greggs has offered 40 placements since June, with 14 of the participants going on to secure permanent jobs. Its chief executive Ken McMeikan said his firm still believed in the scheme but the benefits penalties for those that dropped out had created concern.

In the depression of the 1930s the Government at the time created “Work-camps” for the unemployed where they were centrally housed and “did unpaid work” and these work-camps were in operation up to the start of the Second World War…..
Do I detect the Government doing something similar today but without the camp?

What do you think?

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Is corruption infectious?

I think that most people in the UK would have once prided themselves on the lack of corruption in the UK and the high level of business ethics. But have we been too naive in our beliefs.

Given the opportunity
Have the Leveson enquiry uncovering alleged payments to the police by journalists, journalists hacking phones, members of the legislature (MP’s and Lords) being convicted and imprisoned for fiddling their expenses and so on uncovered a reality in the UK that a lot of people, given the opportunity, will be on the fiddle?

Fear of being caught
Does this also encourage people to take the attitude “If they can do it…so can I”?
If people are given the opportunity “to pay cash to avoid paying VAT” do most accept?
Given too much change by a shopkeeper, do most give it back or think it’s their good luck.
In other words is corruption infectious or are most people not corrupt because of the fear of getting caught and if that fear recedes then people are likely to be more corrupt?

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Do Aliens Conduct Interviews?

I’m having great fun collecting examples of “strange but true interview questions” and their answers. Some of which I’m posting onto Twitter for the enjoyment of my friends and followers.
One of my favourites is “If Aliens landed in your garden and offered you a job on their planet what job would it be?”.

Favourite interview answers
My favourite answer to the interview question “What’s your greatest weakness?” is still the candidate that responded “Kryptonite. I have yet to discover whether he (I presume it’s a he) got the job.

Other strange but true interview questions that caught my eye include:

  • Why are manhole covers round?
  • If you laid all the roads in the UK end to end, how many times round the world would they go?
  • If you were a type of cheese, what cheese would you be?
  • If you were a salad, what type of salad dressing would you choose?

Three Admirals
Another interview answer I like is for the selection board for the Royal Navy, made up of three retired Admirals, interviewing some school leavers. One candidate was asked to name three famous British Admirals. The answer came “Nelson, Drake… and I didn’t catch your name Sir?”
He didn’t get selected for insubordination which I think most unfair!

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Do we have a leadership crisis?

“Is there a world leadership crisis?” was the question posed to me yesterday by someone in the group I was speaking to yesterday.

Lack of political leadership
I had been talking about business team leadership and the question opened up a flood of thoughts that I’d had myself about leadership. In the recent past the world seems to have been led by rather uncharismatic political leaders. A few years ago we had great hopes for President Obamah but due to his problems with Congress his light seems to have faded. The European Community seems to have few politicians who understand or even identify with the people they are leading and their handling of the current debt crisis is leaving many exasperated. Popular revolutions replace dictators with “much the same as before”.

Business leadership not much better
But is business also suffering from a leadership crisis?
Bankers, all over the world, are as popular as a bad smell in a confined space, Journalists, in the UK, are viewed by many people as having little or no moral scruples, business leaders of all shades seen as feathering their own nests with undeserved salary increases and bonuses whilst their workers are laid off and have their salaries cut.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that there seems to be a universal lack of leadership.

Influenced by headlines
In reality, however, it’s always easy to become influenced the “Headlines”. In doing so we can ignore the huge numbers of people beavering away and producing small successes that move a business team forward. In the past few weeks I’ve met dozens of small business leaders that are managing to keep their business teams motivated, enthusiastic for the future and actually growing their business results.

That’s not to say there aren’t difficulties. Youth unemployment is a huge problem, the value of retirement annuities a disaster for many and industries laid bare a tragedy. Yet walk up any street and you notice so many business start-ups. Open up any magazine and you can see new and innovative products. Go into millions of businesses and you can find great team leaders.
I wonder if we can persuade some of these leaders to run for government?

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When does a product comes to life?

I’ve recently answered a question on what brings a product to life.

I disagreed with some people who thought that the answer was when the “money owing for the product clears in the bank account and exceeds the
liabilities that were created in the process of production”

I thought these answers were too simplistic and actually don’t describe “coming to life”. It could mean that a £1 profit meant the product had come to life and for me that’s not a good description. What I think describes a product coming to life is when it starts to “excite” the producers and purchasers. It’s only through an emotional state can a product actually have an “exciting life”.

Let me give you some examples.

a) In her recent Royal engagements The Duchess of Cambridge has worn coats from last years fashions and the shops have been inundated by people wanting to buy the same coats and shoes and have gone into new production to fulfil demand.

b) Apple creates a loyalty for its products and makes visiting the store exciting, energetic

c) Abercrombie and Fitch have an opposite product to the rest of the high street. The stores are dark, you can’t see the product clearly, it’s unbelievably expensive (in UK if not in USA) and yet kids crowd in, desperate to have a photo taken with half naked models where their muscles are highlighted by clever downward lighting and spray tanning to accentuate the bumps. The products are bought because it’s “Cool fashion”. It’s an exciting product.

The other thing about the examples above is that the product isn’t just what’s bought!
It’s the experience, the emotion of ownership and belonging to a group of other owners.

Products that don’t build this into the product mix may have a “Birth” but they’re likely to have a short life 

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Over extended limbs means conflict

Yesterday I had a meeting with a friend who was concerned that his sales department was in conflict with other departments in the business. Marketing, accounts and It were all finding the attitude of the sales team problematical and verging on the bullying.
“The sales team has had so much money and resource pumped into them” complained my friend who was at a loss to understand or accept that they needed more or how this had resulted in conflict between the sales team, accounts, marketing and IT!

Over extended limb
This situation is not unusual where a specific part of a business becomes an “over extended limb” and eats up more money, resource and focus than the rest of the company. Exactly the same thing happens in counties that allow one industry or faction to become dominant. (Think of banking in the UK which has become such a dominant part the country’s GDP that it’s seen as too powerful, too demanding and increasingly unpopular).

Essential to the well being of the business
Having an over extended limb in an organisation will inevitably result in conflict. This is because as one part of the business is starved of funds it will blame the other for squandering resources. The over extended limb will justify it’s existence as being “essential to the well being of the business” and will blame other parts of the business for “lack of support”, “failing to understand the realities of the situation” and changes to the status-quo  will “harm the business”.

Results in casualties
The results of such infighting is that it distracts attention onto the mission critical results the business needs. Turning around this conflict takes time and in my experience always results in casualties where good talent leaves the business.

The way to avoid conflict is to avoid over-extended limbs

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Customer bites back!

Over the past week I’ve been amazed at the response of companies to negative comments on Twitter. In the “getting complaints resolved fast” it seems to scare companies far more than threats to complain through official channels!

It takes 50 days to post a form
At this point I’m not going to mention the companies concerned (look through my previous blogs and tweets if you want to know the who) but to say that one complaint was after I was informed that to post me a form that needed completing could take up to fifty days to post…yes that’s right fifty (50) days to post out a form!

Brand protection
Within an hour of the negative tweets complaining of the poor customer service I was being contacted by teams of people wanting to resolve my complaint to prevent further negative tweets being made. Now, one has to admire the protection of the brand image and how effectively the complaint was handled but my main question is why let the situation where a customer is frustrated or angered occur in the first place?

So, perhaps the advice if you have a complaint about a company should be “Tweet first, blog next, mention it on facebook and if that brings no satisfactory result then complain officially”.

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