Thursday, August 11, 2011

Do looks matter in a leader? A new study says yes.

A university study has identified the physical character traits associated with good managers.
handsome leader
Scientists from the University of Kent used groundbreaking forensic technology after interviewing 200 managers and other employees to assess the attributes of future high-fliers looking for career development.
The study found that appearance was as crucial as attitude and looked at which characteristics were seen to be best for male managers and female managers.
For a male manager, a pronounced brow and forehead were found to be trusted more, while for women, thin eyebrows, wider eyes and fuller lips made up the face of a future inspirational leader.
Character traits seen as crucial to business success included a "firm but fair" attitude and encouraging creativity and flexibility.
Professor Chris Solomon from the University of Kent is quoted by the Scotsman as saying: "The scientific findings show how Britons think a good business leader should look and behave."
He added that employees wanted a candidate with the confidence of experience and somebody who will rise to the challenge and make brave decisions in the tough current economic climate.
The news comes as Peter Ojede, the chairman of the Uganda Human Resource Managers Association, questioned whether the best looking people get jobs.
"It depends on the job. There are certain jobs like front desk managers, air hostesses, modelling and public relations where appearance may determine the successful candidate," he told newvision.
Do looks really matter in a leader?
Update: I've managed to get hold of the photofits created as a result of the study.
male face of business female face of business
Male face of business Female face of business
READ MORE - Do looks matter in a leader? A new study says yes.

Where has the work life balance gone?

Last night, while my daughter was cleaning her teeth, my husband was sat next to her responding to work emails. It struck me then that work has invaded my family life through a little palm sized device.
au SmartPhone IS01
Image via Wikipedia
Don't get me wrong I love the little gizmos and a time for everything but where do we draw the line? Have we lost the ability to switch off and say no?
New research from Ofcom has found that 81 per cent of smartphone users have their mobile switched on all of the time, even when they are in bed and would wake up in the night to answer or use it. More worryingly is that over a fifth of adult users admitted using or answering their handset in the bathroom or toilet. Is there nothing sacred?
Is the demise of family life imminent when nearly a quarter of adults use their phones during mealtimes? In a time where 37% of adults admit to being 'highly addicted' to their Smartphone isn't it time to step back and re-draw the line between work and life? How do you keep the balance?
READ MORE - Where has the work life balance gone?

Hacking is the biggest threat to UK Business

62 per cent of managers report that cyber security threats are an increasingly serious risk to their business, with nearly a third of UK organisations having been affected by viruses or malicious software during the past 12 months.
CMI BCM research infographic

READ MORE - Hacking is the biggest threat to UK Business

10 ways to negotiate your starting salary

salary negotiatingIn the current environment the prevailing wisdom appears to be that having a job at all is a blessing, and pay should not be a major motivating factor at the moment.  Just this week we've had CIPD announce that pay rises are the preserve of a minority, and a Badenoch & Clark survey revealed pensions are more valued than pay in the public sector.
However, those with the courage and ability to negotiate on salary can still achieve good results.  This is especially so for women, for whom research suggests a lack of negotiating on salaries is a contributing factor to any pay inequalities.  As pay-rises are typically percentage increases on your starting salary, poor negotiation at the outset can cost you for years.
Here are a few bits of research that should help you to negotitate better.

1. Be willing and able

If you don't ask, you won't get, so the first step is to be prepared to negotiate in the first place. One early study of graduating MBA students found that those who were prepared to negotiate achieved better starting salaries.  So whilst it might seem obvious, you have to be in it to win it.

2. Make the first move

Most articles on salary negotiation suggest that you wait for the employer to bring up salary first.  If you make the first move however then you have the ability to establish a psychological anchor point.  This point will then be used as reference for all further negotiations.  If you let the employer set this anchor point then you are losing control over the negotiations.

3. Shoot for the stars

So, when you're looking to set your anchor point, it pays to aim high.  Obviously you can't begin with a ridiculous number, you need to research your industry and profession to provide a reasonable start point.  A study from earlier this year found that high start points tend to lead to high offers.

4. Keep it light

If you start your negotiations high it can lead to a tense environment.  Research has shown that if you keep your opening offer framed in a light hearted way, it still influences the final offer but doesn't create a tense environment.

5. Enjoy the game

Good negotiations are a bit like a game, so it pays if you learn to enjoy the to and fro.  Research suggests that enjoying the competitive side of negotiations is essential if you want to succeed.

6. Walk a mile in their shoes

Whilst competing is great, don't forget to understand things from the other parties point of view.  If you can't empathise with how they want negotiations to go you'll never be very good.
Don't forget your end goal however.  Win-win negotiations feel great, but research suggests they result in lower salary offers.  Win-lose outcomes by contrast made more money, even if they made people feel worse.

7. Nice girls finish last

Traditional advice seems to centre on being reasonable in negotiations.  The research revealed here however shows that this approach does not work as it focuses too much on what is best for the employer, and not what is best for you.

8. Forget your gender

Women are rubbish negotiators.  Negotiation is a masculine act.  Etc. etc.  You've heard the theories but if you're to do this well you need to forget them all.  Research from the 90's suggests that women are often more competitive than men in negotiations.

9. Be brave

It's difficult to be good at negotiation if you are risk averse.  Those that are so inclined tend not to compete in a negotiation, and as we've seen, competing works when it comes to winning that high salary.  So think through how much overcoming your fear is worth to you before you enter negotiations.

10.  Believe in yourself

In the immortal words of Jenifer Aniston, you are worth it.  It's essential to enter negotiations believing that very simple fact.  Do your research and find out what people with similar skills and experience to you earn and use that as your anchor point to kick things off.
Good luck and happy negotiations.
READ MORE - 10 ways to negotiate your starting salary

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Successful Strategy For Marketing A Small Business

Simply Put .... develop a marketing plan. Here are some tips:


What does your research indicate is the trend in your field? Will it stay the way you are currently offering supplies and services or will it change? This item covers the developments you expect for the next few years. Evan a 'perfect' business can become obsolete overnight due to future developments. Specify a 5 year forecast of your field in your area.


Have you developed these targets? This section shows your estimates of future sales revenue for your business. Your strategic plan, needs to spell out the specific actions you will take to achieve your forecast sales revenues.


How does your business differ from the competition's strong and weak points. Again, remember to carefully look at your business from the customer's perspective. If you're not sure how your pricing policies compare to the competition, here are some guidelines. Most people associate high prices with high quality and extra service, while they associate low prices with low or average quality and minimum service. Make sure you provide extra quality and service if your prices are higher than your competition or make sure that your prices are lower if your quality is average and your service is minimum.


Once you describe your target customer, it's easier to create a list of possible ways to reach that person. One of your jobs as a businessperson is to decide which of all the possible methods of communication will give you the most exposure for the least cost in money or time.


COMPETITION: Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.

PIONEERING: If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?

CYCLES AND TRENDS: Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?

SLOW TIMES: Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is ?

OWNERS EXPERTISE: Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on?

Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disaster.
READ MORE - Successful Strategy For Marketing A Small Business

Using a Dashboard to Monitor Your Business

I consider the development and use of a dashboard as a best practice because it really helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Many small businesses don’t check in on their operation often. Granted, if you’re checking your financials and marketing results at least quarterly, that’s a big improvement over doing an annual checkup. A better practice is to monitor it monthly however, and there are some elements of your business that you may want to monitor weekly. After watching the changes from month to month, or week to week, take a step back at the six month mark and look strategically and objectively at what all the monthly incremental changes might mean.

What’s a dashboard? Dashboards are used by many large businesses to monitor their business throughout the year. Dashboards strive for simplicity of presentation of data related to your Key Performance Indicators, or KPI. Key Performance Indicators include areas such as: Marketing, Sales, Financials, and Operations. The data is often presented as trend lines, charts, and other visuals. This is how they came to be known as dashboards – when driving your car your dashboard provides at-a-glance insight into critical areas of the car’s operation. And so it is with your business dashboard also. Some of the dashboard software that’s available even prepares the data to look like gauges that look like they would be found on your car’s dashboard. These gauges can be superfluous, as long as you have the trend lines. Recognizing trends improves your ability to strategize and your decision-making as you grow your business. You’ll also notice areas requiring more attention. This timely recognition allows you to consider an intervention when an issue is small and easier to resolve.

What are key areas to include in your dashboard? I’ve already identified several possible categories to include, and this can be variable depending on the nature of your business. If you are a solopreneur, you might not need to use the Operations/HR category, for example. It can be helpful to work with a business advisor or consultant to develop your dashboard as these professionals provide objectivity and other perspectives that can be hard for a business owner to achieve. Within each category you will choose the elements that you feel are important to monitor. Take some time to look at your business strategically. This is how you will determine what the key categories are. From there you’ll drill down into more specific items to monitor. You can see that this means you are evaluating and analyzing your business – a mindset that you want as an active part of your business.

What specific items would you monitor in each category? I’ll make suggestions here, and you are not limited to these. You may have others that have more meaning and greater impact on your business and so those are the ones you should use. Again, this gets back to thinking strategically.

Marketing – What do you use as marketing tools to build your customer base? What do you use as tools to maintain your customer base? Total marketing cost?
Website analytics – search engine rank, number of unique visitors, amount of time visitors spend on your site, blog subscribers
Social media – for each channel that you use you might track friends, likes, followers, connections etc.; you would also want to include a measure of engagement such as post feedback, tweets, comments etc.; you might include a measure of the time you spend interacting on social media; advertising using social media channels (Facebook ads for example)
Print advertising – dollars spent; contacts from print advertising
Newsletter – number of subscribers; number of unsubscribes

Sales – Where is your income coming from? What offerings are strong and which are weak? Is your sales funnel effective?
Prospects, Conversions, Retention – how many calls, emails and other requests for information about your business have you had; out of those, how many have become customers; and out of those how many have stayed for a specified timeframe? The specified timeframe comes from your determination of how long means that they are a loyal customer
Products, Services

Financials – You may be monitoring these regularly through your accounting software.
Income, Expense, Profit/Loss, Long-term debt, Short-term debt, Assets, Net worth, Ratios

Operations – Is your business operating efficiently?
Facilities – Is your business space being used to its maximum
Human Resources – Number of employees, employee hours, employee cost

By taking a look at these categories and suggested elements, you can see the value of having all this information in one place. These are elements that we know we should monitor, and probably even know where to collect some of it. Through developing your dashboard you will learn exactly where to collect it all and now will have it in one location. You will be able to see the inter-related issues more quickly and may come to additional possible actions to take as a result.

How do I build my dashboard? You can build your dashboard by using Excel, and there are also software dashboards available. Many of these are for large corporate ventures and not as appropriate for micro-enterprise. Mr. Dashboard is one product that provides an easy to use excel interface that transfers itself automatically into charts and graphs that visually display the numbers that you’ve entered. It provides for 25 metrics, though if you are monitoring more than 25 items you can use more than one chart of 25. In this case you can separate categories out from each other. When you’re first starting out you’ll want to get your feet wet with your dashboard before getting highly detailed.

Are you using a dashboard? What do you include on yours? Do you have favorite software for this, and if so, please share with us here.
READ MORE - Using a Dashboard to Monitor Your Business
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