Archives for December 2009

False economies and part-timers

Following on from my last piece, at Christmas those with jobs may well be off work for a week or so, and students are home for the holidays. They may have some time on their hands and be thinking about earning extra money, which is when some of us might be tempted to ask them to help with a project, thinking that they will charge less than if we hired a full time professional. Oh the temptation to think we could gain whilst at the same time helping someone with a little pocket money!

Of course I am not against a bit of charity, but what happens when our part-time bookkeeper goes back to work in January having left a job half done with a well-intended promise to find a few evenings to finish off? What about our student web-designer or graphic artist disappearing for ten weeks or so back to college or Uni with real study to do plus the social distractions of student life? Will our project get finished and will it be satisfactory?

Let employees at a loose end help out with something which doesn’t need them to finish it, and give the kids pocket money, but employ a full time business with recommendations and a track record for anything important to your business.

One of my friends once recommended a young student to design a logo for me. He didn’t have a clue and could not come up with a design that was even web-friendly, let alone good for a corporate image. I wasted my money. Do you have any tales to tell, or have you been too sensible or lucky enough to learn from the mistakes of others, rather than your own?

© Jon Stow 2009

Practicing what we preach – seeing value over cost

When we are selling our product or service, what many of us aim to do is to persuade our customer or client of the value of our offering. That way we get a proper reward, and of course we have to live up to our promises in delivering the quality to fulfill our customers’ expectations. I work hard to maintain the quality of the service I provide and to ensure that my clients have peace of mind, because as someone effectively offering business support services in tax compliance and other areas, peace of mind is what I am selling. My clients are then able to concentrate on their core businesses whilst knowing that most of the red tape compliance is being taken care of.

This is all well and good, but sometimes in business we are guilty of not seeing the value of the products and services for which we ourselves are customers. I see people including some of my own clients finding value in one service but penny-pinching over another. We may think that we know what we are doing, but I have resolved to find help in marketing through my websites in the New Year. I am a specialist in one area and pretty nifty in at least one other but I have to admit that I do not know all the tricks of internet marketing whereas someone else will. For that reason, this very blog may look a little different in a month or so, though I will still be writing it of course.

It is no good being a cheapskate as a purchaser of goods or services. Generally, a better product or service makes life easier all round, so do not skimp on buying in website design or bookkeeping or whatever it is you need. Check the track record of anyone you engage, look at their work or get a decent reliable reference for any contractor whose services you buy in. Quality will cost money but should deliver greater value and help you make a lot more money. Unfortunately it really is true that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. What you don’t get is satisfaction in delivery and you may be no better off and end up having to spend a lot more to have things put right.

© Jon Stow 2009

How the other half lives – an observation in management

After a long break I now find myself travelling to London quite often, and of course it is most convenient to take the train. In a former life I used to commute daily. It is now hard to understand how I ever did it, and it is not just the uncertainty and unreliability of the train service.

The trouble is the people; not all of them of course but just the large antisocial element. Some have bags they lay on other people’s feet rather than putting them on the rack or asking someone else to, others push past, talk loudly on their phones or text constantly..beep beep beep. I guess it is the aggression pheromones discovered in fruit flies which is the cause of this behaviour, and of course relates to survival in a crowded environment.

Given this trait which in the past I have seen transferred into working environments, it seems a recipe for disaster in getting the best out of our staff. One can quite understand how having fought through the melee of public transport, it is difficult to switch off inconsiderate attitudes. It is possible to get people to be more relaxed though, and that is by being friendly with our co-workers. When I first became responsible for staff, I found it easier to be quite laid back and not to pressure people. That way I gained respect and a willingness to deliver amongst my group, but I cannot say it was particularly thought through. I had not then discovered Dale Carnegie.

Do the crowds and general rush make it harder to maintain a good atmosphere and working environment in larger towns and cities? It may be so, but I suspect that if bosses and managers took a step back and thought of their employees as people with needs, feelings and sensitivities, those workers would see their employers as human beings too. Everyone would then get on better and I suspect more work would be done and all would receive greater rewards, both monetarily and in happiness. I do recommend everyone should read Dale Carnegie if they haven’t already.

© Jon Stow 2009

Quasi prospects, time-wasters and an experiment in human nature

This piece could have been in either of two blogs but I put it in my Taxing Times thread. Please feel free to visit!