China’s Continued Growth

I just read an interesting article about China’s economy in a recent issue of Newsweek. It is expected to only grow by about 7% in 2009, while the other Big 5 economies in the world are expected to slow to a near standstill—or worse. Of course, China is only a semi-free economy since the government still exerts a strong and stabilizing hand.

There are several reasons for China’s continued growth presented in the article, but I found one thing especially interesting—most of the government leaders are engineers; they know how to work from a plan.

Could we have too many lawyers in Washington…and not enough engineers?

What do you think?

Pay Raises for Congress

Well, I guess it is appropriate for members of Congress to give themselves a pay raise this month—after all, it will only cost taxpayers a mere $2.5 million. After the billions (soon to be trillions?) Congress has been handing out, this is simply “pocket change.”

Of course, it might not set too well with the millions of American workers who are giving up their cost-of-living raises in an effort to save their jobs—if they still have them.

If you think this might not be a good time for your elected officials to take a pay raise, you might let them know how you feel.

Planning–Do I Have To?

It seems, of late, that I have been running up against the idea that planning is a waste of time. All too often, I see the admonishment to “just-do-it,” instead of taking valuable time to write down a “plan.” Besides—so we are told—plans quickly become obsolete, and entrepreneurs do not have time to keep them up to date.

Thinking about this, I recalled some studies on the subject of planning that I ran across some time ago. These studies have been published many times in many places, but I thought they were worth repeating here. The first one is from a study sponsored by the Ford Foundation:

  • 23% of the population has no idea what they want from life and as a result they have very little.
  • 67% of the population has a general idea of what they want but they don’t have any plans for how to get it.
  • Only 10% of the population has specific well-defined goals, but even then, 7 out of 10 of these people reach their goals only half the time.
  • The top 3%, however, achieved their goals 89% of the time.

Why is there such a drastic difference between the top 3% and all the others? It doesn’t stop with this one study either. Let’s look at a couple of other studies:

  • Some years ago, Yale University conducted a study that found 3% of Yale graduates had more wealth, years later, than the other 97% combined.
  • Harvard Business School did a study on its students 10 years after graduation and found that only 3% of them were financially independent.

What is the significance of this 3% number that keeps popping up in various studies? Well, it is quite simple really…in every case of the successful 3%—they wrote down their goals!

Dreams and wishes are not goals until they are written on paper as specific desired results. In some real sense, writing them down materialize them and brings them to life. The experts claim that the act of writing makes an imprint on the brain that helps set the direction of actions by a person.

Therefore, it stands to reason that as we visualize our enterprise, if we write these thoughts down in an orderly fashion, as goals or action steps, the better our chances are of successfully achieving them.

The question you need to ask yourself then, is “Do you want to be one of the 3% who fulfill their goals in life, or will you be among the 97% who generally fail?”

“Life will not go according to plan—if you do not have a plan.”
—Gary Ryan Blair (“The Goals Guy”)

Do you think writing a business plan is a waste of time? Let me know what you think.

Are Our Children Addicted?

Last month I wrote a post about children born today, on average, having a shorter life expectancy than their parents–primarily due to sedentary living brought about by technological gadgets and toys.

Then, I ran across an article recently by Seth Godin, which, through a video he posted, depicts a disturbing picture of kids with gadgets. If you view the following link, watch the young boy at about the 2:40 mark.

“Kids at Christmas”

Have we so ingrained in our children the need for the latest electronic gadget, that they have become “gadget addicts?” How big a role have these gadgets played in creating the sedentary lives and childhood obesity that is being called an “epidemic” today?

I would like to hear what some others think.

MBWA–For Managing in Troubled Times

I have always been a strong proponent of “Managing By Walking Around” (MBWA). I have studied the concept, and written about it, but, more importantly, I have practiced it for several decades. I have experienced the benefits…and there is no downside. For me, informally talking with my employees frequently, whether individually or in small groups, is the single best way I found to build cohesive teams that can fulfill a common purpose.

Never has this been more important than it is today. Employees are constantly bombarded by the negativity of mainstream media sources (we all know bad news sells best), and consequently, rumors abound. That is why it is up to each small business owner to spend as much time as possible communicating with the people who make their business run. Sadly, big business has lost site of the power of this simple act. HP was probably the last big corporation to formally practice MBWA, and that was many years ago.

Of course, just walking or wandering around, by itself, won’t do it, you also have to talk to people—everyone—and make sure your message is consistent, or you will quickly be disregarded. Keep your employees informed about the realities of your business, both the good and the bad. Nothing dispels rumors and fear like the unvarnished truth. Nothing builds trust and respect like factual, frequent information—the sharing of everything that is going on.

Just as important, you have to listen to your employees. All employees talk amongst themselves about the business, and usually they know things about your business that you do not…so, ask them what they think. Ask them what the business can do better. Ask them what you can do to help them do their jobs better. Be sure to really listen to what they have to say, and then thank them. Of course, you do regularly thank them for their contributions anyway—don’t you?

The same holds true for people outside your organization…your customers, suppliers, creditors, bankers, investors, board members, etc. Pick up the phone and call them from time to time. Where appropriate, ask how you can help them. Everyone connected with your business needs to hear from you—everyone is anxious about what is happening, and when they are fully informed and connected they also can help you, and your business, in ways you may never have thought of.

Frequent and consistent communication not only makes for an informed organization, but it provides the basis for meaningful communication between everyone. This is what fosters innovation.

Doesn’t all this MBWA stuff take a lot of time? Well, it does take a dedication of time consistently spent out in your workplace, but not as much as you might think. If you make it part of your daily routine, and your overall management style, MBWA will become second nature and a part of your business culture—and it definitely beats the hell out of “meetings.”

Do you MBWA? If not, give it a sincere try—spend more time with the people who make your business successful. You can make everyone in your organization feel they are a real part of your business. This is what can give you a better chance of winning during the recession…and beyond.

Hang Onto Your Laptop

I recently read that, according to a study done this past summer for Dell, travelers lose more than 12,000 laptops per week in U.S. airports. Of course, some are simply “left” and show up in lost and found, but most of them are actually stolen.

There have been two leaders in computer tracking for quite some time. Absolute Software, and Brigadoon Security. Now a new service has appeared on the scene: Adeona (adeone.cs.washington.edu). This new service is free and open source, allowing the software to evolve with experience and new ideas by other developers. Might be something to look into.

Of course, the best thing is to hang onto your laptop in the first place.

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