Weird Managers

weird_ma2Having left the corporate world behind, I can safely say that “weird managers” is often an oxymoron.  But Anita Bruzzese wrote an excellent piece on her “On The JOb” blog this week about why managers should get weird.

What Anita is promoting is out-of-the-box thinking for managers and I couldn’t agree more.  Face it, times are tough right now and we could all use a little more fun in our lives.  If we can make that fun part of the job, everyone wins.

My favorite of her suggestions it the idea of “reverse mentoring“.  Of course older, more experienced employees can be a great help to their younger coworkers, but generation X and Y have a lot to offer as well, especially when it comes to technology.  Don’t let that knowledge go to waste.

At the risk of repeating myself (repeating myself) the current economic situation offers a wealth of opportunities to small businesses who agressively and creatively go after the business.

Good Luck!

MTS isn’t a political blog, but this really isn’t a political picture. I hope you find it as funny as I do. [And thanks to Mike Anderson for posting this on his St. Louis Media web site.]

photo-goodluck

Small Business Television

sbtvHere’s a resource you might find useful.  It’s called Small Business Television, or sbtv.  The site features a daily set of news highlights related to small biz along with a library of short video programs covering everything from Wellness in the Workplace to the best businesss to start if you’re an outsized baby boomer.

I haven’t looked at everything yet, but I’ve bookmarked the site as a good reference tool.

A free membership to SmallBiz Central hooks you up to other members-only areas of the site.  I’ve joined myself and I’ll let you know how that works.

Winning Isn’t Everything

After the untimely demise of my iPod, I’ve been trying to get caught up on all my favorite podcasts.  I’m making progress, but still have a way to go.  Unlike yours truly, most podcasters are pretty faithful about getting their programs out on schedule, which makes catching up that much more difficult.

Yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite shows, The Podcast Sisters.  Episode 67 features a discussion on Heather Gorringe’s company, Wiggly Wigglers, and their recent win of the Global Del Small Business Excellence Award.  This is a biggy and well-deserved.  The award includes a lot of free Dell computer merchandise, free public relations service, and other goodies.

But as I’ve pointed out previously, on my former blog, the process of applying for an award  can often be worth much more than the award itself.  For example, the Malcolm Baldrige Award, the one I’m most familiar with, begins with a section of self-description.  The applicant must tell the award examiners who they are, what they do, what their marketplace looks like, and who their competitors are.  Also included in this first section are the company’s mission, vision, and core values.

If the company never goes further than this Organizational Profile section, they will still be substantially ahead of their competitors.  Describing you organization in such detail is a real eye-opener for most owners and managers.

While you may think that such a process is only for large companies, think again.  Small organizations can benefit even more than large ones through this process.  If you’re not familiar with the Baldrige criteria, you can download a copy of the application booklet from their web site.   There is other good material there as well.

Most states also have  a local program based on the Baldrige Award and usually offer assitance at little or no cost.  Check it out.  It could be the best time you’ve ever spent on your business.  Even if you don’t win a trophy, the improvement in your business could be priceless.

New Look

You may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with the look of Mining the Store over the last few days.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, I’m working on a new web site and I want the theme of the blog to be similar.  Second, I’m striving for simplicity (not to be confused with the vacuum cleaners manufactured by my former employer).

In these difficult economic times, I believe the solution to many of our problems lies in trimming things down, eliminating the unnecessary, and emphasising efficiency.  I like the picture of the mine (I took it myself) and the rather garish header that we’ve used until now.  But I had to ask myself if they contributed anything that benefits YOU, the reader.  I decided the answer is “No!”  So, they’re gone.

As we move forward all of us are going to have to make some tough decisions.  The decisions may be tough but the ramifications can be exciting.  In the last post we saw how one company was able to renegotiate with a vendor to save four employee jobs.  That’s the kind of creative solutions we should all be looking for.

More on that later, but for now I hope you like the new look.  Keep watching for the announcement of the new web site very soon.

Small Businesses Cut Costs by Renegotiation

It’s days like today that I appreciate being an independent blogger rather than a corporate employee.  I doubt that I would have covered this topic in my past position.  As it is, I may step on a few toes with this post, but I’m not worried about that.  My job is to help you.

In an article at the Wall Street Journal online, Raymond Flandez points out that in the current economy almost anything is negotiable.  In a recent survey, 15% of small business owners and managers said that they had recently renegotiated long-range fixed-cost supply contracts.

As Flandez points out, money talks.  If you have traditionally paid on time you stand a better chance of cutting a better deal. Vendors have inventory and they need cash, making it a buyers’ market for companies with good payment history and cash flow.

Here’s where I may rub some people the wrong way.  Now is the time to ask your vendors for concessions. They need sales to pay their own bills, especially fixed-costs like rent.  They also have payroll to meet.  If you can help them turn inventory into cash, you’re in the drivers’ seat.

The Journal piece offers some case studies of companies who got very creative in their negotiations with key suppliers, including Atlanta Refrigeration Company who got their supplier, Heritage Food Service Equipment, to actually hire four Atlanta Refrigeration employees in exchange for an exclusive supplier agreement.

The key thing to remember here is that every negotiation should end in a win/win situation.  Atlanta Referigeration saved four employees jobs while Heritage Food got additional business right away and the promise of much more when the economy improves.

The days of “us vs. them” negotiations are over.  But, if you can put together a package that reduces your costs and offers an advantage to your suppliers, you stand a good chance of saving a lot of money, if the suppliers can count on you to pay your bills.  If your current suppliers balk, then maybe it’s time to shop around.

Mallard Fillmore on Small Business

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the  Mallard Fillmore’s comic strip from yesterday.  As my kids like to say, “It’s funny because it’s true.”