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Eating and socialising at work - what was lost when we axed the canteen

by Log Book on 26 May 2017 permalink
What do you come to work for? Sounds like a stupid question for some; but look at it more closely: Do you come to make friends? Do you come to learn new skills? Do you come to contribute to a cause you strongly believe in? Do you come to make your mark in society? Do you come to make some money?

The sad state of affairs is that a vast majority of us only care about the last question. If that's the only reason you come to work then your life will be a misery.

The reason why people see work as drudgery is because of their poor connections. When you consider over the year the time you spent at work as opposed to the time you spent with your family, you would think it would result in a buoyant network of interaction with the crowd you rub shoulders with in your workplace.

People open up when they share a meal together. They disengage from the current battle and move to lateral thinking. They are curious to know who is the person down the aisle. In return they crave for being known for who they really are.

Today people are resigned to eating at their desk - dropping a few crumbs between the keys of the keyboard while searching strangers in social media.

The rollout of the continuous workday has ushered the age of the high-tech zombie - the epitome of the 21st century worker devoid of any meaningful interaction with peers.

To rub salt into the wound employers issue procedures manuals to stress the point that your opinion does not count. Your creativity and your ability to solve problems around you are dismissed.

You are being reduced to being a cog in somebody else's money making machine. Profit is paramount. The social benefits of pulling together in a worthwhile enterprise are of no significance.

This bias at cutting corners, not taking the effort to do things with respect and dignity is resulting in many workers falling to depression or turning to sex, drugs or alcohol to escape from their nightmare.

Next time you take your lunch break, invite someone you don't know well to come with you. Make the effort to build bridges. Be a social connector. See the people around you as uniquely gifted individuals on the way to reaching their full potential. Be attentive to their aspirations. People naturally gravitate towards their areas of interest and expertise.

Cracking the Whip in the Paperless Office

by Log Book on 19 May 2017 permalink
Your every move across the corporate network is being logged. Instead of talking to you face to face, there is the potential that the net nannies will jump to the wrong conclusions when auditing your activities.

IT vendors peddle the narrative that by monitoring corporate activity they can empower bosses to make the right strategic moves. If a company spends lots of time and money generating some unique content that people rarely use - then was it worth the trouble?

Big Brother might tell us which documents, images, audio or video clips get the most attention. Does that mean that's where the company's future lies? Is it simply that people don't know where the good stuff is? Worst, is there so much pressure on people to perform a certain way that they have left their creativity at home? Are they too busy filing reports rather than dreaming up the next challenge in the marketplace?

Every good relationship is based on trust. If employees feel that they are being observed rather than being consulted; they will in turn behave like robots - not like stakeholders pushing towards a common goal.

Monitoring your employee base by stealth rather than face to face will cost you dearly in terms of goodwill. When was the last time you randomly picked a member of your team and went to lunch with that person?

Head knowledge puffs up but serving the people who work for you brings long-lasting dividends.

In a world where people fiddle with their smartphones instead of having eye contact with you, no wonder workers feel dis-engaged. Life is supposed to be fun. Are you enjoying yourself at work? You hear about transparency being a core value for a respected brand. What about your most loyal customers - those who give you more than 40 hours of their time each week? Can't you see that the best social media campaign you can ever dream of is to let your staff brag about how good a feeling it is to work for you.

That's unlikely to work when they know you are spying on them instead of engaging with them face to face. Otherwise what's the point of getting them to commute to the office - they might as well all work from home.

There is a wealth of knowledge and market intelligence buried in each cubicle. That information will never trickle up to the decision seat if people don't feel respected and free to share.

Justifying Your Hours And Labour Rate

by Log Book on 12 May 2017 permalink
Understanding who does what and where, is the key to run any parts and labour business successfully. Here comes the internet and the incredible connectivity it brings.

There is no longer any excuse for not accounting where your people are located, what they did and how long they spent to complete the task.

Some companies feel they are obliged to charge the same rates in their industry no matter who executed the task. Customers also have some idea as to how long it should take to do a given job. So why bother to account for everything you may ask?

The issue is that unless you have some history of where the company hours have disappeared, you will never find out what is profitable and what is not. Furthermore in a competitive world the last thing you want is to be drawn into a competition war where people undercut one another to gain a market advantage. This game of bluff will kill all participants until the biggest loser is found.

You need to differentiate what your business does, how it does it and create value for the customer. Once the benefits are clearly spelled out, a fair price is your reward.

Have you ever realised that your invoice might turn out to be your best piece of marketing for repeat business?

What about if customers could access online and check the progress of a job in terms of billable hours? Is it better to work at the client's premises to pacify a nosy customer or in your office where you can allocate junior staff and train them at the same time?

So we have 3 players here: the company manager, the employees and the customers who are no longer kept in the dark... All these people can enter the same online system with different access levels to see only what they ought to see or type the time spent as soon as a task is done - even away from the office just using a smartphone!

Negotiating the right price for work in progress

by Log Book on 05 May 2017 permalink
How to make sure your clients do not fall off their chair when they get your invoice? If the work you do for a client is still in progress then how can you figure out a price for it?

Instead of giving customers bad surprises why not be transparent with them? Online cloud computing allows clients to monitor the progress of a job while you have a command dashboard of who does what and where.

The key process is to allow customers to see how much time your staff is spending on their account and keep the ability to tweak hourly rates at invoice time to match what is a fair and equitable price.

Some vendors pick an hourly rate out of the air which is supposed to absorb travel costs, training on the job, suppliers' delays and so on.

Customers are left on their own wondering how soon they could afford a holiday home if they could charge such rates themselves...

Remote access has opened the way to doing multi-tasking. It is now a luxury having your employees tied-up onsite at a customer's premises twiddling their thumbs because some key information (network passwords ?) is not forthcoming or a supplier is late in delivering a piece of equipment.

Not being in control of your project means you have relinquished the ability to turn out a decent profit or worse still, end up with a loss.

The ability to juggle as many projects in-house as possible gives you the chance to match the right employee for each task, foster teamwork, enforce backup procedures and do on the job training. You send someone onsite only to deliver and commission a system or to take the brief for a new job.

The clincher is that you can now call the customer on the phone and discuss the timesheets online. You can tweak various items and get the client's endorsement. When the invoice hits their inbox, they already know what's in it and have no reason to drag their feet for payment.

Employees give you 40 hours of their lives each week. It is your prerogative to use that precious and expensive commodity to the best interest of your business. Where that time has gone in practice is impossible to know unless it is being recorded at the source. That's where an online system comes into its own because people can update it whenever and wherever they can access the net.

Clive Rich says:
Making sure you dont give customers any nasty surprises in their invoices is a good way of retaining a deal with them. "Disclosing" is often a good way to build customer reassurance in a deal, so sharing on-line information about your time spent is a good idea.

Customer Relations - Prevention Is Better Than Cure

by Log Book on 28 Apr 2017 permalink
What does it take to be proactive in customer relations? Do not wait for unease to settle in. Make yourself accountable to your customers.

Ever wondered why some customers go quiet when it is time to pay their bill? Does your invoice reflect a true account of services performed and goods supplied?

It is better to be straightforward in documenting the work you perform for somebody. Failure to do so will not invite trust or loyalty. If you consider how much it costs to acquire a new customer as opposed to maintaining an existing one with repeat business you will be amazed at the difference.

Yet it is the little details that can invite ill-feelings. Some service business feel like it is a tight rope exercise to itemize time spent on a job and then disclose an hourly rate.

Customers are entitled to know who performed a task for them and how long it took that person. Why not provide that information readily on a website where they can log in and keep in touch with the progress of their project before falling off their chair when they receive the bill a month later?

The old anecdote is this: A woman calls a repairman to fix her washing machine. The tradesman spends 5 minutes, taps with the hammer, gets the appliance back in working order and displays a bill for $150. The customer stunned, retorts: "All you did was tap with your hammer and you want $150 for that?" the man undeterred rewrites his bill: "tapping with the hammer $5, knowing where to tap $145."

Different hourly rates are used to differentiate between work performed by a junior staff as opposed to a senior partner of the firm. Parts can be supplied at cost or with a surcharge to cover inventory and handling. When an item relates to pure expertise or industry knowledge you may charge a set fee without disclosing the time spent. For example you could have a set price for business registration, engine tune-up and so on. All routine tasks can fit into this category. Jobs where you experience delays onsite for no fault of your own could be charged on an hourly base to document the fact your staff was tied up there, unable to do anything else.

At the end of the day clients what to be able to compare and to establish they were charged a fair price. If you are tied to some inflexible system software you won't have the latitude to capture the raw data (time spent) and negotiate a fair price (invoice line override).

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