Monthly Archives: April 2016

European Business Etiquette

download (11)For those who will be travelling for business to Europe, here are some tips that would help you in various European countries. It is common to hear “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but just how do the Romans do things? And while we are at it, let us also add in the Austrians, the Spanish, and the British too. Do not forget the Dutch and the Greeks and the Irish as well.

General International Tips

Simplify your conversations and writings with words that are not overly technical or lengthy. For people who translate, or people who translate in their head, you will need to speak slowly and clearly, preferably without that extra added emphasis on your accent. Before you take your trip, learn a bit about that country’s business and social culture and customs. Write things down for easier understanding, at times. Many countries do things slower and at a much more relaxed pace than we do in the States. You will have to learn to be patient for just about everything. Finally, silence is often the best thing you can give someone.

General European Tips

Do: gift gifts, such as candy or flowers; give in odd numbers; shake hands firmly; be punctual; and toast your host.

Do not: give chrysanthemums or red roses; give anything in a set of 13; or take wine to a French household, unless you know it is a very excellent vintage.

Austria and Germany – Hands do not go in your lap or pockets

Scandinavia – Do not use first names or touch casually

Netherlands – No social touching

Greece – Admiring an object might cause it to be given to you. Greeks smile when happy and when angry. A raised eyebrow and unturned chin signifies “no.”

Spain – Interrupting is accepted. First name is used in addressing as Mrs. Judith Espanza is known as Mrs. Judith. Main meal is served just before tea time, while supper is served at 10pm.

United Kingdom – England is the most formal, and they have always been known as a very formal country. Titles are very important and well-used. Appointments and reservations are given well in advance. Do not feel obligated to ask for seconds or to say “You’re welcome.”

Ireland – Punctuality is not stressed. Neither is gift-giving. For that matter, neither is refusing a drink!

Italy – Punctuality isn’t so important here either. Do not talk business during any social occasion. There is, however, a fair amount of social touching here.

 

Government Contracting “Minority” Programs Taking a Pendulum Swing in the Wrong Direction?

download (10)It has been a few years now since I decided to take my company into the world of government contracting, and in those years I’ve gained some pretty good experience on how to market to and navigate the government contracting space. I’ve also noticed something troubling about how contracts and would-be awards are setup and they come in the form of “minority businesses set-asides”, particularly the 8(a) program.

Before going further it is important to note that my dialogue is premised on my field of expertise and the opportunities that exist within it: logistics. Now depending on which side of the fence you are on (8a or not) your view on this subject may differ but this opinion is coming from the non 8(a) perspective.

We are a logistics and supply chain management company. We do a very good job for our customers, maintain higher than industry standards and efficiency through our investments in technology etc. so on and so forth… for argument’s sake, let’s just say we are a top-notch company and small business. It doesn’t matter. It is seemingly less and less relevant today how good we are or how well we execute – the fact that we are simply a “small business” is less important than I’d like to admit or accept.

Government excludes us from a lot of bids we are extremely qualified for and few large companies care about partnering with a “regular” small business. However, if I make a claim that we are part of an “8(a) joint-venture” (which we are) the audience’s ears perk up and instantly my company’s value goes way up. While this brings a smile to their face as they now see a competitive advantage in us, I’m deflated me every single time and constantly brings up the question “when did being a small business go out of style?” You see, the government has programs that exclude all companies (small or otherwise) from participating in various bids and RFP’s if you are not one of these SBA certified 8(a) companies.

What is an 8(a) company? From a very high-level it is a company owned by a minority class as designated by the government along with some other requirements, but the primary one being your ethnicity (that’s my take). Technically I am a minority, I’m just not recognized as the right “type” of minority to qualify for this lucrative, decreased competition, environment. While we are indeed part of an 8(a) joint venture, what that really means to us is “hey partner company, our company will identify opportunities, qualify them, establish contacts, bring our expertise to the table, and manage the RFP process in exchange for use of your 8(a) status AND you control 51% of the total contract” because we need you 151% more than you need us apparently.

I get that minorities need help in the business world (I guess) but I have serious trouble actually believing that as a minority myself. I see many folks in the 8(a) program that are very successful and could easily be classified more “American” than minority aside from skin color and identifiable physical traits; but in a world where government is seeking “sealed bids” and “best value” (actual standard buzzwords constantly used in gov RFP’s) are you genuinely achieving best value and efficiency by excluding qualified companies like mine (and many others I’m sure) in an effort to meet a quota? That may have helped at one point but times change and eventually the pendulum will swing past its midpoint or equilibrium to the other end of the spectrum unless something slows its momentum.

If you haven’t guessed by now, yes this is a direct challenge to the 8(a) program and other types like it. What happened to earning an award based on one’s merits and ideas? Or are the architects and practitioners of this system OK handing out awards in a closed system that likely may not be helping achieve a best value at all, while in fact alienating and hurting small businesses?

 

Electronic Filing

download (9)Technology has the ability to make everyone’s life easier. With the consistently changing environment, everyone has been able to stay up to date with everything because of the use of technology. Many issues that have occurred with businesses in the past included the issue of losing documentation, inconsistency with documentation, changes in workers and procedures, changes in clientele, maybe a workplace is moving, losing information, and many more. These issues mostly are based off of the idea of redundancy, extra stress, and loss or misplacement of important information.

The use of technology has increased over a number of years to provide users with ability to decrease the stress in their life and these issues. With the use of technology, users have the ability to load all documentation online, or electronically fill it out to be saved online. This information can be accessed through clouds and other storage spaces that can be accessed anywhere. With the ability to access it anywhere, management can adjust who can view it. Also, businesses can adjust who can edit the information and create tutorials on accessing the information.

One major risk that concerns technology users is the loss and security of their information. Addressing the loss of information, users have options in which they save their information. Portable flashdrives, clouds, and other means can be used to save information and be locked away so no one can access them. This helps with the security concerns that someone might have.

In situations where documentation goes missing, files can be accessed online. If the file cannot be found online simply, there are search wizards that can search the computer by name of the file, words in the file, a description of the file, etc. to minimize the search time. This is crucial in business because time is money. Not only that, but employees of a business might constantly be changing. With this feature, an employee who just started has the ability to find information that someone who has been working there since the beginning would typically only know how to find.

By transferring files a company might use to a technology based procedure, the company’s efficiency was increased dramatically. Reasons for this would have the do with elimination of time searching, elimination of time training employees, elimination of looking unprofessional due to a loss of files. These are really important considerations in keeping a business floating. Because everything is constantly changing and the wants of clients change with it, the use of technology is the smartest resource a company can use.

 

ERP Mistakes Businesses Have To Avoid Making

download (8)Most business owners today now know the importance of having a good ERP software or system. With this system, certain processes can be optimized within the company, saving business owners time and costs.

Selecting the right ERP system for your business though is not a simple task. You will need to invest sufficient time and effort to make the right investment for your company. If you make the mistake of investing in the wrong system and with using it, all your investment will simply go down the drain.

Below are some key ERP mistakes businesses will have to take note of and avoid making:

Insufficient planning. If you want your ERP project or system to work to the company’s advantage, planning is crucial. Business owners and decision makers who do not plan thoroughly before they begin an ERP software evaluation can become confused when making their selection and as such, they will not fully understand their current processes and how to evolve them to maximize business benefits and efficiencies. To avoid this problem, companies should conduct an internal audit of all of their processes and policies before choosing an ERP system. If you don’t have an in-house team capable of properly evaluating ERP systems, consider hiring a third-party or vendor-neutral consultant who has experiences in implementing ERP solutions for companies in your industry.

Not doing enough comparison shopping. Different ERP systems offer various benefits. Although these would be helpful for your business, it is important to look into the limitations of these systems as well. The last thing you want is to invest in a system that has system functionality restrictions, lack of capabilities, and has a negative impact on existing internal best practices. To avoid this mistake, don’t limit your potential vendor to just one or two. Look for at least five and ask them for references. Don’t forget to do some additional research online by reading up on client testimonials or brand reviews.

Not using and understanding the ERP system’s key features. Once you have the ERP software installed, you or the employees in charge need to know the system’s ins and outs. If you or your employees don’t know or understand and use all the features, your company will miss various opportunities to automate business processes, complete functions faster, and meet business objectives. This also means you are not optimizing the system and getting less from your investment. You can avoid or solve this problem by creating a master list of all the features of the system and tracking the frequency of their use. You can then periodically review this list to determine which features are being used frequently and which ones are the most helpful.