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True contrast

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Even though there is widespead acceptance, entrepreneurs often ask how to value the sweat equity invested in their startup. A quick and easy response: It’s worth whatever your investors tell you it’s worth. But over the years, come to realize that sweat equity isn’t the same thing as market value for your startup.

Investors have no idea how to value sweat equity, and I now believe it’s a bad idea to let them tell you how to do it. At a minimum, they could use this as a negotiating tool to undervalue your startup.

When you’re getting started, sweat equity is often a critical component of your negotiating leverage with co-founders, early stage employees and others who aren’t paid market wages to help you grow your business. As the business owner, you should be the expert on valuing sweat equity, not your investors, accountants or lawyers. Here are some tools for tackling the challenge.
When determining the value of the sweat equity provided by an employee or potential co-founder, first assess these three characteristics of the person in question:

  1. Commitment:Is he or she committed to being a founding partner for the long haul?
  2. Unique contribution:Does he or she bring specialized knowledge, skills, leadership ability or experiences that you don’t have?
  3. Hopes and dreams:Are his or her hopes and dreams for personal wealth, business success and autonomy the same as yours? If not, are the differences substantial enough that they’ll pull the company apart?

Then, start thinking about the numbers.

1. Market value doesn’t equal the sum of sweat equity invested by you and your partners.

If you have invested $100,000 worth of your time in writing a business plan, and your partner, a young engineering student, has invested $25,000 worth of her time in building a prototype, it doesn’t mean the market value of your startup is $125,000.

In fact, it could be worth much more. Sweat equity is just one component of early-stage valuation. In a previous column, I discussed how valuing a startup is more driven by market conditions, comparable companies, exit potential, future capital needs and many other factors.

2. Foregone wages for an engineer aren’t the same as foregone wages for a prototype designer.

In the example described above, the $25,000 estimated by your business partner is likely to be based on wages that she could have earned in a full-time job. This is the typical way that a founder determines sweat equity: foregone wages. However, your partner could just as easily have argued that her sweat equity is worth $250,000 since that’s what a prototype would have cost you to make had you hired a prototype development firm. Or she could argue that the prototype is so critical to the business that she should get 50 percent of the company’s stock.

In my experience, this is the basis for much of the negotiation that CEOs will have with their early-stage employees and co-founder. You need to determine the principle applied for valuing services invested in a nascent business. Foregone wages tends to be the anchor that keeps valuation negotiations from sailing into oblivion. Don’t be tempted to dole out equity to everyone who helps you found the company–even it makes you feel good to have co-founders. (Being an entrepreneur is lonely, but there are better ways to make friends or build a community of credible supporters than by giving early-stage equity to people who make small contributions to your business.)
One simple solution is to “pay” a slight premium for sweat equity to early-stage employees. For example, when valuing the sweat equity invested by your prototype designer, use $30,000 rather than $25,000 as a valuation figure and explain that you’re paying a 20 percent premium because of the risks associated with being paid in equity rather than cash.

3. Employees and founders are motivated by different things.

How should you decide if your prototype designer should be a co-founder who deserves 50 percent of your company or deserves $30,000 in sweat equity for her work as an employee or consultant?

Too often, I see entrepreneurs make this critical decision by trusting the opinion of their investors–or potential investors-rather than determining what their business will actually need. First-time entrepreneurs often think,

“If I approach a VC with a chief technology officer or chief prototype designer in place, then I’m more likely to get funded.”

So they end up getting a co-founder and parting with 50 percent of their company, even if their CTO is really a young prototype designer who will get discouraged or fired a few months later. Using a restricted stock agreement, you can mitigate risk, building in a buy-back right for the partner’s equity grant.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. You get to decide what you need to give up to keep or get an invaluable partner on board.

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Businesses existed before there were computers, fax machines, telephones and copiers, but few entrepreneurs these days would want to try to grow a company without the advantages modern information technology can bring.

Merely having access to the internet- with its myriad opportunities for finding customers, building brands, researching suppliers and communicating with employees and others – can easily justify updating the technology in your office. For many companies, having the appropriate office technology can mean the difference between a successful expansion and one that falls flat on its face.

Managing technology and taking advantage of the opportunities it provides can prove daunting-particularly for small-business owners who lack an extensive budget and a dedicated IT department.

After all, achieving success in this technology-dominant era is far more complicated than putting a personal computer and a printer on a desk. You now have to understand how to take advantage of an IT infrastructure, including a robust network, to compete more effectively. Ultimately, it’s as much about vision-and developing a viable strategy-as it is about actual computing.
Too often, companies jump from one system or application to another but never realize the full benefit of their technology. Without a defined strategy, they make poor buying decisions, adopt ineffective tools, and often experience a high level of frustration. Businesses that excel typically establish technology strategies that help them gain a competitive advantage through cost savings, process improvements, faster time to market, and improved quality and service levels. These firms often exceed the expectations of customers, business partners and employees.

Developing a Tech Strategy


The smartest companies embrace a process for evaluating their technology goals and requirements before implementation. Your first step is to conduct an IT/network audit to document the technologies you already have in place and how they match your goals. You’ll want to determine the strengths and shortcomings of your current systems and their relative importance to your business objectives. The audit should cover the following areas:

  • Your company’s business requirements paired with the corresponding technology hardware/software/services solutions that address them.
  • A timeline for investment and deployment, showing how the timeline tracks to the priorities in the overall company business plan.
  • A design for a robust network architecture, which should include a network map of where your company is today technically–and how you plan to build your network in an evolutionary way.
  • Metrics and ways to measure the success of the IT investments.

Technology is vital to your business, but that doesn’t mean you always have to have the latest, greatest piece of equipment or software. Here’s how to evaluate your current technology to see whether it’s time to upgrade:
Computers are most likely to need upgrading as a result of a software update. If you’ve recently begun using a new version of an important software package and your computers’ performance seems unsatisfactorily slow, it may be time to buy new hardware. Otherwise, you can-and probably should-make do with what you have. Don’t delay buying new computers just because the ones you have are only a few years old, though. During that span of time, performance of the models on the market typically doubles. Forcing customers and employees to wait on slow computers can cost you far more than a new system would.

Telephone systems should be upgraded quickly if a problem develops because they’re your lifeline to customers and suppliers. If customers complain about being kept on hold, about phones not ringing or calls not being answered, you may need to add lines, improve your answering system, or perhaps hire more telephone operators. If you expect your call volume to surge sharply-perhaps because of an upcoming new product launch or seasonal buying-you may want to upgrade your phone system before trouble starts, making sure you have enough time to implement a new system, train employees and work out all the bugs.

High-end copiers can cost more than a whole office full of computers. Today’s models are increasingly interchangeable with printers, thanks to the new generation of digital, network-ready copiers. Some late-model digital copiers will also scan documents and send faxes. But fancy features don’t mean you need one of these costly machines. Upgrade your copiers when you experience or foresee a significant increase in the volume of copies you produce. Adding extras such as automatic document feeders and staplers are nice but probably don’t justify an upgrade.

The great thing about the march of technology is not so much that the equipment keeps getting cheaper, it’s that it keeps getting better. And while you don’t want to be on the bleeding edge of technology adoption, one exception is when you absolutely need a specific technology that has been introduced very recently. Most new gadgets go through a steep price decline after an initial phase of high pricing. If you need something that’s currently the latest thing but you can live without it for a while, you can save significant amounts of money by waiting to purchase until several months after it debuts.

What About Upgrading?

Even when you can’t justify purchasing new equipment, that doesn’t mean your old tech has to languish. You can always improve your office computers by making upgrades–adding memory or purchasing external storage devices or faster processors. Many people would rather prolong the lives of their computers than get rid of them, and upgrading piece by piece can also eliminate the learning curve needed to adjust to a new machine. You’ll need to be somewhat tech-savvy to take care of these upgrades yourself–or have access to a tech savvy employee or friend.
Here are some of the most effective and least expensive items you may want to buy to bring your older computers back up to speed:

  • Hard Drives. One of the most important features of any computer is its ability to store large amounts of data. Many systems today come standard with 20 to 40 gigabytes (GB) of storage, but with the growing interest in digital music and digital video, even 40GB may not be enough.
  • Whether you need desktop drives to back up your primary hard drives or store your digital video files, or a portable large-capacity drive to carry a hefty business presentation, there are several solutions that may help meet your needs. Consumer hard drives, such as FireWire and FireWire/USB combo hard drives, offer anywhere from an extra 20GB to upwards of more than 300GB of storage capacity. Such external drives allow for quick transfer rates between systems and other drives. Most come with accessories and are easy to install, making the upgrade process quick and painless. And when you’re ready to invest in new computers for the office, you’ll always have the extra digital storage space on hand should you need it.
  • CD-ROM/R/RW and DVD-ROM/R/RW Drives. If you regularly use your computer’s original CD drive to install or run software, listen to music and so on, you’ve probably noticed that it isn’t as fast as it used to be. You’ll find that CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW drives are a good option because they allow you to burn large amounts of data, making them an ideal storage solution.
  • Processor Upgrades and Accelerators.Perhaps you’re simply looking for a little more “zoom.” Processor upgrades and accelerators allow you to increase the overall performance of a computer by allowing it to process information faster. Accelerators do this by shifting operational functionality and providing additional cache memory, thereby freeing up the computer’s main processor so it can do its real job–running software applications. And with recently released processor upgrades available at great values that enable older computers to perform at faster clock speeds, anyone planning to replace office computers simply because “new ones are faster” should seriously reconsider.
  • Memory. While everything that’s already been mentioned can help increase the usability of your current computers, one of the most tried-and-true ways to improve performance is to simply install more random access memory (RAM). If your office is running applications that require large portions of system resources, upgrading the amount and/or type of memory can speed up those applications and allow you to run more programs with less strain on your hardware. And with memory prices currently near bargain-basement levels, upgrading a computer’s RAM is one of the most affordable options you have to prolong its life.

The bottom line is that even with computer prices dropping, the more you can do to upgrade your existing machines, the more money you’re going to save until you’re ready to purchase the new machines. In the long run, upgrading one piece at a time allows you to further extend the effective lives of your computers without cutting out chunks of your bottom line.

Purchasing New Technology

If you’ve absolutely decided that you need to do more than upgrade your current equipment and software, however, it’s important to answer a few questions when considering making a new technology purchase:

  • Can my business achieve an immediate gain from the technology?
  • What benefits are possible and how long will it take us to achieve success?
  • What resources are required to implement and manage the technology?
  • Does the hardware or application support a foundation for future growth?

Once you know what you really need, you can start shopping around. One of the most common tech products entrepreneurs consider purchasing is new software. But before you rush off to buy any new programs, keep in mind that you have several factors to consider other than just the capabilities and costs of the software. Your selections should be based on your company’s size, industry, internal organization, computing environment, technical expertise and, of course, the ever-important user interface. Even a great product can end up being a nuisance if it’s not intuitive to you as a user.
Before you go shopping, be sure to evaluate your company’s staple software. For each program, draw up a wish list of features or enhancements that would make using the package easier. Often, the solution may be as simple as an upgrade to the latest version available. Consider hiring an IT professional to examine your system and business needs and tell you whether you even need to upgrade. Getting an expert opinion can be a money-saving move for small-business owners who would prefer to spend time keeping up on the latest developments in their industries than on the latest in software.

Once you decide you need something new, try it before you buy it:

Check out software company websites for downloadable demos that can help you better gauge how easy their products are to use. If a demo version isn’t available, there’s usually a detailed online tour that gives you a lot more information than a paper brochure. And before you buy the package outright, check with the software company to see if it’s bundled with other software or equipment that you might be in the market to buy anyway. If you’re shopping for a new accounting package or other critical software, consider doing a “scripted demo,” where you enter your data and run through test scenarios specific to your business’s transactions. It may be time-consuming, but if you buy the wrong software, it will be more costly later.Take a good look at your business and pinpoint those activities that take more time than you’d like-the ones that make you mutter to yourself.

“There must be something out there that can do this quicker than I can.”

No doubt, there probably is. For that matter, think about those activities you never seem to have time to do. From tools for creating websites to time-billing software, new products could provide brilliant solutions to problems you haven’t yet resolved. Make sure, though, that the solutions are worth the money and time you’ll have to spend to implement them successfully.

A customer relationship management (CRM) solution can help you streamline customer service, simplify sales and marketing efforts, find new customers and generate more revenue from existing customers. You can record customer interactions with sales and customer service personnel and keep a centralized database with current customer information that everyone in your company can access. This will allow your entire organization to understand what each customer wants and needs and give you a 360-degree view of your business 24/7, which will help you keep customers happy and boost your bottom line.

Improving Your Network

While setting up a traditional wired network for your computers and peripherals is still a viable option, wireless networks are becoming faster, more affordable and easier to adopt than ever. Growing small businesses that have adopted a wireless solution are already reporting immediate paybacks in higher productivity, flexible application mobility and greater worker satisfaction.

A wireless infrastructure can make it easier to reconfigure your office space as your company grows and changes. Also, the total cost of a wireless local area network (LAN) is relatively inexpensive–it’s become very affordable in the past few years and prices are continuing to drop. And a wireless network can help you improve your productivity:
Multiple computers can share printers and a single broadband internet connection without the hassle of running cables through walls. You can access your customer database whether you’re in your office or meeting clients in a conference room. Employees in the stockroom can update your inventory database in real-time using wireless PDAs. When you take into account productivity gains, both inside the office and at public “hot spots,” going wireless is an obvious choice, especially when compared to the cost of running a Cat 5 network LAN cable throughout a building.

However, since wireless networks transmit data over radio waves, which can potentially be intercepted, it’s important to have a security strategy for your wireless network. An unprotected wireless network is like an unlocked door–and too many small businesses are leaving their doors wide open. Below are some steps small businesses can take to make their wireless connection more secure:

  • Change your device’s default password. Wireless access points/routers come with default passwords set by the factory. Once entered, the password gives you access to change the device’s settings. Hackers know these default passwords and can use them to access your wireless access point/router and change its settings, for instance, turning off security features. To prevent unauthorized access to your wireless network equipment, change the device’s password to something difficult to guess. This password should preferably be an alphanumeric combination longer than 10 characters.
  • Change the default SSID
  • A service set identifier (SSID) is the name used to identify your wireless network. Your wireless access point/router came with a default, preset SSID. Hackers often look specifically for these preset SSIDs when scanning for networks, because they’re considered easy targets. As soon as possible, change the default SSID to something unique and, for extra security, change it regularly.
  • Don’t broadcast the SSIDBy default, wireless access points/routers broadcast SSIDs, making it easy for legitimate users–as well as hackers–to find and join a wireless network. However, you can choose not to broadcast your network’s SSID. Devices such as wireless computers and PDAs that require access to the network can be configured to automatically connect to your network’s SSID, so they don’t need the SSID to be broadcast to hook up.
  • Keep your wireless hardware’s firmware updatedThe software that enables access points/routers to operate properly, called firmware, is frequently updated by the device manufacturer. Often, updates include enhanced security. Updated firmware is available for free downloading online. Check your device manufacturer’s website support area regularly to ensure you have the most current firmware version installed.
  • Enable MAC address filteringA media access control (MAC) address is a unique series of numbers and letters assigned to every network device. You can configure your wireless access point/router to only allow access to specified MAC addresses (such as the addresses of each wireless computer on your network). MAC address filtering makes it much more difficult for hackers to access your network. The downside: It’s also more difficult to give wireless network access to clients, partners or others visiting your offices or locations. But protecting your system may be worth it.
  • Set a wireless policyCreate a clear but simple wireless network usage policy for all your employees to follow. The policy should include guidelines on the use of passwords, personal devices, such as wireless PDAs, and public Wi-Fi hot spots.

Disposing of Old Tech

Old PCs don’t die, and they don’t fade away, either. The average PC will run almost forever, and the harmful chemicals inside it will survive in your local landfill for even longer. How many long-lived-but-obsolete computers is your company moving around among staffers? There’s definitely a point of diminishing returns in holding on to PCs past their prime, as well as hidden costs in just about any disposal method you choose. Recycling, selling them to employees or giving them to charity are all viable options, but they all have costs attached–many of which may surprise you. It’s a good idea to have an exit strategy for your old hardware–and it should be in place long before the intrinsic value of your PCs hits zero.

Complete depreciation is often here before you know it, but there’s good news in that respect: The average middle-of-the-road PC now has a useful life of about three years; a high-end desktop, about four years. But be careful: Nurse an old PC along for too long, and productivity suffers–for low-level staffers as well as managers. Worker efficiency declines along with equipment efficiency, so when software takes longer to load, screens take longer to redraw and incompatibilities start to occur, memory upgrades need to be deployed. Most old PCs have years of utility left in them–just not for you. There are tons of schools, community groups, senior homes and other needy institutions that would be happy to take them off your hands.

Unfortunately, donation is another of the more costly disposal options. By the time you get done with moving, temporarily storing, shipping, tax record-keeping, making contractual arrangements with the beneficiary, possible testing and repair, and, of course, facing the ever-present legal exposure, IDC figures it will cost you $344 for each PC donated.
And the legal exposure is real. You could get sued for donating a defective or virus-infected computer, or you may be asked to defend the tax deduction. On the upside, the infrastructure for charitable donations is well-advanced, making this option less time-consuming.

One popular option for PC disposal is selling them. IDC says your net out-of-pocket per PC is $272 if you can sell it to an employee for $100, and $119 if you sell it to a third-party broker for $200. (Remember, costs vary among disposal options and you’ll still need to scrub the machines of company information.) The good news is, the PC is gone. But in both cases, you have to sell the PC before its value reaches zero. And those three years for a mid-range PC and four years for a high-end box go by quickly. Of course, brands vary. You can look up the residual value of your PC in the Orion Computer Blue Book. You can purchase the latest version of the Blue Book with the most recent prices from the Orion Research website. You also can look up prices for individual PCs online at $3.99 per shot.

In general, a lot of PC disposal costs are realized in soft dollars, and a certain amount of those are fixed. IDC says it will cost companies at least $150 for every PC taken out of service. First, there’s the labor involved in physically removing a system and its network components, disconnecting peripherals and scrubbing the hard drive of software, passwords and sensitive company files. Then there’s the downtime for employees during the move. After that, your costs will vary depending on how you choose to dispose of the old PC and may include payment for things like testing and repair or, in many cases, contractual or other legal costs.

And don’t even think about tossing them in the trash. Old PCs have chlorinated and brominated substances, Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), heavy metals, gases, acids and plastic additives–and that’s just for starters. All those chemicals have incredibly long half-lives. You want your new house sitting on top of this stuff? Not to mention, the EPA will be all over you if you’re discovered throwing PCs in the trash.

Training


Buying new technology is usually just the beginning. If employees aren’t trained on how to use the new equipment, your business won’t get the full benefit of your investment. You can get employees trained in almost any technology, at any level and any subject. Even highly experienced users may need training to use the latest programming and networking tools.

Start your search for training by quizzing the company that sold you the technology. Many vendors have on-staff professional trainers who can come to your site to train employees on using new technologies. If not, they can probably refer you to a local firm that offers appropriate training. You can also look in the business Yellow Pages under “Training Programs” and “Training Consultants.” You can choose from various types of training: Classroom training with a live instructor can be done at your business or off-site, in the form of a short tutorial or continuing series of classroom lessons. Having an instructor on hand helps learners get questions answered.

If you can do without a live teacher, check out video-based training. Class starts when you insert a pre-recorded tape or DVD into a VCR or DVD player. Students take notes and follow along in workbooks, just like with live teachers. Video courses can be repeated any time and are low in cost. Computerized training can be delivered in a classroom with PCs, or via the web. Internet classes let students choose the time, place and pace of learning. Some are taught by an instructor who communicates over the internet. Students can mix, mingle and discuss lessons in online chat rooms.

Managing Your Technology Costs

Many business owners today tend to set their tech budgets without having done adequate research–and therefore have unrealistic expectations about how much technology really costs. In fact, many businesses don’t have a good understanding of the total cost of ownership of their technology. When making decisions about technology budgets, businesses should focus less on the technology itself and make decisions about how technology complements other areas of the business. Figure out what you need to do to run your business better, and then go find the tools to support it.
Steps you can take to lower technology cost include timely purchases, clever negotiation and internal controls can help businesses save megabucks. You can renegotiate existing contracts for services such as network support and consulting.

Telecom is especially ripe for bargains. You can start by setting bench marks for rates and auditing bills to ensure you’re not overpaying. And instead of buying all long-distance, local phone and other telecom services from one vendor, dual-source it.

You should also make sure you need whatever new technology you do buy. Inventory all PCs, printers and software. Look for opportunities to consolidate purchases, standardize configurations and root out duplication. Set up a system to keep doing it. Pick a team of people from IT and other departments, and meet with them regularly to discuss what they need and how to save on it.
Another way to save money on tech purchases is buying refurbished hardware. Many online manufacturers and retailers have sections of their websites devoted to clearance outlets. You may have to poke around the site to find them, but it’s worth checking into when you’re on a tight budget. Refurbished items are usually returns that have been looked over and checked for functionality. As with auctions, check to see if all documentation and software is included. Compare prices to what is normally charged to see if the savings is worthwhile. Often warranties are shortened. What might have originally come with a one-year warranty may only include a 90-day warranty when it’s sold as refurbished. If you’re comfortable with that, go ahead and save some money.

Looking online for deals is also a great way to save money on your tech budget. And bargain hunting over the Internet doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Web sites such as PriceGrabber.com, PriceSCAN.com and MySimon.comare hubs for price comparisons. They’re especially handy if you already know what you want and are just looking for the lowest price. Don’t be blinded by what seem to be incredible bargains. Always check into an online retailer’s reputation if you’re not already familiar with it. You probably know this already, but always use a credit card for your purchases in case you have to dispute charges later.
Another great resource for hardware is eBay. You can pick up a wide array of products-from extra cell phone batteries to monitors and ink cartridges-at prices that would make some retailers blush. But eBay is no utopia. You still have to check into the seller’s reputation. Also check to see if the product you’re buying is refurbished, if it comes with an original warranty or tech support, and if all documentation and pieces are included. Some entrepreneurs may decide that the savings are worth living without some or all of those things. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a matter of deciding what you feel comfortable with.

If you’re the type of person who likes to “handle the merchandise” before you buy, find a local retailer you can visit in person. Prices may be a little higher when you just walk into a store, but you also have the security of having a physical location to return the product to in case of a problem. The Sunday ads are a good place to compare prices, and you should keep an eye out for specials and rebates at your local stores.

Buy or Lease?

As quickly as technology becomes obsolete, it sometimes makes sense to rent instead of buy your next round of upgrades. You can rent or lease most kinds of office technology, including computers, printers, copiers and phone systems. Here’s how your options stack up:

Leasing


If you’re like many small businesses, you’re willing to lease costly technology that’s likely to become quickly outdated. Leasing lets you get higher-end, more costly gear while reducing upfront outlays. Monthly payments will also usually be lower than those for credit-purchased equipment. Maybe most important, however, you’re transferring the risk of obsolescence to somebody else. If that high-end PC is a clunker by lease’s end, just hand it back to the owner and get a new model. Check the terms of your lease carefully. Scrutinize your options for the end of the lease. You may be able to buy the equipment for a small additional fee if you want to.

The ability to have the latest equipment is leasing’s number-one perceived benefit and you’ll have predictable monthly expenses. With a lease, you have a pre-determined monthly line item, which can help you budget more effectively. Many small businesses struggle with cash flow and must keep their coffers as full as possible, and leasing means you won’t have to invest cash up front. Because leases rarely require a down payment, you can acquire new equipment without tapping much-needed funds.

The downside of leasing is that you’ll pay more in the long run. Ultimately, leasing is almost always more expensive than purchasing. For example, a $4,000 computer would cost a total of $5,760 if leased for three years at $160 per month, but only $4,000 (plus sales tax) if purchased outright.

And you’re obligated to keep paying even if you stop using the equipment. Depending on the lease terms, you may have to make payments for the entire lease period, even if you no longer need the equipment, which can happen if your business changes.

Buying


Buying your equipment costs more upfront. If you’re buying on an installment plan rather than paying cash, monthly payments are usually higher. It may be comforting to know you own your equipment rather than rent it, but you may find yourself with an out-of-date machine right as you put the last check in the mail. One of the benefits of buying is that it’s easier than leasing. Buying equipment is easy–you decide what you need, then go out and buy it. Taking out a lease, however, involves at least some paperwork, as leasing companies often ask for detailed, updated financial information. They may also ask how and where the leased equipment will be used. Also, lease terms can be complicated to negotiate. And if you don’t negotiate properly, you could end up paying more than you should or receive unfavorable terms.

When you purchase equipment, you call the shots regarding maintenance. Equipment leases often require you to maintain equipment according to the leasing company’s specifications, and that can get expensive. When you buy the equipment outright, you determine the maintenance schedule yourself. Buying equipment is also tax deductible. Section 179 of the IRS code lets you deduct the full cost of newly purchased assets, such as computer equipment, in the first year. With most leases favored by small businesses–called operating leases–you can only deduct the monthly payment.

The disadvantages of buying equipment is that the initial outlay may be too much. Your business may have to tie up lines of credit or cough up a hefty sum to acquire the equipment it needs. Those lines of credit and funds could be used elsewhere for marketing, advertising or other functions that can help grow your business.

And eventually, you’re stuck with outdated equipment. As mentioned earlier, computer technology becomes outdated quickly. A growing small business may need to refresh its technology in some areas every 18 months. That means you’re eventually stuck with outdated equipment that you must donate, sell or recycle.

Contingency Plan


You never know how much you depend on technology until you don’t have access to it anymore. If a disaster strikes, you may not only suffer direct losses of data and hardware, but indirect losses due to downtime. But with some foresight and planning, you can avoid sustained downtime–and lost profits.

First, create a broad, holistic plan to ensure business continuity, not just disaster recovery. This plan should involve every part of your business, such as processes, operations, assets, employees and so on. Your overall goal: to prevent business disruption–then minimize it if it does occur. To this end, you should:

  • Conduct an impact analysis. How much downtime, loss of productivity, loss of data, loss of revenues and so on can your company sustain? For how long?
  • Develop a plan for dealing with mission-critical (revenue-impacting, customer-facing) functions and business-critical (back office, supply chain, e-mail) functions under various disruptive scenarios. Determine which business technologies to employ.
  • Educate your workers about the plan before a crisis occurs.
  • From time to time, revisit the plan to make sure it remains practicable and viable.

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Latest News Section Involving Key Financial and Monetary Statistics

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All sorts of organisations use the vocabulary of strategy. Compare these extracts from the statements of communications giants Nokia and Kingston University, a public institution based in London with 200.000 students.

“Nokia’s vision and mission believes in communicating, sharing, and in the awesome potential in connecting the 2 billion who do with 4 bilion who don’t. Connecting is about helping people to feel close to what matters.”

If we focus on people, and use technology to help people, than growth will follow. In a world where everyone can be connected, Nokia takes a human approach to technology.
Nokia’s priority is to be the most proffered partner to operators , retailers and enterprises. A strategy where customers remain our top priority.

In line with this priorities, Nokia ‘s business portfolio strategy focusses on five areas, with each have long-term objectives: create winning devices; embrace customer Internet services; deliver enterprise solutions; build scale in networks, expand professional services.
There are three strategic assets that Nokia will invest in and prioritize:

1. Brand and design

2. Costumer engagement and fulfilment

3. Technology and architecture.

“Kingston University’s mission is to promote participation in higher education, which it regards as a democratic entitlement; to strive for excellence in learning,teaching and research, to realise the creative potential and fire the imagination of all its members.”

The vision is to be comprehensive and to create by present possibilities, with a grander and more aspirational vision of the future.
The University’s goals are to provide all students equal opportunities to:

🔹Realise their learning ambitions;

🔹Create authority in research and professional practice for the benefit of individuals, society and economy

🔹Develop collaborative links with providers and stakeholders within the region, nationally and internationally;

🔹Manage and develop its human, physical and financial resource to achieve the best possible academic value and value for money.

“Strategy is part of every day language of work.”

Strategy vocabulary therefore is used in many different contexts for many different purposes.


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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

New Business Models

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Ecommerce is an area being watched closely by entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs alike. New business models are constantly emerging, making this a competitive and constantly evolving field.
The apparel category is particularly exciting: The recently launched Amazon Prime Wardrobe, for instance, allows consumers to have clothing delivered to their door, after which they can try it out for seven days before deciding whether to keep it. They can send items back whenever they decide; they don’t even need to be home to have return packages picked up.
Taking inspiration from Amazon and other businesses, many apparel and accessory ecommerce companies are similarly trying their hand at “something new and different.”
These innovative companies are taking ecommerce to the next level.

Crisp Clothing
The perfect shirt is hard to come by. But what if perfect fit could be achieved with the help of two simple metrics? That’s what Crisp Clothing does. By using your height and weight and what it calls “3D Measuring,” Crisp Clothing can tailor the perfect shirt for you.
Founded by Swapnil and Prakash Kamble — a father-and-son team — Crisp Clothing uses 100 percent Egyptian Giza cotton to fashion its handmade tailored shirts, which are currently available in black, white, blue and pink. The company recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for the project.
Not surprisingly, the cost of a single shirt isn’t cheap, but pledging to the Crisp Clothing campaign at the $78 level will get you one custom, hand-crafted shirt.
What’s clearly innovative about Crisp Clothing is the approach it takes to crafting the perfect shirt. Technology is the difference. It gives Crisp Clothing a more scientific way to tailor shirts that look and feel great.

Trunk Club
The Nordstrom-owned Trunk Club may be a familiar name to some. Its business model is a lot like that of Amazon Prime Wardrobe, except Trunk Club has been around a lot longer.
This is its process: First, the customer is prompted to answer a few questions about the style of clothing he (or she) is interested in, how the clothing should fit and what budget range is desired. Then, he can chat with a stylist who’ll offer help on exactly what he’s looking for (though this step is not mandatory).
The trunk is delivered free of charge once the customer approves it, and he or she has five days to decide what clothing to keep and what to send back. Then, the customer can either reorder on his or her own schedule or set up a regular delivery schedule, to keep the wardrobe fresh.
What Trunk Club did right was make it easier for the consumer to get items that are truly desired. Time can be a commodity in today’s busy world, and with the rise of online shopping, consumers don’t necessarily go to malls or stores to shop anymore. Trunk Club is an easy, fast and convenient way for today’s buyer to meet his or her clothing needs.

Bonobos
Bonobos was launched because its founders recognized how difficult it is for consumers to find pants that fit perfectly. To solve this problem, Bonobos developed a signature curved waistband that fits more naturally around your waist. The company offers free shipping as well as painless returns and exchanges.
Bonobos also has something called a Guideshop. Customers can schedule a one-hour appointment at a Guideshop, try on anything in the store and find the perfect clothing with the help of a Guide. Customers don’t have to take any bags home, as the Guide will place the order and have it shipped to the customer’s home or office.
Bonobos is doing a couple of noteworthy things for its customers. First, it came up with a solution where none previously existed, thereby creating more comfortable pants. Second, it created a unique in-store experience that allows customers to find what they’re looking for on their own time — a personalized experience they’re sure to remember.

Wanderlust + Co
Accessorizing is a term near and dear to many women. Jenn Low, founder of Wanderlust + Co, creates custom jewelry and accessories that many models and celebrities don at notable events. Her work is inspired by what she calls the #WCOgirlgang, which includes celebrities, fashion bloggers, editors, stylists and content creators.
What’s innovative about Wunderlust + Co is Low’s willingness to cater to a specific audience. She doesn’t create products consumers dn’t want. She built her own tribe, #WCOgirlgang, and stays in regular contact with them to come up with new product ideas her audience will love.
Entrepreneurs sometimes take the opposite approach, creating a product first and then finding an audience for it. Sometimes that can work, but there are no guarantees. A more reliable approach, especially today, is what Low does: She’s built a brand around a target audience, offering products they want and have even asked for.

Everlane
Complete transparency is hard to find but has become somewhat trendier, thanks to online entrepreneurs like Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas.
That’s where Everlane stands out. These founders aim to be as up-front as possible about the cost of their goods. They even offer a detailed breakdown on materials, hardware, labor, duties and transport. They also reveal what the true cost of the product is, in addition to what they’re selling it for.
If you’ve ever wondered where your money is going when you purchase a product, you won’t have to, with Everlane. You’ll get total transparency, and that builds trust. Though full transparency may not be the right approach for every business, it’s something to consider: Maybe no one in your industry is embracing it, making it worth considering as a strategy.

Final thoughts
If you’re an ecommerce business owner, what could you be doing to separate yourself from the pack? If you have a different business model, what can you learn from the above and implement in your business?
As ecommerce becomes increasingly competitive, it will be more and more necessary for more business owners to embrace innovation and find their unique approach. The ecommerce landscape will continue to be an interesting one to watch, especially as Amazon continues to launch new and noteworthy services.


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Latest Financial Topics for Strategy & Business Developments

Decisive Entrepreneur

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An overview on one aspect that captures almost all the economic activities include a representation to a change. This clue distinctions of when and where supports all those interested wantings for the future development and innovation, in the activity of the products and the services desired for the necesary market.

You never know where you are going to find a good idea.

That may sound like a saying from a fortune cookie. But for Normal CEO, and founder, Nikki Kaufman, it’s a management style.

It’s also why the headquarters of her 3-D printed custom earphone company are open and transparent across departments. It’s a guiding principle on how to run a team.

I encourage new ideas all the time here at Normal. That’s one of the things that I really like about having everyone in one office.
She included this advices from the floor of her New York City retail location, which also serves as the company’s factory and corporate office along with an incredible pursuatiation for advocating content into the shared markets .
An idea can come from anywhere.”



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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

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In the fast-moving world of online marketing

Change is the only constant, emerging technologies, tough competition and increased consumer expectations have created plenty of uncertainty. Many digital agencies are confused about how to deliver relevant ad experiences moving forward.

However, in that uncertainty there are also tremendous opportunities to leverage data and deliver the personalized ad experiences consumers prefer. Advertisers can make the most of this and position themselves for long-term success – if they’re willing to question some longstanding assumptions.

 

Executing ad campaigns today takes a different set of skills

Real-time bidding (a strategy search marketers have used for years) is now feasible for display, social, mobile, video, text, radio advertising and even TV. Executing search and display campaigns, for instance, used to require completely different skill sets. Now programmatic technologys merging them.

Search and display are uniting under a common theme: leveraging data to target consumers with the right message, in the right place, at the right time.

This creates huge opportunities (IDC estimates real-time advertising is growing 59 percent per year) only if agencies and marketers are willing to develop new skills and reassess how they’re delivering ad experiences. The media buyer and agencies that win today -and tomorrow – have started to look a lot different than successful media buyers from the past.

Here’s how:

 

An understanding (and ability) to buy in real time

Traditionally, display media buyers negotiated with sellers to run ads for a fixed number of impressions or amount of time. All the terms were worked out beforehand in a conversational, delayed executed setting.

Programmatic technologies allow advertisers to be more nimble. Instead of committing a significant chunk of their ad spend before seeing any results, advertisers can make small-scale buys, generate feedback and make adjustments in real time. Buying becomes an ongoing process. Kellogg’s used real-time targeting to increase its ROI between five and six times.

This creates enormous opportunities to maximize the ROI on every campaign. Buyers can use feedback to optimize campaigns on the fly – scaling successful ad buys and ceasing unsuccessful ones.

 

Analytical skills and a strong technical knowledge base

Analytical skills are becoming increasingly important in executing successful ad campaigns. Seventy-five percent of CMOs are already using customer analytics to mine data. Acquiring these skills might seem intimidating for some media experts, but it offers huge advantages as advertising technology evolves.

Going forward, successful media buyers will behave more like stock traders. They’ll analyze large sets of data, cross-reference them and run regression models. But they won’t stop there. It’ll be up to them to “translate” those numbers into actionable insights to best optimize ad campaigns.


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Latest News & Developments in Business Strategy Practice

 

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Emphasis the human element of strategy to identify the direction and scope which achieve an advantage in a changing environment through its configuration of resources and competences, has the aim to fulfill stakeholders expectations

“The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy and how it relates to the competition.”

The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses that can be exploited within the product development cycle.

The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify the current and potential competition. As mentioned in the “Market Strategies” chapter, there are essentially two ways you can identify competitors. The first is to look at the market from the customer’s viewpoint and group all your competitors by the degree to which they contend for the buyer’s dollar.

The second method is to group competitors according to their various competitive strategies so you understand what motivates them. Once you have grouped your competitors, you can start to analyze their strategies and identify the areas where they are most vulnerable. This can be done through an examination of your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths.

A competitor’s strengths and weaknesses are usually based on the presence and absence of key assets and skills needed to compete in the market. To determine just what constitutes a key asset or skill within an industry, David A. Aaker in his book, Developing Business Strategies suggests concentrating your efforts in four areas:

1. The reasons behind successful as well as unsuccessful firms

2. Prime customer motivators

3. Major component costs

4. Industry mobility barriers

According to theory, the performance of a company within a market is directly related to the possession of key assets and skills. Therefore, an analysis of strong performers should reveal the causes behind such a successful track record.

This analysis, in conjunction with an examination of unsuccessful companies and the reasons behind their failure, should provide a good idea of just what key assets and skills are needed to be successful within a given industry and market segment. For instance, in the personal-computer operating-system software market, Microsoft reigns supreme with DOS and Windows. It has been able to establish its dominance in this industry because of superior marketing and research as well strategic partnerships with a large majority of the hardware vendors that produce personal computers.

This has allowed DOS and Windows to become the operating environment, maybe not of choice, but of necessity for the majority of personal computers on the market. Microsoft’s primary competitors, Apple and IBM, both have competing operating systems with a great deal of marketing to accompany them; however, both suffer from weaknesses that Microsoft has been able to exploit. Apple’s operating system for its Macintosh line of computers, while superior in many ways to DOS and Windows, is limited to the Macintosh personal computers; therefore, it doesn’t run many of the popular business applications that are readily available to DOS and Windows.

To an extent, IBM’s OS/2 operating system suffers from the same problem. While it will run on all of the personal computers DOS and Windows can run on and even handle Windows applications, the number of programs produced for OS/2 in its native environment is very small. This is the type of detailed analysis you need in analyzing an industry. Through your competitor analysis you will also have to create a marketing strategy that will generate an asset or skill competitors do not have, which will provide you with a distinct and enduring competitive advantage.

Since competitive advantages are developed from key assets and skills, you should sit down and put together a competitive strength grid.

This is a scale that lists all your major competitors or strategic groups based upon their applicable assets and skills and how your own company fits on this scale., strategic management has three major elements: strategic position, strategic choices for the future and strategic in action.

To put together a competitive strength grid, list all the key assets and skills down the left margin of a piece of paper. Along the top, write down two column headers: “weakness” and “strength.” In each asset or skill category, place all the competitors that have weaknesses in that particular category under the weakness column, and all those that have strengths in that specific category in the strength column. After you’ve finished, you’ll be able to determine just where you stand in relation to the other firms competing in your industry.

Once you’ve established the key assets and skills necessary to succeed in this business and have defined your distinct competitive advantage, you need to communicate them in a strategic form that will attract market share as well as defend it.

Competitive strategies usually fall into these five areas:

1.Product

2.Distribution

3.Pricing

4.Promotion

5.Advertising

Many of the factors leading to the formation of a strategy should already have been highlighted in previous sections, specifically in marketing strategies.

Strategies primarily revolve around establishing the point of entry in the product life cycle and an endurable competitive advantage.

As we’ve already discussed, this involves defining the elements that will set your product or service apart from your competitors or strategic groups. You need to establish this competitive advantage clearly so the reader understands not only how you will accomplish your goals, but why your strategy will work.


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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

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Internal experts and external brought in sessions, that articulate the organisation vision and added insights to new opportunities.

Is your team fully engaged to give their best, day in and day out? In a recent study by TowersWatson, an international HR consulting firm, fewer than 21 percent of employees surveyed described themselves as “highly engaged,” down from 31 percent. 8 percent admitted to being fully disengaged.“
Having only one-fifth of your employees highly engaged is not the hallmark of a “Winning Business.” Other studies show that employee engagement derives from three important factors:

  1. Alignment of the employee with the goals and vision of the company.
  2. Faith of the employee in the competence of management and their commitment to realize the goals and vision.
  3. Trust in their direct supervisor that he or she will support his or her people and help them to succeed.

It has often been said that employees rarely quit companies. Instead, employees quit their managers or supervisors by leaving the company. Mark Herbert, a consultant focused on engagement, says:

“Engagement lives and dies on the front line of your business.”
Increasing positive managerial behavior and reducing negative managerial behavior will go a long way towards improving employee engagement. When your talented employees are engaged, they are able to perform spectacularly and build and improve your winning business. Here are some ways to get managers and supervisors started in focusing on ways to improve engagement (and to be better managers).

1. DON’T get angry

Getting angry is easy. Anyone can do that. But getting angry in the right way in the right amount at the right time, now that is hard.”
Mark Twain

Anger does not belong in your managerial kit bag.

2. DON’T be cold, distant, rude or unfriendly

Especially in difficult times, employees take cues from their immediate supervisors and need to hear from them. As such, your team will judge you by your action, moods, and behaviors, not by your intent.

3. DON’T send mixed messages to your employees so that they never know where you stand

Keep your message simple, focused and prioritized. Too many messages and initiatives just confuse and alienate people.

4. DON’T BS your team

This includes saying things that you don’t believe in. This includes hiding information and just plain lying. By the time each of us is in our early 20′s, we have all developed very well-tuned BS detectors.

5. DON’T act more concerned about your own welfare than anything else
Your success will come through the success of your team. “Self-serving detectors” are also very well-tuned in most employees.

6. DON’T avoid taking responsibility for your actions
You are the boss. As such, you are accountable and the buck stops with you. You are trying to develop accountability throughout your company. So, lead by example.

7. DON’T jump to conclusions without checking your facts first

A few years ago, I watched in horror as a colleague of mine started screaming at an employee of his who had missed an important meeting that morning. After several minutes, the employee responded:

“I apologize and should have contacted you. But, I just got back from the hospital as a relative has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”

Now here are the dos, which are even more important than the don’ts…

8. DO what you say you are going to do when you are going to do it

There is no better way to communicate the message that you are accountable for your promises and that everyone in your company should be accountable as well.

9. DO be responsive (return phone calls, emails)

As a manager, your team can be considered to be your customer.
You want your sales team to punctually respond back to customer requests, so you should do the same.

10. DO publicly support your people

Your disagreements and disappointment with your employees can be communicated later and in private. Nothing appears so hollow as your attempt to blame your team for failures.

11. DO admit your mistakes …

…and take the blame for failures.

12. DO recognize your team

“You can never underestimate the power of simple recognition for a job well done.”

13. DO ask and listen

“The manager of the future will know how to ask rather than how to tell.”
Peter Drucker

Some of the most dangerous words for a manager to ever say include:

But, you just don’t understand…” “Because I said so…

14. DO smile and laugh

Have some fun. But, be genuine; programmed fun and faked laughter is worse than doing nothing. 
When appropriate, laugh at yourself; it will humanize you.


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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

Digital Year

 

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To a better understanding of a strategic decision and implication, here are some characteristics to exhibit:

Complexity is describing the feature of strategy and is particularly so in organisations with wide geographical horizons, such as multinational firms, or wide ranges of products and services.

For example, Yahoo! faces the complexity both of a fast-moving market environment and poorly organised internal businesses. Uncertainty is inherent in strategy, because nobody can be sure about the future.For Yahoo! the internet environment is one of constant and unforeseeable.

 

Operational decisions are linked to strategy.

For example, any attempt to coordinate Yahoo!’s business units more closely will have knock-on effects on web page design and links, carer development and advertiser relationships. This link between overall strategy and operational aspects of the organisation is important for two other reasons. First if the operational aspects of the organisation are not in line with the strategy, than no matter how well-considered the strategy is, it will not succeed. Second, it is at the operational level that real strategic advantage can be achieved. Indeed, competence in particular operational activities might determine which strategic developments might make most sense.

 

Integration is required for effective strategy.

Mangers have to cross functional and operational boundaries to deal with strategic problems. Yahoo! for example needs an integrated approach to powerful advertisers such as Sony and Vodafone from across all its businesses. Relationships and networks outside the organisation are important in strategy, for example with suppliers, distributors and customers. For Yahoo!, advertisers and users are crucial sets of relationships.

 

Change is typically a crucial component of strategy.

Change is often difficult because of the heritage of resources and because of organisational culture. According to Brad Garlinghouse at least, Yahoo! barriers to change seem to include a top management that is afraid of taking hard decisions and a lack of clear accountability amongst lower-level management.


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News & Economic Trends

 


 

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Among companies where big data, cloud, mobile, and social technologies are critical parts of the infrastructure, how technologies are, or will soon be? 

Forty-four percent of survey respondents say that mobile is now a critical part of their infrastructure. It’s especially important in some industries—51 percent of the respondents in the utilities and technology sectors indicated that mobile devices and access are critical. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents say that “anywhere access” to corporate apps and data is the biggest benefit to using mobile, followed by increased productivity (53 percent). The two are undoubtedly linked, as mobile access to systems optimizes employee time.

A majority of survey respondents indicate that putting mobile functionality in the hands of employees is now a key requirement, and leading companies are also leveraging the growing ubiquity of smartphones to innovate and drive top-line revenue growth. Management of the Detroit Lions professional football team, for example, is always looking for ways to improve the fan experience. In addition to offering wireless Internet access at Ford Field to Verizon customers and launching a digital raffle for charity on game days, the Lions released a free smartphone application that features exclusive in-stadium game day content, including instant replay from several different camera angles for every play, and concession maps. Eventually, the Lions intend to add other features to the smartphone app, including in-seat concession ordering.

 

“Mobile is a gateway to our fan base,”

says Thomas Horrom, vice president of technology for the Detroit Lions.

 

“Without it, we’re not able to get creative or innovative in our engineered touch points.”

Delta Air Lines is another company that is using mobile technologies to innovate. The airline announced it had begun equipping its 19,000 flight attendants with mobile devices, which have increased incremental revenue from in-flight purchases.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your clients receive excellent service every step of the way.

  1.  Put your customer service policy in writing. These principles should come from you, but every employee should know what the rules are and be ready to live up to them. This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Something as simple as “the customer is always right” can lay the necessary groundwork, although you may want to get more detailed by saying, for instance,any employee is empowered to grant a 10 percent discount to any dissatisfied customer at any time.”
  2.  Establish support systems that give employees clear instructions for gaining and maintaining service superiority. These systems will help you outservice any competitor by giving more to customers and anticipating problems before they arise.
  3.  Develop a measurement of superb customer service. Don’t forget to reward employees who practice it consistently.
  4. Be certain that your passion for customer service runs rampant throughout your company. Employees should see how good service relates to your profits and to their futures with the company.
  5. Be genuinely committed to providing more customer service excellence than anyone else in your industry. This commitment must be so powerful that every one of your customers can sense it.
  6. Share information with people on the front lines.Meet with your employees regularly to talk about improving service. Solicit ideas from employees-they are the ones who are dealing with customers most often.
  7. Act on the knowledge that what customers value most are attention, dependability, promptness and competence. They love being treated as individuals and being referred to by name.

 

The efficient market hypothesis suggests that future share prices cannot be predicted by studying past prices and as we have seen, there is extensive evidence to support this view and the right information in collaborating with your partners. Despite the evidence, investment strategies based on the study of past share prices, or on the analysis of published information such as annual accounts, are common, and the view held by many financial analysts seems to be therefore that capital markets are inefficient.

Technical analysis involves the use of charts (Chartism) and other methods to predict future shares prices and share price trends, clearly implying that a relationship exists between past and future prices. For technical analysis to lead to abnormal returns on a regular basis, capital markets cannot even be weak form efficient.

Fundamental analysis are public information to calculate a fundamental value for a share and then offer investment advice by comparing the fundamental value with the current market price. It is not possible to make abnomal gains from fundamental analysis if capital markets are semi-strong form efficient, since all publicly available information will already be reflected in share prices.

Bolster the growing consensus among academics, consultants, and other industry experts that simply spending more on emerging technologies isn’t enough to boost business outcomes. Instead, companies that both identify which core business capabilities they need to differentiate and make a commitment to transform these core business capabilities with the right digital technology will greatly outperform competitors who don’t.

For example, a new study by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee found that firms with a strong vision and mature processes for digital transformation were more profitable on average, had higher revenues, and achieved a bigger market valuation than competitors without a strong vision.  As with any emerging technology, however, there are significant challenges associated with cloud, mobile, social, and big data initiatives.  The survey suggests that the primary risks preventing their wider adoption are data security issues, lack of interoperability with existing IT systems, and lack of control.

However, executives from leading organizations—several of whom were interviewed for this report— are overcoming those hurdles to achieve top-line and customer-facing business benefits. Strategic options involve the options for strategy in terms of both the directions in which strategy might move and the methods by which strategy might be pursued.

For example, an organisation might have to choose between alternative diversification moves, for example entering into new products and markets. As it diversification moves, it has different methods available to it for example, developing a new product itself or acquiring an organisation already active in the area.



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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

Drive Digital


How Marketers Can Connect Profit and Purpose

It takes time for a big idea to make its way into business practice. Six years ago, Harvard’s Michael Porter and FSG’s Mark Kramer made the bold statement that shared value —the idea that the purpose of a company is to achieve both shareholder profit and social purpose — 

 

To  reinvent capitalism.

 

They encouraged companies to go beyond CSR (corporate social responsibility) and integrate social impact into companies’ competitive strategy. And, Nathaniel Foote and Russ Eisenstat proposed 

 

“ A better way to manage in the 21st century.

 

They found “higher-ambition” leaders achieved superior performance by doing well and doing good. For the last six years, they have worked with a group of top marketing executives and business leaders in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area from companies large and small. Each year they assess the issues that are most top-of-mind. From digital platforms to customer experience to crisis management, these priorities have been a bellwether for what would soon dominate boardroom discussions and headline business publications.

This year the issue of profit and propose came to the fore, echoing the earlier manifestos. To understand the connections and applications, interviews with over 20 CMOs and CEOs, finding a remarkably similar pattern across a highly diverse set of companies. To find widespread agreement that having great products and services and being a “good corporate citizen” are table stakes in a world of empowered citizens and consumers.

Melissa Waters, CMO of Lyft, says,

Any customer these days is asking for transparency on what a company stands for and why they operate. But you can’t exist just to make the world a better place.

Purpose today goes well beyond corporate social responsibility. According to Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP,

Purpose can’t be viewed as a department or initiative. It must be woven into a company’s operational fabric. Purpose is a lodestar guiding and inspiring everyone to create economic and societal value together.”

In a sense, purpose is following the path that digital has taken in the enterprise.


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News & Economic Trends

 

Learning and Flow

 

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Because flow emerges in the zone in which an activity challenges people to the fullest to their capacities, as their skills increase it takes a heightened challenge to get into flow.

If a task is too simple, it is boring; if too challenging, the result is anxiety, rather than flow.

It can be argued that mastery in a craft or skill is spurred on by the experience of flow that the motivation to get better and better at something, be it playing the violin, dancing, or gene spicing, is at least in part to stay in flow while doing it.

“Flow is an internal state that signifies a kid is engaged in a task that’s right.”

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The flow model suggests that achieving mastery of any skill or body of knowledge should ideally happen naturally.

Csikszentmihalyi found that it was those who in their student days had savored the sheer joy, became serious. Whether it be in controlling impulse and putting off gratification, regulating our mood so they facilitate rather than impede thinking, motivating ourselves to persist and try, try again in the face of setbacks, all bespeak the power of emotion to guide effective effort.


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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

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A chance to catch up on much-needed reading to refresh and recharge your standards and leadership style scoured this lists of books that helped to look at life and work in a whole new way. While these books are not your typical newest releases, they have timeless value and are best read together to rejuvenate yourself and, by extension, your team.

The review by Rebecca Talbot, Content Marketing & Research Manager & Leadership Story Lab sais:

Feeling comfortable in our workplace can have its downsides. It’s easy to fall into patterns and make assumptions about the people we spend our days with.”

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier offers a way to get beyond our assumptions about our coworkers’ behavior and learn their stories instead. Stanier’s short book explores seven questions managers can use to get people talking, and to train themselves to avoid thinking they “already know” what’s motivating people. His first question is simply:

What’s on your mind?

When we are willing to start our conversations with an open-ended question, the answers might surprise us!And that’s Stanier’s whole point-that we need to approach each other with far more curiosity.

The “what’s on your mind” question resonated with me because it is a question my dad used to ask me often when I was a teenager. The respect and curiosity implied in the question worked well to encourage a teenager to talk.

Likewise, family, friends and colleagues generally need an invitation before they will share what’s been important to them lately. Now that Stanier has reminded of that, I’ll be using this question more frequently.

 


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Latest Financial Topics for Strategy & Business Developments

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By the end of the century, a third of the workforce will be “knowledge workers”, or people whose productivity is marked by adding value to information, whether as market analyst, writers, or computer programmers.

Peter Druker, the eminent business maven who coined the term “knowledge worker“, points out that such workers’ expertise is highly specialized, and that their productivity depends on their efforts being coordinated as part of an organisational team: writers are not publishers; computer programmers are not software distributors. While people have always worked in tandem, Druker notes that with knowledge work,

” Teams become the work unit rather than the individual himself.”

Perhaps the most rudimental form of organisational team-work is the meeting, that inescapable part of an executive’s office in a boardroom, on a conference call, in someone’s office.

Meetings bodies in the same room are but the most obvious, and at the somewhat antiquated, example of the sense in which work is shared.

Electronic networks, email, teleconferences, work teams, informal networks and the like are emerging as new functional entities in organisations. To the degree that explicit hierarchy as mapped on an organisational chart is the skeleton of an organisation, these human touch points are its central nervous system.

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The total the talents and skills involved, whatever people come together to collaborate, whether it be in an executive planning meeting or as a team-working toward a shared product, there are in a very real sense on which they have been included in a group of IQ.

In maximizing the excellence of a group’s product, the degree to which the members were able to create a state of internal harmony, lets them take the advantage of the full talent of their members.


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Latest News Section Sources Including Companies and Bank Reviews

Exploring Corporate Strategy

1. Human resource management and global business strategy

Challenges position, choices and action that should be seen as closely related. In practise none has priority over another, this sequence is not meant to suggest that the process of strategic management must follow a neat and tidy path. Indeed, the evidence on how strategic management happens in practice suggest that it usually does not occur in tidy ways.
Elements of strategic management in linear sequence is characterised first by understanding the strategic position, than strategic choices and finally putting strategy in action. Indeed, many texts on the subject to just this. However, in practise, the elements of strategic management do not follow this linear sequence, they are interlinked and feed back on each other.

The inter-connected circles of the above exhibit are designed to emphasise this non-linear nature of strategy.

Corporate social responsibility is among the top challenges. Companies face when expanding into new markets, especially in developing regions.

Business practices that are acceptable locally are frequently at odds with the values of the company and the laws of its regulatory agencies. This creates a tug-of-war between social responsibility and the need to be successful in those markets, which can turn into significant risk.
Guiding corporate strategic decision-making challenge incorporating the human capital opportunities and risks from operating abroad into corporate strategic decision-making workforce opportunities that are marked both by steady improvements through the political machinations that open trade across borders and enable cross-border migrations, and by sudden and often unexpected changes such as the relaxation in relations between the United States and Cuba; conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine; and dramatic swings in oil prices.
The challenge for companies is to remain nimble to take advantage of the opportunities while avoiding the risks. HR’s challenge is to gather, assess and understand all the cultural, labor and market complexities of operating in each market so that the company can predict opportunities and risks, know when to enter or exit a market, and integrate successfully into new local markets.
The success of a company’s global growth hinges on HR integrating the workforce. HR-led teams need to assess the complexities of bringing together workforces with often dissimilar societal and corporate cultures. HR can, for example, identify potential roadblocks early and plan interventions before problems arise. The food facilities management company Sodexo identified a need for diversity and inclusion across its 355,000 employees from North American to China. It developed training programs that resulted in significant numbers of women, youths, people with disabilities and indigenous workers productively joining its workforce across the globe.

2.Making the business case for CSR

The challenge for HR is to gain a detailed understanding of local environments and their accepted business practices. It then needs to establish protocols that are customized for each region and communicate these protocols throughout the organization and across its supply chain.
When local labor laws or practices conflict with the organization’s CSR policies, HR needs to be the voice of the individual and ensure that the company maintains its integrity, even when this goes against the potential economic value.

HR faces the additional challenge of demonstrating to the company how good CSR policies strengthen the brand, increase customer loyalty and boost shareholder value.

3.Balancing corporate and societal cultures while promoting diversity

Some cultural attributes, such as a command-and-control management style, can be modified to fit local cultures, while others, such as integrity and human rights policies, cannot be compromised. HR needs to understand and deal with the complexities, deciding which corporate culture elements can change and which are essential to protecting the organization’s values and ethics. The company cannot change anti-bribery policies, but it may choose to change its dress-down-Fridays rule.

Management may also choose to impose cultural elements, such as giving back to the community consistently across the global organization. The challenge becomes even more complex when dealing with new workers, those engaged through means such as crowdsourcing, as well as remote and temporary workers.

HR also needs to develop programs to assist executives to adapt when they move from the head office to regions with different societal and cultural norms.



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