Tag: Management

My Thoughts on Becoming the new President of Business and Economics Alumni at CCNY

As I mentioned in a previous post, on July 1, 2017 I will begin my term as President of Business and Economics Alumni at CCNY (BEAS).

First it is an honor that the School of Social Sciences, the Alumni Association, and my fellow members of the Board of Directors all agree and find me fit to serve in this role.  This is a position that I have always held in a high regard and I will do my absolute maximum to live up to the title.

I have been in leadership roles since I was 18, I am now 35, I have less hair on my head and a bit of what remains has even turned a shade of gray.  I know I have the necessary experience to lead a board of highly accomplished men and women.  Members of this board are both older and younger than I am.  Some members of this board have more experience than I do in many areas.  I will be looking to those members to help guide me.  To those members where I have a bit more age and experience, I will always do the maximum to be there to assist and guide you.  I anticipate having a great time in learning about everyone in a greater level of detail than I have had in the past.

I’m taking over a board in transition.  I will have a new 2nd Vice President, 3rd Vice President, and Secretary.  I am replacing a President that has served for 7 years, and has at the same time achieved a long list of accomplishments in her own career.  As this is a unique opportunity to add members to the board, I will be adding 6 new members that have varied experience in architecture, business, economics, education, and history.  I am glad that I have had the opportunity to add recent graduates too.  The recent graduates come from the new undergraduate Economics Business and Finance Society that I have had the pleasure of working hard to put together over the semesters of FA 16 and SP 17.

To the departing members of the board, I thank you for your service.  Without your contributions, I wouldn’t be in this position.

To the members of the board that are staying on, I may have only been added to the board in the Fall of 2015 but my dedication to the university and to develop an undergrad – alumni community is why I want this position.  Things will be different coming from a previous presidency spanning 7 years; I ask that you please put faith in my leadership and management abilities and give me a chance to show you all what I can do.

To the new members of the board, I have known most of you going back to 2010 and 2011.  I’ve been a student with you, been your friend, and worked with you, we’ve built trust in each other.  I know I can count on you to be your best.

To the 2017 graduates joining the board, you’ve earned my trust over the academic year; get ready for the ride.

Lets all work together to raise BEAS up higher than it has ever been.  I know we can do it.

–END

 

As always, thank you for reading, and comment if you see fit.

 

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Successful Failure

In both life and business, people abhor failure.  Business people run from it and spend millions of dollars to avoid it.  Instead of attempting the impossible, avoiding failure; people should embrace the occasional failure.  Failing brings with it benefits that have never been seen before.  Right now, I am sure the majority of readers disagree with me, that’s OK.  Let me ask, how much good came out of Columbus’ failure to make it around the horn of Africa in 1492?  How much innovation came as a result of the successful failure of Apollo 13?
Before going further there are two types of failure that I must address as completely unacceptable.  The first is failure due to lack of effort, this should never be tolerated in any case.  I always stress that people hold themselves, their employees, and even their over-bosses to the same standard of effort.  Companies that incorporate this standard into their culture are on the whole, substantially more successful than organizations that do not.  I know of someone who recently bought a small business, not knowing exactly what they were getting into, they immediately announced that unlike the previous owner, they would not be working weekends.  What example does this set?  What do you think?
The second failure that cannot be tolerated is a lack of proper planning.  In the arena of large businesses, this is indicative of poor foresight from the beginning.  This is usually systemic from the bottom to the upper echelons of management within an organization.  While most large companies (publicly traded) can cover for this lack of efficiency and increase in costs, small businesses cannot.  At the small business level, a failure due to poor planning can lead to the end of a company.  Too often I see people who come up with an idea, and then make a plan; only to abandon their previous work and move onto something else the first second they encounter resistance. The idea should be followed through to completion.  The benefits of what you will learn from not reaching your desired goal far outweigh the costs and time spent on going back to the drawing board and reinvesting in new ideas.  What I described in that last sentence is proper failure, it teaches you what not to do again, and lessons are learned from it.
Beyond teaching us what not to do, failing properly leaves us with innovative ideas and the motivation to use them.  In my early years of operations management, I failed often.  I learned as I went along, and was fortunate to have a manager above me who gave me the necessary slack to go out and learn for myself by making mistakes.  Too often I see managers that micromanage with do as I say not as I do policies.  To describe this as poor management would be an understatement.  I note however, that these managers are often young in age and are in their position because they “knew someone” or had a degree that has nothing to do with the position they hold.  This is why when asked about the potential of an employee, I stress successful experience over GPA and degree; I wish more did the same.  Fortunately if any of my readers are currently under this type of manager, be patient.  Managers using this ineffective style are often removed and replaced; perhaps you can take their job.
People learn by taking chances and making mistakes; professionally and within reason employees and lower supervisors should be given the same leeway to do the same.  Do not be afraid of the risk.  By taking an operational risk, gains in efficiency and cost reductions can be made that were never before seen.  I have been hired by corporations in the past to find those improvements.  After working with the lower level employees to learn the operation, I implement changes that I believe will be successful based on my prior experience.  Over time I have developed a process for doing so and it has been successful across businesses of all sizes.  If you feel that can be of help to your business, feel free to contact me.
WHAT IF THE CHANGES DO NOT WORK YOU ASK?

 

 

 

If the changes implemented as I described in the previous paragraph are ineffective, there are still gains to be made.  Firstly, this gives an evaluator like myself, the ability to determine which employees are just there for a job and which are company men and women.  There should be an effort by upper management to retain these “company people” whenever possible.
Lastly, to the experienced upper management professionals; remember that failures should not be shunned. When handled constructively, failure can bring teams together and shed new light on operational procedures that may look great from upper management, but may not be so great in reality.  Listen to your employees and lower team leaders, they do it every day, in this case, yes they do know better.  In my very first foray into management, I was told by a boss, “These are the new operational procedures and equipment, and this is how they are to be used”.  After one week I made my case, as the end user it was obvious to me that there were glaring inefficiencies, I was told to work and keep quiet.  Three weeks later, changes were made that I had suggested, I was given no credit, but my job was made easier; a silent victory.  Perhaps if you are in this situation, give a lower team leader a chance at solving the problem, you may be surprised with the results; and find a future member of upper management.
We are humans, creatures that use their God given senses and talents to learn, most of us learn by doing.  As people, we all fail in one form or another.  As long as we learn from it and do not exactly repeat the process that led to the first failure, all is well.  On average, an employee that is given the opportunity to attempt and fail will in my experience, become a faster and more efficient employee.  They will also hold a higher level of respect for their supervision.

Master Motivation

There’s no way to know where and when you’ll find this master motivator, some have it from a young age; others don’t find it until they hit middle age.
Some always appear to be ahead of the game, some always appear to need to grow up. They are both wrong.
The minute you grow up and you think you have it all figured out you close down avenues you otherwise would not have.  To those that society would appear to say have not grown up yet, I would tell them that while they might be better suited with a plan, to never lose their sense of what it means to have fun.
This motivation can never die, you can only drown it out if you’re a fool. Even if for you it’s a person and they leave you, you owe it to yourself to keep motivated because of how you felt about them when they were around. It’s always present within you, but a few select people and things know how to bring it out.
Never forget it, drive towards it, let it motivate you; make it your cause in the world. Make it so that no matter where you go and no matter what you do it’s always with you. Even if it leaves you, never leave it. It’s important, and you are a fool if you forget it. For those of you that have succeeded, it’s what got you there. For those of you still trying to make it, it is what you will rely on to get you there.
Don’t be afraid to let your guard down, let people in. They may hurt you but if they do, forgive them. Open your life to others; you never know how they will inspire you and what life lessons you can learn from them.
This motivator is reliable, keep going with it, nurture and use it until you’re dead.  When you pass away, (if you’re an atheist I got nothing for you, sorry) thank God for it. For what it did for you, how it changed you, guided you, motivated you.
Push hard, do it for you and your internal driver, you owe it to yourself to make it in the end.
Embrace it, honor it, name it if you want; I will call mine Julia.

Leadership

The best way to begin discussing leadership is to start with a quote by Warren G Bennis:  “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”.
Whether you lead a logistics operation or small business, this is often the most difficult thing to overcome.  There is a big difference between leadership and management.  Most leaders cannot manage, and most managers cannot lead; it’s why they are in the role they have.  It is rare that to find someone that possesses the exceptional ability to do both.  If you have both, with the addition of a little bit of luck, with some good ideas, and good people around you; you can go far.  But what if you don’t?  What if you have a great idea, but have a hard time rallying others around you to your cause?  What if you are in charge of an operation or a manager at a small business, and want to move up, but are experiencing hardship getting people to handle their responsibilities?  This does not mean that you are destined to be stuck where you are.  Read on readers!
The development of proper leadership methods is essential to being a good manager or leader.  I would like to use the current state of the US government as an example of poor management AND leadership.  I am not surprised that we have a deficit that is ever increasing.  Law is the most common prior profession of people in congress followed by public service/politics according to the CRS (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41647.pdf). Economics and how to manage a budget is not stressed in their prior experience and course work.  That is why congress presents more laws and government as solutions to our tough economic problems, but it’s not their fault, it’s all they know!  Because government can run an infinite deficit, they can get away with this.  Business and logistics operations cannot run infinite deficits.  Our 30th president J. Calvin Coolidge also had a background in law, what he did differently was surround himself with experts in economic policy like Barnard Baruch and Andrew W Mellon.  More importantly what he did was listen to advice.  In the book Mr. Baruch, by ML Coit; it is written on page 355 that receptivity to advice was a saving grace to him.  In crafting economic policy that led to the roaring twenties, known as the Coolidge prosperity, he sought out economic advice from experts in that field, not his.
How does all of this relate to leadership, small business and logistics you ask?  A good leader or manager knows that they themselves do not know everything.  Rather than going out on a whim or using methods of trial and error, to be effective in this economic climate means that you make the right decision the first time; you only get one chance.
Going back to Coolidge, he believed we were a nation of laws.  As president he believed it was his job as chief executor to enforce the constitution as it was written, and only that.  He believed the constitution was written to keep government small and focused; that was how he governed.   As a business owner or logistical operator; you would be wise to produce a list of articles (think of it as your constitution) that you and everyone else at your operation or business are held to as a standard.  There should be no double standard; if it is good enough for you it should be good enough for everyone else and vice versa.    After you decide what should be in your operational constitution, and what should not; discuss it with advisors that are experts in their field, like myself.  Once it is ready, unveil your new standard of business to your employees.  Doing this once, the right way, will blow your colleagues away, and help set you apart, internally, from your competition.  The exception here is if your workforce is part of a union.  In that case before unveiling a standard it is wise to review the union contracts (with outside experts) and procedures that you can and cannot have or ask of labor on a jobsite.
A mentor in operations management once told me “I only have one mode, KILL; you would be wise to adopt that as well”.  It is true that a change in the way of thinking must sometimes take place to truly correct shortfalls within your management or leadership abilities.  Through operational observation, and through analysis of current written procedures, you can easily find the problems and solve them.

Operational Visibility

Operational Visibility is the ability to see what is going on, both in a routine report, and as it happens.
Visibility is probably the most important way to detect issues within your operation.   Most operations practice this in certain ways, but seriously lack in others.  This occurs for two reasons, firstly because visibility adds cost; however these costs are entirely justified in the long run.  The second is because people are increasingly busy and unable to take advantage of such tools; especially on the small business end of things.  When referencing business operations and visibility, there is one key truth:  If you cannot see the problem, you cannot solve the problem.  One unhappy client or customer will tell one hundred potential customers, this bad publicity could be stopped ahead of time with proper visibility.
On the logistical side of things, security and loss prevention are very important.  Large global logistics corporations have millions of dollars dedicated to visibility at all times.  Having served as a logistics operations supervisor and manager, as well as having consulted with global logistics firms, seriousness of security; It is absolutely necessary.   Beyond security, operations management teams in logistics need to have their own visibility over the people they supervise.  Whether it applies to direct observation (no sitting in the office getting fat), or through other methods it is most definitely necessary.  I have been a part of logistics companies that did not have these controls; I instituted them immediately upon my arrival.
Small businesses however, rarely have the capital or labor necessary to be able to hire and purchase the necessary equipment to have high levels of security and visibility.  The owners and operators of these businesses, also usually do not have the ability to be watching everything, everywhere, all the time.  The owners and operators of these businesses are then more secure and have information when and where they need it.
The last part of visibility references back to another post.  A business that has ownership that practices internal visibility will have higher quality in its products and services.  We teach our clients how to see their business from their clients’ point of view.  Doing this, owners and operators get a view of their business that is very important, but also a view that they rarely see.

Risk and Liability Management Improves Efficiency and Lowers Costs

In order to accomplish anything, whether we notice it or not, we go through a step by step process that accomplishes our task.  Whether we accomplish this on our own, or delegate it to our subordinates; every step in the process introduces risk and liability.  This is true from the most nominal of tasks, to the most complex.  Taking this into consideration prior to delegating any task or setting out into a new direction is the best and most proactive way to increase efficiency and decrease cost.  To best handle operational risk and liability, keep efficiency and cost paramount.
The word efficiency as defined by dictionary.com means:
 “accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort”
Naturally when people think efficiency, they think of the time it takes to do a job, the assembly line was a revolution in efficiency.  Beyond time, there is a second word in this definition, EFFORT.  Effort is key, because we pay for effort over time; this shows us that efficiency is tied to cost.  If machines and robotics do the work, we must pay to electrify them, and pay specialists to keep them within calibration.  If we will have humans do the work, we will be paying a manual labor force.  A mechanized labor force on the other hand, costs less in the long run, and is more efficient. Also, with Plant Equipment (PE) that falls into a state of disrepair; making small fixes to continue the operation as planned is never the right thing to do especially when there is no immediate deadline.  Instead of a temporary patch, replace the component.  In the event that there was a deadline and you experienced a failure with machinery, most of the time the cause would be a failure of proper inspection, and thus poor management.  Would you not check your car out prior to a road-trip?  Much like a vehicle, proper routine inspection and maintenance is key to the reliability of the machinery of your operation.  When it comes time to work, things will be more efficient; and routine maintenance and inspection is ALWAYS more cost efficient than replacing entire pieces of machinery.
Unfortunately the majority of jobs in logistics and small business operations still must be handled by humans.  Robots and the facilities with which to best use them are far too costly to small businesses and most logistics ops.  Unloading inventory, checking for damage, sorting the inventory, and then stocking that inventory and preparing it for use, are all human jobs.  Unfortunately for humanity, we come with risk and liability attached.  As humans, we get: injured, sick, distracted, and discouraged among other things.  All of these things bring increased chances of risk and liability.  Too often, operators and business owners will tell their employees to “just get it done”; without regard for risk and liability.  The problem is that one at risk or liability causing action by labor can compound into another, and then another.  Once the problem comes to light, it will cost more money and time to correct.
I often hear  “well there might be unforeseen liabilities, why should we address them if they have not come to pass so far”?  The problem is that once they do, they strain the already limited operations budgets most businesses and operations have, do not let something like that drag you down too.  Efficiency and cost are tied together, but if the client or consumers see any of these problems, you now have a quality issue, don’t let it get that far.

Incentive… The Master Motivator

An older article wrote years ago that I published here since I believe the concept is still relevant.
Incentive: use it to manage both business and friendship
What is incentive?
Dictionary.com defines incentive as “something that incites or tends to incite to action or greater effort, as a reward offered for increased productivity.”
I argue it is more than that.  Incentive is a powerful tool. Knowing how to wield it can be what gets you hired or keeps you employed. Knowing how to properly use and determine the incentives of others is a key element to having a long-lasting career and getting the most out of your people.  This series of blog posts (from January to the first day of spring) will all reference incentive in some way.
Incentive in friendship
A real friend is someone who sticks by you even when there’s 0 incentive for them to do so. This is a lesson we are all taught in our elementary school years.  We learn valuable lessons in those years; from determining who cares about us most, to hard lessons about those friendships we thought were important, but were never really so.  Personally, I have 0 friends from high school and my childhood neighborhood growing up.  My best friends are a combination of 1 person from my college years, and people I have known over the past 8 years.  My advice is to treat friends who are only around when it is in their best interest as you would an employee you cannot count on; FIRE THEM!
Incentive in the classroom
We have all been ourselves or have seen a student at one time that appeared really smart and had a high GPA, but a class comes up and all of a sudden they perform at a C level or lower (My last intern for example).  If there are no health issues or other issues at home plaguing them, the answer as to why their dedication and grades have suddenly fallen off of a cliff is incentive.  I have worked with students in the past that were extremely bright, well spoken, and driven individuals.  I have learned that if a student of this type sees no future benefit, financial or otherwise, from the information they’ll be learning, they see no reason to apply themselves.
Educators need to at least once reach out to these students to show them how they can benefit; even I still use things I learned in Biology 100, just not professionally.  I understand that to the tenured professor that has a million other things going on in their life that this sounds like an exercise in futility, but the attempt must be made.  Making the attempt to reach out will teach the student to reach out themselves to a younger future generation when it is their turn later in life.  This is the very reason why I still continue to give me time to college students today and help them in any way that I can.  Those who become great at reaching out make great future teachers and managers.
Incentive in business
As an operations manager I have worked hard to try to predict outcomes based on known variables as well as my knowledge of others in the same operation.  I have been successful to a high degree and have dubbed my ability ‘operational foresight’.  I can see operational problems where others cannot, but not until recently have I found the key to staffing better operations personnel.  The key is to discover what incentivizes the individual.  Knowing what motivates an individual to act is the key to determining if they are a candidate for promotion or to be a part of your firm in the first place.  Those who willingly step up to handle the difficult assignments that mean more hours at the office are the people you want on your team.  Those who do not, should not be working for you in the first place.