For several years, every November and December, I experienced three-day work weeks thanks to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Due to the shortened workweeks, I had to be extremely focused, making efficient use of my limited time those weeks. I cut way back the amount of time devoted to watching adorable cat videos on YouTube.
With only three days to get everything done, I dutifully avoided sending our my normal two dozen humor emails a day with links to things like hilarious parody music videos on the Twelve Days of Christmas. I discovered that I accomplished so much in these shortened work weeks that it got me to thinking: Imagine how much more efficient workers would all be if we all had a three-day work week.
There are many companies – and even a few cities (El Paso, TX, Melbourne, FL) and at least one state (Utah) that are currently experimenting with a four-day work week. Instead of five 8-hour days, their employees work four 10-hour days, and they really get a lot of things done in these ten-hour days…well, in the first 8 hours anyway. Polls of workers who have shifted to a four-day work schedule indicate that 85% prefer it to the previous five-day schedule and an overwhelming 99% prefer it to the seven-day 80-hour work week with no time off for Christmas.
The advantages of a four-day work week are obvious:
- Reduced commuting time and reduced energy consumption by eliminating one day of commuting travel per week
- Improved energy efficiencies from reduced use of electricity and heating in offices and factories which are closed one more day each week
- You can get drunk on Thursday night and don’t have to make up transparent excuses for not showing up to work on Friday, like “I can’t make it into work today, boss because my four-year old Nate is sick with the measles again… Yeah, I know it’s the 7th time this year. He has a really crappy immune system…”
Until this past July, for the previous four decades, I had always worked in business. I was routinely required to submit reports on my progress: Sales forecasts, pipeline analyses, business plans – you name the report, I made it up, er, I mean…. um …
My point is this: Just because I’ve recently retired and moved to an island home near an idyllic beach doesn’t mean I plan to stop submitting regular progress reports. Quite the contrary. I’m happy to report that I’ve continued this practice into retirement. The focus of those reports, however, has shifted slightly.
Here is my business report for the past week.
Sea Shell Inventory Forecast:
My collection of sea shells grew by an impressive 11% this past month, due in part to two unscheduled beach-combing field inspections. While sightings of scallop shells were up 14% year-over-year, unfortunately, the projected production of intact sand dollars is expected to be down 18 to 20% compared to the previous quarter, in part due to increased foreign competition (tourists from Japan) which is anticipated to grab significant market share. I plan to diversify my portfolio of shells by investing (my time) in conch shells, tibias and spiny oyster shells. I’m optimistic we will experience a net gain next quarter if beach market conditions continue on their downward tidal trend.
[Author’s note: The following is a memo I plan to send our daughters in three years, when both of them will have graduated from college, informing them that they are now officially responsible for their own lives – and phone bills.]
MEMO TO: Junior members of Jones Family Enterprises
FROM: Senior Executive Team
Congratulations to the junior members of Jones Family Enterprises [henceforth JFE] on your recent completion of your undergraduate studies. The Senior Executive Team is confident that your long-term economic forecast is bright. We wish we could say the same for your near-term economic outlook. This memo is to inform you of an important decision the executive committee has made regarding your status on the JFE org chart.
After a series of challenging years in which JFE has experienced steadily declining economic growth and spiraling costs, primarily in the area of our educational assistance program, the senior management has decided to implement some immediate cost-cutting measures in order to preserve the organization’s long-term cash reserves. This decision has forced us to make difficult personnel decisions to improve efficiencies and eliminate waste.
Effective immediately, JFE is announcing a 50% reduction in force. As a consequence, we are forced to terminate your roles as fully-funded dependents of this organization and re-classify your status as “non-essential employees.” We considered all other viable options before coming to this decision, including a recommendation by our firm’s Co-CEO, Ms. Jones, to eliminate my position on the executive steering committee. But that recommendation failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote required for passage by the two-person executive steering committee.
I’ve spent the better part of the past 30 years (as well as the worse part) in sales and marketing. One thing that has always impressed me in perusing the web sites of the industry leaders is how I have absolutely no idea what they actually do. Smart marketers learned a long time ago that when it comes to beating the competition, you don’t have to build a better mousetrap. You just have to sound like you build a better mouse. trap. That starts with the words you use to describe what your mousetrap does.
No industry has mastered this technique more than high tech. Ever heard of a little company called Computer Associates? Here’s what they do, in their own words: “CA Technologies provides robust management solutions utilizing closed loop orchestration of provisioning and configuration across physical and virtual resources.” It’s just that simple.
Or how about the 800-pound gorilla in the world of routers, switches and network systems, our buddies over at Cisco Systems. I wonder what they do. Here’s a description any seven year-old (with a graduate degree in Linux computer programming) could understand: “Cisco’s Borderless Network Architecture is implemented as a five-phase plan that moves from baseline services to advanced policy management and integration that ultimately delivers the borderless experience for users.”
If there’s one thing nearly every American can agree on it’s that having aerial surveillance cameras capable of eavesdropping on our every move from outer space is a wonderful thing. Oh, sure, sometimes surveillance cameras can be used for evil, like the time they caught me doing 45 in a 35 mph zone. But video technology can also be used for good – say, to observe remotely whether employees are wasting time at work playing video games, when they should be wasting time pretending to make sales calls.
That at least appears to be the thinking behind a new, state-of-the art mobile video robot called the Ava 500, a name most experts consider a far better selection than the original idea: the Self-Navigational Operations Observational Prototype (SNOOP for short). The Ava 500 is the world’s “first self-driving business collaboration robot,” according to the manufacturer’s cheery marketing brochure. Now, business executives can collaborate with employees without leaving their corner office, using a mobile robot with a two-way video camera that lets them roam the halls or join in on team meetings remotely. Employees will love it.
Want to check in on your crew of illegal Mexican factory workers to see if they are keeping pace with their production quota of 1,500 sneakers per hour? No problem. With the press of a button, you can remotely walk along the assembly line floor to inspect the quality of their work, without leaving your yacht in the Caymans. Hey, looks like it’s already been ten minutes and Pedro’s still not back from his five-minute lunch break. Uh oh. Looks like Pedro’s got some ‘splaining to do.
Periodically in this column, I don my business consultant hat (a stylish Italian grey fedora) to share innovative business strategies to grow your business and improve your employees’ productivity. As a sought-after business process improvement expert and author of the popular business handbook, Stop Tasering Your Team – and 50 Other Strategies to Improve Employee Morale, I can help businesses prosper – if only they’d stop and listen to me for once.
I have frequently been approached by executives from Microsoft to Amazon.com to Ninja Ned’s Car Stereo & Hot Tub Emporium on South Aurora Avenue – all asking me the same question: How did you get past security? But as soon as they discover who I am, they are often surprised to learn about my out-of-the-box business strategies (usually as they are escorting me out-of-the-premises).
In this installment, I share the thought-provoking conclusions of a recent Dutch study published in the scholarly journal, Psychological Science. The study tested people’s decision-making ability when their bladders were full and found that people with full bladders tended to make better decisions and were better able to control and hold off making impulsive, costly decisions, leading to better judgment. (I swear I’m not making this up.) Other findings included that Dutch researchers appear to have way too much time on their hands.
As a successful entrepreneur and highly sought-after business guru, I am constantly being asked by people trying to climb the ladder of success “How can I ever become as successful as you?” Well the short answer, of course, is “You can’t. Don’t waste your time trying.” That said, there are still several things you can do to ignite your career, including offering to have sex with your company’s president or blackmailing the CFO with photos from last December’s Holiday Office party. But these strategies are best reserved for the experienced career climber. For someone with your more modest level of talent and ambition, how about we start with something a bit more basic, shall we?
One of the most important things every business professional can do to improve their chances of getting promoted is this: Awlays proffread yoru wrok.
How we communincate in righting can leaf lunglasting impassions about us. Weather its an emale massage, a business mammo or a for mall propostal, it is criticial to revue your work for accuratecy. By making egreekious grammer and spoiling misteaks, it can from in the mind of the reader a severally negative impersonation abort you. They may persleeve you too bee someone who is lazey, careles, disogranized or somewon who simply can’t finnish their
I can’t stress how pearamount it is to careflee skan your work for posse ball tie pose. Remember, how you communionate in rightwing may be the differents between getting a raze and getting fried. I could knot be moor serialous about this then I are.
In this tumultuous economy, America’s leading consumer brands have come up with a bold new strategy to replace sagging revenues: Filing multi-million dollar lawsuits for brand infringement.
Recently it was reported that America’s leading cereal manufacturer, Kellogg’s is suing a Californian non-profit organization, the Maya Archeology Initiative, claiming the nonprofit’s use of a toucan in its logo (left) too closely resembles Kellogg’s famous Fruit Loops cereal icon, Toucan Sam. Apparently Kellogg’s is trying to corner the market on both high-fructose breakfast cereals and cartoon toucan characters.
Kellogg’s is no stranger to filing lawsuits for brand infringement. In 1998, they sued Exxon over the oil company’s use of a tiger for a long-running ad campaign to “put a tiger in your tank.” Kellogg’s claimed that Exxon’s tiger bore too close a resemblance to their own famous icon, Tony the Tiger. Apparently, Kellogg’s is also trying to corner the market on cartoon tigers – perhaps with an eye to opening America’s first cartoon zoo.
As most of you know, over the past 25 years, I have been a highly sought-after lecturer / motivational speaker on business success strategies (gleaned largely from lessons I learned by making boneheaded business mistakes over the past 25 years). Every organization’s success is built on (brutally beating down) the backs of its frontline employees.
Business experts like myself – and even experts not like myself – have long known that employee recognition programs are a powerful way to reward your employees for their efforts. These programs build loyalty and reduce turnover, while at the same time improving systems, reducing waste, increasing customer satisfaction levels and keeping trophy companies in business.
Thanks to innovative employee recognition programs, every year motivated employees find creative ways to eliminate redundancies, cut costs, improve efficiencies, and leapfrog over obnoxious rival suck-ups competing with you for that next promotion.
There are a variety of highly effective employee recognition incentives, from nifty restaurant gift certificates to prime location parking spaces to those popular Employee of the Month plaques in the lobby that list the name of the same employee, Lin Chong (left), every month from January 2003 through October 2010 except for two months in 2008 when she was briefly out for chemotherapy for a life-threatening illness. In each case, these highly motivating incentives cost their employer roughly the cost of one cartridge of black inkjet printer toner.
Last week, we talked about how to handle situations when your customers complain about a product defect, such as, “How come when I use your curling iron, it causes my hair to evaporate?” Of course, the best policy is to blame the problem on the customer or someone else – when in doubt blame it on al Qaeda terrorists … or Congress. You can read last week’s brilliant business advice here.
When all else fails you may have no choice but to eat crow and admit some eensy weensy tiny bit of responsibility for the problem, such as “in rare cases, some inconclusive studies have suggested that there could be a remote chance – and by remote we mean almost less than 50% – that our artificial sweetener could cause an eensy weensy tiny bit of permanent blindness and complete hearing loss in Hispanics and Pacific Islanders under the age of 70.”
In these situations, you need to craft a very carefully worded, corporate earnest and sincere apology letter – one that comes from the heart, with sincerity and earnestness – preferably ghostwritten by a professional apology letter writer in a high-priced Manhattan PR firm, who knows just the right caring words to say in order to avoid a costly class action lawsuit.
When crafting your company’s sincere official apology letter to customers, make sure it contains all of the following six elements: