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Too much time has passed since my last posting. Apologies to any avid subscribers, but I expect my absence was hardly noticed. My feeble excuse was being away for a dynamite golf and family visit in beautiful BC.

It was easy to be distracted by the spectacular scenery of BC at it’s best in May/June. Lush green hillsides rising to snow-capped mountains reflected in the clear blue lakes. And we experienced a perfect father and son day at Whistler with a morning of spring skiing on Blackcomb and an afternoon of golf at Nicklaus North with a black bear on the 7th tee and waterskiers around the 17th green. Not to mention the outstanding sushi feast at Whistler Village.

So back to business after the reminder of how it’s like golf. As my father would say about baseball “It’s not good enough to swing and hope”. You have to study, practice, and do it a lot to succeed. Watching it on TV or reading about it may help a little, not a lot. Better equipment is not the easy answer. Keeping score is the only way to really know how you’re doing. And I’m sure there are other ways business is like golf. Material for a future Blog. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile enjoy the summer weekends, golf or no golf.

A quick comment after another demonstration of what distinguishes good customer service.

I’ve always said the essence of good customer service is simple; not easy, but also not complicated. And for it to be reflected consistently on every customer contact is the real challenge for management. Instead of trying to explain it, just think of leaving every customer with a positive impression of the company, every time.

TD Waterhouse does that for me. As a discount broker that I use online regularly, I occassionally need to talk to them or meet someone in their office. Always prompt, personal, polite and efficient. The real test is when a problem arises. A transfer request that didn’t happen as promised caused me to call today. Even though I started with a complaint, it was quickly corrected and I was again a satisfied customer. Congratulations to TD Waterhouse for continuing to impress me with excellent customer service. I’m a tough critic, but they are the best among all the large companies I know.

I had lunch yesterday with a client and friend who represents for me the essence of entrepreneurship. (He is too modest and discrete for me to mention his name here.)

In my opinion, the essence is to combine the strength of a marketable expertise with the ability to think and act strategically. In his case, he has a very high level of knowledge and experience in the design, build and maintenance of computer data centres. He initally worked for another a specialist in that field then left to start his own business. Over time he successfully positioned his company as the recommended service centre for the industry’s leading manufacturer; grew to a size that exceeded his own management abilities; introduced a new partner and executive management team; accepted a new role in the company that leveraged his unique expertise and skills in developing customer relationships; and managed to re-position the company as a major project contractor to design and build large computer room installations from its origins selling and servicing basic hardware.

Many entrepreneurs I work with are equally competent and dedicated to their area of technical expertise but much less capable of managing their business strategically. Others may have the education and experience to manage and think strategically but have little to offer in unique expertise.

Success flows more easily for those that have both.

After a long weekend there is extra urgency to get a week’s work accomplished in the remaining four days. And this weekend I’m away for 2 weeks to enjoy Beautiful BC with friends and family so even more pressure .

It’s a good time to remember the importance of maintaining the foundation – physical, financial, friends and family. Too much focus on business and career goals can easily leave no time for those other important elements of a successful life.

Weekends and holidays should be protected from work intrusions to allow quality time to be spent on those other priorities. They all add to the solid foundation that will support you through the inevitable challenges up and down the business cycle. Physical and mental strength, financial security, and the refuge and counsel of friends and family will help you weather the storms of economic adversity. If neglected, they will not be there to respond in times of need.

So take the time for maintenance. Sometimes, the work can wait.

If you’re here on Friday morning May 18th, I’ve gone golfing. Happy Birthday to me in case you forgot.

If you found this Blog through my e-newsletter on “E-Business opportunities with Web 2.0″ (see www.directtech.ca/ebusiness_2007.htm), then you’ll appreciate the beauty of online applications like Campaigner (www.campaigner.com) which sent the newsletter while I was golfing and directed you to the DirectTech Solutions website or the Blog. If you click on the Google ad links I might even make a nickel while I’m golfing.

Now that’s what I love about the Internet!

If you’re here on Friday morning May 18th, I’ve gone golfing. Happy Birthday to me in case you forgot.

If you found this Blog through my e-newsletter on “E-Business opportunities with Web 2.0″ (see www.directtech.ca/ebusiness_2007.htm) then you’ll appreciate the beauty of online applications like Campaigner (www.campaigner.com) which sent the newsletter while I was golfing and directed you to the DirectTech Solutions website or the Blog. If you click on the Google ad links I might even make nickel while I’m golfing.

Now that’s what I love about the Internet!

I started a group a few years ago that resisted the standard approach to networking. This morning was a happy confirmation that we have a good thing going.

We are all refugees (or alumni, to put a more positive spin on it) of other networking groups. We wanted to avoid any more of the forced and superficial generating of leads and referrals for people whom we didn’t really know that well. We were seeking areas of common interest and levels of business experience to share ideas and information. It is best described as a peer advisory group. We do have a mutual interest in identifying and developing business opportunities and occasionally feel guilty about not generating more referrals for each other.

This morning after a long discussion on a variety of fascinating subjects that strayed far from our standard agenda, I apologized for neglecting to keep them focused on our networking agenda. “Hell no” they said, “these exchanges are why we come here and avoid other networking groups!”

I agree. The networking results are actually better than elsewhere and there is considerable value in sharing ideas and information among like-minded professionals. I recommend it to you. The breakfast doesn’t even matter.

In the early days of e-business consulting most of us doing the e-missionary circuit were preaching the message of “Catch the wave or be drowned by it”. Every business was being told to get on the Internet and get rich quick or stand back while the “new economy” took over their industry. Hype and hysteria were used to persuade entrepreneurs and investors to put large amounts of money into their e-business initiatives. They were motivated by either fear or greed.

Then the “old economy” rules hit the dot.com ventures and the bubble burst. Many investments ended badly. Some could be written off as an expensive learning experience. The hype and hysteria died and many businesses decided they could go back to business as usual. They were wrong.

The Internet revolution continues, albeit more quietly. The hype now focuses on Web 2.0 with highly interactive web sites and user generated content. Huge values are being placed on high traffic sites as they are acquired by Google, Microsoft, or the media moguls.

But businesses that are leveraging the Internet to their advantage are those that simply make the best use of Web marketing to attract business and online services to reduce costs and to build strong loyal customer relationships. Those are the e-business opportunities not to be neglected.

Much has changed on the Internet, but neglecting e-business is not an option. Remember fear and greed still apply.

Mothers and business seems to be my current theme. Perhaps it’s the subliminal (or blatant) advertising for Mother’s Day this weekend.

My Uncle Ralph persona is partly inspired by my father and his well-recognized character and manner of dispensing wise advice. But my mother also had a strong influence on my personality and management style (other than the genetic connection), but it was more subtle and less frequently stated than demonstrated. Quiet, hard working, good humoured, and responsible are the characteristics that immediately come to mind. Things we all learned from her example, simply by being around her. Of course, she was also good at reminding us when we forgot those important principles or our behaviour was not up to her standards. And it’s still a pleasure to make her proud.

That’s why I recommend you use the test “What would Mom think?” before your actions and decisions in business too.

Thanks Mom. And Happy Mother’s Day.

An earlier post suggested that we might have better decision making if managers asked themselves what their mother would think of their actions. But what about those employees that expect you to act like their mother?

What is the right level of caring and compassion before it becomes more personal than a working relationship should be? Is there a reasonable limit? Is it appropriate to get involved with issues that are strictly personal? Do employees become part of your extended family with all the additional obligations that implies?

Some recent exposure to business owners dealing with their employees’ personal issues has caused me to be more cautious about getting involved. Once they start lending a sympathic ear, then a shoulder to cry on, it soon becomes more time consuming on and off the job and creates a relationship that is difficult to steer back to business only. It also becomes a distraction for other employees and creates new concerns about favouritism.

My guideline for these situations would be to decide whether you would do what’s being requested for every employee in the same situation. Personal advice? Time off? Cash advances? If not, then say no to the first request. Don’t start a precedent that you’re not prepared to write into the policy manual.

And don’t be afraid to clarify the relationship, “I’m your boss, not your mother”.

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