Telecommuting produces gains in productivity

A month or so ago on a Friday, the starter motor on my car decided to stop working. I ended up having to have a tow truck pick it up and take it to the garage where they had to drop the exhaust system to replace it.

I had my work laptop and decided to work from home. The amount of work I got done in one day out of the office was huge. One of my team told me that he had received more emails from me in a day than in the last few weeks.

Presentation 2 (2)I have long maintained that with good training and support, there are many benefits to having people work from home at least some of the time, but having started a number of businesses from home, I’m also aware of some of the pitfalls.

As outlined in this article from Smart Company, research has shown that given the right environment, significant productivity gains can be made and also reduction in costs both for the employer and employee, something a number of companies are seeking as they look to reduce their investment in office space by introducing hot desks and open plan environments.

One of the findings though, which I have also mentioned in previous blogs is the feeling of isolation from colleagues, aka the water cooler, which is an important part of work, both in socialisation and the feeling of belonging to a tribe of sorts with a common purpose.
IMG_0106A plus for cities is not only the reduction of office space and the associated costs, but also a reduction in traffic congestion and the resultant air pollution are fringe benefits.

Four key factors to me that need to be considered are:

 

1. Technology. Unified Computing allows people to take their deskphone and computer network with them, but they do need to have enough pipe, or internet access at home in order to work to the same level as they do in the office.

2. Mutual trust. As the article says, many managers worry about whether their staff are working or taking advantage of the situation to do non work activities out of sight of their manager. Plenty of people abuse their position IN the office and in fact as this research showed people got MORE work done.

3. Training is really important and I’m talking about the psychology of working from home. When I set up my first business from home, I had to navigate a rocky road of explaining to my family that when I had the door to my home office closed, I was at work and needed to focus on the job. I would make quality time available to hear about what happened at school or discuss other important non work things, but I also had to focus on the job, which paid the mortgage our bills and grow . I didn’t get sick leave, holiday pay or anything else. Working for an employer is a little different, but the bottom line is the same, when you are at work, you are being paid for your time.

4. You do need to socialise. If you work for an employer, you need time in the office for formal and informal meetings, but you don’t need to be there every day. The smart thing to do is try to organise your meetings for certain days. This is easier said than done and does require culture change, but it can also improve productivity and even allow you to look at the purpose and structure of meetings. It’s amazing how you look at meetings differently when it is your income that’s on the line. The same when your clients are paying for your time.

Telecommuting offers many benefits for those who are in roles where they can work away from the office. It does require strategy and forethought. It does require trust, planning and training. It’s worth some strategic thinking about what the purpose of the office is, which activities are most productive and where.

 

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Posted in Business, Business Consultant, Business Writing, Communications, commuting, Lifestyle, People, Technology, telecommunications, Telecommuting, traffic congestion, traffic demand, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sometimes I think I should become a proof-reader. Whatever happened to editors?

IMG_0871I see it everywhere and it drives me nuts. Whether it’s printed or digital newspapers, books by top authors, articles, or in this header from FOX. News services stand out the most because you expect good spelling and grammar from them and whilst we know they are culling out the more highly paid staff (often those with the experience) we also expect them to set the standard.

I see it in so many company brochures, profile documents, corporate PowerPoint presentations, magazine articles, packaging and product instructions and don’t get me started on Asian product descriptions from people for whom English is a 3rd language, I expect that, but if a brochure or a web page can’t even spell correctly when they are promoting their business, what impact does that do to their credibility? You can trust our products and services, we just don’t put attention to detail.

Then there are books. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction the quality is going downhill in proportion to the number of new books that become available through self publishing or at least volume digital sales through Amazon Kindle, but even those with professional editors who are anal about quality like Stephen King still slip up once in awhile. Now in fairness that is very rare, but yes, I’ve found typos in Stephen King books, the man who wrote a book on how to write to perfection. I was really disappointed to find those few, because I know how proud he is, not only of his prose, but also the delivery.

I’m not talking about mixed metaphors or the constructive quality of the writing, just basic things like spelling and grammar. I’ve thought of bookmarking them and going back to the writer and suggesting edits, but the act of doing that spoils my reading pleasure and I decided that the writer probably would also be upset to hear from me, given that the books would have already been edited at least twice and they have paid for that service. I remember reading through the instructions when I first published on Kindle. It focused on proofreading and its importance. Even Amazon cares about the quality of your product and they are a distributor not a publisher themselves.

I suspect these days a lot of people are just focused on churning out quantity at pace on limited resources. Perhaps they should just up their focus on quality assurance, because it doesn’t reflect well and guess what? People talk about what they read, but they don’t tell the writer or brand. It detracts from the topic. Your readers do in fact care and whilst the odd mistake can happen (especially if you ignore the tools at your disposal like a spell checker) multiple errors do reflect on your reputation.

Posted in brand, Business, Business Consultant, Business Writing, Consultant, Customers, eBook, Editor, good books, Marketing, News, Proof reader, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kiwi and Australian Retailers Need to do Change to Beat Amazon

Yesterday I saw a story on CNN about Toys R Us filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It is big news for retailers and their CEO says they will survive by competing with Amazon and meeting customers needs with new store designs. I have no doubt it’s possible, but not if they fall straight back into their old ways. Their biggest problem now is whether manufacturers will even supply them with their best selling products. They can potentially sell more product, cheaper and at higher margins through Amazon.

What I thought was really interesting is that toymakers shares which took a nosedive are rallying again because they are going to shift their focus to the very businesses like Amazon who are decimating retailers who have held steadfast to their traditional way of doing business. People still want to buy toys right.

What worries me for local retailers on this part of the globe is that many of our retailers are even less customer focused than the American stores are that are allowing themselves to be choked into submission.

Countdown

What’s it made of?

I also maintain that we like to shop and whether it is grocery or other products, people still want to buy. Price is certainly an issue, as is convenience, but the reason Amazon even gets a look into our local market is because we are opening the door to them. We’re not delivering the best experience and listening to customer insights.

There are retailers who are growing and thriving, perhaps because they listen to the voice of the customer. It seems really ironic to me that there are more and more fresh food retailers focusing on high quality meals and selections that are ready to cook, for a premium. This is a market that our traditional supermarkets knew about 20 years ago.

World leaders like Krogers and Albert Hein didn’t just lead on technology, with partners like NCR and IBM they also learned about big data and how to mine that to come up with profitable combinations, but it seems to me that the focus has now been more about how to squeeze the max out of margins and shelf space, rather than ask customers what they want, or deliver products that are compelling to customers. In doing so I wonder if they are throwing away some of the most profitable opportunities. Amazon’s Whole Foods could seriously impact on the core high stock turn grocery sector and especially hurt the owner operators who have invested everything into their businesses. We won’t stop buying food and toilet paper. What will retailers like Foodstuffs, Coles and Countdown do? What will the DIY industry do? I hear IKEA could be coming down under as well and could threaten Mitre10, Bunnings and similar stores too, who don’t seem to be adapting either. Will they try to compete even more on price?

Napolean HillSo perhaps it’s time for retailers who don’t want to go the way of Borders and Dick Smith Electronics need to do something different before it’s too late.

How? The starting point is to never fall back on business as usual, but to remember how it all started. The grocer used to be the center of the community. They knew what we wanted before we knew we wanted it. The addressed my parents by name. They knew which coffee my mother wanted and how thin to slice her veal. They had a relationship with us.

Today’s technology still allows retailers to have a relationship with us. That might sound like an oxymoron, but it is what we do with data. No we can’t have a personal relationship with thousands of customers, but we can harness technology to deliver the same outcome so that the customer feels valued.

Like the Kiwi baby chain I saw on TV and blogged about last week that consults with their customers and even install baby seats in cars for free, teaching people how to use their product, putting their customers on a mailing list, finding out about their families in a safe way that protects their privacy while delivering what they want, there are are solutions that allow retailers to have their cake and eat it. But they have to adapt.

Those businesses who say their model is doomed will create a self fulfilling prophecy for their businesses. Those who are prepared to change can grow and thrive. It’s rocket science, but it is also about using it to understand the customer.

I’ll leave the last word to astronaut Chris Hadfield. What did resonate with, the science or the person?

 

Posted in Big Data, endangered species, Inventory Management, Manufacturing, Market Research, Retail, retail apps, Retail POS, retail survival, retail systems, the future | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon is Coming to Australia and Retailers are Worried

They should be worried. As I discussed in my blog last week called The Blockbuster Effect, and countless previous blogs, you can’t expect, even at the bottom of the planet, to have the luxury of continuing doing business the same way as you have for the last couple of decades and expect the same result.

bordersWhether it’s the retail book industry and publishing that should be quaking, or other forms of retail that no longer provide perceived value to their customers, this will hasten the change.

On TV News I watched a story about a baby store that consults with their customers, even fits baby seats into cars and they weren’t worried because they have a relationship with their customers. I agree with them.

I buy books from Amazon (why would I pay 3 times as much in a store that gives me no reason to be loyal and wait for 3 months after a book has been launched overseas). I bought my second smartwatch last week from Deal Extreme for US$18 including free delivery to New Zealand. It has a camera, Bluetooth, a speaker, large capacitive touch screen, email, phone book, auto dialling so I can ring without taking my phone out of my pocket, messaging from TXT to Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, a SIM Card slot and much more. Not as many features as an iWatch, or a Samsung watch but at about 7% of the price and delivered to my door for free within 2 weeks.

I was talking to a good friend the other day who took a business idea offshore and has established a solid company addressing the retail threats that he and I had discussed on countless occasions. We discussed the opportunity to bring the idea back to Australasia to help retailers and other businesses to compete by offering a quality service, recognising the loyalty of their customers and the mutual interest of retailers and foot customers to keep doing business together. I think he’s onto a winner.

As they said on the TV News story, Kiwis love to shop. The problem is that whilst many retailers pay into loyalty card systems, they don’t show loyalty to their unique customers or offer them much reason to be loyal to their brand. There are obvious exceptions such as Subway and Petrol stations are starting to get in on the act such as my Mobil Smiles card, but they are far from the rule and yet to prove they have a winning formula.

So I believe that more retailers in New Zealand and Australia who fail to change with the times are going to fall by the wayside. I also don’t believe they have to, but they do have to do something different. BAU will not cut it. Complaining will not cut it. Those who don’t find the time or the business partners to provide solutions such as Marketing as a Service (MaaS), will be down the tubes.

We will remember them. We will miss them. But don’t worry, others will take their place. The smart ones. The ones that finally listened. Which one are you?

Posted in Amazon, Apple Watch, Australia, Business, Customer Research, Customers, disruptive model, Gadgets, Gas prices, Loyalty, Maas, Marketing, Marketing apps, New retail ideas, People, Retail, retail apps, retail survival, retail systems, Shopping, SmartWatch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blockbuster Effect

I was listening to the Zig Ziglar Show on the way home tonight Episode 481 with Mark Sanborn and had to pause when I heard the following statement which resonated so much with previous blogs I have written on the topic of BAU.

Mark quoted Joe Calloway as saying “Success means you only know what worked yesterday”. He also quoted Seth Godin’s ‘Stuck Winning Model’. He said “A company or an individual does something and it works and because it works, they do more of it. And they keep doing it because it works, until one day it stops working as well. So what do they do? They do more of it. It’s kind of like, WOW it’s not working as well, we’d better double our efforts, instead of saying, maybe it isn’t going to work going forward and maybe we need to try something else.”

He went on to say that maybe why people get stuck, is success, because on the one hand you don’t want to jeopardise it. We’re doing OK. I don’t want to bet the farm, I don’t want to roll the dice, but on the other hand, if we keep doing what we’ve done, sooner or later we’re going to get supplanted.

borders-closingTherein lies my problem with so many businesses from taxis to bookstores to music stores. Remember Sounds Music? Unfortunately their leading light passed away and they lost their way. Remember Real Groovy (for the Kiwi readers)? They bought in container loads of vinyl that no one wanted in the UK and shipped them to New Zealand.

Guess what? People still want to buy records, in fact they can’t get enough of them and they often pay more for them than CD’s even though Spotify, Pandora, Apple, iHeartRadio and many more are offering unlimited music to your phone for freemium or a low price.

I still maintain that Borders could still be viable too, they just needed to adjust their business model and not to selling soft toys, but then that’s just my opinion.

Boards who try to squeeze the lifeblood of an existing model just because it has worked really frustrate me.  You have to keep reinventing yourself and you have to listen to your customers. I mean really listen, not assume you know what they are saying, because often what they are saying, or what you think you are hearing, is not what they mean.

It’s like the car park companies that thought they were destinations and taxi companies who thought they were chauffeurs. Anyway, I was motivated to blog tonight after hearing the same story again on a great podcast. So are you going to do the same thing tomorrow as you have done for the last 5 years?

Good luck with that.

 

Posted in BAU, Blogging, Business, Business Consultant, Business Intelligence, carparking, New retail ideas, Retail, retail survival | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life List #6/150 Write a Sequel to Unleashing the Roadwarrior

UTRW

Unleashing The Road Warrior

It’s been 15 years since I wrote and published Unleashing the Road Warrior and it’s interesting both how much has changed and how little has changed.

I was planning on writing a book about traffic congestion on our roads and practical things we can do to work smarter and avoid the stress and costs of sitting in traffic. I wanted to explore ways that we can both live in the city without being ground to a halt by growing demand on the roads and ever increasing commute times.

When I started to think about it, that was pretty much what I was trying to do with that book, which I wrote in concert with training courses I was running through the Auckland Chamber of Commerce when I owned the Smartphone and PDA Academy. Unfortunately things haven’t changed much and most people are still not working smarter.

We hear all about autonomous cars, Artificial Intelligence and computers taking our jobs, but not only are we working longer hours at our jobs, but many of us spend additional hours stuck in traffic getting to and from them.

There have been experiments in wielding big sticks like congestion tolls, but they wouldn’t be necessary if companies and their staff were smarter about how they do business. I see them as a last resort with the risk of increasing the cost of living as people pay the tolls and continue to endure the traffic.

Earlier this week before I succumbed to a serious case of man-flu, I had the privilege of hosting 35 school children all aged around 9 who had presented great ideas to Auckland Transport about what the future could look like and they were really bright kids. I asked them what traffic was and they told me it was about trading goods and services and that it was when a number of vehicles wanted to be on the same road at the same time. They reminded me of myself at that age.

Part of the motivation for my first book was that I was promised as a child of around that age that computers would mean that human beings would be freed up for the higher things on Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. Our problem would be what to do with all that leisure time. Since I started work I think I have averaged at least 50 hours a week throughout my career. I think I still have the document somewhere. It was called ‘A Blueprint for the Future’ or something like that.

As the headline says, this is item 6 on the Life List I decided to commit to of 150 things to do in the next 10 years, encouraged by being told by my oncologist who said I am now in remission from Prostate Cancer.

Esmonde41

A typical morning commute on Auckland’s North Shore

Humans are so intelligent that you’d think we were smart enough to know that the change has to come from people being smarter with their use of technology and time.

I remember sitting in a plane from London to LAX around 1990 reading New Scientist magazine which had a case study about building motorways in the UK which said that as soon as they built a new one and opened it, it was full. So what do they do? Build more. What happens? They fill up.

Do we have to put up with traffic congestion and join the great cities of the world by increasing the cost of living, buying ever more cars and wasting emotional and physical energy and personal time sitting in motorway parking lots?

I don’t think so. I think there is a lot we can do. I think today we have the technology more than ever to work smarter. I’m not saying its an easy fix, but I’m saying we can have our cake and eat it too.

Many of the things I wrote about in that first book still apply, back then I needed to run training courses to teach people how to do email and manage their time, focus and remote working. I still have letters of thanks from people who attended my training courses and the book was even used in American universities business studies.

Today we have much more user friendly technology, but many of us are too busy being busy to stop and do something about it. But at what cost? Hopefully my next book will help more people and businesses to increase work life balance and if over time reduce congestion in urban areas. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

So how about it? Would you like to achieve greater results in less time and have more time to spend with your family or doing things that you have a passion for?

 

Posted in Auckland, Autonomous cars, Business, Business Consultant, Communications, Consultant, driving, Education, Foresight, Future, Futurist, good books, human logic, Innovation, Location Based Consultant, Location Based Servces, Motoring, motorway, Smart City, Society, SoLoMo, TDM, Technology, telecommunications, the future, traffic congestion, Traffic Control, traffic demand, traffic design, Traffic jam, Traffic Management, Traffic Optimization, travel demand management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally a Device to Track Anything Like a Magpie Does

Handley

Calum Handley, Raul Oaida and Derek Handley

I’ve known Derek Handley and his family for a long time, since a young group of entrepreneurs won the NZ Wireless Data Forum’s mobile app competition (I was President at the time, helped conceive and judge  it) many many years ago with a concept of a mobile gambling app where fans could make bets with each other at a sporting match (which would have been a winner if it wasn’t for monopolies and gambling laws at the time) and formed The Hyperfactory. I had the pleasure of watching them (from a distance) develop some amazing campaigns, sell, create Snakk Media and  get involved in many other projects.

Some of the most exciting ideas they had didn’t happen for various reasons, which is all part of the game of being an entrepreneur, but in others they were true pioneers. What I most admired about them was that they had true grit and passion for their work and for making a difference. I remember visiting their offices many times in the early days and I can tell you that they really put in the hours and obstacles were just stepping stones. While I was trying to support entrepreneurs, they were changing the future, from New Zealand.

Obviously New Zealand got too small very quickly and they had to go to the USA so they could scale and find the real money, but they never lost their passion for making a better future.

MagpieI was delighted to see stories in the NZ Herald and  Stuff this week about their new venture Magpie which is about a really low cost solution for tracking everything from your keys to more important things like your favorite guitars or other items that don’t feature communications.

As you know I a very passionate about GPS tracking and have written dozens of blogs and curated dozens of stories on the topic over the years. About 4 years ago I seriously considered setting up a distribution business for tracking solutions, but I didn’t have the capital to scale quickly and didn’t really feel many of the products or systems I saw were well suited to the needs of my target markets.

The closest to Magpie is probably Tile, but it is Bluetooth based and requires a critical mass of mobile phones running the app in order to locate the missing item, so for example, if someone stole a guitar, you could only locate it if it was within 10 meters of a mobile phone running the app. Probably a good proposition in large urban environments, if that’s where your lost item ends up, but otherwise, for example in a country like New Zealand, I wasn’t convinced the mass of users were there. I know a lot of geeks in New Zealand and I haven’t come across anyone who has a Tile and they are the early adopters.

I emailed Tile and asked them about New Zealand. To their credit they responded very quickly, but it was the company line of millions of devices in loads of countries.

So when I found out about the Magpie Kickstarter campaign, I didn’t hesitate to put some money in the pot and pre-purchase some units, because I know that these guys know how to make something like this work. I have no idea what their harvest plan is, but I absolutely love their model, both the product concept and the purchase model. So does everyone else given they got 400% of the funding they were chasing in under 3 days.

I’ll be watching this with interest. I spend a lot of my time thinking about changing the future, these are the sort of people that make the future and make the world a better place. I recommend you watch this space

Posted in #TheGPSMadeMeDoIt, Best GPS, best GPS trackers, Best Practice GPS, Bluetooth, Catch Crooks with GPS, cheap gps, Cool Tech, Future, Futurist, Gadgets, GPS bait, GPS features, GPS MAde Me Do IT, GPS Maps, GPS Pet Tracking, GPS Player Tracking, GPS Police Tracker, GPS Track People, GPS Tracker, GPS Tracking, GPS Traxcking, IoT, location based apps, Location Based Consultant, Location Based Servces, Location Based Services, Location Based Services for Health, Map apps, missing children, missing people, Mobile Apps, mobile friendly, people tracking, Personal GPS Trackers, Police tracking, Sports GPS, theft, top apps, Track and Trace, track children, Track parolees, Tracking Apps, Tracking Children, Tracking criminals, tracking data, Tracking kids, tracking missing peopl, Tracking pets, Tracking staff, Tracking stolen property | Leave a comment