By Atilla Akinci (translated by Funda Sinani)
EFFECTIVE AND PRODUCTIVE ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Although communication is one of the most important nuances of workplace effectiveness, when not utilized skillfully it can form into unproductivity and become a competitive disadvantage for organizations. This is a precarious barrier for organizational improvement. Despite the fluctuations among countries and sectors, unproductive communication is estimated to increase company expenditures by 20 percent. This issue requires immediate attention, and the study below is an attempt to solve this problem.
HOW HAS THIS PROBLEM DEVELOPED?
A historical review will be helpful in providing context: During the 1950’s, the U.S. experienced a communication boom. Firm development was gaining speed and globalization increased. Feeling lonelier and more self-conscious after the war, Western societies were relating with colleagues as if they were family members and identifying themselves with firms as they might in a social club. Those days laid the foundation for what we call “Corporate Culture” today.
Corporations that used effective communication strategies were gaining a competitive advantage; however, the toll was clear. Standard working hours were not sufficient for getting everything done, hence after-hours meetings at bars, cafés, picnics, and in-home family visits. During those days, salaries were low, profits were high, and economic risks were limited. Nobody questioned the necessity of staff meetings. Only in the following years, due to an increase in competition and employee spending, was there an assessment of productivity. Corporations started to discuss the appropriateness of long staff meetings and never-ending telephone conversations. Corporate communication began to change its shape with new advancements in technology.
Similarly to many inaccessible applications, organizational communication became vague. Colleagues working in adjacent cubicles started online chatting and gaming. Periodic meetings turned into insufficient and lengthy power struggles that brought nothing but harm to staff members and organizations as a whole. To combat this, organizations set up training on effective and productive communication skills and worked to eliminate unsupervised employee behavior; however, the effectiveness was not measurable and the training was believed to be insufficient.
By the beginning of the year 2000, home office systems had grown in popularity, which helped reduce face-to-face meetings in favor of telephone conferences. Despite certain advantages, these home-office applications caused a type of disconnect and reduced opportunities for supervision and feedback. This system was not the remedy for communication ineffectiveness. Similarly to many other problems, communication issues were abandoned to the corporate dump. The attitude was to focus on goals and financial results instead. Currently, communication issues still exist but are mostly ignored, causing corporations considerable production loss.
WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
Organizations can eliminate 20 percent of expenditures by manipulating productive communication, which also helps ameliorate instances of tardiness due to ineffective and unattractive corporate meetings. As a result of this application, employees increase imperative motivation for attaining future goals and corporations eliminate employee dissatisfaction. Considering the fact that for most labor-prone firms yearly profit margins are 10-15 percent of employee expenditure, awareness regarding this subject is especially prudent.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The system requires measurable controls for communication productivity. Only through articulate calculations can the benefits of applications be approved for budgeting. I believe the source of vagueness and issues in organizational systems lay upon immeasurable system application. Consequently, the valuable contributions from a company’s Human Resources Department often are not receiving enough respect and trust, therefore remaining dormant as debatable pieces of organizational structure.
Creating Organizational Awareness:
Organizations need to be informed through measurable data how to create awareness, and the organizational structure needs to be supportive of such systems. In other words, corporate goals with precise definitions need to be communicated throughout the organization via strategy development and deployment systems. Otherwise, the system does not work.
At the first stage, each employee’s hourly wage is calculated by dividing gross yearly income by total work hours. It is a very easy calculation. Average estimations can be used for the employee body ranking below the executive board. This allows companies to arrive at conclusions about production, such as that non-salary-based employee expenditures are 35 percent of the yearly gross salary payments.
At the second stage, corporate performance goals are calculated by dividing yearly corporate goals by each employee’s yearly work hours. A sales director with yearly work hours totaling 2112 hours and who was working toward a $1 billion sales goal would end up with a corporate goal/hourly wage calculation of $473,500. These type of tasks require a team with eminent expertise, knowledge, and skill, as calculating hourly monetary value of organizational support tasks are different than easily calculatable sales and marketing budgets.
In the last step, what every hour of work means to corporations is calculated by the following equation: (SALARY EXPENSE / HOUR) + (CORPORATE PERFORMANCE GOAL / HOUR) = (TOTAL INDIVIDUAL EXPENSE / HOUR). Through these measurable, individual numbers, employees can be trained and informed. During these training programs, individual goals, total expenses, and loss of resources for every unproductive hour can be presented to employees. Only through these trainings can an organizational awareness of time cost be achieved. Upon completion of this training, organizations will be ready to take steps toward productive communication and time management.
Communication Productivity in Face-to-Face Meetings:
First, the managers organizing the meeting need to conduct a necessity analysis by acknowledging the cost per employee per hour. Face-to-face meetings may generate additional traveling or transportation expenses and performance time loss. Hence, face-to-face meetings are usually the most expensive forms of communication and need to be used sparingly and appropriately. This analysis will reveal the importance of this meeting type in regard to reaching corporate goals. The expected contribution of the meeting should exceed the monetary loss; otherwise, there is not a sufficient incentive to organize the meeting.
For their records, executives should obtain several key communication forms. Among these would include the Purpose of Meeting and Meeting Outcomes forms, which should be completed before and after the meeting. These forms become indispensable during performance appraisals of the attendees. The main principles of the forms should include the sections noted below and should be modified based on the custom requirements of each corporation and sector:
- PURPOSE OF MEETING should include the goals of the meeting and the connection of those goals to attaining larger corporate goals, as well as a list of attendees, their positions, responsibilities, and possible contributions toward attaining corporate goals. If the purpose of the meeting includes subjective goals (relating to motivational or social expectancies), the rationale for these goals and the follow-up criteria should be listed as well. This form is intended to justify the necessity of a face-to-face meeting, as well as how it’s going to achieve the desired results.
- MEETING OUTCOMES should include a comparison graph for the analysis of projected results alongside actual results, as well as a conclusion that would present the list of decisions and follow-up procedures in brief, clear, and measurable standards.
Prior to the following meeting, an analysis of competency on executing prior meeting outcomes should be conducted. If there is any failure on attaining goals, the causes should be observed. Natural to any organizational change, executives may project a bureaucratic toll of such procedures; however, presenting the contribution of such routine procedures and creating organizational awareness would eliminate any further debate about the gain earned from this step.
TELEPHONE AND VIDEO CONFERENCES
These communication styles also require similar preparations, though these meetings have specific features of which to be aware. First, these meetings are less time and money consuming because there is no transportation involved. Conversely, they lack certain advantages, such as establishing eye contact, use of body language, trust, affection, and discipline. These disadvantages may create problems during performance evaluations of attendees and managers.
Second, during telephone conferences, individual vocal skills become invaluable. Some individuals may present themselves differently over the phone. Particularly, individuals with self-efficacy issues may adapt different identities with the comfort of invisibility; therefore, managers should observe any incongruities between face-to-face and vocal communication skills of employees and take notes on communication assessment forms.
Third, the degree of trust of employees should be based on the consistency of both face-to-face and vocal communication patterns. If managers sense a disconcerting difference between the two communication patters, it will be hard to work collaboratively. Research shows that leaders can show leniency and give overrated credit toward employees with charismatic vocal skills from telephone conferences. In order to regulate this tendency, the best practice is to limit conversations to the scope of each employee’s responsibility. Managers can prepare an agenda based on expectancy analysis and provide each employee sufficient and fair time to present their input and ideas.
Lastly, there are limited opportunities for employees who work from home to be exposed to corporate culture. In order to ameliorate this problem, periodic, motivational gatherings should be organized. The budgeting for these meetings should be separate and designated under corporate ownership. A different executive can attend to each of these meeting in order to provide organizational awareness to this employee group.
TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS, EMAIL, TEXT, AND SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE
Individuals naturally assert self-control in businesses investing time to create organizational awareness and hourly budget procedures. If there are still problems with self-control, telephone usage times can be collected and distributed among employees to increase awareness of time management.
In order to eliminate excessive email accumulation, a prioritization system can be established. Correspondence can be categorized based on colors or names (red is emergency, brown is important, green is helpful material, yellow is something that may be of interest to an employee, etc.). This categorization is also applicable for differentiating correspondence that is informative vs.. correspondence that calls for action. Receiving coded emails allows an employee or manager to prioritize his or her time. At the end of this application, hopefully the number of emails will decrease by employees who eventually figure out that the majority of yellow-coded emails are not read or responded to and therefore do not deserve distribution in the first place.
Emailing too much, whether sufficiently or insufficiently, points out security issues among employees. This behavior is linked to a distribution of responsibility and related consequences, therefore lessening security. This scenario resembles a soccer team whose members keep passing the ball along the sides and backward with no attempt at offense. Success comes only with teamwork from team members who collaboratively aim to get ahead.
Antecedents of security issues require further research in the field. Based on personal experiences, it appears that bureaucracy and over-staffing are the biggest contributors to this problem. Businesses can increase their profit margins and create a more responsible organizational culture by adapting communication productivity procedures. Communication deserves more attention than it typically receives within most organizations.
There are a multitude of cloud technologies that enable firms to create a completely virtual work environment. This virtual environment operates at lower cost, requires less technology-specific skills to operate and fully supports employees’ flexible work needs.
Wikipedia defines cloud computing as “the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, soft ware and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility over a network–typically the Internet.” In simpler terms, cloud computing enables firms to make use of complex business solutions available through the Internet and serviced by outside providers. Because these firms use solutions available through the Internet, they do not need technology infrastructure and staff .
TYPES OF CLOUD TECHNOLOGY
There are numerous cloud technologies in the market place for both small and large firms. Large firms will typically supplement their existing infrastructure with cloud solutions. Smaller firms can run all operations with cloud technologies. Each firm has different requirements, so a detailed vendor analysis is important in the success of any implementation. Examples of the functions cloud technology can support, as well as some of the providers, are listed below:
Portal, Storage, Calendar & Email: These solutions allow a firm to store vast amounts of corporate information and control access to this information in sophisticated ways, all in the cloud. For example, employee records can be persisted in the cloud with access provided to only those in Human Resources. Essentially, the cloud allows the whole corporate information infrastructure to be made available to an employee’s laptop or PDA with no corporate owned IT infrastructure aside from the laptop and PDA. Hyper Office and Google are two popular providers..
Customer Relationship Management: There are numerous options in the market to track data on customers and support the customer interaction processes. Many of the features are customizable allowing a firm to meet their needs. Net Suite and Sales Force are two popular providers..
Time Reporting: These solutions provide time entry, expense submission, tracking of projects and streamlining of payroll operations. Popular providers include Tenrox, Open Air and Replicon..
Performance Management: These solutions support the employee performance management function, such as employee goals entry, tracking progress towards personal and firm goals, and entry of performance reviews and sign-offs. Some options include Success Factors, Halogen, Clarity Systems and Long-View..
Back Office Operations: Th ere are many outsourcing firms to completely outsource the accounting function, and those are mainly based out of India, yet there are stateside options to manage payroll to include ADP, Alliance and Intuit..
Meetings: Skype and others provide video conferencing and virtual one-on-one meetings. Go To Meeting, Any Meeting and others are used to share computer screens with multiple audience members. Free Conference Calls enables a free line for audio conferencing.
BENEFITS OF USING CLOUD TECHNOLOGY
Empowerment: Ability to have control of systems and make necessary changes as opposed to central information technology (IT) support staff
Cost: Paying monthly or annual fees versus capital and operational expenditures Location: Employees can access data and conduct work with Internet connection Support: Enables sharing of resources from the service provider and ensures reliability, scalability, high performance and security with service level agreements.
Maintenance and Upgrades: The service providers constantly enhance the technology versus having internal IT staff constantly upgrading to meet business needs. Culture: Enabling flexible work schedules and telecommuting can enhance employee morale and loyalty.
Given all the advantages of cloud technology, it’s important to ensure business processes are constantly monitored to determine ways to streamline operations. If cloud technology allows a firm to have a virtual operations team, they must also figure out ways to ensure there is human interaction through social events and conference calls. Staying on the cutting edge and enabling employees to have flexible schedules is a shift in the market, yet human interaction will never be replaceable.
Seemingly everyone in the technology world, not to mention the C-suite, is talking about cloud computing. With the cloud’s perceived promise of agility, cost savings and effi ciency, these discussions aren’t surprising.
However, if one were to ask ten people, “What is cloud computing?” you would get 11 different answers. Of these answers, it’s quite likely that many of these answers will be correct, even if they vary dramatically.
While it’s convenient to have simple, user friendly catch phrases like “cloud computing,” the reality is that this blanket term spans a myriad of technologies and services. Cloud computing services cover a wide gamut of target users, functionalities, cost structures, security profiles and complexities.
In conversations with customers, the DLT Cloud Advisory Group is finding that many customers are familiar with the buzzwords. Unfortunately, when it comes to anything beyond buzzword compliance, many people are struggling with identifying exactly which aspects of cloud computing are going to provide the most value. Most people just don’t know where to begin when it comes to analyzing requirements, evaluating the diversity of cloud offerings and determining the specifics of implementation or migration.
Ignoring cloud for a moment, within the traditional data center, IT architects have a variety of tools available for creating IT services. They have RISC, x86, and ATOM and ARMbased processors. They have Windows, Linux, UNIX and mainframe operating systems.
They also have a number of choices for storage platforms, network designs, application servers, databases and development languages. The best thing about these choices is that in the hands of a skilled architect, these tools can be applied to solve real business problems.
Cloud services add a whole new collection of tools to the IT architect’s arsenal. These cloud services come in different service and delivery models, and each cloud service should be evaluated for a best fit for a new application.
Different cloud services also cater to different security profiles, developer environments, levels of control and types of applications. Each cloud service model has specific business and IT benefits, challenges and trade-off s. Before beginning to evaluate a cloud service, a common understanding of cloud terms and models is needed – a common taxonomy, if you will. To foster a common understanding of cloud computing, DLT Solutions has written Cloud Computing for Govies (http://www.dlt.com/cloudgovies). This book addresses questions like, “What is cloud computing?”; “What are the different service and delivery models?” and “What should be considered when evaluating options?”
This book removes the noise and focuses on the basics. It starts by framing the business case and provides the context for how cloud computing has emerged as a potentially compelling alternative to traditional computing models. Within this section, the difference between virtualization and cloud computing is explained – two models that are oft en mistakenly conflated. It also clarifies the different delivery models that range from on-premise, private clouds that are only available to a single agency, to Internet accessible public cloud services that are available to everyone.
There are lots of “Things as a Service” out there. When you peel back the layers of a cloud service and look at it from a target consumer and completeness of business value perspective, you will see patterns emerge. Cloud Computing for Govies breaks down the various models for cloud computing and distills them down into the three most common “as a service” models.
Namely, these three models are Soft ware, Platform, and Infrastructure as a Service. Each of these service models are given their own chapters, explaining the core benefits of each service type and providing examples of current usage within both private and public sector.
The book goes beyond the basics by presenting common cautions and considerations to keep in mind when evaluating different cloud computing platforms. For example, when evaluating cloud vendors, one should be aware that the Service Level Agreements and Terms of Service tend to be locked down and pre-defined, leaving little room for negotiation. Another tip the book provides is that when using nearly all cloud services, it is the responsibility of the consumer to monitor performance and availability. Data portability, the book goes on, can become a challenge when moving between cloud providers or even moving your data back into your own data center. The above tips and more are presented in the book along with the pros, cons, cautions and considerations for each of the three cloud service models covered in the book.
The evaluation of any technology should include a hard look at the security capabilities and how they relate to the business requirements. As such, an entire chapter is devoted to explaining the current realms of responsibility within data centers and mapping these realms to the cloud computing models. Like the different cloud services, there are a number of pros, cons, cautions and considerations when it comes to cloud security, and this chapter provides a foundation for beginning security conversations with cloud providers. In some cases, for example, security requirements may be such that public cloud is not even an option, and this chapter provides some guidance when the benefits of cloud computing are desired but the public offerings won’t suffice.
Each cloud service is designed to meet specific requirements. Some offer greater cost savings but may not provide the appropriate level of visibility, security or control. Others off er higher levels of security at the expense of elasticity and cost. The key is to find the best fit for the business requirements. The goal of Cloud Computing for Govies is to provide a solid foundation of vendor-neutral information that establishes a baseline of understanding, thereby enabling the effective selection of cloud computing.
During 1974, Special Advisor to President Nixon and Director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, Virginia Knauer, commissioned a landmark study that investigated how companies handle customer complaints. The main focus of this research was a national probability survey of 2513 households (the White House Study) conducted in 1976. This survey profiled the problems American households experienced with products/services and examined, in depth, customer complaint handling behavior.
During the 1970’s before the White House Study was conducted, business generally viewed complaint handling departments as cost centers. For this reason, relatively few corporate resources were allocated for handling customer complaints. Findings from the White House Study, however, changed this point of view significantly. Although the study found that most complaints were not being satisfactorily resolved, it also concluded that satisfactorily handled complaints could produce quite meaningful marketing benefits (continued brand loyalty, positive word of mouth communications, high ROI’s, etc.).
Therefore, during the 1980’s and 90’s American companies began to view corporate complaint handling programs as potential profit centers. This re-evaluation of the worth of complaint handling practices lead corporate America to invest hundreds of millions of additional dollars in this area. The assumption was that this money would be spent on improving complaint handling policies.
In 2011, Customer Care Measurement and Consulting (CCMC), an Alexandria, VA management consulting and survey research firm, conducted a follow-up study of 1000 U.S. households to determine if the promise of upgraded corporate complaint handling practices suggested by the White House Study had actually been fulfilled.
The 2011 survey replicated the core questions from the original 1976 study and explored such additional issues as customer rage and the fulfillment of complainant expectations. Both studies focused on the most serious customer problem experienced during the past year. The 2011 survey produced a little good news and a whole lot of bad news.
2011 Study Findings
Problem experience. Forty-five percent of the respondents reported experiencing problems with products/services during the past year as compared to the 32% problem rate in the White House Study. The reason for this increase is not poor product quality because, by all measures, product quality is significantly better today than in the 1970’s. Four other reasons, however, probably account for this increased incidence of problems.
Sensationalized stories about customer rage (e.g., both flight attendants and passengers losing control on airplanes) are reported by the media on a regular basis. Just how pervasive, however, is that phenomenon? Sixty percent of the respondents experienced rage (“extremely” or “very upset”) in connection with their most serious problem. For the majority of customers, then, rage has become a significant issue in the new millennium.
Lost Money and Time
The two principal types of damages reported concern lost money and time. When compared to 1976, there was a 22 percentage point drop in lost money damages (from 62% to 40%). On the other hand, lost time increased 51 percentage points (from 14% to 65%.
One cause for this increase in lost time is the nature of the most serious problems reported in 2011. Nineteen percent of today’s most serious problems are related to cable/ satellite TV. Here, waiting for repair service can be a major time sink. Th is product was not a meaningful cause of customer problems in the 1970’s.
For many households, lost time is a more serious issue than lost money. Not surprisingly, lost time is directly associated with customer rage.
The White House Study reported that 69% of the households experiencing problems complained to the company that caused the problem. By 2011, the percent of complaints had increased to 82%. Th is is not surprising given the adoption by American companies of aggressive complaint solicitation policies (800 number call centers, printing company contact information on product packaging, etc.).
Bupkis and double-bupkis
The Yiddish expression “bupkis,” means less than nothing. Unfortunately, “bupkis” characterizes the 47% of the 2011 study complainants who felt that they received nothing as a result of complaining. Not only did they suffer because of their problems, but also they had to waste time in the futile efforts to revolve their complaints. The table below illustrates the “doublebupkis” received by the remaining 53% of the complainants. This table compares what these complainants wanted with what they got. While it might be expected that refunds would not always be offered, non-monetary remedies such as apologies or dignified treatment were likewise in short supply. Here the bad news is that business has spent a fortune establishing supposedly upgraded complaint handling programs only to give their customers “bupkis” when they complain.
Satisfaction with Action Taken
The real bad news, and the biggest surprise of this study, is that aft er spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 30 plus years to improve corporate complaint handling programs, satisfaction with the action taken to resolve problems has actually decreased. Today complainant satisfaction has dropped to 21% as compared to 23% in 1976.
CCMC estimates that the revenue at risk as a result of not satisfying complainants’ most serious problems in 2011 exceeds $58 billion. Companies are spending millions to lose billions in future sales.
The marketing advantage of effective complaint handling policies. The only GOOD news reported by this study is that, as in the White House Study, the 2011 data document a significant marketing advantage associated with effective complaint-handling practices. While only 5% of dissatisfied complaints remain brand loyal, 58% of those who are satisfied intend to buy again. This 53 percentage point loyalty advantage should, in most cases, more than off set the cost of satisfying complainants.
Poor Execution of Right Policies
During the last three decades, much of corporate America has adopted a “check off the box” mentality toward complaint handling. Most companies have adopted the right practices but have not executed them effectively. They have not verified whether these polices are working and have, thereby, misled themselves into believing that simply taking action equates with effective policy. The irony is that in many instances spending less money (e.g., increasing first contact resolution) would actually improve performance.
The findings of this study produced both good and bad news. The good news is that satisfactorily handled complaints are still associated with high levels of brand loyalty. This supports the conclusion of the White House Study that effective complaint handling practices can lead to increased profitability. Industry leaders have validated this finding by realizing high ROI’s from their properly executed complaint handling initiatives. In such instances, adoption of “best practices” has had a positive impact on the bottom line. The BAD news, however, is that corporate complaint handling can be a double-edged sword. Ineffective policies lead to decreased levels of brand loyalty and negative ROI’s. Unfortunately, this study finds that, from a macro-standpoint, complaint handling practices have proven ineffective. Levels of complainant satisfaction are lower today than in the mid-1970’s when complaint handling departments were generally viewed as corporate backwaters.
Today, most companies have adopted many of the correct polices but have failed in the execution of these practices. Further, the upgraded investment in corporate complaint handling departments has evidently NOT kept up with customers’ expectations. The challenge in the 1970’s was to convince senior management to invest adequate resources in corporate complaint handling programs. Th is challenge was successfully met, due in large measure to the findings from the White House Study. The 2011 study, however, suggests that this was a Pyrrhic victory.
The challenge for the new millennium, then, is to take the substantial investment made by companies in upgraded complaint handling and actually make these policies work. The overall message for today is the same as it was 35 years ago…
“Do it right, or don’t do it at all.”
Brazil, the world awaits you. In being named host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, the most populous country in Latin America will have an opportunity to enhance its global economic standing. Already one of the fastest growing economies in the Western hemisphere, Brazil is now viewed as a land of great economic opportunity.
Recently, the Brazilian government launched an ambitious plan to increase R&D in certain technology markets through an increase in public and private investment. The Brazilian government also actively encourages foreign investment to help stimulate its economy. For instance, the U.S., which is one of Brazil’s biggest trade partners, has put forth a rapid increase in trade and investment in Brazil. According to a report issued by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, in 2010 Brazil was the 10th largest trade partner of the U.S., with $59 billion USD in total traded goods.
U.S. businesses are seeking to take advantage of the numerous business opportunities that are presently available in Brazil. While traditional technology sectors such as medical devices and food processing are still actively pursued by businesses exporting goods and/ or services in Brazil, high tech sectors such as nanotechnologies and telecommunications are being aggressively pursued.
This article presents a guideline for U.S. businesses seeking entry into the Brazilian market, particularly those seeking to protect its goods and services.
IN 2010 BRAZIL WAS THE 10TH LARGEST
TRADE PARTNER OF THE U.S.
Protecting Technological Innovations through Patents
The Brazilian patent system is similar to those employed by the industrialized world, and is a member of the Paris Convention and Patent Cooperation (PCT) treaties. The Instituto Nacional de Propriedade Industrial (INPI), or the National Institute of Industrial Property, is the Brazilian counterpart to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).
The INPI is the only legal body in Brazil authorized to grant patents and register trademarks and industrial designs.
Patent protection in Brazil may occur via four basic legal vehicles: patent of invention, utility model patents, industrial design and certificates of addition. Utility patent protection may be obtained under the patent of invention category. Design patent protection for products having a unique external ornamental configuration may be obtained under the industrial design registration. Patent rights are effective for a time period of 20 years, with rights for utility models and industrial designs effective for 15 years.
U.S. businesses desiring patent rights in Brazil for its technological innovations may effectuate filing in the INPI via the PCT filing system. This would permit any Brazilian patent application to thereby rely on the filing date of any corresponding U.S. patent application. By law, the patent application is held in secret until its publication, which generally occurs after 18 months of the filing date.
Obtaining a patent grant will permit the patent holder the right to exclude third parties from performing unauthorized acts in Brazil, such as manufacturing, commercialization and using the patented inventive rights. It is important to note that, although the INPI functions in a manner similar in scope to that of the USPTO, there is one huge distinction: the regulation of contractual rights concerning industrial property. Particularly in Brazil, the INPI is authorized to regulate technology transfer agreements that deal with rights filed or granted by the INPI. This means that all such agreements must meet the approval of the INPI.
Protecting Brands through Trademarks
Trademark rights may be obtained in Brazil for designations which identify a product or service. In Brazil, protection of trademarks, service marks or trade names can only be obtained by filing one or more trademark applications for registration. Since Brazil now employs an electronic filing system, such filing can be done easily and expeditiously. Once a trademark registration is obtained, trademark rights are effective for a time period of 10 years, with subsequent renewals indefinitely. There are some distinctions between the U.S. and Brazilian trademark systems. For instance, in Brazil, there is only one legal vehicle for obtaining protection of trademarks, service marks or trade names. By contrast, in the U.S., common law and state rights afford additional legal protection to infringement of rights by competitors. Because there are no common law rights in Brazil based on first use of the trade or service mark in Brazilian commerce. Trademark rights in Brazil is given to the first party to file the application for registration.
Due to the aforementioned distinctions, it is imperative to formulate a clearly defined legal strategy for filing for trademark protection before exporting products or services in Brazil. Such a legal strategy should seek to exploit Brazil’s first-to-file system in a manner which effectively prevents any subsequent application for the same or similar brand. This should be done through the filing of a trademark application for registration as early as possible.
Due to its economic growth and huge consumer market, Brazil is certainly ripe for exploration by U.S. businesses. Before entry into the Brazilian market, however, it is prudent to protect your technological innovations and brands.
By Craig Durosko and Bob Gallagher | Photography by Michael Vonal
We Washingtonians love to brag that our region is more recession proof than any other part of the country. Certainly the steady flow of federal dollars into our economy helps, giving employees of local companies more dollars to spend on just about everything–food, clothing, entertainment, travel and, thank you very much, home remodeling.
Washington does have an advantage. We have the highest median household economy of any region in the country. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, five of the 10 richest jurisdictions in the U.S. are right here– Fairfax, Loudoun and Howard counties as well as Falls Church and Fairfax City. At the top of the list is Great Falls where half of households earn a quarter-million dollars or more. Localeconomy guru Stephen Fuller at George Mason University says that more than $80 billion in federal contracting dollars will flow into our region this year.
Prices can be high here, but if you consider the ratio of income to cost of housing and other essentials, it is affordable for millions of people. With low unemployment, people come here for jobs. And, many are here on their second careers – after government or military service. All good, right? Well, the only problem is that if you are a regional company like Sun Design, all of your competitors are right here in the Metro area enjoying the same relatively upbeat economy. But it’s a big enough market for just about everyone if you know how to navigate it.
We’ve been in business here for 23 years and we’ve learned a few things along the way about surviving and thriving in this great – but super-competitive – region. We’ve gone from a one-person shop in 1988 (when Craig was 18 years old) to a mid-sized business of about 45 employees with annual income of about $8 million. We’ve weathered three recessions. Last year was Sun Design’s third best year in revenue and 2011 is going to be even better. In late fall/ early winter, we’re opening up our second office, in McLean, to make ourselves more accessible to clients, especially in light of the region’s heavy traffic.
Riding the Wave
Recently we did a study of our customer base and found that, no surprise, many of our clients are government employees. Our experience has shown also that with good schools, cohesive neighborhoods and other perks, people tend to stay in their homes for a long time (except those on military rotation of course). We’ve also had clients who are executives at some of the largest private sector companies in the region: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, CACI, SAIC, Exxon Mobil and many other companies, large and small. Among the many lessons we’ve learned along the way, these stand out: the importance of ready cash, the value of intensive marketing, building a great company culture, making our financials transparent to all employees, getting accurate customer feedback and educating ourselves and our clients.
The Importance of Ready Cash
The construction and remodeling businesses, like most other industries in the region, are very tough, and recent downturns in the economy have not made them any easier. But the single most important buffer is cash. We have always reinvested 90 percent of our net income back into the business. People often mistakenly overextend — like buying their own building too soon — and hope that future profits will carry them over. Revenue is not really cash, of course, until you put expenses against it. Since we started our business, we’ve watched a number of our competitors fall by the wayside because they grew too quickly. As a rule of thumb, we keep enough cash on hand to weather the ups and downs of a fickle local economy.
If your clients, prospects, vendors, investors, networking associates and other important influentials don’t hear from you on a regular basis, they will forget about you or, even worse, assume you are no longer in business. You must have a solid and diverse marketing program to reach out to all of your audiences. In addition to running a great website (that’s a given for any company) we do direct marketing, run a consistent public relations program to get major stories in the regional and local press, we employ social media where appropriate and, very important, we host over a dozen free events each year. They include home tours (to show off our remodeling work), and networking events and open houses at our offices. The open houses feature free courses on remodeling topics and great food. Attendance at events has been excellent (sometimes standing room only) and has resulted in significant new business. We send out e-blasts and e-newsletters (event invitations, how-to articles and news) to a relatively large list of people, targeted very specifically to the type of remodeling that interests them.
Building a Great Culture
Businesses brag that “people are our most important assets.” If it’s true, good. If not, there will be a stampede out of your door in the direction of your competitors. Sun Design is known for having a great corporate culture and a staff that clients love to work with. It starts with good hires. The hiring process is something we never delegate. While potential employees interview with numerous staff members, we two owners always have the last word. Many hiring managers end up hiring people just like themselves – that’s a mistake that just broadens your weaknesses. We have a hard-working but fun culture and we hire for attitude, values and organizational fit as much as for skills and experience. Clients can tell right away whether your employees are satisfied and engaged — employee work is of a higher quality and team members are a pleasure to deal with. One of the lessons we could have learned sooner was the value of intense and very focused training. While we have always trained our staff in making the customer experience great, it is only within the past few years that we have made it the foundation for everything we do. Every employee in our company is, in effect, a salesperson and a customer service representative whose primary role is to ensure that deadlines are met, promises kept and expectations exceeded. We even have a “Director of First Impressions” to help guide clients smoothly into the remodeling process.
Like many companies, we stage employee social events, sales contests and other morale building activities. Recently we held a competition in which the winners got to pelt the authors of this article with pies (oddly enough, the whole staff enjoyed the spectacle!). But morale and team-building at Sun Design is more than fun and games. We want our employees to understand how their work affects the whole company. As such, we open our financials to ALL of our employees in monthly meetings. It’s called “open-book management,” regularly providing employees with financial data (except salaries) and other information so they can understand their work in the context of the whole organization. We set sales and income targets and if the company meets those goals, employees share in the profits. Rewards range from a few hours pay to as much as two week’s worth. Since we opened our books many years ago, we have seen employees more engaged and motivated. It also has enabled us to be more accurate in “forward forecasting” revenue, anticipating possible hurdles and customer needs because we have input from the whole team. Many practitioners like Sun Design base their methods on the book The Great Game of Business, by Jack Stack, who says that only a small percentage of U.S. companies open their books to employees, but that 83 percent of companies that his organization identifies as Top Small Company Workplaces do. Opening the books may seem counterintuitive at first. Many executives worry about sharing numbers with employees and then having the employees leave the company. We have a different approach: Owners should be more concerned if they don’t share the numbers and the employees stay!
In any business that depends in large part on referrals (don’t they all?) knowing what your audiences think about you is critical. We know what our clients think of us because we ask them. In addition to us asking our clients to grade our performance throughout the project, we use a third-party service to take regular surveys of our clients to produce scores that we can track. One of the things we ask them is if they plan to refer us to others – of which nearly 100% do!
Educating ourselves and our clients
Customers also count on us to be experts on the ways in which people live in their homes. For example, an older couple planning to stay in their home might have very different requirements than a young family in their first house. We need to make sure we don’t underdesign or overdesign our remodel and we do that by working hard to know the customer before we make even the first design decision. Even a house where only two people live may have 25 or more people during holidays or other times. More people are working from home today making home offices more common. Tubs are giving way to spa-like showers. People prepare food while guests are with them in the kitchen. Formal living rooms are not as popular because people want open spaces in which to entertain. They want greener materials and smarter energy use. So what we do is listen closely to our clients and develop their specific and exciting plan for the way they and their family want to live their lifestyles. What we are moving toward in our business is bringing people together. Remodeling just happens to be the way we do it.
Our goal is to grow a company that will outlast the owners, a permanent place where the quality of work, integrity, job satisfaction and fun are second to none.
Nobody wants to be embarrassed when doing business in another country. Yes, translating your company’s website into the languages of the countries that you’d like to do business with is important, but beyond that you need to understand the country’s culture. What if you reach to shake the hand of a new Japanese business acquaintance, and you were actually supposed to bow to that person? Or what if you give a Japanese business acquaintance a clock as a gift? We need to develop cultural knowledge, cultural awareness, and cultural sensitivity to improve cross-cultural competence.
History 101—It’s important to gain cultural knowledge of the country where you want to conduct business by understanding the people’s history, values, belief systems, and behaviors. Be aware of holidays, and religious days in foreign countries – many religious holidays are official government holidays. Understand that country’s cultural norms about age groups – be respectful of the older generation. Also, keep in mind that meal times vary from country to country. In Argentina, dinner generally takes place at 9 p.m. or later. It’s important to be aware of this so that you don’t invite your business acquaintances for dinner too early. Cultural awareness—Bring down the cultural barriers through cultural awareness. Develop an understanding of the people of the country where you want to conduct business. Clear out any stereotypes that you’ve developed about that country so that you can be open and flexible towards the people. Becoming culturally aware begins with understanding the limitations of our own cultural knowledge.
Don’t be lost in translation—Be aware of the cultural differences and similarities by developing cultural sensitivity. Respect counterparts’ meeting times – time and punctuality tend to be more relaxed and flexible in some Latin American countries. Provide communications in the language of the country you are working with. Make sure you use a translation company so that you will receive professional translation. There have been too many incidents of companies sending out poor translations that insulted the people of that country.
Get local—Work with an interpreter if your business acquaintance does not speak English. For instance in Germany, many meetings are conducted in German. Also in Germany, make sure that your brochures are in English and German. And if you are writing an email or letter to schedule an appointment, make sure it’s in German. Recently, UNO Translations and Communications, LLC used a German interpreter to plan the logistics of an American company’s event in Germany. Embrace the Happy Hour—Work on the relationship first – to build trust. Be prepared to socialize. A 3-hour lunch is common in Latin America because they want to further a personal relationship before doing business together. Be aware that the physical distance between Hispanics when holding a conversation is much shorter than in other cultures.
The customer experience • def: a customer journey which makes the customer feel happy, satisfied, justified, with a sense of being respected, served and cared for, according to his/ her expectation or standard, starting from first contact and through the whole relationship. Some have suggested that the customer experience is the single most important aspect in achieving success for companies across all industries. And the C-suite is devoted to improving the customer experience. Or is it? Consider the following examples:
In pursuit of a better customer experience, an European food and beverage company decides to “in-source” its toll free customer care center, which it has outsourced for many years. The task force created to manage this transition establishes three goals: (1) improve service quality and increase customer satisfaction; (2) lower costs; and, (3) expand and enhance the service.
This company has never measured customer satisfaction with the existing outsourced customer care center, it hasn’t quantified the supposed brand loyalty benefits of this service channel, and it hasn’t conducted a formal cost-benefit analysis of growing and improving this service. The first official act of the task force – made in the name of minimizing distractions – is to postpone any and all customer surveys until the new contact center is opened and the call volume is under control.
A multinational business-to-business manufacturer discovers that product quality is suffering because employees are skeptical about and demotivated by the company’s commitment to a target of “zero product defects.” It’s not the target they are mocking, but senior leadership’s commitment to providing the resources required to meet an unrealistic lofty standard. Locked in a boardroom for a few weeks to develop an innovative plan, a group of rather weary executives emerges with a new, improved, and customer-centric approach to product quality. Signs are printed, speeches written, and town hall meetings scheduled. The new strategy? 100% satisfaction – guaranteed.
A major U.S. retailer intends to invest many mil¬lions to enrich its national cus¬tomer relations contact center. The strategy is to invite store visitors to contact a special 800 customer care number if they have a question or problem while shopping. Prior to launching this initiative, the company fields a customer satisfaction survey. The principal finding: Awful service in the stores is a primary cause of customer dissatisfaction and decreased brand loyalty. The company dismisses the finding about lousy retail service and marches forward with its campaign for a new customer care number.
A blue chip, multinational consumer goods company operates two customer contact centers which handle millions of inquiries about hundreds of different products. Citing customer satisfaction as job number one, the company embarks on an ambitious study to assess the feasibility of consolidating two centers into a single center. In teeing up the feasibility study, the executive team stipulates that the study should be robust in every way, but it’s not interested in “those satisfaction scores, which are so easy to manipulate.” For four months, two accountants argue about the correct costs of operating two centers and the “real” costs of operating one center. A third accountant is added, six more months go by, and the decision to consolidate is approved.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Veritable illustrations of the “customer experience” as lip service. Genuine stories of C-suite plans for creating experiences sans the customer. In each instance, senior management has either removed the “customer” from the “experience” or relegated the customer to the “back of the line.”
And one of the common threads running through these and similar stories is the C-suite’s disdain for or misunderstanding of the customer survey data. To be sure, most companies like to do surveys; they just don’t know how to effectively use the results.
Alarmingly–as demonstrated in the above anecdotes–it’s not unusual for the C-suite to view the voice of the customer data as a distraction, an unnecessary burden, or a biased indicator (especially if the results challenge conventional wisdom). That’s a shame. Used correctly, the results of customer surveys offer the C-suite a powerful and practical management tool for investing in the customer experience.
In our 30 years of experience, we’ve observed that those companies achieving the best ROI for their customer experience investments are flush with customer survey data and resistant to the temptation to “dumb down” their business case for a better customer experience. In particular, the leadership of these exceptional companies is rooted in four unique habits in the use of customer survey data.
Feedback In Perpetuity
It’s all about immersing the organization in customer feedback.
Customer-driven leaders use the voice of the customer to discern those actions that lie in the intersection of a “good customer experience” and “an optimal ROI.” They go far beyond the platitudes of being customercentric and put belief systems and processes in place to institutionalize an intentional, formal, and systematic way of listening to and then acting on the voice of the customer. Clinging to the aspiration of creating a customer-driven organization (not an organization that is people-, place-, or point-in-time-driven), they always invest in listening to the voice of the customer. It’s not an every-so-often thing. It’s not a line item in the budget that’s subject to veto during lean times. It’s not postponed during a crisis for fear of lower scores. And it’s not delayed due to internal resource constraints. The best leaders don’t compromise their voice of the customer efforts to accommodate short-term inconveniences, marketplace conditions, or organizational upheaval.
Engineering A Better Customer Experience: Part Science & Part Art
Given that companies have been fielding customer surveys for decades, you might expect that they’re pretty good at it; that they know what and how to measure the customer experience and how to interpret the results. Not so fast.
First, good customer experience data must be precise and trustworthy. And – here of late – the “mad scientist” is spending too much time in the customer experience laboratory of many companies. There’s a lot of suspect data out there. It’s a customer survey frenzy in today’s marketplace (I have one client that fielded more than 200 customer surveys in a four year period!). An increased reliance on web surveys coupled with the widespread availability of “easy-to-use” survey tools has decreased a respect for and an adherence to scientific standards. Rigor is frequently compromised to “get the survey out.” And while anyone can conduct surveys today, not everyone should.
Second, contrary to corporate wisdom, survey data about the customer experience are not actionable, in and of themselves. In other words, data doesn’t take action – people do. The survey won’t tell you what to do. “Actionable” isn’t a property of the survey results as much as it is an outcome of careful and deliberate thinking about the survey results and intentional and widespread sharing of the results.
Data analysis is complex. It shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. It shouldn’t be a private, individual activity. The best analysis – the sort that invites action – is social and interactive. It takes advantage of all the benefits of group dynamics.
I think that the management guru Peter Drucker had it right. Most of the time we don’t know the “objective” (read the right action to take to improve the customer experience); we need both data and reflection.
A Tolerance For Ambiguity
Customer champions are more at ease with the uncertainty that’s endemic to customer satisfaction and loyalty results. Everyone appreciates certainty. Facts. Unequivocal outcomes. Truisms. Yet, when it comes to survey results, it’s fair to say that it’s often a murky and muddled world. Survey results may indeed reveal one or two certainties – things that are essential to creating a better customer experience. However, the vast majority of these data will yield a “maybe.” Companies that consistently enjoy higher customer satisfaction and loyalty performance are typically led by a C-suite that is more comfortable with such uncertainty. When the results are equivocal, these companies neither fear nor attempt to discredit the data. Instead, they impose their wisdom of the business and a business case-mentality on top of the data.
An Appetite For Considered Risk
Customer satisfaction and loyalty leaders are usually less risk averse. They’re at ease with and demonstrate a greater willingness to take calculated risks to improve the customer experience. Why shouldn’t they be? They possess plenty of data and, when necessary, a maturity to work with the mixed messages that accompany customer feedback.
At least part of this mindset – one of being less risk averse – certainly owes to framing their investments in the customer experience in terms of a cost-benefit calculation. Leaders know the costs and benefits of a lesser and better customer experience. As a result, it’s considerably easier for them to connect the dots between what customers need, what must be done to meet those needs, and what the cost-benefit of fulfilling those needs is.
Despite good intentions, many companies today are doomed to delivering a mediocre customer experience because they have been failed by their senior management. Smitten with oversimplifying the complexity of the customer experience – and favoring decision-making shortcuts – many executives set their customers, employees, and shareholders up for disappointment by taking the “customer” out of the “experience.”
So, the economy is sputtering and perhaps your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped. Perhaps you think it’s time to start cracking the whip. Well, think again. If you want to increase profits, you might want to check out the field of positive psychology.
Positive psychology is about making the lives of people more productive and fulfilling by identifying and nurturing their highest talents—not about treating mental illness like traditional psychology. It’s a new branch of study that was championed by Martin Seligman, who is often referred to as the father of positive psychology.
So, why should we business leaders be interested? Because we can add to the bottom line while creating a company with a culture that is more enjoyable for all, including management. A study conducted by Alex Edmans of the Wharton School of Business has shown that corporations listed in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” have equity returns that are 3.5% per year higher than others. Put simply, employee satisfaction directly correlates with returns to shareholders. Likewise, as a result of decades of clinical trials, we now know that feeling happy reduces workplace errors, increases productivity, and reduces employee turnover and absenteeism—all of which positively impact the bottom line.
“Our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive, ” says Shawn Archor in his book, The Happiness Advantage: the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. Biologically, when we release dopamine and serotonin, the learning centers in the brain perform well, better organize new information, retain new information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster.
Barbara L. Fredrickson, professor of psychology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that humans are most creative when our minds are flooded with a stay-and-create chemical—quite possibly dopamine—the opposite of the well-known “fight or flight” response. The “stay-and-create” chemical makes us more receptive to new ideas, more likely to explore, more flexible, and more likely to deepen relationships. This, as one might imagine, results in greater teamwork and mutual respect. Fredrickson’s theory is that “fight or flight” historically helped us avoid being eaten alive, but that civilizations were created via a more enlightened “broaden-and-build” state of mind.
5 Elements of Well-being
According to Seligman, the goal of positive psychology is well being. Well-being is described as having the following five main elements.
1. Positive emotion. This one is self explanatory—It’s simply feeling good.
2. Engagement. Also called “flow.” Flow is when you feel one with your work. It is also called “being in the zone,” and is characterized by losing all track of time. Those who achieve flow will say they have a strong purpose and a love for what they do. Getting into the flow is best served by using our “Signature Strengths,” explained below.
3. Meaning. Having a purpose in life—this happens when we belong to or serve something that we think is bigger than ourselves.
4. Accomplishment. The mastery and achieving of goals for the sake of the accomplishment. It involves grit, or stick-to-it-ness, which has been found to guide accomplishment even more than intelligence. According to Seligman, studies show “self-discipline counts for twice as much variance as IQ” in accomplishment.
5. Relationships. Relationships bring a sense of community and a sense of connectedness to others.
What are Signature Strengths? In the workplace, studies have shown that human strength—not the absence of weaknesses—are the keys to productivity, increased job satisfaction, and reduced turnover. Signature strengths are our top innate strengths, and are likely the signature by which we are known. Examples of signature strengths are: perseverance, integrity, critical thinking, kindness, and ingenuity. Feelings that might signify we are using a signature strength might include feeling like “this is the real me,” having a feeling of excitement when using that strength, or experiencing a sense of inevitability while using it. When people capitalize on their signature strengths, they tend to be happier and more satisfied. Gallup Studies have shown that companies whose employees are encouraged to use their strongest skills are the most successful.
The Growth of Positive Psychology: Positive psychology is now making its way into many different fields, such as the Military, education, law, medicine, politics, engineering, the arts, and business. Many universities offer courses in positive psychology, and several offer degrees specializing in positive psychology including the University of Pennsylvania, Claremont University, and the University of East London. The University of Pennsylvania, where Seligman is currently the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center, offers a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP degree). 60% of alumni with MAPP degrees return to their original area of work, spreading positive psychology into different fields.
A great example of positive psychology in the corporation is Zappos, international shoe and apparel eTailer. I am a big fan of Zappos, and according to Business Week and Forbes, they are one of the best places to work. Tony Hsieh, CEO, used positive psychology to make Zappos such a wonderful place to be employed.
So how is selling shoes online meaningful? For Hsieh, it’s not about shoes—it’s about delivering happiness to customers and employees. He delivers happiness to his customers in the form of amazing customer service. Zappos employees strive to deliver “Wow!” and are trusted to do the right thing with customers in regard to making decisions to please each customer. Uniquely, if you call Zappos, you will be talking to a person without scripts – they are trusted to use their best judgment to fulfill the charter for best customer service. Zappos delivers an acclaimed culture and work environment to its employees. Hsieh integrated elements of positive psychology into his culture and operationally in a way that is enviable. Here’s a short peek into Zappos:
- Working at Zappos feels purposeful. Delivering happiness is big and it’s bold. The company has values that are more than lip service or, as Hsieh puts it, not “just a plaque in the lobby” but values that have been operationally and culturally integrated. Here are their values:
o Deliver WOW through Service
o Embrace and Drive Change
o Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
o Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-minded
o Pursue Growth and Learning
o Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
o Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
o Do More with Less
o Be Passionate and Determined
o Be Humble
- Social interaction is increased in many ways. For example, before employees can log into their computers in the morning, they must identify the “mystery employee” whose photo is displayed on their computer screens. Everyone gets to be that mystery employee at some time. In this way workers get to know the names and the faces other employees whom they may not meet otherwise. In addition, there is only one entrance at headquarters. The other entrances in the building have been turned into emergency exits. All employees entering through the same door greatly increases happenstance interactions between employees.
These are just a few of many Zappos examples. I highly recommend reading, Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, and checking out the The Zappos Family 2010 Culture Book (which you can order for free at from culturebook.org).
With the success of the book, Delivering Happiness has now evolved into its own company, with the sole purpose to grow a global movement to spread and inspire happiness at work, in communities and everyday life.
If you want to learn even more strategies to use for your own business, Zappos recently created a whole new branch of their organization, Zappos Insights and DH@work, which can be found at www.zapposinsights.com and deliveringhappiness.com. Through these programs, they are sharing with the world the secret sauce that makes Zappos a great place to work, and ways other companies can successfully apply happiness as a business model. Already, the program has helped many businesses, which report an increase in sales and morale almost immediately.
As much as we are learning about ways that we can be happier, we also have many beliefs regarding ways we can be happier that simply aren’t true. Here are a few widespread myths about achieving happiness.
Getting the best will make me happy.
One of the most persistent myths of happiness is that getting the “best,” will make us happier. Barry Schwartz, in his book The Paradox of Choice, points out that there are two types of decision makers—Satisficers (someone who attempts to meet a decision criteria for adequacy) and Maximizers. Maximizers try to make the best decision every time—they look for the best mate, the best job, and so on. Satisficers make a decision once they satisfy their criteria. They are satisfied if they find a restaurant that has the qualities they want, instead of searching for the #1 restaurant available. But while Maximizers are paralyzed and can’t make a decision until they have thoroughly examined every option, Satisficers have eaten a delicious meal and are happily moving along to the next big thing.
More money will make me happy.
When we do not have enough money to pay the bills, we know and studies show our sense of well-being decreases. But once bills are paid and there is a margin of disposable income, people in general (and those who are very wealthy) actually fare about the same on the happiness scale. Clearly, money plays a serious role to the negative—that is, if we seriously lack money we are less happy—but it’s much less impactful to the positive. A good example of this can be found in the behavior of lottery winners. Studies have shown that their happiness spikes when they first win, but months later their happiness levels are similar to where they were prior to winning. In other words, we tend to return to our usual happiness level in a matter of months regardless of the amount of winnings.
I will be happy as soon as I _________.
You fill in the blank. I will be happy when I meet Mr. (or Ms.) Wonderful. I will be happy when I make law partner. I will be happy when I wear a size 4. In Arrival Fantasy, Tal Ben-Shahar explains that the “arrival fallacy” is a fallacy because the arriving actually rarely makes you as happy as you expect.
Now for the nitty gritty. How can you bring happiness to our company and to your culture?
- Find a larger purpose that your company can rally around. Zappos isn’t simply selling shoes—they deliver happiness.
- Create an environment that inspires, and motivation will follow. Build your culture and your brand around what stand for, and integrate it into your operations. Take every opportunity to speak about your culture and brand within—and outside of—your company. Then live it. As one worker in an enviable work environment said, “I would have come in as a dishwasher to be in this environment.” Now that’s inspiration.
- Foster a strong sense of community and a deep belief in your people.
- Hire for strengths—and screen for strengths during the recruitment process.
- Let employees be themselves as much as possible.
- Find ways to apply existing strengths in new ways. Move employees if necessary.
- Ask employees for ideas about positive changes. What do they want to do? In what environment do they feel most comfortable and happy? What ideas do they have for the company? How can they bring the most value to the company?
- Read Tribal Leadership, Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. Being part of a “tribe” and having a shared purpose—propelled by values across your company and employees—is big. It helps strengthen relationships and fulfill the need to be part of something important.
- Have fun. Southwest Airline’s CEO and cofounder, Herb Kelleher, built a company where celebrations are a normal part of business. Southwest—in the meantime—grew revenue by almost 400% in the last decade. Celebrations can be small, spontaneous, or all-out affairs. In another Zappos example, it is commonplace for a department to have impromptu parades. That may not be appropriate for every company’s culture, but adding more fun to your culture—in your own way—adds to positive feelings and camaraderie.
- Look for Positive Deviance. Find pockets of individual successes where a problem is being solved differently and employ more widely.
- Start all meetings positively. Ask managers and participants the three things that are going well in their departments.
- Use teamwork. In the past decade, business has seen large growth in productivity because of teamwork, which has taken larger hold in business. This is primarily driven by the technology business that requires teams at every stage of development. This shift has been followed by many other business sectors, as well. When working in teams, weaknesses do not matter nearly as much as they do when someone is working as an individual because the team can still function effectively. Also, working in teams makes people happy.
- Be more positive than negative. Sure, there are negative things we need to focus on, but change the ratio. Several recent studies have shown that negative occurrences are more powerful than positive. You need to outnumber the “bad” with the “good.” Marcial Losada calculated that the tipping point need for positive feelings and experiences is 2.9013 positive interactions/occurrences for every negative one, coined the “Losada Line.” And, for workgroups, the research shows that a ratio of 6 to 1 is where teams produce their very best work. You don’t have to ignore the negative, but remembering to note the positive will shift morale.
- Give employees chances to succeed and achieve. Consider followings Zappo’s lead on this one. They used to promote their merchandise assistants to assistant buyers every 18 months, as long as they met all the requirements to qualify. Currently, after gaining more understanding of human nature, they give smaller promotions every six months with a large promotion occurring at the 18-month mark. The result is the same in terms of training, certification, and pay, but employees are happier because there have an ongoing sense of progress.
Still Unconvinced? Here’s More Science.
Happiness can actually be seen—in the form of brain-scanning technology, which has confirmed the effect of positive psychology exercises in studies.
“The adage that we become what we think is more than an expression – it’s a scientific fact,” says Kristi Hedges, leadership coach and author, Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Hedges explains that neuroscience has shown that what we consistently think creates synaptic connections that become a veritable path of least resistance in the brain. This has tremendous implications for people, and deserves to be taken seriously and developed strategically. There’s even an entire field dubbed neuroleadership that’s emerged.
In Hedges’ book, she discusses that in the corporate world we have tended to delegitimize positive conceptualization or self-talk as a New Age indulgence. But think of athletes. We admire their ability to visualize a successful outcome and to mentally propel themselves to achieve. The reason positive thinking works for them is the reason it works for all of us. If we think we can win, we’ll embody that thought and change our actions. And each time we are actually creating neural pathways and eventually, with repetition, they become the path of least resistance.
The trick for changing your brain, and subsequent behavior, is to approach positive thoughts with focus and deliberation. For most of us, this requires structural changes and systems to keep the ideas top of mind. This can be as simple as scheduling five minutes each morning to reflect on the tone you want to set for your day, or as involved as meeting with a coach or mentor regularly. Feedback can be a valuable catalyst to test and refine a person’s thinking.
Need a Bit of Help to Get Going?
Leadership is critical to a positive work environment and is essential to bringing out the strengths of the workforce. If you want a jumpstart, you may consider getting some outside expertise. There are many good coaching and consulting companies that are specifically trained to help you or your employees increase happiness and shift culture. Coaches who are trained in such things can often facilitate change more quickly.
Local Washington DC Coach/Trainer, Shannon Polly, a graduate of the MAPP program at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a suite of workshops for companies to achieve optimal performance using positive psychology techniques. One workshop Polly led for Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa incorporated the strengths research of Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Chris Peterson, as well as Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which is a change management technique created by Dr. David Cooper rider in the 1980s. The workshop for the Westin Savannah had 100 employees for a day, and the process guided attendees to discover their strengths so they could leverage them and envision the future they wanted to create. The hotel manager was amazed at the level of engagement from the part-time employees, especially.
Finding a coach/consultant that can have such an effect on your business is not difficult. Search online or use the International Coach Federation’s referral service of credentialed coaches at coachfederation.org. And, Of course, Kristi Hedges and Shannon Polly, mentioned above, are also local DC coaches. Either way, good luck on your path to delivering happiness and increasing your company’s success.
The Coaches Interviewed
Executive coach, leadership development consultant, author
The Hedges Company
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach with a specialty in executive communications, and the author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Her workshops and leadership coaching programs have been utilized by CEOs and teams in companies spanning the Fortune 500, government, non-profit and small businesses. She is also a founding partner in the leadership development firm, Element North, and a leadership contributor for Forbes.com.
2010 Corporate Ridge Drive, STE 700
McLean, VA 22102
Shannon M. Polly, MAPP
Trainer, Consultant and Coach
Accentuate Consulting, does corporate training and coaching in two areas: communication skills (using theatrical techniques) and optimal workplace performance (using positive psychology techniques). They have designed a suite of workshops for companies on such topics as Strengths-Based Managing, the Neuroscience of Change, Positive Communications & Feedback and Optimism & Resilience.
1117 10th Street, NW, STE W2Washington, DC 20001
Callout Box #1:
Some Great Reads
Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Tony Hseih
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman
Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, Kristi Hedges
The Happiness Advantage: the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Archor
Tribal Leadership, Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright
Callout Box #2:
Strength Assessment Tests
Via Signature Strengths
Clifton Strength Finder
Archor, Shawn, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
Fredrickson , Barbara, Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive
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Turkish Airlines was formed in 1933 with just four planes on its fleet. Today, the company is one of Europe’s biggest and as of 2011 its best airline. Plaudits abound as THY seeks to continue its growth and standing within the industry as being the leader in both its bottom line, its impeccable service and presence on the global stage.We spoke with Temel Kotil, a former aeronautics engineer and current CEO of Turkish Airlines and asked him about his future plans for Turkish Airlines.
The non-stop flights to Istanbul from Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York have been a big draw to THY, what took so long? First of all, I would like to specify that the demand of our customers defines our strategy of growth. The growth of fleet in number and size—the growth of our network—made it necessary to open new destinations, especially in the United States.
What was the attraction to D.C. as a major hub for THY? Who is the main target of THY’s new routes?
The major hub of Turkish Airlines is Istanbul. The main target of THY’s new routes will cover networks all around the world, besides dominating the market through this wide network and the youngest fleet of Europe. Considering the United States, if you focus on the ethnic structure of Washington−the Ethiopian community, Persian and Indian communities−their homelands are THY’s most effective destinations. D.C. is one of the top political centers in the world. This creates an attraction and a natural flow from all around the world, especially administrative and global organizations and institutions, i.e., the Federal government, IMF, World Bank, etc. They all have the potential for providing international passengers.
What are your plans for in-flight services? Wi-Fi on the horizon?
On B777 operated routes, we have full AVOD IFE systems available with individual screens that allow passengers to enjoy close to 350 films, short programs and up to 600 CDs, as well as interactive games. Additionally, we have in-flight connectivity which enables passengers to send and receive text messages and e-mail. The news channel offers passengers world news, including economic, financial and celebrity news, as well as the weather report in text form. Starting with B777 airplanes, we’re also working on providing Wi-Fi internet, Live TV and SMS/GPRS services, but those services have not been yet activated.
Tell us a bit more about the Flying Chefs.
Turkish Airlines is one of the first airlines to introduce the “Flying Chef” system. We bring the high quality of the Turkish DO&CO dishes from the start of the production to serving passengers with our own chefs. Our aim is to create the best possible service and the best possible kitchen in the air. It is essential that all our chefs are professional, that they have the right expertise and, above all, that they love to cook! It’s an incredible surprise for the guests on board when asked for the first time by a chef how they would enjoy their steak. The positive feedback we have already received shows that we are on the right track.
What is different on board?
We have limited galley space and equipment. We have a few hot air ovens on board. For safety reasons we are not allowed to use open heat. So there is no possibility to grill steaks or deep fry something. But with the right training with the on-board equipment, we can create the same experience a customer would expect from a restaurant. Our main goal is to create the same high food standards of a restaurant, and the passenger should not realize any differences in the food on board. What we want is to surprise our customers with new service standards, new food styles, new ways of serving and hospitality. At the moment, 108 flying chefs are serving on all long-haul flights for Turkish Airlines.
I understand that flight attendants are required to attend a full day training seminar once a month. Is customer service a central part of THY’s business culture?
We have to meet the expectations of our passengers that THY is a commercial airline. The cabin crew for Turkish Airlines gets professional assistance to provide passenger satisfaction in an effort to differentiate them from other airlines. Our cabin crews are expected to realize the importance of relations with all of the passengers. A friendly and professional approach, the correct use of body language and maximum sensitivity is our major priority.
THY fleet is young, with an average age of 6.2 years, how is that contributing to the success THY experiencing?
An average age of 6.2 years of fleet helps Turkish Airlines decrease the operational costs and improve fleet efficiency in terms of aircraft utilization and reliability. A young fleet gives the costumers a chance to enjoy the newest technology and product comfort.
Tell us about THY hiring practices. Do you hire from the local labor market? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks?
Turkish Airlines employs the candidates under the following four categories: cabin crew, cockpit crew, overseas office employees and administrative/technical department employees (general employment). We outsource our internal services (security, cleaning, etc.). This approach gives us the chance to focus on our main business, and contributes in terms of cost and speed.
What are Turkish Airline’s main priorities in the coming decade?
Our main priority is to become an air carrier with a continued growth trend above the industry average, have the most envied service levels worldwide with unit costs equal to those of low cost carriers, and to keep sales and distribution costs below industry averages.
Turkish Airlines is now the fourth largest carrier in Europe. Are you eyeing a speedy climb to the number one spot, or are you a proponent of organic growth?
This year, Turkish Airlines has been named “Best Airline Europe” and was also named winner of the categories, “Best Premium Economy Seats” and “Best Airline Southern Europe” by Skytrax. The most important source of Turkish Airlines’ growth and success is the development of new products and the service quality. Nonetheless, the flight safety that Turkish Airlines provides is the basic principal in all matters. Istanbul (Ataturk Airport) is the hub for Turkish Airlines. It is called the “Natural Hub of the World, Istanbul.” Transit passengers travelling through Istanbul have been important to increasing our company value in recent years.