Sunday, May 28, 2000

Small-business diary

Managing well ranks ahead of Net
        The Internet and e-commerce — accounting for just 3 percent of all retail — are not the solution for small businesses trying to make it in today's marketplace, an industry expert says.

        Instead, the key is basic management.

        George Cloutier, chairman and chief executive officer of American Management Services Inc., said a small business must be fundamentally sound before it launches into the Web. Otherwise, any problems only will be exacerbated.

        Mr. Cloutier has generated more than $1 million in savings for his 5,000 clients, 40 percent of those being family-owned businesses — in 400 industries. On the topic of fundamentals, he offers these observations: Most small business owners do not know how to make a profit, focusing on the top line (sales, number of employees, new equipment) rather than the bottom line (profits).

        Many small-business owners pull out the company checkbook at the first sign of trouble, but rarely can a com pany finance its way out of problems.

        To succeed, small-business owners must be willing to change in order to fill their niche in the evolving market.

        An estimated 850,000 new small businesses open each year, contributing to a total of 23 million in the United States today.

10 traits of good workplace listed
        Employee development is an important part of running a successful business. But just how well does your business support its workers?

        Susan H. Gebelein, senior vice president of Personnel Decisions International and author of the Successful Executive's Handbook, offers 10 characteristics of a good workplace environment:

        • Open discussion with people about their performance and development needs are common.

        • People feel they get honest feedback.

        • People feel responsible to focus and meet their objectives.

        • Leaders encourage others to take appropriate risks to pursue learning.

        • People are willing to try new things.

        • New ideas and fresh perspectives are welcome.

        • People can challenge the status quo.

        • The culture encourages people to do new things.

        • People are held accountable for meeting objectives and delivering on commitments.

        • People trust their leaders' actions to match their words.

Filling manager slots takes longer
       Employers filling vacancies left by managers and executives are spending 40 percent more time doing so than they did two years ago, according to data collected by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based employment consulting firm.

        In the first quarter of 2000, the median length of time it took to recruit a new employee was 3.58 months. During the same quarter in 1998, the median length of time was 2.55 months.

        Common sense might suggest the tight labor market is to blame for the lengthy job search times. Challenger Gray chief executive officer John Challenger offers another explanation: pickiness.

        “Employers may be shifting from the hire-any-warm-body policy, despite ongoing labor shortages, since they likely found such decisions harmful to productivity and expansion plans rather than helpful,” he said.

        The Challenger Gray quarterly survey is based on data collected from 3,000 manag ers and executives discharged by their employers.

— Gannett News Service and the Associated Press


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