Tiny adjustments can make a big difference. Sometimes if you just slow down a little bit, you’ll see big gains:
- American Airlines is saving $4 million by having their planes taxi with only one engine on.
- Southwest slowed its flights by one to three minutes and is saving $42 million.
- Con-Way Freight shaved 3 mph off the top speed of their trucks and saved $13.3 million and are only adding 20-30 minutes to shipments.
The obvious application for churches might be to drive the church bus slower, but I’m thinking bigger picture. Instead of focusing all your energy and effort on the big splash, focus on the little things.
This should be encouraging advice for cash-, volunteer- and time-strapped churches that can’t pull of the big splash. It’s OK if you can’t. Instead, focus on the little things. Communicate consistently. Double-check your work. Greet people with a smile. These small steps will have a much bigger impact with less effort than any massive initiative you could launch.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
Office workers have grown accustomed to knowing the intimate details of each other’s lives—from a colleague’s favorite cat video to a boss’s vacation fiasco.
Now a small but growing number of private-sector firms are letting employees in on closely held company secrets: revealing details of company financials, staff performance reviews, even individual pay—and in doing so, walking a tightrope between information and TMI, or too much information.
The warts-and-all approach, most often found in startups, builds trust among workers and makes employees more aware of how their particular contribution affects the company as a whole, advocates say.
Employees at SumAll, a Manhattan data-analytics company, can click on a shared drive to peruse investor agreements, company financials, performance appraisals, hiring decisions and employee pay, along with each worker’s equity and bonuses.
SumAll Chief Executive Dane Atkinson says the company was launched as an open enterprise. He and his co-founders reasoned that people work more efficiently when freed of doubts about salary, and better understand their individual contribution to the whole group.
Anyone hired into the company must be comfortable with the system, he says.
The company’s 30 or so employees are each assigned to one of nine fixed salaries, which range from about $35,000 for the lowest paid to $120,000 for the highest. Raises occur companywide, determined by performance and market conditions.
“It’s not like you come in and [pay] is posted on your forehead,” but having the figures in the open alleviates co-workers’ curiosity and anxiety, says Kimi Mongello, SumAll’s office manager. “When it’s a secret you want to know it more,” she says, noting that she and her colleagues rarely look at the data.
Ms. Mongello is in a low salary band, and is fine with it. “I shouldn’t be paid as much as an engineer,” she says. SumAll workers who feel they’re unfairly paid can easily bring it up, she adds.
Little privacy remains in most offices, and as work becomes more collaborative, a move toward greater openness may be inevitable, even for larger firms. Companies “don’t really have a choice,” says Ed Lawler, director of the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California. (Public companies and government agencies, meanwhile, generally have disclosure requirements about firm performance or pay.)
But open management can be expensive and time consuming: If any worker’s pay is out of line with his or her peers, the firm should be ready to even things up or explain why it’s so, says Dr. Lawler. Management should also show employees how to read the company’s financial and performance data, he adds.
And because workers can see information normally kept under wraps, they may weigh in on decisions, which can slow things down, company executives say.
Once employees have access to more information, however, they can feel more motivated.
At Tenmast Software, a Lexington, Ky., database software maker, the company’s 70 employees have access to company financials and participate in monthly strategic-planning sessions, though individual salaries are kept private. Every new employee must attend a financial literacy course to understand how to interpret accounting statements and business decisions.
That literacy paid off last year when the staff acquired the business through an employee stock ownership plan, giving workers an even greater stake in their decisions.
Angela Lee, a Tenmast support team coordinator, says understanding her impact on the bottom line is empowering. She contrasts that to her previous job, where her project was shuttered, but employees weren’t aware anything was amiss until the last minute.
“I know where we are. I know the bottom line and how it’s going to affect the bonus I get at the end of the year,” she says.
Giving negative feedback—already challenging for many—can be even harder out in the open.
Tim Ogilvie, co-founder and CEO of Peer Insight, a Washington, D.C., innovation-consulting company, says the firm’s dozen employees know one another’s salaries, bonuses and performance appraisals, along with detailed company financials, down to how much money the company has in the bank. Employees have a say on whether to take on any one client or project and can weigh in on new hires, he says.
Jessica Dugan, a senior design consultant at Peer Insight, says it can be “totally awkward” conducting project evaluations with the entire office listening in. “You want to be a good colleague and give feedback that will help people improve, but that’s hard to do in a public forum,” says Ms. Dugan.
While sensitive discussions about performance concerns are held privately, she says that open reviews “ensure everyone on a project is on the same page.”
But such openness isn’t for everyone.
In 2010, Slava Akhmechet, the CEO and co-founder of RethinkDB, a Mountain View, Calif., database firm, experimented with open pay, sharing salary ranges internally and posting them (without names) on the company’s website. He had hoped the transparency would give employees a fuller picture of the company and engender a sense of fair play.
But potential recruits saw the salary figures as a starting point, and bargained for pay beyond the fixed limits. Mr. Akhmechet also found he couldn’t hire prized applicants without raising everyone else’s salaries or getting them to agree to exceptions, he says.
Mr. Akhmechet eventually took salary data offline; now, only he and two other employees know everyone’s pay. “I still think an open salary model might work in a larger company with significant resources,” he says, but “it is not an effective use of time in early-stage companies.”
It will be interesting to observe how this trend develops. The concept certainly has merit in terms of helping morale in the office and fostering a ‘community’ atmosphere.
Did you ever play the game monkey see monkey do as a kid?
It’s a cute game that we easily forget as an adult. Interestingly enough, that ‘cute game’ often is played over and over again by adults in business, on sports teams and in churches.
It is amazing how much teams take on the personality of their leader. When teams aren’t performing up to their potential, the leader needs to look in the mirror.
Do you find yourself wondering why your team doesn’t take pride in their work? Ask yourself the hard question - do you really take pride in your work?
Want to see your team perform with confidence? Be confident in yourself and in them.
You will be amazed at how quickly a team will notice a shift in your behavior thus causing them to shift theirs. Never ask someone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
Your team will eventually be a reflection of you. They will take on your personality, work ethic, confidence and characteristics.
Lead the way!
Rick Rigsby - Liberty University Convocation via Pocket http://bit.ly/XSTzwi
Jason Randal: Stretching, Rewiring & Growing Geometrically
I was thinking about my day today… specifically, the emotional ups and downs that occured during the course of my day and I thought it would be interesting to see what it would look like on a graph.
I’m particularly interested to know how it would look if I tracked this over a week, month, or year. I wonder if there would be any cyclicality according to season or other factors such as when I’m working on a big project at work.
More to come…
Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.
Image via Wikipedia
President Obama kicked off a five-state campaign swing yesterday with a stop at a “clean energy” plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. As it happens, Mr. Obama couldn’t have chosen a better company to demonstrate the risks that taxpayers are taking with their billions in green stimulus investment.
The White House press corps has been dragged to so many of these energy events that it has lost interest in looking at the companies it visits. But the case of ZBB Energy is worth a closer look. Mr. Obama praised it for “pointing the country toward a brighter economic future,” but we’ll let readers decide if they’d write the same checks if they were investing their own money.
ZBB has been around for more than a decade, developing batteries and equipment to store energy from wind turbines and solar cells. More efficient and long-lasting storage devices have long been the Holy Grail of renewable energy, since they would allow operators to store intermittent wind and solar energy for later use. A technological breakthrough would be a great achievement, but the problem is that the effort has proven to be both difficult and costly.
That hasn’t stopped the Obama Administration, which has been investing willy-nilly in the commercial battery industry. And so last January, when the Department of Energy announced $2.3 billion in “clean energy manufacturing tax credits,” ZBB was one of 183 recipients—collecting $14 million.
We wonder who in government looked at ZBB’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Since going public in June of 2007, ZBB has been hemorrhaging money. The firm lost $4.9 million in fiscal 2008 and $5.5 million in fiscal 2009. In its most recent filing, in May, it said it had lost $6.9 million for the first nine months of its current fiscal year. It explained it had a “cumulative deficit” of $44.1 million and informed shareholders that it “anticipates incurring continuing losses.” It acknowledged that its ability to continue as a “going concern” was predicated on its ability to drum up additional funds.
In March the company engaged in various stock transactions—including a private placement to the company’s directors—to raise some $1.9 million. It obtained a $1.3 million loan from the federal stimulus program and borrowed $1.5 million more from Investors Bank. In June it announced a debt agreement, which would allow it to tap a further $10 million.
Meanwhile, a review by the company’s audit committee last fall discovered that ZBB’s former CEO had been wrongly compensated as both an employee and an independent contractor, and that the company had failed to withhold his proper taxes. He stepped down, and the management team was reshuffled. ZBB was also forced to restate its financial results after a separate audit committee review found the company had recognized revenue from a contract in the wrong quarter.
The company also acknowledged in its May filing that the 72,000 square foot manufacturing facility it bought in 2006 is “currently producing at less than 10% of its expected capacity.” That means it can’t currently access the $14 million in federal tax credits, which were supposed to help with equipment for a new facility. Meanwhile, private investors have soured on some energy-storage companies. ZBB’s initial public offering was priced at $6 a share in 2007, and it closed yesterday at 70 cents.
ZBB’s chief financial officer, Scott Scampini, acknowledges the losses and tells us that one problem was that the old management thought “people would just jump and buy this stuff.” New management, he says, now has a “real business plan” to become cash-flow positive in “short order”—by becoming cheap enough to be “competitive with fossil fuels.”
Perhaps ZBB Energy will eventually prove to be the Google of the battery business, but then again Google didn’t need taxpayer help. The Obama Administration would argue that these subsidies for private commercial companies are worth it if only one company pays off. But for the company that does, the financial rewards will be private. For those that fail, the losers will be taxpayers.
This is a perfect example of why the Federal Government should not be allowed to hand out taxpayer dollars to private businesses. The majority of politicians have little business experience, if any, particularly when it comes to managing an investment portfolio. In this case the “Limited Partners” (U.S. Taxpayers) should hold the government to a higher standard.
It starts with your ballot this November…
Choose wisely my friends.
- Uncle Sam, Venture Capitalist (online.wsj.com)
- Uncle Sam, Venture Capitalist (realclearpolitics.com)
- Obama Talks Renewables in Wisconsin (solarfeeds.com)
- Obama touts clean energy in Wisconsin visit (cnn.com)
- Obama: Wis. plant symbolizes clean-energy future (seattletimes.nwsource.com)