Posted by: Ron Loza | February 26, 2014

Why Add Sugar to Coffee?

ImageCoffee, cream, and sugar; the three go hand in hand, and undoubtedly you will find that virtually every coffee house, cafe, and convenience store has a condiment area for cream and sugar. Have you ever asked yourself why we add sugar to coffee?  Let’s examine the possible reasons:

Related Commodities

Oddly enough, sugar and coffee grew up together.  Coffee and sugar share a unique partnership since both commodities are grown in similar conditions and climates around the globe.  Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, India, Colombia, El Salvador, and Jamaica are all popular coffee growing regions and sugar producing regions.

All of those regions are huge sugarcane producers and have the climates necessary for both coffee and sugar production.

Roasts Changed

William Palgrave’s 1863 account of his travels through Arabia documented in his Narrative of a Year’s Journey Through Central and Eastern Arabia paints a picture of the developing roast character of coffee, how it affected flavor, and what humanity ultimately did about it.  We add sugar to coffee because coffee changed.

Coffee was once roasted to a very light brown color instead of today’s dark brown, nearly black, roasts.  A lighter roast will impart more fruitiness, sweetness, and origin character to the beans where darker roasts subdue those nuances in favor of roastiness and chocolate characteristics.

This darker roast attributed to coffee and sugar’s bond just as much as their economic relationship.  Darker roasts required something to decrease the bitterness, bite, and burn of dark roasted beans, ipso facto: sugar.

Technology

why we add sugar to coffeeAs coffee spread throughout the middle east, specifically into Turkey, Syria, and Egypt, certain roasting styles and flavor preferences began to develop. Coffee was roasted to a much darker color, almost black, and ground into a very fine powder.  The powder was boiled with sugar and served unfiltered in small cups instead of the larger cups preferred by the Arabians.  These factors contributed to a style of coffee we now know as Turkish.

Where technology comes in is in the grind. Lighter roasted beans were more difficult to grind, whereas dark or black roasted beans were much easier to pulverize by hand.  In a day where electric burr grinders didn’t exist, folks in Egypt were forced to use primitive methods of “grinding” coffee.

Quality

As a child in the 60’s and teenager in the 70’s, I grew up with parents who brewed coffee every morning. I loved the smell of brewing coffee but when I tried my first cup, it was awful.

In those days coffee was typically brewed in percolators and the commercial brands, such as Folgers, used robusta beans in their blends. The end result of using an inferior brewing method and inferior beans was inferior coffee. Sugar was the common means for cutting the resulting bitterness. Today, with the predominance of specialty grade coffee, sugar isn’t needed but, people develop habits that are hard to change. As an example, early dishwashers required pre-rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Technology changed such that, even in the least expensive dishwashers, pre-rinsing is no longer needed. How many of you still pre-rinse your dishes?

Don’t Blindly Add Sugar to Coffee

Average coffee consumers are tempted to pour cream and add sugar into their coffee without a thought to the flavor subtleties and fabulous nuances of each varietal or blend.  While cream can boost certain Southern and Central American roasts, sugar can take away and possibly mask the fruity origin characteristics of an artisan-roasted bean.

The next time you get a cup of coffee at your favorite cafe, taste the coffee.  Make sure the cup actually needs what you’re adding to it.  Try your coffee before adding cream and sugar. Think of milk and sugar as salt and pepper in a dish.

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Posted by: Ron Loza | January 31, 2014

Why is Almond Milk Growing in Popularity?

As more and morealmond milk 2 information came out about hormones in milk and other issues with drinking dairy products, Soy gained tremendous popularity as a, dairy free, milk substitute. But, as more and more people were finding they were allergic to Soy, Almond Milk has taken center stage as a healthy alternative to milk AND soy. So what are the benefits of Almond milk?

1) Almond Milk is High in Antioxidants

Almond milk is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, so it can help prevent cancer and slow the signs of aging. The flavonoids in almond milk also help to reduce the number of free radicals in the body, protecting you from a number of degenerative diseases that occur with again, such as osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes.

2) Almond Milk is Heart Healthy

Unlike cow’s milk, almond milk contains no cholesterol and no saturated fats, so it won’t damage your cardiovascular system. Almond milk is also high in omega-3 fatty acids to help lower your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and protect your heart. You’ll also enjoy the other benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, such as improved cognitive function.

3) Almond Milk is High in Vitamins and Minerals

Compared to soy and rice milk, almond milk has the highest concentrations of vitamins and minerals. Almond milk contains the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Selenium

While cow’s milk, rice milk and soy milk are often fortified with various minerals and vitamins, all of these nutrients occur naturally in almond milk. This means that you can make almond milk yourself at home, and it’s just as good for you as any almond milk you might buy in the store.

4) Almond Milk is Low in Fat and Calories

Almond milk is a great milk substitute choice for those who are trying to lower their fat and calorie intake. Almond milk is very low in calories; it has only 40 calories per serving. It contains about three grams of fat per serving, but they’re all healthy fats that help protect your heart and preserve cognitive function.

5) Almond Milk Contains No Animal By Products

Almond milk is made only from almonds and water, though manufacturers may add sugar or vanilla for flavor. Because almond milk contains no animal products or by products, it’s suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

6) Lactose and Gluten

Almond milk is lactose free, and contains no gluten or casein, so it’s an appropriate and safe alternative for those who suffer from lactose intolerance, or who are allergic to gluten and casein.

7) The Negative

Almonds are a tree nut, so almond milk isn’t safe for consumption by those who suffer a tree nut allergy. If you have a tree nut allergy and you drink almond milk, you could suffer a dangerous allergic reaction.

Posted by: Ron Loza | July 31, 2013

Working Interviews

Working interdental-assistantviews are pervasive in the dental community. I don’t know why they are pervasive in this industry but perhaps it was a topic at a seminar on building a dental practice and it spread like wildfire. The idea seems great on the surface; have a prospective employee work for a few hours or a couple of days so you can have a good idea if they will be successful and avoid all of the rigorous forms and requirements of hiring an employee.  However, using a working interview to exempt yourself from your obligations as an employer does not work and can actually get you in a lot of trouble

The Origin of Working Interviews

A working interview is a marketing invention created by temporary employment agencies as a “try before you buy” option. Try out  employees until you find one you like, then hire him or her permanently. A trial run is easier and less hassle than interviewing and hiring several candidates yourself.

In this situation, the candidates are actually employed by the temp agency. More accurately, the temp agency fulfills all of the new hire paperwork and employer obligations for you. Many employers forget this important fact. Then they cut out the temp agency in order to eliminate the middle man, and end up vulnerable to a host of problems.

Potential Problems

There are many potential issues that can arise such as not having coverage if the worker is injured while in your office, not having the protections of your handbook, classification penalties from the DOL or IRS, potential FLSA (minimum wage and overtime) violations, and more.  Moreover, if you do not hire the worker and they become disgruntled, they now have leverage over you to file a complaint because you have not complied with the law.

The Fallacies

You may have heard these statements; You don’t have to pay workers if you call it a “working interview,” and it’s only for a couple of hours. No paperwork means they were “never there” and you fly under the radar, especially if you pay them less than $600. Your workers’ compensation will automatically cover their injuries. You can just call them an independent contractor or “casual labor” and 1099 them.

These statement are all false, especially the later. You can’t make someone an independent contractor just by signing a contract.  If they perform duties usually done in your office by employees, and do so under your control, using your equipment, in your office, and at the hours you request, they are an employee.  If you call them a contractor to avoid payroll taxes or other employment benefits, you have misclassified them, and you are subject to penalties from both the IRS and Department of Labor.

What To Do

Unfortunately there is no shortcut. You must “hire” the prospective employee however there are some things you can do a little differently.

Instead of making it an unpaid interview or trying to call them an independent contractor when they do not fit those requirements, go ahead and make them a “Provisional Employee”.  After a thorough interview process and background check, go ahead and put them on your payroll.  Using a one page letter, put your new employee on notice that they are not eligible for benefits, must prove themselves, and may be let go during a certain period of time after hire, make it “X” days or hours.  If you have this policy in your handbook, you can use it to get the same benefits you would get from a working interview (i.e., a valid trial period, with no obligation to continue employment).

Always:

  • Pay them no less than minimum wage.
  • Withhold payroll taxes.
  • Verify their eligibility to work in the US. (Form I-9)
  • Cover the employee for Workers’ Compensation, and notify your carrier to ensure coverage.
  • Provide a copy of your Employee Handbook.  The protections in it apply only to those who receive a copy.

Follow these procedures and you should have no problems.

Posted by: Ron Loza | September 7, 2011

The Power of the Negative Message

I often hear stories of, and read articles on, companies struggling to get employees ‘buy in’ to the company or obtain ‘loyal’ customers.  In some cases this can be as simple as poorly communicating the mission or vision of the organization but more often it is hidden (or not so hidden) messages being sent on a daily basis.

One of my favorite examples is from the now defunct CompUSA. Being a techno junkie I was excited to visit one of their new stores, I was so excited because I am a techno junkie. As I walked through the front door I entered a vestibule (I refer to it as the “frisking room”). To my left was a security guard sitting on a stool, directly in front of me was a sign with ten, or so, bulleted items such as ‘we reserve the right to search your backpack’ and other such nonsense. Before I could step one foot into the store (the next set of doors) I felt as if I was entering a prison. The leadership of CompUSA managed, in less than 20 seconds, to completely ruin my shopping experience with their negative messaging. Can you guess the attitude of the employees?

Flash back to the early 1970’s, a company by the name of Good Guys opened a big box (by the standards of the 1970’s) stereo and TV store. The employees, mostly audiophiles, knew their product well. They were invested in the product and the company and were given the latitude to haggle with prices. While the haggling was unusual, the service they provided was exceptional. The company eventually sold and has since closed but the original company left an impression on me that has lasted over 30 years. Needless to say, I purchased all of my stereo equipment from the Good Guys for years.

Think of your organization and think about the message you are sending to your team. Your team will ‘buy in’ if you are passionate, engaging, accessible, knowledgable, and communicative. If you work from an office, do you close your door? Not accessible, negative message.

Are you the COO of a retail organization? Look around your store(s); how many times do you see the word “no” or the words “we don’t?” No shirt, no shoes, no service; we do not accept $100 bills; we don’t accept checks; no refunds; no returns; no children without adult supervision; or my personal favorite, “closed.” These are all negative words that subliminally place bad feelings in the subconscious mind of your customer.

Even our most powerful leader struggles with negative messaging. While 12% of our country remains unemployed and the economy remains stagnant, President Obama goes on vacation. In reality, there is little he can do to change things by being at the White House but by going on vacation and using taxpayer dollars to fly his family he creates a perception that he doesn’t care about the country (his employees –  Congress and customers – voters). Now he has a problem with employee buy in, and customer loyalty.

Negative messaging is prevalent in our society and not always obvious. Think about a grocery store with eight cash registers, three are open, and you are standing in line behind two other people. This inadvertently creates a bad feeling because you know they have the capacity to eliminate the line but by not opening another register you have to wait.

What can you do to fix this?

1) Get rid of signs that are negative. Instead of not accepting $100 bills use “We gladly accept bills up to $20.”

2) Open your office door. You won’t get interrupted as much as you think and it creates the impression you are accessible. (Does not apply to HR while disciplining an employee – this is done in private)

3) Walk around at least once per day (good exercise) and say hi to your staff. Use this opportunity to coach – positive coaching. Don’t find fault, rather point out the good and ask if there is anything you can do for them.

4) The most important thing of all, every single day, tell at least one member of your staff or a customer THANK YOU. Be sincere and specific with your staff. “Thank you for sending those reports on time. You did a nice job formatting the graphs.” Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Share your examples of negative messaging, post your solution(s), or you have an issue you’d like to solve, please comment and I will respond.

Posted by: Ron Loza | August 31, 2011

Seven Techniques to Inspire Your Staff

An overwhelming majority of employees do not look forward to going to work. While there are many reasons, most point to a lack of leadership as the reason why. While some organizations make it difficult to lead it isn’t impossible to inspire, motivate and positively influence the people in your professional circle.

I have had great results implementing the following seven techniques. You can easily adopt these in your own professional communications with your employees, clients, and vendors to motivate and inspire.

1. Demonstrate Enthusiasm. Inspiring leaders have an abundance of passion for what they do. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. Once you discover your passion, make sure it’s apparent to everyone within your professional circle.

I operated a chain of specialty coffee shops and I often demonstrated the ability to make significantly more tips. I knew a lot about the industry and our products because I was interested and passionate about the industry. I constantly read news articles to further my knowledge which enabled me to engage our customers. I shared this knowledge and encouraged the staff to learn more which led them to a significant increase in tips.

2. Define a Clear Course of Action. The absence of clear communication is a certain failure point. Inspiring leaders craft and deliver a specific, consistent and memorable vision and goals. A goal such as ‘we need to double our sales by this time next year’ is not inspiring and for most, gives little to no direction. If your staff knew how to double sales, they would have already done so.

A vision is a short vivid description demonstrating the purpose of your company’s existence. For example, “we provide the highest quality specialty coffee products in a fast, friendly, environment.” If you are setting a goal to increase sales you need to provide the path or paths to achieving this goal. For example, “during the month of May we will offer, to every customer, the opportunity to add an extra espresso shot to their drink. We will do so using the following script… and we will keep a daily record of our successes. Those having the most success will mentor those who might be struggling.” EX-DEM-PRA – Explain, Demonstrate, Practice.

3. Sell the benefit. Always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. I always ask my staff, “Why should you care if our company succeeds?” That’s the same thing you need to ask yourself constantly throughout a presentation, meeting, pitch or any situation where persuasion takes place. Your listeners are asking themselves ‘what’s in this for me?’ Answer it. Don’t make them guess.

4. Tell more stories. Inspiring leaders tell memorable stories. Few business leaders appreciate the power of stories to connect with their audiences. Politicians often tell stories throughout their election campaigns to draw in constituents on an emotional level.

Which of these facts are you most likely to remember? ‘The graduation rate at ABC High School is in the 3rd percentile of the district and to improve the graduation rate we need you to donate money’ or ‘Peter Jones of ABC High School was not going to graduate but because of your donations he not only graduated but went on to XYZ University, graduated with honors and now teaches at ABC High School.’

No amount of data can replace a story. Stories connect with people on an emotional level. Tell more of them.

5. Invite participation. Inspiring leaders bring employees, customers, colleagues, and vendors into the process of building the company. This is especially important when trying to motivate young people. The command and control way of managing is over. Instead, today’s managers solicit input, listen for feedback and actively incorporate what they hear. Employees want more than a paycheck, they want to know that their work is adding up to something meaningful.

6. Have an Optimistic Outlook. Even in these tough times there is room for optimism. Inspiring leaders speak of a better future. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel, said “Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual favor change over security?”

Extraordinary leaders throughout history have been more optimistic than the average person. Winston Churchill exuded hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II. Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind Ronald Reagan’s charisma. Powell also said that optimism is a force multiplier, meaning it has a ripple effect throughout an organization. Speak in positive, optimistic language. Be a beacon of hope.

7. Encourage potential. Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Richard Branson has said that when you praise people they flourish; criticize them and they shrivel up. Praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar.

Encourage people and they’ll walk through walls for you. By inspiring your listeners, you become the kind of person people want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees will want to work with you and investors will want to back you. It all starts with mastering the language of motivation.

Posted by: Ron Loza | December 28, 2010

Is the Coach to Blame? 49ers Coach Mike Singletary Fired

I’ve been watching the San Francisco 49ers since the 1960’s. They’ve had good and bad seasons with a good run in the 1980’s, but most recently they appear to be a franchise with no rudder. Ever since the York family took over the team from Eddie Debartalo, Jr. they’ve had trouble winning. Who is to blame?

Many fans want to blame the coach which is easy because he has the highest profile position. Just like any organization, it takes a lot of people to be successful. The owner must hire a General Manager that knows football. The GM must hire a head coach that knows football strategy, runs a good system, and knows how to work with millionaire athletes. The head coach must hire a coaching staff that can teach, plan for each game, and adapt on-the-fly during a game. Finally, the coaches must hire (draft) the right players for their system. So what’s wrong? Who is failing and why?

I am not an insider by any account but I can observe failure points. As a long time coach I have trained myself to watch games a little differently than the average fan. I’m not always watching the ball but often I am looking elsewhere (as camera angles will allow). I watch to see a play unfold to determine why a play succeeded or failed and I also watch the bench and interaction of the coaches and players.

In addition to seeing poor behavior on the sideline I saw a lot of failure in basic football technique. I’m speaking of technique that should have been taught in high school. Incorrect body positions, holding the ball wrong, and poor blocking position have led to multiple failures including a lot of fumbles and interceptions. Who was responsible to teach these techniques; the high school coaches, the college coaches, or the pro staff? Is it possible that these players were coached correctly but cannot execute the basics because they do not have the ability to learn?

One obvious deficiency this year was uncreative play calling on offense. I’m not talking about flea-flickers or the hook-n-ladder, I’m talking about calling plays that 1) play to the strengths of the players, and 2) keep their opponents guessing as to what was coming next. Who is to blame here? The obvious answer would be the offensive coordinator but would that be correct? Since the ownership changed to the York family the 49ners have gone through 8 offensive coordinators in 7 years. Some of these coordinators have been in the league over 20 years! Did they become stupid?

The answer is no, they haven’t become stupid, the league has changed. Coaches salaries have gone up significantly in the last 7 years and job security has plummeted. Owners (and fans) put so much pressure on the coaches to win (each wants a return on their investment) they’ve lost sight of the fun of the game. This change has become a detriment to the game causing coaches to coach “not to lose” rather than coaching to “win.” There is a distinction here; coaching to “win” means taking chances, trying things good or bad. Coaching “not-to-lose” means never taking chances, play it safe so you can’t be blamed for failure. Never have I seen such a discrepancy between college games and pro games. College football has become far more entertaining to watch.

What about Mike Singletary? Should he have been fired? Yes, but not for the reasons above. In his position of leadership he needed to behave in a professional manner. Whether it was for show, or it was sincere, he should NEVER discipline a player (employee) in public. He did this on several occasions over the last 2 seasons. This is the fastest way to lose respect with your team. I too have had issues with players and no matter how frustrated or angry I felt I waited until the next day to speak with him or her so I had time to calm down and formulate a “teaching” moment not a “disciplinary” moment.

So what is my point? I often speak about leadership and empowering employees. There is no better environment than the world of sports to practice these qualities. To the 49ner ownership (Jed York); hire a great GM and head coach and allow them to succeed. Create a safe environment that allows them to make good decisions and to take chances…play to win. If you are going to push them, push them to take chances, encourage them to bring back the beauty and fun of football!

Posted by: Ron Loza | November 24, 2010

One Powerful Technique to Satisfy an Unhappy Customer

In my years of teaching and training new employees on the art of customer service, I ask them to describe a situation where they complained to the management about their unpleasant experience. I further ask them to describe a situation when they had a bad experience and didn’t complain. It is uncanny how universal this is when I ask, “When you didn’t complain, did you ever shop at that store again?” The overwhelming answer is NO! I follow-up with, “When you did complain did you shop at that store again?” The overwhelming answer is YES!

A complaining customer is a customer who wants to return, who wants to be a loyal customer, and is giving you the opportunity to make things right as opposed to the unhappy customer who walks out that door never to return. The complaining customer is handing you a fabulous opportunity to gain a lifetime customer.

Let’s take a step back and lay a foundation on why we see certain behaviors from customers and employees that may lead to a less than perfect experience.  It is so ingrained in our society that people, especially strangers, are evil. The mainstream media bombards us every day with body counts and kidnappings. From the time we are old enough to understand, our parents tell us not to talk to “strangers.” It’s no wonder customers and employees inherently distrust each other, they are strangers!

When it comes to resolving a complaint and the customer and employee have told their stories, it often seems that the customer and employee were not in the same room at the time of the problem. Stories often conflict. I am reminded of my favorite quote from the show Mythbusters, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” This is a very real statement in business and relationships. Think about some disagreement you may have had in a relationship. One person sees the situation one way and the other sees it completely different. I’m no therapist and I don’t really care why this happens I just know it does. Each party firmly believes what they believe…it is “real” to them. So somewhere in these mutually exclusive stories is the truth.

But does the truth matter? If you focus on the “story” and who is to blame you miss the point which is 1) to teach your employee better decision making skills, and 2) to gain a loyal customer.

I realize this sounds far too simple but I can attest through years of applying this technique that it has worked 100% of the time, with fabulous results, and even with the most irate customer. First, I listen (repeat “listen”) to the customer. I do not speak, sometimes for as long as 15 minutes, until the customer has said everything he or she needs to say. I do not engage in a “he said, she said” conversation. In fact, I do not even acknowledge what the customer just said. I simply ask the customer, “What would you like me to do to make the situation right for you?”

Now you may think this would open Pandora’s box but it is quite the opposite. I have found that the request of the customer is ALWAYS reasonable. In fact, more often than not, I was prepared to give more!

One example of a potentially serious situation was when I received a phone call from an irate customer (I own coffee shops). He called me to say the lid on his coffee cup popped off while he was driving (can you say McDonalds lawsuit?) and he spilled his drink on himself and suffered third degree burns. He also informed me that he was going to sue me. He yelled for about ten minutes then started to calm down. With a slight deviation in my script I said, “I am very sorry that happened to you.” (the Denny’s script) “We use thermometers in our stores so I can say with absolute certainty that you cannot receive a third degree burn. What would you like me to do to make this situation right for you?”

Take note, I didn’t respond to his story and even though I was sure he was lying to some degree I only brought up the thermometers but left the rest of his story alone. At this point he never asked for anything he only told me he was going to sue me. I was prepared for detailing his car, dry cleaning his cloths and refunding his money but surprisingly his response was, “Will you send two free drink coupons?” Problem solved.

I am sure there are situations, if serious enough, where this wouldn’t work but don’t underestimate the power of this technique because it allows your customer to be a part of the solution. You would be surprised how satisfied a customer is when you accept their solution.

Posted by: Ron Loza | November 9, 2010

Test Your Leadership Skills

Leadership theory has evolved over many years. Some of the first theories, called “Trait” theories were based on the thought that leaders were born, not created, and they possessed certain traits not found in others. Trait theory has been largely eliminated as a valid theory because it has been found that many good leaders posses different traits.

The second round of theories, called “style” theories, stated that one need only “copy” or “adopt” a style of leadership. Style theories have also largely been eliminated because people cannot “fake” a style of leadership.

Largely accepted are the “contingency” theories that state that one can vary their style within a range of styles to fit a situation. Types of leadership range from directive or authoritative (think military) to the other extreme of team decision making. To learn more about these theories search the internet for “Path-Goal Theory,” “Hersey & Blanchard,” or “Normative Theory.” Too lengthy to discuss these theories here but they are good to know if you find yourself in any type of leadership position (job, volunteer, coach, etc).

Most recently I’ve read some theories about “Authenticity” leadership. The basic premise is that you are authentic, you know your strengths and weaknesses, you don’t fake it by trying to cover up your weaknesses.

Leadership theories will continue to evolve because generations evolve so learning to be a leader is not a static task or something you learn in a classroom setting. You must constantly learn, adapt, and evolve.

One game I like to play that strengthens my leadership knowledge is to watch the first couple of episodes of each season of The Apprentice. By applying a leadership theory such as the Normative Theory, I try to predict who will ultimately win. You would be amazed how well it works. Just like exercising to stay in physical shape you need to exercise your brain to think like a leader. Have fun with it.

Posted by: Ron Loza | September 14, 2010

Should I Hire an Entrepreneur?

As a lifelong entrepreneur I’ve seen, first hand, how hiring managers sometimes shy away from hiring entrepreneurs. Often perceived as high risk takers, non-team players, or non-conformists the image of an entrepreneur is so often painted in a negative light. When you get down to defining the traits of a “successful” entrepreneur I can’t imagine that companies wouldn’t aggressively seek these individuals.

Who or what is an entrepreneur? Typically this is a person who habitually creates and innovates to build something of recognized value around perceived opportunities. A successful entrepreneur is someone who is able to identify a problem and come up with a solution to it.

What are the common qualities or traits of an entrepreneur?

Knowledge of his/her industry or field:
About half of all home-based start-ups are launched by people who decide to use the knowledge, which they gained from their previous work experience of a particular niche area. In addition they have a thirst for learning as much as they can about their field of interest and their industry.

Self-confidence:
A successful entrepreneur believes in his abilities. He is not scared to explore uncharted territories, take risk and make difficult decisions.

Ability to get things done:
Successful entrepreneurs are persistent and hardworking. They master self-discipline to such extent that if a work is important and related to their goals, they will, eventually, complete it. At times, entrepreneurs force themselves to choose work over fun, a boring job against a pleasant one, working on tax papers rather than reading a glamor magazine. This requires a self-control that many people simply fail to develop in themselves.

Ability to Lead:
Successful entrepreneurs are great leaders. They have the ability to motivate people to want to perform at the highest level. They use a combination of various methods-effective motivation, planning, coaching and evaluation-to increase production or provide superior service.

Creativity:
A successful entrepreneur is creative and uses insights to come up with new solutions to old problems, get things done in a different way or find a totally different approach for conventional things to work together.

Self Reliance:
Successful entrepreneurs take full responsibility for their actions. They know that what they are today, and what they are going to be tomorrow, depend solely on themselves, as it is the outcome of their own choices and decisions. They are proactive people, who set goals, walk an extra mile to achieve them and rely, primarily, on their own resources.

Given these traits and skills why do large companies shy away from, or even fear, entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurs hate meetings, they don’t know politics within an organization, they work long hours making everyone else look bad, they don’t follow the rules, etc. This is pure ignorance. It’s like the “Urban Myths.” Perhaps Snopes.com should debunk the myth of the entrepreneur. In a battle for dominance in a market or inter-department competitions within an organization, or comparing the viability or accuracy of a budget, my money would always be on the entrepreneur.

Posted by: Ron Loza | August 19, 2010

Do We Really Need Customer Service?

So many articles are written and so much advice given on the topic of “customer service.” This URL is one such example: http://smallbiztrends.com/2009/12/customer-service-trends-2010.html. There is never a debate as to whether or not a company should provide good customer service but what does that mean?

Consider the author’s point #3: “It’s All About You. Technology has allowed companies to personalize my visit when I go to buy from their web site. When I visit Amazon’s site, they welcome me back by name and suggest things I might want to buy based on what I bought in the past. This is the type of personalization I come to expect when I go to any face to face retail establishment.” The author is suggesting good customer service comes from a computer database. He is happier with shopping online (no personal interaction) than shopping face-to-face. Is he defining customer service or confusing this with convenient shopping?

Forrester Research reported, “In 2009, 154 million people in the U.S. bought something online, or 67 percent of the online population. While $155 billion worth of consumer goods were bought online last year ($25.8 billion in 2000), a far larger portion of offline sales were influenced by online research.” Forrester estimates that $917 billion worth of retail sales last year were “Web-influenced.” It also estimates that online and Web-influenced offline sales combined accounted for 42 percent of total retail sales and that percentage will grow to 53 percent by 2014.

It’s no secret that online buying has taken off and will continue to grow which may be a contradiction in terms of traditional customer service. Back in the 1960’s grocery stores kept tabs (pre-credit cards) and mailed monthly invoices to their customers, gas station attendants greeted each customer, filled the gas tank, checked the tire pressure and oil level, and washed the windshield, walk into most stores and the employees knew about the products they sold. Today it’s a self serve world, we pump our own gas, bag our own groceries, and even handle our own checkout at the cash register and if we want to learn about a product we research it online. How can a company provide a good “service” if they aren’t “servicing” us?

Take for example the trend in frozen yogurt. The new yogurt stores have the consumer serve themselves. They are free to create their personalized product. The employee simply weighs the end product and takes the consumer’s money. The consumer is happy with the experience.

So is “customer service” even relevant anymore? Should companies focus more on convenience, product, and information databases? Isn’t a happy customer the goal?

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