Business Traveling: The Tips You Need

No comments June 6th, 2015

btEvery business traveler has a disaster story. Mine occurred on my very first business trip, when I installed a password-protection program during the plane ride. Securing my laptop seemed like a good idea at the time. But the next morning when I turned it on, I found that I’d locked myself out of my own computer. So much for productivity, connectivity, or computerized efficiency. From the hotel, I called everyone I could think of and even visited the local Apple dealership, without success. I spent the rest of the week lugging around a 10-pound paper-weight, and I took all my notes by hand. Fifteen minutes after I got home, I solved the problem. All I needed was my boot disk.

Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned jet-setter, no one’s immune to the mishaps that can wreck a business trip (take a look at “Travel Tales From Hell,” which accompanies this article, and you’ll see what I mean). The tips compiled here prevent or solve just about anything that could go wrong, so you can get down to work while you’re on the road–and safely return home, rating to go again.

Before You Go

The best time to trouble-proof your trip is well before you set your foot out the door. Try to do everything you can to make your excursion easier. For example, some hotel chains have several hotels in the same town, so ask to be booked …

How Does Enterprise Marketing Automation Help Your Company?

No comments April 20th, 2015

hdemIn this era of integrated marketing, business-to-business marketers have had few tools to help them create and implement customized promotions and campaigns – and even fewer that tie into the Web as well.

But that’s changing with the emergence of a new category of front-office applications called enterprise marketing automation, a spinoff of sales force automation tools designed specifically for the marketing department.

Formally introduced this year, this category has only a handful of vendors so far, but the market is expected to grow rapidly.

“The whole idea of managing marketing and marketing campaigns has been neglected,” says Judith Hurwitz, president of the Hurwitz Group, Framingham, Mass., an analyst company specializing in strategic business applications.

As businesses begin to do more sales and marketing over the Web, they will definitely need tools and technology to help them, Ms. Hurwitz says.

In fact, Web marketing is one of the primary forces driving this category.

Taming the Wild West

“Right now the Web is a wild frontier. With a sophisticated Web tool you can start learning from your experience and make those intelligent decisions about how you spend money,” says Ms. Hurwitz.

However, EMA is more than just a reporting mechanism for Web marketing. It’s designed to provide companies with the ability to integrate information on marketing campaigns, prospects and customers, regardless of the marketing channel.

Armed with that data, marketers can set up processes to collect information, send appropriate responses to …

When You Get Smart With Customers, You Succeed

2 comments April 1st, 2015

wygswImagine this weekly grocery-shopping scenario: Log on to Cyber-Foods, key in a few needed items, and you’re reminded to include Braun coffee filters, Green Giant corn, and Plax mouthwash. Place the order, pay via credit card or direct debit, and have the groceries delivered to your door 20 minutes after you get home from work. Now let’s suppose you’ve been ordering online for months–long enough for Cyber-Foods to have built a database detailing your shopping preferences and to have monitored the rate at which you consume products. Soon, a second automated grocer is launched, offering the same services, quality, and price. But for you—or any customer–to get the same customized service provided by Cyber-Foods, you’d have to spend months placing orders. So it’s in the customer’s best interest to remain with the original grocer, who’s now gained an insurmountable competitive edge.

Whether you sell groceries or create greeting cards, market footwear or financial services, you can learn from clients, customize your services, and beat rivals using information technology. It’s what authors Don Peppers and Martha Rogers call customer-driven competition in their latest book, Enterprise One to One (Currency/Doubleday), from which this article is excerpted. This new form of marketing was inconceivable to entrepreneurs a few decades ago. But today, with huge databases; interactive mechanisms such as online storefronts, PINs, and debit cards; and customized distribution tools, businesses can serve clients better and build loyalty.

Track What Customers Tell You

Going Remote Is So Much More Than Networking

No comments March 26th, 2015

grismNetworking is the small-business tool of the ’90s. You already network all the time–with colleagues at professional gatherings and cocktail parties, and with clients at meetings and lunches. Now, all the reasons that drive you to connect with other people are driving you to connect your computer equipment.

Maybe you need one scanner to work with multiple computers. Or you want to send documents from office to office Without copying them to a disk or running them off on your printer. Perhaps you want to invite all those customers and colleagues to contact anyone in your office Online and exchange documents and drawings. But if you’ve heard computer networking stories from the corporate world, the prospect may seem downright scary. Isn’t networking all about wires and expensive software and consultants? isn’t it a financial black hole? Does a small venture have any business considering building a network in 1996?

The good news is that computer networking isn’t necessarily about complex wiring schemes and expensive software–although at the high end it still can be. You can create a simple link between two or three PCs and printers for less than $300, build your own Internet mail for less than $2,000 ($10,000 with all the hardware), or fashion a corporate-quality network–including a few PCs, a couple of laptops, a printer or two, and a shared scanner, modem, and CD-ROM drive–for less than $5,000.

And in most cases, you won’t need a consultant. …

Is Environmentalism Really Dead, Or Just Getting Stronger?

3 comments March 18th, 2015

ierd“Environmental Groups Are Drying Up in the `10s.” “Green Magazines in the Red. “Environmental Movement Struggling as Clout Fades.” The headlines in the nation’s press read like epitaphs.

A Wall Street Journal article observed that, “After years of fighting to save whales and spotted owls, the nation’s big environmental groups are in agony about another dwindling species – their supporters.”

Adding to the perception that the greens have lost their muscle was the dismal lack of legislative victories in the last Congress, when the Democrats controlled both houses and the White House.

But it’s not just the media offering a grim prognosis. “The environmental movement is in massive decline and is going to need a major overhaul if it wants to stage a comeback,” says Eric Mann, director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles.

A quarter-century past the first Earth Day, is the environmental movement really in its last gasp? Or, in the words of Mark Twain, have reports of its death been greatly exaggerated?

One thing is clear: If the movement is ailing, it’s not due to lack of popular support for the issues. Public opinion polls reflect a strong and consistent commitment to the environment. A Times Mirror survey last June found that 79 percent of respondents describe themselves as active (23 percent) or sympathetic (56 percent) environmentalists. More than half thought environmental laws hadn’t gone far enough, with only 16 percent thinking laws had gone …

Strategy, Marketing And Cans!

No comments March 17th, 2015

imscWhile others are clamoring for integrated marketing campaigns, U.S. Can Corp., a leading manufacturer of metal containers, is moving in the opposite direction.

The company in July unveiled a corporate restructuring plan that focuses on segmentation of marketing, marketing strategy and sales, rather than integration.

A growing customer sophistication, coupled with the ever-increasing global marketplace, led to the restructuring of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company, says its new chairman-CEO, Paul Jones.

Mr. Jones says that when he joined the company in April, he set out to understand the business and how he could prepare it for growth. What he learned, he says, is that U.S. Can’s “manufacturing plants, equipment and people are among the best in the industry,” but the company “had an opportunity in the area of strategic marketing and strategic pricing.” The company’s containers are used for personal care, household, automotive, paint and industrial products.

Conversations with employees, customers and analysts brought Mr. Jones to the conclusion that the key to success lies in a new approach to marketing.

Reorganization for customers

Under the new plan, each of the company’s business operations – aerosol; paint, general line and plastic; custom and specialty products; and international – will be responsible for its own marketing, market strategy, manufacturing, sales and overall business leadership.

With most companies leaning toward heavily integrating the organization, U.S. Can may seem a bit out of step with business trends, but Mr. Jones says it’s all …

Using Tech To Work And Gain Efficiency

No comments March 13th, 2015

uttwJust before Christmas in 1985 Matt and Gail Taylor called a staff meeting at their Washington, D.C., office and gave each of 20 staffers a modem and a book on running their own businesses. They announced that, henceforth, they would be running MG Taylor Corp. from their home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. More than 10 years later, most of the 20 staffers are still active in their company, a network that has grown to more than 50 workers nationwide.

Whether individually or as groups of small organizations, more entrepreneurs are following the Taylors’ new business model. They’re organizing technologically linked workgroups on a project basis or as full-blown companies. Together, they deliver services or products that they couldn’t provide alone. They’re called virtual companies or distributed workgroups.

While technology is a key, it isn’t the most important ingredient. “This is not a technological problem,” says Charles Grantham, who has studied the trend as president of the nonprofit Institute for the Study of Distributed Work, based in Walnut Creek, California. “You don’t need online conferencing; you can do it with fax and a telephone. It’s a sociological issue.”

There’s no recipe for successfully organizing or running a virtual company, but an increasing number of entrepreneurs are making it work in a variety of fields.

MG Taylor is just one example. This $5 million enterprise defies easy description. Call them “management consultants” and you’re in trouble. “There’s one thing we …

Talking About “A Moment On Earth”

No comments March 2nd, 2015

amoeIt’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that some ideas are easier to get published than others. As an environmentalist, you may have at least heard of Losing Ground, a tough critique of the big U.S. environmental groups. But the average citizen must navigate the swells of environmental literature (and environmental politics) without even a vague insider’s sense of the rumors, jokes, and daily gossip of the green movement. If they know the new books at all, they know them by advertising and media “buzz,” and are likely to have noticed only A Moment On The Earth.

Losing Ground is published by an academic press, and in bookstores is generally tucked almost invisibly within daunting stacks brimming with “new nonfiction.” This is hardly the fate of Gregg Easterbrook’s book, which was expensively acquired, aggressively promoted, and received by talk-show hosts, op-ed editors, and other assorted opinion-makers with almost abject eagerness. Why the stark contrast? Has it anything to do with, say, politics? With the mood of the country? Easterbrook’s claim, certainly, is soothing, so much so that it stands apart. Here is its kernel, in his own words:

In the western nations and especially the United States, which is the first nation to attempt a systematic if flawed, but genuine and systematic attempt to protect the environment, trends are now in the main positive.

Dowie, like the grassroots environmental activists he champions, has reached different conclusions – so different that

Your Ethernet: The Best Backbone For You

No comments February 27th, 2015

You want to build an Ethernet peer network but the wiring scheme seems too messy and complicated.

yetbbYou’re in luck: This summer Cisco, Farallon, SMC, ACC, and other Ethernet peer networking companies plan to launch completely ready-to-go networking kits for small offices. And Novell will eventually introduce a product that lets you connect devices over household wiring. In the meantime, the closest thing to a prefab network may already reside within the walls of your building. If you’ve connected a TV to an outside antenna or installed an extension phone somewhere in your home or office, you can probably use the phone wires in your walls to connect an Ethernet peer network.

Most’ buildings constructed since the 1970s have an extra set of wires, which AT&T installed before the breakup of the phone companies. Called Category 5 Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP), the lines are still present in more than 70 percent of American homes. And it turns out that Category 5 UTP is exactly the wiring you need for an Ethernet network.

Is this extra set of phone wiring hidden in your home? If you have those contemporary wall jacks that accept a modem connection, chances are it is. To find out, remove the faceplate of the twin jacks and pull the plate away from your wall. If you see four screws behind the modular jack, that’s a good sign. The contraption probably has red, green, yellow, and black …

The Tech Industry Isn’t Just Good, Clean Fun

No comments February 24th, 2015

svtcThe speed of microprocessors has increased dramatically. Hard drives that once held 40 megabytes now hold gigabytes. The products of the electronics industry are transforming the way we live, work, learn and play. However, despite its promise, high-tech development also has a darker side. The legacy of high-tech production in Silicon Valley, California – the birthplace of the electronics revolution includes the toxic footprint of groundwater pollution, a high worker illness rate and an elevated rate of miscarriage for production workers.

In 30 years, the production of semiconductors, data processing and telecommunications equipment made the electronics industry one of the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing sectors. Some industry projections indicate 100 new semiconductor plants will be built before the end of the century. As the industry spreads through the United States and into the Third World, it has become a worldwide player, bringing significant economic and environmental impacts. The passage of NAFTA and GATT have increased the mobility of the electronics industry and highlight the urgency of establishing networks with groups in other countries and other parts of the United States.

Despite the squeaky clean image of computer products and campus-like appearance of their manufacturing facilities, the electronics industry is dependent on some of the most toxic substances ever synthesized. These include toxic gases, large quantities of dangerous solvents, metals, acids and volatile organic compounds.

Exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace and toxic releases to surrounding communities have …