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by Larry Pendergrass, Principal

This is the story of the most important lesson I learned in my early career… a lesson taught to me by a wise elderly gentleman and a box of bolts.

nuts and boltsWhile studying physics as an undergraduate in San Diego, I had the great pleasure of working as an intern for 4 years, nearly full time for the Naval Ocean System Center (NOSC, now called SPAWAR: Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command). This was a research lab staffed mainly by civilians, and run by Navy top brass. The projects on which I worked cannot be fully discussed even today. I had a Secret Clearance and worked in one of those vaults like you see in the movies. It was a concrete building with no windows (at least in the lab areas). The only entry was a large bank-like vault door with a grim security guard closely scrutinizing each person as they approached.

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by Scott S. Elliott, Principal and CEO

Many of today’s leaders try to coordinate business resources that are scattered over a large geographic area – perhaps even the whole world. It is common for such people to have direct reports on two or three continents, plus possibly key partners, subcontractors and suppliers even further afield. Leading such a dispersed group can be physically and emotionally very taxing, as those of us who have logged 200,000 flight miles or more in a year can tell you. And keeping the group coordinated and productive – a group of people of different cultures, different time-zones, and different mother tongues – can be a monumental task.

Is there a way to survive and thrive in this kind of job while maintaining a reasonably normal personal life? Here are seven tips that may help.

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by: Helen Fu Thomas, Principal

I’ve started the “What’s your Brand” series by saying each of us has his or her own identity and it takes great insights to build it into a great brand.  So let’s start with the name itself.  I came to the United States in 1992 with my Chinese passport showing my Chinese name 符海京 (Fu Haijing).  In the past 13 years, I have been traveling the world with my American passport showing my name Helen Fu Thomas. Interestingly all my friends across the globe call me Helen (or even Miss Helen).  Helen has become an old fashioned name in the US.  All of the Helens I have met except for one are either Asian or English.  The most distinguished Helen Thomas, of course, is the retired White House correspondent.  It turned out she and I were both born under the sign of Leo, but 48 years apart.  It was all coincidence as my first name and last name were both given not by choice.  The point is that whether you are aware or not, all names have meanings and connections.

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A recent article in the Harvard Business Review (November, 2012; p. 76) stated that most mid-sized manufacturing companies are poorly managed. Ouch! In their study, "Examples of bad management were all too easy to find." Only 15% (US) and 5% (international) were truly well managed by their straightforward criteria.  As the HBR article concluded, what "may sound actually quite radical." Strong language indeed! So how does one go about managing an operation in a much better way?

We suggest a six-step process that combines strategy and culture, the only two handles a CEO really has. Tape this list to your refrigerator.

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by Andy McCaskey, Principal 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly can be found in just a few hours of monitoring Twitter traffic from inside and outside your organization using apps like TweetDeck. If you are going to effectively harness these new media tools for your organization, you need to be able to tell the difference and get quickly on the right track.

Why is good content on your social media channels so critical? Because disparaging word-of-mouth remarks can harm your image just as fast as compliments can amplify positive messages regarding your reputation and brand. Social media can establish and confirm industry leadership while it informs, enlightens and even entertains the community - a community of followers that have explicitly said “I’m interested” in your industry, your technology, and maybe even your products and services.

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by Andy McCaskey, Principal

Are you keeping Social Media and New Media in separate compartments in strategic and tactical planning?

You could lose traction in both, with the result that you do not get the full benefit from your investment in the rapidly-growing global phenomena of New Media and Social Media.  If you consider these new communications tools as building blocks within important parts of your business engine, your strategic marketing investment will go a lot further. As you align your own New Media processes and activities, you will gain new insight into the maturity of competitors and be able to assess how well they deploy these new tools to strategic advantage.

As I pointed out in my last post, Social Media channels use various internet based platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus (Google+), Pinterest, and Instagram. What information gets shared over various social media platforms?  It is same content and conversations that were shared among friends, business associates, and acquaintances ten, thirty or fifty years ago.  Even if a particular social media (Somed) tool has been available only a few years or months, it is effective because it is  "Word of Mouth" from a trusted source, extended across a social graph with vastly extended geographic and temporal boundaries.

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By Ed Powers, COO at Cateway

I had an interesting debate recently with a colleague at a successful consulting firm. Their practice focuses on making management more accountable through “pay for performance,” which means if managers hit goals, they get a bigger bonus. His firm has prospered, yet the words of late quality guru W. Edwards Deming dogged me.

Let me be clear: I’m a huge proponent of accountability. Without it, nothing gets done. Yet, the most popular methods CEO’s choose today are ineffective, and often produce unintended and harmful consequences.

Management by Objective (MBO) has been widely used for years. The CEO requires the VP of sales to “grow sales by 10%,” manufacturing VP to “reduce costs by 5%,” and VP of finance to “reduce overdue accounts receivable by 7%.” Using MBO, the CEO concentrates on what, not how—the manager determines the latter. To provide incentive, the CEO promises fat bonuses for meeting goals. Management 101. Carrot and stick.

What happens next is predictable. The finance VP gets tough, demanding prompt payment and putting delinquent accounts up for collection. The VP of sales shouts as chronically late-paying but important customers get upset and cancel orders. The manufacturing VP based his production forecast on the higher sales goal and gets stuck with too much inventory at year-end. The VP of finance achieves her goal and gets her bonus, but at great expense. Tempers boil. Teamwork collapses. Sales are down and costs are up. Did the CEO get what he wanted?

Deming railed at MBO in his seminal work, Out of the Crisis. “The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. Everyone propels himself forward, or tries to, for his own good, on his own life preserver. The organization is the loser.”

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by Scott S. Elliott, Founder and Principal
In this time of slow job growth, many excellent people, either unemployed or unhappily employed, are checking job boards and sending out inquiries and resumes.  It is a great time for forward-looking companies to recruit for valuable professionals and workers. But what messages are these companies sending with their recruiting process?

After applying to a posted job, here are the typical responses seen by most applicants, in approximate order of frequency:

1. No response whatsoever (by far the most common case).

Translation to applicant: Your credentials are laughable and we will not dignify your pathetic effort even with a simple acknowledgement of receipt.

 2. (Autoresponse) Thank you for your application. We will review it and get back to you if we see a fit.

Translation to applicant: Your resume just went into a pile on the recruiters desk. It will probably not be looked at, but the pile itself justifies the recruiters job.

.3. (Autoresponse) Thanks for your application. Due to the high volume of applicants, we can only respond to you if we find that you are a good match for the job.

Translation to applicant: Don't call us, and we certainly will not call you. We are understaffed and swamped by so many insignificant resumes.

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By Scott S. Elliott, Principal and Founder, TechZecs LLC

The economy is slow and maybe your sales are flat. There is much uncertainty in your market and in the world economy.  What strategic steps should you take to protect your market share and brand? Here is our advice:

1. Manage cash flow carefully.

2. Get flexible.

3. Plan some scenarios.

4. Retool for the next upcycle.

5. Look for opportunities.


1. Manage cash flow carefully.  In this economy, cash is king and should be used wisely. We are not saying to stop spending, just minimize spending on unnecessary items. For example, you can minimize employee travel and instead use videoconferencing and internet communication tools such as GoToMeeting and Webex. When used properly, these tools can be nearly as effective as face-to-face communications and avoid the high cost, time consumption and stress of travel. There also may be opportunities to defer spending on construction of new facilities, postpone buying capital equipment that is not absolutely necessary, etc. Do whatever is necessary to keep a positive cash flow position.

2. Get flexible. If you have attrition or need new workers, think about hiring contract workers, outsourcing or partnering with other companies. A good rule of thumb during a recession or stagnant economy is 50-50; half employees and half temps or partners. Permanent employees are needed to keep your company culture and intellectual property fresh and growing, and to maintain your core competencies. But much of the work does not involve a core competency and can be done by non-employees.  Contractors and consultants may seem to cost more per hour, but generally they net-out to about the same cost when you factor in overhead expenses such as employee support costs, benefits and paid vacations. Having a "stable" of good contract workers and partners and knowing how to manage them wisely puts you in a great position to thrive through a roller-coaster economic situation.

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 by Scott S. Elliott, CEO, TechZecs LLC

The first and major ongoing job of any company leader is to define and articulate the Vocation of that company. Vocation is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. In other words, a self-imposed calling to serve a certain set of customers or provide a certain set of solutions. What is the company about, and how will it serve its customers and stakeholders? A well-articulated Vocation statement helps to elicit drive and passion from its employees and loyalty from its customers, and keeps the company focused for success. We have chosen the word Vocation because it implies more than a Mission. Frankly, the Mission of most companies is mainly to make money for their owners and investors. A company's Vocation is a shared compulsion to serve a certain market using a set of innate skills, passions and competencies within its workforce.

Corporate Headquarters:

TechZecs, LLC
1730 Kearny Street,
Suite F-3
San Francisco,  California
94133 USA

Principal and Founder

Dr. Scott S. Elliott
Telephone: +1.415.830.5520

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