• Problem or Opportunity?

    Not every successful business starts with a great idea. Sometimes, a business starts with a problem. That's how the Slurpee started. (See story below.)

    Successful managers listen to employees, as well as customers. They understand that problems can be opportunities. Omar Knedlik's problem was his machinery. Break downs meant that customers would not have cold drinks. He solved the problem by putting the drinks in the freezer and then inventing a machine to freeze the drinks. The rest they say "is history."

    What other business problems have become opportunities for managers? What is a problem that you have? Can you think of a product or service to solve the problem?

    Like so many great inventions, the Slurpee was created by accident. In the late-1950s, Omar Knedlik of Kansas City owned an old Dairy Queen whose machinery was always breaking down. When his soda fountain went out, he improvised by putting some bottles in the freezer to stay cool. However, when he popped the top, they were a little frozen and... [via Mental Floss]

  • Parody of Netflix CEO on SNL

    Not all managers make good decisions. That's why decision making is taught in management classes! Bad decisions not only affect the business, but a bad decision can end up as a comedy routine on television. That's what happened to Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. when he decided to raise prices and move to digital streaming. Mail order DVDs were under a new company, Qwikster.

    It is important to learn from mistakes. Here's what Hastings told James B. Stewart in the New York Times. " I realized, if our busines is about making people happy, which it is, then I had made a mistake. The hardest part was my own sense of guilt. I love the company. I worked really hard to make it successful, and I screwed up. The public shame didn't bother me. It was the private shame of having made a big mistake and hurt people's real love for Netflix that felt awful."

    Why do you think Hastings made the decision to spin-off Qwikster? Was it a mistake? Explain.

  • LinkedIn Contacts

    Most college programs have an advisory committee made up of business professionals with specific occupational knowledge and expertise to advise on curriculum. Recently, the Management Careers Advisory Committee told us that they use LinkedIn to recruit employees. Unfortunately, most college students aren't members of LinkedIn. But, you can get ahead of others applying for jobs by joining LinkedIn while you are still in college. I recommend using Wayne Breitbarth's book, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success to develop your profile.

    The presentation below introduces the new LinkedIn Contacts.

    Are you a member of LinkedIn? If so, how would you rate your profile? Does it tell your story? Have you customized your URL to include your name? Have you asked your professors to give you recommendations on LinkedIn?

  • How Google Understands You

    When you want to know something, do you 'google' it? How does it work? Vertical Measures answers that question with an infographic. 

    How does literal search differ from semantics? What jobs might this technology replace?

    How Google Understands You [INFOGRAPHIC]
    Infographic by Vertical Measures

  • Financial Services and Banks Least Trusted

    Financial services and banks are one of the least trusted industries according the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer. It measures "the state of trust around the world by exploring trust in institutions, industries, leaders, and the impact of recent crises in the banking and financial service sectors."

    Do you trust your bank? Explain. How can managers at banks (and other businesses) rebuild trust?

  • The Power of Communication

    Helio Fred Garcia, author of The Power of Communication, views communications as an important aspect of leadership. He discusses how to communicate on three levels: strategic, operational, and tactical. To do this, he uses the U. S. Marine Corps' publication Warfighting and applies the Marine Corps' approach to communications.  

    • Words matter. Choose words wisely.
    • Words aren't enough. Tell us what you did, why you did it, and what was accomplished.
    • Connect with your audience. Adapt what you say to your audience.
    • Speed, focus, and capture the first move advantage.  Always be looking for the next opportunity.
    • Saying it isn't enough.  Look self-confident and professional.

    What can the U. S. Marine Corps and Mr. Garcia teach you? In what other areas could effective leadership communications help you?

  • Age Discrimination

    Most managers realize that age discrimination is against the law. Yet, ageism exists. So, it is important for young, newly, hired managers to be careful about age stereotypes. Researchers from the University of California in Berkeley, Hopkins School in New Haven, and Hunter College in New York co-authored a study, "Facebook as a Site for Negative Age Stereotypes," published February 7, 2013 in the Gerontologist.

    The abstract of the study stated the following.

    Ageism has been found to exist throughout a wide variety of societal institutions. Whether it also exists in social networking sites has not been previously considered. To explore this possibility, we conducted a content analysis of each publicly accessible Facebook group that concentrated on older individuals. The site "Descriptions" of the 84 groups, with a total of 25,489 members, were analyzed. The mean age category of the group creators was 20-29; all were younger than 60 years. Consistent with our hypothesis, the Descriptions of all but one of these groups focused on negative age stereotypes. Among these Descriptions, 74% excoriated older individuals, 27% infantilized them, and 37% advocated banning them from public activities, such as shopping. Facebook has the potential to break down barriers between generations; in practice, it may have erected new ones.

    The negative stereotypes of older people include being mentally and physically incompetent, slow, and technologically challenged. Yet, older employees were raised with televisions, while younger employees were raised with computers and cell phones.

    It is important to remember that older employees can be mentors to younger employees. They have unique skills and qualities and a lot of experience to share.

    A quote from Austrian writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenach is, "In youth we learn; in age we understand."

    What are some other positives about older employees?



  • How Organizations Structure Social Media Teams

  • How To Be a Master Minute Taker

    Managers and their work teams have meetings. You never know when you will need to take the minutes of a meeting. Don't panic. Christy Crump, the director of operations for Regulatory Compliance Services who has 25+ years of experience as an administrative professional, provides her top 3 minute taking tips to help you diminish this fear.

    1. Keep it simple.
    2. Be prepared for the meeting.
    3. Keep the marked up copy of the draft.

    What other tips would you add to be a master minute taker?


  • Measurement Matters

    "You can't manage what you can't measure." Measurement is very important to management control. It lets managers know whether or not plans have been met. If plans aren't met, adjustments must be made.

    The board of J.C. Penny let CEO Ron Johnson go last week. Johnson had been very successful at Target and Apple before joining J.C. Penney. Retail analyst Robin Lewis blogged his "continuing and steadfast belief in Ron Johnson's ultimate vision for J.C. Penney's: that of a transformed, uniquely-compelling shopping experience, appealing to a more contemporary-minded consumer who would form a new customer base, perhaps a smaller, yet more productive business, but nevertheless poised for growth vs. maturity."

    Yet, let's look at some measurements during Johnson's employment at J. C. Penney.

    Revenue declined by $4 billion.

    Graphic from http://ycharts.com/analysis/story/apple_guy_cries_uncle_in_facesaving_language

    Same store sales fell 32 percent.

    Graphic from http://seekingalpha.com/article/1279621-will-institutional-support-for-j-c-penney-vanish

    The stock price lost half its value.

    Graphic from http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-11/j-dot-c-dot-penney-rehires-myron-ullman-to-clean-up-ron-johnsons-mess

    More than 20,000 employees were laid off.

    Graphic from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324345804578423081955213990.html

    By any measure, J.C. Penney has had one of the worst performances by a major retailer.

    Now, Robin Lewis says that Ron Johnson's performance as CEO of J. C. Penney was "the most colossal, dramatic, tragic, transparent, rapid and microscopically tracked meltdown in the history of retailing."


    • Have any executives failed as badly as Ron Johnson? 
    • Did the board move too soon or too late? 
    • Will J. C. Penny come back?




  • Background Checks

    More companies than ever are checking the backgrounds of their applicants. Many companies outsource background checks on potential employees. One such company is AAIM Employers Association, which provides employer-related business services to 1,600 employers. Companies using the background checks and drug tests that AAIM offers increased 166 percent. Philip Brandt, CEO and President of AAIM Employers' Group said, "While we've seen employment growth stagnant and flat, we see that employers are taking advantage of inexpensive services that provide assurance about the hires they are making."

    Yet, managers need to make sure that they stay within the federal law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides managers with guidance. The use of some background checks in hiring can violate prohibitions against employee discrimination in title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If a company uses criminal history information for applicants in different ways for different groups, based on applicants' race or national origin, it could be in violation of Title VII.

    The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is an employee advocacy nonprofit organization. It Web site states, "Anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws provide critical protections for workers with criminal records.  But too often these laws are not enforced.  NELP is working to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act to expand job opportunities for people with criminal records."  

    The job market has tough competition. Many people want a job and hiring workers costs money. But, managers realize that costs might be even higher if they don't screen potential employees. So, many companies are requiring background checks and drug tests on all new hires.

    What other background factors might managers check before making their hiring decisions? What do each of these tell you about the potential employee?



  • CEO Severance and Bankruptcy

    CEOs of bankrupt companies have received millions of dollars. That doesn't seem fair since employee jobs and benefits are cut. Yet, if a company is in bankruptcy, CEO compensation is subject to the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code.

    Tom Horton, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of AMR Corp. and American Airlines, Inc. isn't allowed under the federal bankruptcy code to receive a severance payment of nearly $20 million when AMR merges with US Airways Group Inc. A judge cited a section of the federal bankruptcy code passed in 2005 that limits the CEO's bonus to 10 times the bonuses for the employees.

    Any party in a bankruptcy case can protest pay plans. But, only the U.S. trustee of the Justice Department objected to Horton's severance. They said the payment was too large in relation to the average severance that AMR employees were getting .The unions and other creditors had approved Horton's compensation.

    At Horton's rate, the severance of the AMR worker would average $2 million. There's no evidence that employees will receive that severance!

    Why do you think the unions approved the CEO's severance?

    What do you think the new airline after the merger will pay Horton?

    What type of bonuses should managers whose companies go into bankruptcy receive?



  • J. C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson Resigns Under Pressure

    When J. C. Penny (JCP) hired Ron Johnson as Chief Executive in June 2011, he was known as a retailing genius. Johnson was Apple's senior vice president of retail before joining J. C. Penney.

    He wanted to make JCP America's favorite store by offering everyday low prices and shops within a store - a collection of 100 branded shops and specialty boutiques within the store. Sephora and MNG by Mango were successful when he was hired.

    In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Johnson said, "In retailing, you've got to trust your intuition much more than you trust the data. You can't follow the customer. You've got to lead your customers . . . even before they know what they want."

    Picture from Wall Street Journal http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2013/04/08/will-ron-johnson-be-apples-prodigal-retail-genius/

    The strategy was implemented without testing.

    Coupons and regular sales were eliminated.

    Loyal, discount-minded customers left and shopped elsewhere.

    Sales continued to decline.

    Employees lost their jobs.

    Ron Johnson resigned April 8, 2013.

    • Have you shopped at an Apple store? Why?
    • Have you shopped at J. C. Penney? Why?
    • What is the difference between Apple and JCP?
    • Why wasn't Ron Johnson able to turnaround J.C. Penney?



  • KFC Reinvents Its Brand

    Managers at KFC are staking their future on boneless chicken. They say this may be the brand's most important decision since it was founded 60 years ago. As managers reviewed the external enviornment, they realized that most young adults had grown up eating chicken without bones, such as McDonald's chicken nuggets. The American consumer wants convenience. Everyone is busy. So, consumers can save time eating boneless chicken.

    Will boneless chicken be a turnaround for KFC? Explain.


  • Henry Mintzberg on Decision Making

    Think of a decision that you have made. Did you do, see, or think first?

    Tell us about your decision and the process you tried.

  • Working for Love

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of businesses having an office-dating policy? What problems arise from managers dating employees?

    Please Include Attribution to OnlineBusinessDegree.org with this Graphic
    Working For Love

  • What U.S. Employees Really Think About Today‚Äôs Workplace

    Root Inc., a strategy execution consulting company, shared the results of a survey conducted by Kelton titled “America’s Workforce: A Revealing Account of What U.S. Employees Really Think About Today’s Workplace.”

    The America’s Workforce study found:

    Employees feel discouraged: More than half (54%) of employees have felt frustrated about work.
    Manager/employee relationships need improvement: Only 38% strongly agree that their manager has established an effective working relationship with them.                                                    
    People don’t understand strategic direction: 40% say they don’t get the company’s vision or have never seen it.
    Innovation is being stymied: Nearly 67% of American workers can name at least one thing that would prevent them from taking any kind of risk at work.
    Big picture contributions missing: Only 43% of workers say they feel accountable for the company’s revenue, profit, or growth.
    Not leading by example: Just 26% of workers strongly agree that managers embody the values they expect from their employees, only 39% say their manager understands his/her role at the company, and 40% strongly feel their managers understand their company’s strategy or goals.
    Collaboration across teams is tough: Just 27% strongly feel they can depend on outsiders to fulfill their duties when working with other groups.
    Training isn’t relevant: 26% report they don’t have any training available to them right now, and the 62% who do have training available believe it is either somewhat or not at all applicable to their jobs.                                                                 

    The study also revealed some positive news and opportunities for companies to capitalize on:

    Finding the bright spots: 56% feel their company is better at identifying what works well instead of fixing processes that are not working.
    Training can make a difference: Workers with training available to them recently have felt committed (48% vs. 39%), happy (45% vs. 37%), and excited (30% vs. 14%) about work.
    Glimmers of hope: 43% of workers said they felt happy about work at some point in the last month.      

    In this video, Root's President, Rich Berens, discusses why this report is important to managers.

    What can managers do to improve their relationships with employees?

  • April Fools at Google

    The mission of Google is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." It is the world's largest search engine and the world's most dominant mobile operating system (Android). In addition to the work, Google likes to have fun.

    Google celebrated April Fools' Day on its Internet sites.

    Gmail Blue - The newest upgrade to Gmail is the color blue.

    Google Nose - The newest upgrade to search is a button to for smell. Just press your nose against the computer screen.

    YouTube Closes - The site shuts down to determine a talent winner.

    Google Maps - Treasure Map mode is introduced to users.

    Did you have fun on April Fools' Day? What do you do at work (home, school) to have fun?