GoodReads: A Hidden Social Network

October 21st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Reading books is somewhat of a family affair. While growing up, I often preferred to draw, write, or build with Lego over reading. However, when I found a particular book or author that I enjoyed, I read everything of their’s I could get my hands on. As I grew up, I began to research and finds books on topics that interested me. And that varied quite a bit. Everything from mystery novels to action-packed adventure types of books to personal finance, business development, sales, marketing, psychology of why people buy things, to books on quantum physics and other scientific subjects.

What I have found is that mostly all, if not all, subjects are tied together through some form of overlap. It could be small, or even seem indirect. But I love that everything is connected. And the more I read on a variety of different subjects from a variety of different authors,  I gain a broader perspective on the world and how things are viewed.

Reading has become of my favorite things to do. I find that while I read hundreds of articles each month online, read my fair share of e-b00ks and other forms of digital products, there is still something about a physical book that cannot be replaced by technology. I am still waiting for a bendable iPad, one that has more of a “real book” feel to it.

GoodReads

Have you heard of the social network GoodReads? It is an awesome online community of book readers who share what they are reading, what they want to read, and how they enjoyed each book. SImple enough, yet it is a powerful platform.

The site encourages you to read, to keep up with your friends and family, and to help authors by rating their books. It is an awesome concept and a network that should be promoted more.

My Current Reading List

I have caught the reading bug again. I tend to do that when I want to learn about a subject in-depth. Not only do I read as much as I can online and on my phone while waiting in line for coffee, but I tend to pick up as many books as I can about the subject to immerse myself into a new world and gain new understanding.

The Wall Street MBA, Second Edition
by Reuben Advani

The Wall Street MBA give you the tools to:

    • Review Financial Statements
    • Analyze Earnings
    • Detect Fraud
    • Assess Stock Prices
    • Value Companies
    • Determine the Cost of Capital

- from the back cover

The Ten Day MBA
by Steven Silbiger

Steven Silbiger’s international bestseller, The Ten-Day MBA, has already helped thousands master the skills taught at America’s top-ten business schools- at a fraction of the time and staggering cost of acquiring an MBA typically demands. This newly revised fourth edition contains the most up-to-date information available for understanding intricacies of today’s complex global business world. Distilling the material contained in most popular business courses presently at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and the University of Virginia- including leadership, corporate ethics, and compliance, financial planning, real estate, and all the latest topics- this invaluable volume will teach you how to:

    • Read and understand financial statements
    • Draft and adopt effective and comprehensive marketing plans
    • Comprehend accounting rules and methods
    • Manage your relationship with your boss
    • Develop corporate strategies
    • Understand the present value concept
    • Use quantitative techniques to evaluate projects
    • Value stock, bond, and option investments
    • Interpret the language of business law
    • Master the most-used MBA jargon…and more

The information, the expertise, and the confidence you need for success are all in the pages of this remarkable book- at the rate of one easy-to-follow chapter per day. 

- from the back cover

Financial Statements: Revised and Expanded Edition
by Thomas R. Ittelson

This revised and expanded second edition of Thomas Ittelson’s master work will give you the firm grasp of the numbers necessary for business success. With more than 100,000 copies in print, Financial Statements is a perfect introduction to financial accounting for non-financial managers, stock-market investors, undergraduate business and MBA students, lawyers, lenders, entrepreneurs, and more. 

Most introductory finance and accounting books fail either because they are written “by accountants for accountants” or because the author “dumbs down” the concepts until they are virtually useless.

Financial Statements deftly shows that all this account and financial-reporting stuff is not rocket science and that anyone can understand it!

- from the back cover

 

What books are you currently reading? How many books do you find yourself reading at one time?

 

 

Destroying Debt in Three Easy Steps

August 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Debt. Lot’s of people have it. Not many know how to get rid of it.

Debt is a fantastic tool, if used correctly. Debt can also spiral out of control – and fast!, if not careful.

1. Put together a spreadsheet listing the following across the top:

Month 20xx

Type of Credit Line | Name of Account | Credit Limit | Balance | Interest Rate | Attack Plan | New Total

This will be your basic module to fill in for each month. Fill out the first month listing all of the details for each column. The Attack Plan column will be how much you spend on each credit line for the month. Subtract the Balance from the Attack Plan to get the New Total.

2. Look at the highest balances and the highest interest rates first. You want to eliminate the higher interest credit lines first, as that is reducing your ability to reduce the balance.

3. Start off your “Debt Attack Plan” with a bang! Put together as much cash as you can afford to towards your highest interest rate card. The idea is to knock this one out first. A ration of 2:1 may be a helpful way of thinking about it. For example, you put $100 towards each of your 3 credit cards, equally. One of the cards has an interest rate of 16%, while the other two have rates of 6% and 0%, respectively. Instead of putting $100 towards each card, put more towards the highest interest rate first, say $200, and split the remainder among the other two cards, $50 each. As you begin to do this consistently, you will start to notice a big difference.

A Few More Tips to remember…

Once the high interest rate card is paid off, focus on the next highest interest rate, combining the money going to the first card with the low payment you are making towards the second card. This will reduce your debt much more quickly!

Consistency and Discipline are Critical to Success.  Many people, at some point, get into credit card trouble. It can happen at a moment’s notice due to a family emergency, or over time through small purchases. However you got to this point, realize that it can be corrected. It just takes hard work, consistent payments, and discipline to see results.

Now that you have paid off your debt, what do you do with all this free cash?!

You may have not realized just how much money was going to pay your credit cards or lines of credit until you don’t have to make those monthly payments any longer. Here are a few ways to spark your imagination as to what to do with your “extra” cash:

      • Plan a trip to an exotic country. With your newfound cash, you should be able to save up quite a bit in a short amount of time!
      • Save for a down payment on a house. Thought saving for a house was hard when paying $1,800 a month in credit card bills? Take that $1,800 and put it into a separate house fund. In a few short months, you may have quite a bit saved up!
      • Hire a Personal Trainer, a Cleaning Crew, a Lawn Service. Take advantage of your extra resources and outsource some chores you don’t want to be doing any more. Take charge of your health and get in shape with a personal trainer.

It is amazing how people can end up stuck in what feels like a virtuous cycle – going to work, paying bills, saving a tiny bit, repeat. When you can see how to break free of debt, you may find that you enjoy your job more, have more energy and free time, and are much more stress free.

If you are facing a debt hurdle, good luck! You can do it! Remember to put as much as you can towards your highest interest rate credit line first, as that will help to start build momentum as you attack your debt!

Unaware to Aware

August 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Have you ever noticed how before someone introduces you to a particular product, word, service that you hadn’t heard of before, you then start to notice it popping up more and more? For example, if you were unaware that Porsche made an SUV, but after a friend showed you theirs, you then begin to see them everywhere, almost as if everyone is driving a Porsche Cayenne!

This is what I call being “unaware to aware.”

Applying This Concept to Business

The idea that your specific target market knows you and your company, what it stands for and the value it offers is quite an egotistic one. Yet, for many small businesses who provide professional services, they have this misconception. It may be that the majority of their work comes through referrals and repeat business, but that doesn’t mean they are serving their entire target market. They couldn’t possibly.

As the title of this post suggests, the topic today is to transition potential customers who fit your target market etc. from being unaware of what you provide to being aware and knowledgable. As you move them through this transition, the idea is that they then begin to transition their friends and colleagues as well, making them aware of your company and putting you in a position to help more people.

The Concept

The concept is quite simple. Maybe you are a small business, one that has just began to market to a new area of town. No one recognizes the company, its brands or products. No matter the offering, the following steps will apply:

Step 1: Create and package content from your company to inform and educate your target market.

Step 2: Get this information out into the area you are targeting via public workshops, speaking events, or through joint ventures with other small businesses.

Step 3: Collect email addresses through these events and create an email campaign to further educate your target market on your products and services.

Step 4: Analyze data collected and repeat what is successful based on goals and objectives.

To build on this concept, I suggest you begin to further develop a BrandedWorld. Check out the BrandedWorld Framework or Blog for more information.

 

Small Business Doesn’t Have to Equal Small Profits

August 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The title of this post get some people riled up. That is not the point of this article. This article is meant to inspire and to allow you, the entrepreneur, to see that you can have a profitable, successful company and still remain small. Small does not equal weak. Small does not equal not smart.

Small can actually play to your advantage. If you let it. Being a small company, with the right structure, can allow you to move quicker on things than large corporations. You can think of it as a speed boat being a small company versus the titanic. Or maybe David and Goliath is a better analogy. In any event, everyone has the tools and resources at their disposal to be successful. It is a matter of believing that you have that kind of power, and two, having a network of people around you to help you accomplish your goals.

Networking, Joint Ventures, Outsourcing

In a previous post, I mentioned that the level field has been leveled through the internet and the vast amount of tools, software and network opportunities you can find on the internet. A small business can position themselves and their brand in a big way through strategic joint ventures. But they need to be thoroughly thought out and researched.

Business is a game of conquering, taking market share from your competitors and bringing customers into your branded world. You can see this everyday in advertisements of companies selling virtually the exact same services or products, but under the guise of different brands. But don’t tell either of those companies that. They will tell you their company’s mission, their story, and what makes their products and services different from their competitors. And they should. That is part of the game. You should be doing the same. It is part of creating and promoting your company and its’ branded world.

The game of Risk is a lot like the game of business. Your mission is to conquer the earth. You, as the commander of your army, must strategically position your men to fend off the competition as well as grow to get into more and more territories. The same idea is true of business. One of the goals is to expand in order to help more people. The more people you can reach with your message, the greater likelihood of achieving your mission. In the game of Risk, sometimes a joint venture makes sense in order to knock out another competitor. In this case, while you may both want to attain control of all the territories, you also know that less competition will allow you to get there faster. Therefore, you could establish a joint venture with your competitor for the time being, both knowing that it is a strategic move on both of your parts.

Business Strategy

Now while that example feels almost cut-throat, the concept, the idea behind it is not. It is a way of leveraging your strengths with your competitor’s strengths to achieve your goals. They happen to align and the two can do more good as a team than as individual companies. However, there may be long term effects from this partnership. So the strategy behind it and the objectives for it have to be clear and measurable.

The Positives of Joint Ventures

The upside to well structured joint ventures for small business can be overwhelming. By teaming up with a larger company or one that has a strong reputation in your niche or complimentary of your niche associates your company with that same credibility. It elevates your company to the next level. It allows your company to raise the bar and to expand into areas it may not have been able to reach as fast.

Bottom Line: You Are Worthy

The bottom line is that you are worthy and entitled to the profits that you earn. Simple as that. If you do not believe you are worthy of the profits, you will not reach the true potential that you want to believe you have in yourself. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sell your employees and your company short. Believe that you are worthy and work to achieve your company’s mission.

Just because your business may be small in size, does not mean your profits are. Think like a big player and you will become a big player.

Are You Selling Yourself or Your Company?

August 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

All business, big or small, boils down to one component: sales. The question, and title of this post, is are you selling yourself or your company in your sales calls and presentations? Sure, it is important to sell yourself personally, your distinct brand. However, if you are not a sole proprietor, or you do not perform the work yourself, you need to sell the company and its brand in order to show that capability.

Often times, small business owners in the professional services industry have the seller/doer mentality. In other words, they go after the contract, sell their services, then sit down and produce the products that they sold. And then the process begins all over again. Getting into this cycle, it is easy to create bad habits. These may be selling to potential clients what you yourself can do, rather than representing what the company and brand can do for the prospect.

Why is this a bad habit? If you get into the habit of selling yourself and your personal skill-set, clients will come to rely on you, personally. This is fine if you are young, efficient, and able to juggle the seller/doer mentality. But, as a business owner, you may not be meeting your goals and objectives. Sure, you may have work, but if you can not pass that work on to new hires, then the company cannot grow, and thus your profitability may be less than projected. Also, if you perform all of the work and also sell for the company, you are constantly working. There is no break as business development is a continuous process. It should never stop. But you have to stop. You need to complete all the tasks that you sold to your current clients. So what happens?

Examples of Small Businesses Who Get Stuck

  • A small business owner who also does all of the work themselves might have to turn down new work as well as forgo current clients in order to maintain a manageable schedule.

In my personal opinion, this example is ridiculous on so many levels. Turning down clients and forgoing current contracts in order to better manage your time tells me quite a few things. The first is that the company is not set up properly to grow and scale. A company, no matter the size, should always be organized to scale up, and more importantly, to run without the entrepreneur.

  • The small business owner, doer/seller grows tired of wearing all of the hats just to make the company churn. The owner may want to retire, or may want to sell the company and start a new project. A business owner may have a small company that has been in the community for say nearly 20 years. The company is well recognized and has high marks on the quality of service that they provide. However, the owner is growing tired of working so hard and never having a break. They decide to sell the company and focus on retirement and possibly starting a new project.

This example becomes very evident in a down economy, but happens very frequently. Just as in the example above, the owner is feeling overworked and wants to free his or her schedule. In this case, the owner is looking to sell the company. The problem is what exactly is the owner selling? For so many years, they were recognized as a great company because they, the owner, did the work personally. People grew to know the owner personally, not the company and brand. When people wanted buy the professional services, they specifically requested that the owner of the company do the work.

The Framework of the Company You Are Envisioning

The framework of your company allows all of the processes, components, and systems to work within specific parameters. If you are setting up a company, a framework must be in place. From all of my research, I have developed the BrandedWorld Framework, which provides a system to ensure that all areas of the organization are firing on all cylinders.

Vantage Point…What’s Yours?

August 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

A previously unpublished post from October 20xx…

Within any given organizational structure there are a variety of vantage points and perspectives that people have of the same processes, systems, and overall execution strategy to achieve the mission of the project at hand, or that of the company as a whole. As the entrepreneur, the question becomes, what is your vantage point? And are you able to clearly communicate that to your team members to allow them to be successful in meeting the mission laid out before them?

The Entrepreneurial Vantage Point

From the entrepreneur’s point of view, they are sitting at about 35,000 feet. They have a focused vision and a clearly defined mission that the company works to achieve everyday. The entrepreneur has put together a team to create processes and systems within the framework of the company to allow for employees with specific and specialized skill sets to work in and succeed at. It is the entrepreneur’s job to make sure that the company does not steer away from the vision or mission statement. This needs to be done through effective and consistent communication in a variety of media.

Common Problems

While stated above is an ideal mindset for entrepreneurs to have, the reality is that most come from a background lacking the ability to sit at 35,000 feet in order to have a bigger picture, a vision for where the company is headed and what its purpose for being truly is. Most small business owners are very focused on their specialty and cannot move away from it to work on the business. In other words, they can perform the work but cannot create a framework in which to work within and be successful.

A Recent Example

A few days ago, I happened to come across a small, boutique shop that sold costumes. Being that it is October and approaching Halloween, I wandered in as I was curious what they had to offer. From the moment I stepped inside, the experience was not  that of what a typical costume shop should be. Or better, yet, what it ought to be. Greeted by the owner of the shop, who also happened to make the costumes, sell the product on the floor, ring customers up, and anything else that needed to be done, it was clear that they were “stuck.” As we talked, I casually asked if they ever did custom costumes on commission. The answer that was given provided me with more information about the entrepreneur and their mindset more than anything.

The response was that they simply did not have the staff to take on such projects.

Clearly, the shop owner did not have well placed systems and processes in place to scale the business accordingly. They also focused on one revenue model which was selling products. There were no services offered, a static website, no online products or services, etc. The list goes on and on…

Why Is This Important?

Small businesses are able to focus on niches that larger companies do not go after. In a way, they can specialize to fit a specific target market within the market place. The key is to provide multiple ways to fulfill that need through different media channels as well as a variety of products and services. Just as people learn in different ways, people are attracted to different products and services through different ways. It may be that an online guide to face painting would attract someone and make them more likely to buy their face paint from that little shop. The guide is not only a product, but is also selling for the shop, showing that the shop goes above and beyond just having the products available, it will show you step by step how to do face painting like a professional.

The Project Manager Vantage Point

The project manager is in charge of making sure that the project tasked is completed on time and within budget. They are also in charge of making sure that the project and project team is aligned with the companies’ vision and that the project is helping to fulfill the mission. The project manager should, to some degree, take on an entrepreneurial mindset and vantage point to better understand.

On the Road Again

August 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Road Warrior. World Traveler. Adventurer. Explorer.

There is something quite exhilarating about the road. The people you encounter, the friends you make, the culture you experience. From a croc tour down under to snorkeling off the coast of a tiny country island, I’ve seen and experienced a lot. And I want more. It is an addicting feeling. The perks from miles and airline status are pretty awesome too! (Delta Platinum Medallion 3 years running)

Many of my travels have taken me outside of the United States. Yet, it is the US I’d like to explore more as well.

Traveling alone through a desolate desert landscape, an unfamiliar radio host your only companion and connection to the outside world.

A layover through a small airport in a foreign land onto a final destination, only to be fully immersed into the country’s language. Not one word of the english language written or spoken.

A series of flights, each of varying length, a long drive through darkness until the hotel appears as if an oasis.
30 hours of travel time, less than 2 weeks on the ground, 30 hours of travel time back home….

Standing at a location at the Demilitarization Zone (DMZ) in the Republic of Korea, surrounded by North Korean snipers on three sides.

Constantly On the Go

There is something about constantly being on the go. 4 days in location X, 2 days of travel, 4 days at location Y, 2 days of travel back. That schedule is awesome to me. Fast-paced, limited time, and a set of objectives to complete. Maybe its the adrenaline, or maybe I’m an intense traveler. Whatever it is, I love it.

There are many different professions that require nearly constant travel. The logistics, the planning, the schedules are what fascinate me. Music artists, entertainers, athletes, speakers, consultants, trainers, even the President of the United States, are in a constant state of travel. All of the professions I mentioned all play an important part of my life and have shaped my experiences and love of travel.

Home Body to World Traveler

I didn’t use to travel constantly. In fact, I rarely went anywhere out of my home state, unless on vacation. And even then, it wasn’t world travel. I didn’t want to travel, but was definitely curious about it at a young age. Most of my thoughts were about some of the first explorers, the fact that they depended on the stars, depended on trust, and were confident they would find something out there, beyond themselves, beyond the “world” they knew.

I feel the entrepreneurial spirit can be thought of an extension of the explorer spirit. Both share many of the same characteristics. Both have confidence, persistence, and discipline. Both blaze their own trail, figuratively and realistically.

The World is Getting Smaller. World Travel is Becoming Normalized

It may be hard to believe, but I feel that we are beginning to see world travel becoming normalized. In that, consultants, professionals, and experts must travel to where the work is. And that is becoming anywhere in the world. As nations emerge from third and second world into first world, they experience growth in a multitude of ways. And so, consultants, professionals, and others must travel to those locations, to those sites, in order to help them achieve their objectives.

Depending on the circles you socialize and work with, travel to far off places for projects has transformed into something that was seen as special, or only for the select few, to being almost commonplace. It is amazing how many people make multiple trips from the East Coast of the US to the Middle East in one year. Or Los Angeles to Asia. Or Hawaii to Australia.

And then, there are the road warriors who travel up and down the east and west coasts, and across the great plains of the United States, making sales calls, consulting on projects of all types.

Travel Aids in a Growing Economy

For the traveler, not being home, they must spend in order to have the necessities of home life. Hotels, cars, restaurants, entertainment, airfare, it all adds up. Without constant travel, economies would suffer. They would lose the influx of travelers to their country, state, city, or town. Traveling helps to keep small businesses alive.

And so, I Travel.

I travel to explore. I travel to work. I travel to experience the world. Traveling is within me, exploring is a part of me.

I am Benjamin. World Traveler. Adventurer. Explorer.

Metrics, Metrics, Metrics + Scope of Work

August 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In anything that you do, the more you measure and track your results, the better you can become. Data collection sounds dull and the opposite of creative, however, once that data is collected, think about all the creative ways you can display and analyze it. As you begin to see patterns, you can then adjust your processes and improve efficiencies in areas and watch your metrics change.

Business is about tracking, measuring, and improving efficiency. The layer on top of that basic principle is providing services that are not clearly defined in a scope of work or that are subjective and open to interpretation. Professional services, when not clearly defined, cause confusion and trouble between the client and the company performing the work. A common problem happens when a company adds in details, documents, or extras to over-deliver to the client’s expectations. However, there is a very fine line. Too many extras and the company has now dipped into their profit margin. The next time a project comes up with that client again, they will remember that they got more for their money, not that the company was providing “extras.” In negotiations for the next contract, the client will then push that what the company provided was standard and that they should not have to pay more. The company is now in a hard position. They provided “extras” in order to get the client to see what else they could do, yet they did not clearly communicate this, therefore de-valuing the work.

Clearly Defined Scope of Work

In negotiations for service contracts, it is critical to clearly define, with both parties agreeing to the terms of the contract. With vague language in the contract, there can be many loopholes that can end up hurting the relationship overall. How you choose to define the scope of work will determine the expectations of the contract.

Above and Beyond the Scope

Many professionals are of the belief that the scope of work are simply guidelines, but that if they go above and beyond that scope, they will be over-delivering, thus impressing the client. It sounds logical on the surface, but does it really help the relationship between the company and the client? Does it help to keep the perception of the quality of work high?

Basic Scenario Case Study

Contractor XYZ has a contract in place with a specific number of site visits and reports/deliverables due for a specified fixed price over a set period of time. A firm fixed price contract (FFE) with a set period of performance, in other words.

Contractor XYZ knows there is a lot of competition for this specific type of work. They originally bid the contract low in order to win the work. Their strategy is to do great work for the client, build a solid reputation and relationship, and increase their prices over time. The strategy entails delivering more value to the client beyond the scope of work to keep them satisfied.

At the beginning stages, contractor XYZ is able to over deliver on certain aspects of the projects that would help the clients with their internal meetings. This brought additional value to the the client, at no extra cost. Over time, this “extra value” is perceived by the client as “standard” and has come to expect this with each and every project that they assign to contractor XYZ.

Contractor XYZ is starting to realize that they are delivering much more than their contract states, and aren’t being recognized or more importantly, compensated for their efforts. While they did bring this on themselves, they still feel their client should be paying for the “added-value” they continue to deliver.

The contractor is at a cross-roads. When the next contract is negotiated, they determine that they will be able to win a higher FFE amount based on their reputation of past project work.

The client is also at a cross-roads. They are getting a lot more than they originally asked for in the scope of work. They want to maintain the value they are getting for the same price, or lower.

Analysis of Case Study

When analyzing this case study, you can begin to understand the contractors position, though you may not agree with it. Seeing that the type of contract that they bid on was highly competitive, they chose to go the low bid route, thus winning them the initial contract. They figured they could perform the work and eek out a small profit, knowing that larger contracts would come their way eventually.

This is where they made their mistake. Being the low bidder may win you the work, but can cause harm to your brand, brand perception, and quality of work. In the professional services industry, the work itself is not necessarily any different across organizations, however the process, the experiences they provide, and quality of the final product can vary widely. In other words, the value that you deliver justifies the price of the contract. If, in the proposal, the firm does not clearly show the value the client will receive, then most likely, the client will refer back to price. When the client refers back to price, the lowest price usually wins the contract. In the long run, they tend to lose as well.

Parts to a Clearly Defined Scope of Work

PROJECT OVERVIEW

PROJECT NAME

PROJECT PURPOSE
What is the goal of the project?

PROJECT SUMMARY DESCRIPTION
Summarize what the project will entail

PROJECT PAYMENT TYPE
How will you get paid? (Upfront, installments, upon completion)

PROJECT DURATION
Specify the date range when the work will take place. Beginning X Date, ending X Date

WORK LOCATION
Specify where the work will be performed

DESCRIPTION OF SERVICES
Consultant agrees to provide the following services (“Services”) to Client:
List services to be provided.

DELIVERABLES
List and describe all deliverables associated with the project.

STATUS REPORTS
Outline the timing, format and communication channels for all status reports.

 

 

Benefits of Six Sigma Across All Business Operations

August 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Six Sigma is a set of tools and techniques/strategies for process improvement originally developed by Motorola in 1985. The objective of Six Sigma is to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. Each Six Sigma project carried out within and organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified value targets, for example, process cycle time reduction, customer satisfaction, reduction in pollution, cost reduction and/or profit increase.

The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes. The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a sigma rating indicating its yield or the percentage of defect-free products it creates. A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million), although, as discussed below, this defect level corresponds to only a 4.5 sigma level.

- From Wikipedia

My Experience So Far with Six Sigma

Coming from the world of planning, when I stumbled upon Six Sigma, I was immediately fascinated. Planning, to me, occurs at all levels, across all industries, and is a critical exercise in determining the next move in nearly all situations. Six Sigma is a set of tools that helps organizations analyze data in order to make a decision on improving operations and processes. The great thing about Six Sigma is that it can be applied to any industry and to any process. This fascinated me, and I dove right into learning more and understanding how I could apply it in my career and other ways.

32 weeks of rigorous study, lectures, exams, and a simulation project, I emerged a Six Sigma Black Belt.

While the programs I completed offered references and documents, I stepped it up and added about 10 more books to my collection from my own research. Reading these books alongside the program lectures and assigned readings helped to gain a broad perspective of the subject from a variety of sources. I truly feel had I not read all that I did outside of the programs, my understanding of Six Sigma would not be what it is today.

Here are few books to get you started if you are interested in learning more about Six Sigma.

I have been able to apply the Six Sigma principles and methodologies to my work in land planning. The work flows, mix of team members, and time management all come into play. How does Six Sigma apply?

Based on that criteria, I was able to map out the steps of the process that my team goes to pre-trip, in the field, and post-trip. From these process maps, I can then do an analysis on which I work to combine steps, eliminate steps, and create templates and other tools that will increase the efficiency, maintain or increase the quality of our work product, and reduce stress on the team, ultimately creating a better work environment. What I have determined was that I had begun to perform this analysis and revisit it over the last 4 years or so without knowing what it was called. Now, after my knowledge in Six Sigma, I am able to go deeper into my analysis as I work to improve the work-flow and increase the quality of our work products that we deliver to our clients worldwide.

While my team has benefitted immensely with the improvements made so far, there are always variables that come into play and that causes me to revisit the current process and determine where we can improve further. One of the variables are the team members selected for specific projects. While a system is in place to maintain and ensure a familiar work product to the client, there is always lag time in training and getting the new team members up to speed. This reduces the efficiencies that had been made prior, so it is always a continuous effort to try and keep the momentum that has been built.

In later posts, I will go further into the steps of the two main Six Sigma processes. Six Sigma has been described as “the scientific method for business,” and I tend to agree.

Living a Gluten-Free Lifestyle Challenge

July 29th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I have embarked on a lifestyle challenge that, for those who know me best, would seem downright crazy. Yes, I have chosen to go gluten free. Not for the short term. Not for 4 weeks. But a lifestyle change completely.

Changes

gfco-logo-with-watermarkOver the past two years, I have consciously changed my eating habits, including more fruits and veggies, less breads, sugars, and excess drinks. I also increased daily exercise by simply walking to the office, 1.3 miles each way. In doing this, I have seen a lot of changes, many for the better. I also, surprisingly, have not missed the foods that I use to crave growing up and throughout the college years: pizza.

Going gluten-free is important to protect the longevity of my health and family. My fiancee and I are both committed to it and so far, are having fun finding recipes that replace what we use to enjoy. I think as time goes on, we’ll discover and see the benefits even more.

Gluten-Free

The more I read the labels on foods, the more conscious I am becoming to the food industry and how they are substituting ingredients for man-made chemicals that “taste” like the real thing. Getting away from processed foods, even Gluten-Free processed foods is the best thing anyone can do for themselves and their families.

The Big Challenge

In my travels to exotic locations, it will be a big challenge to try and continue my lifestyle of eating gluten-free. I’ve read that the more you stay away from gluten, the more your body reacts to it when you do have it, even trace amounts.