THE PROS & CONS
Managing a business has never been harder and never been easier than it is right now. There are many new
business tools on the market to assist the business manager and/or owner operate a more efficient and profitable business.
On the other hand, there are an extreme amount of potential circumstances and business hazards that can throw a business into
the "abyss of no deposit /no return" on a heartbeat. Government regulation and intervention has never been more deeply rooted
and obnoxiously involved in private enterprise than it is right now. Operating a business that is compliant to all government
standards and regulations can be an extensive and expensive project in itself. In some cases it takes a dedicated person in
a business or company just to keep up with and maintain such a compliant position. Amidst all of the pros and cons of business
ownership and management, there are some key principals to keep in mind when evaluating your business management skills. If
these key principals are the foundation on which we build a business management system is built, the chances for failure or
catastrophe will be greatly reduced and in some cases eliminated. The following are not all inclusive, but will greatly assist
the business owner or manager produce a more efficient and profitable business.
Incoming communication must be monitored thoroughly. This includes telephone, fax, e-mail, voice mail, postal
mail, pagers and mobile phones. In this high tech society we live in there are some people who choose to communicate only
through one mode. If you or your staff do not monitor these various avenues of incoming communication on an momentary or hourly
basis (depending on what your business dictates) you may miss out on very valuable needed information, or hundreds and thousands
of dollars in income.
Answer telephones by the third ring. Be sure to return calls promptly when a message is left with a secretary
or receptionist or on voice mail. Check for e-mails hourly or daily depending on the need in your particular business. If
your business is internet active and you use e-mail, Take full advantage of all its potential. It is a fast and economical
means of receiving and sending communications. If you have an e-mail address and you only check it once a week or once a month,
this can be very frustrating to people who are trying to communicate time-dated material to you. If you dont want to mess
with e-mail then dont publish an address or a web site for your business. Communications must be thorough and consistent in
order to be effective.
Outgoing communication is very important. Respond to every incoming communication that in any slight way
may require a response. Sometimes just acknowledging receipt of an incoming communication is all the courtesy that is needed.
Make sure that your
responses are timely and with in the confines required to be courteous and potentially productive. Make sure
all your communications are understandable by the receiver and that they are accurate to the point(s) necessary in the on-going
Make sure the statements you make in outgoing communication do not obligate you beyond that which you want
to be or are comfortable with. Dont make empty claims or promises. Of course, be careful to use courteous, non-suggestive,
foundationally moral, ethical and non-incriminating language in all of your outgoing communication. If you dont mean it, dont
say it. Truth is always expressed best in a "matter of fact" manner. "Spinning" statistics and data and using double meaning
can sometimes come back to haunt you. Remember, words mean things and everything communicated can ultimately be interpreted
by the receiver.
Always allow room in your outgoing communication for response from the receiver. Never "burn the bridges"
behind you or shut communication down on a permanent basis.
Apply these same principals of communication with conversations with fellow employees, colleagues in the
same type of business, related and associated interactive businesses, and sales representatives that may call on your business.
Good "in house" communication is essential to managing a business properly and efficiently. Always let the
"right hand know what the left hand is doing". This involves accurate and timely communications between all aspects of your
business. Most people cannot read your mind, and thus should not be expected to. Be clear and intentional in all of your "in
house" communications. Never make assumptions. Never assume that others understand what you are trying to communicate. Explain
possible misunderstandings or misinterpretations before they become misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Irregardless of what type of business you are involved in, manage or own, organization is a primary aspect
of running a profitable efficient business. Every aspect of organizational management must be considered to see proper overall
business management come into focus.
The office(s) are of a crucial importance when it comes to organization. Because the offices general receive,
control and issue all of the vital information necessary to maintain the business they must be organized in a way that is
primarily understandable to everyone involved in the business management process.
Files should be labeled and sorted alphabetically or chronologically, which ever is applicable in each particular
system or business. Office supplies should be stored so that they are identifiable and accessible to those needing them.
Instructions for the operation of various office equipment, such as computers, fax machines, photocopiers
etc., should be by, or adhered to each piece of equipment.
Organization of the finances of your business simply makes a business more intelligent as to its income and
its cost of doing business. When such records are kept in an orderly understandable manner, they can be obtained quickly and
easily for a reference making other related financial decisions, projected budgets or tax preparation. Financial data and
records are primarily categorized into two main areas income and expenses. "Income" refers to monies generated from sales
of products and/or services. "Expenses" refers to the costs of labor, materials, facilities and other supplies needed to operate
a productive business. The bottom line rule for the finances of every business is to keep the expenses less than the income.
This is what produces profit and perpetuates the life of any business.
Organization also extends into scheduling and giving assignments to employees, volunteers, contractors and
sub contractors as needed. A system of making sure employees and associated workers know what they are supposed to do, when
they are supposed to do it, and that it has been accomplished or will be accomplished in a certain time frame, will take stress
off the job and also make a business run more efficiently.
Organization needs to be practiced in the general mechanical and plant management of a business. The physical
facility needs to be laid out in a way that is not confusing to clients or employees. The plant or facility should be kept
clean and organized so that accidents and potential hazards are avoided as much as possible. A clean and well organized facility
saves time and energy and assists the employees and equipment in operating more efficiently and economically. If you are in
a business where your clients also use your facility (part or whole) they will also appreciate a clean and well organized
facility. It may also influence them to use your business again in the future when needed.
Productivity is the reason for being in business. If your business does not produce a line of tangible goods
(some form of merchandise) or a needed service, you have nothing to offer the marketplace. You must know not only what you
are to produce (service and/or goods), but also who you are producing it for. Being able to properly identify who your products
or services are intended for is called marketing. If you try to sell goods and services to someone who has no use for them,
you are not marketing your business properly. If you are able to properly identify those people or groups or businesses that
essentially need your product or service, then you will be more successful as a business.
Your business may produce goods or services for another business, or it may produce goods or services for
the general public. When you produce goods or services for another business you would generally be referred to as a wholesaler,
supplier or sub contractor. When you produce a product only to the general public you may be generally referred to as a retailer
or merchandiser. If you only provide services to the general public you may be thought of as a service provider. Some companies
provide both goods and services for people in their business operation. Examples of this may be an automotive supplier that
not only sells you the new part for your car, but also installs it for you. An optician may not only examine your eyes but
also sell you a pair of glasses or contact lenses. A funeral home may not only provide professional care for the deceased
and provide a facility for funeral service, but that same business may also sell you a casket or a cremation urn.
Whether your product is a good or a service, it should be predictable. In other words the purchaser or consumer
should be able to count on the quality of it being consistent with its expectation. Producing a consistent and a dependable
quality product or service is essential to remaining as a viable competitor in the marketplace of business you are involved
Your product or service should also be preferable. Your clients should be so satisfied with what you sell
or do for them that they would gladly recommend your business to others requiring the same goods or services. If your product
or service is just "status quo" or typical, you may or may not fall into this preferable category. However, if what your business
produces is exceptional in quality and value, you may be assured that you will be recommended whenever possible. If you are
desirous of growing the business you are involved with, this position of having a preferable product or service is a must.
Finding creative ways to develop and market better products and services is always what propels a business
into a more positive financial future. Investments into new and better ways of productivity will usually produce more income
in the long term, providing that all of the angles and potentials (including but not limited to moral, ethical and legal parameters)
have been carefully considered and rehearsed.
The smart manager or business owner does not try to "do it all". In the fast paced life we experience on
a daily basis in our culture, trying to be a "one man or one woman show" may often get the best of anyone. A good manager
establishes "safety zones" not only for himself or herself, but also for the business that is being managed.
If there is a task that can be contracted out to another business so as to allow time for other more important
processes to take place within the business operation, it should be done. It may also be more economical to contract certain
jobs out to a company or contractor that specializes in doing that type of work.
On a personal basis, the manager should know the other fellow workers well enough to know which ones are
better in certain aspects of the company operation. As the need for the accomplishment of certain jobs or assignments arises,
the business manager should be able to know which employee would be best suited to receive that assignment. The process of
delegating job responsibilities is an important one, and not to be accomplished without strong considerations of all the potentials.
Remember, a manager cannot give someone the responsibility to do a certain job or task without enabling them with the necessary
authority on the job to accomplish that assignment or task. This includes trusting them to have the necessary skills and abilities
that will enable them to complete the job or assignment.
Basic computer skills are primary to getting most any job done. Computers are used in just about every field
of employment and business. PCs or personal computers are the most widely used. Computers come in a variety of sizes and configurations.
From the small hand held personal organizers and date books, to the room filling manufacturers robotic controllers, they all
serve various purposes and help to make our work easier and quicker. They can be linked together into groups, sometimes referred
to as networks, or they can operate independent from one another to perform specific tasks.
BASIC COMPUTER COMPONENTS
Most computers consist of five primary components:
1). Monitor (viewing screen helps you see the various activities and functions of the computer.)
2). Tower (brains, or actual computer element which may include the memory systems or hard drive for
data storage, the various programs used in the function of that computer, a network card which connects the computer to a
network of other computers,a device called the modem which connects the computers to others or to the internet.)
3). Keyboard (used to control input, output to the computer primarily through the typing process.
It also is useful in directing the various activities and functions of the computer.)
4). Mouse (a hand held pointing device that make a small arrow move across the screen to accomplish tasks
more quicker than typing.)
5). Printer (used to produce documents generated by the computer system. Various types of printers
include dot matrix, laser, ink jet, bubble jet and several others.
Most computers will turn on the entire system by simply pushing the power button on the tower or brains of
the computer. However, it is important to note that some complex systems require you to turn on each individual piece of equipment.
It may also be important to find out if there is a specific order these various pieces of equipment should be turned on and
off. Sometimes this makes the difference between injuring or even destroying the inside working components of a piece of equipment.
Most office computing utilizes a program or operating system called "Windows" which is a series of framing
devices around the work field of the monitor which help you accomplish the desired goals of your situation. Usually at the
top of the screen there is a series of words and icon (or picture) boxes put together in a collective series called a toolbar.
The bottom of the screen typically shows you what program(s) are in use at the current time. The toolbar is usually controlled
by moving the little white arrow (by moving the mouse) so that it points on the specific area or task that you want the toolbar
to help you do. By "clicking" on the mouse (suppressing the left front button on the mouse quickly) you will activate the
specific tool or function that you are desiring.
Learning how to use the various programs that your specific workplace uses will be something you will have
to be personally instructed on. Computer programs, sometimes referred to as software, are geared specifically to create, procure,
produce and support other programs. Example: You have typed in information to the computer and generated a document you now
want to print out. The program you are using to type data into is a different program than the one that will control the printer
once you give it the command to print it out. This would be why you cant just plug any printer into the back of the computer
and expect it to work. You must make sure that the computer has the appropriate program (sometimes called software) installed
in it to operate the specific printer you are using. This rule generally applies to all equipment that could be attached to
your main computer components.
Other equipment sometimes called hardware, you might find in or around the computer would be a scanner. This
is a device used to transplant other fields of information or data into the computer (typically used for photographs, other
documents or artwork.) Fax machines or other devices called multi function units may be connected to the computer. There are
some of these units that will fax documents, print copies of the documents and act as a scanner for the computer all in one
unit. Digital cameras and digital camcorders are also popularly used with computers to process real life images into useful
productions of media.
THE INTERNET & INSTRUCTION MANUALS
Often times when other computers interact together they do so through a vast series of networks called the
internet. It commonly uses the phone lines as its highway of conveyance. This vast interconnection of computers all around
the world is sometimes referred to as the world wide web (www). Each computer goes through a large system called a host or
internet service provider (isp) which will navigate it to the desired web site or information it is requesting.
Web sites are various locations on the world wide web which are actually owned and maintained by individuals,
groups, governmental agencies or businesses. The identify them and help someone communicate with them or be aware of their
business offerings. Many web sites contain several web pages on the site to display the various aspects of their business
or operation. Web sites that are similar in interest or purpose may often be connected together through the means of an "electronic
handshake" called a link. Sometimes a link will be transmitted through an e-mail communication. This is simply when someone
types in the literal web site address so that the receiver can see how to locate that specific site on the world wide web.
It is always best to follow the manufacturers specific instructions on operating the computer, its components
and the various programs which make it function. All equipment and all software come with instruction manuals. They will help
you use the equipment (hardware) and the programs (software) to their fullest capability.
EMPLOYEE / EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIPS
THE NEED FOR ASSISTANCE
Working as a business owner or manager can be a lonely and thankless job. There are often extra and long
hours at inconvenient times to work just to get the necessary details accomplished for the procurement of a single job. Smaller
operations that carry only one or two employees reflect this even more. Because good business management skills are not a
thought process that is commonly understood or desired by the vast majority of the general public, it is easy to see the job
of a manager as more of an endurance test rather than a rewarding career.
Some are initially drawn to into a specific business because they perceive the "financial success" of their
parents, siblings or friends already established in a business. Others are attracted to it because of the polished image of
the facilities, equipment or professionally appearing staff. Some others come into a specific career because they are intrigued
by the supposed psychology reflected by the uncommon or unknown. Then there is that very small group that truly see their
career as an avenue to serve mankind and maybe even practice the "personal care" aspect of the specific business they are
Whatever the initial reason that someone was drawn into a particular career or business, most people involved
in business evolve over the years of work into more of a "financial mechanic", balancing money, employees, supplies, inventory
and advertising rather than becoming a true entrepreneur or professional. We must strongly consider this fact if we want to
accomplish anything in the area of inter personnel relationships and development. Understanding what the expectations and
the progresses already made of those who work around us in the business setting will help us grow into more healthy relationships.
Most businesses will employ at least two or three employees at least on a part time basis. Depending on the
type of small business, it may take a minimum of two people to run an operation adequately. There are usually going to be
many points of contact and interaction during a typical business day. Since most of you taking this course could be business
owners, managers or potential managers, lets look at the working relationships between a manager of a small business and those
who are hired to assist in the operation of that business.
THE EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
The best way to secure a good working relationships with your employees (full or part time help) is to have
a solid foundation to work from. If done properly this should include two things: obtaining knowledge and information about
the employee and giving the employee accurately information, a desired expectation and thorough job description.
When gathering information at an interview you must be careful to gather only the information yielded to
you by the potential employee. All information is important. Try to understand the basic perceptions and expectations of the
potential employee as clearly as possible. Converse in a comfortable and casual way. Try to find common points of interest,
and as much as possible, allow them to express their values and goals if they wish to. There are laws about what you can and
cannot ask in an interview. Make sure you know what they are, and adhere to them strictly. A potential employee may wish to
convey personal information about themselves that you are not permitted to ask them about. You may listen to them if they
elect to yield such information, but do not coach them or comment on what they tell you.
If at all possible, it is wise to have another employee or partner attend the interview as an observer not
a co-interviewer. If both of you are interviewing the potential employee, he or she may feel out- numbered. If you are interviewing
someone who you already have some previous knowledge of, guard yourself from assuming that the potential employee already
knows what is expected. Never assume anything.
It is always good to have a printed job description stated exactly what will be expected and what will be
the compensation for proper performance. When describing job duties and expectations of the potential employee, it is always
best to list as much of the activities that you think the perspective employee will be ask to perform or participate in. It
is always good to keep the door open by using language like "duties will include but not be limited to" when listing the requirements
of the potential employee. Give them such a statement at the beginning of an interview.
Make sure you are very exact and specific about compensation (wages). Specify when they will be paid exactly
how much they will be paid and what and how the options or potential commissions and bonuses will be earned. Be very clear
about employee benefits, major medical, dental, optical, disability, 401K plans retirement options, clothing allowances, company
cars and other such available perks. Speak distinctly about the financial parameters and eligibility requirements for all
such benefits. Putting together a printed list of such benefits and options may be very useful in helping this part of the
conversation transact smoothly. Always ask if there are any questions at the end of a specific point or the actual end of
the interview. Never assume that the interviewee will retain their questions to the end of their interview and then ask them.
They might be more nervous than they are letting on. If you have any doubt that the potential employee has retained or comprehended
the information discussed review it.
Also, remember that body language is very important. If you interview the potential employee in your personal
office and you are seated behind your big oak desk, leaning back in your padded high back leather chair, you may portray a
very haughty or arrogant image, even though you may not really be that way. Watch how the person you are interviewing sits,
stands or walks. Do they slouch in a chair they are sitting in? Do they lean up against a doorframe or a wall while you stop
to show them various rooms in your business? Do you notice physical difficulty in the processes of sitting or standing? Keep
an eye on their facial expressions, but do not judge them completely by them. Some people display unusual or different facial
reactions when they are nervous or anxious. If they continually smile, or never smile, or never change their facial expression
at all, this could be a sign of some discomfort with the environment of your business.
Interviewing in a "family room" setting, or around a table where all the chairs match, creates a more comfortable
and level "playing field" for the two of you to interact. It is usually good to show them exactly where you would like them
to sit when you enter the room for the interview. However, if you choose to let them select a seat, be aware of how far or
how close they choose to sit to you. Are they so close that they invade your "personal space"? Do they choose to keep a chair
or a seat between you and themselves? Some people will sit down in the next available seat but scoot it away a couple of inches
or turn it slightly to face you better. These are all indicators of how a person is desiring to interact in the interview
If your business has a dress code, adhere to it strictly for the interview. However, if it doesnt, or if
you are able, dress a little more causal or comfortable for the interview. It may help set the tone for a more informative
and personal conversation.
If you decide that the potential employee could become a staff member, ask him or her to schedule another
time to meet with you and/or some of the other staff again. Never hire someone during a first interview. Guard your language
against implications that would indicate that you are extremely interested in them or that indicate that you are definitely
going to hire them. Observe to see how interested they are in a second meeting. Sometimes you are more interested in them
than they are in you.
The first few days of employment is a very important days in the relationship of the employer and the employee.
While they may be seasoned with moments of anxiety and discomfort, dont let those awkward times set a permanent tone or attitude
in the relationship. It is good to strike a solid balance between being firm about the expectations on the job and having
a posture of understanding towards the newness of the situation and other interacting personalities in and around the environment.
Be aware of the continuous use of excuses for inadequate performance. Evaluate the questions that a new employee
may ask. Are the questions "in text" with the aspect of the job they are questioning? Does the employee show a certain amount
of basic concern for the overall perpetuation and image of the business? Is their work complete and thorough? Remember, an
employee may complete a job, but not do it thoroughly. How long do they rely on yours or another supervisors personal oversight
and/or guidance in a particular aspect of the job? Are they doing exactly what they are told to do, or a little more? Is that
good or harmful to the work arena? Sometimes going above and beyond the call of duty is not the most ideal thing for the entire
workplace. Other times, it is the saving grace of the entire situation.
Again, try to balance a healthy amount of respect and understanding into the relationship. You may need to
review the notes you took in the interviewing process to remind you whether or not there may be a past experience or influence
that is affecting the persons performance on the job. Try to build on the positive side of every situation.
CONTINUING THE RELATIONSHIP
Most employer/employee relationships stay in tact because of two basic elements. They are control and empowerment.
Every employee needs to have a certain amount of control or authority over them in the workplace environment. And, every employee
needs to be empowered or motivated to do the job correctly and to the satisfaction of the employer.
Control or authority is simply having definite guidelines for performance and accomplishment in the employment
setting. Consistency by the employer is the key factor in maintaining healthy relationships. Relaxing the requirements occasionally
will destroy the expectations and remove the control that is necessary in maintaining a productive working environment. When
control and authority is issued in a healthy and balanced way, the employee will be respectful of the employer and the expectations
Empowering an employee may be a very complex issue. It may range anywhere from the compensation package to
the amount of personal friendship and encouragement issued by the employer. Some people are motivated or empowered by money
and/or the potential of personal gain or development. This is where the knowledge of the values of the employee are very important
to the employer.
Some employees can be empowered by a graduating pay scale over time. Others can be motivated by additional
perks being added to their employment package from time to time. To other employees, more potential of time off might be a
key empowerment, so they can accomplish the goals of their personal life as well as their career goals in funeral service.
Assisting an employee to have time and to afford additional education might prove to be an empowering or motivational force.
Sometimes just an occasional change of duties or responsibility will break the monotony and provide a new excitement or motivation
towards the job.
There are many creative ways to empower and to also control the employee in the working environment. Never
try to control the employee without motivating or empowering the employee also. Never try to just empower the employee without
having some sort of parameters (control) around the environment. Even self-motivated people need encouragement and empowerment
from time to time. And remember, an employee who tries to exercise control or authority in an aspect of the working environment
that he or she is not supposed to, is usually out of control. That can be a very dangerous factor in the relationship of the
employer to the employee.
Proper order dictates that the employer has the ultimate authority or control of any situation in that workplace
Eventually, all things come to an end. The end of an employment relationship may look like a retirement.
It may be that the employee needs to be discharged for some continuous violation or neglect of duty. It may be that the employee
simply chooses to leave for internal or external reasons beyond the employers control.
If you are considering dismissing an employee for any reason, it is always good to seek legal counsel before
acting on it. This will simply ensure that you are not going to have unwanted repercussions from the situation after it takes
place. After you have got the legal advice you desired, it is best to call the employ away from the work environment and other
employees (possibly your private office, maybe go to a coffee shop or restaurant). Conduct a very calm and controlled discussion
as to why the situation has got to where it is. Be prepared to recite the facts or occurrences that have influenced your decision,
only if the employee asks for such information. Be very clear as to the core reasons for your action of dismissal, not necessarily
the incidents that led up to it. Try to avoid personality issues and stay within the language confines that your legal counsel
may give you. You may want to have a prepared written statement handy, if you feel that is a more definite way to approach
the situation. Again make sure it is worded exactly how your counsel desires it to be. Never dismiss an employee over the
phone or in an e-mail. Make sure there is a face to face verbal meeting.
Occasionally you will be discharging an employee because they dont work out in your particular environment,
but might be fine in another one. Then it would be appropriate to issue a letter of recommendation to them for future reference
and use in securing other employment. Try to find the points that you both agree on and move on from there.
If an employee is moving on because of his or her own personal reasons or preferences, it is good to also
try to arrange a private meeting where you can mutually discuss the situation. It may be done under the guise of wanting to
learn from the experience so as to be able to retain other quality employees. Or, it may be simply to be sure there is an
open line of communication so as to preserve the relationship beyond the boundaries of the employment situation if that is
desired. You have no right to require such a meeting. It is likely that an employee that has decided to leave the company
may not wish to participate in such a meeting. Use good judgement in the initiating of such an event.
In all cases of employee separation, make sure the employee receives every aspect of benefit and compensation
they are entitled to under their employment agreement. Do not retain wages or benefits as a form of collateral or security.
If an employee owes the company money for damages to the workplace or work environment or for wage advances, prepare a statement
itemizing such monetary definitions and present it to them. Do not try to take such monies out of their wages, commissions
or benefits. Should such issues ever become issues of litigation, you will be much farther ahead in the process if you have
treated the employee fairly and rendered all of their wages and benefits to them before asking for reparations. In some situations,
it is best to simply forgive such obligations of the employee. When you add up the frustrations and potential legal fees involved
in trying to collect such a debt, it may be more simple to "eat it" or absorb the costs, and get on with business.
Never "burn a bridge" of relationship. Even in the worst of situations there may be some redeemable aspect
left in that relationship. There are always going to be situations of separation that cannot and should not be reversed. These
are situations that should be handled with care and concern for the benefit of all concerned. When there are legal aspects
or potential litigation involved make sure that all interactive communications are polite, calm and neutral in language.
Always wish a leaving employee well and if there is any moral, legal or ethical way to assist them, do so.
Life is a tangled path and if there is always the potential that you will need to communicate or even participate with these
same co-workers sometime in the future.
Owning and/or managing a small business in the 21st century will no doubt prove to be a challenging
task. Knowing how to incorporate the fundamentals of sound management techniques, computer skills and employee relationships
will prove to be vital tools in such an era. The qualified manager must have an intimate working knowledge of the business
he or she is involved with and be willing to hold to the standards of good business as well as remain flexible to change and