Archive for March, 2012

In my last post I gave an overview of a revolutionary work environment concept called the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) pioneered by consulting group Culture RX. Today I wanted to finish my 2-part ROWE mini series by summing up the organizational benefits of ROWE:

  1. Leaders are forced to clearly define expectations: So often in the workplace employees are unclear about their manager’s expectations. ROWE requires competent, strong leaders who can clearly communicate their expectations to their employees.
  2. Improved communication: ROWE resulted in employees at the Best Buy headquarters learning to communicate more effectively, working together in new ways, in order to plan around one another’s schedules.
  3. Greater cross training: Employees working in organizations where ROWE is in place, are more willing and able to learn additional skills, in order to fill in for coworkers when needed.
  4. Greater engagement and productivity: With ROWE employees are more engaged, less distracted and more productive.
  5. Healthier employees: With ROWE employees no longer have to race to get to the office at 8. Employees can attend doctors’ appointments without feeling guilty, take care of their health and catch up on sleep when they need to. ROWE provides enough flexibility to eliminate situations such as the example of an employee faking a sick day shown in the video below: 
  6. Elimination of under performers: ROWE weeds out poor performers, resulting in an increase in involuntary turnover during the transition stage. Mediocre, incompetent, time-wasting employees will not be able to survive in this kind of environment. However, why would your organization want to keep these employees anyway?
  7. Empowerment: ROWE creates an environment of trust where employees are treated as adults accountable for getting work done on their own schedule. Employees in ROWE environments are also empowered from knowing that their superiors trust them to get the job done.
  8. Greater talent retention and acquisition: After migrating to ROWE Best Buy’s strategic sourcing and procurement team boosted employee retention by 27%. The work-life balance that ROWE offers can greater help organizations to attract and retain the best talent.

The video below adds to the reasons I’ve listed above by enabling you to see organizations’ experiences and results achieved with ROWE:

For more information on ROWE visit Culture RX’s websiteblog and read Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’s book: ‘Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution.’


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Back in February I wrote a blog post about companies that offer their employees unlimited paid vacation time. The unlimited paid vacation time concept is a part of a greater concept called Results-Only Work Environment, which I intend to explore further in this post and in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Many of us have experienced working with individuals who while they may seldom leave their desks and may even be the first to arrive and last to leave, don’t seem to accomplish much work. While most organizations pay great rhetoric to the importance of employee results, many traditional organizations fall into the trap of rewarding face time over results. As this video mocks:



Pioneered by consulting group Culture RX and in practice at Best Buy’s Minneapolis headquarters, a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management philosophy focused on employee results over presence. With ROWE employees are free to come and go as they please and do whatever they want, so long as work gets done and deadlines are met.  As the authors of the book ‘Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution’ Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson explain:



For a ROWE to be achieved there should be unlimited paid vacation time, no mandatory meetings, no schedules and employees should have the freedom to come and go as they please without judgment from their coworkers and managers on how their day is spent.

ROWE enables organizations to create an environment of trust, which quickly helps to differentiate the employees that are getting work done from those that aren’t. This concept is most suited to knowledge work environments, which are task and project focused. It is unlikely to work in a service environment.

Here are a couple of examples of how employees can use ROWE:

Example 1: Jane works from 8-12 in the morning before spending the afternoon enjoying the nice weather at the park, before logging back in to her computer to work from home in the evening.

Example 2: Joe completes an entire month of work in 2 weeks and apart from checking in with work by e-mail or cell phone, enjoys the rest of the month with his kids who are on break from school.

So what do you think of this concept? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and look out for my next blog post on the benefits of ROWE tomorrow.

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Nike’s new lightweight running shoe the Flyknit exemplifies a new cost efficient manufacturing process, which could shake up the shoe industry.

The process

The Flyknit is made by computer-controlled technology, which knits the upper part of the shoe ready to attach to the sole. This process which Nike call “micro-level precision engineering” eliminates the labor-intensive process of workers assembling numerous machine cut pieces. The technology also enables detailed design aesthetic and fit adjustments to be easily made. In addition the process is more efficient, cutting production time and enhancing profitability. It’s also sustainable with wasted materials weighing in at 1/100th of a pound (about as much as a sheet of paper).

What this means…

The labor-intensive nature of shoe making previously led to the process being outsourced to countries with cheap labor. By eliminating or significantly reducing the labor-intensive part of the process, the shoes will no longer have to be made in countries with cheap labor. As Nike president Charlie Denson acknowledged in this week’s Bloomberg Business Week:

“This is a complete game-changer, the process cuts costs so much that eventually we could make these shoes anywhere in the world.”

Thus if this process lives up to expectations Nike could do some of their shoe manufacturing here in the U.S. Though operating and labor costs would be higher here relative to Nike’s factories in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, shipping costs would be lower. Another benefit, which would help offset costs, is faster market response time allowing greater flexibility to changes in demand in the american market.

In the long run this flexible technology could result in customers being able to purchase shoes customized to fit their feet through use of a foot scanner. What I liked about this technology is that further down the line it should also offer customers the ability to design their own shoe down to a single thread.

All in all I think it will be interesting to see if this new technology lives up to its expectations.

But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Imagine having one day a month at work where you’re free from your daily responsibilities and meetings to do something different. Perhaps you would work on a new idea, pursue an area of interest, learn new skills in a different area of the company, volunteer in the local community, or just do something fun for the day with your coworkers while getting paid. Such a concept is the reality for LinkedIn’s employees.

One Friday a month LinkedIn’s employees enjoy an inDay where they could do any of what I just described and more! Each inDay has a theme based on employee suggestions. A suggested team direction and vision for how employees can spend the day is given but is not mandatory. Employees can also choose to work on their own projects during this time. The goal is to learn something new, get inspired, have fun and take a break from day-to-day responsibilities.

Past in-days have included:

Volunteer day: employees picked their favorite charities and volunteered for the day giving back to the community

Benefits fair: during open enrollment employees had an entire day to attend a benefits fair and learn from inspiring health and wellness speakers and participate in team activities

Innovator challenge: on the ‘Innovator’s challenge’ inDay, employees were given a day to focus on new idea generation. Employees then got to present their ideas at an informal event with a panel of judges formed from the executive staff, who offered feedback, advice and recognition. The best ideas were awarded prizes and some were even implemented.

“Top Chef” challenge: based on the Bravo TV show, different departments competed against one another to create outstanding dishes.

So what do you think about inDay? Does your company do something similar? Would this idea excite or annoy you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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After college I participated in the Walt Disney World Cultural Representative program training new cast members on Disney’s guest service. It’s rare to find companies that deliver customer service at the level of Disney, however online shoe, clothing and accessory retailer Zappos may be that exception. In 2008 Zappos hit $1 billion in annual sales, a success they attribute to their customer focus. Here are some of the features of Zappos’ customer driven business strategy:

  • Every customer contact is an opportunity: Zappos view every phone call and e-mail as an opportunity to make a lasting impression on their customers.
  • Investment in customer service: The company allocates a large amount of the money that they would have spent on advertising on customer service. If the customer service is perfect, word of mouth will make up the difference.
  • Keep core competencies in-house: At one point Zappos outsourced their warehouse and shipping. This sourcing strategy did not work as Zappos quickly learned that you couldn’t trust a third-party to care about your customers as much as you do.
  • Make customer transactions as risk free as possible: U.S. Zappos customers benefit from free shipping both ways. Customers have 365 days to send back the items that don’t fit or they don’t like. Zappos returns run high (accounting for approximately a third of gross revenues) but they have learned that the lower the transaction risk, the happier the customer and the more likely they will buy more.
  • Make contact information easy to find: Zappos list their 24 hour telephone number on every page of their website, so that customers can easily contact them if they need to.
  • Evaluate customer interactions from a branding lens: Zappos evaluate their customer service staff on their ability to go above and beyond. Zappos do not require their staff to up sell as such a practice can irritate customers. They also do not measure call center staff on average call handle time as they don’t want them to rush through calls damaging customer service experience. One member of Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team (the name of their staff) once spent 6 hours on a phone call helping a customer find the right pair of shoes. 
  • The lifetime value of a customer can grow: In contrast to traditional marketing ROI calculations, Zappos believe that a customer’s lifetime value can grow if loyalty is developed and expectations are exceeded.
  • Surprise your customers: Surprising customers goes hand in hand with exceeding expectations. One such example at Zappos is their surprise shipping upgrades for repeat customers.

What do you think? Have you ever ordered from Zappos? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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QR codes – “quick response” codes were first used in the auto industry in Japan in the 1990s. An updated version of QR codes has taken off here in the U.S. in recent years. QR codes are square patterned boxes, which smart phone users can scan, taking them directly to a hyperlink. The concept offers another tool for marketers to add to their digital strategy to offer an interactive experience to their customers.

Common uses of QR codes include access to exclusive content, like videos or special coupons, as well as additional information, social media site interaction, sweepstake entries or links to on-line purchasing.

Here are some guidelines to help make your organization’s use of QR codes successful:

Offer content that will captivate your audience

Having QR codes that link to your home page, offers customers little incentive to use the code. Instead try to use your QR codes to give your customers additional value. QR codes should be used to link to exclusive content, sweepstakes or other non-generic info, which are relevant to your target audience. Macy’s Backstage Pass campaign offers a new take on mobile marketing using QR codes to give customers access to video interviews with various Macy’s fashion designers.

Don’t assume your customers know the what and how of QR codes

While many of your customers likely have smart phones, they may not have downloaded a QR code app and may not know how to use QR codes. Education is key. What was great about Macy’s Backstage Pass campaign was the additional commercials which ran concurrently introducing their customers to QR code technology.

Macy’s Backstage Pass from Matt MacDonald on Vimeo.

They can be made to further stand out  

While many QR codes are black and white boxes, they can also be further customized with logos, colors and designs.

They can be put on anything

QR codes can be put on large variety of materials such as print ads, video, product packaging etc.

They align with your sustainability initiatives

QR codes can enable a user to gain access to written materials through their smart phone saving printing costs.

Make sure the URL is optimized for mobile use

The URL your QR code links to should be optimized for mobile use, if not the QR code is merely a gimmick.

Make sure your QR code delivers

The QR code should deliver what it promises taking customers directly to that information not to your home page. It also needs to be scannable. Think carefully about where your customers may be when they use the QR code, it is crucial their smart phone has Internet access. Subway billboards and in flight magazines are examples of advertising media far from cell-service range preventing QR codes being scanned.

Has your business utilized QR codes yet? Or have you adopted use of this technology? Please share your experiences with QR codes in the comment section below.

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This past week saw the launch of Kony 2012 by non-profit organization Invisible Children. The campaign was hard to miss and even with my hectic work and grad school schedule I could not avoid seeing mentions of the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and news sites.

So what is Kony 2012?

Kony 2012 is a campaign to increase awareness of Ugandan LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony in order for him to be arrested during 2012. The campaign’s video has become the fastest spreading viral video ever. As of yesterday evening (March 10th) the youtube video had received over 67,000,000 views.

Why am I talking about it on a business ideas blog?

Well I will start by saying I’m not political in the slightest and as a green card holder I can’t even vote! But I wanted to talk about Kony 2012, as it illustrates the game changing power of social media marketing. In this post I will talk about the characteristics of what makes this viral video successful.

It’s shareable

Kony 2012 is informative and shocking in a way that makes the viewer want to share it with others. It’s a video you could send to your friends, colleagues and family.

It has the Hollywood touch

The Kony 2012 video is inspiring, heartbreaking and uplifting, like any good movie. It’s also beautifully filmed with constant screen changes, different settings and music. The use of the narrator Jason Russell’s son Gavin humanizes the cause further. Typically viral videos need to be short (about 2 minutes) to capture attention, but Kony 2012’s emotional roller coaster style filming makes its 29 minutes watchable. From a viral video perspective Kony 2012 is probably the exception when it comes to video length not the rule.

It shows how individuals can make a difference

The video has several calls to action and viewers are asked to share the video. The Kony 2012 website lets you copy the link or click for a link to embed. Viewers are also instructed to write to the 20 designated culture makers (film, music and sports stars etc.) and 12 policy makers. What is cool about it is that when you click on the individuals you are not given old school mailing and telephone details, but formatted tweets, which can be sent with a click of a button.

Other calls to action include donating to the campaign and buying or downloading a campaign kit. One purpose of the kit is to blanket every street on April 20, 2012. The posters and bracelets are geo tagged and each unique tag number can be entered online to show the campaign’s reach. At the time of writing this blog posts the kits are currently sold out, though can still be downloaded.

It’s time sensitive

The video will expire on December 31, 2012 demonstrating the organization’s goal of getting Kony arrested before the end of the year. The expiration date adds a sense of urgency to the campaign.

Kony 2012 viral video     

Here is the video everyone is talking about:

I would encourage you to watch and share the video if you haven’t already seen it, to learn what Kony 2012 is all about. 

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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen to John Farahi speak on business success. John Farahi is the CEO of Monarch Casino & Resort Inc. who own and operate the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno, NV. In spite of the tough economy and declining casino industry, Monarch Casino & Resort Inc. is growing. Here are John’s tips for business success: 

Opportunity can be anywhere

When John Farahi’s father David first moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1970 he began looking for a business. When he was told of the Golden Door Motel (the original site of the Atlantis Casino Resort) in Reno, NV he initially dismissed it saying:

‘I did not come to the U.S. to go to Reno, NV, I’m not interested.’

Some how he was persuaded to take a look and realized that there was actually a lot of opportunity to be had in the hospitality industry in Reno, NV.

Surround yourself with honest & successful people

Distancing oneself from people with issues is another of Farahi’s recommendations. He encourages entrepreneurs starting out to approach people who have experienced success in your desired industry and to ask question after question to learn from them.

Don’t give up

John and his brothers took over the Golden Door Motel in 1976. The motel struggled in its early years and the brothers found themselves doing every job in the resort, to try to turn the business around.

Later when trying to build the Atlantis Casino Resort, the brothers had to fight the city of Reno in court to get casino-zoning laws changed. Financing was also extremely challenging and the brothers became accustomed to hearing ‘no’ a lot. John says that in business there are always obstacles to overcome and you can never hit every mark perfectly. Thus it is important to be tenacious, work hard and not give up when you encounter hurdles.

Do your homework

In Fall 2011, Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. began the process of acquiring Black Hawk Casino in Colorado from Riviera Holdings Corporation. Prior to this acquisition the company had spent five years researching the area, looking at every property in their industry, evaluating restaurants, what the market was missing and what resources would be needed to get the property up to par. Once the acquisition is complete the company will evaluate every employee at the resort in order to build a good team.

What was good yesterday may not be tomorrow

John Farahi talked about the importance of being willing to continually change and take risks. In 1993 when Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. looked to go public, many people thought they were making a crazy decision. However, after many rejections they succeeded in going public, raising enough funds to build the Atlantis’ second tower.

Today the company has starting making moves into the Internet gaming industry, which may offer the opportunity for future joint ventures. Farahi believes that being a brick and mortar company will enable them to offer better customer incentives (such as resort stays) relative to what Internet gaming companies can offer.

What tips would you give new entrepreneurs on how to be successful in business? Please share in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

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Morning Star is a California-based tomato ingredient processing company founded on the principles of self-management. Employees at Morning Star initiate communications and coordinate activities without direction. No one among the company’s 400+ employees takes orders and nobody gives orders.

In the December 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review, Gary Hamel explored how Morning Star has created an organization that incorporates managerial discipline without hierarchy, titles and managers, achieving market-centric flexibility. While the concept of self-management may seem unfathomable to traditional thinkers, Morning Star has embraced this concept for over two decades, becoming a global market leader with 2010 revenues of over $700 million.

Annually each Morning Star employee negotiates a ‘Colleague Letter of Understanding’ with the associates they work with the most, to determine responsibilities. Each employee also has their own personal mission statement, which they are driven by. Employees are responsible for obtaining the training, cooperation and resources needed to achieve their mission. All employees are given access to the same system wide data, preventing information silos. Also all employees can spend the company’s money if they show return on investment and NPV calculations to demonstrate the business case behind their spending. In addition, overloaded employees have the flexibility and power to decide to hire new employees and all new hires go through a training session on self-management. Compensation decisions are based on individual contributions and determined by peers – building a good reputation is key.

The Advantages of Self-Management:

  • No time is wasted supervising others, increasing efficiency.
  • The lack of bureaucracy, results in faster decision-making, increasing the organization’s flexibility.
  • No centrally defined roles results in broader more complicated roles. Employees get to focus on what they’re good at, with unlimited scope to take on new responsibilities as their skills and experience increase.
  • Employees are empowered to imagine, innovate and contribute. Spontaneous change occurs from employees having the freedom to get involved anywhere where they think they can add value.
  • Employees value the freedom given and being treated like adults, increasing their company loyalty.

The Challenges of Self-Management:

  • Not everyone is suited to the Morning Star culture, particularly individuals that like to be told what to do and those that like to tell others what to do.
  • Cultural adjustment – takes time. New hires from traditional hierarchies will take time to adapt to the self-management environment.
  • Accountability can be challenging – everyone is responsible for peer regulation to ensure quality and service are maintained.
  • Lack of titles and promotions can make it extremely challenging for employees looking to transition in to roles with other companies.
  • In order to ensure the self-management culture is maintained growth through mergers and acquisitions is difficult to accomplish.

So what do you think? Would you want to work for a company with a self-management culture? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo Credit


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