Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
December 2014

A Time to Plan

In the course of an ordinary day, most business people rush from meeting to meeting, call to call, and task to task at a frenetic pace. There simply are not enough hours in a day to do everything that needs to get done. The here-and-now is both emphatic and demanding. This relentless focus on the immediate makes it nearly impossible to plan for the future. Moreover, the future is so vaguely ambiguous. In the present, everything must get done now, but even when current needs have been met, the future remains distant and fuzzy. Notwithstanding, planning ahead is among a business owner’s most essential responsibilities, and this is the time of year when most companies should take time to look ahead and consider goals for the future.

Indeed, there is a tremendous value in planning. Planning helps provide guidelines and goals for future decisions. It also helps managers exercise more control in a situation, establish goals “proactively” and consider contingencies. Likewise, planning can help quantify goals and establish a means to measure success. It also ensures that a coherent set of actions are implemented that are consistent with the values and priorities of the leadership and organization. Planning also helps allocate limited resources like staff, materials, and time in an orderly and systematic manner. Last but not least, planning each year helps a company take advantage of changes within its industry. Given that planning is so helpful and necessary, how does one find the time to plan? And what exactly should annual planning entail? How complicated does this need to be? Continue reading

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Charitable Giving – Part 2

By most accounts, the U.S. economy is doing better. Unemployment is down. Job growth has been robust. Businesses are doing better, and the Dow is hitting historic highs. As companies and people find themselves doing better financially, they are more inclined to want to help those who are less fortunate. However, deciding which charity or charities to support can be a challenge. Determining which charity is the most worthwhile and trustworthy to use the donation wisely is hard for even those most knowledgeable about good causes. There are over a million charitable organizations in the U.S. alone. It is hard to decide which cause is ‘best’ when there are so many worthwhile charities. For example, UNICEF helps protect the world’s children by providing clean drinking water, vaccinations and emergency relief in disaster areas. The Against Malaria Foundation provides bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions. The Seva Foundation treats trachoma and other common causes of blindness in developing countries. The list goes on and on. How does one decide which organization is most deserving of financial support?

The truth is that most people spend very little time deciding on a charity to support. In fact, studies have shown that people spend far less time researching a charity to which they give money than they do researching the purchase of a new appliance or car. If charitable giving were handled like a business decision, the goal would be to donate to causes that can do the most good for the most people. However, even then, the choices are many. Here are some things to consider when weighing options and researching charities. Continue reading

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Charitable Giving – Part 1

Did you know that charitable giving increases at this time of year? Indeed, about 40 percent of all charitable donations in the U.S. are made in December. For many charities, end-of-year fundraising is the difference between a successful year and financial hard times. But who is doing the giving? Many think that the majority of all charitable donations are made by the ultra wealthy (think Bill Gates and Sam Walton), big foundations, or prosperous companies trying to increase their tax deductions. In reality, of the more than $300 billion that Americans give to charities every year, only 15% comes from foundation grants and 6% from corporations. The rest – nearly 80 cents of every dollar — is given by individuals. Yet, it’s not primarily by the people you’d most expect.

Who does give to charity? If you think that social class would be a straightforward predictor of charitable generosity, think again. Yes, it does stand to reason that the more wealthy a person is, the more they have to give and the less risky it is to give away some of that wealth. By the same token, the poorer a person is, the less they have to give and the more precarious it is to give some of that away. Therefore, logic dictates that the mega rich should be giving far more to charities than those nearest to the poverty line. Likewise, one would think that people living in the most affluent and liberal states would be more likely to give to charity than those in conservative and poorer states. However, the reality about charitable giving – in the U.S. and abroad – would probably surprise most people. It’s not what you’d expect.
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Logo Mania

Often people confuse the words ‘logo’ and ‘brand’, and use them interchangeably. For many, the two words are synonymous. That is not so. A company’s brand is comprised of much more than its logo. A brand is a promise. It’s a unique combination of a logo, words, typefaces, colors, slogan, mascot, personality, price, customer service, aesthetics, attitude, voice, and more, all working together to convey the essence of the company or organization. That said, the company logo is a key, integral part of its brand and, often, it is the most easily-identifiable representation of the company’s identity.

It used to be that once a company created its logo, it stuck with that logo for a long, long time…. say 50 or 100 years if not forever, unless there was a very good reason to change it. That is no longer the case. With the rise of the Iinternet and improvements in design programs that have made it easier than ever to create digital art, companies are opting to regularly update their corporate logos. But deciding to update a company’s logo – or even create a new logo for a new company – has its challenges. Like art, the appeal of a logo is often in the eyes of the beholder. Those who decide to engage in this exercise should understand the common elements shared by the best logos of all time.
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The Business Conundrum of Quantity or Quality?

About 2000 years ago, Roman philosopher and statesman Lucius Annaeus Seneca was quoted as saying “It is quality rather than quantity that matters.” Some 1900 years later, Scottish author and poet George McDonald agreed saying “It is our best work that G-d wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.” Mohandas Ghandi also said that “It is the quality of our work which will please G-d and not the quantity.” These learned men agree that when it comes to work, excellence trumps volume. Less is more.

Yet, the focus of most businesses is to improve productivity, increase output and amplify profits. For businesses, the goal is quantity… more volume…. greater capacity. In the world of work, more is more. That, then, brings us to the age-old argument of which is better: quantity or quality? Is one deal that generates $1 million in revenue and takes six months to close better than 10 deals that close within a six-month period and each generate $100,000 in revenue? They sound like the same thing, but are they really? Is faster manufacturing with more mistakes better or slower production with fewer errors? Should a company do more content marketing (blog posts, articles, press releases, tweets) or fewer but better quality content marketing initiatives? It is a question that business owners, leaders, and managers alike debate. With 2015 just around the corner, it is a good time to consider whether new business goals and plans should focus on increasing quantity or improving quality. Continue reading

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