Golden Business Ideas


Smart Is Knowing When to Say “I’m Sorry”

Companies make mistakes. Smart companies not only admit their mistakes and say they’re sorry but even offer to say it with a gift or a special discount.

Why? Because it makes business sense. Unless the mistake is really egregious, most customers would rather stick with a supplier who has served them well so far. Finding and then breaking in a new supplier is hard work and can be expensive, too. In most cases, aggrieved customers need a reason to stick with you. Or, put differently, you don’t want to give them a reason not to. And that’s what a failure to apologize amounts to: a reason to get angry and, even if it’s not to their advantage, to search for new suppliers.

Which is why a prompt and sincere apology, with a little extra thrown in to prove you mean it, is good for business.

Power Job Interviews

Getting ready to make the big leap to a vice-president or CFO spot? Recognize that competency, by itself, is not enough these days. The hot companies look for more than brilliance: They want aggressive, imaginative managers who can think out of the box. And you’ve got to wow them—not with your knowledge, but with your industry insights. Some tips for handling the inevitable series of interviews you’ll face:

If you’ve got the right stuff, you don’t have to flaunt it. Let the interviewer have the opening introduction without interruption. Listen carefully; that first five minutes will contain the critical tips that reveal what the company is seeking in a new executive. So be attentive and responsive; definitely don’t simply follow a script you’ve prepared beforehand. Certainly you should slip into your pitch some salient tidbits about your career and your goals. But remember, nothing turns off managers more than the sense that they’re not being heard. So be sure to respond to both stated and implied questions.

In all likelihood, you’re going to be interviewed by a wide assortment of people—the whole team, in fact. Some will be high on the corporate totem pole and some will be down a few notches. Try to find out who’s on that list and their standings. Don’t be shy about asking your present interviewer for information about the people you’ll be meeting. Most will volunteer the information. Some will even recognize the wisdom of your approach. The kind of things you want to know: their duties, what they’re like, what they’re working on and—very important—their pet projects.

When asked questions, keep all your answers brief and to the point. Don’t go off on tangents. Let the interviewer lead the conversation, telling you about what he or she does.

Be especially careful not to give the impression that you’re angling for the interviewer’s job.

Pay the Right Price

My father used to say, As bad as it is to pay too much, what’s worse is to pay too little.

His thinking went like this: If you pay too little, assuming the seller had no choice but to sell at a bargain, he or she will be left with a lingering feeling of loss—to be made up somehow, sometime, somewhere. And since you’re likely to do more business with the person or organization in the future, that feeling of loss will overshadow any future negotiations. So if you don’t pay now, you will likely pay later.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( zarowin@mindspring.com ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

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