Golden Business Ideas

Sprucing Up the Suggestion Box

Is your company’s suggestion box gathering dust?

If it is, it’s probably because many staffers don’t think their suggestions are innovative or important enough to bother submitting.

What a shame. Odds are that good ideas—however small—are getting lost. What those staffers don’t understand is that there are no little good ideas. Each one makes a contribution, and sometimes one idea triggers another, which in turn triggers another—and before you know it you have a very big idea.

Here are some things you can do to revitalize the suggestion box:

Encourage employees to suggest incremental improvements. Explain that not every suggestion needs to be a blockbuster.

Suggest they look outside your industry and geographic area. What smart things are other businesses doing?

Consider an award system that targets nonmanagerial and production workers. Often line workers have loads of incremental productivity ideas. For ideas, see “1001 Ways to Reward Employees,” by Bob Nelson (Workman Publishing, www.workmanweb.com .

To inspire fresh thinking about productivity improvement, invite workers to a brainstorming lunch session. Get them to share what they like or dislike about a current process.

What Do You Say After “Yes?”

You’ve made your best sales pitch to the prospective client and after some negotiating over price and timing of the engagement, he finally says, “OK, you’re hired.”

So now what do you say?

In fact, it’s not so much what you should say, it’s what you shouldn’t say. For example, after making the sale, an inexperienced salesperson may blurt out something like, “You won’t regret this,” or “This will be the best decision you ever made.”

Such expressions will cause even the most convinced buyers to question their own judgment.

So switch the conversation to the mundane—his golf game, her weekend plans or even the weather.

Nurturing Teamwork

Albert Einstein met often with his physicist colleagues Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr to share ideas. The few who witnessed the gatherings were surprised that, no matter how far apart their opinions were, they refrained from trying to change the other’s mind. As a result, they learned from each other.

Could this be a model for gatherings of business managers?

Typically, when business managers meet to work on a problem, each tries to protect his or her turf. The result is spirited competition—hardly an environment for sharing or learning.

What if managers met without an agenda. Instead, the only stated goal would be to build teamwork by exchanging ideas without trying to persuade others.

Who knows what that could lead to?

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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