Golden Business Ideas

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

Know the Power of Praise
When business colleagues do something especially helpful, such as providing some useful nugget of information or suggesting a solution to a problem, send them a thank-you card (with a copy to their boss). It doesn’t need to be elaborate—a short note expressing your appreciation goes a long way toward building long-lasting relationships.

Save on Supplies
You can keep office-supply costs under control by taking a few simple steps:

Prepare a list of the materials bought for the office in the past few years.

Check with users and your organization’s purchasing manager to be sure the products and brands on the list are the most cost-effective choices.

Negotiate with an office-products supplier for the best possible prices, and distribute catalogs employees can use for ordering things.

Caveat: When an employee needs something that is not in the catalog, provide some leeway on selecting products not on the list. Failure to take that small but significant step can undermine employee morale because they could feel they were being forced to use tools that were inferior.

Shave Legal Expenses
If you regularly pursue small-claims actions against delinquent customers or must track bankruptcy proceedings against former customers, consider hiring an in-house paralegal; he or she can perform such tasks quite adequately for far less than the costs of engaging a lawyer.

Keep Track of Former Good Workers
When an exceptionally talented worker leaves (for example, a new mother decides she has a more important job to do at home) or must be laid off for economic reasons, save that name. Build a database of competent former employees, and when you need to rehire or expand the staff, check that list first.

Enhance Management Wisdom
Two suggestions for improving your management style:

One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a first-rate manager is working under the assumption that most of your business decisions are good. If you take a more humble approach—assuming that, at best, maybe half of your decisions are superior—you might be better able to follow through on this next suggestion.

Spend at least half your time correcting bad decisions and none of your time trying to cover up for them. Not only are cover-ups a waste of valuable time, but when they are unveiled—and they usually are eventually—your reputation suffers doubly: once for the bad decisions and again for the attempted deception.

One effective way to assess the effectiveness of a management decision: Ask for and then nurture an environment that encourages subordinates to provide rapid feedback on all proposed company decisions. A corporate culture in which employees are expected to be constructively critical is crucial to keeping a business alert and innovative.

STANLEY ZAROWIN, a former JofA senior editor, is now a contributing editor to the magazine. His e-mail address is zarowin@mindspring.com .

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 contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at 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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