Golden Business Ideas

Sometimes It Takes a Rude Awakening

An information technology manager friend of mine was grumbling the other day about how his boss hesitated to invest the extra money needed to provide continuous, real-time backup of the company’s computer data—with the backup stored at a remote location.

That conversation took place before September 11.

Zigzag Thinking

Any geometry student will tell you that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But what is true for geometry may not hold true for thinking skills, contrary to what many accountants believe.

For example, ask accountants how they like to work, and they’ll likely say that once they start a project, they prefer to keep working on it until it’s finished—not letting anything interrupt the flow. That’s the straight-line approach. And there’s some good reasoning behind it: After all, by working straight through, they don’t waste time gearing up for each new start.

But consider this: As they plunge ahead on a steady course, they have little opportunity to rethink how they are processing the task. If, on the other hand, they paused and took on some other project for a while, that could provide just enough of a breather to ask themselves, “What if, instead of doing it this way, I tried … ”

Also, by zigzagging, they come back to the original assignment fresher and with a slightly different perspective.

This tactic may not work for everyone, but it’s worth trying. The worst that can happen is they’ll discover this approach is not for them. The best that can happen is they’ll stumble on a new approach and joyfully shout, “Eureka!”

Turn to Interns

Business managers with long-term vision don’t limit their thinking to new products and services. They think about tomorrow’s staff, too: How are they going to find the right people for the years ahead?

One way is to think interns—college kids who work for a brief period for nothing (or next to nothing) just for the experience.

But don’t limit your use of a bright, young college student; he or she can do more than office grunt work. While you may assign interns some no-challenge chores, recognize that their lack of professional experience may free them to bring innovative thinking to an assignment. And if they show aptitude for the work, you may want to consider them for future employment.

A Timely Negotiating Ploy

Time is an effective negotiating tool. It can provide considerable leverage.

For example, to avoid being pushed into making a decision before you’ve had enough time to think through the consequences, try to get your opponent to present his or her position just before breaking for the day or for a meal. Even if you’re a fast thinker, it’s tough to try to come to a decision or work out new strategy while your opponent is staring into your eyes or scrutinizing your body language.

Other ploys: Arrange to get an important surprise phone call that gets you out of the room for a while; go to the bathroom; explain you need to change a member of your negotiating team; discover you’re missing some important backup information to support your position.

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 ( ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.


©2001 AICPA


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