Golden Business Ideas

How to Spot Talented Workers
Does top management know who the most capable workers are? At most businesses it’s the line managers who identify them. After all, as the conventional thinking goes, since the line managers supervise day-to-day staff performance, they should be the best judges.

While that may be true some of the time, there are potential flaws in that reasoning. For example, what if there is personal enmity between a manager and the star worker? As you know, that’s not uncommon—especially if the manager suspects the talented and ambitious worker is angling for a promotion, say, to the manager’s job.

So what’s a better way? While you certainly shouldn’t fail to ask line managers for their assessments, you may also want to ask the staff to identify their most talented and effective coworkers.

The two lists may be identical, but if they differ, a wise top manager should take notice. That information could be important intelligence about both the star and his supervisor. What does it say about a manager who fails to recognize what the rest of the staff sees? But be sure that the difference is not just an indication that colleagues are assessing different qualities than the manager.

When to Say “No”
Sometimes it’s smart business to turn away new business—especially when you’re less than certain you can satisfy the customer and still make a profit. After all, if you do displease the new customer, not only will you lose any future business with that company, but since industry gossip tends to travel fast and far, the failure may hurt your reputation.

A good rule to follow is to avoid doing anything just to get your foot in a customer’s door—unless you know exactly what you’re stepping into. If you approve a “loss leader” deal for the sake of future business, those expected future orders better be enough to offset any chance you’ll feel resentful for making the initial price concession.

How to Stay Tough
Who is your toughest competitor—the outfit that sells your kind of product or service for a few dollars less than you?

If you think that, you’re in deep trouble. Price is only effective against a competitor over the short run.

The real competitor is the innovator—the outfit that finds a better way to make your product or has an even better product. Over time, play-it-safe price-cutters eventually lose ground to innovators.

Be Logistically Creative
When contracting to make regular delivery or pickup arrangements with customers, don’t just do what you’ve always done before. Think creatively. For example,

Instead of storing the parts you regularly deliver to the customer in your warehouse, consider the savings if you stored them at the customer’s site.

Instead of shipping goods to your customer in your trucks, invite the customer to send his own vehicles.

Instead of storing all products in warehouses, consider storing some fast-moving items in your delivery trucks.

Naturally, such changes would affect the price of delivery and pickup, but the real advantage is added convenience and flexibility for both you and the customer. And that is sure to improve the relationship.

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.


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