Golden Business Ideas

With a Little Help From Your Friends
Several large business competitors—airlines and telephone companies, for example—maintain mutual-aid agreements to help one another in the event a disaster strikes a key facility. There’s no reason why small companies can’t do the same thing.

Consider approaching local competitors or your industry trade group about forming such pacts.

More Power to Them
Danger: Empowerment programs, if not sincerely implemented, can backfire.

For example, when companies give their rank-and-file workers fancy titles and tell them they have the authority to make certain decisions and then management keeps overruling them, the newly titled workers typically become cynical, which undermines morale and company loyalty.

The bottom line: Unless managers intend to really empower these workers, they shouldn’t even consider such a program.

In fact, when planning an empowerment program, realize that not everyone wants the extra responsibility—even if it involves only some small domain. After all, many workers disdain being in charge—especially after seeing how their bosses must work longer hours and deal with extra strain.

Formulas for Business Success
In this time of layoffs and belt tightening, many managers champion ways to overcome these hard times: Work harder, give 110% and put in longer hours.

While we’re not suggesting this is a time to slack off, we question the conventional wisdom that marathon efforts—the 80-hour workweek, skipped vacations, stepped-up pressure to work faster and cheaper—are business-success formulas. And that challenge stands even when times are not hard.

It doesn’t take an expensive management consultant research project to tell you that 80-hour workweeks do not produce bright, eager, quick-thinking employees. And who would doubt that relentless hurrying on a job or dogged efforts to seek the very cheapest solutions lower a product’s quality and, even more important, strain employee morale.

Get a New Employee Up to Speed
Do you remember the last time you started a new job? You spent the first week or so finding the bathroom, figuring out how the voice mail system worked and where to get office supplies.

What a waste of time.

Would it have been more efficient if a veteran staff person in your department had been assigned as your mentor for an hour or so for a few days, guiding you through the maze? That way, you’d have been up to speed faster and avoided the start-up frustration.

Alternative to a Pay Raise
You want to give your employees a raise, but you just can’t afford it right now because business is not that good. An alternative that benefits the employee and the company: Offer a skills-improvement mentoring program matching junior employees with more experienced seniors who can provide instruction and assistance on specific skills. Let the groups meet informally and set their own schedules.

Not only will the company end up with more skillful employees, but the workers will gain in the long run with better opportunities.

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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