Archive for the ‘Core Business Skills’ Category

Lean Communication

December 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently discussed the topic of new forms of media in the context of communication with a former colleague of mine. E-Mail, short messages, instant messages and even Facebook-messages infiltrated the workplace within the last two decades. Undoubtedly, those forms of communications bring a lot of advantages to our daily business and make the transfer of data not only easier, but also a lot faster.

But, have you ever realized that there is a downside to quick and easy communication channels? Most of you would probably agree that the number of letters we receive on a daily basis shrunk extremely with the rise of E-Mail. However, that shrinkage is small compared to the increase in electronic messages received. Because it is so easy to write and send an E-Mail the use of it is inflationary. Especially if someone is available via Smartphone we tend to write a short mail or message. Even though, it is believed to be the fastest and easiest way, is it really? Sending several messages back and forth can be very time-consuming and annoying. On top of that important E-Mails are always in danger of drowning in the flood of “not as important” (if you’d like to call it that way) E-Mail that flush through Inboxes every day. Therefore it might sometimes be better just to do the oldschool-way and grab the phone to discuss a topic rather than doing it electronically. And if we see this way: Someone who’s always online with his smartphone to receive E-Mails is also always available via phone.

In times of Lean-Management, Lean-Manufacturing,… everything’s aim is to be lean, so why don’t we try to use Lean-Communication?


Generation Global

August 30, 2012 1 comment

When working for a big multinational company, you will be faced with tasks that require intercultural sensitivity and skills to work in such environments. No surprise there, as we are talking about those “multinationals”. But even smaller businesses that haven’t spread their branches to other continents or even other countries, require you to meet this demand. “International compatibility” (how I would like to call it in this post) is something that I haven’t missed in one job-offer that I have seen in a while.

This requirement is always directly connected to international experience in your education or prior work experience. When I think about my friends and fellow students from Uni, I’d say that vastly more than 50% of them meet this demand. But when you trust statistics, only 15,2% of German students in 2009 had this kind of experience (

Obviously, there is a big gap between the supply and the demand of international experience of recent Uni graduates, when you compare these stats with employer-expectations. So, I’m wondering: Is it truly compulsory? Does it have a negative impact on your application if you don’t have it? Or the other way around does it have a positive impact if you have it? Or does it make a difference if you have extraordinary international experiencing instead of “just” some kind?

I’m pretty sure that recruiting departments are not searching for certain professional skills when asking for international experience, but the personal development you went through during that time. But is this something that you have necessarily made, when living abroad? And is it something that you definitely can’t have if you haven’t lived in a foreign country? Also, were does internationality start: Does a semester in Belgium provide a Dutch person with the same cross-cultural skills like a 2 months internship of a Mexican guy in Norway?

I would like to hear your opinion about this topic, because I’m not sure how to handle it in the application process in a general way. I made these international, cross-cultural experiences myself and they had a large impact on my personality.

So: international experience – YES! But is it really the only thing that is important?


Why do people work?

August 24, 2012 Leave a comment

“Why do people work?” – It was a question one of my friends was asked while applying to a top-tier consultancy firm. It is very good to see that philosophy has not left those kinds of companies, but it also means that you cannot get an answer to such a query right. Partly because it is very subjective…

Certainly a few quick guesses come to mind: people work because they have to do so for economic reasons. But yet there are people who have sufficient money and who love to work, and people who are economically deprived, can work, but choose not to. It seems that economic necessity is just one of many motivators that can contribute to one’s wish to work. But there are certainly others, like joy of learning, sense of purpose, or want to provide for one’s family.

And while motivations behind one’s drive present a subject of philosophical discussion for us, could it be that for companies selecting people with the right drive creates financial benefits?

Looking forward to your comments.


Starting your business is someone else’s business

August 18, 2012 Leave a comment

The title of this blog post is a paradox. On one hand, trying to start a business is a personal adventure, marked by high aspirations and a notable lack of funds. On the other hand, some entrepreneurs figured out that helping other people to start their business can be a business in itself. And that fact adds complexity to the whole process. Our would be entrepreneurs have to distinguish between people who offer genuine help or good value for the money they ask and people such as themselves, who are just starting their business and at the moment cannot truly help would-be entrepreneurs.

For example, you find a person who was able to start a somewhat successful startup and pay them $300 to speak  your event (or even better: get them to do it for free to promote their business), you rent a room for 3 hours ($300), arrange catering ($200), advertise ($200) and sell tickets to 40 wannabe- entrepreneurs for $50. The profit is $2000-$1000=$1000. Considering young entrepreneurs are very eager to chase their dreams, and are more than willing to pay $50 for a promise of networking and “startup tips”. But the real question is do you get value from your money? Or are you draining your start-up funds and waste the most important resource: your time?

I would argue that an entrepreneur should pay only for tangible services like legal services, marketing services, or technical expertise. Networking clubs and startup tips can be found online and for free. The mere fact that someone fills the room with entrepreneurs does not mean that this event will give you the solution to your business, most likely it will leave you $50 short and wanting to pay for other events of this nature. The point I try to get across is that other people made it their business to sell services to people who seek to start their business. The lesson that many entrepreneurs forget is that some people are not trying to help you, but to make money from you. But as an entrepreneur you must be frugal, since your resources are very limited.

Check this website for more startup tips



S** sells

August 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I don’t know what you thought this post would be about. But if you are suprised by the content of it, I’ve probably proven a different point than what I originally wanted to make ;-).

The title of this post is “Simplicity sells”.

When you are working on a project, no matter what it is about, you always become the specialist of what you do. You know every detail of it. You know about it’s strengths and applications and you probably also know about it’s weaknesses and exceptions. The downfalls which you knowingly implemented, the one’s that are just not economically to solve and the one’s that you just don’t have a solution for.

It is good to know all of them, because YOU need to know about them when you are executing the project. But does everybody else who isn’t part of the project-team need to know about all of these details as well?

People you are presenting your projects, solutions, and ideas to are interested in the big picture. They want to know what the problem is and why and how you solved it. And when I say “how you solved it”, I mean that more in a “what the solution looks like”-way.

When you get to present or sell something: Keep it simple. Don’t annoy people with details they don’t care about. Communicate your message in a way that everybody who isn’t familiar with the topic at all, can get the idea. Don’t get me wrong: You need to know the details and you need to be prepared to explain them in the case somebody asks for them, as well. It’s just: “If somebody asks for them”…

It’s always better to keep it sharp and short, and stimulate some discussion about details that matter to the audience.

So, simplicity sells…




How to handle the daily grind

Let’s face it! Time is a precious resource and “need-more-time-in-a-day” is a widespread disease. Unfortunately, most of us have only 24 hours in a day and in order to find more time we need to be more efficient (or happier) with what we already have. I know what jumps into your head right now, but this is not a post about time management or multitasking. I would like to share a simple technique to reduce the stress associated with the time pressures. It’s called “stop and think”.

The technique is very simple, so simple that most of you will not even try it, since at first it does not seem to add much value. But I encourage you to try . It entails stopping and thinking about what we have to do today. “But I think about what I need to do all the time, how would more thinking will help me?” – you may say. This kind of thinking is different. It requires you to dedicate 10 minutes at the beginning of every day to visualising what your day will be about. Instead of frantically making time allocation decisions in the midst of the hectic day, this habit will allow you to set your overarching priorities ahead of time.

So close your eyes and in your head go through the things you have to do, then map them to times of the day that you think you can do them in. Straight away you will see that you can get much more value out of your time. There is one additional benefit that you will receive! It is the peace of mind and a day free of worry, since you know that you have 10 minutes to set your sights straight. If you have other stress reduction techniques that work for you, please let us know in the comments!



Categories: Alex, Core Business Skills

Is every day a casual friday?

As I have seen a lot of my friends starting to work in different professions, it has always been interesting for me to see them navigate through their new environments. The variance of perceptions of appropriate business attire in their diverse fields were especially fascinating, as I found.

Whilst some of them had to commit to a given dress code others were only ‘restricted’ by the term “anything goes”. Formal dress codes are mostly connected to positions in which someone has to deal with customers and therefore is asked to even visually embody the company. I even know a company that prescribes their employees to wear a suit to the office every day, just in case a customer shows up spontaneously or unannounced.

But there is the other extreme as well. To me it seems like professional dress codes have loosened up over the last decades. Started by the “casual-Friday-movement” in the late 1990s that rooted in a relaxed California-based business culture. I think in its original version that meant a business casual or smart casual Friday-wardrobe in contrast to the business suited wardrobe during the rest of the working week.

However, nowadays most people are free to choose what to wear to work every day. The guideline basically is to wear, whatever you feel comfortable in. This can be everything, starting from a simple T-shirts, over button-down shirts up to button-up shirts. Still in a silent precept management trusts its staff to dress appropriately when dealing with customers. While someone should still feel comfortable in his/her garments in such situations, the formal expectations of the clients need to be met.

Whilst I agree on the freedom to wear whatever makes you feel comfortable on a daily basis in the office. On the other side I ask myself what space this dress code leaves for a casual Friday. The opportunity to dress casually (different) on a Friday, provides us with a pleasant anticipation of the weekend. Doesn’t that give us the motivation to accelerate our working speed, finish up our To Do’s and joyfully leave the workplace for two well-deserved days off?

I like the idea of the distinction between a Friday and the rest of the working week, and I also like to be prepared and feel comfortable in case a customer shows up unannounced (what doesn’t necessarily require a suit). Nevertheless, I’m happy to skip the casual out of my Friday, if I have an important meeting lined up…

In this context I would be interested, how your company handles the dress code issue and if you have a casual Friday, respectively how this philosophy is executed in your environment.

I’m curious for your comments