Taking The Lead
Entrepreneurship and leadership don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, but entrepreneurs who are strong leaders significantly increase the likelihood they'll build an enduring, profitable company. "Leaders have to have a clear vision and the ability to communicate that vision," says Charles A. Coonradt, president of The Game of Work Inc., a management consulting firm in Park City, Utah, and author and publisher of The Game of Work. "Great leaders constantly seek to minimize uncertainty on their teams, they have a sensitivity to the needs of their followers, and they work to bring the behavior of their people in line with the results they want."
How strong a leader are you--and what do you need to do to become stronger? The easiest way to find out is to ask the people you lead. Use the following assessment test Coonradt developed for Entrepreneur.
Educate your employees on the legal aspects of e-mail.
The advent of e-mail has provided businesses with a quick, easy, inexpensive way to communicate with customers, colleagues and vendors worldwide. But along with these benefits come risks: Used incorrectly, e-mail can result in personal and professional embarrassment, lost business and costly litigation.
Consider these possible scenarios: A questionable joke gets forwarded to someone who interprets it as harassment; critical comments about an employee accidentally land in that person's e-mail box; or confidential competitive data is inadvertently attached to a message sent to a vendor.
As the number of people who have access to e-mail continues to grow, it's becoming increasingly important to educate everyone about the dos and don'ts of communicating in the networked business world, says Will Hipwell, a marketing project manager with American Media Inc., a West Des Moines, Iowa, firm that produces how-to products for corporate training. American Media has developed a training video, "No Privacy: Legal Issues in E-mail," to help with this process. Among the critical points the video makes are:
- E-mail messages should be treated as public information, not private communications.
- E-mail should be regarded as a permanent form of communication. Even though users delete messages, copies are stored in multiple places in a computer system and can often be retrieved later in an audit or by court order. Messages and documents can be stored for years on backup disks or tapes and can be introduced as evidence in legal actions over anti-trust, discrimination, termination or copyright infringement.
- E-mail should never be used to discuss sensitive issues, such as employee performance, suspicions of misconduct, salary levels or other confidential topics.
- Once you send an e-mail message, you have no control over where else it might go. Never write anything in an e-mail message that you wouldn't want the entire world to see.
- Don't use the company's business e-mail system for your personal correspondence.
American Media's video sells for $595; a $40 preview video and short-term rentals are also available. Call (800) 262-2557 for more information.
It's Your Move
Is it time to move your business out of your home?
Working from home is a hot trend, but it's not the best idea for every business. How do you know if it's time to move your homebased business to a commercial location? Consider these two key issues:
1. Does your home office efficiently and effectively accommodate your operation?
2. Are you sure you'll have the revenue necessary to support the increased overhead you'll have if you move?
When Dean Constantine, president and CEO of Zevex Inc. in Salt Lake City, founded the company in 1986, he housed it in his basement. His long-term goal was to build a high-tech company that designs, develops, manufactures and distributes medical products; his home office was just the first step. "It was primarily a cost issue," he says. "There was no funding to do anything else."
He operated from home for about a year before he landed a contract with a major company. The terms of the contract included a promise that in return for the fixed income, Constantine would move his company into a commercial location, hire additional staff and set up a manufacturing facility.
"We could have lasted at home a little longer than we did, but we made a commitment to that first major customer to move," Constantine recalls.
The move actually fueled additional growth. "As soon as we moved out of my home, we had other customers visit us and the location gave us credibility to the point where we won small contracts and then built on those."
The company's first commercial facility measured 4,000 square feet, and in the beginning, Constantine used less than half of it. After a series of incremental moves over the years, Zevex now occupies its own 51,000-square-foot building and is looking to expand again in the near future.
Constantine's advice to homebased companies is to keep the business at home as long as possible. "Keep your overhead as low as you can without stifling your growth," he says. If you need room to grow, however, and you have customers supporting you, it's time to move.
American Media Inc., http://www.ammedia.com
The Game of Work Inc., (800) 438-6074, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zevex Inc., 4314 Zevex Park Ln., Salt Lake City, UT 84123, (801) 264-1001