Doing 'Five-Minute Favors' and Other Business Tips From the Week
A roundup of the best tips of the week from Entrepreneur.com.
Imitating Gordon Gekko, the ruthless corporate raider played with feral intensity by Michael Douglas in Wall Street, may not be the best path to business success. In fact, generous people tend to rise to the top, says Adam Grant, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Givers tend to have large networks to draw on for problem-solving and are able to inspire others with their willingness to go the extra mile. That makes them great employees and even better leaders.
If you have a giving nature but struggle with finding sufficient time to help others, consider doing what Grant calls "five-minute favors." You might provide an email introduction for a colleague or write a letter of recommendation for a former employee. Whatever the favor, practice good time management. If the person requests more involved help, ask yourself whether you're the best person to provide assistance or whether someone else would be a better fit. More: How to Get Ahead by Being Generous
Redesign an existing product.
You don't always have to reinvent the wheel to become a successful entrepreneur. Creating a better design for an existing product is often a surefire way to turn a profit. Choose a market that interests you, and examine the dominant brands. Then ask yourself some "not" questions: Who are these big players not serving? What opportunities are they not taking? That's how you'll discover a niche where you can make a difference. More: How to Outwit Your Competition
Treat foreign business partners like dignitaries.
Doing business outside your home country can be tricky, especially when it comes to handling cross-cultural communication. Americans tend to be more informal in their business dealings and to use more slang than the Chinese and Japanese, for instance. When meeting business associates abroad, it's best to start by treating them like foreign dignitaries. Be reserved and respectful, and take cues from their behavior on how to act as you proceed. More: How to Avoid Cultural Missteps When Doing Business With Other Countries
Consult with your employees to set monthly goals.
Annual targets can seem overwhelming: thousands of new prospects, tens of thousands of products shipped, millions of page views. To make yours manageable, break them down by month. Huddle with your employees and find out what is possible for each department. By consistently hitting your monthly numbers, you'll be on track for the year. More: Why Employees Need a Say in Your Business Planning
Do market testing before radically changing your business.
It's fair to say that Ron Johnson, the former chief executive of J.C. Penney who left the company this week, made a few mistakes during his tenure. One of them was to alter the retailer's pricing strategy from periodic deep discounts to "everyday low prices." Without sufficient knowledge of his customers, he didn't realize their deep attachment to the idea of a sale. Before shifting a core element of your business, test the new approach first to ensure it won't fall flat. More: 3 Marketing Lessons From the Rise and Fall of Ron Johnson
Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.