“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”
~Bill Gates ~
Client Ann Asks: I worry that we are not standing out from the competition. My IT Director says that we can gain a competitive advantage through information technology, but I’m not sure how to do this. Can you give me some ideas?
Coach Joel Answers: Ann, you are right on target. It’s vital that your company outshine other similar companies in order to maintain market share. You need things that help you work smarter, faster, and at a cheaper cost. Information technology can help you do all of that.
Let’s look at nine ways to improve your bottom line, support the team effort, handle paperwork, and gain more loyal customers.
When you employ some of these IT systems, you’ll feel more in control, you’ll save time, and you’ll see results.
1. Web Presence. Help your business be easily found. Make your website inviting, informative, and easy to navigate. You’ll find you’re converting visitors to buyers faster and more often.
2. E-commerce. Expand beyond your brick-and-mortar store. A.J. Madison started as a simple store in Brooklyn New York, selling to locals. Its expansive e-commerce site now has it sending appliances into all 50 states. This is a huge competitive advantage. Make sure your IT allows different online payment methods.
3. Supply Chain Management. A good IT program can make sure you have products exactly when you need them. It can manage your inventory as well as the clerical supplies that keep offices running.
4. Customer Relationship Management. Nothing can destroy your business faster than poor customer relations. And few things can give you a better competitive advantage than a host of loyal customers. Use information technology to help you follow up with customers, hear and respond to complaints, and segment your customers to reward larger spenders.
5. Automation Software. Your automated programs can track numbers of sales, customers, and transaction details. It can make those numbers available across a variety of documents for taxes, customer follow up, and financial accounting. Paperwork is not glamorous, but when you save hours and dollars with excellent software, it becomes cool.
6. Collaboration Software. Quality programs help teams work together. It allows documents to easily be shared. On a basic level it connects computers, applications, printers, and internet connections. These simple steps save you time and money. They also make a more productive and satisfied, team.
7. Web Design. Each company wants to stand out. With your unique website you can differentiate your products from your competitors.
8. Client Segmentation. Don’t waste your advertising dollars on clients who won’t buy. Use software to focus on those who do. Sophisticated information systems segment your list so you can target new buyers and big spenders and spend little time on “lookers.”
9. Privacy. Use IT to protect the confidential information of your customers and employees. Nothing breaks trust with your customers like a hacker stealing their credit information from your site. That extra layer of information technology can give you a competitive edge against other businesses in your field.
Ann, you don’t even need to use every one of these programs right away. Choose the two or three areas in your business that could most benefit from streamlining, and start there.
Soon you’ll find ways your competitive advantage is bringing in more clients and more income for your company. Information technology really does let you work smarter, faster, and with a lower cost.
To learn how your company can blow your competition out of the water, contact Joel.
Talkback: What programs or software have you used to give your business an advantage?
“Nothing can be more absurd than the practice. . . of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their strengths and with one mind, for thus, the state instead of being whole is reduced to half.”
~ Plato ~
Client Mary Ann Asks: I’ve got a real dilemma on my hands. I’ve got two very talented managers who have been on my team for several years. Martin is a real go-getter, definitely somebody who gets the job done. Danielle is a great motivator, a real team player that brings out the best in her people. There’s one open position that would be a move up for both of them—but it’s only one position. Which one should I promote? Does gender make a difference? How do I figure out the different male and female leadership styles between the two of them?
Coach Joel Answers: Leadership styles are not gender-neutral. But when you’re looking at a promotion situation such as this one, I think you need to put gender aside for the moment and look at some key management characteristics. Ask yourself these three critical questions:
- What’s best for the job?
- What’s best for the staff?
- What’s best for the person?
Statistically speaking, there are clear differences in male and female leadership styles. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company shows that men and women use key leadership behaviors differently. The three behaviors most often used by women were people development, expectations and rewards, and role model. Women were also more likely to use inspiration and participative decision making. Men, on the other hand, utilized control and corrective action, as well as individual decision making with more frequency. There was virtually no difference in men and women when it came to intellectual stimulation and efficient communication.
So with that in mind, let’s consider those three questions.
1. What’s best for the job? Consider first what outcomes you are expecting for this position. If you are in a growth mode with lots of new initiatives and projects that need motivation and team building, you might lean toward Danielle. On the other hand, if this is a position that involves quick decision-making rather than consensus-building, or if that department is in need of some rebuilding, Martin might be a good choice.
2. What’s best for the staff? Think about the direct reports that this person will have. Will they thrive on a highly creative, free-flowing environment or do they need structure and stability? Think about assertiveness vs. empathy, encouragement vs. direction. Picture each person in the department and visualize him or her reporting to either Martin or Danielle. You’ll know instinctively which manager each person would thrive under. You might end up deciding on the individual who provides “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
3. What’s best for the person? You want to set the individual up for success. Think beyond your own immediate needs for the department and look to the future. Where do you see your department in five years? How does Martin fit that picture? How about Danielle? You also need to think about how you’ll utilize and continue to reward the individual who doesn’t get promoted.
None of the characteristics we’ve talked about are either good or bad—they just are. Your job is to decide which kind of leader is best for your department and your people at this particular time. The bottom line is that both male and female leadership styles have a lot to offer.
Are you faced with a tough promotion decision? Joel can talk you through it—contact him today.
Talkback: How do you think gender differences affect leadership styles? Share your experience here.
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