There is a surplus of different types of tips when looking to manage a small business. There are tips on how to use IT, how to properly manage your business, how to manage documents, etc. This article will start by taking only three of the wide variety of small business management tips and it will discuss them in further detail.

 The top three subjects are setting rules for your business, IT and machines in your business, and delegating tasks in your business. All three of these are common to businesses around the world but are more crucial to small business owners. 

Setting rules in your business. Businesses need to have rules in place in order to operate efficiently. You need to decide what rules will help your business run successfully and enforce them. However, you will need to allow some flexibility in the enforcement of those rules as not all situations may be covered by these rules and regulations. These rules need to be in place because they will help guide decisions when issues occur. These rules must be written, must be fair and at the same time must be able to help your business run as smoothly as possible.

Information technology. When dealing with a small business the topic of IT, or Information Technology, is frequently raised. Businesses cannot properly function in today’s society without possessing some form of IT. You will need to decide how much IT you are willing to have in your office, what form it will take, and what it will take to run the IT systems effectively and efficiently. You will also want to have a technical person to rely on when the inevitable IT breakdowns occur. This will help keep interruptions to a minimum and your business will be less likely to get sidetracked.

 Delegating work. Delegating work within the company, as well as certain responsibilities, can be a tough subject to broach. As an owner it can be hard to delegate responsibility as well as tasks. Keep in mind that these delegated tasks will be able to teach employees certain business functions, as well as the issue of being responsible for a part of a business. Relinquishing work to your employees makes them feel a part of the company and helps them learn hands-on certain things that can be hard to learn in a school or other environment. This is an invaluable lesson for both you and your employees. 

There are many other sidebars of discussions for multiple management tips, however, these three are critical when managing a small business. These tips help small business owners set up accordingly and help their business run more smoothly. These tips can be used to improve any type of small business.

Risk management and government regulations are not something that small business owners consider on a regular basis; as well as how they may apply to them. When it is considered, it may be too late.

**As members of IKECA, we believe in practicing and following certain policies and procedures.  One of our principal endeavors has been the support and development of NFPA96 along with our work to include standards within the International Fire Code.  How do these standards provoke increased risks, and how do we manage it accurately?

Each day IKECA members service hundreds of customers.  We use inspection techniques that, when followed correctly, produce accurate outcomes.  We notify the customer of deficiencies then proceed to offer recommendations that will keep their businesses clean, safe, and in excellent conditions for the public. However, what is our risk if they do not follow our recommendations? What if our recommendations are not of regulation or standards compliant?

NFPA96 is a direct standard that provides simple and cost effective outcomes. It promotes clean, safe and efficient operations for the restaurant industry and their service providers.  There is, however, a recurring theme that is creating an inherent risk for service providers; AHJ Interpretation.

NFPA96 becomes partially worthless when it allows the AJ to, in the end, have its own personal interpretation of right versus wrong. NFPA96 tries to protect its integrity by offering definitive guidance by stating that Webster’s Dictionary shall be used for definition; however the AHJ triumphs and nullifies the NFPA96 code in the end. 

This simple loophole creates for us, as service providers, one of the biggest risks that confront us today.  What is acceptable in one jurisdiction may not be in the next.  What is good for one AHJ may not be suitable for another.  Why do we consider these issues, regardless that the AHJ is passed or not?

For starters, warranty laws under the Uniform Commercial Code provide certain protection to the consumer, especially when concerning written standards and understandings.  These standards and their understandings can be highlighted and used against us if something goes wrong; even if an AHJ gave our non-NFPA96 Compliant recommendation a pass. 

Belonging to associations, such as IKECA or NFPA, reinforces our commitment to maintaining set standards.  When we emphasis the fact that we belong (regardless of the local standards) it opens us up to liabilities and risks beyond what a local AHJ may find agreeable. 

For example, say we are an IKECA member and proudly advertise this along with the fact that we follow NFPA96.  We inspect a restaurant that has a simple hood system with a roof mounted up-blast fan.  We note during our inspection that the hood ductwork does not have listed access panels and is not properly hinged.   We install the most cost effective hinges and fire rated doors. We then believe we have found a solution. One week later there is another inspection. During the inspection the AHJ opens the fan on the roof and the fan falls forward during the inspection narrowly missing the AHJ. 

In reviewing the NFPA96 standard, the AHJ notes that a Service Hold-Open Retainer is required and issues a citation; who’s at risk?

The restaurant owner will immediately turn to the company/person who sold him the hinge.  Did we indemnify ourselves by pointing out that they purchased a less expensive hinge without a proper Service Hold-Open Retainer? 

Same rooftop and same scenario, could someone have been hurt?  Could it have been our own staff, compounding the issue with Workman’s Compensation? Could it have been another third party doing other services to the Fan?  Consider other residual damage that improper hinging may cause; improper weight distribution during opening (causing damage to fan); fan base or fan seals that affect air flow or cause leaking? 

Another area is Access Panels.  A fire rated door is not always a UL Listed door.  Fire rating does not provide the level of protection that a UL Listed door will provide.  Issues such as FOG leakage are not addressed in fire rating, but are components of UL Testing. This minor variance can mean the difference between success and failure; fines and no fines. 

It is estimated that as many as 85% of all restaurants do not meet NFPA96 Standards.  There is a lack of understanding in the AHJ community that the service provider uses as a foundation to not mandate their customers meet the standard.  If we are members of an organization that espouses to work under strict standards, which include as a foundation NFPA96, we too can be held accountable; regardless of what any AHJ may conclude. Because we advertise our affiliation to a standards organization, and have customer’s that hire us based on this fact, does the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) therefore offer risk to us through its warranty codes?

What events have to take place in order for all service providers to be held accountable and hold the same standards as IKECA members? Can we as an IKECA Member and good business offer our customers the truth about the standard and provide for them an opportunity to either comply, or sign off on the non-compliant solutions being installed throughout restaurants in the United States? 

**This Blog was written in conjunction with Omni Containment Systems. and its staff.  Individual Advantages LLC. is not affiliated with IKECA as a member or consultant.  Brian Smith the Senior Managing Member of Individual Advantages is also the Chief Operating Officer of Omni Containment Systems and often represents Omni Containment Systems at different IKECA events.  Omni Containment Systems is a member of IKECA. 

Initially, being in business for oneself is a liberating feeling - and then the work begins.  I am asked day in and day out about the quickest way to become profitable in business. The short answer is usually, there is no quick way to become profitable, unless you’re very lucky. The long answer is to make yourself and your business visible to your target market and when engaged, be credible in all you do; profits will always follow. This longer answer always leads to more questions about how to be more visible, and what does being credible in business mean?

Visibility is the byproduct of a number of things. You may have worked for a company where you established a reputation for being good at whatever it is you do, and you are already highly visible to a part of your target market or at least people who may influence your target market. You may have an offering that is either popular or part of a popular trend or issue. Maybe you live in an area where reaching the market is relatively easy and you have little or no competition. Or, you may live in an area that is far removed from the market or just the opposite, full of competitors with which to set your offering apart. 

Regardless of the situation, visibility is the key to begin creating credibility. To become visible in support of credibility, your message must be clear and consistent. Regardless of how or what you say or do, your message must convey a consistency each and every time it reaches your target market. Your image, message and business practices must all be clean, clear and efficient. People like to see other people and companies that offer products and services in a way that there is no misunderstanding in what they will get and how they will be treated and this message begins with the first impression. 

Your first impression may be a business card, advertisement, or an introduction through a customer, friend or other associate. Your business card or advertisement is an easy way to control consistency. Having a logo that leaves a lasting impression or a tag line will help keep you visible. If you’re meeting people face to face, having a consistent greeting about your company will also reinforce any message carried on print media. While uniforms aren’t required in all industries, having branded clothes can also help reinforce your company visibility and image. 

First impressions can also have a negative impact. The manner in which you and your company treat customers and vendors and how you present yourselves when in the public eye will impart a first impression that will either help or hurt you. For example, having a branded vehicle driven in an unsafe manner can hurt a company when that behavior affects other drivers. Or, having an employee or yourself act in a way that is questionable, arguing with customers or vendors and not following through on issues may cause people to communicate in a negative way about you or your company; creating a negative first impression to countless potential customers. 

Once you have established your visibility and created an image that identifies consistency, you must also operate with consistency. Consistent operations when created in support of your company goals can have a long term positive impact on your firm at all levels and is the foundation for gaining and keeping credibility. 

 The best way to create consistency in operations is to utilize policy and procedure for all you do. Many small business people shy away from the implementation of policy and procedure, thinking such things is only needed for larger companies with many employees. I disagree. Creating a simple written policy or procedure to follow for even the most mundane and simple tasks will ensure that when followed, that task is completed consistently each time. Carrying that practice to areas where you service customers or deal with vendors will ensure that the customer or vendor experience is also consistent.  How you deal with conflict can be handled in a way that offers objective understanding to all parties, and while it may not be an outcome everyone is happy with, it is an outcome that can be defended consistently and stood behind by an owner and his organization. Similarly, having a standardized policy for people attending functions for the company or dealing with other group or public issues can help set a foundation for performance by your team at events. 

Repetitive consistency creates credibility. Have you ever met someone and walked away and thought; “Wow, what a nice person”? Then, after some time you meet that person again and when they come across in the same manner you say; “Every time I see that person they are always so nice”? On other occasions, I have come across people who are nice one day and not so nice the next. Sometimes I am told they were having a bad day or I just misunderstood them. Whatever the case, the inconsistency in action caused me to question who they really were. Any action can be identified by this. You go to a restaurant and get a different level of service with each different server. Or you go to a movie and sometimes the theater is clean and sometimes not. Or you take your car to a repair facility and sometimes it’s a good experience and sometimes not. 

Attaining consistency and therefore credibility is the most difficult part of going into business. We all have issues that affect us from outside our work world; the kids, our partner, finances, the weather.  Regardless of the outside influence, allowing these issues to affect how we interact in our work environment is the most difficult of inconsistencies to correct. We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not how you act when times are good, it’s how you act when times are tough”. This statement goes as my personal foundation when interacting with people and I work hard to make sure I remain consistent in word and deed.

Once you establish an image that is visible and reinforce that image with both policy and procedure to guide your everyday actions at work and support those with a consistent mannerism that supports the personality you want your company to have, you have set yourself and your company up to be profitable. 

Profitability is not measured in money only. Being profitable is defined as both “making money” and “producing good or helpful results or effects”. Having a consistent image will result in a positive effect on morale within the organization. If you present a consistent impression, you will likely be invited to more functions and events. This in turn will lead to more visibility. You will make friends and create partnerships that help you and your company in both tangible and intangible ways. By being visible and credible, you create the opportunity to be much more than financially rewarded; you create the opportunity to be truly prosperous in all you do.       

Compliance is a buzz word today that goes right along with Regulations, Oversight, Rules and Standards.  The questions are; does Compliance really matter and how do we manage our industries Compliance?

As a member or prospective member of an industry association we all hold ourselves to the standard of Compliance.  Whether it’s an associations own rules and standards, or a compliance group or code like Occupational Health & Safety Association (OSHA),  National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Fire Code (IFC) or one of the other international groups, we believe that association members are the best qualified to provide industry specific services to the market. 

Many of the challenges faced by a national organization that has uniform standards throughout the United States is that the Regulations, Rules and Standards that govern each jurisdiction may not be uniform.  The lack of a nationally accepted standard for many industry associations lends to the inconsistency in the quality of work provided on a national level, sometimes even among industry members. 

Helping to fuel this issue is that industry association non-compliant companies compete with compliant companies and cut corners that can allow them to offer lower prices on products and services that generally do not meet the standards set by most associations. 

Another issue facing many of us is that we have looked the other way with some compliance issues that may not have been required by the jurisdiction, but is required by a standards organization; then the jurisdiction adopts the latest national or industry standard and we have to present the customer with a new requirement.  Even though many industry associations have been beholden to larger national or international associations, we may not have felt it was necessary to keep a customer compliant if the jurisdiction did not require it; a potentially difficult discussion to have with a customer.

Finally there is interpretation and definition.  Most standards documents is in some ways ambiguous and gives the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AH J) leeway in the determination of Compliance.  The issue here is what one AJH deems compliant, another may determine does not meet the definition.  One example of this is NFPA96 that states that Up-blast Fans will have a “Service Hold-Open” retainer.  There are AHJ’s that deem a Chain sufficient as a Service Hold-Open Retainer and others that say the Retainer must actually hold the fan in place.  This and many other interpretations put at risk the validity of solutions and us as providers if there is a loss at our client’s business caused by an issue defined so broadly. 

For us, the best way to manage Compliance is first to understand association codes along with any supporting standards that we and our customers have an impact on.  Discuss the ambiguous issues with our peers and ask specifically for a clearer definition of the issues that affect us.  While many Code documents calls for Webster’s Dictionary to be the definitive definition for, many of us still struggle with the practical application of a dictionaries definition. 

Second, once a definition is chosen, stick to it.  As association members we assume that we would hold ourselves to the association standards and as such, any other standard we may follow.  Train your staff to understand the Standards and reward them for bringing customer into compliance, doing so should be greater revenue during the upgrade and hopefully lower costs once finished.  For example, having proper Access Panels in place will increase the efficiency with which air hoods can be cleaned.  By installing proper access you meet the standard and lower your costs going forward; revenue for compliance and residual savings for efficiency that puts more money in your pocket. 

Finally, challenge each other as peers in an organization committed to quality standards.  When you hear a peer with issues related to compliance, help them understand not only the standards requirement but also the practical application of the standard.  For example, proper hinging of an exhaust fan not only reduces the chance of damage to a roof, fan and people working;  it also speeds up the cleaning process by allowing the fan to be tilted quickly and safely, reducing labor cost and risk. 

Compliance is not some buzz word to be set aside when we leave association meetings, only to be addressed when an AHJ decides to review our clients and test the standard.  If we use our compliance as an asset to reduce risk, save labor, increase revenue and give us something to measure by, we as a group can begin to use industry and association based codes and standards as selling tools that don’t have to be a bad word but a buzz word for growing our companies while making them more efficient.   

Having passion for what you do as a career is one of the cornerstones of maintaining a happy balance of work and personal life. Passion can lead to one being extremely competent and in some cases even a recognized expert in the field in which they work. Passion can also help to bring others into a particular field which helps expose certain products, services, methods or processes that are highly beneficial to people and companies. 

We see this kind of passion often in professions that have a lot of influence over individuals and businesses, such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, I.T. engineers, business consultants, mechanics, and plumbers. Let’s look at consulting as an example how a person or company, passionate about something, can negatively affect an opportunity for growth and success. 

The economic downturn has created a new generation of consultant. These educated, hard working men and women spend years learning their trade and then more years perfecting their craft as they gain experience in the real world. Experience creates passion such as a love for a certain type of technology, software, methodology, process, procedure or policy. Passion is a great thing, until it clouds the message to a prospective client. 

A recent example of this came during a visit to a technology company that was hosting an open house. The company is an IT services company led by a very intelligent person with a staff that is motivated and competent. The company has a solid foundation of skills and is located in an area where there is a tremendous amount of opportunity and competition. 

The leader of this company is extremely passionate about business process and efficiency. The message you hear from him when he speaks is one you would expect to hear from a management consultant. His ideas and methodology related to his passion are founded in experience, and he is a great communicator; except that he owns an IT firm that is not growing and his daily tasks for his clients are generally IT related. 

Upon arrival at the open house, the president of the company addressed a crowd of guests and introduced vendors who were all involved with the information technology field. On the walls were banners and items that announced, “This is an IT firm”. The opening message was a short dissertation about how they were an IT company and then it took a 180-degree turn into the world of process and efficiency and not one more mention of IT. 

My next stop at this event was one of the Tech Talks put on by the staff of this IT company. The talk I attended was about transition from one operating system to the latest version; I was excited to hear them flex their knowledge and teach me something about IT. I entered the room where a few other guests were seated and facing a screen with the operating system loaded. Then the tech stated that we would not use the screen but that he would be using the white board instead. Our lesson then digressed into a thirty minute discussion on the methods of learning and how understanding what we learn would then prepare us for changing operating systems and grasping the concepts adapted in the version.  Many of us pushed the speaker to teach us something simple about the operating system, which after prodding he did quite well; however, he continually digressed into his passion about learning and teaching effectively. 

My point in outlining both experiences is to identify how passion can cloud the direction for a company and hamper its ability to grow, or worse, to hire effective employees. The leader of this IT firm has set an example for his employees that if you can find a way to employ your particular passion into what we do, it’s ok to further that passion in all we do. By changing the discussion at the introduction, the leader had the group wondering if this was indeed an IT Firm or a management firm. He explained how efficiency and process can be affected by IT and then his engineer further clouded the message by giving a dissertation on the human ability to learn and teach, using the new operating system environment as a tool. 

To further add injury to his company, I had the unfortunate opportunity to sit in with the owner and a prospective customer. As I sat there listening to the customer explain their concerns about information technology and their inability to work with other parts of their company, I had to endure it while the IT consultant wove a complex scenario of business process, policy and procedure for the weary potential client. 

When presented with an opportunity so clear that you have two prospects sitting in your office during an after hours event, the last thing you want to do is digress into anything other than what the potential customer is asking for. You cannot create efficiency within an organization that has technology issues by implementing only policy, procedure or process solutions, not without first understanding the technology in place. This IT professional jumped right over the glaring issues and dived into his passion at first chance. 

At the end of the night, I had the opportunity to meet the company’s sole salesperson. This person is a bright and motivated individual that clearly loves sales.  During my discussion, I felt that if given the opportunity to meet decision makers, they would hire her company to service their IT needs. 

One month later, during a follow up lunch with the IT company owner, I naturally asked how business was going and his response was “It’s not bad”. He told me how his statement is his optimistic approach on a situation if it’s not good.  urther discussion led me to ask how the sales person was doing and he was clearly not happy with her performance. He explained how the person was struggling, and inquired about his company message. The message remains clouded and unfocused.  Companies are not hiring this company because they don’t really understand what they are; in fact I’m not sure the company understands what it is. When I offered a small contract for IT services, they provided the right expertise and service. I have owned an IT firm though, and knew exactly what my client needed and in fact how to do it, so the sales process never got bogged down in a digression on his or his staff’s passion. 

If you are trying to grow your company or have people working for you that are responsible for your company’s growth, have a message that clearly identifies your core business strength. You may very well be able to affect change in some ancillary way, such as process, policy or procedure, but if you’re an IT company sell your IT services. The same goes for lawyers, doctors, accountants and other professions. If you hired a plumber to fix your pipes, you would not likely take him seriously if he showed up and began pitching you lawn care ideas or organizational skills. 

Keeping your message clear about your core business is essential to growth and longevity of any business. Digressing into your passion before you acquire the customer only confuses the potential client and hurts your chances of closing a deal.  If you have sales people, give them a simple set of products or services, then narrow the discussion for them so that the door can be opened. Once opened and you’ve acquired the customer, introduce your add-on products and services after some credibility has been gained by your competence to deliver the basic services your company is known for.  

Most of us do not think about who owns the intellectual property of the products and materials we use in our daily lives. But the truth is, patent infringement and the manufacture and distribution of knock off products is a crime against the inventor, the manufacturer, licensed distributors and installation companies, as well as the end users. In addition, you could potentially be endangering the public and property by not using proper materials and/or procedures designed for the patented product. This unethical and illegal practice could result in a failure that creates safety issues for the public.

Knock off products are not limited to high end watches or DVD movies; many products used by both personal and business consumers can be copied and sold to unsuspecting consumers.  These items can include chemicals, mechanical devices or even products needed for compliance or certification. 

Who is ultimately responsible for patent infringement violations? The answer might not be as simple or clear as it seems. With complicated supply chains and the use of expanded distribution networks, many times we are buying products through companies that are far removed from the manufacturer. We may also come across a particular system at a customers’ site and think we can do better than what the manufacturer recommends, or that we can reduce cost by making our own improvised service plan for a particular product. One question you should ask yourself is this. Will my business liability insurance cover me if a product I design, sell or install fails at my customers’ business? Also, by altering the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) system you take on the liability of failure if the product does not perform as it was intended, one of the many potential negative consequences of altering OEM equipment or making your own. Manufacturers carry specialized product liability insurance that not only protects them, but also protects you and your customer in the event of a failure. Product liability insurance is voided or non-existent for knock off or altered products. 

Another area where product infringement can become an issue is with safety. Products not manufactured with the proper materials can fail, which may cause slip and fall and/or fire hazards in a business environment. Products built as copies or with substandard practices can also cause other systems to fail, creating residual liabilities that may be covered by an OEM product but not a knock-off or altered product. Also, products that are not serviced correctly or have improper replacement parts can cause residual long term liabilities that include property loss, safety or other legal compliance issues. 

The liability trail begins with the consumer end user when dealing with a knock off product that fails. When a malfunction occurs, they are likely left with a failed product and a damaged facility and the possibility of injuries. When the consumer learns that a system has failed, they in turn blame the installer or the manufacturer. When this occurs with an OEM product, the product liability insurance covers any failure of their product. All credible service companies will carry liability insurance that covers any failure caused by work they perform. The issue becomes increasingly complex if the insurance carriers determine that it was not their product or it was a lack of proper maintenance of the product that caused the failure. At this point all bets could be off for the service company and the end user.

Companies may also use OEM replacement parts not manufactured by the original manufacturer. The question a consumer or service company must ask is; does the use of a non-OEM part negate my original warranty or cause me potential liabilities if the system fails?  Most OEM replacement manufacturers carry additional warranties and or make additional assertions that sometimes supersede and exceed the OEM systems protection. Make sure if you’re using OEM replacements that you’re using them from a reputable company that stands behind its product in the event of a failure.   Another liability that comes with using unauthorized replacements is potential patent law violations.  The use of products that infringe on a patent can cause losses that exceed the original cost of the product. End users and the companies that install infringing products can be held liable to replace the product and for any damages caused. These types of actions can also lead to costly legal fees and loss of time as you try to unravel how a product was used that violates patent law. You also run the risk of ruining your personal reputation and that of your company when a customer learns that he has liabilities because a knock-off was used on their property. 

It may appear that you are doing a service to your customers by saving them money when installing non-OEM products or replacement parts during routine service intervals. In reality, cutting corners with non-OEM products places undue risk on your customers and to your own company. The smart move, and the ethical and legal option, is to make sure you are using OEM or advertised OEM replacement materials when servicing your clients’ locations. Request clarification from your distributor and/or manufacturer on the products you’re buying so you know you and your customer are backed by proper product liability insurance, product warranties and that you’re buying a product that does not violate intellectual property laws in the United States.  

Small business struggles to post profits, but they are not alone.  Professional Service Organizations like the Chamber Of Commerce, Better Business Bureau and others are feeling the squeeze on small business.  The Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau along with many others must invent new and unique services to keep their members happy so those members will maintain their status and the organizations can collect their fees; Our Advice is to make sure the services your getting meet or exceed your policy for profitable associations, in other words these organizations should help your bottom line in a way that’s measurable. 

 I am a firm believer in the Chamber, BBB, NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) and many more.  However, I am repeatedly surprised by the lack of quality and quantity of services some of these organizations bring to their members.  I’m asked repeatedly by my clients; “How do I best maximize my membership in XYZ Organization?”  My knee jerk answer is to get involved. 

All of these organizations provide opportunities for its members to get involved in events that are free or are included in your membership fees.  Make sure you understand what your membership includes and that you get involved.  If your Organization touts events or perks, make sure you let them know you want to be involved.  Also, it’s not too much to expect them to keep you informed of events, and not just events they want you to pay for.  

Another way to get involved is to communicate with the Organization staff.  Let them know what is going on in your business.  Ask how you can get involved beyond any regular events and don’t let them blow you off.  Too many times these Organizations become political or “clickish”.  If you’re a paying member, and the Organization is using a favorite and you’re as qualified, make some noise and let them know you want and expect them to let you be involved. 

Each business person should know what their business needs to be successful.  From exposure, to operations to financial controls, business owners and managers face a myriad of challenges.  These organizations are supposed to support your companies’ viability, so that means you should hold them to a higher standard.  If the organizations you belong to are not helping you to become or remain profitable, move that investment to something that will help your business become more stable, grow or at least offer you an opportunity to gain some meaningful civic recognition.    

Society today, ‘Today’ being defined as the time from the late 1980’s to the present, has undergone a rapid evolution in information collection, manipulation, storage and presentation.  With the introduction of personal computers, the internet, smart phones and more, the life has been transformed into an environment where information readily becomes available on demand.

Along with this technology, comes greater expectation.  Initially, users were limited to certain types of data; internal business data and standard news information, enabling people to provide limited information to management and peers.

  As technology has become a focal point of life for most of the developed world, cost has decreased as rapidly as innovation has progressed, making information more accessible and affordable than ever before.

With this reduced cost and more readily available access, new problems have come to light.  Business and human process began to rely more on technology.  People began to rely on technology to make decisions or mange decisions.  In the past, it was only businesses that relied on technology to drive efficiencies, creating expectation previously achieved through people, process and time.  Now, personal expectations have been raised, for every aspect of our lives.  This fundamental change in expectation is the foundation for our assertion that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) has manifested itself in many aspects of our lives, both in and out of the workplace; our term for this is Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder or TIADD.

Twelve years ago we introduced TIADD to the business community as part of our methodology for resolving business efficiency issues in the workplace.  In the late 1990’s, this disorder was manifesting itself regularly in the workplace, however throughout the early 2000’s, TIADD has begun to show up throughout society.

TIADD is a new foundation for inefficiency and vulnerability.  An entire generation of worker is being trained to rely solely on technology to collect, analyze, process and distribute information. The inefficiencies are created through lack of planning and understanding of foundational business and personal process, as it relates to an organization or individual prior to technology implementation.  Vulnerabilities are created when this technology is implemented with inefficiencies; people are psychologically affected by the negative impact of the technology.  Additionally, the individual changes to business and personal process being used to circumvent technology based processes not properly learned, affect the overall performance of individual people, social groups and entire companies.  These inefficiencies and vulnerabilities are the foundation for TIADD.

Physiology of the Problem

Since ADD has been determined to be a physiological disorder based on biological problems within the brain; it is important to clarify any physiological association to TIADD.  Since, many people already have clinical ADD or ADHD, any condition caused by technology would only be a manifestation of their physiological issues.  TIADD is a problem that is societal and caused solely by the introduction and reliance of technology in our current society.  I do not begin to imply that TIADD is yet physiological or biological in nature; however I do believe that through evolution of technology and people, it may become a physiological issue.

Sociology of Problem

The sociology of TIADD is very clear.  Society has become reliant on technology to streamline every facet of our life.  People use technology to streamline communications, write letters analyze numbers.  Mechanics utilize technology to diagnose cars, fix internal issues.  Medical professionals use technology to quickly diagnose ailments and as reference tools to better understand case studies and application of remedy.  Legal and banking professionals utilize technology to manipulate data and research trends or cases to quickly accomplish tasks that once took days, months or even years.  And people use technology to forge relationships based on a new level of communication standard, one in which delay can affect the relationship both short and long term.

This change to the very fabric of business and life process has trained people to expect results, based on technology, in less and less time.  If and often, when this technology fails to meet the individual, group or company expectations, impatience, distraction, impulsive requirements for information and results, hyper sensitivity to human interaction and a complete lack of social development within many social structures is causing a new uneasiness within society as a whole.

All of these symptoms are used to traditionally diagnose ADD, this onset of symptoms throughout society, is the basis for TIADD.

Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder has been established as a disorder, because of the use of psychology during the implementations of technology throughout the world.  In analyzing issues related to business process failure, workplace lack of moral and the association to the implementation of technology, a correlation was noted between psychological issues in the workplace and these implementations.  In addition, through the interview process of thousands of people, there was a common scenario; people were becoming more impatient and had less ability to function psychologically on problems that were once solved without technology.  Additionally, apprehension and an inability to focus on problem solving or understand issues caused by behavior between people seemed to have a root in technology based changes.

These examples are based on issues with people that caused companies to consider technology enhancements, replacements or fixes; for business process and moral problems within their organization.  The subjects used for this analysis are from all walks of life around the world.

Collection of Data

The collection of this data was governed by a structured data collection model known as BizVision, a very simple methodology, based on a series of questions, used to gain a high level understanding of the business process of people. The data also includes details about technology usage and individual interaction with other people.  All of this data is compiled into a simple database for compilation and review.  Models are designed, based on the process answers.  Emotional and ability profiles were developed, to help determine the level of education at each position and the ability to teach new process or technologies.

It is during this part of the analysis that the psychological affects and abilities of each worker are reviewed again.  We look at our data compilations and uncovered severe apprehension, lack of attention and inability to focus or change, as areas of concern.  It is here that we saw TIADD manifest itself. 

Our findings are simple and clear.  As people have evolved with technology, their expectations for performance and ability to deal with human emotion caused by both personal and business process failures have changed.  People have less ability to focus on problem solving, less ability to remain patient and less ability to accept people with less ability than themselves.  These flaws and the ensuing result, lack of patience, lack of focus, emotional distress, work induced stress and human conflict at all levels point to TIADD.

People have been programmed into relying on technology to solve problems and solve them quickly.  People do not want to offer patience or support to other people who cannot fix problems with the efficiencies expected in a technology based society.  These expectations and lack of basic human qualities, once appreciated in society can now be defined as Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder.

Business operations are fluid, like a river flowing downhill.  When you add a Customer, Vendor or Employee it is like putting a rock in the current and changing the direction just a little; add a whole lot of rocks and you get a dam or it can change the river’s direction entirely.

Maintaining control of the direction of your company requires constant attention to detail.  Many owners make decisions and move on to the next issue, but making a decision is only the beginning.  Once a decision is made, there must be further action; further review, implementation of the decision (change) and follow through on how the decision is affecting the overall direction of the company.  Operationally, 80% of the decision process is almost always completed, but that last 20%, the analyzation of the decision effectiveness and whether it accomplished what was intended and became a company habit, is regularly ignored. 

To help business owners and managers make decisions, dividing the process up into five parts can help maintain control over how decisions are made and managed and will reduce the 80/20 Operations Mistake. 

20%  - Issue Analysis – Who, What, Where, When& Why

Not all Issues are bad.  Growing Markets, New Markets, New Employees, Policy or Procedure Change are all Issues that can be positive.  When addressing an Issue for your company, regardless of its context of negative or positive, a clear understanding is required.  First you must understand the Who, What, Where, When and Why of the Issue and its effect on your company.  Who are the employees, vendors, and customers?  What are the product or service that may be affected?   Where are these issues occurring and during what process or action?  When are the issues occurring?  Why are the issues occurring?

Who is sometimes obvious.  You might have complaints from Customers, High Employee Turnover, and Vendors that are difficult to maintain relationships with.  If it is not obvious, objective and honest analysis of anyone involved in the process, procedure or product will need to be reviewed. 

What can be a product defect, procedural inefficiency or policy flaw.  Sometimes the What can be hidden or covered up by efficient employees and vendors or tolerant customers.  Also, don’t always assume that a fix to the What is always the resolution to the entire problem. 

Where an issue occurs can help to isolate the what, who or when of an issue.   It is important to document the Where and keep that in perspective.  Changing issues with a Customer or Vendor can become even more complex for a business owner, as they are generally outside the owner’s direct area of influence to affect change. 

When an issue occurs it can be tracked easily if you have well defined Policy & Procedures.  Other times, When is easy because it is just plain obvious.  However, if it is an issue buried or covered up by other actions by third parties or multiple sources, well defined P & P can help to uncover the When. 

Why is the entry into the next phase; 40% Definition.

40% Why – Defining the Issue

Understanding why an issue is happening is the culmination of the Analysis.  If you have properly documented the Who, What, Where and When then Why should be understood. 

Once you understand all the aspects of Why, you can begin to formulate the proper decision needed to address the issue.  Regardless of the scope of the issue, if you know the definition of the issue, you know why it is occurring.

This is where some people lose interest in issue resolution.  They may determine through the analysis process that the issue is not important, not affecting them personally or that others can deal with the issue.  This decision is just another rock in the river path of the company and has its own direction changing affects that may or may not take the company where the manager or owner wants it to go. 

60% Change Development – Defining the Change

Developing the resolution can be as simple as a quick snap decision or as complex as a complete policy overhaul.  By the time you get to this point, you’ve only determined that something has to change. 

This is the point where you are going to decide to Set Rocks.  No matter what the decision is, it will have an affect on the Who, What, Where and When and it will create a new Why.  We call this Setting Rocks because you will be changing the direction of the company when this decision is implemented.  Make sure you understand the change and the affect it will have.   

What is also important is that whatever you decide to do about the issue, you do it with conviction and implement the resolution as quickly and efficiently as possible.   

80% Change Implementation – Making the Change

Change is difficult, period.  Almost everyone dislikes change.  Habits form in three to six weeks and once established, habits are very confortable, even ones that are causing issues within an organization. 

Change implementation is where we begin to lose most of the people in an organization.  Upon the initial implementation of change, people will pay attention to the reason why and will attempt to learn whatever is needed to implement the change.  However, as soon as the initial time has been spent, we often see organizations fall back on the past habits that served them comfortably. 

Many times, the resurgence in the original issue will be enough to affect continual attempts at implementation of the change, and over time the new process, procedure or product will become a new habit.  However, many times the leaders have moved on to a new issue and rely on the rest of the company to finish the last 20% of the change process; Habit Formation. 

100% Decision Review and Habit Formation – The missing 20%

Employees have a difficult enough time with issue resolution, and many will tell you that they would prefer to resolve their own issues.  However, case study after case study confirms that people enjoy having a structured environment that defines issue resolution and provides guidance for them that is consistent and supports their area of responsibility. 

If the decision champion can see a resolution through Habit Formation they will see continued progress in their overall desired direction for the company.  Without follow through on each decision, employees, vendors and customers will develop short cuts or solutions to anything not clearly defined and documented in a decision. 
By establishing a structured change protocol that analyzes, defines, creates the change, implements the change and then makes the change a habit, an owner or manager will have eliminated the 20% of the solution that generally gets ignored, potentially heading off additional issues or complete failure.  

How many small business owners actually think strategically about employee morale?  Who actually sits around and thinks about the affects of outside influence to the efficiency and productivity of a company?

Psychology in business is an important and often ignored aspect of the overall health of a business.  A business owner or manager cannot open the yellow pages and look up a Business Psychologist and, if you could, what kind of couch would he have for a company?

Business Psychology, while similar to generally accepted Psychology, is actually quite a bit different.  Imagine working with one, two, ten or fifty individuals in a business environment to resolve the myriad of issues including, but not limited to, different personalities, egos and talent .  How does a person begin to address Morale or the Psychology of an office or business?

Through many efficiency projects, we have learned that people can address similar issues in different ways.  In fact, we found that people can have as many as six different approaches to resolving a single problem, each approach is affected by outside influences such as other employees, customers or vendors, family issues, personal physical feeling, personal emotional issues or mandated policy and procedure.

The best way to address Morale and maintain a healthy Business Psychology is through structure.  Unfortunately many small businesses do not have a lot of structure, so there becomes a need to manage the Change Process that can alone have a dramatic affect on Morale and the psychological health of the business.

Businesses that have little to no structure (Policy and Procedure) open themselves up to a wide range of issues across the board, all of which can cause low employee morale and deep business psychological scars.  For example, if an employee does not have a structured way to deal with a customer complaint or vendor issue, his current emotional state will likely dictate his or her approach to dealing with the issue.  Instead of being centered emotionally by standardization, the emotions will be conveyed to the third party, potentially affecting future business.  If the issue is internal, employees can become at odds with one another, and resentment or hurt can interfere with future business efficiency or operations.

While structure will not take away a person's individualism or solve the personal issues we all carry on a day to day basis, structure provides a baseline to complete our daily work tasks and address surprise issues in a manner that help to even out our current state of mind when it is influenced by something external or through a third party.

If you already have Morale issues in your company, structure can help to resolve much of the problems being faced.  Time and time again we have seen an office environment where structure is lacking, more than one personality conflict between employees or worse, between employees and customers or vendors.  Structure creates a set of rules or procedures that allows people to check their emotions when dealing with business issues.  The most amazing residual aspect of the implementation of Structure, is the leveling out of Morale issues within the organization as the employees begin to fall back on the Policy and Procedures to resolve the day to day business issues; subverting the knee jerk reactions caused by emotions dictated by the personal day to day issues faced by the employees. 

What is even more apparent during an introduction of Structure into an organization facing Morale issues within its ranks or with third parties, is that over a period of three to six weeks following the implementation of the Structure, overall Morale is improved markedly and in many cases the efficiency of the company is increased, costs are lowered and revenues many times increase.

Structure does not eliminate all the issues in a company nor does it resolve all Morale or Psychological issues within the organization.  However, it sets a foundation for management to begin to control how business is conducted and helps the employees to understand what is expected. It also sets the stage for continued process improvement and an ability to introduce additional Structure into the organization, minimizing the overall affects of change in the future.