Small Business Marketing – Specialize or Generalize?

There have been many great points raised on both sides of this discussion. In order to make a final decision, we must look at how the business world is moving and at the purchasing patterns of the consumers who will be utilizing your services.The Internet has changed the way people look for services (personal and professional). For example:
· If you do a search in Yahoo for a Personal Coach you will get 1.4 million matches.
· If you refine your search to Personal Life Coach you will get 760,000 matches.
· If you refine your search to Personal Career Coach you will get below matches.
· If you refine your search to Weight Loss Coach you will get 80,000 matches.
(search result numbers are subject to change)Once you have selected the area of specialization you are interested in, you can then drill down into the results by location or other qualifying factors. As we are spending more and more time online, our patterns are shifting and adapting to more effectively navigate the over-abundance of information available. Web users know that in order to avoid a list of millions of possible matches, they must be more specific in their requests.Generalizing – The Benefits:
As a generalist you aren’t limited in the type of clients that you can work with. Everyone is pressed for time; having one coach who can handle all aspects of your goals (personally and professionally) as opposed to multiple resources each with a unique area of focus would be of certain benefit.Generalizing – The Challenge:
The trade off is assumed to be that if you are a generalist in all things you are not an expert in any of them or at least in most of them. To state that one individual can work on any aspect of any business and/or in any area of a person’s life and still achieve success is unlikely and may be interpreted as unrealistic or exaggerated on the part of your potential clients.Specializing – The Benefits:
As a specialist you can attract a client based on his unique needs then share the wide range of additional areas you can bring benefit too. Each person wants the best for themselves and they perceive their situation to be completely unique. Specializing places you in front of the right client at the right time.Specializing – The Challenge:
Initial pool from which you can draw clients is potentially smaller (but more refined), your copy must be more targeted, and you may be vulnerable to economic swings in specific market segments.The concept of moving towards a more specific or niche approach to positioning and promoting your practice is becoming the standard in business. Building an environment that allows you receive the benefits of being positioned under Specialist and Generalist is one of the foundations of www.ldurandconsulting.com [http://www.ldurandconsulting.com]Have a successful day!
Leslie Durand, Marketing Coach and Emarketing Specialist

Pros and Cons of Wild Animals As Pets

Many people find the idea of having wildlife as pet as exotic and exciting. However, if you want a wild animal as a pet, you should have thorough understanding of the animal and its behavior and needs. The people who have these animals as pets are invariably trained to handle them, but even they will tell how unpredictable these animals can be. You may have read stories in the newspaper of zoo keepers being mauled by their wards.So, having wild animals as pets has become quite a sensitive and controversial issue. Some people like to highlight the pros, while others just point out the cons. However, both should be weighed equally and only then a decision should be taken to keep a wild animal as a pet.Here are some pros and cons of wildlife as pets.Sometimes, conventional pets like dogs and cats cannot be kept due to lack of space. In such circumstances, one can keep a wildlife like a hedgehog or gecko as a pet as they do not require that much space. Some wild animals have their own benefits. Like a hedgehog can be used to keep insects and others pests at bay in a house.


Often it has been seen purchasing a wild animal can be cheaper than purchasing a pet that is popular and has a pedigree.Also, many proponents of wild animals feel that some species have a better chance of survival if they are adopted. It has been seen that the dart frog is facing a problem in the wild as its natural habitat is diminishing. Hence, if this animal is adopted, it will have a better chance of survival.However, there are sufficient cons and disadvantages of owning wild animals as pets. First of all, one has to take into consideration the welfare of the animal. Having a wildlife means giving due consideration to its diet, exercise and social interactions. Often, the animal will not have any interaction with other animals of its own species and will be left to leading a lonely and solitary life. Also, the owners will not be equipped to provide proper care to the animals as they may not be well-versed in these things. Many wild animals look cute and cuddly when they are small. However, as they reach adulthood or sexual maturity, their wild side takes over and the animal becomes aggressive. This is the time many owners abandon their pets or give them away to zoos.Wild animals are carriers of many diseases that are lethal to humans. For instance, reptiles and amphibians are carriers of salmonella infection and each year thousand of people in the US contract this disease due to their pets. Also, rats imported from Africa are known to carriers of monkey pox. An outbreak of this disease occurred in the US in 2003 when Gambian rats brought in the monkey pox into the country.


Above all, the demand for wildlife as pet is increasing. So, many illegal traders are taking advantage of this demand. Most of the wild animals are captured and then transported in cruel and inhuman manner to reach their owners. In addition, majority of the owners do not know to take care of the animals and this causes them to fall sick or even die.So, weigh the pros and cons of having wild animals as pets before jumping to adopt one. Make sure that you are properly equipped to handle the care of the animal. Do not adopt one if you have any doubts.

The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

IntroductionImplementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.What is Change Management?Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ’4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.Why is Change Management important?As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation


We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:Focus on TechnologyIgnoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.Recognition of the Business importance of InformationThe low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.Business Case and BudgetThe business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.StrategyBest practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.ContentWe can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.ProcessDue process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.CultureThe manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.RelationshipsOrganizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.ServicesThe application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.TechnologyInformation technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.Change Management Best PracticeThe capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.GovernanceAs discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.Information Management SystemThe selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.PilotsThere are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.


User FocusThe inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.ArchitectureMost of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.Change Management Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.SummaryResearch shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are plannedFor most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

How IT Companies Can Effectively Manage Client Hardware

Despite the emergence of “The Cloud”, local hardware will always be required. Even the most basic small business client has a router, a network switch, a PC and one or more printers. Other clients may have Firewalls, Servers, Plotters, Multi-Function Units and any array of other hardware – most of it IP-enabled.Multiply that by multiple clients, and you’ve got an awful lot of hardware that becomes really easy to waste a lot of time and effort trying to manage – if you’re not organized.From Chaos to OrderThe first step in bringing order to the chaos is to buy a Label Printer. My personal favorite is the P-Touch Handheld range from Brother. Anything that you can easily carry with you, plug into the mains (battery operated is fine – but batteries run out, and you then start to forget to label things) and print labels will do the job. If you have more than one engineer, buy them all label printers and get them to label them with their own names – they’ll be more inclined to look after them.Next, organize a time for an engineer to visit client sites with his labeler at the ready – grabbing and labeling anything and everything with a power plug on the end and making a written note of each to take back to the office.(Talking of power plugs, get your engineers into the habit of labeling these too, especially servers. Clearly knowing which plug belongs to a PC and which to a monitor is a real benefit when you’re crawling under a dark desk on a dirty floor trying to work out what to unplug and what not to.)Why Labels?But why bother labeling things?


Firstly, you’re acknowledging the existence of a device. If it’s labeled, you know about it and can document it for future reference.Secondly, when new hardware “mysteriously” appears at a client site and a client calls you for support on it (probably outside your support contract) you can save yourself a heap of time trying to work out why Windows 7 Home Edition is installed on it rather than a Business O/S.Thirdly, labeling hardware speeds up the support process. If a user telephones the Helpdesk to say they can’t print to “That printer in the corner of the office”, then you can ask them to read the label and quickly identify which printer it is that they’re trying to print to.What to label?What the label says depends on the hardware, but the label should help you easily identify the hardware in question. Some examples:-PCs – Workstation name, Fixed IP address (if applicable)
Servers – Server name, Fixed IP address, Domain name
Routers/Firewalls – External IP address, Internal IP address
Network Switches – Internal IP address, Management IP address
Local Printers – Locally attached Workstation name
Network Printers – Fixed IP address, Queue Name (//Server/Queue)We’re not going to worry about Workstation and Server naming schemes, IP address ranges or any other standards just yet. Right now we’re focusing on documenting what’s already out there.In some cases the engineer won’t be able to identify network equipment. Rather than ignore the hardware, they should label it as “unidentified” and raise a support ticket or make a written note to investigate how to identify it later.This takes some time, especially if you have a lot of clients – but it’s time well spent. You should make this type of ‘discovery work’ a part of the on-boarding process of every new client, as the time spent discovering hardware now will pay dividends when you’re supporting that same hardware later – perhaps in a time-sensitive situation.Document your findingsGoing forwards, make it a policy that from now on, every piece of hardware you deploy to a client site should have a label on it.Document your findings. If you have an RMM tool such as GFI Max, then you’ll already be able to scan networks for devices. Supplement this automated information with your own findings.Pretty soon you’ll have a good overview of the hardware at all your client sites. It’ll make supporting the client, both remotely and on-site, a *lot* easier.The use of the labeler as a force of good doesn’t stop there.Hardware in the WorkshopWhenever an engineer brings a piece of hardware back to the Workshop for troubleshooting, it needs to be labeled. You might label it with the client’s name, a brief overview of the issue, and if you’re using a ticket system, the ticket number.This might sound obvious, but how many times do engineers walk back into the office, drop off some faulty hardware and then get distracted by something else? In this scenario, a colleague may be left scratching his head over who the hardware belongs to and why it’s here, or worse, think the hardware is “spare” and go and re-use it for another job they are working on…


Talking of spare hardware – it’s worth creating a process to deal with this too. I like to create an area of the workshop that is specifically for Hardware under Repair, Hardware under testing, and Hardware for disposal. Then, as hardware comes in…If it’s hardware that is to be sent back to a manufacturer under RMA, it’s labeled as such and placed in the “Under Repair” area of the workshop.If it’s hardware that may be faulty and required testing, a ticket is raised for this and it’s labeled as “For Testing” and labeled with the appropriate ticket number. The hardware is then placed in the “For Testing” area, and you can confidently give your newly employed Junior Technician something productive to do on his first day in the office.If it’s hardware for disposal, it’s labeled with the fault and marked as “For Disposal”. It’s placed in the “For Disposal” area of the workshop and once every few weeks you arrange for a specialist IT disposal company to collect the pile and dispose of it in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.Save Time With LabelsThe amount of time IT companies can waste trying to re-use faulty hardware that has simply been left lying around, or re-testing known faulty equipment is mind-blowing.A simple system of labeling such hardware saves hours of wasted time.I hope this article has helped to describe how armed with a label printer you can build the basis of a series of systems that lay out how your business deals with client hardware.