|Author: Luke Johnson, Financial Times
Published: May 5, 2010
The hour is always darkest before dawn. I have a gut feeling that now might just be a great time to take the plunge. There is plenty of negative news about deficits and double-dip recession. But technology and global markets are creating real advantages for anyone tempted to give it a go. And a new concern will not be weighed down with the legacy issues like property and pension obligations that are holding back incumbent players. Among my reasons why now is the time:
* The internet has made it easier to experiment than in the past. Building an online presence costs less than it ever did. I just redesigned my website for less than £2,000 in a few weeks. With that you can reach the whole world. Yes, the web is crowded, but there are billions of consumers connected to it who might see your ads or buy your products. And if your idea fails, too bad – shut the project down and try another; it is cheaper and quicker to discover what works than at any time in history.
* The corporate life seems less appealing . Jobs for life have gone; occupational pensions have gone; and who wants to slog away in a suffocating hierarchy their whole career? The freedom and satisfaction of self-employment are hard to beat. Of course there are risks – but then you might get sacked anyway if you work for someone else. Starting a company gives you the chance to achieve independence and self-determination – and if it succeeds, you really will get the rewards of your efforts.
* The world needs entrepreneurs more than ever. New jobs and wealth creation spring principally from new companies. I predict governments will do more to encourage entrepreneurs in years to come – from lower taxes to a reduced regime of bureaucracy. Every policymaker I speak to understands that only private enterprise can tackle unemployment and generate the tax we need to deal with our problems.
* There is more advice and support than ever before. Books, online, agencies, magazines – you name it, there are hundreds of places to go to find ideas, recruit staff, secure premises, source IT, deal with legal and accounting issues and so forth. There are more clubs and networks – more ways to access funding, find partners and reach customers. There are many more role models and mentors around than when I started out in the 1980s.
* It is easier to freelance and subcontract than before. Virtual businesses are common. Almost everything can be outsourced – manufacture, R&D, fulfilment, logistics, administration, IT – you name it. And providing these services offers endless niche markets.
* There is talent galore looking to join in a new venture. Now is a wonderful time to recruit able staff. Big business and the state are shedding personnel – people will be more willing to throw in their lot with an emerging company than during the good times.
* Premises and plants are plentiful. Rents are lower, machines are in surplus – there is more choice than there has been for years in terms of premises and equipment.
* Redundancy should be a beginning, not an end. Thousands do seize the day when they lose their job – and while not all find it a pushover, for many it allows them to pursue their dream and follow their passion.
* Part-time is a way to get going. When I worked for others, I moonlighted for several years, participating in various schemes at weekends, evenings and during holidays. It gave me experience, confidence and helped generate capital – so I was better prepared when I left employment for good after a few years.
I recently became chairman of the Advisory Board of Fast Track, which ranks Britain’s fastest growing companies. There I am endlessly impressed by the vision and energy displayed by the founders of so many of the companies surveyed. They know it is worth it.
No one believes starting something from scratch is a breeze. But as Samuel Johnson said: “He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking has his fatigues first supported by hope and afterward rewarded by joy.”
Johnson, Luke. “Now is the Moment to Seize Your Opportunity.” Financial Times. N.p., 5 May 2010. Web. 5 May 2010. <www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3f720290-57dd-11df-855b-00144feab49a.html>.
Bullies aren’t just found on the playground. As a society, we would like to think that when bullies grow up they have learned right from wrong, changed their behavior, and treat others with dignity and respect. Many do; however, some bullies never revert from their mean, aggressive behavior. As our society evolves, with its reliance on technology, many bullies are finding different means and different environments to continue their tyrant-like behavior.
Company of Experts was recently the target of a bully. The Company had an agreement with an independent contractor whose job would require minimal supervision/input from a few individuals via a weekly teleconference. Over the course of time, numerous issues began to surface. First, work submitted by this contractor was not completed, and in some cases, was never attempted. The blame was pushed upon the individuals this person worked with for reasons such as: “it was too much work,” “it wasn’t worth my time,” “no one asked me my opinion,” etc. Needless to say, not a lot of work was accomplished by this contractor. Individuals within the Company picked up the slack and worked long hours in order to meet project deadlines.
Second, the cost to finish this contractor’s projects continually increased. Not only was the Company paying the contractor’s salary, they were also paying the salary of the individuals that were taking on the contractor’s responsibilities. The contractor was originally hired because this individual possessed technical skill sets needed for specific projects. However, because the contractor was not doing their job, the Company was compelled to hire additional staff, who also possessed these skill sets, to complete projects that were neglected by the contractor.
Third, employees who worked with this contractor, and met via weekly teleconferences, were suffering from anxiety attacks prior to each meeting. When questioned as to what provoked these attacks, many answered that after each meeting they were assigned an extensive list of items/jobs by the contractor to complete before their next weekly meeting. They added that their “to do list” consisted of tasks that were part of the contractor’s responsibility; however, if they did not take it upon themselves to pick up the slack, the jobs would never get done. In addition, employees noted that if items on their list were not completed by the following teleconference meeting, the contractor would complain that the employees were not doing their job. As a result the contractor would say something to the effect of, “Well I can’t do my job if you don’t do yours.” Many employees would ignore other items/projects they were working on in order to complete the tasks that the contractor wanted done. The tension in the office was thick with worry that they would not finish their “to do list”.
Company of Experts determined it was in the best interest of the Company and its employees if they released the contractor. During this transition, the contractor was harassing employees via phone and email, inquiring the reasons for the contract termination. The Company notified the contractor to not contact their employees in any way, email or phone. The contractor retaliated and continued to harass employees and threatened harm to the Company and to the employees personally. When the Company released the contractor from service, they changed the usernames and passwords to the Company’s websites, newsletters, etc in fear that the contractor may try to “destroy” materials. Unfortunately, the Company forgot to remove the contractor from having access to the Company’s corporate blog and calendar. As a result, the contractor changed the username and password to these items, which prohibited Company access to these items, inevitably rendering them useless.
The cost in lost time due to stress, restoring damaged materials, documenting, researching our rights, defending the employees and the Company are great. Additional costs that can be incurred by companies that suffer at the hands of bullies are: increased cost of health insurance for employees, lost days at work, increased legal bills, talent turnover, etc. We think we are being polite by calling these individuals rude or difficult people, but these individuals are “Bullies”. Bullies (like the contractor in our story) create unhappy, unsafe, and unproductive work environments.
You may see several workshops titled “Dealing with Difficult People”. Company of Experts has refrained from developing any workshop with such a title. Is it rude, difficult, bullying, or harassing? Our online workshop “Managing Professional Relationships at Work” is a beginning to understand how others behave at work. The Company of Experts will address bullying at work in this workshop which is to begin in early September. Information regarding registration times, dates, curricula, etc. can be found by clicking here.
The Company wanted to become more aware of how to spot inappropriate, abusive behavior so as to protect itself and its employees. The Company began researching and uncovered several informative websites. One website, workplacebulling.org, had a startling statistic that read:
“A staggering 37% of the U.S. workforce is bullied at work (an estimated 54 million Americans).” This website lists the traits of individuals who are targeted by bullies:
- Individuals targeted by bullies tend to be independent. The increased level of independence drives the bully’s need to control.
- Individuals targeted have more social skills and are more likely to possess a high level of emotional intelligence (i.e. empathy – even for their bullies).
- Targeted individuals also do not respond to aggression with aggression.
What Company of Expert has learned from this experience…
The conflict seems to be with the perception that people grow and develop as they age. We anticipate those who were Bullies in school will transition to adulthood recognizing that civility and courtesy are key factors to development and growth. In reality, they may have actually become more of a Bully, therefore, becoming someone who stalks, harasses, and commit crimes that they can be punished for. Still, other Bullies stay within the law. These type of bullies enjoy the attention they receive from their erratic actions.
The general response from legal consul is mediation. Unless, the person is violating the law, we look at both people as needing to be “fixed”. This puts the Bully and the Target on an equal playing field, which sounds like a good way to handle this. In fact, most employers and employees are not trained to handle this complex issue. Our research has found that some websites and books recommend that you combat the Bullies on their level. Like you do for a wild animal, you get “bigger” than they are; which is an interesting concept. However, the problem with this approach is that this is not team-friendly. Just because an employer removes a bully from the work environment does not mean that the bully won’t resurface in some way. As in our case, the bully retaliated and has continued to make efforts to harm and destroy the Company. Most HR departments and managers work to keep business flowing and maybe not be trained or have time to handle conflicts such as this. This leaves them feeling overworked and inefficient.
Resolving disagreements is difficult today for two reasons:
- We are emotionally stressed because of the weak economy, world ecology and the potential of terrorists’ threats. This keeps people in reactive thinking which tends to close them off to creative resolution or to make them back away from engagement.
- We simply do not have the tools to civilly and cooperatively achieve sustainable resolutions to the problems which arise in organizations.
Will we ever change the inappropriate behavior of bullies? Maybe not. Bullies usually do not listen, are aggressive, and do not understand appropriate social behavior. The decision is up to us. We either accept a bully’s inappropriate behavior or become proactive in taking the necessary steps to discontinue a business relationship. Extreme cases may require having to refer the matter to legal counsel.
Working for a living is a basic for most of us. We can learn job skills and earn degrees to get the job that we want. Keeping that job and finding happiness there requires that we each have the interpersonal (or intra personal?) behaviors that are complimentary to how we want to be treated, to our team, and to the Company we work for. This fits into the lifelong learning category. We can do this learning in many ways such as reading, mentoring, coaching, modeling (how we teach others and how they teach us – our actions and interactions!) and workshops. Company of Experts has developed terrific programs that can help you develop your leadership style. In this new society, we each are leaders of our future – the path we choose is up to us. For workshops and programs that we offer – Leadership Development Institute (LDI) and the Center for Appreciative Inquiry. The Department Chair Institute is specifically tailored for our educational partners.
Roseanna G. Ross, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at a state university in Minnesota. She was Internship Director for the department for 18 years, and was Director of the Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence for 5 years. In addition, Roseanna currently serves as a campus mediator in the university mediation program.
Roseanna’s professional publications include the development of a self-report instrument to assess communicative messages in conflict (Ross-DeWine CMMS). She is also co-author of two books: “The Internship As Partnership: a Handbook for Businesses, Nonprofits and Government Agencies,” and “The Internship as Partnership: A Handbook for Campus-Based Coordinators and Advisors.” As Senior Associate in the “Developing the Leadership of America’s Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders” joint project of the National Society for Experiential Education, Regis University and the Center for Creative Leadership, Ross developed and facilitated a series of institutes for interns and mentors.
Roseanna Ross is an energetic, creative presenter, trainer and storyteller, and experienced process consultant. As an independent communication consultant and trainer, Roseanna has over 30 years of experience in designing and facilitating seminars, assessing organizational communication needs, and providing keynote presentations for both the public and private sectors.
Dr. Ross was a recipient of the National Society for Experiential Learning 2006 Pioneer in Experiential Learning Award and the 1999 Young Leader in Experiential Learning Award. Roseanna received the 1998 MnSCU Center for Teaching and Learning Star Leader Award. Ross has received teaching awards including the Central States Speech Association Outstanding Young Teacher Award and the Ohio University Department of Education Distinguished Alumni Award. She was also listed in Outstanding Young Women of America in 1985, and was honored as an International Women of the Year 1992-1993. Dr. Ross taught for a year in Japan 1991-1992. She was Director of the University’s Center for British Studies, Alnwick England, 1993-1994 and was Academic Director for that program in Summer 2006, and Summer 1996.
Roseanna Ross earned a BS in education at Ohio University, and a Master of Arts in communication from Ohio State University and is a Doctor of Philosophy in communication theory, speech communication and higher education from Ohio University.
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Aligning our values with Appreciative Inquiry, we engage in creating systems and structures that support learning and social awareness; creativity, positivity and enthusiasm for living systems with the perseverance to build community with compassion, enthusiasm and trust.
Jim was the Founding President of Copper Mountain College in California. In 2000, Jim hired Kathy to be the Founding Chief Human Resources Officer for the College District. Understanding that the world had changed for the employees of the college and for the community, they began to seek opportunities to engage people in new and different ways. The two soon learned about Appreciative Inquiry. Taking a great leap and trust in AI, they began planning a Summit for all college employees. They immediately saw the potential for change and collaboration. When they had the opportunity to buy the Company of Experts, Inc., they seized it.
Company of Experts → Past and present
Nancy Stetson began her work as a consultant in the 1980’s in addition to her full time job, she then began reaching out to other consultants for help. Over time it evolved into a network of people throughout the U.S. and Canada who had expertise in a particular subject area who were excellent consultants, facilitators, keynoters, or trainers. This network of consultants, primarily educators, officially became Company of Experts in 1989.
In 1992, Charles Miller became Vice-President and co-owner of the Company. From 1992 to 2005, they shared knowledge, skills, and abilities of Nancy and Charles enabled the Company of Experts to continue attracting excellent Experts on Call, as well as hundreds of clients. For 16 years Company of Experts operated out of a garage that was converted into an office. It had no employees, only independent contractors – including the corporate officers.
Nancy and Charles crossed paths with Kathy Becker and Jim Pulliam in 2001 when several employees at the college Jim and Kathy worked at were given the opportunity to participant in a two week professional development workshop. The trainers for this workshop were none other than Charles Miller and Nancy Stetson.
Kathy later heard that Nancy and Charles were selling Company of Experts and saw it as a great opportunity. The idea of making a difference excited Kathy and Jim. In January 2005, Nancy and Charles found the competition fierce to purchase the Company, Kathy and Jim were the successful new owners.
Kathy and Jim believe the Company of Experts’ strength results from a strong set of values – people first – and they continue to look for Experts on Call that believe and represent those same values. Company of Experts prides itself on being learner and community centered.
Kathy and Jim have expanded and evolved their workshops to include the use of technology which has allowed Company of Experts to offer their workshops online.
What lies ahead
Company of Experts, Inc. plans to make their recognized training and consulting services more accessible and affordable to organizations and individuals and conceded online learning as the solution. Company of Experts Inc. has teamed up with Distance Edu Learning, Inc.(Fintelo) to create a new system for organizations and individuals to, within their budget and time, further their growth and advancement through interactive online workshops.
Company of Experts, Inc., with the help of Fintelo®, now offers their renowned workshops in a variety of ways: on-site, hybrid, or online, providing users with the option to decide which learning method would work best for their organization and/or individual. Company of Experts online workshops also provides its users with the flexibility to complete their training at a time and place that is most convenient for them.