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Many pithy statements have been attributed to Jack Welch, the American business legend who passed away earlier this month. One of my favourites is, “if the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”. It goes almost without saying that the rate of change on the outside is increasing: the ‘clock speed’ of business, in terms of product cycles, new technology roll-outs, and social media stories, seems higher than ever.

If the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”. The late Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.

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LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth Interviews Jack Welch GETTY

If we’re to pay close heed to Welch’s words of caution, are we seeing a comparable growth in responsiveness within firms to the increased pace of change and the speed of external shocks? Do firms have the internal capacity to mobilise and adapt quickly in the face of disruptive challenges? For the most part, the answer is no. The recent outbreak of Covid-19 highlighted how poorly equipped firms are to deal with one-off shocks, and I would argue that many established firms aren’t even able to keep up with broader shifts in demand and customer expectations.

It’s useful to take a closer look at what firms are doing to increase their internal ‘clock speed’ and what is holding them back.

Considering the positives first, IT systems are increasingly configured in a way that permits a real-time response. For example, most airlines and hotels use dynamic pricing systems to adjust prices on a daily or hourly basis, according to changes in supply and demand. Similarly, most logistics companies provide real-time tracking services for customers, and there are IT service providers offering real-time accounting systems that keep financial statements updated daily. Today In: Leadership Strategy

However, as is so often the case, high-tech computer systems are changing far more rapidly than high-touch human systems. While small start-ups are generally good at hustling and responding quickly, most large firms have organisational structures and internal processes that are anything but agile. Consider your budgeting process, which likely operates on a quarterly or annual basis. Alternatively, think about individual performance evaluations, again usually done once a year. If you run an operating unit, chances are you have a weekly management meeting to update one another on what’s happening, and to address any emerging issues. 

The clock speed in large organisations is measured in weeks, months and years, but your customers are operating on a clock speed measured in hours and days, which makes it hard to stay relevant. So what’s the solution? 

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First, it’s important to be clear that human intervention often slows things down for good reason. There have been experiments with ‘smart contracts’ implemented by computers, and some were disastrous precisely because there were no checks and balances in the system. There is value, in other words, in pausing and reflecting before expensive or irreversible courses of action are pursued. If we take the response to Covid-19, most organisations were ill prepared and moved too slowly. Equally, it is inconceivable that something as unprecedented as this could have been dealt with automatically.

In a fast-changing world, we need our decision makers to make good judgments, and this involves giving them the time to pause and reflect. It also means giving them rapid access to the relevant information, and this is where things go awry. In most organisations, decision-makers receive prompt data on some things such as whatever the IT systems were designed to report on. Equally, they collect hopelessly poor information on other things, which might include customer feedback and employee engagement. Decision-making therefore goes at the speed of the weakest link.

There are two ways forward to consider, because it is useful to reflect upon and work with both.

First, build a dual clock-speed organisation, where you match the internal decision-making cycle to the business need. You may have heard of this using the metaphor of a fleet of speedboats operating alongside a cruise ship. Consider the Italian utility, Enel, which provides electricity to 70 million customers around the world. It has a core infrastructure business – a cruise ship – that provides these services through a finely-tuned operation that seeks to be 100% reliable. It uses high-tech sensors, smart meters, and AI-based analytic tools, all of which operate in real time, but it avoids ad hoc human intervention as much as possible. At the same time, Enel is moving into emerging areas such as e-mobility (servicing electric vehicles) where user needs are evolving quickly, so it operates these businesses as speedboats: they are housed in a separate unit, Enel X; its managers are given much greater degrees of freedom; and the management systems are more fluid and free-wheeling.

Consider also how to respond to a crisis such as the Covid-19 outbreak. Creating a CEO-led taskforce to monitor the situation is a good first step. But this task force also needs to have the authority to act quickly – so that the organisation can keep up with what is happening outside its boundaries. Unfortunately, many of the task forces created during the Covid-19 outbreak found themselves reporting to committees of well-meaning but ill-informed managers, thereby slowing down the whole response plan.

Second, work on increasing your real-time organisational intelligence. This means building the systems and capabilities that enable people across the organisation to know what’s going on at all times, so that they can make smart decisions about how to act. This information should be multi-faceted – it is about market conditions and competitor offerings, but it is also about internal things, for example who is doing what, how are people responding to various internal initiatives, where are the hotspots (and the coldspots) in terms of energy and engagement.

An example of what real-time responsiveness looks like is an agile team. They have stand-up meetings every morning, they work in an open-plan setting, they have a board visible for all to see, showing who is working on what and where the priorities are. A fully-functioning agile team is dramatically more productive than a traditional one, and this is made possible by the amount of intelligence-sharing that goes on within it. 

This logic of real-time feedback has been applied in many successful companies. For example, Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser Busch Inbev has spoken about the importance of open-plan offices for sharing information quickly, and gaining alignment through impromptu 2-3 minute meetings when issues arise. At Bridgewater Capital, the world’s largest hedge fund, people are encouraged to provide feedback to their colleagues in real time through a simple app. In most companies you get feedback on your performance quarterly or annually; at Bridgewater you get it every day. Its part of founder Ray Dalio’s philosophy of radical transparency: an accurate understanding of reality, he argues, is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.

These examples are the exception not the rule, and it’s no mystery why. People in large firms are comfortable with the slow-and-steady internal rhythm of the business, the weekly or monthly cycle of updates, and the annual budgeting process, and they don’t really know what else might be possible.

This isn’t a reason to leave things as they are because there is always scope for experimentation in order to help your firm stay responsive and relevant. Moreover, one-off shocks like the Covid-19 virus are sometimes the impetus we need to shake things up and try something new. 

Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Deputy Dean at the London Business School

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What Are Surety Bonds, And How Exactly Do They Work?

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A surety bond is an agreement involving three parties designed to ensure that terms between two business entities or individuals are fulfilled. It’s a requirement in some professions that an individual or firm cannot operate their occupations without surety bonds. 

The third party usually bears the cost occasioned by accidents and losses that come when the terms of the contract aren’t fulfilled. Surety bonds have become an essential aspect of businesses, especially in the sectors that state departments want to regulate. In the US alone, there are over 50,000 surety bonds.

The Process 

Securing surety bonds is often an involving process, considering that the bonds act as securities. If you want to obtain a surety bond, you’ll be required to tender your application with a bondsman offering the type that suits your needs. The process entails checking credits and other references to establish if you’re fit for one. A bond agent may go to the extent of calculating the cost of issuing your ideal bond.

A surety bond may require you to pay between one percent and 20 percent of the amount that the bond seeks to cover. Consequently, the result of the credit and reference checks will also determine the amount that your guarantee taste needs. Remember, you might be required to pay more than the stated percentage, depending on your activities’ industry and nature.

Upon the approval of the bond request, a company or an individual will be required to sign, acknowledging the bond’s terms. Bail bonds usually become active on the same day of approval, but other bonds could take up to two days to materialize.

As mentioned earlier, the application process can be quite tedious. This can see most businesses overlook the idea to acquire the bonds, and that isn’t a good idea. If you are out there and not sure how to undergo the process, the best step is to involve a professional company. This company should assist you from the start, hence making the process quicker. The company should be well-informed about the field to help you pick a type of bond that suits your business. Besides, picking a professional ensures that the application process is secure.

Parties in Surety Bonds

 As stated above, surety bonds are agreements that bring three parties together. Here are the three parties involved;

  • The principal- This is an individual or business that buys surety bonds that guarantee future work performance. The principal is often a contractor or service vendor that purchases surety for compliance, payment, or performance.
  • The obligee- It’s the player that usually needs the bond. Government and state agencies often play the role, but private parties sometimes come into the picture. The agencies put contractual measures to regulate industries and minimize instances of financial loss.
  • The surety- This is usually an insurance firm that backs the bond. The surety normally has credit that the obligee can claim if the principal fails to adhere to the terms of contracts.
  • Functions

    A provider of a surety bond is sometimes referred to as a bondsman or surety agent. A surety agent grants an obligation on behalf of a party in the agreement. The surety bond issued is a financial guarantee to the other party. The bond ensures that the other party receives the service, product, or monetary equivalent through the contract. 

    If the principal default on the agreement, the obligee can work on mechanisms to recover the losses involved. The insurance company will pay the amount not exceeding the surety bond if they find the obligee’s claim valid. 

    Types 

    Various surety bonds exist to serve the interests of different industries and their stakeholders. As already stated, the US alone has over 50,000 surety bonds. Here’s the list of categories of surety bonds;

    • Performance bonds- The stipulate that companies will endeavor to complete a specified project.
    • Bid bonds- These are the bonds that guarantee contractors the amount to purchase performance bonds if they win their bids.
    • Payment bonds- They often cater to subcontract costs.
    • License bonds- They’re vital for some professions who are keen to secure professional licenses in industries such as engineering.
    • Customs bonds- They ensure that importers conform to the laws of the sector.  
    • Tax bonds- These bonds guarantee that a given company will pay tax after selling products and services.
    • Court bonds- They’re often referred to as bail bonds. They guarantee that a suspected offender will appear for court proceedings and abide by court orders.

    A surety bond could be what your business needs to gain the trust of customers that you want to serve, whether a company or an individual. Although it comes at a cost, some professions cannot operate without securing surety bonds. It’s essential to consult your financial adviser to find out the bond that your industry needs. 

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How to Build a Digital Footprint for Your Business

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Starting a business can be one of the hardest stages of its life cycle. The first few years are the toughest as you struggle to establish your business and set a solid foundation in the industry you have chosen to pursue. There can be struggles with the marketing, branding, and cash flow balancing side of your business. While these areas are essential for any type of business, there is another area that is of equal importance and should not be overlooked: the digital or online footprint of your business. Yes, in this digital world, a digital footprint can have many implications for your business. Here, we’ll discuss how you can build an effective digital footprint for your business.

Pay Close Attention to Your Business Website

Your business website is operating on both fronts (in the real world and online), and you need to provide equal attention to both fronts if you want your business to establish a solid footprint. This proves even more important if your business is purely online. Pay close attention to the important details and aspects of your business’s web design in order to provide the best possible customer and site visitor experience. Be sure that your business website’s loading and response time can keep up with its aesthetic impact. 

Simply speaking, create a website that is both attractive and fast. We know that colorful text and high-definition images and videos can take its toll on the response time of your webpage so learn to manage the content and design of your web page. Thus, your website should enable a content management system (CMS) so that you have the power to do edits and adjustments to your website. Security is another important matter that should be covered by your website, especially if it is handling online purchase transactions and sensitive customer details. Your site should come equipped with advanced encryption technology to ensure that no threats can jeopardize your business operations.

Carefully Study Your Digital Channel Strategy

This simply is not about your digital channel choice, but rather the logic and reason why you arrive at that digital channel selection. You should have a concrete note of what goal you want to accomplish with the channel and why you want to accomplish that goal. We know that social media channels are now very important when it comes to marketing your business, creating a good impression for audiences and customers, and establishing rapport and good relations with your clients and investors, respectively. Thus, before you select your digital channel and create your business profile in the channel, you need to revisit your strategy first to ensure your digital channel profile doesn’t veer off of your strategy.

Capitalize on Your Digital Content Channels

Your digital content channel choice should be pretty much established and aligned with your marketing strategy by now. The next thing to do is to make the most out of your selected content channels and social media channels and networks. Be flexible with the types of content that you publish and not just limit yourself to one type of content. Get out of your comfort zone. You may be comfortable and skilled with making photo content and thus you have a strong affinity for Instagram and Twitter channels and networks. You will also need to work on your content or blog creation skills in order to effectively reach out to audiences on Facebook. Also, try to develop video editing and vlogging skills to create more impact on YouTube audiences. Being able to capitalize on more than one channel can help create a strong and recognizable digital footprint that web users can easily identify.

Monitor Your Digital Footprint Performance

Doing a self-audit on how well you are doing so far in establishing your digital footprint can give you greater insight on how you can improve your brand, company image, and your products or services. Establish resources that you can use for collecting customer and site visitor feedback about the business, its products or services, and even your employees. While there are many feedback- and evaluation-gathering resources available, choose those that are user-friendly and have essential statistical functions such as categorization and percentage determination from collected data. Now that you have additional data aside from your current business performance, you can then use it as a reference if you are able to achieve your objectives or how much of progress you are making.

Learn to Engage Business-Relevant Experts

You must also learn to admit that you can’t effectively handle all aspects of your digital business and marketing, nor are you an expert in all facets of online commerce. Thus, it is still a wise investment to engage and hire agencies and professionals who are experts in a particular fact of your business. This way, you can confidently delegate some of the business operation tasks to your agency and you can focus on more essential matters such as digital footprint building. Some areas you can engage experts include the following:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Website Management
  • POS Systems
  • VOIP Communication Maintenance and Solutions
  • Antivirus Software
  • Cloud Service Maintenance and Deployments

Having experts handle and reinforce areas that are not your strong points can help balance out your business progress. The same can be said of the digital footprint establishment. When you have experts working alongside you in your business operations, you are not only providing high quality and consistent services or products, you are also saving money and resources by avoiding costly operational mistakes.

Always Keep Your Customers in Your Priorities

Remember that your digital footprint doesn’t just leave an impression in the online environment, but more importantly in the minds of the customers and prospects. While the bottom line of any business is to generate profit, customers are an integral part of the profit generation process. It is only right to provide the best possible product, service, and purchase experience to them. Always align your company’s vision, mission, and values with how you are interacting with your customers and audiences. This way, you are making a digital lasting footprint that will stay with them in the long run.

In essence, the digital footprint can only be as good as the effort that you put into making it. The way your business makes an impact on the digital society and how it establishes its presence effectively can determine how firmly you have made the online footprint of your business. Inturn, it can determine how your business will do in the future.

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4 Things You Should Do When Your Lease Term Ends

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If you are renting, there will come a time when your lease term will eventually end and though you may have the option to renew your contract, you may also seek to relocate. There are numerous factors that can affect your decision to stay or to move out, such as your current financial standing, career, or even marital status. Should you wish to move out, make sure that you accomplish the things below to ensure a seamless transition and smooth relationship with your landlord.


IMAGE SOURCE: http://bit.ly/33mivEp

  1. Notify your Landlord

The first thing that you need to do when your lease term comes to an end is to notify your landlord should you decide to move out. Do this at least a month before the end date of the lease term, or depending on your agreement before when you signed up to rent. As much as possible, make a written notice for record-keeping.

  1. Clean

The first thing that you need to do is to clean the place you have rented. In London, most tenants prefer to enlist the services of professional cleaners who are equipped with the right tools and cleaning materials. The end of tenancy cleaning London landlords recommend are those who offer services regardless of the size of the property. Reliable cleaning service companies ensure that each item in their end of tenancy cleaning checklist is accomplished at a reasonable cost. This includes a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, lounge, and even the hallways and stairs.

  1. Document the Current State of Your Place

Once you have cleaned your home, make sure that you document its current state. Take a picture or a video if you have to because this will serve as a guarantee that you left the place in perfect condition, without any damages entailing the need for a repair. On the other hand, it will greatly help if you made a written record of the physical defects of the place before you moved in because now is the right time for you to retrieve it.

  1. Return the Keys

Finally, all that is left for you to do is to return your keys. As much as possible return all key copies promptly because your landlord can charge you for every day that you fail to return the keys to his property. In line with this, leave a forwarding address such that your future bills would make it to your new home. This can also be where your landlord can direct your security deposit later on after he or she has thoroughly inspected your place after you move out.


IMAGE SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2PJn6Mf

To wrap it up, remember to notify your landlord if you want to move out at least a month before your lease term ends. Thoroughly clean your place and document its current state. The latter can serve as a record that will make you eligible for a refund of your security deposit if applicable. Finally, return the keys promptly and express your gratitude to your landlord for the time that you have stayed on their property.

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