In March of this year, former President Bill Clinton acknowledged to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the practice of importing cheap rice had a significant negative impact on the Haitian economy. That made me think, are businesses in danger of creating their own corporate Haiti through outsourcing? Outsourcing is used in almost every area of business from Human Resources to Virtual Assistants and this dependence can create the inability to function independently for some companies. So how do you ensure that your company will still be self sufficient in the face of outsourcing?
1. Make sure your outsourced areas contribute to the institutional knowledge of your company– If you are outsourcing, make sure that some of that specialized knowledge is coming back to your company. If information only flows one way, any change to the relationship can significantly impact your business.
2. Determine if outsourcing creates the best value for your customers– many businesses use outsourcing as the most efficient way to cut costs, but does it increase the value to your customers? If you choose to outsource, chose a firm that will help train your staff and provide support.
3. Know why you need to outsource-Many companies outsource because they don’t have the time or manpower to complete necessary tasks, but do you really need someone else to do your work? Could you achieve the same results by automating some areas of your business? Before you send the work outside ask yourself why you need to. Ask yourself a few of these questions:
a. What are your goals for outsourcing?
b. How will the outsourcing affect your customers?
c. What will your company have to give up to outsource?
4. When you do outsource, keep an eye on quality control-Outsourcing requires you to relinquish some control, so you have to be diligent. Ensure that the outsourcing company will adhere to your quality standards and provide you with adequate oversight capability. Don’t allow outsourcing to affect the quality of your customer care.
Outsourcing is a natural part of business life and can bring significant time, cost and resource savings. Companies should view outsourcing as an additional resource that compliments and supports the business, rather than rely upon outsourcing to operate their business.
For more information on the affect of Haitian imports see
Katz, J. (March 20,2010). Earthquake Highlights Policy Failure: With Cheap food imports, Haiti can’t feed itself. The Herald Sun. http:// http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/6789006/article-Earthquake-highlights-policy-failure–With-cheap-food-imports–Haiti-can-t-feed-itself?instance=homesixthleft
With the implosion of Toyota, Six Sigma has gotten a bad rap in the in the business community. Companies are questioning the effectiveness of the method and if whether it has run its course in the business world. Often expensive and time consuming, companies looking for a reason not to use it hit the jackpot with the Toyota debacle. Six Sigma is a quality program, but let me tell you why it’s not working for you.
1. It is not a band aid solution– If your company is hemorrhaging in any way, Six Sigma will not provide an instant solution. Six Sigma is a long-term solution and needs to be incorporated into your company’s way of life. The benefits of Six Sigma occur beneath the surface within the foundation of your company and you have to be willing to invest the time and resources for a successful program.
2. This is not a part-time function– Whomever you chose to be the Six Sigma Champion in your organization has to be full- time; this is not a part-time commitment. You cannot take your Operations Manager and make them your champion. Six Sigma duties cannot be managed in addition to your primary duties. In order for the Six Sigma program to be successful and create long lasting effects, it needs to be the central focus of the champion.
3. Six Sigma requires you to build and effectively manage a team– you will hear many people testify to various situations and examples of how Six Sigma doesn’t address people and the ‘soft issues’ within an organization as proof that the method is outdated. The truth is the method is hugely misunderstood by consultants, efficiency experts and companies. Six Sigma focuses on making your business process more efficient and quality based; to achieve this all Six Sigma processes hinge on understanding staff and customer relationships. Management is trained to study and identify staff values and expectations, while staff is taught to understand and react to customer value and requirements. Both Staff and management are required to understand how needs and requirements affect quality and how they can be used to create a more effective work environment.
4. Six Sigma will not fix poor management– If your organization has weak or tyrannical leadership, Six Sigma will not work for you. Six Sigma requires a fundamental team atmosphere, where decisions are made openly and with input from all team members. Staff and management accountability are major foundations of Six Sigma, if you are running a company with a blame atmosphere Six Sigma is not a wise investment.
5. Six Sigma requires a total commitment– as with all serious relationships, Six Sigma requires that you commit all or nothing. As a long-term solution the amount of focus and energy you put into the program directly correlates with the amount of success the program will bring your company.
Business is no different from any other situation and understanding the solution you are trying to implement will significantly increase your success. Six Sigma is a set of tools that can bring your company an immense amount of success if understood. No tool will be effective without proactive management and staff participation; once those areas are addressed, Six Sigma can create some of the most profound and positive changes your company will see.
Government contracting can be an exciting and lucrative revenue stream for a small business. The federal market can validate and lift a small business above its competitors. But for all the glitz and glamour, the federal market place has its fair share of problems. One problem that frequently visits a small business is the potential for a Conflict of Interest. The Federal Acquisitions Regulation (FAR) Part 3 defines a Conflict of Interest as a situation where a contractor may have or has received an unfair advantage over competitors in the procurement process.
What is it?
There are two types of conflict: Personal and Organizational. A Personal Conflict of Interest occurs when a government official influences recommendations or outcomes of the procurement process. In order to affect the outcome, the official must “participate personally and substantially in the Federal procurement process” (FAR 3.104-1).
The Organizational Conflict of Interest occurs when an agency or contractor has an unfair competitive advantage. This can occur due to the contractor’s relationship with contracting officials or due to the receipt of information not available to the general public.
Am I in Conflict?
To be in conflict you need the following things:
• The ability to access publicly unavailable pricing or proprietary information from your competitors.
• The ability to influence the outcome of the procurement process through a government official who participated personally and substantially in the procurement process.
• To have given a monetary or material gift to a contracting official.
• To have or have the potential to exercise supervisory or evaluator powers over a contract you are currently working on.
I am not in Conflict, but I’ve been disqualified. What can I do?
You have a range of options and the most successful path will depend on how adept the contracting office is at handling conflicts. According to the FAR, if a conflict is found the contracting officer is supposed to notify the contractor and allow for the contractor to respond prior to disqualification. I can tell you from personal experience, this doesn’t happen.
The Contracting Officer-Your first stop.
In spite of what you may think most contracting offices want to avoid having contractor lodge a GAO protest, which temporarily suspends the delivery of services and leaves the purchasing agency in a bind. Talk to the contracting official and find out the exact nature of the conflict and why it resulted in a disqualification. It is important to note that the contracting official can disqualify a contractor based on the appearance of the situation with no tangible evidence. The FAR provides for the use of a waiver and if you can provide a mitigation plan you may be successful in getting one.
Chief Contracting Officer
If you are unable to get a reasonable resolution, you may want to talk with the Chief Contracting Officer or the Commander if you are bidding for a DOD contract. Again you should be able to plead your case and try for a more lenient solution. I should warn you though, that most Contracting Chiefs or Commanders will back the initial decision of the contracting officer. By the time the situation reaches this level, the contracting agency may have gone too far forward with their decision to reverse it.
This is where you can take an appeal in an arbitration format. You can plead your case to the ombudsmen, but bear in mind they cannot force the agency to do anything. They can however make a recommendation and be a neutral third party allowing for you to build a mitigation plan that will eliminate the conflict. If you chose to go to the Ombudsman it will not affect your ability to file a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). I would recommend that you file a protest anyway as it can be rescinded if a favorable resolution is reached.
File a Protest with the GAO
If all else fails you are always able to file a protest with the GAO. You must file a protest within 10 days of the incident, but you can file via e-mail, fax or mail. For your protest to be successful in getting heard, you must be an interested party, have a legitimate legal basis and have submitted your bid in a timely manner. The GAO website posts a list of the protest issues that they will not consider, so be sure to check this list prior to the filing of your protest. A decision on the matter will be rendered no more than 100 days from the time you filed your protest.
As with most processes, the Conflict of Interest process is only as good as the office using it. Open communication and a spirit of resolution allow the FAR to shine, it’s unfortunate that small businesses will not often encounter that atmosphere. For more information on this and the bid process visit these websites:
Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy
US Government Accountability Office
British Airways narrowly averted a disaster this holiday season when a vote to strike was held illegal by the British high courts. The company is facing a showdown with its employees and many believe that the root of the problem is an unrealistic attitude towards pay and privilege from the staff. The question rolling through every company is how do your staff’s expectations affect the success of your company? When dealing with your staff”s expectations, there are four points to consider:
1. Unrealistic staff expectations can accelerate the fall of a struggling company. The staff at British Airways earns at least twice the salary of their counterparts and enjoy lavish perks such as staying in four star hotels and eating in the most expensive restaurants while the company picks up the tab. The extravagant spending has been ingrained as a right instead of the privilege it is and now is the impetus of a strike for the struggling airline; as the company looks to cut costs it has found itself at war with the culture of excess within its staff.
2. Excess is easy to introduce, but hard to eliminate. While no one supports rewarding and encouraging performance within your staff more than I do, I am completely pessimistic about giving the shiniest and most expensive gift. In terms of rewards, if you give your sales staff a new car for closing a big money account, limited cash flow will not be a sufficient reason to discontinue that trend. Your employees will continually refer back to the ‘good ole days’ when their hard work was really appreciated and any attempt after the downgrade will seem insincere and unappreciative. Rewards should be appropriate for the work and the result. As an employer the best thing you can give your employee is the opportunity to go further and gain more.
3. Hard work will become a peripheral issue. As staff become accustomed to an ‘only the finest’ mentality, the idea of hard work will become a secondary issue and may occur only in ideal settings. As business owners, we all know that ideal settings are not the average business environment. Every company will be faced with a situation that is less than ideal, but a well run company will strive to be highly effective even in the face of less than perfect circumstances.
4. Material offerings become a substitute for effective communication. British Airways began their pay structure and staff perks with the best intentions, they believed that in paying the best they would employ the best. When this structure began in the 1970’s they did, they achieved what they set out to. But as the industry and competition has changed within the airline industry, their approach has not. The culture of expectation has been thoroughly ingrained and it is very hard to get back to basics without the promise of champagne and caviar. The mistake made by British Airways was akin to an overindulgent parent desperately trying to compensate for an extended absence. You cannot buy staff loyalty or quality of service. These are traits that occur because great service is your ultimate goal and your staff understands that to be the ultimate goal of their position. You cannot substitute constructive feedback with a cash bonus or necessary training with a higher salary; effective communication comes from the helm of the company. It begins with an executive knowledge of your staff responsibilities and a strategic plan that focuses on growth and development with your chosen market and within the ranks of your staff.
For more information of the British Airways scenario see:
O’Connell, D. and Swinford, S. (2009, December 20). The Great BA Tug of War. The Sunday Times. Retrieved December 28, 2009 from http://www.timesonline.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx.
Jobcentre Plus: Recruitment and Retention Services
£1000 Recruitment Subsidy
We recognise recruitment can be expensive and that some employers are reluctant to take on customers who might not have recent or relevant work experience. We can pay you £1000 for everyone you recruit who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for over 6 months.
Local Employment Partnerships (LEPs) were introduced by the government to help employers find the right person for their job. A partnership between you and Jobcentre Plus can help unlock a local talent pool you might otherwise miss out on. We will work with you to understand your business and recruitment needs. We then match people to your vacancies. Over one thousand Kings Lynn employers have ‘signed up’ to LEP since 2007. The agreement we make with you could include:
If you are uncertain about taking someone on you can “try out” a potential employee for 1-30 days using a Work Trial. It gives you the chance to see someone trying out the job as a volunteer so you can decide whether they are right for the role. Eligible applicants will usually have been unemployed for 26 weeks or more, or have been made redundant. You do not have to even advertise your vacancy with us to use Work Trials, although we will need to set up a simple agreement with you beforehand. The job should be expected to last 13 weeks and be for at least 16 hours per week.
Work with us and our partner organisations to develop a package of training tailored to meet your vacancy specifications. Covering things you value such as customer service, Health and Safety or perhaps some computer skills, this is a valuable way of giving unemployed applicants an insight to your business practices. For those who complete the training but don’t get a job with you, we hope you will offer an opportunity such as a mock interview or one to one feedback.
Your current recruitment process may make it difficult for some people to apply. We can work with you to review the process, making alternative arrangements for those people who have previously been excluded.
Offering your employees the opportunity to mentor people who want to return to work
Considering new ways of working
Looking at other ways of providing opportunities e.g. offering flexible working patterns or job share opportunities.
Train to Gain
In addition to this you may be eligible to claim up to £1500 worth of funding from the Learning and Skills Council to help a staff member get an NVQ2 qualification.
We do not charge you for any of the services we provide. If you would like to know more call Karen Fysh on 01553 734741 / 07966 566222 or visit the Jobcentre plus website www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk.
** If you would like the opportunity to give a presentation to small groups of recently unemployed people from the local community, we would really like to hear from you. These short sessions are designed to give people – some of who may have recently been made redundant after many years with the same employer – an insight into what qualities and skills employers are looking for when recruiting for new staff**