Monday, September 23, 2019

Online meetings are...something else

Nowadays, with the presence of computers and phones with cameras, one can have meetings almost anywhere. The need to commute to have meetings have been significantly reduced, and if used properly, online meetings can be a real productivity booster.

That being said, there needs to be some other things that can be said about online meetings. Some of these comments may appear to be funny to some, but taken for what they are worth, they are quite serious. In many cases, they can make or break your career as an online service provider.

Here are some situations worthy of consideration when participating in online meetings:

  • Get into your role - attending a meeting laying in your bed is just bad news, especially when you're tired from a really cramped schedule. You are unable to competently function and more often than not, the meeting would either be filled with unexplained silences or the buzz of something sounding like a lumberyard in full swing will come over the mic if you are not muted and fell asleep. It is better to get up and go to a chair where you can be upright and alert. 
  • This caught a computer techie who was unaware that their camera was on. Their top half was dressed for the meeting, not the bottom part as we found when they got up to retrieve a document. Their camera was still on, and the rest of the participants could not unsee what they witnessed. 
  • Choose your neighbourhood carefully - one would expect that you've paid so much for your home that you should be able to at least have a meeting there in the privacy of your dwelling. Consider the time of day and the factors over which you have no control. Children that are not yours can be boisterous, and dogs you don't own can bark incessantly. Both of which are uncomfortable for the other participants to have to endure. Sometimes you may have to consider finding a meeting area outside of your home. 
  • Know your technology - it is evolving so quickly that many of us are still learning how to use it. However, the meeting room is not the place to have the tutorial going for yourself to learn. Gain your competence ahead of time, so that you're in control of the environment if you're the host. 
  • Be presentable - it comes back to not knowing if your camera is on or not. Be well-groomed and not unkempt. Though others in attendance may be kind not to say anything, beware of the customer that doesn't complain, they don't come back. 
  • Govern your language/behaviour - swearing under your breath in unacceptable, especially if your mic is on and you're wearing a headset. This extends to eating/drinking during the call. It will be picked up with these sensitive bits of equipment. 
  • Know how to share your screen to demonstrate a point is key. Ensure that all of your open tabs only show content appropriate for the meeting you are in. Sometimes online service providers may work for competing entities especially in this day with so many SMEs. 
So the next time you're planning an online meeting, take note of what was considered above. Ensure you are in a location with great bandwidth. Ensure that your background is suitable to be viewed, and have a great meeting. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

SMEs, in particular, are vulnerable

If we are going to be a country that looks at SMEs as a way of growing our economy, there is a serious need to not only put protection in place for SMEs but help them to understand that there are predators.

These predators will think nothing, when they are pouncing on your business, of the sacrifices and commitments that you made to grow your business from an idea to operation. They will look at your vulnerabilities and seek to exploit them. Even in instances when those opportunities are not clear for them to take advantage of you, they will still try to see how far they will get.

If you are seeking to get into business or grow an existing one. There are some elements that you mut appreciate when functioning within any given market place. Understanding why our business environment is the way it is:

Rules and Regulations

They are instituted for a reason. Many times, though we may not appreciate it at the time, they protect the SME from acts of ignorance. When you are in business, even with the presence of a team, there are many elements pertaining to business that you will not now. If you are a startup then this is even worse e.g. being a good plumber doesn't mean you'll run a good plumbing business.

  • There are many elements that you'll be shielded from when you were an employee within a larger organisation. Other departments comprising of various team member performed certain roles enabling you to do what you do best. You were able to focus on your specialised tasks with little concern for how other elements of the business ran to create an atmosphere of stability. You worked without having to collect the money done for the work, performing the accounting functions, which then ultimately resulted in you being paid. You never had to consider marketing the entity, handling staffing situations, coping with financial issues, manoeuvring the legalities; all of these functions were covered by others in various departments. As an SME, its just you that has to deal with all these and more issues.
Communication

There are many people working in organisations that are poor at sharing information with the team internally. Too many people working within organisations are hearing about internally planned events, promotions, and other bits of information via the public media first. How can those in positions of responsibility then expect adequate representation? Your team members should be ambassadors for your organisation, not refugees from the public scrutiny that they will experience. 

Operations 

There is a need to marry responsibility with authority, currently, they are unequally yoked. In too many organisations, many are required to undertake responsibility without the authority to implement and stand by the decisions made without fear of penalty from others within the organisation. This is not a reality for any one sector but is quite widespread throughout many sectors and organisations. The lack of connection between responsibility and authority may have hindered the growth of many entities. Some of the areas impacted within the organisation include marketing, sales, decision making by line staff, supervisors and even some managers. There is a tendency to pass the buck, or as is said in some circles; the can is kicked down the road for someone else to handle.

Conclusion

Beyond the hosting of programs for SMEs there is a need to provide tangible guidance by way of mentorship programs and consultation programs that enable these entities to have teams of experts to guida them properly through all the challenges that the leadership of SMEs would face. By definition, there are no real large businesses within Barbados nor the wider Caribbean. Hence, we need to pull the business education out of the classroom and exam centres and into the mainstream of business.

SMEs need to understand how to adequately use shares - ordinary and preferred to promote growth. They neey to understand that insurance can be used to support their investments. Borrowing mechanisms need to move beyond commercial loans to include bonds, and empower our societies to truly understand the functions and benefits of crowdfunding. We need to do better since SMEs are still particularly vulnerable to so many threats within the global arena. 


We were schooled, now what?!?

  Over the past few years, we've witnessed some things that makes one wonder about what is going on around us, and about our existence. ...