Adventures In Customers Service

I simply had to write about this. As a business professor, I just found it too fascinating not to talk about. Here is what happened.

It is the day after Christmas, and my wife asked me about where a Wal-Mart Site-to-store pick-up was. I hadn’t picked it up and neither had she, but we received a confirmation that it had already been picked-up. That was problem #1

#2. So I went to Wal-Mart and explained the problem to the people in the Site-to-store department. They looked it up by the account number and their information showed that it had been picked up.

#3. So I protested that it had not. Then I waited … and waited… and waited while they reviewed every receipt from customers with a last name that begins with a G. They found another site to store receipt, but not that one.

#4. The department manager tried to make it right. She made a call to correct it. She would reorder the missing merchandise and we would not be charged a second time.

#5. I believed her.

#6. When I returned home, my wife asked me why we were charged again for the same merchandise. What?

#7. So she attempted to cancel the order, but you cannot see if it is really canceled for a couple of days.

#8. I drove back to WalMart under the impression that I would resolve something. Silly me.

#9. I spoke with the same site to store department manager who understood the problem, but could not seem to get anyone elsewhere in Walmart’s system to tell her what happened. The best she could was get a half-hearted “I think the customer has not been charged a second time. I don’t know why it reflects that way on their email.”

10. I asked for assurances that we had not been charged twice for the same goods that we did not pick up the first time, but I received no reassurance. The department manager asked me if I would like to come back tomorrow. “No.” I wanted to resolve it now.

11. So she looked at her computer in the back room. She came back with no information.

12. “What do I do now?” I asked.  “You can see if your bank statements reflect a new charge,” she said. That really was not good enough.

13. “Well, we can go up to customer service.” So we walked up to customer service where a very annoyed assistant manager told me that I could come back tomorrow. In fairness, it was the day after Christmas, so I understand her annoyance, but I have now just spent a large chunk of my day in WalMart getting nowhere trying to resolve a problem that I did not create as they tried to correct a problem that I did not create.

It was dark when I left my local WalMart at 9800 Dorchester Road in Summerville, SC.  I resolved to write my story because I resolved to write the company president–the one that is in the new company commercials showing us how tuned in he is. Let’s see if he is tuned in or if that is marketing.

I wrote this:

Dear Doug,
I thought I would let you know about my experience at Wal-Mart today. I received a confirmation email for a site-to-store pick up that I did not pick up (but I was charged for). I went t0 the store and tried to resolve it. After waiting for the employees to scour the receipts, they told me that they would re-order it for me “at no charge” (which actually means that they would provide the merchandise that I already paid for, but OK. To err is human).

When I got home I found out that they had charged me a second time. We tried to cancel, but the system would not tell us that it was canceled. I drove back to the store and asked them to unwind the transaction. No one could tell if I was actually charged twice. They told me to check my bank statement to find out. Really?
I wasted hours of my day trying to correct a mistake compounded by additional mistakes that were made over and again by your employees. I would like to get this problem resolved, and I thought you would like to know just how badly your internal system is functioning. I would also like to know how I can get these few hours of my life back. I blogged about it here if you care to read about it:

-Darin Gerdes

I told him that I am looking forward to hearing back from him, but in the mean-time, I am blogging about it. I understand that companies now pay attention to social media, so we will test the theory.

The good news for WalMart is that they get to write the last segment of this post. I will provide their response below. If they do not respond, I will report that too. Either way, there is a public record and it will likely become a topic of discussion for class and maybe make its way into a future book.

So this is Part I. Stay tuned.

-Darin

 

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Filed under Change, Current Events, Effectiveness, Social Media, Success, Uncategorized

Free Universal Education is Not Free

When I was in college I remember thinking that it’s too bad that college is not free for anyone to attend. At the time, I didn’t understand just what I was saying. I was only looking at one side of the equation. I felt bad for those who did not have the financial resources to gain further education. Now, as a management professor, it’s easy to see the error in my thinking. In Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt explained that,

The art of economics consists of looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. (emphasis added)[i]

Cap

I’d engaged in this one-sided error of only looking at the effect on one group. I only focused on the effect that free education would have on potential students. I hadn’t considered the effect on others. What if college were free? Without revenue from tuition, how long could it stay in business without paying employees? I am a professor. I have six kids and they like to eat. I would not work for free. Who would teach?

At this point, you might argue that universal college education could be paid for with tax dollars. Then I could be paid, my kids could eat, and students could attend for “free.” That sounds nice in theory, but as Milton Friedman observed, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” By that, he meant that everything that is free for someone, college in this case, comes at a cost to someone else.

The Sanders campaign proposed free universal college education in 2016. They estimated the cost to be $75 billion annually.[ii] This item became a feature  of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform:

Making Debt-Free College a Reality Democrats believe that in America, if you want a higher education, you should always be able to get one: money should never stand in the way. Cost should not be a barrier to getting a degree or credential, and debt should not hold you back after you graduate. Bold new investments by the federal government, coupled with states reinvesting in higher education and colleges holding the line on costs, will ensure that Americans of all backgrounds will be prepared for the jobs and economy of the future. Democrats are unified in their strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities (p. 30).

As a professor, I can assure you that anyone who has a high enough GPA and ACT score can get a free ride to college. If you know someone who you think qualifies, I will be happy to connect you with the admissions department at CSU. The reality in education is that the average students subsidize the really smart students with their tuition dollars. This means that average and weak students pay more for their education.

The decision to pay for everyone’s college education with significantly increased taxation is a political choice. But, if taxes are used to pay for “free” education, that same amount of money cannot be used for other things (perhaps things that you value more). If we think “free” is without cost, we run into another one-sided error. As I write, our national debt is approaching $20 trillion dollars and the debt must eventually be paid.

By the way, “free” college education is not new. When Governor Kaine was in office, I was a member of my local school board. I remember his P-16 plan at the school board convention. What is P-16? You are familiar with K-12 (kindergarten-12th grade). He wanted to expand this from pre-school to completion of college at taxpayer expense. It never happened because the Commonwealth of Virginia simply did not have the money.

Now the Democrats are proposing the same one-sided error writ large. Perhaps instead of asking why we are not funding college education (as if we have no heart), we might ask:

  • What we cannot do with the $75,000,000,000 they intend to spend annually.
  • At what point should a person take responsibility for his own education?
  • What new regulations will come attached to the “free” federal tuition?

Stop asking one-sided questions and trace the consequences of your actions for all groups involved.

-Darin Gerdes

[i] Hazlitt, H. (1946/1979). Economics in One Lesson. New York: Arlington House Publishers. (p. 17).

[ii] It’s Time to Make College Tuition free and Debt Free. (2016). BernieSanders.com Retrieved from https://berniesanders.com/issues/its-time-to-make-college-tuition-free-and-debt-free/

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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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The Free Market

When I was in college, I was a bit of an idealist. In fact, I remember making a case for socialism to my parents in the car on the way to college. Mercifully, I attended Liberty University, where, as a government major, I was steeped in our constitutional history and free-market economics. I grew to appreciate the role of the free market in society.

I learned that government must be limited in order to allow the private sector the room that it needs to grow. In hindsight, I am not surprised that I returned to Liberty a decade after I graduated to teach in the School of Business. After all, business drives the economy.

Government is necessary to enforce the rules, but the private sector is responsible for economic growth. This, in turn, raises our standard of living. No mandate of any politician of any political party can mandate economic growth. Just imagine if the government tried to develop the iPhone.

Politicians can redistribute resources and they can create regulations that promote one industry at the expense of others, but they have yet to devise the law that mandates growth. They cannot expand the pie. They can only change the size of the pieces and who they choose to serve.

Set all of the rhetoric of the politicians aside. The only way politicians can create growth is indirectly—through policies that provide a conducive climate for business to take place. Set the theories of the Keynesian economists aside. Government spending does not create growth; it creates debt and you cannot spend your way out of debt.

Growth comes from productive activity in the market. Our standard of living is due to the millions of people that work hard every day to produce the goods and services that we need. As they compete, they innovate, and this innovation makes us smarter, better, and faster.

Think about how you watch television. It is a metaphor for business. In the 1980s, you had a handful of channels to choose from. Government gave us PBS, but private businesses gave us more channels than we have time to watch. They gave us cable, satellite, and high-speed internet TV. If you’re old enough, you remember a time when you had to be home at the right time to watch your favorite TV show. Businessmen fixed the problem first with the VCR, and then with the DVR. They did it because they listen to their customers and they did it for profit.

That is the power of the free Market.

-Darin Gerdes
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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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This is Why You Should Not Try to Sell Everyone

PENNIES AND COINS

Imagine you are standing ankle-deep in coins. You have three seconds to pick up any coin that you want, and you can repeat this process as many times as you want, but you have to pay 10 cents every time you pick up a coin whether you come up with one or not (this is called the customer acquisition cost). You see many pennies and nickels. You see a number of dimes. You see a handful of quarters and a few half-dollars. The bigger pieces are harder to identify because they look very similar to worthless game tokens.

What would you pick up? The answer is obvious. You must pursue quarters and half-dollars. Anything else is nonsensical. If you pick up a dime, you only break even. If you pick up a nickel, you’ve destroyed half of the value of your original investment. If you pick up a penny, your return is only 1/10th of what you spent. You must make back at least that which you spent, or it would be better to just sit on your money. Unfortunately, many people conduct marketing efforts only thinking about what they gain without considering the cost.

-Darin
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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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I’m Back

About six months ago I received a notice from my web host informing me that there was malware somewhere  on my webpages.  This didn’t surprise me because it includes subdomains that I use for student projects.  The hosting service told me that they would be happy to clean it up for a hefty premium–far more than they charge for hosting the sites. They made it clear that it is my responsibility to prevent malware in lines of code that I don’t understand.

All that the say two things.  I’ve sufficiently cleaned so that I am back in business and I’m for a new hosting service because that was just ridiculous.  If you have any suggestions,  I’m happy to hear them.

Since my webpage was shut down in the great malware adventure of 2015-2016,  I have become the Director of Education for Great Business Networking (GBN).  I write a weekly educational piece (21  lessened since January)  and I often have extra material that would’ve been great on the blog if it had been up and running.  I hate to see good aha’s go to waste.

I will be blogging more regularly if for no other reason than to not be a hypocrite. Let me explain.  You see,  four or five of those lessons have been about social media.  It seems kind of silly to explain the process will not engage in the process.  I’m back.  Let’s continue the conversations we had before.

-Darin
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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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Even When the Market “Doesn’t work,” it Still Does

The free market works wonders. Adam Smith’s invisible hand steers people and organizations to make efficient decisions. Sometimes, this means that certain items go out of style (remember that awful green or almond color of appliances in the 1970s?) Sometimes, entire businesses go under because people no longer want the products these companies are selling (think buggy whips or 8-track tape players).  In a market, as in a democracy, the people rule.

What Could Go Wrong?

Hedge-fund manager and entrepreneur, Martin Shkreli, purchased the rights to Daraprim for 55 Million dollars. He then raised the price of an anti-infection drug used by HIV and Cancer patients from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill, adding no value in the process. He realized that the company was selling it below cost, and he was going to correct this. At $13.50 per pill, needing only 100 doses, the drug could save your life for only $1,000. Shkreli thinks that is far too low.

He correctly understood that since those who need the drug could not easily obtain it elsewhere. They were a captive audience. This is the problem with the market—at least under monopoly conditions. A monopoly means that there are no substitutes, a condition that free markets naturally undermine unless government regulations interfere. So Shkreli who is widely viewed as taking advantage of those who need life-saving medication, sits on a pot of gold, right? Not so fast.

The Free Market Works

As it turns out, the market worked.  We recognize that companies need to turn a profit, but at the same time, the market responds to consumer demands. When Shkreli decided to prey on those most vulnerable, the market responded with moral outrage. In turn, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) condemned him, and the Biotech Industry association (BIO) kicked him out of the association, according to the Washington Post. This was a remarkable turn of events for these organizations and guess what, he is now planning to lower the price.

Have your say:

Feel free to continue to speak. After all, that is how the market works.

His twitter: @martinShkreli

His LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/martin-shkreli/21/587/4a8

-Darin Gerdes

P.S. For years, I taught from Henry Hazlett’s Economics in One Lesson. This book was written roughly 60 years ago, and it is one of the best books on the subject of free-market economics.

 

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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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Business Lessons from the first Republican Primary Debate

As I watched the primary debates with interest, I noticed a few interesting trends. I recognized rules for business that were playing out in politics. Here are my observations:

1. Expectations Color Results.

In last night’s debate, this was true for Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee in different ways. Because Mike Huckabee is old news, having run as far back as 2008, the media didn’t seem to be interested. They expected low performance, but Frank Luntz’s focus group found that a lot of voters who weren’t paying attention to Huckabee before the debate were now interested in Huckabee because of his performance.

For Donald Trump, the pundits attacked him both ways. On the one hand, they would say is too high in the polls; certainly, he will lose his lead to others. On the other hand, they talked about how he lacks political skill and he will be outclassed by the professional politicians.

In fairness, it wasn’t Trump’s best performance. In a “gotcha” moment, he maintained that he would not take a pledge not to run against another candidate if he lost the primary. Nevertheless, Trump had some of the best lines of the debate. For example, when the moderator question on his position on immigration, Trump was masterful:

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, it has not escaped anybody’s notice that you say that the Mexican government, the Mexican government is sending criminals — rapists, drug dealers, across the border.

Governor Bush has called those remarks, quote, “extraordinarily ugly.”

I’d like you — you’re right next to him — tell us — talk to him directly and say how you respond to that and — and you have repeatedly said that you have evidence that the Mexican government is doing this, but you have evidence you have refused or declined to share.

Why not use this first Republican presidential debate to share your proof with the American people?

TRUMP: So, if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration, Chris. You wouldn’t even be talking about it.

(APPLAUSE)

Trump waked away bloodied but unbowed.

Huckabee had a number of great lines, but his best came at the end of the night. The way he set up his closing statement had Trump looking nervous. The room fell silent when Huckabee began his closing statement.

BAIER: Governor Mike Huckabee, closing statement.

HUCKABEE: It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls, that doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.

A person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead, and, of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

2. If You Are Desperate, You Take Chances That Could Hurt You.

Everyone knows that it’s best to negotiate position of strength than from a position of weakness. A number of the candidates came to the debate knowing that they had to prove themselves, but this observation goes out to Rand Paul.

Just before the debate, Bill O’Reilly predicted that Paul would be salivating for an opportunity to take on Trump in order to improve his own position. He did, but Trump got the better of the exchange:

BAIER: And that experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton.

You can’t say tonight that you can make that pledge?

TRUMP: I cannot say. I have to respect the person that, if it’s not me, the person that wins, if I do win, and I’m leading by quite a bit, that’s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge. If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.

BAIER: So tonight, you can’t say if another one of these…

PAUL: This is what’s wrong!

BAIER: OK.

PAUL: I mean, this is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes, he’s already…

BAIER: Dr. Paul.

PAUL: Hey, look, look! He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent…

BAIER: OK.

PAUL: …but I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.

TRUMP: Well, I’ve given him plenty of money [Pointing to Rand Paul].

3. When You Get into a Fight, Expect to Get Bloodied.

This goes out to both Rand Paul and Chris Christy. Both candidates had something to prove, and both candidates left the exchange with bloody noses. When Megyn Kelly asked Chris Christie about his comments on Rand Paul, sparks began to fly:

KELLY: Alright, gentlemen, we’re gonna switch topics now and talk a bit about terror and national security.

Governor Christie…. do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing the bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?

CHRISTIE: Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why: because I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who has gone before the federal — the Foreign Intelligence Service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th.

I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, and the world changed enormously the next day, and that happened in my state.

This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals. We lost friends of ours in the Trade Center that day. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning.

When you actually have to be responsible for doing this, you can do it, and we did it, for seven years in my office, respecting civil liberties and protecting the homeland.

And I will make no apologies, ever, for protecting the lives and the safety of the American people. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way. As president, that is exactly what I’ll do.

PAUL: Megyn, may I respond?

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: May I respond?

KELLY: Go ahead, sir.

PAUL: I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

CHRISTIE: And — and, Megyn? Megyn, that’s a — that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know, Megyn?

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!

CHRISTIE: What are you supposed to…

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!

CHRISTIE: …how are you supposed to — no, I’ll tell you how you, look…

PAUL: Get a warrant!

CHRISTIE: Let me tell you something, you go…

PAUL: Get a judge to sign the warrant!

CHRISTIE: When you — you know, senator…

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: Governor Christie, make your point.

CHRISTIE: Listen, senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that.

(APPLAUSE)

When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure…

PAUL: See, here’s the problem. CHRISTIE: …is to make sure that you use the system (ph) the way it’s supposed to work.

PAUL: Here’s the problem, governor. Here’s the problem, governor. You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights.

Every time you did a case, you got a warrant from a judge. I’m talking about searches without warrants…

CHRISTIE: There is no…

PAUL: …indiscriminately, of all Americans’ records, and that’s what I fought to end.

I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Go ahead, governor.

CHRISTIE: And you know — you know, Senator Paul? Senator Paul, you know, the hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th.

Those are the hugs I remember, and those had nothing to do — and those had nothing to do with politics, unlike what you’re doing by cutting speeches on the floor of the Senate, then putting them on the Internet within half an hour to raise money for your campaign…

KELLY: Alright.

Ouch. Neither of these candidates came out smelling like roses (except to those who were already in their respective camps). When you fight, expect to get hit.

4. Sometimes, You Only Have to Prove You are Competent.

Other candidates to a different approach. They didn’t win the debate, but they demonstrated that they were competent, reliable, and plausible candidates. These included Marco Rubio (who is focused on Hillary and the future), Scott Walker (who stood on his record), and Ted Cruz (who masterfully handled the Constitution).

Rubio’s best line: [on immigration]

RUBIO: And let me tell you who never gets talked about in these debates. The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States. And they’ve paid their fees, and they hired a lawyer, and they can’t get in. And they’re wondering, maybe they should come illegally.

Ted Cruz’s best line:

CRUZ: I would also note that the scripture tells us, “you shall know them by their fruit.” We see lots of “campaign conservatives.” But if we’re going to win in 2016, we need a consistent conservative, someone who has been a fiscal conservative, a social conservative, a national security conservative.

There are real differences among the candidates on issues like amnesty, like Obamacare, like religious liberty, like life and marriage. And I have been proud to fight and stand for religious liberty, to stand against Planned Parenthood, to defend life for my entire career.

 

Scott Walker’s best line:

BAIER: Governor Walker, as president, what would you do if Russian President Vladimir Putin started a campaign to destabilize NATO allies Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, mirroring the actions Putin took at the early days of Ukraine?

WALKER: Well first off, for the cyber attack with Russia the other day, it’s sad to think right now, but probably the Russian and Chinese government know more about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server than do the members of the United States Congress.

Different approaches, but each showed themselves to be competent.

 5. Know Your Audience(s)

In, It Worked for Me, Colin Powell explained that when you give a speech or press conference, you are speaking to multiple audiences simultaneously.

  • The Reporter asking the question.
  • The American people.
  • Political and military leaders in other countries.
  • The enemy.
  • The troops.

(pp. 129-134).

Let’s translate this to a political scenario. The debate was held in Cleveland, Ohio. John Kasich, the sitting governor of Ohio was one of the candidates. He received a warm welcome in the arena, but he might not have been able to see the cold shoulders he received after making a number of remarks that are out of step with the average Republican primary voter. The first is on expanding Medicaid and the second on gay marriage:

KELLY: Governor Kasich, You chose to expand Medicaid in your state, unlike several other governors on this stage tonight, and it is already over budget by some estimates costing taxpayers an additional $1.4 billion in just the first 18 months.

You defended your Medicaid expansion by invoking God, saying to skeptics that when they arrive in heaven, Saint Peter isn’t going to ask them how small they’ve kept government, but what they have done for the poor.

Why should Republican voters, who generally want to shrink government, believe that you won’t use your Saint Peter rationale to expand every government program?

KASICH: Well, first of all…

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: — first of all, Megyn, you should know that — that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.

Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what?

To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year…

This was in direct opposition to Jindal’s remark in the earlier debate that we should never expand the growth of government because it creates a culture of dependency (which is why he turned down federal money).

Kasich also completely rolled over on the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. This is a bitter pill for the majority of conservatives (even if it is a trend within the country at large).

KELLY: The subject of gay marriage and religious liberty. Governor Kasich, if you had a son or daughter who was gay or lesbian, how would you explain to them your opposition to same-sex marriage?

KASICH: Well, look, I’m an old-fashioned person here, and I happen to believe in traditional marriage. But I’ve also said the court has ruled —

KELLY: How would you — how would you explain it to a child?

KASICH: Wait, Megyn, the court has ruled, and I said we’ll accept it. And guess what, I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. Because you know what?

(APPLAUSE)

*Note: the applause was weak.

6. You Do Not Even have to be Seated at the Adult Table to Move Up.

Seven other candidates attended the 5:00 “Happy Hour” debate; it was also pejoratively known  as “the kids table.” But excellence is excellence and Carly Fiorina shined while accomplished former governors and U.S. Senators reinforced the perception that they are simply boring.

Carly Fiorina got a great press bump by being the “Winner” at the JV debate. She may have helped her cause more than if she had been part of the main debate. Getting noticed is not dependent on luck or position.

7. Even if You are Not a Great Candidate, You Can Still Survive with a Lot of Money.

Donald Trump can campaign all he wants, bombastic as he is, because he can pay to play. Jeb Bush was positively boring last night, but he has millions in the bank. Those who are in danger (like Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham) are those who cannot generate the enthusiasm that translates into campaign donations.

What does all of this have to do with business? Let’s review the lessons:

  1. Expectations Color Results.
  2. If You Are Desperate, You Take Chances That Could Hurt You.
  3. When You Get into a Fight, Expect to Get Bloodied.
  4. Sometimes, You Only Have to Prove You are Competent.
  5. Know Your Audience(s)
  6. You Do Not Even have to be Seated at the Adult Table to Move Up.
  7. Even if You are Not a Great Candidate, You Can Still Survive with a Lot of Money.

Translate these lessons to your business. The principles are the same. What will you do with these business lessons?

-Dr. Gerdes

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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.
Note: Transcript taken directly from Time’s coverage at: http://time.com/3988276/republican-debate-primetime-transcript-full-text/

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The Power of Participation

I was recently talking to an MBA student about the power of participation. Often, leaders think that they have to have all the answers. This is not only silly, but it can be very costly. Leaders who are humble enough to know that they need their people can turn crises into opportunities. One of the best examples comes from Jack Stack’s The Great Game of BusinessStack Wrote:

A few years ago, we had a problem with a competitor who tried to come in and take away our fuel-injection pump business. It all began when a new buyer was appointed at one of our major customers. Seeing an opportunity, our competitor went to him and offered to supply pumps at a price below ours. It was a smart move. The new buyer wanted to make a good impression on his company, and reducing costs was a good way to do it. So the Buyer came to me and said, “Look. I don’t have any choice here. Unless you reduce your price by 6 percent, I’m going to give the business to the other guy. I’ll give you three months to get the price down to his level.”

Now a 6 percent price reduction was basically the difference between making money and losing money on the product. We couldn’t imagine how our competitor was going to make money at that price. As it happened, we owned a share of his stock. We checked out his financials, and we saw that he had an unbelievable amount of debt on his balance sheet. I’m talking about a $100 million company that owed $56 Million. When you borrow that much money, you can’t hide it, even if you’re private. Somebody knows.  In addition, this was a union company, so we knew what he was paying his people. We also knew that our production times weren’t unreasonable, and that our prices were in line with the marketplace.

So it was clear that this guy was out to buy the account. He was subsidizing the product by using debt to cover his losses. His strategy was clear: he was going to get the contract at a loss, run us out of the market, and then raise the prices later on. We explained all that to the buyer. We appealed to loyalty and everything else. But he insisted on the price cut, which was going to save his company money, at least in the short run. Somehow we had to come up with a way to reduce our costs.

So I went down to the pump room, where we make the fuel-injection pumps. I told people what we were up against. These pumps sold for about $200 each. To cut the price by 6 percent, we had to save $12 per unit. I said, “I don’t know how to get that kind of cost reduction, but if we don’t do it, we’re going to lose this contract, and that could cost some people their jobs.” Then I put a picture of the other company’s CEO on the wall, along with a copy of its financial statements. I said, “Here’s the guy who’s trying to take your jobs away from you, and I am afraid I don’t know how to stop him. I’ve already done everything I can, and it hasn’t worked. It’s up to you now.” I honestly believed it would take a miracle to save the contract.

So I went down to the pump room, where we make the fuel-injection pumps. I told people what we were up against. These pumps sold for about $200 each. To cut the price by 6 percent, we had to save $12 per unit. I said, “I don’t know how to get that kind of cost reduction, but if we don’t do it, we’re going to lose this contract, and that could cost some people their jobs.” Then I put a picture of the other company’s CEO on the wall, along with a copy of its financial statements. I said, “Here’s the guy who’s trying to take your jobs away from you, and I am afraid I don’t know how to stop him. I’ve already done everything I can, and it hasn’t worked. It’s up to you now.” I honestly believed it would take a miracle to save the contract.

The people in the pump room were amazing. They formed a task force, and they put up a thermometer. They got together and talked about how they could save a nickel here and a dime there. They looked at their hardware. They questioned every material cost. They asked how a vendor could be charging us so much when you could get the same thing for substantially less at ACE Hardware. Every day they posted their savings. At the end of three months they had cut $40 out of the pump’s cost—a 20 percent savings.

I would never have thought they could do it. That was the one time people really surprised me. There isn’t an engineer in the world who could have done what they did. They had to do it themselves. What’s interesting is that they passed 10 percent of the reduction along to the costumer, which passed it along to the marketplace, and the volume rose, creating more jobs. So people got to see the whole economic cycle. As for the competitor, he lost that one, but he’s still out there, keeping us on our toes.  (Stack, 1992, pp. 110-111).

Great Game

Are you getting the most out of your people? If not, are you the reason? Do you ask for their help or do you feel that you have to have all of the answers?

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Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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Filed under Books, Change, Effectiveness, Ethics, Influence, Leadership, Motivation, Success, Teamwork

Disapppointed

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Why You Should Get Your Masters Degree Now

Last week, I had former student in my office. He was about to graduate and he was talking about getting his MBA. He wanted to do it part time while he was working, but he did not have a job lined up yet. When he told me that he planned to start in the Fall, I asked why he hadn’t considered starting this summer.

Graduation

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/ – Hochschulmarketing accadis

He looked at me quizzically and asked, “Why would anyone want to start in the summer?”

On one level, I understand the sentiment. I enjoyed my summers off too and I understand that many students are just trying to graduate, but at your graduation dinner, your mom is going to ask what you are going to do next. You want to tell her something better than “I don’t know.”

It would be great to tell her you have a job lined up and you are starting in two weeks, but very few students are lucky enough to have this arranged on the day that they receive their diplomas. Worse, you will be competing with an entire crop of new students who will be flooding the job market at the same time.

Imagine that it is mid-July, and you are still searching for a job. This is statistically likely. It takes 3-9 months for most graduates to find their first real job after graduation and roughly half of new graduates will have to live at home (which may be why mom is so concerned). You are in an interview at Awesome Job, Inc. Your prospective employer asks, “What have you been doing since you graduated?” What are you going to tell him?

If I was an employer and I had to choose between a graduate who had taken the initiative to begin a graduate degree and an equally qualified graduate who had not improved his résumé since commencement, I would look more favorably at the hard charger. Starting now demonstrates your value to your future employer as past performance is one of the best indicators of future performance.

Start now. Even without a job, you could tell mom you already have a plan in place when she asks, “What you are doing next?”

If you are interested in getting a MBA or Master of Arts in Org. Leadership, contact Richard German cgerman@csuniv.edu and he will get you started. You can complete your degree part-time on campus or online. Just get started.

If you are not going to continue with formal education, do something with your time that demonstrates growth. Volunteer for a non-profit related to your industry. Read a dozen books specifically about your target industry. Begin an internship while you are searching for the right job. Even an unpaid internship will set you apart from the pack. Just do something. Your future-self will thank you.

-Darin Gerdes
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faculty_gerdes_sm

Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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Filed under Current Events, Effectiveness, Motivation, Success, Uncategorized