March 1, 2011

Cisco’s India Solution

The tech giant had to adapt its India strategy. En route it may have found its global flightplan
Three years ago, John T. Chambers, chairman and chief executive of Cisco, was on one of his annual trips to India. He happened to meet K.V. Kamath who was nearing the end of his tenure as CEO and managing director of ICICI Bank. Chambers wanted to understand the biggest business challenges that banks were facing. Kamath touched upon the theme of financial inclusion and said banks needed solutions to serve the 600 million plus people who don’t have access to banks.

Chambers and Cisco India president Naresh Wadhwa took that advice very seriously. Kamath did not realise it, but his observation helped shape Cisco India’s strategy and later dovetail into Cisco’s global strategy.

Globally, Cisco has been talking about being involved in building smart communities or smart cities for some time. In India that approach would have worked wonders had many new cities come up. That hasn’t happened. Much of India’s urbanisation is taking place in existing cities. (Lavasa, near Pune in Maharashtra, was an example of a new city but its development has run into problems.)

When Cisco came to India 15 years ago, it was another multinational company viewing the country from its US-anchored leadership prism. By 2004-05, recalls Wadhwa, the company realised it needed to create the market it wished to serve. Engagement with large enterprises and governments began in earnest, followed by strengthening of a partner network that today is 1,200-strong. It also switched from geographical expansion to vertical focus — every time it went to a new location, it hunkered down to fill gaps in the local market.

“It’s all about timing; I think by now we know the art,” says Wadhwa. Like the “significant deal” Cisco is closing with one of the largest cable operators in India for supplying set top boxes that convert analog signals to digital. The company spotted this need while engaging with local customers in Kerala and spent six months modifying the box developed by one of its Chinese acquisitions.

Tweaking India
In the developed markets, Cisco is driving convergence of Internet, TV and video-conferencing in homes and in offices. In India, it believes in offering tailor-made solutions to the customer. In 2009, it signed an agreement with Ashok Leyland to build the so-called ‘vehicle-to-infrastructure’ communication. Ashok Leyland buses can be modified to deliver mobile services for emergency medical response, transport management, security and surveillance in defence and government sectors.

Cisco built on this idea to start a Bank-on-Wheels for banking in remote rural areas. The Bank-on-Wheels simulates the functionality of an entire bank branch in a bus.

“We have the prototype, the proof-of-concept, as well as the business case,” says Anil Bhasin, senior vice president — Cisco India & SAARC (BFSI and Enterprise), who is talking to a few banks in India to run pilot projects. He wouldn’t disclose their names. The mobile bank can do all that a branch does, even provide expert advice, enabled by Cisco’s compressed video technology that requires less bandwidth.

Bhasin thinks the cost-effectiveness of this solution will appeal to the banks which have been driven by RBI directives to rapidly reach out to the villages, as only 50,000 of India’s 600,000 villages have organised bank branches. At Rs. 25 lakh to Rs. 30 lakh, this bus, equipped with all the three layers of Cisco technologies that allow voice, video and data transmission, could serve 10-12 villages. “That works out to about Rs. 2.5 lakh per village and if the amortisation [rate of recovery] is poor, a bank is free to move the van to another village,” says Bhasin.


Infographic: Hemal Sheth

Rajiv Kaul, chief executive of CMS Infosystems, which also manages infrastructure for banks, cautions that operational expense may not come down. “Moreover, moving cash in a van is a risky proposition. How will the banks manage security?”

Bhasin says such scenarios will come up as “something like this hasn’t been tried before anywhere; we’ll learn along the way.” In reality, Cisco may have to increase its service offering. Bank-on-Wheels is a novel concept for villagers, no doubt, says V. Vaidyanathan, vice chairman and managing director, Future Capital Holdings (he was formerly with the ICICI Group). “But Cisco could explore other services to add on to the same connectivity pipe, like healthcare or entertainment, that will add to viability and also cause stickiness of customer behaviour.”

The B-Town Doctors: Big Hospitals In Small Towns

Hospitals are creating segments in tier II cities for patients and profits. While big chains have the muscle, small entrants have a niche

ivya Raman, 35, goes to her friendly, neighbourhood family physician in Koramangala, suburban Bangalore, whenever her family members fall ill. But this is not an average neighbourhood clinic. The walls are a warm magenta and yellow, there is enough space to sit and, most importantly, it is clean. “It is better than regular clinics, as it is clean and you do not get put off by a crowd,” says Raman.

Manipal Hospital would be happy to hear Raman’s response. For the last two months, the Rs. 500-crore hospital chain has been trying to perfect a formula to succeed in tier II towns.

The hospital’s management decided to shift the business focus of Manipal Cure and Care, its wellness chain, from preventive care, wellness and beauty to playing the role of a family physician.

Although 11 of the chain’s 15 hospitals are in tier II towns, it is only recently that it is trying to further carve segments in this market.

Fortis and Apollo too are working on targeting different segments in tier II markets. Fortis Healthcare, that has 20 of its 53 hospitals in tier II towns, launched its specialty clinics, Fortis C-DOC (Center for Diabetes, Obesity, and Cholesterol Disorders) targeted at tier II towns in December 2010.

Apollo announced in January that they were going to invest Rs. 10,000 crore in building 250 Apollo Reach Hospitals — smaller hospitals than the 51 they have in big cities — in tier II towns such as Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh.

Why are these big hospital chain so interested in small towns?

According to consultancy firm KPMG, data from 2009 shows that India has 0.7 beds for every 1,000 people, the lowest among BRIC nations. To increase this bed capacity by one for every 1,000 people in tier II cities, at least 500,000 beds are required, says Technopak, a management consultant firm. India needs between 3,333 and 7,142 hospitals in tier II cities alone.

The three largest hospital chains — Manipal, Apollo and Fortis — have about 33 hospitals in tier II towns such as Kangra, Raigad, Moradabad, Salem and Visakhapatnam.

Of the $33 billion that Indians spend on healthcare, just 20 percent is spent in smaller towns. “For major surgeries and treatment of serious ailments, patients still travel from small towns to one of the seven large cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad,” says Dr. Rana Mehta, senior vice president, healthcare, Technopak.

Getting the Right Formula
As the health industry gets more competitive in metros, large chains are doing their variation on the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ because of the profit margins that small towns can offer. “For example, you can buy land for Rs. 3 crore in a tier II town. The same land would cost three times more (Rs. 10 crore to Rs. 12 crore) in a tier I city. This has an impact on both the break-even stage of a hospital as well as profit margins,” says Mushahid Ali Khan, analyst, Technopak.

Traditionally, tier II towns are the strongholds of individual doctors with polyclinics that can have margins as high as 35 to 40 percent but are incapable of scaling up. “In the traditional model, you go for the latest and the best [equipment],” says Dr. Ashwin Naik, CEO and co-founder, Vaatsalya Healthcare, a hospital chain focussed on tier II cities, such as Hassan and Shimoga in Karnataka, since 2005. “But the consumer does not care. They want access to healthcare at a good price.”

He says it is about getting the right mix of investment and maximum usage of equipment. For example, a hospital may get a less expensive ultrasound machine — for Rs. 30 lakh and not Rs. 50 lakh. This will not compromise on quality, but will boost profit margins.

Naik says a Vaatsalya Healthcare hospital breaks even between one and three years now. This is a year or two less that what it would take for a hospital to break even in a tier I city

Sources in the industry, who do not wish to be named, say a hospital in a tier I city can have a margin of 6 percent, whereas one in a tier II city can have margins of 12 to 15 percent. Depending on the mix of services and medical equipment, this can go up to as high as 19 to 20 percent.


Sameer Pawar

Getting Specific
Traditionally, patients in tier II towns go to neighbourhood physicians and, depending on their health problems, move to clinics and hospitals recommended by the doctor. This practice shall continue, except that patients will not have to go to a big city for treatment at a hospital.

These hospital chains are picking from among three segments of health care to position their services. The primary segment is the family physician in which Apollo (through Apollo Clinics) and Manipal (through Cure and Care) are present.

The secondary segment comprises one or multiple areas of specialty, such as Fortis’ C-DOC, which focusses on diabetes, cholesterol and obesity. The Apollo Group plans to have Apollo Reach Hospitals in this segment. “Apollo Reach Hospitals will be a significant growth driver for the Apollo Group over the next few years given that there are more than 30 towns in India that offer opportunities for setting up specialty hospitals,” says Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, chairman, Apollo hospitals.

Although large chains have the financial muscle for trial and error, the opportunity in the tier II and tier III markets has spurred new entrants with a different approach. Chains like Vaatsalya Healthcare are building smaller hospitals with a focus on local needs.

This ongoing search for the right expansion model to take a patient through every level of healthcare service is definitely a way to maximise reach for every player involved. “Our centres are ways to increase patients at the main hospital,” says Anoop Misra, MD, Fortis C-DOC. “If the centre gets 400 to 500 patients a day, at least 10 can be referred to the main hospital.”

Apollo is a step ahead of the other two because they not only have tertiary and secondary healthcare services, but also a primary service in Apollo Clinics. “The group plans to set up Apollo Clinics at all locations having Apollo Hospitals and Apollo Reach Hospitals,” says Sudhir Diggikar, CEO, Apollo Health and Lifestyle Limited.

But smaller towns will be challenging environments. Infrastructure, the demand-supply gap in health care, geographical accessibility are some challenges before the sector. However, low real estate rates and lower staff salaries can result in “at least a 20 percent lower cost to set up the hospital, not including land prices,” says Satish Menon, analyst, KPMG.

Also, hospitals in tier II cities would require hiring locally. But where is the talent? World Health Organization says India had a shortage of 1.4 million doctors and 2.8 million nurses in 2010. “In this industry, everyone wants to find their niche rather than compete,” says Naik of Vaatsalya Healthcare. “If you compete, you do so not only for patients, but also for talent. And that is much harder in tier II cities.”

“The lack of manpower is a limiting problem in tier II and tier III cities. We will look at tie-ups with additional diagnostics as a way to address this,” says Dr. Pervez Ahmed, CEO and MD, Max Healthcare.

For the big players, the problem is not so much as sourcing talent but utilising it. “In every state with a large Apollo hospital, doctors will service Apollo Reach hospitals as well,” says Dr. Preetha Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals. “For example, doctors from the two Apollo hospitals in Chennai take care of 20 [Apollo] Reach hospitals.” Manipal and Fortis will also engage their senior consultants in tier II and tier III cities when required.

Government partnerships are an option. Max Healthcare is one of the few groups to have done this. “The government has been beating around the bush with private-public partnerships,” says Menon. “For the number of beds for every 1,000 people to go up from 0.7 to 2, a lot of such partnerships are required and that has not happened.”

Manmohan Singh - The Feeble Patriarch

With his professorial patience and softness towards his colleagues, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may actually be transmitting a perception of weakness
In a disarming and seemingly innocuous tone, the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy tried to achieve the impossible in his chat with editors on February 16, in the middle of the worst crisis of confidence that his government has faced in its second term. He both accepted and denied responsibility for corruption in his government in that one sentence, adding fuel to an already raging fire.

In less than two years the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which beat expectations to return to power in 2009 with an enhanced mandate, appears to have totally lost its way. So disoriented has been the government that it could not even muster a proper defence as scam after scam rocked the country.

It was not even as if UPA II is all about swindling and little else. It is just that this government’s success stories in the making — such as the national unique identity project Aadhar, women’s reservation and performance monitoring system for the bureaucracy — have all gone unnoticed in the din created by the wave of scams. In the year-end performance rankings, more than two-thirds of the departments are said to be doing well. The economy is still growing fast, perhaps an island of excellence in an otherwise growth-starved world. But the double whammy of a runaway inflation and news of irregularities in a growing list of departments have cemented the perception of a dysfunctional government in the minds of the people.

Though Manmohan Singh remains in denial, his home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has been forthright. “There is indeed a governance deficit in some areas and perhaps there is also an ethical deficit [as well],’’ Chidambaram said recently. Even Congress President Sonia Gandhi admitted as much at the Burari Plenary of the party last December. “There is no doubt that corruption at all levels has become a disease spreading throughout our society,’’ Gandhi told party workers.

International opinion on India and Singh has also taken a sharp U-turn, threatening to erode much of the Prime Minister’s credibility, built so assiduously over the past four decades of public service as an economist, bureaucrat and a reluctant politician.

“India cannot be taken seriously on the world stage when its prime minister doesn’t have the power to speak on the country’s behalf,” the Wall Street Journal wrote after the PM’s February 16 press conference. That was a far cry from even last year when President Obama remarked at a G-20 meeting that when Manmohan Singh speaks, the world listens.

The roots of this governance deficit, however, run much deeper than any scam or irregularity that has come to light in the recent months. At the heart of an indecisive India lies a lack of single, effective leadership. UPA-II is clearly suffering from a ‘policy paralysis’ with big-ticket reforms getting stalled because of the alliance leader’s bipolar nature and its external political compulsions.

The Leadership Deficit
Since 1978, every Congress president has also been the prime minister whenever the party was in power. Until 2004, that is. The UPA in 2004 started on high moral ground as Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the unanimous choice of the elected UPA members, gave up a shot at the top job and instead ‘nominated’ Singh as Prime Minister. Since that day, Singh has been fighting the perception of being a puppet PM especially since he remains the only PM of India to yet win a popular mandate.

While Singh’s erudition, honesty and academic accomplishments appeal to the hearts and minds of the people of India, the lack of political stature and astuteness has severely undermined his ability to lead at a time when the country is undergoing an immense social, economic and political churning. The result: What many thought would be Singh’s swan song term has turned out to be an ignominious parade of scandals and governmental inefficiency. Progress on much-needed measures such as a uniform national sales tax regime and land reforms is stalled as the government has failed to build consensus among states and its coalition partners. The Congress Party’s political equity is fast running out.

Despite over two decades of coalition politics, there are no clear lessons on how to run a national government with the help of disparate regional parties without making some unwanted compromises. The Congress is insecure and is itself competing with many regional parties to regain its lost turf in the states even though many of them are its partners at the Centre.

How Businesses Can Profit From Raising Compensation At The Bottom

Companies use diverse incentives such as high wages, performance rewards, and stock options to recruit, retain and motivate highly skilled professionals, they assume that employees at the bottom of the corporate ladder can be replaced easily — and don’t need incentives

“Attention must be paid,” wrote the great American playwright, Arthur Miller. If only companies did pay attention to workers on the bottom rungs of the organizational ladder – like those on the top rungs — what would happen? As the authors discovered in their research, the company will benefit as much as the employees themselves.

It has long been assumed that companies stand to increase profits by cutting wages and benefits for employees at the bottom of the corporate ladder. While companies use diverse incentives such as high wages, performance rewards, and stock options to recruit, retain and motivate highly skilled professionals, they assume that employees at the bottom of the corporate ladder can be replaced easily — and don’t need incentives.

We conducted a six-year study of companies around the world that had tried investing in their employees at the bottom of the ladder. We sought to answer: 1) How successful were these companies in improving conditions at the bottom of the ladder and 2) What impact did the improvements have on the firms’ productivity, financial costs, and economic returns. We discuss our findings in this article.

During the course of our research in 9 countries, we studied companies ranging in size from 27 to 126,000 employees. Companies included those in the automobile, financial services, personal goods, technology hardware and equipment, pharmaceutical, food production, construction materials, and industrial metals industries. We included public and private companies and chose them for their diverse geography, size and sectors. We interviewed employees at all levels, from the lowest‐paid to those in top management positions including CEOs, CFOs, and COOs. We also compiled information on companies from publicly available data, financial reports from publicly traded companies, and academic, professional, and media reports on the companies’ performance. Our findings very clearly demonstrate that investing in employees at the bottom can be an advantage both in times of economic growth and during a recession.

Different approaches to investment at the bottom of the ladder
Many of the companies we studied offered the kind of incentives at every level that were more commonly offered only to highly skilled professionals. These included higher wages, profit sharing, training and career tracks. The ways in which they set up these incentives differed, with each firm devising a strategy that made sense for its particular business model. Two examples follow, a large publicly traded firm and a smaller privately owned company.

1. Costco: Paying higher wages and providing career tracks
Costco’s business model consists of selling a range of low- and higher-end goods at a very low markup. The low markup means that in order to be successful the company needs high volume. It increases profits by having customers who return repeatedly and are willing to pay membership fees. Providing a high-quality shopping experience is essential to ensuring the customer satisfaction and loyalty that a membership model requires. Costco’s CEO Jim Sinegal believes that the quality of employees the company was able to attract and retain was the foundation of the company’s success because it was essential to ensuring high volume and returning customers.

Costco attracted high-quality employees by offering better-than-average wages. It retained the best employees by providing rapid wage growth and career advancement opportunities. When we first visited the company in 2005, starting wages at Costco in the United States were $10 an hour for a full-time entry-level cashier, $11 an hour for meat cutters, and $15 an hour for truck drivers. At the time, the federal minimum wage was $5.15. It was only in 2009, four years later, that national wages for these positions had caught up. By then, average hourly wages in the United States across all levels of experience were $9.15 for cashiers, $11.01 for meat cutters, and $14.96 for truck drivers. Costco was able to choose the best possible applicants for a position, and it regularly received many more applications than job openings available. Even when unemployment was low it received about 800,000 applications a year for 400 locations in which approximately 14,000 people were hired. Senior managers explained that they did not spend any money on recruiting, since Costco was an employer of choice. Its ability to attract quality employees helped Costco enjoy other benefits. For example, it had extremely low employee shrinkage. While the industry average was somewhere between 2 and 4 percent, Costco’s was less than 0.02 percent. Managers believed that their good wages and benefits were the reason that employee theft was so low.

Costco was aware that turnover was costly, both because of the costs of training new employees and because of their lower efficiency during their first months on the job. Policies encouraged retention of warehouse employees by combining the strong salary progressions during employees’ first four years with real advancement opportunities. After four years of employment, the salary for a cashier could go up to $43,000. This was more than twice as high as the mean annual wage for grocery or department store cashiers.

Leaders at Costco believed that providing advancement opportunities for entry-level workers was necessary for the company’s continuing success. Given the company’s continuing growth, senior managers explained that preparing workers for management positions was the only way to guarantee that they would have managers who knew and understood the company’s operations. Costco executives believed that experience on the warehouse floor made for better leaders. Managers with warehouse experience understood how the warehouses functioned, how to improve operations, and how to best support their staff. The company’s commitment to promoting from within was evident in the fact that it promoted from within 98 percent of the time. Sixty-eight percent of warehouse managers had started with the company as hourly employees.

For Costco, treating workers well has led to increased motivation, higher quality service, greater productivity and lower turnover. After the first year of employment, turnover was less than 6 percent, one of the lowest rates in the industry. The combination of good wages and the knowledge that there were opportunities for advancement was an important incentive for employees to work hard and build a career with the firm. The high quality of service provided by motivated, engaged employees at Costco, combined with the low prices, meant that customers returned and were willing to pay the membership fees. Costco’s high-quality service also attracted a clientele that shopped not only for basic goods but also luxury items, which were still more profitable, even with the low markup. As a result, Costco had higher annual sales per square foot than its most direct competitor, Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club, ($795 versus $516), and higher annual profits per employee ($13,647 versus $11,039) even though Costco’s average wage was 42 percent higher. Over 16 years, Costco grew from 206 warehouses and $16 billion in sales to 554 warehouses and $69.9 billion in sales

2. Great Little Box Company: Profit-sharing and financial incentives
A packing-supplies manufacturer in British Columbia, the Great Little Box Company employed an open-book management strategy, holding monthly meetings where executives discussed the firm’s finances, production, and sales performance in detail with staff at every level. Leadership believed that in order to be effective, the open-book management strategy had to be combined with profit sharing. The company set a program in place in 1991, following VP of Human Resources Margaret Meggy’s belief that employees would work harder if they felt “they matter and that their work matters.”

The program provided immediate rewards for improved company performance; employees would learn of the company’s profits at the monthly meeting and receive a bonus on their paychecks. Great Little Box’s commitment to sharing profits extended to all employees. Every month, 15 percent of the company’s pre-tax profits were split equally amongst everyone from managers to workers on the factory floor. As a result, workers at every level were aware of how the firm was performing and were motivated to find ways to improve productivity and reduce costs. In addition to profit sharing, the company launched several programs that provided financial incentives for employees to reduce costs and improve quality. The Idea Recognition Program provided rewards for ideas that led to cost savings. The financial rewards employees received were based on how much the company saved from their idea, and ranged from $50.00 to $2,500.00 The company also set up financial incentives for quality control. Employees received small financial rewards for spotting flaws before orders were sent out.

The combination of open-book management with profit sharing and incentives gave workers a personal stake in the company’s success. Workers were motivated to increase the company’s profits, since this meant that their own incomes would increase at the same time. At the same time, they understood how the company was doing and how their actions could result in improvements. The resulting increased sense of ownership meant that employees worked harder and watched co-workers, since a drop in productivity and product quality would lead to reduced profits for the company — and reduced earnings for employees. Providing incentives for workers to come up with cost-saving ideas had a strong impact on performance. Factory-floor workers were constantly looking for ways to reduce costs and increase productivity. The company benefited from employee suggestions on improvements in the use of machinery. For instance, as a result of one employee suggestion on cross-departmental use, equipment that had been used solely in the label division began to be used to print folding cartons. This reduced costs by 12 percent on tasks that would otherwise be outsourced to specialized printing companies. Another suggestion from a production worker allowed the company to automate production that was previously performed manually, and consequently, to sell affected products at a lower price. Employees also discovered ways for the company to save on materials. A recommendation by a maintenance worker led the company to minimize cardboard scraps and thus save thousands of dollars a month.

Great Little Box has reaped substantial gains from the policies that fueled employee input. Over the past decade, sales have doubled from $17M to $35M. During the past seven years the company’s success has enabled it to purchase the assets of six companies. Two more acquisitions are pending.

Lessons for leaders
Costco and Great Little Box benefited significantly by providing incentives for employees at every level of the firm. Both companies found ways to profit by offering better compensation to employees at the bottom of the ladder. The experiences of these two companies, as well as those of other companies we studied around the world, suggest lessons that corporate leaders can apply to enable all levels of a company to profit.

1. Understand who performs the majority of the essential work. At professional services firms, this may be lawyers or paralegals; in surgical clinics, this could include surgeons, nurses, technicians, paramedics, and individuals preparing the operating room; and in manufacturing, those working on the factory floor clearly carry out most of the essential work.

2. Realize that the firms’ success depends on the quality of the work performed by the majority of workers. Remarkably, few firms currently design their organizations to optimize the efforts of employees at the bottom of the corporate ladder—even when these employees are central to the firms’ ability to add value. At Costco, the sales staff was instrumental in ensuring the high-quality shopping experience that would draw customers to return. At Great Little Box, the company beat competitors because of its ability to respond rapidly to customized orders.

3. Recognize that the quality and productivity of employees at the bottom of the ladder depend on whether these employees are motivated, healthy, adequately rested, and well-prepared to carry out the tasks they are asked to perform. Employees at Costco were motivated to work harder and perform better by a combination of higher wages and opportunities for promotions. Great Little Box employees had a direct financial stake in the company’s performance.

4. Realize that line workers are often the ones who know best how to increase efficiency. Great Little Box benefited from suggestions from line workers that led to cost savings and greater flexibility in production. Managers at Costco had a better understanding of how to improve production because most had served as hourly workers.

Start Your Day with the Important Questions

When you're working on large goals, days can easily blend together. Instead of thinking about what needs to happen today, you're focusing on what needs to get done this week, month, or quarter. But, don't lose sight of what's in front of you: one day of work. By starting each day right, you're more likely to do the work that leads to achievement of those bigger goals. When you begin your day, pause and ask yourself whether you are ready for what is to come. Are you prepared for all your meetings? Do you know what work you need to accomplish? What risks can you anticipate and prepare for? Answering these questions will help you make the most of each day and set you up for success in the long term.

Two Reasons to Offer Coupons

Coupon offers are becoming increasingly popular with merchants and consumers alike. But does providing such steep discounts (often 50% or more) pay off? Before you decide to use one of these discounts, know who they are most successful with:
  1. The price sensitive. Discount vouchers allow you to offer price breaks to customers who value your products less than ordinary customers do. Once in the door, their valuation may increase and they may return and pay
    full price.
  2. The unfamiliar. Vouchers can create "buzz" by announcing your company's existence to thousands of consumers en masse.
If you decide to make the leap into the discount voucher world, be sure to measure the effects and analyze whether you reached who you wanted to.

How to Give a Reference for an Employee You Fired

Dismissing an employee is a stressful and challenging task. Unfortunately, the difficulties don't always end when he's out the door. Employees, even those you let go, may ask you for references. Here is what to do in those situations:
  1. Verify information. Check the former employee's file before giving a reference to ensure that you state just
    the facts.
  2. Keep it short. Whether you're writing a reference letter or providing a phone reference, limit the amount of information you offer. This will reduce your chances of saying anything that could be perceived as defamatory.
  3. Keep it factual. Limit your responses to factual information: dates of employment, title, salary, and other objective data.

Knock Down Barriers to Get Where You Need to Go

1. Introducing Innovative, even superior, products into risk-averse markets can be tough work.

2. An entrepreneur who believes in her mission will do whatever it takes to overcome barriers to success.

3. With the right approach and the right coalition, it is possible to change unfavorable regulatory conditions.

Get Senior Management to Experience Your Challenge

1. Don't tell Senior Management what they need to know; get them to experience for themselves what they need to know.

2. If you can get Senior Management to feel, in their own skin, what the issues are, they will support you.

Overcoming Obstacles

1. When faced with difficult situations, it's important to think on your feet.

2. When negotiating you have to be flexible; you have to know where you can go and where you can't go.

3. When a situation knocks you flat, pick yourself up and think of another way to get what you want.