Category: Guide

The primary role of managers is to make decisions. Good business managers are separated from the average ones by their ability to consistently make wise decisions.

Decisions have different scopes, perspectives, or degrees of urgency. The scope of a decision being made can apply to one particular department in a company, such as whether to add or reduce personnel, or it can have company-wide complications, such as deciding to change the compensation plan.

The perspective of a decision being made could have a short-term or long-term impact. Routine expense decisions have a short-term impact, whereas capital equipment purchases have long-term ramifications.

Decisions can also have different urgencies. Decisions that could affect whether or not you obtain new business from a large customer will likely have a different sense of urgency from the decision to have the CEO visit a small customer as a gesture of goodwill.

They can be technically based. They can have human relations components, like deciding to hire from outside or promote from within the company or should overtime work be voluntary or mandatory?

Decisions can have an operational perspective as well:

Should a job be run on machine A, B, or C, considering that machine C runs the fastest but needs a lot of maintenance?

Should management meet with a new customer at the customer’s or at management’s location, where they can give them the grand tour of the facility?

Should the organization switch from vendor A, a long-time supplier, to vendor B, who has better pricing?

Decisions can also have a long-term strategic aspect, like deciding to focus on tweaking a currently profitable product line or focusing energies on developing new technology. Should the firm try to penetrate two new international markets or focus its energies on increasing its market share domestically?

Harold Geneen coined the term unshakable facts (Economist, pg.1). Every decision he or his managers may be asked to make should be based on concrete, objective data or unshakeable facts rather than emotional, subjective feelings. This means that assumptions upon which decisions are based should be tested and researched first to confirm their validity.

This is particularly true in human relations decisions. For example, an employee is to have committed some serious offense, such as hitting another employee, practicing sexual harassment, or stealing, which are clearly dischargeable offenses based on the firm’s employee handbook.

A supervisor or manager called to the scene of one of these incidents is faced with several choices. Untrained managers may view the superficial evidence, listen to some initial witness accounts, and simply terminate the employee on the spot.

Because these are sensitive human relations issues that the entire workforce is likely to become aware of very quickly, it is crucial to diffuse the situation immediately. At the same time, it is important to consider the legalities of the human relations issues.

The best way to approach situations like this is to do the following:

Quickly diffuse the situation by suspending the employee pending a full investigation. This removes the employee from the situation, restoring calm to the workplace.

Over the next several days, conduct a calm, rational investigation.

Make the appropriate decision based on concrete, objective facts.

Another parameter of good decision-making is to make every decision from a range of options, including the option to do nothing. Every option that is being considered should be evaluated for its pros and cons., for example, before the sales department decides to open a new store in the Pacific Northwest, it should consider whether the effort and expenditures may be better spent by focusing on an existing region. Instead, should these costs be devoted to a national TV campaign that may increase sales in all regions?

The ultimate compliment to any company is when the general public, or the vast majority, begins to use one of its brand names to define an entire product category. Here is a list of eight brand names you probably use as a genericized trademark to define an entire product category:

1. Kleenex

Although Kleenex also makes paper towels, bath tissues and diapers, their brand name is used synonymously to define the entire facial tissue industry. Even generic facial tissues, which typically don’t have the same high quality, get the compliment of being called a Kleenex.

2. Popsicle

Since the introduction of Popsicle 1922, the brand name has grown to define the entire ice pop industry and has even expanded into a state of being – “Since my heater broke, I’ve been a popsicle all winter.” Ok, so maybe that’s a stretch… Maybe not…

3. Tupperware

Every holiday season, my mom reminds me to bring home some Tupperware so that I can take home leftovers. I actually don’t own any Tupperware, but the brand’s name has become the staple name for the vast majority of plastic storage containers. It’s wonderful for Tupperware, but I’m sure the marketers at Rubbermaid hate when they hear their products called by another brand name.

4. Coke (Coca-Cola)

As the world’s best known soda, the brand name Coke dominates the cola industry. Enough said.

5. Google

“Just Google it” has become a common phrase to tell people to perform an online search. When “Google” first began to be used as a verb, you could almost hear the executives at Yahoo and Ask crying in their offices. Will Google continue to dominate, or do you think it is possible that 10 years from now “Just Bing it” will be the popular saying? I doubt it, but kudos to Microsoft for their efforts.

6. Xerox

Xerox is another “brand-name-turned-verb.” As the original manufacturer of plain paper photocopiers, the brand name is often used as a synonym for “photocopy.” There a numerous companies that make plain paper photocopiers now-a-days, but none that can rival Xerox’s dominance as a the photocopy verb.

7. Starbucks

Starbucks has stores all over the world and has quickly become a household name for coffee. Maybe it’s because of their rapid growth or the fact that they make delicious coffee, but many people no longer say “Let’s grab a coffee,” rather, they say “Let’s grab a Starbucks.” Here’s a great picture of Starbucks that I took last year in England:

8. Ziploc

People don’t just put thing into sandwich bags, they put them into Ziploc bags. And, although they are public enemy number one to many environmentalists, the brand name continues to hold its title as sandwich bag king.