5 Uses For Catalogs

Reasons to Consider Using a Grocery Store Catalog

The use of grocery shopping catalog has been on the rise. There are various reasons why clients are opting for an online shopping catalog. To achieve convenience, a person should use a shopping catalog. When using a shopping catalog, a person can buy things around the clock. To prevent waiting in line, one should using a shopping catalog to buy goods. When using a shopping catalog, the client does not have to wait for a shopping attendant. The benefits of using a grocery shopping catalog is that it enable a client to obtain the goods at a better price.

To get cheap deals, a person should use a shopping catalog. When using a shopping catalog, getting a discount coupon can be very simple. There are many shopping catalogs that offer rebates for their clients. By eliminating middlemen, a shopping becomes ideal for most clients. By removing middlemen from the chain of supply, the goods can be availed at a cheaper price to the clients. When using a grocery catalog, the client is likely to spend less. When going out to shop, a person might spend a lot of money. Traveling to where the shop is located might force the client to spend a lot of money.

By deciding to purchase goods outside, a person is likely to engage in impulse buying. The main benefit of a shopping catalog is that it enables a client to get variety. There are many people who use a shopping catalog to make a comparison of prices. The number of shops that have adopted shopping catalogs is very high. Comparing prices is very easy when using a shopping catalog. Before purchasing groceries from an online catalog, the client should share information with other people. The most reliable perspectives will come from the people that might have used the shopping catalog to purchase their grocery before.

It is also important to consider the reviews of other people who might have used the shopping catalog. Nothing compares to the firsthand experience that a person can get from a former client. One of the best ways to avoid crowds while buying goods is using a shopping catalog. Finding a parking space is a tall order when there are big crowds.

It will be hard to have a good shopping experience when there is a huge crowd. The number of professionals developing shopping catalogs is very high. It is not simple to identify the most proficient developer of a shopping catalog. Accordingly, the client should always determine whether the developer is experienced. It is also important for the client to have a glance of the former projects that the developer has undertaken in the past. The right training is essential for the grocery store catalog developer.

Source: http://www.moneysoldiers.com/new-ways-to-save-money-in-2016/


We Bought an Apartment Complex

My wife and I moved across the country to become proprietors of a large apartment complex. The price was just too good to pass up, and we really liked the potential that we saw. We used up our life savings to make this happen, so it was a huge risk as well. Neither of us were worried though, because we were extremely confident that we would become successful in our latest endeavor. We had researched marketing ideas for apartment communities and knew what we had to do to get all of our apartments leased.

We had researched quite a few marketing companies, and we knew that it only made sense to go with the one company that only handled apartment complexes. A company that devotes all of their time and resources to just one area is often superior to companies that offer a wide range of areas, at least in our experience. Plus, we had found a company that just made sense with their approach. Continue reading


Excellence Comes From Saying No

In a new course designed by Frances Frei and Amy Schulman, business and law students help each other define and achieve their own interpretations of success. Lesson one: You can’t be great at everything.

by Michael Blanding

We all know people who seem able to perform at a higher level than those around them; and we’ve all had moments ourselves where we are firing on all cylinders and everything just seems to work. But how do you achieve that kind of excellence on a consistent basis, day after day?

Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei has explored that question for years in the retail realm, culminating in her 2012 book, Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business.

This past semester at HBS, the UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management applied those lessons through a new course for MBA students, Why You Should Care: Creating the Conditions for Excellence , co-taught with Senior Lecturer and venture capital guru Amy Schulman.

Together, they created a course unlike any other at the school, both profoundly practical and intensely personal. “I can’t even express to you how exceptional the experience has been,” says Frei. “I have never received papers like this, ever.”

According to the course description, “CCE explores how to identify and overcome the barriers to personal and professional excellence, barriers that are often counter-intuitive such as a focus on individual achievement.”

The Courage To Be Bad

At the core of Frei’s philosophy is an appeal that Harvard MBAs are not used to hearing: in order to achieve excellence, you need the courage to be bad.

“I’m obsessed with this question of why well-intentioned, energetic people following their own instincts end up being part of the problem,” says Frei. She finds the main obstacle most people face is trying to be good at everything, and therefore not being excellent at anything.

“People compete against each other on every dimension, and work harder and harder and harder. To break out of that you don’t need any more capability, but you do need enormous courage to say, if I am going to be really good at something, I am going to be bad at something else. If I am going to compete on cost and quality, then someone is going to beat me on speed.”

The next lesson in the course is about collaboration. Once you decide to compete on your own particular area of strength, says Frei, you need to learn how to work with others to complement your weaknesses. That’s where Schulman’s expertise comes in. As a venture partner at $4 billion venture capital firm Polaris Partners, and former executive at Pfizer, Schulman has worked in some 90 countries around the world.

“The key to creating collaborative teams within diverse environments, is to find strategies that increase the metrics of value so that individuals aren’t fighting over a fixed pie,” says Schulman. “When you get people with different objectives, you create more value for everyone.” The sum is greater than the parts, in other words.

Furthermore, in order to make sure such collaborations succeed, it’s important to cultivate the art of communication. “It’s startling how liberating it is to talk about what is actually going on and we can only do that when we risk discussing the undiscussable with grace and care,” says Schulman.

Students were taught to learn their subject matter so thoroughly that they could explain it to a family member with no background in the topic. “Often we don’t need better ideas, we just need to frame them more effectively,” says Frei “To describe something simply, you must really understand it deeply.”

Mixing It Up

The class had just 20 students, tiny by Harvard Business School standards, and unique in that they were a 50-50 mixture from the business school and Harvard Law School. The mixing of business and law students was in part to add diversity of perspective and to take students from both areas out of their comfort zones.

“When you are being intimate in a partially anonymous environment, it’s both strange and liberating,” says Frei.

The atmosphere allowed for an unusual amount of introspection and reflection on the cases they discussed. Schulman recalled robust discussion between HLS and HBS students about ethics and values, where each group revealed its biases towards the other profession. “What was striking to me was the ability the students had to challenge their own assumptions, and discuss truisms in a respectful but confrontational manner,” says Schulman.

That soul-searching carried on to the individual projects students created as an expression of their own individual philosophy of excellence. Frei and Schulman encouraged students to develop their own personal view of what it means to care, and what happens when they don’t. One student put together a storyboard expressing her own personal credo through the characters of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Another wrote a personal essay about her struggles to overcome the stereotype of being the “Shy Asian Girl.” Another student, who came from a retail background, wrote an open letter to clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch about why “It’s Time To Care Again.” And one student made a Choose Your Own Adventure computer game about making the right choices in a workplace environment. (When Frei played the game, “I ended up getting fired.”)

One of the most moving projects in the class, she says, came from a law student who had spent time working with the human rights commission of the war-torn African country where he was raised. He systematically used the course material to criticize hypocrisy at the commission-as well as criticize himself for not having high enough standards. “I started to think that if things were being done in a certain fashion at the commission…there was no need to ‘rock the boat,'” he wrote. “I tolerated more than I should have.” The student ended his essay with some concrete suggestions on how to reform the commission.

“They each came up with their own point of view, and got incredible feedback from each other,” says Frei of the students and their projects. That was difficult for some of the students, who found the lack of concrete guidance frustrating at times. But Frei says that freedom was necessary for each to develop their own definition of what excellence means.

One of the last lessons of the course was around change. From her service experience, Frei learned that making small changes are often more trouble than their worth-but in order to make big, meaningful changes, you often have to change at a pace faster than an organization is comfortable with.

By taking students out of their comfort zones and helping them examine their own personal values in this course, Frei and Schulman hope they have changed them for the better.


advice on advice

To be effective leaders, we all need good advice, and we need to give good advice to others. Problem is, advice sharing is not as easy as it sounds, explain David Garvin and Joshua Margolis.

by Dina Gerdeman

In business, good advice is priceless.

Managers who are anxious and confused when confronted with corporate challenges can find that a piece of sound advice from a colleague can instill a sense of calm and clarity that leads to more thoughtful and strategic business decisions. In turn, offering advice to others is considered an important mark of a leader.

“People have a remarkable degree of overconfidence, and that diminishes the amount of advice they typically seek”

Yet business executives aren’t always making the most of advice—on both the giving and the receiving end—because they may not realize that it involves skills that can be learned and refined, according to Harvard Business School professors David A. Garvin and Joshua D. Margolis.

Highly skilled advisers pay close attention to how they advise as much as what kind of advice they give, Garvin and Margolis contend in the recent article in Harvard Business Review, The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice, which is based on research and discussions with advice experts.

The advice give-and-take is not always easy to pull off. Both the advice-giver and the receiver are prone to common missteps that can cloud communication and even damage relationships.

But when advice-giving does go well, it is a beautiful thing, says Margolis, the James Dinan and Elizabeth Miller Professor of Business Administration.

“If you’ve been thinking about a problem in a certain way, and the advice and counsel you get lets you see it in a completely different light, it allows you to see a path through that you didn’t see before,” he says.

Hesitant To Ask For Help

Some executives are wary of seeking advice at all. For one thing, many people operate under the assumption that they already have all the answers.

Giving and receiving advice are skills that must be
learned and developed.©iStock.com/MarcusPhoto1

“People have a remarkable degree of overconfidence, and that diminishes the amount of advice they typically seek,” says Garvin, the C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration. “But I don’t see how a leader can make critical big decisions without getting advice.”

Plus, many executives believe that if they seek advice, they will be viewed as incapable of making decisions on their own.

Research shows that people who seek too much advice—those who ask for a wide range of opinions, for example, before making every little decision—are viewed as overly dependent and receive lower performance ratings from their bosses, but then again, people who rarely seek advice receive lower performance ratings as well. The folks in the middle—those who seek advice regularly but not too often—earn the highest scores.

Advice-seekers Make Mistakes

People who seek advice make a variety of mistakes, including:

  • Choosing the wrong advisers, particularly by turning only to those with like-minded ideas, rather than seeking out people who will provide a devil’s advocate point of view
  • Defining the problem poorly, either by taking the conversation to unrelated tangents or by omitting key information that might cast the advice-seeker in a poor light
  • Misjudging the quality of the advice they are given

Once advice-seekers have received counsel, perhaps one of the biggest mistakes they make is discounting the wisdom they were given, often because of an egocentric bias that has them naturally favoring their own viewpoints. Sometimes people will ask for advice from others, but their true goal is to seek validation or praise for their own solutions.

Experience shows that people in powerful positions are often most guilty of doing this, in some cases because they actually feel competitive when receiving advice from experts—which may lead them to dismiss the advice those experts are giving.

“Powerful people often say to themselves, ‘I have to be in this position for a reason. I trust my opinions implicitly and discount others, especially if they suggest a different direction or approach,'” Garvin says. “They see such advice as a threat to their expertise.”

Yet the advice-giver may also play a role in the advice falling flat by failing to clearly outline the reasoning for the advice.

“As an advice-seeker, you’re in a dilemma. You know how you got from A to Z, but an adviser says, ‘What you should do is X,’ and often [doesn’t] tell you how [he] got from A to X,” Garvin says. “You have two reasoning processes—your own, which is clear and well understood, and the other person’s, which is completely opaque. People tend to favor clarity. All too often, they discount advice because they can’t get the adviser’s reasoning process clear in their minds.”

That’s why it’s important for the advice-giver not only to provide suggestions, but also to clearly lay out how he or she got to the recommended options from where the advice-seeker started.

Mistakes Of Advice-givers

Those who give advice often make several mistakes of their own, such as overstepping invisible boundaries with unsolicited advice that may be seen as intrusive, or by giving advice when they’re not qualified to do so.

The first question an advice-giver should ask is: Am I the best person to help?

If someone comes to you for advice and you know you’re not able to provide helpful, thoughtful input, it’s OK to pass, says Margolis, noting it’s better to shy away from giving advice than to give poor advice. Advice-givers often feel so flattered to be sought out that they provide advice about topics they may not be qualified to discuss.

“You want to be helpful. You feel like you’re now the expert in the room,” he says. “It’s hard to sometimes say, ‘I don’t have the field of vision necessary to help.'”

But if that’s the case, perhaps the adviser can recommend speaking with someone else more qualified.

Other advice-giving mistakes include:

  • Communicating the advice poorly
  • Misdiagnosing a problem, either by prematurely believing you see similarities with issues you have faced or by neglecting to ask the kind of probing, relevant questions that will get to the heart of the matter
  • Giving self-centered guidance

According to Garvin, advice-seekers should see a red flag when advice-givers limit themselves to saying, “Here’s how I would respond if I were in your shoes.”

“They’re not thinking about you and your circumstances and limitations; they’re thinking [about] how they would act, and their experiences, expertise, and standing may be very different from yours,” Garvin says. “When a junior faculty member goes to a senior faculty member who is tenured, and the senior faculty member says, ‘If I were in your shoes,’ that may be poor advice because the situation facing a nontenured faculty member is very different than that facing a tenured one.” For this reason, skilled advisers often add the caveat, “But since I’m not you, here’s the way I’m thinking about the problem, and here are some factors you might want to consider.”

A key problem for both advice-seekers and -givers is a lack of careful listening.

“What listening requires is suspending judgment,” Garvin says. “You have to hear the person out—at length and in depth—before shifting to action or making recommendations.”

Garvin says when he is advising someone, he listens for emotion and tone, something that may indicate that a deeper issue underlies the problem; and he also listens for whether the person is leaving certain things unsaid. Sometimes the advice-seeker is leaving out key pieces of information inadvertently or because of discomfort with his contribution to the problem.

“If someone says I have interpersonal issues at work and mentions a lot about peers and supervisors, but nothing about subordinates, there may be something more to the story, ” Garvin says. “So I will ask if anything is going on with them. The part that’s left out of the story is often the key to understanding it.” He adds that is one of the reasons people come to you for advice: They aren’t able to see the full picture on their own.

That’s why it’s important for both the advice-seeker and the advice-giver to ask questions of each other. The advice-seeker needs to get clarifications on the adviser’s thinking to determine whether the advice fits the situation, and the advice-giver needs to fully understand the problem—and that might mean teasing out some unflattering facts the advice-seeker may have been shy about revealing.

“One of our very talented advice-givers said you shouldn’t presume that the version you heard at the first telling is a completely accurate story,” Garvin says.

Plus, the advice-giver needs to remember that the goal is to understand the problem and then convey the advice in a way that can be heard—and often this means talking through the pros and cons of various options with the advice-seeker, rather than zeroing in on one answer too early.

“There’s a tendency to forget it’s not about you, how smart you are, and how helpful you feel you can be, but it’s about being experienced by the advisee as helpful,” Margolis says. “The danger is that you immediately jump to a conclusion about the best solution. It’s better to see advising as a process where you inquire, listen, and talk through the issue, and once you’ve got a sense of the problem together, you need to generate some options and explore them. That way you increase the likelihood of producing advice that is actionable and feasible, and in fact helps.”

Margolis says he was thrilled to work on the advice project with Garvin since he has turned to his colleague for professional advice and has found him to be especially skilled in providing it.

“I was curious about the method and skill set he had that made his advice so helpful,” he says. “In some ways, this was a search to say, does my experience and what David does correspond with what we see other great advisers do?”

Meanwhile, the person Garvin is most likely to turn to for advice is his wife. Why?

“It’s precisely because she not only knows me so well, she’s willing to tell me what I don’t want to hear,” he says. “In fact, I’ve have learned that when I’m most resistant to the advice I’m hearing from her, that’s when I need to listen even more closely.”


How Do You Grade Out as a Negotiator?

Most negotiation training focuses on what happens before and during the talks. Michael Wheeler’s new app helps users improve their skills after the deal is completed.

by Michael Blanding

We all know the feeling. After a hard negotiation we make the deal, put down the money, and feel excitement and relief that the bargaining is over. And then the doubts creep in. Did I get everything I could have? The truth is, it’s very hard to know after we complete a negotiation exactly how we did.

Most teaching around being a successful negotiator focuses on preparations before discussions start, and on strategies during the talks. The problem: We don’t spend nearly enough time after the negotiations to grade our performance and learn from the experience.

“We negotiate, if not in the dark, then at least in the fog”

“We negotiate, if not in the dark, then at least in the fog,” says Michael Wheeler, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and retired MBA Class of 1952 Professor of Management Practice, who taught negotiation for 20 years. “If we get less than we had hoped for, we wonder if we could have done better; if we get a great deal, we wonder if we could’ve gotten even more.”

In his book The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World, Wheeler gave readers concrete strategies for dispelling some of the fog of negotiation in order to be more successful. But even as he watched people use the book, they still expressed constant doubts about how well they were performing.

“People do not do a good job learning from their experience,” he says. “Some have gotten better about preparing for negotiation, but afterwards, they let the after-action review drop. It’s all fine to read books and take courses, but we have this rich negotiation experience, and if we could tap it and analyze it in a meaningful way, it could lead to more improvement.”

With that in mind, Wheeler conceived of a new mobile app, Negotiation 360, which would supplement books and training courses to help people track their own negotiating experience. “A book is very linear,” he says. Negotiation 360, by contrast, “is a template or matrix a user can make his or her own. It becomes their negotiating buddy.”

Lessons learned in the heat of battle around the bargaining table
can be quickly forgotten. ©iStock.com/Yuri_Arcurs

The $2.99 app, available on iTunes, starts with a self-assessment. Users rate themselves on several attributes, such as how much they assert their own needs versus understanding the motivations of others. Rather than let them rate each attribute on its own scale, Wheeler intentionally has users distribute a fixed number of points among the different skills. A high self-rating in one area must be paid for by corresponding lower rating in others.

“There’s a very deliberate reason for constraining you,” he says. “It identifies what you are less confident about and what you need to work on.”

According to how the points are allocated, the app sorts the user into one of five basic negotiating styles, derived from Wheeler’s past research (see chart) each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Just knowing which style a person falls into can help him or her to understand which skills to work on—as well as the range of ways in which an opponent might be approach the situation.

“Assertive value-creators,” for example, tend to be good at declaring their own needs in negotiation, but less effective in understanding the motivations of others around the table. They also tend to be maximizers—a term put forth by Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, meaning they are always driving to win the best deal and rarely satisfied no matter how much they get. That attitude is contrasted with “empathetic value-creators” who are good at understanding others’ needs and creatively forging compromises. In Schwartz terminology, they tend to be “satisficers” who are generally content with the outcome of a negotiation that meets basic criteria, even if it leaves money on the table they could have claimed.

“In an ideal world, we all want to be maximizers as we are negotiating, creating the most value we can, and then when it’s all over flip on the satisficer button and bliss out,” says Wheeler. “But that’s not easy.”

This is where the second part of the app comes in. Once the self-assessment is completed, users unlock a negotiation scorecard that they can use to track their progress in negotiations and work on developing specific skills, deepening areas where they may already be confident and making up for weaker areas.

For each negotiation, they are given an opportunity to score how well they think they did, as well as the lessons learned and what they would do differently. Over time, says Wheeler, this record can help people see patterns to help them improve, rather than starting fresh each time.

“There is a missed opportunity in learning lessons from negotiations”

“There is a missed opportunity in learning lessons from negotiations—both in what to continue doing and what to adjust,” says Wheeler.

Even small changes, research has shown, can mean the difference between a negotiation that succeeds and one that fails. “Even improving skills by 5 or 10 percent means that some deals that would previously lead to stalemate could now be solved,” says Wheeler. “The line between deadlock and agreement can be very thin.”

On the other hand, negotiations that would have already been successful could be made even better through the benefit of learning from the past.

“If you have someone who through this app or some other means is methodical and structured about keeping track of their negotiation experience meeting up with someone who is not, my money is on the former,” says Wheeler.

By gradually gaining confidence in their abilities, users can also begin to get a sense of what is within their control and what isn’t, Wheeler hopes. “I can’t control whether the person across the table has had a bad day, but if I put my attention on the skills that are tested in the app, that is something positive I can do. As opposed to having negotiation be something that happens to you, you can affirmatively act upon that self-knowledge.”

After all, much of the “fog of negotiation” is due to the fact that we can never completely know the mind of the other person with whom we are negotiating. We don’t know how far they are willing to go, or how much they are willing to give. Until someone creates an app for mind-reading however, that will never change. The best we can do is learn to understand our own mind and gradually improving our ability to get what we want—and be happy with what we get.

Sidebar: Negotiation Bargaining Styles

Where do you fit?

Empathetic Value-Creator (30 percent): Good at understanding the true needs of others and spotting problem-solving capabilities, you are less confident about asserting your own interests and maximizing your share.

Assertive Value-Claimer (10 percent): You are confident about advocating for your own interests and capturing your piece of the pie—even though your lack of empathy for others might mean there’s less of it left to win.

Assertive Value-Creator (15 percent): You are good at advocating for yourself, but no matter how much you get, you tend to worry you should have claimed an even bigger share.

Relational Negotiator (25 percent): You are confident about your interpersonal skills, but not about how well you do in creating value and claiming your share. Maybe you are not giving yourself enough credit?

Outcome-Focused Negotiator (20 percent): Good at both creating and claiming value, you are not always good at relating to others or understanding what they—or you—really need.


3 Ways Firms Can Profit From Environmental Investments

Rebecca Henderson lays out three ways for firms to profit from investing in environmental sustainability: forestalling risk, increasing operational efficiency, and selling to the environmental niche.

by Carmen Nobel


In the course of her work, Rebecca Henderson meets business executives who don’t address the threat of climate change because they don’t believe that it exists. Her recommendation: They should consider investments in environmental sustainability anyway, assuming that they do believe in generating revenue for their companies.

“For many firms, it’s possible to act sustainably and make money at the same time,” says Henderson, the John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University who has a joint appointment in the General Management and Strategy units at Harvard Business School and serves as co-chair of the HBS Business and Environment Initiative.

“For many firms, it’s possible to act sustainably and make money at the same time”

In her working paper Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability, Henderson explains how companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Zipcar approach environmental issues with profit margins in mind. The paper lays out three ways for firms to profit from investing in sustainability: forestalling risk, increasing operational efficiency, and selling to the environmental niche.

“The business case for making [environmental investments] cannot only rely on immediate, short term returns,” Henderson writes in the paper. “Instead it rests on a sophisticated understanding of the risks entailed in doing nothing and on the opportunities inherent in moving early to prepare for a range of plausible futures.”

Henderson notes that corporate history is chockablock with companies whose potentially risky bets paid off in the long term. “Take DuPont’s investment in nylon,” she says. “They spent many years stabilizing the process and learning to scale it up. And of course once they introduced it, it was an amazing success. Or there’s Corning’s investment in fiber optics. The entire history of Corning is a history of really significant investments taking a while to pay out. Another really nice example is Walmart’s investments in its IT systems, which were quite costly and made over many years. In the beginning, people didn’t think Walmart was such a big deal. But then of course it became the largest firm in the world.”

Forestalling Risk, Increasing Operational Efficiency, And Targeting A Niche

In terms of environmental sustainability, forestalling risk can mean proactively taking environmental measures in anticipation of future regulatory requirements—thus preserving the legal right to keep operating the company. It also can mean preventing damage to the brand.

Corporate investment in environmental sustainability can help the
brand as well as the bottom line. ©iStock.com/tumpikuja

Take the Coca-Cola Company, whose brand is worth more than $81.5 billion, the third most valuable in the world, according to a 2014 report from Interbrand. Following complaints that Coca-Cola was depleting and poisoning local water supplies, the company announced in 2007 plans to achieve “water neutrality” by 2020—meaning Coca-Cola will replenish all the water it uses in beverage production. “They’re minimizing the political and consumer risks they face from people who say, ‘You’re taking all the water,’ or ‘You’re polluting local water supplies,'” Henderson says.

Regarding operational efficiency, Henderson lists several companies that saved money by saving energy or reducing waste. For example, IBM reduced its electricity consumption by 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours between 1990 and 2013, during which time it saved $513 million through energy conservation alone, according to the company website. Walmart reports having saved more than $200 million annually through its waste reduction efforts.

“The idea that in particular reducing your waste stream might be profitable is quite well established, going back to research on the chemical industry 30 years ago,” Henderson says. “And there’s a lot of suggestive evidence that saving energy is also often quite a profitable thing to do.”

On the topic of consumer marketing, Henderson acknowledges that the majority of shoppers still aren’t willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. However, the environmentally minded minority make up a growing, powerful niche.

According to a 2014 report from Boston Consulting Group, some two-thirds of total growth in the grocery sector has come from “responsible consumption” products. For example, organic grocer Whole Foods’ annual revenues have increased steadily in the past five years, from $9.01 billion in 2010 to $14.9 billion in 2014. BCG recommended that conventional brands would do well to enter the environmentally friendly product market, as Clorox did by launching its Green Works line of cleaning products, or as Unilever did by acquiring Ben & Jerry’s-which recently announced plans to stop using genetically modified organisms in its ice cream.

There’s also the booming “sharing economy,” which is built around the concept of monetizing shared resources, thus cutting down on carbon consumption and other environmental manufacturing costs. Henderson cites the car-sharing service Zipcar, which Avis recently bought for $96 million, as well as home rental service Airbnb, noting, “Why build new hotels when we’ve got all this spare capacity?”

Henderson works closely with the STAR Lab, a new initiative focused on research about environmental consumer behavior. “We’re looking at the best way to communicate sustainability efforts to consumers,” she says. “Part of the challenge is figuring out why they care.”

For instance, MIT and Harvard researchers studied whether jeans would sell better if labeled with information that they had been manufactured in an environmentally conscious facility. Field experiments at 419 Gap stores and 155 Gap Outlet stores revealed that these labels increased sales by 8 percent among female shoppers in the retail stores. Among male retail shoppers and all Gap Outlet store shoppers, however, the labels had no discernable effect.

Conducting A Scenario Analysis

In the paper, Henderson recommends using scenario analysis to identify possible profitable opportunities—a systematic process for considering multiple possible ways that the future might unfold. Henderson says when she works through the process with executives, they’re often surprised to find that their “business as usual” strategy has less than a 50 percent probability of panning out.

“What sustainability analysis does is to really make [executives] stop and think,” she says. “‘Will consumers start to care about this? Will we face new regulatory pressures? Are there new opportunities we’re overlooking?’ It moves from being an all-or-nothing religious war—’Global warming’s not happening so we don’t need to react’ vs. ‘Yes, it absolutely is’—to a thoughtful process: ‘Well, maybe it is happening, or maybe our customers are going to start worrying about it.’ It’s a very productive way to up both the conversation and the strategic space.

“When every major national academy and every major scientific peer-reviewed paper suggests that there’s a significant risk to doing nothing, to me investing in sustainable ways is a calculated risk calculation that as businesspeople we should all be comfortable exploring,” she says. “The scientists may be wrong, but do we want to gamble 100 percent that they’re wrong? You don’t have to be a believer, you just have to hedge your bets. That’s good business practice.”


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Tips for Wise Decision-Making

Tips for Wise Decision-Making

As you manage your business, you will be faced with important decisions that may impact the future of your company. This may seem stressful, but keep these tips in mind and you’ll find yourself making wiser decisions in no time:

  • Define, as specifically as possible, what the decision is that needs to be made. Is this really your decision or someone else’s? Do you really need to make a decision? (If you do not have at least two options, there is no decision to be made.) When does the decision need to be made? Why is this decision important to you?
  • Brainstorm, and write down as many alternatives as you can think of. Be sure to use your resources (experienced friends and family, the Internet, etc.) to find out more about the implications of each option.
  • Visualize the outcome of each alternative. Do you feel more satisfied with one outcome than with the others?
  • Do a reality check. Cross off those alternatives that most likely will not occur.
  • Once you have made your decision, get moving on it. Worrying or second-guessing yourself will only cause stress. You have done your very best. Remember, no decision is set in stone!

Common Decision-Making Mistakes

Have you ever tried to learn ten new things all at once? If you have, you know that it is very easy to become overwhelmed and end up learning very little at all.That is because of the way the brain works. Our brains screen and categorize information so that we can understand the world around us without being overwhelmed by it. We get into trouble when we fail to realize that many of the perceptions we hold are based on what society (i.e., parents, teachers, the church, all institutions, etc.) teach us, not what we actually know to be true. Here are some common mistakes leaders encounter when trying to make a decision:

  • Relying too much on expert information. Oftentimes, people have a tendency to place too much emphasis on what experts say. Remember, experts are only human and have their own set of biases and prejudices just like the rest of us. By seeking information from a lot of different sources, you will get much better information than if you focused all of your energy on only one source.
  • Overestimating the value of information received from others. People have a tendency to overestimate the value of certain individuals in our society and underestimate the value of others. For instance, experts, authority figures, parents, high status groups, people who seem to have it all together, and people we respect have a way of swaying our opinion based simply on the fact that we believe they know more than we do. When you find yourself doing this, ask yourself:  Do they know as much about this problem as I do? Are their values the same as mine? Have they had any personal experiences with a problem like mine? In other words, keep their opinions in perspective.
  • Underestimating the value of information received from others. Whether we realize it or not, we also have a tendency to discount information we receive from individuals such as children, low status groups, women (yes, believe it!), the elderly, homemakers, blue-collar workers, artists, etc. This is unfortunate since many times these groups can paint a good picture of the other side of your problem. In other words, these groups may use entirely different values and perceptions in their answers to your questions. The result is a larger perspective of what the issues really are. Just make a note that if you find yourself discounting the information you receive from anyone, make sure you ask yourself why.
  • Only hearing what you want to hear or seeing what you want to see. Try this exercise. Ask a friend to look around them and make note of everything that is green. Now, have them close their eyes. Once their eyes are closed, ask them to tell you what around them is red. Almost everyone you ask will not be able to tell you what was red because they were focusing on what was green. Our perceptions work the same way. If we have expectations or biases that we are not aware of, we tend to see what we want to see.  Likewise, if someone tries to tell us something we do not want to hear, we simply do not hear them. This is a common mistake that many people make. The key is to be aware of your own prejudices and expectations while at the same time staying open to everything that comes your way.
  • Not listening to your feelings or gut reactions. Have you ever made a decision only to have it be followed by a major stomach ache or headache? This is your body talking to you. Our brains are constantly taking in more information than we can consciously process. All of this extra information gets buried in our subconscious. Although we may not be able to retrieve this information, our body stores it for us until it is needed. In moments when we need to make a decision, our bodies provide clues to the answer through feelings or gut reactions. Unfortunately, our society teaches us to ignore these feelings, but by tuning into your intuition, you will find that you will make much better decisions in the long run.

Making Time

You planned on getting to work early to finish the project that’s due today, but now the car won’t start. You know you wrote the mechanic’s name down somewhere, but now you can’t remember where you put it. You frantically search through your notes, but you can’t find it anywhere. There’s no way you’re going to have time to finish your project. You start to panic.

The clock just keeps ticking.

Most of us have felt swamped at one time or another. With hectic work schedules, family responsibilities, and social engagements, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything we need and want to do. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Although life will always provide us with its little twists and turns, once we learn to manage our time wisely, much of the day-to-day chaos in our lives can be reduced or even eliminated.

The first step in learning how to manage your time is to develop a general work schedule. Your work schedule should include time for yourself as well as time for the maintenance of your business.

After you’ve defined the major elements of your workload, the next step is to prioritize them by identifying critical deadlines, routine maintenance items, and fun/relaxation time. Answering questions like “How much time do I have to make this decision, finish this task, or contact this person?” will help you to start identifying what needs to be done immediately versus what can wait. Setting priorities depends on deadlines, how many people you must call to get the information you need, and whether you can delegate or get assistance from others. If you are involved in group projects, reserve additional time for communication and problem-solving.

Once you have identified your priorities, look at all of your options for achieving them. Evaluate and move forward with the ones you feel are the most useful for you. The only time to consider changing approaches mid-task is when you know the change will save time. If you are in doubt, it is usually best to consider in the direction you started.

By setting up your work schedule and identifying your priorities, you have already started down the road to more effective time management. Other time management suggestions you may find useful for managing both your business life as well as your personal life include the following:

  • Contract out tasks. Contract out tasks you do not have the expertise to complete. Your client will appreciate your honesty and effort to get the best result.
  • Start with the most worrisome task. Start the morning, afternoon, or evening with the most worrisome task before you. This will reduce your anxiety level for the next task.
  • Complete deadline work early. Not only will this reduce stress and lighten your work schedule, but it will also give you more self-confidence about managing your schedule.
  • Know your capacity for stress. When you are hitting overload, take the break you need (even if it is a short one) when you need it.
  • Stay organized. Take time at the end of each day to briefly organize your desk and make reminder lists of tasks for the next day or week.
  • Take advantage of down time. Allow yourself some down time between busy periods to review your schedule and reevaluate your priorities.
  • Get physical. Physical exertion such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or organized sports activities helps to discharge stress. Stretching, yoga, jumping rope, sit-ups, playing with children, or doing yard work are other types of therapeutic breaks you should consider during times of stress.
  • Have fun. Be sure to have some fun while working or playing; a good sense of humor can keep most problems in perspective.
  • Divide up your time. Decide how much time to spend on business development, personal needs, volunteerism, and family. Start by allowing 25 percent of your time for yourself. Each time you make a commitment, set a timeline for your involvement. Remember that maintenance takes at least 25 percent of the time you spend on any project whether it’s business, marriage, or serving on the board of a non-profit organization.
  • Build flexibility into your schedule. Your availability to family and friends depends on the flexibility you build into your schedule. Female business owners frequently have the primary responsibility for making sure family members are cared for when they are dependent or ill, so it’s necessary to leave some time in your schedule for emergencies or to have good backup resources. Get to know your neighbors so you know who to call on for help in times of crisis.

In the bigger picture, consider the relationship between your business life and your personal life. Be as realistic as possible when answering the following questions, keeping in mind what is most important to you:

  • What are your long term goals? Your partner’s goals?
  • Where are the conflicts, and where are the similarities?
  • What is it that you really want to do? List all possible ways to accomplish this.
  • How long will it take you to reach your goal?
  • How do your timeline and goals affect your family (parents, siblings, partner, children)?
  • How do your personal goals conflict with or match your business goals?
  • How much time can you donate to community programs?
  • Have you talked about your personal goals with your business partner?
  • Have you talked about your business goals with your personal partner?

Don’t underestimate the toll that emotional stress takes on your physical health and your ability to concentrate on your work or enjoy time with your family. Make sure you have time for the important people and events in your life.


What It Takes to Learn to Be a Leader

After a decade of teaching leadership courses at Harvard Business School, Robert Steven Kaplan has fielded the question of whether leadership can be taught more often than he can count.

Kaplan addresses the question again in his new book, What You Really Need to Lead. His answer: an emphatic yes. Leadership is a skill, not some genetic trait inherited by a lucky few, Kaplan says. In the book he provides practical suggestions, exercises, and anecdotes of executives facing different challenges to illustrate what makes a good leader and how to become one.

The first step, Kaplan says, is ditching the idea that you’re either born a leader or not.

“I feel strongly that it doesn’t work that way,” says Kaplan, who left HBS this month to take over as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “This would be like you’re either fat or you’re thin. You’re either in shape or you’re not in shape. Well, you’d never say that. You’ve got to work at it.”

“I hate to break it to you, I think your people probably think right now you’re a weakling”

Like getting in shape, becoming a stronger leader requires doing things that might make you uncomfortable. That includes taking inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, seeking feedback from subordinates, and asking questions. Executives seeking Kaplan’s advice find themselves on the receiving end of his rapid-fire questioning, ranging from what’s distinct about their company to who holds what particular job and why. If they don’t know the answers, they need to ask, he says.

“They’ll say OK, I didn’t know I was supposed to do that, or they’ll say, gee, if I do that, I’m going to look like a weakling,” Kaplan recounts. “I say, I hate to break it to you, I think your people probably think right now you’re a weakling. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I’m not impressed myself.”

An Owner Mind-set

While the executives coming to him for counsel face unique challenges, ultimately all the issues connect to the subject of leadership, Kaplan says.

Part of the difficulty is that people often can’t articulate what leadership is. Academics don’t agree on a common definition either. Rather than try to move people toward a specific definition, Kaplan lays out what he calls a “framing” for the leadership journey.

At the heart is taking on an ownership mind-set—thinking and acting like an owner regardless of your job title and maintaining an unwavering focus on adding value to others, whether it’s to customers or the community. That ownership mentality also includes being willing to take responsibility for good and bad outcomes, acting on your beliefs, and creating an environment in which employees adopt an ownership mind-set themselves. Leaders need to communicate their priorities and then get their employees in alignment.

“What is the vision, how do you add value that’s distinctive, and what are your top three or four priorities,” Kaplan explains. “That is the prism through which you judge every action you take—who you hire, how you sit, where you spend money, what markets. Everything flows from that.”

Who I Am

The other key, which ties in with Kaplan’s two previous books, is understanding who you are. That includes knowing your strengths and weaknesses, passions, and boundaries.

Kaplan recounts the story of a founder and CEO of a multimillion-dollar tech company who was concerned about his firm’s market position eroding and frustrated by a lack of input from senior executives. When Kaplan interviewed the CEO’s business partner, he learned the CEO had a habit of cutting people off and criticizing suggestions to the point that people no longer bothered. These situations, Kaplan says, happen all the time.

“Everybody has blind spots. People who work with you know what your blind spots are. They just can’t believe you don’t see it,” Kaplan says.

Bosses need to be aware of the power asymmetry between themselves and subordinates—it causes people to hold back from mentioning things they think their superior doesn’t want to hear. As a result, bosses need to ask questions to elicit feedback—and listen.

Tweak Towards Success

The path to becoming a strong leader is not a one-shot deal, Kaplan adds. Would-be leaders need to continually analyze situations, themselves, and their organizations and tweak their approach as needed to fit their new reality.

“Businesses fail because they can’t make transitions. The paper every day is about businesses that were once effective that are no longer,” Kaplan says. “That isn’t a story about apparatus. That’s a story about people. And yet there are other businesses that have adapted incredibly well, it’s amazing what they’ve done—and that’s about people. They went out there and they tried to figure out what’s going on, and then they tried to adapt to it.”

Kaplan, who before joining HBS in 2005 was vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, acknowledges it’s possible for executives or companies to have success without this approach, but he doesn’t believe they would reach their full potential without it.

In his book, Kaplan stresses that leadership is not limited to the boardroom or the upper echelons of an organization. Anyone, regardless of position, can be a leader, but people often think they’ll wait for a promotion or another opportunity to try it. Not a wise move.

“If you want to be a leader, you need to act like it today. If you don’t want to or you’re not game to, then stop dreaming about it because you can forget it,” Kaplan says. “It would be the same way if [I said] I’d like to be a world-class athlete, but I don’t want to train. Well, you’d laugh. That’s stupid. It’s exactly the same.”


Why Does Gender Diversity Improve Financial Performance?

SUMMING UP Why does having more women in leadership positions make for more successful companies? James Heskett’s readers offer a variety of theories.

by James Heskett

Does Gender Diversity in Management Enhance Performance? Why?

A variety of explanations for the positive correlation between gender diversity and better business performance found in a recent McKinsey study were advanced in responses to this month’s column.

Possible explanations for the findings included those that “women have greater analytical skills and coordinate activities with much (greater) ease than men while upholding company values and strategy” (Mathews Daniel Kapito); “Having senior female leaders should lead to higher engagement and better retention of a more diverse workforce” (Danielle); “Winning in this age requires more cross-disciplinary thinking… Women, in my experience, are better thought integrators.” (Allison S. A. Graves); “Many studies suggest that women tend to score higher on tests of social sensitivity than men do … great team performance is connected to the social sensitivity factor within the team” (Julia); and “Emotional intelligence could be a factor… Women tend to have more of it than men, through nurturing, but it seems that men can learn it.” (Paul B).

Lest we became too involved in the complexities of human nature, Amy reminded us that the answer is obvious. “Women executives have to be at least twice as good as their male counterparts to get to that level.” And Hugh Quick asked the possibly rhetorical question, “Could it be that some women are good at running things?”

Guy Higgins opined that diversity, more broadly defined, might have produced the same results as the McKinsey study. He commented that improved performance is not about gender diversity, but rather about cognitive diversity–“differences in the way that we see and categorize the world, the way we solve problems and the way that we make predictions.” A comment from “The Real Deal” echoes this belief: “If you want real diversity, surround yourself with people from different backgrounds who do not think like you. You could hire 50% women, and if they are clones of your existing leaders, in terms of how they think … then you in reality have diversity only on paper.”

There were several criticisms of the fact that the research identified correlations, not causes.

Norman Toy made the point by stressing the especially mischievous nature of the use of correlation in this case. In his words, “One interpretation is that … Gender Diversity = Financial Performance. An alternative explanation might go the other way: Financial Performance = Gender Diversity. Well off firms have much more flexibility to experiment, meet diversity goals and so forth.” Patrick Schild, while disagreeing with the premise, noted that such research could even be used to support the opinion of a European consultant that “those companies with female executives on top level are … (hold your breath) … only those who can afford having women on the board.” The research clearly did not meet the standards of these respondents.

For them, we’re still left with the question, does gender diversity in management enhance performance? What do you think?

Original Column

Gender equality in leadership is a topic appearing with increasing frequency among the research reports, books, and opinion pieces crossing my desk. Perhaps one reason is the candidacy of women for the Presidency of the United States in both parties.

Whatever the reason, research is shedding interesting insights on the issue. Findings of a recent McKinsey Global Institute study include: (1) lack of gender diversity is associated with a greater likelihood of below par performance in a sample of 366 companies in Canada, Latin America, United Kingdom, and the US, and (2) when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful.

One response to the research is to disagree with the premise and methodology. Studies like these can be easy targets. Three hundred sixty-six companies spread across a number of countries is a small sample. Although gender and financial data are straightforward, they are not always easy to obtain with complete accuracy. And, like many studies, these correlate gender diversity with financial performance. That is, they are found together. But that doesn’t mean that gender diversity necessarily accounts for much if any of the performance.

On the other hand, a number of studies have compared the management styles of women and men. Even though there is a wide overlap on most dimensions among most leaders, there are differences on some dimensions among some members of each of the samples that have been studied. But these studies raise as many questions as they answer.

Is there, for example, a tendency for some women leaders to excel in such things as relating to others, questioning themselves at important junctures in the decision-making process, being sensitive to others’ needs and interactions, and weighing various sides in an argument? Does the fact that women influence 70 percent of consumer purchase decisions favor gender-diverse companies?

Whatever the reason, an earlier McKinsey study, in 2007, of more than 58,000 employees of 101 organizations worldwide found significant differences in economic performance between those with at least 30 percent women in senior leadership versus those with no female representation.

In gender diverse organizations, surveyed employees gave higher marks to their organizations in areas that are linked to better performance results including the work environment and values, direction, coordination and control, and of leadership. One the other hand, in organizations lacking gender diversity, employees gave lower marks to their companies for such factors as motivation, capability, accountability, and innovation. There was little or no effect until women held 30 percent of the leadership positions in an organization.

This is a complex topic with much research remaining to be done. We’re still relying on personal experience for too many of our conclusions. What do your personal experiences and intuition tell you? Why does lack of gender diversity hurt corporate performance? What do you think?