We have no Trade Union!

The day dawned bright and sunny. During breakfast, I did repeat that wonderful cereal, bread available in most hotels in Germany, this one a very small one near the previous border between West and East Germany. What a huge variety they have. Following that wonderful start of the day I walked into the appointment, still with time to stop and observe the milestone that marks the old border.

We reached the new built premises in the former East Germany, was greeted with great care and attention and, always very efficiently, were immediately taken to the meeting room where the freshest coffee and assorted crackers were already waiting for us at our discretion. We waited just some moments for the company´s CEO and, after initial greetings and introductions, the meeting started with no more delays. I led the discussions and was translating it into English as we progressed.

Details were clarified and some steps forward were taken, in relation to the project we were discussing, with some new data and information coming onto the table. The preparatory phases for launching a new product or service in the market are very demanding. It is very important to do things right from the very beginning… or at least to work seriously on it.

One needs to be prepared to invest time and resources in research, analysis, understanding the market trends and what makes it tick, identify the players, establish the objectives, the strategy to achieve them, capitalize on the strengths and overcoming the weaknesses, establish the right structure, logistics… already tired? Think first before you move on. Without a clear picture of the targeted market and without understanding it from various angles, it is impossible to establish the most appropriate launching program for a new product or service.

This becomes even more important when the product or service are not an innovation in the market as differentiation becomes a real challenge.

Unfortunately, our Project Manager, an excellent person, frustrated our expectations. He was insecure and poorly prepared, casting doubt on his ability to successfully lead the project for which he was hired. On the following day, a serious conversation took place in a truly professional environment. It was a come-to- Jesus moment resulting in the end of the contractual relationship. Today, more than ever, time is too precious. Losing time means losing opportunities and the market is unforgiving towards companies that do not understand this reality. We face today a very difficult and challenging market environment which stresses how important it is to take decisions when they have to be taken. Loosing time makes things much harder.

After the meeting, and whilst talking to the CEO of this company, I brought up the subject of the relationship between the company and the union. He looked at me with a smile in his face and said with pride and satisfaction:

We have neither works council nor trade union representation. Our workers feel happy and thankful for the job opportunities we have created for them. We are the company that employs more people in the region and everyone knows and recognizes how huge the investment we have made is. They are thankful. We trust them and they are totally committed.”

How wonderful! It would be nice if this would always be the case. Unfortunately, not the case in most companies, neither in Portugal nor in other countries in the world I guess. How often do we find a real “fusion” between those who created the conditions to hire people and those who have been hired and are thankful for that?

Does every demagogic discussion around this matter, showing those who invested their savings in the creation of a company in a bad light, (savings that were achieved as a result of serious and honest work), affect the relationship between entrepreneurs and their workers?

The risks that entrepreneurs run, when they could have used their savings in pure fun throughout his life, working for others, is often undervalued and not recognized. Starting with those who have a decent work, paid and paid on time.

In the meetings that I have with my clients, I find that in fact, the greatest challenge, is for them to have dedicated people working for them that realize they are being rewarded for their work and more importantly, feel grateful for it. Few are those who understand and recognize that the greater their contribution, the greater the safety at work and more likely the possibility to see their conditions improved. For many entrepreneurs, the difficulties begin when they need to hire additional people, since many prefer the unemployment money and the good life without responsibilities than to take on a job offer – Please notice I wrote work.

(Note: I am referring to clients I have in Portugal)

Finally, I would like to share the opinion that there should be more responsibility on the part of those who have access and dominate the media. An organization works perfectly when there is a perfect symbiosis between their leaders, partners or not, and employees.

It is sad that many who talk, talk, talk and do nothing, continue to dominate the media, people such as politicians, commentators and related. They do not know the real country or maybe they do not want to know, firstly because they do not know many of them truly what the word work really means, and secondly, it does not really interest them because the reality is quite different from the one on which they base their fallacies.

What are your thoughts on it? Let us know your comments.

Post by José Ferreira Duarte


Good Communication in Business

Good Communication in Business

I venture to say that the vast majority of problems in business are related to communication:
– Good, less good, non-existent… but always communication, or lack of it.

What are the pillars upon which effective communication is based? In my opinion, there are 4, the minimum for a stable foundation.

1. “C’est le ton qui fait la musique“, not what we say but how we say;
2. It is the content, the content of what we say;
3. The relevance of what is said, when it is said and where;
4. The ones I am communicating to, here and now, are really those to whom this communication is supposed to be addressed to?

There are certainly more things to consider about effective communication. I gave preference to the practical aspects of it since too often, over elaborated communications do not reach the audience they are supposed to reach and do not help in achieving the desired objectives.

Communication is always a two-way process. If this is not the case, then, is not communication, it is a monologue – the word of one! That is why it is so important to get to know the reality viewed from different angles.

Good communication is essential to clarify objectives, align strategies, define tasks, identify who is responsible for what… and last but not the least, to have an effective and cohesive team.

Effective communication in business is like the oil that lubricates the engine, allows all its parts to work smoothly avoiding overheating. Effective communication knows how to listen and motivates the participation of all members of the organization, empowering them to be more and more involved in the company´s life. Good communication ensures that all parts of the organization work in achieving the common goal, understanding that tasks and responsibilities are different.

Good communication is powerful and enthusiastic, involves and excites, energizes and takes everyone in the place where the impossible of yesterday, although difficult to achieve, is considered as just another challenge that can be surpassed and overcome today.

Effective communication_jfd-biz

Good communication is powerful and enthusiastic, involves and excites, energizes and takes everyone in the place where the impossible of yesterday, although difficult to achieve, is considered as just another challenge that can be surpassed and overcome today.

The objectives of the organization are achievable through the implementation of individual objectives and these rely heavily on the quality of communication. One should not fail to stress however that hard work, cooperation and collaboration among all departments, among all employees and across every layer of the organizational structure of the company, are as well factors of significant importance.

It is essential that communication produces knowledge and that this acquired knowledge, through execution, improve everyone´s skills. This is the only way towards achieving the competitive advantages so necessary to succeed in today´s business life.

How do you get to practice effective communication? Formal or informal communication, between peers at all levels, from managers to employees or vice versa, an effective communication, one that works, in addition to the aspects mentioned above, must always have a common denominator, and that common denominator is Respect. As Luke wrote in the New Testament: “Do to others as you have them do to you!”

Respect for the experience and knowledge. Respect for the responsibilities and tasks of each other. Respect to entities, institutions, customers… if respect is missing from communication, there is no real communication, just sounds that are not registered, even if these sounds are a delight to the ears of those who produce them. But do not delude yourself, only mutual respect for the rights and duties of either party form the solid foundations for progress.

By José Ferreira Duarte

P.S. In future posts I will continue with some reflections on this important area of business life!


No one motivates me in my company

No one motivates me in my company

How do I keep my fellow co-workers highly motivated?

If one could achieve high motivation levels through salary increases, higher commissions, easy to achieve bonuses and many countless fringe benefits, getting as a result better productivity outputs and higher return on investment, outweighing investments done, who in their right mind would not be keen to follow this path?

There are always exceptions which I am not considering, such as some small departments in medium and large companies or small businesses with a few employees who “never work“, doing what they do with pleasure, and in these cases, whether they are between four walls in the so-called office, in a garage or Co working space, at home or at a coffee table, working is not working, rather something useful with which they keep themselves busy getting great pleasure out of it.

The question so many often repeated to us is:

– What should I do to motivate my co-workers?

This type of question reveals in itself another concern: "my employees are not motivated". If the question is rephrased what many really want an answer to is:

– What do I have to do to motivate those who are not motivated?

Is it possible for me to motivate someone who is not motivated? Someone that does not find in himself the driving motivational force that leads to the execution of the assigned tasks with rigor, commitment, dedication?

Or is it the case that all these motivation talk is nothing else than a myth, and, in fact, the decision to stay or not to stay motivated lies only and exclusively, at work or in any other area of life, on myself?

How is someone able to motivate those who think they are not paid enough to produce as much as they are asked for?

How will someone motivates those who have lost interest as a result of not having received any salary upgrade for a long period of time? This in spite of the company they work for having managed to keep their job place?What can be done to help someone staying motivated and focused on going for the achievement of established goals?

What can be done to help someone to face the fear of trying different ways, other avenues that may take that person from where he is now to where he wants to be, understanding that it will never be the same as before, hence a completely different and potentially a better place to be than the previous one?

How will I motivate someone who believes he is just a number? Someone who is convinced that those around him, professional peers, do not try hard enough and do not want to try harder because they are of the opinion that the company does not deserve it? And for this reason that individual does not do it as well.

How to motivate someone who thinks that is not recognized and that his superiors are much more demanding with him than with others, therefore it is not worth to work harder as nothing he does will be recognized?

… And so on.

What really motivates employees?

The salary and the conditions being offered?

– The work in itself?

– Success?

– Status?

– Promotion opportunities?

– The value they help to create for the company they work for?

– Being respected and recognized?

– Realizing that what they produce is properly valued?

– Being constantly challenged to overcome their limits?

– Their contributions at valuing the work of those around them?

– Their direct input towards wealth creation, company and country wise?

– Feeling good about value given to their suggestions?

– Participating in the discussions of company´s strategic decisions?

help your business to grow

To motivate is about to challenge, it is about rigor and seriousness, a sense of justice, recognition at the right time and place. Motivation is about discipline, clear objectives, focus on fulfilling them, and actually achieving them. The act of motivating is stimulating, interesting, provocative, demanding. And only those who feel at ease in this “territory” will be receptive to this approach, a clear, unambiguous, transparent approach.

If what motivates me is united with the principles, values and philosophy of those with whom I share my day to day work; if I feel constantly challenged and that is a stimulus for me; if besides everything else I am able to participate in the company´s day to day business and are respected for it; if there is a high level of demand but also recognition; if discipline creates a healthy and challenging work environment… Then the first step towards being motivated is done. The alternatives are simple: If I feel fine with it, I go for the challenge, fight for it! if I do not feel comfortable with it, then it is time to give up.

Overcoming today´s difficulties that affect countries and companies, successfully facing the challenges of growth, can only be achieved if the “whole” is motivated around the achievement of common goals, realizing that every single unit of this whole, each part of it is responsible for the task in hand. The entrepreneurship and commitment efforts of all will be greater than the sum of the parts.

The changes that took place in recent years, both in “internal customers” as well as “external customers“, are irreversible and these changes need, without a doubt, a new leadership able to involve all employees, keeping them fully focused on what they can do to improve and not in finding excuses to justify lack of initiative or poor results. We all need teams that are fully motivated, fully aware that the challenges of the future will only be overcome with total commitment in the present.

But we do also need, particularly in Portugal, less restrictive labor laws. Labor laws that are more entrepreneurial, friendly, that offer more agile and faster actions to remove those in teams that “kill time” at work and produce nothing. Maybe a different approach would lead to changes more rapidly in order to guarantee survival in a “new world and a new reality

As far as I am concerned, it is up to me to decide! If I am not feeling motivated anymore, if I lose that fuel, that inspiration, that power that gets up with me every morning and follows me like a shadow, everywhere I go, any place where I always feel realized producing and making things happen, then it is my decision to change! It is time to start the searching process for a better place where I will find self-realization. There is nothing less motivating than resigning internally and then force myself to do what I do not enjoy doing.

If I´m not motivated to do what I do, why do I continue to bother me going every single day to where I do not feel well? So the decision is mine and there is no law requiring me to continue to feel unmotivated where I am, where I spend most of the days of my life. It is better to start the process of change now, rather than later, because time goes by too quickly and tomorrow may be too late.

On the side of responsible leaders and managers, entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium enterprises, those that enjoy what they do and need People living intensely as they do, the projects and tasks they are dedicated to, need sometimes to take the initiative, helping those who are no longer happy working in their teams with the only left option which is, sometimes, to show them the exit door, exactly the same door they came in the first time they joined the company: “If you do not feel well doing what you do, then it is time for you to look for an alternative. I am available to support you in that process. We’ve tested several solutions already and nothing seems to have a positive impact on your attitude and behavior. I do not believe anymore this is the place where you will realize yourself professionally. We, at our company, need people who love what they do, who get pleasure out of what they do and for whom there is no challenge that is not motivating“.

Tough? Very often, there is no other alternative than helping someone taking the action they need to take. Fear of change is indeed emotionally paralyzing and people are too afraid to try, remaining unhappy all the days of their life, if they do not get needed thrust.

By José Ferreira Duarte


Sharing experiences

Sharing experiences

I have already written my first post before even opening up why am I doing it. The main purpose about sharing my experiences is that, maybe, some will benefit some people among those who read them. The posts are and will be in the main a result of past and  present experiences, considerations and beliefs, some probably controversial, others not so much.

If just one person is enriched by the experiences I will share in my writings I’ll be very happy with the result. I know I cannot change the world, but perhaps, I can help someone who might change the world.

There were several times during my professional life when, reflecting about decisions taken, I came up to the following conclusion: “If I knew what I know now…” It is possible that by sharing my experiences and considerations, some will benefit from it and learn something that is applicable to what they are going through, enabling them not to go through the same experience. There will always be situations where we all go through it: “If I knew it…” and this is part of the learning process; nevertheless, if one can reduce these events by simply benefiting from the experience of others,  that will be great.

Guy Kawasaki, in one of his books about startups writes the following: “My knowledge comes from my scars.” A statement with which I identify myself completely. I do not even know if “my skin” is nothing but just scars, so many were the hard times “on the battlefield” – that has been and always be life in business.

“I never thought of writing for reputation or honor. I need to let out what is in my heart; this is why I compose.” said Ludwig Van Beethoven.

I am not a musician or a literary genius, far from being an entrepreneur or a businessman  guru, however, as Ludwig, I am aligned with this idea: Sharing my experience is not a matter reputation or honor. I do it with because I love to share my experiences and maybe, among those who love challenges and love learning, there will  be some who will benefit from it.


Growing pains

Growing pains

It has been a name used for over 170 years. There are several explanations about its origin, however, the designation in itself and the root causes of it are not totally clarified. Growing pains are temporary and usually disappear in less than two years, say the experts.

And in the business? Is it possible that companies may also go through growing pains at some point in time? I dare say, yes, they do.

If management team and employees let themselves get into a sense of wonder, they lose as a result the sense of urgency and stagnation takes place.

In fact, they let themselves to be surpassed by competition, by the external factors that influence the market in which they operate, by the changes in buyers´ behavior… they do not grasp all that and continue to operate as they have always done, using the same methods, processes and strategies that helped them succeed in the past which unfortunately, are no longer suited to overcome the challenges of the present.

Does a football team when promoted from the third league for the second faces the same management challenges as previously? And further, if this same team climbs up to the first league and desires to compete with the best, do the challenges remain the same? The skills and competencies of management, coach and players, the strategy, the objectives… will they be the same?

When managers and their teams in an organization stop having a sense of urgency and stop aiming for continuous improvement of their employees and their products , services or processes, when they stop paying attention to what happens in the market place and forget that strategy is evolutionary and not static and customer needs are evolving, they get their company into a stage that I designate as growing pains. The culture of an organization needs to be always in development and senior and middle management cannot let themselves and their teams “swell” into past successes and belief that the way they did business “yesterday”, whether one thinks about “internal” or “external” customers, is the best way to do business “today”. When teams invariably start looking for reasons, all external by the way, to justify poor or mediocre performance, then please be reassured the growing pains are installed.

If these conditions are not quickly addressed, then acute growing pain can very easily become a chronic disease  that will rapidly, sometimes silently, will destroy everything that was conquered before with true dedication, commitment and sacrifice. Such an organization arriving to such a stage must wake up to it before it is too late.

Leaving a company to delight itself in the shadow of past successes, even if that is for a period of time of no long duration, will have negative effects on performance and will undermine the company´s ability to compete, I dare say, for at least a period that will be two to three times longer in “hibernation”. All knowledge acquired over time should be at the service of progress and evolution. Acquired knowledge without action leads consequently to stagnation.

An organization must remain permanently IDAN – “Inquiete“, “Dynamic“, “Attentive“, “Nervous” (word of Greek origin meaning “working a lot,” that is, does not get into complacency)

  • Must maintain a continuous investment in research and development. It is necessary to maintain a “pipeline” of new products, systems and solutions, and to continuously improve the features and processes of existing products and existing solutions respectively;
  • Should bet on marketing programs that are focused on customer needs and market developments in all its aspects as well as ensuring that the sales team is also focused on customers’ needs and capable of showing the added value customers will gain from the use of their products or services, as opposed to a team that just focuses on price;
  • Must insist on continuous improvement of its internal processes;
  • Should foster permanently the development of skills and competencies of its most important asset – People, challenging them continuously not letting them getting into the comfort zone, introducing strategically “new blood” into the organization – talent to confront the “status quo” and the “modus operandi“, however talented People that act with a responsible attitude tempered with the ability that children, for example, have to ask why and learn from their curiosity.
  • Should accept that those in the organization who allow themselves to get complacent and resist to continuous improvement should leave, otherwise they become a liability to the organization.

Although all organizations at some point in time may go through a period of growing pain, the most important thing is to be alert and realize that these periods can exist; only with this awareness will everyone in the organization be mobilized to ensure these periods are as short as possible.