Monthly Archives: October 2016

Smart Manufacturing

To succeed in manufacturing – or in any business – you need strong leadership at all levels of the organization. This book excerpt explains why and discusses 4 critical element of good leadership.

Don’t bother with smart manufacturing if you have a dumb workforce. And if your workforce is dumb, it’s your fault, not theirs. Don’t bother with an IT revolution. Your revolution has to start with a “Smart Workforce”. You have to make a new compact with your employees. You need to ignite the human spirit in your workforce. Imagine this. What would happen if every day your employees came to work excited to do better today than they did yesterday? Imagine how your company would soar if your employees were absolutely dedicated to supporting the mission and each other in attaining it? Imagine what it would be like if your employees were like Cirque de Soleil performers?

This is the place where I get blank stares from many CEO’s. They don’t like the “soft stuff.” “Give me the hard stuff,” they say. “Tell me how to build a smart factory, not a smart workforce,” is what I often hear.

It has to be the other way around. Start by building a smart workforce. A workforce that is engaged, enlightened, and empowered. A workforce that trusts in its leadership. A workforce that believes in its leadership. Tall order to be sure-especially if the leadership is a bunch of boneheads that care more about depreciation than employee engagement.

Here are four key ways to start:

1. At the top. Build leadership credibility. The only way to have leadership credibility is if your leaders demonstrate key values of respect and integrity.

2. Leaders need to treat their employees with respect. But many don’t. In a recent Harvard Business School study of 20,000 employees half of them did not feel respected by their leaders. And respect was rated by the participants as more important than anything else, including compensation. Imagine how the company performance would skyrocket if you solved this one problem alone.

3. Leaders have to demonstrate integrity. In study after study, integrity is a key attribute in leaders that people admire-and want to follow. So integrity is a key part of building credibility. But leaders also need integrity in everything they say. You can’t be like many leaders and “tell half the truth, hoping the other half doesn’t show up”. You have to be bone honest all the time. You have to tell them what they need to know. If the company is headed for trouble, tell them. If the company needs to pivot into new markets or products, tell them. And tell them why. Tell them everything. You would be amazed at how smart your workforce can be if you give them half a chance. I always say “trust in truth”.

4. This is not just for the top. Your entire workforce has to embrace the values of respect and integrity. But you cannot expect “people below to do what the top will not”. You may have leaders that lost credibility long ago. They can’t get it back. You have to replace them.

Smart manufacturing starts at the top, not the bottom. Smart manufacturing starts with creating a new compact with the workforce. Smart manufacturing starts with people, not machines.

Winter Blues When You Work from Home

The winter blues can be a real problem for business owners who work from home. Here are six mood-boosting strategies you can put to work when colder weather and shorter days begin to get the best of you.

winter bluesThe winter blues are no joke. According to a recent study by Villanova, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) impacts up to 5 percent of the population, while 10 to 20 percent of people endure a less severe version of the condition.

As a freelancer, you might not have to join your peers in their snowy slogs to work during the winter months. However, that doesn’t mean you’re immune from SAD and its effects. On the contrary, a slew of recent articles suggests that freelancers suffer from winter blues just as often as their 9 to 5 counterparts if not more frequently. And they have a lower overall evaluative wellbeing than their counterparts who are employed full time.

Here are some actionable tips to help you beat back the winter blues when you work from home.

Get Moving

Not only is exercise essential for controlling weight and maintaining health, but it can also help fight depression. Research shows that working out causes the body to release endorphins, which interact with the brain to reduce perception of pain. The end result is that you feel happier and less depressed.

As a freelancer, you can use exercise as a way to minimize the effects of SAD. If you don’t want to shell out for a gym membership, consider watching workout DVDs or YouTube videos, buying some hand weights, or even just taking a daily walk around the neighborhood.

Take a Daylight Break

Most of us tend to work during normal business hours, i.e. from 9am to 5pm. However, as a freelancer, you might be able to shift your schedule so you can enjoy the daylight while your peers are stuck in their cubicles.

While you don’t have to become nocturnal during the winter months, consider taking a couple hours off work in the middle of the day – say around 2pm – to get out and enjoy the sun. Along with the burst in energy, you’ll benefit from the extra vitamin D at this time of day. You can make up the work in the evening, when it’s cold and dark.

Find Out if You’re SAD

Some of us get a little blue during the colder, darker months of winter. Other people experience the full-on depression known as seasonal affective disorder. Symptoms of this serious condition include tiredness, oversleeping, weight gain, and irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic.

These days, SAD sufferers don’t have to endure their pain in silence. If you have this condition, consider upping your vitamin D intake with daily supplements. You can also open your curtains, move your desk near the window, and even purchase a special lamp that simulates the effects of the sun. According to research by the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD is caused mainly by lack of sunlight, and you can mitigate that winter deprivation with regular phototherapy.

Get Out of the House

Being home alone can leave you feeling, well, lonely. And the problem only intensifies during the winter months. Fortunately, you can boost your spirits by working out of your local library or café. Not only is getting out of the house a good spirit booster, but being in a new setting can also spur your creativity. And as an added bonus, you can enjoy a mocha latte while you tackle one of the less enjoyable items on your task list.


During the winter months, it’s tempting to spend your days holed up on the couch with your slippers and blanket. However, if you want to stave off seasonal depression, it’s important to get out of the house and see people. Winter is a great time to do that networking you neglected during the busy summer months.

Meet up with a fellow freelancer to work together at your local Starbucks. If you don’t know any work-from-homers in your area, consider reaching out to some of the LinkedIn contacts you’ve been meaning to get to know better. You can also do some research about upcoming networking events in your region. With a little effort, you can fight depression while increasing your employment opportunities for the coming years.

Embrace the Season

It’s easy to write off winter as that long and pointless period after the end-of-year holidays and before spring rolls around. However, thinking of the cold-weather months in this manner will likely just increase your feelings of depression. Instead, freelancers and others should try to embrace the benefits of winter.

Schedule time to participate in your favorite winter activities, such as outdoor ice skating, skiing, and sledding with the kids. You can also enjoy indoor winter treats, like hot cocoa, roaring fires, and cuddling on the couch with your sweetie after work. So, the next time you’re feeling blue, strive to celebrate winter instead of disparaging it.

Alternatives Office Space to Working from Home

Need office space because you’ve outgrown your home office or because you can’t run your business from home? Consider these home office alternatives.

Running a small business from home offers many advantages, especially for startups. With no commute and no rent to pay, you have more time to work on the business and more profits to put in the bank. Yet despite the convenience and cost savings, operating a business from home isn’t for everyone.

For instance, businesses that get a lot of deliveries, store equipment or trucks on the property, or have a number of employees, patients or customers coming and going generally can’t be run from a residential location. Business owners who need a professional location to meet with clients or patients generally need some environment other than a home office for their business, too. The same is true for one-person businesses that are expanding and hiring employees. Then, too, there are business owners who find there are too many distractions to work productively at home, or that working at home all the time is too isolating.

Fortunately, if you can’t or don’t want to run your business from home or if you’ve outgrown your home office, there a number of alternatives to consider. What’s right for you will depend on what type of business you run, what your customers or clients expect, what kind of space is available in your locality, and how much you can afford to spend for office space.

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are a relatively new concept in the business world. The concept appears to go back to the 1990s when a few companies began to offer working space that would bring together people with no business relationship to each other, allowing them to work in a single, open location. Today, coworking appeals to solopreneurs, telecommuters working for larger companies, freelancers, and small business (both established and start-up). Coworking spaces provide internet access and other services along with desk space. Depending on the location and plan, the desk space may be a seat at a long table with many people working on their laptops, or an individual desk in an open area (as opposed to a private office). For many users, the main attraction of a coworking space is the community aspect.

“People who work from home — freelancers, early stage entrepreneurs and others – don’t have a team to work with,” explains Natasha Juliana, co-owner of WORK, a coworking space in Petaluma, CA. “They’re working on a computer by themselves and miss the contact with other humans in this digital world. Using a coworking space adds that human element back in their workday.”

Fostering that community feeling, is something WORK Petaluma focuses on, too. The company runs coffee socials, offers lunchtime business lessons, holds holiday parties and other events to help its members get acquainted and make friends. “People sign up for the desk or office space,” Natasha says, “but they stay because of the community. Most of the regulars know each other. It’s like going to any office. They ask how each other’s weekends were, go to lunch together, share in each others’ successes and often get help from others in the facility when they need it.”

Furnished Office Suites

Business owners who prefer a private office but don’t want to pay to furnish it or sign multi-year leases often opt for renting a furnished office suite on a part-time, full-time or as-needed basis from a company such as Regus™ that provide ready-to-go offices and office services. These companies, which operate in many cities and suburban areas, make individual offices available for rental and provide you with internet and telephone services, shared receptionist, conference room availability, business address, mail receiving and forwarding, and other amenities, depending on the package you purchase.

When attorney at law Lisa Pomerantz started her practice, her first significant engagement was creating compliance training programs. “That was something I could do from home,” she says. “But when I refocused on developing a more conventional legal practice, I started renting office space and a conference room on an as-needed basis from the Regus office center in Bohemia, NY.” Her practice focuses on business and employment law and grew quickly, so she rented an office suite from the Regus facility on a full-time basis. Today she is also a mediator and arbitrator of business and employment disputes and finds the professional space and availability of conference room and limited clerical support at the Regus office center is perfect for her needs.

Regus, which has 3,000 locations in 900 cities around the world is probably the most recognized name in the field, but there are other companies as well. To find furnished office suites in your location, search online for the term “furnished office” or “executive suites” followed by your town or county. When you search, you’ll find that some companies known for providing office suites, also offer coworking arrangements. Similarly some companies that primarily offer coworking spaces have some private offices available as well.

Before finalizing arrangements with any company that provides office space and services or salon space be sure to read their contract carefully, noting how long the agreement is for, whether or not it automatically renews, and the time frame during which you are allowed to terminate the agreement.

Furnished Salons

If you are a hairdresser, nail technician and want to set up a your own salon without renting a storefront and buying expensive equipment, there are furnished salon suites available in many areas of the country through companies such as Sola Salons, My Salon Suite, and Phenix. As with office suites, before renting a salon suite, be sure you read and understand the contract. You need to be sure about and what you’re entitled to, what might be extra, and how you can terminate the agreement should your need change in the future.

Subleased Space

Another alternative to running a business from home and signing a lengthy lease is to sublease unused space from another business. Unlike renting space from an office center that leases temporary offices to many businesses, when you sublease you become an occupant in space some other company has leased for their own business.

Grace Freedson is a literary agent and book packager who left a job in the publishing industry a number of years ago to start her own company, Grace Freedson’s Publishing Network. The company, located in Woodbury, NY, works with authors to develop projects to bring to publishers and works with publishers to develop ideas for book and find authors to write them. Grace had planned to run the business from home, but having worked for a number of years in an office environment with lots of people around she found running her business from home “a little bit isolating.”

She wanted to be in a professional location, a short commute from home, and decided to look for space she could sublease. That way, while she would have her own office, she’d be part of an office suite, and not have her name on the lease. She was also able to save a bit on rent by subleasing. To find the first space she sublet, she went into some buildings where solo practitioners rented space, got their names and then send out letters to them asking if they had any unused space they were interested in subleasing.

Businesses that are willing to sublease space do so for a couple of reasons. In some cases the space may be available because the lessee (the business that leased the space) didn’t grow as much as they thought they would or because they have downsized their business. In other cases, a business may have chosen a space that was bigger than they need because they liked the location, and there was no smaller space available. No matter why the extra office space is available, if the company’s lease allows it, the lessee may be willing to sublease the unused space to you. To find subleasing opportunities, check local newspapers, search the Internet and Craig’s List for your area, and consider doing what Grace Freedson did – contact companies you think might have space they’d be willing to sublease.

Traditional Real Estate Lease

Businesses that have a need for several employees are likely to opt for a more traditional space, leasing space in an office building, retail location, or industrial park, depending on their needs. Sharon Hamilton, owner of Centennial Insurance Agency in Farmingville, NY, worked from home to launch her business in 2004, but after 6 months she moved the business into office space in a well-known and easily accessible building in town. “I needed a professional location to meet with prospects and clients, and an office big enough to hire employees,” she explains.

Although it’s usually not to difficult to find buildings with space to rent either by riding around a town and looking for “For Lease” signs or searching on the Internet, doing so can be time consuming, and sometimes the properties landlords try to lease on their own aren’t optimal. Sharon didn’t want to waste time and wanted to be sure to get the best office and location she could afford, so she worked with a commercial real estate agent to find space for her business.

The Right Space For You

There are lots of things to consider when you choose a non-home location for your business. To be sure you choose the best option, start out by listing your needs on paper. Put them in a checklist format, with the top priority needs for space on top of the list. Consider how long a lease you’re willing to sign, how far from your home you’re willing to travel, and whether or not you need to be near retail locations, or public transportation. Include things like the number of employees you plan, whether you want private offices for your employees, or a bullpen setup, whether you’ll need space for employees and customers to park, or have trucks or other equipment you’ll need to accommodate. Will the building need to project a professional atmosphere, or would warehouse or industrial space work. Are you willing to walk up stairs to get to an office that isn’t on the ground floor, or would you and clients require an elevator. Details such as these become especially important if you have to sign a multi-year lease. Finally, if your lease agreement involves a significant period of time and/or money, have an attorney review it and go over it with you.