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28h Febrary 2015
Going Japanese

“Success is 99% failure” - Soichiro Honda

We will cover three encapsulating concepts all originating from Japan. These are: Muda, Kaizen and Six Sigma. You will notice some, if not all, of these apparent in businesses around you even if the actual words are not vocalized.

Roughly translated, muda means “uselessness” or “wastefulness”. The idea is to reduce waste to minimize costs, time and resources and to increase bottom line profits. As with most things Japanese, the concept is wonderfully simplistic but taken very seriously. Companies such as Toyota are supremely efficient in employing this concept.

With my (extremely) limited Japanese, I do know Kaizen roughly means “creating change for the better”. Again, a single word for a big concept. The idea is that if you continuously improve as opposed to making step changes in products, solutions or manufacturing processes, you will always be one step ahead. Linked also with muda, the concept strives to eliminate waste. Under the kaizen umbrella you have quality circles, labour responsibilities and management teamwork. Well worth some additional Googling.

Six Sigma
Six sigma is said to be attributed to Motorola in 1986 (so says Wikipedia). This concept, again built upon continuous improvement, is aimed at eliminating defects within products. So much so that the target defect rate is 0.00034% - or more to the point the success rate is 99.99966%. The methods in this includes training ‘champions’ of areas requiring expertise, so that problems can be eliminated quickly and correctly.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time!

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27th February 2015
The Dark Side of Retail: Zero Hour Contracts

I thought I would take this opportunity just to draw some attention to some more darker practices that go on in retail. You've already seen how high I rate retail as a career with "Why Working in Retail is Not as Bad as You Think it is".

But now I want to draw your attention to zero-hour contracts.

Zero-Hour Contracts
So called 'casual contracts' have been in the news the last few years and not, generally, for good reasons. McDonalds and Dominos are said to have 90% of their staff on zero-hour contracts.

90%?! And this is on something that isn't even defined by law.

I truly think that risk of zero-hour contracts need to be taken seriously. A few people I know are not only on zero hour contracts but they're not allowed to take on other work. So, they're not guaranteed any work, they have to wait by the phone on the hope someone's phoning in sick or the shop is super busy and they need an extra hand.

Most of the time that phone doesn't ring.

The only jobs they can find also are offering zero-hour contracts, but they're not allowed to have two zero-hour contracts. It's disheartening, and from the business' point of view, how on Earth are you meant to engage your staff and get the most out of them when you treat them like that?

So, what do we do?

Now, there's always going to be someone that this arrangement works for: the worker who only comes back during half terms or the person whose getting into acting and wants the flexibility to turn down work if it doesn't fit in with their unpredictable schedule. But for the masses, I don't think it a positive working tool.

I would propose that zero-hour contracts should not take up more than 20% of any work force and there should be a minimum monthly payment in case of no hours been given. Clauses that disallow taking another job should be banned also to prevent chronic abuses because of someone's reliance on getting any work at all (if they're not already?).

What are your experiences? Do you agree? Maybe in my ignorance I have missed recent advances in this?

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26th February 2015
Business Lesson: The 4 P's

“Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing” Mike Volpe

This little bit of theory comes from business studies in relation to marketing-based theory. You also hear and see the actual content used within the market place, which is why I have included it here for you.

Coined by marketer Jerome McCarthy in 1960 as an attempt to classify what is needed to be looked at to market a product effectively. He broke it down into: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. We will now look at each of these in turn.

Either a physical product or an intangible service, the product has to be fit for purpose. It is the manufacture, quality, sourcing, aesthetics and ergonomics of the product and whether it is the right product for this moment in time.

The amount to be demanded in return for the product. To market it effectively, the price needs to be realistic, tailored to the market and have customers who are willing to pay that amount. For example, fuel is very price-sensitive - if you charge 50% more than your competitors you could never successfully market that product at that price.

Every avenue a marketer can take to communicate information about the product. Think TV ads, personal selling, PR outlets and word of mouth. Choosing the right promotion method to reach the right audience is key.

Effectively where customers can buy the product and how convenient it is to do so. If they cannot find the product in the right place, or distribution is poor then they cannot purchase it.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time!

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James Markey

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