Small Business Motivation Problem

Quite often I see the same issue repeating itself over and over again. There’s a small business which operates almost on a shoestring budget. Then there’s a business owner who, out of all things, afraid to move in either direction because it is quite clear to him – one wrong move and he’s out of the money and out of the business. Then employees come into picture and start pressuring business owner for raise, more perks or simply new equipment.

If he concedes – he’s back to the same issue of money shortage. If he refuses – employees become less and less motivated, until it gets to the point where no work is done. Then the business owner has to go through a whole round of cycling the workforce which is as expensive as it is exhausting.

Every small business, once in a while, hits this rock. Almost every business addresses the issue – one way or another. Some survive. Some – not so much. However, the question remains the same – how to keep employees motivated to work on a lower wage than they could have gotten if they looked hard and long enough? How to deter the motivation degradation, that eventually becomes sand in the gears, fifth wheel in the cart and whatever else you can think of that doesn’t help business moving forward.

First thing any business owner should understand is that no matter what is said and done in the company, unless the employee is a managing partner – he would never care about the business as much as the owner. Even more so, any small business that treats its workers with little respect is doomed to have a low motivation problem. Whatever can be stolen – will be stolen. Whatever can be neglected (even at the risk of having an argument with the boss) will be neglected. Employees will constantly be late, leave early, or, if that’s somehow restricted, will slack off during the day.

As an example I will tell the story about one IT department I used to work for some years ago. The company had pretty much any internet activity restricted and forbidden. There were no Facebook back then, but there were chat rooms, dating sites, discussion forums and other perfect methods of spending a day at work without doing any actual work. As any strong medicine this had its side effects. People were unable to find the information they needed. There were no blogs, but there was some technical documentation, newsgroups and forums, where actual meaningful discussion ensued. Ah, those were the good old days. It turned out, IT people spent enormous amounts of time carving multiple workarounds to access the sites they needed. Sites they needed to do their work, mind you, but once you’re breathing the freedom – you want to fully explore it. Having those boundaries not be in place – any worker could have the information he or she needs in minutes and would go back to work. But creating walls around people to make them work harder achieves only one thing – making sure these people will try to traverse these walls as hard as possible – work or no work.

So what does this has to do with motivation? Everything! Given the right motivation people would be willing to sacrifice other things. As an example – the organization above had one of the fastest internet connections at that time, so for any IT geek it was obviously a better place to work. I know, sounds funny, but that was the case.

Many small business owners are too afraid to look deep into their employees. Everybody’s got their reasons, of course, but generally they’re afraid to be met with ignorance. However the case may be, business owners should still try and understand – what drives this person? Why did they choose to work for me? What’s in it for them? Maybe it sounds like a too much of a job – to look into that $10/hour kid, but it may bring back a lot more value. Maybe your business could become a major stepping stone in this kid’s career, so he will be willing to go an extra mile or two for a good reference and valuable experience.

An extra mile or two from every employee in a company totals for a good deal of distance these people are willing to carry your business for free. It isn’t something a business owner should easily overlook – especially one with strained budget.


New Laptop Is In The House: Lenovo W701 Core i7 Review

Lenovo-W701 Review As you may have already noticed, I always was a ThinkPad junkie. This year I did a very extensive research, having that Lenovo was one of the last manufacturers to add Core i7-based laptops to their inventory. None of the laptops appealed as a worthy replacement, so as soon as W701 model was up on Lenovo’s site I had it ordered.

The specs aren’t beefed up as much as I would want them to be, but 8GB of RAM (with ability to upgrade to 16GB) and Core i7 were a must. While I was at it, for some reason, I decided to go with 17 inch screen option – which clearly was a mistake. The laptop came out to be extremely bulky and heavy – which sort of defies the whole purpose of having a laptop as a mobile (as in – you will be able to move with it) computer. On a bright side – the system can host 2 hard drives (with option for RAID) and an optical drive, something that had cost me a USB slot before.

The screen option, since I was going with 17 inches, is the WUXGA (1920×1200) RGB-LED-BL with hueyPro color calibrator. Since I do a lot of photography this turned out to be a good idea, having right colors and all. Of course, I did calibrate all my previous screens, but having a combo of a high-quality screen and color calibrator tailored for that specific screen is definitely a better approach.

Next big thing for any laptop is the keyboard. You think having laptops so many years around most manufacturers would have that part figured out, but it’s not the case. Most of them, following Apple’s lead, have attempted to create those “island” keys. They might look good, but hardly useful, especially for people who alternate between different keyboards all the time. Lenovo, while also following the trend with such keyboard on ThinkPad Edge systems, have made yet another improvement to the “real” ThinkPad keyboards. Just as I fell in love with my T42 keyboard and somewhat disliked T60’s, the keyboard on W701 is a step above all. Typing is a pure pleasure I haven’t experienced anywhere else. Since the size of the laptop allows it (it’s a beast) Lenovo has a numeric keypad included as well. Not that I personally has any use for it, but I’m sure I will – now that I have it available.

Perks of the system, aside from 5 USB ports, CompactFlahs and SD card slots, color calibration, web cam, fingerprint reader and both DVI and VGA connectors include small Wacom tablet with Wacom pen (which even has its own storage in the right side of the frame). While ordering I thought of this as of purely waste of money (there is no way to skip it if you order color calibrator option), but surprisingly I had immediately found the pen option very useful. Some of my mail (the one that comes in paper form) was stolen and some bank statements with it. Obviously I had to close the account and move all the automatic payments to new one, which – in some cases – requires sending a voided check with account number. So I scanned the check, voided it by simply writing over it with Wacom pen, signed all the required forms using the same pen and e-mailed everything back within minutes. Once I’ve realized what just happened I thought that such option might have some merit not only for artists, but even for ordinary people like me.

Overall build of the laptop feels bulky, old and excessive. I am used to thin boundaries of the screen, so the W701’s full inch (or more – on the top and bottom) frame around 17″ screen looks ancient. I am sure there are perfectly justifiable technology reasons behind it, like wireless antennas, web cam and so on, but I’m a consumer and I don’t care – I want the frame around my screen to be as thin as possible.

Speaking of bulky – the power supply issue is one of my major points of despair. Lenovo has changed the power connector YET AGAIN! Older power supplies from T60 and X60 series are not compatible – just like they weren’t between T40 and T60. But more to that – the power supply falls a few inches short of the size of my X61s. Yes, it’s that large. Surely, you need a lot of juice to power this laptop, but the power brick the size of another laptop itself – that’s something.

The battery is located underneath the front edge, below the keyboard, and there is no room for a larger battery, like in case of IBM/Lenovo T series. I realize that this is a desktop replacement, not really a portable solution, but it is still a laptop, so some effort should have been made to make larger batteries available. Given that 9 cell can only drive this powerhorse for less than 2 hours, I want more options.

The W line of ThinkPads is a newer addition to the growing inventory of Lenovo laptops. The T series is no longer a top level in terms of performance. Lenovo seem to be bringing the best from A, R and T series into the W line, but there’s definitely a room for improvement. We all used to having limited options for our hardware configurations, but given the size and capabilities of Lenovo’s T and W series, I would expect a lot more options in the next iterations.

The overall experience (I am using W701 for two weeks now) is very positive. Of course, there are couple of drawbacks, but in general I am very happy about the purchase – it provides me with all the features I need to get current and most of the future things done.