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Entries in business (97)

Saturday
May102014

What Makes a Great Hotel

Squiggle art in my Baltimore hotel room. Fine art? No. Bright and friendly? Yep! April 2014.

I feel for hotels. People have endlessly different preferences in what they want and like, yet hotels need to cater to enough people to turn a steady profit on the high costs of real estate, property maintenance and upgrades, management, staffing, and service.

What I like in a hotel varies somewhat depending on the purpose of my visit. If on a pampering vacation, I’ll want more bells and whistles. Though, in truth, the completely spare, slightly run down, utilitarian hotels that I didn’t mind in my leaner youth—the ones that feel like communes or like staying in your distant aunt’s spare bedroom—no longer appeal for any occasion.

Yet for most purposes, business and pleasure, what I seek in a hotel has settled into certain grooves.

The Room

I like my room clean and bright. I’d rather not stay in a hotel room with dark wallpaper, gloomy artwork in heavy frames, and faux mahogany furniture. Small and spare seems appropriate; I don’t need and won’t use a desk, seating area, or large armoire. A shower serves better than a bathtub. I can’t imagine taking a bath in a hotel. (Even when the bathroom seems clean: Ick.)

In-room Amenities

I like a small refrigerator, wireless Internet, and a luggage stand. Refrigerators give me a space to put leftovers for breakfast and snacks. I rarely unpack anything that won’t seriously wrinkle; everything stays well organized in my packing cubes. And these days, speedy wireless Internet is like plumbing and electricity—expected and required.

Though less important, I like when the room has a hot-water maker for tea-making purposes—and I give bonus points if it provides tea bags (though, as I don’t expect either, you can count on me having tea bags in tow).

I don’t need a television or a radio clock or an appliance to plug in a music device.

Hotel Amenities

Does anyone use hotel business centers? I can go to FedEx Kinko’s if I need copies made and reports compiled and bound. Besides, I try to travel prepared.

Café-like common spaces in and near lobbies seem like a growing hotel trend. Keep this trend going, hotel world. I don’t like spending time in isolated, strange rooms. I like reading and working in these hotels’ new common areas, which feel like coffee shops or indoor piazzas. Any day or night, give me people, activity, vibrancy, life, and motion over a cramped desk piled with tourist books and magazines in a strange, cold hotel room.

Location

My preferred hotels have downtown locations with easy access to food, cafés, convenience stores, shopping, and even entertainment. Airport hotels and suburban hotels maroon a traveler; even if I have a car, I don’t want to get in it and drive for however long in an unfamiliar place for basic necessities.

What kind of hotel do you prefer?

Monday
Apr282014

Always Be Interviewing

A while back, I wrote a post about how companies should always be hiring. Let’s unpack this statement, because beyond the advantages of staying on the lookout for sharp people at all times, interviewing itself has intrinsic value:

  • Interviewing people seeking employment in your field will keep you up to date on the marketplace and your competition.
  • Meeting people interested in working with your company and with you adds value. What makes them interested? How did they learn about you and about your organization? How can you do more of the right things to build wider interest?
  • If a candidate attracted your attention, she will probably land somewhere interesting (even if not in your shop). Building a professional relationship with her could help you both down the road. Interviews make for good networking.
  • People leave—and people get fired. You can’t always predict either event. When staff members head for the door, it helps to have traction with people interested in your organization. Further, interviewing without desperation ensures you don’t ignore red flags, gloss over critical questions, and make hasty decisions.
  • As with everything, you get better at interviewing the more you interview. Practice leads to improvement. What questions elicit valuable answers—and which never do? How should you best structure interviews for your open position?

As I mentioned in my prior post on hiring, if you find someone knock-your-socks-off perfect for your company and you don’t have an open position, fight to create a role. Top-notch people will return significantly on the investment.

Seeing me interview used to raise the alarm among my team: Is someone leaving? Who’s getting fired? Is there a new position open? What’s going on? Over time, they’ve relaxed into the notion that I’ll always interview good candidates when they come to my attention. They’ve seen the benefits of the process (and some have even come on board as a result).

Does your company interview regularly?

Monday
Apr142014

Interviewing and Dating: The Similarities

Take it from an often-hiring CEO who has stayed single for a while and dates fairly regularly: Dating and interviewing have a lot in common.

Awkward to admit, but true.

  • First impressions matter too much: The location they choose or the state of the office, the first few seconds of the encounter and what you thought of their appearance and demeanor, and whether you liked each other after a little conversation matter more than they should, given that the focus should rest on determining long-term compatibility.
  • Stilted conversation: You want to make each other comfortable, but you need to elicit critical information through slightly intrusive questions that wouldn’t come up in natural conversation. And you’ll never learn enough through a few awkward exchanges.
  • Off-limits topics: Dating and interviewing etiquette (and, with hiring, laws as well) warn us against no-go conversations. Don’t talk about your recent relationships—or ask about his. If she asks what you do for fun, don’t say “video games,” even if true. Don’t confess how much your last boss annoyed you. Don’t ask about his personal life or beliefs.
  • Limited information: You can’t know much about someone or your compatibility with him until you collaborate. Yet with interviewing, as with dating, you must make decisions based on very little data.
  • No test run: Having someone work contract or dating someone casually for a few months would prove the best way to gauge compatibility, but most people want quick commitment.
  • Awkward partings: Saying goodbye at the end of the session feels stilted. Shake hands? Kiss on the cheek? Ask for the job? Ask for another date? Did he like me—and did I like him? How long should I wait for a call before following up?

I’ve actually learned from interviewing about dating—and vice versa. I’ve seen the pitfalls in both setups, and I’ve tried to develop techniques to avoid them, focus on what matters, recognize obfuscations and distractions, and make smarter decisions as a result.

How do you get to what really matters in a date or interview?

Sunday
Apr062014

Things I Love: April 2014

Let’s kick off the second quarter of 2014 (gulp) with a review of the things I love this month:

Levenger Page Nibs

My tin of Levenger Page Points, which they now call Page Nibs. April 6, 2014.

When I purchased them many moons ago, Levenger called them Page Points. Whatever you call these thin slivers of bronze, they sure do fit a number of purposes: place holders, line and paragraph marks, research tags for quick reference, and more.

These little nibs don’t poke beyond a book’s perimeter, yet their hue makes them effortless to find and their rigidity makes it easy to quickly turn to the pages they mark. They hold pages firmly, without sliding or falling off. Their points can demarcate specific lines of interest. And their thinness ensures they don’t damage your pages when slid into place.

Office Lens

I first heard about Microsoft’s Office Lens app in a blog post that I found by chance and can no longer find (apologies!).

Though I felt skeptical that it would work as well as advertised, I downloaded the free app onto my phone and used it to take a photo of a whiteboard in a meeting later that week. As promised, it made the whiteboard snapshot readable, searchable, synced it across all my devices via OneDrive, and paired it with the meeting notes I’d taken in OneNote.

I bow to you, Microsoft.

If you use Windows products—and few of us don’t—download Office Lens post haste.

Screenleap

A friend in Oregon introduced me to Screenleap when he used it to get my feedback on his new software project.

Anyone in business has attended or conducted teleconferences that require downloading programs and logging in to view someone’s screen. Many of these programs have more functionality than anyone actually uses—question-and-answer technology, audience surveys, videoconferencing, and even the ability to see whether attendees pay attention. Sometimes, you need these features. Most of the time, you don’t.

Enter Screenleap. Without any setup or installation requirements for anyone on either side of the interaction, you can share your screen. The site gives you a URL that you can provide to anyone you’d want to view your screen for any purpose—teleconferences, demonstrations, presentations, and more.

Pretty nifty. And the simplest service (for limited viewers and hours per day) costs nothing.

What do you love this month?

Tuesday
Mar252014

Why Going Negative Rarely Goes Well

Recently, a CEO e-mailed for professional advice. Some of the executives at his company wanted to spread negative publicity about a competitor. Their rival’s below-board financial dealings had come to light and my contact’s colleagues saw blood in the water. They wanted to go in for the kill.

“Not so fast,” I said.

Missing an Opportunity

Speaking badly of another person or company may pique your interlocutor’s interest, titillate, and bond you through shared outrage, yet you’ve just spent time and energy talking about someone else—not about yourself, your focus, or your services and offerings. Opportunity lost.

Evoking Negative Feelings

Going negative evokes feelings of danger, anxiety, dishonesty, corruption, and the like in someone you seek to woo.

Social psychologists have found that people see you in the light you shine on someone else. If you speak negatively about someone or something, the person to whom you speak will attribute the negative traits to you. (Social psychologists call this phenomenon “spontaneous trait transference.”)

Further, these associations persist over time, meaning that even if you speak neutrally in your next conversation, the negative perception remains.

Begging Retaliation

Remember the line about people in glass houses not throwing stones?

Folks who have never done anything wrong—advertently or inadvertently—have to number nearly zero. Even if we have the best intentions, we make mistakes.

Empathy alone should keep us from going negative. Yet if not out of empathy, we should avoid negativity out of self-interest: Trashing others goads them to dredge our pasts for dirty laundry to air in turn.

Looking Like a Gossip

Gossip seems fun in the moment. Yet etiquette experts have always cautioned against it. Gossip shows bad manners. Gossip means rudeness. Gossip connotes a lack of class.

And people want to associate with good, positive, classy people.

In a previous post, I discussed my surprise at how quickly politicians forgot the lesson of the 2008 election: People crave positivity. They seek glorious pictures of possibility.

The lesson proves true in politics, true in business, true in friendship, and true across the board.

Stay positive, people.

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