Happy workers are more profitable

Por Jose el 26.05.2010 // 1:07 pm en General

One of the keys to a company’s good performance is that employees’ performance is also good. An in order for the employees to perform, they must be happy with their job and tasks. As they say, workers are the company’s main assets.

What can we do so that workers are happy with their job? The question is not exactly right, it should be: what can we do so that workers are happy at the workplace? It’s not about having a laugh in the office, the main thing is that employees are happy at work. Unfortunately, in many occasions employees don’t have a passion for their jobs,  and that’s normal; what they want is to receive recognition.

And, what can we do as businessmen to achieve this? What makes employees happy is a good working environment, good chairs, natural lighting, good  temperature… apart from these elements, measures to achieve this depend on the amount of money the company is willing to invest, because it clearly is an investment. A simple solution that makes the office environment considerably better is for instance to have a proper coffee maker instead of a coffee machine. It might seem foolish but workers will feel you care about them.

Many of the contracts signed between a new employee and the company include sections on social benefits which can be restaurant vouchers, discounts for the gym or travel agencies, etc…

For John Hunt, Spain’s General Director of the ILO, happiness at work is “having a decent job, with safe working conditions, where the worker’s rights are protected, and where health and suitable training are guaranteed. If these requirements are not met, the worker is far from being happy”. Many might think that Mr.Hunt’s statements are obvious, but it is not so.

One of the most controversial issues between companies and their workers are working hours. Whenever  possible an agreement on the working hours should be reached, considering the employee’s performance . Of course this can not be done individually since in many occasions several people must be at the office (for example at lunch time), but this kind of measures contribute to workers’ happiness, and their performance.

Image - Flickr

Saving and being a green business

Por Jose el 24.05.2010 // 1:00 pm en General

The latest fad among multinational companies is to give a green image, pointing out what measures they are taking to save energy and to look for the environment. These measures normally entail saving of electricity and transport, two of the main ways of emitting CO2 into the environment.

These measures, which might seem trivial, save more money than you might think. Some of them are really obvious, but nevertheless useful for saving purposes in the middle and long term.

Turning the computers off when the working day is over might seem foolish, but if you don’t turn computers off, the time they are on without being used is longer than the actual time you are working with them. This also applies to all electronic devices that don’t need to be connected during the night, like lights obviously. Regarding lights, the best thing a company can do is to use low-energy light bulbs.

Natural light has proven to be much more beneficial than artificial light, so if possible, lights should be off and the workplace disposition should take profit of natural lighting. Moreover, workers are much more productive when the work environment is not stuffy, and that can only be achieved with good ventilation.

The use of printers is in many occasions excessive and unnecessary; if only necessary documents are printed, paper saving will increase. And when there is need to print, both sides of the paper must be used. Another good idea regarding printing is to adjust the printer’s options so that the fewest amount of ink is used. And we must not forget that cartridges can be recycled.

In countries like Spain, where temperatures vary widely between the summer and the winter, to properly regulate the office thermostat helps saving energy in air conditioning and heating. In order to achieve this, a perfectly isolated workplace is essential.

Moreover, if you have a website, all measures you take for a less polluted world should be underlined . Using this channel transmits your clients that you are a company with an ecological conscience.

Image - dreamymo

First impressions by BBVA Open Talent’s correspondent at San Francisco’s Web 2.0 Expo

Por Jose el 20.05.2010 // 1:20 pm en General

The next posts will try to faithfully portray our experience in  San Francisco’s Web 2.0 Expo. It has been one of the most enriching experiences of our professional lives. Being in such a city as San Francisco and having the chance to attend a world event like this at the same time has been just wonderful.

bbvaot 02We got to San Francisco one day before Web 2.0 Expo began, and we bumped into Spanish people when we hadn’t yet left the airport; an omen of the great amount of Spanish people we met during that week, and it’s always nice to meet fellow countrymen when you are abroad. We’ll talk about it later. After acting like tourists for the rest of the day, walking up and down the legendary San Francisco streets, we came back to the hotel to gain some strength for the week ahead of us.

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We expected to find massive queues at the door of pavilion the first day, but big surprise, there wasn’t hardly anybody queuing. The reason: the event’s “check-in” system is one of the fastest and most effective we have ever seen. It consisted in a few stands where you could log-in and immediately print your ID. Fast, simple and practical. They gave us a guide to the Expo at the door and that’s when our problems began, since the conferences were so many and so attractive that it was absolutely impossible to attend even half of them (and at the time we did not know that most conferences were on youtube and that we could get the presentations for the rest).

bbvaot 01There were 5 conferences average per room, and there were 8 different rooms each one of them focused on a different subject (design and user experience, development, strategy and business models, sponsorship, marketing, cell-phones and monetization were the main subjects). On Monday, the first day, we attended the “The lean startup”,  intensive led by Eric Ries, author of the book with the same name. According to Lean Startup philosophy, technology-based companies that try to find a successful business model before being left out of resources due to management changes, will succeed. The philosophy is based on the idea “Do a lot with very little”, that is, starting from a limited set of resources, try to get the most out of a product in as little time as possible. In this sense, “The lean startup” is mainly built on 4 principles:

- Lean manufacturing, focused on cutting down the production waste as much as possible (inventory, overproduction, waiting times, etc).

- Agile software development, based on short-time iterations to maximize results

- Experiment-driven development (http://www.infoq.com/news/2010/02/edd-post-agile), which bases the product’s development on user’s tests and behaviours.

- Customer development methodology, which is about developing a set of tests to determine if our product has potential clients even before it exists.

There is a lot of information on this respect and this methodology is currently at its peak, therefore we recommend everybody who might be interested to look into it. It was striking to see that many people already knew the method and truth is that these days, any methodology that helps minimizing expenses without compromising results is well-received.

Leadership and motivation

Por Jose el 16.04.2010 // 4:01 pm en General

Motivation is a key word for a company, its essence and the key to success, productivity, competitiveness… The real leader knows how to motivate. A good and knowledgeable businessman, director, or boss leading a great team will be beaten by other projects and initiatives in the mid-term if he/she does not know how to motivate his people.

In a company, a leader is the person who proves he/she can coordinate a team. In order to learn leadership capacity, accepting mistakes as part of the learning process is essential. The leadership capacity depends to a great extent on the leader’s ability to channel the knowledge of risk so that it becomes useful for the team work.

Motivation is at least as important as other key factors such as innovation capacity, investment capital or strategy. The way to motivate is one of the keys to success for the company. The art of motivation defines real leadership and is one of the most productive investments for a company.

Leaders have shown many different approaches regarding how they meet their responsibilities towards their followers. The most common method to analyze a leader’s behaviour is to classify the various existing leadership styles. Styles change depending on the duties he/she must carry out on his/her own, the responsibilities he/she wishes accepted and his/her philosophical commitment with performing and meeting his/her subordinates expectations. There are three leader types: the autocrat leader, who likes to be in charge of all the existing tasks because he/she does not trust his/her subordinates to do the job. The participatory leader, who does not delegate his right to make the final decision and who points out specific guidelines to his/her subordinates, but who also considers their ideas and opinions regarding many decisions that affect them.

Finally, the liberal leader, who we could say is the opposite of the autocrat leader. The liberal leader delegates the authority to make decisions to his/her delegates. In order for the decisions to be the best, subordinates must be highly qualified.

An important aspect we must underline is that being a boss is not the same thing as being a leader. A boss is such due to authority, he/she considers authority a command privilege, he/she inspires fear, he/she knows how are things done, he uses people as tokens and assigns tasks. On the contrary, a leader is such due to good will, he/she considers his/her authority a service privilege, he/she inspires trust, shows how things must be done, treats people well and sets an example.

Finally, these are the main traits that a leader must possess. He/she must belong to the group that he/she is leading. Each group devises its own ideal prototype, therefore there is not one single ideal for all groups. A leader must organize, watch, steer and sometimes just motivate the group to perform, or not to perform, certain actions, depending on the needs. These four leader skills are also called charisma.

The name also counts

Por Jose el 10.03.2010 // 8:47 pm en General

In a world ruled by marketing, the image a company conveys is essential. In this sense, there is nothing as important as the name. The name of the company and its marketed products is similar to the first impression one makes when meeting somebody for the first time. That is, it is the company’s visiting card and therefore key to its success or failure.

A good name must be flexible, differentiating, credible, consistent, outstanding, evocative, legible, easy to pronounce, simple and finally, easy to remember, especially when dealing with products rather than companies. Marketing’s discipline in charge of giving commercial names to products is called naming. Nevertheless, this discipline can also be applied to the naming of the company itself.

To name a product or company is no simple task and requires a great amount of wit, creativity and abstraction capacity. Many companies turn to naming consultancy services to launch new products or to create affiliates. International companies such as  Lekicon, NameLab, Nomen and Idiom are the ones in charge of “giving birth”  to the names of products that will be used worldwide. The problem is that their services are far from cheap: they go from 4,500 to 25,000 euros, amounts that not everybody can afford, especially entrepreneurs.

If such is the case, the alternative is to use one’s imagination to devise the name of the company or the product. Obviously, a professional would do a better job, just like an accountant would also do a better job with our accounts, but it is not always possible to have one. There are some peculiar Internet tools designed to put terms together –generally 2.0 or related with technology- in order to find more or less funny, and generally not so adequate, names. Nevertheless, they can be a good start to get some ideas. Some of these sites are SugestName, Namimg2 2.0 or Domator

Entrepreneur.com offers some advice to find the best name following the steps in theory taken by experts. In this sense, the first thing to do is to define what do we want to communicate.  At the end of the day, the company’s name has to define or bring to mind the business the company is in charge of or at least the vibes it wants to transmit. This is the key, since the rest of the process starts at this point.

From this point, factors such as the sector we are targeting (for example, in retail the market is very segmented, therefore the name must straight away bring to mind what the client is looking for) and the expansion strategy –if we want to be international we can not use elements that geographically limit the name-. In general terms, the name must be evocative, which moreover saves ulterior explanations.

Dictionaries, tools as those previously mentioned, books, magazines… these are excellent sources to look for ideas. Help from relatives and friends, who can give their own personal perspective, is always useful –not to say essential- in this process.  The main idea is to make a reasonable amount of proposals (between 20 and 30) that meet our communication objectives. We will then start working on them and ruling them out.

As soon as we have short-listed the number of alternatives down to more or less five proposals which should be easy to read and express the business nature, we have to start our search in the brand’s register. We need to make sure that our names do not belong to another company already, and if we consider it appropriate, register the brand.

The name of the company is important because it is the company’s first image, the first impression for the client. Nevertheless, if the business is built on solid foundations it will progress. There are thousands of examples of companies with dreadful names that are currently market leaders.

The entrepreneur advantage: training

Por Jose el 02.03.2010 // 10:41 am en General

The entrepreneur’s road is hard and full of obstacles, nevertheless, since hundreds of people start for this road every year, there must be some advantages to be found. Leaving aside the personal development aspect, that is the satisfaction of being your own boss or the –relative- freedom of establishing your own working hours, truth is that self-employment has other advantages, for example training, to begin with.

We are not discovering anything new if we say that training is essential for any project’s development and especially growth. Nevertheless, the training area is one of the most neglected ones by most companies, specially the smallest ones. Most multinationals do have career development programs for their employees who can thus improve their CV and add knowledge “at zero cost”. The percentage of people working on this area decreases proportionately to the company’s size. The reversion of this trend is in the hands of the businessman himself and the worker.

At the end of the day, an entrepreneur can choose the time and resources he wishes to allocate to training and just because he or she is self-employed, he or she has access to a training offer that is not available for everybody. In this sense, the various self-employed workers associations periodically publish the courses this type of workers can access to. Moreover, those who have chosen to create a company and appear as workers of such, can also be trained at almost zero cost, or at least partly subsidized. In order to achieve this, the only thing they have to do is use the amounts included in every employee’s payroll as continuing training and which the company and/or employee can make use of afterwards if they wish so.

In Spain the Fundación Tripartita explains the steps a company has to follow to apply for these training subsidies, together with the subsidized courses that normally refer to official degrees in the case of masters. In fact the Foundation even has a special section for SME’s support that can be very useful for entrepreneurs.

Even though most entrepreneurs already have a busy agenda, to devote at least a couple of hours to study the subsidized training alternative is worth it, since we must not only focus on short-term work. Sometimes, important things, or in the case of training, strategy, should go before urgent issues.

Image - edans

Elevator Pitch contest for BBVA Open Talent projects in Salón Miempresa

Por Jose el 02.03.2010 // 10:36 am en General

As we have advertised in previous posts, we are preparing the participation in the Salón Miempresa event so that 10 of the projects submitted to BBVA Open Talent second edition can be presented in this congress that will be held on March 9 and 10 in Madrid’s Palacio de Congresos. More specifically, presentations will take place on March 10 from 17.45 to 19.00 and the 11th to the 20th most voted projects will have the chance to participate. BBVA Open Talent’s organization has already got in touch with these projects to prepare the presentations.

Salón Miempresa is the first relevant annual event thought for allowing entrepreneurs, businessmen and freelances to find solutions to all their worries on varied issues such as starting up, funding, development, management, and also SMEs transfer and acquisition if appropriate.

BBVA Open Talent collaborates with Mini Seedcamp Barcelona

Por Jose el 28.02.2010 // 5:39 pm en General

In line with our strategy to support entrepreneur movement both in Spain and internationally, at BBVA Open Talent we have decided to back the event Mini Seedcamp Barcelona which will be held on March 23 and hosted by IESE Business School.

We encourage all entrepreneurs who have participated in both BBVA Open Talent editions to submit your projects to Mini Seedcamp, Barcelona. We believe that achieving optimum visibility in the sector both at a national and international levels is essential for startups growth, and this type of events can be of great help in this sense.

Seedcamp is an organization whose aim is to reactivate the entrepreneur’s community in Europe, giving the next generation of developers and businessmen the direction of a network of company builders, including seed capital investors, serial businessmen, product experts, human resources and marketing specialists, lawyers, recruiters, journalists and risk capital.

The deadline for the reception of projects for BBVA Open Talent challenges will be over in three days

Por Jose el 25.02.2010 // 10:36 am en General

A brief note to communicate that the deadline to submit projects to Retos BBVA Open Talent is over in three days. Until Sunday 28th you can send us your Facebook and iPhone or Android mobile phones applications. You can use the forms appearing under each challenge to submit the documentation and once the deadline is over, we will need some time to assess all received projects. We’ll keep you posted from here.

We announce the finalists for BBVA Open Talent’s second edition

Por Jose el 18.02.2010 // 1:00 pm en General

After the voting stage for BBVA Open Talent’s second edition which lasted a month and a half, we are pleased to announce the 20 finalists of this stage.  We are very satisfied with the participation in this stage: we received more than 125,00 votes and more than 2,100 comments on the 320 projects that participated in this stage. The 20 finalists are:

All Rankings
Cheque Digital Blindado
City Analytics
Double Music
Grow VC
Grupo de Profesionales
Solución Saas para la gestión de la documentación de las Pymes

We remind you that the 20 selected participants will be entitle to a prize and the projects ranking between positions 11th and 20th can be presented in an event that will be hosted within the Salón Miempresa on March 10th, Madrid.

BBVA Open Talent’s organization is already getting in touch with the 20 finalists and the 10 projects that will be presented in the Salón Miempresa. Moreover, we want to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation, both presenting your projects and voting for your favourite projects.  We inform you that we are preparing new initiatives to support entrepreneurs and that you can now participate in Retos BBVA Open Talent for the development of applications for Facebook, iPhone and Android.