Tag Archive for 'Sustainability'

Four letters from your big customers

Consider the ancient proverb: “Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” This is about four letters with this proverb in mind, sent to small businesses from their corporate customers – two that have been sent and two that will be.

1. Quality

The first letter was born in the 1950s, when the ideas of the godfather of the 20th century quality process, Edwards Deming, reversed “Made in Japan” from a metaphor for cheap into a mark of quality. During the 1980s, after American industrial competitiveness fell behind global competitors, quality processes like ISO and Six Sigma were adopted, returning “Made in America” to a mark of excellence.

By 1990, with their in-house quality act now together, big businesses realized they needed similar commitments from the small business vendors that had increasingly become more like integrated partners. As such, big business needed to know that the support from these partners would at least not diminish the quality expectations of their customers. Consequently, small businesses started receiving letters from those big customers requesting evidence of quality process practices, if not certification, without which there would be no continued, or new contracts.

2. Y2K

The seed for the second letter was planted by computer programmers in the 1960s. When these programmers wrote date codes with six digits, as in 121565, for December 15, 1965, they did so to conserve what was at the time very expensive data storage. However, they didn’t realize they were creating the literally ticking Y2K time bomb.

Around 1995, experts started worrying that when the clock ticked midnight, January 1, 2000, zillions of lines of date-sensitive computer calculations would fail by going back a century – 010100 would revert to January 1, 1900 – instead of rolling forward to 2000. Consequently, the codes in millions of programs had to be fixed. By 1998, small businesses started getting letters from their larger customers requesting evidence of their “Y2K compliance,” without which there would be no new contracts with eight-digit dates.

3. Sustainability

The third letter was born in the middle of the 20th century, when we started realizing that the solution to pollution was not dilution. Since then, environmental stewardship has evolved from not polluting to sustainability. That word – sustainability – essentially means doing more with less, and it includes making waste useful – especially water. It turns out that sustainability is not just the right thing to do. Since it’s been proven that it can also contribute to profitability and a positive corporate image, it’s become a 21st century business best practice.

You may not yet have received a sustainability commitment and practices letter from your corporate customers, but it’s coming. And because of that best practice thing, it will be irrespective of the current state of the geo-political climate change debate. So start thinking about resources usage, including energy, consumables, production waste – especially water. Start documenting your efforts, practices and performance in recycling, reusing, conserving, etc., so when a customer hands you their “Sustainability Letter,” you won’t have that “weak-link in the headlights” look.

4. Cyber-security

Does anyone need a review of the multiple and significant cyber-assaults that have been made on digital assets and records of American business and government in the past few years? Whether from cyber-criminals or cyber-spies, the threat is real, comprehensive, determined, unrelenting and, to date at least, very successful – for the bad guys.

Expect the Trump administration to push for increased cyber-defense measures for the government to an unprecedented degree. Because of the massive level of business that corporate America does with the federal government, a cyber-security partnership will logically be forged, as they collaborate on cyber-practices, expectations, tools, innovations, etc. This will be the most comprehensive commingling of efforts and shared goals by business and government since WWII. So expect your large customers to begin requiring cyber-security practices verification, either by a letter, or in the specifications of an RFP. Your corporate customers are not going to let you be their weak link.

Write this on a rock … Take a lesson from the Quality and Y2K letters. Set yourself up for success by taking action on sustainability and cyber-security. Do it now!

The heat wave and global warming

Global warming is not new - 10,000 years ago Ohio was buried under 5,000 feet of ice. But the debate about what is causing it is new - probably less than 50 years old.

We wanted to know what our audience thinks about what’s causing recent extreme weather patterns, so last week we asked this question: “This is a very warm and dry year for much of the U.S. Why do you think this is happening?” Here’s what you told us:

Only 7% of our respondents think, “It’s clearly climate change and humans are causing it.” Three times as many, 22%, said, “It’s climate change and humans are part of the problem.” The big group, 72%, allowed that, “It’s climate change, which was happening long before humans.”

For my part, the debate should not be whether the Earth is warming - evidence indicates that it is (see first sentence above). Nor should it be about whether humans are contributing to global warming - we probably are, but it obviously began long before we discovered how handy burning fossils could be (see first sentence above).

The debate should be how we accomplish two things: 1) Create and/or discover sustainable energy sources - preferably more than one; 2) Convert to these energy sources over a period of time long enough to prove their effectiveness and sustainability, while simultaneously giving the marketplace time - decades, not years - to make the conversion without wrecking the global economy.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Look for your sustainability letter

This article is about three letters to small businesses.

The first letter was born in the 1950s, when the quality ideas of an American, Edwards Deming, reversed “Made in Japan” from a metaphor for cheap to quality. During the 1980s, after American industry had lost competitiveness with Japan, quality processes like ISO and Six Sigma were adopted and “Made in America” returned to prominence.

By 1990, now with their in-house quality act together, big businesses realized they needed similar commitments from integrated vendors. That’s when small businesses started getting letters from customers requesting evidence of their quality process – or no new contracts.

The seed for the second letter was planted by computer programmers in the 1960s. To conserve expensive data storage, program date codes were written with six digits, as in 121565, for December 15, 1965. They didn’t realize they had created the Y2K ticking time bomb.

Around 1995, experts started worrying that when the clock ticked midnight, January 1, 2000, zillions of lines of date-sensitive computer calculations would fail by going back a century – 010100 would be January 1, 1900 – instead of forward to 2000. Consequently, the codes in millions of programs had to be fixed. And by 1998, small businesses started getting letters from their larger customers requesting evidence of their “Y2K compliance” – or no contracts with eight-digit dates.

The third letter was born in the middle of the 20th century, when we started realizing that the solution to pollution was not dilution. Since then, environmental stewardship has evolved from not polluting to sustainability.

Sustainability means doing more with less, including making waste useful – especially water. It’s the right thing to do, but businesses are also learning that sustainability can be profitable and good for public relations.

The sustainability letter hasn’t been sent yet – but it’s coming. Within the next five years, small businesses should expect to hear from big customers about their sustainability plan. And like the quality and Y2K letters, your first motivation will be to keep a customer.

Start thinking about the resources your business uses, including energy, consumables, production waste – especially water. Establish programs for recycling, reusing, conserving, etc., and document your execution. So when you get that first “Sustainability Letter,” you won’t look like a deer in the headlights.

Sustainability is good business, good public relations and good karma.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!




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