Sharing The Good News

Have you ever felt like you just had to share your latest good news with anyone and everyone around you, but they literally had no interest whatsoever in what you had to say? Although intended for the best, sometimes sharing the good news is not always a positive outcome.After all, people know you remember things.And every time they see you coming with that “have I got a deal for you” look of wide eyed innocence about you… they also know to be very aware with the question in their minds… what is he going to try and sell on now!?More often than not it seems as if you’re the only one oblivious to their burn out of your good news tactics and gracious offers for them to improve their lives and make more money and retire to the Florida Keys sooner than later while improving their health and well being with your new vita-pill-drink!.Both they and you know that you’re really not a bad person. The fact of the matter is that you just want to see everyone as healthy and happy as your latest new venture is promising to make the both of you. You’re just sharing the good news. I mean, after all, you could see and realize the benefits of this amazing product and were immediately sold on it… so everyone you know should jump on this opportunity as sure and as fast as you did, right!You don’t need that kind of pressure. Time to get this monkey off you back!So, as a new business person, you have to write these folks off your list and warm and friendly contacts (because the industry of network marketing labels them that way) and you end up losing your rank and status in the arena of family and friends because that same win at all costs industry says if they cannot or will not support you in whatever your dreams are, then you didn’t need them anyway.So, does that mean the pressure is now off and you as a big shot entrepreneur are free and able to tackle anyone you come in contact with using your new found attitude as fair game for your business? I would certainly hope not. That is a pure case of not sharing the good news!What you really need to remember at this point in your little business rant to save the world is… “don’t try to share your seemingly good fortune” with everyone or everything that moves!Keep in mind that some people will be wide open to change and new ideas, having been prepared by the your giving spirit from times past.But, there are those that you have engaged just as soberly before that may not be so open to yet another invitation to be set free from your definition of their less than stellar lives.When you come across those that are not, relax, don’t push them. When it comes to sharing the good news, you need to realize that it’s just not their time.If and when you sense a resistance or an uncomfortable response, just tactfully, professionally and lovingly change the subject.Demonstrate true sensitivity and concern for this person and be mindful that their time will come..it may be next week, next month or perhaps even tomorrow..or even more so, never. You just need to stay close to your moral and ethical business conventions. There’s a time and a place for everything and everyone.Having said that, I have to also state that I am not putting down or am opposed to the great many men and women who make their livelihoods persuading and selling to the masses in our society. Some of these great selling giants do come with even greater values in sharing the good news.Giving in is not necessarily always a matter of giving up.Sometimes you have to give yourself permissions to leave, to walk away, to not challenge certain conventions. And in doing so, you will gain a healthy respect for the individual as you are encouraged to listen to your inner-self and be a guiding force rather than just another selling force for something that many may not be in the market to buy.A Friend in Business… and Life… Always,-Lon-

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

How to Make Internet Marketing an Effective Tool For Lead Generation

Internet marketing, also known as online or inbound marketing, is how many businesses reach new prospects and stay connected with their current customers. By using the Internet (and its ancillary branches, such as email and social media) to market their business, they are able to get their message out to people across the globe in a fraction of the time it would take using more “traditional” methods. Because people are increasingly spending a lot of their time online, it’s important to know how to use Internet marketing methods in the most effective way possible. Here are some tips and techniques you can use to take full advantage of this type of marketing.TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FOR INTERNET MARKETING SUCCESSSocial Media MarketingOne thing people have always had in common is the desire to stay connected. Today, tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow people to connect immediately with friends and family as well as the world at large. Social media marketing is very important for businesses because it helps them nurture their current customer base while also giving them the opportunity to make contact with new customers.Whether you want to leverage your online presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any of the many social media platforms out there, the aim is the same: giving your customers the chance to connect with your business on a more personalized level via a two-way interaction. You may utilize your social media accounts to promote your business,; however, your primary goal should be to establish a conversation with customers and prospects to find out how you can better solve their problems and deliver what they are looking for. Professional internet marketers agree that selling on these platforms should be minimized; the focus is on engagement, creating interest and curiosity. Continual and overused sales pitches will likely have the reverse effect, and posts will be ignored.Mobile MarketingSimilar to social media marketing is mobile marketing. More often than not, your customers and prospects will be connecting with your business through their smartphones or tablets instead of their computers. It is much easier to check websites or social media on the go rather than to sit down at a computer, so it is essential your marketing approach is mobile-friendly. This means having your website transferrable from desktop to mobile without glitches, as well as utilizing apps or creating your own. Internet advertising also includes banner ads on relevant websites and SMS (short message service),or text message marketing. In the case of text messaging, the protocol requirement is for customers to opt in to an automated system by texting a reply or shortcode. Once the customer has opted in, text message specials or important product and service updates are welcomed.SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Marketing – Visibility MarketingWhen a person is looking online for something similar to fit their needs, they enter search terms in a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. If your website or page isn’t optimized for search engines, your page ranking may be so low that no one will find you – or you may not even show up at all! In order to be “found”, your website needs to be visible to all of the major search engines. The way you make this happen is by SEO marketing, which utilizes specific tools (such as keywords, link building, and relevant content, to name just a few) to increase visibility and elevate page ranking. At 1st Straw, we refer to SEO as “visibility marketing”, because every technique used is designed to make your website more visible to search engines. Improving your SEO marketing strategies will help get your business at the top of the search list instead of lost in all the other website links. Do this by thinking about what customers will search for instead of using typical words and phrases. The key to great SEO marketing is to think like a customer, and to create your keywords, build your links, and craft your content accordingly.E-Mail MarketingFor many of us, our first thought at the words “email marketing” brings to mind the annoying “junk” or “spam” messages that land in our inbox each day. This is a prime example of email marketing done wrong. The purpose of email marketing is to maintain contact with your customers and prospects. Effectively done, it can be a powerful tool to generate more leads for your business.You’ll want to design your email content to be compelling and relevant to your recipients. You can craft an online newsletter that’s distributed on a regular basis (e.g., monthly or semi-monthly). A successful email campaign has a clear objective, includes an “opt in” technique, and gets through the junk/spam filters so that it can actually be read. Be sure to use an email marketing provider that allows you to track your results so that you know who is opening your email and clicking through to your website or other links.Internet marketing is a significant marketing channel that can reap measurable results. Use these strategies to step up your inbound marketing game and improve your online presence. The end result is more leads to convert into sales!