PlumberSurplus.com Ecommerce and Entrepreneurship Blog | About | Contact | PlumberSurplus.com Store

Communication Must-Haves

Posted on January 19, 2010 by Suzanne

Communication encapsulates every aspect of our lives. Especially when working at an eCommerce company such as Gordian Project. Emails and instant messages fly through cyberspace constantly, and customer phone calls are fielded by customer service all day; the communication never ends! Is this constant communication constantly effective? Absolutely not.  It’s not effective because so much is lost. For example, when instant messaging or live-chatting with someone tone is lost. A customer or co-worker may seem rude or abrupt to you, but is that really how they meant it?  Phone conversations are another good example, because we are able to hide behind the phone. Customer service representatives and customers especially forget that they are speaking to a person. Most of the time how we speak to people on the phone is nothing like how we communicate with people in person. So, how can we make our communication more effective? We can start by practicing a few skills that will not only enhance your communication effectiveness in the workplace but in other aspects of your life as well.

Practice good listening skills – Good communication starts with being a good listener. Try to stay away from listening with your feelings. If the listener can remain unbiased and unemotional in a situation they will be able to take in and effectively process what is being communicated to them.  Then they are equipped to react in a manner that is appropriate to the situation. In a work environment there will inevitably be situations of conflict and critique.  In these situations if the listener remains neutral they will form better responses. Well thought out responses encourages effective communication and creates respect in both parties.

Stay away from Gossip – Trust me. No one wants to find this out the hard way. Gossip doesn’t help anyone. It will only lower company moral and make those who gossip untrustworthy.  Think of gossiping as communication junk food; it’s a moment on the lips, forever on the hips. If you are confronted with a gossiping situation, it’s ok to leave or change the subject.  You have probably been told this your entire life, but there is good reason for it, avoid any sensitive subjects like politics and religion. I would recommend using discretion in these situations, but if you know someone that might be offended by the topics then remember to be sensitive to their feelings.

It’s easy to say that communication is an art, but putting only these two points in practice can be a test in and of itself.  Effective communication is never easy. It is fraught with perils, but the reward is definitely something you can take with you.

 


Little Giant has been hard at work engineering pumps that their most loyal customers have been waiting for. PlumberSurplus.com is your destination for the new Little Giant TSW Sump Pump System and their NXTGen Condensate Pumps.

Correcting the Case of the Monday’s

Posted on December 29, 2009 by Arianna

Being happy at work makes the difference between having the case of the Monday blues and having a “Thank God it’s Monday” attitude. According to this article, people fear Monday mornings, and experience anxiety on Sunday nights. Many of us can relate to having Monday blues. Ask anyone what their favorite day of the week is vs. their worst day of the week, you may find that Friday and Monday would be the most common answers. Well, I did my own research and among all my our co-workers at Gordian Project the most common answer for worst day of the week was Monday, and the favorite was actually Saturday. Monday was seen as the worst and most boring day of the week.  Just because the Monday blues is so common does not mean that we have to accept them with open arms. How many of us want our Sundays to be relaxing, looking forward to Monday morning because work can be fun? Here are some tips on how to not only get rid of the Monday blues, but also how to be happy at work on Monday and as many other days as possible too.

Office Space: Case of the Mondays

    1. Show up on time. There is nothing worse to start your day than showing up late.  Once you’re at work give it 100 percent of your attention. Fortunately, many of us have breaks which can help relieve our distractions. If you find yourself zoning out or focusing on other things which are not work related then take your break, but once your break is over it's back to work.

 

    1. Have a positive attitude. With a positive attitude you will always beat the Monday blues. Being positive not only helps you deal with the day ahead, but will also affect those around you, creating a trickle effect of happiness.

 

    1. Make Mondays a fun night. Plan a family game night or go to dinner with your spouse. Planning a fun evening will most definitely have you looking forward to Mondays. Just a warning, don’t stay up too late on Monday nights, because then we’ll be faced with having to attack the Tuesday blues!

 

    1. Take each day as it comes. Focus only on today; don’t worry about tomorrow because you can honestly say you don’t know what tomorrow holds. Every day consists of completing tasks which can also bring little victories that make our days brighter. Don’t forget to celebrate those small accomplishments because celebrating accomplishments will foster a positive attitude.

 

With this new mind set, positive attitude, and the belief that you can be happy at work, you will notice that come Monday morning when your alarm goes off you will wake up with a smile. It truly doesn’t take much to change the way you start your week; you can be happy at work, and look forward to the beginning of your week without the Monday blues.

 

Hand Exercises for Long Term Computer Use

Posted on December 21, 2009 by Archives

If you work in eCommerce, it is almost guaranteed you work on a computer all day.  If you are like me, you are at the computer all day at work and then maybe a few hours at home in addition to work.  All this repetitive movement that your hands and wrists do can be really wearing and painful.  Even more so if you have experienced an injury to your hand (I've personally had over 50 stitches between both my hands). Experiencing pain while trying to work can affect your performance and ultimately lead to long term injury, neither of which is good for you or the company.

Through my therapy sessions and experience I have various exercises that can be done to help cope with the repetitive strain that comes with using computers at work and home.  These exercises focus on flexion, extension and stretching.

Flexion is when you curl your fingers or make a fist.  When typing at a computer one is naturally flexing their fingers when pushing down on the keys. To work on flexion the following are available:

    • Hand Grips: A hand grip is a spring with two handles that you squeeze together.  They come in many different resistance levels.  I like doing a set of 20 in each hand once a day.


Hand Grips Exercise One

       

Hand Grips Exercise Two

    • Squeeze Toys: These are easy to get at conferences, they make great swag and companies will gladly hand out a squeeze balls with their logo on it.


Squeeze Toy Exercise One

       

Squeeze Toy Exercise Two

Extension is when you straighten your hand and fingers, it is the opposite of flexion.  Since typing uses flexion more than extension it is important to work on extending your fingers to keep a healthy balance. To work on extending your fingers:

    • Rubber Bands: One wouldn't really think about it but rubber bands are great for providing resistance.  Just put the rubber band around the tips of your fingers and straighten them out.  Double up or add more rubber bands to provide increased resistance.


Rubber Band Excercise One

       

Rubber Band Excercise Two

       

Rubber Band Excercise Three

    • Therapy Putty: Also called “Thinking Putty” is good for extension and flexion.  For flexion as you can squeeze it and for extension you put your fingers in the putty and press them forward.


Therapy Putty

       

Hand Therapy

Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion for your fingers and wrist.  It also helps to prevent stiffness in your joints.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, it’s important to meet with your doctor before starting any exercise program or if you are feeling pain.  I have also found the following resources useful.


http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/arthritis/AR00030
http://www.stretchnow.com.au/exercises/hands.htm

 

 

Smart or Not Attention is Needed Aside from Smartphone’s

Posted on December 1, 2009 by Jeff

My assumption is this, “If I’ve requested your presence in a meeting or you mine, attention is expected.”

This comes from a deep respect for individual’s time, yet I find myself more and more frequently competing with smart phone distractions. In an effort to not burn bridges internally or with those I’ve met with I’ll refrain from ranting and simply point out Alex Williams’ New York Times front page article, Mind Your BlackBerry or Mind Your Manners.

I found Williams’ article on the developing etiquette of smart phone use in a business environment frustratingly balanced. I was looking for more arguments that stated cases like that of Tom Golisano and Malcolm A. Smith. “Tom Golisano, a billionaire and power broker in New York State politics, said last week that he pushed to remove Malcolm A. Smith as the State Senate majority leader after the senator met with him on budget matters in April and spent the time reading e-mail on his BlackBerry.”

In reading, I continued to be baffled by the statements made by the pro-smartphone side, “Despite resistance, the etiquette debate seems to be tilting in the favor of smartphone use, many executives said. Managing directors do it. Summer associates do it. It spans gender and generation, private and public sectors.”  My first response was simply WHAT?  If everyone was jumping off a bridge would you jump?  With that said, I have to agree with David Brotherton that business can be won or lost depending on the responsiveness of the organization. Admittedly, I’ve placed my “Colt revolver” on the boardroom table for this very reason.

The crux seams to hinge on a word long ago lost, etiquette.  My grandmother would have turned to the 786 pages of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette for answers. Although I’m almost certain Amy (July 22, 1908 - December 27, 1974) didn’t directly cover smartphone usage, her opening sentence may shed some light; “Certain formal occasions in our lives remain rooted in tradition.” Traditionally, looking someone in the eyes communicates our attention, insures our understanding and conveys our interest; difficult to do looking down at a phone, smart or otherwise.

When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Time Management: A Fresh(er) Look at Some Classic Tips

Posted on November 2, 2009 by Suzanne

I came a cross an article in The Wholesaler about time management and thought that I would share some thoughts on a few of the points that Peter Schor listed in his article. First, here’s a link to the online version: The Wholesaler, page 32. Most of his points are pretty obvious, but some of them really stuck out to me.

The Never-ending Inbox

In the article he states “E-mailing — Block off times to process your e-mail. Twice per day should be sufficient. Avoid the temptation to check e-mail frequently.” In an eCommerce company I know the first thing I thought about this suggestion was “Pft, yeah right…twice a day my eye.” My email is ALWAYS open. Heck, I dedicate a screen to my email..., but I do see the value in this idea, especially if it is “fused” together with this suggestion: “Quickly process the paperwork that hits your in-box.” This works perfectly for me.  Schor recommends using “R.A.F.T” to help you file through you inbox in a timely fashion wherever it may be.  “R.A.F.T” is an acronym the author uses to file and process paperwork. R=Refer to another person.  A=Take Action. F=File it. T=Trash it. My “hybrid” suggestion, for eCommercers in a predominantly paperless environment is to quickly process emails that hit your inbox, and restrain yourself from checking your personal email to no more than twice a day.

Breaking Bad Habits

Another Point he makes, “Identify bad habits" — Make a list of bad habits that are stealing your time, and sabotaging and blocking your success. Then work on them one at a time to systematically eliminate them from your life. Remember, the way to eliminate a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.” My bad habit and worst enemy: Procrastination. It’s followed me all though college and still sometimes effects my daily work, though not on the same level as it affected my schoolwork. I’m sure there are other bad habits that I have, but I’m also 99% sure they stem from my ability to procrastinate like no other. Some ways that I have tried to overcome my procrastination in the past is to make a list of things that must get done in that given day, which Schor mentions earlier in his article.  It really does help to see everything that has to get done and it gives you a goal to work toward. I will also be using “RAFT” to further combat the never ending battle with my nemesis.

Just say No

And my personal favorite: “Say No” — We say “yes” to others because we want to please others. But when eventually we can’t continue, we let them down and feel guilty. Both parties suffer. Recognize that a genuine desire to please often prevents us from saying “no.” FINALLY! Someone said it.  I know that there are not enough fingers and toes in the world, ok that might be drastic… but there are definitely not enough in Gordian Project to count how many times I have said “yes” when I’m screaming “no”.  I don’t have a good solution on how to say no without the other person being upset, but I do have a reasonable recommendation (provided the person you are dealing with is "reasonable"). If you are confronted with this situation and a co-worker is asking you to do something that is in line with the company’s goals, add it to your list of priorities where it makes the most sense. If the request is out of line with the company’s goals, tell them no and explain your reasons.

Don’t forget: We will never get caught up, but understanding that alone can help reduce your stress and increase your productivity. It’s a weird thought, I know, but there is always tomorrow, and we all know that if it doesn’t get done today it will be there tomorrow. So why stress?

 


For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A Day in the Life of an Entrepreneur? A Picture Blog on Halloween

Posted on October 30, 2009 by Josh Mc

You have to love a day of the year when it is pretty much a requirement to dress up. However, that day becomes so much better when your place of work cuts back the dress code and lets all of the employees dress up to their hearts content (work appropriate of course). Wearing your Halloween costume to work has become a staple of life at the Gordian Project, this year being no exception. Over half of the office dressed up to celebrate, Zach barbecued, all the Michael Jacksons danced, Vanessa roller skated, and there was no shortage of hot dog jokes. Needless to say some hilarity ensued, pictures below.

 

Managers Meeting

The managers meeting hit an all time high for creativity.

 

The data team, halloween costumes

The data team all participated. From left: Edward from Twilight, Batman, Spock, and a biker.

 

Michael Jackson Costume Tribute

Tribute to Michael Jackson featuring different years of his life.

 

Marketing team halloween costumes

The marketing team in full swing.

 

The whole team

The whole team.

Until next year... Happy Halloween!

 

 

Why Human Resources Should Read the Company Blog

Posted on October 27, 2009 by Ellen

If you’ve spent any time reading though the eCommerce and Entrepreneurship blog, you’ve seen the difficulties the company engages in. These “journal entries” of sorts, are an opportunity for our employees to express what hardships they’ve gone through and what positive and negative outcomes come from their experiences. The blog is a legitimate forum for venting, learning, growing and sharing; aka an HR manager’s best friend. Everyone’s blog entries have enough of their personal stories laced through them that these entries become a useful means for HR to check out what lies just under the surface at the company. Under the surface is where you’ll find people’s motivations, perspectives and a look at how they view themselves in comparison to others. What better way for me is there to find out what is going on at our eCommerce business than to read the online commentaries detailing employee’s experiences?  Of course there are details and extreme circumstances that should not be displayed publicly and should be treated with the upmost confidentiality, but when it comes to the company’s everyday lifestyle, the blog is a great tool to use when figuring out where the Lifestyle Pillar meter should be rated.

Gordian Project’s eCommerce and Entrepreneurship blog of course has its intended strategic business purposes, but it is not there just so we can share with the world what mistakes we’ve made and what successes we’ve mastered.  The blog lets us look at ourselves to see how we’re doing, what frustrates us, how we can make our retail websites a better place for us to be productive and enjoy coming to work. If there is anything we can do to make our employees just “not hate coming work”, but look forward to going to work everyday, it will be better for the employees and better for the company. 

Take for example those who have been involved in our OutdoorPros Adventure Team, activities outside of the office have sparked relationships and growth inside of the office.  I’ll let some of the pictures speak for themselves:

Josh Mc Catching the Sunset

Bobby, Paul & Chad around the campfire

Zach surfing

Sean and Zach jamming

Zach catching the sunset


But I know what you’re thinking…. “We’re here to run a business, not a daycare”. Of course I understand the extremes associated with letting employees be “happy”. I am not advising for a lack of structure that ends up with work becoming a video game palace and online shopping café, but rather, I’m promoting growth of employee ownership and self-investment in their everyday work. Making work enjoyable allows employees to build commitment in their intimate relationship with the company. Happy employees equal productive employees and if they’re unhappy, I guarantee it will end up on the company blog.

 

Time-Based Management vs. Results-only Work Environment

Posted on October 8, 2009 by Arianna

If you look at the history of work we can see that the way wages were calculated has changed quite a bit. Before the invention of the assembly-line production people’s pay was determined by the amount of work done. After the great restructuring, pay was measured by the amount of time or hours it took to get work done. As of recent there has been talk about whether the End of Time-Based Management is near. Before we determine whether work environment will be going back to its roots, we need to understand what ROWE (Results-only Work Environment) is.

ROWE was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, Best Buy HR Managers. ROWE is a management view which believes that trusting employees to manage their time will increase productivity in the workplace. Departments that have been using ROWE have reported increased amount of productivity, Best Buy alone had a 35 percent increase. Recently, Gap Outlet migrated 137 Corporate Headquarters employees to Results-Only Work Environment and their success has been amazing; according to Cali and Jody’s blog “voluntary turnover rate dropped by 50 percent and employee engagement rose by 13 percent”.

How it works:
“In a Results-Only Work Environment, people can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.” This isn’t just time flexibility, according to Cali and Jody a true ROWE has unlimited paid vacation time, no set schedules, no mandatory weekly meetings, and no judgments from co-workers or bosses about how employees spend their days. Trust is one of the key elements of ROWE, managers must trust employees to get their work done so that their performance and pay can be evaluated based on what they accomplished, not how many hours they spent looking “busy” at work.

Why it works:
ROWE forces all employees and managers to be clear about their job descriptions and expectations. Teams learn how to work together more effectively while motivating and retaining employees. Though ROWE can also expose underperformance, the end result provides a company with stronger teams that can make the company grow.

Who it works for:
ROWE would work for anyone whose work revolves around projects or tasks. However, in order for ROWE to be effective, there needs to be a strong goal-oriented manager that can provide employees with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. ROWE is a bit complicated when it comes to hourly employees or those whose jobs do not entail completion of projects; but the shifting from thinking about work in terms of time to thinking about work based on performance can still be effective.

Moving a department to ROWE is a drastic change that companies might not be willing to make. However, though the complete program might not be a feasible option, adopting new habits that can refocus your team on results instead of time-based, can be of a great benefit as well. Whether you decide to make the big change or not, I suggest that you first read Cali and Jody’s list of 10 ways to get ROWE working for your team.

 

Effective Delegation for the Do It Yourselfers

Posted on September 14, 2009 by Arianna

Our Supply Chain Management department has been not only growing in size, but also in responsibilities. Our team has literally tripled in size over the last year, but along with that we have more projects and actual deadlines. As scary as that might sound our team is in the process of not only knowing what team work is all about but truly understanding it. I am, like many of you might be, the kind of person that agrees with the statement “If you want something done right, do it yourself”, but there is a point in which one person can’t do all things and delegation is about handing over authority, projects, tasks, etc. This is a scary concept for many because a person can’t know 100% of what will occur once responsibilities are handed over.

Delegating has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and a recurrent process.  There is continual room for improvement in the effectiveness of how, where and who you delegate to.  If there’s anything that I have learned thus far about delegation is that it’s a two-way process. If the individual assigning responsibilities are competent in delegating to the department but the employees receiving the tasks don’t understand what the process should be or what is being asked of them, then the process will break. The same goes if the situation is reversed.  These four suggestions will help you begin to develop your delegation skills and avoid potential errors in the future:
 
Choose the Right Person
Consider what that person can bring to the task and how the task will impact that person. One of the rewards of delegating is that you allow that person to grow in the experience and perhaps even in the company. In other words, your reason for considering a person should be more than “I like this person a lot – they laugh at my jokes all the time”.

Explain the Task
Always provide the “what” the “when” and if possible the “how”. Assuming that the person will know exactly what to do and what you expect is an unfair expectation. Please note that picking up your dry cleaning, making coffee, and getting you lunch, are not appropriate tasks to be delegating.

Provide Support
It is important to be available for any questions or concerns that the person may have. The fact is that people learn with experience; there will be times when a person might complete a task perfectly with little to no guidance, but the truth of that matter is that everyone needs a little direction and support. Check in with them often and do not discourage questions – the more questions they ask the better they will understand the project.

Give Feedback
Constructive feedback is the most valuable way to improve performance. Note exactly what it was that the person did that blew you away. Once you tell them what they did well, then you can also give them advice on what they can improve upon.

Businessballs.com has an easy to use SMART planner template which can help you dive right in to designating projects to your team. Once you feel like your expertise in delegating has advanced you can remove tasks on your own “To Do List”; giving you the opportunity to focus on larger projects that can more effectively impact the company. I leave you with this quote by Robert Half “Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too”.

 

Gmail Crashes: Users Scramble for Relevant Updates

Posted on September 3, 2009 by josh

You may already know that Gordian Project users are in the cloud.  Well, on Tuesday, we hit our second bump in the road with Google Apps. An outage. You may say to yourself, "An outage? With Google Apps? Really?" Well. Yes. Really. Totally freakin' down. Apparently, Google had an issue Tuesday morning that brought down the email interface for apps users.  Déjà vu?

Here is the error I got in Chrome:

Google 502 Error Please try again in 30 seconds

 

At first I thought to myself, "Hmmm. That's weird." So I literally waited 30 seconds and tried again. Same thing. So I asked the person next to me to try. Same thing. So, I tried my iPhone and got:

Google iPhone 502 error

 

OK. Seems likely to be a global problem. So, I alerted users on our network that I was aware of an issue with Google Apps and was looking into it. Because the error says, "Please try again in 30 seconds.” I figured it would be a temporary outage and waited only a few minutes. The problem persisted. So I checked Google News and, sure enough, there's a widely recognized outage. From the news, I noticed two things that were particularly interesting:

  1. I wonder if the "tip-toeing" of wave into apps created yesterday's havoc.
  2. Google has an Apps Status Dashboard

So, after I found out that there was an Apps Status Dashboard, I checked it out and here's what I got:

Google Apps Status Dashboard

Google, why didn't you show this to me on the 502 error page? Instead, you told me to try every 30 seconds. I can't imagine how many people wasted hours of their day refreshing every 30 seconds to try to get to critical email. You may remember this article highlighting good custom error pages.

After the incident was stabilized, Google posted an incident report here. According to the report, Google "underestimated the increased load that some of the new updates placed on request routing." Not sure what the "new updates" were, but it doesn't seem like Google should underestimate the anticipated load.

Noting the red "X" by Google Mail, I clicked on it at 1:48 PM to find:

Status report at 1:48

 

It says there will be an update at 1:53 PM, so I waited until 1:58 PM and clicked again:

Google Apps Status Dashboard update

 

Hey! Wait just a second! Ten minutes ago there was not an update at 1:02 PM. What gives Google? Don't you know that 45 minutes after I announced it to everyone, people are still coming to my desk to say "Hey Josh. My email's down."? Please, just tell me what I need to know when you know it! Also, I love that there is a link to the "How to use IMAP or POP", where the first step outlined is to "Enable POP or IMAP in your Google Apps email account". I can't get to my apps account! Then I realized, I already had IMAP enabled on my account and had it set up in Outlook. So, I started up Outlook... only to be woefully reminded of why I wanted desperately to switch to Google Apps to begin with. I quit Outlook before I even used it, as it was either Outlook or every other application, and a choice had to be made. Instead, I waited for the Google update. At 2:40 PM I refreshed the Status Dashboard to find:

Google Mail Status Resolved

 

Hooray! We're back up! Not without a few lessons.

    1. Google, or any other cloud service provider, when a critical service goes down, don't show me an error that tells me to retry every 30 seconds; especially if that's not really what you want me to do. Send me to the place with the relevant information. I know, based on your incident reports, that you "published ongoing reports to the Google Apps dashboard, Gmail Help Center, the Enterprise and Gmail blogs, and the GoogleAtWork and Google Twitter feeds, to help provide customers with the latest status and available workarounds.", but the error was unhelpful. Please don't make me Google it.

 

    1. IT managers, if you're going to start using SAAS and cloud enabled services, find out, in advance, what the notification mechanism is for outages. In this case, it would have been a simple thing to have added the Apps Status Dashboard to one of my feeds.

 

  1. Don't count on Google Apps, or any other cloud service being available 100% of the time. If you have a critical meeting or a conference call that requires you to have a cloud stored document or email or presentation up and ready to go, make sure it's ready and pulled up long before your event, or make sure to store it locally, as well. Also, based on Google's comments, it may be good to enable IMAP on your account just in case you can't web-surf your email; at least then you can get to critical emails with Outlook or Thunderbird.