Attorneys and Business Services

An amazing trend over the course of the past few years – which is starting to accelerate even further – is the number of people who are going into business for themselves. This includes people who are involved in small businesses, Internet based businesses and home based businesses. If you are involved in a business of your own of one kind or another, or if you are interested in starting such a business enterprise, you will want to connect with an attorney that can provide for you appropriate business services.

Through this article you are provided an overview of what you will want to keep in mind when it comes to finding an attorney that can provide you the legal services that you will require in relation to your own business enterprise. Armed with this information you will be in the best possible position to make wise, informed and educated decisions in regard to your business venture and the legal needs of that business.

Initially, when it comes to selecting an attorney that can provide you with the legal services that you will require for your business you definitely will want to get an expert and specialist in the field. In the final analysis you cannot afford to put your business and the services that you will require in the hands of a lawyer who does not have the specific expertise that you will require.

You will also want to bear in mind that when it comes to attorneys that can provide legal services to you that there are lawyers who have now become specialists. By this it is meant there are lawyers who specialize in providing legal services to businesses in a particular industry. The fact is that the legal needs of businesses in different industries can be varied -indeed, in some instances, extremely different. Therefore, if you are in need of legal assistance relating to your business operations you would be best served by working to see if there is an attorney available who can provide you legal assistance specific to the industry in which your business is a part.

Another issue that you will want to keep in mind is that many people who are involved in owning or operating business with engage a lawyer for an extended period of time to care for all of their business related legal needs. The fact is that when running a business a person continually will find his or her self dealing or confronting legal matters and issues of different types. Therefore, having a regular attorney that can be turned to as needed can be extremely helpful.

Finally, if you are only now in the process of working to organize a business you will want to seriously consider getting an attorney involved in the process sooner rather than later… By getting an attorney involved in the organizational process when it comes to your own business venture you will be able to avoid mistakes and complications that can arise in the absence of legal direction, advice and assistance.

The Evolution of Business Service Management (BSM)

Looking back, the emergence of business service management (BSM) seems inevitable. This new generation of tools helps IT organizations manage technology infrastructures within the context of the key services they provide for their customers. BSM tools are critical enablers for the increasingly popular process-focused IT Service Management (ITSM) approach.

What’s driving this evolution to BSM and its related IT management paradigms? Executive Consultant Troy DuMoulin of Pink Elephant, an ITIL events and consulting firm, explains, “The interest in ITIL, the evolution of legislation like SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002), and the interest in standards is symptomatic of something much more rudimentary. At the base of this growing focus on formalization and legislation is a growing awareness of exposure and dependency that the business has on IT. Before, IT was seen as an enabler, supportive but yet somehow separated from the business processes themselves. But now there is a realization that there is no true separation between the business process and the underlying IT services and systems.”

Information technology has become so vital to business today – so ubiquitous in every aspect – that most businesses literally cannot function without it anymore. Even simple manual tasks like filling a car with gas or cashing a check now require the support of an IT system.

This heightened reliance on IT has placed companies at a crossroads. They are compelled to address this new dependency by putting processes and technology in place to ensure IT does its job serving the business effectively. So the move to BSM can be seen as a natural reaction to the new way IT interacts with and enables business.

“BSM is a way for a company to agree on what the business expectations are, and manage the IT performance to those agreed upon expectations,” clarifies Brian Childers, a consultant who also serves on the Board of Directors for itSMF USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting best practices in IT services management. “Once we understand the expectations, we can build the processes to suit the expectations, and manage against them.”

Vendors are responding rapidly to these new service management imperatives. Leading software providers – like HP, BMC, Mercury and Managed Objects – are already introducing new BSM-versions of their popular tools to help revolutionize the way IT managers gauge technology performance and leverage that knowledge to meet business needs. And new kinds of automated, self-learning software from companies like Netuitive, are making it easier than ever for managers to cut across their technology silos and tie together their existing management tools.

“Over the years – especially during the frenetic IT build-out of the late 1990s – companies cobbled together a mishmash of systems within their IT organizations,” adds Tony Gilbert, vice president at Netuitive. “The result now is a heterogeneous set of components in the IT environment, and individual departmental silos for managing each one. The right set of BSM tools makes it possible to tie together all of these pieces of technology across an enterprise and to monitor IT from the perspective of the service it delivers.”

BSM tools help IT groups see technology in terms of how it impacts their business services, and zero-in on the cause of a particular performance issue that is affecting that service — a capability companies do not have when they manage IT solely through technology silos. The new BSM tools can also enable a company to prioritize resources based on the relative importance of multiple business services. For example, a brokerage firm could manage online trading or online banking services holistically instead of piecemeal within silos: the server group, the database group, the application group.

More Than Just Technology

But completely changing a management approach is not easy. “For the last 20 years our industry has been focused on managing technology. Management of IT has been by domains, such as mainframes, networks and databases. But those domains don’t truly live in isolation.” Pink Elephant’s DuMoulin continues, “A basic premise is that there is a business requirement for IT to understand how any given IT component relates to another and how these devices support or potentially disable a business process. When you understand IT from this perspective you see that you cannot manage by technology or device. You need to understand the relationship between those devices, and how they relate to IT services, and ultimately how IT services are consumed by business.”

The people factor remains an issue, too. For many organizations, BSM often requires a corporate culture change. IT personnel must learn that they don’t just manage boxes and applications, but actually provide services that the business consumes in order to survive and thrive. Most experts agree that the tools are out there, and are necessary, but they go hand in hand with changing processes and changing the way companies perceive the value of IT.

“Some people believe that it doesn’t matter what technology you use as long as you have the right processes in place,” comments Ken Wendle, the ITSM Solution Lead at HP. “But I have always said that IT service management is a combination of people and process, enabled by the right technology, all working in synergy with each other. It is about the intelligent blending of technology to enable and enforce the right processes, which then will allow an organization to execute around business priorities.”

“I have seen companies that put the right processes in place, and trained the right people, but then created process silos,” HP’s Wendle also notes. “But ITSM is about cutting across the technology silos, not just creating another set of process silos on top of them. ITSM is about taking a holistic approach.”

The BSM Evolution Continues

Where is BSM going from here? “One of the missing ingredients today is the enrollment of the business community,” itSMF’s Childers believes. “They need to understand what BSM is and why they would want to support it. I think the better job everyone does with bringing the business side onboard, the faster BSM will progress.”

“I don’t think companies have gained all the benefits of technology that they could,” HP’s Wendle agrees. “The business people need to understand and appreciate what IT can do to help the business side of the organization.”

Clearly there is work to be done, but the adoption of ITSM and the BSM tools that support it continues to gain momentum as more companies realize this is a prerequisite for success in a new world where business and IT have become one.

“The prediction is that over the next five years, ITSM will be as impactful as ERP systems were, or maybe more,” itSMF’s Childers concludes. “I don’t think ITSM is going away, because it makes too much sense.” And innovative BSM vendors will continue to develop new tools to help.

Life In The Service Industry

The title “Service Industry” is a broad and encompassing term that includes business enterprises ranging from courier and delivery to the high tech industry; from the grocery to the gas station to the hospital and all businesses in between. Obviously, various business ventures are geared to present their wares to particular clients and customers but they all have a common thread – service to their clientele. This “service” may be excellent or it may be horrendous. In these articles we will explore the concepts of service and repercussions of the good, the mediocre and the bad with the intention of improving the service commitment of the readers to their customer.

PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS

My personal background in the service industry is in the telecommunications field. Beginning my career in 1970 with the Bell System before Divestiture, I left after the government forced the breakup of Ma Bell and have been in the private business world of telecommunications ever since.

During the early years of my career I was taught the importance of customer service and maintaining the correct relationship to customers. Two of the Bell System’s top priorities were “safety” and “customer service”; safety for the employees and service for the customer which included a high quality in the standard of work practices and ethic.

Becoming a business owner, I was introduced to business world situations that a novice could never have dreamed of and it is always rewarding to work through them. I believe that our strong commitment to service excellence is what has carried our company for 22 years. The service excellence ethic that I had been taught and conformed to was easily incorporated into my business. Instilling this ethic into the hearts of technicians that haven’t come from that environment has always been the challenge. Some get it and make great team members. We all agree that everyone in our business has basically the same products and pricing. What sets us apart is our commitment to our customer’s needs when they need us.

THE QUEST FOR SERVICE EXCELLENCE

The particular industry with which you are connected doesn’t matter. The concepts that we will discuss remain valid for all with the result being to safely provide a quality product to your customer and make a profit in the process.

When we hear the word “service” in the context of the business world, it brings to mind someone providing a desired product, tangible or not, to someone else. This product should be designed to bring satisfaction to the customer and bring them to the point of willingly rendering legal tender to the provider. When it all works properly, the customer is satisfied with the product and the provider makes a reasonable profit and is able to comfortably seek another customer and not be apprehensive to invite former customers back.

Of course, I have just explained free enterprise and what happens when the system is employed properly. The proper understanding of providing service to customers and clients makes the American economy tick. The misunderstanding of providing customer service makes consumers sick.

May I say up front that making a profit is not a sin to be shunned but is the backbone of free enterprise. The potential of owning a profitable business keeps the entrepreneur focused on his goals and this in turn provides jobs to the economy. As in anything else in this world, overindulgence and the extravagant and unnecessary profit by taking advantage of others is wrong. But the enjoyment of a reasonable profit for a business will keep that business alive and healthy for you, the customer to return and claim that great product again.

IT ALL BEGINS WITH ATTITUDE

A Service Manager who I know told his boss, “We have spoiled our customers!” The boss said, “Yes, we want every one of them to think that we have our tools in hand and our hand on the doorknob just waiting for their call.” That’s the service attitude it takes.

In our next posts we will discuss Service Attitude, Performance, Leadership and Stories and Experiences of the sometimes roller coaster ride and never dull life in the service business.

LIFE IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY PART 2

IT ALL BEGINS WITH ATTITUDE

Providing great customer service starts when you get up each day. It begins with ATTITUDE. I don’t believe this is just a simple cliché. The life you live each day begins with an attitude of some kind. Abraham Lincoln said words to the effect that a man is just about as happy as he makes up his mind to be. I have seen that to be true with a service mindset also. You can allow situations to occupy your thinking or you can put those aside, concentrate on providing properly for your customer and then pick them up later at an appropriate time. Don’t worry. They will be there waiting for you.

We know that most days are filled with challenges of all kinds. Employees, schedules, equipment breakdowns, customer complaints…the list goes on. So if you know at the outset this is going to be the usual day, why begin in a grumpy mood? You already have a head start on it by knowing what to expect, so make it a positive. You are only making your day more difficult if you dwell on the negative that will come. Be tenacious as you greet each new challenge. When you work through it to success, your reward of satisfaction will be awesome; and if a customer witnesses your positive approach to their problem, you will raise your value with them.

A good example from our industry is when a customer is having problems with one of their service providers, i.e. local phone company, internet or long distance provider. Many times they can’t relate the problem they are having properly and talk the tech language that is required. The customer is always relieved when we step in, spend the time with the support group and follow the trouble ticket to completion. We assure them that we will take care of the situation and that they can get back to doing what they do best in their business.

Sales turnaround specialist Lou Ludwig says, “If we don’t wow them, it’s likely that we won’t do business with them…this is not a casual occurrence, it’s a planned and consistent activity.” Looking for ways to “wow” customers should be a daily exercise. Many times the seemingly insignificant things will speak the loudest to customers.

Another example from our experience is brought to mind. More than once we have been congratulated on leaving our work area like we found it or in better condition. We have all seen cluttered, dirty closets where communications equipment is located. That closet may not have been swept in the last 10 years, but when we left it was clean. For the observant customer, this speaks volumes about who we are.

Now, relate these examples to your personal industry. How can you perform a little better and provide a “wow” for your next customer? Maybe an extra special greeting to them when they walk in; maybe a little something additional added at no cost to their purchase; maybe asking them how their family is. One wise man said, “Everyone walks through life with a sign around their neck that says ‘make me feel important’.” If we can make that customer feel that they are important to us, they will be back time and time again.

I once employed a technician that was not a very good technician. However, he had the people skills that a service company should fervently seek. Customers loved him and even stood up for him when he needed to be reprimanded on a particular job. And they insisted that I and my service manager get to the bottom of the problem, because it certainly could not be the technician’s fault. So, we reworked the job and solved the problem without pressing the issue. The customer relationship was worth more than the immediate understanding of where the blame actually lay.

Are you attacking each day with a great customer service attitude? Is your priority to provide service excellence or just to make a profit? These two goals go hand in hand, and I believe the attitude of customer service comes first. If you are striving daily to provide the quality product that your customer desires, you are stretching a long way toward continuing to build a profitable business.

So, as the old song says, “Put on a happy face” and enjoy providing the service that you are capable of.

This will bring us next time to performance. You can say it all day long, but you must do it!

LIFE IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY – PART 3

Performance

Performance is the key to your longevity in business. If you are in business, then you have put your reputation on the line as a performer that can get the job done. As you continually prove to your customers that you can perform, they will beat a trail back to your door when they need the service or product you provide. If you do not perform and have an unconcerned attitude for performing, then fold your tent, it’s just a matter of time.

Over the years I have been a witness to many varied personalities and attitudes in the service industry. Here are some examples:

1 – I have seen megalomaniacs who wanted everyone to know that they were God’s gift to their field of expertise. One such technician worked for me. He was a very intelligent person but could not perform when it came to customer or other employee relations. When I finally terminated him he was completely offended and questioned my decision, as he put it, “You don’t want to work with me anymore?” This was after I had presented 2 pages of customer complaints that had been discussed previously to no avail. He just couldn’t get past his own greatness. To my dismay, I waited too long to get this done and lost some business in the process.

Another such individual was a business owner. He was a friend and a very intelligent person. But his visions of grandeur about who he was became a flaw that he could not overcome and led to his company’s collapse because of his non performance with his customers.

These types of individuals are not willing to do whatever it takes to perform and provide customer service. In their world they are right every time and in all situations, and this leads to a less than acceptable performance level.

2 – On the other hand, I have seen people enter the workforce with no background in our business and become outstanding service performers because they realized that the most important aspect of our business is our customer. As we said last time, it all begins with attitude. The attitude to learn the business and perform for the customer is a gold mine for a small business owner when he finds this individual.

One young man came from the retail industry as a store manager. He had no technical background or computer skills. My concern was how he would acclimate to the high tech world. His attitude and customer skills propelled him to eventually be our service manager, overseeing a team of technical service performers daily.

We have all had less than desirable experiences with service providers. Maybe it does not bother you as it does me or maybe you’re not as sensitive to it as I. But when I see a waitperson or technician or delivery driver, etc with a frown or a trite attitude it really affects me in a negative way.

I realize that the situations in people’s lives are many and varied and can very easily become outwardly expressed in facial and voice expression. But this is what we have been discussing; you must get past this and concentrate on your customer for the long haul. They have problems too. Don’t provide an outlet in attitude and/or body language that potentially will ruin that relationship.

When a customer has a need, the good service performer goes to work to fill that need. If it’s a product, they will provide it; if it’s a service, they will get it accomplished; if it is working through a problem, their mindset will be, “It ain’t over until I win!” The businesses that employ people with these attitudes will perform and be recognized as the best in their industry.

In the best seller Good to Great, Jim Collins writes, “When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magic alchemy of great performance.” This is the prescription for maximum performance; the discipline of service excellence and the strong commitment to the work ethic. Mix them together and be proud of your service performance.

Times Are Changing for the Service Industry

The meltdown of the financial system, collapse of the housing industry, massive unemployment, and the lingering recession we find ourselves mired in. These are the factors that are going to change the service industry forever, for the better I believe.

Service based businesses are going to find that people are going to spend money, but, they will reserve the expenditures for companies or individuals that they genuinely like and treat them as valued customers.

The days of not caring if a customer calls you back or gives your company name as a referral are over. Those two things will soon be the difference between life or death for a service business.

Mrs. Smith will tell friends that you are a great service provider if in fact you are a great service provider, it will take more than a low – low price to get the job, it will take excellent service and a skill set that includes listening and customer service.

Referrals are gold and having customer reviews are absolutely necessary, as necessary as a business card and a website.

If you believe that time is money you soon will find that the time spent getting to know Mrs. Smith will be invaluable. People do business with people that they like or a business a friend of theirs likes.

Timely arrivals at jobs, friendly demeanor, respectful tone, and real compassion for the problems you are there to help solve. These people have called you for help and they do not need the fast talking, rub their nose in the problem, and take as much money as you can get and run approach.

Be a real person and relate to the problems at hand. Give your opinion as a real opinion not slanted at making as much money as you can, but better slanted toward the customer getting the absolute best service at the best price.

A win – win situation. For the customer, they get value and quality, for the business, you get a customer that will refer your company, will be happier with the final results, and be a repeat customer for the long term success of your business.

The reality today is that consumers have had a hard time surviving, as have many businesses, the level of disposable income may be less but the needs that a consumer must fulfill have not changed, if anything that cost has gone up.

Your service, although needed, if considered a luxury can be put off until better economic conditions prevail. You as a service professional need to elevate the value and quality of the services you provide along with the personal touch of being genuine and friendly. Personal touches will win repeat customers.

Your customer will spend money, your job is not only to provide a great service and customer experience it is to provide a great value to your customer.