Why “Best Practices” Aren’t Good For Your Business

When we’re young and inexperienced, we learn from watching others. Sometimes, there’s so much to pick up that we don’t ask questions about why something is done a certain way, we just accept that the most used practice is the best. This method is ideal when we’re learning to read or to ride a bicycle, but in business it often falls short of the desired outcome. This is because the business world is constantly evolving, so the problems faced when the “best practice” was conceived are not the problems faced when it is put in motion years later.

This is perhaps best explained via allegory: there was a woman who, whenever she cooked roast, would cut the ends off. When her husband asked why she did it, she said she didn’t know, it was how her father cooked roast, and his was delicious. When questioned by his daughter, the woman’s father said he didn’t know why he did it, it was what his mother always did. When the woman asked her grandmother, the grandmother laughed and said that she cut the ends off because her roast pan was too small to fit the whole roast. While in this story, the miscommunication is cute, in business it can be hugely detrimental. If we don’t question why we do things in a certain way, we’ll never progress to meet new challenges and create new and innovative solutions.

The best way to do this is to encourage your employees and management both to ask questions of why standard practices are “standard”. If your corporate culture embraces thoughtful questioning, you’ll have the most informed and independent workforce around. Encourage them to identify problems themselves, and then to think through the solutions before you give them your “best practice” answer – their solutions might be faster, more rounded, or might address the problem from a different angle that works better for the company. The bottom line is, when you trust your employees enough to allow them to question your standard operating procedures, you might be surprised with the answers they come up with, and both you and your company will benefit.

Jeff Bezos’ Open Call to Spend His Money

Jeff Bezos is known as a long term thinker. As the world’s second richest man (only behind the likes of Bill Gates), the Amazon and Washington Post owner is an intense and meticulous planner, and thus he shocked many when he recently posted an appeal on Twitter for suggestions about short-term philanthropic investments… the kinds of things that can affect change now. Though Bezos claims his businesses “are contributing to society and civilization in their own way,” his tweet said he aims to find a cause that he could contribute to “at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”

It’s an interesting strategy, asking the public to give you ideas of how to donate your billions. Virtually no matter which cause Bezos chooses, he’ll gain positive press for hearing what people are calling for and what matters to the general public. However, Bezos’ silence on the Giving Pledge – the commitment of many of the world’s wealthiest individuals to give the majority of that wealth away – and his low-key philanthropic endeavors in the past has created a skepticism around the mogul’s tweet. It doesn’t help that the day after Bezos sent this call out into the web, Amazon announced that it had purchased Whole Foods, a move that is estimated to add $2.8 billion to Bezos’ $75.6 billion net worth.

 

Walmart Employees Deliver Right to Your Door

Amazon.com has cornered the market of cheap, convenient goods in a number of ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s competition is going down without a fight. Superstore chain Walmart has begun a trial program that might just sweep away the edge Amazon has on swift home delivery. They’re using a phone app for employees that allows them to volunteer to deliver walmart packages… on their way home!

According to Walmart’s head of ecommerce, Marc Lore, America has so many Walmart stores that they are “within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population.” He elaborated, “Imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way.” That’s quite an expansive thought, but so far the text program is only being run at two stores inArkansas and one in New Jersey, but if all goes well, no doubt Lore and the rest of the Walmart team imagine a world where all their employees are able to deliver packages after work.

 

The program is voluntary for now, and employees who participate do get paid for their time spent delivering, including overtime. Doing this has allowed Walmart to cut out the most costly part of the shipping journey: the last trip from store to home. They offer free two-day shipping on items over $35, but potentially now may be able to cut that price requirement back and deliver more quickly, which would inch them closer to the convenience and reliability that Amazon currently provides with its Prime membership program.

At a time when many companies are downsizing their brick-and-mortar stores in favor of a strong online presence, Walmart is making their incredible nationwide infrastructure work for them. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if the gamble pays off in the next few years!

Why Saving Your Money Isn’t Always A Good Thing

Learning the basics of handling your finances can take a few years when you’re young. Your paycheck seems to be spent before it’s signed and the struggle to put away some – any – of it in your savings account is a tough one. But once you’ve finally mastered how to budget and save for a rainy day and still have some leftover, you’re golden, right? Wrong. Most young people think that if they’re saving money every month, they’re ahead of the curve, and they’re not necessarily mistaken. Last year, Forbes reported that 69% of Americans had less than $1,000 in a savings account, which is staggering in its implications. However, millennials not only need to save for the coming weeks, but also the coming years and decades. And that means one thing: investment.

It can seem scary and risky to hand over your hard-earned money to the market, essentially kissing it goodbye from your daily life. However, building a nest egg is something that young people need to do now, because they’ll get the best returns from long-term investments. Additionally, the future of social security is murky and conservative estimates of the housing market see it increasing 60% in just 30 years, so young people need to start thinking about how their lives will continue once they’re not young anymore.

However, this is the generation that came of age when the bubble burst in 2008, and getting them to trust the market is hard to do. Though the market has yielded positive returns every calendar year except that one since 2003, young people still remember when their older relatives and friends lost a good deal of their nest eggs in a matter of weeks. That can leave a scar on the financial psyche of an entire generation, and rebuilding that trust will only come with time – and education. If you don’t have investments and are in a position to make some, consider buying a book or taking a course on financial literacy. Chances are you’ll pick up some valuable know-how about providing for yourself and your family long-term, and you’ll gain peace of mind while doing so!

Companies Do Well By Doing Good

The idea of consumer responsibility has been gaining traction for a number of years; it’s the idea that the way people spend their money (for instance, only buying brands with a positive social or environmental impact) can influence the way companies behave and which companies thrive. For a long time, this practice was one of the only ways for people with little capital to still be able to influence industry as wealthy investors do by backing certain companies.

However, it seems that the idea of social responsibility has caught on at the highest levels, because “impact investing” – the same general idea of investing only in companies that have positive social returns as well as financial ones – is definitely on the rise. Related to everything from social entrepreneurship to simply investing in companies or ideas you approve of ethically, Google shows that searches for impact investing opportunities has exploded of the last few years, concrete evidence that people from all levels of the economy are interested in building a more ethically shaped industrial landscape.

Both private and institutional investors are looking in part to the U.N. for guidance: the international organization released a series of 17 goals aimed at global sustainability and good ethics that cover everything from ending world hunger to promoting equal education opportunities and cleaning up the environment. If potential investors are looking for a way to measure the positive impacts of a company, they need not look farther than this list. As corporate transparency becomes essential to investors, large companies are finding that they thrive better when their investors approve of their social impact. In short, they do well by doing good.

So how can you jump in? If you’re looking to invest but don’t know where, the U.N. has a list of positive-impact companies that are a good starting point. Or you can pick one of their goals – say world hunger – and invest in opportunities in your area that work towards that goal, like agricultural efforts or farm-to-table initiatives. And if you’re heading a company, know that investors are no longer just looking for financial gains, but social benefits as well. Like it or not, the world is becoming a smaller place, and people are looking to be responsible for it and for each other.