Category: Business Life

What is “gravitas” and how does one develop it?


I think that “gravitas” means really the opposite of being a visibly light-hearted, humorous and happy-go-lucky person. Therefore you have to be able to switch the level of gravitas on and off, that’s the tricky bit. There are people who get noted for being able to make people laugh and sometimes, if they are not carefully, they become regarded as “clowns” who are not really to be taken seriously. On the other hand, too much of the opposite will mean you are seen as someone with gravitas, but maybe not someone with a great sense of humour, which could create distance in situations where you don’t want it.

A certain dignity in not being too open about one’s personal life is probably good – familiarity can breed contempt, and making sure that your use of humour is aimed at quality rather than quantity will do a lot to enable you to come off as someone with gravitas. Other than that it is something which grows with age, experience and the ability to show a certain classic style of speech, choice of language, dress and posture. But you can’t stand on your dignity the whole time. If you make a mistake and people laugh at you, better join in the joke rather than get offended or that will undermine gravitas quicker than anything else.

Certainly a serious demeanour going hand in hand with a genuine reputation for being ethical and having a flawless integrity, these are things which many of us aspire to and should aspire to. For many successful people, this is what they tend to have in common and for many this is what they will sum up as “gravitas”.

A former boss of mine suggested that I increase my level of gravitas in order to get on, he did not say how I should go about it, but I think to a degree I did it anyway. Now I am pleased to say I can still make people laugh, but I can just as easily get them to take an issue seriously. That’s what I wanted to achieve and that’s a target I recommend people to aim for whenever I hear them talking about gravitas.

Plaxo as a personal CRM business tool


In these days of below-the-line marketing, everyone should have a personal social-media CRM independently to whatever CRM they have in their office. This reflects the blurring of the work and play areas of life which is one of the recognised aspects of Generations Y and Z, as well as a very natural result of the interactive technology most of our readers will be native to and working in every day of their lives.

Plaxo (www.plaxo.com) is an address book synchronising and back-up tool which has a number of interesting features such as the ability to access your contacts from the net, to import and export as CSV files, to send greetings cards to check duplicates and synchronise in a limited way with google applications, facebook and other social media.

The interface seems to offer a lot of benefits and certainly the ability to send greetings cards is a useful one. There are, however a whole series of issues and bugs and incomplete aspects to Plaxo which means that it can easily be superseded as the personal CRM of choice by any app maker able to sort out these issues more efficiently.

1) There’s no official Plaxo app on Android phones and so the synchronisation goes via Google Apps and is clunky. Whenever codeword security runs out, it seems to stop synchronising. Also the synchronising doesn’t seem to work well all the time and in my case telephone numbers have been moved from one person to another, which is very troublesome.

2) There are not really enough greetings cards and they are in too few languages.

3) Intelligent updating from the web of what our contacts are doing seems not to be working half the time. Occasionally the robot makes a half-hearted attempt to find and update people, but nowhere near what you’d expect for the annual fee.

4) Above about 3000 contacts and the site works slowly. It is unable to offer you a print out of the whole database at that size.

5) It often loses the pictures it has imported from facebook and doesn’t seem to be able to import any at all from Linked In. It cannot update calendars directly to Android, again only via Google apps.

6) It doesn’t deal properly with any scripts beyond basic Latin script, so it mangles names written even with Polish or Czech letters, leave alone Cyrillics or Chinese names.

7) The folders are a clunky interface, but even when you have done the work of putting contacts into the appropriate folders, they don’t carry through to the greetings cards area, so you cannot, for instance, make a folder of people who would receive, let’s say, and Eidh card or a more/less traditional Hannukah card and then easily access that folder from the greetings card area. Also send outs of more than about 200 cards per time tend to fail and need all that work to be done again.

These are my main Plaxo gripes. I am airing them in the hope that Plaxo will finally get their act together and repair their product before their remaining users find another app on the market among the choice which seems to be growing every day that does all the things that Plaxo is expected to do, but still fails to deliver.

 

 

 

 

Quoracy readers’ poll on mobile phone interfaces


Out of interest, what is your preferred choice of phone operating system? This is purely for the sake of providing a barometer or benchmark for fellow subscribers. We have no association with any particular platform.

Thanks for your vote! Please freely add your comments and experience as comments to this article.

I come to bury mind-mapping, not to praise it.


Mind Mapping
Mind Mapping (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

Tim Brown recently wrote the following small article on Linked In updates, which I found by clicking a link telling me to stop using words to describe things:

Make it Visual

Some things are hard to describe in words. In fact, many things are hard to describe in words. Try describing in detail the bedroom you spent your childhood in. My guess is that you will have a hard time describing it well enough for someone else to recreate it. The same is true for new ideas. Words may be a start, but they often lack the precision and clarity required to describe a new idea to someone else. Photos, sketches, and data visualizations can make complex ideas easier to understand and share. That’s why portfolios beat résumés, and young designers are still encouraged to carry a sketchbook.

This week, try recording your observations and ideas visually, even if just as a rough sketch in a notebook or a picture on your camera phone. If you think you can’t draw, too bad. Do it anyway.

Mind mapping can be an excellent way to get visual about abstract ideas. For example, check out the design thinking mind map used in Change By Design, which you also can see in my recent post, “Start Designing Your Life.

There were nearly two hundred likes on this and a discussion had kicked off which seemed fairly one-sided, with 42 people all agreeing with this premise in one form or another. Oddly they had all used words to express this agreement and not one picture could be seen.

I had to add the contrary view, and did so as follows:

I respectfully disagree with some of the premises in this article. We think with language – I defy anyone to frame a conceptual thought without it – and human language, at least the ones I know, bases on words.

I have looked at Mind Mapping and some of the other inventions of Tony Buzan, I have read several of his books and remain skeptical as to the practical use of them. As far as mind mapping is concerned, its main use in my opinion is to give people of an artistic bent an excuse for doodling in meetings, and at least some direction to the doodling they’d probably be doing anyway.

A tabular approach wins out every time – the human brain loves tables and rectangular things. That’s why we live in rectangular rooms in rectangular buildings with rectangular furniture. Placing any problem into a table immediately highlights areas which are uncovered, and ensures deeper and more consistent thinking on any topic. Even “out of the box” thinking is only possible if you’ve defined a box. None of this happens with mind-maps, which ensure a very subjective and random summary of any topic.

I thought it was worth taking a contrary position and maybe getting some thought and discussion going, so please don’t be offended at my detraction from your premise, which is certainly not intended in an agressive spirit.

I thought we could find out whether the mind-mapping is actually popular among the people who follow or at least stumble upon this service, so please take part in the following poll:

The Money Value of Time


The National Audit Office building, built orig...
The National Audit Office building, built originally as the Imperial Airways Empire Terminal. The statue, “Speed Wings over the World” is by Eric Broadbent” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to page 2 of today’s UK Financial Times, a UK National Audit Office report shows over 6.5m people waited more than 10 minutes to get their calls answered by HMRC, adding £33m to customer’s phone bills and wasting £103m of their time last year.

This snippet of information triggered a few things that I wanted to say to you this morning. The first of these is, that, despite the fact that it is obviously pretty dire that people need to wait so long to get their calls answered by the service they are paying taxes to fund in the first place, at least in the UK there is a body which is concerened at the loss of time and places a value, in monetary terms, on that loss of time by the customer.

Anyone who has spent any time either in government offices, or even banks or supermarkets in this part of the world will probably confirm that the idea that the customer’s time is valuable and should be respected is a rather alien concept. Not so long ago it was an utterly alien concept, but even today it is still a concept which they find rather hard to grasp.

Not as bad as China, though, from what I heard and also saw. People being expected to queue all day outside the Chinese consulate for their visa and then at the very moment that the scheduled closing time of the office came the shutters come down like with Kiosk Keith and that was that. The spare time of the employees was utterly sacrosanct, that of the customer not at all. This of course shows an elitist mentality, which can be found in almost all state sector offices to one or another degree anywhere in the world. Expect it and try somehow to deal with it.

Much less acceptable is the wasting of the customer’s time in business. If the customer is paying then they have a right to have their matters expedited and people who keep people waiting ought either to invest in more infrastructure to avoid it or to wonder if they are in the right business. Continue reading “The Money Value of Time”

Audit fees bouncing back in the USA. Will Europe follow?


European flag outside the Commission
European flag outside the Commission (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CPA Trendlines have recently run a few articles highlighting a rather brisk upturn in the fees taken by audit firms in the States, and together with that an increase in salaries as well as movement in the market for hires in audit in that country.

Europe may or may not follow the trend in the USA – on the one hand we all went down together in 2007, so hopefully we will start to rise together also, but on the other hand Europe is author of some of its own problems. The Euro crisis is far from over, credit is still not flowing in the way people had become accustomed to in those halcyon pre 2007 days, and even where there is talk about green shoots of grass out on the Eastern European green fields, it seems to be a case of “two steppes forward, one steppe back”.

Europe has been discussing the Barnier proposals for audit reform which would have given more teeth to the profession as well as reduced the oligopolistic effect of the Big Four, who seem to be using their oligopoly so as to sour the market for the middle tier and thus cement their place as fairly unthreatened by competition from the mid-tier audit firms.  In this, the smaller firms with low audit quality are their natural allies, and in places like Poland where the Big Four took effective control of the local audit chambers, the previous initiatives to force the small pensioner firms to either level up or get out of the market have been unravelled and tiny micro firms of auditors manned by geriatric owners still get to pronounce on the financial statements of even listed companies in exchange for fees which simply guarantee that they cannot possibly have done the work required to be able to make such pronouncements and back them up. Should they ever land in court they will probably not need to worry as they will be too old to get into trouble or endure sanctions for long.  Even though this status quo means that governance is largely bogus, the Oversight boards don’t seem to care and the Companies themselves are not complaining, as they save money and also don’t need to put themselves to the trouble of a proper audit, where they might actually need to answer questions and furnish documents to an auditor following a proper audit plan. And behind all this is the Big Four, knowing that this state of affairs squeezes hardest on the mid tier, as the largest companies simply must use the Big Four, and they are fighting the mid-tier for the medium sized business since the recession started and every euro counts.

Before 2007, they tended to bother less with mid-tier clients as they themselves are aware that they are not really geared up to give them what they want, and that is what the mid-tier audit firms are designed for.

The Barnier proposals initially struck hard at the Big Four, and they responded by sending armies of lobbyists to Brussels and to national governments. As a reesult of this, the European Commission is already arguing over a watered-down version of Barnier, and there is the opposing threat that has appeared from nowhere of upping the audit thresholds again.

Now it seems crazy that exactly at a time when many European governments are going to be increasing tax burdens in order to fund their return to lower sovereign debts, and therefore the motivation for taxpaying companies to cheat will be intensified, governments at the same time are talking about reducing seriously the percentage of the economies which are subjected to proper audit.

It makes no sense, but it seems that they don’t appreciate at all the value of the audit system. They are aware of the failures when they occur and concern themselves with the 1% of audits that have gone astray and ignore and legislate in an adverse way for the 99% of audits that have not gone astray. As a result the markets for audit firms have been skewed and more pressure on our prices occured and more and more pressure on time available for audits, which in turn doesn’t do much to improve auditors’ chances to spot abuses and irregularities.

So we hope that the situation will be on the mend in Europe as well, but the politicians need to wise up in order for this to happen. They need to understand that  an audit profession that is choking to death in this continent is not in anybody’s interests, and least of all in their own.

The EGIAN Position Paper in full (republished by permission) Quoracy.com fully endorses the views expressed in this document


Enlargement of the European Union (animation)
History of the EU

 

AN EGIAN POSITION PAPER

 

EGIAN SUPPORTS ROBUST REFORM PROGRAMME FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION AUDIT PROFESSION

PRINCIPLES AND ACTIONS

 

1 THE URGENT NEED FOR CHANGE

The creation of a more open vibrant market in the audit of large listed companies is urgently needed to protect and advance the public interest. If no action is taken, the currently excessive levels of concentration in this segment of the audit market in nearly all Member States of the European Union will very likely continue to rise even further, not least as a result of non-Big 4 firms being taken over by their dominant Big 4 competitors in key markets. An example of how to define large listed companies is set out at the end of this paper. Continue reading “The EGIAN Position Paper in full (republished by permission) Quoracy.com fully endorses the views expressed in this document”