Business

This course is designed as a survey course that will expose you to business terminology, concepts, and current business issues. The intent is to develop a viable business vocabulary, foster critical and analytical thinking, and refine your business decision-making skills. These skills will be acquired by the reading materials, exercises, and research assignments in this course that simulate the workplace today. By delving into the units of this course, you will be able to fine tune your direction and choice of career in business.

English For Buyers

Definition

Definition no 1

A buyer is a person who is buying something or who intends to buy it.

Car buyers are more interested in safety and reliability than speed.

Definition no 2

A buyer is a person who works for a large store deciding what goods will be bought from manufacturers to be sold in the store.

I was a buyer for the women's clothing department.

Required skills

Buyers have a unique opportunity to combine their natural people skills with research and analytics abilities. It’s easy to see why buyers need to be good with numbers: their main goal is to obtain the goods their company needs for the best price. They need to analyze variables like quality, price and shipping to determine the best deal.

A buyer’s analytical duties might include forecasting sales levels, analyzing consumer buying patterns and predicting future trends.

A successful buyer will use the following skills as they complete their everyday tasks: 

  • Negotiation 
  • Analytic
  • Critical thinking
  • Listening to customers
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Building rapport with suppliers


As you can see, it’s not all about numbers. Interpersonal skills play a significant role, too. Building and maintaining relationships with vendors is one of the best ways a buyer can score significant savings for their company. A buyer’s relational tasks might include getting feedback from customers, growing relationships with suppliers and attending trade fairs.

Don’t hold back information

Buyers feel they need to withhold information in order to control the selling process and keep the upper hand. The problem is, it doesn’t give the buyer the upper hand. It only prevents the sales person from getting the information they need and makes it more difficult to find the right solution for you.

As a buyer don’t be cheap with information, share as much as you can. It helps the sales person better help you.

Do your homework

As much as sales people need to do their homework, buyers need to do their homework too. Too often buyers don’t know enough about their own environment. They lack the understanding required to know what they need, what the real problems are and what the existing situation is. They also lack a good understanding of the results they are looking for.

When buyers don’t have command of their environment, a clear understanding of what the problems are, what the critical requirements are and what their vision for the outcome is, it’s near impossible for sales people to help solve the problem.  Sales people rely on your knowledge of the environment and what your looking to accomplish to be successful.

Focus on price last

Price is important. We all want to save money. We have to work within a budget. However, prioritizing price up front only hurts you. Start with your requirements. Look at as many solutions as possible. Evaluate all your options and then AND ONLY THEN, should you focus on price.

Prioritizing price too early, limits the ability for you to evaluate value. It increases the probability of good solutions being weeded out too early in the process.  Don’t let price drive the evaluation process. It’ll come up on it’s own. Don’t introduce it too early.

Don’t hate your sales people

Your sales person is NOT the enemy. If you don’t like him or her, ask for a new rep, but whatever you do, treat the sales person like an ally. Ask them lot’s of questions. Ask them to fill in your knowledge gaps.  Share as much information with them as possible. Become familiar with your sales rep.

Your sales rep is a tool that should be used well. The best sales reps are eager to engage with you. They want to partner. They want to help you. Leverage this enthusiasm and commitment to you, to get the best solution or product for your business. Good buyers have learned how to leverage sales people as a valuable asset.

Don’t buy by the numbers

Buying by the numbers is usually done with an RFP (Request For Proposal). It’s when a company invites numerous companies to respond to a formal RFP with specific questions everyone has to answer. The RFP process almost always prevents sales people from engaging with the decisions makers. Questions must be submitted by form or email at certain times. Rarely are the business drivers or business issues given. The RFP usually contains a list of specs, or features your product or solution must meet and a price.

RFP’s are the dumbest way to buy ever created.  I understand the objective behind them. However, they do very little to help the buyer make a good decision and they make the process a nightmare for sales people. RFPs prevent almost ANY level of creativity and make it difficult for unique solutions to be put on the table. Finally, they prevent sales people from truly understanding what the customer is trying to do – – RFPs suck!

Don’t create a rigid, buy by the numbers, RFP or buying process that has sales people checking off boxes and follow specific steps to sell to you. It only hurts you in the end.

No need to be in control

Good buyers know it’s in their best interest to relinquish a little bit of control.  It doesn’t serve a buyer’s best interest to be in control of the process. If they are doing it right, if they are going to get the best solution possible, good buyers understand they HAVE TO let go. They recognize they don’t know everything. Buyers have to trust the sales person. They have to allow others to work with them to solve the problem. They HAVE to let sales people in.

When we don’t let sales people in, we are stunting our growth. We become the sole contributor of information and therefore fewer solutions are identified, fewer opportunities capitalized on.

Good buyers KNOW to let sales people in.

Make a decision

Good buyers know it’s never going to be “perfect,” that eventually a decision has to be made. Good buyers recognize you have to commit. Indecision or paralysis by analysis is the enemy of growth. Good buyers do their due diligence. They weigh their options, they are sure of their direction and they make decisions.

A buyer is...

  • Someone responsible for purchasing at his/her company
  • Someone who loves to shop for himself

What is more important?

  • Focusing on the price
  • Focusing on the best possible value

Which skills are required for a good buyer?

  • Multitasking
  • Time Management
  • Delegation
  • Analytic Mind
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Decision Making
  • Writing
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving

A buyer should...

  • Share all the information with his/her supplier
  • Not share any information with his/her supplier
  • Firmly express all his/her needs to the supplier

A good buyer should...

A good buyer should his/her environment.

A sales person is...

  • Buyer's enemy
  • Buyer's tool

What does RFP stand for in business?

  • Raw Financial Plan
  • Request For Proposal
  • Requirement For Participation

Managing International Project Teams

Introduction

The fact is that many of us do manage international teams now. The world of business is continually shrinking: we work in an environment with real-time audio visual communication with colleagues on the other side of the world and online translation tools. Even small companies can operate internationally with outsourcing agreements and partners overseas, which means that project managers in organizations of any size face the challenges of managing international projects.

 

And that means far more than just calculating that when it’s 9 am in Paris, Texas it’s 4 pm in Paris, France. International projects come with two main challenges: the people you are working with won’t necessarily work in the same way as you, and the people you are working for won’t necessarily want the same things.

Accept and research the cultural challenges of international teams

National culture plays a big part in how we act, and we can’t change that – we can just learn how to make it work for everyone concerned. Having an open mind about the challenges of managing an international project is essential. It helps you address them in a pragmatic way that benefits everyone.

 

That can be hard for senior managers to accept. After all, they have got where they are in the organization by working hard and performing well. They expect certain responses to their behavior, and when that doesn’t materialize, it is easy to put the blame squarely at the door of the person who hasn’t reacted as expected. Being able to see that working with an international team requires an appreciation of local reactions is key to making cross-border projects a success.

 

Spending some time with your team members overseas is the best way to understand how they work, but desk research before you go (or if budget constraints mean you can’t go) will be beneficial.

 

You will find out a great deal about how team members will most likely react in the project environment. Here are some examples of cultural differences that manifest themselves in a team environment:

 

  • Leadership: an egalitarian, collaborative style will work better with Scandinavians than with Russians, who will distrust a leader who is too friendly with subordinates.
  • Time: in some countries, time is a flexible concept. French business meetings rarely start on time. Plan your conference calls to allow for the Mexicans to join even later. When a deadline is a drop-dead date make sure everyone actually understands the significance of missing it. For some cultures, milestones are just a guide.
  • Your role: while you might be the most important person on the project in your country, your counterparts in China for example could see you as a spare part. Employees working in cultures with strong hierarchical structures may not take direction from you because in the grand hierarchy you just don’t register. Bring in your Sponsor or a board member if you need to get things moving and ask them to speak to local management to make your role clear.  
  • Saving face: some cultures find it easy (or at least acceptable) to hold up a hand and say ‘I made a mistake’. But others don’t. That makes managing issues much more complicated.

 

Projects where the team was not based together suffered from poor communication, procurement problems and lack of direction.

 

Be bothered enough about cultural differences to find out what they actually are. Many people love talking about how their countries work and a short discussion in the early days of the project with a local expert can avoid headaches later. This knowledge provides you with a framework to manage the differences that will occur and also the reassurance that you can develop a realistic way to work together.

Deal with the practicalities of time zones

Project managers leading international projects face a variety of practical challenges. For example, time zones are important. How will you conduct real-time team meetings? Who is going to be the person who gets up in the middle of the night for a call with the Australian development team to go through the testing results?

 

You will find it difficult to recruit volunteers so think about how you can incentivize the team, or shift meeting times around so the burden isn’t always on the same individuals.

Protect the home-based team

Protect the interests of the home-based team as well. A project sponsor who doesn’t appreciate that you have just spent half the night on a web conference with the manufacturing supplier in Japan will criticize a team that then goes home at 2pm.

 

If you have international responsibilities then you not only have to educate team members in how to work well together, but you also have to manage upwards and ensure that senior stakeholders understand the constraints of this type of project.

Understand the challenge of split locations

Projects with international teams often take longer and involve higher travel costs than projects where the entire team is co-located – and that isn’t always a welcome message to the senior team.

 

In fact, co-location can be a problem even with projects completely based in one place. A project team that is split across several locations can also be difficult to manage. If you have the choice, opt to have your team in the same building, preferably all together on the same floor. Research done by the US Civil Engineering Research Foundation shows that co-location contributes to effective decision making, attention to detail and helps the team form a partnership.

 

Projects where the team was not based together suffered from poor communication, procurement problems and lack of direction. Your project is likely to hit these issues so put them on your risk log and manage them.

Focus on communication

Whether you are split across multiple home-country sites or multiple countries, getting together at critical times in the project is a sure way of moving forward with the minimal amount of miscommunication.

 

The biggest issues for international projects are cultural understanding and communication. The former isn’t something that can be neatly tackled by a software package. It relies on the emotional intelligence of the project manager, his or her leadership skills, adaptability and ability to inform and train the teams. Successful communication also relies on the soft skills that a project manager brings to the table.

 

These are:

  • the ability to listen
  • the sensibility to hear the unspoken concerns
  • the ability to respond clearly in a way that the other person can understand.

Use the right tools

Technology can help you put those communication skills into practice. People need to be able to hear and speak to each other in some format before the project manger’s emotional intelligence can be put to good use.1 Technology can at least alleviate the difficulties of international working, even if we have to accept its limitations with regards to the interpretation of messages communicated using it.

 

The technologies available to project managers are wide-ranging. Instant messaging (IM) gives project teams the ability to connect informally when their status is shown as online. This can promote collaborative working as team members can quickly and easily ask questions of their colleagues instead of waiting for a scheduled formal meeting. In general, the more communication the greater the bonds and understanding between team members, so provided this facility is not abused, it can help improve working relationships. In practice, it only works when all users are in similar time zones where the difference is only a few hours.

 

The keys to success in international projects are shrewd use of the available technologies and excellent cultural awareness.

 

The next step up from one-to-one messaging is web conferencing, where multiple users join the same online conference. Web conferencing means you can make changes to documents in real time or show product demonstrations to the rest of the team without having everyone in the same room. Some tools also offer the functionality to record presentations or meetings so they can be played back afterwards: useful for colleagues in time zones that don’t allow them to participate, or for people who are participating in a meeting not held in their native language, so they have another chance to go over any details they missed later.

 

IM and web conferencing allow synchronous communication, but asynchronous communication also has its place in building a successful international team. You could opt for something as simple as a shared online calendar, where team meetings and project milestones are recorded for everyone to see. When you connect from a device configured to a different time zone, the app will automatically show the meeting at the correct time where you are. It is little things that will make a difference to team efficiencies.

 

Whether you stick with smaller, single-function collaboration tools or go for an all-singing, all-dancing online project management software suite, you will quickly realize the limitations of your choice. Don’t blame the tools. Use your professional judgement to know when to use the tools, and when to set the tools aside and lead with understanding and instinct.

Working in different time zones should not be a constant burden to the team from the same country. In order to deal with it you should:

  • Exclude some teams from participation
  • Shift the meeting times
  • You're the boss of this project. This does not concern you.

To understand your teams better you should:

  • Try to organize a meeting for everybody in one location
  • Become friends with everyone
  • Make them fill out a questionnaire

Projects where the team was not based together suffered from:

  • Difference of opinions
  • Poor communication
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Lack of direction
  • Procurement problems

Successful communication also relies on the soft skills that a project manager brings to the table. These are:

1. The to listen.

2. The sensibility to the unspoken concerns.

3. The ability to clearly in a way that the other can understand.

Please describe communication tools which may help in managing international projects

Here are some examples of cultural differences that manifest themselves in a team environment (please match):

  • Leadership:
    an egalitarian, collaborative style will work better with Scandinavians than with Russians, who will distrust a leader who is too friendly with subordinates.
  • Time:
    in some countries, time is a flexible concept. When a deadline is a drop-dead date make sure everyone actually understands the significance of missing it. For some cultures, milestones are just a guide.
  • Your role:
    while you might be the most important person on the project in your country, your counterparts could see you as a spare part.
  • Saving face:
    some cultures find it easy (or at least acceptable) to hold up a hand and say ‘I made a mistake’. But others don’t. That makes managing issues much more complicated.

Being a good manager

Who is a manager?

An individual who is in charge of a certain group of tasks, or a certain subset of a company. A manager often has a staff of people who report to him or her.As an example, a restaurant will often have a front-of-house manager who helps the patrons, and supervises the hosts; or a specific office project can have a manager, known simply as the project manager. Certain departments within a company designate their managers to be line managers, while others are known as staff managers, depending upon the function of the department.

What makes a good manager?

Good managers are essential to any successful organization. An exceptionally good manager achieves a hard working, productive and effective workforce that punches above its weight in its performance.

Good managers attract exceptional staff; they make the organization a preferred employer; they help to increase market share; add to profits and surpluses, and reduce costs. Their staff are engaged, committed and ‘go the extra mile’.

Managers, however, dance on a fault line - they either have the behaviors that inspire followers to do what they otherwise may not be willing to do, and without creating any psychological distress, or they do not and the costs will escalate and ripple for a long time.

So what makes a good manager?

A key to successful management is the relationship between the manager and his or her staff.  It’s the manner in which managers manage people that separates the ordinary from the good and the exceptional.

Good relationships are based on trust, commitment and engagement, and a good manager’s essential role is to build these relationships for the benefit of the organization, so that the tasks that are set are completed with enthusiasm, effectively, on time and with the energy to do more.

What are the attributes of a good manager?

A good manager is good at managing people, they ...

  • coach their staff and counsel those who need it
  • have staff who are commitment to them
  • seek response and feedback to all communications with staff
  • know how to resolve conflicts as they arise and handle negative behavior effectively
  • delegate wherever possible
  •  actively like to develop, empower and motivate staff and manage under performers
  • take the lead
  • raise staff morale and are concerned for staff well being
  • are conscious of the psychological contract
  • enjoy managing the boss
  • set clear and unambiguous objectives and discuss them with staff before setting them
  • performance manage staff and provide feedback on performance
  • engage in selection interviewing
  • manage teams
  • value everyone’s contribution

A good manager is good at managing activities, they ...

  • manage change effectively
  • seek continuous improvement
  • control and co-ordinate staff effectively
  • engage in and enjoy crisis management
  • influence the culture of teams
  • focus on customers/clients and know how to improve business performance
  • conduct meetings efficiently
  • are good at planning and organizing themselves
  • are good at both strategic and project management
  • are good at risk management and can manage stress in staff

A good manager is good at managing and developing themselves, they ...

  • achieve good results
  • are assertive and communicate well
  • are clear thinkers and effective speakers who are good at influencing others
  • are decisive, good at negotiation and problem solving
  • write good reports
  • excel at time management
  • spend time in self‐development

What kind of manager are you?

A good manager...

  • A good manager knows how to motivate his people to "go the extra mile".
  • A good manager always complains to his/her employees about their performance.

Good relationships between manager and staff are based on:

  • Gifts
  • Commitment and engagement
  • Spying on employees
  • Trust

THANK YOU!

Thank you for your participation!

Hello and thank you!

We would like to thank you for participating in the beta-test of the LMB E-learning Platform. We hope to receive a constructive feedback from you!

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