Monday, December 13, 2010

Margins of Victory

Margin: an amount beyond the minimum necessary.  In light of the hustle and bustle that surrounds the holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the importance of life’s “margins of victory.”  In life unexpected things happen at unexpected times, and many times, especially during the holidays, we tend to balance such full schedules that even the slightest tip of the scale will create complete chaos.  So in order to prevent the marginable losses, you need to have the collateral to cover the risks.

Margin: the blank space that surrounds the text on a page.  On paper you can jot down notes and thoughts in the margins, in life you can utilize your margins for life’s mishaps.  Last March, as I was on vacation with my family in Florida, I received a call that my mother had become ill.  I immediately came back to see her through emergency surgery, and it has taken the past nine months to help her through her recovery.  Due to my margins, I was allowed some freedom to move within the limits and endure the ups and downs of my mother’s recovery without complete derailment from the other aspects in my life; work, social engagements, etc.  On a smaller scale, what about when your children get sick and it’s necessary to miss work to take them to the doctor?  Having that extra sick day sure does come in handy, or when there’s a car accident on your way to work in the morning it’s a good thing you got up 15 minutes early…right?

Margin: an additional amount or one beyond the minimum necessary; a margin of error.  With the holiday season comes the shopping and the social gatherings.  Then there’s your shopping list, and the little time you have to check off everything on the list; now add something haphazard happening like your car breaking down.  Worst case scenario: it was the only time you had to finish your holiday shopping, now you don’t have a car to get around in, and you have to use the shopping money to pay for your car so you can get to work and back.  Now you don’t even have the money to buy the remainder of your list!  However, if you allowed for a margin of error, your schedule would be a little more flexible so that you could go shopping another day and you’d have money set aside to pay for your car so that your shopping budget isn’t affected.  And in a perfect world, you’d have that extra paid day off work to use while your car is getting fixed; hindsight’s 20/20.

Margin: the boundary line or the area immediately inside the boundary.  So the takeaway is to set margins.  Wake up a littler earlier, budget and set aside money from each paycheck, practice good time management, and plan ahead, but be flexible when possible. If you don’t allow yourself a margin, the boundaries and limits to what you’re capable of are much closer to where you already are. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Back

It’s that time of the year – the holidays are at our doorstep, we are wrapping up the end of the year and our social calendars are rapidly filling with holiday get-togethers and various gatherings. It’s also the time of year when we are faced with the harsh reality that there are people out there who are far worse off than we are… and given the state of our economy the last few years, I am sure the numbers of those “less fortunate” have made a drastic climb. The holiday season isn’t the only time we are aware of the hardships of others, but I think it’s the time of year most people pay attention and acknowledge there are people out there who need a helping hand.

Helping is Easy
As the President of my own company, I find myself in a position where I can help others through both my personal and professional arena.  To help an individual, a family, a cause or an organization is easy. It doesn’t really cost much time or money. Its rewards are substantial and the impact on the people who benefit from your contribution can be life-changing.

Open the Doors and They Will Open Their Hearts
At TranzAct we participate in several service projects throughout the year. We don’t require our employees to participate, but we do open the doors for them. We have held food drives, shoe drives, and mitten drives; we have adopted families and sent care packages to soldiers. We have also participated in Light the Night for Leukemia & Lymphoma, the Diabetes Walk for Life, and donated to the American Red Cross for Haiti. Right now we are in the midst of doing our Thanksgiving Food Drive for the local township. In a little over a week, we have filled ten big boxes of food to donate.

Each year for Christmas we adopt families from our local township. In the last three years we have adopted over ten families. We receive Christmas wish lists and people purchase things from the list to contribute. After my employees have contributed, I fulfill the remaining items on the wish lists. One year we were able to provide three refurbished computer systems to the families we adopted.

The Rewards
For me, the true reward comes through the thank you letters we receive and the reminder to be grateful and appreciative of what we have.

One year we received a thank you letter from the mother of one of the families we adopted. She has six children and was so thankful that her family was even chosen, as she feared her family would not get adopted. Another thank you letter came from parents who could not afford to buy their children a computer, and a third letter that explained the little bit we did for them meant the world to their family.

The letters are always a humbling reminder that we are able to impact someone’s life in such a meaningful manner. It’s amazing, the things we may take for granted, or feel entitled to and then we are reminded of how the little things we do in life may matter the most.

If you want to get into the spirit of giving, or find opportunities to open the doors for your co-workers, or maybe even a group of friends or family, look  for places in your area that need help. If you can’t find something in your area, there are organizations that have ‘give’ projects nationally, year round. Some our favorites include:

  1. The Ronald McDonald House Pop Tab Collections where funds from recycling pop tops go towards supporting sick children and their families
  2. Yoplait Lids for Life for Breast Cancer
  3. Tom’s Shoes “One for One” program – for every pair you buy, they donate a pair to a child in need, and many others.
All it takes is one person to put the wheels in motion and every one else will follow. Sometimes, it’s just the small efforts and contributions we make, individually or as a group, that can make a difference in someone else’s life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strategic Planning

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 
- Sun Tzu

With the end of the year approaching, it’s time to take a good look at where we are as a company and where we want to be in the coming year… There are many different perceptions of what a successful “Strategic Plan” should be, and so many methods to develop such a plan.

I Googled it just to see if I could find any new ideas for our brainstorming session… Do you know what I found? I found hundreds of articles that talked about developing a successful strategic plan, I found a ton of websites that offered help in developing a successful plan, and I found a million methods of developing a successful strategic plan… With so much information, how do you decide what is best for your company and what method to use?

There is no one right or wrong way to develop a Strategic Plan. We base our process on trial and error. Every year, we add something to the process, or change a step in the process, to tailor it to our current needs as a company. We have evolved, and we believe we now have a method that works for us.

At TranzAct we start planning for the coming year in the early fall. Every good plan begins with input from the people who are directly affected by our actions as an organization – our employees and customers. We develop a survey based on the current business environment and invite them to tell us what they really think; give us their ideas on where we should head and what we can do to change the dynamics of our organization.

When we collect this information, we aren’t just looking for fluff.  We want to get to the heart of the company and hear ideas that could improve service to our customers, enhance our core product offerings or even change the nature of our existence. There are always ideas sitting out there, most that have not yet found a voice. We hope that by asking the right questions, these great ideas will surface, and then it is our job as management to implement them.

Once the surveys are complete, we choose an outside location and have a brainstorming session. Our primary focus during this meeting is to review the feedback we have been given by our staff and our customers, add ideas and suggestions from management, and perform a SWOT analysis. We collaboratively analyze all the data and ideas that we have gathered and start to make decisions on what we think is first, important and second, achievable. When that process is complete, we are able to form a list of our possible Strategic Initiatives for the coming year.

The next step in our planning starts out with a draft of the Strategic Initiatives. Each initiative is assigned to a specific management team member for Risk Planning Evaluation. They complete a worksheet for each tactic and address the following areas: If we invest in this, how small or large of an investment will it be? What is the reward for our company and for our customers if we do this? What kind of resources will we need? Is this something that can be done internally or externally, or both? What kind of time frame will this require? Is this something that will involve multiple departments? How complex is this idea?

Once complete, and the initiative is reviewed in a final evaluation, we make our decision on what will be addressed in the coming year. We then prioritize, assign project teams and breathe life into our Strategic Plan.

Follow Through
The development process is lengthy, detailed and we put a lot of effort into it, however the responsibility does not end there. On a continual basis, we refer back to our Strategic Plan as a measurement tool and a guide.
We meet monthly to make updates to the document and reorganize priorities as it becomes necessary. Every time we meet, each person on our team is required to provide updates on the tactics assigned to them. Accountability is important in keeping our Strategic Plan on track.

Communication is another key to keep life flowing into our plan. Understanding that we are all a part of this document and we are all responsible for its implementation and success, keeps us determined and focused in the right direction.

This method works for us. As I stated earlier, each organization has its own culture and goals, and therefore may drive a different development pattern for their plan. Across the board though, your Strategic Plan should be a living and breathing document that you refer to on a consistent basis throughout the year. It’s not something you create and then set aside until the next meeting. In order to make it work, you have to work with it.

Execution is the key to reaching your strategic goals. Without a well executed plan, you are left with a worthless piece of paper. Remember, good Strategic Plans do not come to life by chance, but by planning, execution and by the dedication of individuals to one common goal.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

School Days

The time of year has come: your kids are back in school. No matter what their age, this means the working mom has a new routine to establish. You have to creatively juggle all the responsibilities that come with getting your child prepared for the year ahead. Depending on whether your child is in pre-school, grammar school, high school or going off to college – there are a lot of dynamics involved in what kind of preparation is necessary. And for a career mom (dad’s too) this means you need to plan ahead to keep yourself and your child on track.

Mental Preparation
The first day back to school is always the best and worst… Will my son like his classes, his teachers, his classmates? Mentally I have prepared myself, but is my son prepared for the transition I have found that talking with your children about expectations for the coming year and offering encouragement and support helps ease those first day tensions, and encourages a more smooth transition.

It’s Okay for Moms to be Sentimental
My youngest son Joe is the last of my four children to venture through high school. It’s obviously not cool for Mom to walk him to school on the first day anymore, so I see him off in the morning, snap that “first day of school” photo for his memory book and wish him luck. I find myself reflecting on the sentiment; my baby is headed off to another year of high school… where did the time go?

Daily Planners and Investment
After that first day of class, the calendar seems to fill itself in. There are open houses to attend, sporting events, and extra-curricular activities. If you have more than one child in school, you might want to get a bigger daily planner. I think the most important event for any parent to attend is the Open House in order to meet you child’s teachers, talk about the curriculum and most importantly, determine what is expected of your child. Being there shows your child’s teachers that you are invested in your their education.
When it comes to other activities – try to attend as many as possible. If you have to shift meetings or other priorities, make that effort. You are your child’s biggest fan. It’s a big boost of confidence and reassurance when your child knows that you take an active interest in what they are doing.

“I Forgot It.”
What are classes without homework? Depending on your child, getting through homework can be a simple task or it can be a chore. My kids never sat at a desk to do their homework, it was always the kitchen table. You just have to find a place that works for them. I didn’t have to sit down at the table with all of my children, if they needed my help they asked for it. I would check and make sure their work was done and I was always on hand if needed. With four children, I couldn’t expect to have it easy with all of them. Joe needs just a little more motivation to get things done. And of course after getting things done, you need to make sure it gets to school. The most common excuse for not handing in homework: “I forgot it.” Kids will be kids, and as parents, we have to expect that, and do our best to guide them.

Listen and Engage.
Aside from helping with homework, there are plenty of ways to stay active in your child’s education. You can join the PTA or the Mom’s Club. You can help with fundraisers or volunteer at school functions. The best way to stay involved? LISTEN to your children. When they want to talk, they will talk and you need to be available and ready to listen. Communication is so important. I make it a point to ask Joe how his day was and ask him about his classes. When he wants to talk about it, he does. The best thing I can do is to let him know that I am always here to listen. I think that’s the best thing any parent can give; support.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sacrifice, Flexibility and Planning

So what does it take to be successful, aside from hard work? Sacrifice, flexibility and planning, and lots of it. When you visualize a dream and set your goals to get you there, many people will only see what they will gain. This can be a recipe for failure. In visualizing the big picture, you also have to consider the sacrifices that need to be made in order for you to reach your destination. In your endeavors for personal or professional success, here are some tips to help keep you on track:

Be prepared to make sacrifices…
Through the years I spent building my company and raising my family, I have traversed many crossroads which required me to sacrifice something. There were times when it came easy and times when it was a struggle to stray from my routines in order to let things happen. I think that is when you truly learn the art of balancing. Sometimes, it means you are at work until 8:00p.m. and you miss a family dinner. Sometimes it means you reschedule a meeting so that you can be there for a child’s game or recital. It is what it is, it’s the sacrifice we make when decide to raise a family and build a career.

The same rule applies to business, learning what needs to be done when and knowing what you can be flexible with, really helps balance the scales. I serve on boards and committees; I run a business in which I am responsible for giving direction to many people. I have obligations to all of these people. You can only imagine what my daily planner looks like… It keeps me on my feet, but it also means I have to juggle just right in order to find time to put my feet up.

Draw yourself a roadmap and stay on course…
Every night before I leave work, I prepare a list of what has to get done the next day, the “A” priorities. In the morning, I will update that list, after checking phone messages and emails. I try to focus on priorities. Some people can remember details off the top of their head, sure I can do that – but laying out a plan that I can see helps steer me through each action item I need to attend to. And of course, every now and then one item trumps another and I must sacrifice one priority for another. It happens and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. You just need to flexibility to realign yourself.

On Sunday night, I spend time reviewing my schedule for the upcoming week. I look at what is on my calendar – business commitments, service commitments, friend and family commitments, etc. It always helps if I can find one night a week where something is not planned. It doesn't always work out that way, but I find that an evening once a week that is free from commitments and planned activities helps keep me energized.

One thing to keep in mind as a priority – add fun to your agenda. Perform customer service while taking a customer to a ball game, discuss strategy over a nice dinner at an exciting restaurant – business does not always take place in the boardroom. Also, keep in mind what you think is a priority isn't always a priority in others’ minds. Use good judgment and discernment in deciding where you will spend your time. Achieving balance is not only a skill, but a mind set.

And remember, sometimes you must make time for yourself a priority. These days, it’s really easy to become burned out when you have so many commitments. You need time to relax. Shut your phone off, turn of the computer and give yourself some “me” time. That time you take to self-reflect will impact your balance and will help energize you for whatever’s next…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I am Jean Regan, President and Owner of Tranzact Technologies. For my first blog post I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce a new organization, as well as share a little bit about me and how I’ve found success in both my professional and personal life. We recently developed Women and Logistics, our newest contribution to the Logistics and Supply chain industry with you in mind… Whether you are in the industry or considering it – we hope that you will utilize our site as a resource of industry news, education, and networking to guide you in your personal & professional endeavors.

As an executive to a thriving corporation, a woman in the industry, a wife and a mother of four – I have come to realize that “Superwoman” is a myth and perfect balance is a legend. If at any given moment in your life or career, you think that you are going to have perfect balance, think again. Balance is something achieved over the course of time and is ever changing.

Sometimes our careers will demand more of us, sometimes our children or our families will. Knowing what is most important, and when, is really the key to achieving balance in the long run.

Three of my four children are adults now, and while raising them with my husband Mike, I made a point to devote time to supporting each one of their interests and endeavors to help foster their own success. Our daughter Dana is now a National Account Executive with Tranzact, our son Patrick just graduated from the University of San Diego and is now working for Northfield Industries as Assistant to the President, our daughter Kelley works for Douglas Shaw & Associates as an Account Coordinator, and our youngest son Joe is working his first summer job here at TranzAct before beginning his junior year in high school.

Raising four children and building a business isn’t an easy balancing act but you certainly don’t need a cape and an “S” on your chest to do it. A method in my own success was acknowledging that there are only 24 hours in a day and I had to manage those hours wisely. You have to take a step back and ask yourself “What is important for me to accomplish today?”

What I accomplish in the Logistics and Supply Chain industry is just as important to me as what I accomplish with my family. The industry has always been male-dominated. While women currently represent only 24% of the labor force, we are still making our mark on the Logistics and Supply Chain industry.

This year we saw the first “Chairwoman” of the American Trucking Association. Women run 11 state trucking associations, the most to do so at one time. A woman heads the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and a woman chairs the National Transportation Safety Board. With so many women taking the lead, it is important to have an organization to support these women – that is why we are bringing you Women and Logistics.

Jean Regan