Tuesday, August 28, 2007

September 3, 2007


The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives. As a part of this, I found it necessary to discuss the basic business skills required in today's corporate world.

Basic Business Skills Required

Last week I discussed the need for "Continuous Improvement" which described how to improve yourself professionally, herein I discuss the basic business skills needed to survive in offices.

I cannot possibly list all of the business skills you are going to need to suit your particular line of work. However, there are some rather basic skills you will need to effectively perform in just about any office:

  • Computer skills - in all likelihood, you will need to interact with a computer somehow during the course of conducting business, whether it is to place an order, track a shipment, record your time, or to write a letter or memo. As such, you should become familiar with the basic operation of a computer. Most High Schools today do a fair job of teaching the basics, but if you missed the course, there are plenty of places you can receive training, such as at public libraries and community service associations. Of course, there are also professional training programs you can also attend.

    In addition to the use of the keyboard, mouse, and monitor, one of the most important things to learn is the concept of the computer's "clipboard" which is used to copy and paste data from one program to another; e.g., from a spreadsheet to a word processing document. When using a computer, this is one of the most common features you will actively use. Also, learn the basics of the computer's file management system; e.g., the organization of the folders, the various file types used, and how to search the computer for its contents.

    Also learn how to use the computer's help facilities to assist you in problem areas. Most programs use similar help facilities making it easy to learn and follow.

  • Word Processing - word processors are perhaps the most extensively used programs on a computer and there are a variety of programs available offering comparable features. Aside from basic typing, you should learn how to format a document in terms of setting up margins, pagination, headers and footers, and font selection (type, style, and size). More importantly, learn how to effectively use spell checkers and grammar checkers. I am amazed how many people use word processors yet know little about how to use such facilities. Consequently, a letter may look graphically appealing but is inundated with spelling errors and weak sentence structures.

  • Spreadsheets - if your job requires any basic number crunching, you will undoubtedly have to learn how to use a spreadsheet. Their ability to perform basic math is an incredibly time-saver. Do yourself a favor and learn how to express a formula (such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). You cannot believe how many people use electronic spreadsheets yet still perform the math manually. Pretty scary.

  • Graphics - office workers will inevitably need to work with graphics, if for nothing more than scanning, cropping and sizing photographs and illustrations. They may not need to know how to use robust graphic design tools (unless they are in that business), but they will need to know how to perform basic graphic manipulation. Also, depending on your job assignments, you may need to learn how to use slide presentation software; e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint, Lotus Freelance, etc. Such presentation aids are useful for sales and training situations.

  • Desktop Publishing - if you will be responsible for producing brochures, books, and formal reports for presentation, in all likelihood you will have to learn a Desktop Publishing tool, such as Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. You will also have to learn how to produce documents in the Portable Document Format (PDF), a popular file format from Adobe.

  • Multimedia - most office workers will not need to know how to produce audio/video files, but it would certainly look good on your resume if you did, as well as making you a more valuable resource to your company.

  • Internet - this is an invaluable tool for communications and research. Here you will need to know: how to send and receive e-mails (including how to attach files), instant messaging, maintaining an address book, how to use a web browser, and how to effectively use a search engine. It may also be necessary to learn how to send and receive files using FTP facilities (File Transfer Protocol).

  • Other computer utilities - two common types of programs actively used in business are calendars and calculators. Calendars are invaluable for coordinating schedules on a corporate-wide basis, and calculators, of course, help us with math.

    This brings up a point, most offices require their workers to have good basic math skills, to prepare such things as orders and purchases, calculate estimates and schedules, and to write a cost/benefit analysis.

  • Telephone etiquette - it's interesting, despite the elaborate phone systems companies use, people still do not know how to properly answer the telephone. First, when the phone rings, answer it promptly, do not let it continuously ring thereby upsetting not only the caller but your coworkers as well. Second, when you answer, properly identify yourself and ask how you can be of assistance; for example, "This is John Doe. How can I help you?"

    If you are using Voice Mail (which seems like everybody does these days), put down a professional message that will not alienate callers; for example: "This is John Doe. I cannot take your call right now but if you leave a message I will be sure to return your call as soon as possible." Now for the real trick, follow-up on your promise and check your messages regularly and respond promptly.

  • Writing & Penmanship - there are primarily three types of writing you will be involved with: memos, business letters, and reports. I do not have sufficient space here to provide you with the tutorial needed to instruct you in this regard. I suggest you either take a course in effective writing or research examples on the Internet. Nonetheless, write professionally (avoid slang) and courteously, get to the point and do not ramble.

    I realize people today are more inclined to type than to write something by hand, but if you do, write legibly so people can read it. Your penmanship says a lot about your personality, your professionalism, and level of education.

  • Speaking - regardless of your job, you will undoubtedly have to meet and converse with people, attend meetings and presentations, and possibly conduct interviews. As such, it will be necessary for you to be able to articulate your ideas and positions. If you are shy and resist engaging in professional discussions, you will have to learn to overcome your fears.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted."


Friends, as mentioned, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book." The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4

LIKE TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF MY NEW BOOK? Be the first one to e-mail me a message with your name and shipping address. In the SUBJECT or BODY of the e-mail, be sure to write "Morphing Book 090307". E-mail it to me at Only one free book per person. I'll announce the winner on next week's broadcast.


I have always had a problem with apathy. It's rather hard for me to sit back on the sidelines without putting in my two cents. I guess that really doesn't surprise a lot of you who know me. Inevitably, I get involved simply because I care about the people and institutions I am associated with. Indifference leaves me cold.

I have a friend who owns a retail shop who has been complaining about the stress he is under at his business. I asked him what was causing the problem and he said his vendors were either bringing in the wrong products or charging the wrong amount. Basically, he found they were going on automatic and weren't paying attention to detail. In essence, they just didn't care what they were doing. He also complained about a few of his clerks who routinely come down with a bad case of the stupids, particularly around customers. I've got many other friends who complain about the same type of problems. Interestingly, each believes their problems are unique to their type of business. I contend they are wrong in this regard; apathy knows no industrial boundary.

When did it become cool to be apathetic? I must have missed the memo. Do we not care what others think of us or our work products? I think we too readily accept apathy which, to me, reflects a general lack of discipline in our culture.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece called "Our Growing Dependency on Mass Mediocrity" where I made the observation that we are being subliminally conditioned to accept inferior workmanship. I still believe this is true, but I also believe we are becoming conditioned to be apathetic.

Today we are living in a Theory X world where people are being micromanaged to death and, as such, are asked to become non-thinking robots. Consequently, I am finding more and more people who prefer to be told what to do, to go on automatic and not think for themselves. In particular, we are conditioning Generations Y and Z to be this way, starting with mom and pop.

I've been talking to some career counselors at universities lately who describe a growing dependency students have on their parents. They describe a scenario where students consult with their parents on just about every decision they have to make regardless of how mundane or important it is. As soon as a student leaves the classroom, the cell phones flip open and the student reports to his or her parent about what transpired in the classroom. The counselors tell me that no course selection, activity, or career choice is made without first getting the approval of the parents. In other words, the student is never allowed to stand on his or her own two feet. Yes, young people should always seek the advice of their parents, but more importantly they need to learn to think for themselves.

This phenomenon disturbs me greatly. If this trend continues, our society will consist of a lot of people with little initiative and imagination, who will not lift a finger until somebody gives them their marching orders. Pretty scary if you ask me.

People will be apathetic until they reach a condition they can no longer tolerate and forces them to act. Unfortunately, that threshold seems to have been pushed down rather low in today's world. If it were otherwise, we wouldn't accept inferior workmanship, we would demand quality products and services, and it would never occur to us to give customers anything other than what they wanted. In other words, we would become more sensitive to the needs of others. We would care.

But what would be the impetus for triggering a shift in apathy? I'm afraid it would have to be a catastrophe of some magnitude, such as an economic depression or a world war, something that would radically alter our standard of living. Americans may no longer be good at planning, but we are excellent when it comes to reacting to calamities. It just seems strange to me that we have to be hit over the head with a 2 X 4 just to get our attention. You would think we would be smarter than this.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


txt msging is pop 4 yung people.
ths short lang is used 2 cut costs.
ths lang leads 2 bad wrtng habits - sent strcture, punct, slang, etc.
peop r lazy + put 4th min 2 commun.
writing sklls r declining - biz ltrs, memos, rpts, etc.
not good, look bad to pub.
instd of good writ, now sloppy.
need tool to trnslte english/shorthnd. LOL
how bout pro att insted?
btw, 24 spell errs in ths txt


Text messaging has become one of the most prominent techniques young people use to communicate these days. Since it is ultimately based on time and number of characters to transmit, our youth have devised a shorthand language to reduce costs (which I am expressing herein). The problem as I see it, is this new language is leading to some very bad writing habits by young people in terms of sentence structure, punctuation, and use of slang. Basically, people have become lazy in their writing habits and put forth the bare minimum to communicate. Consequently we are seeing an erosion of writing skills in the work place. For example, simple business letters, memos, and reports, lack refinement and are embarrassingly amateurish, certainly not the type of image a well established corporation wishes to portray to the public. This is very disconcerting to me. Instead of crisp professional discourse, we now have to deal with some rather sloppy writing. Maybe we need a translation tool that can go from English to their shorthand language and back again. Then again, how about we just demand a little more professional attitude in the workplace.

By the way, there were zero errors in this version when I ran it against my spell checker.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received an e-mail from my "Pet Peeve" regarding "Everybody's Got One" (a Black Sheep in the Family):

A J.W. in Arkansas wrote:

"I am the black sheep of the family, but I am no way as dysfunctional as the family or relatives that I know of. I am striving to move forward, but I believe they are the ones holding me down."

Thanks for your comments.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2007 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."


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