Get Off Your Duff and Build Relationships Says Aschwanden

The second most important business advice that Bernard Aschwanden received was also his best lesson in life.

Bernard Aschwanden

“The course is entrepreneurship. After (the professor) stands up and introduces himself, he says ‘I want everyone to stand up and take the chairs and turn them over on your desk’,” recalled Aschwanden.  “One of the girls says ‘There’s a dollar taped to my chair. He says, ‘Yes, that’s your first lesson in business.’  That was actually my second best lesson ever learned. (The professor) then says, ‘If you want to make a profit you have to get off you’re a—and do something.’

“The most important thing that I feel I learned from this guy (is when he added) just because you get off your a—and do something, it doesn’t mean that you will make a profit.

“You have to follow your passion and stay away from people who complain. You must listen to your clients and improve their business,” Aschwanden emphasized.

A good ear, friendly nature, and business savvy have helped Aschwanden rise to the pinnacle of his profession. He’s regarded as one of the premier technical writers and instructors in STC today. He was back in the classroom in September to provide the Northeast Ohio STC members three sessions during an all-day seminar titled, Technical Communication 2020 – Forget Hindsight, Look Ahead! The event was made possible by the sponsorship of the Adobe Tech Comm team. Local sponsor STAR Group provided breakfast and afternoon snacks.

Aschwanden, president and founder of Publishing Smarter and an Associate Fellow of  the Toronto STC community, gave separate morning sessions on running a business and project management. In the afternoon, he gave hands-on instruction with tips and tricks for Adobe FrameMaker 2019 in the sleek computer classroom at Devore Technologies in Beachwood, OH.

Aschwanden, drawing on more than two decades of experience, discussed the pros and cons of running a profitable business, notably hiring the right mix of part- and full-time employees. A business plan to constantly evaluate your level of risk (economy, finances, ebb-and-flow of projects) is as critical as building relationships. “Banks love you when you have money, but make you jump through hoops if you need it. Build those relationships,” emphasized Aschwanden.

“How long does it take to write a resume and a cover letter?” asked Aschwanden, referring to the time, effort, and money to get a job. “How much is STC membership? All you need is one lead and that’s a job, and it pays for itself 10 times over.”

Aschwanden’s session on project management was equally informative and entertaining. Business best practice is to study major trends, evaluate successful growth, and stay within budget. “Tech Comm needs to borrow from these same tactics,” he said, noting “80% of progress is avoiding scoop creep. There’s the old adage that ‘if you allow change freely, the rate of change will exceed progress.’ ”

Aschwanden provided “10 knowledge areas” for keeping the communication lines open and staying within budget:

  1. Integration management – Plan, take action, and lead others
  2. Scope management – Plan the work that needs to be done to deliver on time
  3. Time/schedule management – Estimate the necessary time for a project and then schedule
  4. Cost management – Make sure the scope and time fit within the budget
  5. Quality management – Project satisfies all the conditions that are being undertaken
  6. Human resource management – Organize and manage the project team
  7. Communication management – Keep the distribution of project information flowing to workers
  8. Risk management – Identify and then monitor risk for the project
  9. Procurement management – You provide what was promised on deadline. Continually train employees to stay current with trends.
  10. Stakeholder management – Keep shareholders in the loop to what is happening.

As for the last element, Aschwanden cautioned, “26% of failed projects is inadequate sponsor support. You must communicate effectively.”

By Bob Young
NEO STC President