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July 2008

Networking: July 31-August 5

37880850 Networking is a key element in building relationships. What are you doing this week to further your business and career? Check out these upcoming networking events in Greater Des Moines.

Live Free Live Green Happy Hour
Thursday, July 31

Enjoy light appetizers, drinks and a chance to mingle with other LGBTA and Green professionals beginning at 5 p.m. at Hillside Condo Penthouse, 1902 Woodland Ave., Unit #300, Des Moines. Hosted by One Iowa.

Chamber Night at Principal Park
Thursday, July 31

The Greater Des Moines Partnership will host a networking event at the Iowa Cubs ballgame, starting with a tailgate at 5:30 p.m. in the north parking lot of Principal Park. Tickets for the game are $3 per person and include the pre-game tailgate meal. Visit www.desmoinesmetro.com for more details.

Young Professionals Event
Thursday, July 31

The Young Professionals Connection will have a networking event on the lower level of Sbrocco, 208 Court Ave., Des Moines from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Register at www.ypcdsm.com.

19th Hole Golf Networking Event
Friday, August 1

This month's "19th Hole," a relaxed, and open environment for building positive business relationships, will be from 12 to 1 p.m. at the Longview Golf Dome, 10300 N.W. 54th Ave., Grimes. Many people like to build those relationships on the golf course, but have trouble with the time commitment.  This gives those people an alternative venue where everyone is relaxed and having a good time in a golf setting.

Chambers Golf Outing
Friday, Aug. 1

The South Des Moines, East Des Moines and Carlisle chambers of commerce will host a joint golf outing from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Willow Creek Golf Course, 140 Army Post Road, Des Moines. The cost is $85 and includes lunch, golf and dinner. Register by calling Megan Shields at 323-8306.

East Des Moines Luncheon
Monday, Aug. 4

The East Des Moines Chamber of Commerce will host a membership benefits luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Quality Inn & Suites Events Center, 929 Third St., Des Moines. The cost is $18 per person. Register by calling 283-9312.

Urbandale Reception
Monday, Aug. 5

The Urbandale Chamber of Commerce will host a new members' reception from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the chamber offices, 3600 86th St. For more information, visit www.uniquelyurbandale.com.

Business After Hours
Tuesday, Aug. 5

The East Des Moines Chamber of Commerce will host a Business After Hours event from 5 to 7 p.m. at East Village Books, 510 E. Locust St. The event is free for members and $5 at the door for nonmembers. Register by e-mailing info@edmchamber.org.

Brochure Basics

Picture_1 Seems like no matter what other marketing a business employs, almost everyone has a brochure.  And with good reason - they're a great tool.  Even today, a solid brochure (whether you print it or e-mail the PDF) is still one of the staples of most companies' marketing efforts.

But, they aren't cheap by the time you pay for design, photographs, illustrations, printing, etc.  To make sure you get the most bang for your buck, here are some practical tips for your next brochure.

Keep the cover simple. Don't try to do too much here.  One strong graphic has a lot more impact than a montage of photographs on the cover.

Use genuine language, not hype. Avoid cliches like "committed to customer service" or "you're our first priority" in your copy.  Sincerity doesn't sound like spin.

Deal in spreads, not individual pages. You can run your graphics across two pages and make use of the sweeping scale a brochure spread provides.  Use the whole canvas.

Use subheads. They break up copy and are a Reader's Digest condensed version of your key points.

Use graphic elements/shapes for added impact.  Put Q&A's or testimonials in a shaded box to create emphasis.  And you don't have to stick with boxes or straight lines either.  Innovate.

Tell them what to do.   Give them a call to action.  And make it easy. 

A brochure is an excellent place to let your brand shine.  If it looks like everyone else's, it suggests that your business is like everyone else's too.

Worry About Internet Law Because . . .

CyberLaw: A Legal Arsenal For Online Business

 

This is a tiny fraction of the laws regulating online commerce. So, how should a company avoid so many pitfalls?


Cyberlaws breed like rabbits. After a decade of uncontrolled evolution, the expansion of cyberlaws has created a Darwinian pond, so full of complex online laws no company is able track them all. Not knowing the laws makes orchestrating a three-year plan an exercise in futility.

 

Selling your Board of Directors on a costly, time consuming, comprehensive online risk management plan is difficult. Estimating a return on investment based upon the value of not losing the farm is a formidable calculation.


A more palatable way to tackle the problem of online risk is piecemeal. Grab the lowest hanging fruit first. Form a committee to tackle the next most cost effective cyberlaw issue each quarter. Before you realize, (hopefully before you are sued) your company will implement a customized, comprehensive system to address online risk.

 

In upcoming posts, I will, through an equally incongruous mix of metaphors, address issues that are easy to address, but if left unchecked have potential to bring your business to a grinding halt.


Brett Trout

Are we really the dumbest generation?

Dumb There is a new book referring to this newest American generation as the dumbest generation. The book is a scathing portrayal of millennials, their lack of education and their reliance on technology to fill in those educational gaps. The critical assumption is that the end result will be a workforce that is full of dumb, lazy workers.

Okay, let's assume that most of these "dumb generation" arguments are true. In addition, consider there are over 70 million millennials, passing the juggernaut generation of boomers by 5 million. This young generation is also consuming an astonishing $172 billion in goods and services every year.

For all intent and purposes, it would seem as if George Romero's world of zombies is finally coming to fruition, a limitless number of brainless humans walking around consuming all they can and turning the few intelligent left into one of their ilk.

So is this indeed the "Dawn of the Dead" generation of Zombies? I would beg to differ.

How dumb can this generation really be?

This is the same generation that finally got their parent's VCRs to stop flashing 12:00 every second (When VCRs were still relevant). This new generation actually believes fully in the green revolution enough to actually do something about it (way before Al Gore jumped on the bandwagon). This is the generation that keeps producing applications that make our lives easier to manage. Ask Google, Ebay, Microsoft, AOL, and other big corporations if the inventors of YouTube, PayPal, WebMD, Napster, or Facebook are dumb; better yet, ask their accountants.

Despite their shortcomings, this newest generation to enter the workforce has actually proven to be much more goal oriented, efficient, positive, and collaborative than previous generations. Aren't those the qualities employers always talk about wanting to have from their employees?

While we should be concerned about the lack of certain soft skills of the millennial generation, let's shy away from the Chicken Little doomsday generalizations and condescending tones, and embrace all aspects of our new colleagues in the working world.

Isaiah McGee

Do You Hear That?

It's the sound of your prospect walking away.                                             

You can learn a lot more from listening than you can from talking. Find someone with whom0726blogimage_3 you don’t agree in the slightest and ask them to explain themselves at length. Then take a seat, shut your mouth, and don’t argue back. It’s physically impossible to listen with your mouth open. 

John Moe, Radio host and author of Conservatize Me. 

That is what was printed on the back of my Starbucks cup one morning. There’s a ton of truth to this. Sales is not about telling a prospective client how great your product, service or company is. And it's not telling them what they need. It’s about asking the right questions, closing your mouth, listening and offering the best solution to your client. Even if that solution means sending them and their money elsewhere. Being a good sales person takes patience, empathy, courage and yes, sometimes, silence. It’s amazing what a client will tell you if you just let them!

Here's what Scott Ginsberg (The Nametag Guy) said about listening.

And as for that uncomfortable silence? Let it happen. Those moments can be golden!

 

The New Iowa Smoke Free Air Act Impacts Even YOUR Business

Iowa_no_smoking_2Iowa's new SmokeFree Air Act went into effect July 1, 2008. Many people associate the new law with bars and restaurants but may not realize the far reaching impact it has on all Iowa businesses (well, except maybe those pesky casinos).

Areas Where Smoking Prohibited:

The new law applies to restaurants, bars, food service establishments, outdoor sports arenas and amphitheaters. It also covers places of employment such as office buildings, health care facilities, and child care facilities.

Areas Where Smoking is Not Prohibited:

Smoking is allowed on the gaming floor of a licensed casino, as well as designated hotel and motel rooms.

Following the Law:

To comply with the new law, businesses must do several things. They MUST: post “no-smoking” signs at entrances to non-smoking areas; inform all employees about the provisions of the law; and remove all ashtrays from areas where smoking is prohibited. They should also ask people who are smoking in a non-smoking area of their business to stop smoking or to leave the area. Failure to comply with the law may result in a civil fine of $100, $200, or $500 depending on the number of violations. The business could also lose their business license or liquor license.

For purposes of the Act, an "employee" means any person who is employed by an employer in consideration for direct or indirect monetary wages or profit, or a person who provides services to an employer on a voluntary basis.  "Place of employment" means an area under the control of an employer and includes all areas that an employee frequents during the course of employment or volunteering, including but not limited to work areas, private offices, conference and meeting rooms, classrooms, auditoriums, employee lounges and cafeterias, hallways, medical facilities, restrooms, elevators, stairways and stairwells, and generally vehicles owned, leased, or provided by the employer.  "Place of employment" does not include a private residence, unless the private residence is used as a child care facility, a child care home, or as a health care provider location.

If you own a business you should also consider a policy banning smoking in all company-owned vehicles (and don't forget your "no smoking" signs that must be visible on the exterior of the vehicle). This is because a vehicle that is assigned to a driver who smokes must be designated as “No Smoking” for its remaining life as a company vehicle if the driver ever allows a passenger to ride with him/her. If the vehicle is driven by any person other than the designated smoking driver it must be smokefree “at all times”.

To view sample signage, please click here. The signs need to clearly display three items: (1) the international "no smoking" symbol OR the words "No Smoking," (2) the Smokefree Air Act Web site, www.IowaSmokefreeAir.gov, and the (3) Smokefree Air Act Helpline 1-888-944-2247. The Administrative Rules require signs to be at least 24 square inches in size and the type must be in a legible font.

If you are interested in the entire Act, please click here.  If you have questions about the Act you should contact the Iowa Department of Public Health or consult your attorney.

- Rush on Business

Leadership=Relationship

35308158 It's tough to be a great elementary school teacher if you're not interested in establishing a relationship with kids. Can you imagine being married for fifty years and having a miserable relationship with your spouse? Yikes!

The same holds true if you want to be a respected leader. You have to want to -- and be willing to take the time and make the effort -- to build a relationship with those you're leading.

If you're a leader today, there are countless ways to learn about connecting with others in the workplace:

  • many CEOs hire executive coaches
  • bookstores are full of self-help books that detail how to build and manage relationships on the way to the top
  • some find a mentor with the emotional intelligence to engage and inspire people

But, there isn't a lot of hard scientific evidence in those books and personal resources to show what makes or breaks work relationships. A lot of it seems to revolve around personal chemistry, which is almost magic-like. There is, however, a growing body of research to show what it takes to have successful relationships at home.

That's good news, especially if you believe -- as most psychologists do -- that the way someone manages their work relationships is a lot like the way they manage their personal ones. If you're distant with your loved ones, chances are you're distant at work. If you're engaged with your family, your employees will probably find you engage them as well. Abusive at home? That will show up somehow at work.

Here's someone leaders can learn from: relationship guru John M. Gottman, executive director of the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle (...known as the "Love Lab").

He's been studying marriage and divorce for 35 years. He's screened, interviewed and tracked thousands of couples over time. With the help of heart monitors, biofeedback and video cameras, he measures what goes on when couples experience moments of conflict and closeness. By mathematically analyzing the data, Gottman has generated hard scientific data about what makes good relationships.

The way the couples treat each other during the videotaped conversations predicts who will stay married 94 percent of the time. Ninety-four percent!

Who do you know who can accurately predict 94 percent of any human behavior? And what's even more mind-boggling is that the researchers have to watch the couples for only 15 minutes to predict marital success.

What's the element that determines their long-term relational success?

Here's the nugget! Couples who demonstrated the ability to work through differences by stating their views honestly and respectfully stayed together.

Consider the workplace, where the same skill-set applies: if leaders can work through differences with others --direct reports, peers, and boss -- by stating their views honestly and respectfully, they'll stand apart as someone worthy of trust and respect...and thus, someone worthy of following. Sounds like a skill-set worth learning, huh?

  • Learn more about Gottman and his research in the December '07 Harvard Business Review.
  • Ask yourself, "Am I as eager to listen to others as I am to talk to them?" Then honestly listen to your answer. Ask other trusted individuals as well, those who will honestly and respectfully tell you the truth. (Recognize that characteristic?).
  • Envision a saltshaker full of yeses (as in, "Yes, that's a perspective I hadn't considered.") that you sprinkle throughout your interactions with others. That's the metaphor that Gottman says describes what a relationship is: looking for ways to accentuate the positive in others and in your relationship with them.

The result? The formula for success. Leadership=Relationship=Success.

Open The Books - The Minds Will Open

32336069 In far to many instances companies drive performance through emotional and subjective processes, reviews, and management. 

There is nothing worse than being told you are not performing as expected and when you ask why there is no valid reason.

Smart companies have recognized that using open book management helps eliminate the emotional and subjective conversations.  Open book management is based on the numbers - the facts (unless the organization is so corrupt it cooks its books).  Business is about numbers - sales, expenses, inventory, profits, cash, stock value and more.

The fundamental purpose of a company is to offer a service that makes money.  If your employees do not understand how their every day actions contribute to the bottom line, I will venture to say that you have a lot of unresolved issues in your company that drive you nuts.

Many owners, CEO's, and management people fear that sharing numbers will destroy their business.  There are thousands of ways to practice open book management and you have to evaluate which way works best for your company.  Start today before your competition beats you to it.  It will give you a competitive advantage!


 

Networking opportunities

0722blogtease Networking has grown in popularity in recent years, and continues to grow across all segments of society. What was once merely a buzz word has now become a viable tool in personal, professional and social development.

But what is networking?

Networking happens when people and/or organizations who have a common interest come together to support one another and share information.

Sound boring?

Not so fast.

When done correctly - and often - the phenomenon known as networking has the potential to enhance your life, your business and your career.

People from all walks of life "network" all the time, even if they do so unwittingly. Parents meet with other parents for support with raising their kids. Students seek out other students for friendship and help with school work. And gamers network with other gamers to learn about the hottest new tricks and secrets. The list goes on.

Then there's the business professional. These folks take networking to a whole new level by purposefully seeking out situations and events where they can build relationships and enlarge their spheres of influence.

As the adage goes, it's not what you know, but who you know.

In the business world, meeting and knowing the right people can lead to closing the sell, getting the story, or landing the job.

Businesses and careers are built in such ways. 

So, what are you doing to develop your business and career this week?

Are you looking to schmooze at a Business After Hours event? 
Maybe you're a morning person who wants to tell others about your business at the Urbandale AM Exchange?
Perhaps you'd like to sit in on a panel discussion with local entrepreneurs and small business owners
Young professionals have a place to connect, too.

For a more complete listing of networking events in the Des Moines area visit the Business Record's event calendar.

By the way, don't forget the business cards!

~ Todd Razor




Vince Lombardi was wrong.

According to Seth Godin, and his new book called The Dip, Ol' Vince's adage "Quitters never win and winners never quit" is bad advice.The_dip_2

Seth says, "Winners quit all the time.  They just quit the right stuff at the right time."

The difference is choosing the right time to quit things.  And it's choosing the right things to quit.

What's the "dip?" 

Well, it's the period of time between learning a new skill and the time when you experience success doing it. 

It's that gap between the initial excitement of beginner’s luck and sustainable success. 

You know... it's when the "learning" is tough and there's no obvious ROI for the effort. 

The "dip" is hard.  The "dip" can be lonely.  But the "dip" is where success happens.  Because... when the right people... stick it out... they can emerge the winner.

But Seth makes the point that what separates the superstars from the pack is:

  • Their ability to recognize the right "dip" to push through
  • Their ability to quit the wrong "dips" quickly and without guilt
  • Their willingness to seek out the "dip" because they recognize the reward of pushing through the "dips" that most people wont stick out

I'll give you a simple example from my own life. 

I'm not a huge golf fan.  Many of you know that. 

In fact, I have some classic nightmare stories from the golf course. 

I used to play.  Better said, I dabbled.  Why?  Well, I was in an industry where a lot of my customers were golfers.  So, it seemed like I needed to golf too. 

Once and a while, as I played, I would hit a great shot.  One that would go right where I wanted it.  And that feeling was sweet. 

But on most days, the balls veered left or right.  Sometimes they even seemed to violate the laws of gravity to wind up in weeds or water.

More importantly, I recognized that I didn't enjoy the game.  At all.  Ever.

So, I chose to quit. 

A number of my counterparts doubted my decision.  EVERYONE golfed.  So... they thought this decision would hurt my ability to do business-as-usual.

But I quit anyway.  I chose to try something new.  I lived in Montana at the time, so I chose rock climbing.  Yup.  Rock climbing.

As it turned out, I loved it.  I WANTED to spend time doing it.  I yearned to push through the "dip" between beginner's luck and true aptitude.

I was also surprised to find out that a number of my clients rock climbed, too.  So, although most of my competitors offered to take people out golfing, I started to take people out for an afternoon of rock climbing.

And it was a hit. 

I'd take someone out, and we'd spend time hiking to a rock face.  We'd hold each other's life in the balance.  We'd push each other.  Then we'd get to hike back. 

It was different...  it was fun...  it was memorable...  AND it was a good fit.

So, since the golf was a bad fit, I quit.  Without guilt. 

Yes.  Even though a number of people thought I was crazy, I quit.

I tried something new. 

It was a good fit.  It was something worth pushing through the "dip."  And... it paid off.

How about you? 

Where are you experiencing the "dip?"  At work?  At home?

What do you need to quit (without guilt) to free yourself up to do the RIGHT things?

Whether it's at work... at home... volunteering... serving... what do you need to quit?  So, you can be doing more of the right things... more of the things that are IMPORTANT to you... more of the things that are the RIGHT fit for you?

As a coach, I get to work with people on this question a lot.  It's critical.  It can make the difference between success and defeat.  BUT sometimes it's hard.  Isn't it? 

So, don't tackle it alone. 

Seth makes this point at the end of his book, too.  He even suggests that you pass your copy of the book along to others who need to think about quiting something.  You know... to keep the conversation going.

So... let's do the same.

Join in the conversation... click "comments" and let us know about the things you're thinking you need to quit... AND/or the things you want to stick with. 

Because... whether you choose to drop it or keep it... we're in this together!

Don’t be a cheapskate and underinsure your property

Broke Now, I don’t want to be redundant or beat a dead horse so to speak. However, in light of the recent flooding in Iowa and the fires in California, it still surprises me when I hear about people who did not have enough coverage on their property.

In the business arena, most insurance carriers require that a policyholder have their property insured for at least 80% of the value.

What I see in the market is that business owners will often insure their buildings for the amount they owe on it. Maybe they negotiated a good price or purchased a foreclosure and got it for under the assessed value.

Then they insure the building for what they paid for it instead of what the property is worth or what it would cost to replace it.

Why not?

They don’t have much invested in it and what do they have to lose if it burns down? They got a good deal on it. Well, in the event of a loss, the business owner is faced with an underinsurance issue.  This can be a substantial cost to the business owner should a loss occur.

Let’s do some simple math …

  • You have a building that is worth $150,000
  • There’s a fire and the cost to repair is $40,000
  • The building is insured for $105,000
  • Your deductible is $500

Well – the minimum amount of insurance to meet your coinsurance requirement is: $150,000 x 80% = $120,000

Looks like we have a problem since you currently only have coverage for 70% of its value ($105,000).

Now what does that mean for the $40,000 loss?

Well, it means that the insurance company is only going to pay 70% of that amount - $40,000 x 70% = $28,000 less your deductible $500 = $27,500.  So who is going to have to pay the remaining $12,500 worth of repairs?

Well, the answer to that is the business owner. Ouch!

How can this be avoided? It’s really just some common sense and a little bit of time.

  • Make sure that you visit with your insurance agent at least annually.
  • Be informed. Be proactive. This is your business - your bottom line.
  • Ask questions to ensure that you understand the coverage on your policy.

Often times, I talk with business owners and they have no idea how the amount of coverage they are carrying was derived. They are also not aware of the coverage they have and/or what it means.

They are mainly concerned about the cost of their premiums.

Now, I completely understand the economy we are faced with today. We are all trying to save as much as we can one way or another. However, this is a large price to pay to try and save a few dollars off your premium should this loss happen to you.

The Patient Is Recovering Nicely, Thank You

Heart_rateYes, it's true.  Iowabiz.com is back up and running, thanks to new sponsorship of The Business Record.  I'm excited to be back in the saddle (although having a couple of months off with one less blog was a nice reprieve).

I've written in the past about effective project recovery and rescue techniques, and I've learned a thing or two about getting a flailing project back on its feet.  It's been interesting watching Drew McLellan and the Business Record folks as they breathe life back into Iowabiz, and it brings to light an interesting aspect of project recovery:  PUBLICITY.

Yes, every project manager knows (or should know) that 90% of effective project management is communication.  Stakeholder communication becomes even more critical when dealing with a project recovery.  Merely having a recovery plan isn't good enough; it has to be communicated and sold to those who endured the originally failed project.  So communication in and of itself isn't enough.  You now have to SELL, SELL, SELL your project as never before.  As Amy Alberg of the Making Things Happen blog states:

The next stage is to develop your project recovery plan and sell it to the team, stakeholders, customers, suppliers etc that may be part of project. Begin your planning and communication with a healthy dose of reality. If something should have worked based on X assumption and it wasn’t, don’t continue to assume it will and determine a viable alternative. The recovery plan itself will vary widely based on the size, scope and type of project you are working on. Basic elements are issue statement, root cause, impact, resources required, short term actions, long term actions, date fix will be in place, who the accountable person will be. If there are multiple options, than lay those out without playing the blame game so decision can be made. This will take strong communication and salesmanship to convince all parties that this project will be successful and ensure strong support needed. At this point, you may be communicated with a frustrated team, angry customers, internal political battles, competing agendas, etc so be deliberate in crafting your message.

One of the big lessons I've observed watching the Business Record that every project manager could learn is that one communication channel/medium isn't enough.  It's a publicity full-court press.  Don't assume that a blanket email will cover everybody's communication needs.  Hold a "town hall" meeting.  Schedule one-on-one's with key decision-makers.  Set up an internal website or blog or Facebook group to carry on an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders.  Heck, perform an interpretive dance in the company lobby if it will get people's attention (just don't put your CFO in a tutu - I hear he doesn't have the legs for it).

Remember, you want people to be well informed that 1) the project is being recovered, and 2) you have things well under control.

Welcome back, Iowabiz!

Carpe Factum!

Great Service is an Internal Issue

30397261 I was analyzing the calls of a Inside Sales Representative (ISR) for one of my clients today. The ISR took a call from a fellow associate from whom they needed information in order to answer the customer's question. The conversation contained a profanity laced tirade and the ISR's associate was not helpful in providing the needed information.

We all know that Customer Service is critical to Customer Satisfaction. To that end, most companies train employees on customer service skills, monitor calls with customers, and coach Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) on what to say to customers as well as how to say it.

Unfortunately, the training, monitoring and coaching usually ends with front-line representatives and their conversations with the customer. Resolving the customer's issue, however, may require the assistance of internal associates. The customer may be getting the brunt of internal conflicts between individuals and departments. Instead of working together and treating each other as internal customers, there are internal conflicts and turf wars which only hurt the customer and the company.

Three suggestions for improving your service to internal customers:

  1. Begin at the top. Managers should lead by example and treat their associates the way they expect their team members to treat customers. Be courteous. Use your employees names. Offer to help with other questions or needs. Apologize when you can't meet your associate's expectations. Walk the talk. Treat your employees the way you want your customers to be treated.
  2. Define "customer". The customer of many employees may be internal, but they don't recognize their fellow associates as a customer. Use team meetings, team mission statements and performance management initiatives to communicate this fact. Changing perceptions requires an extended time of consistently reinforced messages.
  3. Wear each other's shoes. Internal division is often reinforced by ignorance and misconceptions. If a front-line CSR is dependant on systems that aren't working, have members of the IT team spend a half-day sitting with CSRs and seeing how system issues effect the customer experience. If poorly documented orders create nightmares for the shipping department, have the inbound sales representative spend a day in the shipping department.

Exceptional Customer Service starts internally.

Developing a Commenting and Moderation Policy

Comments When talking to clients about their social media strategy, one of the biggest concerns I hear about is loss of control. Adding a company blog (or any social or community feature) to an existing web presence can give some organizations a heart attack - largely because they fear anyone can come in and leave negative and/or damaging commentary.

Integrating a little Web 2.0 flavor to your website doesn't have to equal a free-for-all of negativity and profanity. As a company, you reserve the right to create and enforce a clear Commenting and Moderation Policy.

Following are the basics that you'll want to cover in your guidelines:

  1. What's acceptable, what's not acceptable.
    State that you won't allow duplicate comments, personal attacks of any kind, comments that explicitly promote a product or service (spam), and comments that are vulgar, vile, cruel, or off-topic.
  2. Visitor Privacy
    Make a note that discourages the posting of phone numbers or email addresses in the body of the comment.
  3. Moderation Process
    Be clear about your moderation process - whether you are allowing all comments to be posted immediately and reviewing later, or holding all comments in queue for moderation. If you're moderating, commit to a period of time (typically 24-48 hours) within which you promise to post the content.

Additionally, don't be afraid to allow negative comments if they are intelligent in nature and on-topic. This gives you the chance to publicly follow up and enter the conversation. (The alternative is to never post it and cross your fingers that the same commenter doesn't take the conversation to another digital channel, where you have zero control.)

A clear, concise commenting and moderation policy might ease your fears - just like with any playground, it never hurts to set the rules up front.

Nathan T. Wright

Floods and Taxes

Since we last visited IowaBiz, Iowa has had some interesting weather.  From the Birdland Neighborhood to the Mississippi, Iowa businesses were pounded by floods and storms.  Now the insurance adjusters are starting to write checks.  What does it mean to your taxes?

200806201 Let's say the building housing your business was wiped out. You paid $200,000 for the building long ago. After depreciation, the building basis was only $50,000. The building had gone up in value and was insured for $1,000,000, and the insurance company is writing you a check for the whole amount.

The tax law typically treats a business casualty loss as an "involuntary conversion." The tax law defaults to treating insurance proceeds as taxable, but you may avoid current tax if you invest the insurance proceeds in replacement property by the end of the second year following the year the recovery is paid. This works only if you reinvest the insurance proceeds in property "similar or related in service or use," and only if you file an election under Sec. 1033

What does "similar or related in service or use" mean? Unfortunately, the tax law is fuzzy on this. If you invest the proceeds in continuing the same business that you were in before, that should be fine. If you decide to invest in a different line of business, that can be trouble.

Fortunately, the requirements for tax deferral are easier for businesses in a presidentially-declared disaster area.  Most of Iowa is covered by such a declaration for the recent floods and storms.  Disaster-area taxpayers only need to re-invest insurance proceeds in tangible property to be used in any trade or business, under a special rule (Sec. 1033(h)(2)). 

The catch? To the extent you avoid recognizing gain under the Sec. 1033 involuntary conversion rules, you don't get basis for the property purchased with the insurance proceeds. The taxpayer who used $1,000,000 in proceeds to buy a building and equipment, and who elected not to pay tax on the proceeds, would only get to depreciate the $50,000 basis that was in the old building.

If you are affected by a disaster, there are other important tax steps you can take, including deducting disaster losses on an amended 2007 return - allowing you to get a tax refund that can help you rebuild.  Be sure to get in touch with your tax advisor.

Links:

IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters and Thefts

IRS 2007 Disaster Losses Kit for Businesses.

List of Iowa's Presidentially-declared disaster areas.

Order a flood relief T-shirt.

Thanks to the Des Moines Business Record for picking up the sponsorship of IowaBiz!

The Iowa Chops = horrific branding

Picture_3 Like everyone else, I was excited about Des Moines being the home for the Anaheim Ducks' new AHL affiliate.

I was not excited when I heard the name.

The Iowa Chops.  Seriously....this is embarrassing. 

The Partnerships and CVB have been working their tails off (no pig pun intended) to change the image the world has of Iowa and Des Moines.  We heralded national coverage in the New York Times, Forbes and other publications that said Des Moines had gotten a whole lot more hip, thanks to the East Village and some upscale restaurants.

And now we've named our hockey team after an irate pig?  Talk about three steps forward, five steps back.

Even if you like the name, there are other troubles with this brand.  Actually, much bigger problems.

Try this one on for size.  The hockey team doesn't own the rights to their own name.  The Iowa Pork Producers does.  Here's a quote from a recent news story.

"The Iowa Pork Producers Association has entered into a three-year marketing agreement with Schlegel Sports to allow use of the name Iowa Chops for its new American Hockey League team in Des Moines.  In addition to use of the name, the deal also provides the association with additional promotional opportunities.  The Iowa Chop has been a registered trademark of the Iowa Pork Producers Association since 1982."

So not only does the team not own their own name, but they're beholden to a promotional partner who is going to further muddy the branding waters by pushing chops at the Chops' games.

Anyone have a good pork recipe they can put in the season opening game's program? 

Ugh.

Think I am being too critical?  I've been gentle compared to Yahoo Sports, Fanhouse, our old NHL affiliate's fans, the Orange County Register and our new ones!

Update:  As always, I -- Drew McLellan, wrote this piece on branding and marketing.  Unfortunately I was logged in under the admin account, not my own.  Sorry that my name doesn't appear on the byline.  Hopefully regular readers will have just assumed it's me.  Because it is.

Feds extend disaster area filing deadlines again; will Iowa follow suit?

Picture_2 The IRS this afternoon announced an additional extension of filing deadlines for taxpayers in the Iowa counties that are presidentially-declared disaster areas.

Taxpayers in the 62 covered counties now have until August 29 to file returns and make income tax payments that would otherwise be due between May 25, 2009 and August 29

The former deadline was July 28 for May 25 - July 28 due dates.

Let's hope that the Iowa Department of Revenue finally gets it right and quickly adopts the federal deadline extension. So far they have have only extended disaster deadlines in dribs and drabs, and in the case of individual second-quarter estimated tax payments, not until the afternoon of the due date.

The list of covered counties is here.

Business Record acquires IowaBiz.com

Businessrecord The Business Record has acquired this IowaBiz.com Web site and will continue it as a source of business information in the form of blog posts written by a baker's dozen of local experts.

The blog authors and topics you've come to rely on here at IowaBiz will be staying the same.  We've also added a new face, Isaiah McGee who will be writing on life as a young professional.  (Check out all the authors and their bios in the sidebar)

We'd love to hear your thoughts about IowaBiz's new home.  The Business Record promises to also use the blog to keep Iowans plugged into networking meetings and opportunities.  You can also visit their calendar for a complete listing of the events in the area.

Read the entire story in this week's Business Record.

We're glad to be back!  Thanks to the Business Record for picking us up and thanks to Professional Solutions Insurance Services for getting us off the ground!

Big news is right around the corner!

36671118 Watch this space for an exciting announcement about IowaBiz's evolution! 

Think bigger, better, more!

We don't mean to be a tease but we're not quite ready to spill the beans. 

But when we do, we're confident that you'll be as enthused about the news as we are!

Stay tuned!

This site is intended for informational and conversational purposes, not to provide specific legal, investment, or tax advice.  Articles and opinions posted here are those of the author(s). Links to and from other sites are for informational purposes and are not an endorsement by this site’s sponsor.