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February 2014

The importance of public input in public projects

Court AvenueClaire Celsi is a public relations professional and social media strategist in West Des Moines, Iowa.

According to all the business rankings guides, Des Moines is where it's at. We have the best incomes, we're the best place to raise a family, best place to be a young professional, and one of the best places to get more value for your real estate dollar.

Still, the city of Des Moines has a lot to learn about public input on public initiatives. The most recent example is the Court Ave. project proposed by Knapp Properties and HyVee. Let me state loud and clear: I have no idea which project is best for the space proposed. But that is the point! Input from downtown residents is what counts - and what is missing from the debate.

Here is a quick checklist for organizations needing to gather public input for a project in which public funds will be spent. The main keys to success are TIME and TRANSPARENCY.

  1. Clearly communicate the timeline and the process for public input. The Court Ave. project does not meet this simple test, because the public comment period was not announced far enough ahead of time and the project is on a "fast track" to completion.
  2. Set public meetings in locations where downtown residents are likely to attend. Vary the times and days of the week the meetings are held to allow more residents to attend.
  3. Publicize the meetings ahead of time in the newspaper, websites, and using social media.
  4. Educate community leaders and use them to get the word out about public input opportunities. For example, member of the Downtown Chamber should be briefed by city leaders and prepared to answer questions from their associates.
  5. Gather input and comments into an easy-to-read document and disperse this information widely.

After public input is gathered and published, take the recommendations seriously. If downtown residents are the key to the success of the grocery store, then they are the people we should listen to. Public officials sometimes rush through this process - with disasterous results. Let's slow down this train and listen to public input.

-Claire Celsi

Make it easy for your clients to refer you

MakeiteasyCarl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

The best type of referral is that which finds its way to your doorstep after being screened and prepped by an existing customer. Isn’t it every businesses’ dream to have their phones constantly ringing with prospects verbally nodding yes? If the phone isn’t ringing off the hook the problem may not be that you’re not getting referred - but that the referrals have become lost in transmission. Therefore, as a business, the responsibility ultimately rests on you to make it as easy as possible for your referred customers to contact you.

Referrals emerge from conversation between friends and family. They happen at birthday parties, in parks, coffee shops, ... well, anywhere people talk (perhaps not so much in libraries). After a recommendation for a product or service is made there is a period of time before the prospect will contact the business. After all, people decide to perform business on their own time. This is where many referrals die. There are a couple easy things that you can do to prevent missed opportunities.

Collect email addresses

Regardless of what you sell, you should treat your customers as if they are yours for the long haul. Like any continued service, communication is paramount. But for some reason even today most businesses are not proactive in collecting email addresses. It is the best way to reach your customers for ongoing communication, conduct brief surveys, collect testimonials, and so on. It will give you a direct link to your customers and allow you to perform this next step that simplifies the referral process.

Send an informative introductory email

Immediately after you make a sale or acquire a new customer, send them an introductory email. The content should have the following elements:

  • Briefly thank them for their business and let them know you appreciate them

  • List some of the main services and products you offer

  • Provide a link to your website with additional information regarding your business

  • Include a phone number and email address and encourage them to call

  • Encourage them to forward the email to others that are interested in learning more

  • Recommend that they don’t delete the email so they can reference it later

  • Make sure that the email is from you - so that if replied to you will be able to respond

Having this content residing in customer’s inbox will make it easy for your customers to pick up their smartphone and forward to those they refer to you. It provides all the basics on your products and services, links for those that like to dig deeper, and contact information to find you. What’s more, after it is forwarded it will be conveniently sitting in the prospect’s inbox as a reminder the next day when they are in purchasing mode. So, quit playing broken telephone with your prospects and start capturing some more referral business!

The best employee review is a two-way street

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

When it comes to reviewing employees, specialty retailers should start the process with more than an evaluation form specific to their business. Their employee should bring the same evaluation form, which they've already filled out, to the meeting.

Following that approach, gives you a better understanding of how the employees feels they are doing and allows for more interaction during the review. It creates a great opportunity not only to talk about areas of improvement and whether they understand and support the company's vision, but where they'd like to grow in their own position.

The way I see it, little if anything in a review should come as a surprise to employees. If you're communicating effectively with your team throughout the year, your reviews should match up pretty closely.

At the Heart of Iowa Market Place, my employees' performance is appraised on eight categories:

  • Productivity/Independence/Reliability -- The extent to which the employee produces a significant volume of work efficiently in a specific period of time, the ability to work independent with little or no direction, follow up to complete tasks and job assignments.
  • Job Knowledge -- The extent to which the employee possesses and demonstrates an understanding of work instructions, processes, equipment and materials required to perform the job and possesses the practical and technical knowledge required of the job.
  • Interpersonal Relationships/Cooperation/Commitment -- The extent to which the employee is willing and demonstrates the ability to cooperate, work and communicate with co-workers, supervisors, subordinates and outside contacts; accepts and responds to change in a positive manner; accepts job assignments and additional duties willingly; and takes responsibility for their own performance and job assignments.
  • Attendance -- The extent to which the employee is punctual, observes prescribed work break/meal periods and has an acceptable overall attendance record.
  • Initiative/Creativity -- The extent to which an employee seeks out new assignments; proposes improved work methods; suggest ideas to eliminate waste; and finds new and better ways of doing things.
  • Adherence to Policy -- The extent to which the employee follows company policies, procedures and work conduct rules; complies with and follows all safety rules and regulations; and wears required safety equipment.
  • Leadership -- The extent to which the employee demonstrates proper judgment and decision-making skills when directing others and directs work flow in assigned areas effectively to meet production and/or area goals.
  • Overall Performance

Each category is graded either "outstanding," "exceeds expectations," "meets expectations" or "improvement needed," and includes specific examples and comments.

Whether you're thinking of revising your employee review process or just getting around to creating one, I'd encourage you to try this approach.

NeighborGoods

Rob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

Now you can share or borrow stuff with NeighborGoods to get it done. So I had to try it.

I signed in with a user name and set up a password. At first I saw what I could borrow in Brooklyn (could have been operator error). I immediately edited my account and pinpointed where I live so I could be routed to people near me looking for something to borrow or that had something to share.

Neighborgoods log in screenThe site has you set up an inventory list of the stuff you would share. The great thing is you can establish the group you want to share with. I could set up a group of just close friends, actual neighbors, or all my Facebook friends. It was very easy to do.

I listed a hand truck and 8 foot ladder in my inventory. Now people can ask to borrow my ladder on-line.  Many categories allow easy searches to find what you need. I put the ladder in the tool category.

The video on the website made me smile. Neighbors are shown walking down the sidewalk with a blender and passing it on to someone at a coffee shop; or better yet, getting a cooler from someone at a park bench.

What will people think of next to use technology and make the planet more sustainable?

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzer.com

Keep Des Moines cool

Kyle Oppenhuizen is a Business Record reporter and the 2014 president-elect of the Young Professionals Connection (YPC). 

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve never been to Austin, Texas but I’ve always heard good things.

Austin seems to be one of those small cities that everybody knows about for all the right reasons. In my reporting at the Business Record, I have heard people compare Des Moines to Austin and Madison, Wis. - as in, “we can be as cool as those cities.” Those are cities I have started to refer to often when I gush about how great Des Moines is becoming. We’re not a big city. We don’t have oceans or mountains. But we’ve got a lot going for us.

So when the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Mary Bontrager told the story of an Austin-native calling Des Moines “Austin-cool” at a recent Business Record Power Breakfast, I nearly did a fist-pump.

You see, even though I’ve never been to Austin, or Madison, I have a very positive connotation in my head for what those two cities represent. Those cities are cool, and everyone knows it. Why else would there be any reason that I know Austin’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird?”

Well, in my opinion, Des Moines is cool. Everyone who lives here knows it. And those who don’t are starting to take notice. Did anyone see the “Today” show feature?

As Iowans, we’re a pretty humble group. We know we’ve got a good thing going here, but we haven’t always been the best at touting ourselves.

It’s time to change that.

We’ll have our opportunities. Bontrager made multiple mentions of the Partnership’s CarpeDM site, a forum for people to share what they love about Des Moines. That’s a pretty simple way to highlight our successes.

For perhaps a more complex way, think about this: The Iowa Caucuses will make a visit in early 2016, which means candidates and the national media will soon be making visits to our state. From what I’ve noticed, Iowa doesn’t always get the most, well, flattering national press (insert generic ‘B’-roll of cornfield). But guess what: Here in Iowa, we feed the world, and that’s really cool. Not only that, we have a world class city that has almost all of the amenities a person could want, with a fraction of the traffic, and maybe the nicest people you’ll find anywhere.

I’m not saying to bang our chests or let our heads get too inflated. What I’m saying is this: We’ve earned the right to brag. We don’t need to be “weird” like Austin, but Des Moines is cool. Tell your friends.

--

I welcome feedback and ideas. Email me, follow me on Twitter, or comment on this blog post.

Email: kyleoppenhuizen@bpcdm.com
Twitter: @KyleOppenhuizen

Content marketing at a glance

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

You can't read a marketing article or book without bumping into the phrase "content marketing." The truth is -- content marketing isn't new.  See if any of these marketing tactics look familiar:

  • Open a community forum
  • Generate a cause marketing effort
  • Encourage customer reviews
  • Give a keynote speech
  • Write a blog
  • Write an ebook
  • Publish some articles
  • Create an infographic
  • Generate media releases
  • Create guides or how to documents
  • Produce trend reports
  • Record a podcast
  • Send out an enewsletter
  • Host an event
  • Create some interactive demos
  • Put on a webinar
  • Create useful calculators or checklists
  • Share some case studies

See -- you've already been creating content, you just called it something different. But have you been doing it well?

Check out this infographic that the CMO Council created to make sure your efforts are well received.  (click on it to see a larger size.)

Content-impacts-b2b-graphic

 

The truth is -- the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to content marketing is not do it at all. With the tips on this infographic -- you can dodge the big mistakes and deliver content that delivers new customers!

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

Networking tips and tricks

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

Over the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing some insights on successful networking. These tips and tricks are things I’ve observed others do or have found useful in my own endeavors. Some topics will cover questions I’m routinely asked by people new to networking or people trying to feel more comfortable with it.  Remember, networking isn’t a science, and everyone has their own unique take on how to do it well. These are simply items that I’ve found useful over the years. 

Tip 1:  How to enter a conversation or do an introduction

This question has been posed multiple times: “I’m at an event or a party and only know the person I came with. How do I introduce myself or break into a conversation with people I don’t know?” This is one of the most intimidating moments of networking because of a couple different factors. 1. We don’t want to come off as abrasive or rude by interrupting a conversation. 2. What do we talk about after the introduction is made?

The simple answer is to always remember the surroundings. Most people attending networking events expect to be interrupted and are hoping to meet new people. The other secret – they’re probably just as nervous as you are. The easiest way to enter a conversation is to simply introduce yourself and then have at least one to two conversation starters ready to go.  Some common conversation starters include:

-          Talking about the event space or location. This is especially useful at fundraising events or community support events.

-          Asking why they’re attending the event, what they hope to get out of it.

-          Asking the usual, “What do you do for a living?”

-          My personal favorite, “What are you passionate about?”

I enjoy the “passionate” question because it gives the other person an opportunity to share about something they truly care about. It lets them set the stage by either talking about a professional topic or personal topic. Always try to avoid yes/no style questions that don’t require much follow up. Remember, the broader the question is the more opportunity the new acquaintance has to answer as they see fit and continue the conversation.  

Stay tuned in coming weeks for more tips.

-Danny Beyer

Personal PR: Why you need a personal brand

Claire Celsi is a public relations practitioner in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Everyone is busy. Busy with everyday routines and tasks at work. Hauling the kids back and forth. Meeting daily obligations. Get up and do it again. Rinse, repeat. The daily grind is called the daily grind for a reason.

It's so easy to lose sight of the big picture. Everyone needs to build and maintain a personal brand. Over the course of a 40+ year career, you're bound to run into situations where it will come in handy. The best part of a personal brand is using it to help yourself during those times in your career where things may not have gone according to plan.

Being anonymous is foolhardy. It only works well for those who are in the witness protection program, the NSA, or perhaps a private investigator. Everyone else - guess what? Slap a smile on, grab a nametag and start shaking hands. The worst thing you can hear from another person is "Oh, I've heard of your company, but have never heard your name."

In fact, people who network and (dare I say) - promote themselves a bit - actually end up benefitting the companies they work for and contribute to the bottom line in concrete and measurable ways.

Networking can feel like a luxury (or a burden) if you're a busy person. Or just downright impossible if you don't have a good support system at work or at home. How do you build and maintain a personal brand slowly but surely? Here are some tips:

  1. Tell your spouse/kids/business partners what you're up to: If you set a goal to attend a networking event twice a month, let people know that you're trying to be more visible and meet some new people. That way, if you leave work a little early - or are late for dinner - they'll know what you're trying to accomplish.
  2. Use social media: Network 24-7 by building a strong digital presence. You can't go to every networking event, but you can create engaging profiles and content online that people will find when they simply Google your name.
  3. Set a goal: What's your ultimate goal? More friends? New business for your company? Meeting peers in your industry? Think about it ahead of time.
  4. Prioritize: Not every networking event will be equal, and most likely, there will be plenty to choose from. Pick the ones that will be most beneficial based on the goal that you've set.
  5. Shake it up a little. Find a fun friend and attend a social event together. Pick an event where neither one of you are likely to know anyone. Make a goal of meeting five new people each.

There are times in life to sit it out, and times to get in there and play. Networking is not a frivilous activity. It's a "must do" for every professional who cares about the way the public perceives them. Your "network" is the most important asset you have.

 

 

A director's call of duty

Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

You may serve as a director on the board for a for-profit business, a nonprofit charity, or even a homeowners’ association, and whether you know it or not, Iowa law likely imposes upon you one the highest duties under the law: a Fiduciary Duty. While a fiduciary obligation is certainly not the most exciting topic in the business or legal world, it often tops the list as one of the most important. So what does this often-referenced but frequently misunderstood duty require of you and your fellow directors? To paraphrase the wise Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, one’s status as a fiduciary only begins the inquiry.

To fully answer the important inquiry, this post could go on ad nauseam cataloging fiduciary requirements imposed upon directors, but rather than lulling you to sleep with a dissertation, we’ll simply touch on a few high points.  A logical starting point is where Iowa’s legislature left off when it codified the concept of fiduciary duties in the Iowa Code. Pursuant to black-letter Iowa law (Iowa Code Section 490.830), each board member must abide by the following requirements when acting on behalf of the entity they serve: (1) they must act in good faith; and (2) in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the corporation. Additionally, when becoming informed in connection with the director's decision-making function or devoting attention to the director's oversight function, the director must discharge  his/her duties with “the care that a person in a like position would reasonably believe appropriate under similar circumstances.”  Id

The words above, while straightforward and upon first blush appear very clear, result in countless lawsuits against directors for allegedly breaching their fiduciary duty.  

Given the large volume of lawsuits on the matter, it’s not surprising that Iowa’s courts frequently interpret and apply the requirements above. In so doing, our courts have provided further direction as to fiduciary duty requirements in Iowa. For instance, in one often-cited case, Iowa’s Supreme Court boiled down the concept to two main duties, “consisting both of a duty of care and a duty of loyalty.” Cookies Food Products, Inc., by Rowedder v. Lakes Warehouse Distrib., Inc., 430 N.W.2d 447, 451 (Iowa 1988) (emphasis added). Iowa’s high court continued, opining “[t]he duty of care requires each director to ‘perform the duties of a director ... in good faith, in a manner such director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the corporation, and with such care as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.” Id. (internal citations omitted). 

With respect to the duty of loyalty, Iowa’s court stated “[t]hat duty derives from the prohibition against self-dealing that inheres in the fiduciary relationship …  As a fiduciary, one may not secure for oneself a business opportunity that “in fairness belongs to the corporation.”  Id. (internal citations omitted). Failure to abide by these legal duties (e.g. failing to act in good faith, failing to become properly informed before making decisions, failing to exercise proper oversight, engaging in self-dealing) may not only result in damages to your organization, but may also result in personal liability (read, you are sued individually). 

In short, as a director in an organization (for-profit and non-profit alike) it is imperative to understand the duties that Iowa law imposes upon you. The foregoing is but just a glimpse into some of the requirements imposed upon directors in Iowa. For a more detailed explanation about fiduciary duties, consider checking out the following links:

Link:  Care, or Beware!  Iowa's Fiduciary Duty of Care

Link:  The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Fiduciary Duties in Small Businesses and Corporations.

 

How to use Facebook to get more referrals

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Social media has become a generic topic. Everywhere you turn there are bits of information stressing the significance of these dynamic platforms to reach audiences and grow your business. OK, so having just written that last sentence I realize that this post also conveys that message, but I promise it isn’t generic. So let’s take a different look at social media, namely Facebook, and explore how it can be used get you more referrals for your business.

Referrals_buttonI am not the expert on all things social media. Hashtags are relatively new for me too (yet I feel compelled to use them). But, I am knowledgeable on #referrals and I understand what type of content resonates with people. According to a study published last December, 71% of adults are using Facebook. People are spending time there, too. And because so many eyes are glued to the website, businesses are fervently combating for the coveted spot on the News Feed. But there is a problem. So many businesses are so fixed on being in the spotlight that they forget to consider how well the actual message will be received by their audience. There is an opportunity for businesses to leverage the obvious connections between their vocal ambassadors and their friends and they #fail to capture it.

People #dislike being sold to

Let’s take a step back and think about why people are on Facebook in the first place. A study by the Pew Research Center published this month lists the top reasons users log onto Facebook. A couple of these include receiving updates and comments and sharing experiences with friends and family. Getting advertised to didn’t make the list. An obvious observation, yet so many companies continue to flood the News Feed with unwanted (and ignored) content. OK, so people don’t drive on the interstate to read billboards or watch TV programs to see commercials (outside of the Super Bowl) either. The point is, whenever a person can easily #ignore an advertisement, they will, and this holds true for misplaced advertisements (sponsored posts) in a user’s Facebook timeline.

This way is much better

Rather than spending time and money advertising on Facebook, find creative ways of getting your vocal promoters to say good things about you via comments. Sure, when people like your Facebook page it is #cool but it doesn’t go very far with the people who have never heard of you. Positive comments, however, reach new audiences with a message that is as close to a positive referral that you will get on social media. It means so much more when a prospect hears how great you are from someone they know. It will significantly dilute the feeling of being advertised to online and transfer trust from your ambassadors directly to their friends and family. Also, considering that half of all Facebook users have more than 200 online friends, the reach of the message has quite the potential.

Ask to be shared and recommended 

An easy way to get started is to add a Share button or Recommend button to your website and ask your happiest customers to provide you with a quick comment online. This allows people to add a personalized message to a link to your website before sharing it on their timeline. An added bonus with the recommend button is every time a user clicks on it you will gain a Facebook like for your page. Just think how much better this message will be received by its intended audience - and unlike sponsored posts coming from you, it’s free! Also, it doesn’t work to simply repost testimonials that you gather from other sources to your personal Facebook page. That comes across as bragging and is #lame. If you are interested in learning more, at Rocket Referrals we have a unique approach to gathering more Facebook likes and comments.

Remember to evaluate employees

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

With everything else that retail entrepreneurs have to do every day, it's all-too-easy to overlook make-or-break details of one of the most important aspects of business: employees.

With few or no backstops available at larger companies, there's a big potential for small retailers to rush or even neglect virtually every step of the process from hiring to performance evaluations and appreciation to firing.

One obstacle for small retailers is that they spend so much time with employees that they feel they're too close to do formal performance evaluations.

Some small business owners don't do performance evaluations because they think they're too small, but those who do are focused on the wrong word. Instead of thinking "small," they need to think "business."

You're running a business, and everything about an employee's conduct -- from their interaction with customers to what they do when things are quiet -- directly influences your bottom line. If you're not conducting regular performance evaluations, you're doing yourself, your business and your employees a disservice.

Some employees naturally dread evaluations but they dislike the alternative -- being kept in the dark -- even more. A lack of feedback can lead to dissatisfied employees because they don't know where they stand. The fact is, employees want to know what's going on and how they're doing.

No matter how much you talk with them every day, they want to understand in a one-on-one setting with you what you think they do best, what things can they improve upon and also what new tasks might they take on.

Evaluations provide opportunities to do all that. They are a time to correct problems, set goals and clear-cut expectations and to reward employees for meeting previously set goals.

And, that's why it doesn't matter how big or small your business is, regular evaluations are essential.

Next blog: The nuts-and-bolts of a performance evaluations for specialty retail employees.

What is Facebook Paper?

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Have you even heard of Facebook Paper? You might not have, it’s pretty new. Plus, it’s actually an entirely different app then the regular Facebook app. Working in media, I always wonder how long an actual printed paper version of newspapers is going to continue to happen. I’m not sure this is officially the end for printed newspaper, but as more companies try to create your newspaper experience online, it doesn’t look good for them. Adapting is the name of the game. Here’s what I thought about the app.

The App: Technically speaking, the app was released last week and from my perspective, is a combined way, as well as some new ways, to get your information. My initial thought was Facebook tried to combine Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook into one app. Smart or crazy is yet to be determined. Like any new layout or app, I’m in the middle of my adjustment period of trying to figure out if I love it or am sticking with my old secure ways. The app is set up to have a mash of your Facebook information along with other information you would find in a news-“paper”. There are different sections you can follow, starting with of course your own Facebook. Other options are Tech, Enterprise, Pop Life, Score, Exposure, Ideas, Equalize, Planet, All City, Well Lived, Cute, LOL, Glow, Pride Flavor, Family Matters, Headlines, Creators, and Home.

Biz Record Blog_FB Papers_1

Biz Record Blog_FB Papers_2

The Good: If you’re looking for one stop information gathering, this is it! When you’re in the Facebook section, you’re going to only get served updates from friends and pages you follow. It’s one swipe to the right and you can find streaming headlines. Your content is separated, but housed under one umbrella now. If visual is your thing, you’ll probably like this timeline much better than the white background current Facebook timeline. It also seems to be pretty user friendly. I like their concept of it functioning like an actual news paper would. As you listen to the tour they use words such as “fold down” and “turn the page” to really enhance your “paper” reading experience, and yet feel familiar all at the same time.

The Bad: As you can see in the pictures, each story bump is pretty small (or is that just what it looks like after you turn 30?!) Either way, it’s small. One click and it’s bigger, which isn’t terrible. I think the large amount of information feeding into this app could easily get overwhelming as well. We’re somewhat conditioned when these concepts are separate (i.e. pictures on pinterest, short sentences on Twitter) to handle them in their respective platforms. Once you combine the concepts – it’s almost impossible not to have information overload. That is, until we’re all used to it, and there will so be a day when even this amount of information is not enough for us…

What do you think? Tweet me your thoughts @interactivekate.

--Katie

Concrete is getting more green

Rob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

Tilt walls

Tilt up concrete construction has been around since the 1920’s and is typically identified with big box stores such as Home Depot and warehouses. Basically, a form is made on the ground and filled with concrete and reinforcing. Once the concrete is cured, the panel is “tilted up” on top of the footing and fixed in place.

This simple construction process is being used on sustainable structures across the country. While you don’t see it much in Iowa because of our winters, architects are using the unique construction for sustainable reasons.

WarehouseFirst, concrete construction from the Romans is still intact so it is very durable.  Tilt up buildings from the 40’s have had very little maintenance and are still performing.

Second, each panel is made on site so shipping is nonexistent compared to brick or precast concrete which can come from hundreds of miles away. Ready mix plants are usually within a few miles in metro areas.

Third, systems have been manufactured so an insulated sandwich panel can be cast on site. The encapsulation of the insulation provides a very good air infiltration barrier.

Lastly, the massiveness of the concrete resists temperature migration from the outside.  Like the adobe homes with thick walls built by Native Americans, the heat of the summer sun is felt inside much later than when the sun has set. Some architects have even imbedded rubber tubing in south facing concrete walls and removed the heat during the winter for space heating.

Keep your eyes peeled for a tilt up project in Iowa.

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzer.com

Would your movie be all about you?

FBmovieDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In celebration of their 10-year anniversary, Facebook surprised its users this week by allowing each user to create a one minute movie that looked back on their Facebook presence. It grabbed photos and status updates that had received a lot of likes and everyone has been sharing them in the newsfeed.

(To the right, you can see a screenshot of me sharing my movie with my FB friends)

It's been fun to look back at other people's public facing life and what they've shared.

Watching all of the videos got me thinking about how business Facebook pages would fare if we used the same app on them.  

If we did some sort of composite of the entries on your company's Facebook page -- what would we see?  Would we see you talking about your stuff, your sale, your awards and your employees?

I doubt it. You see -- the way the app selected what to show in the movie was based on how many likes and comments each entry received. So it wasn't what I, Drew McLellan, thought was most interesting or important -- it was what my friends took the time to enjoy.

So if your business page is littered with stuff about your company and it's more sales or self oriented... your movie might have been blank. (Wouldn't that have been embarrassing?)  

Seems like this movie gift was a very good reminder to all of us that Facebook (whether it is our personal page or a business page) is all about the audience and what they care about. As you put together your editorial calendar for Facebook (you have one, right?) ask yourself -- would this item show up in my movie because it engaged my page's audience or would they ignore this?

Be more purposeful about what goes on your page... and avoid sharing content that wouldn't make your movie.

 ~ Drew McLellan, McLellan Marketing Group 

The brilliant CVS no smokes decision: Great PR for years to come

Claire Celsi is a public relations practitioner in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Health advocates across the country are hailing CVS Pharmacy's decision to stop selling tobacco products. The company admits that it will lose millions of dollars in revenue over time, but is mostly citing the obvious: Smoking is detrimental. Selling cigarettes is antithetical to good health. Conclusion? A business focused on helping people become healthier should not be in the business of selling a product which has a deadly track record and is the number one cause of preventable death. Makes perfect sense from a PR standpoint.  No smoking

If you dig a little deeper, there is another very compelling reason for CVS to go this route. It's going to be more beneficial financially in the long run. Health and wellness is big business and the implementation of Obamacare has created renewed opportunities for healthcare companies to provide healthy options for customers and patients. CVS is making a strategic move to align itself more closely with the wellness moverment and consequently, the money that comes with it.

From a PR standpoint, this is a triple win for CVS and its reputation:

  1. They get the lasting publicity value of being the FIRST major pharmacy to announce this strategy. Being a trendsetter is a powerful thing. Trust me, CVS's name will show up in news coverage on this issue for years to come.
  2. CVS will experience a flood of support from potential customers, vendors, and most importantly health partners who want to align themselves with a leader.
  3. CVS will eventually make more money on health and wellness programs - which has much more potential than income from cigarette sales.

As someone who has worked in the fight against tobacco, I admire CVS's courage to step out and be different, seemingly flying in the face of logic. As a PR practitioner, I see the move for what it is - a smart business decision that will pay dividends into the future.

Meet new blogger Danny Beyer

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

A good network takes time to build and grow. When I moved to Des Moines with my wife in Danny Beyer2008, I didn’t know anyone besides her and her immediate family. I took an office job and was pretty content with the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours and a Monday through Friday work routine. That all changed in August that year when a companywide meeting was called and we were all handed our termination paperwork. I found myself without a job and without many prospects. I resolved to never be in that situation again. 

My first sales job started with Kabel Business Service, a local payroll provider, a year later.  I was instructed that cold-calling would get me through my first year but that building a solid referral base would make the following years much easier. Not being a big fan of cold calling, I got to work contacting bankers and CPAs and really anyone who would listen to me tell my story of business development. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the groundwork was being laid for the network I now enjoy today. 

Through the next years I continued to meet people. I never said no to a cup of a coffee or a chance to connect with someone new. Everyone had an interesting story to tell whether it involved work or something personal. We shared dreams, successes, and failures. I’ve watched people’s careers take off and learned from veterans who enjoy sharing their wisdom. We’ve let our kids play together, celebrated births and mourned deaths. 

This is why I network and why I try to meet someone new every day. Networking is more than trying to close deals or chasing the next sale. Networking is building long-term partnerships and business relationships that benefit both parties. It involves not being afraid to pick up the phone and ask for a favor and expecting the phone to ring in return. Sometimes those relationships can turn personal, and lasting friendships form. In fact, some of my closest friends have come from the various network groups I currently belong to or belonged to in the past.

This blog will be a collection of stories from my past five years of building my professional and personal network. I’ll share how I helped create a nonprofit event that raised more than $7,000 with a couple of phone calls and coffee meetings. How I helped collaborate with two other young professional groups to pull off the first ever YP Leaders Symposium. I’ll also share the mistakes and tips/tricks I’ve learned through navigating hundreds of chamber and networking events. 

I simply love to connect with people, to hear their stories and learn about what makes them tick. I’d love to hear your story too. Let me know if you’d like to get coffee and connect.

-Danny Beyer

Take advantage of the moment in 2014

-Kyle Oppenhuizen is a Business Record reporter and the 2014 president-elect of the Young Professionals Connection (YPC). 

One of my favorite television shows is The West Wing, the fictional White House-based show starring Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet. I was recently re-watching an old episode that helped me identify my motto for 2014.

The scene that caught my attention was one in which President Bartlet is having a particularly tense dialogue with a senior White House official, Toby Ziegler, played by Richard Schiff. Ziegler tells the president that a charge against him is that he watches the pitch go by.

As a baseball fan, that made me think: What pitches do I watch go by when instead I should swing for the fences?

I recently had coffee with a Greater Des Moines leader (I won’t mention a name, since this conversation was off the record). This person mentioned an important lesson learned in leadership - take advantage of the moments worth taking advantage of.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I often try to set the tone for my year by setting a motto, one that seems particularly fitting to where I am in my life. This year that motto is “Take advantage of the moment.” In other words, don’t watch the pitch go by.

So what’s the “moment” that your business or organization could take advantage of this year? What pitch should you swing at?

Maybe it is finally time to launch that new product. Or is the moment right to plan that next big event in Des Moines? Perhaps it is something smaller, like picking your moment to recognize your team of employees or nonprofit volunteers for a job well done.

Whatever it is, find your moments and take them. You never know when you’ll get the moment again. And if you watch the pitch go by, you can’t expect your competitors to do the same.

-Kyle Oppenhuizen

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