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April 2016

Treat employees like luxury vehicles

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

If you are a leader in an organization, your employees are a lot like the luxury vehicle(s) you may have parked in your garage.

  1. They are expensive.
  2. Their performance is dependent on regular checkups and maintenance. 
  3. Poor performance is frustrating.
  4. If they break down, you go nowhere.
  5. It's hard to get ahead if you are constantly replacing them.

Let's pretend for a moment that you own four different luxury vehicles and each vehicle takes a different type of fuel.

  • Your sedan takes regular unleaded gas.
  • Your SUV takes diesel.
  • Your hybrid takes unleaded fuel, while also powered by electricity.
  • Your fourth luxury vehicle is 100 percent powered by electricity.

I'm no mechanic, but common sense tells us that if you want top performance out of each of your four luxury vehicles, a good place to start would be to make sure you are fueling and powering each with the fuel and/or power they are designed to take.

Would you agree?

I mean, if you ignore the needs of your vehicles and try to use the wrong fuel or power, what results should you expect? Do you really have a right to get frustrated when you put diesel fuel in your hybrid and its performance is poor, or worse it doesn't run? What do you do then? Do you trade it in for another vehicle you hope will meet your performance expectations or do you figure out how to fuel it and power it correctly?

Your employees are like your luxury vehicles.

Forty years of research suggests you likely lead, manage and work with four different types of people. Like the four luxury vehicles outlined above, each type of person needs a different form of fuel. Failure to fuel people correctly will lead to poor performance and frustration. Success Skills Mastery is understanding the fuel needs of the people around you and giving them what they need.

We use a program called SOCIAL STYLE ® to help clients learn more about the people they lead, manage and work with and what fuel each needs to achieve top performance. SOCIAL STYLEs says your workforce is made up of the four following Styles of people:

  • Driving Style
  • Expressive Style
  • Amiable Style
  • Analytical Style

Over the month of May, I am going to detail each of the four SOCIAL STYLEs in greater detail. In subsequent posts you will learn the following things about each Style:

  • How to identify an employee's Style
  • Their strengths and why you need them on your team
  • How to correctly fuel them
  • How they prefer to work and make decisions
  • Their weaknesses and opportunities for growth
  • What stresses them out
  • How they behave when there is too much tension
  • How you can work with them to achieve maximum results

Your organization can have purpose and vision. Your strategic plan can be well developed with meaningful goals, plans, and processes. But, none of that matters without people to share your purpose, be inspired by your vision, and have the desire to achieve your goals.

Take some time to think about different individuals you work with. What makes them valuable to your organization? What gives them security? What motivates them? How do they prefer to work? What is their decision-making process? What are their weaknesses? What stresses them out? How do they behave when stressed? How can you help them succeed?

Fuel your people. Fulfill your vision!

Part Two Preview: In part two I will talk about people who have a Driving Style. People with this Style are described as assertive and emotionally controlled. They are fast-paced, independent, and get things done. Who do you work with could be described this way?  I look forward to sharing with you how you can work with and fuel people with a Driving Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.

 


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

The buyer journey and your website

Alex Karei, marketing director for Webspec Design, blogs about web strategy.

As individuals in the business world, many of us have been tasked with helping clients move along the “buyer journey.” After all, without a buyer, we wouldn’t have a business, now would we? But, just in case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, the buyer journey is typically defined in three phases.

Stage one: Discovery

At this phase, your potential buyer doesn’t know you exist. They may not even know they have a need you can address as a company. Typically, they’re experiencing symptoms of a problem at this stage, and beginning research to address said problem.

Stage two: Consideration

Buyers know they have a solvable need, and they likely know about several companies that can address that need for them in different ways. In essence, the client has clearly defined the problem, and is now in full-on research mode for the best solution

Stage three: Decision

Here, your buyer has now decided what the best approach is to their need. They’ve identified vendors who can solve this problem, and are now narrowing the list to select the final vendor they’d like to go with.

As you consider your website and other digital marketing efforts, it’s important to keep the buyer journey in mind. Read and think about the following real-life situation. Do you think it’s realistic?

Susie Smith drives home from work, thinking through her to-do list for the evening. “I don’t have time to purchase groceries for dinner tonight,” she thinks. “Let’s see, I could go out to eat. Or maybe I should get takeout? Maybe ... Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would just shop for me? I hate spending all the time weaving through aisles. Wait! I know there’s a local grocery that will shop and deliver the food to my house for me. That’s what I’ll do.”

Now, you might have gotten the point that “Susie” was thinking about Hy-Vee’s newer Aisles Online service. However, Susie would have never known about that service if Hy-Vee hadn’t marketed it to her. And, if they didn’t? She wouldn’t have known that service was an option, and therefore, might have gone to the typical takeout solution automatically.

Now that we’ve clarified (on a high level) what a buyer’s journey is, I’m going to spend my next few posts on IowaBiz discussing some ways that each of these stages can be considered throughout your website and digital marketing strategies. I’m excited to help you think about how to better align those stages with what you’re doing in your current web strategy.

First up: why you should consider “Discovery” first and foremost for your company’s web strategy. Stay tuned!

Alex-Karei_YPFinalist2016Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her via:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Greater transparency for out-of-state LLCs? Not so fast.

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. 6a00d83452ceb069e201b8d17a5a67970c-320wi

On April 12, the 2016 Iowa Legislature passed a new law that seeks greater transparency into foreign limited liability companies (read: out-of-state LLCs) seeking to transact business in Iowa.

Specifically, the legislation (HF2373) mandates that when out-of-state LLCs apply to transact business in this state they must disclose at least one of their owners (if member-managed) or one of their managers (if manager-managed).

Importantly, the newly-passed legislation was amended on the Senate floor to remove a requirement that ALL members or ALL managers be disclosed - an important change from how the legislation was originally introduced on February 19.  

Currently, when out-of-state LLCs file an application with the Iowa Secretary of State's Office to transact business in the state, they are not required to disclose the identity of any owners or managers. This new legislation eliminates previous anonymity.

However, because Iowa law permits members and managers in an LLC to be corporations, estates, trusts, partnerships, and LLCs, complying with the new legislation would not necessarily require the out-of-state LLC to identify an actual person.  For instance, an owner in an out-of-state LLC who does not want his/her identity known under the new law could largely side-step the transparency requirement in one of two ways:

 

  1. If the LLC has multiple owners or managers, the individual could simply disclose another owner or manager.
  2. If the member or manager in the out-of-state LLC is a corporation, trust, or even another LLC, the owner could simply disclose that entity and thereby avoid disclosing her/her personal identity.

If you are involved with an out-of-state LLC seeking to transact business in Iowa, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney who practices in this area of law. 

Seven-year itch can also hit business owners

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of the Heart of Iowa Market Place.

The seven-year itch.

Almost everyone associates it with marriage or, if you’re old enough, the Marilyn Monroe classic with the iconic scene where she’s standing on a subway grate and a passing train creates a breeze that blows up her white dress.

Specialty retailers might not know it, especially when they’ve been hit by it, but it’s been proven that they are also prone to the itch. Sometimes it’s seven years, sometimes it’s shorter and sometimes it’s longer, but make no mistake, the itch can sap energy, excitement, motivation and satisfaction from the best of us.

Employees can feel the itch, too. Especially millennials, it seems. But that’s a topic for another day.

Experts say rollercoaster sales and revenue cycles can be a major big cause for the itch among business owners. (Sound familiar, retailers?)

Ironically, what business coach Jim Rohrbach described in an August 2000 Entrepreneur magazine article as the “boredom of success” can be another trigger.

In other words, the itch can strike if your business is too volatile or too successful.

Rohrbach said in that same article that one way to scratch the itch is by creating a bigger mission for your business. “Large goals take many steps to achieve and each can erase boredom and keep the entrepreneur focused,” wrote Jeffery D. Zbar.

I agree, but with this caveat: Make sure that bigger mission fits snugly to your business plan. I can think of few things that would aggravate the itch more – and be more exhausting – than to take on a big investment of time, energy and money that pulls you away from what you do best.

Other potential remedies are pretty much what you’d expect, including time off, travel and looking at your business in a new light with the help of advice from other business people, a book or class.

For me, the itch doesn't wait seven years. Mine usually hits every five years, but it's a good thing. I don't necessarily want to change my career path, but I need to find some new excitement with my career or business.  Whether that is taking on new projects, looking for new ways to grow my business, just something to continue to make me excited about going to work.  

I’ve always been a big believer in asking tough questions – and being honest with myself about the answers – to keep my focus where it needs to be. I make sure it becomes a motivator to keep my store and products fresh, take a look at the entire business with a fresh set of eyes and from the customer's perspective to see what new goals we should implement and new products we should introduce.

Having the itch is not a bad thing when it's used as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you are doing and not become complacent.  

As for me, I can’t image a better script with a happier ending than to be a specialty retailer in today’s competitive economy.

Next month: What to do to scratch an employee’s seven-year itch.

Feeling stressed, tired and rushed?

Stressed out office worker photo for IowaBiz  (1)Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Are you juggling work and family commitments and feeling as though you are not doing either well? It turns out that you are not alone.

Welcome to a social problem that is plaguing American workers. Some researchers call it ‘work-life balance’, some call it ‘work-family effectiveness’. Whatever we call it we should take heart that if we work and have family commitments for children, aging parents or just making time to take good care of ourselves, this is not an individual problem. The feelings of inadequacy that juggling responsibilities creates is a social problem. It is an issue that most of us need to think about and address to break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed.

In 1989 a book called “The Second Shift” rocked our worlds when sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described the double burden employed mothers face because they are also responsible for housework and child care after returning home from a long day at work. In 2014, she said that despite some changes in society, the workplace had not changed enough to alleviate these stressors and problems.

Research study after research study indicates that the tension caused by juggling commitments is affecting American family life. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisors shows us that working parents are the new norm. Sixtyt percent of children now live in households where all of the parents in the home work at least part time. In 1965 the number was only 40 percent.

The Pew research group found that 56 percent of all working parents say that the balancing act is difficult. These folks are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful; they are less likely to find it enjoyable and rewarding. Even if the children are grown you may find that you are still carrying the responsibility for a portion of their support and their living arrangements on top of your demanding job.

Sixty-five percent of parents with college degrees in the Pew study said they found it difficult to balance job and family. Professional workers are more likely than hourly workers to be expected to work, even after they leave the office, creating more work after the housework and family care responsibilities of “the second shift’.

The expectations of modern parenthood, care taking for elderly parents and the post-recession workplace, where working longer hours with less support is common, have all collided. We all lose.

How is a person in the new American workforce supposed to deal with these issues? The suggestions here are just a beginning list as I will be sharing more strategies in future articles:

  1. Engage other family members to take responsibility. Attend the Lift IOWA and Business Record event “Sharing the Second Shift” on May 4, 2016, to learn more about how gender equity in the home results in better outcomes for mothers, fathers, children and business. My business, Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, is a proud sponsor of this important event. Register at www.businessrecord.com/events.
  2. Become a lean family machine. Whether you are a single parent, an uncoupled person caring for an aging parent, or part of a partnership caring for children or pets, to alleviate our stressors we need to strategically create an efficient lifestyle given the realities of our work and family situations. A good first step is to take stock and list all of the commitments you have. Then pare down. Jettison anything that is a non-essential activity in your family and use that extra time to spend quality time together as a family.
  3. Be creative with your time. Would your employer consider a flexible work schedule where you arrive and leave early each day? Can you do any work from home or off site during the work week, minimizing the need for child care? Can you swing by the gym on your way to work and stay a bit later at the office that evening? Can you create a family game of getting the housework done each weekend, complete with rewards? Can you hire someone to do the things you don’t like to do or have the energy to do, freeing you up to feel more fulfilled about where you are putting your time.
  4. Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Are your expectations to “be, do and have it all” unrealistic at this time in your life? Take the pressure off yourself and learn to say these magic words: “How good is good enough?” No, I am not advocating mediocrity here. I am suggesting prioritizing which tasks or activities make the most sense to spend time on. Do the children’s shoes have to be arranged perfectly next to the doorway? Is it worth 10 minutes of your day to rearrange them or can you live with them in disarray and instead spend the 10 minutes to read a story to your kids. How good IS good enough?
  5. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your family. Sit them down and brainstorm solutions to the problem of having too much to do and too little time to do it in. Who is willing and capable of feeding the dog each day? Is your partner willing to commit to cooking or providing take-out four days a week? My husband tells the story of when his mother, at the age of 52, decided to finish her bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s degree with the dream of becoming a teacher. She held a family meeting to announce that her education would be her top priority and that the family would all need to work together to figure out a plan to put meals on the table each night. She was not going to be providing that service to them anymore. The beautiful part of this story is that the family collaborated, Ruth attained her college degrees and the lives of the students she taught were positively influenced. By having the strength and courage to speak her truth and let go, she created a win-win for everyone.

Balancing your professional life and your personal life does not have to be elusive. Using these suggestions, we can all take one small step today to slow down, become aware and make a deliberate small but mighty change. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and tired, we can feel a bit of peacefulness and enjoy our work and family situations again.

Brave new world of foodies

- Jessica Dunker is president/CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association

The Food Network is fast approaching its 15th year of delivering food-focused television programming into homes across the country. The impact that 24-hour access to TV shows featuring chefs, culinary tourism, cooking, “rescues” and competitions has on every facet of the restaurant industry cannot be overstated.  

Suddenly everyone is, or wants to be, a foodie. Or at the very least a food enthusiast. Many appear to be succeeding in their quest to increase their cuisine savvy.

Research from the National Restaurant Association found that 9 out of 10 restaurant operators feel guests are more knowledgeable about food than they have been in the past. Eight in 10 say their customers are also paying more attention to food sourcing and production than they were two years ago. Just as many have seen a notable rise in how adventurous restaurant guests are willing to be with their food choices.

Consumer data confirms these operator observations. One study found 72 percent of people are in fact seeking restaurant food experiences that provide tastes and flavors they can’t duplicate at home. Roughly half of restaurant patrons actively seek establishments where they can try foods they haven’t tried before. This is true for both table service and limited service restaurants — further indicating that American palates are expanding and expectations are increasing regardless of price point.

So how are restaurants responding to this brave new world full of foodies?

In a recent food and menu trends survey, more than three quarters of operators said their restaurant is offering a wider variety of menu items now than they did even two years ago. Last year alone more than 80 percent of restaurants added a new entrée to their menu, of those, more than 90 percent plan to do it again in 2016.

As consumer expectations evolve, restaurant operators know they must do more than keep up— they need to be a step ahead. What might that look like? If the most recent chefs’ surveys are any indication restaurant patrons can expect to see the rise of vegetable-centric meals, ethnic meals, condiments and spices, and the harking back to traditional preparation methods (bring on the meatloaf).  

Ultimately though, restaurateurs will serve what people are willing to pay for. Meaning, menus will change and evolve, but there will always be a place for perennial favorites, no matter what goes on around them. Being in the restaurant business is after all being in business. Operators need to do things that keep customers coming back. 

So even if trendy new foods dominate conversations (as well as Instagram), there will always be a place on the menu for French Fries, burgers, and fried chicken. And thank goodness for that.

--Jessica Dunker

What is my company worth?

- John Mickelson, managing partner Midwest Growth Partners, is IowaBiz's blogger on succession planning. Read more about him here. 

Business owners often consider their business to be an extension of themselves and many have a high opinion of what their business is worth. Telling the business owner the “wrong number” can be like calling their baby ugly. If they seek to sell their business though, they need to have a realistic idea of what it is worth. 

So how are businesses valued by buyers?

It is purely supply and demand and, at any given time, a business is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it. Period. Tire-kickers do not buy businesses, buyers do.

If you need help figuring this out, a reputable business broker or investment banker can provide you with a range of what is realistic.

The primary valuation techniques involve value of assets, including intangibles, and cash-flow. In addition to those, several factors can influence how buyers like Midwest Growth Partners will view the value of your business.

Here are a few of the less common:

  1. Would your business provide a competitor with an immediate way to enter a new sales or product market? If so, and if that company is interested in making acquisitions, that buyer should be willing to pay a premium for your business.
  2. Does your business have steady, consistent cash flow like an alarm company, which has a 95 percent annual renewal rate or is it lumpy cash flow that is more project-based like a general contractor? Buyers are willing to pay more for businesses with predictable cash flow.
  3. Are there leverageable assets in place? Commercial banks are increasingly picky on what assets they will lend money against. If your business does not have assets that a buyer can secure debt with, the buyer universe will shrink because it will require all-cash buyers and therefore the value will go down.
  4. Is there a competent management team in place that can run the business if you are gone? A buyer may have their own ideas for strategic or personnel improvements – but they will also be willing to pay more if there is a talented team already in place.
  5. Does the business require significant working capital during parts of the year to operate? A buyer will pay more for a business if cash is not tied up in inventory or accounts payable.
  6. Are capital expenditures and systems up to date? A buyer will be willing to pay more if they know they are not going to have to spend cash immediately to catch-up on deferred capital expenditures.

These are a few of many, but are a good way to start the process of determining a value. 

Your business needs a social media presence… Now what?

- Katie Patterson, founder and CEO of Happy Medium, writes about social media for IowaBiz.com

We live in a digital age and the necessity of a social media presence can no longer be ignored by businesses. You may have reached the point where you know you need to jump in but have no idea where to start… Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, oh my! It can be so initially overwhelming that it’s easy to just put it off and worry about it later.

Take a breath and don’t fret. Companies often times think they need to jump in everywhere to be successful, but in reality, what platforms you should have an active presence on really depends on your target audience. It’s rare that a company has a need to be on all programs so take a look at your own customer demographics and where those fit in best with social media to develop your approach.

Facebook

Facebook is by far the most universal social media platform, and if you have to start somewhere, the best bet is to start here with a business page. In January 2016, Facebook released there were more than 1.59 billion monthly active users worldwide (that’s 71 percent of all adults who go online), and of those, 1.04 billion log in daily, a 17 percent increase year over year. Women are slightly more active here but the difference is not large enough that you wouldn’t be able to reach both them and men if you are targeting one over the other.

  • Tip #1: Do not make a personal page in your business name; it’s not a great user experience and you won’t get the same benefits of a professional account like analytics.
  • Tip #2: More visual posts – such as video, photos and designed graphics – do tend to perform better, so have fun with it!

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Coca-Cola, Nike, Chanel.

 

Twitter

Twitter is the next most known platform with 23 percent of all internet users active on it. This is much less visually-driven content than the others we’ll discuss today and is best used for brief announcements or breaking news about your company, participating in industry conversations such as Twitter Chats, and providing an extension of your customer service. The demographics show that majority of users are 18-49 years old.

  • Tip #1: Twitter users love to have dialogue with companies and brands about both good and bad experiences so if you decide to invest time in this platform, make sure you have someone responsive dedicated to participating in the discussions and offering solutions.
  • Tip #2: Do not link your Facebook and Twitter accounts so they’re posting the same content simultaneously.

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Southwest Airlines, MTV, Oreo, Scandal (yes, even your favorite TV shows can be active).

Instagram

Instagram currently has a lot of buzz and is being praised for its growth. This platform is primarily known for utilizing photos although there is an option to implement videos which just expanded from 15 second snippets to now 60 seconds, initially launched by the Taylor Swift treadmill campaign. Twenty-eight percent of adult internet users are active here or 24 percent of the entire adult population. Women are slightly more involved than men here (31percent to 24 oercent) according to recent Pew Research Center studies.

  • Tip #1: Food, pets, and hand lettering do incredibly well on this platform. Go for bright colors and utilize apps like Over or Word Swag to add text to your photos before posting.
  • Tip #2: If you decide to do both Facebook and Instagram, try to not overuse the same images on both platforms. It’s ok to post to both, but try to spread it out a couple days or so in order for your audience sees value in following you on both.

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Staples, Mercedes Benz, Kum & Go.

Snapchat

Snapchat is having a moment. It’s rise in popularity has really exploded with more than 100 million active daily users and 8+ billion video views every day, but there’s a common misconception that this is only utilized by teenagers. While 60 percent of users are 13-24 years old, Adweek actually just reported the platform has seen a noticeable spike in active 18-34 year old women this year.

Snapchat is a series of photos and videos that only last for a set amount of seconds and then disappear. It was first utilized by friends who wanted to communicate with images or video but not take up huge storage space by sending via text. Brands eventually caught on, and visual industries such as fashion have been having a large growth in presence and engagement.

  • Tip #1: Focus on telling a story rather than just posting random content here and there. Take your audience behind the scenes in a cohesive series of posts.
  • Tip #2: Show content they won’t see anywhere else, on any of your other platforms, giving them premier access to what makes the magic of your business happen.

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Starbucks, Taco Bell, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The best thing about social media is that it’s free to participate so you can experiment to see what works for your company. You do, however, have to invest time and creativity, and if that gets to be overwhelming, there is help out there.


Katie Patterson is the founder and CEO of Happy Medium, a full service interactive marketing firm. Follow her on Twitter - @_klpatterson.

Spring clean your leadership

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of the International Coach Federation (Iowa chapter), a Forbes Coaches Council member, and owner of MAP Professional Development Inc.


Magic of Tidying book w websiteWhat on earth does decluttering have to do with career, business, and leadership success?

Quite a lot, actually. Consider this scenario:

You wake up in the morning feeling uncharacteristically energized and alert. An exciting project awaits you – one that uses your strengths and passions and that will make a huge difference – and you’ve been anticipating the day when you’d have focused, quality time to work on it. Today’s the day!

You shower, grab your coffee or tea, walk into your workspace, and immediately feel swallowed up by all the papers, files, notes, lists, piles… You can hardly see your desk or chair for all the clutter.

How likely are you jump right into that project now?

Chances are, your energy and focus promptly take a nosedive. Just as physical “stuff” can drain us of precious motivation, so too can clutter in other, less obvious forms.

Good news, though! You can spring clean those less tangible areas, too – at any time of year. Here are five great places to begin clearing up your leadership:

  1. Your schedule.

Is every moment of the day accounted for? The lack of breathing room can contribute significantly to stress and distraction. Build in some buffers throughout the day – even just ten minutes here and there – and use them for quick walks, meditation, or absolutely nothing.

  1. Your meetings.

What do unproductive, aimless, never-ending meetings bring out in you? Probably not your best side. Send a (brief) agenda in advance, clarify and gain agreement on the desired meeting results, hold standing meetings, start and end on time. Side note: Start each meeting with everyone sharing a win. It’s quick, uplifting, and energizing!

  1. Your to-do list.

How many items are on your to-do list today? Now, honestly, how many will you actually complete? Identify what I call your Daily Top 3 – your three most important priorities of the day – then focus on them intently. Practice delegating, outsourcing, re-ordering, or letting go of other tasks.

  1. Your self-doubt.

Everyone questions their decisions and abilities from time to time, but don’t let your uncertainty derail you. “Decide & Take Action” has long been one of my guiding principles; seeking support, reviewing your successes, and surrounding yourself with positive people can all help.

  1. Your message/brand.

What do you stand for? What is your authentic leadership brand? What do you want to be known and remembered for? Trying to please everyone means essentially you please no one, especially not yourself. Conduct a values clarification and revisit (or create) your purpose statement, using them as your filter and guide.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

What’s your favorite spring cleaning tip? Consider how you might apply a variation of it to your work, leadership, or life. For added inspiration, check out a decluttering book for ideas.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, for example, promotes physical decluttering based in one underlying question: “Does the item spark joy?” If it does, keep it, says Kondo. If it doesn’t, it’s time to let it go.

Ask yourself similar questions with commitments, to-do items, activities, and the like: “Does it help me fulfill my purpose? Does it align with my values and goals? Does is serve the greater good? Am I the best person to do it?”

Pause. Open the proverbial window and let in some fresh spring air. Spring clean your work, leadership, and life – and move a little more lightly as a result!

How will you spring clean your work, leadership, and life? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter (@DrChristiCoach), and Instagram (@DrChristiHegstad).

You never know...

Danny Beyer is the vice president of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services. 

On March 21st I received an email that read:

“…Larry suggested I connect with you due to your vast network and your enthusiasm for expanding other people's networks. I am looking for a position in Iowa, particularly the Des Moines area and need to expand my network here.” 

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’re probably aware that I never turn down a first meeting so I replied that I would be happy to get together.  We set a date for coffee at Panera on the following Monday.   

The conversation started off like most introductions. Where are you from? How did you get to where you are now? What do you like to do for fun? What are you doing professionally?  That last question was where everything changed. I quickly found out that my new acquaintance had a vast background and unique skills that Kabel Business Services needed. I told her more about Kabel and asked if she would be interested in interviewing. She said yes!

We brought her in to interview on Tuesday and by Friday she had accepted our offer. We now have a great new employee bringing a wealth of knowledge and skills that we were lacking, all because I accepted an introduction and had coffee with a stranger. 

The point really is you never know who you are going to meet or what they may bring to the table. I typically don’t have expectations of what will take place during a first meeting. I only expect to have a good conversation and meet someone interesting. It happens, more often than not, that I get much more than that. 

Keep meeting people and have conversations with no expectations. You never know what may come out of it.

- Danny Beyer is the vice president of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services and author of The Ties that Bind:  Networking with StyleHe is also a professional speaker on networking.

Boom times for city budgets

- Gretchen Tegeler is president of the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa

Property taxes were due on March 31, so for many people, property taxes may be top of mind right now. It’s always a good idea to turn the bill over and look at which local governments receive what share of the total bill, and how much each the tax collected by each local government grew compared with last year.

Meanwhile, local municipalities have finalized their budgets for the upcoming year, which begins July 1, 2016. The first payment by taxpayers for that budget will come due next September.

Last month’s blog wondered whether cities would capture this year’s large increases in property values in their budgets for the year that starts July 1, or whether they would allow property owners to keep some of it in the form of lower rates. When property valuations on existing residences and businesses grow substantially, as they have this year, property taxes also grow substantially, even with a constant rate.

City budgets have now been finalized. They show that just three of 15 area cities are reducing their property tax rate for the upcoming year: Ankeny, Bondurant, and Johnston. Congratulations to these three cities!

But in all other cases, as shown below, the property tax rate is either staying the same or increasing. As a result, a lot of revenue will be generated and a lot of property taxes will be paid!

Certainly there are situations that may necessitate a substantial increase in revenue, but it’s hard to see why city property taxes in the metro area need to grow an average of 6.8 percent over last year. And why is general fund spending increasing an average of 7.4 percent when inflation is around one percent? These growth rates are truly extraordinary.

 

Changes in Property Tax Rate, Revenue and Spending
Fiscal Year 2016 - Fiscal Year 2017
  FY 2016
Rate

     FY 2017
       Rate

 Rate
Reduced?

% Growth in Property Tax Revenue* % Growth in General Fund Spending
Altoona 9.9437 9.9437   8.2% 12.0%
Ankeny 11.8500 11.7500 x 10.8% 9.4%
Bondurant 13.9363 13.8862 x 9.4% 6.4%
Carlisle 14.6408 14.6519   3.4% 8.8%
Clive 9.9895 10.1450   7.3% -1.9%
Des Moines 16.9200 16.9200   5.1% 5.1%
Grimes 12.9138 12.9147   12.7% 19.1%
Indianola 12.7000 12.7000   1.6% 13.1%
Johnston 11.5005 11.4000 x 4.9% 7.1%
Norwalk 15.6938 15.6950   5.7% 7.0%
Pleasant Hill 11.6500 11.6500   2.6% -8.5%
Urbandale 9.8200 9.9200   6.7% 6.5%
Waukee 13.5000 13.5000   8.8% 12.1%
West Des Moines 12.0000 12.0000   6.9% 4.9%
Windsor Heights 15.0759 15.0759   7.4% 10.1%
Average     6.8% 7.4%
      
* Does not include utility replacement revenue, nor state backfill.  
Source: Iowa Department of Management   

Over time, local budgets tend to grow much faster than inflation and population. One of the reasons is that it sounds good to be able to say there is no increase in the tax rate in a given year (though there may be lots of growth in the property tax base). And there are unlimited opportunities to do good things when more funds become available with so little political effort. But residents and businesses need to be asking the follow-up questions. How much growth in actual revenue will this rate generate? Why is it needed? Is it sustainable? Or is it being spent just because it’s there?


Our local officials are very accessible, and they like to engage with citizens in substantive discussions. It’s easy, and this year’s budgets provide an excellent starting point for discussion. You can find contact information for your city's elected officials at one the League of Women Voters website to learn what’s happening – and why − in your community.

 

 

MidAmerican changes the game

With its latest announcement, MidAmerican Energy is transforming Iowa’s competitive position for major-energy economic development projects. 

- Brent Willett, CEcD is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Follow him at @brent_willett.

Some individual and institutional stakeholders in today’s job creation landscape cling to a bygone [or never-was, more accurately] era’s definition of what economic Wind_turbine development is, or should be -- some grainy picture of a couple of company executives, joined by the local economic developer, gazing out at a corn field, talking about building ‘a big new plant in town.'

Fortunately, today most of us know that job creation projects rarely come in big, one-off packages with job creation figures in the multiple hundreds. Instead, they tend to come in batches of smaller job creation projects, strung together.

We’re not chasing smokestacks anymore.

Corporate facilities projects everywhere are more capital-intensive than ever as companies drive enormous investment into technology and, in many cases, boast modest job creation numbers.  This is not woe-is-us stuff; quite the contrary.  Economic developers and their stakeholders who have adapted to this new reality can be as successful as ever, delivering new jobs and tax base into their communities at strong rates -- if we acknowledge that economic development has shifted, by and large, from a sales-based endeavor to a capacity-building one.

The end-product landscape has changed from singular, large scale job creation projects to more nimble, technology-MidAm1intensive projects as a product of a global economy changing at breathtaking pace. Successful states and regions, and their economic development partners, have changed, too.

In the past, the working definition of economic development was the marketing of a community to a company in a competitive arena, kind of gladiator style [“Children gather round!  No retreat!  No surrender!”- King Leonidas]. Communities and states competed with dozens, even scores of their counterparts in what amounted to an enterprise sales process. Meeting basic requirements for a project like land, workforce and infrastructure, got you some consideration.

Today, the site selection process for companies has become increasingly global and intensely technology-driven. It’s no longer enough for a region or community to be effective at selling itself to corporate suitors. Technology has stripped out virtually all of the opportunity for a region or community to smooth out its deficiencies with effective salesmanship [“This is Sparta!”]. Today, many times we do not know we are under consideration for projects until we are a finalist community.

Companies have MidAm2 shorter timelines and less capital budgeted for the site selection process, which means site location professionals are conducting perhaps 80 percent of the process digitally.

So in the face of this new[ish] reality, what does a region and state that is truly globally competitive for projects do?  It spends less time selling and more time building capacity, honing and building its assets to align with the demands of global business.

That’s why MidAmerican Energy's announcement today that it will invest $3.6 billion [the largest capital investment ever announced in Iowa history] to grow its wind generation capacity to ultimately represent 85 percent of its total generation capacity in the coming years is exceptionally important to the future of Central Iowa and to other regions in the company’s service territory. Already more than half of the energy MidAmerican produces or will produce it derives from wind- making it arguably the greenest major energy utility in the country. Eighty-five percent is an incredible leap forward.

MidAmerican’s ability to deliver increasingly renewable energy to heavy-load customers is a distinct strategic advantage to every region and community it serves.  One need look no further than the generational investments of Facebook in Altoona [more than $1 billion] and Microsoft in West Des Moines [$2 billion] to prove out this theorem; both Facebook and Microsoft have aggressive corporate strategic priorities which demand that significant proportions of the power which feed their massive data centers be renewable. MidAmerican’s ability to ultimately deliver 100 percent renewable power to Facebook’s data center campus in Altoona has been cited by the company as a major determinative factor in choosing Iowa over other parts of the country.

With its latest announcement, MidAmerican is transforming Iowa’s competitive position for major-energy projects.

Facebook and Microsoft are not alone. Frustrated with the political intractability relating to addressing climate change, companies across the globe are taking the matter into their own hands and rolling out corporate sustainability stratagems which demand increasingly higher proportions of renewable energy to feed new and existing facilities and assets.

The move to shift its energy generation footprint so dramatically toward renewables provides what amounts to an immediate upgrade to the competitive position of MidAmerican-served communities throughout the region.

And it offers economic developers throughout our region a tremendously effective new tool in the battle for the expected proliferation of major power-load projects which will prioritize renewable energy to be sited in the United States in the coming years.

Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Contact him:

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: bwillett@cultivationcorridor.org / @brent_willett /LinkedIn.com/in/brentwillett

Restaurants sustain local farmers

Pritchard- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger

I remember growing up as a kid from the Chicago suburbs and working at a vegetable farm. The local economy sustained those farms.

More and more you see reference to local food sources on restaurant menus. For local farms to be sustainable it takes the support of restaurants.

Lynn Pritchard, owner of Table 128 Bistro fully embraces that relationship. He started by contacting three to four farms and found the local farmers knew each other. You need potatoes, someone knew someone who grew potatoes.

What has Lynn learned being more sustainable in his restaurant?

  • Local farmers operate very sustainably and are thinking of how to improve soil quality with every planting.
  • The rotational crop such as cowpeas or other legumes needs to be embraced. In Asia when the rice fields are drained, buckwheat is planted to enrich the soil and made into ramen noodles.
  • Farmers are very interested to provide product because small boutique farms such as Central Iowa Organics need to develop an income stream. What they grow is not a commodity they take to the local grain elevator.
  • The menu has to be flexible and adapt to what’s available. Restaurants need to be nimble and print revised menus as needed.
  • Customers need to consider everything in a plant or animal and not just the tenderloin.  Our diet needs to also consider the shank or roast.
  • The cost to obtain high quality food is usually more than mass produced non-organic.  Lynn believes the higher cost for quality food results in lower healthcare costs down the line.

After all, we are what we eat.

Let me know of restaurants you have found to sustain local farmers. Email me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

The trouble with winning

- Brent Willett, CEcD is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Follow him at @brent_willett.

 

When Alfred Nobel’s brother died in 1888, French newspapers confused the two and Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, had the befuddling experience of reading his own obituary. The headline: “The merchant of death is dead.”

Central Iowa economic development and community leaders certainly did not feel they were reading their own economic obituary when news broke in March that 2016.04.07_pic1 DuPont and Dow would locate a Global Business Center of its new agriculture business following a merger of giants, but they could be excused for looking on with bewilderment at the initially subdued tone of local and statewide news coverage of the announcement. 

Despite the fact that the DowDuPont announcement represented an enormous economic slam dunk for the region and the state at large- including a commitment to $500 million in new R&D investment, the likely retention of thousands of jobs and a commitment to between 250 and 500 high-quality R&D positions in the Corridor- many local media outlets reported the announcement as a bit of a disappointment, somehow a loss. 

The discordance in coverage tone between parts of the Des Moines media and that of Indianapolis -- which was simultaneously announced as the second site for a similar Global Business Center -- was notable. In a larger metro area where the economic impact of such a project is proportionately less, the Indy media struck a decidedly more positive initial tone.

Why? I don’t know; maybe it was the expectations game. The fact that Iowa scrupulously went public first with its incentives package for the project while Indiana has declined to announce theirs publicly meant that a level of anticipation was baked into the announcement in Iowa. Expectations are tremendously difficult to manage ahead of a project announcement which has such wide ranging [and, by the way, hugely positive] impacts on a region, its institutions and its residents. The project itself was unique because it was public knowledge that Dow and DuPont committed to announce the geographic makeup of its to-be-spun-out ag company as soon as it could in a principled nod to its employees and their communities.

I’m not here to litigate the press tone; nobody’s feelings got hurt and after the initial flash of plodding, woe-is-us coverage, local media today is decidedly positive about an enormously positive project announcement for Central Iowa.  And for good reason.

Setting aside the fact that Johnston will retain one of the largest and most advanced agricultural R&D campuses in the known universe and the exceptionally high quality jobs that keep it humming, $500 million in new R&D investment is one of the largest single R&D investments announced in state history. 

Five hundred million dollars! That’s 3.5 Wells Fargo Arenas [inflation adjusted 2005 dollars], or 2.5 times the cost of proposed $200M Des Moines International Airport terminal, or fully to 7 percent of the value of the entire state of Iowa’s 2015 budget. It’s one of the largest private capital announcements in recent years in Iowa; an enormous commitment from what will emerge as the largest ag company in the world once Dow and DuPont merge and is a clear signal to the rest of the world that the Cultivation Corridor is a global center for investment, talent and research in the agbiosciences.

Central Iowa was not selected to house the headquarters of the ag company, which will be in Wilmington, Delaware, home to DuPont for more than 200 years, but what we were selected for is incredibly consequential to the future growth of our region. The retention of the DuPont Pioneer footprint and the larger business to be spun from the merger represents the achievement of an important objective for economic development and community leaders throughout the Corridor: to retain R&D jobs as a long-term growth center for the company. In addition to the retained R&D jobs, the new Global Business Center will maintain leadership of business lines, sales/marketing, supply chain and business support positions. 

We all should be immeasurably proud of the coordinated recruitment work product of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, City of Johnston, IEDA, Gov. Branstad’s office, Sen. Grassley’s office, the Corridor, Polk County and everyone at Pioneer, which ultimately resulted in a highly competitive, aggressive bid for the project. DowDuPont has a strong future in Central Iowa.

 

Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Contact him:

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: bwillett@cultivationcorridor.org / @brent_willett / LinkedIn.com/in/brentwillett

You get what you measure

- Tom Vander Well, executive vice president of c wenger group, is a recognized customer service authority in the contact center industry.

Earlier this week I met with a newer client to deliver the results of a Service Quality Assessment we had conducted for their team of 11 Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). It was a unique situation. We had conducted an initial pilot assessment several months ago to establish benchmarks of how each agent was serving customers on phone calls. We prioritized service skills that needed improvement across the team and then trained the staff on these particular service skills.

The plan had been to immediately start an ongoing assessment so we could measure and track each agent's performance and improvement across 2016. Then came the telephone system conversion which delayed our ability to access recorded calls for about three months. We eventually were able to access recordings and went back to analyze calls over a two-month period after our initial training. It was the results of this catch up assessment that I presented to the client this week.

What was fascinating was to see that only two of the eleven agents had made significant improvements. Four agents had actually declined, two of them significantly. The other five had risen insignificantly. Despite the fact that the agents had been trained on the key service skills and provided with reminders and materials to support their learning, only two of eleven agents actually showed measurable improvement a few months later.

The results did not surprise me. Over the years I've learned that training alone will typically only make a difference for those few individuals who are personally motivated to improve themselves. When it comes to delivering customer service, most employees will simply communicate with customers however they naturally communicate unless they are held accountable for changing their behavior. When customer service skills are defined, coached, measured, reported, and rewarded, then employees respond and deliver.

Now that the ongoing assessment is rolling with our client, individual data will be reported monthly to each CSR and their manager(s). CSRs will receive regular coaching, data, and feedback. They will be able to see their progress and the company can build incentives and goals for reaching them.

With all of the fads and fancies which trend and fade in business these days, I've found that there are some things that will always be true because human nature doesn't change. I was reminded of one of those truths with my client presentation this week: You get what you measure.

Be careful - the world is watching

RIlogo - Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In March, Rhode Island unveiled a new marketing campaign for the state to encourage tourism, create jobs and help boost the state’s economy. The effort was from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Havas and famed designer Milton Glaser. Unfortunately, it was met with quick and vehement opposition.

The campaign unveiled a new logo and tagline — “Cooler and Warmer.” Residents hated it and quickly mounted a protest. The state probably could have weathered that storm but then the campaign’s core video also came under assault. It turns out that some of the footage trying to encourage people to come to Rhode Island was actually of Iceland. This blunder made national headlines and caused the chief marketing officer for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to resign because of the situation.

On top of all that — some of the vendors who helped create the campaign will be returning over $100,000.

"It's unacceptable how many mistakes were made in this rollout," Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo reportedly said of the campaign. "We need to hold people accountable because Rhode Islanders deserve better. Taxpayers deserve better, and too many mistakes were made."

Telling the truth has always been a best practice when it comes to marketing but in today’s age of instant fame and instant shame — it’s too risky to do anything else.

You don’t have to falsify something in your marketing to incur the wrath of the Internet. Everyone from McDonalds to Starbucks suffered from the world’s disapproval over the past year.

What does this have to do with you? I think it’s a good reminder of the best practices:

Tell the truth: Don’t cut corners, don’t lie by omission and don’t use assets (photos, videos, infographics, words) that aren’t yours or imply something that isn’t true.

Monitor the web: If you’re out there telling your story, you should also be monitoring what people are saying about your efforts.

Always include outside eyes: In this Forbes article, they outline marketing blunders by the likes of Bud Light and Walmart. Usually by the time you create the marketing materials you have been thinking and talking about them for so long — you’re a little blind about some of the more subtle implications. Show an outsider your campaign before you launch it to see if they see something that you’re no longer able to notice.

In the good old days, when you made a marketing mistake it had a limited exposure and cost. Today, neither of those is limited.  The world is watching and it's a brutal bunch when it comes to truth in advertising.

 

Advice to trade show exhibitors

- Cathy Erickson of Adel has planned events nationwide for clients and also owns Great Iowa Pet Expo and similar shows in Indianapolis and Kansas City.

Consumer trade shows offer an incredible way to market products, build brand awareness, promote your nonprofit and even build your business-to-business network. But as we recently learned in the Des Moines market, shows sometimes aren’t well-funded or well-managed.

(The Iowa Attorney General’s Office last week began investigating a women’s expo company that left vendors in a lurch after canceling events in Omaha and Des Moines. After the Better Business Bureau received numerous complaints from people who said they paid fees ranging from $100 to $350 to be a part of What Women Want Expos, the bureau issued an alert saying the owner of the expo company had gone out of business.)

I have a saying that those who work with me have heard often: “If producing events was easy and they always made money, everyone would just produce events!”

They aren’t easy, and they don’t always make money. But when shows are managed well, when the crowds are strong and sponsors want in, it looks like easy money. And that’s the problem. That’s when someone who has no real experience steps back and says, “Hey, I can do that too.”

Often they can’t. They dive head first into a money pit that can swallow them up and drag innocent exhibitors down with them. The good news is that if you’re a first-time exhibitor or an exhibitor who wants to try new trade shows, I can offer some tips for checking out the producer and the trade show before you ever spend a dime.

Be nosy: Ask for references and testimonials
That wizard might sound powerful and commanding, but what’s really behind the curtain? These days, anybody can create a nice website and promotional brochure. Has this group been successful in the past?

Ask for the contact information of people who have previously exhibited with this producer. That’s where the real dirt can be found. Established exhibitors usually have a calendar of events exposing them to many producers throughout the year, the good, the bad and the ugly, and they usually aren’t afraid to share their opinion. I never cease to be amazed by the stories my exhibitors tell me.

Ask about the crowds, if sales were strong, if they brought in talent. Are they easy to work with? Are they organized? Do they communicate well with their exhibitors? Can you find them during the event?

Research the company’s marketing and promotional plan
“We’re doing TV” could mean that there is a $20,000 ad buy in place, or it could mean that they are giving away a couple of tickets via the station’s website. Make it your business to know which one it is. I can’t tell you how many times exhibitors have told me about a new show they booked and no one showed up.

A seasoned pro will be able to tell you immediately what media outlets they are using and how they are using them to include contests, interviews and promotions.

Inexperienced event producers often don’t know how to budget for their event. They run into “unexpected” expenses, leaving no money left for advertising.

And beware a single media group (radio, TV, digital or print) that is only advertising a consumer trade show through its own outlet. Successful plans utilize a healthy mix of all outlets.

Study the show materials
Ask about the photos: Are they from their previous shows, or are they stock images? Is that the site where the show is now? Are those the vendors who have participated in prior years? It’s a red flag if their photos weren’t taken at their own show.

Are their statistics attributable? I don’t know why attendance of 10,000 is so magical, but we see it claimed over and over again. Ask how the attendance predictions are determined.

Ask if they will be posting the exhibitor list and when that usually happens. Ask if the talent is already booked. I’m amazed how some shows list appearances but when you get there you learn that the talent couldn’t make it. Most often, it means the producers couldn’t pay them.

Does the event have a Facebook page, a Constant Contact newsletter for exhibitors, Instagram or Twitter? It should.

Know your promoter
Look them up on LinkedIn or Facebook. Ask for personal references. I encourage you to ask for the contact information of exhibitors who can give a testimonial. Even producers of new events should have former exhibitors or vendors who can vouch for their credibility.

Ask if the producer does this full time. Can they be reached during regular working hours? Visit a show they produce and talk to the vendors. A simple “How is the show going?” will generally spark a conversation.
If the producer is not local, talk to the site manager to verify that the event even has a signed contract for space. You might be amazed.

Negotiate your contract for payment upon move-in
If everything is looking good but this is a first- or second-year event, try asking the producer if you can sign a contract but hold your payment until move-in. Then, if the show cancels, you don’t lose your booth fee.

Most exhibitors have a lot more invested than just the booth fee. Inventory, promotional items, hotel rooms, staff and travel costs all play into a trade show booth budget. By delaying your booth payment, you can at least protect that fee against fraud or mismanagement.

Trade show exhibiting is so much more than filling up a booth. The planning and execution is time-consuming and often expensive. When you’re adding a new show to the calendar, plan to dig down a little bit before writing that check! 

 

3 questions to ask your technology leader

Dave Nelson, CISSP, is president and CEO of Integrity.

3-questions-technology-leader“Time is of the essence.” “Time is money.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.  You’ve heard it all before. Every business leader is pressed for time in one way or another. That’s why today’s post is quick and simple: Three questions every business leader should be asking their technology leader or IT service providers.

1. How are we coming on addressing the top risks identified in our latest IT risk assessment?

This assumes you have performed a high level risk assessment with your CIO, CFO, Legal, HR and Insurance teams within the past year. Technology is changing daily. The way we use technology is changing just as fast. Are you up to speed on the risks that your organization is facing from the use of technology in your business operations? Are you addressing the biggest risks first? Are your investments to lower risk working? Are there new laws that could change your risk? Can new insurance products transfer some of the risk?  Ask questions of your leaders. Make sure sufficient progress is being made to reduce risk where necessary.

2. Do we (you, for vendors) have the expertise on staff to deal with the changing threat and regulatory landscape?

This is a tough question to be asked. Everyone hopes to have the best and brightest on our teams. The reality is we always have gaps.  Make sure your leaders know gaps are OK. They do however need to be identified and dealt with. Perhaps you have a security team already. Great, but do they have all the skill sets needed to fully protect the organization? If not, can they get them? Should they? Are contracts or retainers with experts a better solution?  Either way, it’s best to be prepared. You can’t afford to be caught flat footed in this rapidly changing security environment. When using external IT providers, don’t assume they have security expertise. Ask for proof.

3. Can you provide reasonable assurance that we’ve not had a system breach in the past “x” months and will your evidence stand up to an independent third-party review?

The idea here is to make people uncomfortable. You don’t want to be placated. You don’t want to hear someone touting their belief in the team. You want concrete evidence. Make them show you months of event logs that have been reviewed for anomalies or malicious activity. Ask for something, anything. Just don’t settle for “We believe our systems are safe”. Even if you have no plans to get an independent review, ask them to be able to support their conclusions. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify”.

Business leaders who get answers to these three questions will be far ahead of their peers and competition. While there is a “right” answer to every one of these questions, the “right” answer will be different for everyone. The important thing is to ask the questions and that you feel comfortable with the answers you’ve been given. That’s what IT risk management is all about.

Dave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. Dave Nelson 2015 IowaBiz Blog

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Why Twitter?

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

In the United States Twitter is nearing 56 million active users this year. That’s a lot of eyeballs. And I bet many of them are in the market for that fancy new widget you produce. Take a pass on Twitter and you’re sacrificing an opportunity to get in front of all those prospects.

1 in 4 Americans are active Tweeters in 2016

Twitter bird w: glassesTwitter is also an effective tool at maintaining relationships with clients, connecting with partners in your industry, and nurturing prospects. It helps build brand awareness and keeps your business top of mind. It can also be used to push out useful information and occasional promotions to your followers.

If you’re new to Twitter I suggest you take 20 minutes looking over their Twitter 101 page for businesses. This page will provide you with the basics to get started.

Additionally, I’ve put together some key points to keep in mind while you’re tweeting.

Include pictures

Like magpies, tweeters seem to like shiny objects. Tweets with pictures have five times the engagement rate than your ordinary, boring text-only ones. Pictures stand out more in a user’s Twitter feed, so don’t be shy about including them. As a rule of thumb about every other tweet should have a relevant picture attached.

Use hashtags

Hashtags are trending right now. If used effectively they can raise awareness of your company to people who share a relevant interest. To learn more about #hashtags and how to use them check out this post by Sprout Social.

Share interesting content

If your business has a blog, Twitter is a great platform for sharing posts with others. Each time you release new content you should consider posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn at a minimum. But don’t stop with your content. The most effective tweeters share relevant content (stuff your followers will actually want to read) from all over the Internet. This includes retweets you find interesting, news articles, blog posts, or industry updates. Your target should be between two to five tweets per day.

Get more followers

There are probably a thousand ways you could get more Twitter followers. Most importantly, you want to inspire your target market to follow your business. This way your content will be relevant to your followers, shared more often, and eventually lead to sales. This article by TNW will show you some simple ways to begin building your Twitter following.

For additional guidance on getting started with Twitter check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

Leadership and trust: 5 key strategies (Part 2)

Boss overlookingIn the last blog posting titled Leadership and trust: Presumed Innocent, we explored the challenges leaders face in fostering a culture of trust. While leaders seek to create a work environment built on trust, most leaders also know the enormous consequences of wrongly placed trust. For many of us, that knowledge has come from firsthand, painful experience.

This follow-up blog provides five leadership strategies to help leaders find balance in the leadership dilemma of leading with a trusting nature while also embracing a healthy dose of skepticism.

  1. Champion safeguards

Remind yourself that the presumption of innocence afforded to an individual does not require naiveté when considering large numbers of people that surveys reveal bend rules and later rationalize their own bad behavior. Assume the best in others while also championing the establishment of safeguards to reduce both temptation and the ease of wrongdoing by individuals inclined to breach ethics.

Facilitate process improvement events that seek to move beyond simply improving efficiencies and also flag or prevent ethical breaches. It has long been a standard practice in accounting that the individual responsible for paying the bills is a different person from the one responsible for reconciling the bank statement. Similarly, a company policy that requires the most senior person at a business function to pick up the restaurant tab, naturally ensures that expense approvals are made by a third party who was not at the event and can evaluate the expense on its merits. Introduce checks and balances throughout the organization whenever process improvement is on the agenda.

Provide a mechanism for individuals in the organization to ask questions about ethics and report misdeeds without risk of negative consequence.

  1. Trust and also verify

Ask for details. Ask for information to be repeated. Ask lots of questions. Ask about different topics. Ask for written summaries of steps taken and actions agreed. Even the most skilled liar will often stumble when required to fabricate many answers or when required to record their deeds in writing.

Remember that deception is difficult to detect. Mechanized lie detectors and polygraph tests have proven unreliable in detecting lies and in providing an alarming number of false-positives. Similarly unreliable are many human attempts to accurately diagnose deception, even by highly trained professionals like police officers and judges who get a lot of practice being lied to.

Collect data and rely on the systems in place to do the job they were designed to do.

  1. Take the time it takes

Trust is built over time. A valuable lesson to learn and to teach others is to slow down and build a relationship before reaching an agreement, negotiating the solution to a problem, or closing a deal. The odds of being deceived are much higher in transactions that involve a single interaction over those that involve a series of interactions over time.

It is interesting to note that as the means of electronic communication becomes easier, people often find face-to-face communications more difficult. In pursuit of relationship-building, encourage personal face-to-face communications. It’s easier for people to lie when the communication is more impersonal such as on the phone or via email. The expediency of electronic communication is small reward if you’ve been deceived.

  1. Training, feedback and coaching

Acquire skills to learn how to do the two most critical things leaders are called upon to do: (1) select people who not only possess the skills and knowledge to carry out job responsibilities but also fit within the corporate culture and reflect the ethics desired by the organization and (2) create an environment where people can thrive and be most successful.

It has become clear by now that the traditional education system is not going to ensure that the future members of the workforce graduate with a solid foundation in personal and interpersonal skills to bring to their careers. To foster a culture of ethics, leaders must equip people with critical skills such as communication, etiquette, listening, judgment, decision-making, team-building, negotiation and conflict resolution.

  1. Conduct a self-audit

Hold yourself to a higher standard. Become the rare person who carefully and consciously chooses your behavior.  Constantly question and challenge yourself. Are you judging yourself by your good intentions or by your actions?  Are you rationalizing a bad act after-the-fact to justify it or did you act from your core values?

Remind yourself that your acts of omission are just as dangerous as acts of commission when the result is the other person missing critical information or inferring an untruth. Many of us create a double-standard by refusing to lie on principle (innocent of commission) yet fail to disclose important information (guilty by omission).

If you have a naturally trusting nature (many of us do) and believe others until you have a reason to distrust them, balance it with a strong sense of curiosity and awareness, especially early in the relationship-building process.

When systems reveal deception, resist the temptation to transfer your feelings to others who may be worthy of trust.

Foster a culture of trust by talking about ethics, go public in your commitment to honesty and openness, and role model the behaviors you want to see. And when you make a mistake, as you inevitably will, ‘fess up and make it right.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Leadership and trust: presumed innocent (Part I)

“Trust until you have a reason not to.”

Wooden gavelPresumption of innocence is a fundamental right in most civilized countries. In criminal trials, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution which is required to meet a threshold of presenting evidence to convince beyond a reasonable doubt. So indoctrinated are we to that concept that a presumption of guilt is regarded as immoral. To that end, business practices, such as pre-employment drug testing, are frequently the target of rights activists who believe such practices violate the principle by requiring job candidates to prove themselves innocent.

Beyond law and order, the presumption of innocence has implications in all aspects of our lives. From parenting to education to business to politics, and everything in between, we are continuously challenged to assume the best in others and suffer the disappointment and consequences when our trust turns out to have been misplaced.

In the business world, leaders are encouraged to build a culture of trust. Evidence of this consistent message to leaders was revealed through a casual Google search on the words ‘trust’ and ‘leadership’ that yielded over 350 million hits. Nearly all of the volumes of books, articles, classes and speeches on the subject extol the virtues of trust, remind leaders that employee surveys reveal a deficit of trust, and encourage leaders to trust more and assume the best. After all, presuming innocence is not only an essential moral foundation of a civilized society, it is also sensible business practice.

Or is it?

Lying, cheating, stealing

In surveys, 82 percent of young people admit to lying to a parent about something significant, 60 percent admit to cheating on a test and 28 percent admit to stealing from a store. 

Ninety-eight percent of these same survey respondents believe that honesty and trust are essential in personal relationships, 92 percent report being satisfied with their own ethics and character and 74 percent say they are better than most people they know at doing what is right.

The numbers tell an interesting story. The same population who describes themselves as ethical also admitted to lying, cheating and stealing…on the same survey.

What can be gleaned from these contradictions?  Apparently the behaviors of lying, cheating and stealing that the survey respondents admitted to have been justified in their own minds, extending to themselves the presumption of innocence.

It’s a disturbing thought that the young people who confessed to these ethical breaches today are the parents, educators, colleagues, employees, leaders, elected officials and business owners of tomorrow.

The Leadership Dilemma

It is difficult to find a leader at any level that doesn’t readily agree about the importance of honesty and trust. However, the same leaders, like the young people surveyed, frequently fall short when called upon to translate the virtue they embrace into action.

There is little we can do, or indeed little anyone would want to do, about the fundamental right we cherish of the presumption of innocence. To embrace a philosophy that presumes guilt would be tantamount to turning back the clock on civilization.

For nearly everyone, the questions are troubling and the actions called for unclear. For leaders charged with building a culture of trust in organizations, the complexity of nurturing an ethical environment can be overwhelming.

Is there a solution? Can a trusting nature and a healthy dose of skepticism co-exist in organizations? Can a culture of trust be fostered at the same time as a culture that challenges the choices people make?

Stay tuned for the next blog on this subject where five leadership strategies are explored to address this challenge.  In the meantime, use the Comment section of this blog to share leadership strategies you have found effective.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Five common web terms to learn today

Alex Karei, marketing director for Webspec Design, blogs about web strategy.

I’ve been with Webspec for about a year now, and it’s crazy to see how the time has flown. I’ve learned a lot in my position, grown personally and professionally, and rapidly expanded my opinions on websites, search, and social media.

I’ve also learned quite a bit about “speaking the language” of web. Every industry has a language to learn, but as I use mine, it’s occurred to me that our language is one that is often misunderstood, but increasingly necessary for small business owners to understand.

Why? Because the web isn’t an emerging trend - it’s here, and many things throughout it are continuing to emerge in new and different ways. As a responsible business owner, you should know what is going on in technology and how those things will affect how you market your business. Let's start with some basic, but possibly new-to-you terms.

Five common web terms to learn today

  1. Content Management System (CMS) - This is a system that manages the content of a website. Typically, a CMS is built of two parts, one being the content management application (CMA) and the other being the content delivery application (CDA). The CMA allows users who don’t know HTML to update their web page content. Although not appropriate for every website, CMS systems are extremely helpful to small business owners and marketing teams that aren’t able to have access to a developer for updates full-time. Common examples of CMS systems include WordPress and Drupal. 

  2. Site Map - The term “site map” can mean two seemingly different things. One, a site map is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to search engine crawlers. But on the other hand, a site map can be a document used for planning a website design, designed in a hierarchical fashion. More often than not you’ll hear it used in reference to the latter, but the use of a site map for search engine crawlers might be the more important of the two. Without that, you can’t be sure that Google has “found” all your website pages!

  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Officially, this refers to the methods used to boost ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site (Dictionary.com). Sound complicated? It is. But in the end, it all comes down to where your website shows up when someone searches for your company or industry.

  4. Algorithm - When it comes to this term, you might be thinking you know what I’m talking about … until you heard the context. When SEO professionals mention the term algorithm, they mean the formula of how a website is ranked by Google. The algorithm determines a site’s PageRank, which ultimately affects where a website will show up in search.

  5. Responsive - Although a hot-button topic, I’ve come to find this term is also commonly misunderstood. A responsive website is a website that somehow adapts its layout to the size or orientation of the platform a person is using to access it. In essence, it “responds” to the user. This is different from a mobile site, where your users are visiting a separate version of your website that is created to be used exclusively on smartphones. Responsive sites are generally preferred.

What other website or digital terms have you scratching your head?

 

Alex Karei2Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her via:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

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