A guide to planning successful events: Conclusion

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- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

Last time we talked about all the logistics that go into making our event great and now we are ready to see it come to life. (If you missed them, check out, parts 1, 2, and 3 of this guide.)

Phase 4: EVENT PRODUCTION: “I am ready to make my Apple Pie!” 

This is your time to shine; where all your hard work is brought to light! Your goal here is to deliver a flawless event from the eyes of the attendee. There will always be things that come up that you did not plan for during the event itself; that’s the nature of the beast. The best way to avoid the stresses that come along with these minor glitches is to delegate the event production work to a hired professional. They are experienced in this realm and know how to address the unexpected. Your event planner often can double as your producer or depending on the complexity of your program, you might decide to hire a more specific type of event producer. Whoever you choose, the choice to invest in this individual is worth its weight in gold. Your job is to celebrate the hard work you have done putting this event together by enjoying the event stress-free.  

If you decide you would rather keep the event production work in-house, choose an individual who is level-headed, resourceful and great under pressure. Establish this person as the boss of the event early on, so everyone knows whom to report to on event day matters. Always ensure this person is over-informed on all changes that are made. They should be the eyes and ears of the event at all times.

Phase 5: ROI MEASURMENT:  “How did everyone like my Apple Pie?” 

After the event concludes, this is your chance to analyze the strategy you developed during Phase 3.  Generally ROI is something that will be measured over the long-term, but there can be a lot of useful data generated before, during and after the event that will help you to gauge the overall reception.

Social media & Surveying: Take the conversations that have been created and analyze them to determine what your attendees responded to the most. This data will help you to create valuable follow-ups to your attendees and will inform you on what your customers are wanting to see more of. Use this data to organically focus the direction of your marketing strategy. 

Surveys can be somewhat archaic and the response can often be spotty, it is still advised that you take the time to distribute them. Any information you do receive back will be useful in gauging attendee reception.

Analytics: There are many tools that can be put into place that will provide you with detailed analytics on how your event was received. Employing these devices might make a lot of sense for some events but little sense for others.  It will be during Phase 3 of planning where you determine what will work for you event.

This concludes our four-part series on planning a successful event!  Please let me know if there are any burning questions that need to be addressed!  

Next time we talk about one of the biggest fears when it comes to event planning: The Fear that NO ONE WILL COME!  We will discuss different ways to ensure your event doesn't flop!

Until then reach out with any questions!

Contact me by phone: 617-840-5073 or email at anebons@blinkevents.net. Find me on LinkedIn , Facebook or at my website www.blinkevents.net.

Bonanza for local governments or savings for taxpayers?

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

Local governments in central Iowa are putting together their budgets for the upcoming year that begins July 1, 2016. This is known as fiscal year (FY) 2017.

While they’ve been gradually improving, times have been tight for local governments since about 2012, when the 2009 real estate market collapse began to play out on local budgets. Property taxes are based on property valuations, so some local governments actually had to make do with little or no revenue growth in their budgets for these past several years. Costs marched on unabated (or increased in some cases, as for public pensions), so there was stress to make budgets balance.

This year, the story is entirely different. Taxable valuations (upon which the property tax rate is applied to generate property tax revenue) are up substantially for most local governments, and a constant tax rate will therefore yield huge increases in revenue. This means there is opportunity for reduction in rates. (Notes: Schools' rates are largely set through a state formula, so their situation is different.)

Our association is always urging citizens to look at the property revenue generated, not the property tax rate, to see how much money their local government is actually collecting. If ever there was a year to be clear about the distinction, this is it!

Consider the increase in property tax revenue that would be generated in the following selected jurisdictions, just from a flat rate, at a time when inflation is projected to be less than one percent:

Increase in 2015 Taxable Valuation, by Government Entity
For FY 2016-17 Budgets

Polk County

6.2%

Dallas County

6.3%

Broadlawns

6.2%

DART

6.2%

City of Ankeny

11.8%

City of Des Moines

4.7%

City of Waukee

9.2%

City of West Des Moines

6.7%

These are also the percentage increases that taxpayers will be seeing on their property tax bills next September and in March 2017 if downward adjustments in rates are not made.

Local governments have a choice to make. They can build the growth into their budgets and substantially increase their spending, or they can set a more modest spending goal, return some money to taxpayers, and perhaps set a more stable course for the future. The circumstances of each entity are different, but citizens should be asking their local officials what they plan to do, and why, before budgets are finalized on March 15th.

Cyber insurance advice

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity. 

 Cyber insurance

Let’s start 2016 off with a bit of advice for any company or non-profit organization who uses technology.  You should purchase cyber insurance this year. In today’s world of high profile cyberattacks, a few things have become crystal clear.  irst, it’s not if you will suffer a cyberattack, it’s when. Second, data breaches occur at companies of any size and in any industry. And finally, no matter how much you spend on information security a breach will be costly.

Just as when purchasing insurance to protect any other asset, it’s a part of a risk mitigation strategy. You can’t simply buy insurance and take no other precautions. Insurance is designed to limit your exposure to loss after a series of other steps have been taken. 

The question is, what kind of cyber insurance is right for you? Let’s look at some of the coverage options available today.  Every carrier is different and these policies are nowhere near standardized like general liability, auto, life, or home policies. Each carrier may call their coverage something different but you need to understand what is covered and what is not.

Network Security

This type of policy typically will cover the costs associated with the downtime and clean up from network security issues such as a virus outbreak. You need to read carefully because this may not cover actual hacking attacks.

Incident Response

This policy will cover the costs for a security expert to lead the effort to assess the data breach, coordinate the reaction plans, document remediation, and work with law enforcement on your behalf or interface with regulatory agencies. Having an expert lead incident response usually results in quicker resolution. They often provide a more complete assessment of the true cause of the breach, can help suggest remediation actions, and provide counsel during and after the incident.

Digital Forensics

Knowing you suffered a breach is one thing.  Discovering how it happened, the depth and breadth of the breach, or discovering other existing breach points is another thing.  Digital forensic coverage will cover the costs to fully investigate the incident and discover any additional threat actors in your environment.

Remediation Efforts

Some policies will only cover the costs to stop the active breach.  While that certainly helps, it doesn’t mean that same attack vector will not be used in the future.  A policy that covers at least a portion of the costs to fix the problem can be helpful.

Breach Notification

Notifying clients that a breach has occurred is required by state breach notification laws, HIPAA and many international laws. This type of coverage will pay for the costs associated with identifying the affected parties and notification of the victims according to any regulatory requirements.

Credit Monitoring

Providing credit monitoring or other post-breach assistance to victims is often a common way to buy goodwill with your affected customers. This policy will cover these costs.

Legal Defense

Many data breaches end up in some form of litigation. Either between you and a vendor, you and a client, you and a regulatory body, or you and just about anyone. Policies vary on how and to what extent the insurance carrier will defend you in litigation. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of cyber liability insurance. This is still a relatively new field and due to significant losses to insurance carriers, they are scrambling to create policy limits and exclusions to limit their losses.  Most general liability policies now explicitly exclude any coverage for network and information security related issues, thereby forcing you to purchase coverage for this inevitable loss.

It’s imperative that you discuss cyber insurance with a broker who is well versed and specializes in cyber coverage. A vast majority of the brokers today are inexperienced in dealing with cyber insurance due to its relative newness in the marketplace and the ever changing products offered by carriers.

One last word on why you should buy cyber insurance. You may have the staff and expertise to deal with a data breach internally, but the time spent by your internal resources responding to a breach is not covered by insurance.  Your team is taken away from their daily jobs to address the breach, leaving other important tasks on the back burner for days, maybe even weeks.  Cyber liability insurance typically only covers the costs for external parties to address the breach. It is important to ask yourself if having insurance that covers the cost of external help will outweigh the costs of internal resources being pulled away to handle the incident.

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

A culture of entitlement

Female with papersRank can be consciously or unconsciously assigned. Take a look at the law of the pack. Take a look at dogs. 

Buster comes to his new home from the Humane Society. He is automatically programmed to either relate to his owners as parents or siblings. What do his owners do? They gush over him and talk to him in a high-pitched voice that sounds to Buster more like a sibling than someone responsible for him. When he gets excited, they allow him to jump, charge through doors, drag them down the street or claim privileges of higher rank. His position is set. He is in control. Buster outranks his owners.

What does this tell us about how leaders should indoctrinate new employees to their new environment?

Organizational Culture

One of the greatest challenges faced by organizations is providing a work environment and benefits that attract the best employees yet still create an expectation for what it is they want the person to do without fostering a culture of entitlement.

Leaders in organizations never intend to communicate that the comfort and personal equity of the employee takes priority over what it was they are tasked to do. Yet, what does the interview candidate or new employee think when the tour includes a visit to a state-of-the-art fitness facility, no formal dress code, game rooms, compensated meals, convenient flex hours, and optional educational programs. Add to this the promise of lavish bonuses when the company is profitable, regardless of individual contributions. 

Is there a problem with companies seeking to create a state-of-the-art workplace and exemplary employee benefits? 

No. The problem lies in the incomplete communication. There are many examples of organizations who offer their employees a unique and upscale work experience. Zappos and Disney are two examples. What they communicate, and many organizations fail to, are the expectations of the employees. 

New Employee Orientation

Zappos provides a unique organizational culture that appeals to many individuals. They also spend several weeks in new employee orientation educating the new employee on the organization’s goals and the expectations of each employee. They are famous for “the offer”, which is a $3,000 take it or leave it offer to leave the organization after the company has outlined the expectations. Employees have the opportunity to publicly affirm that they are signing onto the expectations or they are walking.

Disney has a similarly intensive new employee orientation program that not only covers the many benefits of working for this prestigious organization but also describes the hardships employees encounter such as unattractive shifts, strict dress code and the requirement to be pleasant in every situation – even when you don’t feel like it.

In their attempt to sell the benefits of the company, organizations often fail to put performance expectations at the forefront and help the employee see that the many benefits are in exchange for top performance.

Like the new dog owner, the intentions of the organization are good. They are setting out to create a wonderful experience for the new employee in their new environment in the hopes that performance will follow. Instead, entitlement is the result.

What was the employee to think when this is the focus of the first day walk-through. We know how Buster responded. How is the new employee going to respond?

- 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

Daily discounts no deal for restaurants

Like millions of people across the country, my morning routine includes a few moments perusing my laptop to see what “deals” await me in my inbox. With offers on everything from shoes and electronics to event tickets and restaurant discounts, retailers from across the globe are vying for my attention as I sip my morning cup-of-joe.

Jessica Dunker

I’m the first to admit, sometimes I take the bait. Who doesn’t want a great deal?

But as business owners, what are we saying about the value of our offerings if we continually cultivate a culture in which everything is “on sale” all of the time?

This new world of “all-the-time online discounts” has become especially precarious for restaurants.

Online discounters (e.g. Groupon and LivingSocial) sell printable certificates that consumers often equate with “gift certificates.” But gift certificates have true dollar-for-dollar value behind them. Daily deal certificates don’t and that can end badly.

As an example, a consumer might pay $25 for a $50 food and beverage certificate. The $25 paid is split evenly between the daily deal company and the restaurant. So when the consumer redeems the certificate, the restaurant provides $50 worth of food and drink for $12.50.

What’s worse, consumers who misunderstand how these work, or those who don’t read the fine print, might spend only $40 at the restaurant and walk away thinking they are generously leaving the remaining $10 as a tip for the wait staff. Those who spend over have been known to tip only on the additional cash outlay they made.

Think it doesn’t happen? Sadly, it does.

So why do restaurants (and other retailers) continue to put themselves and their staffs in these situations?

They feel like they have to. Consumers are making decisions about where to go using these discount tools.

Those promoting the daily deals approach will claim deal shoppers often spend more than the certificate value or that the deal will introduce new patrons to the establishment. Sometimes this is true, but more often than not the numbers don’t add up.

Even a great experience doesn’t necessarily produce return patronage.

In fact, I am convinced the vast majority of daily deal bargain shoppers are just that— daily deal bargain shoppers. The only place they return over and over is the daily deal website pages in search of a new deal. What’s more, most do everything possible to spend no more than their certificate amount. Their loyalties can easily be bought with a bigger, better discount.

When restaurants reach out to our organization for our thoughts on utilizing a daily deal program, we tell them if they are looking at these offers as pure marketing spends—much like advertising on the radio or placing a print advertisement—then they likely won’t be disappointed, they will get exposure. Our second suggestion is that they try a low dollar entry point (eg $5 for $10 of product) to ensure they don’t lose their shirts in product costs.

Everyone loves to get a great deal, but restaurants leveraging these tools need to take extra care to ensure they’re reaping a little bit of reward as well.

-Jessica Dunker

It’s not you…it’s my confirmation bias

- Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

Confirmation bias is one of the most dangerous elements of strategic planning and organizational development. There is an entire science behind how individuals draw conclusions based on their own beliefs: attitude polarization, belief perseverance, illusory correlation, and subjective validation all fit into this category.

No one likes being wrong - and I am not arguing that (in certain instances) that you shouldn't go with your instinct about some things. But when you look at large decisions or setting up basic frameworks for long-term development, direction should be rooted in evidence.

There is a natural human tendency for us to show preference for data that support our arguments. This is coupled with our tendency to reject data that interfere with our ability to arrive at a solid conclusion – especially in situations where we feel we need to show strong leadership or be expeditious. Leaders often like to self-identify as being unbiased with their thinking, but it is tremendously difficult to overcome something that they believe is right (as in the case with belief perseverance) or is a long-held belief, even in the face of data that conflict with their baseline or “original” thinking.

Design thinking is a process that helps alleviate some of the individual burden of confirmation bias. To a certain extent, it does not matter if a bias exists in design thinking, because the process itself avails itself of cognitive bias through rapid prototyping and testing – there are many opportunities to learn from failure and combine personal biases into a single, successful outcome.

Subjective validation is another form of confirmation bias. In this case, the individual will feel that data given to them is accurate if they have a personal experience they feel confirms that data, regardless of proof or lack thereof. This is a very dangerous and uninformed way to make decisions.

Overcoming the above biases are some of the most difficult aspects of strategic planning. There are always individuals who feel they are correct, regardless of the opinions of others or other data that may be present. There are also always individuals who feel that past personal experience is the overriding factor in making decisions about the future. Neither one of these approaches is incorrect in a discrete sense. Success means taking each of those viewpoints and adjusting them to take into account unbiased data - that is, in many instances, the difference between success and failure.

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Chess is an example of how to apply the solution framework to the above. If you approach the game with the attitude that you are going to win, regardless of the experience and or knowledge of the other player, and solely because you have been successful in a certain segment of the sample population of other chess players, you may win, but it will be due to chance and circumstance rather than proper preparation and skill.

Similarly, if you play the same person over and over and consistently beat them, you may continue to do so. However, if you do not adjust your tactics, the opposing person likely will begin to beat you, because your confirmation bias tells you that you always beat that person, so no adjustment to strategy is necessary. However, your competitor will adjust to your tactics. In a more extreme example, you might feel you always win on days you wear a blue shirt. But do you always wear a blue shirt? Correlation is not causation. As you can see, fallacy is deeply woven into the DNA of confirmation bias.

Combining the points above, in chess or with your organization, the use of personal experience and bias must be combined with a healthy dose of data and non-prejudicial evidence that can be used to generate a conclusion that clearly demonstrates an estimate of the best possible path forward. The unintended side effect of this method is increased engagement and participation by a larger population of the organization, as it will represent a far wider range of opinions and inputs. Confirmation bias generates resentment and can underscore the division and disconnectedness between management and the rest of the team.

When making your plan, remember that the best laid plans are those that explore the greatest range of opportunities to succeed.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

Upcycling is new wave of sustainability

Adidas shoe- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger.

Sustainable design has moved from “recycling at the curb” to “using recycled products” to “giving life to an unused waste stream” also known as upcycling.

Companies are exploring the planet for a waste stream and then deciding what to make from it.

An unused waste stream like all the plastic in the oceans has been harnessed by Adidas.  Last year Adidas in partnership with Parley For The Oceans announced a running shoe made from a previously unused waste stream.  The shoe’s upper will be made from plastic removed from the ocean.  Adidas is working on how to use the plastic for the soles of running shoes also.

Duffle bagHow about Looptworks.  An apparel company that goes out and finds a waste stream of fabric or leather and then upcycles it to a new product. They got wind of Southwest Airlines refurbishing its jets and replacing 80,000 airplane seats.  They walked away with 40 acres of leather to make bags for carry-on luggage.

Those examples got me thinking of other waste streams that could be upcycled:

  • All those metal containers for holiday candies and cookies.
  • Worn out jeans
  • Old computers and printers

Let me know if you have a waste stream you have been thinking about at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Giving up accountability

Team conceptYou don’t have to look far to find proof of the stunning success of teams within organizations. Teams are one of the most effective responses to today’s business challenges. Challenges posed by customer service, quality, continuous improvement and all of the other hot topics that separate today’s market winners from the companies they leave in the dust. 

In pursuit of this competitive advantage, leaders commonly remind employees that there is no “I” in Team. “We” becomes the mantra. 

Leaders beware! There are risks.

The word “we” means nothing to you. It means nothing to any of us.

For organizations to be successful, each individual must see him/herself as accountable for a final result. Even in the case of team goals, each individual must understand and carry out their specific role and responsibilities. Giving up accountability to “the team” sends a powerful message to our subconscious minds to look for excuses rather than to take actions that will move us closer to the goal.

Most sports teams imprint the goal of “we will win”. The most successful sports teams know that they can’t stop there. They take it one step further. They have each individual member of the team imprint the specific role they are accountable for as part of the team goal.

Consider this familiar example:

Why does one parent sleep through a baby’s cry in the middle of the night while the other parent needs only to hear a change in the breathing of the child to be on red alert? 

When parents bring their newborn baby home, both are on heightened alert for anything that may represent a threat to the infant. After a few days pass, the task typically falls to one parent who most consistently rushes to the child’s side at the slightest peep from the little one.

The other parent remains peaceful in deep sleep. Imagine the surprise of the well-rested parent who discovers in the morning that their cranky, sleep-deprived partner was up five times during the night with the child.

None of us realize that we block sounds from our peaceful sleep every night (furnace or air conditioner coming on, TV set blaring, music from next door, siren down the street). We don’t hear the many sounds that occur in our homes every night. 

Why does one parent block the baby’s cry and the other doesn’t? Isn’t the baby valuable to both parents? 

Of course, the child is important to both parents. It isn’t a question of buying into the value of the new life. It is because one parent has given up accountability. One parent knows the other will get up allowing his or her subconscious to rest soundly in the knowledge that “the parenting team” has it handled.

Teams in the workplace

A similar phenomenon happens in the workplace. Every team has one or two individual(s) who everyone knows “she will” or “he will”.  The comfort of that knowledge allows other members of the team to rest their creativity, their talents and their awareness.

Giving up accountability causes us to miss a lot of opportunities and warning signs that will take us more speedily to the achievement of our goals.

A wake-up call for leaders

The next time you are leading a team that sets a team goal, take the extra step to make sure everyone knows what their specific roles and responsibilities are. There may not be an “I” in Team but teams are made up of individuals and each individual needs to be accountable for their own contributions.  

To be fully accountable means we need to know what is expected of us. In this way, we engage both our conscious and subconscious creative genius.

- 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

Why your brand should be aspirational

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 1.58.31 PMDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

At MMG we live, breathe and teach branding each and every day. We do that because we genuinely believe in the power of an incredible brand. So any chance I get -- I love to talk brand.

So when I got the chance to talk brand with Nick Westergaard on his really smart (you should be listening to all of them) podcast, On Brand, for an entire show -- I was elated.

We talked about how brands need to come from within the organization and if a company isn't brave enough to live their brand -- inside and out -- then they shouldn't even fake the effort.

We also talked about how to discern your true brand and how to incubate it inside your company until it truly weaves itself into the fabric of your organization's DNA so that every employee knows it should be the foundation of every decision, offering and service delivery.

As you might imagine -- we also chatted about brands that do it well and one brand in particular that has won my heart to the extent that I work for free on their behalf every time I'm there.

I'd love for you to take a listen and then fire away with questions here in the comments section.  And if you haven't already subscribed to Nick's podcast -- you can do so here.

 

~ Drew

Anonymous ownership in an Iowa LLC

PGP_1038Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

In today’s business world, the internet is in everyone's pocket and privacy has become a precious commodity. Nearly all states publish “public information” on the Internet, allowing anyone with a smartphone to obtain detailed corporate filings with the flick of a finger, for free, or for a very modest cost.

So, in this highly-connected information age, is it possible for you, as a business owner, to keep your identity as an owner in an LLC anonymous?

The answer: it depends upon in which state you choose to form your legal entity. For example, when filing in Arizona to create an Arizona Limited Liability Company, the business owner should first consider that Arizona law requires disclosing - in a public filing accessible online - each member (i.e. owner) in the LLC under many circumstances.  See Arizona Revised Statute 29-632.

Comparatively, Iowa law does not require business owners in an LLC to reveal their identities. This subtle, yet important distinction for many business owners, may dictate the state in which the company is ultimately organized and underscores the importance of seeking legal counsel who can guide you through such considerations before forming a legal entity.

Where does the time go?

Rita Perea is celebrating her 15th year as president and CEO of ImagesRita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting. She specializes in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Do you ever end the work day and, in a befuddled sort of way, ask yourself where your time went? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. One of the biggest challenges to creating wellbeing in our work and in our lives is our habit of letting time slip away without really knowing where it is being spent. The old saying is true: “The more you do of what you are doing, the more you’ll get of what you are getting”.

Think about this: everything you do, all day long, either will help you move toward your goal or will hinder you from reaching your goal. If you want better results, you’ve got to change the way you are using your time. The way to move closer to balancing work and life is to analyze your choices about what you are using your time for.

A great place to begin analyzing where our time is going is to look at our daily habits. Habits determine what we do every day. Some habits are helpful and others are not. Habitual behavior uses a great deal of our time. Some habits we are aware of. Others we are, unfortunately, clueless about. Drinking a cup of coffee every morning is a habit for me. If I am totally honest about it, one cup of coffee can take up 30 minutes or more of my time, especially if I am ordering it at my favorite coffee shop. When looking at spending more time with important activities, this could be one area to explore.

A second area to examine are time choices. What are the choices that you control about how to use your time? If you are an entrepreneur you may get many time-choice opportunities each day. If you work for someone else your time choices may be limited to evening and weekend activities. You may spend six hours each Saturday playing golf. Is that a good way to spend your time?

An excellent way to take a closer look at time patterns is to keep a time log. A time log is a journal of every daily activity and the amount of time you spent on each. Use your time log to track what you do, when you do it and why you do it for one week and then review it. The results can be quite eye-opening and may lead you to make necessary time changes.

I was involved as a volunteer board member and knew that I was giving this organization too much time. However, once I looked at my time log I was shocked to see just how much time the board position and all of the internal communications were eating. The evidence suggested that I needed to make a change.

A wise person once said, “It is not enough to know; you must act. Knowledge without action is powerless.” Recognize your habits and how you spend your discretionary time. Then create and execute a plan to bring balance into your work and life. Your return on invested time will be well worth it.

Who are the potential buyers for my business? Part 3

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

Last column we learned about one specific type of buyer for your business – a strategic buyer. As we discussed, these buyers may pay top dollar for your business, but the sale often comes at the expense of the culture you have worked hard to establish.

This week we learn about another possibility… a “financial buyer.”

A private equity fund or wealthy individual is a financial buyer who may seek to purchase your business with the goal of owning an asset that will provide them an attractive rate of return via cash distributions and an ultimate sale.

The financial buyer usually is involved at the board level and is unlikely to want to get involved in day-to-day management of the business. Therefore a financial buyer is likely to invest only if you (or your trusted designee) have indicated a desire to continue operating the business or they have industry contacts who can.

In addition to board-level oversight, a financial buyer will likely want to make financial investments in the business in order to grow it so it is more attractive when they sell it.

As an example, in one of our portfolio companies, we are currently renovating and expanding the office space to accommodate future growth and to attract and retain employees and customers. In another portfolio company, we are actively seeking complimentary acquisitions in order to expand the company’s geographic footprint. In both companies, we have a number of high-level employment positions to fill which will enable us to scale. While these investments will cost us money in the short run, we are confident that they will reap rewards many times over in the long run.

Financial buyers also will be more flexible in structuring a transaction to accommodate the goals of the seller than most other buyers. For instance, financial buyers may buy less than 100 percent or less than a controlling interest in a business (enabling a “second bite at the apple” discussed in this column a few weeks ago).

One of the drawbacks of a financial buyer, in addition to not paying as much as a strategic buyer, is that financial buyers are not likely to be “forever” owners. In order to achieve a return and liquidity, the financial buyer usually will look to sell the business in three to seven years, which may not always fit the time horizon of the seller.

Another down side is a small number of financial buyers have given the industry a bad rap (think Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman"). That is why it is important to confirm that the financial buyer you are talking to is (1) well capitalized so they can effectuate the transaction; and (2) trustworthy and a culture fit.

A financial buyer is not a fit in every situation but, if you are seeking to sell your business, is an alternative that is worth your time exploring. 

Security event monitoring myths and truths

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

Security-monitoring-myths-truths

 

Credit monitor, health monitor, baby monitor, hall monitor. Do you see a pattern here? We utilize monitoring in all areas of life to both proactively detect suspicious behavior and thwart bad actions or to provide reactive assistance in determining the details after unwanted actions take place. Nearly two-thirds of all successful data breaches also have something in common; either substandard, or a complete lack of, security event monitoring.

Devices Generating Logs

You know how people often say only the dumb criminals get caught? That’s only partially true. Even the dumbest ones get away when nobody cares enough to watch. Every technology device creates an event log of some type. Now some are very verbose and have more information than you could possibly want, while others are relatively simple. Every firewall, server, desktop, smartphone, tablet and other computing device has a log file. Even security cameras, door badge systems, electronic time clocks and other “smart” devices have logs. The question is, what happens to all of those event logs?

Well, in most cases they are simply overwritten with new logs when the log file gets full. Nobody ever reviews them to look for suspicious behavior. They are not stored in a safe place or backed up. Lots of useful information that could either help detect and prevent a cyberattack or provide details to post attack investigators is simply lost.

Myths and Truths

Today I want to debunk some myths about security event monitoring to help encourage you to take the next step.


Myth: Turning on event logging will impact system performance.

Truth: Most of the event logging you need turned on is on by default and systems are designed to handle the creation of event logs for security review. Only in extreme cases will event logging create a performance impact to your system.


Myth: Security event monitoring takes too much time.

Truth: There are tools that are designed to collect the event logs and correlate those events to identify suspicious activity and provide alerts based on predefined patterns of behavior. In most cases this can take millions of event logs and turn it into a handful of actual incidents to review.


Myth: Security event monitoring is too expensive for anyone other than a large enterprise

Truth: There are several SIEM tools that are well within the reach of most businesses. There are even services called Managed Security Services Providers (MSSP) who can provide the tools and the expert staff to review the incidents for under $20/day.


Myth: We don’t need to review security logs because we’ll know if we’ve been hacked.

Truth: The average time to detect a breach today is 6 months, and more than two-thirds of data breaches are discovered by someone other than the victim company.


In the information age we live in today, security event monitoring is essential. When used properly it can help alert to suspected cyberattacks.  It also ensures that a bread trail is left for investigators to pursue after an attack happens. Ask your IT team what type of security event monitoring is in place at your organization, and make sure someone is reviewing your logs daily.

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Six pillars of sustainable design

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

        World green Usgbc Gbi

Many organizations are trying to be the leader of the sustainability movement. You’ve got

  • World Green Building Council Green alliance
  • USGBC 
  • Green Building Initiative
  • Green Building Alliance
  • and on and on

Each with several rating levels, guidelines, fees, and review process. As architects and owners sift through all the choices everyone has to simply keep a few key concepts in the forefront.

Call them the six pillars of sustainable design. Focus on these and you can’t go wrong!

  1. OPTIMIZE SITE POTENTIAL. Can you find an existing building that will work? Should it be closer to bus routes? Can it take advantage of natural ventilation and daylight?
  2. OPTIMIZE ENERGY USE. Do all you can to use as little fossil fuel as possible. Install the most efficient mechanical systems.  Consider geothermal and solar.
  3. PROTECT AND CONSERVE WATER.  Use as little water in the building as you can and conserve what falls on the site. Harvest rain water. Retain water on site with swales.
  4. OPTIMIZE BUILDING SPACE AND MATERIAL USE. Design spaces to fit the need. Build with long lasting materials. Use recycled materials. Build with naturally replenished materials.
  5. ENHANCE INDOOR AIR QUALITY.   Buildings are for human use so the human condition is paramount.  All the green efforts are in vain if the patient dies or is unhealthy.
  6. OPTIMIZE OPERATIONAL AND MAINTENANCE PRACTICES.  For too long buildings have been designed with sophisticated systems and turned over with no communication as to how to operate the building.  Designers and users must work together to reap the benefits of planning.

Let me know if you have any other pillars to add to the list. Contact me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Punching above our weight class

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

Boxing_gloves

In college for a time, I held a straight-commission job selling water softener systems door-to-door. I knew that while my particular product may have been top-of-the-line, it was also spectacularly overpriced; many systems you could buy off the shelf at a hardware store for a fraction of the price could do the job nearly as well.

This in mind, I initially targeted the wealthiest neighborhoods in town where, presumably, the highest concentration of customers with the financial wherewithal to buy my expensive product lived.  I didn’t sell a single unit. Frustrated, I readjusted my strategy to target middle-income neighborhoods.

It worked. Once I made a handful of sales in those neighborhoods, often by applying steep discount allowances I had been granted to generate initial sales activity, I moved back to the wealthier neighborhoods. With anecdotes in hand of families of more modest means purchasing the very same system, my sales took off. 

I had learned early a critical lesson: to win, sometimes you’ve got make the prize holder uncomfortable. And then muscle your way into the ring and take it.

Competition is fundamental to industry -- from banking to automotive; journalism to engineering; IT to agriculture.  Economic development, of course, is no different. Engaged in what amounts to enterprise sales with a state, region or community and its qualities as their product, economic developers like those in Central Iowa find themselves regularly engaged in fierce, pitched competitive battles with their counterparts in other countries, states and communities for job creation projects. 

The makeup of our region’s competition for projects is increasingly intimidating and fierce, and that’s a good thing.  Visit with any of the scores of men and women who are professionally engaged in attracting new investment and jobs to their communities in Central Iowa and they will tell you that overwhelmingly, we find ourselves competing with regions and metros much larger than the 900,000-person Cultivation Corridor region. The Central Iowa of 2016 is competing with New York, Indianapolis and Hartford for insurance projects; with Northern California for technology projects; with St. Louis for plant science projects; with Kansas City for animal health projects; with Chicago for publishing and food processing projects; the list goes on. 

Indian writer Toba Beta once said “[j]ealousy is love in competition.” A time ago, the Central Iowa region’s economic developers may have found themselves, hands cupped around eyes, gazing into the proverbial storefront window of major job creation projects as much larger metro areas fought ferociously among themselves for them; Central Iowa not invited to the party.

But success begets success, and as major, brand name projects like Facebook and Athene and Workiva have chosen the region and top national rankings have poured in in the last half decade or so, Central Iowa’s profile among the national site location consultant community and broader corporate sector has grown appreciably.

The result has been new opportunities to compete for projects with major American and international cities which our region in years past would never have been invited to compete for. It’s the functional equivalent of being invited to sit at the adult’s table at Thanksgiving after years of meals around a card table in the living room.

The economic development team at the Greater Des Moines Partnership -- the region’s largest economic development operation -- will tell you that in many more cases than not, Greater Des Moines is the smallest metro in the mix for the projects they are working. The team at the Ames Economic Development Commission will tell you the same thing, as will many other agencies in the region. This is a great compliment and fine testament to the progress the region and its practitioners have made in the last decade.

We’re punching above our weight class in Central Iowa, and we’re landing some punches.

 

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 don't know until you know

You-don’t-know-what-you-knowDanny Beyer is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services.

2015 was a fun year for me because of a unique resolution I made the first week of January. I decided to reach out to my social network and have one meeting a week with someone I was connected with but didn’t actually know. This included LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends. To say these meetings changed my outlook on life would be an understatement.  One of those coffees took place towards the end of October.

I had run into Josh Dreyer multiple times throughout the past couple of years. We attended a lot of the same networking functions, frequented non-profit events, and had a lot of mutual friends. We were friends on Facebook but had never had a meaningful conversation. I sent him a Facebook message and we agreed to get coffee at Panera the following week. 

Our conversation was pretty standard. Where are you from? How did you get to where you are now in life? What are trying to do in the community? What drives you, and how can we help each other?  We found we had a lot in common, even with him being a die-hard Hawkeye fan. Towards the end of the coffee, our conversation turned to how great and open a community Greater Des Moines is, how easy it is to get connected and to build real relationships. Then he said something that I still think about almost daily. 

“You don’t know until you know.”

We had been talking about networking the right way. We both had similar experiences when we first entered the professional community – attending networking events, handing out as many business cards as possible, and being overly salesy during the entire process. We both hated it and neither had any success “networking” in the traditional sense. So we changed our style.

We started having meaningful conversations. We stopped talking about work and really engaged with people. We went into events to actually meet people instead of to sell them something. Success quickly followed for both of us both professionally and personally. We didn’t know the right way to network until we ran out of options. 

If you’re not seeing the results you want through your network, try something new. Stop talking about work and really get to know the person you’re talking to. The work will follow as relationships build. Remember, “You don’t know until you know.”

B&W Headshot- Danny Beyer is the director 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.

 

Iowa's open records law - who, what, when, and why?

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. 6a00d83452ceb069e201b7c7f097a3970b-320wi

Iowa's Open Records laws permit Iowans and Iowa businesses to obtain numerous types of records and communications from government bodies and officials. Frequently, Iowans and Iowa businesses use these laws to obtain general information about government activities as well as information about how competitors may be communicating with the government. Access to such records is governed by Iowa Code Chapter 22.

Who may request a public record?

Iowa Code Chapter 22 explains how "[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record..." Iowa Code 22.2 (emphasis added).  Put another way, Iowans and Iowa businesses have the right to access qualifying public records.  

What constitutes a public record?

Iowa law defines a public record broadly and includes, among other things, "all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision." Iowa Code 22.1(3).  In other words, letters, emails, text messages, and other correspondence are all examples of public records. In describing the breadth of Iowa's Open Record laws, the Iowa Supreme Court acknowledges "[t]he right of persons to view public records is to be interpreted liberally to provide broad public access to public records." Gannon v. Bd. of Regents, 692 N.W.2d 31, 38 (Iowa 2005). It should be noted that at the time of this publication, Iowa law recognizes nearly seventy different categories of "confidential records."  See Iowa Code 22.7.  

When must public records be provided?

Generally, upon making a proper request, records should be provided by the government body to the requesting party in a prompt manner. Notably, however, Iowa law permits the records custodian a "good-faith, reasonable delay" to determine whether the government record in question is a public record, or confidential record. See Iowa Code 22.8(4).

Why does Iowa's open records law exist?

"The purpose of the statute is to open the doors of government to public scrutiny [and] to prevent government from secreting its decision-making activities from the public, on whose behalf it is its duty to act... Accordingly, there is a presumption of openness and disclosure under this chapter." Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444, 460 (Iowa 2013), reh'g denied (Aug. 6, 2013).

If you are considering making an open records request, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney who practices in this area of law.  

 

Take time for why

- Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

Like many people I know, I use the holiday break to think about the things I would like to accomplish in the coming year. Through the years, I’ve done this in many different ways, all with varying degrees of success. As I started my list this year, I wanted to be sure to incorporate some of the lessons learned over the course of the last year and it got me thinking. When it comes to considering what I am going to do in 2016, I have to ask myself – am I spending too little time on why and too much time on what? 1449770716108

Being tactical is important. It’s how we get things done. But many times we jump to this step too early. The by-product of becoming tactical too early can be an endless stream of to-dos and Gantt charts, CPM schedules and planning diagrams with a relational / orbital hierarchy that is impossible to decipher. I concede that making to-do lists can be rewarding – and in “quick win” scenarios they are a simple way to accomplish many things expeditiously. However, when thinking about more long-term goals or considering the sustainability of your efforts, to-do lists just don’t cut it.

In the past, I have been part of (not led) sessions that generate outcome documents that are basically a SWOT analysis (a matrix of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) with some sort of “action plan” or “to do” list attached to it. To me, this does not represent a strategic plan. The SWOT is a form of analysis, to be sure. And, as indicated above, there are “quick win” environments where those type of lists work. However, the following is generally what happens if the above is used as a strategic plan.

The organization using the framework will experience a high level of productivity as they work through the list. They will even be able to tie their efforts back to elements of the SWOT analysis, due to the data collected by that analysis being discrete and parsed out into specific emphasis areas. But, as the list nears completion, or the more complex tasks in the analysis are reached, productivity has a tendency to dramatically fall off. When this happens, morale will suffer, and management will be put in a position where communicating next steps will be difficult, if not impossible.

But why is this? The main reason is that the SWOT/To-Do framework is all tactical. There is no data generated on the purpose of the task – the “why”. The why is the source – it speaks to the mission and vision of your organization. If there is no “why” to tie your efforts back to, sustainability of your organization’s operation momentum will experience a high level of volatility.

I know these conversations are hard. Being strategic seems like “fluff” or “soft” to many. This truly is not the case. Taking the time to build a strategic framework with the “why” considerations built in leads to greater overall fulfillment from all walks of staff, and creates more robust, better developed, and more fulfilling action plans. If your only definition of "why" is growth, your strategy may need further development to be holistic.

When I look at what I want to accomplish in 2016, I always start with why I want to do it. It saves me time in planning how I will allocate my own resources. Actions will be more sustainable if they are aligned with motivations. Quick wins will grow into more complex and larger outcome strategic goals. Making time for why ultimately leads to better starting points, better decisions, and better results.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

Are you giving your users the attention they deserve?

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

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

That’s the opening statement in “Ten things we know to be true,” a collection of belief statements written by Google when it was a few years old. It’s a great list, but that statement really stuck out to me when I first read it.

If you own or market a business, you’re probably spending a lot of time every day doing one thing - trying to figure out one more way you can help influence a decision-maker to purchase your product or service. That’s not a bad thing. Without sales, you can’t sustain a business. However, in much of how we choose to market our products and services on our websites, we don’t always take the time that we should to stop and think about the user.

Some of you might argue that you are thinking about the user. For instance, you might be thinking about their problems and how to best present your product to solve them. Great! But that’s not what I mean. I mean, when you add 2,000 words of copy to explain how that product solves the problem, are you thinking about how annoying it is to read through all of the information you included to get the key facts? You might feel like all of your information is relevant (and it might be) but it’s probably not all required to convince the reader that your product is the one for them. And it could, in fact, be turning some of the users away.

Next time you choose to make a decision about your website, ask yourself these three things.

  • Is what I’m sharing something the user cares to know? We all feel like our company history is the coolest on earth - but at the end of the day, someone who is trying to buy a new pair of shoes might not care that the owner designed them in their garage. That piece of information isn’t helping the immediate sale. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be used at all, but in its proper place.  
  • If the user doesn’t know this piece of information, will they still buy from me? Most salespeople could talk your ear off about the benefits of a product. But, think about what kind of information is really needed for someone to choose your product over another on your website. A purchase that is, say, $20 doesn’t always need as in-depth information available as one that costs $2,000. And, the more information you include, the longer it will take the reader to sort through and make their decision.
  • What kind of information are my competitors including? This does NOT mean you need to include the same things, but if your competitors have an entire section about their material sources - and that’s a crucial set of information when it comes to your product - you might want to think about including that information. That same concept applies the other direction, too. If you have long bios about each employee of your business, but it’s in no way differentiating you from your competitors, it could be something to consider cutting back on.

At the end of the day, my favorite question is a harsh one: “Who cares?” If you can’t (truthfully) think of a user who does, it’s time to think about cleaning up your content.

Alex Karei_124Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her on:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/alextriesitout
Instagram: www.instagram.com/alextriesitout
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

A guide to planning successful events: Part 3

 

 

 

Applepie recipe

- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

Phase 3:  CREATIVE LOGISTICS:  “What is the recipe I follow to make this Apple Pie? 

At this point, you have set some solid ground work during Phases 1 and 2:  You have your big innovative and creative ideas, you’ve developed your clear event objectives, you’ve assembled your team and assigned them their designated roles, you’ve set deadlines and you now have a working event program.  So now it is time to get into the nitty-gritty. 

Phase 3:  CREATIVE LOGISTICS:  “What is the recipe I follow to make this Apple Pie?”

  1. Nail down your venue & final date: Establishing this deadline will light a fire under you and hopefully fuel your excitement to power through this phase of planning.
  2. Engage Your Out-of-House Team: This will be all of the experts that you don’t currently have in-house (outside of your event planner, who should already be involved at this point).  These members might be:   an A/V production company, marketing & graphic design company, décor company, caterer and any other special groups that will assist you in executing other elements of your event. By engaging these vendors you will begin to understand the overall cost of your event.  Once you have a complete budget, you can always look at each line item and value engineer where you see fit. Treat your vendors like the experts they are and ask them how they can work within your budget but still achieve your objectives. Your vendors will perform best when they are given the freedom to own their own role. Remember you hired them for their expertise so avoid the temptation to micro-manage-it will only stress you out.
  3. Refine Your Event Program: Finalize your schedule. Be mindful to the flow and view the program from the eyes of the attendee. Avoid long expanses of content delivery where attendees are tied to their seats for hours. Incorporate frequent breaks so the blood can continue to flow. Think about how you can deliver messaging in varied ways so to avoid monotony and maintain attendee engagement. Any elements that you can incorporate into the event that are unexpected but add value are encouraged. Delivering your content by using a variety of tactics will increase the chances of your message being received and retained by your attendees. This will also avoid the chances of brain fatigue. Variety is the spice of life-so use it to make your event unique!
  4. Marketing Outreach Strategy & Momentum Building: Spend some time developing a strategy on how you are going to engage your attendees and begin to build momentum prior to the event.  Perhaps it is through a social media campaign or event specific app, but whatever it is, make sure it is purposeful.  The most successful events are the ones that everyone is talking about before it begins, exceeds their expectations once it arrives and holds their attention after it is gone.  This type of reception doesn’t happen by accident, it needs to be strategically planned and diligently executed. 
  5. Determine ROI Measurement Strategy: Your ROI strategy will be intimately tied to the efforts of your marketing strategy.  Leverage the power of social media and engage your attendees early.   For example, associating a hashtag with everything these days is common practice –so come up with something creative and work that hashtag.  Implement an intentional social media plan.  Pose questions, provide visual and interactive “shareable moments” and incentive your attendees to share.  This will increase your social media participation and thereby increase your event reach AKA- FREE marketing!  By vocalizing your hashtag early (prior to event) you can also start to build momentum for the event itself, getting attendees excited for what is to come.  Likewise, you can utilize the hashtag following the event to sustain the excitement and encourage attendee feedback.  Make sure you are encouraging pointed attendee participation throughout the event and asking specific questions about what your attendees are responding to.  Guide conversation but allow organic feedback to surface.  Be the facilitator of participation but don’t overly interfere.  Create a fine balance between encouraging the conversation while avoiding contrived and somewhat superficial dialogue.

    In addition to social media event specific apps can be employed to build a community around your event.  As the event organizer you can post updates and information to attendees prior to, during and following events.  These apps are also equipped with detailed analytics that can demonstrate how active attendees were and gauge overall reception.  If you want to get really detailed on seeing quantitative results on how your event was received, you might consider adding an Advertising Agency to your team of gurus to implement a more detailed strategy.
  6. Details & Logistics: The devil is in the details: Be thoughtful in everything!  Don’t ever let something be “good enough,” when it could be great.

Phase 3 can be a bit overwhelming, so creating a reliable and capable team to delegate tasks to is vital.  Next time we will watch our event come to life as we talk about Event Production and ways to review our event's success. 

As always please let me know your thoughts and if you need more clarification!

 

Contact me by phone: 617-840-5073 or email at anebons@blinkevents.net. Find me on LinkedIn , Facebook or at my website www.blinkevents.net.

 

Getting off the hamster wheel

Meridith Freese is the marketing manager for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and the West Des Moines New View Young Professionals coordinator.

I-want-more-goodbye-hamster-wheel-e1367475769167Have you ever been driving a car while thinking about all the activities that you have in the day ahead when you suddenly realize that you don’t remember the last two minutes of driving?

So many of us go through life unaware that we are on autopilot. We get out of bed, do the same morning routine, go to work and get home just in time to start making dinner, hopefully squeezing in a few minutes to relax before getting up and doing it all over again.

Without being consciously aware of it, our life becomes a “hamster wheel” of our daily schedule. I noticed my “hamster wheel” about eight months into my full-time job. I realized that I was doing the same things at home and work because that was just what I was used to doing! I seemed to do it without even noticing.

One day I realized that I didn’t want to be missing out on the here and now, by living on autopilot. Neither should you. Here are some things that help me focus on the present.  These things have helped me become more creative and productive at work, and in my personal life. I enjoy my life more when I’ve made it a priority to become intentional with my focus.

  • Notice when you are starting to let your mind wander, forgive yourself for it, and bring yourself back to the present.
  • There is never just one way to do your job. Have fun by thinking outside the box and doing something differently than you have before.
  • Make a list of all the things you like and don’t like about your current situation.
  • Create goals to help you change things that are holding you back.
  • Meet people you can learn from and also cultivate relationships with others who can learn from you. Giving back is a powerful motivator.
  • Make time for things that you love outside of work. It is extremely important to give yourself time to regroup and enjoy your hobbies and relationships.

There are many ways to keep yourself from becoming complacent at your job or at home. You can choose happiness and control whether you are stuck on a hamster wheel, or whether you take your life back and get intentional with it.

-Meridith Freese 171A6085

Connect with me!

Facebook: meridith.freese
Twitter: @MertFreese

A guide to planning successful events: Part 2

  • KE181Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

Last time we began our discussion on the different phases of event planning.  In Phase 1, you developed your list of event objectives, now it is time to set up the infrastructure so we can put them into action.

Phase 1: CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT-- “I want to make an apple pie.”

In Phase 2 we embark on the journey of turning our conceptual ideas into solid action steps:

Phase 2: PROGRAMMING -- “What ingredients do I need to make this apple pie?

Develop a preliminary event program: Begin to wrap your mind around how this event actually looks by creating an event schedule from start to finish. This is a first draft, so allow yourself to be free here. Don’t get too wrapped up in getting it right. The purpose of this exercise is to take everything you have learned from Phase 1 and begin to apply it in a practical way.

This is where logistics are welcomed back into the conversation. Start to apply your out-of-the-box ideas in a realistic way without compromising on the innovation. If you find yourself getting too stiff, this is where you pull out all of your sketches from Phase 1 and bring back to life the creativity and excitement that you previously cultivated.

You should walk away from this exercise with a working event schedule, including different logistical elements (speakers, breakouts, breaks, meals, entertainment…etc) and their associated time frames. You should also have a good idea of potential event dates and venue choices.

Assign roles & responsibilities to your team members: Develop a list of clear expectations for each team member so each knows their allotted tasks. Assign tasks based on the strengths of each member and their ability to achieve the best results. For example, the stickler for the rules might make a good “objective enforcer” to make sure decisions are in alignment with event objectives; whereas the daydreamer might make a good event décor designer.

Create team categories to cover each area of the event. These team categories might differ from event to event (and will most likely have sub-categories within them) but some good starting categories might be:  Venue Logistics, A/V Design & Logistics, Marketing & Messaging, Technology & Innovation, Décor & Graphics…etc.  Essentially you must compile the list of ingredients you will need in order to make this event happen.

Create a meeting schedule, assign tasks & set deadlines: Assigning tasks and developing deadlines will ensure everyone is being held accountable to their roles and will limit the threat of oversights.  Rule of thumb:  for a smaller 2- to 3-hour event, starting the planning process  one to two months prior might be adequate time. For a larger half-day or full-day event with multiple speakers and break-out sessions, it makes sense to start planning at least three to four months prior.  Anything larger it is advised you allocate at least six to eight months of planning time to ensure the event is thoughtfully executed. 

With this infrastructure in place, you are now ready to proceed into Phase 3, the Creative Logistics Phase.  This is where we start to get into the nitty-gritty details.  As always, contact me for more information or clarification on the phases we just covered!

Contact me by phone: 617-840-5073 or email at anebons@blinkevents.net. Find me on LinkedIn , Facebook or at my website www.blinkevents.net.  

2016 cybersecurity predictions

2016-cybersecurity-predictions

- Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

With all of the information security breaches of 2015 in our rear view mirror, let’s take a moment to look ahead to my predictions for cyber threats and trends in 2016. It’s important to remember that these aren’t really random thoughts from some guy spelling doom and gloom for the future. They are based on research data from the likes of the Ponemon Institute, FBI, Secret Service, Verizon, Microsoft, Symantec and other well known organizations.  They also reflect the real world experiences of the incident response and consulting teams at Integrity. 

#1 Continued attacks against health care

Healthcare records are far more valuable on the black market than simple credit-card or bank-account information. There are several reasons for this. Financial information has a short lifespan. Compromised accounts are quickly closed or funds are depleted. Health care records however can be used over and over again. They can also be used for different purposes. Extensive fake identities for criminals or terrorists can be created using physical characteristics. People can be blackmailed into performing actions in order to stave off the release of private medical information. These records can also be used for financial gain in committing billing fraud through organized crime rings.

#2 Increased attacks against manufacturing

Research shows that intellectual property is one of the top targets during a data breach. Companies both domestic and foreign are under increasing pressure to compete in a global marketplace. For companies who spend billions each year on research and development, protecting this intellectual property is essential. Foreign nations are setting up advanced cyber warfare divisions to steal intellectual property for use in military applications. And those countries with nationalized industries are also looking for any commercial idea they can find to capture market share and increase revenue. Even smaller companies that make unique items or have a niche market are at serious risk.

#3 Increased use of social engineering tactics

As we continue to build more secure networks and applications, it gets harder to hack them in some respects. As this occurs, hackers will try to find other avenues to get what they want. Using our humanity against us through social engineering attacks will continue to rise until everyone understands our digital lives at work and at home are becoming indistinguishable. Our eating or exercise habits don’t change from work to home. Nor do our computer habits. We must train society at large to take information security seriously wherever and whenever they use technology.

#4 Attacks will become increasingly targeted and sophisticated

The cyberattacks that companies face today are different. They are shifting to targeted attacks looking to capture specific information or inflict specific damage. Because of this, these attacks are more sophisticated than ever.  The old days of simply patching systems to remove vulnerabilities in order to prevent cyberattacks are long gone. Cybersecurity defenses will need to become more advanced to keep up with the threat.

2016 will be no different than 2015. Successful cyberattacks will continue to occur at an alarming rate. We must adapt and take this global threat seriously at the individual, corporate and government levels.

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Can nonprofits innovate like startups?

Max Farrell is the co-founder of WorkHound, a driver retention software focused on the trucking industry. Beyond that, Max facilitates innovation experiences with innovation consulting firm Create Reason, which instills a culture of intrapreneurship inside established companies.

BG innovation biz record

In the middle of a weekday afternoon recently, I looked at the outdoor garden at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden as a staff of 20-plus behind me was passionately coming up with more than 100 ideas about how to improve the guest experience at the Garden. 

Many of the staff could have been tending to the gardens, making donor calls, guiding tours, or any of the number of duties it takes to run the organization. Instead, the staff agreed to press pause for a day in order to work cross-functionally and identify future opportunities for the organization. We called the day an “Innovation Jam”.

As someone who cut my teeth working with emerging tech companies like Dwolla, then launched my own company called WorkHound, I have a blast when I can share actionable knowledge with amazing nonprofits in the community.

But I had one big question that needed to be answered: Can a nonprofit innovate like a startup?

The answer was revealed quickly on my day working with the Botanical Garden: absolutely.

In the one-day innovation jam, we broke out the employees cross-functionally, wrote down 100-plus ideas, filtered them down within groups, and then prioritized based on the day’s north star (goal): “improve the guest experience for members and visitors of the Botanical Garden."

The first thing the Botanical Garden did was engage its entire staff in this experience. Employees collaborated with others regardless of role or department. To truly have an innovative organization, bottom-up engagement has to be embraced and the Botanical Garden did just that.

To amplify this, the Botanical Garden invited members to participate in a “customer development” session, where groups of employees interviewed members to better understand their problems, their delights, and the stickiness around what keeps them coming back. This opened staff eyes to quickly validate their ideas and whether additional time was needed to develop an idea into an event, a product, or a service down the road.

Finally, we worked through how to experiment like companies such as Zappos and Google to try small things before spending significant efforts on something that doesn’t work. This was culminated with completing “The Lean Canvas”, which I often refer to as a business model in a box.

We ended the day mentally exhausted, but eager to execute on new opportunities.

With more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.*, there are many organizations competing for precious grants, donations, and volunteer efforts. Some of the most innovative organizations, like the Botanical Garden, realize they can’t rely exclusively on others contributing money. They run parts of their organization like a business: They know who their customer is, they create a product or service, and they operate where donations are a bonus.

The Botanical Garden added innovation into their strategic vision recently and the ripples continue to roll, as the physical experiences there leave visitors awestruck. But on a day when the Botanical Garden closed its doors for staff development, it added innovative tactics to the many tools used to make the gardens thrive.

*based on data from foundationcenter.org

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Let's keep the conversation going: 

Max startup

Email: max@createreason.com

Twitter: @MaxOnTheTrack

Web: CreateReason.com

5-star thinking

5StarThinking

Dr. Anthony Paustian is the provost for Des Moines Area Community College in West Des Moines and the author of "Imagine" and "Beware the Purple People Eaters."

Imagine getting out of a cab at the entrance of a five-star hotel. You immediately notice the smell of fresh-cut grass, the beautiful landscaping, and flowerbeds. As you enter the lobby, you can feel the elegance of the décor. The staff is dressed quite handsomely. The property is very well maintained. You hear enticing music and laughter from the lounge. The smell of hot chocolate chip cookies at the front desk masks the slight smell of chlorination from the nearby fountain while you listen to the soothing tone of the clerk’s voice.

After a few audible yet pleasant sounds emanating from the insertion of the card key, you enter your room, taking immediate notice of the spectacular view through the window. The high thread count of the sheets is apparent to the touch. A mint was left on the pillow. A little sign guaranteeing freshness sits next to a handwritten thank-you note from the housekeeper. You can’t help but run your hands through the soft, plush towels. And of course, the ends of the toilet paper are nicely folded into a point providing reassurance that the bathroom has been “sanitized for your protection.”

Now consider this.

You get out of a cab at an old, roadside hotel. You hear the sounds of traffic and nearby construction. After paying for your room through the protective glass separating you from the clerk, you grab your key attached to a large plastic identifier. After dragging your bag up two flights of stairs, you make your way down an open corridor exposed to the elements.

You enter the room. It has a musty smell. There’s a large “tube-style” television bolted to the cabinet on which it sits. The carpet looks like it was originally in a now-razed Vegas casino from the '60s, and the bed permanently sags inward from overuse. The wallpaper sports a mixed display of fruit and flowers, and the bathroom smells of bleach. As you lay in the sunken center of the bed, you can hear the steady drips from the bathroom faucet in between the voices of people arguing in the room next door.

In the 1990s, Motel 6 began displaying solid black posters in their lobbies with the following phrase: “All hotel rooms look the same with the lights off.” Although technically true, we do our most productive work in the light, and the surrounding environment is critical to its success. Location matters. Regardless of what we do and where we are, it’s almost impossible not to have a psychological and emotional experience based on the elements within that space.

We all have a tendency to spend much of our time in some very unproductive locations loaded with distractions. Both my home and office are decorated with purposeful, tangible aesthetics intended to improve my mood and make me “feel” more creative and motivated. However, people, the fridge, the television, and sometimes the dog, frequently interrupt my stream of thought and thus, productivity.

To effectively complete tasks with higher levels of both creativity and imagination, I try to do it at one of my “sweet spots,” a secondary place where I can disconnect from the world and feel completely relaxed and energized. For me, these places tend to revolve around local restaurants and vacation spots. Restaurants work well when I’m simply trying to focus on something specific. People generally ignore me, and the surrounding activity serves as white noise to help me stay mentally locked in on the task at hand. I wrote my entire doctoral dissertation at Applebee’s, my first book at Chili’s, and my most recent book - Beware the Purple People Eaters – and this blog at Subway. Most of the creative thinking, outlining and research were done while relaxing poolside in Las Vegas. For whatever reason, these places work for me.

Our emotions directly affect our focus and creativity. A secret to productive thinking is the ability to identify those personal, five-star sweet spots where you can feel your emotional, intuitive best. Go there – whenever you can – when you want to be most focused, energized and creative.

Practice Challenge: Think back to when you felt the most happy or relaxed. What were you doing? Where were you doing it? What was it about that place that allowed you to experience something positive? Try to identify similar places, both nearby and far away. Use the nearby locations as your go-to “sweet spots” when you want to focus and finish a specific task. Plan trips to your distant locations and set aside that time just to think and process in a relaxed environment. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

©2015  Anthony D. Paustian

PaustianHeadFor more information about Dr. Anthony Paustian, provost for Des Moines Area Community College in West Des Moines, please visit his website at www.adpaustian.com

Where are all the economic development majors?

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

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a college class taking a course on economic development. Afterward, I asked the professor what other courses in the field were available to students at the institution. He told me there aren't any; this was it.

Hurt my feelings a little bit. Mortar_board_word_map

When I attended college in the early 2000s, there were few if any undergraduate economic development major programs in the U.S.  Today, as universities and colleges race to create new curricula to entice students with more post-secondary choices than ever, a handful of non-online undergrad programs have emerged. As far as the Internet tells me, it’s still less than 25 programs.  Graduate programs are a bit more prevalent, but those dedicated to economic development specifically and not, for example, urban and regional planning, remain mostly scarce. 

Why so few programs dedicated to an industry which is more and more in demand of qualified professional leaders?  At first glance, we might blame the relative youth of the economic development industry. (I’ve written in this space about the 1970s origins of the economic development profession.)  But dozens, maybe hundreds of industries, have spawned wide-ranging academic programs in the past 40 years -- from personal computing to nanotechnology. So why so few programs dedicated to a profession which in the U.S. alone employs more than 500,000?

To be sure, half a million or so practitioners in a given profession does not a major make, but as global competition for investment and job creation in every community in the country grows, demand for qualified economic developers is expected to rise. Currently, the International Economic Development Council’s [IEDC] Certified Economic Developer [CEcD] designation stands as the recognized standard for certification of professional economic developers -- CEcDs must possess at least five years of experience and proceed through a four-year training program via either the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute or a sister program administered by IEDC before sitting for an exam and oral test. 

Will enough demand for entry-level economic development professionals motivate more undergraduate economic development major programs in American colleges and universities? Today the transient nature of so many economic development jobs -- especially in rural areas -- places pressure on local boards and commissions to simply find someone professionally capable who can learn on the job rather than a candidate with specific pedagogic qualifications. While more young people entering the workforce with economic development degrees may, in theory, increase the supply for rural economic development organizations to choose their leaders and staff from, I’m reminded of the well-chronicled challenges that rural communities have in recruiting other professionals like dentists and attorneys. I’m not sure that more degree-granting in the field would solve the staffing challenges these organizations face.

It’s a struggle the industry has dealt with for many years -- the multiplicity of academic and professional backgrounds that economic developers come from is huge and it contributes to structural challenges within the industry like leadership turnover, inconsistent professional development design and public policy deserts.  Certainly, a logical undergraduate and post-graduate academic path would contribute to an increased level of skillset consistency and a general improvement of the profession’s visibility. 

The University of Iowa offers a Music Therapy certification as part of its Bachelor of Music degree program.  Music therapists do incredible work; I have personally witnessed the impact these professionals have on the ailing and recovering. According to the Iowa Chapter of Music Therapy, there are 90 board certified music therapists in Iowa.

There are no economic developer undergraduate programs or certifications at Iowa colleges or universities. The Professional Developers of Iowa- the state’s largest economic development trade group- has more than 400 members and estimates suggest there are more than 2,000 practicing economic developers in Iowa.

How do we reconcile this? First, by resisting drawing any kind of direct comparison; music therapists and economic developers address vastly different issues in their communities. But the fact remains that we have in Iowa a profession with no undergraduate path with 20 times more practitioners than another with such a path. Such a dynamic suggests to economic developers in Iowa and beyond that work remains to be done to establish the sort of professional legitimacy and post-secondary instructional urgency necessary to inspire institutions of higher education to consider degree or certificate program offerings in the field.

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

Caring for the unhappy customer

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

We've just completed another holiday rush, complete with a few frantic customers who were obviously feeling the pressure of finding the right gifts as the clock ticked down to zero.

No matter how inviting a specialty retailer is or how well-trained its staff, there's going to come a time when a customer is unhappy about something. (Of course, that doesn't just happen during the holidays, but the odds certainly seem to increase then, especially because more people are shopping for someone other than themselves.)

This is an excellent time of the year to get together with your staff and go back over the best approaches to care for unhappy customers.

First, and foremost, listen to your customers and let them communicate how they feel. Sometimes an upset customer just wants to feel like their thoughts and feelings are understood. Asking them what is causing them frustration and getting the specifics will not only allow them to feel understood and valued, but also will allow them to blow off some steam. And, it will enable you to correct the situation properly.

Be respectful and empathetic. You can disagree with the customer's complaint, but respect and empathy go a long way toward defusing an unpleasant situation and, ultimately, keeping their respect, empathy -- and business.

Make sure your tone and body language reflect that you care about the customer's complaint and will do what it takes to make things right. Focusing all your attention on your customer will allow you to filter out any distractions and make the customer feel they’re getting the customer service that they deserve.  

If a customer is angry, it is best to be quiet while letting the customer explain their frustration. As the customer grows louder, make sure to be alert and lower your voice while talking slowly but firmly. Any sign of aggression or disagreement will only escalate things. Emotions are contagious, so stay cool, calm and collected while showing empathy.

While some customers may take out their frustration on you -- and even throw some jabs that get personal -- it's very important to remember their problem with you is business, not personal.

Finally, we all know actions speak louder than words. Back up your words by taking every necessary step to make things right. If possible, send the customer a handwritten, follow-up note to tell them how much you enjoy serving them and value their business.

Remember to be calm, patient and understanding, and your new year will be off to a great start! 

Single taxation versus double taxation and the Iowa LLC


PGP_1038-Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

As discussed in this prior post, Iowa Limited Liability Companies have the benefit of electing to have a single layer of tax.

When an LLC chooses a single layer of tax, LLCs are taxed as pass-through entities, meaning all earnings pass through to its members (i.e. owners) in the year they are earned and are not taxed at the corporatelevel. Comparatively, in a traditional corporation, the corporation is taxed on earnings and then its shareholders (i.e. owners) are taxed on any dividends when distributed - often referred to as double taxation.

For demonstration purposes, the following example helps illustrate the difference.

Assume ABC Entity, a new small business, sells 100,000 widgets for a net taxable income of $100,000. Assume that the tax rate for corporations on this income is 20 percent, and the personal income tax rate for the owner is 25 percent. ABC Entity and its owner would pay the taxes shown on the following table. 

 

Corporation

LLC Electing Pass-Through Taxation

Corporate Net Income (Revenue-Costs)

 $100,000

 $100,000

Corporate Tax @ 20%

 $20,000

 N/A  

Income Available To Distribute

 $80,000

 $100,000

Dividend Taxes @ 15%

 $12,000

 N/A

Personal Income Tax @ 25%

 N/A

 $25,000

Earnings After Taxes

 $68,000

 $75,000

Pass-through taxation can have significant advantages for small-business owners. In this hypothetical, ABC Entity's owner would save approximately $7,000 in taxes. Actual results will vary depending on the size of the business, the owner’s other income, and the marginal tax rates of the corporation and owner.

Christi's top 5 leadership books of 2015

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

Do you keep a book log? It can prove quite an enlightening way to learn about yourself and your “seasons” over time. As I look through mine from 2015, I’m struck by the themes that stand out: Apparently I had some learning to do in the areas of vulnerability, resiliency, and comfort zones!

Books Single Flower w quoteI’ve read a lot of excellent leadership books this year (and a few not-so-great ones, too), but these five top my list:

Quiet Leadership by David Rock

I first learned about Rock’s work while enrolled in my coaching certification program years ago and have been a fan ever since. He takes the fascinating, yet somewhat overwhelming, field of neuroscience and provides practical application to work, leadership, and life. Quiet Leadership offers an excellent framework for developing others by helping them think differently and from new perspectives (a key tenet of coaching, by the way), as well as sample dialogues and supporting stories. A great resource for any leader, coach, or individual passionate about helping others grow.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

It took me awhile to get into Brown’s work, but ever since I did (often to my dismay, as I write about here), I have been blown away by the power of her message. Her research has opened up a whole new level of conversation on topics like shame and vulnerability, both in the personal and professional realms. The ASPIRE Success Club has discussed her work in detail, with a resounding theme shared: “She makes me feel like I’m not alone in how I think/act/feel.” Proven research, powerful practices, and affirmation all in one.

The Happiness Of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Every year, just as I’m finalizing my Top 5 list, a late contender sneaks onto my desk and subsequently onto the list! This year’s late entry is all about the power of quests – not goals, not adventures, but quests – and how they bring a greater level of meaning and purpose into our work and lives. Examples of quests highlighted in the book include: travel to every country in the world; take, edit, and publish one million photos; read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year; produce the world’s largest symphony performance; and more. A great read as you’re considering goals for a new year!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I have been a huge fan of decluttering for years and have read countless books on the topic – but none quite like Kondo’s. While certainly a bit unusual in parts, I love the simple decision-making power in the question: “Does it spark joy?” I have actually implemented her methodology not only with physical stuff in my office and home, but also with activities, opportunities, even food choices. Her book inspired me to conduct a major decluttering of my bookshelves – something I’ve never had success with until now – so it definitely spoke to me!

Living Big by Pam Grout

If I had to describe this book in a word: INSPIRATION. From beautiful stories of human potential to quick-and-easy kindness ideas to the transformation that comes with dreaming bigger, bolder, and higher, I devoured this book and felt uplifted each time I opened it. I particularly loved the stories of people who felt uncertain of their purpose and unsure of their leadership potential but remained open to possibility, took steps in the direction of their passions, and made a positive difference for others. Her assignments with each section had me thinking differently – and bigger – as well.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotWhat a terrific year for leadership books! Which ones would you add to the list? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Want to add a few more to your to-read list? Check out some of my favorites from years past: 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives succeed in work that they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Quiet Leadership (HarperCollins, 2006); Rising Strong (Random House, 2015); The Happiness of Pursuit (Harmony Books, 2014); The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Ten Speed Press, 2014); Living Big (Conari Press, 2001).

He lost his food stamps!

- Ying Sa is the founder and principal certified public accountant at Community CPA & Associates, Inc. and a co-founder of the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit. 

"Something went wrong and I lost my food stamps," Samuel cried out loud when he stormed in to my office.

His breathing was labored and he looked shocked and his big brown eyes were filled with fear. I immediately listened to his urgent issue. After five minutes of listening and searching into his tax returns, I smiled. I sat him down and explained to him how well he was doing with his business last year and that his adjusted gross income was high enough that he no longer qualified for food stamp anymore.

I shook his hand and congratulated him for disqualifying his family from government subsidized support. "You have done so well with your business that your family is no longer needing government help." He looked perplexed and I added" "That is a good thing!"

Samuel replied, "Really? But everyone else has it."

So I went on and calculated the economic status of everyone else who might have qualified for the food stamp program. Finally, he left my office with a big, confident grin and a proud look on his face – proud of his own accomplishments and business success.

Samuel came back every year. Four years went by so quickly.

Recently, I saw him at VonMaur with shopping bags in both of his hands. He was doing his Christmas shopping. "Ying" he called out.

"Samuel! How are you doing?"

With a big smile he said, "You mean my business? It is really good!" Then he added "I need to come to see you because I think this year I will pay a lot of taxes. I want to plan." His voice was sweet and happy and there were no traces of fear or worry. He had become a confident businessman!   

Many newcomers live their live and raise their children in a specific social environment. These social circles have had a huge benefit in terms of culture preservation, but it also has limitations. If the social group is lacking successful entrepreneurs, then a lifestyle on food stamps could be normalized.  When Samuel lost his food stamps due to his business income increase, he felt scared rather than accomplished because he had been living in a community using food stamps and didnt know what to do without them.

Watching him grow his business and helping him to celebrate his milestones such as outgrowing the economic need for food stamps and becoming a productive taxpayer is a rewarding experience to me. It helps me to realize that with proper guidance and influence, folks will learn and will thrive.

This is why your clients are leaving

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

At Rocket Referrals we work closely with service-based companies (e.g. insurance agents, doctors, plumbers) where ongoing relationships and repeat business are critical. An integral feature of our service is automating regular and meaningful communication to these businesses’ clients on their behalf. The goal: to improve relationships and ultimately lead to higher retention & referrals.

A great concept, but does regular and meaningful communication actually contribute to higher retention?

Most people we speak with — at least initially — believe that price is the largest contributing factor to whether their clients stick around or not. That’s the reason they’re usually given when their clients defect, anyway.

The preponderance of research and psychology we studied said otherwise, but we had to know for sure. So we conducted a study of our own. Over the past couple years we collected more than 20,000 Net Promoter Score (NPS) responses from more than 200 service-based companies. We sorted them anonymously by type (negative, neutral, positive) and looked specifically for comments that highlighted reasons for dissatisfaction — a forerunner of client attrition.

As we suspected, price isn’t the biggest culprit. It turns out that, when asked, clients only claim price is the reason, even though it’s likely not the case. This usually happens either because the person is looking to avoid conflict, or because another reason allowed price to become an issue.

Our research showed that, of those clients that eventually defect, 81 percent do so because they lack regular and meaningful communication from the business. This includes following up on questions or specific issues in a timely manner, periodic checkups, returning phone calls, and the overall access a client has to an actual person.

These gaps in communication are forming a perceived indifference; meaning they start to feel like the business doesn’t care much about them. This quickly degrades client loyalty and — like a weak immune system that begets sickness — clients defect at the first opportunity that presents itself. So, if a cheaper option pops up, they will certainly take it. But this doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the reason they leave.

We also found that the average service-based company is at risk of losing about 20 to 25 percent of its business each year. Of these at-risk clients well over half could be prevented from leaving if they were communicated with more frequently. But the occasional email or newsletter doesn’t cut it. The communication needs to be personal and meaningful. In other words, they need to know you care and have their back.

So what are you waiting for? Your clients are waiting to hear from you.

Forget April 15. Well, don't, actually, but Dec. 31 matters more.

Drinkbus-Joe Kristan is a founding member of Roth & Company P.C

A bibulous friend told me long ago that New Years Day is for amateurs. The real drinkers' holiday is St. Patrick's Day. In the same way (well, not really, but bear with me), tax dilettantes focus on April 15, when Dec. 31 is where the real action is. You can do big things up through year-end. After that, it's mostly scorekeeping.

Let's assume you have a pretty good handle on where you stand tax-wise with your business income. If you don't, figure it out and come right back, we'll still be here. OK, good. Here are some things that have to be done this year to make a difference on your 2015 calendar-year tax return.

Are your new fixed assets "placed in service?" Congress has finally enacted the $500,000 maximum "Section 179" allowance permanently, effective for 2015. Section 179 lets you deduct the cost of qualified assets right away, rather than depreciating them over a period of years. They also have renewed "bonus depreciation" for 2015 through 2019. But these tax breaks only work when an asset is "placed in service" during the year. That means the asset is on the premises and ready to use. "Bought and paid for" isn't enough.

Many vehicle dealers are touting the purchase of a new car as a tax saver. That's fine, but you have to take delivery, and remember that there are restrictions on Section 179 and bonus depreciation for business vehicles.

Full-featured qualified pension or profit sharing plans have to be in place by the end of 2015 to accept deductible 2015 contributions. Yet if the plan is in place, the funding can wait until the due date of your 2015 return, including any extensions.

Expenses to related parties have to be paid by Dec. 31 to generate a deduction. For example, a law firm that is trying to bonus out its taxable income to its sole owner by the end of 2015 has to have the cash in the owner's hands by Dec. 31. And don't do something cute like loaning the money back to the company before the check clears, or endorsing the year-end bonus check back to the company without cashing it. That will go badly.

Sales of stock have to be made by Dec. 31. With exceptions that probably don't apply to you, sales of publicly-traded stocks are counted on the trade date, even if they settle after year-end. If you have recognized capital gains in 2015, you can sell loss shares as late as Dec. 31 and offset the gains. Long-term losses can offset short-term gains, and vice-versa. Naturally there are some catches -- you can't buy back the loss shares within 30 days before or after the sale, and you have to use a taxable account (rather than, say, a retirement account). And this doesn't work for short sales; they have to be settled to count.

You have to have basis in your S corporation at year-end to deduct losses that the S corporation generates. And don't even think of funding your S corporation on Dec. 31 to take losses and then pulling the money out the next day.

Take a credit card mulligan. Payments by credit cards are the same as cash, even if you don't pay your credit card balance until next year. Same goes with other deductible expenses financed by third-party debt.

As always, consult your tax pro to see how these ideas apply to you before you pull the trigger. There are limits -- for example, you can't buy 10 years worth of office supplies and expect to deduct it all this year. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It's asking a lot of the last few days of the tax year to solve all of your tax problems, but there's a lot more you can do now than you will be able to do in April.

 

The flawed hero

RudolphDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

As I've been embracing the season with a big dose of Christmas movies, I have noticed an emerging theme.

With every movie -- we cheer for these flawed characters and celebrate when they overcome the odds and learn to be true to themselves. 

We don't discredit their abilities, or assume they aren't capable of achieving great things. In fact, their hearts and their flaws convince us that they're going to try a little harder, care a little more and deliver something remarkable.

There's a marketing lesson in there for us as well. We try so hard to hide our flaws. We mask our mistakes, cover up our worries and will do anything to keep our customers for seeing the human side of our work. I hate to break it to you -- but they know we're human. They know we make mistakes.

And they're ready to forgive us and give us another shot.

Smart marketing and branding is not hiding your humanity but preparing for it. When you mess up and aggravate a Bumble -- you need to apologize in a way that's consistent with your brand

It's when you try to disguise or deny that humanity that you get into trouble.

Remember that great branding is about connecting at an emotional level with our audience. It's tough to connect with perfection. But a flawed hero who will try harder, care more and deliver something remarkable?

That's a brand people want to do business with. So don't be afraid to show you human side.

Morning habits to recharge you and your business

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

Earlier this month, I was reading an article about nine daily routines that will help supercharge your metabolism. Some of them include a quick ten-minute workout in the morning and plenty of water. Just like a metabolism, our businesses can get dull and in desperate need of H2O to recharge and become more profitable.

Recharging begins from the very moment you wake up. I can't think of many things more exciting than owning a specialty retail business, so I'm eager to face the new day -- usually!

For some, though, it's tempting to hit the snooze button. Don't. It just leaves your body feeling tired and groggy. It can also cause stress if you snooze too much and eventually run late. Rushing around also leads to forgetfulness, and makes for a lousy start to the day.

Tackle the new day so it doesn't tackle you.

It's a fact that the most successful people are list makers. Write out the day's priority list every morning, and next to each goal write a timely deadline. Creating a checklist will ensure that you're focused, manage your time efficiently and get things accomplished.

I like to add a couple personal goals to the mix of professional goals too, so I maintain a solid work/home balance. Check your progress constantly and note what needs to be improved. There is always room for improvement.

If you don't organize your workspace at the end of each day, take five minutes at the start of the day to get things in order. Study after study shows people who work in a organized spaces outperform those in cluttered ones throughout the day. Your business is already be hectic enough, no need to add clutter to your day.

Get daily feedback. I can’t stress this point enough. Whether it’s from you, your employees or your customers, feedback is essential to keep your company growing.

Be sure to constantly ask questions to figure out what you can be doing to add value, improve the unique experience you provide to your customers and increase efficiency. All of those things increase top-line revenue and bottom-line profitability. As a bonus, asking questions will help employees stay engaged.

Just as you need to wind down for the night, properly winding up each morning is essential for growth and success.

Time for a reboot?

Surgical Boot photo

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.

The end of the year is the perfect time to take stock... to ask ourselves the tough questions about what we wanted to accomplish in all areas of our work and personal lives this year. These aspirations are called our “ideal state.” What we really did achieve is called our “current state.” The end of the year is a great time to discern if there are any gaps between our ideal state and our current state. If so, it may be time for a reboot.

A reboot begins with honest and careful scrutiny of what is currently working for you and what is not moving the needle to propel you toward your goals. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Perhaps it’s an unhelpful habit, such as procrastination, that is getting in your way?
  • Maybe you have bitten off more than you can chew and have gotten involved in too many meetings? This can cause hectic rushing and an overwhelming feeling that works against clarity and poise.
  • Or maybe you are stuck in your comfort zone -- doing the same things you have always done? If so, you are probably getting the same results you have always gotten.

Wherever you’re stuck, a reboot can help you get unstuck.

To help you move to your ideal state, it might be time to revisit your personal marketing plan to determine the perceptions that others have of you after they interact with you. This could include many points of contact people have with you, from your voice message and the way that you answer the phone, to the clothes you choose to wear, to the photo you have on your social media accounts. Every interaction another person has with you is the opportunity to create a positive impression and enhance your personal brand.

Success expert Stephen Covey believes that with any project we should “Begin with the end in mind." A personal reboot should be no different. As I took stock of my goals at the end of last year, and turned an eye toward celebrating my 15th year of business this year, I determined that it was time to do a deep dive into updating my own business and executive presence plan.

There was no urgency -- I was reaching my goals. However, I believed I could achieve more if I focused on aligning my website, www.RitaPerea.com, and marketing materials with my long-established branding voice. The goal being exuding the positives that I am known for -- dynamic and inspirational professionalism, expertise and integrity. Let the reboot begin!

Reboots feel good. Like the feeling you get when you have cleaned out a closet or organized the files in your desk. Sure, all worthwhile endeavors do take a bit of time and effort, but at the end you get that great feeling of being organized, aligned and free of clutter. Here is my secret sauce for a successful reboot.

Step One: Our first order of business is to determine the three to five authentic words that we hope others will use to describe us after they have had an experience with us. This is called our “personal marketing voice.” Sometimes it is easier to determine how you want to be described if you also think about how you do not want to be described. For example: Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting IS solid, dynamic, inspirational, experienced, high-integrity and professional. It IS NOT fly-by-night, weak or gimmicky. You get the idea here. Contrast is a great informant.

Step Two: Use these words as a lens to look through when making daily choices. If I have a business meeting to attend and I want people who interact with me at that meeting to describe me as solid, dynamic, inspirational, experienced, high-integrity and professional, then I am going to dress and act in a manner that is congruent with those descriptive words in my personal marketing voice. Note to self: If your branding voice is authentic then you will be most comfortable looking like and acting like the descriptive words you have chosen to represent you.

Step Three: The next step of the reboot is the opportunity to integrate every experience point with our personal branding voice to spur others to have a positive perception and to take action. It is time to take our list of descriptive words and look at every activity we participate in through the lens of those words. At the end of each interaction we want to ask ourselves “How would that person describe me to others?” In addition to our website and social media interactions, as mentioned above, these interactions include:

  • Community involvement
  • Networking opportunities
  • Manners/ etiquette
  • Interactions with co-workers
  • Interactions with clients
  • Making cold calls
  • Making warm calls
  • Speaking in front of a group
  • Involvement in professional organizations/ associations

Step Four: Just as we reboot our computer each time we turn it on, every interaction with another person gives us the opportunity to be an honest and reflective practitioner. We can continually reflect and refine by asking ourselves “How did that go?” “What went well?” “What did not go so well?” and “What could I do differently next time to truly live my personal branding voice?”

While a reboot takes honesty, time, effort, and perhaps some monetary resources, your return on investment can be exponential. You will feel aligned, squeaky clean, shiny and brand new. What a wonderful way to begin a new year. Here’s to your success in 2016!

Be careful where you put your brand

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When I was a kid I can remember my mom saying to me "you're judged by who you hang out with so choose your friends carefully." The adult equivalent to that is the advice that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. 

Believe it or not -- it's true for your brand as well. 

The frenzy around the new Star Wars movie is understandable. It's going to be huge and I fully understand the investment Disney has made in creating it. When you combine the hype of the franchise and the clout of the parent company (Disney) -- it's not a surprise that they've got a powerful promotional machine built. I am all for brand extension but come on. Of late -- I have seen:

While I suspect most of you don't manage a brand that rivals Star Wars -- I still think you need to be very careful about how you connect your brand to other products, organizations and services.  

Here are some tips:

The connection should make sense: Let's look at the Star Wars makeup. Not sure how you'd connect the dots on that one. Whether it's a charitable organization or a product extension or an ad campaign -- you need to make sure the connection is obvious to your audience.

It should serve the same audience: When you are thinking about brand extensions, think about the audience of the two separate entities. They should be the same. Otherwise, you're wasting that energy and connection. If your core audience is young moms, aligning yourself with something that is aimed at men 18-24 probably doesn't serve your purposes.  

The other brand should not dwarf yours: Yes, you want to borrow from the esteem of the other brand but you don't want to get lost in their shadow. It's okay to be the smaller fish but you don't want to be a minnow to their whale. 

I'm all for collaborating, partnering and building your brand by aligning with other brands. But do it wisely and don't overdo. Remember why you're making the effort and maximize your time/dollar investment by doing it sparingly and with the right partner.

Change is difficult, as failed suburban services merger showed

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

What we love best about our local government are sometimes the same things that are so expensive and difficult to change. Access to elected officials is direct and easy; voices are heard; decisions are responsive. Yet these same attributes can sometimes be used to block changes that may benefit the community as a whole.

This is our perception of what happened Nov. 2 when the Windsor Heights City Council voted unanimously to stick with the status quo rather than to join forces with a neighboring community to improve fire and emergency medical services (EMS).

Windsor Heights is a suburb with fewer than 5,000 residents. It is an older community filled with unique homes but with relatively little commercial development to help carry its high property tax burden. It’s hard for such a small, established community to continue to meet service expectations with so few property taxpayers to share ever-increasing costs. Windsor Heights' property tax rate for operations is already the highest among all cities in the metro area so it must continuously look for ways to become more efficient.

To its credit, Windsor Heights has already captured substantial economies of scale by contracting with surrounding communities for the delivery of many municipal services. However, the most expensive services (with the fastest growing costs) – police and fire/EMS – are still delivered independently by the city itself. Two years ago it began to explore collaboration opportunities in fire/EMS with neighboring Clive.

Both communities are small, and their fire/EMS units respond to few calls: an average of 1.4 per day (yes, just over one call per day) in Windsor Heights and about four per day in Clive. Both communities wanted to be able to provide professional (full-time) fire/EMS response capability 24/7, 365 days a year, but neither could afford to do so independently.

The concept that was eventually developed called for a combined fire/EMS district governed by a board with equal representation from both communities. There was good public reporting on it as the process moved along, and many Windsor Heights residents and interested outside observers considered it an obvious move. It certainly appeared to be a win/win opportunity.

In retrospect, though, perhaps it should have been obvious this would ultimately have been anything but a routine decision. Changing the status quo is always difficult. Speakers at the November City Council meeting  showed why.

Although there would have been no loss of jobs, the fire station building in Windsor Heights would have closed and staff would have relocated to a station just across the border in Clive. This was significant. Several residents said they would happily pay more in order to “keep our guys here.“

Next, the Windsor Heights Acting Fire Chief reported that service improvements had already been made (24/7, 2-person paramedic coverage and two new firefighters), and response times had already improved. They felt the community would be adequately, and perhaps better protected by keeping things the way they are. (In effect, this meant abandoning the original goal of 24/7, 365 days a year full-time professional fire and EMS coverage.)

From the union we heard about the many wonderful things the members do for the community: the pancake breakfast; the Easter egg hunt, the 4th of July parade; glow sticks at Halloween, to name just a few. (Were we to think they would discontinue this under a merged system?)

The coup de grace came when the mayor read a letter from the wife of the former “much beloved” fire chief. EMS had taken her to the emergency room the evening before, making it impossible for her to be there in person. Yet she wanted the council to know how important it was for them to do the right thing. This was personal.

Meanwhile, the few people who spoke in support of the proposal were not Windsor Heights residents. Residents who may have supported the concept were silent, assuming that based on what they’d read in the paper, it was a done deal. The council members did what, arguably, any reasonable people in their position would have done: they responded to the feedback they received and the perceptions they carried at that point in time.

So what should we (the taxpayers) learn from this experience?

First, never assume anything when it comes to change, even if it seems like reasonable change. Always expect active opposition. When change is contemplated, potential proponents must be as informed and organized as opponents will be. This is difficult because the general public typically isn’t organized. Change initiatives that may benefit the community at large but rock the boat for certain interests will have to be chosen carefully, and be worth the extra effort of informing and motivating the public to be active in support.

Second, good communication must continue throughout a collaboration process. When one party perceives a change in view among key stakeholders, this should be immediately communicated to the other, with reasons explained and opportunity for problem solving offered. The single most unfortunate aspect of this failed collaboration is the loss of trust between the two cities. It will take effort to rebuild, but it will be rebuilt because that’s how our public officials operate here in central Iowa.

Ultimately, communities have every right to make the choices they believe are best for them, and they do the best they can with the information they have. It’s up to us – the taxpayers – to effectively speak up, because others surely will.

Leading with self-talk

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What is your self-image? What are you good at? What are you not so good at? Don’t think about what others think of you. What do you think of yourself? 

You have many beliefs about yourself. These beliefs control your ability to realize your leadership potential. When you learn to change these beliefs, you can expand your skills and realize your potential. If you grew up thinking you were shy, then you are shy. If you believe that you are naturally overweight, then diets will only work for you for a short time—you will gain the weight back. 

How we talk to ourselves, our self-talk, has a powerful impact on our lives. Self-talk is the internal conversation we have with ourselves all day long, every day. The beliefs we hold about ourselves are what control the real use of our potential. Over the years we’ve been telling ourselves a lot with our self-talk. We’ve been telling ourselves we’re shy or outgoing, a warm person or a cold person, a high performer or a low performer.

We build and change our self-image through our self-talk. Many of our thoughts are constructive and others are debilitating. It is often said that if a friend talked to you the way you sometimes talk to yourself then the friendship would be over in a hurry. The greater our self-image or self-esteem, the easier it is to deal with new situations and new challenges. 

Affirmations

Don’t think about a steaming hot piece of apple pie. Don’t think about the big scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream melting on the top of it. Don’t think about the wonderful cinnamon smell. 

It’s hard not to think about it, isn’t it?

The message I just placed in your head was a powerful one and I did it by telling you what NOT to think about.  Your self-talk (negative or positive) is doing the same thing all day, every day for you.

Affirmations are positive self-talk that guides us toward our goals. It is important to affirm correctly or the desired results will not be achieved.

If we go through life focusing on the negative, we prevent ourselves from maximizing our personal potential — an insight Mother Teresa tried to pass on to a fervent group of antiwar protestors. The protestors asked Mother Teresa if she would be willing to lead a huge antiwar demonstration. “No”, said the wise nun. “I won’t march against war. If you ever hold a demonstration for peace, call me”. When your mode is anti, you have to use your creative energy in defense, leaving little to create what you want to do with your life.

Does this sound like some kind of crazy self-help technique like standing in front of a mirror and telling yourself that you are wonderful and that people like you? In some ways the answer is yes. The important thing to recognize is that it’s not a question of if you’re going to affirm — you already do. It’s whether you’re going to do it effectively.

Try this at Home

If you want to imprint your children with a good sense of self-esteem and a positive expectation for the future, try asking these two questions every night.  It will cause the young person to shift their self-talk.

What did you do today that you’re really proud of?

What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Stick with it. Your young person might think the questions are odd at first. Once they get used to the new pattern, you’ll find they talk positively about themselves every day.

Your Own Self-Talk

What conversation do you have with yourself at night before you go to sleep?

Are you telling yourself how proud you are of your performance? Probably not! If you’re like most of us, you’re probably berating yourself for not getting enough done during the day. This is self-talk and it’s negative. Shift to the positive.

As a Leadership Strategy

After practicing on yourself and your loved ones, try the technique out on your team. At your next staff meeting, invite each member of the team to respond to these two questions:

What are you proud of from your actions last week that moved us closer to our goals?

What are you looking forward to doing this week that will move us closer to our goals?

Make this a weekly routine and monitor the results.

- 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: https://www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Who are potential buyers for my business? Part 2

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

Last column we learned about one specific type of buyer for your business – family. As we discussed, mixing business with family can make holidays awkward if something does not go smoothly.

This week we will learn about another possibility…a “strategic buyer.”

A strategic buyer is someone who is already operating in your industry. Many times they are a competitor. A strategic buyer will have a “strategic” reason for buying your business (often called “synergies”).

The strategic buyer is often the buyer willing to pay the most money for your business, but is also the buyer that is least likely to care about your legacy or your employees because they already have their own culture (which they want to keep) and their own employees (which they want to keep). Eliminating duplicative costs as well as broadening their products/services into your sales channel (or visa-versa) enables the strategic buyer to pay more than someone from outside the industry looking in.

As an example, a transaction I worked on several years ago was a successful family-owned company who had created a consumer product that had a cult-like customer following. The product was sold exclusively in independent retailers and not in national big box stores and that was part of the culture that the founders and the consumers embraced.

A large publicly traded consumer products company saw how loyal the customers of this product were and determined that since the large company already shipped product to thousands of big box stores, they could purchase the cult-like brand and have an immediate uptick in sales because of the larger distribution footprint (“if a truck is already going to Wal-Mart with our toothpaste on it, why not add this product too!?!”)

The public company (a “strategic”) paid an incredible amount of money for the company (all they wanted was the brand) and proceeded to lay off all of the company’s employees. (They already had their own sales people, accounting staff, HR, etc.)

The public company then started to sell the product into its existing sales channels (big box national retailers) thinking that more consumers would mean more sales.

Unfortunately for them, this was the exact opposite of the culture the company was founded on and all the cult-like followers who had purchased product from independent retailers quit buying because they felt the company had “sold out” – which, in fact, they had!

Moral of the story: if you want to get top dollar when you sell your business, a strategic buyer is a good way to go, but you need to be careful about the intentions and strategy of the buyer if you have concerns about your legacy.

Analytics: What to look at to prepare for 2016

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

Google-analytics-logoWhen you work in marketing, reviewing analytics of various types (especially at the end of the year) is part of the job. There are website analytics, Facebook Insights and Mailchimp reports to evaluate a whole year.

It’s a lot to cover, and it can certainly make your head spin. And, if you don’t have someone at your company with the time to spend on it, thinking through these analytics can be overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact … I know some of you just aren’t doing it. It’s okay - you’re not alone!

That being said, there are a lot of benefits to reviewing even just a few of your analytics. After all, what better way to improve your website then to look at the cold, hard data? If you're limited on time, here's three things to start with. 

All of the following can be found within your Google Analytics. If you don’t have this free tool from Google installed, there’s a little legwork involved, but I promise it’s worth your time. You’ll notice that I’m not telling you how to look up your analytics. Don’t worry, if you’re unsure, there are plenty of resources out there that do that already.

List Your Top Visited Pages

Are your most frequented pages the ones you’d like them to be? If not, it could be for a couple of reasons. One, what Google is seeing might not be what you thought it would. In that case, you’ll want to find some assistance with your search engine optimization (SEO). Two, your navigation may not be optimally structured on your website. Are you helping your user find the pages you want them to find? If not, you may want to reevaluate!

Evaluate How Long Visitors Are Staying On Each Page

You’ve got visitors to your website - awesome! But, how long are they staying? Time on page is a feature that can be easily reviewed within the Site Content section of your Google Analytics. It can tell you two things:

  1. Are people spending enough time on a page to read or review your content? If not, maybe you should revisit your content or page design to better engage them.
  2. Are people spending too much time on that page? This might mean the content or action items are unclear.

Review Drop-off Points

This topic is a little more complex, but I know you can keep up, so bear with me! Under the “Behavior Flow” section of your analytics, you’ll find a horizontal flow chart. If you analyze this, you’ll be able to see where people are entering your site (this is the far left column), where they're going (following the grey lines to the next green box) and leaving it (which is represented by a red block). This can clue you in on why your conversions aren’t as high as you think they should be, or why visitors never seem to find a crucial piece of information you’d like them to see. If they are “dropping off” one page into your site (for example, on your “About Us” page) they may not find out what they really need to know to complete a purchase. Once you know where a visitor is dropping off, you can make an action plan for preventing that in the future.

 

Whew! Thanks for sticking with me guys. I know when you’re new to analytics, it can be tough. But with a little elbow grease, I think you’ll be excited to see what you can learn about your user behavior and how you can improve it in the new year.

Alex Karei_124Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her on:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/alextriesitout
Instagram: www.instagram.com/alextriesitout
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

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