Sorting an omelet

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger

Remember when the truck came down the street and put items from your green recycling tote into the correct compartment on the truck? That’s called “curb sort recycling." And if you had something that was not recyclable they would leave it in your tote with a note. 


IMG_3410Then came “residential single stream,” which means you throw whatever into your recycle container and it gets sorted somewhere else. It’s easier for residents, but we still have to be mindful.

My friend Todd Mendenhall is one of the owners at Mid America Recycling. That’s where all the stuff we put in our containers goes.

Todd says, “Residential single stream recycling is like a truck dumping a pile of thousands

of omelets and picking out the egg, bacon, green pepper, onion and chives and sorting

them into their own pile.”

IMG_3429Mendenhall mentioned residents still need to be conscientious when recycling. 

  • Don’t put plastic bags in your recycle container. First, they are not recyclable. Second, they get all tangled in the sorting machinery and require the line to be shut down to remove the bags. PLASTIC BAGS ARE TRASH.
  • Don’t put trash in your container. On my tour I saw suitcases, hoses and car wheels.
  • While a shovel and chain are made of steel, no recycler wants shovels. Pop cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles and paper are mostly what they want.


Let me know if you have any recycle tips. Email me at

Groupthink and the public pension industry

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

William Whyte coined the term “groupthink” in a 1952 article in Forbes Magazine(1). Whyte felt the pendulum had swung too far in terms of “rational conformity,” or the idea that group values should trump individualism. Later (in the 1970s), research psychologist Irving Janis expanded the concept and conducted research about how cohesive groups of people make and justify faulty decisions.

Groupthink is a term that has been used to describe such various public policy fiascos as the failure to anticipate Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Challenger shuttle disaster, and more recently the collapse of the housing bubble and the handling of the Penn State child molestation case. In each case, even though individual members were brilliant and ethical, group dynamics led to decisions with devastating consequences.

Are U.S. public pensions going to become the next big public policy groupthink debacle?

Clearly there are beliefs and practices unique to the U.S. public pension industry that appear very questionable to anyone looking in from the outside. Yet they are genuinely held, sincerely defended and “generally accepted” by those on the inside.

These include clinging to an unrealistically high investment return assumption; changing actuarial and modeling methods to get the desired results; and taking on increasing levels of risk without even asking whether such risk is acceptable.

Questions about public pension assumptions and practices have been raised by the Society of Actuaries; credit rating agencies; the former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and even by Warren Buffett. Accounting standards for public systems in other countries are drastically more conservative(2). If they’re right and the industry is wrong -- and we keep adding more and more employees to systems that may ultimately implode -- it could become the biggest financial and personal disaster in U.S. history.

The U.S. public pension industry is a tightly defined and powerful industry, controlling $3.7 trillion in assets and supported by millions of members and politicians who want in the worst way to believe what they are being told. It exhibits many of the symptoms that Janis described as indicating groupthink(3). In fact, we can go right down the list and provide examples of each as relate to the public pension industry:

  • An illusion of invulnerability – the government can’t go bankrupt; taxpayers have infinitely deep pockets.
  • Discounting of warnings – the assumed high future annual return assumptions (avg. 7.5 percent) can be justified based on history, so we shouldn’t worry about it.
  • Belief in the rightness of their cause – public employees have tough jobs and deserve a great retirement no matter the cost.
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups – people just don’t understand the public sector is different from the private sector; groups that question public pensions are funded by “shadowy” outfits.
  • Direct pressure on dissenters – an actual blacklist has been published by one national organization that exhorts public pension systems to avoid doing business with many reputable entities that have raised uncomfortable questions(4).
  • Doubts not expressed – national organizations provide only confirming information and studies; insiders who raise questions are distrusted.
  • Illusion of unanimity – 42 large public plan administrators signed a letter of complaint to the Academy of Actuaries objecting to a study being undertaken by that group to probe the causes of public pension underfunding.
  • Protection from information that is contradictory – information about the substantial risks imposed by today’s practices is not shared with plan trustees or others who are making decisions by default.

Is it possible to penetrate a group this heavily insulated?

In an interesting recent article(5), one writer called for a sequel to the movie, “The Big Short,” a film that colorfully documents how groupthink led to the collapse of the housing market. The sequel would depict the implosion of the U.S. public pension industry. Re-watching “The Big Short” is an entertaining way to learn how groupthink works, but maybe it will also make it easier even for insiders to identify the warning signs.

Meanwhile, ordinary people – including members of these plans -- need to keep asking the questions, and not assume that everything is okay just because we are told it is, and because we want it to be.

(1) William H. Whyte, “Groupthink,” Fortune Magazine, 1952. Reprinted in Fortune Magazine July 22, 2012.

(2) Andrew Biggs, “U.S. State and Local Pensions Couldn’t Survive Under Tougher International Accounting Standards,” Forbes Magazine, June 2, 2016.

(3) Psychologists for Social Responsibility, “What Is Groupthink?"

(4) National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, Code of Conduct, Appendix

(5) Ed Ring, “We Need a Sequel to The Big Short to Critique Public Pensions,”, April 10, 2016

Escaping email overload

Fingers on keyboard photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.   

     In these times, we’re all being called upon to do more with less — less time, less money and fewer people. This pressure can create a hamster-on-a-wheel feeling as we scramble to get everything done. Although the rules of business have changed, many people haven’t received updated skills training on how to manage the flow of information into their lives, especially through email.

    Recently I conducted a leadership institute with a group of directors from various organizations. During our group sessions and individual coaching meetings, I asked about their biggest source of stress in their jobs. Almost every single person said the amount of email they received and responded to each day topped their list. This overload caused them to develop unhealthy habits surrounding email, including working tremendously long hours and a life without balance.

    Effectively overcoming this time crunch and email overload requires developing new habits. But before you, or anyone else, can change, you need to know exactly what you’re already doing. That’s why I ask clients to do a time audit. During this process, you look at how you use your time over the course of three days. By logging your activities in 15-minute increments from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, you can pinpoint where your time is going and why you feel like you don’t have enough.

    Although many people don’t see it this way, spending time is like spending money. Just like you have a certain amount of money in the bank that you can use to achieve your goals and enjoy life, you have a certain amount of time each day that you can spend on your personal and professional activities. When you overdraw from your banking account, you run into problems. The same is true when you try to take too much out of your time account. It doesn’t work, and you feel stressed. That’s why you need to make sure you’re spending your time effectively and efficiently to accomplish your objectives for the day.

    After you complete your time audit, you can identify where you’re “overspending,” and clearly define the ideal life that you’re trying to create. As you ponder your balanced lifestyle, think about activities such as exercise, vacation or simply getting work projects done on time. Once you’ve envisioned your ideal, you can create a plan for how to build that lifestyle within the constraints of your responsibilities at work and at home.

    At work, one of the biggest keys to achieving this balance involves limiting the octopus-like control of email over your schedule. If you’re spending every spare minute answering messages, when can you move forward on projects?

    Another key to "work flow wow" is limiting the frequency and length of time you spend checking email. Many people feel like they need to respond immediately to all email, even if it’s not a priority. In brief, here’s my solution: Limit yourself to checking email three times a day. Preferably you’ll do this in 30-minute time blocks in the morning after your project time, before you go to lunch, and before you wrap up for the day.

    By breaking the control of email over your schedule, you will not only increase your productivity but also your inner peace. Before you implement the email skimming process described below, consider these keys to success:

  • Turn off any email alerts. Even if you don’t constantly check your email, alerts will create psychological distraction that can cause you to take up to 25 percent longer to complete tasks.
  • Don’t email when you should call. If you’re writing over five lines, picking up the phone can be more efficient than using email.
  • Email doesn’t stand for immediate response. You need to get out of the habit of feeling that you must respond immediately to others or expecting them to do the same for you.

    Now that we’ve covered some of the ground rules, here’s a guide to skimming your inbox. Each time you open up your inbox during your allotted time blocks, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is answering this email going to bring me closer to achieving one of my goals?
  • Can this email wait until tomorrow?
  • Will delaying my response keep someone from accomplishing his or her work?
  • Could I respond to multiple emails in a single email reply?
  • Can I delete or ignore this email without serious repercussions?

    As you begin this process, you’ll find that very few of these messages actually get you closer to your goals and even fewer require immediate responses. I highly encourage you to try out this method and start to experience workflow wow!

© Rita Perea, 2016

The importance of being earnest

- Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor. He writes on economic development.

In 90% of life, being humble is a good thing. In economic development, it can be a death sentence.

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

We’re Iowans. We’re nice. How do you do? 

So starts the biggest uphill battle an economic developer can hope to never face. I wrote recently about the increasing role of capacity building in modern economic development — that successful practitioners today are spending less time selling and more time improving their product. But while there is a pronounced trend toward asset building Nice_guy at the expense of traditional cold call/trade show/road warrior selling by local and regional economic developers, transactional acumen remains a critical skill for all of us. What makes the sales-ish process in economic development perhaps a bit unique is the fact that practitioners must rely on the collective will of our community colleagues — including both those who are involved in projects day-to-day (like city staff and real estate developers) and everyday people who are often a great source of leads — to play as big a role in making the sale as any one economic developer. And what makes the sales process uniquely challenging in a state full of humble, nose-to-the-grindstone people, like Iowa, is the fact that we’ve got a potential sales force (everyday citizens) who hate to sell.

Aww shucks.

We generate more power from renewable resources than any state in the country (which is huge for many heavy-power tech projects), but it’s no big deal; just ask an Iowan. 

We produce more corn than any other state and most nations (a huge separator for the growing roster of major-user biomaterial producer projects), but that’s just what we do. Ask an Iowan.

We invented the digital computer in Ames, Iowa! Important? Sure! Brag about it a little? Bad form; ask an Iowan.

It’s not that Iowans aren’t proud of our state and its accomplishments; it’s that we are, owing to our German, Norwegian and Quaker roots, a work-is-a-virtue bunch adhering to a societal construct that deems self-promotion and immodesty as taboo and to be avoided. For more on this and a fascinating glimpse at what makes Midwesterners and 11 other regional American populaces tick, read Colin Woodard’s American Nations. You can find my review of the book here.

In Iowa we’re modest and unassuming by nature, and in nine out of 10 walks of life, that’s a great personal or organizational attribute. But in economic development, if not properly managed and mitigated, it can be a death sentence. Our collective ability to compete for capital, talent and innovation in a global economy churning at a blistering pace relies heavily upon our ability — and willingness — to discover, organize and effectively promote our strengths as a state and region.

CXR to the rescue

While I would argue that the decade-long trend toward an increasingly data-intensive site selection process wherein assets and good ideas trump salesmanship is an encouraging trend for the promotionally challenged (that’s us), it remains that, fundamentally, economic development is an enterprise sales endeavor. To make the point again, one of the things that discern the work of economic development from sales in a traditional sense is the fact that to do it well and be successful, economic development practitioners must rely on the collective will of the constituents in the region to promote themselves. The Cultivation Corridor and any other economic development organization in the region desperately needs for Central Iowans to continue the citizen trend we really started to see emerge with the rollout of Capital Crossroads some years ago: a pride in authorship for the spectacular story of growth and prosperity our region has been writing for a decade.

Power of the people

One of the things I’m asked most is where leads for new projects come from. While it’s true that a significant proportion of leads for economic development groups like the Cultivation Corridor come from traditional sources like consultant relationships and trade show networking, often our most actionable and qualified leads come from within the region. They come from existing companies exploring joint ventures with another company, from individuals who on a business trip read in the regional newspaper that an existing company was being yanked around on permits for an expansion, from a local supply chain logistics consultant who identifies a gaping hole in the middle of the country for a particular 3PL service offering. What translates these scenarios from latency to project action is the willingness of the applicable discoverer of information to ask him- or herself an important question: “Why not Iowa?”

Each of the preceding three scenarios is true, and each translated into a jobs creation project in my career. The power of our local stakeholders (especially you, if you’re actually still reading this 800 words in) to deliver ideas that translate into opportunity for our region and state is enormous — and critical to our collective success. So be nice, but keep a bit of a prideful edge, will you?

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

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: / @brent_willett

Work HARD, not SMART


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."

There’s a frequently used acronym related to creating goals––SMART––which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (or Relevant) and Time-based. As a college professor, I taught for over 20 years a variety of concepts required to attain a desired goal or future vision. I frequently discussed the importance of creating SMART goals and how they were absolutely critical in order to accomplish this desired end.


It’s not that SMART goals are necessarily bad, but I now believe they’re flawed if what you are trying to achieve requires a behavioral transformation or major proactive change. Specific, Measurable and Time-based are all fine attributes and should automatically be built into all goals. It’s the Achievable and Realistic (or Relevant) parts I’ve been struggling with for some time now, especially after reading a piece in Forbes discussing how SMART goals can sometimes be dumb.1

In the author’s opinion, both Achievable and Realistic actually act as impediments and don’t really enable genuine movement or progress. I completely agree. Those attributes smack of phrases like “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” “Stay within your available resources,” “Be careful what you wish for,” “Play it safe,” “Don’t do anything stupid,” and “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Because of the Realistic (or Relevant) attribute, Yahoo decided to pull out of purchasing Facebook during its early years because of an overreaction to a short-term market dip2 (an article in CNN Money now predicts Facebook will at some point have a $1 trillion valuation3 while Yahoo continues to suffer); the company Digital Research passed on partnering with IBM for the creation of an operating system (after Bill Gates sent them there in the first place––the result was Microsoft creating MS-DOS, and Digital Research is now long gone);4 Kodak failed to embrace digital photography because it didn’t require film (and subsequently filed bankruptcy); and the list goes on.

A great many poor decisions have been made by people based on “unrealistic” or “non-relevant” views––views often rooted in how things currently are as compared to where they will or should be because they were unable to imagine something different.

Thankfully, John F. Kennedy didn’t listen to the pundits in 1961, who claimed going to the moon was unachievable. If NASA had used SMART goal thinking in the '60s, we would have never gone to the moon, especially within the “unrealistic” context at the time: less than nine years to complete, over $25 billion cost (about $144 billion in today’s dollars), and less than 20 percent of the necessary technology required to do it. Also, over 50 percent of the country didn’t even want to fund the project, especially since we were involved in the costly Vietnam War. But this project was absolutely necessary and relevant in order to stay ahead of the Russians.5 As part of a 1962 speech given at Rice University, Kennedy proclaimed:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” 6

The result was not only one of the greatest achievements of mankind, but also the staggering development of thousands of products and industries (such as microwaves, purified water, polarized, scratch-resistant lenses, lithium batteries, kidney dialysis, NASCAR cool suits, solar panels, etc., and companies like Intel7), not to mention the inspiration of an entire generation and the creation of worldwide optimism during a difficult time in our history.

My point is this: Any goal that requires transformative thinking––thinking required to change deeply entrenched behaviors, habits and modes of thought––isn’t SMART. It’s HARD.

HARD goals require a total change in thinking––a recognition that transformation is difficult and realized through intense focus, effort and tenacity. Our greatest accomplishments in life weren’t easy. Therefore, I believe HARD goals include the following attributes:

  • HONEST: One of the biggest reasons that many goals are never achieved is because people do not honestly, deep down, believe in them. Often, they are the goals of someone else, such as a spouse, parent, physician, supervisor or the organization as a whole. They could also be the goals that have been deemed “good” by a majority of society. Regardless of origin, unless they are your goals––goals you totally believe in, desire above all else, and have built into the very core of your being––they will never be realized.
  • ACTIONABLE: These goals must be something you can begin taking immediate action toward … not someday or at some future point. If these goals require something in addition to or other things to occur first before you can begin working on them, the likelihood of success is diminished. The NASA moon program began the moment Kennedy shared the goal with Congress.
  • RADICAL: Most goals related to change frequently require some form of radical or significant shift in behavior. Typically, a minor or slight change in thinking is inadequate to achieve transformative change. For example, effective weight loss requires a sustainable, permanent change in diet from what you previously considered normal, acceptable eating. Eliminating debt requires a sustainable but substantial shift in your spending patterns, purchasing behavior and saving.
  • DETAILED: HARD goals require a plan of attack. This is where desired action is specifically detailed, time-based and measurable. This plan of attack should be incremental in nature since the power of progress is typically found and achieved through daily activity. Again, NASA had an extremely detailed plan with a series of very specific short-term objectives required to land on the moon in less than nine years.

Research shows that fewer than 2 out of 10 employees strongly agree their goals will help them achieve great things, and even less strongly agree their goals will help them maximize their full potential.8 Goals that truly lead to transformative change, the kind of change that will help you achieve great things and maximize your potential, require a HARD focus. A desired goal must be honest and true to both who you are and where you want to be; it should be immediately actionable and not something you have to wait on if you’re ready to go now; it should be radical in that to get there requires a sharp shift from the behavior that’s obviously not working now; and it should be detailed so it’s extremely clear as to the steps, resources and time required to achieve it.

A HARD goal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s extraordinarily difficult to accomplish. But it does require a higher level of intensity to achieve the desired transformation than a SMART goal. If you truly want to proactively change your behavior, you will need to change your mind––a change in thinking that directly affects your daily behavior.

©2016  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




1Murphy, Mark. ‘SMART’ Goals Can Sometimes Be Dumb. (Jan. 8, 2015) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the Forbes website: - 131ed902142c

2Tynan, Dan. 10 of Tech’s Biggest Missed Opportunities. (Aug. 19, 2009) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the IT Business website:

3La Monica, Paul R. Why Facebook Could One Day Be Worth $1 Trillion. (April 28, 2016) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the CNN website:

4Tynan, Dan. 10 of Tech’s Biggest Missed Opportunities. (Aug. 19, 2009) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the IT Business website:

5Wilford, John Noble (1969). We Reach the Moon: The New York Times Story of Man's Greatest Adventure. New York: Bantam Paperbacks.

6John F. Kennedy Moon Speech – Rice Stadium. Retrieved June 4, 2016, from the NASA website:

7Benefits from Apollo: Giant Leaps in Technology. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the NASA website:

8Leadership IQ Study. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the LeadershipIQ website:

Communicating client retention

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

If you want your clients to stick around you should be communicating with them regularly. And if you want this communication to have a positive impact it needs to be meaningful, timely, and authentic. Sending bcc’d emails to your client list doesn’t do much to make them feel loved. Likewise, not returning phone calls or emails is equally as detrimental to client retention. For businesses to be great communicators they must be both reactive, and proactive in their approach.

Being reactive in your communication is as simple as getting back to clients in a timely manner. One of the top complaints we found by analyzing the negative feedback of clients of service-based companies was the lack of returned phone calls. There is perhaps no faster way of showing your clients you don’t care much about your relationship.

Communicating proactively with your clients means that you are reaching out to them regularly with meaningful content on your own accord. This communication needs to be personalized, valued by the client, and happen over time. Below are a few examples of how to proactively reach out to your clients as to eliminate perceived indifference, and aid in client retention.


In addition to providing social proof, collecting written testimonials is a very effective way of increasing client retention. After a customer makes the commitment to promote you to others it becomes a part of their self-image. In our experience, we’ve found that customers who’ve put a stake in the ground and said “This business is great and here’s why” are far less likely to leave and buy from another company.

The nerdy, psychological term for this is cognitive dissonance: the mental stress a person feels when they are confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. In other words, it’s easier when a customer has said “I like this company” to stick with it through thick and thin.


Newsletters can be an effective tool to increase client retention, if they’re implemented correctly. Essentially, a newsletter is intended to provide your clients with valuable information regarding your business, industry, and community. This is an excellent opportunity to both humanize your company while also establishing yourself as an authority within your industry.

However, many companies implement newsletters incorrectly, and they backfire by making the clients feel more disconnected than before. This happens when companies include content that is either unoriginal, irrelevant, or both. We call this the copy and paste syndrome. Curating information across the internet and passing it along to your clients is one thing. But if you didn’t write it, don’t make it look as if you did. Your clients will be able to easily spot this ruse and lose some trust in the process.

There are several services available that can help you put together templates to work off of. We recommend MailChimp, as it’s quick, easy, and affordable. Be sure to include content about your business, your community, and information that your clients will find helpful. Be sure to keep regular intervals between each newsletter. We recommend sending a newsletter once a month, to keep your business top of mind, but not to annoy.

Follow ups

Regular communication with clients, simply for the purpose of following up, goes a long way to avoid turnover. This can include emails, phone calls, text messages, handwritten cards, or any combination of the bunch. Ideally you’ll want to vary the mediums you use to communicate with your clients (to keep it fresh), or stick with their preferred method.

It’s important to keep your follow-up communication personalized to the client. Unlike newsletters, you want your client to feel like you are reaching out directly to them, and only them. This can be as simple as addressing email or card to the client and including personalized and relevant content.
Accomplish this by implementing a system that can automate personalized communication based on predetermined intervals and/or triggers. For example, insurance agents benefit by reaching out to clients prior to their renewal date. This communication will have an even greater impact on client retention if it appears to be highly personalized and unexpected. That’s why we at Rocket Referrals recommend handwritten cards to be sent at unpredictable intervals, in order to enhance their authenticity.

The possible dream of fixing Iowa's business taxes

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

There's a lot about Iowa for businesses to like. We have a highly-educated workforce, good schools, attractive employment laws, short commutes, good infrastructure, and reasonable housing prices.

Our business tax system, in contrast, is nothing to brag about. Iowa's business tax climate has been consistently ranked near the bottom in the Tax Foundation's Business Tax Climate Index. Iowa has the highest corporation tax rate in the country. Because the U.S. has the highest federal corporation tax rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), that means the combined federal and state corporate tax rate is the highest in the developed world. 2016 corporate tax map

The high rates have motivated industries to carve out their own special breaks, meaning the tax falls on those unlucky businesses without pull or lobbyists -- that is, most of them. Those businesses grow more slowly because they have competitors with lower tax costs. They move to more tax-friendly states, or they never move to Iowa in the first place.

It doesn't have to be this way. The Tax Foundation recently released Iowa Tax Reform Options: Building a Tax System for the 21st Century. As the title implies, it offers a menu of tax reforms to make Iowa's tax system much more fair and business-friendly while still generating the same revenue as the current system.

The report offers ideas for sales tax, property tax, and inheritance taxes, but the income tax provisions are especially exciting. The most ambitious revenue-neutral plans would replace Iowa's current nine bracket individual income structure, with its top rate of 8.98 percent, with a flat 5.15 percent tax. It would replace Iowa's 12 percent corporation tax with a 6.5 percent top rate. It would do so by dumping Iowa's archaic deduction for federal taxes and by repealing the dozens of special interest business tax credits.

There will be opposition. For example, in 2015 just 8 businesses claimed 61.6% of the Research Activities Credit, the largest single business credit, to the tune of $35 million. They will be highly motivated to keep that money.

The report shows just how expensive these breaks are for the rest of us. It shows that if a repeal of special interest tax credits is combined with the end of the corporation 50 percent deduction for federal income taxes, the corporate tax can be a flat 6.5 percent. If the special interest credits are retained,  the revenue-neutral rate can only come down to 9 percent. That's a 38 percent rate increase on everyone to provide special favors for a few.

Iowa Tax Reform Options shows that we can reduce rates and greatly simplify Iowa's business taxes while retaining popular features of the current system. These include the full federal Section 179 deduction for asset purchases, single-factor apportionment of multistate income for C corporation, and Iowa's unique apportionment tax credit for S corporations.

Iowa's tax system can be much better while raising the same amount of revenue. They would improve Iowa's business tax climate from one of the worst to the 10th best. Iowa Tax Reform Options should be the basis for the tax debate in the next General Assembly.

The buyer journey and your website: Consideration

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

In April, I started a series on this blog about the buyer journey and how it impacts your website. I introduced, at a high level, what a buyer journey may look like in regards to making a purchasing decision, and outlined an example. Then, on Wednesday, I talked about stage one: discovery. If you didn’t catch those two posts, I recommend heading over to the “Web Strategy” page and catching up a bit.

All right, let’s talk stage two: consideration!

At this stage in the buyer journey, buyers know they have a solvable need, and they likely know about several companies that can address that need for them in different ways. In essence, the client has clearly defined the problem and is now in full-on research mode for the best solution. Your goal? To get them to consider YOU!

Buyer consideration and your website

If you recall, the last phase we talked about was “discovery,” or how we get potential customers to your website. To follow up on this, what we really need to talk about is what those customers are doing once they’re on your website.

Did you know that the average human has an attention span of eight seconds? That’s shorter than a goldfish (although only by one second). Think about your website -- what are you doing on your home page to keep individuals focused on your content?

This isn’t an issue we’re going to fix for you by the end of this blog. But it’s certainly a point to think about. For a casual test, I would recommend inviting a friend who’s not familiar with your website to sit down with you for coffee. Pull up your website -- for maybe 15-30 seconds, depending on how brave you are -- and take it away. Ask them what they remember. More than likely, what they remember is what attracted their attention first. Now think about it: Is their answer what you want it to be?

Attracting the attention of website visitors

I can’t emphasize this enough: PLEASE keep in mind that “attract attention” does not mean “make a button flash and change colors.” What we’re trying to address here is the question of whether your website visitors are indeed receiving the message you’re trying to send when they get to your home page.

In essence, you should be thinking about the user’s experience on your site first and foremost. Yes, you want to capture them as a lead, but if you cater to them and make their experience a good one, good things will follow.

I’ll close with one of my No. 1 pieces of advice that I give to those starting to think about website content. Granted, it’s based on personal experience, but it’s not inaccurate.

Think about the last time your boss came to you and asked you to find a new product to solve an issue occurring in your department. Maybe it’s 4:30 on a Friday, and you’re ready to head out for the week. Knowing this, they say it’s OK for you to give them a few quick options that they can review more in depth the following week.

You fire up Google, hit some search terms, and find a few websites. If you can’t find the “what we can do for you” statement within a couple of minutes of looking at the website, what will you do?

You might disregard the company completely.

Obviously this is (hopefully) a rare example. My point, of course, is that you shouldn’t try to make your visitors hunt for what they need when they’re in the consideration phase. Yes, you’ve got a lot of great content. But think about what needs to really be on that home page to pull the visitor’s interest. Then, when they come back for more, you’ll get your opportunity to really shine.

Join me for my next blog to learn how to address “decision,” and be sure to leave any questions in the comments below.


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





Iowa marketing smarts!

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

I know it may seem weird that I am promoting another Iowa agency's work but I'm a firm believer in the idea that there are plenty of fish in the sea and when one of us does something noteworthy -- it raises the reputation of all of us.

That's why I am excited to tell you about two big deals coming out of Brand Driven Digital in Iowa City.  Agency owner Nick Westergaard just released his first book, Get Scrappy, Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small.  It's a pragmatic, fast read filled with ideas you can implement immediately.

It was just released May 16, 2016, so grab a copy before your competitor does.

Brand Driven Digital is also the host of one of the best digital marketing conferences around, Social Brand Forum. Nick and his team have created an event that is big on ideas and networking with very little fluff or ego.  It's really a not-to-be-missed event.

It's September 22-23 and the speaker list includes big names like Jay Baer (Convince and Convert), Joe Pulizzi (Content Marketing Institute) & Gina Dietrich (Arment Dietrich) to name a few.

You can view the schedule here. You can register here. Use promo code MMG to get $100 off either a full or VIP ticket.

The biggest mistake a marketer can make in today's environment is to get behind. Get Scrappy and Social Brand Forum are two ways to make sure that doesn't happen.

Courtesy of your fellow Iowans.  How cool is that?

The buyer journey and your website: Discovery

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

Last month, I started a series on this blog about the buyer journey and how it impacts your website. I introduced, at a high level, what a buyer journey may look like in regards to making a purchasing decision, and outlined an example. If you missed that, you might want to jump over to that blog and catch up before following along here.

Ready to go? Good - let’s get started on the first stage I outlined: discovery!

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

Through my work with websites - both at Webspec and outside of it - I’ve found that many organizations suffer with issues related to discovery. There’s often an attitude of “if I build it, they will come!” Unfortunately, real life isn’t like Field of Dreams, and there’s a little more work to be done than hoping that users will stumble upon your website by accident.

Discovery for your website can be approached a couple of different ways. One approach relates to an overall integrated marketing strategy, while the other relates to your digital strategy, particularly, your SEO.

Active Website Promotion

When you have a website, it’s important to take the time and promote it. If people don’t know that it’s there, they may not ever go on their own! This is especially important if your company or web presence is brand new to the world. Here are a couple simple ways to do this:

  1. Include Your URL. It’s easy to forget that your URL can be a small and simple detail in any type of marketing material you produce, from flyers to T-shirts. As you create marketing collateral or agree to any type of sponsorship or advertising, make sure your URL can be - if not front and center - at least easily seen by new audiences.
  2. Claim Your Business Online. Between social media accounts, review websites, and your Google My Business page, take the time to “claim” your business profile anywhere you can. This ensures that no matter what platform they’re on, users can find you. A case could be made for not claiming every social media platform (every channel isn’t right for everyone) but that’s a discussion for another day.

Optimize Your SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a trend that isn’t going away. Luckily, business owners are starting to recognize and appreciate that fact.

What’s this “SEO” thing anyway?

If you haven’t heard the term “optimize your SEO” yet, it’s a simple concept. When you optimize your SEO, you’re working to ensure that your website ends up on page one of search results. When someone Googles your industry, service, business, or product, where do you land in the search results?

Why optimize your SEO?

Although it’s a bigger job than just promoting your website, one could argue the effects of optimizing your SEO can be both more important and longer-lasting. How many times have you Googled something already today? Amit Singhal, former senior vice president of Google Search, stated in October 2015 that Google gets over 100 billion searches a month. When an individual does a Google search, they’re actively looking to solve a problem they have, essentially creating a captive audience. Why wouldn’t you want to make sure you appear in the first page of results this person reviews?

Having worked both as an in-house marketer and in an agency, I understand how difficult and confusing the land of SEO can be. Not everyone is ready to invest in consulting to improve their SEO, however, at the very least you can make sure you’re asking your webmaster the right questions when you begin to build a new website.

“Have you considered how this sitemap will affect my SEO?”

“What kind of keyword research have you conducted to recommend the language we’re using?”

“What kind of SEO plug-in are you installing for me to update post-launch?”

These are all conversations that your firm should be able to have with you. If not, you might want to look a little harder at who you’ve hired.

Whew! That was a lot of information, huh? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take just 2 or 3 suggestions away from this blog to try and begin to implement and encourage traffic to your own website. Once you’ve gotten those done, pick a couple more. Bit by bit, you will help new users “discover” your website, and then you’ll be ready for our next stage.

Join me for my next blog to learn how to address “consideration,” and be sure to leave any questions in the comments below.

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





Passion makes the difference

- Cory W. Sharp is an intern architect at FEH Design in Des Moines and the current president of the Young Professionals Connection 

No one is ever going to have to guess whether I have a passion for architecture. 

Young CoryFrom the second I could draw, I was drawing. I loved spending time with my dad, who is an architect. I may have thought about a couple different career paths, but nothing was going to stop me once I set out to become an architect.


I love everything about the art and science of architecture. I love the first meeting with the client, hearing their dreams and ideas. I love putting those ideas on paper. I love bringing designs to life. And, I love walking around the space when it is finished.

The whole process fascinates me. I have a real passion for architecture.

I honestly believe you get out of something what you put into it. If it’s worth doing, I want to put as much into it as I can to stoke my passion.

You don't have to ask if someone's really passionate about something. It shows.

Passion is heart. Passion is genuine excitement.

Without passion, work is, well, work. It's a daily drudge, a grind that steals your energy instead of energizing you. You're just taking up space and you might as well not be there because you're not only robbing your boss of someone who could do the job better, but you're also robbing yourself.

I'm a walking proof of the old saying that if you love what you're doing you never work a day in your life.

Why would you possibly do something day after day, month after month, year after year that you're not passionate about? Why would you be in a job where you're always watching the clock instead of being lost in something you love?

If you don't love your career -- and you need to think of it as a career instead of just a job -- then don’t waste another minute deciding to do what you're going to do about it. That doesn't mean you quit on the spot. You should create a plan for success.

Just do it sooner than later. Much sooner.

Next month: Finding what makes you happy

Overcoming the safety of familiarity

- 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.

One of the things that I have struggled with in groups is shifting from my role as facilitator to observer/adviser.

A healthy part of the strategic planning process is transitioning slowly and maintaining a passive role in the development of a new board structure or processes in the event that support is needed, so that plan gets traction. This alleviates the fear of removing the support and relative safety of having a facilitator or objective third party in the room as a new structure is put in place, but it also prevents one of the most destructive influences in the strategic planning framework – backsliding.

When I am asked to work as a strategic planning consultant, it is generally to improve, refine, adapt, or create a plan that helps organizations transcend their current operational benchmarks. Generally, this includes discarding some practices that are obsolete or arcane, replacing them with strategies and tactical enhancements designed to optimize efficiency or productivity.


As I make the transition from facilitator to observer/adviser, there are behaviors that would be easy for organizations to fall back into if I simply departed following my role as the facilitator. Shared stresses brought on by a large workload, deadlines, or trying to generate new clients or workstreams are all triggers for a backslide. Pressure from existing clients or over-commitments are also potential areas of concern.

Cultural changes are hardest to enact, and these stresses make it safe to hide within the confines of the familiar, so all of the new behaviors created to implement the new plan are fragile and must be protected. How organizations do that must reflect a discipline they must be willing to administer with consistency.

In his book, True North, William George captures how one can work to prevent a relapse into past habits, referring to what Steve Jobs did to prevent the same type of backslide:

Jobs had a practice of looking in the mirror each morning and asking himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Whenever the answer was no for too many days in a row, he knew he needed a change. He said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. (George, p.191)

This is a truth not only from the standpoint of making sure the organization stays forward facing, but also plays into individual efforts in making sure that the new methods or changes wrought by the strategic planning process continue to take shape. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer made popular the belief that humans tend to act in accordance with their drive to satisfy their own motivations, which, in turn, influence the world in different ways.

Drawing back to our original thesis, there is a fragile point in the strategic planning process where the organization begins to adopt new practices and work toward assigning accountability, implementing tactics, and establishing metrics. If every member of the organization takes time to assess what they are doing in the context of how their own motivations and desires for success can support that of the greater whole, the positive influence will be widespread. Not only that, but as motivations and support mechanisms become more clear, the tendency to want to return to familiar practices will be outshined by the success rooted in following a new mission and vision framework.

I have found the most success as a consultant when I see groups that I've worked with start to exhibit confidence in using the plans we have developed together. This allows me to shift from facilitator to observer/adviser and watch the self-actualizing around a new set of systems and processes.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011


 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


For specialty retailers, Memorial Day weekend means … Christmas?

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of the Heart of Iowa Market Place in historic Valley Junction

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer for most people. If you're a specialty retailer, it should also signal the official start of your Christmas holiday season.

Don't start unpacking the holiday ornaments and stringing the lights.
Instead, you need to sit down with a pencil and paper -- or, better yet, your computer and spreadsheet -- and put together your flow chart of holiday season tasks and deadlines.

Now is the time to decide what you're going to do differently this year from last. That includes getting rid of promotions and products that didn't work, of course, but it should also include some fresh, new ideas.  Get excited. Think big. Try something that will make your customers say, "Wow" and add to the unique experience that comes when they walk through your front door.

Make sure to cover all the routine bases, too.

I'm reworking the Heart of Iowa Market Place catalog. We've always offered gift baskets during the holiday season, but we've found we need to expand our catalog distribution on a year-round basis and share a broader range of product offering with customers. That approach will give them a better idea of what we're all about well before the holiday rush.

I'll also be taking time to review our operation.

Did we have the right number of people -- and the right people -- at the right times? What's the theme and scope of our marketing effort to welcome our loyal customers back and attract new shoppers?

What products will we definitely need and can we lock them in now at a better price for delivery in November? What new products should we introduce? (Really take some time to make sure something is the right fit before going overboard on purchasing.)

Whether the product line is existing or new, what can be done to add value for the customer without adding costs? As a specialty retailer, your goal isn't to deliver the cheapest product; it's to deliver the best value to customers.

I love it when customers say, "Wow, you made things so easy." Ask yourself what you can do to make things easy for your customers and you'll keep them coming back.

If you get on top of your holiday shopping season preparations now, you'll have plenty of time to unpack those ornaments and string those lights when the time is right. You'll feel less stressed and deliver a better customer experience.

That's a wonderful holiday gift for your customers, staff and yourself -- all because you recognized that the Christmas planning season comes before the first sweet corn of summer ever reaches your table.

Is service at the tap of a finger going to rule the restaurant world?

Jessica Dunker is president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s my pizza?

A recent study from the National Restaurant Association revealed that more than a quarter of consumers would likely use a drone delivery service if their local restaurant offered the option. Forty percent of consumers ages 18 to 44 would be willing to try such “human-free” delivery while only 9 percent of those over age 65 were warm to the idea.

Seem like an absurd question to study in the first place? Not any more absurd than Uber testing “driverless” cars in Pittsburgh.

Consumer willingness to interact with technology, rather than people, for traditional customer service functions is increasing at a breakneck pace. Combine these changing attitudes with shortages in the labor pool, new wage and labor mandates, and razor thin restaurant industry margins, and suddenly investments in cutting edge tablet, kiosk, and even delivery technology don’t seem terribly far-fetched for many restaurant owners and operators.

As an example, tableside payment stations and devices, once novelties, have steadily gained consumer acceptance with 63 percent of those surveyed saying they would be willing to use such payment tools (up from 48 percent just last year). Similarly four in five consumers now say they would be willing to use self-service kiosks for ordering.

What is happening?

I would argue that as restaurant consumers we have already been “trained” to stand in line, place a food order, carry the meal to the table ourselves, fill and refill our drinks, and separate our trash from the dishes before clearing our places. It’s no great leap to think we’d be willing to key in our order and swipe a card for payment. In fact, a majority of consumers say that customer-facing technology increases convenience, speeds service and increases order accuracy. More than one-third of consumers go so far as to credit technology options as the reason they dine out, as well as order takeout and delivery more often than ever before.

I suddenly feel very old.

I will likely always fall on the side of wanting a real human being on the other side of the counter noting the fact that I "want my dressing on the side." And obviously, I believe strongly that there will always be a place for great full-service restaurants. But I think we all need to brace ourselves for fewer face-to-face, and more finger-to-screen, hospitality interactions than we ever imagined.

How the presidential election could impact your succession plans

John Mickelson, managing partner Midwest Growth Partners, is IowaBiz's blogger on succession planning. Read more about him here. Article also contributed to by MGP intern, Nolan Hellickson, a SE Polk alumni who is currently a wrestler and economics student at Harvard University.

The 2016 presidential election has been one for the ages, from boisterous personalities to outlandish scandals. Overlooked amid the hysteria surrounding the candidates is some of their policy plans, which could significantly affect succession plans for business owners.

For the purposes of this article, we will examine proposals from the two presumptive nominees, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton and Trump both propose changes to the capital gains tax rate. The capital gains tax applies to gains from the sale of capital assets, which include proceeds from selling a business.

To simplify the explanation below, we are making an assumption that the business owner is in the top income tax bracket, but this analysis can be scaled to other brackets as well.

The current policy in place is a two-tier system. Short-term capital gains (assets held for less than a year) are taxed at regular income rates, or 39.6 percent plus an additional 3.8 percent surtax from the Affordable Care Act, bringing the total to 43.4 percent. Long-term capital gains (assets held for over a year) are taxed at 23.8 percent, with the surtax included.

Clinton’s proposal lengthens the time period between the short and long-term rates, adds a 4 percent surtax for incomes over $5 million, and keeps the Affordable Care Act surtax of 3.8 percent. Her policy reclassifies short-term capital gains as gains on assets held for less than two years instead of one and taxes those at a total rate of 43.4 percent, with the surtax.

The tax decreases to 39.8 percent for assets held between two and three years, and follows with a decrease of 4 percent annually until after year six, when the rate matches today’s rates (23.8 percent) for incomes less than $5 million, or an additional 4 percent for incomes above.

Trump takes a different approach. His policy eliminates the Affordable Care Act surtax of 3.8 percent and reclassifies the highest income tax bracket to 25 percent. As a result, the short-term capital gains tax rate would be 25 percent and the long-term rate 20 percent. Trump keeps the existing one year designation to determine long-term vs. short-term.

Each candidate has social and economic rationale for why they believe their plan is best. The proposals are, of course, subject to Congressional approval.

Given the differing rates which could amount to significant differences in take-home cash from the sale of a business, it may make sense for business owners to work with their tax professional now and determine if the pending election should hasten their succession planning.

Candidate Capital Gains Tax Graph 


PCI compliance v3.2 - what's new

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

PCI Compliance Version 3.2

If you accept credit cards as part of your organization's operations, you should take note that the PCI Council recently released version 3.2 of the Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). There are quite a few changes and clarifications along with some new requirements. Before I cover what’s new with v3.2, let’s review who needs to be PCI compliant.

Who is required to be PCI compliant

If your business processes, stores or transmits any cardholder data, you must be PCI compliant. What this means is if you accept credit cards for payment via a website, telephone, in person, etc. you must comply. Even if you simply have the card numbers on file but don’t actually accept payments, you must comply. This is why the standard covers anyone who processes, stores or transmits cardholder data.

There are quite a few levels of compliance. In essence if you handle fewer than 6 million transactions annually you typically are able to self-certify using a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). There are different versions of the SAQ, which are used depending on how your organization handles credit card data.

Often organizations believe they have fully outsourced their payment processing and therefore have no internal PCI compliance requirements. This is absolutely false. There are still requirements you must meet and you should be completing a Self-Assessment Questionnaire to avoid penalties and taking on additional risk of financial liability from fraudulent charges. For those who do have responsibility to comply with PCI-DSS v3.2, here are some of the changes coming with the new version. 

The most impactful PCI Compliance updates

The biggest change is a new requirement that anyone with non-console administrative access to the cardholder data environment (CDE) must use multi-factor authentication.  The PCI Council definition of non-console administrative access is “Refers to logical access to a system component that occurs over a network interface rather than via a direct, physical connection to the system component. Non-console access includes access from within local/internal networks as well as access from external, or remote, networks.” This means even local domain or network administrators who are not sitting at the keyboard of the system they are administering must be authenticated via multiple factors. 

This is a very big change.  It will require most organizations to implement additional controls and possibly re-architect some of their infrastructure to allow this to occur. This becomes effective Feb. 1, 2018.

Another evolving requirement is that your change management process must address how any changes to the CDE will impact PCI requirements.  In the past, the change simply had to be addressed through the process. Now, an impact assessment must accompany this change.  For some changes this will be simple and easy to document. Others will require more detailed documentation. This should have been done in the past but it frequently was very informal. This will force the impact of these changes to be formally discussed and documented. This becomes a requirement on Feb. 1, 2018.

Many of the other changes are simple clarifications that either reinforce the existing requirements or provide additional flexibility in how the requirements can be met. The majority of these changes go into effect immediately as all assessments after Oct. 31, 2016 will use the v3.2 requirements. Compliance with PCI-DSS is becoming harder and harder. Organizations should expect additional information security and privacy legislation from the government as well as enhanced requirements from private sector groups.


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


Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO


The costs of the label game

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

Jane Elliott was a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Ia.  Following the assassination in 1968 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., prominent civil rights movement leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Elliott decided to teach her students about discrimination with a controversial experiment.

She segregated her students based on their eye color. The activity was designed to demonstrate the experience of being a member of a minority group. Beyond an appreciation for the experience of African Americans, the labeling activity held insightful lessons in how all people respond to how they are treated.

The experiment

In the first part of the exercise, Elliott assigned the role of “superior people” to the blue-eyed students giving them extra privileges such as a longer recess, special access to playground equipment, extra helpings at lunch, and full use of the water fountain. 

So that eye color could be quickly assessed from a distance, she had the brown-eyed students wear large, visible collars around their necks. To make the case that blue-eyed people were superior, she pointed out mistakes made by brown-eyed children as evidence of their inferiority and chastised them. She highlighted and celebrated achievements of the blue-eyed children as proof that they were smarter and better people. 

In the second part of the exercise she reversed the roles.  

The results

The students in each group responded to how they were treated. The “superior” students became bossy and treated the “inferior” group poorly. Their performance on tests and tasks improved significantly – beyond their previously demonstrated abilities. The “inferior” students became withdrawn and their performance on tests dropped. 

The performance effect was particularly stunning as it correlated directly to how the students were treated. The blue-eyed students, when labeled inferior, were retested on the same activity they performed the previous day when they had been labeled superior. Their performance dropped markedly. The performance of the brown-eyed students on the same task improved on the second day when their label changed from inferior to superior.

The changes were immediate and profound. Within a span of minutes, the environment created by the teacher transformed the behavior of the students. A viewing of the PBS Frontline documentary, A Class Divided, allows viewers to observe firsthand how these children responded to how they were treated. Everyone exposed to this experience, even viewers decades later, is impacted in a significant way. It is heartbreaking to watch previously confident and outgoing children isolate themselves on the school grounds after being labeled as inferior a short time earlier.

Her “blue-eyes/brown-eyes” exercise is credited for making Jane Elliott famous, earning her the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education and launching an impressive international public speaking and training career in diversity education. 

Back at home, the reach of the experiment extended beyond the classroom activity and had a substantial impact on how Elliott herself was treated by her peer group and many members of the community. Possibly because of the young age of the students involved in the activity, the exercise did not make her popular in Riceville – at least not in the short-term. After an appearance on the Tonight Show, teachers walked out of the teachers’ lounge when Elliott arrived.  Her daughter was taunted with hate messages in her junior high school. 

In the business world

Social media tagDoes an experiment involving children have any material insight for business professionals?

When organizations divide people into like groups, separate them from each other and attach labels to them, they are creating an environment not dissimilar from the environment Jane Elliott created for her students.

That is precisely what leaders do when they create functional areas within the business, designate work areas for various groups and assign department labels.

  • Those sales people…
  • Those engineers…
  • Those IT people…
  • Those executives…
  • Those administrative people…
  • Those accountants…

It is no surprise that people in departments treat other groups within the company as if they were competitors.  Name calling, stereotyping, self-promotion and denigrating others are just a few of the common behaviors that exist when the inevitable effect of The Label Game is allowed to flourish.

It isn’t easy. It makes business sense to have all the accountants working in a common area.  It makes sense to have all the sales people functioning together in a sales department. Creating a laboratory environment for researchers and technicians to collaborate closely together is a good business practice. Assigning call center staff to different areas around the organization would be inefficient and confusing. 

A caution for leaders

Because organizations employ people who are different from each other in numerous ways, virtually every organization is at risk. Leaders must be keenly attuned to the potential negative consequences of labeling in the workplace and work to ensure that they don’t contribute to the problem. Leaders are wise to look for and create opportunities for mutual respect across work groups and departments.

What the blue-eyes, brown-eyes experiment teaches us is labels matter. You tend to get what you expect. As leaders, if we expect people to be bored, sluggish and lazy, we will treat them that way and probably get that kind of behavior from them. If we expect them to be motivated, excited, and interested, we will treat them accordingly and probably find that they are excited and motivated.

While the research is mixed on whether or not Elliott’s experiment in discrimination reduces long-term prejudice, what is clear is that her experiment is conclusive in proving that people respond to how they are treated. A leader (in this case, a classroom teacher) entrusted with the care of others, is able to influence the behaviors of people interacting.

How can these insights inform how you lead?

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

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3 ways your small business can afford public relations

- Dawn Buzynski, executive director of Public Relations at Strategic America, writes this guest opinion on public relations.

I consistently find myself trying to educate clients on the necessity of public relations. Many don’t find it's necessary and small business owners often find it difficult to justify spending money on public relations in their already slim marketing budget. My response is this — you can’t afford NOT to have a public relations strategy.

Why public relations is important
Very simply, public relations is building trust. Public relations is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the public (customers, groups, businesses) that you depend on for your success. Like any mutually beneficial relationship, you need to nurture it.  One of the challenges of small business marketing is that the CEO/owner wears many hats. Of all the responsibilities weighing on them, public relations tends to be the one that gets ignored. This is where having a public relations agency is valuable.

Right size your public relations budget
Many believe PR is just too expensive. The truth is public relations is very scalable. The important thing is that your PR objectives are realistic with what you are comfortable spending, and that they align with your business goals. You don’t have to break the bank to make an impact. In fact, here are three strategies that can have big impact with minimal investment.

Social media and storytelling
News flash – social media is free. Mostly. What it does take is time. If you are going to spend the time, make sure you have a defined strategy will measurable goals and realistic expectations. With that strategy, develop content for at least six months starting out. You should be posting content to Facebook and microsites daily. Blogs should have a new post each week. Then you need to watch the engagement and authentically talk to those who post on your wall. Engagement drives shares, which extends your reach. As I said, it takes time, but the payoff is huge.

Community involvement
Corporate Social Responsibility is one of those overused terms, but when you truly embrace the spirit of charitable giving, CSR is a strong public relations strategy. So with that in mind, reach out within your local community and engage a nonprofit or charitable organization. With this type of PR strategy, it is important that the partnership be authentic, so do your homework and choose an organization that aligns with your business values and principles.
As an example, last spring Strategic America recently celebrated our 35th anniversary. To commemorate the event, the entire agency spent the day packaging 35,000 meals for Meals from the Heartland. Although the purpose was not to gain media attention, we sent out a release with photos to Central Iowa media and received good coverage, including a feature interview on a local morning show.

Employee engagement
Your employees are your best advocates. Word of mouth is still the most credible advertising there is. So let them be your brand voice. Make sure you involve them in your marketing and PR initiatives, and listen to their ideas. Think win-win.

Whether you’re just launching your small business or you want to expand into new markets, public relations is a purposeful strategy in your business plan that should not be left out of the budget.

Dawn Buzynski leads the award-winning public relations team at Strategic America. Dawn is an accredited public relations practitioner (APR) with nearly 15 years of experience in public relations and marketing. Previous to joining Strategic America, Dawn spent seven years focused on B2B public relations for industrial clients. She is former president of the Iowa chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. A graduate of Iowa State University, she lives in West Des Moines with her husband and two daughters.


When LLC owners are personally liable

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

Entrepreneurs and business owners often elect to create a formal business entity, such as a limited liability company ("LLC"), to shield themselves from personal liability.  In other words, they create such an entity to ensure that if an adverse court judgment is entered in relation to the business' activities (e.g. breach of contract; slip & fall; infringement, etc.), the judgment is solely collectible against the LLC and not against the individual owner(s) in their personal capacity.  

A recent Iowa Court of Appeals case illustrates that limited liability is not an "automatic" benefit conferred upon business owners when creating an LLC. Specifically, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined that while business owners may set up a new entity (e.g. LLC), creation alone is not the only factor a court will assess when determining whether a business owner may be personally liable. In rendering its opinion, the Court identified six different factors a court may consider when determining whether to hold a business owner in an LLC personally liable: 

Factors that would support such a finding include [whether] (1) the corporation is undercapitalized; (2) it lacks separate books; (3) its finances are not kept separate from individual finances, or individual obligations are paid by the corporation; (4) the corporation is used to promote fraud or illegality; (5) corporate formalities are not followed; and (6) the corporation is a mere sham.

Keith Smith Co. v. Bushman, 873 N.W.2d 776 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015)

While no one factor is determinative, these factors illustrate various characteristics an Iowa court will consider in determining whether to "pierce the corporate veil" and hold a business owner personally liable. The Bushman case is yet another important reminder that while formally establishing an LLC is a great first step in seeking limited liability, it is not the only step.

To learn more about piercing the corporate veil and personal liability protections afforded under Iowa law, consider contacting a licensed attorney and see the business law articles linked below:

(1)  As an Owner, am I Liable for the Debts of my Iowa Limited Liability Company?

(2)  Holding A Corporation's Owners Personally Liable - Piercing the Corporate Veil in an Iowa Corporation.

(3)  Are Shareholders in Small Family Businesses Personally Liable for Business Debts and Liabilities? 


Scratch good employees' itch to keep them

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place in historic Valley Junction.

I wrote last month about the seven-year itch as it affects specialty retailers.

It happens when you start thinking there's something else you could or should be doing. Business owners seem to be prone to it when things are too volatile or going too smoothly. (What other options are there, really?)

Sometimes it’s seven years, sometimes it’s shorter or longer, but eventually it's going to hit. When it does, the itch can sap energy, excitement, motivation and satisfaction from the best of us.

As employers, we need to recognize that we're not the only ones who can get the itch. In fact, it usually hits employees much sooner than it does someone who is heavily invested in their own business.

Some employers think that's a good thing because it gets complacent staff and below-average performers to move along. I don't feel that way because I don't want and won't keep that sort of employee around in the first place.

The only way for a small, specialty retailer to succeed is by having top performers.

And that's when the itch becomes a real challenge.

When top-notch people decide to move on to another job, you know they're going to find something new in no time. As an employer, you don't want lose top performers. The best way to prevent that loss is to scratch the itch even before it's there.

I do that by remembering how crucial excellent employees are to the success of a business. My goal is to always treat employees as team members with unique skills and traits that contribute to our success.

Looking at new opportunities you can give your employees -- especially ones that fit their unique skills and traits -- helps to keep them from getting bored.

Delegating more responsibility to certain trained employees is important for two reasons. It takes some responsibilities off your shoulders so that you can do what you do best and it empowers them. Remember that the next time you think you don't have time to teach your employees new responsibilities.

It can be especially hard in small retail stores to find more things for your employees to do. As a result, they might fall into a routine and start to feel that itch.

The remedy: Talk to them and figure out not only what they like to do but what they would like to do. You just might find a hidden talent as I did with an employee who is very good at reorganizing the store layout and window points. (And think of all the time that skill set saves you.)

Finally, it's important not to get hung up on a job description.

Your employees shouldn’t be limited to the exact detail of the job description. If they mention that they are interested in certain areas, train them in those areas.

Validate their opinions and good ideas.

Engage them in everyday decision making while maintaining a smart employer-employee relationship. That involvement is important so they don't leave you for someone who is perceived to value their input more.

Scratch your employees' itches before they hit and everybody will feel better and achieve more together.

Soft side considerations for selling a business

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

Last week we discussed non-obvious criteria that buyers use to value a business and that sellers should consider.

Beyond dollars and cents, there are also less-obvious issues sellers should consider before they make the decision to sell (hopefully voluntarily and not a forced sale).

Midwest Growth Partners recommends discussing these issues with a team of advisers which could include close family (both in and out of the business), attorneys, accountants, clergy, financial intermediaries, and financial advisers to name a few.

Here are a few of the important ones.

  1. What do you want the business legacy to be? Are you OK with the company asset being absorbed into another entity and the company as-is going away? Do you want the name and likeness to continue?
  2. How much operational involvement (if any) do you want in the future of the company? Are you wanting to move to your vacation home immediately after close or would you still enjoy working part-time or as a consultant?
  3. How much financial involvement (if any) do you want in the future of the company? Are you OK selling 100 percent of the company today and missing out on potential future gains? Are you comfortable not selling 100 percent or financing the purchase, but not being in control operationally?
  4. Do you have key employees (or all of them) that you want specific financial or contractual protections for?
  5. What will you have to replace personally if you are no longer involved with the business? Health insurance? Car? Assistant? Disability insurance? Memberships?
  6. Have you thought about what you will do with your time? Has your spouse thought about this?
  7. Have you thought about what you will do with your financial windfall? Have you done estate planning?

There are no right answers to any of these questions, but many times they can be as important if not more than the financial considerations in a transaction. 

3 ways to boost your confidence

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

Background - Goldfinch in Tree - confidenceWhat makes one person's confidence inspiring and another's so off-putting? Should we 'fake it till we make it' or is that disingenuous? How do you exude confidence but not arrogance?

For the past few months, the professional women of the ASPIRE Success Club and I have addressed these and other questions, and the discussion has been nothing less than profound. Confidence is one of those vague, hard-to-measure life areas, yet critical to our success both personally and professionally. How can one succeed without a baseline of confidence?

Although quantifying confidence is tricky, building it up does not have to be. Here are three starting points to enhance your confidence in work, leadership, and life:

1. Take Action.

Spinning in mental circles chips away at our confidence more than just about anything else. As Katty Kaye and Claire Shipman emphasize in their excellent book, The Confidence Code, "Action separates the timid from the bold."

In some instances, your action doesn't even need to be related to the area you're questioning. For instance, have you ever stared at a computer screen for hours trying to figure something out, then the answer instantly comes to you once you go for a walk or hop in the shower? Take an action and let the momentum grow your confidence.

2. Upgrade Your Self-Talk.

Before you skim over this suggestion, watch this 2-minute video by Dove. We have a constant internal dialogue looping through our minds, often without our conscious awareness; this video shows what it's like to hear those things aloud. Commit to fueling your mind with confident, healthy, positive thoughts and let the unhelpful, negative, disheartening ones go.

3. Replace "Compare" With "Learn From."

One of my favorite quotes speaks directly to this suggestion: "Confidence isn't walking into a room thinking you're better than everyone. It's walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone at all." Rather than comparing yourself to others and feeling "less than," ask yourself a few questions: What does my reaction tell me about myself? What action could I take to grow in this area? What can I learn from his/her experience that will help me in my own development? What's the lesson here? 

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE: Which of the above three suggestions would benefit you the most? A word of caution: It might be one that you initially dismissed; after all, we tend to resist what we most need to learn.

Choose one this week and focus on it intently. For example, if you choose #3, notice when you find comparison creeping into your internal dialogue. It might be while in a meeting, listening to a speaker, or scanning your Facebook feed. Notice it, acknowledge it, then ask yourself what action you will take to boost your confidence.

Please, do this without any self-judgment. No worrying about past instances or "shoulds" - just focus on growing your confidence with meaning and purpose from this day forward.

One final thought: Consider why enhancing your confidence is important. What's the purpose behind your confidence-boosting actions? For some, it might be to serve as a role model for your team or your children. For others, it might be to save time currently spent in overthinking or comparing. Let your purpose drive your meaningful actions, and let your confidence radiate out and inspire the rest of us! 

What boosts your confidence? Share your thoughts, tips, and ideas below.

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

How brands can capitalize on new Facebook reactions

- By Katie Patterson, Founder and CEO of Happy Medium

It’s been just over two months since Facebook altered its platform beyond the traditional thumbs up “Like” option to now include an array of emotions via emoticons on posts: Like, Love, Haha (Laughter), Angry, Wow and Sad. This shift allowed for users to react more appropriately to content rather than just being allowed to “Like” a post or comment if they wanted to share more thoughts, but the introduction had many brands wondering how this will impact social strategy.

In this short time, the reviews have largely been positive from in-house social departments and agencies alike. The new reactions allow the opportunity to understand an audience even more and tailor content for heightened engagement.

In particular, companies should pay close attention to the “Love” reactions because it might lend some insight to where you should dedicate a full ongoing campaign rather than just a post here and there. It also could lend insight into potential social media advocates for your brand if you have repeat “Love” reactions from particular users that start to stand out. These individuals could serve a greater purpose for getting your message out to the masses as they’re proven fans of your service or message.

Initially there was a lot of fear of the “Angry” reaction but fret not. As stated in my previous blogs, social media is a great opportunity to extend your customer service. If something is off or falling short, make sure to engage with your audience to show concern and offer a solution to the issue. Your fans will see that your brand cares about their experience and will have more confidence moving forward with your business or organization.

Facebook recently introduced the “Thankful” reaction in some markets for Mother’s Day which includes a flower animation across your screen when selecting. They have cited this will only be available temporarily, but it opens the door for future reaction appearances as Facebook finds interest.  

From an analytics standpoint, all reactions are currently weighted equally so your strategist will need to dig a little deeper to research trends on your page rather than having it easily pulled from insights reports as “Likes” have been tallied previously, but the time investment could be worth it to catapult future campaigns to success.

Discussion among social media experts and pros include hopes that Facebook will allow for specific targeting based on reactions in the future. For example, if a politician posted details on an issue they were hoping to change, they could then target everyone who responded with “Angry” with a call to action such as signing a petition, showing up for an event or even writing other political leaders in hopes of change. Facebook isn’t there yet, but the future could present amazing opportunities for brands in this realm.

Stay tuned to see what other changes come about and how you can best utilize them for your own business or cause.

It's ok to ask


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."

I’ve made a general observation concerning millennials – at least one within my limited context. Young people seem less inclined today to ask for help or assistance related to either professional or personal needs. Twenty-five years ago, many of my college-aged students frequently asked for help. Many have stayed in contact with me over the years, still needing occasional tips or advice. But despite offering this to every class or workshop I’ve ever taught, students – or even the young professionals I work with now – rarely take me up on it.

When having coffee recently with a group of “seasoned” friends and colleagues (seasoned being defined as someone old enough to have gained enough life and professional experience to have learned some lessons along the way), I jokingly shared this observation with the group, thinking that millennials just didn’t want my help. To my surprise, everyone in the group agreed with my general observation and shared similar stories and experiences.

Assuming there’s some validity to this, the next obvious question is “Why?” When I was young I frequently asked for help.

For example, in 1976, I read an issue of Popular Electronics that featured some basic plans on how to build your own computer based on a new RCA microprocessor. At the time, there was no such thing as a personal computer. So the prospect of building my own computer didn’t just excite me, it energized my seventh-grade mind. I used money I had saved to buy many of the parts from Radio Shack, but I had two very large problems: not enough money to purchase the expensive microprocessor and a very limited knowledge of electronics.

What I did have was a neighbor, Bill, who was an electronics technician. I then did what any passionate kid my age would have done. I asked (or more accurately nagged) Bill for his help – something he graciously gave me. Bill even used his connections to secure some free samples of the microprocessor and other components. I learned a lot from Bill. And of course after I constructed the computer, I then wanted something bigger and better. Despite being a busy man, Bill was always there to help. He was my first mentor.

While in high school, I took the knowledge I gained from Bill’s assistance and knocked on the door at Archives, Inc., Iowa’s only computer manufacturer. I asked (nagged) the CEO, Hal, for an internship so I could learn even more. I then spent a couple of years working as a paid intern in the R&D department working with the lead design engineer, Bob. He not only taught me about Archives’ systems, he often helped me on my personal computer project, which by that time had gotten pretty complicated for the limited knowledge of a 17-year-old.

This pattern of asking for help and guidance has persisted throughout my life and throughout the lives of most of my colleagues and friends from my generation. We’ve all had numerous mentors over the years who, when asked, have graciously provided their precious time to help when needed – help that often had a direct impact in developing our thinking and problem-solving skills.

But now that we’re at the point where our age and corresponding knowledge and experience are ripe for helping others, few seem to be asking. Now, I’m not saying my friends and I have all of the answers­ – although our experience has taught us a few lessons – but something has changed. We want to give back by sharing the wisdom we’ve gained over the years, but few millennials ask for it.

I know young people are busy. Social lives, social media, families, and working a variety of jobs all take their toll. With a continuous influx of new books dealing with the phenomenon of “busy” like Smarter Faster Better and Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Living, it’s apparent that people can still perhaps use a bit of advice, or better yet, some personal support from a mentor now and then.

Why is having a mentor so important?

First, we shouldn’t have to learn everything through personal experience or direct observation. Life is and should be a collaborative experience. It shouldn’t be scary and overwhelming, especially since we’re all surrounded by the cumulative experience and learning of people who have already “been there…done that.” Mentors can help us deal with frustration, give constructive criticism, deal with disappointment, and celebrate success.

Second, we all need people we can confide in. True mentor-based relationships are built on trust and meaningful commitment because most mentors are truly there to help, and they take pride in seeing us succeed. Each relationship should be honest, confidential, flexible, and one that strives for mutually defined outcomes.

Mentors want to be mentors. As Lori Greiner from ABC’s Shark Tank said in a recent interview, “I’m paying it forward. I believe in karma. I think it’s important [to mentor others], and I enjoy it. I feel like I’m doing the right thing.”1

Find at least one good mentor - someone you believe has the knowledge and experience you can learn from along with the personal character you hope people see in you. The worst that can happen is they say no, but like Greiner also said, “People are flattered by being looked up to and asked for advice.”

You just have to ask.

©2016  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



1 Shark Tank's Lori Greiner on the Importance of Mentorship (April 10, 2015) Retrieved April 10, 2016, from the Entrepreneur website:

The coin toss that wasn't

- Cory W. Sharp is an intern architect at FEH Design in Des Moines and the current president of the Young Professionals Connection

Bizrec1"Why are you here?" someone asked me the other day. "Not just as the Business Record's newest blogger covering young professional topics but as a young person living in Des Moines? Didn't you think of going somewhere else?"

It was a good question -- one that I considered a coin toss as I was approaching graduation with an architecture degree from Iowa State and I tried to decide between Des Moines and Denver.

I love Denver for a lot of reasons. I love its weather where the summers are warm but you can still go snowboarding in the mountains. I love the vibrant arts and cultural scene, the polar bears at the Denver Zoo, advanced public transportation system, its variety of restaurants (including lots of great taco places) and that you can be your own person but it's not too far from home.

But "home" is a powerful word.

There's no getting over the fact Des Moines is home.  But would it be worth staying home if home limited my options? Fortunately, as Des Moines has changed over the past decade, that's not a trade-off I had to make.

I'm here because Des Moines has so much to offer; I'm not the only young professional to figure that out, of course. Just look at the boom in downtown residential living, our own growing variety of restaurants, arts and cultural options -- to name just a few trends -- to get your answer. But, growing up in Des Moines when there wasn't always all that much to do, those changes have only made me love our city even more as time has gone by.

I'm also here because of the influence my parents and other mentors have had on my professional life. (My dad is a principal at FEH Design, the architectural and engineering firm where I am an associate. My mom owns the Heart of Iowa Market Place in historic Valley Junction.)

One piece of advice they've given me over the years is that you only get out of something what you put into it. I've seen them put plenty of hard work, hours, brainpower and, maybe most importantly, passion, into their careers and community involvement. They've also invested a lot of energy and emotion into our family, too. That's what makes it all work so well at home, too.

Because of their advice -- and help from others -- I got involved in community activities like the Young Professionals Connection even while I was still in college. That involvement has taken me through various leadership roles in the YPC, where I'm serving as president this year.

Those connections have made living and working in Des Moines all the better.

I'm looking forward to writing in the months ahead about a range of topics important to young professionals and, as a result, important to their employers. From how to find your passion and how to be a great employee to getting your voice heard, giving back to the community and more, I've always benefited from great guidance from my parents and mentors, so I look forward to sharing their perspectives and more with others.

And, I'm glad I knew in my heart that I didn't need to leave my future to a coin toss.


Email Cory at: 



Asking the right questions

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

Suppose you set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to fulfill a five-year pledge you made to a capital campaign for your church; or to construct the Botanical Center’s outdoor gardens; or to build the University of Iowa’s new Children’s Hospital. In each case it would be something of enduring value – something that will benefit future generations. During these five years, your gift happens automatically each month, and each year, without having to be re-evaluated against other wants and needs in your household budget.

Now imagine it is five years later, and you have just received a notice in the mail asking you to sign and return a form for a five-year renewal. Would you just go ahead and sign it and send it back, or would you ask some questions first?

For example, would you ask:

(1) What has been accomplished with the original funds? Is the project completed?

(2) What is the remaining need, or what is the new need going forward?

(3) Does this cause remain the top priority that it has been before, given the things that have changed in your family over the past five years? What if you now have to pay for long-term care for a family member, for instance?

Most of us would ask the questions before renewing a major commitment. However, in the world of public policy, these questions are too often not asked. Renewal is assumed. Best example: K-12 school infrastructure funding.

For all the value there was in kicking off a conversation about water quality funding, the proposal to extend the sales tax after 2029 and use a tiny share of it for water quality improvement meant there was never a discussion of whether the sales tax for school infrastructure even needed to be renewed.

The discussion went straight to “us” versus “them;” education versus environment; the idea that it is somehow wrong to even dare to propose any change. But the questions need to be asked and the discussion needs to be had. It’s a huge amount of money, and its renewal deserves deliberate, thoughtful consideration.

First some background. In 2008 the Iowa Legislature dedicated a full one-cent increase in the sales tax to fund K-12 school infrastructure needs for 20 years, through 2029(1).

This amounts to about $440 million per year – which is HUGE in the overall scheme of things: large enough that in any given year it could build the equivalent of at least five metro nitrate treatment plants; four brand new metro-scale hospitals; at least ten Iowa Supreme Court buildings; or renovate the State Historical Building as proposed five times over.

Just seven years in, the impact has already been substantial. Looking around the metro area, it’s amazing to see the transformation that has taken place over the past several years.

The Des Moines Schools Central Academy building at Grand and Fleur was once an eyesore, but now is gleaming and beautiful. Des Moines elementary schools, some of which are over 100 years old, look better now than they have in my 60-year lifetime.

In the West Des Moines district, every school has been updated to current code; its high school has been substantially upgraded and expanded, and the Valley High School Staplin Performing Arts Center is a new $15 million, 1,200-seat state-of-the art facility that any metropolitan city, let alone a school district, would be proud to call its own. Iowa students are very fortunate, and I am so pleased that our generation has stepped up to make it happen.

If all of this has been accomplished in just seven years (albeit using future revenue in many cases), it’s exciting to imagine what might yet be done in the next 13 years. But what will be left to do after that, in the following 20 years? What will remain to be done, so early in the remaining design life of the recently built or restored buildings? Might a 20-year $10 billion program be enough to sustain at least several generations of schoolchildren before a program of such substantial size is needed again?

Our organization held a program at the Staplin Performing Arts Center and the audience was surprised to learn about how education funds are so “siloed.” West Des Moines needed to make budget cuts at the same time it was opening the new performing arts center. As this legislative session ends, more districts are looking at cuts in their operating budgets. Maybe there is a better way to reallocate resources within the education system. Or imagine directing these funds to other goals within education. For example, what if we decided to do whatever it takes to get every third grader reading at grade level? Don’t we want to opportunity to think about such possibilities in 2029?

Over 20 years, needs do change. Since the school infrastructure program was enacted, the State has expanded the Medicaid program to assure 100,000 more Iowans have access to health care. It is 90 percent funded by the federal government now, but that share will decline and the state share will grow. This will place a tremendous strain on resources in the future.

If the stock market experiences another downturn, pension costs will explode. It hard to imagine what the pressures for funding might be by 2029.

Or think about the far future, 2049, the final year of the proposed extension. Are we being presumptuous to think that we know better how to spend half a billion dollars per year in 2049 than will the generation of decision makers of the day? My 6-year-old granddaughter will be 39 years old by then, and may wish to make her own choices.

While it may be disappointing that funding for water quality improvements was not identified this year, it does provide an opportunity to ask the right questions and make a conscious decision before extending the largest targeted spending program in the State's history.

(1) One might wonder why the tax needs to be extended now, since it’s only 2016 and it runs through 2029. This is because school districts like to borrow money up front, and then repay the bonds with their annual share of the sales tax over a future period longer than the 14 years that are now left.


SOCIAL STYLES Conclusion: Moving forward!

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

In a series of blog posts this month, I've introduced the SOCIAL STYLE ® methodology for identifying four interaction styles of most workers. They are: 

Today I will summarize and help you and your team gain higher versatility. 


SOCIAL STYLE is the world’s leading behavioral style model. It has been used by thousands of organizations to improve leadership performance and sales results. Each of the four Social Styles have positive and negative characteristics when working with others, but research shows that people of any Social Style can be successful in any profession.

If someone’s Social Style is not inherently good or bad, what is the point of studying these behavioral preferences? Understanding Style allows you to identify the preferences of others and modify your behavior to make others more comfortable. This is known as versatility, and it is strongly linked to career and business success.

In this series I focused on what type of fuel each Style needs to be successful. The more we understand the fuel of those around us, the more proactive we can be in meeting their needs, developing a productive relationship and, most importantly, getting results.

What fuels each Style?

  • Driving Style people are fueled by getting results. They are assertive, independent and focused, but can be seen as cold and impatient. These are the members of your team who are focused on getting things done.

  • Expressive Style people are fueled by attention and approval. They are relational, enthusiastic, and creative but may not manage their emotions appropriately. These are the members of your team who get others excited about what's happening.

  • Amiable Style people are fueled by stability and security. They are relational, supportive and adaptable, but may not speak up or share their feelings if they perceive they will create conflict or won't be well received. These are the members of your team who will bend over backwards to make sure everything is OK and have a bad habit of putting others' needs ahead of their own.

  • Analytical Style people are fueled by making the right decision. They are logical, organized and detailed, but can be indecisive if they don't feel they have enough information. These members of your team will cross t's, dot i's, and make you think about things you never thought of.

Each Style has positive characteristics that make them valuable to your team, while also having negative characteristics that can make them challenging to work with. SOCIAL STYLE is all about understanding others' Style, making an effort to fuel others correctly,and getting desired results together. 

Achieving High Versatility

Versatility is our ability to adapt to people and situations as needed. If we have low versatility, we expect others to adapt to us. When we have high versatility, we recognize the value in meeting people where they are and working together to get results.

I am an Expressive Style which means I'm assertive and emotional. I'm fast-paced, creative, and relational, but can become frustrated when things aren't moving at the pace I want or I don't feel my ideas are being considered or respected.

I achieve versatility when I am able to get out of my own way and adapt to the Styles of others and fuel them properly. When I work with people who have a Driving Style I am less "fluffy" and more direct. When I work with others who have an Expressive Style, I am creative with them, but I try to be more detailed and logical. When I work with people who are Amiable, I try to be more steady and compassionate while making them feel like they can do anything. When I worked with people who have an Analytical Style, I know I need to be more thoughtful and organized and they are likely going to ask me questions about things I either don't find important or I haven't thought of.

Low versatility is becoming annoyed with others for whatever reason and allowing that to affect the level of trust and respect we have for them, ultimately impacting how we work together. High versatility is understanding people are different, appreciating what everyone brings to the table and fueling them properly because we know that is the best way to achieve results and achieve success skills mastery.

Things to think about:

  • Are you owning your Style? (the good, bad and ugly)
  • Are you fueling the people around you properly? (if not, don't get mad when their performance suffers)
  • What do you need to do to achieve high versatility? (It is a choice to be made.)
  • What if your whole team achieved high versatility? (That is leadership.)

I've been fortunate to work with hundreds of leaders across the United States. There is a difference between people who strive to achieve high versatility and those who expect others to adapt to them because of their ego or position. As you might imagine, their results are quite a bit different too. Commit to high versatility.


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Feeling overwhelmed? Try letting go

Peace begins when expectations end 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.

Just let go! The advice sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Your mind may be screaming back, “Oh, no! How can I possibly let go? There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all. I can’t let go! What if I miss a deadline? What if the kids don’t get dinner? What if the laundry is not done? What if? What if? What if?”

Yet research clearly shows us that if things are piling up and we are feeling overwhelmed, the precise prescription to feel better is to walk away for a bit. Or better yet, take a day off. You will return with a renewed attitude and uplifted spirits. By letting go, if only for a few minutes, you will also be able to think more clearly and be more productive when you return to your projects.

Another way to remove yourself from the feeling of being overwhelmed is to take an honest look at the expectations you have of yourself and others. Decide which expectations are inconsequential and then let them go.

Are you a perfectionist? I was too and it was literally killing me. Through a series of unpleasant events I got the message that not everything I am doing has equal weight. My business projects need to be a priority and need to be done very well. I hold myself to high standards for those. But other things in my life are simply not as important.

We humans think in patterns and love to categorize. To help me sift and sort the importance of each task and project, I created a little mantra for myself: “How Good is Good Enough?”

When I begin to work on something I quietly ask myself, “How good IS good enough?” This simple question allows me to choose how much time and energy needs to be put into the task at hand. Or if I will do it at all. My mantra also creates a huge sense of freedom as I let go of unrealistic expectations. The weight of feeling overwhelmed is lifted from my shoulders when I determine how good “good enough” really needs to be. Then I simply let go of the rest of the expectation.

Let’s try this out. Does it really matter if there are dirty dishes in my kitchen sink? How good is good enough? Since the morning is my most productive time, is it good enough to leave the dirty dishes in the sink right now and to spend my time writing instead. Really, will anyone die if there are dirty dishes in the sink? I release the expectation that in order to be a good person my kitchen sink has to always be clear of dirty dishes. (Where did that unconscious programmed belief even come from? How preposterous!) And then I say to myself, “No one is going to die because there are dirty dishes in the sink. Who cares? Let that go!” Then I take a deep breath and walk away from the dishes. The beauty is that this entire conversation with myself happens in a split second. My choices about where to spend my time and energy all come from asking “How good IS good enough?”

Now you try it. Will anyone die because the shoes by the doorway are in disarray? How good is good enough? Will anyone die because you chose not to look at your email on Sunday afternoon and to focus on family time instead? How good IS good enough? The mantra is a great stress reduction and work-life balance strategy.

In my garden greenhouse I have a rock that has a saying etched on it, “Peace begins when expectations end.” When I figure out which expectations I can put an end to and then release them, I sink into the most delicious feeling of peace and serenity. This is what balance feels like. Feeling overwhelmed is a thing of the past. At those moments I welcome the ease. Everything feels right with the world. My intention is to let go, release expectations and to create more of these Zen moments in my life. Ahhhhh!

SOCIAL STYLE #4: Analytical Style

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

Think about your employees as though they were a fleet of luxury cars, each of which require different kinds of fuel or power to achieve top performance. That is how I introduced SOCIAL STYLE ® in my first post in this series, which outlines the four different Styles of people that make up your workforce.

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

In part two, I tell you how best to work with people who have a Driving Style.

In part three, I wrote about working people who have an Expressive Style.

In part four, I discussed people who have an Amiable Style.

Today our focus will be on people who have an Analytical Style.

How do you know if people have an Analytical Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong 50 percent of the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at If your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

Style is determined by how we say and do things. This is called our "observable behavior" and it's based on our assertiveness (how assertive or passive we are) and our responsiveness (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with an Analytical Style are less assertive and emotionally controlled. This means they are more passive when they want something and they tend to respond to things with logic and little to no emotion. They are organized, detailed, and value processes. 

Who do you work with that might be an Analytical Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

Of all the Styles, people with an Analytical Style are the ones who will cross t's, dot i's, ask questions and obsess over details to ensure the best decision is made. They are the ones who will poke holes in your master plan and make you think about things you never considered. 

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with an Analytical Style are fueled by making the right decision. Analytical Style people get a bad wrap for being challenging and difficult because they ask a lot of questions, poke holes in ideas and need to think about things. They are not trying to be difficult. They are fulfilling their need by ensuring they are making the best decision possible. Rushing them or expecting them to make a decision with little information is like siphoning gas out of their tank. They won't move. 

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

People with an Analytical Style prefer to be logical and thoughtful with how they do things and they make decisions in that same spirit. What does being thoughtful mean? This means they prefer to learn more, ask questions, process, analyze, organize and make sense of things with the sole purpose of greater understanding so the right decision can be made with the littlest risk.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

People with an Analytical Style try to make everything black and white, but you and I both know the world is not always black and white. Most of the time it's gray, blurry and ambiguous. They are not always going have all the information they want. The Analytical Style's opportunity for growth is to be more decisive. When they don't have enough information they can get caught in paralysis by analysis and stall whatever progress is being made. Sometimes we have to make a decision with what the information we have and move forward.  

What stresses them out?

Tension rises when they are rushed or forced to make a decision without all the information. This can happen when working with a Driving Style who is impatient or an Expressive Style who is too "fluffy" and hasn't thought through all the details. 

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

When tension gets too high, people with an Analytical Style will check out and can become passive aggressive. At some point they may stop trying to convince us to be more thoughtful and may just watch us crash and burn if we aren't willing to value their opinions. 

How can you work with them to maximize results?

First and foremost we have to value what they bring to the table. They keep us out of trouble. As an Expressive Style I am visionary, creative and get excited about things. I don't always like it, but I expect people with an Analytical Style to ask me questions and challenge me to think about things I haven't considered. Knowing what gives them security I have had to change my expectations from creating urgency to respecting their process. If I need to work with someone with an Analytical Style my top two questions for them are: "What other information can I provide?" and "What else do you need?"

The last post of this series is later this week. In it, I will bring everything together with a summary of the previous five parts and end with the concept of achieving higher versatility.


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Service: The differentiator

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

When it comes to differentiating your business in the minds of customers, there are three core opportunities. Branding and marketing may get customers to give you a try, but the best branding in the world does not ensure long-term success unless you consistently deliver something tangible to those customers that differentiates you from your competitors.

In general, you can compete on price, you can compete on product quality, or you can compete on service. In my career I've learned that the greatest opportunity to leverage service as a key differentiator lies in markets and industries that no one considers "service" industries.

Almost a quarter century ago my colleagues and I began working with a little known manufacturing company here in the Midwest. The company manufactures small components, often costing a fraction of a penny, that most people don't know exist. These little components are, however, used in everything electronic. When we began working with them there was growing global competition for the small-price/high-volume materials.

The founder of the company was a shrewd businessman. He knew that trying to be the lowest price provider in his market was a path to limited profitability. He realized that product quality would only get him so far in a market that often demanded material that was "good enough" for their applications.

And so, in a market rampant with poor customer service and crusty, hard-nosed B2B communication, the businessman decided he had an opportunity. He invested in providing service that no one in the industry could match. He constantly measured what his customers expected, then defined and delivered a service experience that exceeded customer expectations. At the same time, he consistently maintained slightly higher prices.

The cultural change required to provide great customer service was fraught with obstacles both internal and external. It took time, but the company slowly changed the way it communicated with customers, distributors and outside sales.

Our customer surveys over the years consistently revealed two things. First, customers were never happy with the company's higher prices. It was always their biggest complaint. Second, customer satisfaction with service was extremely high and measurably higher than any competitor.

During economic downturns customers took their business to Asia because the prices were lower, but time and time again the customers returned within months because they learned that it was worth paying a little more for a better service experience. This company picked up the phone, responded to email, communicated with courtesy, and provided a service experience that the competition couldn't match. They continue to successfully do it to this day.

Customer service is often compartmentalized in our minds to those businesses tapped as "service" or "hospitality" industries. The truth, however, is that customer service has the greatest potential to make a profitable difference in industries where it is least expected.

Why people give you referrals

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

The first step to increasing referrals is knowing why your clients refer you to their friends and family. You may want more referrals because they increase contracts/sales and — quite frankly — make you feel good. But customers care little about making you money.

People refer friends and family for many reasons (e.g. reciprocity, social status, obligation, homophily, exclusivity). Yet the biggest motivator is rather simple:

They want to help someone they care about.

Some businesses position referrals as something that’s rewarded for providing great service. That they have essentially ‘earned’ a referral by providing excellent service. This approach, however, is inherently self-centered because it’s asking “how can you help me” rather than “how can I further help you (and your friends)”. Frame the discussion around how you’re eager to help their friends and family; and that a referral will afford you this opportunity.

“I’d love to provide great service to your loved ones” rather than “I hope I’ve earned a referral.”

Asking for referrals flat out is rarely effective. You should let them blossom on their own by creating an environment where they will flourish. This begins early by planting a referral mindset in the minds of your clients. Using language that conveys the significance of referrals for your agency subtly, yet consistently, will ensure that you’re referred when the time is right.

For example, during the onboarding of a new client send an introductory email that mentions how important referrals are to your business. Not because they result in more sales, but that they reinforce that you’re providing excellent service. Say you want to work with more people like them, and that you genuinely care about serving their friends and family.

Follow up with clients often; thanking them for their loyalty and letting them know you’re there to help with anything they need. Remind them that you’d enjoy working with their friends and family, and not to hesitate sending them your way. Mention that their loved ones should ask for you directly and that you’ll take extra care.

It boils down to nurturing client relationships and guiding discussions around referrals. Happy clients will be eager to share their experience with friends and family when you take care of them and point them in the right direction.

If you’re interested in learning more ways of increasing referrals, you can check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

SOCIAL STYLE #3: Amiable Style

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

In the introduction to this series, I compared your team to the luxury cars that may be parked in your garage. Like a fleet of cars, your people must be fueled properly to achieve top performance. And each may require a different kind of power, which may be thought of as the four different SOCIAL STYLES of workers:

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

In part two, I wrote about how you can best work with people who have a Driving Style.

Part three was about how you can best work with people who have an Expressive Style.

Today our focus will be on people who have an Amiable Style.

How do you know if people have an Amiable Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong half the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at But if your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

The four Styles are based on how we say and do things. This is called our "observable behavior" and it's based on our assertiveness (how assertive or passive we are) and our responsiveness (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with an Amiable Style are less assertive and more emoting. This means they are more passive when they want something and they tend to respond to things with emotion, both positive and negative. They are highly relational and supportive. Of all the Styles, people with an Amiable Style are the "people pleasers". They might have a hard time saying no and they want everyone to be OK.

Who do you work with that might be an Amiable Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

People with an Amiable Style are master relationship builders. They are friendly, supportive, adaptable and want to serve people. These are the people who won't think twice about going the extra mile for the team or a customer. 

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with an Amiable Style are fueled by security and stability. They just want everyone and everything to be OK. Being too assertive, confrontational, inconsistent or unpredictable is like pouring bleach in their gas tank, it will ruin it. The challenge with people who have an Amiable Style is you may not know there is damage until it's too late.

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

The nurturing spirit of people with an Amiable Style lead them to put relationships ahead of results and avoid conflict like the plague. They prefer to build close relationships with people they can count on. They are the utility people on your team that when someone doesn't show or something needs done, they will jump in to serve anyway they can. When it comes to decision making and overall being decisive they can be passive, timid and lack confidence. Unless made to feel secure they aren't forthright with opinions and feelings if they perceive they won't be received or will create conflict.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

People with an Amiable Style are people oriented. However, in the spirit of serving others and making sure everyone and everything is OK, they may not speak up when they need to. Their opportunity for growth is to be more assertive. First, they need to know their opinions and feelings matter just as much as everyone else. Second, disagreement and conflict is OK. People with an Amiable Style will shut down if they feel like what they have to say won't be received well or if it will create conflict. The challenge is you might not realize it. They tend to not address things and bottle things up until it's too late.

What stresses them out?

Tension rises when they don't feel security and stability with people or situations. They want everyone to be OK and situations to be steady and consistent. 

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

Of the four SOCIAL STYLES, people with an Amiable Style may show they are stressed the least. When things get too tense they withdraw. If they do share an opinion or idea and it isn't received, they will quickly give in and retreat, but you may never know it. People with an Amiable Style are accommodating to begin with, but don't confuse their accommodations for approval. 

How can you work with them to maximize results?

As leaders, I think it is our responsibility to create a culture that helps people with an Amiable Style find their voice and learn how to be assertive. They have the people skills down and will bloom as their confidence grows. In team settings, make sure they have a voice. If you want feedback, specifically ask them and give them a chance to answer; don't expect them to compete with others because they won't. Make sure they know their thoughts and feelings matter and they are a valuable asset to the team. Give them permission to find their voice. Let them practice being assertive and demanding. They are loyal to a fault and will kill it with your customers. Growing their confidence will strengthen your team and make you a better leader.

In my next post, I will talk about people who have an Analytical Style. People with an Analytical Style are described as less assertive and emotionally controlled. They tend to be more reserved, organized and detailed with a focus on facts and data. Who do you work with that could be described this way? I look forward to sharing with you how you can work with and fuel people with an Analytical Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

SOCIAL STYLE #2 - Expressive Style

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

In PART ONE I talked about your people being like the luxury cars sitting in your garage. Like your cars, your people must be fueled properly to achieve top performance. I introduced SOCIAL STYLE ® and outlined the four different Styles of people that make up your workforce.

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

In my second post, I talked about how you can best work with people who have a Driving Style.

Today our focus will be on people who have an Expressive Style.

How do you know if people have an Expressive Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong 50 percent of the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at If your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

Style is determined by how we say and do things. This is called our Observable Behavior and it's based on our Assertiveness (how assertive or passive we are) and our Responsiveness (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with an Expressive Style are assertive and emoting. This means they are assertive when they want something and they tend to respond to things with emotion, both positive and negative. They might be described as fast paced, enthusiastic, creative and emotional.

Who do you work with that might be a Expressive Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

People with an Expressive Style are creative, enthusiastic and highly relational. Their energy is infectious and their ability to adapt allows them to contribute in a variety of ways. 

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with an Expressive Style are fueled by attention and approval. They want to be liked and need to know they are doing a good job and appreciated. Not considering their ideas or being overly critical and negative toward them without a foundation of trust and respect can be like a spark hitting a gas can; things can get explosive. 

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

People with an Expressive Style are assertive, enthusiastic and spontaneous. They are not bound by rules and processes and prefer to be creative. If you are person who values details, processes and predictability; people of this Style might be challenging to work with. People with an Expressive Style tend to make quick decisions, based on feelings and opinions.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

People with an Expressive Style have a few key areas of weakness and opportunities for growth. The first is how they respond to things. They are assertive and they wear their emotions on their sleeves. You know when they are happy and you know when they are not. People with an Expressive Style need to make sure they manage their emotions properly. Their second opportunity for growth is to not take things so personally. As stated above, people with an Expressive Style are fueled by attention and approval. When they don't feel approval they can take it as disapproval and take it personally, leading to insecure and unproductive behaviors that hurt themselves and the people around them. Finally, in their creative and spontaneous nature, people with an Expressive Style need to give more attention to important details and time frames. Sometimes they can get so caught up in what they are doing they may miss or ignore things critical to getting results.

What stresses them out?

Tension rises when they don't feel listened to, accepted or approved of. People with an Expressive Style depend on social cues and nonverbal communication to know where they stand with others. They may struggle when working with less relational Styles like Driving and Analytical who tend to be less emotional and more focused on the job and desired results.

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

Of the four SOCIAL STYLES, people with the Expressive Style can be the most challenging when their tension rises. If unmanaged, their assertive and emotional nature, mixed with a tendency to take things too personally, may result in them becoming defensive, if not confrontational. 

How can you work with them to maximize results?

Understand their need for attention and approval and make an effort to fuel them. If you tend to be relational, fueling them shouldn't be a problem. If you are someone who is more results focused, you may get annoyed with the perceived neediness of the Expressive Style. You have to get past that. Their productivity and your overall success may depend on them. When fueled properly, people with an Expressive Style get after it with great enthusiasm and that's good for everyone.

In my next post, I write about people who have an Amiable Style. People with an Amiable Style are described as less assertive and emoting. They are highly relational and supportive, but may lack confidence to voice feelings and opinions in fear of "rocking the boat". Who do you work with that could be described this way? I will tell you how you can work with and fuel people with an Amiable Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.


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Managing your IT vendors

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

IT-vendor-managementOutsourcing of information technology services is common. Companies from the largest to the smallest outsource some part of their information technology needs. Larger companies have the benefit of senior level leadership, which can provide solid oversight to these third-party IT vendors, but smaller organizations are at a great disadvantage in this arena. Completely reliant on their IT vendors, small organizations must trust their providers to fully understand their business when making recommendations for technology solutions.

Selecting an IT vendor

Selecting IT vendors should be like selecting the right doctor. You have one vendor that can provide most of your day-to-day requirements, but you might have a couple of others who specialize in certain areas and can help develop a strategy that best fits your business. Certainly, you may pay a little more for those specialty vendors, but that additional cost is justified by eliminating the risk of going with the generalist for your specialty needs.

Understanding the statement of work

When outsourcing IT services, it is important to establish a roles and responsibilities matrix. The IT vendor knows exactly the services they will and will not provide based on the statement of work. Do you? This is one of the biggest gaps we see during data breach investigations. The organization believes they have outsourced a function to their IT vendor, but the vendor believes only a portion of that function is their responsibility. Critical tasks are then left with no one to perform them, which leads to a cyberattack.

The price of miscommunication

A common occurrence is in anti-virus management. An organization outsources anti-virus management to a vendor and assumes the vendor is providing end-to-end management of this solution. Based on their contract interpretation, the vendor believes they are only responsible for installing the anti-virus solution and providing a centralized management console. They believe the client is responsible for monitoring the console for malware activity and systems, as the client did not sign up for the “Platinum Level” of service. This leaves the client out of compliance with the definition update or daily scanning policy.

As you can see, there was a breakdown in communication. The client didn’t understand their responsibilities based on the service they had actually purchased. Who’s at fault? Is it the client, for not getting a clear picture of what they bought? Or, is it the vendor, for not clearly communicating risk that wasn’t being addressed? Each party has some responsibility in this scenario.

Roles and responsibilities

Organizations that use outsourced IT vendors need to understand that they are ultimately responsible for protecting their systems and data. They should require a roles and responsibilities matrix to help develop an understanding of what the vendor is doing and not doing for the organization. This is especially true now, as many IT vendors are backing away from including many information security tasks in their standard service offerings.

Following a security framework

This roles and responsibilities matrix should be aligned with some form of best practices or security framework such as NIST SP 800-53. Organizations should also require their vendor to have some sort of oversight for their service delivery. Vendors should be required to go through an audit each year, either by the organization or a qualified auditor. This will ensure that the vendor is providing the service levels and security activities required by the contract.

The impact of your organization’s regulations

If you are regulated by HIPAA, FDIC, NCUA, NERC or other federal agencies or regulations, IT vendor management will become very important to you in the coming months and years. Regulators are taking a much closer look at how well you manage risk to your systems and data. They are checking to make sure you are providing oversight to the vendors who provide information technology services for your organization.


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


Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO


Farmers markets: Good for the body and the economy

Jim Miller is executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation, which owns and operates the Valley Junction Farmers Market. Contact him at

The farmers market in Historic Valley Junction begins Thursday, May 5, and runs through Sept. 29. Our welcome center office has already been getting inquiries about it from fans and visitors.

Over the past two decades, the way we shop for our food has shifted dramatically, with an ever-increasing emphasis on local, organic and clean food.

According to the USDA, there were approximately 2,863 U.S. farmers markets in the year 2000. Today that number is nearly 8,500 – and growing. Of this total, Iowa has approximately 250 farmers markets, with 40 located in the central Iowa region.

According to Eat Greater Des Moines, within our region (Polk, Dallas, Marion and Warren counties) you can find a farmers market Monday-Saturday. We have over 26 markets taking place on a weekly basis, all selling a variety of locally grown produce, plants and flowers, breads and baked goods, meats, dairy, and value-added products.

It is impossible not to acknowledge the amazing growth and expansion of the local food movement. Events are held from corner to corner of this agricultural state, from a small town square with 10 vendors to larger cities like Valley Junction in West Des Moines and our 80-100 vendors each week. We’ve been operating our market since the mid-1970s and our current format since 1988.

I won't speak for all 8,500 farmers markets in the country, but I will speak for the one in Valley Junction (and I think for a good share of those 8,500). Farmers markets are good for the body, soul, community and economy. Fill your body with Iowan-grown produce, home-baked bread and baked goods, Iowa-raised chops and ice cream from an Iowa dairy operation. Fill your soul with one-of-a-kind creations from Iowa artisans and flowers from Iowa gardens.

These community events are family-friendly, most are pet-friendly, and in the case of Valley Junction, we also offer the best music around with our Music in the Junction concert series and optional adult beverages.

More and more Iowans want fresh local food, and also want a relationship with the grower. The significance of income from farmers markets in the world of food retailing should not be ignored.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition:

  • Growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those that do not sell locally create three jobs per $1 million earned.
  • For every $100 spent at a farmers market, $62 stays in the local economy, and $99 stays in the state.
  • Nearly $19 million in SNAP benefits (food stamps) was spent at farmers markets in 2014. That's fresh food for lower-income Americans and increased revenue for local farmers. Markets bring fresh food to neighborhoods that need it the most.
  • Proximity to farmers markets is associated with lower body mass index. Walk or ride your bicycle to your favorite farmers market.
  • USDA reports that produce prices are lower, on average, than grocery store prices.
  • Shoppers have more than three times as many social and informational encounters at farmers markets than they do at national chain supermarkets.
  • In Iowa, every dollar spent at farmers markets led to an additional 58 cents to $1.36 in sales at other nearby businesses. This is perhaps the strongest response to the question, “Does a farmers market really help Valley Junction (or any community)?” Yes!

Here’s my parting shot: Do your civic duty and support the community around you. Supporting your community and supporting your local farmers market is simply the right thing to do. Grab your canvas bag, and I’ll see you soon at the market.

SOCIAL STYLE #1: Driving Style

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

In the introduction to this series last week, I wrote about employees being like the luxury cars sitting in your garage. Like your cars, your people must be fueled properly to achieve top performance. I introduced the SOCIAL STYLE ® theory and outlined the four different Styles of people that make up your workforce.

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

Today our focus will be on people who have a Driving Style.

How do you know if people have a Driving Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong 50 percent of the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at If your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

Our Style is determined by how we say and do things. This is called our "observable behavior" and it's based on our "assertiveness" (how assertive or passive we are) and our "responsiveness" (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with a Driving Style are assertive and emotionally controlled. This means they are assertive when they want something and they tend to be less emotional when they respond to things. They might be described as independent, driven, cold and impatient.

Who do you work with that might be a Driving Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

People with a Driving Style are action oriented and they get things done. They don't get bogged down by details or the opinions of others. They see what needs to get done to achieve the result and they go for it.

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with a Driving Style are fueled by results. They know what they want to do and they make it happen. If you work with a Driving Style you must respect and support their need for and pursuit of results. Getting in their way with too many details or too much fluff would be like putting diesel fuel in your hybrid, it's not going to work. It will lead to poor performance.

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

Remember, people with a Driving Style are described as assertive. They move fast and tend to be more formal. They don't get caught up in paralysis by analysis or overthinking. They see what they want to do and BOOM, they take action toward it. They tend to make quick decisions which can be positive or negative. They like to keep things moving.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

In their assertive and fast-paced pursuit of getting desired results, people with a Driving Style may not listen to the people around them or show they even care what they think. They can become very focused on what they are doing and impatient when they feel they are being held back or slowed down. Their opportunities for growth are to become more patient, a better listener, and more relational. If they aren't careful, people with a Driving Style will make others feel put down and run over. Understanding what others need will be key to their growth.

What stresses them out?

Tension rises within a Driving Style when there is a lack of progress toward the desired result. 

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

When tension becomes too much, people with a Driving Style may become very autocratic. They will stop listening to others and caring what they think. They are likely to become demanding with orders and may decide to ignore other efforts and just do it themselves. When tension rises within a Driving Style, try not to be confrontational or take it personally, but see it as an opportunity to learn why they are stressed and what you can do to lower their tension and move things forward.

How can you work with them to maximize results?

Understand the desired results and support their efforts. Be direct with them and don't get too detailed or fluffy when communicating because you'll lose them. Encourage thoughtfulness and patience and remind them that things are best achieved when people work together.

We are a culture that values getting things done and of all the Styles, none are more efficient in getting things done than someone with a Driving Style. In my experience, most top leaders and/or producers have a Driving Style as they tend to focus on the goal and take action to get results. For how productive they can be, people with a Driving Style really need to learn to appreciate and value other Styles. Results are important, but how they get their results could be the difference between great success and frustration.

In the next post, I will write about people who have an Expressive Style. They are described as assertive and emoting. They are fast paced, enthusiastic, creative and tend to respond to things with emotion, both positive and negative. Who do you work with that could be described this way? I look forward to sharing with you how you can work with and fuel people with an Expressive Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn


The QWERTY problem

- 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.

The QWERTY keyboard was invented in 1873 to alleviate a mechanical problem with typewriters contemporary to that time. The metal bars that held the keys would get stuck together as individuals typed. To correct this problem, the most used letters were spaced apart so the bars would not stick to each other. That’s the only reason that the QWERTY keyboard was invented.


As the typewriter has become obsolete, different keyboard layouts have been introduced, none of which has been adopted. But why? The Dvorak key arrangement was designed to enhance the speed of the typist. There was even an ABCDEF layout that was designed to break us of our addiction to the QWERTY style keyboard.

We become so accustomed to using things, systems, or processes that we sometimes lose sight of why we are using them. The concept of path dependence is something that has a very large influence on the success of strategic planning. When we use one of these things we are accustomed to, and subsequently follow a predetermined course of action or behavior, there almost certainly has been a “critical juncture” at some point in the past. At that moment, we made a decision that set a specific trajectory leading to this predetermined course.

This trajectory and the decision that set it in motion are generally based on legacy knowledge, and, from the moment of that decision, a behavioral bias was formed. Seldom do we make decisions that we do not have supporting data on, such as with our ability to be effective in completing skilled tasks. These tasks require legacy knowledge of what steps make that task successful.

If I were to ask you why you use a QWERTY keyboard, you might answer that it’s the most readily available, and it’s how you learned to type, and it doesn’t make sense for you to change. Fair enough. But if I could demonstrate that one of the alternate layouts would improve your results dramatically, would you change to one of these new layouts? Likely not; because you’d be breaking a convention and deconstructing the hardwired “critical juncture” and resulting path dependence that has developed as a result of that decision. Your decision to use the QWERTY layout is so far in the past that it would cause a dramatic decrease in your ability to be effective if you were to change now.


But is that really true?

In strategic planning, there is a strong bias toward using conventions to achieve results. I am not arguing that you should not use those conventions from the standpoint of best practices and institutional knowledge. However, organizations should use caution here, and watch for the biases presented by path dependence that may be woven into organizational practices.

This is another example of the importance of asking “why” organizations do the things that they do. A majority of the population likely does not know why they use a QWERTY keyboard or what the origin of that key layout is. The same is probably true of ingrained organizational strategies.

As you develop your strategic plan, it is important to consider the past in the context of what was effective in a way that is germane toward developing a strategy for the future. Simply sticking to a path because it conforms to what builds upon what already exists will not always yield optimal results; in fact, it may lead you to make decisions that will alter your course in a damaging or negative way.

As with the problem with the metal bars that QWERTY was designed to correct, so must the considerations be in designing the optimal framework for strategic planning – or you might be trying to solve a problem that hasn’t been a problem for almost 60 years.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011


 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


Nonprofit profile: Goodwill helps those with mental disabilities

- Susan Rathjen is vice president of Private Banking for Bankers Trust Co., Clive.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and for me, that’s a personal subject. It may be for you, too.

My mother has schizophrenia. She is so much more than a medical diagnosis, and her disease does not define her. But, it has sparked my passion and my goal: to bring awareness to the community about mental health disorders.

One way I try to do that is through my work with Goodwill of Central Iowa.

I have served on Goodwill’s board of directors since 2013. I was drawn to Goodwill after I took a tour and learned about its Day Services program, which provides skills and social training to adults with a range of developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. I saw individuals being served in a very caring manner, which inspired me to volunteer at Goodwill client functions.

I have some experience with physical disability too, as my husband suffered a traumatic accident, which included a head injury, in 1997. As a result, he is unable to work. But, we chose to look at his accident as a blessing and an opportunity, because he’s been able to stay home with our kids. He is the rock star of our home!

I’ve enjoyed volunteering with Goodwill’s Day Services program. It’s so important for the clients to have that interaction. Whenever I volunteer, I am reflective, and it reminds me that there are great services out there -- and that my situation is not that bad.

Today, my mother has a great support network with help from my father and from Veterans Administration services. But, not every family finds help to cope with the barriers they face.

Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, many people are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help for themselves or their loved ones.

Goodwill of Central Iowa is available to help.

Goodwill’s mission is to improve life for all by providing skills training and helping people with barriers to employment find jobs. What I have learned is that those barriers are not just mental and physical conditions, but they include disadvantaging conditions such as being an older worker, having a lack of child care or transportation, and gaps in work history.

Last year, Goodwill served more people and placed a record 914 people with 439 central Iowa employers. And those placements resulted in an estimated $49,750,000 boost to the local economy.

And, Goodwill’s e-waste program kept close to 5 million pounds of electronics out of the landfill.

Goodwill is so much more than a second-hand store. And it does so much more than simply hire people to work at its stores. Goodwill strives to bring out the best in people, to make a positive difference in the lives of people it serves and to have a positive impact in our community.

Want to volunteer with Goodwill so you can improve lives? Here are some ideas:

  1. Assist at client events by chaperoning, serving food and interacting with clients.
  2. Drive clients to and from social events.
  3. Sort donations, stock shelves, fill displays and clean in our stores.
  4. Help our Shopgoodwill online auction department by photographing or packaging items, or determining their value.
  5. Organize a donation drive at your school or business.

For more information, go to

Susan Rathjen is vice president of Private Banking for Bankers Trust Co., Clive. She was named this year to the Business Record’s prestigious 40 Under 40 list. She has received the Bankers Trust Leadership Academy Peer Award, she volunteers for Joppa Outreach, a faith-based non-profit that helps homeless people, and she serves as the event coordinator at Eternity Church in Clive.

There are always consequences

“It starts with a small decision.” 

SnowballWalter Pavlo had earned a master’s degree in finance from Mercer University in Macon, Ga. and was a discontented senior manager at MCI Communications when he started taking advantage of the company’s lax accounting standards. He is talking about small decisions he made over the course of time and a path of dishonesty and fraud that resulted in a $6 million crime and two years in prison.

Post-prison, Pavlo works with organizations and business schools to help others avoid the path he traveled. He makes the following point: 

“It starts with a small decision that incrementally got worse and worse. You tell yourself your intentions are good at first, but then you find yourself in a place you don’t recognize…it’s tough to get back.”

The path to corruption starts with a single step – usually a small one that seems like no one is getting hurt and there are no consequences. 

Actions have outcomes. Behaviors have consequences. We can see how a series of small bad decisions and behaviors add up to enormous negative consequences. 

So it is with small good decisions. While small behaviors and actions may not seem to have a meaningful impact and may not seem to have consequences, they do. This truth is hard for us to remember when we are inclined to believe that the big win comes from the big action. It is small behaviors carried out consistently over time that represent competitive advantage for modern organizations.  

The snowball effect

The Snowball:  Warren Buffett and the Business of Life is a biography written by Wall Street Analyst Alice Schroeder on the world’s most famous investor. Snowball is a metaphor for describing the law of compound returns – the core investment concept for how wealth grows over time. A small snowball rolling downhill gathers mass, which increases speed, which continues to increase mass. The longer the hill – the larger the snowball grows. In investment terms – the longer the runway before retirement, the greater the opportunity to benefit from the law of compound returns.  

The same law applies to human interactions. Over time, our actions and behaviors consistently carried out multiply and ultimately become our brand. If they are positive human interactions, the brand is a positive one. If they are negative, so goes the brand.

Sweat the small stuff

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff is one of the Don’t Sweat series of best-selling books by author Richard Carlson, Ph.D.  Carlson, a recognized expert on stress reduction and happiness, inspires people to keep from getting bogged down with little things in life. The ability to manage stress, calm ourselves down and achieve balance is a goal worth attaining. 

Sadly, the sentiment of not sweating the small stuff, intended to preserve physical and emotional health, has a dark side. 

Minimizing or rationalizing the effect of small things is a recipe for disaster, as Walter Pavlo learned when his small dishonest actions added up to a serious crime and prison sentence. Similarly, minimizing the impact of small positive things can lead individuals and organizations to miss important opportunities.

Leaders are wise to contemplate the small decisions that are made daily in the areas of the business entrusted to their care and foster a culture that focuses on getting the little things right consistently.

Taking pains with the wording in an email to a client, matters. Pausing and reconsidering before texting a potentially offensive joke, matters. Struggling with the best way to express our gratitude to a colleague, matters. Wrestling with the various ways our message may be received by our boss, matters. Rehearsing how we are going to talk to our child about values, matters. It’s all seemingly small stuff and it matters.

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside



Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Treat employees like luxury vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you agree?

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

Your employees are like your luxury vehicles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuel your people. Fulfill your vision!

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


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