Time for an attitude adjustment?

Attitude_is_everything1Rita Perea is president of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Do you know someone who continually shoots him or herself in the foot? Maybe you roll your eyes as they share stories over and over again about everything that goes wrong in their lives.

Researchers tell us that these negative stories create new neuropathways in the brain reinforcing continual negativity and defeat. The negativity creates a downward spiral of thinking, which, in turn, creates more negativity. Eventually, like Linus clinging to his blanket, your friend or co-worker is tightly gripping his or her negative attitude and expecting the worst.

Is this person you? Is it time to become clearer, more confident and feel a sense of well-being in work and life? Is it time for an attitude adjustment? If you are ready to be more successful, these five keys will help you change your thinking and change your life:

  1.  Identify the clever stories We can tell ourselves these doom and gloom stories over and over again and reinforce our feeling of “being done to.” Are we always the victim in a situation? Do we feel helpless as if there was nothing we could have done differently? These clever stories are often fiction and keep us stuck in the cycle of negativity. Take a look at the facts, without the emotion, and determine the clever story that is keeping you from moving forward.
  2.  Stop being reactive When we have a bad attitude, we tend to be externally focused and feel as if the world, people, our boss, the economy - everyone and everything - is conspiring against us. While none of us can anticipate everything that is going to happen, letting the possibility of uncertain events dictate our daily activity is self-defeating behavior. Instead, cultivate a proactive approach by thinking ahead about possible challenges you may face in different situations and create an action plan. A proactive approach helps us focus internally, clear our head, adjust our attitude, gain our confidence and control those things that we really can control. Our proactive success leads to more success.
  3. Dump the drama We live in a reality television show world. Many of us can’t wait for the next episode of our favorite show to get our drama fix. Unfortunately we can enjoy that sitting-on-the-edge-of-our-seat feeling so much that we want more and more of it. We might find ways to create it in our work life or our personal life. Our negative attitude can actually invite drama while pushing the supportive and positive people in our lives away from us. A Chinese proverb reminds us, “The wisdom of life lies in eliminating the nonessentials.” Whether we find it in our personal life or our work life, drama is one nonessential that, when eliminated, will help us experience a higher-level of productivity and positivity.
  4. Sow the seeds of self-discipline Most people know the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Having a positive attitude can lead to more self-discipline. Self-discipline can be the difference between achieving our goals and only dreaming about reaching our potential. Self-discipline helps us define that part of the world where we can make a difference. Zig Ziglar once said, “When you choose a habit, you also choose the results of that habit.” Sowing the seeds of self-discipline every day will create a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of freedom.
  5. Cheer someone on When we are in the position of managing others and have the responsibility to evaluate their performance, it is easy to get stuck in negativity and criticism. Have you ever uttered these words: “Really? If only everyone else did things like I did, the world would be a better place!” Really? When you find yourself being stuck on the merry-go-round of being critical, its exactly the time to find something good about the situation. Get out your pompoms and cheer someone on. Put on your rose-colored glasses, paste a smile on your face, take a walk around the office and spread a bit of good cheer. Find something genuinely positive to say to other people. Pat people on the back for a job well done. It will give you, and them, an attitude lift. And, here’s a little secret... cheering someone on works magically with our family members, too.

Adjusting your attitude to radiate positivity and possibility will help others take notice, support you and ultimately succeed. No one reminds us of the power of our thinking more than Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Who are the potential buyers for my business? Part 4

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

Over the last few columns, we have learned about the pros and cons of family buyers, financial buyers, and strategic buyers.

The next type of buyer may be the closest to you day-to-day – your employees. Structurally this can be accomplished with or without an ESOP, which is a vehicle that is intricate enough to warrant an entire future post. So for today we will focus on a traditional employee purchase, sometimes known as a “management buyout” (MBO).

In an MBO, a group of employees that you get to select, pool their financial resources and purchase the business from you. Because you can select the buyers, you have more control on your business legacy post-close than with other buyers.

Oftentimes the employee-purchasers take partial or full operational control shortly after the transaction because they have already worked in the business, so a lengthy transition period is not needed as with other types of “outsider” buyers.

Because the typical employee does not have the financial wherewithal to purchase a business, an MBO purchase price is usually some combination of buyer cash, debt, and seller financing. Also because the transaction is taking place between two known and friendly parties, many times the purchase may happen over a period of time rather than immediately at once.

As a result, a negative for the seller in an MBO is that they may not truly “exit” at close – they still have significant financial risk in the business – one in which they are likely no longer operating full time.

A solution may be to access an additional source of funding for the transaction to fill the value gap. For instance, if there is a business worth $10 million, the employee-purchasers may be able to come up with $1 million between them, borrow another $3 million, and get the seller to agree to finance $2 million. This leaves $4 million unaccounted for.

The $4 million value gap is a perfect spot for a financial buyer (private equity firm). Financial buyers love backing a hungry management buyout team that is seeking to purchase and grow a business they know well.

This solves the problem for both sides – the seller immediately de-risks by getting most or all of their money out of the business at close, and the employee-purchasers have the capital necessary to effectuate the transaction.

A tragic and inspirational story: the ripple effect

"He said, 'Just do it for somebody else.'

 That's when it dawned on me that it was one of those pay it forward scenarios

and that it would mean a lot to him if I accepted."

It was one of those days.  It was Nov. 10, 2015.  Jamie-Lynne Knighten had just returned home from a visit with family in her native Ontario, Canada. Jamie, her husband and young children were moving into their new San Diego, Calif. home. She was picking up groceries at a supermarket. 

She had taken her youngest child with her to the store. The five-month-old was being fussy. The shopping excursion took an hour and a half. When she reached the checkout, she realized she had forgotten her debit card at home. 

The grocery total was more than $200. She remembered she had her Canadian credit card with her. Jamie gave the cash she had on hand to the cashier and swiped her Canadian credit card. Declined. She swiped it again. Declined.  She surmised that they had put an anti-fraud lock on the card because of her travels and she called the credit card company to have it lifted. Her phone died. A line was forming behind her at the checkout. She was trying to hold it together.

It was one of those days.

“Take us back to the day in the grocery store. How did you come to meet?” was the question posed to Jamie-Lynne Knighten by CBC Radio As it Happens host Carol Off.

Jamie recalled that she was about to ask the cashier if they could hold her purchases so she could return home to fetch her debit card when a stranger’s voice said “May I?”

“May you what?” she replied.

“May I take care of your groceries?”

She protested with her thanks.  After all, it was a large purchase and this was a stranger. 

The stranger replied “I would like to. Do me one thing. Just do it for somebody else.”

Jamie realized he was serious and this was a pay-it-forward gesture. She accepted.

KNXV final act of kindness_1448498758194_27464102_ver1.0_640_480As they left the store, she introduced herself and learned the young man who had performed this random act of kindness was named Matthew. She shared with Matthew that her family had just moved to the area and that she was feeling a little overwhelmed. She inquired where he worked and he responded “LA Fitness”. Jamie promised herself that she would follow up with Matthew in the days ahead to thank him more formally.

It would be another week before she would learn that Matthew’s last name was Jackson. That he was 28 years old. That he died in a car accident on Nov. 11, 2015.

Jamie had called the local gym about a week after the encounter and spoke with Matthew’s manager in hopes of reaching him and reconnecting. It was through tears that his manager told her about the tragedy. 

When Jamie called her husband to tell him the sad news, it hit him hard. The stereotypical Marine, who doesn’t get upset about too many things, was shaken by the news. It was a cold reminder of how fragile life is.

Jamie came to know about Matthew and his character from his boss who had worked with him for four years. She told Jamie “That’s who he was. Always doing for other people. Never asking for anything in return.” Through his co-workers, Jamie was able to connect with Matthew’s mother and spent two hours discovering more about who Matthew Jackson was.

"She told me that he was a big sweetheart that was always doing things for other people. One thing she's really proud of is that he's a bear hugger. In every photo that you see of him with somebody, he doesn't just have one arm around them. He's giving them a huge bear hug. And that's what it felt like when he paid for my groceries and took care of me."

Jamie created a Facebook page called Matthew’s Legacy asking people to do something extraordinary for a stranger to honor Matthew and help restore faith in humanity. The response has been worldwide and the stories are heartwarming. Jamie says she wants for her children “to recognize that they can actively participate in making a positive change in the world like he did.” She goes on to say “It doesn’t have to be monetary.  It doesn’t have to be huge and grandiose. Create a lifestyle of kindness. Help people in small ways or big ways. Whatever you can do.  Every little bit helps.”

Matthew’s legacy endures and Jamie is paying it forward. 

A powerful leadership lesson for us all to contemplate.

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Support efforts to upcycle wood from ash trees

TOLEDO BEFORE TOLEDO AFTER
- Rob Smith is principal architect atCMBA | Smith Metzger.

A beautiful tree lined street. The one on the left before the little critter called the emerald ash borer showed up.  The one on the right is after.  Note the green grass in both pictures in case you thought the one on the right is winter. An estimated seven billion trees will die which is ten times that of the Dutch elm disease.

What happens to all those trees that get cut down?  According to Des Moines arborist David Jahn, “Most trees are used for firewood or chipped into mulch. Ash is not a desirable hardwood even though furniture and flooring have been around for centuries.”

Now there is a groundswell in upcycling ash. Aronson Woodworks in St. Mary’s has started getting ash logs from Des Moines to make ash furniture next year. Clay Aronson says “I love the distinctive grain of ash. Much like oak but not so reddish”. 

ISU ASH CLOCKIowa State University is working with Iowa Prison Industries to make commemorative mantle clocks from ash trees removed from campus. What an awesome idea. You can also buy a Shaker table.

David Jahn would like to see 100 more artisans doing the same. Even that might not make a dent in the supply, but it’s a start!

What can you do to help the ash upcycling movement?

  • Buy furniture made of ash to increase the demand.
  • Install ash flooring to increase the demand.
  • Buy ash kitchen cabinets to increase the demand.
  • Have some furniture made from a tree in your yard.

Let me know if you have an idea to reuse the ash trees in your yard at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

 

Why the iPhone encryption battle matters to you

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity. 

Apple-vs-FBI

There is no doubt, the stakes in the battle over the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone encryption are huge. You need to be involved in this fight, pick a side and then be vocal. Call your legislators, write opinion letters to your paper’s editor, or any other means necessary to inform and engage others.

Certainly the terrorist actions were horrific. Families have been forever damaged. Our way of life has been attacked. These is no denying the pain and suffering caused by this senseless act of terror. On the surface it makes perfect sense to want to force Apple to break the iPhone encryption so that authorities are able to discover other terror links and those involved with this brutal attack.

We must, however, take a step back and look at two critical components of this argument. Setting aside our emotion, lets think rationally for a moment about the long-term consequences of the government’s request of Apple. We must also acknowledge the fact that while breaking the iPhone encryption may be the easiest or fastest way to the information, it is absolutely not the only way to get that information. That distinction must be made perfectly clear.

Let’s first consider the demand for a company to build something that it does not currently possess. The basic premise of our capitalist free market system is that the government is not involved in setting product strategy, pricing, or other day-to-day activities of private enterprise. Once we open this door, where does it end?  I understand this is a matter of national security, but we cannot continue to erode the basic principles on which our republic was founded in the name of national security.  This has happened for far too long, and there must be a limit to how far America changes before we are not America any longer.

The second issue of concern is actually the one of greater importance. It is the government’s insistence on breaking into encryption. In general this is a very bad idea. Think of all the things that are protected by encryption: every “secure” internet transaction from online banking to shopping and secure email. Protection of protected health information (PHI) in your medical records is accomplished with encryption. All of your tax records with the IRS including your Social Security number, earning history and charitable contributions are encrypted for your safety and security. Bigger picture - our nuclear arsenal, military communication, stealth technology, troop movements, battle plans…yep, all encrypted.

The fact of the matter is that encryption is a core component to just about every facet of our lives today. Both our personal and work lives are dependent on the bedrock of security that is found through the use of encryption.  Creating a backdoor or methodology to undermine the security of encryption could be devastating.  If you couldn’t trust the “SSL” used to do online purchasing, would you?  If people stopped buying online, how would that affect our economy?

The notion that the government is willing to let Apple keep this technology after they create it is absurd. Something this valuable wouldn’t be kept a secret for long. All the money the U.S. government has spent to protect military secrets has failed. China has built a stealth fighter jet based on stolen US technology. Who can honestly say this technology wouldn’t be even more valuable?

For those of you thinking I haven’t considered the other side of this argument, you are wrong. I was on Capitol Hill last year speaking with a Senate staffer working on national security issues for the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He asked, “If your child was kidnapped and the only way to find him was through a backdoor to the encryption on the kidnapper’s iPhone, would you then be in favor of a backdoor?” I looked him square in the eye and said, “No.”  I come from a long line of veterans who served during WWII, Vietnam and Iraq. One thing I know is that sometimes the sacrifices of a few must be made to protect the many.

While not having immediate access to encrypted criminal or terrorist information may have direct consequences, think of the bigger picture and the long-term consequences of a world where encryption cannot be trusted.  That’s not a world I think any of us want to experience.

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Tax season impasse: why your 2015 Iowa tax return may be on hold

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

Taxpayers barely averted a national tax filing season disaster this season when Congress and the president agreed in December to permanently extend important tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2014. Now our governor and legislators are doing their best to subject Iowa to the filing season nightmare that the rest of the country dodged.


Coupling20160213Iowa's tax law doesn't automatically tie to federal changes.
The Legislature passes a "code conformity" bill, or "coupling" bill, every year to incorporate desired federal tax changes into Iowa's income tax. This has been important because Congress habitually enacts many important tax provisions for only one or two years at a time. Since 2010 the governor has proposed to adopt all of the federal "expiring provisions" retroactively every time they were renewed by Congress, with the exception of "Bonus Depreciation."

The biggest of these for most Iowa businesses is the "Section 179 deduction," which allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of up to $500,000 of fixed assets that would otherwise be depreciated over a period of years. A number of other business and personal tax provisions are affected, including research credits, the provision for IRA charitable contributions, and the above-the-line student loan interest deduction.  

The Section 179 deduction is popular with Main Street businesses. With the prices for much farm equipment running well into six figures, the deduction is a big deal for farmers, but it is also important to other businesses. Failing to couple with the federal deduction would leave Iowans with a maximum $25,000 Section 179 deduction on their Iowa returns -- a significant tax increase to businesses in every county. 

Most tax people assumed the pattern of conforming to everything but bonus depreciation would continue. The Governor surprised us last month by proposing (SSB 3107) to conform to only one 2015 tax change -- the research credit. He proposed to conform with none of the remaining changes for 2015. He then would conform with all the changes -- except for Section 179 and bonus depreciation -- for 2016 and beyond.

The Governor's position was unpopular in the General Assembly. The Iowa House swiftly voted 82-14 to couple with all federal 2015 changes except bonus depreciation (HF 2092). It apparently was so unpopular that the Governor this week changed his mind and came out in favor of the House bill.

Senate Majority Leader Gronstal now holds the cards, as he can keep the House-passed bill from ever coming up for a Senate vote. The Legislature is now at an impasse. Prior to the Governor's change of heart, it appeared that no Section 179 coupling would occur. Now we can expect Senator Gronstal to use coupling as a bargaining chip for his priorities.

It's unclear when we will know what Iowa's 2015 tax law is. Iowa returns aren't due until April 30, and it’s still possible that they won't pass a coupling bill by then. The default result if nothing happens is no coupling. While I expect coupling to occur, it may take some time for the poker game to play out.

This poses a dilemma for taxpayers. If they assume that that the expiring provisions won't be re-enacted for Iowa, they'll incur the expense of filing amended returns to claim refunds if the governor and the majority leader eventually go along with the legislature. If optimistic taxpayers assume the extenders are eventually adopted, they face penalties if they guess wrong.  Iowans wanting to file their taxes the right way, for sure, are just out of luck. 

Focus lessons from a dog (Part 2)

Sydney16x9b

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."

In my last post, I introduced you to my springer spaniel, Sydney, who does four basic things in life and never at the same time: eat, play, poop, and sleep. You can’t ask for a more simplified life, one free from the temptations created by technology. But most of all she’s happy, as evidenced by the continuous side-to-side gyrations of her little tail.

As humans, we also want to be happy. Most of us believe it’s a basic human right. Unlike the simplified road to happiness taken by Sydney, we have a tendency to try and use whatever we have at our disposal to acquire it. Whether it’s through status, stuff, or other people, we have a desire to feel valuable in our own eyes and in the eyes of others.

The challenge is to know what it means to be happy. Although I know a number of people who think happiness is complicated and dependent upon a large number of factors, I tend to believe happiness is nothing more than a function of both expectation and reality––the relationship of two independent variables that ultimately affect our feelings of happiness. A mathematician, or any one of the dozen or so people in the world who aren’t afraid of math, might view it like this:

Happiness = f (Expectation, Reality)

As long as someone’s reality—perceived or otherwise—is above their level of expectation, they generally tend to be happy. However, when those pesky expectations start rising too high or even stay the same while our current state of reality declines, unhappiness typically sets in.

I believe that as average people we have the most control over, or can more directly impact, our levels of expectation. Life’s outcomes and subsequent realities are typically not in our direct control, since rewards and other positive changes are frequently at the behest of others.

So let’s focus on a few aspects in life today that can directly impact our expectations:

Hedonic Adaptation: “Hedonic adaptation” is a psychologist’s way of saying the novelty wears off. Eventually, that new house, car, or smart TV you had to have becomes just another thing you own, or the job you worked so hard to get becomes just part of your daily grind. Your lifestyle adapts, and you’re back to wanting more.1 I’ve now come to embrace that happiness related to “stuff” is a choice, and there’s nothing tangible that can “make” me happy in the long-term. No matter what we work toward or feel like we must have, typically the happiness attached to it is only short-term. Each time you receive that “must-have” thing, it only serves to raise the bar of expectation for the next must-have thing.

Social Media Image Crafting: We are always trying to put our best foot forward and want to look good to others. It’s human nature. With the advent of social media, you can take it to an entirely new level and present yourself any way you wish, and it’s usually positive. According to a piece on Whole9life.com (a health and quality of life website), “Our social media feeds read like a modern-day fairy tale, where every moment is wondrous, every interaction with our family is more precious than the last, and even the mundane (Coffee with the girls! Look at my lunch! Stuck in traffic!) is a magical experience.” 2 Social media image crafting tells everyone that a perfect life is not only attainable, it’s normal. So when everything about your social media “friends” seems perfect, it naturally raises the bar of expectation related to your own “imperfect” real life; thus, the gap between expectation and reality is potentially widened causing increased levels of unhappiness.

Technological Overdependence: Frequently, happiness is thought to be the natural result of success. Although an extremely subjective term, “success” for many of us often revolves around the feeling of being busy, as “busy-ness” implies productivity. Technology helps to provide this feeling of busy. And naturally, we expect our technology to always work the way in which it was designed. When it doesn’t, it causes stress and anxiety. I was once at a busy grocery store when their computer system suddenly went down. Check-out registers could no longer take credit cards. People had to use cash. Since most people today typically don’t carry much cash, there was a mad scramble to the ATM machine, which was quickly emptied (it was on its own, separate system). Chaos, anger, arguing, yelling, and frustration all ensued. Much unhappiness was present. By the way, I did happen to have cash, so I got to watch and be entertained—and a little scared—by it all.

Future-Focused: Too often, we overly set our sights on the future, and we can only see the present after it has become the past. Being goal-driven isn’t a bad thing, unless we are too future-focused, and then our expectations of future joy can blind us to the joys and value found in the now. We may frequently find ourselves absent from the moment as any one of a great number of distractions pulls our attention in a variety of directions, all with the intent of getting or achieving something else “down the road.” If getting older has taught me anything, it’s that time is finite. There’s never enough. I’m amazed at the growing frequency of what I call “time-lapse realizations” that occur the moment I accomplish some goal or objective. While I’m happy I achieved what I set out to do, a sudden realization often follows: getting there came at a great price. A feeling of emptiness often overtakes me, as if I had been transported into the future with little memory of the daily joys from the actual act of doing. I realize how fast time raced by, and because I was so goal-oriented, I was unable to fully enjoy the experiences related to the process.

Childhood Letdown: My good friend and author Adam Carroll frequently talks about how we as parents can sometimes actually love our children too much. It happens in a variety of ways: giving them things they should have had to work for, not helping them to understand the true value of something, or by setting high expectations for them that are impractical once they become self-sustaining adults. Sometimes, in our efforts to “encourage” or “inspire” them to become successful or achieve greatness, we provide motivational but unrealistic guidance. How many parents have told their children that they can be or do “anything” they want when they grow up? According to the Book of Odds, the probability of becoming the President of the United States is 10 million to one. The probability of becoming an astronaut is even greater (believe it or not) – 12.5 million to one.3 The unfortunate, negative side effect to all of this is the potential of setting children up for failure and disappointment because expectations were set too high. When I was a child, I was doing some pretty amazing things as compared to other kids my age. I was able to represent the United States in the International Science and Engineering fair and worked in the research and design department of a computer manufacturer, all while still in high school. Needless to say, many in my family were convinced I would become the family’s first multi-millionaire; a view they often shared with me. I’m now in my fifties and am still working on that millionaire thing. Not to say that I haven’t been successful in life, but those words still haunt me a bit today, making me question, “What could or should have been?” and “How have I possibly fallen short of my potential?”

Happiness is a state of mind impacted by where we set our expectations. While these and many other factors directly affect those expectations, we are ultimately in control of where they’re set in relationship to our current state of reality.

While “strategic” and long-term goals are definitely not bad in and of themselves, they will seldom ever be achieved if set at levels requiring too much time to realize. The gap between reality and expectation will be too great, and ultimately, results in unhappiness.

Think tiny. Ideally, our expectation bars should be set at short, attainable levels so both growth and happiness are incremental. Small, short-term accomplishments will not only serve as a motivator towards the future, they will help you maintain an achievable level of ongoing happiness. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants?

Practice Challenge: Think about what you want long-term…what you really want. Then, break that down into very tiny, incremental steps. Once done, while keeping in mind all of the aspects mentioned above, focus exclusively on achieving that first step, and only that first step. After you accomplish it, move on to the next. Not only does this keep your expectations at manageable levels, it keeps happiness within reach.

©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 www.adpaustian.com

 

 

 

1Is $50,000 Enough to Buy Happiness? What about $161,810? (April 2013) Retrieved January 11, 2016, from the Fast Company website: http://www.fastcompany.com/3006746/is-50000-enough-to-buy-happiness-what-about-161810

2The Dangers of Image Crafting. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from the Whole9 website: http://whole9life.com/2014/03/dangers-image-crafting

3 Shapiro, A. & Campbell, L. (2014). The Book of Odds: from Lightning Strikes to Love at First Sight, the Odds of Everyday Life. New York, NY: William Morrow, Inc.

Focus lessons from a dog (Part 1)

Sydney16x9

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."

If you’re like most people, odds are you’re swamped - so much to do, so little time to do it. We wade through our days trying to balance ever-growing responsibilities, and when we do them simultaneously, we feel more productive. We call this “multitasking,” and we believe the better we are at it, the more effective and efficient we will be. We tend to view multitasking as a positive, frequently sought-after attribute. In fact, as many of you read this, you’re likely responding to text messages, checking emails, eating lunch, reacting to app notifications, and thinking about the rest of your day at the same time.

But multitasking is a myth. Sure, you can chew gum while walking, listen to music while vacuuming, eat lunch while reading, or fold laundry while talking on the phone. But these activities don’t require higher-order, problem-solving skills or much brainpower of any kind. Psychologists who have long-studied the concept of multitasking have found that the brain is unable to focus on more than one higher-order function at a time. When people multitask, they actually shift their attention from one thing to another at fast speeds, and each time they switch focus between tasks, their minds must cope with the new information.

What is actually occurring is “switchtasking.” According to Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves . . . Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not.”

There are several reasons for this, but one is that similar tasks compete to use the same parts of the brain. For example, talking on the phone and writing an email are nearly impossible to do concurrently because of what neuroscientists call “interference.” Both tasks involve communication skills and contend for similar space in the brain. Multitasking doesn’t actually make us more productive; in fact, the quality of our effort suffers. Another major downside to multitasking is the negative effect it has on our stress levels as we try to balance a multitude of simultaneous activity. As a result, we feel overwhelmed, drained, and anxious.1

So why has multitasking become so important? It hasn’t always been this way. I can remember a time not too long ago when people were pretty content doing just one thing at a time and living much slower lives. What’s different? I believe the answers can be found by looking at two distinct yet interrelated aspects of everyday life: technology and our level of happiness, the latter of which will be addressed in my next post.

When I was in high school, personal computers were barely in their infancy. Way too expensive for the vast majority, PCs with any real productive power were only found at the corporate level. Some high schools and colleges were beginning to use them, but for the most part, the average person still had little to no personal contact with a computer. Cell phones didn’t exist, let alone anything remotely resembling today’s power-packed smartphones.

In other words, by today’s standards, people were pretty disconnected. To communicate, you either made a call from a bulky telephone connected to a wall, talked face-to-face, sent letters, or fired up your CB radio (if you were born after 1980 you may need to ask someone older about this).

The lack of accessible personal technology resulted in a slower life; one that required more planning and coordination to maximize productivity, stronger interpersonal skills, and greater levels of patience.

Current technology demands an entirely new context: one where people spend less time planning their days since most things can now be done on the fly; one where the need for interpersonal skills between people continues to diminish as a larger percentage of our communication is now virtual; and one where expectations of “instant” are now the norm. Be honest, after you send a text message or leave a voicemail, how long are you willing to wait for a response before feeling frustrated . . . even a little?

This change in thinking - especially for younger generations who only know this type of thinking - combined with the ubiquity of personal electronics has resulted in daily expectations of immediacy and convenience. Ultimately, we feel like we’re doing more in less time, and thus create and perpetuate the concept of multitasking.

Unfortunately, while technology has definitely become more capable, our minds still basically work the same. And the result of this ongoing pursuit to do more in less time is ultimately the diminished quality of our efforts with increased levels of stress and anxiety.

I own a beautiful liver and white springer spaniel named Sydney. Sydney does four basic things in life and never at the same time: eat, play, poop and sleep. You can’t ask for a more simple life, and despite that, she’s happy. And she’s always present in the moment.

We need to be more like Sydney and simplify our lives and stop trying to do everything simultaneously. Research has shown that our mental energy related to decision-making is finite, and once depleted, the quality of our thinking begins to dramatically suffer. As average people, we tend to spend a large percentage of our mental energy on relatively meaningless stuff that really doesn’t have any real impact on our lives, good or bad, like streaming through countless posts on Facebook and watching television. Once our brain has used its energy, we tend to miss the relevant stuff and other important details necessary to be more successful, creative thinkers within the limited time we are given.2

Studies of very efficient people show they rid themselves of distractions and the unnecessary, miscellaneous choices that deplete mental energy. They frequently eat and meet at the same places; they turn off their smartphone app notifications until they’re ready to see them; they stop dwelling on things that occurred in the past and don’t obsess on things that might happen since it’s impossible to actually do things in the past or future; they frequently wear the same clothes (think Steve Jobs); and they remove the clutter that surrounds them.3

To illustrate the power of simplification, consider the high school equivalency GED exam, which has been around for over 70 years. Recently, the exam shifted from paper to a computerized format. Unlike the paper version, where multiple questions along with multiple answer slots were all visible at once, the computerized version removed the clutter and only showed one question at a time. The passing rate on the computer exam rose to 88 percent, compared with 71 percent for the paper version (a 17 percent increase).4

Being at our creative best requires gas in the mental tank, gas that will only be available if we aren’t going full throttle every day. Be like Sydney. Simplify your life.

Practice Challenge: Keep a journal consisting of one full week’s worth of decisions. Document any and all decisions you make from the most mundane (e.g., what clothes to wear, what food to eat, etc.) to the most critical and important (e.g., financially-related, strategic, etc.). Following the week, look back through the list and determine which decisions could become routine with little or no thought given to them. Predetermine how those decisions will be made ahead of time and shift your focus towards those most important. You should feel a greater sense of energy when addressing them.

©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 www.adpaustian.com

 

 

 

1Hamilton, Jon. Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again. (October 2, 2008) Retrieved October 28, 2015, from the NPR website: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794

2Vaughan, Michael. Know Your Limits, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much. (January 24, 2014) Retrieved October 28, 2015, from the Entrepreneur website: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230925

3Bradberry, Travis. How Successful People Make Smart Decisions. (October 7, 2015) Retrieved October 28, 2015, from the Forbes website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2015/10/07/10-tricks-successful-people-use-to-make-smart-decisions

4Building the Educated and Employed Communities of Tomorrow. Retrieved December 28, 2015, from the GED Testing Service website: http://www.gedtestingservice.com/uploads/files/9bce820a49287fec1febad56e98bccef.pdf

5 steps to protect your trade secret

 
Intellectual property, including trade secrets, can serve as one of the most valuable assets in an organization.  Like most assets, however, if trade secrets are not protected, their value can quite literally vanish overnight. As such, it is important for businesses to protect their trade secrets. Here are five common practices that businesses frequently use to protect trade secrets: 
 
1.  Classify and conspicuously designate trade secrets.  After identifying your business' trade secret(s), clearly designating such materials as trade secret by stamping them "TRADE SECRET," is an easy first step to establishing protection. Caution should be exercised, however, when designating materials so as to avoid mistakenly identifying materials that are clearly not confidential - a mistake that can dilute the effectiveness of the entire protection process.
 
2. Use nondisclosure agreements.
Incorporating the use of nondisclosure agreements, especially for individuals that come into contact with trade secrets and confidential information, can add further protection. Well-crafted nondisclosure agreements often: (1) identify materials that are deemed trade secret/confidential; (2) include disclosure restrictions (e.g. restrictions on disclosure to vendors and other third-parties); (3) address the term of protection (e.g. perpetual v. term of years); and (4) provide for enforcement.
 
3.  Incorporate destruction strategies.
Using shredding equipment when disposing of physical materials that may reveal trade secret information is yet another logical, yet often overlooked step in protecting trade secrets. Caution must also be exercised when disposing electronic equipment that has stored trade secret information.  
 
4.  Adopt computer security practices.
Trade secrets and confidential information contained in computer systems may be protected through encryption as well as strong passwords and restricted access. Such practices help reduce misappropriation by not only outsiders, but also by inside employees with ulterior motives.
 
5.  Proactively consider departing employees.
Whether during an exit interview or otherwise, when employees depart it serves as a logical opportunity to remind employees of their confidentiality obligations and be provided with copies of any nondisclosure agreements.
 
If you are working to protect a trade secret, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney who practices in this area of law.

 

Introducing new blogger: Jason Kiesau

- Jason Kiesau, Leadership and Talent Development manager for Aureon HR, writes about success skills on IowaBiz.com.

Greetings Central Iowa!

My name is Jason Kiesau and I am the Leadership and Talent Development Manager at Aureon HR, Inc. and author of FOCUSED – Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals. The role of our team at Merit is to provide to our clients’ leaders, managers, and workforce, the training, coaching and learning opportunities that support them in achieving their goals in alignment with their organizational goals. We believe this starts with what we like to call Success Skills Mastery.

I’m on a mission to forever change the term “soft skills” to Success Skills, because without them you won’t succeed. It doesn’t matter if you are leader, manager, or an employee; you can be the smartest, most talented, and the hardest working person in the room, but if you lack Success Skills you will have limited success and will never fulfill your potential.

Success Skills Mastery will be the subject I write about for IowaBiz.com.

The three most critical Success Skills I will focus on are:

  1. Self-Management
  2. Relationship Building
  3. Strategic Planning and Goal Setting

Regardless of what you do for your employer or what board you serve on, pursuing Success Skills Mastery will quickly raise your value and make you more effective; leading to greater success.

To be successful we must:

  • Manage our attitudes, emotions, actions, and reactions and adapt them to people and situations as needed.
  • Create win/win situations and build mutually beneficial relationships by understanding others’ needs and meeting them where they are.
  • Understand strategic thinking and set and measure long- and short-term goals that align with our vision and strategic plan.

I’ve been fascinated with personal, professional and leadership development since my early 20s. I am passionate about helping people live a high-quality of life by confidently pursuing and achieving meaningful results. Prior to joining Merit six years ago, I was a strategic partner with Profiles International helping clients hire the right people and a business coach with E-Myth Benchmark (now Benchmark Business Group) working with small business owners all over the United States, supporting them in achieving their strategic objective by working ON their business, not IN their business.

Thank you for your time and attention in reading this. I look forward to contributing to IowaBiz.com and supporting your pursuit towards Success Skills Mastery! Please let me know if our Leadership and Talent Development Team at Aureon HR, Inc. can support you in achieving your goals.

Connect with Jason:

Leadership vs. management

- 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.

Within the host of elements that make up an internal business culture, there is a delicate balance between how a business is led and how it is executed. There are four elements that are our focus here: we will discuss the differences between leadership and management, and how adjustments in the levels of control and accountability can feed into performance outcomes.

Our first lever arm is balanced between leadership and management. In a general sense, businesses tend to focus on management. There are a number of reasons for this: 1) Metrics are easier to establish, as they tend to be analytical and based on established benchmarks. 2) There is less risk associated with management – generally, it is the improvement or monitoring of established processes. 3) There is often no pressure to push individuals out of their comfort zones – in many ways, management is about creating conformity or adherence to the pre-established norms.

Leadership is rooted in something different. It isn’t always about change, but the purpose of leadership is to create, rather than maintain. There is a higher level of risk involved, but the outcomes are rooted in: 1) Greater organizational sustainability. 2) Higher employee engagement and investment in organizational mission. 3) Ability to positively adapt to changes in market segments.

As the balance between leadership and management is established, there are two internal elements that act as subsets of each. Control and accountability. These factors are complex and many organizations struggle to find the right levels of each. As a function of human nature, there tends to be a decrease in accountability as control is increased beyond a certain threshold. Similarly, if control is relaxed (up to a certain point), the level of accountability and employee productivity increases substantially. There are obviously extremes on both ends, but there is a range in the middle where these two factors can reach an optimized level.

In an aspirational sense, many organizations seek to self-actualize as leadership / accountable type organizations. But as risk increases, there is a tendency to gravitate back toward the safer, more cautious framework of management and control. But that’s why finding the right balance is important and to acknowledge that these two things are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.

IBM and companies like Tesla are two examples of one extreme and the other. IBM stood as an example of exceptional management for the better part of a century. However, by 1991, the strict adherence to the status quo – managing existing systems without modernizing or adapting to current market conditions – almost caused the company's complete collapse. Company officials chose to be almost exclusively devoted to management and control; low risk, which led to a contraction that was completely avoidable. Apple_welcome-ibm-seriously1

Tesla is just the opposite. As a company, Tesla is built around a singular idea – that they will lead the market by providing a product that will eventually replace the status quo. They chose to lead and that leadership instills a sense of accountability in their employees – there is a social obligation as well as the business one. There is high risk here, as it still remains to be seen if Tesla will be sustainable in the long run.

I've included an image in this blog from an ad that Apple ran to welcome IBM to the PC market, one that they should have, by all measures, been able to dominate. It serves to underscore how damaging an adherence to the status quo can be.

Leadership and management are two different things, but they are both essential to creating a successful organization. In the right doses, control and accountability are also critical elements of success. The key is to find the right recipe of each to produce the desired results and build upon your successes as an organization.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

The restaurant industry offers careers, not place holders

If you ever find yourself frustrated in your career or worried about your job prospects, please try to resist uttering the words, “I could always go flip burgers.”

It implies that “burger flipping” aka “the restaurant industry” is a workplace of last resort. We’re not.  In fact, we are an industry loaded with opportunity for advancement, compensation based on performance, and entrepreneurship.

Today, one in ten Iowans work in Iowa’s restaurant industry. That’s 9 percent of the state’s work force (145,400 people).  There are more than 6,000 eating and drinking establishments generating $3.6 billion in annual revenue in Iowa. That doesn’t even take into account the industries built around providing goods and services to restaurants. Think of the financial impact food purveyors, soft drink and alcohol distributors, equipment manufacturers and other restaurant service providers have on the state’s economy.  It’s far reaching and financially significant.  

We’re proud of the fact that people can start out in entry-level positions and end up owners. One in three Iowans found their first job in a restaurant, but more significantly, 80 percent of restaurant owners started in entry-level positions within our industry. We’re one of the few industries where this trajectory of career growth is still possible. And while it’s true you can become an owner without an advanced degree, that’s not the only, or even the preferred path.

Iowa has eight college culinary/restaurant management programs and countless restaurant-focused career tech ed programs in high schools across the state. Just this month, the Iowa Restaurant Association along with DMACC Continuing Education, launched a Hospitality Professional Development Institute for those seeking industry-specific management, human resources and cost control training. Every restaurant in the state is required by law to have a certified food protection manager—a designation that requires a $150 full day course and a standardized exam.

Want sexy? There is an entire cable television network dedicated to our industry and a growing stable of celebrity chefs whom even elementary school children recognize.

We are also champions for diversity. The restaurant industry boasts more minority managers than any other industry and minority ownership figures are also high—particularly at a national level. Over the past several decades, there’s been an 80 percent increase in Hispanic-owned restaurant businesses, a 188 percent increase in African American-owned restaurant businesses, and a 50 percent increase in women-owned restaurants.  Nationally, 50 percent of all restaurant owners are women.  In fact, Iowa’s restaurant industry may well be the key to moving our state out of the basement of female-owned businesses (we currently rank 50th in the nation.)

I was recently discussing the perception that those of us in the restaurant industry “ended up here” versus “chose to be here” with a young man with an economics degree who left his traditional office job to return to a downtown Des Moines restaurant in a management role.

He explained to me, “I look out the window and think ‘I’m still doing all of the same business-focused work I did when I was stuck at a desk in one of those office buildings, but now I get to feed and entertain 300 people every day too.’ I like that.”

Most of us like it and we’re proud to be here.

So perhaps if you actually are frustrated with your career or worried about your job prospects, you should choose to join us—we’re not a place holder industry—we’re a world of opportunity.

--Jessica Dunker Career Fair Logo with Date and Location

Should you offer incentives for referrals?

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals

Referrals are nothing new. People have been making recommendations to their friends and family since the Ice Age. In fact, in the olden days, word-of-mouth was the primary way of discovering new products and services. Back then the village carpenter, of sorts, would likely ask Captain Caveman if he had any Neanderthal buddies in need of a new club. He had to make a living, after all.

Fast forward to the 21st century (thank God) and, until recently, referral strategies hadn’t evolved a whole lot. In most cases, a proactive approach to obtaining referrals consisted of asking a client for the names of a couple of friends or family members. Over time, new strategies were developed aimed at leveraging existing clients to acquire new business. These methods were mostly a consequence of changing technology which influenced the way we communicate. As these strategies became more popular they were encapsulated by a single term: referral marketing.

Gas referralReferral marketing became popular with the success of incentive-based programs whose proliferation was greatly influenced by the internet. A prime example is the file-hosting company Dropbox that realized massive growth after introducing a program that rewarded its members for referring their friends. Due to their success, Dropbox became the poster child for referral marketing and, on that account, incentive-based programs were the new gold standard.

It wasn’t long before companies followed suit and started incentive-based referral programs of their own. This strategy worked well for some businesses, and flopped for others. This left many befuddled and raised the question: why were incentive-based programs proving to be hit or miss?

It turns out that incentive-based programs are more successful for companies offering products and services where personal relationships with clients aren’t paramount. On the other hand, for those companies that value business-client relationships, monetary incentives actually backfired.

This is because offering rewards for referrals is the quickest way to convert relationships once founded on trust into those that orbit money. Offering $10 gas card, for example, places a monetary value on the referral. This confirms that the business craves referrals simply because they convert to revenue.

Sociologists call this a shift from social to market norms. From ‘What can I do for you’ to ‘What can I give you’.

Remember, in relationship-focused industries, one of the most powerful reasons people refer is to help their friends and family – not for ten bucks. As soon as a monetary reward for new business is introduced into the equation (being your relationship) your client will feel like you are after their friends and family for a fatter bottom line, not necessarily because you want to help them.

So, should you offer incentives for referrals? The answer depends on your business model. If you’re a service-based company where client relationships are valuable, then it’s better to hold off. On the other hand, for companies that offer products and services where personal relationships aren’t particularly important, incentives can be an effective way of encouraging clients to spread the word.

How to get people to attend your events

 

-Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC

Last post we talked about building effective strategy for your events to ensure you see a positive return on investment. This week we address a common fear: what if nobody shows up?

Getting people to attend your event is a part of your overall event strategy and contributes to how effective you are at seeing a positive ROI.  Here are 5 sure-fire ways you can ensure the people you want at your event are there.

  1. Create event attendee profiles:  Start back at the drawing board by truly shedding light on what types of people you want to attend your event. Compile a list of adjectives that describe your perfect attendee. Then allow these adjectives to manifest themselves into specific people. Don’t just throw paint at the wall by inviting everyone. Rather, be laser focused on creating a specific and concise list.  Brainstorm with your team to create a list of your top 100 people you would like to attend and then allow your list to spider web out from there. You should begin profiling your target list of attendees about the same time you begin brainstorming your event objectives to ensure your messaging aligns with the intended audience that will be receiving it.
  2. Send your target group compelling messaging: Now that you have compiled your top 100 list, determine what avenues make the most sense for you to reach them.  Develop captivating and unique marketing materials that you can send their way.  Find ways where you can connect with them personally to share about your event.  The key is to convince folks they MUST be at your event.
  3. Tap into existing networks: Form partnerships with like-minded, non-competing organizations that have an existing network of engaged individuals that you would love to have at your event. Together work out a strategic, mutually beneficial plan to reach those individuals and entice them to attend your event. Provide partners with email templates or copy that they can easily distribute to their networks, saving them oodles of time. 
  4. Send unique invitations: Whatever happened to snail mail? Send out an eye-catching and clever invite that sets your event apart from all other events. Always include a call to action and a teaser of what can be expected on event day.
  5. Create incentive: Promise your attendees that they will be getting something out of your event. Time is money and your attendees will want to know what value is to be gained by attending your event. Provide (3) concise bullet points on why your event is worth attending in your outreach marketing material. 
  6. Build event momentum: Talk about your event a lot and share all the exciting things that will be happening at it. Highlight your speakers, share content teasers, and advertise giveaways. Use your social media outlets to reach your audience. Take advantage of targeted ads to boost your post engagements and make updates frequently to ensure you are at the forefront of your audience's mind. Encourage your in-house staff and early bird attendees to share the event information on their social media, thus increasing your reach. Ask your speakers if they wouldn't mind writing a short blog post to provide a sneak-peak into what they will be sharing. Make it clear that this is the event that is NOT to be missed!

Now it goes without saying that if you go through all this trouble to make sure your attendees show up, you better deliver.  Be innovative, be creative and be original. 

As always, if you’re feeling lost, I am here to help!

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

Giving positive feedback gets powerful results

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

Any mother would be heartbroken if her 15-year-old son was called sexist at school by his teacher. It might happen without ever being reported to the parent by the child. This is particularly true if the kid's parents are uneducated or do not speak English. 

Labeling young kids with certain unwanted or derogatory terms is unethical and unprofessional. When an educator tells a young kid: you are sexist, or you are a bad influence on the team, or you are weird, it can be like a life sentence. The effect can be permanent. The power of labeling is like black magic; if care is not taken, the child will become the very thing you labeled them to be. 

I was not educated in the United States, so I don't know if derogatory terms are used regularly on students. I would be shocked to learn that it was.    

I was in China when I was 15, and in my high school, I had a math teacher called Ms. Huang. She had this quiet smile on her face and would never raise her voice at us no matter how naughty we were. At that time, I secretly struggled with math. I was kind of a tomboy and I felt that I had to be as good as these boys in math. I would cause drama in the math class that would lead to the boys getting in trouble.

I never made eye contact with Ms. Huang. I always wanted to stay away from her. One day, shortly after a math quiz, Ms. Huang called my name. Immediately, I started sweating profusely. I knew I was in trouble. She said softly: Ying, do you have the answer for me?" I quickly stood and darted my eyes around the room looking for help. The classroom was quiet and everyone was waiting for me to say something. I looked down to my feet and murmured: "Ms. Huang, I did not hear what you asked." In her usual calm voice, she said: "That is all right, Ying, let’s discuss that after the class".

I walked to her office and my legs were shaking. I could not even stand straight. I was very scared, thinking that she might have seen me peeping at Hua’s answers during the test.

In Ms. Huang’s office, students normally sat across the table from her so she could lecture them face-to-face. But she asked me to sit next to her on an empty bench, and without a word, she gently put her hand on my shoulder and said: "Ying, do you know you are very smart?" 

I looked up and shook my head without hesitation. I was not smart and I knew it. Someone told me that girls are never smart with math in high school. She continued "You actually can be very good at math but somehow you told yourself that you are not good at it." The only thing that came to my mind then was "When did I tell myself that?"

But she is right. I did tell myself that. I looked up and stared at the yellow-framed reading glasses on her face… that pair of glasses is imprinted in my memory even today. I love those kinds of frames and my reading glasses have always looked like those.

Ms. Huang held me tighter and said: "Can you stop telling yourself you are not good at math? I will be here for you whenever you need me. You can be a mathematician if you want to. Do you think you can prove to me that I am right?"

For a while, I visited her office often, I revisited all the areas of math that I did not like and later that year I won the Probability Math Contest in our school. As a kid I was just doing things to prove to Ms. Huang that she was right.

Ms. Huang changed my course of life by recognizing the good part of me. She could have labeled me in different terms – a cheater for copying from others, a sexist for creating issues with boys in class because they are better at math. She knew I was not perfect and she cared about me anyway. I loved her back by proving to her that I was worth her time and attention. Before I left China, I visited her at her home for the last time. She hugged me and said: "I always knew you would be wonderful."

Ms. Huang is the educator who lifted up a 15-year-old and put her on the right path to grow. Thirty years later, I finally can adequately articulate her impact on my life. It became apparent to me especially when I came to know kids being labeled this way in our system.

I am fortunate that someone labeled me in such positive way when I was in the stage of learning myself. Give children time to learn about themselves and do not label them so quickly and so irresponsibly.

Be like Ms. Huang.

 

What are the must-have features for my website?

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

For such an easy question, there must be an easy answer, right?

  1. About Page
  2. Staff Gallery
  3. Shopping Cart

Wait … you don’t sell your product online? Okay, then:

  1. About Page
  2. Staff Gallery
  3. Contact Form

Oh, shoot - you have a team of two people. Maybe a Staff Gallery doesn’t make sense anymore?

Round, and round, and round we go. The truth is, “what are the must-have features” really isn’t the right question to ask. The content on your website is heavily reliant on two things: one, the audience, and two, the goals you have for your website. So in essence, the “must have features” are going to be influenced by the answers to two questions.

Who’s your target audience?

You must take your audience into consideration when you develop your website; if not, you might be providing content written for the wrong people. Even worse, you might be providing the wrong content entirely. In an ideal world, you will know basic demographic information and the goals of your target audience. Then, you can deliver the content they want to see, how they want to see it.

Think of it this way. If you have a website about a summer camp for elementary school children - and you write it to that audience, you're missing out. Why? Because the parent is the one that is making that purchasing decision. They want to know different things than the child would want to know, and the reading level will be quite different. 

What are your website goals?

I’m not talking about the overall traffic you want to see. Everyone wants people to get to their website. What I want to know is, when people arrive, what would you like them to do?

If you can’t think of anything, think of it this way: why do you have a website in the first place? Examples of potential goals would be lead generation (this could be forms completed), purchases made, or event registrations. It might even be the knowledge that your users are getting three or four pages deep into your site, if you're providing purely educational content. Are they working their way through your content, or dropping off of the home page?

Once you have the answers to these two questions, you’ll be well on your way to identifying the “must have” features for your website. Those features will serve a greater purpose because they are there for a reason. And, hopefully, they will help your business or organization grow as a result.

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

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

A tale of two clients

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

Our group recently did a small, focused survey of customers for one business unit of a larger local company. The results revealed impressive levels of satisfaction with our client's service.

There were, nevertheless, a few key areas of opportunity unearthed by the data. I was sure that the client would be eager to tout the good results within their organization, but I was impressed to see that the client's first action was to organize a brainstorming session to figure out how they could improve. In the session they included team members, key players from the larger corporation, and a few customers themselves. It was truly the spirit of continuous improvement. They were happy to tout the good results, but they were more concerned with leveraging the data to push customer satisfaction even higher.

Contrast this story with another client company we worked with some time ago. A survey of their customers revealed good (but not great) levels of satisfaction with some glaring areas of dissatisfaction. Our subsequent assessment of calls between sales agents and customers revealed clear examples of exactly why customers were dissatisfied. The data provided our client with a very clear and detailed blueprint for turning things around. Some targeted training and coaching in specific sales and service skills would address areas of customer dissatisfaction and lead to improved performance, sales, and CSAT. The client, however, received the data with immediate denial ("this can't be right"), then embarrassment ("this is going to make me look bad"), and finally rejection as they buried the report which was never presented to anyone else in the organization.

One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity to work with many different companies in different markets and industries. I have learned so many great lessons about life and business simply from observing clients on a daily basis. I have come to learn that the most successful companies not only pay lip service to continuous improvement but also exemplify it in the way they operate each and every day. By contrast, I've learned that many companies operate far below their ultimate potential because of an internal culture of fear. I've also observed that both of these contrasting corporate cultures seem representative of the attitudes that flow directly from the executive suite (but, that's another blog post for another day).

Why not make 2016 the year you do something with that data, customer feedback, survey results, and/or QA report? Numbers in a binder on the shelf, on your hard drive archive, or in the trash will profit you little. Leverage them, use them, and do something positive to move the needle on sales, service, and satisfaction!

Social customer service matters

- Katie Patterson is the CEO | Founder at Happy Medium.

Social media is often blamed for the end of interpersonal relationships. It’s too easy for us to stay online and away from each other. I was not particularly shocked to read about a study that found that regardless of how many Facebook “friends” you have, you can only really rely on 4 actual friends during tough times. When friendship is boiled down to clicking on a request, and some people can’t even be bothered to do that, what does that mean for the state of friendship?

At Happy Medium, we tend to be optimists. Yes, social media has the capacity to separate us from each other but it also has the ability to create more meaningful connections and the smart brands using social understand this.

An interesting post came across my Facebook feed a few days ago. A friend (both online and IRL) posted that she received a call from the surgeon who was going to operate on her knee, asking if she had any questions or concerns. She was impressed that the surgeon himself, not a staff member, took the time to call and make sure she was feeling confident about her upcoming operation.

That’s good customer service. And, because we live in a world where we don’t expect that, not only did the surgeon impress his patient, he probably impressed a number of people who saw my friend’s genuine post. So now, because of social media, that good deed committed by the doctor becomes a walking billboard for his brand of compassion and care. That’s a prescription any business could use.

As individuals, we may only have four friends we can count on, but businesses have to count on a lot more to feed their bottom line so they can ill-afford to mistreat their online acquaintances. And yet, time and again, brands forget basic customer service when it comes to social. 80% of the top 500 retailers ignore questions sent to them via Twitter and only a little more than half respond on Facebook. And the average response is longer than a day. Try sending my company a request that might turn into money and see if you don’t hear from us for a full day. If that happens, it’s the zombie apocalypse and you should find a place to hole up for awhile.

The story about my friend’s surgery proves that social media can be a tool in an overall customer service strategy. I’ll bet that surgeon didn’t call my friend expecting a laudatory Facebook post but he understands that good customer services results in happy customers and happy customers are apt to share their happiness. And just as you wouldn’t ignore a customer who called you on the phone or walked into your shop, you can’t simply avoid conversations online.

Luckily, just as platforms are making it easier to buy products through social, they are making it easier for brands to interact with their customers.

Facebook has launched a beta version of Messenger Business, a modification of their popular Messenger app (800 million users and counting) that allows real-time conversations between customers and businesses.

Twitter has dropped its “mutual follow” rule for direct messages, meaning that brands can reach out to customers directly, even if they don’t follow each other. And those direct messages don’t come with a character limit. We’ll see if brands use these new tools to improve their miserable online customer service numbers but for now, there’s a tremendous opportunity to be ahead of your competitors.

And who knows, when you do something good in real life, you might just find an extra bump for yourself online. People don’t always value their online friends, but brands can’t afford not to.

Katie Patterson is the CEO | Founder of Happy Medium, a full service interactive advertising agency based in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter - @_klpatterson

Hungry for a little innovation?

- Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Innovation is critical to growing our businesses and our economy.  You can't market something if it doesn't solve a problem or meet a need.  And if what you sell is a commodity and lacks innovation -- all you can do is sell on price.

Innovation is so vital to our future that the White House created/updated the Strategy for American Innovation calling for and working towards making our entire country more innovative.

All of that is dandy -- but how do local business owners and leaders infuse innovation into their organizations?  

As we've seen over the past few weeks with the Iowa Caucuses, living in Central Iowa comes with some unique opportunities. Fortunately -- there's one coming up that I think should be on everyone's radar screen.

ciWeek/Celebrate! Innovation™ Week is Feb. 29 – March 4 and provides students and Central Iowans an opportunity to engage with people (some famous, all inspired) who have dreamed, created and accomplished.  It's absolutely free, thanks to the sponsors and is an amazing collection of speakers, experts and innovators. (Check out the presenters here)

 

It’s a thought-provoking and interactive week hosted each year at DMACC’s West Des Moines Campus, where students of all ages listen, absorb and engage. It’s a local cross between TED Talks and the famous SXSW event held each year in Austin, Texas.

Previous ciWeek presenters have included:
• Two of the 12 men who walked on the moon
• The man considered the father of the personal computer
• Television personalities who focus on science, invention and ideas
• Explorers who have been to the depths of the ocean and the highest mountain peaks
• Engineers developing the growing commercial space industry
• Inventors of incredible animatronics and robotics
• Academy Award-winning visual effects creators and animators

The week-long event focuses on inspiration, which is the drive behind creativity. We see how inspiration impacted the lives of these speakers and how it compelled them to greatness. Their stories are fascinating and have application to all.

Check out the website and see how you and your organization can take advantage of this Central Iowa gem and infuse a little innovation into your organization.

Travel, business, leadership, life: What's your quest?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive & leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

I can't imagine a better time to write about The Happiness of Pursuit than early in a new year. If you want to think bigger and challenge yourself in a meaningful way, the examples, ideas, and inspiration found in Chris Guillebeau's latest book will prompt you into action. 

Happiness of Pursuit book - GuillebeauThis book focuses on one thing: quests. Not just traditional goals or good ideas, but epic projects that require focus and purposeful intensity in order to fulfill them. Rather extraordinary in scope and often several years in duration, I relate them to what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras refer to in their book Built To Last as BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals - that can be established in any area of work, leadership, or life.

The quest begins with a dream because, as Guillebeau writes in the prologue, "If you want to achieve the unimaginable, you start by imagining it." The quest presents a challenge, requires sacrifice, and leaves you a better person than when you started. The adventure changes you and brings meaning and fulfillment along the way.

Guillebeau begins by explaining his own quest: to visit all 193 countries before turning 35. He shares his experience throughout much of the book as well as highlighting others' inspiring quests, such as:

  • Circumnavigate the globe, solo, in a small sailboat.
  • Take, process, and edit one million photos.
  • Produce the world's largest symphony.
  • Refrain from talking for a period of time (which turned out to be 17 years).
  • Read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in one year.
  • Give $10/day, every day for a year, to a different charity.

That's just for starters.

Big. Bold. Time- and energy-consuming. Perhaps a little nuts, right? Guillebeau does a nice job addressing all of these components in the book. He emphasizes how your quest must come from the heart; it isn't about impressing others, and in fact others may question, or even poke fun at, your quest. "Not everyone needs to believe in your dream," Guillebeau wisely states, "but you do."

I read with particular appreciation his ideas around fear. I have found in my coaching practice that many people hesitate to dream big or set bold goals because of fear - often the fear of not achieving them. I continually emphasize it's not as much about achieving the goal, quest, or dream as it is about who you become in the process: What you learn, how you grow, the transformation you experience. Guillebeau adds, "You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn't exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority."

Your quest may come from a variety of sources: the idea floating around since childhood, the more recent thought that just will not let go, the thing that breaks your heart. Oftentimes, your quest will essentially find you rather than the other way around; you'll know it when it strikes. And it will certainly evolve as you go.

This book is a particularly good read if you are:

  • in a rut and need a burst of inspiration;
  • ready to think bigger and bolder;
  • feeling an inkling for "something more;" or 
  • need a kick in the pants of any sort!

To be fair, I live in this space of big dreams and bold goals that Guillebeau writes about, so I am a bit biased. I believe everyone can benefit from creating some of these big, exciting projects in their work and life. They provide a sense of ongoing excitement and unusual focus. They allow you to get jazzed about something in the future while savoring and acting in the present moment. They help you prove to yourself that you are capable of what you set out to do.

On top of that, little compares to the feeling that comes with embarking on a significant, thrilling, not-fully-certain challenge - and achieving it.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Whether or not you feel ready to take on a quest just yet, there's one activity sure to get your creative-dreamer juices flowing: Start your Life List (a.k.a., bucket list). What would you LOVE to do, try, experience, see, or create if time and money were in unlimited supply? Personally and professionally, solo and with others, self-focused and other-focused...what comes to mind (and more importantly, to heart)? 

Start writing those ideas down. Not in to-do list fashion, just as a fun Life List that you can add to whenever an idea arises. I have currently challenged the ASPIRE Success Club members to come up with 101 items for their lists, and I encourage you to do the same. Not only will this spark your creativity and open your sense of possibility, it will provide clues to your passions and purpose as well.

And who knows? You might just decide to turn one of those ideas into your next quest!

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders, executives, and meaningful achievers to succeed and make a difference in work they love! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Guillebeau, Chris. The Happiness Of Pursuit. Harmony, 2014. 

Iowa's next economic frontier

 - Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.

Fifty thousand jobs.

That’s what is projected to be created nationally in the biorenewable chemicals industry within the next five years, BiochemFullReport_title_pageaccording to “Bio-Based Chemicals: The Iowa Opportunity”, a new report commissioned by the Cultivation Corridor with support from the Iowa Biotechnology Association released earlier this month.  What’s more, the paper argues a significant segment of those jobs could be created right here in Iowa. But they don’t have to be.   Back to that in a minute.

The paper was researched and written by Dr. Dermot Hayes, the Pioneer Hi-Bred International Chair in Agribusiness, professor of economics and professor of finance at Iowa State University; Dr. Brent Shanks, an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and the Steffenson Chair in Chemical and Biological Engineering at ISU; and Dr. Jill Euken, deputy director of the Bioeconomy Institute at ISU.

The report’s findings are striking.  Thanks to the rich supply of Iowa biomass suitable as feedstock for biorenewable chemical production, access to a foundational network of over 50 ethanol and biodiesel production facilities across the state, and nascent biorenewable chemical investment opportunities before us today, Iowa is better-positioned than most domestic competitors to capitalize on the next frontier of bioprocessing in the United States.

Despite Iowa’s obviously discernable advantages in the budding biochem space, however, the Hayes report suggests that the absence of a statewide economic development incentive tailored to address the unique needs of this budding industry stands as a serious impediment to the state’s potential to emerge as a center of gravity for biorenewable chemical investment and job creation in the coming years. The report reminds that the last bioeconomic boom Iowa saw- that of the ethanol industry - did not have to happen here and suggests that it was targeted state incentives which are directly attributable to the decision to choose Iowa over other Midwest states by more than one-third of the ethanol industry. The same dynamic, the report suggests, exists today relative to the biorenewable chemical industry. 

About nine months ago, I blogged about the tremendous opportunity seen in a coming transition from petroleum-based feedstocks to bio-based feedstocks for some of the world’s highest-value chemicals [Why Iowa needs to think like an oil company; May 27, 2015] and how important it was that Iowa leverage its virtually unmatched domestic competitive position to become the destination of choice for biochemical investment in the same way we became the preferred choice for biofuels investment.  I wrote the piece as the Iowa Legislature was debating a proposal to create an economic development tax credit to help entice the industry to choose Iowa, just as we did as a state more than a decade ago to entice biofuels investment. The measure failed [for a quick analysis of what happened, click here and scroll halfway down].

Part of the urgency I suggested we had as a state in 2015 to be a first mover was the fact that other states had begun talking about creating their own biorenewable chemical economic development legislation, and it behooved Iowa to be the first. With the legislature’s failure to act in 2015, the first mover window closed; Minnesota passed the nation’s first biochem legislation last year. Despite that, the 86th Iowa General Assembly has an opportunity before it in 2016 to enact what would be the country’s strongest economic development incentive to help grow the biorenewable chemical industry here, where it belongs.

What’s different this year than last? Thanks to the Hayes report, we’ve got the data to support the assertion that the biochemical industry holds exceptional promise for job creation in our state, much as the biofuels industry did and continues to do.  Among the report’s findings:

  • First-generation biofuels have been important economic drivers for the state of Iowa. Ethanol production alone in Iowa accounts for $2.23 billion per year in state GDP and supports more than 8,693 jobs. However, due to a new Renewable Fuel Standard which rolls back ethanol blend requirements to pre-2007 levels and ongoing feedstock limitations for biodiesel, alternative value-added bioproducts are critical to the future growth of the biomanufacturing industry in Iowa. 
  • Project opportunity exists today. At least five potential bio-based chemical production projects were identified through an industry interview process to as part of the report.  Representatives of each project indicated a biorenewable chemical production tax credit would be fundamental to the ultimate location decision in or outside Iowa.
  • Iowa has competitive advantages in several subfields of the emerging biorenewable chemicals industry. This advantage arises from
    • The availability of byproducts such as glycerin and distillers oils from first-generation biofuels facilities
    • The existence of several underutilized wet mills in Iowa, or close to Iowa
    • The fact that first-generation biofuels can themselves be upgraded into higher valued chemicals.
  • Iowa’s research and technological infrastructure in biorenewable chemicals and materials is second to none. The National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) led by ISU is the only competitively awarded federal research center solely dedicated to the development of biobased chemicals. Key capital infrastructure needed for biobased chemical development exists at ISU through the BioCentury Research Farm and the Bioeconomy Institute and the University of Iowa through the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing (CBB). The collective capabilities of these entities for enabling biobased chemicals exceeds those available in any other states.
  • The global petrochemical industry developed in clusters of close proximity to feedstock sources: oil refineries. The bio-based chemicals industry will develop in a similar manner - the economics of agglomeration suggests that industrial biomanufacturing clusters will develop from established biomanufacturing sites rather than from new green field sites. Iowa has more deployed biomanufacturing capital assets than any other state. 

What now, you say?  Read the report [or at least the executive summary]. Contact your legislator. Let him or her know how important it is that we not let another year go by without enacting the biorenewable chemical tax credit.

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

Human: 515-360-1732

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

Tax credits for a few vs. business deductions for everyone

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

Every targeted tax break is a choice to favor one business or economic activity over another. Most years, that choice is hidden in the budget process. Not this time.

This year the General Assembly can choose between two tax policy approaches. The choices:

  1. A provision to allow all profitable businesses in the state to deduct currently their costs of purchasing machinery and equipment, up to a generous limit -- one identical to a provision in the federal tax law. It is used widely by farmers and small businesses, benefiting thousands of filers.
  1. A series of provisions -- some new, but most at least a few years old -- that provide tax credits to selected businesses and industries who convince the General Assembly that they deserve special treatment - and regardless of whether they actually have taxes to pay.

As things stand now, the Iowa General Assembly seems likely to choose the second option. And that says a lot about how poorly the Iowa business income tax system treats smaller businesses.

Option 1 is the "Section 179 deduction." The federal tax bill, passed in December, makes permanent the $500,000 annual limit on the deduction, which allows taxpayers to take a current deduction in the year machinery and equipment is first used; otherwise, the deduction is spread over a period of years through depreciation deductions. This limit has been at $500,000 for several years on a temporary basis, and Iowa has allowed the same deduction since 2010.

The $500,000 limit has been popular. It is available regardless of whether your business is bio-chemical, renewable fuels, films, or another economic development flavor-of-the-month. It’s simple to administer – you just use the number you claim on your federal return.

Governor Branstad recently told Iowa business leaders that the state can't afford to renew the $500,000 amount. Instead, the deduction will be limited to $25,000 per year in 2015 and future years. This tax increase could net the state somewhere around $90 million in additional revenue in any given year. Because it is a matter of timing, it is close to revenue neutral over a five-year period.

Option 2 is to expend the millions of dollars of tax credits in the budget targeted to promote specific industries, lure businesses, or favor certain investments. For example, the budget includes a new credit for "Renewable Bio-Chemical production." While the number of taxpayers who would receive this credit is unknown, it's safe to say that it is a tiny fraction of those who benefit from the $500,000 Section 179 limit. It's possible that fewer than 100 Iowa businesses will qualify for the new credit.

The budget also continues to fund a refundable research credit, which operates as a $40 million cash grant program to some of Iowa's largest businesses. It funds another $37.4 million renewable fuel and bio-fuel credits, and $20.1 million in sales tax refunds to big businesses lured to Iowa by the economic development bureau. Altogether, the budget provides around $277 million in tax credits to lure new businesses or to subsidize business behavior the state has deemed worthy of special favors. These credits are permanent; they generate no offsetting revenue in future years.

Might these special favors be better for the economy than some farmer or small business who buys a new tractor or machine? You could make that case, but it would be plausible only if these favors were enacted by a process where the state looked at the vast menu of possible industries to support and carefully evaluated which ones were more persuasive. That never happens. Instead, the credits follow the path of the notorious Iowa film industry credits, where an industry gets some legislators and business boosters excited and builds support -- sometimes with "studies" funded by booster groups. There is no evaluation of the opportunity costs, of whether the funds would be better used elsewhere.

Boosters of these favors will remind us of what wonderful employers the recipients of these special favors are. While that may be true, the employers in every county who stand to lose their Section 179 deduction are wonderful too -- and in this budget, they (and their employees, suppliers and customers) pay for the special favors. They may not feel that they're less important than the industries favored with tax credits. There are a lot more of them. Whether their numbers will enable them to prevent having their taxes increased remains to be seen.

Joe Kristan wrote this piece. He speaks only for himself, not for his firm, colleagues or clients.

A guide to planning successful events: Conclusion

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- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then reach out with any questions!

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

Bonanza for local governments or savings for taxpayers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polk County

6.2%

Dallas County

6.3%

Broadlawns

6.2%

DART

6.2%

City of Ankeny

11.8%

City of Des Moines

4.7%

City of Waukee

9.2%

City of West Des Moines

6.7%

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

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

Cyber insurance advice

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity. 

 Cyber insurance

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

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

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

Network Security

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

Incident Response

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

Digital Forensics

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

Remediation Efforts

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

Breach Notification

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

Credit Monitoring

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

Legal Defense

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

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

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

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

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

A culture of entitlement

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

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

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

Organizational Culture

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

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

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

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

New Employee Orientation

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Daily discounts no deal for restaurants

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

Jessica Dunker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica Dunker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

Upcycling is new wave of sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving up accountability

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

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

Leaders beware! There are risks.

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

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

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

Consider this familiar example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teams in the workplace

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

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

A wake-up call for leaders

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

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

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Why your brand should be aspirational

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~ Drew

Anonymous ownership in an Iowa LLC

PGP_1038Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

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

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

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

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

Where does the time go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are the potential buyers for my business? Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security event monitoring myths and truths

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

Security-monitoring-myths-truths

 

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

Devices Generating Logs

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

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

Myths and Truths

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


Myth: Turning on event logging will impact system performance.

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


Myth: Security event monitoring takes too much time.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Six pillars of sustainable design

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

        World green Usgbc Gbi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punching above our weight class

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

Boxing_gloves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Human: 515-360-1732

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

You don't know until you know

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

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

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

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

“You don’t know until you know.”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Who may request a public record?

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

What constitutes a public record?

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

When must public records be provided?

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

Why does Iowa's open records law exist?

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

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

 

Take time for why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

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