Brave new world of foodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jessica Dunker

What is my company worth?

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

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

So how are businesses valued by buyers?

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

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

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

Here are a few of the less common:

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

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

Your business needs a social media presence… Now what?

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

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

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

Facebook

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

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

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

 

Twitter

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

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

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

Instagram

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

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

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

Snapchat

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

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

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

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

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


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

Spring clean your leadership

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


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

Quite a lot, actually. Consider this scenario:

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

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

How likely are you jump right into that project now?

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

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

  1. Your schedule.

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

  1. Your meetings.

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

  1. Your to-do list.

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

  1. Your self-doubt.

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

  1. Your message/brand.

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

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

You never know...

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

On March 21st I received an email that read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boom times for city budgets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

     FY 2017
       Rate

 Rate
Reduced?

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

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


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

 

 

MidAmerican changes the game

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

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

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

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

We’re not chasing smokestacks anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human: 515-360-1732

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

Restaurants sustain local farmers

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

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

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

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

What has Lynn learned being more sustainable in his restaurant?

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

After all, we are what we eat.

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

The trouble with winning

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Human: 515-360-1732

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

You get what you measure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be careful - the world is watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advice to trade show exhibitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3 questions to ask your technology leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Why Twitter?

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

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

1 in 4 Americans are active Tweeters in 2016

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

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

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

Include pictures

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

Use hashtags

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

Share interesting content

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

Get more followers

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

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

Leadership and trust: 5 key strategies (Part 2)

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

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

  1. Champion safeguards

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

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

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

  1. Trust and also verify

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

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

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

  1. Take the time it takes

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

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

  1. Training, feedback and coaching

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

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

  1. Conduct a self-audit

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Leadership and trust: presumed innocent (Part I)

“Trust until you have a reason not to.”

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

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

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

Or is it?

Lying, cheating, stealing

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

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

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

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

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

The Leadership Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Five common web terms to learn today

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

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

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

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

Five common web terms to learn today

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Challenges in checking potential employees' backgrounds

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

Steve Jobs once said, "[g]reat things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."  As many successful business leaders know, gathering the proper individuals to form a winning team, however, doesn't happen on its own.

One step that leaders often implement in assembling a winning team is to perform background checks, including past employment, criminal background, driving record, and credit history on prospective employees.

When it comes to many of these checks, however, the process is not as simple and quick as performing an internet search.  For instance, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs how businesses may legally screen certain matters and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has its own interpretation of how checks may drive hiring decisions.

Moreover, while you are working to build a winning team, your prospective employee's former employer may not be willing to share detailed information about your candidate for fear of a lawsuit by the candidate alleging claims of defamation, slander, breach of privacy, and retaliation. In short, simply assembling a team can involve several legal issues.  

The foregoing merely scratches the surface on a myriad of legal issues facing employers seeking to assemble a winning team.  So, what is an employer to do to navigate these issues?

For starters, many employers make sure to utilize carefully crafted waivers, written authorizations, and releases when seeking to obtain or use information. Further, savvy employers will document certain important steps throughout the hiring / screening process.

A licensed attorney can assist with each of these items - and others - as well as provide guidance on the types of positions that Iowa law requires certain background checks be performed prior to hiring.  

The great workplace divide

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills.

Please take a moment and think about two people in your life.

  1. Someone you work well with.
  2. Someone you work with who drives you nuts.

There is a great divide in the workplace that can be the root of workplace conflict and issues between leaders, managers, and their workforce: it's results-focused people vs. relationship-focused people.

Results-focused people tend to be task focused, less emotional and less relational. They tend to be more formal, less social and keep their personal and work lives separate. They are driven by results and making the right decision and prefer to avoid "fluff". In pursuit of getting their desired result, they can easily become impatient and frustrated with people who they perceive are not as focused and slow them down.

Relationship-focused people tend to be people focused, relational and more emotional. This can be seen in their passion and enthusiasm when they are excited about something, as well with how they respond to things that frustrate them. They tend to be more informal, more social, and blend their personal and work lives. They are driven by the positive experiences they have with others and are most productive when they feel appreciated and liked. When they don't feel appreciated and harmony with the people around them they can easily take things too personally, impacting their motivation and productivity.

Are you results focused or people focused?

These two types of people can be like oil and water because they don't understand one another.

Results-focused people get annoyed with relationship-focused people and say things like:

  • Why are they so emotional?
  • Why can't they just stay focused?
  • Do we need to talk about everything?
  • It's not a big deal.
  • Why are they so needy?

Relationship-focused people become frustrated with results people and say things like:

  • Why are they so serious and uptight?
  • It's not all about money.
  • Don't they care about people?
  • Are they mad at me?
  • They are not very friendly.

Earlier this year I worked with a top leader who is results focused and who was at his wits' end with a member of his team who is relationship focused. He didn't understand why she didn't just listen to him and why she overreacted about everything.

When I talked with her I learned that his direct and cold demeanor made her feel like she was failing and she was starting to feel like she couldn't meet his expectations. At the end of the day, if this top leader wants to get his desired results, he needs to be more relational with her. He needs to show more appreciation and approval as he is giving her direction and expectations. She needs to manage her emotions better, stop taking things so personally and be more task focused.

If you can relate to any of this, I challenge you to hit "reset" with the people who frustrate you and try to understand why they do. Also, in the spirit of self-management, understand why you are frustrated. Results-focused people do care about others; they just show it differently. Relationship-focused people do care about the results; they just need to know you have their back. People are different. We have different needs, preferred ways of doing things, weaknesses and things that stress us out.

These dynamics don't have to create a workplace divide. To achieve success, we must get the best out of ourselves and the people around us. To do this, we must understand, respect and appreciate what everyone brings to the table in order to maximize everyone's potential together.

That is success skills mastery.

 


 

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

Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

After the right hire

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

Last month, I wrote about how important it is for specialty retailers to put extra effort into the hiring process upfront to take a big weight off your shoulders for a long time to come.

So what happens after you make the right hire?

That topic is still on my mind because we're getting a new puppy in our house and those words -- a long time to come -- are ringing in my ears.

New puppies are a lot of work. Yet, we're willing to invest so much of ourselves in them because they just bring us so much joy and satisfaction.

One reason is that they're spilling over with enthusiasm and energy.

Isn't that what you want to encourage in your new employees, too?

You'll miss big opportunities if you fail to recognize and reward enthusiasm in a new employee. But don't stop there. Make sure you're instilling and stirring enthusiasm in all your employees whenever you have a chance.

Puppies are also going to make a few mistakes as they get settled in, chewing up a shoes here and there, knocking over this or that -- and worse.

Mistakes are going to happen. And, that's where we need to remember to be patient. But, we also have to make sure they're not the kind of mistakes that will hurt your business.

In their book, "Worth Every Penny", entrepreneurs Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck write that big-box stores can make hiring mistakes for a variety of reasons. They're right when they say a customer's negative experience at a big-box store isn't likely to stop them from going back.

"If, however, they experience a rude employee at a boutique business," Petty and Verbeck add, "they will most likely judge you more harshly -- they pay you more because you're supposed to give them an outstanding experience. … Your employee could change the way your customers perceive you, trust you, talk about you, and do business with you."

Any logical person knows when you get a puppy, you're making a very long-term commitment to provide the right training, care, encouragement and support. as specialty retailers, we need to make sure that after carefully choosing the right employee, we make a long-term commitment and investment in their success.

City folks can protect waterways too!

No step one scotts- Rob Smith is principal architect atCMBA | Smith Metzger

It seems several times a week I see another article in the Des Moines Register on the lawsuit over water quality in the Raccoon River. That’s a rural issue, right? We city folk can’t have an impact on water quality from our little patch of land, can we?

I am reminded of what we spread on our land every spring when I go to Ace Hardware and gag over the smell. Pallets piled high with Scotts Step One Crab Grass Preventer Plus Lawn Food. 

Or watch those guys with masks and rubber boots come through the neighborhood leaving warning flags “LAWN APPLICATION – KEEP OFF GRASS”. 

Gordon Sterk, owner of Johnston Ace Hardware, says people can’t get enough of Scott’s Step One and he can’t give away the natural fertilizer. Funny thing is Ace stores in Iowa City seem to sell more of the natural fertilizer! Hmmmm?

Read the warning label on this stuff and it does not sound good.  Here’s an edited version.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: This pesticide is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates and may adversely affect non-target plants. Drift and runoff may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in water adjacent to treated areas. To protect the environment, do not allow pesticide to enter or run off into storm drains, drainage ditches, gutters or surface waters. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in groundwater contamination.

What can you do to help the water quality?

  • Don’t use pesticides on your lawn.
  • Buy natural fertilizer you can put on your lawn and gardens such as Milorganite.
  • Use weed killer sparingly and spot apply rather than broadcast.
  • Remove dandelions with a tool and add to your salad.
  • Don’t compare your lawn to your neighbors!

Let me know how you care for your lawn to be a better steward of our water supply at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Re-thinking the “gala” as your signature event

 

Gala-Circle_2015_FNL_lg

- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

At some point in time, the expectation was set that a “signature event” should take the form of a gala.

THE GALA APPROACH:  An attendee can purchase tickets and expect a combination silent/live auction accompanied by sometimes sub-par finger foods, an open bar and perhaps (if you’re lucky), some live music. As an attendee you are expected to dress to the nines and compliantly open your checkbook when that point in the night arrives.

Let me be clear,some organizations execute stellar galas with extraordinary attention to detail and quality food, beverage and entertainment choices. For them, this is a sustainable signature event model that need not be messed with. However many others are left wondering, “What are we doing wrong?”

As humans we tire of monotony and predictability. We crave variety and the thought of attending another expected formal event can be downright tedious. So if not a gala, then what?

Building a successful, sustainable signature event model takes more than just coordination; it takes creativity and strategic thinking. The planning of the event is the EASY part, it is in the many invested hours that precede the planning where the magic is made.

So, what happens during those hours?

  1. Rediscovering what makes YOU unique? Analyze your mission and draw from it. You are not generic, so why should your event be?  Outline 4-5 buzz words that encompass who you are as an organization and really dive deep into the meaning of each of those words.  Think critically about how you can personify those words at your event.  Post these words in a prominent location and don’t lose sight of them throughout the whole planning process.  If every choice you make about your event does not reinforce these words, you are making the wrong choices. 
  2. What are you trying to achieve at your event? What are your event objectives, not just for the first year but over time? Keep in mind, you may not achieve your grandest goals in the first year, but the idea is to set the wheels in motion for growth, year after year.  Write a brief but specific five-year plan for your event.  Start at the five-year mark and work your way backwards. Your signature event should be seen as an investment that will bring you quantifiable returns. You will not see the return you are hoping for without thoughtfully planned and implemented strategies that lay out how you will reach your intended event benchmarks year after year.
  3. Creating a relevant event identity: After you have successfully identified WHO you are, WHY it is important for attendees to know this and WHERE you want the event to be in five years, use this information to create a strong and relevant identity for the event. Create a very succinct and clear messaging strategy that you can communicate to your attendees. This identity should be impactful, creative and possess the ability to evolve over time.  No two events should ever be the same but they should have common objectives and underlying messaging. 
  4. Attendee engagement: Develop a relevant theme by which to make all your tangible event decisions. Thoughtfully developed, unique and impactful experiences will be the most effective way to reach your attendees on a deeper level. By injecting different elements of surprise, you will keep your attendees present and resisting distraction. Engage all five senses of their senses to make your event memorable.  Remember, no detail is too minute, so every consideration should be handled with care.  Resist the urge to skimp just to save a few bucks.
  5. Reviewing your ROI: When your event concludes and while it is fresh in your mind, review it against a set of pre-determined criteria. Make sure you are asking attendees for honest feedback. Let them in on the fact that you are trying to build the best event possible for them and welcome even their harshest reviews. Develop a system to track your ROI throughout the course of the year as it relates to your event. Take your findings and compare them to your predicted first-year projection plan; analyze what worked and where you fell short. Use this information to revise your plan for the following year. 

The take-away here is that a generic event will bring about generic results. If you creatively and strategically personalize your event to share about you and your mission, your ROI will increase exponentially. By combining clear messaging, a strong event identity and innovative engagement tactics you will be able to reach your attendees on a personal level. Now, get out there and razzle dazzle ‘em!

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.  

Five lessons learned from a startup accelerator

- Goquets, a Des Moines-based startup that makes it quick and easy to send flowers anywhere in the United States, was one of nine national teams selected to participate in the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 Cohort in Cedar Rapids. Shawn Harrington, co-founder of Goquets, shares the lessons he learned from the experience.

The journey of going through a 94-day startup accelerator brought many teachings to mind that can be applied to everyone’s business. Whether it’s the desire to be more innovative or to push your team one step further, the key takeaways outlined below can make the difference.

Know your pitch: We never knew who was going to show up at the accelerator and ask what we were working on. This ranged from group tours to news crews who would come through with an interest in what each team of founders was building. With this, having the core pitch of our business memorized was essential for making sure people knew the basic details of how we’re different. This gets replicated for each company and its employees. How often are you called upon with a client or outside the workplace to tell your own story? Each time this happens is a new opportunity to push your brand further.

Be ready to adapt: Understand that as your customer evolves, you should too. Even since developing our initial idea at a Startup Weekend event in 2013, we’ve seen a shift in the floral market, and more opportunities are opening up because of it. Many companies will stick with campaigns that brought them success just a few years ago, then get stuck on trying to figure out how the success rate of each campaign has dropped. Identify where that next trend is and ensure that your team is open to growing with it.

Always be testing: The process of adapting includes getting to the drawing board and generating the ideas of how you will tackle your next new initiative. With this, it’s easy to get too excited with big ideas. As many business owners painfully find out, the market does not always react with that same level of excitement. This leads to failed campaigns and teams that struggle to determine how they never hit their goals or get the traction they had hoped for.

Rather than look back on what didn’t work, the answer should be to look ahead by testing for what you think your customers will react to through small campaigns before executing the overall plan. Test small, prove that each initiative is valuable to your customers, then go big. It’s a process that many of today’s high-growth startups have developed into their workflows for every project.

Failure happens. Assess and move on: A big part of the testing outlined above is noticing which campaigns are up and down while making the adjustments. Was that big idea not the home run everyone thought it would be? If that’s the case, then the sooner your team can come to terms with it while taking in what you learned, the better off you will be going forward. It’s important through this to not let pride and ego get in the way of actual results.

Maintain momentum: This might be the toughest one. It pertains to overcoming many obstacles and emotional barriers, not just within your own company, but also with everyone who surrounds it. While overcoming your company’s challenges and staying transparent, make sure to celebrate the successes along the way. Your team, your customers and your business partners can all feed off this. 

Should I use an investment banker or business broker to sell my business?

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

In previous articles, we have learned about potential buyers for your business, the golden egg syndrome, the importance of succession planning and delegation.  Today we will discuss whether or not to engage a professional to help sell your business once you have mentally decided to sell. So...should you?

It depends!

Hiring an intermediary – typically called a business broker or investment banker – to help sell your business is similar to the thought process of whether or not you should hire a Realtor to sell your house. There are pros and cons.

On the positive side, if you find a competent and ethical intermediary (not all of them are, so search around for references), they will do the “full-time job” of selling your business, leaving you the ability to do the full-time job of running your business. Owners who think they can do both are often sadly mistaken.

A good intermediary will also bring several interested qualified buyers into the process, thus creating a competitive environment, which theoretically will produce a higher purchase price or more competitive terms. The intermediary will serve as your trusted confidant to will represent your interests in the process.

The intermediary should also pre-qualify the buyers to ensure they have the requisite capital to facilitate the purchase (many buyers say they do, but do not).

On the negative side, the fees charged upfront (usually a one-time or monthly non-refundable “retainer”) and at transaction close (a “success fee”) are typically steep and can dramatically lower the seller’s take-home proceeds from the sale.

A success fee is especially painful if the business owner already has a handful of qualified buyers in mind who might have an interest in purchasing the business, have capital, and can close the transaction quickly.

An intermediary will also slow the process down as they gather information about the business, suggest a marketing plan, talk to potential buyers, etc. Depending on the situation, this may be OK, but if the seller is seeking speed and efficiency, a full-blown sell-side process like most intermediaries run will take too much time.

Finally, although intermediaries will require potential buyers to sign a confidentiality agreement, the fact is that reams of your private company data will go into the hands (and computers) of literally dozens – potentially hundreds – of strangers because the intermediary will reach out to that many buyers (and each buyer will likely have two to three people working on the transaction plus their bankers, accountants, attorneys, etc). Once that information is in other hands, it is very difficult to control access and dissemination. If the seller controls who gets the information from only working with a small group, this risk is mitigated.

Like many important decisions in life, it pays in this situation to gather all the facts, ask for many opinions, and then decisively make the decision that is best for you.

5 ways to coach in your job

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

Surely you've heard the ancient lesson: Give someone a fish and she'll eat for a day, but teach her to fish and she'll feed herself for life. Do you agree? How have you incorporated this philosophy into your leadership practices?   

Coaching leadership books Rock StanierMost of us, I'm guessing, believe that helping people to help themselves is the aim of a strong leader. We want our team able to make decisions, solve problems, and be innovative.

But most of us are also probably time-crunched, finding it easier and faster to tell someone what to do rather than draw out their expertise.

As a certified executive and leadership coach, I "teach people to fish" on a daily basis; the nature of coaching invites the space for this to occur. But even if you are not a professional coach, bringing a coach approach to your leadership can transform your team in profound ways. I've partnered with countless leaders over the years to develop their coaching qualities, resulting in more time, stronger engagement, and greater leadership within their teams. You can start with these five strategies:

1. Be quiet.

How comfortable are you with silence? If you're like most in conversation, you probably find silence awkward and jump in to fill it. So do most other people! And in their talking, they're more likely to generate solutions and tap into their own inner wisdom - or at least give you insight into their perspective.

2. Be other-focused.

As a leader, you have valuable experience to share. But the goal in coaching, and in true leadership, is not to showcase your knowledge but to develop the knowledge of others. Ask questions, invite exploration of thought, and draw out their expertise before interjecting your own.

3. Be present.

I can't tell you the number of clients I've coached, both male and female, who find themselves in tears during our first meetings. When I ask about it, nine times out of ten they tell me it's the first time they've felt truly heard in ages. Remove distractions, clear your mind, maintain eye contact, and listen to understand.

4. Be curious.

Remember, everyone has a story - and everyone has something going on that we know nothing about. Keep your assumptions in check. Instead of thinking you know best, ask a few questions first.

5. Believe.

When it comes down to it, coaching relies on one important expectation: You believe the person you're coaching is capable, resourceful, and has potential. Come to your leadership conversations with a true growth perspective and you'll experience far greater outcomes. As you've probably already discovered, people generally rise to our expectations of them.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

For the next week, whenever an employee (or friend or child) asks you a question, pause before responding. See if you might ask a question or two before sharing your advice or suggestion.

For example, if asked "What should I do?" (assuming a non-emergency situation), you could respond with, "What have you thought of so far?" or "I have a few ideas, but can you share yours first?"

This might take less than a minute but allows the person the opportunity to think differently and reminds him that he has wisdom within too. 

Remember: The true measure of a leader isn't how many followers you have, it's how many leaders you've developed around you. Bringing a coach approach can promote leadership in profound and sustainable ways - not to mention free you up for strategy, visioning, and the roles in which you thrive. For additional ideas on bringing coaching into your leadership, check out books like Quiet Leadership by David Rock and The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, too.

How has a coaching approach impacted your leadership, teams, or those around you? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan and Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Chances low for “no tip” policy adoption at restaurants

Jessica Dunker is President/CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association

To tip or not to tip? That is the question the U.S restaurant industry is wrestling with in a serious way — perhaps for the first time. The latest conversation has been spurred, in part, by high profile New York restaurateur Danny Meyer’s experiment with a no-tipping policy in one of his 13 fine dining restaurants, and his announcement that he intends to move the rest of his establishments in the same direction. 

A “no tip” hospitality culture has long been the norm in most of Europe—but are Americans ready for this shift? Research firm Technomic recently asked U.S. fine dining customers how they would feel about a “no tipping” restaurant experience – and the results were strangely ambivalent. In fact, 47 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would feel indifferent if their favorite full service restaurant did away with tipping.

Digging a little deeper, the study revealed that those who said they liked the idea of a no tip policy were motivated by a perplexing mix of seemingly generous and self-serving reasons. While 49 percent said they liked no tipping policies because they thought servers would get a better deal, one-third said they liked the idea of not tipping because they would no longer have to do the math to determine what the tip should be, 29 percent said they’d feel less pressure when paying, and 26 percent liked the idea that they might actually end up paying less with a no tip policy.

Those who said they didn’t like the idea of a no tip policy were equally mixed. 47 percent didn’t like the idea that they couldn’t reward great service and 20 percent didn’t like that they couldn’t punish poor service. Of those who thought the current system of customer determined tips is fine — 30 percent thought they’d end up paying more for the meal under no tip policies.

You can understand why current restaurant operators hesitate to rock the boat. What essentially equates to bi-polar consumer response to potential cultural change does not bode well for hospitality industry results.

Equity in wages within hospitality establishments is a huge issue for restaurant owners. The fact that the people preparing the food nearly always earn less than the people who serve it, is frustrating for employers.  

Those outside the industry often suggest employers leverage the current system by pooling and distributing tips across their entire team. The problem is that’s not legal.

Only those who are not in management and perform functions that theoretically “touch the table” are eligible to receive a portion of their wages in the form of gratuities. Tip pools, while legal, can only be distributed among servers, hostesses, food runners, bussers, bartenders, etc.

The only sure way for restaurants to guarantee equity and reward across functions is to move away from tipping and pay everyone an hourly wage (likely over the objections of most tipped employees who often make more per hour than their managers). For this to be economically feasible, most restaurants would have to raise prices anywhere from 15 to 25 percent.

Would consumers tolerate the menu sticker shock and keep the bottom line bill in mind?

Maybe.

But in an industry where margins and profits average 6 cents on the dollar, most operators can’t afford to deal in maybes. So the chances that we’ll see mass adoption of no tip policies anytime soon are pretty slim.

The facts about GMOs

- Joe Hrdlicka is the executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association

Be89b260-2114-4417-bb7a-c2140ba2cb17When I say the term, “GMO”, what do you think? Most people generally think negative thoughts when this term is spoken. Unfortunately, this happens because a vocal group of people would have you believe GMOs are really bad.

However, you have to question whether folks who speak badly of GMOs really know what they are criticizing. Let’s examine some facts. There have been thousands of studies on the safety of GMO foods. There have been a variety of organizations that have funded these studies, but most of the studies that come from reputable science organizations indicate GMO foods are safe.

There is very little to suggest from a science perspective that GMOs are unsafe in any way. The fact of the matter is we have been consuming GMO-based foods for years. GMOs have been utilized in a variety of ways going back many years. Agriculture has injected genetic mutations in crops all sorts of ways for a long time for a variety of purposes.

If it weren’t for a “cottage industry” of social media gurus, we probably wouldn’t be having much of a debate on this issue because the evidence just doesn’t back up to the claims. One of the most compelling studies came out in September of 2014, and it had billions of subjects that eat GMOs almost exclusively: livestock. The study was conducted by Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam at the University of California at Davis. Her study focused on the health of 100 billion animals and found no ill effects — in fact, no effects at all — attributable to a switch from non-GMO feed to GMO.

GMO-based foods are really derived out of consumer demand. For example, the consumer demand for fruits and vegetables grown in drought-stricken areas. Consumer demand for food products free of disease from weeds and insects. And consumer demand for more efficient growth of crops due to our population that is quickly rising above 9 billion people in a relatively short period of time.

Consumers are often led to believe “organic” food products are safer as well. The difference between organic, conventional and biotech is mainly the types of pesticides that are allowed to be used.

A common misconception is that organic food is produced without pesticides, but organic farming – just like conventional and biotech farming – has to deal with the challenge of eradicating pests. The pesticides in organic farming are generally derived from natural sources. For example, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) may sound familiar because it's used in some genetically modified crops, but it's an all-natural bacteria. Bt is also commonly used in organic farming.

As far as organic foods are concerned, former U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman once summarized it well when an organic certification policy was being considered: “Let me be clear about one thing,” he said. “The organic label is a marketing tool.

It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.” You may not agree with these media outlets all the time, but I find it interesting the Boston Globe and the Washington Post have each editorialized over the past year that GMO-based foods are safe and efforts to force mandatory labeling of these products is not the appropriate policy direction.

At the end of the day, we can hold our ears and shout “blah, blah, blah” until the world submits to dozens of labeling policies from various states and communities, driving up the cost of our food. Or we can adopt a rational perspective that GMOs really aren’t as bad as critics would like you to think.

Local SEO - what you don't know

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

You’ve heard the term – but have you ever wondered what Local SEO really is?

One of the most important factors Google considers with search results is your current location. And they’ve gotten pretty good at knowing where you are. For the most part they study your device’s IP address or use the GPS in your smart phone to find you. Google understands that where you’re standing plays a big role in what information you’ll find relevant when performing a search — especially when looking for local establishments, like a restaurant or laundromat. People used to type the name of their city alongside the search term (e.g. car insurance Atlanta) to get local suggestions. But anymore Google is smart enough to know where you are without asking.

More often than not Google places local businesses at the top of search results. They know, for instance, that people who search for ‘Chinese food’ are likely more interested in finding a place nearby for some beef chow mein than info on a popular New York restaurant 900 miles away. The same goes for most establishments that can be found locally (e.g. home insurance, tree stump removal, plumber).

There are several ways someone will discover your business via a search engine. They could be directed to your website, your social media profiles, or your official business listing. And although they’re all somewhat interconnected, organic SEO focuses primarily on the first two, whereas local SEO focuses on the latter.

A common misconception with SEO is that it revolves entirely around directing people to your website. The truth is, people are introduced to businesses everyday without visiting their website at all. These businesses are discovered via Google’s official listings, serving as a directory, like an online phonebook.

As a matter of fact, some businesses rank high on local search without having a website at all. And if their local search signals are strong they’ll likely end up above businesses focusing on organic SEO alone. Of course, having an established website does help your online visibility, even locally, but focusing on your website alone is not an effective approach.

Organic vs local

Local vs Organic

Local SEO aims to increase the likelihood that a nearby business listing (in contrast to website) will rank higher for people searching for products or services within a limited proximity.

Organic SEO aims to increase the likelihood that a company website will be discovered by people searching for relevant terms online, through non-paid means, and within a much broader proximity.

It’s true that organic SEO and local SEO strategies often intersect. But there are elements that local businesses should prioritize ahead of those companies operating nationally—specifically in regard to local search signals.

NAP consistency

The most effective way of improving local SEO is by applying NAP consistency - meaning that your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number are uniform across the internet — with both online directories and websites — wherever your information is listed.

Search engines regularly collect information from all the nooks and crannies of cyberspace. This data is then stored for easy access when people perform searches online — this process is called web crawling. One of the things they are looking for is consistent information regarding businesses. The more often an establishment is accurately listed across the net, the more confidence the search engine has in it. And higher confidence means more recommendations for relevant search queries.

Even slight contrasts in a business name, address, or phone number likely will create duplicate listings online and throw off search engines. For local SEO it’s important to always use your local address and phone number. If, for example, you have a toll-free number you should list your local number first.

Utilizing data aggregators or paid data facilitators is the quickest and most effective way to ensure accurate listing across the web.

NAP consistency is a starting place but your local SEO strategy shouldn’t stop there. If you’re interested in learning more ways of improving local SEO you can check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

Why delegate?

Iowa Biz blog delegation photo puzzle pieceRita 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.

One of the most important, but unfortunately overlooked, leadership skills to develop for career success is delegation. Some people define it as “letting go.” I believe that it is really a matter of streamlining your workload to increase your available time to manage people and projects more effectively. Better delegation ultimately results in a more motivated, involved staff, less stress and enhanced work-life balance.

American businesswoman Jessica Jackley, who co-founded Kiva micro-loans, believes that, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” She credits much of her success to the art of successful delegation.

In the past, delegation was typically a top-down activity with the work load flowing from the top of the organization downward. Today with our flatter organizational structures and remote work teams, there are many more opportunities to delegate: up to managers, down to subordinates and horizontally to peers and workmates. Often overlooked is the fact that delegation requires a high level of trust to work well. You want to find those people in your organization where you have a relationship based on trustworthiness, mutual respect and mutual purpose. That is the natural place for successful delegation to occur.

As I consult with executives to sharpen their leadership skills, I share these seven essential keys for successful delegation:

1. Plan it out: Consider how you will manage a project before you delegate it. If you can’t manage it, maybe you should rethink delegating it.

2. Decide on the intended results and the level of responsibility: What are the goals that you need this project to achieve? What is the level of decision-making responsibility that you are willing to delegate along with the project? Are you giving the other person free rein to make project decisions or do they need to check in with you or someone else at every turn?

3. Select the right person for the job: Remember, delegation is built on the foundation of a relationship built on trust, mutual respect and mutual purpose. Be sure that the person you are delegating to has the skills needed to accomplish the project, has the organization’s best interest in mind and will support you in your endeavors.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Do you wish that people could read your mind? Maybe it is a good thing that they can't. Write out the pertinent details of the project for the person you are delegating to. Provide some structure or a visual model of what you are seeking as an end result. Provide clarity in the goals, controls and agreed upon check points to discuss the project's progress.

5. Write it down: This is a little trick that I learned when I was managing a large team and delegating frequently. I kept a delegation notebook to help me track key details and checkpoints in projects. I would capture notes in my notebook in front of the person I delegated to. This let my direct report know that I was not going to forget what I was delegating to them. It was a visual clue that I had a tool for tracking the details and holding them accountable. It was easy for me to point out that we had a discussion and agreed upon key details when I had it documented in my delegation notebook.

6. Hold the other person accountable: Sure, there are times when deadlines are missed, mistakes are made, and we might want to extend the benefit of the doubt to the person we delegated an important project to. Before you get sucked into some sob story about why a project is not farther along in the timeline, realize that being held accountable is a professional development opportunity for your co-worker. Think twice before you accept their excuses. It might be better to get them back on track and manage the project a bit more closely with weekly meetings or updates in a constructive, positive way.

7. Create a motivating work environment: A recent Gallup poll indicated that 61 percent of all American workers did not receive praise for their work last year and believe that they are disengaged employees. To create a more motivating culture, say the magic words  “please” and “thank you”. Show people that you value their contributions. Give praise to co-workers for a job well-done. People who feel genuinely appreciated will want to work with you on projects and will put their best efforts forward.

Delegation is a powerful tool for empowering others to shine at doing their best work. If done well, it allows you to spend focused time at work doing your best work, too, which decreases stress. Decreased stress increases positive work-life balance. And who doesn’t want to feel more balanced and in control of their time and their life?

Celebrating your new website

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

As anyone who has launched a new website knows, there is a lot of work involved in the process -- both while building the new site and while promoting it.

It’s important to share your new and improved site with clients, but sometimes the one group that can get overlooked in all the hype is the team of people whom the new website represents - the company or organization itself. The members of this group differ depending on the type of website created, but nevertheless, the marketing department isn’t the only group that’s affected by a new website. Not convinced a celebration is worth the additional investment? Here are a few reasons you can take to your boss. Just don’t blame me when you get assigned as party-planner!

 

Four Reasons to Throw a Website Launch Party

1. You need to educate your team. Website redesigns often mean that some of the site map gets rearranged -- hopefully for the better -- but the last thing you want is your sales team scrambling during a webinar because they’re unable to answer a client question and they don’t know where the answer they were looking for went. Use a party to help create a map for those who need to know where they’re going!

Party Tip: Hold a “website scavenger hunt” at your launch party. To do this, give attendees a quiz to complete that includes finding facts or accomplishing different types of tasks on the site. Enter all those who finish into a drawing for a prize!

2. Prove to your stakeholders they made the right decision. Now that you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a website, you’re sure to have stakeholders who want to know what came of that investment. Throwing any type of celebration will help those investors to see how awesome the project turned out. But the best part? Showing them how excited others who will benefit from the new site (the rest of your staff, for instance) are about their new tool.

Party Tip: Gather testimonials from staff prior to the party to share on table tents or posters around the room. Then, let attendees guess who said what about their new website.

3. Point out new features. Have you added some new features as part of the redesign? That’s awesome; but if no one knows they’re there, it’s hard to know if they’ll ever get used. Make it a point to highlight new features, information or resources that weren’t on the site before to the entire group to ensure they know what’s been made available to them.  

Party Tip: Plan a short presentation in front of the group to show these features, but keep it high level. Although attendees will be excited, they aren’t going to have the same emotional attachment as you do and don’t want to spend 30 minutes talking about your awesome new events calendar.

4. Celebrate your hard work. Let’s be honest. Going through a website redesign is a lot of work! Team members who were directly involved deserve recognition for the time they’ve invested, whether they physically created the site themselves or if they worked with an external agency.

Party Tip: Create special awards for those who contributed to the site. Things like “Best Proofreader” or “Most Likely to find a Broken Link” can add some laughs while making associates feel appreciated.

A website launch party doesn’t have to be a thousand-dollar shindig if you don’t want it to be; even a presentation in the conference room with cake on a Friday afternoon can elevate the level of excitement and provide the proper education. But, don’t let your site launch without celebrating its “birthday”!

Have you had a launch party? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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/alex_karei
Instagram: www.instagram.com/alextriesitout
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Zero latency: Leadership vs. management, Part 2

- 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.

In my last post, we discussed the differences between leadership and management: finding the proper balance between the two and the problems that arise if they fall out of balance. In this post, I would like to explore that concept further in the context of organizational design. In his book, "Exponential Organizations" (a book I highly recommend), Salim Ismail talks about a company called Holacracy. Holacracy has taken frameworks from the start-up world (such as Agile and Lean) and applied them to its organization in a broad-based way. As he describes it:

Holacracy is defined as a social technology or system of organizational governance, in which authority and decision-making are distributed via fractal, self-organizing teams, rather than being vested at the top of a hierarchy. (Ismail, p.104)

How does this relate to our earlier conversation about the lever arms of leadership and management? Ismail has the answer to that as well:

…hierarchies tend to be competence-based hierarchies, relying more on peer accountability than on authority-based accountability…(Ismail, p.105)

To me, this describes the nature of how healthy businesses can operationally adjust to balance the needs of management with employees. The management-based structure of organizations will inherently resist this, as there will be a loss of control. But, as stated in the last post, the accountability will increase.

Companies with the courage to self-organize based on competencies with direct peer accountability align with the emerging workforce of millennials, who have grown up as the products of social networks and rapidly accelerating technologies and modes of communication. Management-modeled authority structures tend to slow down innovation, as they are mired down in policy frameworks and defined by boundaries.

Inversely, holacracy in leadership structures allow there to be reduced latency in the adaptability of employees to take on new projects, innovate, and self-regulate. The fractal nature of these teams that Ismail refers to creates an environment conducive to rapid protoyping, failure learning, and optimized product or service delivery models.

I am not advocating for the elimination of all management structures, but I do feel that things in the organizational development ecosystem are evolving. Those in the marketplace that are able to be responsive to build upon the strengths of the emerging workforce are the companies that will continue to grow, increase their curb appeal for potential employees, and produce better products for clients.

Valve-working-system

Valve Corporation is a video game development company that was founded by former Microsoft employees in 1996. Valve is almost completely run as a flat organization, run by its employees. Individuals select/create their own projects, there are no managers, and employees can also hire employees to work on their projects. During Valve’s 19-year history, they have been responsible for creating not only some of the most innovative modern video games, but an Internet-based distribution system for online gaming. The company was estimated to be worth close to $3 billion in 2012. (Image to right is from Valve's employee manual)

I included Valve as an example to illustrate that holacracy truly works. I would argue that it may not work for every corporation or organization, but combining this model with the balance argued for in the last post between leadership and management, you can produce a formula for success in the modern organization. Every organization has an equilibrium point. One with responsive, engaged, and self-starting employees, ready to interact in an environment where leadership and accountability are dynamic and innovation can flourish with almost zero latency.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

LOCAL FEATURE: Proof, not just a restaurant

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- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC. 

COOL VENUE ALERT!  First, if you haven’t been to Proof yet, you need to get there! Proof, located at 1301 Locust St. in downtown Des Moines, is a restaurant that prides itself on delivering “good cocktails. Good wine. Good food. Good atmosphere. [and] Good service.”  The menu is influenced by the flavors of the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, and strives to blend “the old world with the new by using local ingredients in all of its dishes.”  But what makes Proof even cooler is that you can rent it for your own very special events!

WHAT SORTS OF EVENTS ARE BEST FOR THIS LOCATION?

Cocktail hours:  Treat your high-end clients, show some appreciation for your employees or celebrate a milestone, all while sampling some delicious cuisine and sipping on some specialty cocktails. 

Mid-day gatherings: Whether it be a fancy lunch, or a bridal/baby shower, this is the perfect spot to create a memorable afternoon event.

Special dinners:  Perfect spot to wine & dine clients, have an intimate rehearsal dinner or celebrate a something special with close friends.

Other smaller gatherings: Looking for a unique experience event that pampers your attendees? This is sure to impress.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES THE SPACE ACCOMMODATE?

Seated dinner: up to 60 people

Cocktail party: 80-90 people

Open house style: 120 people

WHAT DOES THIS VENUE OFFER?

Location location location!  Experience the invigorating energy that surrounds downtown Des Moines from this centrally located spot. This area offers a plethora of activities to enjoy both before and after your event at Proof.  Stroll the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, visit the Science Center or enjoy some post event cocktails on Court Avenue!  There is something that is sure to please everyone. Build your event into a complete experience by taking full advantage of the fun things Des Moines has to offer.

Extraordinary hospitality & knowledgeable staff: Don’t know what you want to eat or drink? Allow the staff at Proof to assist with this task. This high-caliber group is sure to exceed your expectations and impress even your stuffiest event attendees. You can ensure a creative and stress-free experience by leaving the details up to these fine folks.

Versatile aesthetic with options for customizable décor: This blank canvas space has the versatility to transform into even the wackiest of themes.  Work with the Proof staff to bring in outside décor, or simply do it yourself. You are welcome to bring in live music as well, just coordinate A/V with the staff.

Flexibility on vendors:  Trying to appeal to a more casual crowd? Want to keep the food and drinks simple? You can pay a small room rental fee and coordinate outside food/drink options yourself on Sundays and Mondays only.

WHAT WILL THIS COST ME?

Tuesday-Thursday: $4,500 Food and beverage minimum (plus 6 percent sales tax and 18 percent gratuity). Required: 100 percent deposit required to secure booking.

Friday & Saturday: $5,500 Food and beverage minimum (plus 6 percent sales tax and 18 percent gratuity). Required: 100 percent deposit required to secure booking.

Sunday & Monday: $1,000 Food and beverage minimum (plus 6% sales tax & 18% gratuity). Required: $300 space rental fee required at booking

Just want to rent the space and coordinate the rest yourself?  You can book your event on Sunday or Monday.  Expect a minimum $500 space rental fee (note: this option does not include any food or wait service).

Cancellation Policy:

Notice over 14 days prior to event: full refund of deposit

Notice 7 to 14 days prior to event: 50 percent refund of deposit

Notice 7 days or less prior to event: no refund of deposit

TO SUM UP:

Proof as a venue is sure to make the right event very special. It's definitely a destination for your higher-end events where you want to pamper your attendees and show them some love. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will make you look cool without you even trying. I highly recommend keeping this location on your radar when planning your future events.

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.  

Can taxpayers ever get a break?

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

As the public pension crisis unfolded, the entity that sets accounting standards for governments decided that more disclosure of unfunded pension liabilities was needed. These are huge numbers (almost $6 billion in in Iowa), and, for the most part, have been flying under the radar in government financial reports.

Now, every government that is a member of a state retirement system (including state government and almost all local governments) must reflect its share of the state’s total unfunded pension liability on the face of its financial statements, rather than as a footnote as was past practice. There is no change in the actual liability, nor any change in the way it is being paid off, but the disclosure is different.

For taxpayers, this should be a good thing, right? It should help the public better see the true cost of these plans, which guarantee benefits to retirees at the expense of taxpayers when the stock market tanks. Right now (and for the next 20 to 30 years) taxpayers are making payments of $400 million per year to retire the shortfall arising from the last collapse. The new reporting doesn’t change that; it just makes it more transparent.

Alas, even the best-intentioned measures can be twisted into an argument to compound the taxpayer burden.

The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa has been working with Broadlawns Medical Center to reduce its property tax asking in view of the impact of the Affordable Care Act in reducing its charity care burden.

Broadlawns, to its great credit, is reducing its rate; but we had urged more. Here’s the great irony. In defending the need to hang on to so much property tax revenue when it appears to no longer be needed, the board chair cited Broadlawns’ new pension reporting requirements

So think about it. Taxpayers are already making the necessary $400 million annual payments to erase the shortfall in pension funding, but now are being asked to pay again because of a change in how it's reported.  Somehow I don't think this is what the Government Accounting Standards Board had in mind. In fact it's almost scary to think what would happen if every public entity were to demonstrate similar confusion.

It’s especially ironic for Polk County taxpayers who, in this instance, are being quadruple-charged:

  • Once to pay for the actual pension shortfall;
  • Again because of new reporting of the pension shortfall;
  • Once via property tax to cover the cost of care for patients at Broadlawns who were formerly “charity care” (non-paying) patients; and
  • Again via state and federal taxes for the same patients who are now covered through expansions of the (taxpayer-funded) Medicaid safety net program.

Can taxpayers ever get a break? This is the kind of thing that can cause voters to become desperate.  

ciWeek: 13 speakers, 5 days, 3 takeaways

CiWeekBerger

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."

Our annual Celebrate! Innovation Week (ciWeek 7) recently concluded at the Des Moines Area Community College West Des Moines Campus. Over the course of four days, 13 unique individuals descended upon the campus to share their personal stories and put their unique talents on full display. The theme for this year’s event was “Free to Dream.”

Whether it’s debunking myths, advancing digital music, chasing tornados, turning actors into our favorite monsters, writing best-selling novels, creating high-tech art, building confidence, advancing travel in space or in our own world, helping people fulfill their dreams, or just being “Iowa Nice,” the abilities of these people ran the gamut.

However, as I sat through all of the presentations, I couldn’t help but notice a few common threads that ran through all of them despite the wide variety of people and topics: identifying your passion, asking for help, and laser-like focus.

At the age of 13, Howard Berger knew he wanted to do make-up and visual effects for movies. So, he knocked on the door of the great Stan Winston and told him he would work for free just for the opportunity to learn. When Howard began in the field, there were 55 shops in Hollywood doing what he was learning to do. After years of intense focus, mastering his craft, and winning some hardware (two Emmys and an Oscar), there are now only four shops and his is considered one of, if not “the,” best.

Fresh out of college, Kari Byron knew what she wanted and she knocked at the door of Jamie Hyneman at his M5 Industries, begging for the opportunity to work as a free intern. After some persistence (and maybe even a little stalking), she prevailed. Her first day turned out to be the beginning of Mythbusters and ultimately a career in television. Kari spent a decade on the show and has turned that success into starring roles in other shows, such as Head Rush on the Science Channel and Thrill Factor on the Travel Channel.

Homer Hickam grew up in a coal-mining town in West Virginia where every male ultimately became a coal miner after high school (unless they happen to be a star athlete and received a college scholarship). As a high school kid, Homer knew what he wanted the minute he saw Sputnik fly over his house in 1957. After Homer nagged a few men who worked in the mine’s machine shop to teach him to weld and work with metals, he and some of his friends began building rockets that continued to improve after repeated attempts. Homer’s efforts ultimately won the National Science Fair, winning he, and all three of his friends, college scholarships. Homer went on to work as an engineer for NASA and write numerous NY Times #1 bestsellers. His memoir, Rocket Boys, became the basis for the movie October Sky, starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal as Homer.

Dr. Reed Timmer always knew he loved weather. He was actually quite obsessed with it, and as a young child he chased storms on his bicycle. He loved science and math while in high school and became fascinated with the science of storms. Once he received his driver’s license, and with the support of his parents, he purchased cheap, beat-up vehicles so he could more effectively chase storms. Over time and with the help and support of others who shared his passion, those beater vehicles turned into what are now known as the Dominators, a line of armor-plated, tornado-resistant research vehicles. His passion ultimately placed him in the path of over 250 tornados and in the starring role of Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers.

Although I could continue to show this pattern with most every one of our presenters, I believe that the takeaways for all who listened to them are clear (regardless of age or one’s position in life):

  1. Dream and figure out what you want to do in life (determine where your passion lies).
  2. Seek out people who are doing what you want to do and ask them for help. Most people are usually more than willing to help others achieve their dreams.
  3. With laser-like focus, learn, practice, improve, and master your craft.

Through these three basic steps, you can achieve your dreams. However, basic doesn’t mean simple. It won’t be easy, but nothing great in life ever is. And who knows, perhaps in some future ciWeek you could be telling your story and helping others achieve their dreams.

©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

Job creation fuel: R&D policy move is important for Iowa

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

Congressional leaders reached an agreement on federal spending and avoided a government shutdown at the end of last year when omnibus appropriations and taxIowa_petri_dish bills were signed by President Obama on Dec. 18. Buried in the discussion around the trillion-dollar agreement are important boosts to funding for many science and economic development initiatives important to Iowa, as well as an increase in credits for small and high-tech businesses.

The 12 bills approved under the omnibus package will fund the government at $1.15 trillion in discretionary funds through the end of the 2016 fiscal year. Separate legislation, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH) makes over 20 key tax provisions permanent while extending and enhancing others.

You’re telling me this why?

The important news for job creation in Iowa [and the country] is that the PATH Act finally makes the federal R&D tax credit permanent. This is a big deal for American research and development -- activities that have contributed to our country’s emergence as the global center of commerce and innovation in the past hundred years. 

Iowa’s Research Activities Tax Credit is more or less is indexed to the federal credit -- meaning if your business’ R&D expenditure activities qualify for the federal credit, those activities more than likely qualify your company for the state credit. Creating certainty around the federal program offers a boost to the competitiveness of states like Iowa with well-designed state R&D credit programs which work in concert with the federal programs. 

The federal R&D program also was expanded to pre-tax startup companies. It will allow them to use the R&D credit against their payroll tax liability. This is important to the sorts of innovative, small startups we seek to cultivate in Iowa who are pre-revenue [which creates no tax liability with which to access a tax credit], yet spend large sums on R&D. To qualify for this treatment, the company must be no more than 5 years old and it must have revenues below $5 million. The credit is capped at $250,000 per year.   

Businesses with $50 million or less in gross receipts may use the federal credit against alternative minimum tax liability, and certain businesses with $5 million or less in gross receipts will now be able to apply the credit against payroll taxes. These changes are also intended to benefit smaller businesses and startups, which were unable to take advantage of the credit in the past. In 2010, Iowa’s 260,000 businesses averaged about $685,000 in gross receipts.

Federal support for R&D: past and present

The R&D tax credit was first enacted in 1981 at a rate of 25 percent in an effort to encourage private sector investment in R&D to act as a salve to the decline in private R&D investment that began in the 1960s. Bill writers and leading economists of the day believed that this decline was to blame for the slowdown in U.S. productivity R&D_graphic1 growth and the unexpected loss of U.S. industrial competiveness in the 1970s. The program has been reworked and tweaked every couple of years since.

There are four separate components of today’s federal R&D tax credit, but the two most commonly used are the “Regular” research credit and the “Alternative Simplified” credit, both of which offer a tax break equal to a percentage of spending on “qualified research expenses.” The regular method offers a credit of up to 20 percent and the alternative simplified method offers a credit of up to 14 percent.

Qualified research expenses include wages and salaries, cost of equipment and supplies. To qualify, expenses must be experimental for the purpose of discovering information that is technological in nature and used to develop a new product, process, computer software technique, formula or invention that is to be leased, licensed or used by the company.

What took so long?  J/K; it’s Congress.

Why is the R&D tax credit only now being made permanent? At least 15 times in the past, the R&D credit was allowed to expire by Congress and was retroactively extended. The main issue is/was [drumroll…] cost; the program carries a price tag of almost $180 billion. Despite the perception of steep cost, both political parties and economists generally agree that there is economic justification for subsidizing R&D spending; studies have shown that R&D spending not only benefits the private firm, but society as a whole in terms of return from innovation.  

Although until now the federal R&D program has existed in a state of uncertainty, Iowa’s R&D program has remained steadfast since its creation over a decade ago.

What to know: Iowa program meets fed program

Iowa’s Research Activities Credit has several important ties to the federal credit. A company must meet the qualifications of the federal R&D tax credit in order to be eligible for the credit in Iowa. The credits are also similar in the fact that the Iowa credit can be calculated using either the regular or alternative simplified credit R&D_graphic2 method. Also, the definition of qualified research expenditures are the same in both cases, including wages, supplies and other expenses used to discover information that is technical in nature and aimed at the development of a new product. Iowa is one of only a few states to offer a refundable research activities credit.

Iowa’s program offers an incremental credit, meaning that only research expenditures which exceed a base amount are eligible for the credit. The Iowa regular credit is 6.5 percent of the qualifying research expenditures that exceed a base amount or 50 percent of qualifying research expenditures.

A total of $57,147,847 in Research Activities Tax Credits was claimed by Iowa companies and individuals between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015, according to a recently-released report from the Iowa Department of Revenue. A total of $44,428,444 in tax credit refunds was paid last year – representing about 77.7 percent of the total research activities tax credit claims made. In total, 186 companies received approximately $42 million in tax credit refunds last year. 

The media throws shade on R&D all the time.  It’s not helpful.

Despite the decisive importance of attracting innovation investment to any state attempting to compete in the 21st century knowledge economy,  sustained, bewildering media fire trained on the R&D program in Iowa has become the norm. The coverage [it’s been going on for years], fortunately, has not bent the will of the people of this state and our representatives. And good thing, too; the message sent by a state which pulls back its R&D programming in the face of rare Congressional action to strengthen the federal program would be devastating to the efforts of communities across Iowa working to encourage innovation and the jobs that come with it.

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

Making the right hire

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

The holiday hiring season is behind retailers, but that process still goes on all year-round for many specialty retailers and it's important to know exactly what kind of employee you need and how the personality and work ethic of the person you choose fits into your business.

Get it right, and the person you choose will pay big dividends. Get it wrong, and I guarantee it will cost you more time, money and headaches than you can imagine.

I prepare myself during the hiring process with few steps.

First, I define the role of the position being offered. What tasks will the employee be completing, and what skills will be needed to complete these tasks? How will that role and the person who fills it fit into the overall company goals?

When conducting interviews, it's important to explain to candidates the objectives of the job and company and the business culture. Whatever the job title, every employee in a small retail business is a first-line employee and the face of the company; making sure the employee is the right fit for the company’s image is crucial.

So how do you find the right fit? In the words of my favorite sayings, you have to hunt where the ducks are. Local newspapers, online and local job agencies and specialty blogs or bulletin boards are a great start, but some of the best places to hunt are through networking.

Spread the word through your contacts that you are looking for someone to hire, and they will keep you in mind. Your contacts will know your business better than a job agency, and will know what candidate will be a better fit.

We all know that the interview process can be a real pain, but it's important not to settle just to get it over with. In specialty retail, two of the most important qualities I look for in a potential employee are resourcefulness and the ability to listen to the customer.

The Heart of Iowa Market Place is known for its specialty gifts. Customers will come to our store specifically looking for a gift and might need advice on what will make the perfect gift -- and that's where resourcefulness and listening come in.

Resourcefulness -- or adaptability -- helps employees recognize when they need to do something different to best meet our customers' needs. When we need to change things within our store, I need to be able to count on my employees to adapt to the changing environment.

It's good to know a job candidate's full range of skills, but I don't limit my focus there. I also rate my candidates on their potential. Skills can always be learned through training, but some characteristics such as social skills, confidence, and detailed oriented can’t be trained.

Put extra effort into your hiring process upfront and you'll be taking a big weight off your shoulders for a long time to come.

Trump the brand

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

You may not like him, and in fact, you may be afraid of him but you certainly know who he is and what he stands for. He has absolutely dominated the media’s attention and coverage. His voice is always the one you hear and the one everyone is talking about.  

He has behaved incredibly consistently from the get-go and his message has never wavered.  

Again — like him or not, but Donald Trump is teaching a master’s class on brand.  Remember that branding doesn’t have to equal likability.  It’s about memorability.  It’s about differentiating yourself from your competitors so there’s a clear choice and it’s about consistency.  

And Trump has delivered on those in spades.  So regardless of how the election plays out — what can we learn from this spectacle we’ve been watching for the past year?

Branding is for the bold: If you want everyone to like you, you won’t have a brand.  Defining who you are also means declining who you are not. One of the reasons Trump is still here and some others are not is because he was willing to take a very bold stand on issues, knowing that it would cost him some voters but it would also ignite others to support him even more.

Simple, consistent messaging: If you look at Trump's website and rhetoric, he hasn’t put a lot of meat on the bone in terms of how he is going to do the things he is calling for. But he keeps saying the same things over and over. He knows that his audience has a limited attention span and that the media needs to be able to grab snippets of thoughts and sentences. He’s catering to his audiences so that they can parrot back his messaging.

Stepping away from the herd: One of the smartest elements of Trump’s campaign is that he’s effectively trained us to lump all of the other Republican candidates in a group called “not Trump.”  He’s made them all sound very similar and has gone out of his way to remind us, time and time again, how and why he’s different from all of them.

Aligned with his core: If Trump had led a quiet, respectful campaign, we would have been confused. That sort of behavior is not in alignment with his persona, his TV personality from his reality show or his business dealings. He’s always been an opinionated, outspoken, aggressive, confident personality. His political brand matches right up with that and that reassures us that it’s authentically who he is and what he believes.

Certainty: When we buy something — whether it’s our next President or a washing machine, we want to know that the manufacturer has certainty about their product. We want them to be so confident and so sure of what they’re selling that we can be sure of it too. There’s no candidate that is more confident in their own ideas and abilities than Trump. You may hate him but you know he’s not afraid or lacking in confidence in being able to deliver what he talks about. (Whether he really can or not isn’t the issue…)

I’m not advocating Trump for president. But I am suggesting that one of the reasons he’s the frontrunner is because, unlike the other candidates who are trying to appeal to everyone, Trump understands that a good brand is about staking a claim and then letting people be drawn nearer or be repelled…but that there’s nothing good to be gained by not getting noticed.

 

Want more success? Check your mindset

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

Imagine your day didn’t turn out quite like you planned: You got a C+ on your midterm, followed by a parking ticket on your car, then a brush-off from the friend you called for consolation. How would you likely respond?

Dweck - Mindset bookA. Assume you’re a failure and that the world is out to get you. Take the day as further proof that you can’t seem to get things right. Do nothing about it other than perhaps eat, punch your pillow, or climb into bed.

B. Decide to study harder for the next exam, look at what you did wrong and resolve to do better, pay the ticket, and chalk the day up to “lessons learned.” You’re disappointed but ready to try again.

Your response may clue you into your mindset. And your mindset contributes to your entire outlook, well-being, relationships, level of success, and how you approach the world.

It also affects those around you – likely more than you realize.

I read Mindset by Carol Dweck with a parenting group a few years ago. The book prompted fascinating conversation not only about our children but also ourselves, spouses, teachers, and more.

Shortly thereafter, the book came up in a professional setting and resulted in similar conversation. Each time this book appears (and it is cited seemingly everywhere in business and self-help literature), a proverbial lightbulb seems to turn on.

The crux of Dweck’s research is actually quite simple. She describes two types of mindsets: fixed and growth. But in its simplicity lies one of the most profound learnings you’ll find in personal and professional growth.

If you have a fixed mindset, you likely base your success on winning, looking good, doing well. You tend to believe that qualities like intelligence and talent are innate and “tap out” at certain levels. If you can’t do something well, you might assume you just don’t have the “gift” for that particular activity and, as a result, may not even try it. Those with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenge, not pay attention to feedback if it's anything less-than-stellar, and feel threatened by others’ success.

With a growth mindset, on the other hand, you believe you can improve, change, and grow. You’re willing to try new things, and doing them poorly doesn’t stop you from trying again; you assume that with experience and practice you will get better. In the vignette that opens this article, which Dweck uses in her mindset research, you are more likely to respond in the way described in example B than example A. Those with a growth mindset tend to welcome challenge, see effort as a way to gain mastery, learn from criticism, and become inspired by and/or learn from the success of others.

Quite a difference, eh?

Dweck offers many examples of both mindsets and how they impact our success as leaders, parents, teachers, and friends. In addition, she provides ways to enhance the growth mindset by simply changing the way we talk.

For example, think about how you praise others. If your son aces an exam, telling him “You’re so smart! You have such a knack for science!” sounds nice, but can actually undercut his growth. What happens when he takes his history exam and doesn’t do so well? He may interpret that to mean that he’s not smart, or that he doesn’t have a knack for history so he might as well not even try.

Far better to praise the process:  “Great job! You must have prepared well for this exam!” Highlighting a strategy, choice, or effort reminds them that they influence their destiny and can learn from all experiences. Such a small shift in how we communicate but, as Dweck shares with numerous examples in the book, those small changes can result in transformational results.

Every person I know who has read this book has expressed incredible insights gained. In fact, when I posted about it on Facebook while writing this article, the feedback was unanimously positive with many indicating they planned to pull out their copy and re-read it. If you lead, teach, coach, parent, or influence others, add Mindset to your reading list. You will grow in self-awareness and be able to more readily help others do the same.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

Fortunately, a growth mindset can be cultivated, encouraged, and modeled.

Start making growth-oriented conversation part of your routine at the dinner table or in your meetings: “What did you learn today?” “Where have you put forth a strong effort this week?” “What mistake did you make, and what did you learn from it?”

These types of questions emphasize learning, effort, and growth over “winning” and remind us of the role we play in our own success. This mindset empowers, energizes, and trickles into all facets of our lives!

How has your mindset helped – or hindered – your success? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps people make a positive difference in the world by coaching them to work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach, and (new!) Instagram at www.instagram.com/drchristihegstad.

Mindset by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. (Ballantine, 2006).

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.

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