Dear Volkswagen

VWlogoDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In case you missed it -- VW is in trouble. Here's a rundown of what happened and what I would tell them to do, if they asked:

Volkswagen is facing huge fines, its reputation is in tatters, and now CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down.

The company cheated diesel emissions tests in the U.S. for seven years.

It did so through a nifty piece of software that could identify when the car was being tested and reduce harmful exhaust so it looked as if the car met requirements, when in fact it did not.

Volkswagen was caught by independent testing carried out by a clean-air advocacy group, The International Council on Clean Transportation, which, ironically, tested the cars because it thought they were such a great example of how diesel could be a clean fuel.

The company originally disputed the test results, "citing various technical issues," but it implements a voluntary recall of nearly 500,000 cars to put in a software patch it says will fix the issue.

On September 3, VW finally confesses the fraud to the EPA and CARB and admits gaming the emission tests. When the market opens the following Monday, VW stock plunges over 20 percent and Volkswagen experiences its biggest one-day drop in six years as a potentially huge fine to the company spooks investors.

A day later, Volkswagen admits that the issue is far more widespread, saying it could affect 11 million cars. Once again, the shares go into meltdown, and another 20 percent is wiped off the value of the company. 

Volkswagen issued a profit warning setting aside €6.5 billion to "cover the necessary service measures and other efforts to win back the trust of our customers." It adds: "Discrepancies relate to vehicles with Type EA 189 engines, involving some 11 million vehicles worldwide."

So to say they're in trouble is a bit of an understatement. So here's my letter to the VW leadership:

Dear VW leaders,

The good news is -- there's no way but up. Many companies have survived this sort of corporate deceit. But what you do next will make or break you. Here's my recipe for your survival.

Identify a spokesperson who is believable and likable: This needs to be someone from your senior ranks who can convey not only your regret but your concern for the harm that your fraud has potentially caused.

"No comment," evasion and half-truths are off the table: Your only hope is to be as honest, straightforward and remorseful as possible. Your spokesperson has to be told the whole truth and they have to be encouraged to share it -- no matter how bad the truth may be. Proactively tell us the bad news. Do not wait for it to be discovered.

Be ready to over-share for a very long time: When you get caught lying you lose the right to your privacy and your secrets. We get to know it all or you have to decide you want out of the equation. And we don't want to have to ask -- you have to just offer up more information than you believe we have a right to know.

Turn this into something good: Fortunately for you, the world loves a redeemed sinner. So you need to decide how you're going to demonstrate that you're not only sorry you got caught but how it's changed you. How will you use this incident to make the world a better place?

Stay very visible: Whenever we can't see you, we assume you're up to no good. Stay in the media. Keep us over-informed. Do not go dark or silent. You want to be so visible that we actually get sick of hearing from you. 

Take it on the chin. Over and over: You are going to be raked over the coals by the media, in social media and by your customers. Let them vent. Hear their anger and disappointment. Apologize. Again. And tell them how you are going to make it better. For as long as it takes.

Remind us that you're good but just made a bad choice: Reconnect us with your brand and all the good it has done. Connect us with the happy memories of your iconic vehicles and how we felt about being your customer. Don't let this mistake become your brand. 

There's no shortcuts, no easy way out and no glossing over this. You need to just gut it out and let your new choices, behavior and habits re-earn our trust over time.  Lean on the brand equity you've earned but realize that its foundation is very weak right now.

Other brands have survived worse. But you have very little of the consumer's grace left. Be the brand they want to believe that you are -- every day in every way and be patient.

This is going to take awhile.


Build with mass whenever you can

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


Many times the old way is the sustainable way. Like using massive materials such as block, brick and concrete. Especially on the interior.

I recently returned from vacation in Sedona, Arizona where I stayed at a 12-room hotel built the old way. Interior walls were block and plaster which retained the temperature for hours and therefore did not require the air conditioning system to ramp up as the day progressed. 

Contrast that to the typical home. Since there is not much mass in new construction the interior senses the outside conditions much sooner than if there was some mass.  In the summer the sun comes out and the air conditioning comes on.

The Hopi Indians had it figured out. The thick walls made of adobe construction (basically clay and water) absorbed the exterior conditions and transferred them slowly to the interior. In the heat of the day the inside was sensing the cool of the desert night. In the middle of the night when the desert temperature was very cool, the inside was sensing the warmth of the day.

The phenomena is called the thermal flywheel effect because the thermal mass provides continued inertia to keep temperature fluctuations low.

So if you are building a home think about:

  • Concrete floors or at least concrete topping
  • Concrete block and plaster for some walls

Let me know if you have any massive stories to tell.  Contact me at

Red pill or blue?


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

In the 1999 movie, The Matrix, Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, holds out his hands, both containing a single pill: one red and one blue. Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, has to make a choice –– take the red pill and free himself from life’s current limitations or take the blue pill and return to the status quo.

Life frequently presents us with both red and blue pills. The red pill provides the opportunity to imagine something different and create new ideas that will hopefully result in the change we desire. The blue pill typically keeps things as they are, regardless of a potential negative outcome. This red pill/blue pill choice is presented to us daily, with varying degrees of importance or outcomes.

When I was an undergraduate college student in the early 1980s, a couple of friends and I were driving back to campus in my 1974 Mustang Ghia after a long weekend at home. To say that this particular model of Ford’s flagship brand was by far its worst ever would be an understatement. However, I bought it myself, and I was proud to have it (or at least a used version of it).

As we drove down the road, the car began to vibrate ever so slightly. At first, we just shrugged it off as the result of bad pavement. But as we continued, the vibration worsened, and it became obvious it wasn’t the road causing it. After discussing it, one of us suggested that perhaps one or more of the wheels had loosened. So, we pulled over and checked all of the lug nuts––they were all tight. We got back into the car and continued onward having eliminated that idea. The vibration worsened and began to turn into a mild shimmy. We knew something was wrong, but we also needed to get back to campus for upcoming exams.

Like Morpheus in The Matrix, two hands were stretched out, each holding a pill that would result in a different outcome. RED PILL: Pull over at the next service station and let someone who is qualified examine the car and determine the problem. If the car had to stay for repairs, we could then find an alternate way back to campus. If necessary, we could even find an inexpensive hotel room for the night and proactively make some creative decisions as to how we address the current situation. BLUE PILL: Press on and deal with it later (the status quo).

We knew in our guts what had to be done, and we chose the blue pill instead. We chose poorly. After driving about 20 minutes or so down the highway, the shimmy became violent, and the stick shift, which I was holding in my hand at the time, disappeared. The transmission had fallen off the car while at high speed, causing an array of serious problems, not the least of which was that we were now stranded in the middle of nowhere.

We are frequently presented with red pill/blue pill moments, and yet we continue to take the blue pill –– whether it’s continuing to spend money resulting in greater debt, pretending the conflict you have with someone at the office will just go away, continuing to take unnecessary risks when the rewards just don’t justify them, or wasting time watching Breaking Bad when that project sits unfinished on your desk.

Red pill options provide us the opportunity to be creative –– to create new and hopefully better solutions to problems that aren’t going to go away by themselves. By taking the blue pill with my Mustang, it not only negatively affected my life but the lives of my friends and all of our parents as they had to spend time and money to rectify what should have never occurred in the first place.

Choosing the red pill can be scary at times because of the unknowns involved, but it’s those unknowns that provide us opportunities to become creative thinkers and make better choices.

Practice Challenge:  Do you have a tendency to keep making the same mistakes over and over? Are you doing things that you know in your gut you need to change? Then stop and take a pause. Take out a piece of paper, and at the top write a statement of the issue or problem at hand. Below that, create two columns with the words “Red Pill” and “Blue Pill” at the top of each column. Start with the Blue Pill column and create a list of probable outcomes if you continue treating the issue or problem the same way. Once complete, create a list in the Red Pill column of specific changes that could be made to address the issue or problem along with any and all possible outcomes resulting from each. Once done, take an honest look at both lists. Make a better choice than the one I made with my Mustang. It may not be easy, but it will ultimately yield a better outcome.

©2015  Anthony D. Paustian

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

Passing the test as seasons change

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

With summer behind us, parents, kids and teachers are back into the school routine.

It was a different story just a few weeks ago. When the summer break ends, things can get pretty chaotic. Parents were rushing to gather school supplies and organize a schedule for everyday and extracurricular activities. I still remember that mad dash but I can't say that I miss it!

School requires a new mindset and a refocusing of priorities; this time of the year is a good opportunity for specialty retailers to do the same thing. And, just as you would with homework, it’s always great to continually check whether your current plan has the right answers for your business.

Most specialty retailers are a nimble lot and very good at thinking ahead and thinking on our feet. But, it’s also all-too-easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details. So, this is a smart time to refocus, evaluate your inventory for the months ahead and, especially, review plans made earlier this year for the holiday season. (It will be on us in a matter of weeks now and the amount of time to stock the right products and quantities is even shorter.)

Any retailer who hasn't done so should make room for the new season -- now. That doesn't mean just seasonal merchandise. If slow-moving products have been hanging around your shelves, ignore the strong temptation to store them until next year. Clear them out by marking them down. Do. It. Now.

I keep track of seasonal items that my customers like or mention during an off-season that they'd like to see us carry. Getting into that habit meets customers' wants and needs -- and improves bottom-line revenues. At the Heart of Iowa, that means different soup and hot chocolate mixes, dips that we offer for the colder weather and various other items.

This is also a critical time to update marketing strategies and databases. It's not too late to come up with a new twist, though I have to have a pretty good reason at this point of the retail year to make any drastic changes.

Always think ahead, dot your i's and cross your t's and you'll be ready to pass the test as summer gives way to the fall and winter ahead.

Put your ding in the universe

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.

There are countless blog posts about Steve Jobs. They speak to his work, his personality, his life, the statements he made and the products he created. There is a photo of him in his living room (I’ve included it in this post) where he is sitting on his floor with some tea, a single tiffany lamp, a stereo, and some very large speakers. This photo serves as an important reminder to me – in fact, it’s the wallpaper on my iPhone. I think that his approach to design and how he turned Apple around are critical lessons in strategy.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Apple was headed for insolvency - too many products, not enough differentiation, poor design, and a mismatch between their target market and their offerings as a company. Then they invited their former CEO back and things changed. Mr. Jobs instilled two simple rules as a basic mission statement for his new regime – do not produce inferior products and only produce very few types of things that are very well executed.

This singularity of purpose and clarity of mission allowed Apple to rally and ultimately turn the company around. It made employees of Apple realize that they were still capable of innovation, still capable to creating “insanely” great products that were met with great enthusiasm upon their introduction. It also started the upward trajectory of Apple becoming the most valuable company in the world - with the most consistently sought-after products in recent memory.


So, why do I keep that photo on my iPhone? Because it reminds me that trying to do too much, or do too many things without being able to do them well, is often worse than not doing them at all. That lacking a singular clarity of purpose can have disastrous results.

When I work with organizations, groups tend to error toward generating a large amount of tactical items. No surprise here – that is consistent with the need for us to want to work something to completion – to “finish” something. But the photo reminds me that putting my pen down and thinking through why I am doing something – developing a strategy or considering other aspects of what I am working on rather than just the end result – is as important as completing a task. Why am I doing this? Am I doing too many things? Is there redundancy? Is there excess? Has quality suffered at the hand of quantity?

But why does the photo make me think in those terms? I look at the lack of frills in the photo and contrast it with how a similar space in my house looks. Is what I have better, or is it just more? A very well crafted lamp. Something to sit on. A very decent stereo. Space to think. I look at the things in the photograph and it is clear that an active decision was made specific to each piece; he seems to have made sure they are the highest quality, and that each serves a singular purpose. No redundancy. No excess.

One of my favorite lines is something Steve Jobs said about putting a “ding in the universe." I think it’s something we all should aspire to do. When putting a strategy together for you or for your organization, I think the lessons I learned from looking at that old photo are applicable at any scale:

  1. Formulate a clear mission and stick to it.
  2. Do a few things well instead of many things adequately.
  3. Do not produce inferior work product.
  4. Never stop innovating; stay hungry, stay foolish. (Jobs borrowed this line from the Whole Earth Catalog.)
  5. Do not waste your time on something that is no longer relevant, useful, or applicable.

I think by following these simple guidelines, we can move from the mundane to the aspirational and transformative, find new engagement and passion in our work, and grow our efforts in ways no one may be expecting.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011


 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


What's the difference between PR and advertising?

The line between advertising and PR used to be easy to discern. If you paid for the message to appear in any medium -- that was advertising. If you talked to reporters or editors (who were independent arbitors and mostly neutral) -- that was PR. There was an iron curtain between the editorial department (reporters) and the advertising department (sales).  Images

Things changed when digital media took away income sources from newspapers, TV stations and magazines. Free digital sales sites like Craigslist nixed income from classified ads - once a cash cow for newspapers. Free news websites and video diverted millions of eyeballs from the evening newscast - never to return. Many large media outlets folded or consolidated. Thousands of traditional journalists were sacked.

Content marketing started to take hold. High quality information of all sorts is free for the Googling. Digital advertising soon followed.

Now the confusing part starts. What content can you trust? Who is making sure it's well written and checks its veracity? That's the deal. No one is in charge. The iron curtain between advertising and PR is now more like a kitchen strainer.

Public relations practitioners have had to adapt by learning how to navigate the new landscape. The dizzying options available to companies looking to promote a product or service are definitely more complicated now than ever.

Here are some general categories to look at when thinking about promotion. I'm putting these in order from most effective to least (in my humble opinion).

  1. Public Relations - Done consistently and with the right message, public relations is still the least expensive and most credible source of positive attention that your business can receive. Reporters and editors are still influential sources of news and information and can still be a great medium for your message.
  2. Content Marketing - Creating content and posting it to a website and social media outlets will create an organic traffic source to your website and provide opportunities for you to get the sales when your prospect is ready to buy. The main advantage is that the content you create is YOURS. Use it as long as it remains pertinent.
  3. Digital Advertising - Using paid sources of advertising such as Facebook ads and Google Adwords can bolster the numbers of people who visit your website. It's not as credible as organic searches, but is effective when done properly and consistently. Price tag alert - guaranteed results can be very pricey! Research shows that banner ads are not only pricey but that people tend to ignore the ads.
  4. Native advertising - A combination of advertising, PR and content marketing - this type of article can appear in print or on a website. It can easily be mistaken for independent editorial content (see PR, above) but it is actually written by the company or someone hired by the company to promote a specific point of view. Since it looks like an editorial article written by a reporter, it can influence opinion for some, but easily be dismissed by those who notice its sponsorship.

If the budget is available, regularly spending money on the first three tactics listed is advisable. Native advertising has a time and place - but must not be overly promotional. I see daily examples of companies doing this wrong. Seek the advice of a PR professional to make sure the messages you want to convey are being sent in the proper way, to the proper audience.

Claire Celsi is a Communications Consultant in West Des Moines, Iowa.

When the survey is worthless (Part 1)

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

It's happened every time I've purchased or leased a vehicle for the past 20 years. The auto industry are the worst culprits. It's happened to me with Ford, Saturn, Cadillac, Nissan, and Lincoln. The auto industry is not alone. It's happened in retail stores and restaurants. I'm sure it's happened to you.

The salesperson helping you out says something similar to this:

"In the next few days you're going to get a survey asking you about my service. It's really important to me to get all high marks. If I don't get all "5s" I can get in trouble and might even be fired. So, if you could help me out, I'd really appreciate it."

The last time this happened to me the salesman added: "The truth is my company doesn't really care what you think. They're just doing this to decide whether I get a bonus or not."

There are so many things wrong with these scenarios that it's difficult to know where to begin. The intention of the process is worthy. The company wants to base rewards and compensation based on actual customer experiences and satisfaction. The process, however, is deeply flawed and any data gathered by the surveys can't be trusted.

Once the salesperson or agent appeals to the customer's sympathies, the customer is strapped with an emotional burden that makes it nearly impossible to provide an objective answer.

Tempted to be honest, the customer starts to fill in something less than a "5" and then feels the weight of denying the poor saleswoman a bonus or getting her fired. Some will simply go through and give all "5s" just to "help the guy out" without giving any consideration to the questions. Now that the responses are not objective but emotionally biased towards the salesperson you've ensured that the results are neither honest nor representative. Even if a few honest people fill the surveys out objectively, there's no way you can trust any of the results to be an accurate, representative picture of what customers really think.

So why does it happen? It's a self-deceptive, feel-good win-win-win for three of the four players in the scene:

  • The company feels good about surveying customers and they can pretend that they really care about what the customer thinks. They feel good about all the high marks coming in for all their sales people. They delude themselves into thinking that customers are truly "very satisfied" and all the corporate training efforts are paying off. 
  • The salesperson feels good about getting a bonus, feels good about keeping the sales manager off his or her back, and deludes him/herself into believing that the results really show that he/she is doing a good job.
  • The survey vendor feels good about making a lot of money cranking out the surveys, feels good that the client feels good, feels good that the salespeople feel good, and generally everyone seems to feel good.

Who loses? The customer, who has been coerced into being a part of the self-deception and who wastes time participating in a survey that will truly not result in accurate data or a better sales/service experience.

There are much better ways to accurately gather customer data, objectively measure what customers think, and trust data that can help move the needle on the customer experience. Unfortunately, I don't believe we'll see the automotive industry (and others) abandoning their "feel good" survey models any time soon. 

When approached by a salesperson to "help them out" with a survey I immediately choose out of participating in a process that provides worthless data and ultimately does nothing to truly enhance the customer experience.

No-phone zone

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

20091119-tows-no-phone-zone-300x205Are you guilty of sometimes sneakily checking your phone for texts or emails during meetings? As I step into more meetings, I have noticed that there is usually at least one person looking down at their smartphone.

While our world is becoming more technologically advanced, I still find this to be a bad habit not only in the business world but also in your personal life. 

Here are some things to think about next time you look down at your smartphone during a meeting:

  1. Consideration: It makes you look like you don’t care about what other people are saying.
  2. Respect: It is rude to not look people in the eye when they are speaking.
  3. Engagement: People want to know that you are listening to what they are saying.
  4. Selfishness: It looks like you think your time is more important then theirs.

I am aware that some people will read this and think “but if I have an emergency I am going to answer the phone.”

I am not insinuating that you should not have your phone with you. I think it is perfectly acceptable and more polite to say "Excuse me, I need to take this and step out of the room" than to constantly check your phone during a meeting.

I also think that people assume that millennials believe that it’s ok to be on your phones because this is what our world is evolving to. But I think we can all agree that no matter what age we are, we don’t want to appear inconsiderate of other people.

Especially if you are trying to impress the boss, make the meeting room a no-phone zone. 


-Meridith Freese

Connect with me!

Facebook: meridith.freese
Twitter: @MertFreese


Of course a course can be sustainable

Golf course mowers- Rob Smith is a principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger.

It’s the classic view for many golf telecasts. The army of mowers headed out to manicure 100 acres of grass. Got me thinking…are golf courses thinking about sustainable design and using less resources?

Courses are certainly a huge user of water and chemicals. I found water usage varies but a course can easily use 250,000 gallons per day.

I called Legacy Golf Club in Norwalk to inquire if there has been a change in course management since the sustainable movement began. Joe Carroll, chief groundskeeper since the course opened said “In the past we mowed greens three times a week and the rough twice a week. Now greens are twice a week and the rough just once.  We also water the course with 100 percent runoff water stored in ponds.”

How can the players help the course be more sustainable?  REPLACE YOUR DIVOTS!!!  Or Joe recommends at least filing the divot with sand.

How can the course be more sustainable? Here are a few ideas.

  • Plant fruit trees in natural areas to provide food for birds and other animals.
  • Plant perennials.  I’ve seen so many beautiful landscaped areas planted with annuals like begonias and geraniums.
  • Plant drought resistant grasses so less water is used.
  • Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizer. The culprit is too much nitrogen which promotes algae growth and robs ponds of oxygen. Legacy used to fertilize three times a year but now fertilizes once a year.

Let me know if you have any ideas to make courses more sustainable? Contact me at

Stuck in the crab bucket?

Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior and emerging leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life. Crab bucket photo

While strategically defining my executive coaching client’s personal brand, and finally landing on several solid words that internal and external stakeholders would use to describe him, he offered a look of concern.

 “What’s up?” I asked.

 “Well,” he started out hesitantly, “this makes me think of a recent event I wanted to run past you.”  He continued, “An old friend invited me out for a beer. He also invited some of his old chums as well. As their conversations digressed into places I didn’t want to go, I saw clearly that my core values and my friend’s are not aligned anymore. Even worse, there was tremendous pressure on me from the chums to join in with the raucous humor. Boy was it really uncomfortable when they put me under terrible pressure to digress with them. I was concerned that someone would overhear what was being said and recognize me. Then I got really angry at my friend for putting me in that situation and I abruptly left.”  

I shared my little story about the crab bucket of life...

Have you ever noticed the more successful you become, and the more that things go “your way”, some family, friends, team members, even business partners, will do and say things to sabotage you and keep you down?  This happens all of the time but often we aren’t aware of it. It can cause us to feel uncomfortable, confused and worried about what’s going on. 

Enter the crab bucket...

We all know what a sea crab looks like.  They live near the ocean, have a shell and six long legs. They use their legs to grab and hold onto things. Their legs propel them forward on their journey across the beach. What you may not know is that crabs are social creatures. They travel around sandy beaches and shorelines in biomasses. 

Now for the interesting part. If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and watch them, you will see that they will begin to crawl on top of each other to get out of the bucket and back to the beach. They begin to use their little pincher legs to crawl up the side of the bucket. It is amazing to watch!

If you watch even more closely you will see that the one successful crab who makes it to the top of the bucket -- his front leg is positioned on the edge of the bucket and he is ready to propel himself over the side to freedom -- gets pulled back down into the bucket by his crab friends. The other crabs reach up, grab his leg and pull him back down into the bucket with them! The poor crab is lost forever in the swirling vortex called the “Crab Bucket of Life”.

In our own Crab Buckets, often those trying to keep us down are unaware of what they are doing. These behaviors are usually unconscious and spring from their feelings of fear and jealousy; fear that they aren’t good enough and do not measure up. Some are also jealous, coveting our success. Keeping another person down helps them feel better about their position in life.  

My coaching client immediately understood that his friends may have been jealous of his success and were denigrating him to make themselves feel better. Then he asked, “But what do I do about it?” I offered the following three-steps: 

Step One:  Recognize that it is happening and that we are being kept down in the crab bucket. Some people who claim that they care for us or want the best for our future can be the largest crabs in our bucket.

Step Two:  Remember that the best defense is an offense. It helps to keep a professional but cordial distance from those crabs in our lives. Don’t let them get close enough to pull you down and sabotage you.

Step Three:  If you are feeling like you have been pulled down, ask yourself, “Am I in the crab bucket or out of the crab bucket?”

Being inside the smelly crab bucket feels like drama and emotional chaos. It is hard to breathe and you find yourself not thinking clearly, maybe even feeling confused.   

If you are living outside of the crab bucket you smell the clear, crisp ocean air and see the beautiful blue skies. Living outside of the crab bucket is emotional freedom and it feels wonderful to be moving forward toward your goals.  

Using these three simple steps will help you stay out of the drama that others are creating and keep you focused on what is important to your success. 


5 tips to win social media when job hunting

- Katie Patterson is the Owner/Founder at Happy Medium.

I might be a bit biased since I own a company that provides social media as a service, but our recommendation would be to make sure your social media presence is combed through as much as your resume! To people doing the hiring, they are one in the same. Here are some suggestions to make sure your social media is helping you in your interview process.

  1. Exist – Again, I might be digitally biased, but if we can’t find you anywhere online we are likely going to ask ourselves why and be slightly concerned if you don’t have any online presence. You don’t need endless selfies or anything but just an indication that you are part of the game.
  2. Pictures – Once we do find your social media profiles, we are going to, of course, look through them to try and get a better feeling of who you are in your everyday life outside of interviews. This would be a good time to consider taking down your profile picture of you chugging a beer at the last Iowa/ISU game. The key to remember here is it’s not that we’re claiming nobody at our office has ever done that. The real issue is this tells us more about your ability to make professional decisions. It’s not that we really care if you chugged a beer, but we do care that you have the capabilities to decide the correct time and place to post.
  3. Privacy – Most social media platforms are relatively easy to set privacy restrictions on. My recommendation would be to base how tight your restrictions are by platform. Your LinkedIn page for example is a great one to make sure is robust with your resume and extra curricular involvement. LinkedIn would be an example of a platform you would not have restricted. You want any potential future employer to be able to find you on LinkedIn and see everything. On Instagram, for example, you could set to restricted if you have more personal photos there. I tend to set my Facebook to some restrictions. People could still find my profile picture and a few basics about me, but would not be able to see my everyday posts.
  4. Relevancy – One benefit to letting some of your social media stay public for the world to see is to show your skill set and involvement with the industry you are applying in. If a potential employer looks at two candidates’ Twitter accounts and sees one is posting industry content frequently, and the other is only tweeting with friends, it may become a factor in the decision making process of who they are going to hire. At Happy Medium, we definitely like to see people involved with our industry on their own accord. It gives us a great indication they have a true passion for this industry, and they aren’t only looking for a “job” they are trying to find their “career”.
  5. Engagement – speaking of being engaging on social media. One of the easiest ways to stand out is to start engaging with the potential company's social media channels. I always love to see a candidate send an application then a few minutes later see them follow our Twitter account and like our Facebook page. It shows me they are likely going to be an active team member, they are researching us and they are very excited to potentially be a part of our team.

Good luck out there  - if you have any questions tweet me! @_klpatterson.

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

Golden egg syndrome: why business owners take risk by not taking risks

- John Mickelson is managing partner at Midwest Growth Partners.

We often see business owners who already have a good business with the potential to have a great business. These owners have well thought out ideas to make their company even bigger and better.

When we ask why they haven’t done so yet, it becomes clear that in their mind the risk is not worth the reward. There is a fear of losing the steady level of success the business has been achieving, which we call the “golden egg syndrome.”

The golden egg syndrome is frequently found with more senior business owners who do not want to risk substantial capital at this stage in their career. It is also found in family owned businesses that do not want to fundamentally change the way their business has operated for many years.

Unfortunately, becoming stagnant over time is one way to quickly lose market share to your competitors and not leave as big of a legacy to your heirs.  It places the company and, by default, remaining employees, at a strategic disadvantage for the day when the owner is gone. 

Private equity can be a great solution for the golden egg syndrome. By selling a portion of a business, but continuing to own some and operate it day-to-day, business owners can achieve some personal liquidity and diversify their wealth.

The business owner then gets to share the capital risk of prudent investments for the company designed to grow their business with the private equity fund. Business owners also get experienced partners who can help guide them in making strategic decisions.

Finally, the private equity fund will be able to help facilitate succession planning – both with management and with remaining ownership – when that time is right. 

Set a healthy example of work-life balance

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

We’ve all got a sense of purpose, and in the workplace, it is often tied to a company vision, set of values or guiding principles. At UnityPoint Health, our purpose is Best Outcome for Every Patient Every Time. That mindset guides every decision we make and every patient we treat.

I’ve learned that it is incredibly important for employees to take ownership in the mission and values of their place of work. Believing in the purpose of an organization ensures that employees can find fulfillment in the work being done, which is wonderful.

And just like it’s important for our employees at UnityPoint Health to give patients the best outcome every day, we want them to take care of themselves. All sorts of studies indicate that happy, healthy employees equal satisfied, repeat customers, so it’s up to the leaders at each business to demonstrate ways to maintain a healthy work style and avoid burnout.
This doesn’t mean you need to start running marathons or switch to all organic meals, but a few simple steps will inspire your employees to take care of themselves. In the long run, these efforts will help your company grow:

1. Take time off.

I know it’s tempting to check email on vacation or the weekends, and hold onto those PTO hours for when “things slow down,” but trust me, you don’t want to burn out. You also don’t want to set an unsustainable pace for your employees. So go away for a few days and be sure to relax. Use vacations to allow you to recharge, mentally, emotionally and physically, so you can come back ready and raring to go. Encourage your employees to do the same, so that you can all continue to put your best foot forward in the workplace.

2. Have fun!

Life is short, and we all spend many of our days at the office. Find ways to bring fun and laughter into your organization. This helps build relationships and reduce stress. Schedule the occasional office gathering and use humor with employees to help boost productivity.

3. Get moving.
You’ve all heard of the “sitting disease” by now. Stand up and stretch your legs a few times a day, as well as give your eyes a break from the computer screen. It gets your blood moving and the creative juices flowing. Participate in the ongoing wellness activities at the office. Form a team or create a fitness challenge to build teamwork and get some exercise.

Remember, you as a leader set the tone of the organization. Your employees know you expect the best – maybe you’ve even spelled that out for them in your mission statement. Good health is the first step to reaching new heights.

Forget multitasking and focus

Does trying to read the news updates crawling across the bottom of the television screen while attending to the main program frustrate you? Do you get engaged in the interview and then catch a glimpse of the end of a news update “…dead at 21”? Do you spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out who died? 

We delude ourselves into believing our multitasking efforts result in saving valuable time. This false belief is reinforced by time management experts prescribing multitasking as a time saving tool and a civilization that demands constant and overlapping activity.

The research is clear. Our brains are designed for focus and it is when we concentrate that we are at our productive and inventive best. Scattered attention guarantees we do neither task well and research reveals that the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the system. Far from a time-saving approach, multitasking is a time waster and a stress inducer. 

Multiple experiments have shown that focusing on one task at a time delivers the most effective and efficient results.

Can we do two things at once? Yes. On the condition that one of the two things is habitual and unconsciously done (not requiring creative or cognitive thought). For example, driving a car while listening to an audio book is easily done unless you’re on icy or unfamiliar roads that require your focus and attention.  Walking and carrying on a conversation is a breeze on familiar terrain. Reading while exercising on the treadmill can provide a useful distraction.

However, when both activities demand your complete attention, choose one. The next time you find yourself reading an email while talking on the phone, texting while driving, checking your iPhone in a meeting, completing a puzzle while interacting with your kids, reading PowerPoint slides while listening to a speaker – pause and remind yourself to focus on one task at a time. 

Slow down and focus.  It’s a quick, no-cost approach to increasing productivity and reducing stress.

Iowa shareholders can remove a director from the board of directors

PGP_1038Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law

Shareholders in large and small corporations often inquire: How is a director removed from a corporation’s board of directors?

The question may be posed out of concern that the shareholder – who also serves as a director – feels threatened about being ousted as a director. Alternatively, the shareholder may be frustrated with a particular director’s conduct and is seeking a change in board composition and leadership. Either way, in theory, removing a director from a corporation’s board of directors is relatively straightforward.

As the corporation’s owners, shareholders possess power under Iowa law to “remove one or more directors” in an Iowa corporation. Importantly, pursuant to Iowa law, so long as the corporation’s articles of incorporation do not state otherwise, “shareholders may remove one or more directors with or without cause.” In other words, if the corporation’s articles of incorporation are silent and do not address the issue, shareholders may remove a director or directors without providing any justification for their decision – they can simply act and remove the director(s).

Notably, however, if a director is elected by a voting group of shareholders, only the shareholders of that voting group may participate in the vote to remove that director.

As with many corporate actions, removing a director requires shareholders to follow a very specific process. For instance, as of the time of this posting, shareholders may only remove a director at a shareholder meeting that is called for the express purpose of removing the director and after proper notice is provided. The notice must state that the purpose (or one of the purposes) of the meeting is removing the director(s).

Additionally, a shareholder may also petition a court and request a judge remove a director from the board. Not surprisingly, there is also a very specific process by which to seek removal through the court system.

If you are considering removing a director from your Iowa corporation’s board of directors, or if you are a director concerned about future removal, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney who practices in this area of law.

Halt and catch fire

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.

Halt and Catch Fire (HCF) is a command given to a computer to cause the processor to have an unrecoverable error and require a full restart. I do a fair amount of research into the concepts behind technology and software development and its corresponding history and genealogy. It is interesting to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how it runs parallel to emerging concepts in strategy and organizational design thinking.

Gmail, one of Google’s flagship products, was developed during something called 20 percent time. This is the use of 20 percent of employees' time at work to develop projects based on individual interests or strengths that are related to core business practices in some fashion. Although this is a concept often attributed to Google, it started and was utilized much earlier, at places like HP, Lockheed, 3M, and Westinghouse.

1cf41fdd512dfe87638af3156cb9ed0aWestinghouse, which is now known mostly for kitchen appliances, did a substantial amount of work for the space program in the 1960s. Westinghouse gave engineers dedicated project work, but also allowed 10-15 percent of their time as “free inventing” time. A product of this “free inventing” time was the magnetic space boot, developed by an engineer who was not working on the space program equipment in any way but had an interest and found personal satisfaction in solving this specific problem -- developing a boot that worked better than the existing versions at that time.

I like to think there are two types of interaction with strategic processes as they relate to specific outcomes. There is hedonic strategy, or strategy that deals in the idealistic or visionary strategies that result in dynamic and large scale, transformative outcomes. Then there is utilitarian strategy, which deals in more structured and smaller scale change. I find a mix of these two results in the best, most balanced outcomes – a mix of the aspirational and the Spartan.

The two concepts introduced above are intrinsically linked in my mind, and are mutualistic. When people within organizations find satisfaction in what they are doing, they become more invested in it. Often that means providing a framework for innovation, inventiveness, and flexibility. The space boot was a by-product of the fulfillment of a hedonic work dimension created by “free inventing” time. Gmail was also. So were Post-It notes. The Sony PlayStation. Even the now ubiquitous “Like” button was created in this type of “free invention” time.

Oddly, HCF is not a real instruction – and the “catch fire” was a reference to the cessation of the computer’s ability to function, for emphasis. Though the actual percentage may vary, if you remove artificial HCF barriers by creating the ability for individuals to create projects, processes, and tactical artifacts for your company that illustrate its unique abilities and talents, something new and unexpected will likely emerge (and the time could potentially pay for itself and more, beyond the dividends in employee satisfaction).

By creating an environment to achieve satisfaction in a strategic sense, you will likely have more fulfilled employees, balanced levels of engagement, and growth in more sustainable ways. And you may even find yourself in a position to offer new goods or services that you would not have previously imagined.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011


 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


Stop! In the name of jobs

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

For as long as anyone can remember, economic developers in Iowa have touted our state’s stability of government and economy as an important second tier decision motivator [after Iowa_Flag_Golden_Dome_small taxes, workforce and infrastructure] for companies considering locating or expanding here.

The argument has been that compared with a number of peer states and regions, Iowa offers some of the most predictable, practical and civil state governmental machinery. Too, the state’s economic performance, owing to a diversified economy led by agriculture and manufacturing, has grown steadily if not spectacularly. It generally has outpaced the U.S. average for at least the past ten years. (State GDP grew by 2.9 percent in 2014, about double the national rate, and per capita income growth was No. 4 nationally in 2013 -- the fifth straight year of top 25 finishes in the category.) 

Iowa’s economy, it’s been said many times, is rarely too hot and rarely too cold, like a mythical baked potato. 

The stoutness of Iowa’s economy is an obvious selling point for would-be job creators in our state, but the political stability argument can be nearly as consequential.  Company leaders and boards of directors rendering decisions on the large-scale deployment of capital inherently consider the political environment into which their investment is flowing. This occurs at varying levels of formality and intensity from organization to organization,  from subjective speculation around the meeting table to so-called ‘full-cost’ accounting, which seeks to quantify largely subjective matters like political climate and assign a value to be incorporated into project cost matrices.

Iowans tend to vote their tendencies for divided government. From 1992-2013, the state had a ostensible ‘unified’ or ‘trifecta’ government [one where both legislative chambers and the executive branch are all controlled by the same party] only six times, one of the lowest rates in the nation. Governors in Iowa average ten years in office, longer than most other non-term-limited states. And a passing glimpse at our federal delegation reminds us that until the 2015 retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowans sent one Republican and one Democrat to the Senate for 30 straight years -- the third longest streak in history.

At a time when a single party controls all branches of government in 31 [!] states and nearly half of all legislatures have veto-proof majorities, Iowa is one of just three [!] states with a divided legislature. Lawmakers here have historically been more than happy to point out that in the face of such bipartisan power balances, they have made a conscious effort to avoid Washington-style partisan chaos.

And, largely, they’ve been right. For decades, Iowa’s political process has proven a national example of how a politically-divided state can nevertheless produce budgets, policy and leadership in a deeply bipartisan and civilized way. This track record of political efficiency and pragmatism has proven valuable, as companies routinely cite Iowa’s political environment as a net positive for doing business here.

But now we might mess it up.

Despite what is clearly the better historical judgment of both Iowa voters and their representatives, Iowa, following several split-power legislative sessions full of rancor which have lasted into well into June, faces the very real prospect of a 2016 session more DC than DSM; more cherry blossom than corn cob.

A 2015 session, during which deep interparty disagreement about education funding sucked all the oxygen out of the proverbial room, produced very little in the way of meaningful economic development legislation. In fact, the highest-profile piece of economic development legislation -- a tax credit for biorenewable chemical production in Iowa -- went down in a tragicomedy of partisan maneuvering.

Ask any legislator, bureaucrat or lobbyist to handicap next year’s session and he or she will tell you that the unresolved education funding issue threatens to produce an unusually hyper-partisan environment under the golden dome in 2016. That’s not the Iowa way.

The education issue is incredibly important to Iowa and rightly deserves the keen attention of Iowa legislators, but so is the process by which our political leaders in all three branches of government ultimately find agreement. 

We’ve seen what sorts of monumental results legislative and executive bipartisanship can produce in this state, and very recently. The 2013 Iowa General Assembly was perhaps one the state’s most productive ever, with massive property tax reform, a health care overhaul and education reform bills all reaching the governor’s desk and receiving his signature. Such a session of accomplishment proffers economic development professionals across the state sublime material to discuss with clients. Not only, so the narrative goes, do our political leaders in Iowa achieve big things in the do-nothing Congressional era, but they do it despite a narrowly divided government. That’s the Iowa way. 

Have a look at our state flag and remember that the blue color of the left-hand vertical stripe is meant to represent loyalty, justice and truth and that the red color of the right-hand vertical stripe is meant to represent strength. Remind your legislator between now and January that others are watching how they do their jobs and how they interface publicly with their partisan counterparts and that they can be faithful to both the exertion of strength through party loyalty and deliver justice to their constituents in the form of negotiated, enduring results following a respectful debate.

The next job creation deal could depend on it.


Small business is big business for hackers

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

While big cybercrime incidents, like the Office of Personnel Management and Ashley Madison data breaches, are wonderful news stories, they are only a percentage of cybercrime incidents. Small business attacks are actually a larger percentage of information security breaches. You simply don’t hear about them because they don’t have the same broad appeal that is desired by global media outlets.

Small businesses are targeted by hackers for several reasons. One reason is they are easy targets. Let’s face it, if you’re picking a fight, you pick one with a weaker guy, one who is not likely to be able to defend himself. Hackers take the same approach. Small businesses are more susceptible to cybercrime and security breaches because they are more vulnerable.

Small businesses are often small for one of two reasons, either they want to be small or they are just getting started. For the company that wants to be small, it is likely that the entrepreneur who started the company likes the nimble, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feel. They like the risky positions, doing more with less. This often translates into how they use technology in their business. It is seen as a necessary evil, so only absolutely necessary expenses are approved, and security is never necessary. The entrepreneur knows the business is vulnerable but is willing to take that risk.

Startups are another type of small business. These organizations often want to do the right things, but limited funding causes competing priorities. Information security is frequently pushed down the list as something that can be added after profitability increases. Unfortunately, it can take years for a startup to actually recognize any profits, and by then investors may be looking for an exit strategy.

One thing many small businesses fail to understand is that their clients make them a target for cybercrime. Hackers may look at a multi-billion dollar enterprise and determine it is too difficult or risky to hack. Those hackers then switch gears and begin looking for accountants, attorneys, audit firms, engineering and architectural firms, building maintenance firms and other vendors who may have access to the larger enterprise’s valuable data. These smaller firms may not have the focus on security, or the budgets to protect data, and they become conduits for cybercrime.

Lacking awareness of the types of attacks, and ways to reduce risk of a successful breach, is another area where small business is vulnerable. Simply knowing some small steps to prevent security breaches, which may not require a lot of time or money to implement, can help. Claiming ignorance of the laws or best practices for information security will not protect you in court.

Business is all about taking risk. How much is too much? That question has a million correct answers. However, fully understanding the risk is critical to making the right choices for your business.


Dave-Nelson-2015-biz-blogDave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. 


Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO


Steady as SPAM


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."

Lawn darts were all the rage in the 1980s. Released with good intentions of providing family-oriented outdoor entertainment, lawn darts were in essence foot-long spears tossed between opponents with hopes of hitting the inside of a small plastic ring positioned on the ground.

Scientists estimate the darts hit the ground with over 23,000 pounds per square inch of force.1 As a result, tossing these steel-tipped projectiles back and forth would ultimately send about seven thousand people to the emergency room over a ten-year span, three-fourths of which were children. In 1987, after a seven-year-old girl was struck and killed by an errant dart launched from the neighbor’s house, the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reacted and officially outlawed the use of lawn darts.2 What began innocently enough as a family-fun idea changed into something destructive.

Years later, the game ultimately changed into something much safer—what is now the popular beanbag toss frequently found at football tailgates.

For over 165 years, the Arm & Hammer® name has been synonymous with baking soda and ultimately change. During its first century, baking soda was used primarily for what its name implied…baking. As that use declined, A&H began marketing its baking soda as a method to keep food tasting fresh by absorbing food odors in the refrigerator. As new refrigerator designs eliminated the need for it, A&H changed baking soda’s purpose yet again by adding it to a variety of laundry detergents, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products. Each time consumer needs changed, A&H would proactively reinvent itself as a key ingredient in something else.3

Anyone who’s been alive for any length of time knows that things change. Sometimes change comes as the result of a proactive idea designed to add value to our lives. Other times, change occurs as a reaction to something that no longer meets the needs it was originally designed to serve. Either way, change happens, whether it’s through adding something new and useful or removing something old and unnecessary.

On the other hand, some things never seem to change. The mysterious meat product known as SPAM® has sold over eight billion cans of the same basic recipe for over 80 years.4  TWINKIES® have been around in their same form for over 85 years, and contrary to urban legend, their ingredients are like any other modern packaged food with a shelf life of only 25 days.5  By staying true to their core concepts while making consistent, minor alterations along the way, both have managed to maintain a steady path of relevancy despite the changes surrounding them.

So why do some things change while others don’t?

I believe the answer to that question can be found in the old axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And when it breaks, or runs its course, or the current outcomes are no longer desired, the opportunity for a little imagination and creative thinking finally come into play. In other words, the driver of change is too often the need to create a new solution to a problem when the current, accepted solution no longer works.

I’m convinced that people in general actually like the “idea” of change, although they sometimes resist or choose not to accept it. People today seldom ever seem content, and they always appear to be trying to find their “happy” — that “something better” in life. The idea of change makes us believe we have power or control over our situations in life or the circumstances surrounding it.

Although we may think about changing something for the better, we tend to wait too long, until we have no choice because the pain attached to the current situation is now greater than the pain of changing it. This shows up in all areas of life—whether it’s related to personal finances or relationships, or something job-related such as issues with products, services, or personnel. By this point though, it’s often too late, or at the very least won’t result in the most creative or imaginative solution to the problem. Reactive is never a good substitute for proactive.

Always be aware and on the lookout. Waiting until the storm is already upon you isn’t the time to batten down the hatches, and it definitely doesn’t allow time to develop a good, creative solution to the problem. Change before change is necessary isn’t just being proactive, it’s often the key ingredient in the recipe for a steady, happy life — like the recipe found in SPAM.

Practice Challenge:  Do you find yourself frequently reacting to problems or situations? Life is full and complicated, but we all have to allow time to think and process. Regardless of how busy things can get, challenge yourself to set aside quiet time to think, process and plan — in other words, allow yourself the time to prepare for life’s storms before they hit. 

1Soniak, Matt. How One Dad Got Lawn Darts Banned.  Retrieved February 4, 2015, from the Mental Floss website:

2The Awful Truth About Lawn Darts.  Retrieved February 4, 2015, from the Democratic Underground website:

3The History of Arm & Hammer.  Retrieved August 24, 2015, from the Arm & Hammer website:

4The SPAM Story.  Retrieved February 4, 2015, from the SPAM website:

5Grabianowski, Ed. How Twinkies Work.  Retrieved February 4, 2015, from the How Stuff Works website:

©2015  Anthony D. Paustian

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

DART: A property tax funded amenity

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

Last year we looked at DART’s financials, and wondered aloud whether it would be sensible to think about the sustainability of the current funding model before committing to a major new project as represented by bus rapid transit (BRT). (See my January 2015  IowaBiz blog.) This $25 million project would carry an ongoing operating cost of about $1 million per year. 

In May the BRT project was put on hold due to the unavailability of federal funds, but the community is using the time-out to review DART’s fundamentals.

There is now another year’s worth of data and it’s possible to see whether any of the trends identified last year have improved, and whether budget projections were met.

Property tax revenue continues to pay for an increasing share of DART operations, with operating revenues (fares, contracts with major employers and advertising) paying for a smaller share. This is partially by design, as property tax is replacing federal funds that have been phased out.

At the same time, DART has been expanding service in a bid to connect large employment centers in the city and the suburbs with residential concentrations. Because there’s an 18- to 24-month lag time between when the service is first provided and when the ridership picks up, ridership (and revenue) increases don’t necessarily track with the expense increases. Allowing for the lag time, it does appear the service expansions are generating more ridership  However, as was noted last year, property taxes are basically covering the cost of these additional riders. Total operating revenue was 10.1 percent below projections for the year that closed June 30th, 2015; with fixed route operating revenue being 8.65% percent short of budget.

The overall trends have not changed much from a year ago. Total operating revenue is still less than it was four years ago despite substantial service expansions and improvements since that time. Basically, as it weighs future improvements for DART, the community will need to decide if it is willing to continue to raise property taxes to fund them.


Happiness: The what, why, and how

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the popular event, Spark!


Happiness BooksI recently had lunch with a friend who never ceases to amaze me. She’s an inspiring leader, a caring mom, a savvy professional and an excellent athlete. She’s also one of the happiest people I know. I always leave our get-togethers feeling better than when I arrived.

Her life isn’t perfect. She faces overwhelming responsibilities at work, worries about her aging parents, and is navigating some tough issues with her teenagers. She also deals with an uncertain health diagnosis that often saps her energy, bringing in its place pain and fatigue.

And still, she's one of the happiest people I know.

Contrary to what some skeptics would have you believe, happiness isn’t about ignoring pain or pasting an inauthentic smile on your face no matter what. You can experience the full range of life’s emotions – including grief, fear, and sadness – and still live a happy existence. As a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested, happiness is more about building your mental and emotional strength than about maintaining a constant state of rah-rah.

And why does happiness matter, really? When I first began my business, I wondered how to educate employers that happiness at work isn’t just a nice-to-do; it’s a critical component for success. Fortunately, research now abounds in this field (see my column last month, for example) and brings with it personal and workplace benefits: higher engagement and productivity, lower turnover, greater morale. In all, a healthier bottom line along with a healthier workforce. Check out the work of Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Shawn Achor for starters, as well as the real-world application shared in Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness and Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

So the big question: How can we elevate happiness in work, leadership, and life? Here are 5 evidence-based principles to kickstart happiness:

  1. Express gratitude. Several of my executive coaching clients keep a gratitude journal, jotting down three things they’re grateful for each day. This simple strategy not only encourages recognition of the small joys, it shifts your mindset to focus on the positive.
  2. Commit to meaningful goals. “Find a happy person and you will find a project,” writes happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky. Striving towards goals engages our strengths, feeds our sense of optimism, and provides a sense of purposeful challenge.
  3. Connect with others. In addition to cultivating relationships, practice random acts of kindness, too. Give some thought to how you might do this with your coworkers, clients, and others with whom you work – so fun!
  4. Get into flow. What activities grip you so much, you lose track of time? However possible, weight your day in favor of your strengths, and help your employees do the same.  
  5. Practice mindful presence. Over 40 years ago, Ram Dass titled his popular book “Be Here Now” – and that advice has only become more necessary over time. Rather than constantly thinking about what’s next (or what you’re missing), savor the moment.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

Choose one of these practices to implement daily over the next three weeks. Jot down a few notes about how you believe the practice might benefit you; you may wish to also record how you engaged your practice each day. Then, three weeks from now, review what changed for you. You may be surprised how quickly these happiness practices can impact you and those around you!

What’s your favorite happiness booster? Share your ideas below.


Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives to succeed in meaningful work, and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at, on Facebook at, and via Twitter at

Do you know what we used to call "networking?"

CoverDanny Beyer is the director of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services

Earlier this year I released my first book, “The Ties that Bind:  Networking with Style” through BookPress Publishing. Since its release I have been asked numerous times at presentations and one-on-ones why I wrote a book.  Specifically a book on networking? I wish I could say I was smart enough to know what I was doing at the time but I can’t. In fact, the book started to take shape after one conversation with my father.  

I was sitting on the porch swing at my parents' house one afternoon last summer. My dad is a pretty black and white guy. He tells it like it is and doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  We were watching the sunset and I was talking about the success I was having with networking.

He asked a of couple questions: “What is networking?”  “What exactly do you do?”  “Why do you keep talking about it?”  I went on and on about my network, the personal and professional success I was having, and what I was expecting to happen over the upcoming year.

He took a drag on his cigarette.  I could tell he was thinking about his next comment. I sat in silence, waiting for a question. He grinned and I knew something good was about to happen. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Danny that all sounds good but kind of complicated.”

“What do you mean, Dad?” I asked.

He explained, “It all sounds fine and good but do you know what we called this 'networking' thing you’re talking about back in my day?”  I smiled, here it was.  “What Dad?” He paused and smiled again. “Talking to people…”

And there it was. Of course, he was right. Networking is nothing more than talking to people.

That’s why I wrote this book. I wanted to explain that networking is nothing more than talking to people and most people are inherently good at that. We’ve labeled it “networking” and we’ve created a stigma that only salespeople or individuals in suits are good at it. That’s just not the case. 

The next time you attend a networking event or have a social on the calendar think back to that porch swing. Networking is nothing more than talking to people. Go have a fun conversation and remember we were born to talk to each other. It’s that simple. 

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

Generational divide

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

Bridging-the-generation-gap-in-the-workplace-1The West Des Moines Chamber held a Food 4 Thought breakfast series event discussing the differences in generations in the workplace.  There was a panel of four accomplished individuals representing each decade. As I sat in the age-diverse audience, I was listening to all the comments and questions and it lit a fire under me to try to explain how I, as a millennial, look at the workplace. 

I understand that some millennials get labeled “entitled”. I do not think this is the correct description for our generation. I believe that millennials just have a different way of doing things then the generations before them. And although I am a millennial, I think it is safe to assume that the generations before us did things a little differently upon entering the work world compared to generations that proceeded them. 

Here are some qualities that I think millennials have that distinguish them from other generations (with exceptions of course):

  • Millennials don’t always take the first answer given to us; we are constantly looking for different ways to get things done faster and more efficiently.
  • We have social media in our back pockets.  We are good at it and can use it to our advantage.
  • We don’t believe people should be treated differently because of their gender.
  • We like flexible schedules and managing our own time.
  • We often like “dressing for success”, but other times we would be just as efficient in jeans, maybe even more so.
  • We are not afraid to move from job to job to find what will make us the most happy as we build our career path.
  • We are pros at the work-life balancing act.

Here are some qualities that I believe older generations might stereotype millennials about (with exceptions of course):

  • We don’t respect people in authority.
  • We are always running late.
  • We are not present, or “in the moment” because we are too attached to our phones.
  • We are lazy because we don’t always have to work 8-5 to get our work done.
  • We can’t handle the big projects because we don’t have enough experience.

These are just some of the examples of stereotypes that I see millennials dealing with. I strongly encourage you to look at your workplace and figure out ways for you and your coworkers of different generations to listen to each other’s opinions. Each generation has much to learn from the others. You can find ways to work together to make your organization successful. And millennials, if you want to break the stereotype of being the entitled generation, use it as motivation to work as hard as you can every day to prove that you are good at what you do and you deserve respect and authority. 


Facebook: meridith.freese
Twitter: @MertFreese

Great digital marketing conference - right in your backyard!

Screenshot 2015-09-02 02.25.26

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In most cases, if you want to attend a marketing conference packed with nationally recognized speakers, cutting edge content and awesome opportunities to network -- you have to hop on a plane. 

But this time -- all you have to do is hop in the car for a short jaunt over to Iowa City. Don't miss out on this rare opportunity.

The Social Brand Forum, one of the nation’s premier digital marketing events, brings the best and brightest thought leaders to the heart of the heartland Oct. 15-16 for two days of insightful keynotes and interactive discussions.

This event is designed to help marketers at organizations large and small build better brands online through digital content, conversations, and community.

The list of speakers is impressive but what you'll love most of all is the level of conversation you have with the other attendees. You'll be impressed with how savvy your fellow Iowa marketers are and you'll make some cool new connections, I promise.

I highly recommend this conference and in fact, I want to make it easier for you to go.  Use the discount code drewsfriend (all one word) and enjoy $100 off your registration. 

But don't wait too long -- this event sells out every year. And rightly so, it's that good.

P.S.  I have nothing to do with this conference other than to cheer on the organizers, attend the event and offer to help however I can. 

Are you leading or managing?

Blue gears image- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

 “A leader knows what’s best to do; a manager knows merely how best to do it.” - Ken Adelman

What do these words mean to you?  

  • Strategic vs. Tactical
  • Visionary vs. Realist
  • People vs. Process
  • Leader vs. Manager

In today's economy the lines between leading people and managing people have become blurred.  

There was a time when the responsibilities of the manager and that of the leader could be separated. My grandfather was a "boss" in a factory. He didn’t have to give much thought to what he was producing or to the people who were producing it. He was being paid to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as quickly as possible. As a manager, his focus was on efficiency.

But in the new economy value comes from people's knowledge, and it is important for managers to find a way to engage and inspire workers. Defining a purpose and explaining the vision are the cornerstones of employee engagement. People look to their managers to answer the question “why?” in addition to assigning a “how”.  Today's managers must now motivate workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to engage them- nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.

The late management guru Peter Drucker was one of the first to identify the presence of the “knowledge worker,” and the profound differences this would cause in the way business was going to need to change and be conducted.

With the rise of the knowledge worker, “one does not ‘manage’ people,” Drucker wrote. “The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

In your day-to-day interactions with the  “knowledge workers” in your organization, where are you spending the bulk of your time? Are you being tactical? Strategic? Are you managing? Are you leading? Are you engaging employees with both of your leadership and management hats on? You are not alone. The lines have indeed blurred in this new economy.  


The leader's lyrics

Musical note

Have you ever been driving down the road and found yourself singing along with the tune on the radio?  I often do. Fortunately for those I travel with, I usually reserve that routine for the times when I am alone in the car. 

It is on these occasions that I wonder, how many times I may have heard the song before I memorized the words and could sing them with enthusiasm and passion, mimicking (albeit poorly) the artist?

I suppose the first few times I heard the song, I didn’t even hear it on a conscious level.  Sometime later, perhaps when my mind was clear, void of distractions and generally at peace, I allowed the song to reach my conscious mind. Then, I made a decision about how I felt about the song. Probably lukewarm at first (knowing that new things often hit me off balance). After hearing the song a few more times, I begin to like it. The rhythm begins to move me. The chorus is becoming familiar. And before I know it, I can sing along. However, without the music on the radio to accompany me, I probably can’t remember many of the words, except perhaps the general theme of the song, how I feel about it, and the artist’s name. 

Therein lies some great insight for leaders. 

We carefully craft our messages, giving a great deal of thought to how our audience will receive our important message, only to have most of them remember very little if any of our words, much like the first time we hear a new song.

So how do we make sure others leave our presentations singing our song? Especially when the lyrics are completely new? 

For starters, we should think about the mood they are in when they listen to our message.  Is there anything we can do to create a mental state in our listeners that primes them for our message? As we prepare our talk, we can learn from the great songwriters, to develop a catchy chorus, and use it frequently throughout the presentation. 

How many times did I need to hear the song before I could recite the lyrics? My best estimate is three times and I knew the chorus (of course, I had heard the chorus three to four times in each listening). 

I wonder how many times I heard the song before I was even conscious that I had heard the song? An interesting question and food for thought for leaders.


Airports matter

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

Last year, I traveled to the Raleigh-Durham region on business; the place is a hotbed for biotechnology economic development and I was in town to learn about the region’s approach and to visit with a handful of companies. 

At the heart of the North Carolina Research Triangle, which is perhaps the world’s most successful example of regional, cluster-based economic development, Raleigh-Durham and the surrounding area has for decades come to define success for how regional economies can leverage the public, private and academic sectors to produce globally-competitive economic ecosystems in places where before, little in the way of innovation existed. 

The story of the Triangle, to completely generalize a 50-year transformation of an economy for brevity’s sake, goes something like this: throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s the furniture and textile industries which had dominated the Carolinas' economy for a century experienced marked decline.  In response, public and private sector leaders worked with the North Carolina Legislature to craft and fund new tools and institutions to enable the region and state to pivot from furniture and textiles to the development of a high-value bioeconomy. It’s been a fantastic success.

The Triangle has found success not only in producing an environment that supports innovation at a scale few regions in the world can compete with, but in managing its reputation as a global economic powerhouse with a level of precision and sophistication seen few other places.

This point was driven home to me the moment I stepped off the jet bridge at Raleigh-Durham International Airport [RDU].  “Welcome to the Research Triangle” read a massive glass and steel sign adorning a highly modern terminal.

Research Triangle branding was present throughout the airport [and, indeed, the region], which was nice, but that’s not necessarily my point. RDU’s design and technology modernity -- its Terminal 1 was updated in 2012, and Terminal 2 is slated for upgrades -- joined with the ubiquity of Research Triangle regional messaging (those signs don’t say ‘Welcome to Raleigh-Durham’, remember). Together, they send a loud and clear message to passengers- particularly business passengers who comprise upwards of 45% of domestic air travelers: you’ve entered a place of global business. From the moment I entered RDU to the moment I jumped in a cab, the message was clear. A heck of a way to start a trip if I’m a business person considering this region for investment, I thought.

Airports, by their very nature, play an outsized role in shaping outside public opinion about a region and a state.  Airport users are captive; if you are flying commercially into a community, you’ve got [with few exceptions] one place to enter and exit: that region’s airport. This means airports, fundamentally, offer an opportunity to contribute mightily to the writing of the critical first chapter and last chapter of a book of impressions for visiting decision-makers. There is a reason that cash-strapped airport authorities like those in Atlanta ($6 billion upgrade project), Las Vegas ($2.4 billion), Philadelphia ($5 billion), New York ($7.5 billion), Dallas ($2 billion) and Los Angeles ($4.1 billion) are nevertheless finding ways to add runways, renovate terminals and upgrade amenities in a modern-day transportation infrastructure boom. 

Airports matter, and leaders on both the north and south anchors of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor understand that. In Ames, the city has approved a plan to build a new terminal at Ames Municipal Airport, which may be the only airport in the country that abuts a major university research park- a major competitive advantage for the entire region. The Ames Economic Development Commission is at work raising funds to add a new storage hanger to the airfield as another component of the major Ames Municipal overhaul. 

And the proposed new terminal at Des Moines International- slated, funding-dependent, for a 2024 opening- offers the Central Iowa region another generational opportunity to redefine its front door to the global community. The $400 million project would be one of the largest in the state’s history -- a price tag befitting the opportunity it represents. 

As thousands of Central Iowans continue their work to grow and recast our region as a truly global one, the attention many are paying to the way in which our global customers and colleagues enter our region and experience its first and last impressions, is apt.

Who should own the bricks?

IMG_1218-Joe Kristan is a founding member of Roth & Company P.C.

So the business is up and running, and you've decided you want to move into permanent space. After careful thought (considering the points discussed here), you've decided to buy the building that houses your business.

Who should own it?

The right answer needs to consider your tax structure and your estate and family planning.

Many older businesses are set up with the business owner having personal title to the real estate and renting it to the business. This remains a useful tactic:

- It gives C corporation owners a way to get cash out of their businesses without incurring taxable dividends. C corporation earnings are normally taxed twice - once on the corporate tax return as it is earned, and again as dividends when distributed.

- A variation of this can help with estate planning. The building is purchased by the next generation on a mortgage and leased to the business. The lease funds the debt service, and the equity buildup goes to the next generation. This can be an efficient estate planning tool.

- It can make it easier to sell your business. A buyer may not want the real estate, for any number of reasons. Getting appreciated real estate out of a business can be a tax nightmare. Closing a business sale is hard enough without complicating it with unwanted assets.

- Iowa's tax rules enable a tax-free sale of business real estate if it has been used in a business in which the taxpayer has "materially participated" for ten years -- if the land has also been held for ten years. A similar exclusion is also available if all of the assets of a business are sold, but that break doesn't apply to sales of part of a business, or to sales of corporate stock or partnership interests. Where the business sale has to be a stock deal, owning the real estate separately can allow at least part of the deal to avoid Iowa tax.

Reading between the lines, you may have deduced that owning real estate in a corporation can be awkward. If you already own real estate inside a corporation, it is probably best to leave it there. If you are acquiring new real estate, though, it is usually best to own it individually or in a partnership (including LLCs).

If your business itself is in a partnership format, including an LLC, it matters less who owns the real estate. It is much easier to shuffle assets into and out of a partnership without incurring tax than it is with a corporation (but not so easy that you should try it without tax advice).

Of course every situation is different. If you have co-owners of your business, ownership of real estate can become a sore point. You have to set a fair rent to keep co-owners and the IRS happy. Your lenders may have something to say about your decision. And you can't let the tax tail wag the business dog. Be sure to work closely with your tax and legal advisers before you commit to anything.

A referral program for electric cars

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

I came across an article outlining a new referral strategy Tesla Motors is implementing for their Model S sedan. As might be expected at Rocket Referrals I try to stay atop developing trends in referral marketing. So staying “up to speed” with what Elon Musk is cooking up here only made sense.

This program appears to be consistent with other retail-oriented referral strategies we have seen in the past. It operates on the tell-a-friend-and-you-both-get-something credo.

Tesla_Broadcast_Tower_1904Current Model S owners share a referral link with their friends and, if they buy, both are rewarded with a thousand bucks in Tesla credit. There are other rewards for referring 5 or ten friends, such as an invitation to an premier party and the exclusive right to purchase a souped-up version of their Model X (their SUV variant).

When asked the reasoning behind this referral program, Elon Musk indicated that Tesla is exploring ways to lower its cost of client acquisition. More specifically, ways in which the company can cut down on marketing costs by driving prospects directly to its website to order their vehicle. He indicated that the company could save $2,000 for every prospect who skipped visiting Tesla's physical stores and instead just took their friend’s word for it.

The thing is, Tesla’s marketing budget is already next to nothing. They do none of the traditional advertising that the big car manufacturers do.

OK, so no Super Bowl commercials, but you have almost certainly heard of them. This is due to 1) word-of-mouth 2) leveraging the press 3) no-pressure show rooms

Tesla has been very successful at creating a buzz around its product. They are new. They are exciting. And they are green. I mean, since when have we had fast and attractive looking electric cars? Since 2008 to be exact, when Tesla released its first model, the Roadster. Even the name sounds crisp. They have developed a product known for breaking the mold and innovating on green energy. People talk about this kind of thing. And when they do, those with money consider taking out their pocketbook and placing an order. According to Tesla, this referral program is an effort at incentivizing existing clients to tell their friends, and to reward those who already do. The result would be a lower cost of acquisition.

That’s fine, but I think there is a much larger objective behind this referral program: to further the exclusivity of owning a Tesla.

Let’s be honest, $1,000 seems like little more than a pat on the back when compared to a price tag upwards of six digits. Let’s just say that the demographic that purchases a Model S sedan is probably not jumping through hoops to get a relatively small kickback. And thus is the real genius behind the referral program.

A small incentive is Elon Musk’s way of showing his appreciation to his customers who are actively referring their friends, while also promoting the establishment of an exclusive group of Tesla owners.

Exclusivity is felt throughout the Tesla brand. There’s no negotiating on price. There’s no network of franchised dealers. There’s a backlog of car orders lasting for months, or even years. Those who refer many friends get an invitation to an exclusive party, or the right to purchase an exclusive Tesla model.

This referral program is just another way that Tesla is creating a network of owners from a chosen demographic.

Why delegating authority increases your company’s value

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

Many business owners have a difficult time delegating authority.  Fear of losing control, believing that they are best for the task, and a lack of time to adequately explain what needs to be done are all reasons not to delegate. In a perverse sense, many of these traits are what made them successful in the first place. 

However, all business owners will hit a point that in order to grow or transition ownership to the next generation, they need help. Finding and trusting employees who can carry out critical functions will allow for that growth. 

As a potential business buyer, Midwest Growth Partners likes to ask if business owners are able to leave their business for two weeks and not be needed. If the answer is yes, this shows the business is not built on one person. We find tremendous value in that and in turn businesses receive better valuations because less risk is associated with the business. 

We have seen several trends for business owners who delegate successfully including setting clear expectations for employees, letting employees know how they will be evaluated, that it is OK to make occasional mistakes, and then properly rewarding employees for outstanding performance.  

The most important thing though is giving your employees the authority required to do the job. Delegation is not really occurring if the employee has to check in with the business owner before they make a decision. 

Delegating authority can have a great impact on a business. It can also make the life of a business owner less stressful. Although it can be hard to give up some control of the business that you started, the potential rewards are worth it. 

Customer service chat done right

 chat icon

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

I've been blogging for almost a decade both personally and professionally, and have published on at least three different blog platforms over the past 10 years. I'm savvy enough to be dangerous and can troubleshoot most basic problems, but there are times when I simply don't have the expertise to figure things out.

I've recently been doing some major rework to my personal blog which is on Wordpress. They utilize a chat service for premium users and over the past couple of months I have utilized chat to get pesky problems remedied and some sage advice on things I was trying to do.

Chat as a customer service tool has been around a long time, but the use of chat compared to voice and e-mail has been relatively small. That seems to be changing with the times as more and more users get used to it. My personal take is that chat customer service has become increasingly popular as mobile texting has grown to become the communication medium of choice for the coming generations.

I realized last week that I was extremely satisfied with the customer service chats I've had with Wordpress, and am increasingly willing to use the service for the most basic of questions that might strike me as I'm blogging.

Here are a couple of things they do well:

  • Real conversation. Many of the chats I've had with businesses in the past seem to be with agents for whom English is a second language as they clumsily switch between cut and paste answers and poor communication that are rife with spelling and grammatical errors. My experience with Wordpress has been that I've had actual, articulate, interpersonal chat conversations with knowledgable agents who express themselves clearly and well.
  • Focused Attention. Another age-old frustration with chat is that agents are sometimes carrying on multiple chats at the same time, so there's this lag time between responses in which you wonder if they've abandoned you. I always get the sense with Wordpress chat agents that they are totally focused on helping me. If they are going to take a few minutes to investigate and respond, they generally tell me ahead of time so that I'm prepared for the delay.
  • Expedience. The agents at Wordpress always have quick access to my site, can see what I'm doing or trying to do, and I never have to waste a lot of time providing them with account, site, or profile information before we get to the actual issue at hand.
  • Positive Attitude. One of the difficult things to do in chat is to convey a sense of courtesy and positive attitude. Voice allows for intonation and inflection, but text is a more difficult medium to quickly establish a feeling of rapport. Wordpress chat agents always greet me personally, phrase themselves courteously, and convey a willingness to serve in the way they welcome me to come back to them with any other questions or needs I might have. On occasion the agents have complimented my blog or acknowledged my years of regular posting, which they didn't have to do.

Many companies have tried and have given up on chat as a medium of Customer Service communication, and my previous experiences have led me to be thankful that companies have done so. Wordpress has changed my attitude. If more companies can do customer service chat with that level of quality and professionalism, then I believe that we will see some companies using chat as a key differentiator and a contributor to customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Let there be (natural) light!

Tom hanks

I’ll be the first to admit it – I’m a sucker for movies with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  No, I’m not talking about “You’ve Got Mail” or “Sleepless in Seattle”…I’m going waaaay back to the 1990 cult classic “Joe Versus the Volcano”. 

Poor Joe Banks, played by Tom, develops a terminal “brain cloud” from years of slaving away in a windowless workplace - the flickering fluorescent lights casting a sickly blue-green hue as the electric ballasts hum and buzz.

Well, hopefully we don’t have those kinds of environments anymore. Large buildings are typically designed with broad spans of exterior windows, high ceilings and open workspaces -- and that’s great! We’ve all heard about the benefits of natural light by now; increased employee productivity, shortened patient recovery times, boosts in retail sales and decreased rate of absenteeism.

Just a few problems here. Natural light also brings with it intense heat and blinding glare, often resulting in blinds being drawn by those near the window, robbing all other occupants of the light’s benefits. Last year 3M introduced a product to solve the dilemma; a light redirecting film that is placed in the upper portion of exterior windows. 

To most it looks like little more than frosted glass. Instead the film has a series of micro-prisms that optically diffuse and redirect 80 percent of the daylight upward, washing across the ceiling and throwing natural light deep into the building for the benefit of all.

Office with natural lightMaybe…just maybe…if Joe had worked here, he wouldn’t have jumped into that volcano!

Phishing can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

Here’s a scenario for you to consider. An accounting team member receives an email that appears to be from your CEO, and the email reads something like this:

Spear-phishing“Good Morning Mike, You may or may not know, but Mary (CFO) and I are in Atlanta working to close a deal with our partners XYZ Company and ABC Limited on a $70 million dollar contract with Our Big Payday, Inc. In order to get the contracts signed, I need for you to wire $85,620 to XYZ Company and $67,980 to ABC Limited. Mary says this should come from our Bank Name Here account number 123456789. The routing and account number for XYZ is 12345678 – 7788994455 and for ABC is 98765432 - 336699774411”

“Because Our Big Payday, Inc. is a publicly traded company, the terms of this agreement cannot be disclosed until they file their SEC reports for the quarter, so your absolute discretion is expected. Under no circumstances are you to discuss this transaction with anyone in the department. A leak could result in SEC fines or imprisonment for both of us for insider trading. If you have any questions about this, please respond to this email with your direct line and I’ll call you when I’m out of the negotiation meetings. I appreciate all you do for us, which is why I’m trusting you with this key project. Keep up the good work. Sandy (CEO)”

This is what we call a spear phishing email, an email sent to a selected individual in an organization. Information about the employee, the company, its executives, potential deals or partners they are working with and other timely, accurate information is included in the email, which lends to its apparent authenticity. The sent from address, reply to address and other properties such as logos and signatures may also appear to be authentic.

What’s an employee to do? The CEO and CFO specifically requested this transfer of funds and obviously know our bank account information. Nobody else would know that information, right? Wrong. Everything in this email could be public record or obtained from other legitimate or fraudulent practices. And the routing and account numbers are on the bottom of every check you send out.

If your employees are not trained to handle suspicious emails, they have been setup to fail, and an information security breach is much more likely to occur. Hackers using our humanity against us is called social engineering. We train employees to follow instructions and act in certain ways. Hackers know this and try to put employees in situations where they can predict the outcome. Social engineering attacks, including phishing, are on the rise. According the recent reports as much as 30 percent of all breaches have a social engineering component. We have to invest in employee education and awareness if we stand any chance of fending off information security breaches.

Oh, and if you are wondering, yes this is a real example, that worked.


Dave-Nelson-2015-biz-blogDave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. 


Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO


Five minutes of absolute terror


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."

As someone with an intense fear of open-air heights, I’m not exactly sure how I rationalized standing, tethered to a “pilot,” in front of the open door of an aircraft 2 and 3/4 miles off the ground.  Although I took slight comfort knowing the pilot was one of the best in the world––a U.S. Golden Knight with over 9,000 jumps––I seriously questioned my decision in that moment. 

Perhaps I wanted to prove to myself I could let go of my fear.  Or, maybe, I felt baited into it by my Army friends who kept calling me a wimp, among other things. Whatever the reason, there I stood, terrified and mentally frozen, with my heart pumping like it would explode in my chest.

I had no choice but to trust my pilot, a man half my size. As I hung out the door while he held on to make final preparations, I resisted looking down for these few seconds as I had absolutely no control. I tried to ignore the sudden urge to clutch something––anything––to save my life; especially since grabbing something at this point could cause serious injury.

The pilot tapped my shoulder indicating we were about to jump.  After three forward lunges, we began our free-fall descent of 9,500 feet at about 120 miles per hour.  Breathing was difficult, and my cheeks flapped from the massive intake of air.  Because I was traveling so fast at such heights, I didn’t realize I had allowed myself to flap my arms like a large, prehistoric bird. Perhaps it was the lack of context. When I saw the curvature of the earth, the ground looked like a blurred mass of color and undefined features. At 5,000 feet, the pilot deployed the main chute. Our speed and descent slowed, which allowed us the freedom to circle, twist, and glide as the pilot wished.

Then came the most terrifying question I’d ever heard: “Would you like to take the controls and fly the chute?” 

When the main chute deployed, I had clenched my straps for dear life; the decreased speed and increased clarity of detail on the ground below reminded me of my fear of open-air heights.  No way was I going to let go and grab the steering controls.  Letting go of the straps would have meant abandoning my false feeling of security. I was convinced if I let go, I would certainly fall to my death.

Of course, that thought was ludicrous; I was skydiving with an expert. Yet we all struggle with “letting go” of what feels safe at times, whether we’re clinging to unnecessary fears, flawed thinking, insecurities, bad habits, or something as simple as a parachute harness. 

Creativity is about making connections––sticking things together in new ways that frequently deviate from the norm. At its very essence, creativity is typically at the center of change, which often brings about a variety of emotions in people, not the least of which is fear and all of the “what if?” scenarios that come with it. Fear is typically a function of the unknown, and our inability to let go of it keeps us from experiencing new things or taking advantage of positive opportunities––in this case the opportunity to control the chute and the direction we were taking. Once we are able to take a first step forward, however small, the unknown becomes a little less so, and each step thereafter builds confidence to take the next.

While the skydiving experience didn’t cure my fear of open-air heights, I did grow as a result. If nothing else, I took another step (albeit a 2 and 3/4-mile one) toward facing—and letting go of—my fears, one of many steps to come.

STAY TUNED! Over the next few blogs, I will be addressing the various aspects of change and its relationship to creative thinking.

Practice Challenge:  What do you fear? What keeps you up at night? The next time you find yourself up against it, take a baby step. Challenge your fears one at a time by continuously reducing the unknown surrounding it. The more you know and the more experience you have with it, the less you will fear it.

©2015  Anthony D. Paustian

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

The value in values

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 business school, we learn a lot about creating value for customers. You would think that would be enough – create a killer product and customers will come. If that is so -- and so many of us work so hard to create great and innovative products -- why do more than 50 percent of businesses fail in a year or less? Are those business owners misguided about their own product? Do they not understand their customer base or market segment?

My theory is that those questions are not at the root of the problem. They may be symptoms and in some cases cause the failure of the enterprise, but I think it’s something more intrinsic to the foundation of what makes a company successful.

When I talk about values, I think about the values of the companies I work for and how important those are to me. I think about the ways they are perceived outside of the company. I think about how employees, reports, and colleagues engage with those values.

When we started the Ingenuity Company, my partner and I spent (and still spend) a lot of time talking about the type of company we want to be. We discuss things that have happened to us, both positive and negative, and how we wish to replicate or avoid those practices as our company grows. We feel that this time is important; it allows us to think about the sustainability of our company in the long term, which is rooted in the value system we use to collaborate with new and existing clients.

For example, when we talk about offering services that are meant as transformational, we look inward first. What can we offer our clients that are built on our skills, knowledge, and abilities? Why would they want to work with us? How do we self-actualize in a way that allows us to adapt, be flexible, and provide the best possible service? Since our company is built on these types of values, we feel we are able to add value and build lasting and productive working relationships with our clients.

More broadly, I feel that any company that wishes to succeed can do so more fully by defining its own distinct set of values. I have worked with organizations that do not spend time developing their values structure, or feel that this type of exercise is not a worthwhile effort. These organizations tend to lose their way when adversity strikes, as they do not have those core principals to support them. This may seem daunting, but I think some simple questions can start this conversation and grow from there:

        What do we stand for as a company?

        What is something we will never do as a company?

        What is success defined as?

        What are we really good at?

        What makes us better than our competition?

        Who can we collaborate with - that will make both of our organizations better?

Knowing who you are as an organization and what things are at your unshakable core creates a business ecosystem that allows there to be belief as well as profitability. This belief, by you in what you stand for, and by your clients in their trust in you, will make your company what it is. This trust is the foundation for innovating in more robust and purposeful ways.

When I think about those 50 percent of businesses that fail, I always wonder if they took the time to ask themselves questions about who they were or how they were going to stay where they were once they got there. It’s easy to lose your way when you don’t take time to fully understand where you are going or why.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact :

 Please follow : @ingenuitycmpny


Iowa State Fair knows value of strong brand, unique experience

- Kelly Sharp is owner at Heart of Iowa Market Place

It’s that time of year again. Where tens of thousands of people gather each day to celebrate the great state in which we live -- and there's not a corn dog, pork chop or any other food on a stick that's safe from the happy horde that descends on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

What's not to love about the Iowa State Fair? There are rides, games, concerts, a cow sculpted out of butter and all the aforementioned, oddly satisfying foods on a stick. But the main reason I love going to the fair, is to because of what it represents about the value of community.

Growing up in Des Moines, I always made it to the State Fair. I still do. As an eastsider, I have a special love for the fair, and worked there in my teen years.

I can always get inspired by the energy, familiar and new sights and sounds of the fair and feel good about supporting my community and state. Niche businesses can benefit, too, from taking time to see how a niche venture like the Iowa State Fair also survives and thrives.

The State Fair is Iowa. It's rural and urban, business and fun, substance and style. The State Fair benefits from the strong brand it has created and its close bond with its target audience.

People who go to the fair do so year in and year out for a unique experience. Its staff knows what the fair is and what it means to Iowans. They know how to create excitement. They know the importance on consistent messaging. They know how to effectively market their product. And, they have a lot of fun while they do it.

In order to stand out from chain stores and other big retailers, it's more necessary than ever for specialty retailers to create strong brands for themselves and deliver extraordinary service and unique shopping experiences so that their bond with customers is unbreakable.

See you at the fair!

Slow down and stretch

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

Summer is typically a time when the office slows down a bit, and it’s a great opportunity to take stock of projects, goals and efforts. With increasing responsibilities and the need to “do more with less,” business leaders are finding ways to streamline their health and fitness activities and focus on the next project, deadline or crisis of the day.

When it comes to prioritizing, it’s easy to select the exercise options that yield noticeable results instead of stretching. However, stretching at least 20 to 30 minutes a week can provide lasting benefits, especially as you get older. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should stretch at least two days per week.

Stretching offers many perks, including improved flexibility, circulation, balance and coordination. If you need structure and encouragement, participating in a class is an excellent way to get started. Our own City of Des Moines can help with its free “Yoga in the Park” Saturday morning sessions at Gray’s Lake this summer.

Stretching also holds importance in today’s business world, and I think it’s time to revisit the “stretch goals” philosophy of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Stretch goals, by definition, seem beyond reach at the present time, and can be used to inspire employees and encourage innovative ideas.

Using Welch’s goal-setting theory, consider these questions when evaluating professional stretching:

1. How has the stretch goal helped improve performance relative to past performance?

2. What impact has the stretch goal had on your level of performance in comparison to your competitors’ performance?

3. If not yet achieved, how close have you come to the stretch goal? Was the progress meaningful?

Make time to stretch. As in exercise routines, striving for stretch goals may not be an immediate priority, but working toward them can have a tremendous positive benefit on your future.

Trump's breaking all the "PR rules" on his way to nomination

Claire Celsi is a communications consultant in West Des Moines, Iowa.

I've conducted media training sessions for clients for years. From nonprofits, to educational institutions to businesses, there are some PR constants that remain fixed no matter what. Tell the truth, be prepared, never insult people. Trump has destroyed these rules in his gold-plated shredder and adopted his own personal style in this campaign. There are several well-known PR platitudes that people spout when referring to publicity. PR Rules

I've seen Trump turn this conventional wisdom on its head. Perhaps you've heard of some of these rules.

  1. "There's no such thing as bad PR": This commonly-used platitude is actually quite false on its own, but Trump has taken it to a new level. His bombast on subjects like immigration have shined a bright light on his bigotry. Since his outrageous comments were recorded for posterity, chances are his views will bite him in the culata during the primaries.
  2. "Tell the truth": Surveys have indicated that people like Trump because he "tells the truth" about things that the other candidates are afraid to vocalize. This would probably be refreshing, but he also says things that are flatly false on a regular basis. If people like him for being bold - that is awesome. But liking him for making up stuff is a completely different story. I ran across this quote recently and it's my new mantra for this campaign. "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."
  3. "Rise above the fray": Trump is the head of a large organization, and didn't get there by poking people in the eye. Since announcing his candidacy, he's much more interested in retaliation against those who criticize him than he should be. He's just calling attention to some of his most vile behavior, like name-calling.
  4. "Don't take the bait:" Until Trump's entry in the race, the only candidate who showed this flaw was Chris Christy, who can't resist telling hecklers to sit down and shut up. Much to Christy's relief, Trump has taken over in this area. He never misses an opportunity to insult, belittle or embarrass a rival - or even a complete stranger. My dad would diagnose this phenomena as "diarrhea of the mouth."
  5. "Credibility is key": Trump's credentials as a "business leader" seem to unduly impress a lot of people. Nevermind that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and was busy rollerskating at Studio 54 while John McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton. And his flip-flops on some key conservative issues will surely get more scrutiny as the race gets more serious. All that old footage of him saying he is pro-choice, supporting gun control and praising Hillary Clinton will definitely hold him back.

Trump's got some serious PR counsel on board - Hope Hicks - PR royalty from a swanky firm. She has wisely deleted all her social media accounts. And I'm sure she's tried to tame the Donald. But the Donald will do what the Donald wants to do. Rules be damned. Perhaps she can convince him to get a new hairdo.

Claire Celsi is a communications consultant in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Take the first meeting

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

Coffee-meetingAs a marketing manager, it is important for me to have relationships with people in the media industry, as it is my job to promote the West Des Moines chamber events and get the word out about all that we do. I wanted to expand my media circle but did not know where to start.

A friend of mine and fellow blogger, Danny Beyer, suggested that he was going to meet someone with the Business Record the following week and that I should be there when his meeting wrapped up so that I could meet them also.

I had just graduated college only a few weeks prior and this was going to be my first coffee meeting with a stranger. I was nervous. The introduction through Danny went very well and I was able to turn that new relationship into a productive one. This one casual after-coffee meeting ultimately turned into the opportunity I’ve been given to write this blog today.

In college you take classes about how to successfully manage your time, develop a professional persona, and how to work collaboratively. No matter how well you master these skills -- and they are all important -- there is nothing that will drive your success as a young professional more than going out and meeting people.

I was not an honor student while at Iowa State. I did not have a perfect attendance record. I did, however, have the ability to speak confidently to people face-to-face. Even if you are not naturally outgoing, the more you network and put yourself out there, the more comfortable you will become.

Meeting people and being interested in them is a great life skill, especially when you are beginning to build your professional circles. Never doubt that you have something to offer and always take that first meeting. You never know where the opportunity will take you.

-Meridith Freese 171A6085

Connect with me!

Facebook: meridith.freese
Twitter: @MertFreese

Small business for-sale listings reach 6-year high

BizBuySell recently released its Second Quarter 2015 Insight Report which shows small Phoenix logo onlybusiness financial performance on the rise, and more small business owners are ready to cash in by selling.

Some of the highlights of the report are:

1. The number of small businesses listed for sale grew more than 12 percent from the same time last year and has reached levels not seen since 2009.

2. The increasing number of owners ready to sell comes as revenue and cash flow are rising, allowing sellers to both ask for and receive more for their businesses.

3.  The median small business asking price grew 13 percent in the past year, while the median sale price increased 12 percent.

4.  Manufacturing businesses led the recent growth spurt with a 29 percent uptick from the same period last year. Business listings in the restaurant (12 percent), service (11 percent) and retail (9 percent) industries also experienced year-over-year supply growth.

5. The increase in small business listings this quarter correlates with a number of factors, most notably growing small business financial performance and resulting sales prices, as well as the volume of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age.

6. Owners are finding 2015 to be a good year to sell as median sales prices remain at high levels. The median sale price of a business in Q2 remained at $200,000, the same as in the first quarter and still the highest mark since mid-2008. Higher sale prices can be attributed to improving financials as well.

7. The median revenue of sold businesses increased to $450,000 this quarter (the highest on record since report inception in 2007), and the median cash flow rose slightly to 102,995 from $100,000 at the same time last year.

Note:  The full results are included in's Q2 2015 Insight Report, which aggregates statistics from business-for-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide.


Good Luck!

Steve Sink

Certified Business Intermediary

Mergers and Acquisition Master Intermediary


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