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December 2012

Your marketing resolution for 2013

2013BlocksI know, I know -- you're going to work out for 2 hours every day, quit smoking, volunteer every weekend and bring about world peace.

Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. They shouldn't just be about your personal life and they should be a bit more realistic than we tend to make them. 

As you think about what resolutions you might possibly make about your business for 2013 -- what if I told you that you could get everything you want from your customers?  Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it?

It's actually not as difficult as it sounds.  I've often said that I wish marketing were more like rocket science because then I could sell the secrets for billions of dollars.  But the truth is -- marketing is pretty straight forward.  Here's the recipe for getting everything you want for your business in 2013.

Offer something of value for a fair price -- marketing can't solve anything if what you sell stinks.  Be awesome or shut down until you can be.

Have a plan -- it's better to do a few things well, than a ton of things every so often or half-baked

Be consistent -- marketing should happen every day, no matter how busy you are

Invest the most in your employees and current customers -- they've already bought and will keep buying if you make sure they know they're special.

Know what your customers actually want/need and do everything you can to get them there -- as Zig Ziglar used to say, "You can have everything in life that you want if you just help other people get what they want."

Stay the course -- don't let what your competition is doing pull you away from your own plan.

Be human -- we choose to do business with people and companies that we know, like and trust.  The more of your genuine self you extend to the marketplace, the quicker we can get to know, like and trust you. We can't get there through corporate mumbo jumbo.

That's it.  99% of businesses out there won't follow that simple formula.  Which is great for you -- because if you actually do, you'll be miles ahead.  Put the steps above into action and I promise -- 2013 will be a year to remember!

~ Drew


Year-end techniques from the edge of the Fiscal Cliff.

With less than two weeks left in the tax year, the politicians haven't reached a "fiscal cliff" deal. The latest rumors combine some version of a tax increase for higher incomes with a cap on the value of itemized deductions.  For example, a dollar of income might face a 39.8% tax rate, while a dollar of charitable contributions might save you only 28 cents.  Other proposals would simply cap the amount of itemized deductions allowed, perhaps at $50,000.

While you should consult your tax advisor about your year end planning moves, some thoughts to keep in mind:
  • If you want your itemized deduction to count this year, to be sure you get a full benefit, you should have it mailed and postmarked this year if you pay it by check.  Timely mailed, timely paid is the rule here.


  • A charitable contribution or tax payment made with a credit card counts this year, even if you don't pay your credit card bill until next year.


  • Additional itemized deductions for state and local taxes won't reduce your 2012 federal tax bill if you are subject to alternative minimum tax this year.


  • If you choose to recognize a capital gain this year to avoid the pending tax increases, the trade date is considered the date the gain is taxed, even if the settlement date is later.


  • If you aren't planning to sell an asset in the next two or three years anyway, it might not make sense to pay tax on the gain now to avoid a future tax increase.

The politicians may not settle on the tax law until the last minute, so stay in touch with your tax advisor and stay flexible.

-Joe Kristan

Be prepared for the worst day of your professional life

What is a crisis? My definition: Any scenario where people or animals are injured or killed, or where a financial breach has occurred that needs an immediate response. That's it. 

As I watch the tragedy unfold in Newtown, Connecticut, I'm keenly observing the clues to what sort of crisis communications plan was in place for the unlikely scenario that ultimately occurred.

So far, I've been impressed by what I've observed. Parents were informed quickly by text message via the "campus alert system" to come to pick up their children. The Sandy Hook Elementary School website - though somewhat overloaded now - functioned to give quick bios of the teachers and principal when there wasn't much information available for reporters.

What exactly is a crisis communications plan? It's not a disaster evacuation plan or a physical escape scenario. Every business and organization should have a plan on how to evacuate a building due to a disaster, or how to hide from an intruder. A crisis communications plan is different. It's how you respond to the outside world after the disaster happens.

The media is a voracious creature after a disaster happens. It serves many functions: to inform others of a pending threat, to report on the unfolding scenario, and to summarize the facts of the case to the public. Communications professionals should lead the effort within their organization to write and implement a crisis communications plan. 

The Connecticut State Police have been disciplined in their messaging and have obviously been trained to mete out messages in a particular, legalistic order. For example, the shooter's name was not officially released until he had been methodically identified, even though some media outlets had already released his name hours earlier. For communicators in the private sector, saying "no comment" is not advisable.

The essence of crisis communciations planning is thinking of the worst disaster scenario ahead of time, and getting as many communications vehicles in place as possible. In this situation, it appears that parents were informed by emergency robo-calls, giving directions to what had happened and where to pick up their children.

Communicators should lead a team of professionals in your organization to create a very simple plan to follow in case of an emergency. The basics are as follows:

  1. Preparation: Create key messages, web pages, calling trees, etc. ahead of time, to be used after the emergency occurs.
  2. Control: It should be decided in advance who is the spokesperson to the victims and the media. It doesn't help anyone if unauthorized spokespeople without the latest information are allowed to speak to the media.
  3. Access to the plan: Create the plan and give everyone a copy so that it may be accessed remotely. Better yet, hold emergency drills to assure that everyone knows their role. Include passwords to all website content management systems and social media passwords. 
  4. Backup plans: Think in terms of Plan A and Plan B. If you are thwarted in trying to execute Plan A, you will be prepared. For example, if you cannot gain access to your computers at work to make website updates, make sure people know how to access the site remotely.

To create a crisis communications plan, gather your most senior staff members together and get started. It should take a least a few weeks to write and refine a plan. When it's done, use every communications channel available to get the plan out to everyone involved. It's especially important to let everyone know that it exists and to practice using it regularly. If you need help getting started, or don't have time to coordinate the plan, hire a public relations professional to get you started. 

Claire Celsi is the Director of Public Relations at Lessing-Flynn in Des Moines, Iowa.


You need to go APE!

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 12.45.54 AMOne of the most popular marketing tactics today is to really demonstrate in a tangible way that you are in fact an expert in your field.  By showing us, rather than telling us, that you really know your stuff -- you allow us to come to that conclusion all by ourselves, which makes it much stickier.

Some people are demoing their expertise through a blog or podcast. Others are guest lecturing or speaking at conferences.  But perhaps the most daunting and most coveted version of this marketing tactic is -- authoring a book.

As if actually writing the dang thing isn't intimidating enough, then you have to find someone who wants to rep it, be your publisher and then there's the marketing of the book.  No wonder most people say they want to (or are in the middle of one) write a book, but so few do.

I'm pretty sure that's why Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch wrote their new book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book

APE is literally a step-by step, oops, watch out for that land mine guide on how to write, publish and sell your own book. Authors Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch have written a tell all book that walks you through each step of the process. There's not a lick of theory or "I suppose" in this book. It is a nuts and bolts procedural that goes into incredible detail -- offering tons of resources, options and tools.

There are 29 chapters and 22 of those chapters start with the words How to. That pretty much says it all. From how to actually write to book to how to market your book -- it's all there.

The only people who won't be thrilled to see/read this book are CEOs of traditional publishing houses. If that's not you -- get a copy today and get your book out there tomorrow!

And let your expertise begin to show through!


~ Drew 

Don't lose your sustainability sanity to Santa

Oh the hustle and bustle of the holidays. The month of December is when we sometimes surrender our sustainability sanity to Santa. Here’s my TOP FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE MORE SUSTAINABLE DURING THE HOLIDAYS!!

  1. Re-gift a gift. Maybe someone on your list would love the gift you got two years ago which is just sitting on your shelf. I have a set of screw drivers I don’t need so someone else gets them.
  2. Plan your trips to the stores to reduce gasoline consumption. Better yet, shop on-line at your favorite store and have them ship it to your home.
  3. Why not wrap in your newspaper? Even if you put the wrapping paper in the recycle bin much ends up in the landfill. Too much tape, high concentration of ink, and very little fiber make it a poor paper to recycle. I am going to use the holiday promos from my Sunday paper!
  4. How about company Christmas cards?  I’ve gotten cards from some companies for 20 years and never done business with them nor have they ever contacted me. Instead, have a holiday lunch with your best clients and stop sending cards to people you are not in contact with. No one will do business with you because they got a card.
  5. Buy gifts made locally. You can pick them up at numerous church bazaars, downtown holiday market, or non-chain stores. I found some great soaps made in Iowa in the East Village.

One last idea: What if Santa stopped going to each house?  Think of the gas he would save …. but wait, he uses reindeer!  NEVER MIND.


Not "To-Do's" when selling

An owner decides to retire and sell the business with $20 million of annual revenues. The company owns some locations and leases other locations utilizing the owners' entity. The business is profitable.

At the initial meeting the following items quickly became issues.

  1. Confidentiality: The owner had not planned to bring the CFO into his confidence by implementing a "stay" agreement. With all the ensuing financial updates and analysis, it would be impossible to expect the selling process to be achieved through due diligence without informing the financial offers of the imminent company sale.

    The logical potential buyers would be local competitors, which would sign a non-disclosure but there would be no assurance that there would not be a leak. The owner intended to talk to interested acquirers one at a time, thus prolonging the process and increasing the likelihood of a confidentiality leak.
  2. LOI (Letter of Intent): The LOI, which the Seller provided, was incomplete and did not require a significant retainer.  
  3. Transaction Attorney: The proposed Seller’s attorney had no experience in business transactions.
  4. Financial and Business Information: The financials and information regarding the business were incomplete and unprofessional making it difficult to get a true picture of the business, which will result in lower offers or no offer.
  5. Lawsuit: The owner wanted to bury a law suit in the fine print.


Many business owners do not appreciate either the complexities of doing a deal or appreciate the benefits of hiring a first-class team (Attorney, CPA and Intermediary) to conduct the sale process. The initial effort is well worth the back-end reward. Watch out for inexperienced dealmakers, they can ruin deals.

Enjoy the Holidays!

Steve Sink, CBI, M&AMI




'Fiscal Cliff' follies: Why it may pay to take deductions early

20121202iabizWith the potential "fiscal cliff" tax rate hikes looming, the math tells us that deductions will be more valuable to top-bracket taxpayers next year. The top federal individual tax rate is scheduled to rise to 39.6% next year, from the current 35%.  A $100 deduction is worth $39.60 next year, vs. $35 this year.

Yet the math may be deceiving. The politicians may end up with a fiscal cliff compromise that can make many deductions worthless after this year.  Republican negotiators, including Iowa's Senator Grassley, have floated a $50,000 cap on allowable itemized deductions.  

Such a cap would pose a huge problem for entrepreneurs whose income is taxed on their 1040s via S corporations or partnerships. State income taxes on their business income are itemized deductions on the owner 1040s. When combined with home mortgage interest and charitable contributions, many reasonably successful entrepreneurs would shoot past a $50,000 cap.

Nothing has been enacted yet, and such a cap may never happen. But it may happen effective for 2013, and prudent taxpayers should keep this in mind. Possible self-defense steps include making sure state income tax liabilities are paid in 2012, rather than waiting until 2013. Taxpayers with big charitable pledges may want to be ready to make them this year, possibly via a donor-advised fund; the Des Moines Community Foundation sponsors one. 

Whatever you do, make any moves only in consultation with your tax advisor. Each tax situation is different. Taxpayers who owe alternative minimum tax this year will get no benefit from prepaying state income taxes, for example. Be ready and stay flexible. 

More reading on this issue here.

Related: What the fiscal cliff looks like from the back side of the election.

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