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November 2015

Who are the potential buyers for my business?

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

Selling your business can be a full-time job in addition to your full-time job of running your business. Before the sale process begins, it is helpful to understand what kinds of buyers there are and the pros and cons of each.

In all circumstances, you should pre-qualify buyers to ensure they have actual capital before spending any time with them. Many will say they do, but do not.

Based upon all of this, you may target or avoid certain buyers. Over the next few weeks we look in depth at different types of buyers. Today we have the most obvious – your family!


A family member may be interested in continuing your legacy by buying and operating your company. When this works out, it is often the best solution as company heritage will remain and the transaction structure and timing can be extremely flexible.

For these reasons, a business owner may be willing to exchange getting a “top dollar” value for their business from someone outside the family.

However, when things do not work out…look out!

Thanksgiving dinner can get awkward when siblings feel treated unfairly because of a sale. A son or a daughter may also feel like they have to buy/run the business and not pursue their own interests, which can create resentment. In-laws happen and divorces of children can happen.

Perhaps worst of all, because structures can be so flexible to accommodate the sale, the business owner may not fully financially “de-risk” because of seller-notes used to finance the purchase. This puts them in the precarious position of exiting the operational side of the business, but having their nest egg still in the business. 

One possible solution for this problem is to have a private equity fund financially back your family member. This gets liquidity to the business owner and gets ownership and operational control to the family member.

Next blog we will learn about other types of buyers: “strategics” and “financials”.


7 tips to push past your fear of public speaking

Rita Perea is president and CEO of  Podium photo for Iowa Biz blogRita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consultingspecializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Here it is... Your big chance to impress people. You’ve been given the amazing assignment of developing and delivering a “knock-their-socks-off” presentation to the entire North America team of directors in your company. If you hit this presentation out of the park you will be noticed for that promotion you've had your eye on.  There is a lot riding on the success of this golden opportunity. You are up for the challenge!

And then...When you mentally picture yourself standing at the podium delivering your message, alarm bells begin going off in your head. Your heart starts pounding.  You feel like you have been punched in the gut. The fear of public speaking is rearing its unwelcome head.  

The most important question to ask yourself is what do you do to regain your self confidence and hit a home run? 

I was asked to be part of a public discussion where the issue of “Presenting with Confidence” was the hot topic. Drawing on my 25-plus years of public speaking experience, and my business of coaching others in this area, I wanted to offer you seven tips to push past the fear of public speaking.  

1. Plan Your Content and Delivery

Another way to think about this is Message and Methods. First pinpoint how much time you will have at the podium. Step two: write down all of the critical, must-have information that you want share with your audience during the time you’ve been given to speak. Step three: Review your notes and determine the top three critical points in your message. Step four is the time to focus on how you will deliver your top three points to your audience. These are the methods you will use for your presentation. Powerpoint? Whiteboard notes? Graphs and charts to illustrate your critical points?  

Bonus tip:  This first step is the hard part. Do not wait until the day before the presentation to do this prep work! In the professional speaking world a good rule of thumb is 4 to 1: Four hours of planning for every one hour of presenting.  

2. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Now that you know what you are going to say and how you will say it, it’s time to practice the delivery. Many people find it helpful to record their voice as they are practicing their presentation. Videotaping yourself is also a great way to identify voice inflections, hand gestures or body language you may want to change. 

3. Warm up the audience

After weeks of planning, the day of the big presentation has finally arrived! Be sure to arrive at your event location as early as possible to check the technology set up and the microphone. After you are confident that you are all set up, and the audience begins to trickle into the room, give people a warm “hello” and shake their hands. This will help you build rapport with your audience before you begin the delivery of your message. This is also a secret weapon for fighting the butterflies you might be feeling in your stomach. 

4. The first 30 seconds

A surefire, no-fail way to calm your nerves and begin to maximize your impact is to walk up to the microphone, take a deep breath and smile! The combination of breath and the smile will help you gain control of your emotions and oxygenate your voice for better clarity. After smiling, begin building audience rapport by graciously thanking your event planners or hosts before launching into the presentation. 

5. Stories bring the point home

No one is asking you to be a comedian here. As you develop your content and presentation delivery strategy (tip #1), be sure to sprinkle in a few well-crafted, tasteful stories to help illustrate your critical points. Brain-based research shows that cognitively we use stories that drive an emotional response to learn new information.  You want to create stories that create emotion in the audience members so they will remember the points you are making. 

6. Actionable steps

Your presentation has inspired your audience to do something new or different - to find out more about the topic, change a thought or perception, persuade others, or have different behaviors.  Whatever those few actionable steps are that you want them to take, leave behind a reminder on a document, card, bookmark, etc. as the call to action in your presentation. 

7. Leave them wanting more!

There is never enough time to answer all of the questions that an audience may have. When it is time to end, tell the audience that you will be available to talk individually and answer questions after the presentation. Be sure to provide your phone number and email information so you can be contacted with follow-up questions.  

While public speaking is the #1 fear for most people, with preparation, practice and poise you can overcome your nerves and present with confidence. 

 ©Rita Perea, 2015


Irony and Mr. Heisenberg

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.

A German physicist named Werner Heisenberg introduced a principal called the “observer effect” in the early part of the 20th century. The principle states that the act of observation or measurement actually changes what is being observed. An example of this would be if you wanted to determine (observe) if a pie was hot, you might stick your finger into the filling to determine the temperature. This observation changes the pie - it has a hole where you put your finger into it – but you have gathered the data you sought. Bundesarchiv_Bild183-R57262,_Werner_Heisenberg

There are several cycles in organizational development – the entrepreneurial phase, the management phase, the reorganization / recreative phase. Every successful organization goes through these cycles as they become fully integrated.

As you work to strategically manage development through these cycles, it is important to consider the observer effect. Certain organizational development cycles are more suited to different types of individuals – the most effective way to capitalize on the effect is to determine the best way to impact the organization as a function of what phase it is in.

This is where the leadership differentiates itself from management as a construct. In order to move through these cycles effectively and create sustainable growth (not only in size, but in capacity / capability), the C-suite must capitalize on the opportunity to show leadership by hiring or repurposing human resources to maximize the potential of the organization.

Related to the observer effect, there is another construct in quantum mechanics called the uncertainty principle. First published by Heisenberg in 1927, the principle basically states that in a pair of related variables or inequalities, the more information you are able to determine about one of these variables, the less you are able to determine about the other.

This is different than observer effect in key ways, but equally important. As you consider the cycles above, there may be a tendency in the C-suite to focus on specific types of employee profiles. For example, in the management cycle, there may be a tendency to target non-conformists because they may be considered outliers in this phase. The effect of this might be that lower performing conformist employees may be hired to produce more consistent results, while these high performing non-conformists are driven out.

It is difficult to look at both things at once with equal emphasis, but the entire cycle needs to be taken into account. While management might focus on these outliers as problem areas, the uncertainty principle would urge balance between these individuals and those who conform within that phase of the cycle, looking at the entire system in a holistic sense. These non-conformists may actually be the key to significant growth in other phases of organizational development.

In this case, it is actually possible to ruin things by trying to fix them; what you thought you were measuring got thrown off by trying to measure it – short-term corrections vs. long-term sustainability. It’s ironic, but the point is sound – while you are looking at one metric, you might become so focused on it that you may lose track of another. The most common example I have seen regarding this is the shift between wanting the best talent and wanting to produce the best results. Sometimes those things can be extraordinarily difficult to balance.

Transformative leadership can make itself evident in many ways as it relates to management. By calibrating the correct amount of nondestructive “observer effect” and by balancing all facets of the uncertainty principle as they relate to human or other resources in your organization, you can truly build a balanced system with dynamic capabilities. This translates to a culture of transparency, innovation, and respect for the diverse strengths and talents of employees, management, and engagement with your organizational mission, vision, and core values.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


How your calendar might help you beat the IRS.

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


Professionals who charge by the hour are used to keeping track of how they spend their workdays. The tax law is making time-trackers of the rest of us. And tracking time made a five-figure difference in the tax life of a Brooklyn apartment owner who recently beat the IRS in Tax Court.


The “passive activity” rules (IRS offers free oxymorons, no extra charge) have made it worthwhile for taxpayers to keep track of hours worked since they were enacted in 1986. If your business income and loss is reported on your 1040, these rules apply to you. It matters for sole proprietorships reported on schedule C, partnerships and S corporation income reported on schedule E, and farm income reported on schedule F.


The rules keep you from deducting a loss when you are a “passive” investor in the “activity.” If your “passive losses” exceed your “passive income” for a year, you can’t deduct the net loss;  the disallowed loss carries forward until you either generate passive income, or until you sell the activity in a taxable sale.


For the most part, whether you are “passive” depends on how much time you spend on an activity. You have to meet one of these tests:


  • 500 hours worked in the activity in a tax year.

  • 100-500 hours worked in the activity in a tax year, and when combined with other 100-500 hour activities, you get over 500 hours. This is for people running multiple businesses.

  • Over 100 hours, and more than anyone else.

  • Substantially all of the activity in the business.

  • You have met one of the hours tests in five of the prior 10 years.


If you rent real estate, you also must prove that you are a “real estate professional" before you can deduct rental losses. It’s a test that’s hard to meet for taxpayers who aren’t involved in the real estate industry.


If you have a business loss in a year, these tests become a big deal. They might eliminate your taxes on your other income, or even give you a tax loss that you can carry back to prior years for a refund.


The IRS can be distrustful of taxpayers claiming losses, and they may ask you to prove your time spent. You aren’t required to keep a time sheet, but then you have to prove your involvement by other means. That may be easy if you have a full-time business you show up at and run, but it is harder for part-time side businesses. The best way is to keep a calendar of your time.


A Brooklyn, New York man with a full-time real estate job (a real estate professional) had to prove the IRS that he wasn’t passive in managing the two apartments above his home. Fortunately, he did keep a calendar of his time, and the Tax Court ruled that he showed that he spent over 500 hours managing his business. the record keeping saved the taxpayer $25,174.60 in taxes and penalties that the Tax Court overturned.


Many other taxpayers who weren’t so careful have lost their deductions, sometimes into six figures. And don’t count on preparing a time log retroactively if the IRS ever comes calling. The results can be embarassing.


So when it comes to your business losses, time really is money. Keep track of it. And get your tax professional involved to make sure your recordkeeping and reporting will get you through an IRS exam.

Many Iowa public employees are better off in retirement than working

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

Iowa is a great place to retire. After an eight-year phase-out period, Iowa retirees now pay no state income tax on their Social Security income. Retirees also continue to receive a large exclusion of pension income that was first made available in the 1990s. These provisions encourage retirees to stay in Iowa and continue to contribute as volunteers, board members, community leaders, caregivers, mentors, and in all the other ways they contribute to Iowa’s quality of life.

It also reinforces how much has changed in the world of retirement planning since Iowa’s defined-benefit public employee retirement plans were created in the 1950s. Because of these changes, today, many Iowa public pension plan retirees are actually better off in retirement than when they were working. This is an outcome that certainly was never envisioned, but is enormously significant.

The Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) was created in the early 1950s, and counts among its 346,000 membership almost all public employees in Iowa (schools, cities, counties, state employees, and others). When this plan and other defined benefit plans like it were created, they no doubt made a lot of sense for the conditions of the time.

For example, people didn’t change jobs much, so they didn’t need portability. Members either made a career of public service or married, so the benefits were weighted heavily to the longest-tenured employees with short-term employees receiving little or nothing. The result today, arguably, is that long-term employees are over-compensated, while those who change jobs (outside the system) more often are not building the retirement savings they need.

Another difference is that in the 1950s public sector pay wasn’t as good as it is today, so back then benefits needed to be higher in order to attract employees. Today, that is no longer the case. At worst, public and private sector wages have evened out (after controlling for higher education levels in the public sector), but public sector health insurance and retirement benefits are still much higher. In fact, public pension benefits have increased substantially since the 1950s even as salaries have caught up.

Another obvious difference is longevity. Today, life expectancy at age 65 is five years longer than it was in the 1950s.

Further, when these plans were first created, investments (of which earnings help pay for benefit payouts) were limited to low-risk fixed income investments, which were well matched with the fact that benefits also had to be paid. Today, most of the portfolios are invested in higher risk equities and alternative investments.This means there’s a lot more risk in the system, and because benefits have to be paid, no matter what, vastly more impact on state and local budgets when the market tanks.

Finally, in the 1950s, Social Security contributions were much lower: 2 to 2.5 percent for the employee, compared with today’s 6.2 percent. Pension plan employee contributions were also lower – for IPERS, about 3.7 percent, while today they are nearly 6 percent. Today, when someone retires, because they no longer have to deduct these sizeable payroll contributions, their post-retirement take-home income feels that much higher.

The cumulative impact of all of these changes on the plans and especially on the pre- and post-retirement comparison is substantial.

We looked at comparisons of pre- and post-retirement net (take-home) income for IPERS members, retiring in fiscal year 2015. These individuals also receive Social Security income. We assumed no other income. It turns out that in our example a 65-year-old IPERS employee with average pre-retirement income who retired in fiscal year 2015 is in a better financial position retired than working, considering differences in required contributions and taxes. Longer-tenured employees do even better.

2015 Ipers Retirement

Sources: IPERS (and Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa estimates based on IPERS data) and Social Security On-Line Benefit Calculator, Age 66 Draw. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/quickcalc/ 

The “average” reflects people who may have left the system long ago with a short tenure and with relatively low income at the time of separation, although they retired and began to draw benefits in 2015. It is also influenced by the extraordinarily high benefits enjoyed by those with the longest tenure. These longest-tenured employees are even better off in retirement than what is shown above. In fact, an  employee who worked more than 30 years with average salary nets 11 percent more take-home income in retirement than working. A 25- to 30-year employee nets 7 percent more in retirement. The average tenure for a 2015 retiree was 21.7 years.

It is doubtful that policy makers intended to create a situation where an employee is financially better off retired than working. In fact, public employees have typically been advised to not rely on Social Security and IPERS alone.

The more favorable tax treatment of retirees in Iowa is yet another reason for a comprehensive review of Iowa’s public employee retirement systems. We would not suggest that retirees should lose what they have already earned, nor what employees are expecting to earn in retirement, especially for those who are close to retirement. However, going forward there should be opportunity to build at least some retirement security for many more employees, while placing what most people would consider reasonable limits on post-retirement net income for those at the top end.

In any case, it’s time for a review to see what kind of plan best fits the world of today and into the future.



Preparing for a cyberattack or data breach

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity



In today’s world of nonstop cyberattacks, companies must prepare for when, not if, they are attacked. It is important to remember that these attacks come in various forms and severity. Your company may suffer multiple attacks this year. One may be in the form of a virus or malware outbreak; another could be significant compromise of intellectual property.

To minimize the impact of a cyberattack, it is vitally important that your organization have a well-defined incident response plan. 

This plan should be documented to ensure the process is repeatable in the event of an emergency. Team members who will be responding to the incident should be trained on using the plan. A good way to do this is to test or exercise the plan. This also helps identify weaknesses or gaps in the plan. The test can be in the form of a tabletop exercise where the plan is simply reviewed and discussed or an actual walk-through of a scenario in which each step of the plan is tested to ensure it provides accurate guidance.

A key area often overlooked when developing an incident response plan is to document the external parties you may need to call on in the event of a cyberattack.  Data breaches never announce the time and date they occur. They are always a surprise and can create a lot of confusion and anxiety. This is not the time to be trying to identify an attorney with cyberlaw experience or a security firm with digital forensic and incident response experience. Having a computer security incident response plan in place will help ensure you have the right resources at your fingertips.

Another common question during an incident is whether or not law enforcement should be notified of the incident. By defining the criteria which would dictate the need to contact law enforcement before a cyberattack occurs, you have the luxury of making these decisions in a low-stress environment. At Integrity, we often recommend contacting law enforcement at some point during a breach investigation, but there are valid reasons not to do this as well. Taking the emotion out of the decision can help ensure you make a rational choice that is in your best interest.

If you use an outsourced IT provider to help you manage your systems, you may or may not want to rely on them to drive your incident response plan.  In most cases we recommend that the business be the owner and driver of the incident response plan. This ensures that business decisions are made by the people with the knowledge and authority to make those decisions instead of a network engineer or account manager.  Often, IT providers are not experts in information security and leading incident response teams, and they may make decisions that are not in the best interest of your company. An incident response plan isn’t one of those things you hope you never use. It will be used and can help bring order during the chaos of a cyberattack.


Dave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. 

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

How much time do you spend on your mobile device?

Alex Karei

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

Returning from PubCon, a recent national online marketing conference, one of my coworkers shared a staggering statistic about mobile with me. Did you know that on average, we spend 177 minutes on our smartphones per day? So you don’t have to do the math, that’s nearly three hours. When that average was reported, it was shown to be a 15-minute increase in a nine-month period … and the statistic was calculated almost a year ago now.

So, think about it - do you spend three hours on your phone each day? Probably not that you’ve noticed. But start by thinking about the small bits of time you spend. Me, for example. Granted this isn’t a scientific study, but I've seen it to be a pretty regular pattern.

On my average morning, I might spend:

  • 5-10 minutes on Twitter while laying in bed after my alarm goes off.

  • 5 minutes checking the weather and my schedule for the day while brushing my teeth or drinking my first cup of joe.

  • 10-15 minutes messing with random apps or reading the news while eating breakfast.

  • 5 minutes catching up on Slack and email while waiting for my computer to boot up and my coffee to brew at work.

Adding it up, we're only at 9:00 a.m. and I have already potentially surpassed 30 minutes, depending on the day. Looking at it that way, it’s not that hard to see how quickly you could reach the average of three hours by the time you hit the hay at night. Granted, I could be on the high end of mobile use. After all, I am a millennial (at least one of you thought that) and that’s just our nature (which I would beg to differ - I know millennials not glued to their phones). Regardless, I would urge you to give some careful thought to what I’m saying, and think about your own mobile habits.

Then ask yourself: am I considering that potential clients may be accessing MY website during their 177 minutes? And if they are … what’s their experience with my content like?

It’s fair to say that mobile is on the rise, but also accurate to say that it’s already risen. Mobile is here - and if your website doesn’t take mobile users into consideration, visitors are probably struggling, at least mildly, with receiving your content. However, in some cases, you're probably losing them completely. 

Still not convinced? Open your website on your phone and do the following:

  1. View the site as a whole. Do you have to pinch and zoom to read the content? How many times?

  2. Try to click some buttons. Are you angling your finger or thumb to fit into a too-small box? Are you successful in clicking what you meant to click?

  3. Fill out a form or perform an action that's applicable to your site. Is there anything that doesn’t work as expected? 

Making the time or budget available to retrofit your site to be mobile-friendly can be difficult, but it’s a worthy investment.

And before you say that your 80-year old ideal clients don’t use mobile devices to access your current website, you should probably know that user experience isn’t the only reason you should be thinking about mobile. There's more to it than that! But we can talk about Google’s search preference for mobile-friendly websites another day.

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

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

LOCAL FEATURE: Road-tripping to Perry

- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.


This week we are taking a road trip out to Perry to explore what the Hotel Pattee has to offer for potential event venue spaces.


I know what you are thinking, “but it’s a 45 minute drive from Des Moines!” Although Perry might not be ideal for an afternoon corporate luncheon or a happy hour for a company located in Des Moines, venturing out to Perry for the right event can truly enrich the overall attendee experience.


As an event organizer you have the unique opportunity to build complete experiences for your attendees. Taking a little drive out of the confines of the city and into the beauty of Mother Nature can be the perfect vehicle (no pun intended) to set the tone for your meeting to come.  That said, what events work best here?

  • Full day or multi-day company events for mid-sized groups: 

The largest space can accommodate approximately (250) people banquet style and probably twice that stadium style.  So these spaces are not intended for massively huge groups to meet together at one time. The spaces available are great for events that are meant to fully immerse attendees in longer event programs filled with lots of new & rich content. The spaces are varied and unique so are perfect for planners looking for out-of- the-ordinary venue space to introduce to their attendees.

  • Unique experience events

Whether you are entertaining an important group of clients; showing someone from out of town the beauty that Iowa has to offer; or simply want to show your employees some appreciation with a high end and thoughtful experience, The Hotel Pattee has all the ingredients to make a truly memorable event.

  • Retreats

The hotel (and town itself) possesses a real sense of calm. Those looking to delve into more introspective ventures should take a trip out to the hotel to envision their retreat here.

  • Weddings & Other Social Events

The Hotel offers very elegant spaces that make the perfect backdrop for any photograph whether it be for a wedding, fundraiser or appreciation event. The added benefit of having such varied space options is that there is the ability to plan a versatile event that can transition flawlessly from one space to the next. The hotel landscape allows you to have an elegant cocktail hour in one room while simultaneously hosting a rowdy dance party in the next.


The renovated hotel (2014) has several meeting spaces that can accommodate a multitude of events as well as other amenities to keep your attendees busy including:

  • Over 4,000 square feet of meeting space
  • On-site A/V services
  • Full-service catering by Executive Chef Ben Ferguson (which is delicious, I can attest!)
  • On-site event planner 
  • On-site spa
  • Private bowling lanes
  • Stocked fitness center
  • Outdoor courtyard space


The quaint Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design is paired with modern updates that keep the hotel historically relevant while still being user-friendly. My favorite room by far is the Willis Library, right off the main lobby, a perfect room for a glass of red wine and some good conversation.

Need to stay overnight?  One of the (40) individually decorated and themed rooms will transport guests to Mexico, Italy, Japan or will illustrate unique aspects of Iowa including the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) or the Amana Colonies, a historic German settlement in eastern Iowa.


  • The residents are cordial and accommodating.                                                Visiting Perry is like being welcomed into a good friend’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s warm and welcoming and possesses a genuine sense of hospitality.  
  • Venue, food and beverage costs are more affordable than in Des Moines.         If you are looking to have a high-end experience but don't want to pay high end, venturing slightly out of Des Moines for your more intricate events might be just the ticket.                        


Need more space than the hotel can offer?Laposte

  • There are a number of city-owned spaces adjacent to the hotel that can accommodate smaller groups for different types of break-out sessions.
  • La Poste, a renovated post office that has become a beautiful “space to celebrate art, music, food and community.” The upstairs is a blank canvas displaying a rotating art show with pieces from world renowned artists that can be utilized for all sorts of different larger events. The cellar, is an intimate & cozy collection of spaces that can be rented for more intimate events.  Want to visit?  On Thursday nights they have live music and a speakeasy bar for your drink of choice.  Sneak on back to their Whiskey Room and get a little toasty by the fire.


Perry is a wonderful destination, rich in history, hospitality and awesome event venues.  Jay Hartz (owner of Hotel Pattee) has a true passion for hotel ownership and possesses a truly unique and innovative eye for detail. His plans for continued improvements to the hotel are exciting and sure to make Hotel Pattee a true destination for anyone looking for a little retreat from their busy lives.

As always, please chime in and let me know what YOU would like to hear about!  I would like the content of this blog to be user-driven, so let me know what is on your mind!  Also follow me on Facebook for daily event insights!

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




Healthy mind, healthy attitude, healthy business

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

The holidays are creeping up on us fast. Along with the holiday season comes the rush of small business owners and employees trying to finish certain tasks and prepare for the next season while also preparing for another mean Iowa winter.

With all of the rush, it is important to stay healthy throughout this busy season and year round.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush and forget about your health, but it’s also easier than ever to remind yourself to stay healthy and take a break every once in awhile.

My family and friends have invested in a Fitbit band that you wear on your wrist, and it counts your daily activity such as steps, miles, calories burned and even hours -- or minutes! -- slept. There are even applications that you can download on your Smartphone or tablet that remind you to drink water and stay active.

It’s always important from a personal standpoint to stay healthy year-round, but your business benefits when you do, too.

When you take a break from your hectic schedule, just for a few minutes, it opens up your thought process and allows you to see things in a different light. Some of your best business ideas may be the result of just a few minutes of break time.

As well as exercising regularly, keeping hydrated is another health tip we seem to skip when we don’t have the time. Staying hydrated affects our cognitive skills. Something as simple as drinking four glasses of water a day can greatly improve your health and your productivity.

Stop and smell the roses isn’t just a cliché. It’s essential for your health. When you take a moment to relax, you can lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, boost your memory, lower your risk of a stroke, and improve your happiness and positive thinking

With holiday season just around the corner, you're going to want -- and need -- all the energy you can get. Your customers and employees deserve nothing less.

Sweet dreams and the power within


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

I once took a long road trip with my college girlfriend. There was little that I didn’t like about her except for one irritating behavior. Whenever we took any kind of a long drive, she almost instantly fell asleep while I sat in silence listening to the radio.

It was spring break, and I happened to be in the middle of a very interesting psychology class where we were learning about the subconscious mind and how it affects our behavior. So, like any young, naive college kid trying to apply what he had learned, I decided to conduct an experiment.

I picked a random item –– in this case the color green –– turned down the radio, and softly whispered into her ear, “You HATE green. Green is EVIL. Green is BAD. Green causes PAIN.” I then turned the radio back up, waited a couple of minutes, and repeated the entire process.

After about thirty minutes, I changed the dialogue. “You DON’T LIKE green, green causes you immense PAIN, green is the favorite color of the DEVIL, green is UGLY.” Like before, this went on for about thirty minutes.

I then shifted the dialogue to something positive. I purposely picked a color I knew she would never pick on her own and probably didn’t even really know what it was––Indigo. “You LOVE the color indigo. Indigo is HAPPY. Indigo is SWEET. Indigo is PRETTY.” This went on until she awoke.

After giving her time to fully awaken, I decided to spark up a conversation. “Sweetie, when you were asleep, we drove by a ton of green grass.” She didn’t respond, but I could see a slight frown. I then followed by saying, “If you could pick any color for grass other than green, what would it be?” Without any hesitation and a smile, she responded, “Indigo.”

In my last post, Yellow is the New Blue, I discussed how conscious social influences affect decision-making and ultimately creativity. But what about something as simple as what enters your subconscious? When I asked why she chose that color, she had no idea why. My experiment, however twisted, was a success. I confirmed what I had learned in class––our subconscious never sleeps and picks up information 24/7.

Have you ever woken up to find someone standing over you who hadn’t made a sound in the process? If you consciously set your alarm to wake up the same time everyday, do you find yourself waking up on your own before the alarm sounds? Our subconscious serves as a protection mechanism. It’s aware of our internal clock. And it takes in information that affects our conscious thinking.

Have you ever been driving down the road listening to the radio, and a 20-year-old song comes on that sends you down memory lane? I believe our minds are like immense storage devices that retain everything –– every event, every smell, every sound, every feeling, everything. However, retention is not recall, and recalling past information can be a bit of a challenge.

Back when all of those events were taking place, odds are that particular song was frequently being played on the radio. Your subconscious connected the two, and the song became connected to the address in your brain where those memories are located. Those memories came flooding back because of the subconscious connection to the song. 

While the subconscious can have an unintentional influence on our thinking, it can also be a powerful tool to recall information and solve problems. After spending time trying to solve a problem without success, have you ever moved on, only to have a random “Aha” experience about it later? That’s your 24/7 subconscious working the problem behind the scenes.

Proactively using our subconscious mind not only helps with memory, it can also help create solutions to problems that our conscious thinking can’t address. Even Albert Einstein once said, “Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?”

Practice Challenge:  Your dreams are frequently the result of your subconscious trying to process both old and new information –– which is why the buzz of the alarm clock can be interpreted as a fire alarm in your dream. However, dreams also provide a place for great ideas to problems to come to the surface. To harness those ideas, try this: each morning when you awaken, immediately write down anything you can remember from your dreams. Over time –– and that time will vary among people –– you will train your mind to be able to freely recall the details of all the dreams and ideas you had the night before. It could be a game-changer for you.

©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 www.adpaustian.com

My IRS is little

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

The eighth annual Immigrant Entrepreneur Summit (IES) will be held Nov. 21 in Ankeny.

I always thought of IES as the IRS Jr., since the difference in the names is only one letter. In fact, the idea for IES came from a pile of IRS notices that landed on my desk back in 2007.

At that time, my business, Community CPA, was located on Second Avenue in Des Moines, next to Double Dragon Food Market. One day an Asian lady, who had just finished doing her shopping next door, came in carrying all of her groceries and asked to see me. She pulled out of her pocket a stack of letters from the IRS and handed them over to me. She then pointed at her grocery bags, opening one of them up to show me what was in it, and said: "This is all for my business."

Based on what she had just said, and after reviewing some of the letters, I figured she had a retail food business that had been operating for at least three years. I also noticed that she had a limited liability company (LLC) set up for that business. The IRS letters suggested that she had not filed tax returns for her LLC entity and they were assessing more than $50,000 in taxes due on her Schedule C. After about an hour or so, following a lot of effort in talking to the IRS, the solution was to dissolve her business entity, that had been formed but never used, and amend three years worth of federal and state income tax returns. On top of that, we needed to file her sales taxes for the past 3 years – "Really? More taxes?" She was in disbelief.  

It was all simple work, but something that she needed help with. Many immigrant-owned small businesses begin with a focus on just selling. The rest, such as an income statement, balance sheet and tax compliance, is sometimes unknown to them. So I explained everything to, slowly and with great detail, to my new client. She gave me a big hug before she left and said: "Ying, where can I go to learn this? My IRS is little."

I chuckled because I knew what she meant was that her IRS knowledge is limited. I replied: "IRS is not little!".  

The IRS is not, and it will never be ‘little’. The goal of IES is to educate and help entrepreneurs, like the lady with her grocery bags, in making tax and accounting compliance more streamlined and simple.

That’s why eight years ago Swallow Yan, who at the time was the Chinese Association President, Max Cardenas, a Grinnell graduate and Peru native, and myself decided to give this IES a try.

At the first summit in 2008, 208 eight business owners, representing more than 30 countries, showed up. IES has been growing by leaps and bounds since then. Each year more and more immigrant business men and women move from the "my IRS is little" stage and go on to accomplish great things.

IES educates folks about federal and state regulatory compliance as well as industry specific requirements, so no one will be surprised by how ‘big’ the IRS can be.

This year, we anticipate that more than 700 attendees at the IES event Nov. 21 at the FAA Enrichment Center on Des Moines Area Community College's Ankeny Campus. Join the event by registering at www.iesusa.org The IES mantra is: Let’s grow together.

Tiny houses

--Rob's guest blogger, Todd Campbell, is a registered architect at CMBA|smith metzger.  He has worked on the downtown YMCA and Josephs West Glen.  He would love to design someone a tiny house.

Recently a friend introduced me to the tiny house movement; people downsizing and living in 400 square feet or less. Little footprints, simple roofs and every area designed to serve multiple purposes.  There are no dedicated rooms here - no walk-in closets. Just hidden little storage shelves - built into the stairs. And low ceilinged lofts just big enough for a bed.  You can’t live here without simplifying your life. 

As I looked into this further, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the good old days.  Fresh out of ISU…degree in hand, I signed my first lease on a garden-level studio apartment.  For those who don’t know, or may have forgotten, “garden-level studio” is code for an apartment without a bedroom half-buried underground.  Barely 500 square feet, it had a living room, bathroom, galley kitchen and a large closet. It was so small. So tiny. Yet surprisingly warm and cozy too!

Fast forward 25 years and I now live in a four-bedroom, 2½-bath house with an office I only visit when my wireless router needs resetting and a finished basement I walk through to change my furnace         filter. Truth be told, I probably still live my life in 500 square feet.  The rest is just space I pass through…slowing accumulating items I feel I MAY need…someday. 

It certainly got me thinking. Could I live my life in 400 square feet? Is it even possible to streamline my life to that level? Probably not, but I’d sure like to try!

How about you? Contact me at tcampbell@smithmetzger.com.

Creating a flourishing, values-based organization

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive & leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the annual Spark event.

Book - Hsieh - Delivering Happiness w websiteMost people who engage in coaching do so with a desire to improve themselves. Passionate leaders, however, typically strive to enhance their teams, departments, and organizations as well. Wanting to create an engaging and flourishing culture, strong leaders know that they set the tone and are always on the lookout for ways to do that effectively.

As you surely know, success leaves clues and we can learn a lot from the experience of those we admire.

In that vein, when it comes to coaching around organizational culture, I often find myself referring to the book that captures Zappos’ experience so well: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It’s a terrific case study of an organization that strives to wow its customers with service, empower employees to make decisions and lead with confidence, and create a fun, engaging, even weird place to work.

How does Zappos do it?

It starts with one foundational piece upon which everything else is built: core values.

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values define the company’s character and brand,” explains Hsieh, who goes on to share Zappos’ 10 core values:

  1. Deliver WOW through service.
  2. Embrace and drive change.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
  5. Pursue growth and learning.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
  8. Do more with less.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble.

Defining your organizational core values can prove the guidepost for decisions, actions, and commitments. Once clarified, you can turn to your values when interviewing new hires, planning development goals, conducting staff meetings, and more. They become the touchstone of your entire organization.

The fear, and unfortunately, often the reality is that values become simply another item to put on the website or employee manual and then forget. You must work the values into your day-to-day operations for them to have any bearing, and Zappos does a terrific job of this.

In probably its most notable example, after their first weeks of training, all new hires are offered $2,000 to quit. Why? “We want employees that believe in our long-term vision and want to be a part of our culture,” says Hsieh. Fewer than 1 percent take the offer, and Zappos also boasts a retention rate not many can match. To take a phrase from author and researcher Jim Collins, Zappos takes extra measures to “get the right people on the bus,” and it works.

The “fun and weirdness” value is expressed in a variety of ways, from themed costume days to hot dog socials to on-campus petting zoos. And I love some of their strategies for value No. 7, such as “The Face Game”: In addition to a login and password to get into their computer, the photo of a randomly selected employee will also appear on their screen, and they must identify the person’s name. Once they do, a profile and bio of that employee appears to share a bit more insight.

“In the end, it turns out we’re all taking different paths in pursuit of the same goal: happiness,” writes Hsieh. Creating a positive culture will benefit everyone involved as well as the bottom line, and it all begins with clear values upon which everything else is built.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

What are your organization’s core values? How do employees fulfill them on a day-to-day basis?

If you can’t easily answer these questions, take some time this month to read Delivering Happiness. 

Then, take the initiative to reevaluate your organization’s (as well as your own) values. Seek the necessary support to define clear, agreed-upon values that truly fuel your business. You can then design the path to ensure those values are honored and celebrated on a daily basis – and you, your employees, and your customers will reap the benefits!

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives succeed in work that they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Hsieh, Tony. Delivering Happiness. Hachette Book Group. © 2010.

Tips to handling conflict

Boxing gloveA colleague takes credit for your idea. A manager sets an unrealistic deadline. A family member doesn’t perform the household chores as agreed. Your inability to stick with your diet and exercise program is frustrating you. Conflict takes many forms.

Whether it's with a co-worker, manager, loved one, or self, conflict takes a heavy toll on relationships and productivity. 

The ability to deal well with conflict is a rare skill. Hardwired at birth for fight or flight, we default to aggressive or passive behaviors that produce only losers and no winners. Is there another way?

The single biggest thing that characterizes conflict is heightened emotions. How can you manage your own emotions in the heat of a conflict? Here are two tips:

1. Find something to occupy your mind and distract you. Physical activity is always a good choice. Avoid activities that allow you to ruminate (i.e., driving or shopping) as you are unlikely to cool down and may get more worked up. 

2. If you can’t physically leave the environment, consciously change your emotional state. Silently say the alphabet or your social security number backwards. It is difficult to remain emotional when your mind is challenged with such a complex task.

With a cooler head, you are ready to address the conflict. Here are four tips to start:

1. Remember, people in conflicts get emotional. Although tempting, it is not productive to ignore emotions. 

2. Challenge your assumptions. Recognize that your evaluation of the situation is probably only one of several interpretations.

3. Be tactfully honest about your own interests and ask the other party to be clear about their needs. You might find that the conflict is only a symptom of a deeper issue.

4. Ask for a “do over” if things get off to a bad start. According to research, 96 percent of communications that start badly, end badly.    

Conflict resolution, when done well, is an important and inevitable part of progress.

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

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Tips about end-of-year performance reviews

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

Time-730x284The West Des Moines Chamber has a young professional’s group called New View that I coordinate. At the October New View event I thought it important to bring in an HR specialist who could help young professionals learn how to handle their year-end review along with negotiating their salary.

There was great interest in this topic and we sold out the event within days. Our expert, Sarah Charlier with Merit Resources, gave a 45-minute presentation. A lively question-and- answer period followed among attendees. I wanted to share some of the interesting tips that were given, both for those going through their first review and those on the other side of the table giving the review for a new employee:

  • Do your homework: 60 to 90 days out from your review you should be collecting information about what you have done in the past year. Using quantifiable numbers and percentages will put into perspective how much you’ve accomplished.
  • About 30 to 60 days out, you should be evaluating yourself. What goals have you met or exceeded?  Have you followed company policies?
  • Start the compensation discussion early. Do not surprise your boss with wanting a raise at your performance review. And if you are asking for a pay raise, make sure you have substantiated the amount you are asking for.  Be sure to also express your interest in taking on more opportunities along with the new salary.
  • The day of your review, be ready for any hard truths. Have a response ready for almost any answer your boss will give you. If you receive a no, don’t be afraid to say you are disappointed but then follow up with questions about how to get to the next level in your company.
  • Be confident by being prepared. People giving reviews do not want you to sit across from them giving one-word answers and appearing intimidated. You’ll be best served by making the meeting a conversation.
  • Ask for feedback on how you’re doing. You won’t grow personally or professionally without feedback and sometimes that may come in the form of criticism. 

These are just some of the excellent tips that we received that Tuesday morning. End of year reviews and salary negotiations don’t have to be terrible, terrifying experiences. Be prepared, confident, and use the opportunity of having your boss' full attention to your advantage. 


-Meridith Freese 

Connect with me!

Facebook: meridith.freese
Twitter: @MertFreese

What in the world is Yahoo! Local thinking?

Here’s a little nugget of trivia for you: during the first year of its existence Yahoo! was called “Jerry and David's guide to the World Wide Web”.

I can barely get that out in a single breath. Well, that was back in 1994, and thankfully they’ve shortened their name to what we know today: Yahoo! It just rolls off the back of your throat better I guess.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.35.25 AMThe interesting thing about Yahoo! is that so many of us are familiar with the company, but so few of us actually use their search engine. By several statistics less than 11 percent of all online search as of July 2015 was performed on Yahoo! sites. It's a percentage that has been steadily decreasing over the years.

Despite its decline Yahoo! has managed to keep its head above water. In 2012 the company appointed the former head of Google Local, Marissa Mayer, in attempt to turn things around and set the company on a positive trajectory. In recent years it has also undergone extensive rebranding to bring a fresh look to a previously stagnant company. The future of Yahoo! is still uncertain, but since bringing on Mayer the stock price has more than doubled, so there are signs of life.

Which is one reason, as a business, you shouldn’t write off Yahoo! just yet. Things could get better.

If you follow the trends in the search engine world you surely know local search is on fire right now. All the big players have been changing their algorithms to give more weight to local businesses while simultaneously providing valuable reviews for their users.

At the moment Google is doing a remarkable job at integrating local business information and reviews into their search engine. With a single keyword search, e.g. ‘pizza’, you can get a list of nearby restaurants, photos of the business, their menu, online reviews, and even directions on how to get there.

Yet for some reason when the other major search engines turned left towards an improved user experience and local business autonomy, Yahoo! took a hard right.

Yahoo! Local is like an out-of-touch parent awkwardly trying to figure out Snapchat for the first time. I can see the effort, but their attempts have fallen flat.

On the consumer side they’ve tinkered with a partnership with Yelp while also offering their own review platform. I spent hours trying to wrap my head around their strategy, but at this point it just isn’t clear.

I performed that same search for ‘pizza’ on Yahoo! and instead of getting a list of restaurants I was shown the nutritional facts for a 14” cheese pizza. What? I mean, aside from the fact that I’m not counting calories, they didn’t even include the pepperoni.

To be fair the list of restaurants were hidden there somewhere, I just had to scroll halfway down the page. But the listings seemed sparse and incomplete.

As a business, if you would like to make any changes to your default listing (such as updating your address, phone number, description, or adding photos) on Yahoo! you have to pay money. And it isn’t cheap.

Yahoo! has signed an exclusive deal with a company called YEXT to manage its local online listings. But after digging into this further I did find one way around this, which I explain below.

YEXT is a ‘Digital Location Management’ software company. Basically they (for a fee) manage the local directory listings and content for businesses across various online sites. They tout their services by highlighting several online websites they work with. Fortunately they only have exclusive agreements with Yahoo!, Whitepages.com, Mapquest, and a handful of less relevant directories.

Which leaves me wondering why a struggling search engine fighting for relevance would hamstring its local search, an area rapidly expanding in significance, by trying to force businesses to pay to keep their online listings accurate?

Now for that way around YEXT. Go to www.ExpressUpdate.com and claim your business online. This will allow you to update information which is sent, for free, to 97 percent of online search engines. Yahoo included. This includes all basic information which affects local SEO, but does not include business descriptions. Not to worry though, because on all the major search engines you can add photos and descriptions for free (excluding Yahoo! of course).


Be prepared for media interviews. Here's how.

Public relations seems to be a mystery to many corporate leaders. They are somewhat delusional about what constitutes "news" and how to tell a good story to the media. I often run into communications managers in companies who are trapped in a very "old-school" mentality of how to execute a public relations program, and stymied by their leaders who haven't spent any time with journalists and don't understand their world.

The way news is reported has changed dramatically over the past ten years, but the basic formula for an interesting story is the same. Whether the reporter calls you or whether you call them, it's good to know what to expect during the exchange.

Before participating in an interview, be sure you know the answer to these questions:

  1. What makes your company different, unique or trendy? Do you offer products or services that are better than the competition?
  2. Are you willing to be a true thought leader? Say something interesting, funny or groundbreaking.
  3. Are you ready to quickly respond to national stories that deal with your industry?
  4. Is your spokesperson trained? Do they know what to say and how to deal with tricky questions?
  5. Does everyone in your company know what to do if a reporter calls?

Journalists are motivated by a few things that you need to be aware of. Sometimes they are asked to create a controversial story where none exists. This is unfortunate, but it happens.

It's OK to ask them these questions so that you can be a better spokesperson:

  1. What is your deadline?
  2. Who else are you talking to for this story?
  3. What is your angle? (you may choose not to participate if the angle is controversial or shady)
  4. What do you know about our company? (Be prepared to provide some background information)

Reporters are people. Get to know them and help them do their jobs. Be prepared as best as you can to help them tell a compelling story and don't waste their time with mindless corporate jibber-jabber.

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



Cultivate gratitude

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

Today’s fast-paced business world results in a lot of us communicating via screens: text messages, emails and social media. Sometimes we forget, when we are pressed for time, that there is no substitute for showing appreciation to others.

Entrepreneur Magazine notes that the true purpose for communicating appreciation is that it “communicates a sense of respect and value for the person” – and is important for leadership. 

Research also indicates that belonging to a group or community gives us a sense of identity, and our relationships are crucial to our well-being and happiness. Both personally and professionally, our connections help us feel safe and supported, encourage us to learn and grow and serve as a source of help in times of trouble.

Below are some reminders of easy ways to show gratitude to your colleagues, mentors and teammates. 

  1. Say thank you. It’s that easy – actually say the words, “thank you.” Taking a few minutes out of your day to acknowledge employees and their contributions goes a long way in making them feel appreciated.
  2. Celebrate milestones. Remember that everyone else at work has lives outside of work. Make sure to celebrate moments such as work anniversaries, birthdays, life accomplishments like children or marriage, and work accomplishments like awards or certifications.
  3. Ask for feedback. When’s the last time you made sure you were meeting the needs of your coworkers? How can you help them better reach their goals? Do you help them feel empowered? What are their biggest problems at work, and how can you help to solve them? When your coworkers feel heard, they often feel appreciated – no matter the outcome of the issue at hand.

This November, I hope you’ll set aside time to cultivate gratitude with loved ones near and far – but be sure to make the effort to show appreciation and express a heartfelt thank you in the workplace as well.

Two bites at the apple: selling your business twice

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

Business owners are approached by private equity firms who suggest that they get “two bites at the apple” in a proposed transaction. Since when did selling a business have anything to do with produce?!? Let’s unpack this jargon. 

The “first bite” is a partial ownership sale by the business owner to the private equity fund. The amount of ownership sold can vary widely and is deal specific. The first bite gives the business owner immediate liquidity which allows him or her to diversify their net worth away from the business.

With the new-found liquidity and a capital partner to take prudent risk with, business owners may also find themselves willing to expand their business in ways they would not have had they had to “go it alone.” 

While the business owner no longer owns 100 percent of his business, he likely will remain in operational control of the business, so he can continue doing what he loves. He will also benefit from working with a private equity firm, who should have experience in the relevant industry and be able to provide value-added support from a board level. 

The “second bite” occurs when the business owner and the private equity fund decide it is time for them to sell all of the business. This typically occurs 5-7 years after the first bite.

By this time, the prudent shared risks taken by the business under joint ownership and the value-added support from the private equity fund have ideally created an entity that is worth a tremendous amount more than it was at the first bite. Because the private equity fund specializes in M&A, they can help with the sale process to maximize value.

The net result for the business owner is a greater financial realization of his life’s work. Often the proceeds to the business owner from the second bite for his partial ownership sale will vastly outweigh the proceeds he would have received from selling 100 percent of the business earlier – and this, of course, does not take into consideration the amount he received from the first bite.

 Maybe produce is not so bad after all!  

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