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March 2016

Challenges in checking potential employees' backgrounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The great workplace divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you results focused or people focused?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is success skills mastery.



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

Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

After the right hire

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

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

So what happens after you make the right hire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City folks can protect waterways too!

- Rob Smith is principal architect atCMBA | Smith Metzger

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do to help the water quality?

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

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

Re-thinking the “gala” as your signature event



- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

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

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

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

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

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

So, what happens during those hours?

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

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

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

Five lessons learned from a startup accelerator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It depends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 ways to coach in your job

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

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

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

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

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

1. Be quiet.

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

2. Be other-focused.

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

3. Be present.

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

4. Be curious.

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

5. Believe.

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

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chances low for “no tip” policy adoption at restaurants

Jessica Dunker is President/CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The facts about GMOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local SEO - what you don't know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organic vs local

Local vs Organic

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

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

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

NAP consistency

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

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

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

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

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

Why delegate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating your new website

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

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

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


Four Reasons to Throw a Website Launch Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Zero latency: Leadership vs. management, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


LOCAL FEATURE: Proof, not just a restaurant



- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC. 

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


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

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

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

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


Seated dinner: up to 60 people

Cocktail party: 80-90 people

Open house style: 120 people


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Cancellation Policy:

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

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

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


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

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

Can taxpayers ever get a break?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ciWeek: 13 speakers, 5 days, 3 takeaways


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2016  Anthony D. Paustian

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

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

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

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

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

You’re telling me this why?

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

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

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

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

Federal support for R&D: past and present

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to know: Iowa program meets fed program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human: 515-360-1732

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

Making the right hire

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

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

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

I prepare myself during the hiring process with few steps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump the brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Want more success? Check your mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a difference, eh?

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

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

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

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

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for an attitude adjustment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are the potential buyers for my business? Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A tragic and inspirational story: the ripple effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was one of those days.

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

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

“May you what?” she replied.

“May I take care of your groceries?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A powerful leadership lesson for us all to contemplate.

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

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