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June 2016

A Brexit lesson on restaurant regulation

Jessica Dunker is president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association

Restaurants in Britain may well have been on the forefront of the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union (EU). Why? Regulatory overreach had reached the point of the absurd.

There was near restaurant revolt when the EU tried to force refillable olive oil bottles off restaurant tables across Europe. Even a protest of 100 top chefs in Britain couldn’t stop the mandate that “mustard” be noted along with 14 other allergens on menus—imagine the nightmare for small chef-driven restaurants that change their menus on a regular basis.

Sadly, we may be headed perilously close to an equally well-intentioned, but onerous regulatory environment on our “side of the pond.”

Not long ago the biggest challenge most restaurateurs faced was finding innovative ways to attract new customers and keep them coming back. They would test marketing tactics, improve ambiance, innovate with food and drink and move price points in an effort to capture that “magic mix” for a successful business.

It’s not that restaurant entrepreneurs no longer ask and seek answers to those business-building questions. They do. But the biggest worry consuming the minds (and energy) for today’s operators is government interference in their business.

In fact, regulatory overreach has displaced the economy, food costs, recruiting employees and even sales volume as the number one challenge cited by restaurant operators, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association.

Of course, there are “big headline” battles between the restaurant industry and all areas of government. New York City led an effort to prohibit the sale of “super-sized” soft drinks in restaurants (apparently the “bigger than my head” drinks offered by convenience stores didn’t hold the same health risks.)

Across the nation, restaurants and bars deal daily with compliance officers on alcohol, food safety, wage and labor, and more. And while wage battles make headlines, the more costly regulatory fights often don’t find their way into the news.

Case in point, grease traps (a plumbing device that’s part of a restaurant wastewater disposal system.) Twenty-years ago one independent restaurateur I know opened a place downtown with a 60 gallon grease trap. He’s never had a problem with it. This past year when he purchased and renovated an existing restaurant location, he was required to put in a 10,000 gallon grease trap—you read that right—a grease trap that was 166 times larger than the one used in his existing location.

Trust me when I say, his new restaurant does not produce 166 times more grease, solid waste, or anything else. Not only is a trap this large unnecessary, it doesn’t exist. He was forced to buy two 5,000 gallon tanks. And because the regulations say a tank cannot be more than 25 percent full before it is cleaned, one tank sits filled with 5,000 gallons of clean water 100 percent of the time.

I know that is a “down in the weeds” example that only those in the restaurant industry truly care about, but it is a $100,000 example—and it was a $100,000 expense that no restaurant patron will ever see the benefits from. It’s “overkill” in every regard.

The biggest worry about all of this is that the restaurant industry is one of the last bastions of entrepreneurialism left in the United States. People can still start as a dishwasher, busser, or server and end up an owner. However, if we continue down the path of EU-style regulatory overreach—we may well regulate future independent restaurateurs away from the American Dream, and out of the marketplace.

And that would be a shame—because a huge attraction to any city is the unique regional flavors delivered by “locally grown-and-owned” independent restaurants.

Enjoying the accents

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

I have an ear for accents, so I enjoy listening to all kinds of them.

When growing up in the melting pot of Toronto, Canada, I learned an easy way to make friends – when I met someone, I liked to guess where they were from based on the accent I heard. I would say, "Oh, are you from Australia?" Many times, my new acquaintance would be thrilled and say: "Wow! You are the only person who guessed I am Australian! People think I am British all the time!"

Such compliments from my new friends and new clients make me beaming with excitement when I see someone new to America. Out of habit, I pay attention to how people speak English. At the right time I surprise them by saying, "You are from Canada!" These easy discoveries help me to bring new clients to my business and to build a new friendship with someone I've just met. 

In today’s business world, it is almost a required skill to be able to connect with business affiliates who speak English with strong accents. If you find yourself uneasy around the thick accents, or struggle to make sense of what they are saying, take a deep breath and let them know. "Excuse me, I love your accent, but can you please speak a little slower so I can understand what you are saying?" 

The worst mistake in communication is automatically nodding your head as if you understood what was said. And both professionals and newcomers do it.

The newcomers often take things very seriously because they have no experiences and everything feels so intense in their environment. This could be his or her first job in America and they just do not think that they can be understood easily because of their accent.

On one hand we need to give them time to get comfortable, and on the other hand we need to overcome our own mental barriers by simply recognizing that accent is part of a culture, not a bad habit. Accent has nothing to do with how smart the person is and should not be used to judge their intellect. It is, however, the mark of someone whos new to America.

If you enjoy being open-minded or want to be at home with folks who are new to the USA, start with listening to and appreciating their unique accents. I do not speak Spanish, but I have many Spanish-speaking clients who speak strongly accented English. I was told many times by these folks that I understand them perfectly. After hearing their accents for so long, I do understand them. And I enjoy the sound of their speaking. It helps connect me to these hardworking people. I look at the people and I think, "They speak a language that I do not, and they are smart for that!"

So enjoy the sound of their accents and see the world through the eyes of these newcomers. Dont let someones accent become a barrier between you and them -- use it instead to come together. 

How to focus in the age of distraction

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, author, trainer and book addict. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

Deep Work book NewportIf I handed you a project file and a quiet space, how long would you focus on it before you checked your phone or your mind began to wander?

If you're like the vast majority, probably not long. In his latest book, Deep Work, Cal Newport makes the case that our ability to focus on singular pursuits for any length is becoming more rare -- and increasingly valuable. With technological advances, changing workplace structures, and a host of other factors, we must make a conscious effort to create periods of full-concentration, distraction-free focus if we are to perform at our peak and make the contribution we're here to make.

So, who's thinking, "I crave that -- but can you show this research to my employer / co-workers / team, please?"

Among my executive and leadership coaching clients, this lack of focused time is one of their greatest frustrations. They long for quiet time to devote to strategizing, visioning and high-level work, but they often spend their days in meetings and "putting out fires." What to do?

Some changes need to occur at the organizational level, but there is much you can do as an individual, too. I recently shared five tips on my blog (click here to read); in addition, you might:

Corral your email. 

Consider an autoresponder that tells senders you'll reply within 24 hours. Batch email checks to certain times each day. Remove email from your phone, checking it only when you're at your computer instead.

Turn in your Busy-ness Badge.

If your response to "How are you?" is consistently, "Busy!", let it go. Busy-ness is not a badge of honor nor an aspirational state. Choose to be intentional, purposeful and prioritized. 

Schedule deep work.

In The One Thing, authors Keller and Papasan encourage spending four hours per day -- ideally first thing in the morning -- on your most important goal. Every day. My clients who embrace this practice see a marked difference in purposeful productivity for sure, but not everyone can structure their work accordingly. A few shorter pockets of time per week for this same purpose can be nearly as valuable, especially if you currently have about zero such time scheduled. Newport offers four different scheduling techniques to match your personality and workplace reality, too. 

Make a major change.

"Sometimes to go deep, you must first go big." Newport shares how J.K. Rowling, on deadline with her final book in the Harry Potter series, checked into the luxurious 5-star Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. Making a grand gesture -- i.e., shelling out $1,000/day for the quiet space to write -- can work wonders for your focus, motivation and productivity.

I had the pleasure of hearing Newport speak at a coaching leadership conference earlier this year. His line that sticks with me the most? "A deep life is a good life." We all have the ability to bring more depth, meaning and purpose into our work and lives, regardless of the distractions surrounding us. 

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

What's your biggest distraction? Perhaps social media, poorly run meetings, staying up too late, TV, or any number of things that keep you from devoting focused time to your priorities and joys. 

Pinpoint the greatest one, then take an action to minimize its effect on you. You might choose from those I've offered, or perhaps you know exactly what you need to do -- you just need to do it. Commit to the action for a week and see what changes in your sense of purposeful focus in just a short time!

How do you maintain focus in this distracted world? Share your best practices below!

Deep Work by Cal Newport (Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

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


Sorting an omelet

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger

Remember when the truck came down the street and put items from your green recycling tote into the correct compartment on the truck? That’s called “curb sort recycling." And if you had something that was not recyclable they would leave it in your tote with a note. 


IMG_3410Then came “residential single stream,” which means you throw whatever into your recycle container and it gets sorted somewhere else. It’s easier for residents, but we still have to be mindful.

My friend Todd Mendenhall is one of the owners at Mid America Recycling. That’s where all the stuff we put in our containers goes.

Todd says, “Residential single stream recycling is like a truck dumping a pile of thousands

of omelets and picking out the egg, bacon, green pepper, onion and chives and sorting

them into their own pile.”

IMG_3429Mendenhall mentioned residents still need to be conscientious when recycling. 

  • Don’t put plastic bags in your recycle container. First, they are not recyclable. Second, they get all tangled in the sorting machinery and require the line to be shut down to remove the bags. PLASTIC BAGS ARE TRASH.
  • Don’t put trash in your container. On my tour I saw suitcases, hoses and car wheels.
  • While a shovel and chain are made of steel, no recycler wants shovels. Pop cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles and paper are mostly what they want.


Let me know if you have any recycle tips. Email me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Groupthink and the public pension industry

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

William Whyte coined the term “groupthink” in a 1952 article in Forbes Magazine(1). Whyte felt the pendulum had swung too far in terms of “rational conformity,” or the idea that group values should trump individualism. Later (in the 1970s), research psychologist Irving Janis expanded the concept and conducted research about how cohesive groups of people make and justify faulty decisions.

Groupthink is a term that has been used to describe such various public policy fiascos as the failure to anticipate Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Challenger shuttle disaster, and more recently the collapse of the housing bubble and the handling of the Penn State child molestation case. In each case, even though individual members were brilliant and ethical, group dynamics led to decisions with devastating consequences.

Are U.S. public pensions going to become the next big public policy groupthink debacle?

Clearly there are beliefs and practices unique to the U.S. public pension industry that appear very questionable to anyone looking in from the outside. Yet they are genuinely held, sincerely defended and “generally accepted” by those on the inside.

These include clinging to an unrealistically high investment return assumption; changing actuarial and modeling methods to get the desired results; and taking on increasing levels of risk without even asking whether such risk is acceptable.

Questions about public pension assumptions and practices have been raised by the Society of Actuaries; credit rating agencies; the former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and even by Warren Buffett. Accounting standards for public systems in other countries are drastically more conservative(2). If they’re right and the industry is wrong -- and we keep adding more and more employees to systems that may ultimately implode -- it could become the biggest financial and personal disaster in U.S. history.

The U.S. public pension industry is a tightly defined and powerful industry, controlling $3.7 trillion in assets and supported by millions of members and politicians who want in the worst way to believe what they are being told. It exhibits many of the symptoms that Janis described as indicating groupthink(3). In fact, we can go right down the list and provide examples of each as relate to the public pension industry:

  • An illusion of invulnerability – the government can’t go bankrupt; taxpayers have infinitely deep pockets.
  • Discounting of warnings – the assumed high future annual return assumptions (avg. 7.5 percent) can be justified based on history, so we shouldn’t worry about it.
  • Belief in the rightness of their cause – public employees have tough jobs and deserve a great retirement no matter the cost.
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups – people just don’t understand the public sector is different from the private sector; groups that question public pensions are funded by “shadowy” outfits.
  • Direct pressure on dissenters – an actual blacklist has been published by one national organization that exhorts public pension systems to avoid doing business with many reputable entities that have raised uncomfortable questions(4).
  • Doubts not expressed – national organizations provide only confirming information and studies; insiders who raise questions are distrusted.
  • Illusion of unanimity – 42 large public plan administrators signed a letter of complaint to the Academy of Actuaries objecting to a study being undertaken by that group to probe the causes of public pension underfunding.
  • Protection from information that is contradictory – information about the substantial risks imposed by today’s practices is not shared with plan trustees or others who are making decisions by default.

Is it possible to penetrate a group this heavily insulated?

In an interesting recent article(5), one writer called for a sequel to the movie, “The Big Short,” a film that colorfully documents how groupthink led to the collapse of the housing market. The sequel would depict the implosion of the U.S. public pension industry. Re-watching “The Big Short” is an entertaining way to learn how groupthink works, but maybe it will also make it easier even for insiders to identify the warning signs.

Meanwhile, ordinary people – including members of these plans -- need to keep asking the questions, and not assume that everything is okay just because we are told it is, and because we want it to be.

(1) William H. Whyte, “Groupthink,” Fortune Magazine, 1952. Reprinted in Fortune Magazine July 22, 2012. http://fortune.com/2012/07/22/groupthink-fortune-1952/

(2) Andrew Biggs, “U.S. State and Local Pensions Couldn’t Survive Under Tougher International Accounting Standards,” Forbes Magazine, June 2, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbiggs/2016/06/01/u-s-state-and-local-pensions-couldnt-survive-under-tougher-international-accounting-standards/#3e00ac0c4fb1

(3) Psychologists for Social Responsibility, “What Is Groupthink?"  http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

(4) National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, Code of Conduct, Appendix http://www.ncpers.org/content.asp?contentid=616

(5) Ed Ring, “We Need a Sequel to The Big Short to Critique Public Pensions,” Reason.com, April 10, 2016 http://reason.com/archives/2016/04/10/we-need-a-sequel-to-the-big-short-to-cri

Escaping email overload

Fingers on keyboard photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.   

     In these times, we’re all being called upon to do more with less — less time, less money and fewer people. This pressure can create a hamster-on-a-wheel feeling as we scramble to get everything done. Although the rules of business have changed, many people haven’t received updated skills training on how to manage the flow of information into their lives, especially through email.

    Recently I conducted a leadership institute with a group of directors from various organizations. During our group sessions and individual coaching meetings, I asked about their biggest source of stress in their jobs. Almost every single person said the amount of email they received and responded to each day topped their list. This overload caused them to develop unhealthy habits surrounding email, including working tremendously long hours and a life without balance.

    Effectively overcoming this time crunch and email overload requires developing new habits. But before you, or anyone else, can change, you need to know exactly what you’re already doing. That’s why I ask clients to do a time audit. During this process, you look at how you use your time over the course of three days. By logging your activities in 15-minute increments from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, you can pinpoint where your time is going and why you feel like you don’t have enough.

    Although many people don’t see it this way, spending time is like spending money. Just like you have a certain amount of money in the bank that you can use to achieve your goals and enjoy life, you have a certain amount of time each day that you can spend on your personal and professional activities. When you overdraw from your banking account, you run into problems. The same is true when you try to take too much out of your time account. It doesn’t work, and you feel stressed. That’s why you need to make sure you’re spending your time effectively and efficiently to accomplish your objectives for the day.

    After you complete your time audit, you can identify where you’re “overspending,” and clearly define the ideal life that you’re trying to create. As you ponder your balanced lifestyle, think about activities such as exercise, vacation or simply getting work projects done on time. Once you’ve envisioned your ideal, you can create a plan for how to build that lifestyle within the constraints of your responsibilities at work and at home.

    At work, one of the biggest keys to achieving this balance involves limiting the octopus-like control of email over your schedule. If you’re spending every spare minute answering messages, when can you move forward on projects?

    Another key to "work flow wow" is limiting the frequency and length of time you spend checking email. Many people feel like they need to respond immediately to all email, even if it’s not a priority. In brief, here’s my solution: Limit yourself to checking email three times a day. Preferably you’ll do this in 30-minute time blocks in the morning after your project time, before you go to lunch, and before you wrap up for the day.

    By breaking the control of email over your schedule, you will not only increase your productivity but also your inner peace. Before you implement the email skimming process described below, consider these keys to success:

  • Turn off any email alerts. Even if you don’t constantly check your email, alerts will create psychological distraction that can cause you to take up to 25 percent longer to complete tasks.
  • Don’t email when you should call. If you’re writing over five lines, picking up the phone can be more efficient than using email.
  • Email doesn’t stand for immediate response. You need to get out of the habit of feeling that you must respond immediately to others or expecting them to do the same for you.

    Now that we’ve covered some of the ground rules, here’s a guide to skimming your inbox. Each time you open up your inbox during your allotted time blocks, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is answering this email going to bring me closer to achieving one of my goals?
  • Can this email wait until tomorrow?
  • Will delaying my response keep someone from accomplishing his or her work?
  • Could I respond to multiple emails in a single email reply?
  • Can I delete or ignore this email without serious repercussions?

    As you begin this process, you’ll find that very few of these messages actually get you closer to your goals and even fewer require immediate responses. I highly encourage you to try out this method and start to experience workflow wow!

© Rita Perea, 2016

The importance of being earnest

- Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor. He writes on economic development.

In 90% of life, being humble is a good thing. In economic development, it can be a death sentence.

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

We’re Iowans. We’re nice. How do you do? 

So starts the biggest uphill battle an economic developer can hope to never face. I wrote recently about the increasing role of capacity building in modern economic development — that successful practitioners today are spending less time selling and more time improving their product. But while there is a pronounced trend toward asset building Nice_guy at the expense of traditional cold call/trade show/road warrior selling by local and regional economic developers, transactional acumen remains a critical skill for all of us. What makes the sales-ish process in economic development perhaps a bit unique is the fact that practitioners must rely on the collective will of our community colleagues — including both those who are involved in projects day-to-day (like city staff and real estate developers) and everyday people who are often a great source of leads — to play as big a role in making the sale as any one economic developer. And what makes the sales process uniquely challenging in a state full of humble, nose-to-the-grindstone people, like Iowa, is the fact that we’ve got a potential sales force (everyday citizens) who hate to sell.

Aww shucks.

We generate more power from renewable resources than any state in the country (which is huge for many heavy-power tech projects), but it’s no big deal; just ask an Iowan. 

We produce more corn than any other state and most nations (a huge separator for the growing roster of major-user biomaterial producer projects), but that’s just what we do. Ask an Iowan.

We invented the digital computer in Ames, Iowa! Important? Sure! Brag about it a little? Bad form; ask an Iowan.

It’s not that Iowans aren’t proud of our state and its accomplishments; it’s that we are, owing to our German, Norwegian and Quaker roots, a work-is-a-virtue bunch adhering to a societal construct that deems self-promotion and immodesty as taboo and to be avoided. For more on this and a fascinating glimpse at what makes Midwesterners and 11 other regional American populaces tick, read Colin Woodard’s American Nations. You can find my review of the book here.

In Iowa we’re modest and unassuming by nature, and in nine out of 10 walks of life, that’s a great personal or organizational attribute. But in economic development, if not properly managed and mitigated, it can be a death sentence. Our collective ability to compete for capital, talent and innovation in a global economy churning at a blistering pace relies heavily upon our ability — and willingness — to discover, organize and effectively promote our strengths as a state and region.

CXR to the rescue

While I would argue that the decade-long trend toward an increasingly data-intensive site selection process wherein assets and good ideas trump salesmanship is an encouraging trend for the promotionally challenged (that’s us), it remains that, fundamentally, economic development is an enterprise sales endeavor. To make the point again, one of the things that discern the work of economic development from sales in a traditional sense is the fact that to do it well and be successful, economic development practitioners must rely on the collective will of the constituents in the region to promote themselves. The Cultivation Corridor and any other economic development organization in the region desperately needs for Central Iowans to continue the citizen trend we really started to see emerge with the rollout of Capital Crossroads some years ago: a pride in authorship for the spectacular story of growth and prosperity our region has been writing for a decade.

Power of the people

One of the things I’m asked most is where leads for new projects come from. While it’s true that a significant proportion of leads for economic development groups like the Cultivation Corridor come from traditional sources like consultant relationships and trade show networking, often our most actionable and qualified leads come from within the region. They come from existing companies exploring joint ventures with another company, from individuals who on a business trip read in the regional newspaper that an existing company was being yanked around on permits for an expansion, from a local supply chain logistics consultant who identifies a gaping hole in the middle of the country for a particular 3PL service offering. What translates these scenarios from latency to project action is the willingness of the applicable discoverer of information to ask him- or herself an important question: “Why not Iowa?”

Each of the preceding three scenarios is true, and each translated into a jobs creation project in my career. The power of our local stakeholders (especially you, if you’re actually still reading this 800 words in) to deliver ideas that translate into opportunity for our region and state is enormous — and critical to our collective success. So be nice, but keep a bit of a prideful edge, will you?

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

Work HARD, not SMART


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."

There’s a frequently used acronym related to creating goals––SMART––which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (or Relevant) and Time-based. As a college professor, I taught for over 20 years a variety of concepts required to attain a desired goal or future vision. I frequently discussed the importance of creating SMART goals and how they were absolutely critical in order to accomplish this desired end.


It’s not that SMART goals are necessarily bad, but I now believe they’re flawed if what you are trying to achieve requires a behavioral transformation or major proactive change. Specific, Measurable and Time-based are all fine attributes and should automatically be built into all goals. It’s the Achievable and Realistic (or Relevant) parts I’ve been struggling with for some time now, especially after reading a piece in Forbes discussing how SMART goals can sometimes be dumb.1

In the author’s opinion, both Achievable and Realistic actually act as impediments and don’t really enable genuine movement or progress. I completely agree. Those attributes smack of phrases like “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” “Stay within your available resources,” “Be careful what you wish for,” “Play it safe,” “Don’t do anything stupid,” and “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Because of the Realistic (or Relevant) attribute, Yahoo decided to pull out of purchasing Facebook during its early years because of an overreaction to a short-term market dip2 (an article in CNN Money now predicts Facebook will at some point have a $1 trillion valuation3 while Yahoo continues to suffer); the company Digital Research passed on partnering with IBM for the creation of an operating system (after Bill Gates sent them there in the first place––the result was Microsoft creating MS-DOS, and Digital Research is now long gone);4 Kodak failed to embrace digital photography because it didn’t require film (and subsequently filed bankruptcy); and the list goes on.

A great many poor decisions have been made by people based on “unrealistic” or “non-relevant” views––views often rooted in how things currently are as compared to where they will or should be because they were unable to imagine something different.

Thankfully, John F. Kennedy didn’t listen to the pundits in 1961, who claimed going to the moon was unachievable. If NASA had used SMART goal thinking in the '60s, we would have never gone to the moon, especially within the “unrealistic” context at the time: less than nine years to complete, over $25 billion cost (about $144 billion in today’s dollars), and less than 20 percent of the necessary technology required to do it. Also, over 50 percent of the country didn’t even want to fund the project, especially since we were involved in the costly Vietnam War. But this project was absolutely necessary and relevant in order to stay ahead of the Russians.5 As part of a 1962 speech given at Rice University, Kennedy proclaimed:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” 6

The result was not only one of the greatest achievements of mankind, but also the staggering development of thousands of products and industries (such as microwaves, purified water, polarized, scratch-resistant lenses, lithium batteries, kidney dialysis, NASCAR cool suits, solar panels, etc., and companies like Intel7), not to mention the inspiration of an entire generation and the creation of worldwide optimism during a difficult time in our history.

My point is this: Any goal that requires transformative thinking––thinking required to change deeply entrenched behaviors, habits and modes of thought––isn’t SMART. It’s HARD.

HARD goals require a total change in thinking––a recognition that transformation is difficult and realized through intense focus, effort and tenacity. Our greatest accomplishments in life weren’t easy. Therefore, I believe HARD goals include the following attributes:

  • HONEST: One of the biggest reasons that many goals are never achieved is because people do not honestly, deep down, believe in them. Often, they are the goals of someone else, such as a spouse, parent, physician, supervisor or the organization as a whole. They could also be the goals that have been deemed “good” by a majority of society. Regardless of origin, unless they are your goals––goals you totally believe in, desire above all else, and have built into the very core of your being––they will never be realized.
  • ACTIONABLE: These goals must be something you can begin taking immediate action toward … not someday or at some future point. If these goals require something in addition to or other things to occur first before you can begin working on them, the likelihood of success is diminished. The NASA moon program began the moment Kennedy shared the goal with Congress.
  • RADICAL: Most goals related to change frequently require some form of radical or significant shift in behavior. Typically, a minor or slight change in thinking is inadequate to achieve transformative change. For example, effective weight loss requires a sustainable, permanent change in diet from what you previously considered normal, acceptable eating. Eliminating debt requires a sustainable but substantial shift in your spending patterns, purchasing behavior and saving.
  • DETAILED: HARD goals require a plan of attack. This is where desired action is specifically detailed, time-based and measurable. This plan of attack should be incremental in nature since the power of progress is typically found and achieved through daily activity. Again, NASA had an extremely detailed plan with a series of very specific short-term objectives required to land on the moon in less than nine years.

Research shows that fewer than 2 out of 10 employees strongly agree their goals will help them achieve great things, and even less strongly agree their goals will help them maximize their full potential.8 Goals that truly lead to transformative change, the kind of change that will help you achieve great things and maximize your potential, require a HARD focus. A desired goal must be honest and true to both who you are and where you want to be; it should be immediately actionable and not something you have to wait on if you’re ready to go now; it should be radical in that to get there requires a sharp shift from the behavior that’s obviously not working now; and it should be detailed so it’s extremely clear as to the steps, resources and time required to achieve it.

A HARD goal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s extraordinarily difficult to accomplish. But it does require a higher level of intensity to achieve the desired transformation than a SMART goal. If you truly want to proactively change your behavior, you will need to change your mind––a change in thinking that directly affects your daily behavior.

©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




1Murphy, Mark. ‘SMART’ Goals Can Sometimes Be Dumb. (Jan. 8, 2015) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the Forbes website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2015/01/08/smart-goals-can-sometimes-be-dumb/ - 131ed902142c

2Tynan, Dan. 10 of Tech’s Biggest Missed Opportunities. (Aug. 19, 2009) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the IT Business website: http://www.itbusiness.ca/news/10-of-techs-biggest-missed-opportunities/13860

3La Monica, Paul R. Why Facebook Could One Day Be Worth $1 Trillion. (April 28, 2016) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the CNN website: http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/28/investing/facebook-trillion-dollar-market-value

4Tynan, Dan. 10 of Tech’s Biggest Missed Opportunities. (Aug. 19, 2009) Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the IT Business website: http://www.itbusiness.ca/news/10-of-techs-biggest-missed-opportunities/13860

5Wilford, John Noble (1969). We Reach the Moon: The New York Times Story of Man's Greatest Adventure. New York: Bantam Paperbacks.

6John F. Kennedy Moon Speech – Rice Stadium. Retrieved June 4, 2016, from the NASA website: http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm

7Benefits from Apollo: Giant Leaps in Technology. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the NASA website: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/80660main_ApolloFS.pdf

8Leadership IQ Study. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from the LeadershipIQ website: http://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35353793-are-smart-goals-dumb

Communicating client retention

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

If you want your clients to stick around you should be communicating with them regularly. And if you want this communication to have a positive impact it needs to be meaningful, timely, and authentic. Sending bcc’d emails to your client list doesn’t do much to make them feel loved. Likewise, not returning phone calls or emails is equally as detrimental to client retention. For businesses to be great communicators they must be both reactive, and proactive in their approach.

Being reactive in your communication is as simple as getting back to clients in a timely manner. One of the top complaints we found by analyzing the negative feedback of clients of service-based companies was the lack of returned phone calls. There is perhaps no faster way of showing your clients you don’t care much about your relationship.

Communicating proactively with your clients means that you are reaching out to them regularly with meaningful content on your own accord. This communication needs to be personalized, valued by the client, and happen over time. Below are a few examples of how to proactively reach out to your clients as to eliminate perceived indifference, and aid in client retention.


In addition to providing social proof, collecting written testimonials is a very effective way of increasing client retention. After a customer makes the commitment to promote you to others it becomes a part of their self-image. In our experience, we’ve found that customers who’ve put a stake in the ground and said “This business is great and here’s why” are far less likely to leave and buy from another company.

The nerdy, psychological term for this is cognitive dissonance: the mental stress a person feels when they are confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. In other words, it’s easier when a customer has said “I like this company” to stick with it through thick and thin.


Newsletters can be an effective tool to increase client retention, if they’re implemented correctly. Essentially, a newsletter is intended to provide your clients with valuable information regarding your business, industry, and community. This is an excellent opportunity to both humanize your company while also establishing yourself as an authority within your industry.

However, many companies implement newsletters incorrectly, and they backfire by making the clients feel more disconnected than before. This happens when companies include content that is either unoriginal, irrelevant, or both. We call this the copy and paste syndrome. Curating information across the internet and passing it along to your clients is one thing. But if you didn’t write it, don’t make it look as if you did. Your clients will be able to easily spot this ruse and lose some trust in the process.

There are several services available that can help you put together templates to work off of. We recommend MailChimp, as it’s quick, easy, and affordable. Be sure to include content about your business, your community, and information that your clients will find helpful. Be sure to keep regular intervals between each newsletter. We recommend sending a newsletter once a month, to keep your business top of mind, but not to annoy.

Follow ups

Regular communication with clients, simply for the purpose of following up, goes a long way to avoid turnover. This can include emails, phone calls, text messages, handwritten cards, or any combination of the bunch. Ideally you’ll want to vary the mediums you use to communicate with your clients (to keep it fresh), or stick with their preferred method.

It’s important to keep your follow-up communication personalized to the client. Unlike newsletters, you want your client to feel like you are reaching out directly to them, and only them. This can be as simple as addressing email or card to the client and including personalized and relevant content.
Accomplish this by implementing a system that can automate personalized communication based on predetermined intervals and/or triggers. For example, insurance agents benefit by reaching out to clients prior to their renewal date. This communication will have an even greater impact on client retention if it appears to be highly personalized and unexpected. That’s why we at Rocket Referrals recommend handwritten cards to be sent at unpredictable intervals, in order to enhance their authenticity.

The possible dream of fixing Iowa's business taxes

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

There's a lot about Iowa for businesses to like. We have a highly-educated workforce, good schools, attractive employment laws, short commutes, good infrastructure, and reasonable housing prices.

Our business tax system, in contrast, is nothing to brag about. Iowa's business tax climate has been consistently ranked near the bottom in the Tax Foundation's Business Tax Climate Index. Iowa has the highest corporation tax rate in the country. Because the U.S. has the highest federal corporation tax rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), that means the combined federal and state corporate tax rate is the highest in the developed world. 2016 corporate tax map

The high rates have motivated industries to carve out their own special breaks, meaning the tax falls on those unlucky businesses without pull or lobbyists -- that is, most of them. Those businesses grow more slowly because they have competitors with lower tax costs. They move to more tax-friendly states, or they never move to Iowa in the first place.

It doesn't have to be this way. The Tax Foundation recently released Iowa Tax Reform Options: Building a Tax System for the 21st Century. As the title implies, it offers a menu of tax reforms to make Iowa's tax system much more fair and business-friendly while still generating the same revenue as the current system.

The report offers ideas for sales tax, property tax, and inheritance taxes, but the income tax provisions are especially exciting. The most ambitious revenue-neutral plans would replace Iowa's current nine bracket individual income structure, with its top rate of 8.98 percent, with a flat 5.15 percent tax. It would replace Iowa's 12 percent corporation tax with a 6.5 percent top rate. It would do so by dumping Iowa's archaic deduction for federal taxes and by repealing the dozens of special interest business tax credits.

There will be opposition. For example, in 2015 just 8 businesses claimed 61.6% of the Research Activities Credit, the largest single business credit, to the tune of $35 million. They will be highly motivated to keep that money.

The report shows just how expensive these breaks are for the rest of us. It shows that if a repeal of special interest tax credits is combined with the end of the corporation 50 percent deduction for federal income taxes, the corporate tax can be a flat 6.5 percent. If the special interest credits are retained,  the revenue-neutral rate can only come down to 9 percent. That's a 38 percent rate increase on everyone to provide special favors for a few.

Iowa Tax Reform Options shows that we can reduce rates and greatly simplify Iowa's business taxes while retaining popular features of the current system. These include the full federal Section 179 deduction for asset purchases, single-factor apportionment of multistate income for C corporation, and Iowa's unique apportionment tax credit for S corporations.

Iowa's tax system can be much better while raising the same amount of revenue. They would improve Iowa's business tax climate from one of the worst to the 10th best. Iowa Tax Reform Options should be the basis for the tax debate in the next General Assembly.

The buyer journey and your website: Consideration

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

In April, I started a series on this blog about the buyer journey and how it impacts your website. I introduced, at a high level, what a buyer journey may look like in regards to making a purchasing decision, and outlined an example. Then, on Wednesday, I talked about stage one: discovery. If you didn’t catch those two posts, I recommend heading over to the “Web Strategy” page and catching up a bit.

All right, let’s talk stage two: consideration!

At this stage in the buyer journey, buyers know they have a solvable need, and they likely know about several companies that can address that need for them in different ways. In essence, the client has clearly defined the problem and is now in full-on research mode for the best solution. Your goal? To get them to consider YOU!

Buyer consideration and your website

If you recall, the last phase we talked about was “discovery,” or how we get potential customers to your website. To follow up on this, what we really need to talk about is what those customers are doing once they’re on your website.

Did you know that the average human has an attention span of eight seconds? That’s shorter than a goldfish (although only by one second). Think about your website -- what are you doing on your home page to keep individuals focused on your content?

This isn’t an issue we’re going to fix for you by the end of this blog. But it’s certainly a point to think about. For a casual test, I would recommend inviting a friend who’s not familiar with your website to sit down with you for coffee. Pull up your website -- for maybe 15-30 seconds, depending on how brave you are -- and take it away. Ask them what they remember. More than likely, what they remember is what attracted their attention first. Now think about it: Is their answer what you want it to be?

Attracting the attention of website visitors

I can’t emphasize this enough: PLEASE keep in mind that “attract attention” does not mean “make a button flash and change colors.” What we’re trying to address here is the question of whether your website visitors are indeed receiving the message you’re trying to send when they get to your home page.

In essence, you should be thinking about the user’s experience on your site first and foremost. Yes, you want to capture them as a lead, but if you cater to them and make their experience a good one, good things will follow.

I’ll close with one of my No. 1 pieces of advice that I give to those starting to think about website content. Granted, it’s based on personal experience, but it’s not inaccurate.

Think about the last time your boss came to you and asked you to find a new product to solve an issue occurring in your department. Maybe it’s 4:30 on a Friday, and you’re ready to head out for the week. Knowing this, they say it’s OK for you to give them a few quick options that they can review more in depth the following week.

You fire up Google, hit some search terms, and find a few websites. If you can’t find the “what we can do for you” statement within a couple of minutes of looking at the website, what will you do?

You might disregard the company completely.

Obviously this is (hopefully) a rare example. My point, of course, is that you shouldn’t try to make your visitors hunt for what they need when they’re in the consideration phase. Yes, you’ve got a lot of great content. But think about what needs to really be on that home page to pull the visitor’s interest. Then, when they come back for more, you’ll get your opportunity to really shine.

Join me for my next blog to learn how to address “decision,” and be sure to leave any questions in the comments below.


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

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Iowa marketing smarts!

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

I know it may seem weird that I am promoting another Iowa agency's work but I'm a firm believer in the idea that there are plenty of fish in the sea and when one of us does something noteworthy -- it raises the reputation of all of us.

That's why I am excited to tell you about two big deals coming out of Brand Driven Digital in Iowa City.  Agency owner Nick Westergaard just released his first book, Get Scrappy, Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small.  It's a pragmatic, fast read filled with ideas you can implement immediately.

It was just released May 16, 2016, so grab a copy before your competitor does.

Brand Driven Digital is also the host of one of the best digital marketing conferences around, Social Brand Forum. Nick and his team have created an event that is big on ideas and networking with very little fluff or ego.  It's really a not-to-be-missed event.

It's September 22-23 and the speaker list includes big names like Jay Baer (Convince and Convert), Joe Pulizzi (Content Marketing Institute) & Gina Dietrich (Arment Dietrich) to name a few.

You can view the schedule here. You can register here. Use promo code MMG to get $100 off either a full or VIP ticket.

The biggest mistake a marketer can make in today's environment is to get behind. Get Scrappy and Social Brand Forum are two ways to make sure that doesn't happen.

Courtesy of your fellow Iowans.  How cool is that?

The buyer journey and your website: Discovery

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

Last month, I started a series on this blog about the buyer journey and how it impacts your website. I introduced, at a high level, what a buyer journey may look like in regards to making a purchasing decision, and outlined an example. If you missed that, you might want to jump over to that blog and catch up before following along here.

Ready to go? Good - let’s get started on the first stage I outlined: discovery!

At this stage in the buyer journey, your potential buyer doesn’t know you exist. They may not even know they have a need you can address as a company. Typically, they’re experiencing symptoms of a problem at this stage, and are beginning research to address this problem.

Through my work with websites - both at Webspec and outside of it - I’ve found that many organizations suffer with issues related to discovery. There’s often an attitude of “if I build it, they will come!” Unfortunately, real life isn’t like Field of Dreams, and there’s a little more work to be done than hoping that users will stumble upon your website by accident.

Discovery for your website can be approached a couple of different ways. One approach relates to an overall integrated marketing strategy, while the other relates to your digital strategy, particularly, your SEO.

Active Website Promotion

When you have a website, it’s important to take the time and promote it. If people don’t know that it’s there, they may not ever go on their own! This is especially important if your company or web presence is brand new to the world. Here are a couple simple ways to do this:

  1. Include Your URL. It’s easy to forget that your URL can be a small and simple detail in any type of marketing material you produce, from flyers to T-shirts. As you create marketing collateral or agree to any type of sponsorship or advertising, make sure your URL can be - if not front and center - at least easily seen by new audiences.
  2. Claim Your Business Online. Between social media accounts, review websites, and your Google My Business page, take the time to “claim” your business profile anywhere you can. This ensures that no matter what platform they’re on, users can find you. A case could be made for not claiming every social media platform (every channel isn’t right for everyone) but that’s a discussion for another day.

Optimize Your SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a trend that isn’t going away. Luckily, business owners are starting to recognize and appreciate that fact.

What’s this “SEO” thing anyway?

If you haven’t heard the term “optimize your SEO” yet, it’s a simple concept. When you optimize your SEO, you’re working to ensure that your website ends up on page one of search results. When someone Googles your industry, service, business, or product, where do you land in the search results?

Why optimize your SEO?

Although it’s a bigger job than just promoting your website, one could argue the effects of optimizing your SEO can be both more important and longer-lasting. How many times have you Googled something already today? Amit Singhal, former senior vice president of Google Search, stated in October 2015 that Google gets over 100 billion searches a month. When an individual does a Google search, they’re actively looking to solve a problem they have, essentially creating a captive audience. Why wouldn’t you want to make sure you appear in the first page of results this person reviews?

Having worked both as an in-house marketer and in an agency, I understand how difficult and confusing the land of SEO can be. Not everyone is ready to invest in consulting to improve their SEO, however, at the very least you can make sure you’re asking your webmaster the right questions when you begin to build a new website.

“Have you considered how this sitemap will affect my SEO?”

“What kind of keyword research have you conducted to recommend the language we’re using?”

“What kind of SEO plug-in are you installing for me to update post-launch?”

These are all conversations that your firm should be able to have with you. If not, you might want to look a little harder at who you’ve hired.

Whew! That was a lot of information, huh? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take just 2 or 3 suggestions away from this blog to try and begin to implement and encourage traffic to your own website. Once you’ve gotten those done, pick a couple more. Bit by bit, you will help new users “discover” your website, and then you’ll be ready for our next stage.

Join me for my next blog to learn how to address “consideration,” and be sure to leave any questions in the comments below.

Alex-Karei_YPFinalist2016Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her via:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Passion makes the difference

- Cory W. Sharp is an intern architect at FEH Design in Des Moines and the current president of the Young Professionals Connection 

No one is ever going to have to guess whether I have a passion for architecture. 

Young CoryFrom the second I could draw, I was drawing. I loved spending time with my dad, who is an architect. I may have thought about a couple different career paths, but nothing was going to stop me once I set out to become an architect.


I love everything about the art and science of architecture. I love the first meeting with the client, hearing their dreams and ideas. I love putting those ideas on paper. I love bringing designs to life. And, I love walking around the space when it is finished.

The whole process fascinates me. I have a real passion for architecture.

I honestly believe you get out of something what you put into it. If it’s worth doing, I want to put as much into it as I can to stoke my passion.

You don't have to ask if someone's really passionate about something. It shows.

Passion is heart. Passion is genuine excitement.

Without passion, work is, well, work. It's a daily drudge, a grind that steals your energy instead of energizing you. You're just taking up space and you might as well not be there because you're not only robbing your boss of someone who could do the job better, but you're also robbing yourself.

I'm a walking proof of the old saying that if you love what you're doing you never work a day in your life.

Why would you possibly do something day after day, month after month, year after year that you're not passionate about? Why would you be in a job where you're always watching the clock instead of being lost in something you love?

If you don't love your career -- and you need to think of it as a career instead of just a job -- then don’t waste another minute deciding to do what you're going to do about it. That doesn't mean you quit on the spot. You should create a plan for success.

Just do it sooner than later. Much sooner.

Next month: Finding what makes you happy

Overcoming the safety of familiarity

- 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.

One of the things that I have struggled with in groups is shifting from my role as facilitator to observer/adviser.

A healthy part of the strategic planning process is transitioning slowly and maintaining a passive role in the development of a new board structure or processes in the event that support is needed, so that plan gets traction. This alleviates the fear of removing the support and relative safety of having a facilitator or objective third party in the room as a new structure is put in place, but it also prevents one of the most destructive influences in the strategic planning framework – backsliding.

When I am asked to work as a strategic planning consultant, it is generally to improve, refine, adapt, or create a plan that helps organizations transcend their current operational benchmarks. Generally, this includes discarding some practices that are obsolete or arcane, replacing them with strategies and tactical enhancements designed to optimize efficiency or productivity.


As I make the transition from facilitator to observer/adviser, there are behaviors that would be easy for organizations to fall back into if I simply departed following my role as the facilitator. Shared stresses brought on by a large workload, deadlines, or trying to generate new clients or workstreams are all triggers for a backslide. Pressure from existing clients or over-commitments are also potential areas of concern.

Cultural changes are hardest to enact, and these stresses make it safe to hide within the confines of the familiar, so all of the new behaviors created to implement the new plan are fragile and must be protected. How organizations do that must reflect a discipline they must be willing to administer with consistency.

In his book, True North, William George captures how one can work to prevent a relapse into past habits, referring to what Steve Jobs did to prevent the same type of backslide:

Jobs had a practice of looking in the mirror each morning and asking himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Whenever the answer was no for too many days in a row, he knew he needed a change. He said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. (George, p.191)

This is a truth not only from the standpoint of making sure the organization stays forward facing, but also plays into individual efforts in making sure that the new methods or changes wrought by the strategic planning process continue to take shape. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer made popular the belief that humans tend to act in accordance with their drive to satisfy their own motivations, which, in turn, influence the world in different ways.

Drawing back to our original thesis, there is a fragile point in the strategic planning process where the organization begins to adopt new practices and work toward assigning accountability, implementing tactics, and establishing metrics. If every member of the organization takes time to assess what they are doing in the context of how their own motivations and desires for success can support that of the greater whole, the positive influence will be widespread. Not only that, but as motivations and support mechanisms become more clear, the tendency to want to return to familiar practices will be outshined by the success rooted in following a new mission and vision framework.

I have found the most success as a consultant when I see groups that I've worked with start to exhibit confidence in using the plans we have developed together. This allows me to shift from facilitator to observer/adviser and watch the self-actualizing around a new set of systems and processes.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


For specialty retailers, Memorial Day weekend means … Christmas?

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of the Heart of Iowa Market Place in historic Valley Junction

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer for most people. If you're a specialty retailer, it should also signal the official start of your Christmas holiday season.

Don't start unpacking the holiday ornaments and stringing the lights.
Instead, you need to sit down with a pencil and paper -- or, better yet, your computer and spreadsheet -- and put together your flow chart of holiday season tasks and deadlines.

Now is the time to decide what you're going to do differently this year from last. That includes getting rid of promotions and products that didn't work, of course, but it should also include some fresh, new ideas.  Get excited. Think big. Try something that will make your customers say, "Wow" and add to the unique experience that comes when they walk through your front door.

Make sure to cover all the routine bases, too.

I'm reworking the Heart of Iowa Market Place catalog. We've always offered gift baskets during the holiday season, but we've found we need to expand our catalog distribution on a year-round basis and share a broader range of product offering with customers. That approach will give them a better idea of what we're all about well before the holiday rush.

I'll also be taking time to review our operation.

Did we have the right number of people -- and the right people -- at the right times? What's the theme and scope of our marketing effort to welcome our loyal customers back and attract new shoppers?

What products will we definitely need and can we lock them in now at a better price for delivery in November? What new products should we introduce? (Really take some time to make sure something is the right fit before going overboard on purchasing.)

Whether the product line is existing or new, what can be done to add value for the customer without adding costs? As a specialty retailer, your goal isn't to deliver the cheapest product; it's to deliver the best value to customers.

I love it when customers say, "Wow, you made things so easy." Ask yourself what you can do to make things easy for your customers and you'll keep them coming back.

If you get on top of your holiday shopping season preparations now, you'll have plenty of time to unpack those ornaments and string those lights when the time is right. You'll feel less stressed and deliver a better customer experience.

That's a wonderful holiday gift for your customers, staff and yourself -- all because you recognized that the Christmas planning season comes before the first sweet corn of summer ever reaches your table.

Is service at the tap of a finger going to rule the restaurant world?

Jessica Dunker is president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s my pizza?

A recent study from the National Restaurant Association revealed that more than a quarter of consumers would likely use a drone delivery service if their local restaurant offered the option. Forty percent of consumers ages 18 to 44 would be willing to try such “human-free” delivery while only 9 percent of those over age 65 were warm to the idea.

Seem like an absurd question to study in the first place? Not any more absurd than Uber testing “driverless” cars in Pittsburgh.

Consumer willingness to interact with technology, rather than people, for traditional customer service functions is increasing at a breakneck pace. Combine these changing attitudes with shortages in the labor pool, new wage and labor mandates, and razor thin restaurant industry margins, and suddenly investments in cutting edge tablet, kiosk, and even delivery technology don’t seem terribly far-fetched for many restaurant owners and operators.

As an example, tableside payment stations and devices, once novelties, have steadily gained consumer acceptance with 63 percent of those surveyed saying they would be willing to use such payment tools (up from 48 percent just last year). Similarly four in five consumers now say they would be willing to use self-service kiosks for ordering.

What is happening?

I would argue that as restaurant consumers we have already been “trained” to stand in line, place a food order, carry the meal to the table ourselves, fill and refill our drinks, and separate our trash from the dishes before clearing our places. It’s no great leap to think we’d be willing to key in our order and swipe a card for payment. In fact, a majority of consumers say that customer-facing technology increases convenience, speeds service and increases order accuracy. More than one-third of consumers go so far as to credit technology options as the reason they dine out, as well as order takeout and delivery more often than ever before.

I suddenly feel very old.

I will likely always fall on the side of wanting a real human being on the other side of the counter noting the fact that I "want my dressing on the side." And obviously, I believe strongly that there will always be a place for great full-service restaurants. But I think we all need to brace ourselves for fewer face-to-face, and more finger-to-screen, hospitality interactions than we ever imagined.

How the presidential election could impact your succession plans

John Mickelson, managing partner Midwest Growth Partners, is IowaBiz's blogger on succession planning. Read more about him here. Article also contributed to by MGP intern, Nolan Hellickson, a SE Polk alumni who is currently a wrestler and economics student at Harvard University.

The 2016 presidential election has been one for the ages, from boisterous personalities to outlandish scandals. Overlooked amid the hysteria surrounding the candidates is some of their policy plans, which could significantly affect succession plans for business owners.

For the purposes of this article, we will examine proposals from the two presumptive nominees, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton and Trump both propose changes to the capital gains tax rate. The capital gains tax applies to gains from the sale of capital assets, which include proceeds from selling a business.

To simplify the explanation below, we are making an assumption that the business owner is in the top income tax bracket, but this analysis can be scaled to other brackets as well.

The current policy in place is a two-tier system. Short-term capital gains (assets held for less than a year) are taxed at regular income rates, or 39.6 percent plus an additional 3.8 percent surtax from the Affordable Care Act, bringing the total to 43.4 percent. Long-term capital gains (assets held for over a year) are taxed at 23.8 percent, with the surtax included.

Clinton’s proposal lengthens the time period between the short and long-term rates, adds a 4 percent surtax for incomes over $5 million, and keeps the Affordable Care Act surtax of 3.8 percent. Her policy reclassifies short-term capital gains as gains on assets held for less than two years instead of one and taxes those at a total rate of 43.4 percent, with the surtax.

The tax decreases to 39.8 percent for assets held between two and three years, and follows with a decrease of 4 percent annually until after year six, when the rate matches today’s rates (23.8 percent) for incomes less than $5 million, or an additional 4 percent for incomes above.

Trump takes a different approach. His policy eliminates the Affordable Care Act surtax of 3.8 percent and reclassifies the highest income tax bracket to 25 percent. As a result, the short-term capital gains tax rate would be 25 percent and the long-term rate 20 percent. Trump keeps the existing one year designation to determine long-term vs. short-term.

Each candidate has social and economic rationale for why they believe their plan is best. The proposals are, of course, subject to Congressional approval.

Given the differing rates which could amount to significant differences in take-home cash from the sale of a business, it may make sense for business owners to work with their tax professional now and determine if the pending election should hasten their succession planning.

Candidate Capital Gains Tax Graph 


PCI compliance v3.2 - what's new

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

PCI Compliance Version 3.2

If you accept credit cards as part of your organization's operations, you should take note that the PCI Council recently released version 3.2 of the Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). There are quite a few changes and clarifications along with some new requirements. Before I cover what’s new with v3.2, let’s review who needs to be PCI compliant.

Who is required to be PCI compliant

If your business processes, stores or transmits any cardholder data, you must be PCI compliant. What this means is if you accept credit cards for payment via a website, telephone, in person, etc. you must comply. Even if you simply have the card numbers on file but don’t actually accept payments, you must comply. This is why the standard covers anyone who processes, stores or transmits cardholder data.

There are quite a few levels of compliance. In essence if you handle fewer than 6 million transactions annually you typically are able to self-certify using a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). There are different versions of the SAQ, which are used depending on how your organization handles credit card data.

Often organizations believe they have fully outsourced their payment processing and therefore have no internal PCI compliance requirements. This is absolutely false. There are still requirements you must meet and you should be completing a Self-Assessment Questionnaire to avoid penalties and taking on additional risk of financial liability from fraudulent charges. For those who do have responsibility to comply with PCI-DSS v3.2, here are some of the changes coming with the new version. 

The most impactful PCI Compliance updates

The biggest change is a new requirement that anyone with non-console administrative access to the cardholder data environment (CDE) must use multi-factor authentication.  The PCI Council definition of non-console administrative access is “Refers to logical access to a system component that occurs over a network interface rather than via a direct, physical connection to the system component. Non-console access includes access from within local/internal networks as well as access from external, or remote, networks.” This means even local domain or network administrators who are not sitting at the keyboard of the system they are administering must be authenticated via multiple factors. 

This is a very big change.  It will require most organizations to implement additional controls and possibly re-architect some of their infrastructure to allow this to occur. This becomes effective Feb. 1, 2018.

Another evolving requirement is that your change management process must address how any changes to the CDE will impact PCI requirements.  In the past, the change simply had to be addressed through the process. Now, an impact assessment must accompany this change.  For some changes this will be simple and easy to document. Others will require more detailed documentation. This should have been done in the past but it frequently was very informal. This will force the impact of these changes to be formally discussed and documented. This becomes a requirement on Feb. 1, 2018.

Many of the other changes are simple clarifications that either reinforce the existing requirements or provide additional flexibility in how the requirements can be met. The majority of these changes go into effect immediately as all assessments after Oct. 31, 2016 will use the v3.2 requirements. Compliance with PCI-DSS is becoming harder and harder. Organizations should expect additional information security and privacy legislation from the government as well as enhanced requirements from private sector groups.


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

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

The costs of the label game

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

Jane Elliott was a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Ia.  Following the assassination in 1968 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., prominent civil rights movement leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Elliott decided to teach her students about discrimination with a controversial experiment.

She segregated her students based on their eye color. The activity was designed to demonstrate the experience of being a member of a minority group. Beyond an appreciation for the experience of African Americans, the labeling activity held insightful lessons in how all people respond to how they are treated.

The experiment

In the first part of the exercise, Elliott assigned the role of “superior people” to the blue-eyed students giving them extra privileges such as a longer recess, special access to playground equipment, extra helpings at lunch, and full use of the water fountain. 

So that eye color could be quickly assessed from a distance, she had the brown-eyed students wear large, visible collars around their necks. To make the case that blue-eyed people were superior, she pointed out mistakes made by brown-eyed children as evidence of their inferiority and chastised them. She highlighted and celebrated achievements of the blue-eyed children as proof that they were smarter and better people. 

In the second part of the exercise she reversed the roles.  

The results

The students in each group responded to how they were treated. The “superior” students became bossy and treated the “inferior” group poorly. Their performance on tests and tasks improved significantly – beyond their previously demonstrated abilities. The “inferior” students became withdrawn and their performance on tests dropped. 

The performance effect was particularly stunning as it correlated directly to how the students were treated. The blue-eyed students, when labeled inferior, were retested on the same activity they performed the previous day when they had been labeled superior. Their performance dropped markedly. The performance of the brown-eyed students on the same task improved on the second day when their label changed from inferior to superior.

The changes were immediate and profound. Within a span of minutes, the environment created by the teacher transformed the behavior of the students. A viewing of the PBS Frontline documentary, A Class Divided, allows viewers to observe firsthand how these children responded to how they were treated. Everyone exposed to this experience, even viewers decades later, is impacted in a significant way. It is heartbreaking to watch previously confident and outgoing children isolate themselves on the school grounds after being labeled as inferior a short time earlier.

Her “blue-eyes/brown-eyes” exercise is credited for making Jane Elliott famous, earning her the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education and launching an impressive international public speaking and training career in diversity education. 

Back at home, the reach of the experiment extended beyond the classroom activity and had a substantial impact on how Elliott herself was treated by her peer group and many members of the community. Possibly because of the young age of the students involved in the activity, the exercise did not make her popular in Riceville – at least not in the short-term. After an appearance on the Tonight Show, teachers walked out of the teachers’ lounge when Elliott arrived.  Her daughter was taunted with hate messages in her junior high school. 

In the business world

Social media tagDoes an experiment involving children have any material insight for business professionals?

When organizations divide people into like groups, separate them from each other and attach labels to them, they are creating an environment not dissimilar from the environment Jane Elliott created for her students.

That is precisely what leaders do when they create functional areas within the business, designate work areas for various groups and assign department labels.

  • Those sales people…
  • Those engineers…
  • Those IT people…
  • Those executives…
  • Those administrative people…
  • Those accountants…

It is no surprise that people in departments treat other groups within the company as if they were competitors.  Name calling, stereotyping, self-promotion and denigrating others are just a few of the common behaviors that exist when the inevitable effect of The Label Game is allowed to flourish.

It isn’t easy. It makes business sense to have all the accountants working in a common area.  It makes sense to have all the sales people functioning together in a sales department. Creating a laboratory environment for researchers and technicians to collaborate closely together is a good business practice. Assigning call center staff to different areas around the organization would be inefficient and confusing. 

A caution for leaders

Because organizations employ people who are different from each other in numerous ways, virtually every organization is at risk. Leaders must be keenly attuned to the potential negative consequences of labeling in the workplace and work to ensure that they don’t contribute to the problem. Leaders are wise to look for and create opportunities for mutual respect across work groups and departments.

What the blue-eyes, brown-eyes experiment teaches us is labels matter. You tend to get what you expect. As leaders, if we expect people to be bored, sluggish and lazy, we will treat them that way and probably get that kind of behavior from them. If we expect them to be motivated, excited, and interested, we will treat them accordingly and probably find that they are excited and motivated.

While the research is mixed on whether or not Elliott’s experiment in discrimination reduces long-term prejudice, what is clear is that her experiment is conclusive in proving that people respond to how they are treated. A leader (in this case, a classroom teacher) entrusted with the care of others, is able to influence the behaviors of people interacting.

How can these insights inform how you lead?

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

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Website: www.tero.com

3 ways your small business can afford public relations

- Dawn Buzynski, executive director of Public Relations at Strategic America, writes this guest opinion on public relations.

I consistently find myself trying to educate clients on the necessity of public relations. Many don’t find it's necessary and small business owners often find it difficult to justify spending money on public relations in their already slim marketing budget. My response is this — you can’t afford NOT to have a public relations strategy.

Why public relations is important
Very simply, public relations is building trust. Public relations is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the public (customers, groups, businesses) that you depend on for your success. Like any mutually beneficial relationship, you need to nurture it.  One of the challenges of small business marketing is that the CEO/owner wears many hats. Of all the responsibilities weighing on them, public relations tends to be the one that gets ignored. This is where having a public relations agency is valuable.

Right size your public relations budget
Many believe PR is just too expensive. The truth is public relations is very scalable. The important thing is that your PR objectives are realistic with what you are comfortable spending, and that they align with your business goals. You don’t have to break the bank to make an impact. In fact, here are three strategies that can have big impact with minimal investment.

Social media and storytelling
News flash – social media is free. Mostly. What it does take is time. If you are going to spend the time, make sure you have a defined strategy will measurable goals and realistic expectations. With that strategy, develop content for at least six months starting out. You should be posting content to Facebook and microsites daily. Blogs should have a new post each week. Then you need to watch the engagement and authentically talk to those who post on your wall. Engagement drives shares, which extends your reach. As I said, it takes time, but the payoff is huge.

Community involvement
Corporate Social Responsibility is one of those overused terms, but when you truly embrace the spirit of charitable giving, CSR is a strong public relations strategy. So with that in mind, reach out within your local community and engage a nonprofit or charitable organization. With this type of PR strategy, it is important that the partnership be authentic, so do your homework and choose an organization that aligns with your business values and principles.
As an example, last spring Strategic America recently celebrated our 35th anniversary. To commemorate the event, the entire agency spent the day packaging 35,000 meals for Meals from the Heartland. Although the purpose was not to gain media attention, we sent out a release with photos to Central Iowa media and received good coverage, including a feature interview on a local morning show.

Employee engagement
Your employees are your best advocates. Word of mouth is still the most credible advertising there is. So let them be your brand voice. Make sure you involve them in your marketing and PR initiatives, and listen to their ideas. Think win-win.

Whether you’re just launching your small business or you want to expand into new markets, public relations is a purposeful strategy in your business plan that should not be left out of the budget.

Dawn Buzynski leads the award-winning public relations team at Strategic America. Dawn is an accredited public relations practitioner (APR) with nearly 15 years of experience in public relations and marketing. Previous to joining Strategic America, Dawn spent seven years focused on B2B public relations for industrial clients. She is former president of the Iowa chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. A graduate of Iowa State University, she lives in West Des Moines with her husband and two daughters.


When LLC owners are personally liable

- Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

Entrepreneurs and business owners often elect to create a formal business entity, such as a limited liability company ("LLC"), to shield themselves from personal liability.  In other words, they create such an entity to ensure that if an adverse court judgment is entered in relation to the business' activities (e.g. breach of contract; slip & fall; infringement, etc.), the judgment is solely collectible against the LLC and not against the individual owner(s) in their personal capacity.  

A recent Iowa Court of Appeals case illustrates that limited liability is not an "automatic" benefit conferred upon business owners when creating an LLC. Specifically, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined that while business owners may set up a new entity (e.g. LLC), creation alone is not the only factor a court will assess when determining whether a business owner may be personally liable. In rendering its opinion, the Court identified six different factors a court may consider when determining whether to hold a business owner in an LLC personally liable: 

Factors that would support such a finding include [whether] (1) the corporation is undercapitalized; (2) it lacks separate books; (3) its finances are not kept separate from individual finances, or individual obligations are paid by the corporation; (4) the corporation is used to promote fraud or illegality; (5) corporate formalities are not followed; and (6) the corporation is a mere sham.

Keith Smith Co. v. Bushman, 873 N.W.2d 776 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015)

While no one factor is determinative, these factors illustrate various characteristics an Iowa court will consider in determining whether to "pierce the corporate veil" and hold a business owner personally liable. The Bushman case is yet another important reminder that while formally establishing an LLC is a great first step in seeking limited liability, it is not the only step.

To learn more about piercing the corporate veil and personal liability protections afforded under Iowa law, consider contacting a licensed attorney and see the business law articles linked below:

(1)  As an Owner, am I Liable for the Debts of my Iowa Limited Liability Company?

(2)  Holding A Corporation's Owners Personally Liable - Piercing the Corporate Veil in an Iowa Corporation.

(3)  Are Shareholders in Small Family Businesses Personally Liable for Business Debts and Liabilities? 


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