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August 2016

Appreciating Philip Glass

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

At the risk of writing an esoteric entry this month, I would like to explore something I discovered recently while watching a documentary on Netflix. Philip Glass is an American composer, arguably the one who has had the most impact on modern classical music in the later part of the 20th century. Both as a musician and an architect, I had, until recently, struggled with his music. Philipglass120206_560

Glass uses what he calls “repetitive structures” in his music. In fact, his compositions are very easy to identify as a result of this. I found the repetition somewhat unappealing, anticipating a more conventional musical structure to develop - surely there would be a change in melody or tempo – something to add interest or embedded mechanisms or cues to keep the listener engaged. The documentary opened my eyes to something that I had not considered. Glass’s music is meant as an exploration; not simply repetitive constructs and endless arpeggios, but manifestations of his minimalistic style.

I started really thinking about this. Many of the frustrations that organizations experience with strategy consultants resemble my initial frustrations with Mr. Glass. Organizations hire consultants to help with strategic conversations and often get the same results, from very similar processes, and start to get desensitized.

This creates an uphill battle for me as consultant. Inherently, those who have experienced the aforementioned fatigue with a common or standardized strategy process are skeptical of doing planning work at all. They might argue that the sessions are “soft” or “touchy-feely” and resist engaging in the process at all, citing “wasted time” or “useless results”. Much like how I felt about the music of Philip Glass.

I was wrong. I’m not advocating for the common and standardized processes mentioned above, but what I do think has value is being able to make the distinction between a strategy process that will yield implementable results and one that will not.

I have designed and used planning modules that may, at first glance, seem simple. But, like the “repetitive structures” of Philip Glass’s music, there is a lot more there. Data exist, in layers, brought out by the nuance of conversation, exchange of ideas, and a framework for collaborative iteration and aggregation of motivations, objectives, mission, and perspective. It is the job of the facilitator to be able to listen the right way, to the right “notes”, and piece together a composition that reflects a useful, purposeful, and readily accessible and implementable strategy document.


As I sit here and type this blog post out, I am still struck by the positive tension that was created by the additional layer of understanding that led to the newfound appreciation I have for Glass’s music. How the evolution of my perception moved from a lack of appreciation for a stylistic approach to one of admiration for the rigor and commitment to a specific art form.

Both as a strategy consultant (and for that matter, as an architect), my job vacillates between art and science. The workshop of ideas that is afforded by respect and adherence to a useful strategic development framework makes success possible where it would otherwise not be. It’s the difference between looking at a page of sheet music and seeing music instead of a collection of notes. You may not notice until someone tries to play them, but, when they do - the distinction will be obvious.

 Please contact me for more information:Joe _Benesh_2011


 For updates on strategy and all our latest content, please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


Airbnb might get you extra cash, but it won't help your income tax bill.

20150810-2Renting your home out when you're away isn't new. An uncle who was an out-of-state high school track coach for years made an annual pilgrimage to Des Moines for the Drake Relays. He always rented the same house South of Grand, and the owner conveniently went to Florida for Relays Week to spend that rent.

What is new are services like Airbnb and VRBO.com that match up travelers and folks willing to rent their home, or maybe a spare bedroom. They makes it easier to earn a little side money out of the most expensive asset most people have.

Such rentals also mean new tax issues for the hosts.

While the tax law may allow real estate operators to deduct losses attributable to their rental properties under the right circumstances, things are different for taxpayers leasing their homes.

A special code Section, Sec. 280A, strictly limits deductions from a "residence." If you rent out a “residence,” you can’t deduct rental losses beyond the amount of rent you receive.

Worse, you have to allocate the property taxes and mortgage interest that you can deduct anyway to the time the property is rented before you can deduct anything else — say, utilities or depreciation. If the amount of interest and taxes allocated to rental exceeds rental income, you’re done — your other expenses aren’t deductible.

What is a "residence," anyway? One California taxpayer logically noted in Tax Court that if he was renting out the whole house while he was away, he certainly was not "residing" there that particular moment, so he wasn't subject to the Sec. 280A limits on residential losses. Nice try, that.

Section 280A(d) has a specific definition of "residence":

(1) In general For purposes of this section, a taxpayer uses a dwelling unit during the taxable year as a residence if he uses such unit (or portion thereof) for personal purposes for a number of days which exceeds the greater of—

(A) 14 days, or

(B) 10 percent of the number of days during such year for which such unit is rented at a fair rental.

For purposes of subparagraph (B), a unit shall not be treated as rented at a fair rental for any day for which it is used for personal purposes. 

So the computation is based on the use for the whole year. If you live in the house at least 10 percent of the number of days you rent it out during the year, or for at least 14 days if that's more than 10 percent of the rental days, it’s your residence, as far as the tax law is concerned. That means it applies to a lot of taxpayers with vacation homes.

Section 280A isn’t all bad news for taxpayers. It also provides that if you rent out a house for less than 15 days during the year, you don’t get to deduct any rental expenses, but you don’t have to include any rent you receive in income either.

Of course, the tax law isn't the only complication for would-be Airbnb hosts. West Des Moines strictly limits the ability of its residents to have paid house guests, and Waukee is considering similarly restrictions. That's too bad, as such restrictions needlessly interfere with the ability of homeowners to defray their ownership costs with rent-paying housesitters.

Is Pokemon Go just a poke in your eye?

IMG_8154 (1) - Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In July of this year -- the world experienced a phenomenon that we are still trying to process. Pokemon Go. The game is already (in less than 2 months) the most downloaded app in iTunes history and the owners (Niantic and Nintendo) are enjoying about a $1.6 million dollar take every single day.

But what does any of this mean to the average business?  We've all read the stories of players falling off cliffs, playing during a funeral and even hunting pokemons at the Holocaust Museum

Is it ridiculous? Is it inappropriate? Sure. I'm not going to make excuses for stupid or insensitive. But it is clear that the game is breaking new ground and has already captured a significant portion of the globe's population. Don't believe me? Go down to the Sculpture Park any time of night or day and you will be amazed at the numbers of people there, all walking the park and capturing pokemons on their smart phones.

In terms of what Pokemon means to businesses and marketing -- there are two distinct camps. Those who do not want people hunting pokemon near their location and those who very much do want that. There are perfectly valid reasons 

I have some advice for both.

If you do not want people playing Pokemon Go on your property/store/location: The question is how do you do this without looking like a curmudgeon who hates fun?  

  • Be nonjudgmental in how you communicate your request that they play somewhere else.
  • Give them suggestions on where else nearby to play/catch pokemons.
  • Provide context as to why you'd rather they not play in your space.

On the flip side, if you'd like to use Pokemon Go to attract people to your business:

  • Create specials. (Show us your pokedex for a discount, discounts for players at a certain level or with a specific Pokemon in the pokedex.)
  • Buy/launch lures at pokestops near your location.
  • Watch for the opportunity to create special events/stops down the road. (The company says they are coming.)
  • Post signs if you're a site that spawns a rare Pokemon or if that is happening nearby.
  • Play along -- join in the conversation and connect with your customers at a different level.

On the one hand, this seems silly, doesn't it? Seriously -- we're planning our communications messages around a game? Maybe it will blow over. (W.when was the last time you heard an Angry Birds mention?) But for now, it's a cultural trend/reality.

Our businesses don't exist in a vacuum and the smartest marketers know to pay attention to what has captured their audience's attention. It's hard to deny that this might matter, at least in the short run.




What is the goal of a minimum wage hike?

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

The Polk County Supervisors appear poised to follow the lead of Linn and Johnson counties in raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour. The change, to $10.75 per hour, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019; the idea being the Iowa Legislature would have an opportunity to act first by raising the rate statewide.

But what is the goal of a minimum wage hike? Because the Polk County task force began its work based on the assumption there would be an increase (the only question being how much), there never was a discussion of goals, or whether a minimum wage hike is the best way to accomplish them. It’s a relevant discussion, even if the Polk County Supervisors don’t have the power to implement other options. Certainly if the Iowa Legislature eventually feels compelled to act, the discussion is essential.

So what is the underlying goal of minimum wage discussions, and what does the research indicate?

If the goal is to reduce poverty, or the incidence of families living in poverty, a minimum wage increase is indeed a blunt instrument, and there is a better tool.

According to data cited in a December 2015 paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, “a sizable share of the benefits from raising the minimum wage would not go to poor families. In fact, if wages were simply raised to $10.10 with no changes to number of jobs or hours, only 18 percent of the total increase in incomes would go to poor families, based on 2010-2014 data.” (1)

According to the paper, this is because:

  • Many nonelderly poor families (57 percent) have no workers;
  • Some workers are poor because of low hours, not low wages; for example 36 percent have hourly wages above $12; and
  • Many low-wage workers, such as teens, are not in poor families.

The paper goes on to point out that 49 percent of the benefits would go to families that have incomes below twice the poverty line. Some 32 percent would go to families in the low-income range, but with with incomes at least three times the poverty line. 

Others, including the San Francisco Federal Reserve paper and a Feb. 6, 2016 Des Moines Register guest opinion written by Steve Hensley (2), suggest a better approach for reducing poverty would be to increase the earned income tax credit (EITC).

A full-time minimum wage worker in Iowa with two children already receives checks from the state and federal governments that together raise family income above the poverty level. The EITC could be increased and potentially expanded to include single-individual households. Because our state and federal tax systems are progressive, these costs would be borne by higher income taxpayers. And all of the benefit would go to the target population.

In contrast, many business owners who employ minimum wage workers are operating close to the margin. They are not well positioned to finance an income redistribution program, especially when so little of the benefit is actually reducing poverty and so much is actually going to higher income families.

If the Iowa Legislature does believe that government should do more to move people out of poverty, let’s hope they begin with the end in mind, and fairly evaluate all options.

Correction: An error in the date and the amount of the minimum wage in this blog when it was first published has been corrected. 

Free trade as straw man

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

It's fashionable this election season to be anti-trade.  That's not just naive. That's dangerous.

In a politico-cultural soup of an election season with an otherwise yawning lack of substance, a raging policy Shutterstock_295357133 debate about the future of free trade has taken a strikingly prominent role. Not since the 1992 election, when the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] was being publicly litigated -- thanks in large part to Ross Perot’s “giant
 sucking sound
” description of the trade pact -- has trade played so significant a role in public political discourse. 

What distinguishes the Bush 41 – Clinton campaign and 2016, though, is the fact that the two major party candidates in 1992 were firmly pro-trade and today Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both -- bewilderingly -- proudly anti-trade. 

This is not a minor phenomenon; the default position for virtually every serious contender for the office of the presidency in the modern era has been one of strong support for trade, and for good reason.  Today the free trade agreements the U.S. has with 20 countries around the world account for nearly half of America’s exports. 

Somehow, dispensing with $1.2 trillion, which is how much of the $2.3 trillion in total export activity the U.S. would lose out annually in export activity if those agreements disappeared today, has become a winner of a position in today’s theater of the absurd presidential contest.

All this candidate trade rancor and empty rhetoric is dangerous to the ability of any American community, region or state to compete for new investment, jobs and research from companies and institutions which are, whether our presidential candidates like it or not, complex and global, and that’s not going to change. 

Econ 101

Take yourself back to your college microeconomics class. What is trade, and what does it do? Trade is, of course, Hesiod-sm the buying and selling of goods and services in a competitive marketplace. Trade permits specialization, which drives down input costs [plumbers plumb; programmers program] and serves as the framework for a competitive marketplace. In a competitive trade scenario, buyers -- and sellers, crucially -- benefit by way of respective surpluses. A ‘buyer surplus’ provides the buyer a net monetary benefit if she was able to purchase a product or service for less than she was prepared to pay, and a ‘seller surplus’ provides the seller a net monetary benefit if she was able to sell the product for more than she requires to continue operating. 

All this is to say trade, at its most fundamental level, improves welfare; it’s a basic economic law. Trade creates wealth, for buyers and for sellers. That’s everyone. Ancient philosopher Hesiod ably put it: "Through work men grow rich in flocks and substance."

Are there real and widening imbalances in wealth in this country?  Absolutely. Is multinational trade the major cause of it? Probably not. On average workers in manufacturing in this country whose jobs depend on exports earn an average of 18 percent more than other workers. 11 million U.S. workers and at least 1 million farmers directly benefit at an earnings level thanks to this premium. In the U.S., multinational companies pay, on average, 25 percent more than the mean and are the source of more than 80 percent of private-sector R&D.

American farmers have increased their exports to free-trade partners to $56 billion, up 130 percent since 2003. Closer to home in Iowa, where one of every three acres of crops planted in our country is for export, $15 billion in Iowa goods were exported in 2014 by more than 3,400 Iowa companies, 81 percent of which were small companies. 108,000 Iowa jobs were supported by exports in 2014.  In our great state, opposing trade simply does not comport with economic growth reality.

A short diversion to monetary policy

Despite how unprecedented it is to have two major party presidential candidates in the anti-trade column, there is at least one benefit to the raising of trade in the national discourse as an issue of concern: it’s placed a spotlight on global currency policy, traditionally an opaque, sleepy area of concern reserved for central bankers and economists.

While currency ‘manipulation’ by China is the fashionable villain in the narrative of a troublesome strong dollar, as Judy Shelton points out in her Aug. 10 Wall Street Journal commentary, currency imbalance today is about more than China.

The "shortcomings of our present international monetary system --volatility, persistent imbalances, currency mismatches -- which testify to its dysfunction. Indeed, today’s hodgepodge of exchange-rate mechanisms is routinely described as a non-system,” she writes.  Shelton argues that in today’s effectively lawless international monetary arena, nations are incentivized to establish isolationist exchange-rate policy, which contributes to a winner-take-all monetary infrastructure in which central banks play an outsized role, playing whack-a-mole in addressing rolling economic crises the world over.

“It is one thing to lose sales to a foreign competitor whose product delivers the best quality for the money,” Shelton writes. “[I]t’s another to lose sales as a consequence of an unforeseen exchange-rate slide that distorts the comparative prices of competing goods.” 

Fair point.

Back to trade.

So what happened? How have we become a country in which our two major-party leaders can safely criticize free trade and the treaties and agreements which undergird it as ‘a mistake’ [Clinton, in 2008, on NAFTA] and ‘horrible’ [Trump, 2015, on the Trans Pacific Partnership deal]? 

What’s happened, I guess, is Americans who are busy living their lives have begun, amidst so much political noise, to resignedly accept irresponsible trade-bashing rhetoric from political leaders as an accurate reflection of the cause of a general lack of net global economic growth in real income terms for many years. The reality, though, is that were it not for the free trade pacts which help orchestrate literally trillions of dollars of export income for U.S. companies, we would be in a much deeper, almost difficult to comprehend place of economic malaise today. Economic developers like me would have much less to do.

The good news

There is good news. Americans, by and large, don’t agree with the irresponsible anti-trade positions of the two major party candidates.  A July NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 55 percent of voters think free trade is good for America. Thirty-eight percent consider it damaging. An October 2015 poll by Gallup found that only 18 percent of Americans would support leaving NAFTA.

Aggregate polling on TPP suggests that more than three Americans support the deal for every one who opposes it. It is quite possible that on the other side of this election we'll see the prominence of trade bashing become more marginalized in the public discourse, creating bandwidth to debate the real issues contributing to doggedly weak national growth. Economic development efforts across the country, including right here in the Cultivation Corridor, would only see benefit from such a pivot.

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

Pokemon Go - cybersecurity threat?

Pokemon_go_logo- Dave Nelson, CISSP, is president and CEO at Integrity.

It seems harmless right? Just a way to burn off a little steam.  Simply download this little app and go capture some Pokemon.  Whew…don’t you feel better now? Great, glad to hear it. By the way, all of your company’s servers have just been compromised and your email system was hacked.

Yes, it is just that simple. Mobile apps are a real threat to the information security of every organization. According to Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigation Report, data breaches from mobile devices such as smartphones were not a significant threat last year. However, there are known exploit packs available and as smartphones increasingly take on daily computing functions, it is only a matter of time until a major data breach occurs due to a smartphone hack.

There are three areas of concern when using mobile apps. First is the proliferation of fake apps. Because apps are often restricted by device type, operating system version, country of origin, etc., there are many fake apps in the app stores. These applications are often filled with malware and malicious tools. Users who are not paying attention or have problems downloading the original app can end up welcoming this malware into their mobile phone.

A second problem is how users authenticate to the application. When the app allows users to use their Apple ID, Google ID or Microsoft ID, the manner in which the permissions for those logins requires close inspection. For instance, when released, the Pokemon Go app allowed users to login using their Google ID.  The app requested far more permissions than needed, which gave the creators of Pokemon Go full access to your Google Mail, Drive, Calendar, Docs and other site features. Wow…talk about an invasion of privacy and huge security breach. If your company uses Google products for any of its confidential data, you effectively gave the folks at Pokemon Go full access to your confidential information.

The last concern I want to cover is the permission level of the mobile app itself. Does it have the ability to access protected storage? Can it access stored credentials on the device? Can it record keystrokes, voice commands, search strings, etc. All of these could send confidential data back to an application developer and give them full access, not just to the device itself, but potentially to your internal network or virtual private network (VPN) used for remote access. Whoops again…

As you can see, there are real dangers from mobile apps. To date, there have not been many reports of data breaches from this threat angle, however, it’s simply a matter of time. Organizations need to remain vigilant in restricting access for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs and implementing strong controls for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Don’t let the Pokemon capture you or your company.

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com Dave-Nelson-2015

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: https://integritysrc.com

Find your energy vampires

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger. He writes about sustainable construction and design.

Vampires suck the life out of a person, but by day look harmless.  Much like energy vampires.

Energy vampires are all those devices in your home that are never truly off.  You can tell by the glow of the green light.  In fact I don’t need night lights in my house because of the glowing green light from the TVs, receiver, radio, and more.

Why do we have devices with standby power?  Anything waiting for a click of a remote or a continuous display like the “ON” button.  Sometimes you cannot even tell.

The worse of the devices are digital cable boxes with DVR which in “OFF” mode could use 350 KWH and cost about $30 per year.  Doesn’t seem like a lot but my home energy bill is relatively small.  If you add up all the devices it could be 5-10 percent of my total bill.

What can you do?

  • Use a plug strip at locations where many devices are located.  All my stereo equipment is now hooked into my flat screen so I get to turn off power to TV, amplifier, CD player, and Blu-ray player with one switch.
  • Unplug the device if it is not used much like the CD player and TV in the guest bedroom.
  • Buy a little device that measures exactly how many watts your electronics consume while “OFF”.
  • Buy ENERGY STAR products that might reduce the standby power consumption to 1 watt instead of 10-20 watts.

Let me know if you have any great ways to stomp out energy vampires.  Email me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Speak with — not at — clients

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

It’s Monday morning. I arrive at the office — coffee in tow — sidle up to my standing desk, and flip open the MacBook only to be greeted by a gaggle of junk mail littering my inbox. Each one of them staring back at me with a defiant grin, knowing full well that I didn’t sign up for that newsletter.

As a business owner I’d rather not be viewed in the same light as these big-box retailers or marketing bots that force-feed me emails every day.

I sure don’t want to be “that guy” contributing to the disheveled-inbox epidemic plaguing the nation. Well, it turns out that many business owners share my opinion. Some even take it as far as contracting “communication paralysis” by refusing to reach out to their clients altogether.

This strategy isn’t just unimaginative, it’s also costly. Research shows that regular and meaningful communication is the most effective way of maintaining relationships, increasing retention and capturing word-of-mouth referrals. So switching off the voice box isn’t a good idea. Rather than reducing the frequency of touch-points, focus on increasing their quality.

If you’ve ever taken a road trip with children, you've surely experienced voices emanating from the backseat: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” The knee-jerk reaction is to plead for silence, but consider for a moment, what if the incessant chants were replaced with reciprocal dialogue. You’d likely find value in a meaningful conversation if the kids produced something other than noise.

Similarly, the key to communicating successfully with your clients is encouraging two-way conversation. Make them feel like you are speaking with them, not at them. Clients are smart enough to differentiate an obligatory email blast from something more personal and genuine. If you don’t bark at them from the proverbial backseat, they’ll be happy to hear from you.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Perhaps the most effective way of opening a dialogue with clients is by utilizing the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a single-question inquiry used to gauge the loyalty for individual clients. The NPS asks clients to rate an agency from 0 to 10 by asking “How likely is it that you would recommend (x business) to a friend or colleague?” Respondents are grouped into three categories based on their score: Promoters (9-10), Passives (7-8), Detractors (0-6).

The NPS was developed in 2003 by business strategist Fred Reichheld as a metric to determine the overall loyalty of a company’s client base. Fred found that — unlike client sentiment measured by traditional satisfaction surveys — client loyalty was directly linked to referrals, retention and repeat business.

Because of its simplicity, the NPS survey yields a higher-than-average response rate. At Rocket Referrals, for example, 40% of surveyed clients give a score rating — with the majority expounding on their response with additional feedback.

Furthermore, segmenting clients based on their loyalty allows for more personalized and purpose-driven communication. Detractors, for example, should be given a phone call to resolve any issues before they defect. The NPS can be used as a vehicle to directly drive favorable behavior from your clients. We call this the “NPS Process,” which is essentially the method of leveraging the high response rate of the NPS to influence additional action, including the collection of positive testimonials, referrals and online reviews.

How to communicate

Routine touch-points throughout the year will dramatically increase the chances that your clients not only stick with you, but also refer you when the time is right. Every touch-point you deliver plays a huge role in reinforcing your brand and the perception of your business. The idea here is to keep you “top of mind.” Remind them that you’re working behind the scenes and providing an ongoing service.

When implementing this strategy, I’m not suggesting that you ignore your detractors and neutral clients — rather, that you communicate with them differently. For example, the last thing you want to do is speak to disgruntled customers as if they think highly of you (it’s impersonal, even condescending, and it shows you didn’t pay attention to their feedback). Tailor your communication based on each client’s NPS response. Begin with your best promoters (the 10s) and work your way down from there. This strategy will get you the best bang for your buck when reaching out to your clients. It’ll allow you to remain cost-effective, while sending quality, personalized communication.

Business 'divorce' and discounts

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. PGP_1038


Ownership in a business (whether a limited liability company or a corporation) is often shared among many individuals.

As a result, in businesses across Iowa most owners do not control and do not own more than half of the business. In other words, they are noncontrolling owners, bound by the "vows" they've accepted in the business's governing documents.

In the eyes of a court, such owners are often referred to as "minority owners." Unfortunately, in the same manner that some married couples seek a divorce before a court, so too do business owners appear before a court seeking divorce from their fellow owners.

In a business divorce, however, a court is not calculating alimony or child custody; rather, it is often valuing ownership in the business. During this valuation process, majority owners frequently seek to impose a minority or "lack-of-control" discount on the value of the minority owners' interest.

Consequently, a familiar question frequently arises both in and out of court: Should minority discounts apply in such circumstances?

Iowa's appellate courts have repeatedly found minority or "lack-of-control" discounts do not apply when valuing a minority owner's interest in such cases. In fact, in July the Iowa Court of Appeals reiterated this important point when it clearly stated "the fair value of (the minority shareholder's) shares should not include a minority discount." Baur v. Baur Farms, Inc., No. 14-1412, 2016 WL 4036105, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. July 27, 2016) (emphasis added).

In reaching its decision, the Iowa Court of Appeals relied upon the Iowa Supreme Court and its prior holdings, which provide in relevant part: "(O)ur legislature made a policy decision when it adopted the current definition of “fair value.” By not allowing a discount for lack of marketability or minority status ..."  Nw. Inv. Corp. v. Wallace, 741 N.W.2d 782, 787–88 (Iowa 2007); "Such a discount in effect would let the majority force the minority out without paying it its fair share of the value of the corporation." Sec. State Bank, Hartley, Iowa v. Ziegeldorf, 554 N.W.2d 884, 889 (Iowa 1996).

In sum, before divorcing your business partner and selling your shares in an Iowa business at a discount, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney.  

Give your project the time it deserves

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

Pokemon_GoYou’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard the phrase “Pokémon Go” in the past few weeks. Even if you don’t own a smartphone, it’s hard to miss the crowds of teens (and adults) wandering around the Pappajohn Sculpture Park at all hours of the day.

Whether you love it or not—most people have a pretty strong opinion on this issue—there’s no denying that the app’s popularity has exploded beyond what many might have imagined.

As this popularity has continued to expand, it’s easy to compare the seemingly overnight success of the app with what your brand might be doing in its marketing. After all, Pokémon, while popular in the '90s, has maintained a somewhat lower, albeit steady, awareness level in recent years. Then suddenly they release an app that quickly amasses +100 million downloads out of nowhere. What?

However, like anything else, there’s more to the story behind the app than most people know.

For instance, did you know that much of the data that went into building the game’s Pokestop and gym locations was built up by a previous game, launched back in 2011? Five years ago, Niantic (the creators of Pokémon Go) released a beta of Ingress, an augmented-reality multiplayer game with some similar gameplay to Pokémon Go. Additional data beyond this then helped Pokémon Go with one of the most fun aspects of the game: sorting out which Pokemon appeared where.

There’s more to the story, which I’d encourage you to Google, but my point is this: Niantic didn’t wake up one day, magically have the idea for Pokemon Go, and knock out the entire app in six months. At a minimum, without data from five years ago, the game wouldn’t have been able to exist in its current form.

It’s not uncommon for a client to come to Webspec with an idea that they’d love to become viral quickly. Obviously, we’d all love that for you as well! But great work isn’t quite that easy. You’ve probably all seen this concept, but it can be looked over quickly when pushed to meet a deadline.


Next time you’ve decided to take on a new website, application or digital project, I’d encourage you to keep this in mind, and if needed, share the example of Pokémon Go. You don’t always need five years to make your idea stellar, but you’d be surprised how many marketing managers I speak with who are given unrealistic deadlines for their projects.

Good work takes time, and it often isn’t cheap. Give your grand ideas the time and attention they’re worth, and you’ll reap the benefits. I’m not promising millions of downloads, but even one-tenth of that success wouldn’t be too shabby now, would it?

Logo property of The Pokémon Company International.


Alex-Karei_YPFinalist2016Alex is the marketing & communications 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

Reaching higher

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

When Juan urgently showed up at my office with his son in tow, I knew they came to discuss an important decision.

Juan sat down heavily into my office chair, sighed, and said, "I have to close my store. Junior does not want it."

Juan is 69 and has been running a local grocery store for the last 25 years. Business has always been good, and his only son, Junior, practically grew up in the store. Junior has always been the most reliable helper for Juan.

Now Junior is a handsome 18-year-old high school student with an academic record that can easily ship him to the East Coast. Junior helped with translation whenever Juan came to the office to see me. I noticed that Junior has always dressed professionally to come to my office. He carries himself and speaks like a professional. Recently Junior had called me a couple of times about his college applications.

Today Junior wore a white and blue Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt and a pair of black frame Miu Miu glasses. Behind those glasses, I saw worry in his eyes.

Junior said, “Sorry Ying, we have to come to talk to you because I think you know what is going on. You know, I do not want to be like my Dad, and I want to go to school. I really appreciate what my mom and dad gave me, but I do not want to just work in the store. I have better and bigger things to do and to learn."

“OK,” I said. Looking at Juan, I saw that he was looking away. I understood why, but in my heart I was happy for Junior. There was a moment of silence between us.

“Well, that is really OK!” I finally broke the awkward silence. “Juan, we will look for a buyer, and I am sure Junior will help while we transfer the ownership.”

Junior nodded sincerely and turned to his dad. “Dad, I will help you to sell it. Do not keep the store for me, because I have my own plans. You can call it dream, my own dream,” Junior continued.

“I will do well in college, and I will try to support myself. Please let me go to college, and I will not trouble you and Mom financially. Just let me do my own thing.”

I looked at Juan and saw tears in his eyes. He seemed older than he was a moment ago. “It is not easy to build a retail business like this. So hard to let it go,” Juan whispered as if he was talking to himself, and his chin muscle tightened as he held back tears.

Junior put one of his hands on his Dad’s and added: “Dad, isn’t this what you want? You want me to be successful, and you and Mom want me to have all the opportunities that the American kids have. I have them, and you gave that to me. I am an American; I want to do better and greater things, Dad.

"Your store is great, but that is for you and Mom. I appreciate what you two have done, but I want something different and I dream differently than you two.” Junior gently rocked his dad’s arm and continued, "Dad, I cannot help you with your store. Sell it if you cannot run it without me. I promise to make you and Mom proud.”

It was hard to convince Juan to let the business go, but he eventually agreed and he finally said, “Junior, I am too old to handle this store without you. We will sell it. Mom and Dad will save the money for your college."

Finally we called a business broker, and now the store is officially for sale. They left, but I was given a bittersweet reminder of a situation that many immigrant families I know face.

For the first generation of immigrants, like Juan, choosing what they love to do might not be possible. But what they can do is make the dream more attainable for the next generation, so they can reach higher in the sky. Juan and Junior are not so different from several other immigrant families.

By standing on Juan’s shoulders, Junior can move farther toward his dream.


Double dividend ... and more

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

Kim Hanken, a friend of mine from Ankeny, was sharing some thoughts about the benefits of community involvement for young professionals. Since I couldn't have said them any better, I thought I'd go ahead and share them straight from her.


"What I’ve learned most about my community involvement is how much it has made me grow not only as an individual but as a professional," said Kim, who serves on the boards of directors for Ankeny Young Professionals, Art for Ankeny and YP Iowa.

Right off the bat, that's a powerful double dividend for young professionals.

She said the relationships she's created and maintained through the various community activities she's been involved in "have helped me succeed in a career that requires the 'who you know' element."

"It has also built a strong sense of loyalty within me to my city. By creating personal buy-in to the success and growth of my community, I’ve discovered how important I am to the future of the city we call home," she explained. "Many of my strengths that I use at work were discovered -- and continue to be discovered and tuned -- through giving my time to my community."

In the process, her love for networking, connecting and collaborating has helped her learn how to work with people who have a wide variety of personalities, backgrounds and priorities.

She believes that employers also receive big dividends when they encourage young professionals to be involved in community activities. (This topic of community involvement is so important for young people that I plan on writing about it for the next month or two, beginning with one of the biggest questions: How do I find the right company that encourages community involvement or convince my current boss that it's worthwhile for our company to let me be more involved?)

"Oftentimes we get caught up in the return on investment of community involvement and we forget that ROI doesn’t have to mean dollar signs. ROI can be skills and traits. It can be friendships, mentors or even a life lesson in who you don’t want to be," she said. "The nice thing for your employer is that by sending employees out into the community you are empowering them to care, to be passionate, and enriching their lives without spending an extra cent."

Kim also makes the point that you don't have to spend years and years … and years before reaping those dividends. She has said that she really didn't get involved in her community in a big way before 2013. In 2014, she was named the Ankeny Young Professional of the Year. A year later, she was recognized as the Ambassador of the Year by the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce. 


One more thing about Kim -- she's a mom to four children. 

If she can become involved in her community in such a big way with her commitment-packed schedule, what could possibly hold the rest of us back from doing the same thing? 


Email Cory at:



The power of listening well

Fotolia_115165574_SRita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Successful verbal communication is a two-way street: speaking and listening. We all know people who are boastful big bags of hot air ... they talk a good game but they are poor listeners. This can shipwreck dialogue and two-way communication, which, in turn, causes stress, tension and misunderstandings. Have you ever been involved in a communication mishap that could have been avoided with the use of better listening skills? Have you walked away from a conversation feeling disappointed that your important message was not heard? You are not alone. What can we do about it?

You’ve heard the adage, “Be interested rather than interesting.” Research shows us that people who have high emotional intelligence are able to adapt their behaviors to enhance interpersonal relationships with others - this includes being an active listener.

Listening is complicated! Active listeners are listening both with an emphasis on enhancing the interpersonal relationship and to gather information. People have natural listening styles or ways that they process what they’ve heard. A Comprehensive listener will listen to gather information and put it together to create the big picture. An Evaluative listener is automatically judging the information they are listening to. Discerning listeners have a natural style that sifts and sorts fact from fiction. An Empathic listening style helps the listener tap into the feelings of the person they are listening to. Listeners who have an Appreciative listening style listen for the entertainment and enjoyment of listening, not necessarily to gather information. Understanding our own personal listening strengths and our opportunities for growth is tapping into the power of listening.

What do we do if we want to tap into the powerful habits of listening well? Practice the behaviors of outstanding listeners. Here are a few tips to help:

  1. Create a safety net. Complex and sensitive dialogue can occur when the listener creates a safe environment for the speaker to share their information.
  2. Clear barriers and obstacles. The listener lets the speaker know that they are fully present and attentive by putting away phones, laptops and any possible distractors that may interrupt and disrupt the dialogue.
  3. Seek first to understand. Author Stephen Covey said it best: “Seek first to understand and second to be understood.” The listener is gathering information for the purpose of comprehending what the speaker is trying to deliver. The listener asks clarifying questions to understand more fully and paraphrases what has been heard to measure the accuracy of the listening experience.
  4. Nonverbals speak loudly. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is delivered not through the spoken word, but through nonverbal cues. The goal is to listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Outstanding listeners pay attention to eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and postures to gain additional information.
  5. Employ empathy and offer support. The listener can identify with and acknowledge the feelings and emotions of the person delivering the information. The listener can validate those feelings in a neutral, nonjudgmental way.
  6. Ask probing questions for critical thinking. Powerful listeners do not take over a conversation so their topics become the topics of discussion. Instead, they explore the dialogue fully by inviting more information through the use of gently probing questions. By asking clarifying questions to understand the assumptions of the other person, the listener helps them see these ideas in a new way.

Enhanced listening skills can help employees avoid stress, tension and miscommunications in the workplace. With self-reflection, focus and practice, we can all harness and elevate the power of listening well.

© Rita Perea, 2016

Become the leader of your day

- Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach, author, trainer and the founder of Spark. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

SunriseIf you've been with me for a while, you likely know two of my beliefs:

  1. Leaders set the tone.
  2. Mornings rock.

And when you set the tone of your morning, you lead your day.

I've often written about the power of a morning routine (see here, for example). But what about how you start your workday?

Surveys repeatedly show that most of us have the highest energy and clarity in the morning. Yet how do we start our workdays? For most, in reactive mode: flipping on email or social media - ultimately letting others decide what's important and setting up our days accordingly.

But what if you tweaked just one or two aspects of your morning? What kind of difference might that make?

Consider adopting one of these five ways to become the leader of your workday:

1. Power down to power up. Commit to keeping email, voicemail and social media off for your first 15 minutes. Start the day proactively instead.

2. Review your goals. I scan my vision, purpose statement and goals each morning to remind me why I'm about to do what I'm about to do.

3. Set your Daily Top 3. Choose the three priorities that must be completed even if the rest of the day goes haywire. Separate them from the rest of your to-do list.

4. Dive deep - even briefly. What if you dedicated even just 15 minutes in the morning - focused, uninterrupted, results-oriented time - to your No. 1 goal? How would that make the rest of your day feel?

5. Give a compliment or a thank-you. Nothing starts a day - yours or your recipient's - quite like gratitude!

Great resources exist to help you make the most of your day - personally, I love Stephen Covey's First Things First and Hal Elrod's The Miracle Morning. While everyone's strategy differs, all seem to have one denominator: purpose. Know your why, and you're much more likely to be the leader of your day, work and life.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Make one small adjustment to your morning routine. Which of the above ideas will bring more meaning and purpose to your days? Which will make a difference for those with whom you interact? Remember, one small change can lead to significant results!

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach helping positive people make purposeful change. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


The marketing landscape is changing

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

The Economist recently published their report The path to 2020: Marketers seize the customer experience, which tells an interesting tale of changing tides. The survey results identify the top priorities of these chief marketing officers, and while you'd expect to see new customer acquisition (because you always see that one), what is a little more surprising is how prevalent the idea of protecting and strengthening current customer relationships has become.

The report/insights are based on a global survey of almost 500 CMOs and senior marketing executives. Not only did they survey them, they also conducted some in-depth interviews to identify which technologies and customer trends are likely to change marketing organizations in the next year or two.

When all of the data was crunched and analyzed, there were two clear preferred strategies for 2016, which were focusing on customer loyalty and relationships, and also targeting customer acquisition.

Digging a little deeper into the data, we can see that the concept of personalizing the customer experience is gaining ground. In the past, it's been given lip service but it's been awkward to execute, and most organizations don't have the resources or bandwidth to manage it. But with automation software's growth, this has gotten to be much more elegant and easier to pull off, within a reasonable budget.

The 20-page report is free to download and has insights worth considering. 


Valuation lessons from Pokémon Go

John Mickelson, managing partner at Midwest Growth Partners, is IowaBiz's blogger on succession planning. Read more about him here. MGP intern Anthony Yang, a junior at the University of Iowa, also contributed to this article.

Like music written after the Napster era, Facebook, and skinny jeans, I am apparently being woefully left out of a new cultural phenomenon: Pokémon Go. As I have read in newspapers (yes, I still read the hard versions), this craze is infecting the nation and has whipsawed the valuations of its parent companies. 

But underneath the appalling stories of car accidents and trespassing lawsuits, there is actually a pertinent message about your business valuation as you consider succession planning strategies: ASSUMPTIONS MATTER!

Earlier we talked about key factors that impact valuation, but we did not discuss the intricacies of determining the valuation itself. Valuation is driven by a set of assumptions that business owners should realistically consider as they contemplate what their business is worth. One tiny change can make a big difference among the investor community.

So what does this have to do with our battling cartoon monsters? Well, let’s take a look at what happened to Nintendo, an owner of the Pokémon Go app. When the app was first released, 80 million people downloaded it within days of its launch and Nintendo’s market value shot up $7.5 billion. Mr. Market said: "80 million people! Think of the advertising! Imagine the data collected! A way to engage millennials!"  

But once Nintendo announced that they would not profit from the app as much as anticipated regardless of how many players they had, their value dropped by a hefty $6.7 billion. Ouch. A small change in investor assumptions had a huge valuation effect for Nintendo.

Of course, your business will not have nearly as dramatic of fluctuations, but the story serves as a good reminder about how finicky valuations can be. Simply assuming that your valuation will always stay constant, or steadily increase, rather than constantly validating the drivers of the underlying assumptions can get you into trouble when it is time to sell.

Is your biggest customer always going to stay with the company, or could they look for other alternatives?

Is your best salesperson planning to stay forever?

Is your technological advantage IP protectable and relevant for the foreseeable future?

So what can you do to ensure that you get the best valuation possible? Business growth and adherence to the factors mentioned previously will both yield a higher valuation, and you should also constantly challenge the underlying assumptions of your business -- because your buyer definitely will!


Stop searching for your Google AdWords

- By Katie Patterson

Google AdWords is a great, flexible advertising tool that allows businesses to display ads on Google and throughout its network by setting a budget and only paying when people click on those ads. It’s largely focused on keywords, and it has proven to be a very effective avenue.

When we set up a new campaign for clients, it is common for them to want to see those ads running or to play around with Google search terms to see if/when their ads pop up. Although there is a natural curiosity to see your ad in real time, this can actually hurt your advertising performance.

Google bids using either automatic or manual bidding. When you set a daily budget and select automatic, Google uses your daily budget to determine your maximum cost per click to get you the most clicks. You also have the option to set the maximum cost per click bid for your ads on your own.

Google bidding works like an auction. When a user searches, Google automatically finds all the advertiser keywords that fit the search in the geographic area; it then determines each ad’s quality score (a combination of bid, ad quality and other factors) to decide which ads to ultimately show with that search. Just because your ad doesn’t “win” the auction and turn up in search results one time, it doesn’t mean it isn’t winning the auction other times.

Your auction bid is dependent on your budget and quality score. Your quality score is determined by things like your current click-through rate, your ad's relevance and the landing page you’ve set for those clicking on your ad. A lower Quality Score means you will be paying more to serve your ad and it will appear lower in the search results page. Searching for your own ad can can cause the Quality Score to lower in two different ways:

  • If your ad comes up and you do not click it, that is an impression that did not get a click, so it will drop that ad's relevancy score, it will drop the click-through rate and therefore it will lower your quality score.
  • If you do click the ad, not only you are being charged for a click but if you leave the page immediately, Google will note this as the ad not being relevant to the search query it populated for and again lower the overall quality score.

Your search also skews search terms data as it will show up in the keyword search terms results page in AdWords. We analyze the search term data that leads to clicks for our clients. If we see multiple similar search terms, we think potential customers are the ones using those queries and use this information to help edit current efforts as well as build future campaigns. There is no way for the media buyer to know those are coming directly from our client’s own searches and could throw off how data is optimized.

Ads may also stop showing for your account or IP address altogether if you are repeatedly searching. When you don’t click, Google marks the ads as irrelevant to you. If you frequently click, Google could mark you as someone intentionally making invalid clicks on specific ads to drive up costs.

You may panic if you don’t see your ad, but this is normal and your searches may just be further preventing it from being served. AdWords works on a daily budget and, using default settings, that budget will be spread out as evenly as possible throughout the day. If you are spending $20 per day and get two clicks at 8 a.m. for $2.52 each, you now only have $14.96 left to spend for the day. This means AdWords will stop bidding with your ads for a few hours in order to spread out the remaining $14.96 throughout the day and your ad won’t pop up when you search for it.

Don’t worry, just because you can’t organically search for your ads, it doesn’t mean you can’t still see them. When you create an ad in AdWords, a sample of what your ad will look like appears.

Additionally, there is an Ad Preview and Diagnostics tool that brings up a sample Google search page interface. You can manually set your location, language and device, and type in any search terms you would like, as often as you want. If your ad is showing up for the term you enter, it will show up on the page in the exact position it would show up in organically, as will the paid and organic search results surrounding it. If it isn’t showing up, Google will provide you with a reason as to why your ad isn’t currently running.

Avoiding an identity crisis: Re-branding tips

- Strategic America Media Relations Director Ben Handfelt submits this guest blog.

When I was a baseball-obsessed kid, I told my mom that I wanted to Ben Handfelt-1change my name to Julio in honor of All-Star second baseman Julio Franco, whose inimitable batting stance had captured my imagination. There were a couple of other Bens in my school, but no Julios, so I would be unique. Memorable. Plus, you’ve got to admit, Julio Handfelt just kind of rolls off the tongue and is fun to say.

Thankfully (or regrettably?) my mother saw this as another impulsive whim of her 7-year-old, right up there with declaring that I was going on an all biscuits and gravy diet or that I wanted to learn how to play the saxophone so I could play the solo from “Power of Love.” My personal re-brand was devoid of strategic thinking, and without that I would have surely moved on to another re-brand by age 8.

Thankfully, in the business world the decision to re-brand is not one that any company takes lightly. To abandon, or at the very least, re-shape your identity -- one that employees, customers, vendors and the public have lived with and known for years -- is a big, intimidating step. There is a certain level of comfort in the known and the safe. To take the step of re-branding, no matter how many focus groups you’ve conducted, is a leap of faith.

But with proper planning (and lots of it), it doesn’t have to be a leap into the unknown, but instead can be an exhilarating (and logical) leap forward into the future, where that sense of safety and familiarity still exists thanks to careful, strategic planning.

To that end, here are three tips to keep in mind when launching a new brand.

The brand isn’t your logo. It’s your identity

A re-brand goes well beyond changing your name (I’m looking at you, Julio), designing a fancy new logo and trying to come up with a tag line that would make Phil Knight envious. Sure, that’s part of it, but a re-brand is about reshaping the very core of your company.

After all, a re-brand is typically done when a company decides that the path it’s currently on isn’t working. So staying on that same path with a new name is just going lead to the same results. A re-brand requires an entirely new mindset, as if it were an entirely different company. Since most people are creatures of habit, this task is more easily said than done. But ask yourself, “Where do we want to be, and how do we get there?” Answering that question (and yes, it’s complicated) goes a long way in figuring out what the essence of the new brand will be.

Get buy-in, or no one will buy it

The new name has been settled on. The logo really pops on all types of cardstock. Despite your best instincts, you want to go to networking events just to be able to show off your new business cards. You even have your elevator speech memorized about the essence of the brand.

And yet, no matter how excited the marketing geek in you is about the whole thing, you’re just one cog in the machinery. For the brand to truly be successful, it needs buy-in from all parties. That starts internally, and should begin at the top and work its way down. It needs to be explained and communicated to everyone from sales to accounting.

When you involve people from the beginning, they feel like they are truly part of the process, not just witnesses to it. With that comes a sense of pride and ownership that will help inform all of the external communications with clients, vendors, prospects and the public at large. When you involve more people in the creation of the story, it helps for the telling of that story down the road. And for all intents and purposes, there won’t be a more important chapter to tell than that first one.

Tell a compelling story

Sure, launching a new name and brand is technically news, but unless you’re Apple, you need a compelling story to go along with it if you want coverage that amounts to more than an empty press release. You’ve lived with this story for months, maybe years now. How do you articulate it so that it’s clear, compelling and aligns with all of your messaging, from internal and external communications to your website and social media presence?

Early on, you should define the voice and messaging of the new brand, and everything should permeate from that. I treat message maps like the Holy Grail and use them to help inform nearly everything that I write.

Identify the news angle and think like a reporter, or better yet, a customer. OK, that logo looks great, but why should I care? Why does it matter to me? How is this different from what you were doing before, or what your competition is doing? Think about how to answer these questions and answer them honestly and clearly, being careful to avoid too much fluff and marketing speak.

Storytelling is about being emotive and forming connections, and the best way to get there is through honesty, clarity and maybe a good turn of phrase or two.

Ben Handfelt is responsible for advancing the image and reputation of Strategic America and its clients by communicating to targeted audiences via local, state and national media relations efforts. He also provides media relations training and other key competencies to benefit clients and SA. Ben joined the agency with over 10 years of experience as a public relations professional in Chicago. His background includes work for a global market research firm and over nine years working for an entertainment PR agency, representing several of Hollywood’s biggest studios and brands.

After a data breach, talk is cheap

- Dave Nelson, CISSP, is president and CEO at Integrity.

Breach-supportI had lunch with a friend today who was affected by a recent data breach at a restaurant his wife and kids frequent. I will not name the company, but it is publicly traded with restaurants in 35 states. So, this isn’t a mom and pop shop.  It’s a large enterprise. My friend had concerns about the data breach, and emailed the company to see what support it was going to provide as a result of the breach.

To his amazement the company offered no support, other than to say he should be careful and watch his bank account closely. I haven’t seen the actual correspondence yet, but he promised to share it with me. Given my relationship with this friend, I have no doubt about the accuracy of his description.

This got me thinking about my own experience with one of the top five fast-food chains from about a year ago. Some of you may follow me on Twitter and remember me calling out Wendy’s about a payment card concern I had after visiting one of their stores in the Des Moines metro. A VP of operations for the local franchise group told me to investigate the issue myself and they were not concerned. He then ignored every email I sent after that requesting additional information and support.

Lo and behold, about a year later, Wendy’s announced a major credit card data breach. In fact, last month Wendy’s admitted that the cybersecurity incident was worse than it originally thought.

This brings me to my point. If you have a data breach, respond to your customers. You might not like what they have to say, and some of it might get nasty.  However, not responding, not owning the problem and appearing to be unconcerned or aloof will only make it worse. 

During and after a cybersecurity incident or data breach there are many things that are out of your control. You have to accept this. However, the things that are in your control should be made a high priority for your team. Have a pre-defined response that doesn’t contain the emotion of the hour. As a CEO or business owner, one of the hardest things to swallow is the loss of reputation. It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on this. Don’t you want to do everything possible to assure your customers that you care about them during your darkest hour? How much goodwill can be bought by timely and polite communications? There really is no cheaper insurance against losing a long-term customer than valuing the relationship. 

One last word of advice: If you deal with any sort of personally identifiable information (PII) such as financial account numbers, health care information, Social Security numbers, etc., you need to buy data breach notification insurance that includes credit monitoring. Even if some studies show the monitoring is ineffective, you are buying back some of your clients' trust in your brand. In the end, talk is cheap, trust is not.

Dave Nelson 2015 IowaBiz Blog

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: https://integritysrc.com

The buyer journey and your website: Decision

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. In June, I talked about stage one: discovery, and stage two: consideration.

If you didn’t catch those two posts, I’d recommend heading over to the “Web Strategy” page and catching up a bit.

Now … decision. The end of the buyer journey. You could argue that it’s the most important piece of the puzzle, or the natural culmination of all the work conducted so far. Regardless, without decision none of us would have clients and we wouldn’t be here today.

By the time a client gets to the decision point, you’ve helped them find your website online and delivered content that they’ll find interesting. The key at this point is fairly simple - convince them that you’re worth their money.

This portion of the process is different for everyone. Some of you may have shopping carts, some may need a client to call and complete a purchase, and some of you may even need to schedule an in-person meeting. Regardless of what needs to happen, I firmly believe one thing is true when you hit this part of the process: The devil is in the details.

What do I mean by that? It’s the small things you can include on your website at this point that will stand out and push a potential client to act. What are you doing to help them? 

Help make visitors' purchase decision easier

  1. Ensure the purchase process is obvious to visitors. Like I said, every company is different, and many people have different ways that the process can be completed. Don’t make people guess at what they need to do. A good test for this is to grab a friend, sit them in front of your website, and ask them to make a purchase (don’t help them). You’ll quickly see how easy your process really is.
  2. Share customer testimonials - but make sure they MEAN something. How many of you have read a testimonial that said, “It was great working with X and X"? Did that help you make a purchasing decision? Probably not - it doesn’t mean much. For testimonials, we want something more along the lines of, “I enjoyed working with X because of his/her careful attention to my account details. He/she was always very prompt with getting back to me - I knew I could count on him/her!”
  3. Show them you’re more than a website. Have you ever been to a website where it seemed like if you had any questions, you were out of luck? That can detract quickly from helping someone make a decision. Include details that make you accessible, such as a phone number, support email, or even a live-chat feature. You don’t want a short question to lose you a large sale, do you? Didn’t think so.

Wow! What an adventure we’ve had walking through the buyer’s journey. I hope that through the last few blogs I’ve written you’ve gained some insights into what your buyer journey might look like. It’s different for everyone, and the most important thing at the end of the day is that you’ve considered it.

Have you made any adjustments to your website through this series of blogs? Are you planning to?

Alex-Karei_YPFinalist2016Alex is the marketing & communications 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

Brainstorming ... the McKinsey way

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

One book I enjoy reading when preparing for an engagement is called “The McKinsey Way,” by Ethan M. Rasiel. Mr. Rasiel was a consultant at McKinsey from 1989, and contributed to what is now called the McKinsey trilogy. In the book, Mr. Rasiel describes some key points critical for brainstorming:

  1. There are no bad ideas.
  2. There are no dumb questions.
  3. Be prepared to kill your babies.
  4. Know when to say when.
  5. Get it down on paper.

         (Rasiel, pp. 97-99)

Although you and I might both have a disagreement with bullet point No. 1 – there are actually some very bad ideas out there – the spirit of the five bullets provides a good framework for any brainstorming session. In organizations that I work with, there are challenges to each one of these with individuals or groups that impede the free exchange of ideas. Impediments to these must be overcome in order to ensure that your session is not a waste of time or material effort.

Accept for a moment that there are indeed no bad ideas. You can now focus your energy on accepting different points of view, free from the filter of having to sort ideas into “good” and “bad.” This step frees you up for point No. 2; if there are no dumb ideas, then it stands to reason you should be able to ask questions to get additional perspective on the idea free from the burden of feeling like others will judge you as ignorant, misinformed or off topic. That fear is a recurring problem with groups. No one likes to feel silly or off base. So create an environment where they do not.


No. 3 is also very difficult to overcome. It is natural to want to protect something you came up with or spent time on, but if it does not end up being mission-critical or relevant to the objective, you should discard it in favor of a clearly defined direction with only those contributing factors that contribute to the success of that direction.

There is a rule designers use when working within a brainstorming session. When brainstorming, the ideas eventually run out. Once it starts to get quiet, generally someone will offer something off topic or absurd, and then the ideas start to flow again. During this second “peak” of brainstorming, evidence has demonstrated that the best ideas are shared. There is then a decline, and once that decline begins, it is time to stop. Ideas shared after this second decline begins are generally not creative or relevant in a meaningful way. But pushing through to this second peak yields good results for balancing creativity and relevance.

Recording these ideas is also a necessity. Brainstorming is an opportunity to not be constrained by the typical confines of the work ecosystem. However, these sessions are still expected to yield results. This means that producing an accurate record of the session with decisions, direction, strategies, or whatever defined direction of the session was determined. In short: Keep those flip chart pages and record the data as soon as you are able to after the session to preserve the integrity of your work.

Brainstorming is the part of the strategic planning process where you get to really explore the opportunities available to you as an organization. But effective brainstorming must be conducted within a framework. They are not free-for-all sessions, nor are they a soft session meant to not have any serious outcomes. Adapted from the graphic designer Michael Bierut, these sessions are meant to define “how to … sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world.”

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny


Innovative sustainable products

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger

The REALLY BIG movement for sustainable design started in the early 2000s. Innovation, however, was mostly about reinventing existing products into more sustainable products. 

Now, many years later, innovation is more holistic. How can basic paradigms be shifted to solve an issue in a totally new way? Here are four products that create a new solution.


    Mechanical systems typically maintain the temperature between 72 and 75 degrees. A narrow band of temperatures means the system cycles on and off. What if the band could be increased between 68 and 77 degrees?

    The Hyperchair allows individuals to control heating and cooling right at their seat. A lithium battery charges off-hours and is good for two days of operation. Studies show a one-degree increase in the temperature band can save 5 to 15 percent in energy.


    An issue with residential solar energy has been what to do with excess generation during the day.

    Elon Musk is leveraging new battery technology to store excess generation of solar energy. PowerWall efficiently stores electricity for use during hours of non-sunshine.

    Gas or electric dryers heat air to high temperatures and then exhaust all that heat.

    has invented a dryer using heat pump technology that recirculates hot air while removing moisture from clothes. As a result, no venting is required.


    LED lighting is efficient and long-lasting but requires a transformer that reduces 110 volts to 24 volts. The transformer makes the LED fixture not as efficient.

    POE uses computers to provide low-voltage power to LED fixtures without a transformer. The wiring is a simple Ethernet cable anyone can install.

Does Iowa's deduction for federal taxes prevent tax increases?

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

Iowa could lower its high income tax rates significantly with no revenue loss if it traded lower rates for elimination of Iowa's unusual deduction for federal taxes paid. Such a trade-off plays a big part in the recently released Iowa Tax Reform Options prepared by the Tax Foundation for the Iowa Taxpayers Association.

While policy geeks generally favor this trade-off, many taxpayers have doubts. 
A common argument against the trade-off goes something like this: "If we give up the deduction in exchange for lower rates, they'll turn around and raise the rates on us." They see the deduction as a sort of brake against higher rates.

The history of Iowa's income tax tells a different story. In fact, the deduction for federal taxes has allowed Iowa to raise its real tax rates.

The deduction for federal taxes paid obscures the real top tax rate. The deduction for federal taxes lowers the effective Iowa rate, and vice versa. Tax practitioners call the resulting actual rates the "crossed" rates. The current effective crossed Iowa tax rate on each additional dollar earned by a top-bracket taxpayer is about 5.184 percent.

Let's go back to 1975, when Gov. Robert Ray signed an increase in Iowa's top tax rate from 7 percent to 13 percent. At that time the top federal tax rate was 70 percent. When you make the circular crossing computation, taking deductions into account, the top Iowa rate for top federal bracket taxpayers before this increase was 2.208 percent. Afterward, the effective rate went up to 4.29 percent. That's a 94 percent increase in the top tax rate. If the deduction for federal taxes can't brake a near-doubling of the top effective tax rate, it's not a very good brake.


Crossed iowa rates 1971-2016

Chart by the author.

The first round of Reagan tax cuts took the top federal rate down to 50 percent. This made the Iowa deduction for federal taxes worth that much less, so the top effective Iowa rate soared to 6.952 percent. The state government cheerfully pocketed the windfall.

The 1986 federal tax reforms lowered the top federal rate to 28%. At that point, Iowa decided to give its taxpayers some of the windfall back, lowering the top stated rate to 9.98 percent. The real Iowa top marginal rate, though, actually went up to 7.39 percent when the 1986 federal tax reforms took full effect in 1988.

In 1990, the feds started backsliding on the Reagan tax reforms, and the subsequent federal rate increases, combined with the cut in the Iowa top rate to 8.98 percent, has brought the top crossed Iowa rate down to 5.184 percent. While better than its peak 7.39 percent rate, that's still a 284 percent increase over the 1974 effective rate, and a 20 percent increase over the 1975 top rate.

The deduction for federal taxes hasn't prevented increases in the top Iowa effective rate. It just has camouflaged them.

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