When Dr. Hansen Chang’s medical practice began to grow, he needed to double his office space. Chang, who shares his practice with another physician, opened his medical office 15 years ago as a place where patients could receive expertise in both Eastern and Western medicine.
Within a decade, the two physicians, board certified in internal medicine and acupuncture, had grown the medical practice to six full-time employees, with a patient load of 10,000.
“Our practice was expanding and we were looking to move from a smaller office to a larger location 10 miles away in Berkeley Lake,” says Chang.
Along with the need for a larger office space, Chang’s telecommunications needs were also growing, and the office’s old T1 line was not able to handle the massive volume of data transfer that took place on a daily basis.
Smart Business spoke with Chang about the telecommunications needs his growing medical practice faced and the solution that worked for him.
What kind of telecommunications challenges did you face before your move into the larger space?
We were using a telecommunications provider that provided us with a T1 line. Not only was the smaller office incapable of handling our growing patient flow, but the T1 line, although reliable, was extremely slow and overloaded.
Additionally, medical records are required to be transferred electronically, which was part of the problem. Laboratory services that use email added to the issue. Lastly, the pharmacy needed a reliable connection. We needed a telecommunications provider that could accommodate all of this and make things more efficient with a faster Internet connection.
In a medical practice, security is paramount because we deal with sensitive material and personal patient information, so having a secure and reliable connection was important to us.
Why did you choose Comcast Business Class for the new office space?
We constructed the new office from the ground up and at the time there were no fiber optic lines or cables in the location, so we had to find someone who could build our cable infrastructure and complete it before we moved in. Because we deal with health emergencies regularly, we also needed to ensure that the transition was seamless and that we didn’t experience any downtime.
We evaluated various carriers, but Comcast offered fast Internet speeds as well as Norton Security Suite and Cloud Services from Microsoft, so that made it easy to choose.
The actual switch took place outside regular business hours, when the phone lines were forwarded to an answering service, but it was instantaneous.
We also wanted a private static IP address to access medical records from anywhere — from the office computer, home computers or laptops, so that if an emergency call came through, medical records could be accessed remotely. This private IP would also allow for viewing and transferring data safely and securely.
Additionally, Comcast Business Class provided a bundled phone line with our Internet service so we now work with one provider rather than multiple companies.
How long did the process take?
The planning stage took approximately a month, but it was worthwhile because the process went so smoothly. After that, the actual cutover was instantaneous and was done over the weekend before the new office opened on a Monday.
How has the new system helped your medical practice run more smoothly?
In order to provide a reliable service, we require a reliable backbone. With the high volume of patients coming in, efficiency is key. For example, patients should be able to go straight to the pharmacy after the doctor’s visit to pick up prescriptions, have a lab report emailed directly to them, and all their insurance information entered and sent instantaneously. Without a reliable network, this would not be a smooth process for our patients.
Communication is key in the medical business, and doctors are using more electronic devices and methods to do this. The system works very well now but as the practice expands, there may be a need for increased speed or bandwidth, which can be easily done.
What other factors are critical with the service?
Reliability comes first. Speed is next. Downtime can be disastrous in a medical practice, as missed phone calls from the ER or a pharmacy can be critical.
When dealing with human lives our telecommunications system is critical. To be able to handle any type of emergency, I have to put my trust in my provider’s network.
Dr. Hansen Chang runs an internal medicine and acupuncture practice in Berkeley Lake, Ga. Reach him at doctorsLLC@hotmail.com or (770) 454-9047.
Anthony Catinella is director of sales for Comcast Business Services. Reach him at Anthony_Catinella@cable.comcast.com or (770) 559-2132.
Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Comcast
Dealing with the daily responsibilities of running a business can distract an owner from the big picture. To take some of the burden off of CEOs running small and mid-sized companies, Professional Employment Organizations offer services that handle outsourced aspects of daily business, including recruiting, payroll, workers’ compensation, risk and safety management, and training and development.
However, selecting the right PEO for your company requires thoughtful consideration. And J. Richard Hicks, CEO of HR1 Services Inc., says that working with a PEO requires cooperation and commitment.
“This is really a partnership to help streamline and make your company more cost and time efficient. You need to work closely with your vendor and treat the relationship like a partnership to make it work for you,” Hicks says.
Smart Business spoke with Hicks about what to look for when choosing a PEO.
How does a PEO work?
A business and a PEO establish a three-way relationship — a co-employment arrangement — among the PEO, the client company and the company’s employees. This means the PEO co-employs your work force and becomes a legal employer responsible for such functions as payroll, recordkeeping, benefits and services, and participation in hiring, evaluation and firing. This frees up business owners to focus on the core operations of their business.
What do companies need to understand about the co-employment relationship they establish when working with a PEO?
The co-employment relationship allows your employees to participate in the PEO’s benefit programs, as well as its risk management programs. The employer retains control of the workplace, but when it comes to government compliance, the PEO takes those burdens off its hands.
What differentiates one PEO from another?
PEOs can be grouped by the range of services that they provide. Some could be considered turnkey and take care of the company’s employees from top to bottom. Others simply provide payroll and workers’ compensation services.
Every company has its own specific needs. Generally, the more people you employ, the more important HR functions become. Conversely, fewer employees mean fewer stresses exist on that aspect of your business, and all you would likely need to outsource are a few administrative services.
There are also PEOs that specialize in certain industries and you want to work with one that has experience relevant to yours. When you evaluate a PEO, ask whether it’s done work with companies in your field because that experience helps with the back end legal responsibility and mitigates your exposure. A PEO will never completely remove your legal exposure, but it will greatly reduce your risk.
Does hiring a PEO mitigate any legal risks associated with the services it provides?
It does mitigate them, but they never go away completely. An example of some items that will go away when you enter into a co-employment relationship with a PEO are 401(k) fiduciary requirements, health care fiduciary responsibilities in terms of COBRA administration and workers’ compensation liabilities.
Working with your PEO can also help protect you from many types of employee lawsuits. While the arrangement doesn’t prevent a lawsuit from being filed against your company, having a relationship with a PEO can greatly increase your protection.
Companies should make sure that their PEO has employers’ liability insurance, as well as errors and omissions coverage in suitable amounts that cover its entire block of business. You should also look into what resources it has available in terms of legal counsel.
How can a company rate a PEO’s affordability?
Look at your business and the issues you’re having with running it, specifically with issues such as all forms of insurance administration, insurance procurement, employee administration and federal, state and local compliance. Brainstorm those items out, pencil in who is doing that work and how often it’s being done. Typically when you’re looking at a company with about 35 employees, the person doing most of that work is the owner or CEO. Even if he or she doesn’t do it all, that person is involved in a lot of it. As a result, your cost for handling those issues increases dramatically, both with the owner’s time and with opportunity costs in terms of the time lost pursuing company growth.
The best way to evaluate the savings impact of a PEO is to look at the cost of employing someone to do that job, including salary, continuing education, vacation, coverage for when that person is on vacation and turnover cost, as well as any software or hardware expenses associated with a new position and new full-time employee.
When you hire a PEO, you’re hiring a team of experts, not just one person. The organization will have experience across a broad range of areas, and it never calls in sick, goes on vacation or asks for a raise every year.
How can a company determine which PEO is right for it?
The most important thing when choosing a PEO is to find a company that believes in doing business the way you do business — that treats employees the way you do. You should feel confident that you can reach the right person within the PEO to get a problem resolved. It comes down to finding people you want to do business with and who treat employees the way you want them to.
It’s not for every company, but if you have fewer than 200 employees, a PEO is something you should consider.
J. Richard Hicks is CEO of HR1 Services Inc. Reach him at (800) 677-5085 or RHicks@HR1.com.
Insights Outsourcing is brought to you by HR1
It has been three years since the recession was officially declared to have ended in mid-2009. However, even with that declaration, the national unemployment rate remains at more than 8 percent and full-time hiring is sluggish at best. There has been an increase in hiring during the years since 2010, but it has not been enough to replace all the jobs lost during the downturn.
“There is so much uncertainty surrounding such things as the cost of health care, taxes, foreign markets and the availability of capital, which has left many companies afraid to make full-time offers of employment,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of The Ashton Group. “The cost savings and increased flexibility offered by a contingent work force make this a silver lining in this economy.”
Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about using temporary employees to keep up production until market conditions stabilize.
What are some trends you’re seeing in the marketplace?
Small businesses — those with fewer than 50 employees — are reporting more growth and confidence than their larger competitors, and there has been a rise in salaries as recruiting and retaining skilled talent has become more competitive. However, the other side of the coin is voluntary turnover has risen as talented employees leave their jobs to look for better opportunities in the marketplace.
Additionally, because of the prevailing uncertainty in the economy, over the past several years there has been a steady rise in the use of contingent labor that is far outpacing full-time opportunities during the same time period. Historically this has been a leading indictor that full-time jobs also will increase in the future in as few as three to six months. However, that has not been the case recently. This new trend suggests that employers need additional labor to meet production demand but are not willing to make a long-term commitment to employees. Also the ratio of Americans actually working compared with those available to work recently has hit its lowest level since 1981.
How can contingent or temporary workers help companies keep up with production?
The use of a contingent work force allows production demands to be met without any strings attached. For example, all of the burdens associated with the hiring process, such as screening, initial interviews, payroll expenses, taxes, insurance and unemployment are the responsibility of the staffing firm. For the employer, it means a job can be filled quickly and efficiently to align its work force with its production needs.
How can staffing companies help an employer reduce its time-to-hire?
Staffing companies are in the business of placing candidates into jobs, so they are constantly recruiting and screening new applicants. In addition, most staffing firms have well-qualified individuals who they have worked with previously who can be available for new assignments. By having a pool of candidates who are pre-screened and ready for work it can significantly reduce the time it takes to have a position filled.
What cost savings can be realized by utilizing contingent or temporary workers?
On average, it costs $7,000 to hire and train one new employee. Many upfront costs such as recruiting, advertising, screening applicants, verifying credentials and initial interviews can be eliminated by utilizing contingent labor. In the long run, savings on health insurance, retirement and PTO can result in significant savings over hiring full-time workers using in-house resources. In addition, temporary labor can ebb and flow with production demands, further increasing savings and avoiding the blow to morale caused by laying off full-time employees when production has to be tapered off.
How much training should a company expect to put into a temporary or contingent worker?
When companies hire contingent workers, they need to train them for the job at hand. To make the most of the cost and time savings temporary labor offers, companies should streamline the training process for these individuals by defining exactly what they want their contingent staff to accomplish during a shift and train them with that end result in mind. Other than training for the specific job, address housekeeping issues with all temporary employees on the first day. Information on items such as parking, use and upkeep of the break rooms and bathrooms, and even where they can grab a bite to eat close by will not only make the new person more feel comfortable but save time as well.
How can a company ensure it’s getting the right worker for the job?
There are several key steps to ensure a temporary employee is a good fit with your company. The first is to choose the right staffing partner to work with. Choose a service provider that understands the needs of your organization, as well as one that makes it easy to establish an ongoing dialogue. The next step is to clearly define what you want to accomplish.
From there, a job description and position requirements can be written. The more detail you provide to the agency, the better its ability to qualify the best candidates for the opening. Job descriptions for your full-time positions also can serve as an excellent guide for your ‘part-time’ jobs.
Melissa Hulsey is president and CEO of The Ashton Group. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or email@example.com.
Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton
There’s an old saying that the best way to get yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.
The problem is that, too many times, you think there’s a treasure lurking just a few more shovelfuls down, so the digging continues. As the hole gets deeper, you keep at it because you’ve already put so much effort into it that it would be a waste to stop now.
There are many examples in business of these ever-deepening holes that eat up manpower, time and money. Sometimes, the elusive treasure is a product that’s sputtering along but just can’t quite get going like you had hoped. Other times, it is a person who has all the promise in the world but doesn’t have much to show for it other than a warm chair and a lot of frustration on your part. The “hole” might even be an entire division that is underperforming or a vendor that just isn’t meeting your needs.
Corporate America is littered with decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time but that just didn’t work out. Remember New Coke? It was meant to replace the Coca-Cola that everyone grew up with, but it lasted only 77 days before the classic formula was reintroduced to the market.
The Coca-Cola Co. wisely made the tough decision that its reformulation didn’t pan out the way it had hoped and brought back the old formula. The result was that while New Coke may have failed, the company retained its top spot. It realized the hole was getting too deep with no return in sight, so it got out.
If you’re going to be successful, then you will have to make tough decisions. No matter how close to the buried treasure you think you are, at some point, you have to take your shovel and climb out of the hole and move on.
It’s called cutting your losses. Coke executives could have stuck to their decision because every bit of market research showed that people liked the taste of the new formula better, but it just wasn’t showing up in the sales figures. Maybe you’ve invested a lot of time and money into a product or a person, but there comes a point where you have to give up and focus your resources on more productive areas.
You can’t be afraid to make these tough decisions. It might be easier to justify further expense to keep going, but don’t wait any longer. Pull the plug.
Ending a project that’s bleeding money is an easy decision. The really tough choices come with the marginal performers — people included. To know when enough is enough, you need to set up accountability for projects and people so you can measure how well things are going compared to the standards you’ve set.
If something isn’t measuring up, get rid of it. In today’s business world, profit margins are too thin to waste money on unproductive portions of your business. You can’t afford to have a nonproductive anything — be it a person, division or product — weighing you down. Do everything you can to help the people affected move on, but make the decision and stick with it. These types of decisions are never easy. You never know how they will affect your business. It will always be easier to keep going after that elusive return on your investment, but you have to hold yourself accountable, as well. If it’s not working, it’s time to make a change.
So stop digging now before the hole gets so deep that you are unable to climb back out of it.
If you are interested in learning more about publishing a book, please contact our publisher, Dustin Klein, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7026.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
In developing a strategy, creating a new business or launching a product line, intensive preplanning is what can make the difference between success and failure. This same principle applies to negotiating just about anything. No matter what you want to achieve, be it selling a new customer, buying a competitor or hiring a superstar, you must determine what is the end result you want before you put pen to paper or make that first introductory call.
We’ve all heard hundreds of time about the importance of “putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes” or showing some empathy. Good basic advice, but do you really follow these suggestions?
In many business relationships, if it becomes a win/lose transaction, at the end of the day, one side is going to be very unhappy and the other side, albeit temporarily satisfied, could ultimately lose, too. In most instances, both sides have alternatives. Unless you have found the Holy Grail that no one can live without, the other side always has choices. One of which can be to do nothing and take a hike.
Most negotiations begin with the thought, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, the first question should always be, “How can we enable the other side to win (or feel as though they have won)?” It’s all about looking at the objective through the other person’s eyes. This simply translates into giving the “opposition” something that they must have, even if they’ve yet to realize it, while meeting your own needs. Rather than start with figuring out how much can you make on the deal or the positive result that will accrue to you if you hire a particular superstar, ask yourself, “What can I do to make the other side feel like the winner?”
For your next initiative, start at the end and work toward the beginning. You might just be pleasantly surprised with the road map you construct using this technique. Here are a few examples.
You want to buy a competitor because it has a product that will enhance your offering, but you don’t need all of the other widgets that this target manufactures. The traditional strategy would be to make an offer knowing that, if you succeed, you’ll scuttle all of the company’s other operations, cherry-picking what you want from the carcass. This could work and might be the easiest way to achieve your goal, but this Machiavellian method of taking no prisoners likely won’t play well with the target company owner, who has spent years building it and is emotionally invested in the business and the organization’s employees. When you look at the situation through the lens of the founder, you determine that a different approach, such as paying a good price for the entire business, plucking the item you want from the company, and then selling the rest of the company back to the employees could be the ticket to getting discussions started. This way the owner gets his money, he is a hero with his employees, and you acquire the product you need to grow.
Let’s say you want to hire the best salesperson in your industry who, unfortunately, works for your competitor. Instead of just going in and offering a big salary and bonus, which he or she most likely has already been offered by someone else, try to determine, after doing your homework, what this superstar’s hot buttons are. Maybe he has made it known that he would like to work remotely from a desert island while continuing to build his book of business. Looking at it from his perspective, you figure out that you can buy him his piece of sand somewhere with a beautiful view, obtain highspeed Internet connectivity to his paradise and allow him to work six months per year in his dream location. Rather than just making a cash-rich offer, start the negotiations by providing a solution to your target’s fondest expectations.
Putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes is far from a new idea. However, too many executives forget that creating a win-win is preferable to having it only your way. Remember, many times, instead of just knowing the answers, you first have to figure out what questions to ask to ensure success.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.
Scott Kirsner spent three years immersed in the movie industry in order to write a book called “Inventing the Movies: Hollywood’s Epic Battle Between Innovation and the Status Quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs.”
He talked with directors like Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron, editors, cinematographers, studio chiefs, producers, tech companies that sell technology into Hollywood and even actors with an interest in new technology like Morgan Freeman.
He discovered that Hollywood serves as a great case study for how any long-established, successful and self-satisfied industry responds to new technologies and new ideas.
Even when a new idea seems to have obvious merit and even when its inventor can make a strong case for it, 95 percent of the people involved in the industry fight the new idea with all their energy for as long as they possibly can until they realize it has the potential to grow their business in surprising ways.
Case in point: Within a decade of Hollywood’s fight against the Betamax video recorder, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, the studios were earning more from home video business than they were from ticket sales.
Here are several movies — all of which you’ve likely seen — each with an important backstory that innovators can learn from.
Sometimes technology needs to be just good enough, not perfect. “The Jazz Singer” will forever be remembered as Hollywood’s first talkie — even though it wasn’t among the first dozen to try to sync up the pictures on the screen with a soundtrack. But the technology that Warner Bros. banked on, developed at AT&T’s Bell Labs, was better than what came before it. It was just good enough to turn “The Jazz Singer” into a hit — especially combined with a performance from Al Jolson that practically leapt off the screen. The system still relied on phonograph records that could scratch. If the film broke and needed to be spliced back together, the entire movie would veer out of sync. The Warner Bros./AT&T technology was just good enough to start the sound revolution in Hollywood, though it didn’t endure for very long as a standard. Five years after “The Jazz Singer,” even Warner Bros. had switched over to a technology that more reliably linked the audio with the visuals.
Innovators never underestimate the importance of allies. Shot in glorious Technicolor, “Gone with the Wind” won the Best Picture Oscar in 1939, marking the start of Hollywood’s transition from black-and-white to color. But Technicolor had been working on its technology for making color movies since 1915, developing new kinds of cameras and film-processing techniques.
Like most start-ups, the company nearly ran out of money several times and had to continually hunt for new investors and allies who’d make movies using Technicolor’s technology to show how it was improving. These allies included the swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks and Walt Disney, who won one of his first Oscars for a short cartoon made in Technicolor. Technicolor co-founder Herb Kalmus met another key ally at the racetrack at Saratoga Springs: Jock Whitney, a rich playboy who used his money to option a novel by Margaret Mitchell and help turn it into a movie starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
Innovators spot market opportunities first and chase them relentlessly. Entrepreneur Andre Blay had no connection to Hollywood, but in the mid-1970s, he was among the first to realize that home video machines like Sony’s Betamax (which sold for about $1,000 at the time) presented the potential for a new business.
He sent “cold call” letters to most of the major Hollywood studios asking them for the right to sell their movies on videotape. Only one studio, 20th Century Fox, consented, offering movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Blay’s first ad in “TV Guide” netted his company $140,000 in revenue, and within a year, Fox acquired his company for $7.2 million in cash.
Innovators find collaborators who share their vision, and they’re prepared for things to take longer than expected. Computer graphics pioneer Ed Catmull, while he was still a graduate student at the University of Utah, was one of the first people on the planet who believed that it’d be possible to make a full-length computer-animated movie that people actually would pay to see. As he marched toward that goal, he connected with two people who bought in to his vision: John Lasseter, an ex-Disney animator, and Steve Jobs, who purchased the fledgling Pixar from George Lucas and helped develop it into a company that could stand on its own two feet, selling hardware and software while also pursuing Catmull’s ambitious, audacious goal.
Catmull admits that he thought the goal of making Pixar’s first film would take a decade — it took two. Disney eventually bought Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion.
As a business owner, there are many lessons to learn about innovation from the movies.
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, and The Art of the Start. He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at email@example.com.
Left or right? Up or down? Yes or no? The human life is full of choices. We make them on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day basis. It’s what we do, how we live and move and have our being in the world.
Consider some choices you may have made in the last few years:
- What car should you buy?
- Should you ask her to marry you?
- Are you ready for another baby?
- Is this house right for you, or should you keep looking before you make an offer?
- Who should be let go in the next round of budget cuts?
- Will your department reach its goals this year?
- Should you ask for a raise?
- Is it time for your mom to enter a nursing home?
- What do I need to do to lose weight?
- What will you eat for dinner tonight?
Decisions are usually easier when we are only faced with two choices. Blue or red car? Two-story or ranch-style home? Slim Fast or Weight Watchers diet plan? Our brains are somehow wired better to choose between two competing choices.
It’s when we have more options that we sometimes stall, flutter or downright choke.
- Three people from a team of eight in the department must be let go.
- Should we marry now, when we finish college or after we find secure jobs?
- In order to best reach our yearly goals, should we focus our attention on X, Y or Z, and how much of our remaining budget should we allocate to the project we choose?
Life is full of hard choices, and the bigger they are and the more options we have, the harder they get.
Through my years in working with individuals, groups, companies and organization, I have narrowed the questions we need to ask in order to make the right choices both in our life and in business.
Here are 3 of my best tips for making the right choice:
1. Analyze outcomes, not pros and cons.
Many of us have been taught somewhere along the way to take out a sheet of paper and divide it down the middle with a line. On one side we list the “pros” of a certain choice, on the other, the “cons.”
This old school way of making choices is time worn and tested, but I think there is a better focus: outcomes. In the end, the outcome of a choice made is what truly matters.
Working through a big decision can give us a kind of tunnel vision, where we get so focused on the immediate consequences of the decision at hand that we don’t think about the eventual outcomes we expect or desire.
When making a choice, then, it pays to take some time to consider the outcome you expect. Consider each option and ask the following questions:
- What is the probable outcome of this choice? (This is the list we should make.)
- What outcomes are highly unlikely? (This allows them less weight in the choice.)
- What are the likely outcomes of not choosing this one? (These are negative outcomes.)
- What would be the outcome of doing the exact opposite? (Play “devil’s advocate.”)
Our thinking should be in terms of long-term outcomes and not short-term pros and cons. And we should broaden our thinking to include negative outcomes. In doing so, we will find clarity and direction in making the right choice.
2. Ask why – five times.
The Five Whys are a problem-solving technique invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota. When something goes wrong, you ask “why?” five times. By asking why something failed, over and over, you eventually get to the root cause.
Although developed as a problem-solving technique, the Five Whys can also help you determine whether a choice you’re considering is in line with your core values as a person and a business.
- Why should I take this job? It pays well and offers me a chance to grow.
- Why is that important? Because I want to build a career and not just have a string of meaningless jobs.
- Why? Because, I want my life to have meaning.
- Why? So I can be happy.
- Why? Because that’s what’s important in life.
We now see how the first two tips are interrelated. By asking the Five Whys, we learn that having meaning and being happy are desired outcomes that influence the choice made in asking the first question: Why should I take this job?
The continued relationship can be seen in revealing the third tips for making the right choice.
3. Follow your instincts.
This tip affords you the ability to work through the first two tips with a sense of personal confidence.
Because research shows that:
The conscious mind can only hold between five and nine distinct thoughts at any given time. That means that any complex problem with more than (on average) seven factors is going to overflow the conscious mind’s ability to function effectively, leading to poor choices.
Our unconscious mind is much better at juggling and working through complex problems. People who follow their instincts actually trust the work their unconscious mind has already done.
When we allow ourselves to focus on long-term outcomes rather than short-sighted pros and cons, take on the task of asking “Why?” five different times, and trust and follow our instincts, we put ourselves in a much better position to make the right choice in any given situation in life and business.
Like anything we go through as human beings, this process takes work. Get to work and let me know how it goes.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com
Innovative, progressive companies are reworking the infamous line from the movie “Wall Street” from “Greed is good” to “Global is great.” In fact, over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in companies opening offices in Singapore as easily as Seattle or hanging up a shingle in Philadelphia in addition to Frankfurt.
CorFire, like a lot of companies, is increasingly aware of the new reality of the global workforce. This understanding has served as the foundation for our hiring practices, the partnerships we form and the customer base we seek. While global vision and focus are central tenets of our culture, we still realize the need to put processes in place to ensure that this global vision is understood and executed throughout each level of the organization.
Do the math
Historically, when opening or expanding a business, most executives have looked at the immediate revenue opportunities. Depending on the nature of the business, these numbers are often based on an isolated and limited view of the prospective buyer — businesses usually look for revenue opportunities in their city, state or region of the country.
In today’s global environment, executives need to analyze the market with a wider lens. Even companies that have a global presence may need to widen their focus to take advantage of economic growth in overlooked countries.
For example, Brazil has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Technology providers are having success launching services like biometrics in African nations to support banking initiatives.
Hire without borders
Gone are the days when companies placed a help-wanted ad in a newspaper to find qualified local talent. Critical knowledge workers may live in your company’s hometown or thousands of miles away. While there are benefits to having workers centrally located, companies have to look outside the geographical box when it comes to hiring. In fact, human resources needs to have carte blanche to base hiring decisions on talent and fit rather than geography.
If it makes sense, organizations may want to develop global human resources teams, even if small, rather than hiring exclusively from headquarters. This may help the company create the best and most attractive global compensation and performance packages to attract and retain the level of talent needed to build across borders.
While hiring across borders is critical at all levels of an organization, companies need to ensure that top leaders within the company reflect the diversity of the employee and customer base. This diversity at the top shows that the company truly understands the importance of globalization. This type of culture is far more attractive to candidates interested in working for a company focused in international growth.
Doesn’t fit? Force it
Companies often face reluctance when implementing processes and policies. Although most employees understand the value of global teams and building global workforces, to do it successfully takes effort from all levels.
Often it’s easier to work with Dan down the hall than Simon in Sydney. There’s the challenge of time differences and the reality that global teams don’t share the same context in their work or personal lives. Unfortunately, this does not create an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder environment, but rather one in which unfamiliarity breeds contempt.
With that as a backdrop, companies need to look for real, practical ways to make international teams interact regularly. Face-to-face meetings are good but often impractical, both logistically and financially. But thanks to technology, including webcams, people can easily, inexpensively interact monthly or weekly.
Slow and steady
While these steps will help organizations move toward global profitability, companies must set realistic time frames and expectations for international growth.
There are no cookie-cutter approaches to global success. Your roadmap doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. But with the right people, priorities and processes in place, you will be well on your way to tapping the enormous revenue potential that lies outside your time zone.
Finally, remember that working across borders is a new process for many people. There may be bumps in the road, as there are with most evolutionary changes in business. Communicating the company’s vision around globalization will help teams understand that there is no retreating. Progressive companies are building and crossing bridges as a way to grow and thrive in today’s changing global economy.
Sang Yook is chief strategy officer of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.
In business, growth equals success, but growth also usually comes wrapped in challenges, sometimes extremely difficult ones. Liaison Technologies CEO Bob Renner has seen this firsthand over the last few years. The main complication Renner has encounted is keeping his data management company stocked with enough talented workers to keep its growing customer base happy and satisfied.
“The market we participate in is an active one; it’s consolidating and there’s a lot of competition,” Renner says. “And over the last five years we’ve grown at a 50 percent compounded annual rate. So attracting and retaining top talent at the velocity we’re growing is a challenge that has been top of mind for us, especially in the last 12 to 18 months.
“Finding people that have the right skill set and fit into your company’s culture is tougher when you’re growing,” he says. “Some days it seems like there’s zero percent unemployment in the space we’re in. So when I think about business challenges, that’s the key one for us.”
The problem became apparent about two years ago, as Liaison’s leaders started noticing several factors impinging on the company’s ability to attract and retain talented knowledge workers: a sudden salary inflation trend; competitors’ direct attempts to lure Liaison employees away; and a shortage of suitable talent coming from colleges, notably Georgia Tech, the technology-education giant sitting in Liaison’s backyard.
“Over the last 18 months or so, in the local market here in Atlanta, we saw salary inflation that was accelerating more quickly than our standard practices were to raise salary and compensation,” Renner says. “This was counterintuitive, because at the same time you’re hearing a lot of economic news talking about high unemployment rates, which, depending on who you’re listening to, ranged anywhere from 8 percent to 15 percent in our local market. That was the first indicator.
“A second factor that has led to this being a focus issue for our executive team is that as Liaison has grown rapidly, we’ve become more visible to the larger competitors in our space,” he says. “So we’ve seen some very active recruiting efforts from competitors into our organization. Some of those were successful, some were not so successful, but they became quite visible. We saw a lot of pressure being put on by competitors looking at Liaison. Before this, we had been under the radar screen, but once you reach a certain size and visibility, you end up with a more competitive recruiting environment.
“Lastly, we faced a shortage of talent coming out of the colleges. We recruit heavily from Georgia Tech, and you’ve got a lot of other firms like Google, Facebook and Microsoft also fishing in that same pond. So bringing in new recruits from the Atlanta area, even once you recognize and resolve the other two challenges, continues to be a challenge for us.”
Liaison has taken a number of steps to help make it easier to attract and retain talent. Among those initiatives, the company has:
- Hired a full-time recruiter.
“We decided to bring on a full-time permanent employee as a recruiter at Liaison,” Renner says. “This company has been around for 12 years, and this is the first time we’ve staffed that position with a permanent employee.”
- Communicated to employees its vision and the importance of retaining employees and attracting new ones through networking.
“The most rudimentary thing we did, which is something a fast-moving company can overlook, is we began to communicate a message to the employee base focused on retention and on networking to attract new talent,” Renner says. “We began to get much more active in our internal communications about the culture and the mission of the company. We used lot of the methodologies from the Jim Collins ‘Good to Great’ model, which we think fits our culture very well. We ramped up the communication so people understood the vision of the business, how important top talent is to us, and how serious the executive management team takes that. We did this through a series of road shows to all of our facilities. This took a lot of investment by the executive team, by our HR team, a consistent level of communication.
“This galvanized the team in understanding our mission, understanding what we’re looking for, reinforcing how important our people are to our success and to us getting to where we want to be.”
- Created more flexible work schedules for employees.
“We made some adjustments along the way in terms of work flexibility,” Renner says. “We have a lot of people that telecommute now, quite a few more than a couple years ago. We’re probably up to about 25 percent of our workers that telecommute. Some people work two days from home; some work from home all the time. And our Dallas office is 100 percent virtual at this point. That was by their preference. All of our people in the Dallas area are now virtual workers only. So that has ramped up a lot.”
The transition toward having more workers telecommute has been smoother than some of Liaison’s leaders expected it would be.
“I was probably the biggest skeptic of that,” Renner says. “I’m pretty old-fashioned in terms of coming in to the office. But now, seeing this at work, we haven’t seen anything in the way of downside, so I’ve gotten over my apprehension about it. The company has adapted very well to it. We’ve embraced it more than a lot of other companies I talk to on a regular basis. Having people telecommute is one of those things that you wish you would’ve done sooner, once you’ve seen it at work.”
- Consolidated its Atlanta operations into a single headquarters facility.
“In Atlanta, we were spread across multiple offices, but in the last 12 to 18 months we consolidated into one facility,” Renner says. “This created more unity and more visibility across the company. I think it has really helped with the culture, and with retention and motivation. It represents a big financial investment by the company. We took a pretty big hit in doing this, just so we could have a bigger facility everyone could fit into. I think that helped a lot.”
The employee attraction and retention initiatives set in motion by Renner and his team have started to bear fruit for Liaison.
“To give you a perspective on that, we hired 45 people in the last 120 days,” Renner says. “When you’re a 300-person company, that’s pretty serious growth. And we’re really looking for specialized talent; some of it is coming out of college directly, and some of it is experienced knowledge workers.
“In the previous environment we were operating in, in terms of finding talent, that would have been a yearlong process, at least,” he says. “We had been having a lot of open head count go unfilled. The way that manifested itself, in terms of our numbers, is our profitability was far higher than we had experienced in previous years, and that was simply because we had open head count we couldn’t fill. Sometimes it’s not a good thing to have profitability above what you’re expecting. It doesn’t necessarily set you in a good place for the future.”
Liaison’s employee turnover has decreased noticeably.
“We have a human resources executive that sits in on our weekly senior team meetings, and the report from HR has been very good in terms of retention and turnover, especially since we started with the road shows and some of the other things we’ve been doing,” he says. “Anecdotally, that has improved quite a lot.”
Liaison has begun to see the labor market loosen up, so employee referrals are rising, and the company has been able to reduce its reliance on employee recruitment firms.
“In terms of finding qualified candidates, if you go back a couple years or more, we always did most of our recruiting through networking,” Renner says. “We basically had employee referrals, which our employees are incented to do, and we really didn’t use contract recruiters for anything. Then we went through a period of time 12 to 18 months ago where we had to pay an outside recruiter to help us fill almost every open position. We just could not find qualified candidates through the standard means of recruiting that we had used internally. But now we’re back to a place where, to fill these positions, we use recruiters for less than half of them. So that’s a positive sign in terms of good talent being available within the Atlanta market for us.”
Put the word out
Asked what advice he would offer other business executives facing the challenge of recruiting and retaining scarce talent while growing rapidly, Renner says getting the word out to your staff is crucial.
“If I were to give one key piece of advice, it’s communicate, communicate, communicate,” he says. “Create an environment where the staff has a lot of transparency to what it is you’re doing, and they understand the mission, and they’ve bought in to it. Doing this greatly helps with retention, because then when they get a call from a competitor, they tend not to listen as much.
“I think we undercommunicated for a period of time, and when we were a smaller company, communicating was easier. But as you scale the business, more effort needs to go into communicating your message. I know it’s a cliché, but as you grow, it’s easy to lose sight of the exponential communication requirement. It’s not linear. If you’re growing 50 percent a year, the communications requirement to keep everybody on the same page, to keep the culture intact, and to keep the employees engaged and motivated, is an exponential growth in terms of the effort that you have to put into it. I underestimated that at times, and I certainly won’t do that again.”
Liaison has also been challenged because it operates in a fast-changing market sector and finds itself facing larger, more sophisticated competitors than it has dealt with in the past.
“When the landscape you’re working in is dynamic and your competitors are changing, it’s important to spend a lot of time to determine where the white-space opportunity is — that is, where there’s a unique place you can position your company — and not try to compete head to head with the new competitors that you’re being stacked up against. Because the reality is, if you compete on the same basis as the new competitors, due to scale-based economics, etc., you’re just not going to be able to be effective. We’ve continually tried to determine what are the things we can do, based on our expertise and our assets, that will set us apart from the larger competitors.
“That’s a key piece of advice: Don’t try to do the same things they’re doing, because you won’t win. Within our company, we sometimes have senior people slip into the trap of ‘So-and-so’s doing this, so we should go do some of that.’ So you quickly come back with, ‘Can we do it better than them?’ The answer is usually no. So we dust ourself off and say, ‘Yep, we’re not going to go down that path.’ It’s important to leverage your capabilities and assets to do something different to achieve the same objective.”
HOW TO REACH: Liaison Technologies Inc., (770) 442-4900 or www.liaison.com
THE RENNER FILE
Name: Bob Renner
Title: President and CEO
Company: Liaison Technologies Inc.
Born: Streator, Ill.
Education: MBA, Emory University; B.S., Electrical Engineering, California State University, Fullerton
What was your first job, and what important lessons did you take from it?
The first meaningful job I had was I worked in a gold mine in Northern California. And what I learned from that is that I needed to go to college, because it was hard, physical work, and you can do that up to a certain point, but not much beyond that.
Do you have an overriding business philosophy that you use to guide you?
I’m driven and impressed by people that really put their discretionary effort into the business. In some cases, it’s not necessarily the smartest person in the room or the cleverest person in the room. I believe in people committing themselves to the business, in terms of interest. I like to surround myself with people that are engaged and love what they’re doing, so they’re thinking about the business not because they have to but because they want to. And I’ve been fortunate in this job to surround myself with some people that fit that mold to a T.
What trait do you think is the most important for a CEO to have in order to be a successful leader?
You need to be humble. A lot of people that get into executive positions quickly lose touch with how they got there. Most people get to this position through a lot of hard work, and with a lot of luck along the way. So staying approachable, staying humble, understanding that you’re fortunate to be doing the job that you’re doing — I think this is a very important attribute.
How do you define success in business?
Delivering something that’s valuable to the market. That’s not always easy to find, but you have to find it because it anchors everything else that you do.
Being able to tell your story is critical in today’s fast-paced world, where cutting through the noise to be heard gets harder each day. With so many media options fighting for attention, it’s imperative to identify new channels where you can stand out.
That’s why as part of our expansion last year, we saw an opportunity to tell entrepreneurs’ stories in greater detail and share lessons learned by launching a book division.
Our book division is unlike traditional publishers, because we do all the work for you. We develop the story and outline, conduct the interviews with the author and other contributors, and then write the book and handle all of the other elements through publication of an e-book and hardback editions.
The time commitment from you is minimal. Once the story is determined, we will conduct a series of short interviews to get the information we need to write the book. You approve everything that goes into the story and have final say on every aspect of the project. We help you take an idea for a book and turn it into a reality that you can share with others.
As an example, last year, we worked with auto dealers Rick and Rita Case to produce “Our Customers, Our Friends.” In the book, the Cases lay out their theory that the secret to successful retail sales is through building long-lasting relationships with customers and treating them as you would your best friend.
Whether your goal is to use a book as a business card for your organization by sharing knowledge with others or to further a cause and help raise awareness for something you believe in, we work with our author-entrepreneurs to identify what makes them unique and what insight they can share with others. We also build an author’s website and set up social media channels to help them promote the book. And, we’ve recently established an authors’ speakers’ bureau that will help extend the reach of sharing that entrepreneur’s knowledge across the national footprint of Smart Business Network.
So far this year, we have eight books in various stages of production. Among them are books for the CEOs of three publicly traded companies on topics ranging from mergers and acquisitions to building sustainable businesses to how to conduct successful turnarounds. We’re also publishing books that introduce exciting new business theories, as well as one that explains how to lead with a philosophy of giving back to the community.
What direction your book takes is up to you. It can tell the story of how your business started small and grew into what it is today, or it can explain the details of what you see as the keys to being successful in business.
Breaking through the clutter of information is tricky, and writing a book is one way you can make yourself heard. It’s also a great way to explain your philosophies to employees, customers and your peers.
There’s a widespread belief that everyone has at least one book within them. In the business world, that’s even truer. If you think that’s you, we’d be happy to help you turn your ideas into reality.
If you are interested in learning more about publishing a book, please contact our publisher, Dustin Klein, at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.