If you were in the grocery business in the late 1990s, you already had plenty of competition. There were larger chains like Kroger plus all kinds of smaller IGA stores, not to mention the various convenience stores like Dairy Mart, all of whom were fighting for the same grocery dollar.
The market couldn’t possibly take another competitor entering the marketplace, but that’s exactly what happened. Walmart started selling groceries.
When the behemoth entered the grocery market, most smaller players couldn’t compete. The mom-and-pop stores mostly closed their doors and even the big chains suffered. Business was down and margins were hurt.
The surprising part about this is that most of the players in the market didn’t expect it. They were “business as usual,” and then, suddenly, Walmart came to town. Walmart now controls an estimated 16 to 25 percent of the grocery market nationwide, depending on who you ask. Before the late ’90s, Walmart’s share was zero. The market didn’t anticipate being attacked from that direction, but that’s exactly what happened.
The music industry suffered a similar fate. Remember all the retail record stores that were out there? There were multiple stores in each mall plus specialty retailers on every corner. If you wanted music, you drove to the store and bought a CD. Then iTunes and iPods showed up. It was a game changer. Most of those record stores have long since been shuttered. Who would have thought that you would just download music over the Internet and all those stores would be gone?
The lessons are clear: You will have new competitors, but you won’t necessarily know who they will be or what direction they will come from.
Too often, we are locked into studying our existing market, carefully watching every move our known competitors are making. But while we are doing that, an unknown threat is creeping up behind us.
The only way to fight these unknown dangers is to always be prepared for the worst. It’s the old “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound or cure” adage.
The companies that operate the most efficiently and leverage technology to their advantage will be the ones in the best position to fight off all threats, both known and unknown.
Your management team has to be open-minded to all new ideas and be structured in a way that can quickly adapt to market changes. If your team can’t do this, then either you don’t have the right team or the structure is wrong.
Making changes requires quick reactions, and people need to buy in as soon as possible. To be fair, you need to give people the opportunity to change, but if they can’t adapt with you, then you have to replace them or find a position better suited for them.
In today’s ever-changing economy, there are a lot of very difficult decisions that need to be made regarding your people. You can’t be an effective CEO and run your company like you are the head of a fan club with your employees as the members. Making the changes required to survive and thrive in the world requires fast action, and many of the decisions will not be popular. If you are constantly surveying them to see if they approve of your actions, you’ll probably be headed for failure.
Sell your direct reports on your vision and get their buy-in. After that, you need to get as many people on board as possible. Those that can’t do that in a reasonable time need to move on.
Most people don’t like change, but this is a new era we live in. Speed is imperative. In the time you took to read this column, some unknown future competitor just crept a little closer to launching an attack on your market share. Are you ready for them? Or do you need to send out a survey first?
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
Change is an inevitability of life. Ironically, the fact that “change will always happen” is the only real thing we can count on in life! We cannot always control change, but that does not mean our life path has to be at the complete mercy of random, unpredictable circumstance.
As a busy executive, are you at the mercy of events or are you in control? Do the changes roll in so fast that you find yourself struggling to stay afloat? How do you view the changes that are happening around you?
You can shake your fist at the sky, or sulk to show that you are mad at the world, or you can accept that truth that nobody escapes change. These tips are intended help you be mindful of your potential, to hone your ability to manifest positive results and to learn that sometimes you must simply “go with the flow.”
12 ways to embrace change to increase effectiveness as a busy executive:
1. CHAOS IS OPPORTUNITY. Big changes, especially unpleasant ones, are like storms that clear the air. Rather than perceive this as a disaster, strategically keep note of the pros and cons of the situation. Learning from a chaotic change and then implementing a series of positive changes can earn you kudos for your ability to handle a tough situation.
2. REFLECTION, NOT PANIC. Be the calm at the center of the storm. Realize the need for rational, intelligent thinking and connection with your higher self. Often we receive answers that tell us exactly what we need to do when our mind is still. This is also a way to earn the respect of your colleagues and team.
3. AVOID STINKING THINKING. When change happens unexpectedly, some people engage in “stinking thinking.” Try to avoid thinking negatively of yourself, your coworkers or the situation in general. Avoid words like “should”, “not” and “can’t”. Remember, the idea here is to increase your effectiveness – negative thought will not make that happen.
4. BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS. Being honest with yourself about what role you may have played to manifest an unpleasant change is one of the best ways to respect yourself and maintain your own integrity. If the change occurred because you made a mistake, then learn from it and move on. Accountability increases effectiveness.
5. DON’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME. Rather than change, many people create reasons why they are incapable of change. One of the favorite tactics of ineffective executives is to blame all of their woes on others, especially their team members. Even if there is someone to blame, obsessing over it will not help in correcting the situation.
6. CONSIDER ALL OF THE FACTS. When in the midst of change, many people find it hard to “see the forest through the trees.” As an executive, try to develop a perspective that takes everything into consideration and not just your point of view.
7. BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE. A reactive individual is at the mercy of change. A proactive manager takes action to make the best of it. Acting first keeps you out ahead of change and in control of it.
8. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. During periods of great change it is very common to find every little thing to be just another source of stress. Learn to distinguish between what is worth worrying about and what isn’t.
9. AVOID MISERY LOVES COMPANY. During times of change an executive is likely to have coworkers or others who will want to sit and ruminate over the “terrible” situation. Refuse to participate in these types of pity parties. They breed self-sabotaging negative thoughts and behaviors. They also lead to a lessening of respect for your position.
10. BE READY WITH A SMILE. People who smile are considered to be more flexible and adaptable to change. People who look stern are considered to be rigid personalities that are not capable of personal growth. Change is all about personal growth, for you and your team. A smile can make all the difference in these times.
11. GO WITH THE FLOW. Present an easy, casual and friendly attitude that shows off your flexibility, yet at the same time portrays your persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity. This attitude will lend itself as a helpful guide through the river of change that is happening all around your company or organization.
12. REWARD YOURSELF. Too many executives only reward the good behavior of others in their organization. Do not do this. If you have mastered some aspect of change that you have found very difficult to conquer in the past, remember to reward yourself. This reinforces your subconscious mind to repeat the beneficial behavior.
Remember, the only thing you can be sure of is change. Is there anything more boring than a life without change? Embrace the lessons that life has to offer you and grow from them. Use them to teach and lead as you strive for more effectiveness in all you do.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
The challenges facing small businesses regarding health care is a daunting one. Many are struggling to maintain health coverage for their employees while their bottom line suffers. Still others are unable to find cheap insurance quotes and are forced to reduce coverage or have had to drop health benefits altogether. This crisis has spurred action by the Obama Administration to reform the current health care infrastructure.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reforms many previous practices of private and public health insurance with the intention of making health care more accessible and affordable. The Act is intended to expand access to health insurance to millions of Americans, increase national spending of health services while lowering Medicare spending and remove many of the current limitations for pre-existing conditions, which otherwise would exclude coverage for many in need of it. It is hoped that the Act will help to answer many of the concerns that small business employers have for their employees and in turn, concerns the employees have for their families.
The legislation is welcome news for many, but there are a number of roadblocks to full realization. For one, complete implementation will be done in stages over several years. Secondly, legislation may be subject to extensive revision or even repeal, due to the many detractors of and federal actions against the Act. In addition, many small businesses are not happy with overall benefit to their own businesses, citing that the Act doesn’t provide enough to benefit their company or that they weren’t eligible. Still others state that they hadn’t heard of the credit at all. As a result, many employers are understandably reluctant to embrace any part of the benefits and search for a cheap insurance quote comparison, to no avail. While these and other issues are under debate, you can still help your employees with their health care and keep your costs in check:
• Gear Up for Compliance
Whether the Act is repealed or goes under significant changes in the future, employers should take steps to comply as much as possible with the PPACA’s current requirements.
• Get On Board
Taking advantage of all of the tax credits available is just plain good business sense. For employers who provide health care coverage, a tax credit of 35 percent bumps up to 50 percent in 2014. This will go a long way to offset insurance costs.
Co-ops allow for businesses to pool together resources to obtain health insurance, which increases buying power for small businesses while reducing overhead. A number of co-ops exist for employers to get a cheap insurance quote comparison.
• Workplace Wellness Program
Small businesses that begin a wellness program for their employees can take advantage of over $200 million in grants.
Many small companies cannot afford even cheap insurance quotes, so seeking government help where it’s available can do a lot to keep costs down and employees insured.
Olivia Wilkinson is the Senior Consultant for CheapInsurance123.
One of the emotional benefits of owning or leading a business is the sense of fulfillment that comes with using your size and scale to benefit a worthy cause.
There are certainly compelling business reasons to build a corporate charitable partnership, but when doing so, be sure to keep your No. 1 goal at the helm: help the cause.
Know that the ROI will be difficult to calculate on a balance sheet. Make the choice to be OK with that, and move forward with the partnership because it is the right thing to do. Trust that the financial benefits will be felt over time.
Philosophically, no one would argue that supporting a charity is awesome, but when it comes to asking colleagues, clients and business partners to contribute their time and money, you’ll often find not everyone is leaping out of their seats at once to pitch in.
Take that in stride. Relationships are built over time. The key to building a successful charitable partnership is choosing the right cause, getting the internal team on board and encouraging consumer participation.
Choose the right cause
There are hundreds of fantastic organizations out there, but you want to pick the cause that is just right for your company. What unique goods and services can your company offer a charitable partner?
It’s important to pick an organization that can truly benefit from the level contribution that you are realistically able to provide. Oftentimes, the consumer reach that a corporate partner can offer to spread a charitable organization’s message is its most valuable asset. What assets can your business bring to the table?
The emotional connection with the cause is equally as important. Putting a face behind the fundraising inspires participation. Can the charitable organization offer a spokesperson that will resonate with your audience?
If your company is national, your charitable partner should be national. If your company has local outlets and connects with local communities, your charitable partner should have local chapters, as well, and the money that is raised local should stay local.
In other words, determine what your company is able to contribute (time, services, goods, cash, etc.), then decide what factors will be most important to the constituents you expect to support the cause.
Get the team on board
Donating to a cause means writing a big check. Creating a charitable partnership is a much bigger undertaking. First you’ll want to get your internal team on board. This means clearly communicating the details of the partnership, the attributes of the cause (once again if you have an actual spokesperson, even better) and what is expected from the members of the team. Before you can get your customers involved, you’ve got to get your team to be emotionally invested in the partnership. The best way is to lead them in a hands-on project with the organization. Reward people who take a leadership role in participating and make it a fun, team-building activity. Now it is no longer just a cause they have read about on paper, but they have actually worked with the organization and personally contributed.
Encourage consumer participation
It is no secret that consumers are attracted to brands that support a cause. According to a recent study conducted by Emory University with 1,600 Moe’s Southwest Grill consumers, seeing a charitable message at the point of purchase will increase return visits, intent to recommend, brand trust and satisfaction. It’s meaningful to get your charitable message in front of your customers. Encouraging participation connects your brand with their desire to contribute to their community. If a guest can feel that he or she has contributed simply by choosing to affiliate with your brand, then that is a win for all parties.
Moe’s Southwest Grill selected the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, whose mission is to cure and treat type 1 diabetes, because we felt that it met our criteria and offered an opportunity for our corporate team, our franchise partners and our customers to get involved at a variety of levels.
When you are ready to commit to creating a charitable partnership, be fearless and jump in with both feet. Resist the urge to do an ROI analysis and keep in mind that you are making a positive impact on a nonprofit organization that needs your help. Trust that your genuine intent will resonate with both internal and external audiences, and when your bottom line feels it, too — well, that’s just an added bonus.
Paul Damico is president of Atlanta based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with more than 400 locations nationwide. Damico has been a leader in the food service industry for longer than 20 years with companies, such as SSP America, FoodBrand LLC and Host Marriott. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Ryan Gunnigle’s company Kids II Inc. has grown at almost 25 percent a year for the last four years.
“Just really keeping up with that growth is probably mine and the executive staff’s biggest challenge,” says the president and CEO.
With 400 employees spread out over 12 different offices, it’s quite the challenge for Gunnigle and his staff, but he manages to not let the growth eat him up.
Smart Business spoke with him about how to not let rapid growth consume your organization.
What’s the key to staying ahead of rapid growth?
There’s a lot of components to that but I think it’s strategic planning and trying to do a better job of that every year so you can lay down the plan — not a big, formalized process but really try to lay it down so it’s well thought out and you have everybody’s buy-in and everybody in the organization moving in the same direction. Continually try to do that while your organization is growing fast and changing and becoming more and more dynamic every year.
Really try to innovate and do things you haven’t done before. As you get bigger, some of that effort gets diffused sometimes, so it’s keeping in front of that.
How do you do that?
Your job as the leader is really to visualize where we want to go and a lot of components go into coming up with that overarching vision. The biggest thing is within your organization to come up with a way you can get everybody’s buy-in, and as you grow, it’s harder to put together an environment that fuels that thought process that helps you get to where you’re visualizing.
What I try to do is come up with a very simplistic way to show everybody the very basic way that helps communicate where we’re going as an organization and try to simplify that as best you can so everybody has a clear understanding of what they can do or what they need to do to be able to help the organization get there. As you grow as an organization, your top leaders’ time is consumed with everything but business-driving activity sometimes.
Honestly, it’s the infrastructure we have in place that really fuels the great people that fuel us and help us get to long-term goals. They’re the ones that really develop a lot of it. We work with them and what is their wish list and what is their paradigm-shifting activity that can propel the organization to what our top-line goals are. They’re the ones that come up with the really strategic, outside-the-box [ideas] that makes us more competitive and really fuel the team and have the environment that the teams can prosper in that way and really contribute.
Culture really starts at the top. The bottom line is you really have to give. You have to really care about your team. I think that shows to what you do in your organization.
How do you show you care?
We really strive to not have a real roll-up-your-sleeve mentality. Those kinds of things set the pace. Every year we try to improve the employees’ experience, whether it’s benefits or work atmosphere or it’s activities at the office. Keep it fun, keep it fresh. Get an environment where people really enjoy coming to work, and they’re excited about coming into the office and working for somebody who inspires them. As soon as you stop trying to get to that point, you’ve failed. That really sets the pace for the organization. I fully expect from the Kids II team as much as I expect from myself.
In evaluating employees and people, one of the quickest things that comes up to me, let’s say you have an A-player, but they just don’t fit corporately, that type of person will not succeed at Kids II. I’d rather have a B-player that cares about the business as much as or more than I do than having an incredibly smart person who’s distracted in certain areas.
How to reach: Kids II Inc., (770) 751-0442 or www.kidsii.com
One of the most critical elements of creating a plan or vision is to make sure you have sound processes in place within your business. This starts with evaluating your products.
“You have to look at your product range and you need to ask yourself the question, ‘Is this the best product, or are there competitors that are better than I am?’” says Martin Richenhagen of AGCO. “American cars are not sold outside of America because they’re lousy cars — not because people in Europe prefer European cars. The technology isn’t leading technology and leading quality. Today, you need to be able to lead in technology and lead in quality and have a competitive cost position.”
It’s also important that as part of your processes you’re willing to take risks.
“A willingness to take risks and experiment is very important because the good ideas stop coming if people think there’s no chance it will ever get implemented because they’re viewed as too risky,” says Chip Perry of AutoTrader.com. “You have to be willing to experiment, make mistakes and iterate toward a better solution in order to promote an innovative environment where people feel safe to make suggestions that are outside the box, and then the company has to be willing to methodically test and evaluate them.”
And above all, you have to make sure you have measuring processes in place as well.
“Invest in data and metrics, not just metrics that your clients use but metrics internally, trying to make them simple but sort of poignant,” says Chris Krubert of ApolloMD. “You have got to understand what is the key component that determines success.”
Krubert says if you don’t have ways of measuring, it’s something you need to spend some time processing, as well.
“You have to come up with ways to measure it, whether its technology or simplifying your process, but then monitoring it and benchmarking it and having historical data, so you can do a trend analysis and when you’re pointing toward the worst direction, you can act,” he says.
Planning and vision
It’s hard for any business to know where it’s going if it hasn’t taken the time to do some strategic planning and analysis.
“You have to find a niche in the business,” says Mit Shah of Noble Investment Group. “I think that companies of the future that are going to be very successful will have a niche. They aren’t broad-based companies that do a lot of things. They’ll find a couple things they do really well, and they focus on those things, and they outperform the competition there. It’s way too difficult to be good at many different things.”
So how do you find a niche? You have to look at trends and what you’re good at.
“I encourage people to analyze the markets,” says Millard Choate of Choate Construction Co. “What’s the coming trends? What are the needs going to be not just today but six months to a year from now? Try to anticipate where to deploy your resources to produce the maximum return.”
Watch the wording that you use, as well.
“You can wordsmith sentences that become ambiguous,” says Jeff Bowman of Crawford & Co. “What you have to do is create a series of effectively executable plans that are then absolutely easily translated.”
For example, you might say something such as, “We’re going to increase sales around the world,” which is a very wide open statement.
“Increase is a good word,” Bowman says. “Sales is a good word. Around the world? What does that mean? It has to be more defined than that. What’s the marketplace? What is the product we want to grow? That’s where a lot of strategies have to be planned in the sessions that you do prior to laying those strategic plans out.”
No matter what you do, make sure you’re honest with yourself and aren’t being unrealistic.
“It’s important to be as objective as you can and gather objective facts and information,” says Chip Perry of AutoTrader.com. “One of the things we try to do is whenever it’s possible, to go out and do some research about the potential impact of an idea so we’ll go talk to consumers and dealers and manufacturers and ask them for their guidance on how valuable they think it is, so research is a very important part of it.”
On top of everything, make sure you don’t put your strategy on the shelf and forget about it.
“A strategy document is a living document,” Bowman says. “Events change, and you have to change an organization to implement the goals.”
One of the other key elements to successfully leading is measuring the goals and processes you’ve created.
“You make your own metrics for what success is,” says Ted Turner. “You set up criteria and write down what you think would make you feel successful. Each person would do it differently. What success is for one person wouldn’t be success to another. If one guy said, ‘If I made $1 million, I’d be a success,’ but to another, ‘I wouldn’t be a success unless I made $1 billion.’ They’d be off by a factor of 1,000 to one.”
So what should those metrics look like?
“You have to have quantitative, objective measurements of your business results,” says Bob Puccini of Mizuno USA Inc. “That’s certainly an indication. You have to have a clear indication of (key performance indicators) — what are you trying to measure? What’s important to you? Therefore, if those things are important to you relative to achieving your business goals, these are the KPIs you ought to be looking on a regular basis. If we’re succeeding or not based on certain benchmarks, that’s one indication.”
And make sure you’re not trying to measure and hold people accountable to things they can’t control.
“Make sure you focus on things that you can control,” says Darrell Grimes of MAG Mutual. “In other words, you can’t control, and I can’t control, interest rates. You and I can’t control health care reform. You and I can’t control tsunamis and earthquakes that are actually affecting us today. Focus on those things that you can control, but remain flexible and keep your options open but have a mission and reason for being.”
2 Tips: Customer relations
“Ask probing, delicate questions to make sure that their vision is consistent with what our plan is and then updating it periodically.”
Chris Krubert, ApolloMD, January
“You have to understand what your client’s hot buttons are, what his interests are. It’s not just always revenues. Each client has his own nuances so just customizing your approach to that client and making sure you’re taking care of them and promote that you’re looking out for their best interest.”
Millard Choate, Choate Construction Co., September
4 Tips: Culture
“Let’s be honest, this is a tough labor market. People aren’t jumping jobs right now, so we get that. You can’t use that as a crutch because as soon as the market comes back, they’ll leave for a better opportunity once available.”
Mit Shah, Noble Investment Group, February
“Recognize the value in what the honesty can deliver for you. Create an environment where truth and bad news is accepted and used as a learning opportunity, which means you also have to check egos at the door. You have to build trust with your constituency — your employees — where it becomes safe to have those open discussions.”
Bob Puccini, Mizuno USA Inc., December
“If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customer. … It’s important that they understand that we’re all in the same boat and we’re all rowing in the same direction — that when times are good, they all get bonuses and when times are not so good, we may get a smaller bonus or no bonus at all. If we don’t all pull together and understand what the financial results are, we will not do as well as a company, and we won’t service the clients the way we want to be serviced. It’s an open-book policy.”
Darrell Grimes, MAG Mutual, August
“One of the hallmarks of successful companies is being open-minded and receptive to ideas for improvement from the employees, who are closer to the work than the executives are. It’s kind of built into your DNA. Either you are or you aren’t receptive. You have to be curious and receptive and then be willing to work with it. Then you need to set up a pattern and a tempo of consistency on this topic. If you do it once, and it goes away — a flash in the pan idea — it becomes not effective. If you do it every year, you’ve been doing it for 10 years, people come to expect it, and it becomes part of the culture.”
Chip Perry, AutoTrader.com, May
4 Tips: Communication
“Although you have to craft the format differently, I believe you have to be very consistent with the communications, whether it’s your employees or customers or suppliers or investors. You can’t have different messages. You have to have a consistent strategy and talk to them and adopt it to their viewpoint a little bit. You can’t create different ones for different people – it doesn’t work. … Making it a simple message is very hard. … You have to be able to communicate not only to your senior people but also be able to reach somebody who is working on a factory floor who may not speak English, and translate it and be ruthless and streamline the message down. When you do that, it means you have to be very clear about what you have to do. If you use a lot of words, you don’t have to be so clear. If you use very few words, you have to be much more clear.”
Jim Bolch, Exide Technologies, November
“I listen because no one person has all of the ideas,” he says. “It’s a collaborative environment.”
Darrell Grimes, MAG Mutual, August
“Make sure people understand what they’re accountable for. They do things that they understand much easier than things that they don’t understand. … The world we live in, you get swallowed up in the amount of data you’ve got. You have to cut through and say, ‘What is the important data that you’re going to measure people on?’”
Jeff Bowman, Crawford & Co., June
“If you ask someone their opinion, and you never follow it or you never use it, then why in the world would they ever want to give it again. But if you ask people their opinion and say, ‘To every extent possible, we’d like to take your ideas and make things better, and they see that we actually take ideas and implement it and use it to create a better work environment, it’s synergistic and it just grows.”
Michael Bass, Piedmont Newnan Hospital, April
4 Tips: Hiring
“It’s a disciplined approach to define the key characteristics of what you need in a person to do that specific job and completely severing the ‘I like, I don’t like,’ and then tapping into other people’s sort of ratings on the same scale. It’s pretty clear, hard work or not hard work. That’s almost a quantifiable type. There’s ways you can define that and then ask other people who are in a similar role.”
Christopher Krubert, ApolloMD, January
“The individual who is comfortable is relaxed. They pause, they think about their response. They’re inquisitive but yet they are knowledgeable. The cocky person is usually the person who you can’t get a word in edgewise. They just want to go on and on and on.”
Michael Bass, Piedmont Newnan Hospital, April
“What we always do is discuss it with the guy who has the job because I think it would be very bad if you have a job description, and the guy who’s doing the job would say, ‘That’s not me.’ That happens sometimes. If it’s getting too theoretical and you only have human resources involved or someone from the outside, this could happen. … You need to keep things simple in a way but also very pragmatic. This means don’t make it too long of details. The most important part of a job description is to describe the area of responsibility in the form of results you are expecting. Instead of describing what you expect somebody to do — he has to come into the office at 7 o’clock in the morning and open his door and start to make phone calls — describe activities and describe results you expect the leader to generate.”
Martin Richenhagen, AGCO, October
“If you have a business vision and a business goal and say, ‘Here’s where we’re going and here’s how you have to play,’ those kinds of things allow you to recognize the kinds of skills you need to do that. You have to have a clear vision — where you’re going, where you’re going to play, where you think you can win, and how you’re going to play in order to win. Then you step back and say, ‘Wow, what kind of skills do we need in order to do that?’ Then you do a gap analysis. Here’s where we are, here’s where we need to be from a competency perspective, and what’s the plan to either acquire or develop those competencies.”
Bob Puccini, Mizuno USA Inc., December
6 Tips: Leadership
“Sometimes you just have to be a smart guy growing up in New York to survive. That means knowing which alleys not to walk down. It doesn’t mean you walk down every alley and pick a fight and win them all. It means also being savvy enough to know I’m not going to walk down that alley — that doesn’t look right, that doesn’t feel right. It’s knowing where to play and where not to play, and again playing to your strengths. If you don’t have them, you better acquire or develop them. … That ability to be completely honest with himself was critical as a kid, and it’s just as needed as a leader looking at your abilities and your business. … Sometimes it hurts, but that’s part of being successful. You’ve got to be honest with your limitations.”
Bob Puccini, Mizuno USA, December
“So many people are trying to move up in an organization — step over someone else to get up the corporate ladder. Just focus on the company and just focus on the customer, and you’ll find that all those other problems go away. … Forget trying to beat the guy down the hall. I think there’s too much of that. If people will do that, they’ll see how much easier it is to move up the corporate ladder without doing it. Just do the right thing.”
Darrell Grimes, MAG Mutual, August
“Continue to do what the books say you’re supposed to do — stick to your core values during times of great opportunity and during times of crisis, take care of people, make sure that you continue to commit to things that are part of who you are and who you espouse to be.”
Mit Shah, Noble Investment Group, February
“How do you build trust? There are several ways. No. 1, you say what you’re going to do, and then you do it so that employees know that if I say that this is what we’re going to do or this is what’s going to happen, then I’ve got to make sure that that’s exactly what we do and we don’t deviate from that. Trust is being open and telling it like it is.”
Michael Bass, Piedmont Newnan Hospital, April
“The easiest thing is to do nothing, and then you’ll never get in trouble — and you’ll never get anywhere either, but doing nothing is an option, and that’s an option that most people avail themselves of in life. They do as little as they can, and they don’t realize what they could have done because they didn’t do anything. That’s most people. It’s just too hard, and it is hard. It’s extremely hard, and you’ve got to be — there’s an old expression I heard somewhere — smarter than a tree full of owls to do anything like create a Microsoft or a Google or a CNN.”
Ted Turner, Turner Enterprises, July
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“‘Trust, but verify.’ I think it is critically important to empower your team, but periodically you need to drill down to ensure that you are getting the whole story and you are comfortable with the direction.”
-Jim Bolch, Exide Technologies, November
“Don’t worry about those things you can’t control. Just try to manage through them. I see a lot of people worrying about things, but it’s just more stress in your life. Manage what you can control. Prepare for the worst; accept the rest. Don’t worry too much about what you can’t control. I think that’s important advice.”
-Darrell O. Grimes, MAG Mutual Insurance Co., August
“The best advice I’ve ever received is you’ll only get one chance to make your case for a change order, and only a fool would be willing to attempt to argue about the end result after that. That was my grandfather, who was the road-building construction contractor.”
-Chip Bullock, HDR CUH2A, March
“One of the original founder’s term: personal is best. That’s important. That’s the advice I use. When I’m trying to understand why someone is acting out or stressed or giving me a hard time, trying to keep it personal and trying to understand who they are as a person, whether it’s in a clinical setting or a business setting and that often times will give you the answer. That’s the best advice I’ve gotten to date.”
-Christopher Krubert, ApolloMD, January
Some companies are still struggling to make ends meet. Even so, they should be committed to rewarding performing employees by offering higher salaries. Newly released information shows average salaries are expected to increase by 3.4 percent in 2012. The largest gain seems to be in technology jobs, indicating an average of a 4.5 percent increase on base salary compensation.
“I would advise employers to revisit their current salary structure and make sure they are competitive with the market,” says MJ Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “Otherwise, you can be at high risk of losing an employee down the road this year.”
Smart Business learned more from Helms about planning ahead for salary changes for in-demand employees.
Why should employers be concerned about rising average IT salaries?
Various reports indicate that some IT workers are already leaving full-time, permanent positions to become contractors. This year, the employment index sees huge gains in technology hiring with a 20 percent annual growth. Those IT professionals want to capitalize on the number of contract opportunities in the marketplace as employers devote a larger portion of their work forces to contingent labor. They also want to cash in on the pay premiums that contingent IT positions are commanding these days. Whether contractors are moving into permanent positions or IT staff are leaving permanent jobs to become contractors, it all indicates the same thing: that IT job opportunities are once again beginning to boom.
Are these shifts justified?
Systems and networking engineers are in stronger demand, as are mobile applications developers. One of the important elements affecting the salary of IT specialists is certification. When a person combines an in-demand skill set and particular certification, to justify a certain job role, a salary increase should take place. There are however, a lot of certifications in the market, and only a few carry influence in the industry. Market veterans say that not all certifications make equal paycheck impact.
The following is a list of top certifications as we move ahead in 2012.
? CCNA Certification (Cisco Certified Network Associates)
? MCITP Certification (Microsoft Certified Professionals)
? CompTIA Network + Certification
? CISSP Certification
? CISA Certification
? Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator Certification
? ITIL Certification
? CompTIA Security + Certification
? VMware Certification
? Project Management Expert Certification
? Microsoft’s Certified Systems Engineers Certification
? CompTIA A+ Certification
What other positions are seeing a rise in salary?
Besides the technology area, financial, administrative and office support personnel are also likely to see some of the biggest starting salary increases this year. And let’s not forget about your marketing department. Those employees with interactive skills, such as user experience designers, are especially sought after as firms look to improve their Web presence and move many of their marketing programs online.
How can employers ensure they are offering appropriate compensation?
Websites like PayScale.com and Salary.com can give you a reasonably clear idea of where your pay stands in comparison with others in similar jobs in your industry and geographic location. Check out help-wanted ads, job board postings and industry-association salary surveys as well.
Do expected increases compare to what’s actually happening in the market?
According to a number of recent surveys, the average pay increase companies are planning for 2012 hovers between 2.8 percent and 3 percent, up a little from around 2.6 percent in 2010 and 2011. (The pre-recession average, from 2005 to 2008, was 4 percent.)
How can employers evaluate who should receive raises?
Consistent performance reviews of employees is an extremely important part of your company’s effectiveness and efficiency. Not only does it give the employer a better idea of how well your employees are performing, but it will justify giving a deserving employee a raise or promotion. Research shows that up to 65 percent of companies are dissatisfied with their current performance appraisals. The majority of employers have biannual or annual reviews; others feel it is important to meet more often with their employees.
When determining how to identify your top performers, consider rewarding employees that ‘think like the owner.’ They may be various employees throughout your organization, but, ultimately, you need to reward people who make everyday decisions and perform as if they own the company.
Why should employers pay attention to these trends?
Employee retention is the No. 1 reason. Employers need to keep in mind that the competition for employees will continue to increase as the baby boomer population ages. Make sure that you challenge and value your star employees. The deficit that occurs when a good employee leaves far outweighs the time, efforts and costs to retain that person. Salary reviews should be part of a program developed to reward loyal employees. But more importantly, establish action items that will encourage them to stay.
M.J. Helms is the director of operations at The Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rising health care costs are putting more and more pressure on employers every year. Providing a desirable plan has become an enormous expense, but companies still need to offer health insurance benefits to stay competitive and recruit.
“Health insurance is no longer an employee benefit; it’s a cost of doing business,” says Albert Ertel, COO of Alliant Health Plans. “You have employers trying to find a balance between what they can afford and what the employees desire.”
Smart Business learned more from Ertel about how employers can find that balance.
What options do they have to keep the costs manageable while also offering a quality benefits program?
One of the mistakes employers make is looking at their health plans on a year-to-year basis instead of using a long-term, multi-year approach. There used to be 10 to 15 insurance companies employers could get quotes from that would compete for their business. There are only a handful of competitors in the business now, and options tend to be homogenous. Companies don’t look at the true cost of changing carriers.
What should employers look for in a health insurance carrier?
They should look at the price point and the availability of services. One universal truth is that health care is local. Looking at the provider directory may not provide solutions. Look for a company that wants to work with you over the long haul. This opens the door to develop that multi-year or long-term approach. Too many people just say, ‘Here’s the low rate this year; it’s time to move.’ Disruption adds to the cost of changing carriers. Once you change carriers four or five times, you’ve gone full circle and not accomplished anything positive for your employees.
In the real estate market everyone looks at location, location, location. In the health insurance business, people have a tendency to be very short-sighted and look at rate, rate and rate. Health insurance is a product for which you truly get what you pay.
Besides price, what should employers consider when looking at health insurance?
The basics are the price, the benefits and the network that employers have a tendency to focus on. After those three factors, you should consider the true level of customer service, level of employee education, hands-on service and no-cost, value-added services guiding people to healthier decisions. If you only compare the basics, you’ll have a tough time differentiating one carrier from another. Although employees aren’t involved in the decision of where to buy coverage, every employer out there knows that a benefit is no longer a benefit if it’s a ‘hassle.’ I’m talking about picking up a telephone and talking to a person. You need a focused point of contact — those touch points that are truly hands-on, truly person-to-person.
Employers want to do the right thing for their employees. But the amount of information most employees know about their health insurance is printed on their ID card. That’s about as in-depth as they go until they need it.
How can employers educate their employees about their health insurance?
Let’s ask the right question: What do my employees really need versus what do they want? Most employers rarely ask. Now you’re providing value, so give them the opportunity to learn about what they’ve got. The annual enrollment period is a great time to educate and inform employees about their benefits. Unfortunately, a lot of employers just get an application filled out. But what does a new application mean to an employee and his or her family?
One idea that works well is to invite the employees’ spouses in for these meetings. Why? Seventy-seven percent of health care decisions are made by women. So involve the spouses.
What is the benefit of educating employees about the plan?
The biggest benefit is truly imparting the knowledge of the cost of medical care and the value of the insurance plan the employer is providing to them. Most employees don’t understand how much it costs. All they know is how much is being taken out of their check.
The other thing they know about the cost of their health insurance is the co-pay. If their doctor’s visit only costs them $20, then why is the company taking so much money out of their account? You have to help them understand their cost is only the tip of the iceberg.
What are some of the factors contributing to high costs?
When you look at the process of pricing health insurance for a company, you look at the demographics of the group: age, sex, family participation in the group, the plan design they are interested in, where they are located, the health of the group, whether it’s through claims experience or health histories. Then the bargaining starts. The risk is determined and benefits may be modified.
How can employers marginalize those factors?
I’m a big believer in personal responsibility. People want to work for employers that take the time, not just in an enrollment meeting, but with a truly educational total approach to employment and benefits. Large or small, the companies people want to work for are ones that give employees the tools to make their own decisions. If you give people responsibility, eight out of 10 of those people are going to rise to that occasion and many exceed it.
In the health insurance business, the best way to bring down costs is by being healthy. That is why preventive care and wellness programs are so important and need to be considered.
Albert Ertel is COO of Alliant Health Plans. Reach him at (706) 629-8848 or email@example.com.
Dealing with payroll, employee benefits and workers’ compensation is time-consuming and can be a distraction from the job of running your business.
Engaging with a professional employer organization can remove those obstacles, allowing you to focus on growing your business, says J. Richard Hicks, CEO of HR1 Services Inc.
“A PEO is a single source provider of integrated services that allows business owners to cost-effectively outsource the management of strategic services such as recruiting, risk/safety management and training and development,” says Hicks. “The PEO becomes the employer of record for employees for both tax and insurance purposes in a practice called co-employment.”
As of 2010, there were more than 700 PEOs operating in the United States, covering 2 million to 3 million workers, and that number is continuing to grow.
Smart Business spoke with Hicks about how engaging a PEO can allow you to concentrate on your business.
How does a PEO work?
A small or mid-sized business enters into an agreement with a PEO to establish a three-way relationship among the PEO, the client company and the company’s employees. This now becomes a co-employment arrangement, as the PEO co-employs your existing work force and becomes a legal employer that is responsible for such functions as payroll, record-keeping, benefits and services, and participation in hiring, evaluation and firing.
Dealing with the day-to-day functions of running a business can distract an owner from the big picture and focusing on a strategic vision to move the company forward. Services typically provided by an employer are outsourced to the PEO; the PEO takes over the management of human resources and employment-related issues, freeing up the business owner to focus on the core operations of the business.
The role of a PEO goes far beyond that of a temporary firm, staffing agency or payroll administration firm. Instead of simply taking on one role for a company, the PEO offers comprehensive HR services to clients, either as a bundle or a la carte.
What are the benefits of a PEO?
In addition to allowing leadership to more sharply focus on the business, a PEO can manage your unemployment claims and keep current on tax laws to ensure your business remains in compliance. When employers need to submit employee paperwork to the government, the reporting experts at the PEO will ensure the documents submitted are in compliance with all regulations.
In addition, a business’s employees are eligible for the group benefits offered by the PEO, including medical insurance and 401(k) plans, and it can often get better rates than a single company could on its own. Because it is working with multiple companies, the employees of each of them can be pooled together, creating a larger group and potentially lowering costs. This also removes from the employer the hassle of having to deal with multiple vendors in areas such as health insurance, payroll, 401(k) management and other areas. And because the work in all of these areas is being done by one provider, instead of several, the company’s records are more uniform, allowing for less work in case of an audit.
How can a PEO assist in the area of workers’ compensation?
A PEO can be involved in the management of both workers’ compensation and unemployment claims. In the case of workers’ compensation, the PEO can work with a company to get injured workers back on the job through a light duty program more quickly than they otherwise might return. And as with health insurance premiums, the larger pool of employees created by joining the work forces of multiple employers under the PEO umbrella can often mean lower workers’ comp premiums than an individual employer would pay on its own.
Employers can also receive assistance from the PEO when implementing risk management programs. Having the proper safety initiatives in place can significantly lower workers’ comp premiums and help maintain a more productive work environment.
The PEO also eliminates the need for year-end premium audits, as the company’s expense is billed in the same amount each month.
What are the potential disadvantages of a PEO?
Although the PEO is responsible for all of the above-mentioned services, the employer is still responsible for the productivity and conduct of its employees. Also, some state laws or labor contracts may limit which employers can enter into such an arrangement.
What questions should an employer ask before choosing a PEO?
First, make sure you know what you are paying for. Services are often bundled, and unbundling them can give you a better idea of what you are paying for. Also ask who you will be regularly working with and ask about that person or that team’s background. Determine how often someone from the PEO will visit your office and whether someone will be available on short notice if you run into a problem.
Find out if the PEO will do an analysis of your company before agreeing to take you on. The PEO should be interested in working with you to make things more efficient and help you lower costs and shouldn’t agree to work with you without first thoroughly understanding your business.
Also ask about development and training. A good PEO will be interested in the growth of your employees to help grow your business, so ask if those services are included in your fees, or whether there is an additional costs.
Check with your local PEO expert to ensure that your business is eligible to participate and to get more information about how to proceed.
J. Richard Hicks is CEO of HR1 Services Inc. Reach him at (800) 677-5085 or RHicks@HR1.com.
How many pages would it take for you to script your personal leadership philosophy? If you were to advise the next generation of leaders about the principles by which you live and work, would it fill a book? According to author and leadership development expert Mike Figliuolo, your leadership maxims should fit comfortably in an 8.5-by-11-inch frame. In this interview, the author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership,” details the cause of today’s leadership haze, why maxims trigger behavior change and how to share your philosophy with the people that matter most to you.
Why has leadership become overly complex?
You have a bunch of Type A personalities who are continuing to try to get ahead. They look at the leaders ahead of them and they start emulating those behaviors. When you combine all those factors, there’s a mindset of, ‘I need to look more sophisticated than I am. I need to be acting at that next level. I need to put off a perception that I have capabilities that I may not have yet.’ To do so, what happens is buzzwords start creeping in. We start talking about more leadership and management frameworks, and it becomes more and more complex. In the process of that, we lose ourselves as leaders.
The solution you offer is the leadership maxims approach. How are maxims used in leadership?
A maxim is nothing more than a trigger. It’s something to remind you of strong emotions. It’s something that will resonate for you. It should remind you of a story or an example from your personal past or experience. The method is designed such that when you read your own maxim, it triggers all those feelings inside of you and those feelings are what are going to get you to behave differently. It’s very easy for me to ignore a platitude like, ‘Be the best that I can be.’ But when I tap into something much more emotional, much more personal, it’s a lot harder to ignore, and it will change my behavior.
Can you cite one of your personal maxims?
[There is] a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ I read the book when I was in ninth grade. You’re not exactly the most intellectually deep person as a 15-year-old male. However, I read the book and came across a line in the book that said, ‘But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.’ I remember rereading that line 10 or 15 times. It ended up being my senior quote in the yearbook because those words spoke to me. Over the years, during times that have been really difficult and dark for me, that Hemingway quote has been a touchstone for me to say, ‘I can’t give up. I can’t be defeated.’
Once a leader is able to create his or her set of leadership maxims, what are the most effective ways to communicate this to others?
You can’t just send that paper out and have people understand what that means. My suggestion is to sit down with the members of your team, your boss, your colleagues or even your family members and share what the maxims are, but then share the stories behind them. Tell people why that story is important and personally meaningful to you. Tell them how it is going to affect your behavior. Once everyone around you has that understanding, then it is incumbent upon you to live those maxims on a regular basis. Some leaders like to give their team members permission to call them out. I’ve always given my staff permission to call me out when they see me not living a maxim, and there’s nothing that tastes worse than your own medicine.
“One Piece of Paper”
By Mike Figliuolo
Jossey-Bass, 238 pages, $27.95
About the book: “One Piece of Paper” is a deceptively simple concept with an abundance of power. Author and leadership development expert Mike Figliuolo strips away the pretension that defines much of today’s leadership philosophy. He demonstrates a method to fit your entire leadership philosophy onto one piece of paper. Readers learn how to replace buzzwords and hollow statements with maxims that continuously inspire the individual leader and provide a guide for his or her behavior.
The author: Mike Figliuolo is the founder and managing director of thoughtLEADERS LLC, a professional services firm specializing in leadership development, and is a nationally recognized speaker and blogger on the topic of leadership. An Honor Graduate from West Point, Figliuolo served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer.
Why you should read it: Figliuolo presents a challenge to leaders that will force you to go on a journey of self-discovery. His leadership maxims approach will test your ability to be honest with yourself. When creating your personal list of leadership maxims, you cannot trade on management go-to phrases like “live our values” and “give 110 percent.” You will be given the unique opportunity to assess the guiding principles of your past as well as the ideas that motivate you in your current job.
Why it’s different: “One Piece of Paper” pulls where other business books push. Figliuolo engages readers in a manner that led General John Galvin, the retired former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, to comment, “The book feels like a conversation between two old friends, one of them being you
Can’t miss: “Making It Real.” Divided into two chapters, “Living Your Maxims” and “Sharing,” this section is the practical payoff for the reader’s soul-searching efforts. Figliuolo supports his theory that maxims do not need to be etched in stone. They are the epitome of the “living, breathing document” that companies tend to miscall their mission statement.
To share or not to share: As Figliuolo has discovered during his leadership coaching sessions, the ideas in “One Piece of Paper” can spread rapidly through an organization. It is a book that could help your staff members see you, and each other, in an exciting new light.
Mike Figliuolo was a recent guest on Soundview Live, Soundview’s exclusive webinar series. To hear the complete broadcast, visit www.summary.com/webinars.
How to reach: For more information on this book, visit www.Summary.com.