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.
In difficult economic times, many companies take a management approach that forces their focus to change from quarter to quarter to month to month. The demands of stakeholders to grow the customer base and increase profits can undercut an organization’s efforts to live beyond today. In “Escape Velocity,” author and tech strategist Geoffrey A. Moore provides some much-needed accelerant to smash through the barrier presented by the past. In this interview, he discusses the importance of secular growth, the skewed dialogue concerning innovation and why it’s so important to continue looking forward.
Describe the difference between cyclical and secular growth and why the latter is critical to the strategy of any organization.
The established businesses that are cash cows for most companies have been around for a decade, two decades, maybe longer. Cyclical growth is extremely normal in any established business. The people that have bought [from you] are buying again, but you’re not getting a lot of net new customers. Secular growth happens whenever a new category comes onto the economic scene. Think about the tablets from Apple or smartphones or the kinds of things in high tech that are very obvious examples. All of a sudden, a whole bunch of net new customers come into the category. It’s a one-time only event.
You argue that companies need to take an investor’s view of their organization. Why do so many companies fail to take an investor’s view?
I think what happens is when you get involved in running anything, the day-to-day responsibilities of what’s going on are overwhelming. Whether it’s the supplier in China that didn’t do what it said it was going to do to an angry employee that’s making claims about harassment, there’s so much to do right in the moment that it’s very difficult to get outside of that. Maybe once each year people go to a strategy off-site meeting or something, but even then, it’s very hard to integrate those perceptions [from the off-site] back into the flow of things.
Is there a way for a business to identify if it is pursuing a declining category and not cling to the past?
This is where this issue of having to confront the need to invest in power as well as deliver performance, which is the underlying theme of the book, really comes to a head. In the short term, there’s this temptation to continually extract short-term performance gains from a category that’s declining. The risk there, of course, is that every quarter you have to produce more gains and the category is becoming capable of producing less and less. What the book strongly advocates is that you divest yourself of those categories early on to, potentially, a private-equity investor who actually has the right setup in order to harvest the remaining returns without being punished by the public stock market.
Innovation is a term that so many companies overuse. Do you think there’s a misplaced definition of what innovation is and what it means to a business?
There’s really three outcomes of innovation and we tend to only talk about one, which is massive differentiation. This is the kind of innovation we love to celebrate when it comes to a company like Apple. But a lot of innovation is centered around what we call neutralization. This means keeping up with the category, keeping up with your competitor. This allows your existing customer base to continually support you. The third outcome of innovation is productivity improvements. These don’t really affect your competitive footprint but certainly affect your return-on-investment capital.
The dialogue around innovation has been way too skewed toward differentiation, as if that were the only problem to solve and the answer to all problems, which just isn’t true.
“Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future from the Pull of the Past”
By Geoffrey A. Moore
Harper Business, 213 pages, $27.99
About the book: “Escape Velocity” provides a workable answer to one of the most frustrating questions faced by today’s businesses: How can we find next-generation success when we’re expected to deliver quarterly results? Moore explores the danger of staying obedient to past success methods and provides a “framework of frameworks” to rocket your company into its next era of greatness.
The author: Geoffrey A. Moore is chairman emeritus of three consulting firms: The Chasm Group, Chasm Institute and TCG Advisors. He is also a venture partner with Mohr Davidow Ventures, a California-based venture capital firm specializing in specific technology markets, including e-commerce, Internet, enterprise software, networking and semiconductors. His previous books include the best-sellers “Dealing with Darwin” and “Crossing the Chasm.”
Why you should read it: Many businesses, particularly public companies, are so focused on quarter-to-quarter growth that they are unable to make the necessary moves to secure the long-term future of their business. Rather than leave valuable opportunities lying on the table where they can be snapped up by start-ups (or worse, current competitors), Moore provides businesses with a manageable method to align the company’s priorities and carry it forward without sacrificing current gains.
Why it’s different: Despite being based in the technology field, Moore’s work is applicable to a variety of industries. His examination of the hierarchy of powers forces executives to drop the day-to-day and take an investor’s view of their organization. By redirecting this focus, Moore does an excellent job of connecting the realities faced by many businesses with the hard truth about what it takes to grow, rather than endure in a changing market. He is not afraid to point out that some of today’s most successful companies would be labeled a risk if evaluated on their long-term focus. Moore defines what will propel tomorrow’s great companies then provides the fuel to get today’s organizations into that rarified air.
Can’t miss: “Company Power.” One reason businesses are unable to pursue next-generation opportunities is that they lack clarity. Part of this problem stems from a complete misidentification of a company’s competitive set. In this chapter, Moore provides companies with much-needed direction and gives examples of companies that completely missed the mark on defining their own business architecture and, therefore, their true competitors.
To share or not to share: This book is critical reading for executives but doesn’t need to be distributed throughout an organization.
How to reach: For more information on this book, visit www.Summary.com.
One of the worst hackneyed clichés is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If this is your way of doing business, then it is a good bet that it’s just a matter of time until you hit that big bump in the road and the wheels fall off your wagon. It may start as a small crack in the underlying pavement of your strategy, manifesting itself as a minor issue with an inquiring customer asking when are you going to do this or that, but you can be sure that this slight whisper will build to that proverbial shout. Face it, whether you like it or not, you’re doing business and competing in an age where existing and prospective customers have access to instant information. This includes quickly discovering the first inkling of the “new best thing” that the “next Steve Jobs” has cooking in his or her garage — something that just might be a breakthrough or meaningful, innovation in your industry.
Customer loyalty today is based on a “What have you done for me lately?” mentality. It’s mandatory that your customers be on a constant vigil for how to improve. For customers to be loyal to you, they have to know that you’re always improving and on the prowl for how to do it better or how to find new solutions to new problems sometimes before your customers even know they might have a problem.
To be a player, you have to devote time, effort and, yes, money to perpetual research and development. R&D is not just for tech companies or manufacturers but also for companies that plan to be around tomorrow. Even small businesses, as basic as a cleaning service, have to be on the lookout for anything that can do it better: from the latest vacuum to a new cleaning chemical that proves to be a better solution (pun intended). Retailers, too, are constantly changing store presentations as well as merchandise. In most businesses, the real villain is inertia, which leads to complacency from within and customer boredom from the same old product even if it’s working. When each side of an ongoing relationship starts taking one another for granted, it’s just a matter of time before problems begin to percolate.
Certainly money is tight for small and big companies alike, and the bean counters are quick to give R&D expenses an evil eye. Unfortunately, and even understandably, it’s usually the first thing cut when sales slow and when banks start tightening leading covenants. The justification is typically that innovation needs to be put on hold because there is no immediate return on the investment.
The bigger question for the CEO is, “Are these types of expenses nice or necessary?” I vehemently would argue it’s the latter. Why do car companies perpetually come out with new models with new gadgets every year? Why do technology companies introduce version 1.0, and then, six months later, come out with version 1.1. The answer to both is, “to keep a product fresh and compelling.” It’s about creating a degree of planned obsolescence to ensure that a product doesn’t become commoditized, which can spell the beginning of the end. As soon as that happens, a company’s trophy product will be knocked off and made more cheaply by someone who doesn’t have overhead expenses as high as the originator and who will surely cut the price and the incumbent’s heart at the same time.
Make sure you’re stirring the pot, asking questions of your team members, making it their charge to dig for even the most elusive answers. This leads to innovation, which is followed by creating elasticity for your products because you’ll have found a way to make your widget better and more economical. In turn, this can increase demand and produce planned obsolescence for the older version. To do otherwise, companies run the big risk of being victims of their own initial success.
It all gets down to changing or being a casualty of change. When you improve your business, you can continue to dazzle your customers and hopefully keep them, which will make your business grow, allow sales and profits to increase and create more jobs. This is the heart of capitalism. So, if it ain’t broke, make sure you break it.
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.
A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.
What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?
This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.
Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.
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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.
Oprah Winfrey is an example of someone who rose from poverty to be worth billions. She moved from being a TV reporter to heading up her own media empire that includes a cable network and a magazine. A simple endorsement from her can take a person or product from unknown to superstar overnight.
But she also hasn’t forgotten about her past and the values that guided her from rock bottom to the top of the mountain. While she has achieved great success, she has focused on her values to guide her, giving back hundreds of millions of her personal wealth to charity and focusing her media outlets on messages of hope and inspiration that she hopes will help others like her succeed.
She doesn’t necessarily focus on the next big thing; she just focuses on the right values and makes decisions accordingly. The results speak for themselves, and it isn’t surprising that she’s consistently ranked as not only one of the most admired women by Newsweek but also as one of the top CEOs and entrepreneurs by other media outlets.
Now look in the mirror. Are you driven by values to establish your goals, or are you just getting by? Values can give you the road map to happiness that often eludes us. Just like a company needs goals to guide its path, individuals need values that act as guideposts to a better life.
Take an inventory and list the values that are important to you. When you do so, you’ll be taking the first steps toward a more fulfilling life and career. Too many leaders are just getting by, lost in the day-to-day fires of business, knowing they are chasing something but unsure as to what that something is. Those that think they know are often confused by trying to accumulate wealth to achieve hollow goals like getting buildings named after them or being the richest of the rich.
Sadly, many on the rich list are poorest where it counts most: life. And many more burned out trying to get there, their identity destroyed when their business failed or the big project they sunk their life into never quite made it.
Finding happiness in success requires that you use your values as your guide and not your checkbook. With the right values, the money will come naturally. Your career should be looked at as something that you do, not define who you are.
If you were fired as CEO or your company went out of business tomorrow, would that seem like the end of your life? If so, it’s a sign that you are too wrapped up in your job.
If that’s the case, slow down and make a list of all the things that are important to you in life. List the values that they represent and start living your life by those values, and that includes what you do at work. Once you have your values identified, you can compare what you are thinking of doing to the list. Is your plan of action consistent with your values? If not, come up with a different plan that is.
For most of us, business isn’t a life-or-death proposition, so stop taking things so seriously. Take time to laugh and enjoy the small moments that are placed before us.
You would never consider running a business without some sort of plan on where you want to get to and the values that will get you there, so why would you consider living your life without a similar plan?
If you aren’t enjoying your success by finding happiness in the little things in your life, then you have to ask yourself why you’re working so hard to be miserable.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
Busy professionals are bombarded on all sides these days to stay productive. They are often called upon to do more with less resources and people. They need help.
Here are nine tips that you can use in your work and life as a busy professional:
1. Create daily reminders of your goals
Make sure that your goals are in plain view where you can see them everyday so you don’t lose track of how to best use your time.
This tip assumes that you have set goals for your professional life. Your goals are your guide. Without them you are likely to wander aimlessly.
Set your goals and then create a system where you are reminded daily of them. Whether you use a day planner, a dry erase board or something else, keep your goals in plain view. This keeps you focused. Successful professionals are focused on their goals.
2. Create the schedule that works for you, not others
A schedule that is comfortable for you is more likely to help you meet your goals then one that is forced upon you by others or designed to please everyone but you.
Successful professionals also create schedules for themselves. The key to this process is to create a schedule that works for you. That has your time frames, needs and working style in mind. If you are trying to work on the schedule of someone, you will push back and ultimately cause more frustration than good.
3. Realize that you always have choices
Make choices about how you spend your time and don’t be at the mercy of obligations that you cannot fulfill. Empower yourself by creating a schedule that manages your time as best as possible.
Having choices is the life of a busy professional is often the glue that keeps everything together and running smoothly. Realizing that you have a choice is empowering. It drives you forward rather than holding you back. Your schedule is quite frankly, your choice. Make wise choices and do not be obligated to things you cannot fulfill.
4. Delegate responsibility
Don’t be a hero and try to do everything yourself. Take the burden off yourself by also entrusting work to others.
The true professional realizes that he or she cannot do everything that comes across their desk. We all have the same 24 hours in each day. Delegation is the means by which we can stretch that 24 hours and get more done.
Delegation takes trust. Do you trust your co-workers? You must or you will forever be at odds with trying to get everything done by yourself.
5. Acquire necessary equipment
Hours can be wasted dealing with computers, printers and fax machines that don’t work. Don’t waste time with broken tools.
I have seen too many professionals struggle to get their work done with all the wrong equipment or with tools that are outdated and broken. This situation can be the biggest time waster for people in business. It takes away good energy that could be well spent.
Technology can be a beautiful thing if you stay ahead of the game and current with the needed tools to accomplish your goals. Save yourself the hassle and frustration of trying to work with equipment that is outdated or broken.
6. Take care of yourself
Professionals who look haggard or tired tend to have more responsibilities heaped on them because your physical condition and dress sends the message that you permit that.
Business can be taxing both physically and emotionally. The professional can only draw from the well so many times before he or she gets haggard and weary. Burn out is often the main reason that people in business leave and go somewhere else or quit altogether.
Take care of yourself. Get proper sleep. Eat a healthy diet. You will be thankful you did when the next big project hits your desk.
7. Commit yourself to exercise at least three times a week
Keeping yourself in shape will help you perform efficiently in all areas of your life.
Along with proper amounts of sleep and a healthy diet, the empowered professional commits to regular exercise. Exercise builds up our body’s defenses and reduces stress. It calms our minds and allows us to focus.
Walking, jogging, bicycling or joining a gym are good ways to get the necessary exercise needed to work hard and be successful as a professional.
8. Don’t be addicted to perfection
Nobody is perfect so don’t waste valuable time trying to make things perfect. Know when to stop at “good enough.”
It's easy to say nobody is perfect; it is often hard to live like we mean it. Perfectionism can lead to frustration, anger and disillusionment — all things that can take away from our performance as busy professionals. Trying to be perfect with everything you do and say in business is just simply impossible.
Release the need to be perfect and learn to stop at "good enough." You and your team will be happier.
9. Drop unnecessary pretense
It takes a lot of energy to pretend to be someone that you are not. Stop pretending to be a certain way to please others.
Pretentious people are fake and no one likes a fake. Your co-workers want someone who is real and approachable, not putting on pretense and trying to please. This is another huge time waster for too many professionals.
Do not spend your energy on something that will never happen. You cannot pretend to be a certain way if that is not the true you. It just doesn't work.
The life and work of a busy professional can sometimes be overwhelming. Use these tips to guard against that overwhelm and keep you on a productive and happy path.
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.
You might notice a member of your staff who looks frazzled, or who frequently uses vacation days but never goes on an actual vacation. Maybe he or she has turned down a promotion or a new project. There’s a good chance this person is dealing with something at home, and employers need to pay attention, because it’s a growing issue in today’s workplace.
“When a working man or woman is faced with the additional job of caring for a loved one, their life is changed and so are their priorities,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton. “Employers need to be aware of these changes and have plans in place to address them.”
Smart Business spoke to Hulsey about how employers can — and should — approach the often difficult topic of employees with caregiving responsibilities.
Why should employers pay attention to this issue?
It is a fact that Americans are living longer. In 1990, 12.6 percent of the U.S. population was over age 65. This number is expected to increase to 22.6 percent by the year 2040. While those aged 65 to 74 is expected to increase by 17 percent, the population of those over 85 years is expected to double. Improved health care and use of disease prevention techniques contribute to our longer life expectancy.
Many older adults develop a disability that will cause them to need outside help with the activities of daily living. As most older people want to remain in their homes, caregivers must be found to help with simple things like dressing and bathing, or more complex medical requirements. Anyone can be a caregiver; however they are most typically women.
What are some of the challenges these employees are facing, both in and out of the workplace?
When an employee takes on the new role of a caregiver, the first thing they usually give up is personal time and leisure activities to fit everything in. Emotions like sadness, guilt, worry, fatigue and even anger may begin to affect them. Finances may become strained as living arrangements and other caregiving options are being discussed and transitioned. At work employees may become more easily distracted or stressed as this new workload sets in. And this is just the beginning of the process.
How should employers approach this subject?
It is imperative to the company and the employee to communicate openly during this time and have realistic expectations for the work-life balance. The last thing a good employee needs during this difficult time is to worry about their job. Recent studies have shown that adopting flexible workplace policies that help your employees with caregiving responsibilities to have a better work-life balance may decrease complaints of discrimination, but also will benefit the customer base and bottom line.
Employers with work-life balance policies in place reduce absenteeism, increase recruitment and retention and save time and money on training new employees. These programs have allowed some employers to be ‘lean but not mean.’ Offering workplace flexibility programs has given some employers an alternative to work force reductions in a bad economic environment. This allows organizations to rebound quickly as soon as business improves.
Are employers obligated to help or accommodate employees with these responsibilities?
Companies with more than 50 employees are required comply with FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), which allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave while caring for a seriously ill spouse, parent or child, and protects job security. Smaller firms can use FMLA as a guideline to structure their own policy.
Employers must also be careful not to violate any Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. This would include training managers to be sensitive to the needs of employees in this situation. Include written policies that define the benefits and flexibility in your workplace for caregivers in your handbook. Make sure that all employees are treated equally when this occurs to avoid any complaints.
What is the best way for employers to address this in a way that works for everyone?
The best way to address the rising challenge of elder care in the workplace is to have a good written plan in place. Some parts of this plan may include:
- Human resources or employee assistance can offer a list of resources such as Internet sites, local agencies for the elderly, elderly day care or meal services in the area.
- Larger organizations could have a caregiver support group.
- Host a company ‘caregiver fair’ or invite industry professionals to lunch-and-learn seminars.
- Offer resources for legal and financial advice.
- Offer long-term care policies as a benefit option.
- Have counseling options available through insurance coverage or referrals.
- Consider different ways to give the employee more of their most valuable resource — time. This could be through flex time, borrowing or buying leave, part-time opportunities, compassionate leave policies or career breaks.
- Most importantly, be considerate and sensitive to what the employee is going through. Others will see that concern and be more likely to ‘pitch in for the team.’
We all have parents and, one day, may face this challenge ourselves. Remember the golden rule: ‘treat others as you wish to be treated.’ That may be the best way to consider what policies employers should have for elder care.
Melissa Hulsey is the president and CEO of Ashton. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or email@example.com.
Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton
Throughout all of the elements of leadership that I’ve learned, having a shared vision underscores them all. Without it, you won’t achieve the others.
Let me start by sharing a favorite “aha” moment. A few years ago, I was speaking on a panel at a conference and this question was posed, “How do you hire your leadership team?” Another panelist responded, “I hire my senior leadership members like I buy shoes for my kids, two sizes too big.” I quickly quipped, “Well, then I buy a size 12 for my kids.” It was a great analogy. And it makes a great point. When looking at the team you are building, it has to start with finding players who can embrace your organization’s vision and, as importantly, values and who have the capacity to grow with you and drive you and the organization to a better place.
It is not enough to declare a goal and demand results. You have to cultivate vision and purpose so your teams are moving in the same direction and are inspired to stretch in order to deliver results that go beyond expectations. Results are only one element. If you want to build relationships, listen effectively and create a place of integrity — it’s critical to have a shared vision for success. (And by the way, this is owned by every leader in the company — not just the CEO.)
Declare the dream. If I am going to inspire you to join in my cause, I have to be committed enough to say it publically, say it often and measure against it. Each year at Cbeyond, we unite our teams around a theme that maps to our strategic imperatives. We call it the “Year Of … .” This simple “rallying cry” supported by an ongoing communication of outcomes on metrics that we measure against provide our employees a link to what’s important and how we are doing. It is a powerful way to align our efforts, unite the organization and achieve results together. The “Year Of” theme introduces a shared vulnerability into the organization where we are all committed to a shared vision and shared opportunity — from the CEO down to each individual contributor.
Match incentives to foster collaboration. At Cbeyond, every corporate employee gets a bonus, and we all share the same bonus goals. It’s our way of ensuring that our incentives align with our focus, drive the behavior we want and create an environment that prizes collaboration. We’re in it together and it impacts our compensation. Period. Consider this: Our vision is to be a champion for small business and to deliver an experience that has them stay longer, buy more and refer others to us. To insure that happens, 20 percent of our bonuses are based on how our customers rank their satisfaction with Cbeyond. We turned our vision into a commitment and we aligned our culture, our focus and our compensation. As a result, how we serve our customers permeates conversations every day and in every department. It doesn’t happen in every company and it isn’t an accident that it happens at Cbeyond — our goal is “customer intimacy.”
Paint the picture, tell the story. Context is critical to leadership. “This is where I am taking you and why — and what it will look like when we arrive.” Putting it in every day terms and talking about it in a way that can be understood is key to gaining commitment. I’ve learned through the years to slow down, include others in my thought process and share the experiences that are driving my “moment of clarity” and informing my decision-making. Whether you are talking privately, with your team or with an audience of hundreds, consider the power of framing your point in a story. Telling stories can be an impactful way to create a clear, compelling vision.
You won’t do your team or yourself any favors if your “shared vision” changes every week. Know your outcomes, measure your results and analyze your gaps. Achievement certainly isn’t a given. The power is in quickly organizing around your opportunities to move into a positive trajectory and then rallying all hands to get there as a team. The value of having and communicating a shared vision is that your teams will begin to recognize gaps as fast as you and come to the table eager and ready to be a part of the solution.
Jim Geiger is the founder, chairman, president and CEO of Cbeyond, a company that provides IT and communications services to small businesses throughout the United States and also provided the world’s first 100 percent VoIP local phone network. Learn more at www.cbeyond.net.
Recently, Smart Business sat down with Lea Williams, president and CEO of Georgia Jet, to discuss the benefits of flying with a charter company.
Why fly charter?
There are many reasons to fly charter. The most significant is productivity; the best use of your time. Whether for business or leisure, Georgia Jet can make the travelling you do more efficient and effective. There are three basic elements to this productivity advantage: time, control and peace of mind.
First, Georgia Jet puts time back into your pocket with every trip. Georgia Jet is a virtual “time machine.” We can originate your trip from any of more than 5,000 airports throughout the country (commercial flights only service about 500 airports nationwide). This allows you to depart from a nearby location and arrive as close as possible to your ultimate destination — minimizing commuting time and eliminating the need to slog through tedious security checkpoints and sit around in a crowded departure waiting area. These time-savings alone are reason enough to choose the charter advantage.
Second, Georgia Jet puts real meaning into the word “control.” We travel on your time schedule — not someone else’s. Imagine the convenience of making out-of-town business trips with your entire team in a single day — out in the morning and back that evening. Our aircraft becomes your flying conference room — coordinate, strategize and plan while en route to your meeting. Running late? No problem. We’re not going anywhere without you! Absolute control of your schedule can mean the difference between closing a deal or not closing a deal — ahead of your competitors; and doing it in time to still make that dinner date with a different client of equal or greater importance in another city or back home.
And getting to and coming from the aircraft is a breeze. In most instances you can drive right up to the aircraft, load up and be on your way within minutes of arrival at the airport.
Need to recap that important meeting with your team while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind? Not a problem if you’re all together in your own flying conference room at the end of the day. Ultimate control over your schedule and agenda is reason enough to choose the charter advantage.
And finally, Georgia Jet can provide you with unparalleled peace of mind. In these days of heightened security, you will always know who is on the aircraft with you. You can rest assured that your conversations and computer screen are not privy to anyone beyond you and your selected traveling companions. No more worries about flying with an “underwear bomber” or screaming babies. Forget about some stranger sitting behind you coughing on the back of your head for two hours. Arrive rested and ready for that important meeting or critical negotiation. Peace of mind is reason enough to choose the charter advantage.
What makes flying Georgia Jet different?
Georgia Jet has only one objective — making your travel the best it can be. We can handle every aspect of your travel, beginning with our fleet of first-class aircraft and 24/7 dispatch services, following through with true concierge-style service and flight following personnel. We own and operate all of our own fleet and offer one of the most diverse choices of charter options in the Southeast. And we are specialists in customer service. Our aim is to exceed your expectations — every time and in every way.
Who flies Georgia Jet?
Our customer base ranges from celebrities in the sports and entertainment industries to business travelers to vacationers — anyone who wants to manage their time better. With the ability to work within their schedule, we can get them closer to where they need to be — when they want to be there — and get them moving to their next destination or back home at their convenience. We are a time multiplier.
And yes, we see quite a bit of leisure travel at Georgia Jet! It seems that, once a business executive or celebrity realizes the value of the charter advantage, taking the whole family along just seems like the right thing to do!
What are some other unique services that Georgia Jet provides?
We provide complete concierge services for all aspects of your travel, including ground transportation coordination and catering. We have a 24/7 dispatch center, so you always talk to a real human being when you call. We have a block time discount program for frequent flyers. Georgia Jet offers aircraft sales and aircraft management services, as well, drawing on our many years of experience in the aviation business. We are here to serve all aspects of your private aircraft experience.
Georgia Jet, founded in 1986, is based at Gwinnett County Airport in Lawrenceville (LZU). We can arrange your flights to anywhere in the world. Call today and let us show you why Georgia Jet should be your private jet charter company of choice.
Milton Lea Williams, II (Lea) is the president and general manager and co-owner of Critical Care Medflight and Georgia Jet Inc. Lea and his son Milton Lea Williams III became owners of Critical Care Medflight and Georgia Jet in February of 2011. You can reach Lea at (800) 248-8908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.