Philip Rielly continues to watch as big-box drugstores gobble up his competition. No worries, he’s not concerned.
Rielly’s not concerned because he’s focusing on the one thing those larger companies are forgetting: developing customer and community relations centered on service.
Since the 2004 founding of BioRx, a health care company that gives infusions to 500 to 600 patients per month, Rielly’s dedication to the customer has been propelling its growth.
The company’s customer strategy is based on what Rielly calls a three-legged-stool approach, which makes BioRx different from competitors. While similar companies emphasize the insurance payer, the physicians and the patients separately, BioRx takes a balanced method by supporting all three stakeholders’ concerns in a coordinated process.
Also, the company reaches out to its patients, mainly children, by participating in events for the hemophilia community.
That business model is also proving successful on the growth side of the business. BioRx’s commitment to patients and creating high-level customer attraction makes the company a top choice for manufacturers looking to award exclusive distribution rights. This allows BioRx to handle new products and grow through its strategic delivery alliances.
Rielly’s approach to growth allows the company to grow naturally rather than aggressively. The growth is as fast as the customers allow and it avoids expansion problems when it comes to facing larger competitors.
Rielly’s first measure of success is customer satisfaction. BioRx’s degree of achievement can simply be seen through its customer retention rates. While more established competitors are showing a 48 percent patient retention rate, BioRx’s has reached 93 percent.
How to reach: BioRx, (866) 442-4679 or www.biorx.net
Education: Bachelor’s degree, The Ohio State University; J.D. University of Michigan
What is your definition of success?
Having fun at your job or liking your job
What was the last book you read?
‘Too Big to Fail’ by Andrew Ross Sorkin
What is your favorite part of your job?
The client interaction
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I’m a big fan of Jim Collins’ work ‘Good to Great.’ But in terms of CEOs, John Barrett, the chairman, president and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group, and the reason why is because I think he epitomizes level-five leadership.
What business lesson have you learned that could benefit others?
Don’t listen to the squeaky wheels, and especially don’t be overly influenced by the last one you heard.
On dealing with the economy: I did a lot of things, but in general, what my advice would be in confronting such a thing is to develop a plan. Make sure you clearly communicate it to others so that everybody in the organization knows what it is. Don’t be so wedded to it that you can’t adjust as appropriate. Be consistent and disciplined about adhering to the portions of the plan that don’t get changed so people don’t get confused about what the plan is.
That is, at least, the advice provided by one managed care organization expert when asked what employers should do in advance of the MCO open enrollment period, which is scheduled to start May 3 and run through May 28. The open enrollment period will be the only time during the next two years that MCOs will be able to market themselves to employers as the ideal conduit to provide medical case management and as the perfect organization to provide support and guidance in the wake of workers' compensation claims. That means that representatives from each of the almost two dozen major Ohio MCOs will knock on your door, arrive in your waiting area, dial your phone, mail plenty of direct correspondence to your offices and, in general, make themselves as prominent as possible to you during what amounts to the busiest four weeks of their biennial.
The open enrollment period is their Super Bowl, their sweeps week, their holiday shopping spree, all rolled into days and weeks and one furious month of work.
And, yes, at times, it might appear to be a feeding frenzy. At least in the figurative sense of the term.
"This is a very short amount of time," says Karen Conger, CEO, Ohio Employee Health Partnership. "That's why, all of a sudden, it might appear we have all lost our minds."
If you're satisfied with the recent performance of your MCO, there's no law that says you are required to switch now. Indeed, if you are satisfied, make that clear to other MCOs as early as possible during the process. Heck, you might as well stop reading now. No reason to busy yourself if the next month will be business as usual.
But if you do want to switch providers - or even if you think you might want to switch providers - there are steps to take to ensure the process moves along as smoothly as possible and leaves you and your business happy with your decision.
"Even if an employer believes they're satisfied or is comfortable with what their MCO has been doing, it still is important that they objectively evaluate how their MCO compares to other MCOs in terms of performance," says Richard J. Poach, president and COO, CareWorks. "They may be perfectly happy, but they may be able to get something better at no additional cost."
Read the report card
Before you sift through one piece of informational literature or talk with one MCO representative, take a couple of minutes and read the report card.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation publishes a relatively simple report card on its Web site at least once every two years, and it always publishes one just prior to the open enrollment period. The report card doesn't have any A's, B's or F's, just statistical information about each of the MCOs in the state. There are the number of their employees and the number of recent claims they handled, of course. There are their First Report of Injury (FROI) timing and FROI turnaround figures, both measures to reflect their efficiency during the last decade or so. And there is a measurement of their optimal return to work performance, which is important because it tells employers how quickly an MCO is able to get an injured worker back to the office.
"I would start as soon as that report card is out on the BWC Web page," Conger says. "The report card, although it is in some ways vague, has good measurements. And that's where it starts, because that's where the BWC has ranked the MCOs. Then ask specific questions. Let's say, for example, you look at the report card and one of your employers sees that another MCO has scored higher in a particular measurement. You would call your MCO and ask, 'Why is this ranking like this? What is it that they do that you don't?' Ask questions, ask any questions, and see what they say."
And though almost all Ohio MCOs publish and provide reams of information in order to assist you during your process, the BWC report card is the only truly objective information available. There is no fluff, only hard numbers that are as accurate and as uniform as possible.
"Not all MCOs offer the same reports, the same services, the same medical discounts," Poach says. "So it's important if an employer's not happy that they talk to other employers or they do their homework in looking at the BWC report card and previous BWC report cards to get a feel for overall MCO performance."
Want to read the BWC report card right now? Just log on to www.ohiobwc.com, then click on BWC Library, BWC publication, Ohio employer publications and MCO Report Card. In four easy clicks, much of the information that you need can be in your hands.
Examine your own MCO needs
After you read the report card, consider your own needs. No matter your business, your industry, even your financial standing as the economy continues to recover, your MCO needs are likely similar, if not identical, to those needs of thousands of other businesses across the state.
First, if an employee is injured while working, you want your MCO to help get him or her to return to work as soon as possible. If the employee misses less time, you miss fewer work hours - or work days, weeks or months.
"If somebody gets injured and the MCO is able to get that injured worker back to work quickly and safely, it's going to help the employer control future premium increases," Poach says. "And by getting injured workers back to work quickly and safely, the MCOs can help employers control their lost productivity, as well."
Second, you want your MCO to help you save some chunk of money, either thanks to discounts now or those reduced premiums later. Because the BWC pays each MCO a certain percentage of the premium, the cost you pay is often fixed. But you always want some sort of savings.
"There are MCOs who have provider networks as part of the health partnership program, and many MCOs offer a discount below BWC schedule for fee services that are rendered within their provider network," Poach says. "So it's important that employers understand whether or not their MCOs offer those discounts and to what extent or degree those discounts fall below the bureau fee schedule."
And third, you want to be satisfied.
"One of the things that some employers overlook in looking at their MCO is finding one that truly understands them as a company," Conger says. "We're all kind of in this puzzle together."
Talk often - and early
In order to take full advantage of any relationship, you need to talk on a regular basis. You need to talk with your attorney, of course, and with your accountant and with your banker. And you need to talk with your MCO representative, too.
Because the more you talk, as with so many other relationships and business deals, the more you or your representative might recognize an opportunity.
Say, for instance, that you own and operate a manufacturing plant. You might want to ask whether an MCO has experience working with other manufacturing businesses or, in contrast, does it specialize more with city, state and white-collar businesses? You might also want to ask about the MCO's process to provide you with information and how often it provides that information, whether it'll meet with you to discuss your claims and whether you'll be able to talk with your case manager and your medical director. Ask how the MCO plans to work with your third-party administrator, how it assigns case managers and whether it can tailor its program to meet - and perhaps even exceed - your needs. Any of those questions and subsequent answers could lead to greater efficiency, a better return-to-work rate or even lower premiums in the future.
"Ask them the simple questions about how they work, because not all MCOs fit every employer," Conger says. "Some MCOs may do things differently or their processes may not fit."
Because of the lack of time available for MCOs to reach out and provide their pitch and information, it's important that you prepare yourself for May 3 as early as possible and have an idea of which MCOs interest you. And if you narrow the field early enough to two or three or four, you can even pick up the phone and call them.
"Employers are allowed at any time to contact an MCO, even if it's not their own MCO, to request information, to request a face-to-face meeting, and they can do that even outside of an open enrollment period," Poach says. "Employers do have an opportunity to reach out now. The sooner they start that, probably the more MCOs they'll be able to interview and seek information from, and the more informed they'll be in making their MCO selection."
Understand that costs are driven by performance
Unlike so many other business partners and services, MCOs cannot bid for your contracts or your money. Because the BWC pays each MCO - and because that payment structure is fixed and based on performance standards - the dynamics of your relationship with your MCO might be a little different than with other folks who show up at your offices for a meeting.
Once the BWC approves a claim, the MCO takes control and starts to coordinate every aspect of the claim and toward getting the employee back to work. MCOs work with the injured employee, the employer and the provider to develop a plan for treatment, review treatment requests, monitor the cost and quality of care, and establish those goals for the employee to return to work.
"It's important for them to understand the MCO's role is the medical management of the claim," Conger says. "We have nothing to do with the allowances or with adding to the allowances. That's still the role of the bureau and, sometimes, I think they get confused, thinking we're the ones who make the allowances or the ones who deny the allowances when it comes to the injured workers, and we're not. We're just the medical experts."
And they are still a business. The recession has not battered their industry, but it also hasn't provided a very clear path for many MCOs.
"Most of the companies that we work with are still feeling the struggles and the challenges of the economy," Poach says. "Even though we're getting a bit of a rebound here, most companies are operating leaner than they have in the past, and their financial margins are more challenged to achieve what they've achieved in the past.
"As we look forward, it's more important than ever that companies be able to control their workers' compensation costs."
Back injuries are the No. 1 cause of workplace injuries across the U.S. and the No. 1 cause of workers’ compensation claims. In fact, 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life.
“About one in five work-related injuries involves the back,” says Jonathan Theders, president of Clark-Theders Insurance Agency Inc. “Helping employees take care of their backs is important for reducing costs and keeping employees safe.”
Creating a back injury prevention program can help a company reduce the cumulative effects of back injuries, as well as reduce the frequency with which they occur.
Smart Business spoke with Theders about how to keep employees from injuring their backs in the workplace.
Why should employers be concerned about back injuries in the workplace?
Back pain affects everything you do. Your quality of life in everything from work to home life to driving is greatly affected by the back. There is also a mental aspect to that pain that is quite powerful.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at a computer all day, working on a factory line, driving a truck or cutting hair. Your back is potentially at risk regardless of your occupation, as back injuries affect everyone.
Helping employees take care of their backs is important because back injuries lead not only to workers’ compensation costs and potential disability, but they also affect morale, resulting in decreased productivity.
It certainly negatively affects the company’s bottom line.
What are some causes of back injuries in the workplace?
Three prominent causes of back injuries are employees who are tired, stressed or short of help. When they have more work to do, people tend to move faster or do things they’re not completely trained on. So if you take an employee out of the work force for any reason, the effect it could have on the next person could be dangerous. They will be more tired because they are doing more work, and they are more stressed because they are outside their comfort zone of what they normally do. Plus, because you’re short on help, they are cramming more and more into the same day.
A lot of back injuries involve surgery and/or months of therapy. Not only have you lost that employee’s productivity, but because somebody else is picking up the extra work that person is missing, there is additional stress. It causes a domino effect. That first work-related injury can lead to another and another because you’re compounding its effects across the spectrum of the business.
What can companies do to help prevent back injuries?
There are a couple of key issues that employers should talk about: posture, safe lifting and overall fitness.
Every employer should adopt a back injury prevention program. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it’s something you really want to think through; it’s not just printing off a policy and sticking it in an employee handbook.
You need to think about the mechanics of the jobs at your workplace and what employees are encountering. Talk about stretching, training and understanding of how the back works.
It’s an education process that starts at the very top and becomes ingrained into the culture of the company.
Back injuries are typically cumulative. Something as simple as bending down to pick up a pen may have been the trigger, but it’s never really the cause of the injury. People think that one thing caused it, but it could have been years and years of not treating the back properly — picking up that pen was just the trigger.
What should be included in a workplace back injury prevention program?
A back injury prevention program should encompass four things: Procedures for identifying back injury hazards in the workplace, methods for preventing those injuries, employee training and recordkeeping procedures.
The first step is to target the back injury problems. Review claims from your OSHA logs or workers’ compensation claims, inspect the workplace and, most important, interview employees and supervisors. Then you’ll have a true understanding of what occurred and what could occur.
Next, go through workplace improvements. What can be done to make things easier? If employees are bending down and lifting things off the floor, you could have those things elevated or have a lift installed so they are working at a more appropriate level for their backs. You can also use simple techniques like bridging — if you are going to reach for something, you can use one arm to help support the angle of the back.
Another key component is to create a stretching or warm-up program. People think this will take too much time away from work, but it doesn’t take much time to have an effect. Even five minutes of stretching can help prevent injury.
Someone who stands a lot at work should do four main stretches: the hamstring stretch, the lower back stretch, side stretches and the quad stretch. Just hold those stretches for 12 to 15 seconds, two or three times — it’s less than five minutes, but these simple stretches can greatly reduce the chance of an accident.
Even someone sitting at a computer should be taught how to do neck and back stretches to prepare for the day. It’s a great morale booster for employees, and they feel a sense of appreciation and understanding.
Jonathan Theders, CPIA, is president of Clark-Theders Insurance Agency Inc. Reach him at (513) 779-2800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a short story about a wonderful return on investment. Everyone loves a return on investment, especially if that investment costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There is a small manufacturing company in Arkansas that installed and implemented an enterprise resource planning system last year. The industry in which the company works is not particularly important. Neither is its geographic location. But the fact that the company, call it Company A for the purposes of this story, decided to move forward and install an ERP system is particularly important. It will change the fortunes of Company A in rather short order.
Prior to the installation and implementation of its ERP system, Company A shipped about $200,000 in inventory per week and it stored about five weeks worth of inventory in its warehouses. But executives at Company A figured there was a more efficient way to run the warehouses and, in turn, the business of the entire company.
So after months of research and planning, after working with a top technology firm, after moving forward to install that ERP system and, in particular, a handheld wireless scanning system to better handle its inventory management Company A did find a more efficient way. It was able to decrease its amount of stored inventory to about three weeks worth of items. That allowed Company A to free up about $400,000 in working capital, more than the total cost of investment in the ERP system. And that allowed Company A to restructure a large swath of the way it now does business.
What is ERP? You might know, but even if you have a grip on the technology, it has certainly changed since its introduction to the business world in 1990, and it has changed even more during the last couple of years, and it will likely change even more in the future.
“Today’s ERP systems have more off-the-shelf availability to customize and tweak them to your own liking, without having to pay outsiders to come in and do any programming work,” says Kevin Martin, president and shareholder, Martin and Associates. “That functionality to automate processes wasn’t really there in the early 2000s. Because you’re using the existing tool set, your future upgrades are easier. An upgrade from 2010 to 2012 will be easier than an upgrade from 2000 to, say, 2004.”Plan, then plan some more
ERP is an integrated system that is used to manage the resources and automate the processes of a company. It can be used to automate and improve just about any process that deals with manufacturing, with supply chain management, with human resources, and with financials and data. It has been referred to as “the present of computing” and “the future of computing,” “an invaluable part of business” by a panel of experts and software developers and designers across the nation. There is a longer definition filled with more technical details, but if that doesn’t provide a sense of what ERP can do for your business, well, just read the simple success story of Company A one more time. Then take a long look at the processes in your own business.
“Where you are going to see the most benefit of having an ERP system is having your data be available, shareable and leverageable by all of your employees, from the accounting department to the purchasing department to sales and business development, in order to grow your business,” Martin says. “You have fundamental and total control of having all your data in one place, and you have protection for your information.”
The installation and implementation of an ERP system is neither an inexpensive nor a short project. The cost can vary depending on the number of your employees and the revenue size of your business, the depth and scope of the system you want to install, and the amount of training you want during the process. A simple system for a small business might cost less than $10,000. An average system might cost somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. A much larger system for a corporation that has thousands of users and stretches around the world might cost millions of dollars. But an average cost, especially for small and medium businesses, is somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 per end user, including the implementation, from the day you start installation to the day you are running live in production.
Similarly, the installation time varies based on multiple factors. For smaller systems, plan for at least three months, including end training. For larger systems, plan for at least six months to one year.
And the training is important. Consider it an insurance policy, of sorts, to make certain that your employees endorse the system and want to use it. If they reject it, you have not only wasted your money but have also taken a step backward toward different departments in your business speaking different technological languages.
“The key users who will handle many modules; they will have an investment of 45 to 70 hours of training during implementation,” Martin says. “The workers who are more focused on one module will typically have 16 to 20 hours of training.”Close your doors
Perhaps your largest concern with the decision to either install or upgrade your ERP system other than the considerable investment of money and time is security. Your data will not likely be susceptible to external hackers, even if you opt for cloud computing and store your data on a server outside of your offices, but there is always the concern that your own employees might attempt to tamper with the system.
“If you have an on-premise solution that you keep within the walls of your business, your security concerns are more internal in terms of access for your employees,” says Prasad Akella, vice president of SME Solution Marketing, SAP. “You don’t want the guy running your supply system to be able to cross over to your HR system.”
In other words, assign each user a unique access name and password, much as you or your IT staff would for any office system of considerable size and importance, and allow each user access to only the parts of the system that he or she needs to use for his or her assignments. There are always concerns, but if you set up the security in advance, you will better protect your data and your business.
The other concern, especially after hearing the relatively sudden successes of Company A, is when you will earn back the money you put into the system. Depending on the speed of the installation and how quickly you and your employees implement the full range of process automation, you could see a full return within two years, and perhaps even just one year. But the consensus is that ERP has evolved so much during the last couple of decades that it is a sound investment, no matter your industry, business size or needs.
“There has been a maturation process that businesses have gone through,” Akella says. “ERP is a commodity now, and businesses recognize that they need it and that they need to invest in it.”
It can, after all, help you improve the processes and efficiencies of your business. And it can change the way you do business.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
My first job ever was selling Burpee seeds out of a catalog. I was just a kid. You got a catalog and you went around door to door within your neighborhood and sold people flower seeds, vegetable seeds, all kinds of seeds. For the number of seeds you sold, you got paid they sent you a little commission. I think it taught me at that age to keep going, don’t stop when people say no to you. I would go to every house because I didn’t know any different. I’d just keep going.
What was the last book you read?
The last book that I read is not a new book. It’s called ‘Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company’ by Jim Collins.
If you weren’t in your current position, what might you be doing?
I might be a professional fishing captain taking people out on charters to catch billfish. I love to fish, saltwater fishing.
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success personally is to be who I am, understand the needs of our people, of our clients and (keep) moving forward on a daily basis.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
The best business advice I’ve ever received, I received from my grandfather. He told me this when I was 16 years old. My nickname is Bax. He said, ‘Bax, as you move along in your journey in life, always try and treat people the way you would want to be treated in any situation at any time. And if you can do that, you will be successful.’ That has always, always stuck with me.
Stakeholders from several groups, including the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, The Kilbourne Co. and the MCO League of Ohio studied 10 years of data from previous health organizations to develop areas of improvement. Twelve major objectives were developed from this, but five were seen as the most important for MCOs to focus on.
These objectives include providing injured workers with more timely and efficient access to quality care, reducing disability days, returning injured employees to work more efficiently and effectively, reducing overall claims costs, speeding up the payment process for providers, and increasing the satisfaction of services for employers and injured workers.
“These items all focus on timing, efficiency and quality care for injured workers,” says Karen Conger, CEO of Ohio Employee Health Partnership. “This will result in reduced missed days and indemnity payments, because that’s where your costs lie. You’re not only treating the injury, but also managing the time away from work, or time an injured worker is on modified duty. This all adds to your premium cost.”
Smart Business spoke with Conger about how MCOs have made improvements under these objectives.
How have MCOs provided injured workers with timely access to quality care?
MCOs have reduced the filing time between when an injury happens and when it’s reported. This was an average of 62.1 days before the study and was down to an average of 19.3 days in 2006. This means injuries are being reported and adjudicated sooner. Treatment is then authorized sooner, so injured workers have more timely access to medical services.
One of the most important goals is to have fewer disability days for injured workers. It’s all about looking at those lost time days and reducing that number so injured workers are back to work. Injured workers have returned to employment in 8.9 days, as opposed to 19 days before 1998. Ninety-two percent of injured workers have gone back to work safely within 60 days of filing a claim.
How have MCOs reduced overall claim costs and the number of claims being filed?
MCOs have been able to reduce claim costs by 73 percent through effective return-to-work strategies and requesting appropriate treatment options. An average claim was $8,188 in 1995 and down to $2,183 in 2003.
The number of claims has gone down over the years in the U.S., but it’s hard to say if the managed care process has helped weed out any questionable claims. This reduction could come from a variety of areas, including less manufacturing or healthier workers. But one of the ways MCOs can help keep claims down is by promoting a safe workplace and working with employers on safety to make sure injuries never happen.
How have MCOs helped speed up the payment process for providers?
This happened in two ways. The first was by reducing the lag time, or time between the date of injury and reported date. This gives you more time to pay the bill because you know you have an allowed claim. If you didn’t know about a claim for 60 days, that’s lost time when you could have paid it and sped up the process.
Strict benchmarks were also set to speed up this process. The lag time has been reduced by 51 percent, and 98 percent of bills today are now paid by MCOs within 30 days of receipt. Knowing about the injury quicker, getting the treatment approved quicker and getting the claim allowed quicker can allow a company to pay the bill quicker. It all wraps together.
How have MCOs increased overall satisfaction, and how can this success be measured?
A 2007 report card showed satisfaction levels at 4.28 for employers and 3.93 for injured workers on a scale of 1 to 5. By using an MCO, employers have someone to talk to and employees have medical experts to work with. MCOs also give employers another partner in return-to-work programs and a liaison between providers. Satisfaction increases as you see claim costs and premiums decrease.
Injured workers are getting treatment sooner because claims are being reported and filed sooner. So they’re not sitting around for days or weeks, waiting for treatments to be approved. This can lead to a better quality of life for them, reduce their lost time wages and get them back on the job safely, so they can continue taking care of their families.
These improvements have offered a net savings in excess of $1.78 billion from 1997 to 2006. This lowers reserves for employers, which is a big calculation of the premium.
Do you foresee any future improvements to the system?
We are constantly looking for ways to improve. Future improvements may deal with decreasing provider payment time as the health care industry moves from paper to electronic systems. These electronic systems may help improve filing times and other issues in the workers’ comp area. It also may help in the cost savings. But as things become more and more electronic, and more health care providers are using electronic systems, these will lead to more improvements for MCOs.
Karen Conger is the CEO of Ohio Employee Health Partnership.
During the course of the last year, executives at a large company in one Midwestern city scheduled an event to thank their present clients for remaining with them through the recession and to reach out to potential clients in an effort to prepare for growth. They rented a hall in a beautiful building for the morning, hired a speaker with a prominent name and attracted a crowd of about 2,500 people.
Nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps, you have even scheduled a similar event.
But as the event neared, the executives realized that they had a large problem. They had scheduled the event during the middle of the week, and with hundreds of thousands of other people already in the city, there was no parking anywhere near the building. So they scratched their heads. They worried. They wondered how they could have overlooked such a simple detail. They wondered how they might solve the problem. And only then did they call an event management firm.
When the recession started to rock the financial world in 2008, internal event management personnel were among the first to be laid off. Many then planted roots with independent firms or started firms of their own. Less than two years later, a December 2009 feature in U.S. News & World Report posited that a position as an event manager or event planner ranked among the 50 best jobs for 2010. The industry has transitioned and is positioned to grow a projected 16 percent between now and 2018.
That might be good news for you and your business, because the odds are high that, at some point, you will want to hold some sort of event, and unless you have an event manager on staff, you might find yourself in a situation every bit as sticky as those Midwest executives with thousands of guests and no parking spaces.
“Now, more than ever, events give you the opportunity to remain in contact, and that never goes away,” says Kay Nelson, owner and president, eventsetc Inc. “They allow you to show your appreciation for the people who have helped you get business or the people who have helped you grow your business.”Plan in advance
Event managers are more than just party planners. In fact, those words are like nails on a chalkboard to many in the industry. Event managers aim to feature your message and work with you to help you reach your goals for each event. They are able to save you significant amounts of money and time, measure the returns on your investment, and, of course, coordinate an event that will be effective and leave your employees and clients talking.
“The experience we end up creating is always crafted with the intention of achieving a clearly identified set of goals,” says Aaron Reiff, director of sales and marketing, Accent on Cincinnati. “Events can do almost anything. The question is: What do you want to do?”
Just look at those Midwest executives, for example. People were certainly talking about them during the 24 hours after they called the event management firm. That was when the firm started to contact all guests to relay the parking situation, then they paid parking lot fees to ensure there would be available spaces somewhere within the city limits, hired buses and created a route to the building. All of that would have taken weeks if an internal employee with little event management experience had handled the task. It took the firm a couple of days. On the morning of the event, those thousands of guests parked at remote lots and were shuttled a couple of miles on city roads. It was hardly ideal, but it worked.
It also cost the company an extra $20,000.
“A good event company should be able to advise a client on how best to spend the budget they have,” Reiff says. “There are elements to every event that are of critical importance. People without a deep understanding of how events work how they are structured and why often make the mistake of emphasizing elements that are ultimately going to be lost on their attendees.
“A good event firm will save you money simply by helping to direct the budget wisely and with maximum impact per dollar in mind.”
Many firms also have considerable influence at hotels and venues and with vendors. Because they direct so much business and so many sales to those outlets, event management firms often receive a discount somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, which they normally pass along directly to you. Their knowledge of your city allows them to track down the lowest prices in a matter of hours or minutes, as opposed to days or weeks.
There are four primary reasons to work with an event management firm. First, you will save a little more money in the end, even if you spend a little more at the beginning. Second, many businesses no longer have the internal resources necessary to handle events. Third, companies often need fresh ideas for old events, and an objective pair of eyes can provide those new thoughts. And fourth, it does simplify your work.
“They have one person to answer to instead of seven vendors they don’t know,” Nelson says. “They have one check to write. They build a relationship with one person, so there is that trust there.”Open your doors
Just as with any business partner who provides value-added services, you need to develop a relationship with your event management firm. It is not enough to call once and spend a couple of minutes determining when and where you should hold the annual sales meeting.
The more your firm knows about you and your business, the more it will be able to implement continuity in your events from one year to the next. The firm will also be able to understand how each event fits in the larger scope and culture of your business and be able to remain on budget throughout the year.
“If events are a part of what you do, then you want to work with an event specialist who understands you and your organization’s value system,” Reiff says. “We have numerous clients at this point who can simply call us up, tell us what they want, and we execute.”
Event management firms can help keep you up to date on newer technology, too. Online event registration has proved popular during recent years because of low costs and the relative ease with which event attendees can sign up. Virtual events are also popular, especially now that travel budgets are reduced and fewer people are flying extensively. And social media is gaining momentum. Event management and social media work hand in hand. Whether promoting an event or a product launch, many event managers embrace the technology because of its ability to all but eliminate marketing costs while also reaching a far wider potential audience.
“With technology today, the use of social networks and the ability to reach out to people electronically all enhance that,” says Marc Stout, president, Stout & Gallant Associates Inc. “It is something that will have a significant or positive impact on the meeting.”
The world is smaller. Your events might be, too, but keep holding them. Maintain your public image. The business world, after all, might not be a party right now, but it is an event not to be missed.
Born: Wilmington, Ohio
Education: Bachelor of science degree in business administration, The Ohio State University
Firsts: Carnahan joined Cintas in 1979 as a staff accountant. Since then, she’s been the company’s first female treasurer, first female vice president and first female president and COO. For 17 years, she’s been Cintas’ highest-ranking woman.
On her greatest leadership challenge: The only way I’m going to be successful or this company is going to be successful is having the right people attracting, training, motivating energized teams of people. As easy at that sounds, probably the biggest challenge that any executive has is to make sure you have the right people on your team and that you provide challenging opportunities for them in order to achieve their personal goals and career aspirations.
What is your definition of success?
To me, success isn’t defined by my own personal achievement. I am only as successful as my team, so I measure my own success based on whether my partners are meeting their professional goals. I also define success through my ability to ensure my people have satisfying careers and are achieving their own professional goals.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
The person I admire most in business is Cintas founder Dick Farmer. Dick was the person who greeted me when I first interviewed with Cintas in 1979, and he has been a tremendous leader and mentor ever since.
One of the things Dick used to always say was the true success of a company was understanding the front-line partner, the person who’s out there in the trenches, day to day. They understand our company, they understand the trials and tribulations of executing the business, and we must respect that. When I joined the company as a staff accountant, I felt that he had the same respect for me. So that’s what I try to emulate every day to be a leader that people look to and people say, ‘She understands me, she understands my trials and tribulations, and she realizes the true potential of my contribution to this company.’
Not long ago, cyber liability insurance was unheard of, but today, it has become critical to any company dealing with personal data that could be used to commit identity theft.
Jonathan Theders, president of Clark Theders Insurance Agency Inc., says that the word ‘cyber’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean computer-related, as the insurance has evolved to include data privacy and network security risk.
“Cyber risk or breach of data can be loosely thought of as anything that can create a vulnerability to the theft of information that jeopardizes a company’s mission, fulfills its clients’ needs or maintains some measure of trust,” Theders says.
Smart Business spoke with Theders about how companies can use cyber liability insurance to protect their customers’ data and protect themselves from lawsuits.
How has cyber liability coverage evolved?
Here’s an example: Let’s say my laptop was stolen out of my car, and it has all sorts of personal information on it. Chances are, the thief just wanted the laptop and not the personal data inside, but what was on that computer? It could be Social Security numbers or credit card information. If that data is stolen, you have a duty owed to protect that data.
The coverage has evolved from solely computer-related data to data in all forms. It could be paper versions; it could be electronic. It started out as a requirement of HIPAA, in which people were required to keep personal information confidential with a heightened level of security.
Five years ago, some people were very electronically driven, but the majority of business wasn’t. Everything was filed on paper. If I wanted to steal information, I’d have to walk out of an office with stacks of paper and files.
Now I could walk in with a thumb drive that you would never know I had and I could extract thousands of records without your knowledge. It’s made data theft a whole lot easier if that data’s not protected the proper way.
What types of threats to data are there?
When you think of cyber threats, you think of a brainiac sitting in a bedroom hacking into computer systems. That concern will always be there, but there can also be the frustrated rogue employee, the one who is thinking about leaving, who wants to gather this information to use it at their next job or who just really wants to hurt the company before leaving. Or the person may want to sell that information because it has value to somebody else.
It doesn’t always have to be this third-party hacker off in the distance; it could be one of your own employees who has legal, granted access to that data. The insurance coverage should pick up not just third-party but first-party and employee actions, as well.
How do you get coverage to protect your company’s data?
To secure insurance coverage, you have to do an assessment of your computer systems. It forces you to look at the areas in which your systems can be penetrated. That makes you a better company because you’re forced to fill in the gaps of potential penetration.
Not everybody has to have an assessment, but any business that is dealing with and holding customer information can have an exposure. In certain businesses, people feel very comfortable with the controls in place and may not need to do a physical assessment. But if the underwriters feel you could have a significant loss, they would require their insurance company to do an assessment of your systems. They use an in-depth questionnaire that tries to find holes in that particular network.
Or you can hire a third-party company, not just to assess your system but to try to hack it and break the system to try to find those potential holes before someone who wants to cause the business harm finds them.
How can data coverage protect you from litigation?
Think of the example of the laptop stolen out of a car. Part of the coverage would be a year or two of credit monitoring for the people who may be affected. Chances are that none of their records will ever have credit problems, but you have a duty to protect that credit information.
If data is stolen and it is used in a harmful way to the person they have loans taken out in their name or credit card bills run up and it has affected their credit scores, leading to collectors hounding them the indemnity would not only make those people whole, but it would give them expenses toward fixing their credit. Most insurance also includes a partnership with a PR firm that can help you regain the faith of your customers.
Also, forensic computer specialists can be hired to determine what was lost. If there was litigation or a class-action suit or someone was adversely affected because his or her identity was stolen and used by someone else, the coverage would pay third-party indemnity.
There can also be regulatory defense fees, so if you have broken some rule of HIPAA or some governmental body and they fine you, the coverage can potentially pick up the fines related to that.
One of the things that matured in the last few years is ransom demands. If someone stole your data and held it for ransom, you can also purchase insurance that would pay that ransom.
Jonathan Theders, CPIA, is the president of Clark Theders Insurance Agency Inc. Reach him at (513) 779-2800 or email@example.com.