As we are coming out of this recession, companies are hiring again and staffing specialists can utilize their databases of qualified candidates to assist companies with filling critical openings with great candidates more quickly.
“The fact that companies are starting to hire again is a positive indicator for professionals, as well as companies,” says Andrew Devore, managing director of Skoda Minotti Professional Staffing. “For professionals, it gives them the opportunity to explore positions they wouldn’t have considered a couple of months or even a year ago. For companies, they can now look internally and externally for growth. Many companies have the financial resources to start growing their operations by adding new talent. They can add the professionals necessary to take them from where they are today to where they want to be down the road.”
For more information, see How to grow your business through professional staffing.
Andrew Devore is managing director of Skoda Minotti Professional Staffing. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 449-6800.
Jonathan Ebenstein, the managing director of Skoda Minotti's Marketing Services Group, discusses website design and development.
Your website is a strategic marketing tool, just like an advertisement, press release or brochure. It must fit into the overall marketing strategy you have established for your company. It should be charged with accomplishing specific pre-determined marketing goals and objectives and communicate a consistent message that is tied to your brand.
For more information, see Frequently asked questions about websites and SEO.
Jonathan Ebenstein is the managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Marketing Services Group. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When people are curious about a company or product, the first thing they often will do is visit the website. So more often than not, your website is going to be the first impression your company will make to a prospective customer or business contact.
“Your website is a strategic marketing tool, just like an advertisement, press release or brochure,” says Jonathan Ebenstein, the managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Marketing Services Group. “It must fit into the overall marketing strategy you have established for your company. It should be charged with accomplishing specific pre-determined marketing goals and objectives and communicate a consistent message that is tied to your brand.”
Smart Business spoke with Ebenstein about how to optimize your company’s home on the Internet.
What kind of website do I need?
There are three main types of websites: basic information sites, lead generation sites and e-commerce sites.
The information site today is what the company brochure was 20 years ago. It functions as an online brochure that supports your off-line marketing efforts. That is the bare minimum today; you need a well-designed site that gives site visitors the information they need in an intuitive fashion. If that’s all you’re looking for, that’s OK, as long as it fits in with your overall strategic marketing goals and objectives.
The next step up is a lead generating site. Lead generation sites are unlike information sites because you want them to generate leads and business opportunities on their own. You want people to not only find the site while they are browsing on the Internet; you want them to feel compelled to contact you so you are set up to make a sale.
An e-commerce website can be a combination of a lead generation and information site, but added to the equation is the ability to purchase products and services online. After finding the site and viewing the content, the visitor is compelled to click to make a purchase. Those can be very profitable sites and an integral part of a marketing plan.
How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?
When people are curious about a company or looking for a supplier, the first thing they will often do is visit its website. You need to ask yourself: ‘Does my site properly introduce my company?’ Does the site give visitors the perception that I am a leader in my service or my industry? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure,’ you should probably consider a redesign.
Think about how prepared you are for a first meeting with a prospective customer. You have your brochure with you, you have your best suit on, your shirt is pressed — you look good because you want to make a great impression, and you want to be prepared to discuss the needs of that individual and how your company can meet those needs.
Your website is no different. It too has to be able to do that for you, because more often than not, it’s the first impression people are getting from your company.
How do I evaluate a website developer?
There are a lot of people out there with different price points for the same type of website. It’s not just about looks and cost. Your website is a strategic marketing tool, and it needs to fit into your overall marketing strategy. It needs to be charged with accomplishing specific predetermined marketing goals and objectives, and communicate a consistent message that is tied to your overall brand and marketing. The Web developer needs to understand that.
If you agree to that philosophy, it’s important that you partner with a Web design firm who is accomplished not only in designing and programming websites, but is also a strategic thinker. The ‘jack of all trades’ developer can sometimes get you into trouble. Your Web developer needs to be accomplished in all aspects of website design and development (i.e., project management, design, content development, programming, search engine optimization, etc.). And, they need to be a strategic marketer so they can tie what needs to be done from a website standpoint into your company’s overall strategic marketing plans, goals and objectives.
Is there an easy way to make frequent updates to a site?
Five-plus years ago, you had to go back to the developer if you wanted to make any changes to your website. Now, sites are built with content management systems (CMS), an administrative software system that allows users with little to no knowledge of web programming languages to create and manage the site’s content. So, if you want to add a picture, new copy or a new link, you, as the owner of the site, can make those administrative changes without taking on additional charges by going to an outside vendor or consultant. So make sure your website is built with CMS.
What is search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it so important?
SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a Web page through its structuring so that search engines, such as Google or Bing, can find, read and index them in the most effective manner. When done properly, SEO makes your website and its content attractive, relevant and visible to search engines and Web searchers. In short, it will help folks find you or your company. A good way to think about it would be if you decided to build a beautiful new house out in some rural part of the country, but you didn’t build any roads to get there. How would your friends and family come to visit you? SEO creates the road to your website.
Jonathan Ebenstein is the managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Marketing Services Group. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or email@example.com.
Computers crashing, a lost or stolen laptop or smart phone, a natural disaster, or just someone accidentally hitting the “delete” key — these are all ways a company can lose its data.
Studies show that 70 percent of businesses will experience or have experienced data loss. Disturbingly, 93 percent of businesses that have lost data for 10 days or more ended up filing for bankruptcy, and 50 percent of those companies filed for bankruptcy immediately.
“Without a backup solution in place, businesses are at the mercy of not having any data to recover,” says Don Beller, a senior manager with Skoda Minotti Technology Services.
Smart Business spoke with Beller about how to pick the right backup solution for you, and how to ensure your backup won’t let you down when you need it.
What are some steps companies can take to ensure they have a backup solution in place?
There are a multitude of backup solutions out there, including USB drives, CD-ROMs, tape drives, onsite appliances and even Internet-based backup solutions. There are many options and many price points for businesses, so companies need to determine what level they are at and how much they can afford to do. Whatever solution they decide to use, it has to be a complete solution. You don’t want to go with a less expensive solution that doesn’t give you a full system backup and allow you to fully recover.
What is the difference between a ‘complete’ solution and one that isn’t?
Today, there is a lot of buzz surrounding Internet-based backup solutions. Some of the less expensive solutions out there allow a user to back up data folders on their PC or server environment. They don’t necessarily back up the entire operating system of the server. So in the event of a disaster, you have all your data, but you still have to recover the environment to restore that data, too. Comparatively, a complete solution goes from the operating system level on up to all the data stored on that unit.
How does the backup process work?
With a tape drive or USB drive, you typically need more time to back up your data. It’s more of a file-by-file backup, so the system has to process all those files going to that tape, drive or unit. Other technologies are starting to use disk-to-disk imaging, which is more of a snapshot view of the system. Those are more robust backup systems, and they can use a quicker timeframe. Some imaging solutions can back up entire systems every 15 minutes throughout the day. That’s much faster than a tape drive backup, which could take hours to complete.
There are different methods of backing up as well. A lot of companies tend to lean toward doing a full backup every Friday night, letting it run over the weekend, then doing incremental backups throughout the week. Although that’s not a bad solution, it does lengthen the time of recovery. You get everything back, it’s just a longer process.
Some newer technology allows the appliance doing the backup to serve as a virtual server. With that, even if the hardware your original server resided on crashed, you can bring up a virtual environment on the backup appliance and get the company up and running while the original hardware is being repaired. This allows you to recover to more recent timestamps quicker.
What’s the cost difference between old technology and the new technology?
The cost has become pretty consistent. The old technology was tape drives, which are a volatile medium and susceptible to environmental conditions. Companies used to back up megabytes of data. Now we’re backing up gigabytes and terabytes of data. As our data needs grow, the tape drive costs increase as well. Now, the more expensive disk-to-disk technology is more in line with the added cost of tape drive. It makes sense to do disk-to-disk imaging.
How often should you back up your data?
It depends how comfortable you are with losing data. Can your company survive going backward one day? How about one week? With increasing amounts of data to be backed up, tape drives, USB drives and CD- or DVD-ROM drives are capable of backing up once a day. Essentially, you’re limited by the speed of the backup technology.
Disk-to-disk imaging technology allows more frequent backups during the day for a similar cost. So say it’s 3 p.m. and you’ve been working on a presentation all day. Somehow it gets deleted or corrupted. With the newer technology, you could go back to 2:45 p.m. and recover your data. With the older technology, you would have to go back to yesterday when the presentation didn’t even exist. You’ve lost a day’s worth of work.
How can companies be sure their data restoration will work?
Just create a test folder with mock data you could delete at random. Then periodically test that you could restore the mock data from whichever media you have backing up your system. I’d recommend testing backups at least monthly.
We had an experience where a company came to us with a box full of tapes. Their server crashed and they were looking for help. We got their system functional, but when we tried to restore their data, we discovered none of the 20 tapes they brought us were recoverable.
Backups are only as successful as they’re tested to be. If you don’t have a process in place to verify the information you’ve backed up is restorable, you might find yourself in a hard place where you can’t recover the data.
Don Beller is a senior manager with Skoda Minotti Technology Services. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 449-6800.
In the past, many employers have used a discretionary bonus system. However, the use of pay-for-performance compensation plans has become increasingly popular.
“The process is changing because boards of directors are getting more involved in setting corporate goals and want a mechanism by which those goals can be reinforced,” says Ted R. Ginsburg, CPA, JD, a principal with Skoda Minotti.
“The boards want to guide executive behavior. In that process, companies are tying the payment of bonuses to the achievement of distinct goals.”
Smart Business spoke with Ginsburg about how pay-for-performance plans work, and how to properly implement one.
What defines a pay-for-performance compensation plan?
A pay-for-performance compensation plan is a system by which annual and long-term bonuses are directly tied to the satisfaction of goals. If the executive does not satisfy the goals, then no bonus is awarded.
Pay-for-performance plans typically contain between three and five key milestones or tasks to be attained or completed throughout the year. These goals are typically measurable, quantifiable, and quite black and white so executives can see whether or not they met the goal and will receive the payment.
How does this system benefit employers?
This system benefits employers in three main ways:
No. 1: Clarity in explaining a bonus.
No. 2: Unless desired, the CEO/board doesn’t have to listen to other executives complaining about how they didn’t meet their goals but they still deserve a bonus. It’s not necessary, because all the goals are set in advance and are clearly explained.
No. 3: If the system works properly, the goals pay for themselves. If the company attains the goal — for example, stated earnings per share — it can afford to pay the bonus. The bonus is justified by the action.
The board of directors should be going to the company with input from management and saying, ‘Here are the goals we want to attain during the year.’ Of course, you should have long-term company goals, but usually these short-term goals fit into the long-term goals.
A pay-for-performance plan focuses the executive’s attention on attaining these short-term goals. So the company can tell its shareholders that it set these goals and attained them, so payment of the bonuses is justified.
Often, the perception of shareholders regarding discretionary bonuses is that the board just ‘rubberstamps’ them because they want to make sure their buddies are taken care of. Pay-for-performance eliminates that skepticism.
How does the system benefit executives?
To the executives, the main benefit is clarity. They know exactly what to do to earn the bonus. They know exactly what the board of directors wants from them. They don’t have to worry that if the boss is grumpy on bonus day, they won’t get anything.
The other issue that benefits executives and employers alike is clarity in the pay package. An executive looking for another job knows he or she might be giving up this bonus. An employer hiring an executive could say, ‘Here is your base pay, and you will get a bonus of this amount if you reach these specific goals.’ It adds clarity to the rules of the game in the job-seeking process.
What steps need to be taken to create a successful pay-for-performance program?
The first step is to get input from senior management. Determine short-term goals that are attainable, but that people have to stretch to reach. You should set up a series of three to five goals for the executives covered by the program. The goals have to be somewhat adjusted to make sure the person who will be striving to reach them has some impact in that process.
For example, you wouldn’t want to set a goal for the VP of sales to reduce waste in the manufacturing process. You want to set up goals that fit the executive’s role. If profitability is a goal, though, a goal for the VP of sales’ could be sales with an X percent margin. Or the VP of production’s goal could be keeping production costs low enough that the company makes money.
Once you have the goals, you conduct research to determine what the overall amount of the bonus should be. You can do that through market compensation data. Then, you should allocate that total amount of bonus between the goals. Are all goals rewarded in the same amount, or are some worth more than others? This gives the executives more guidance on the importance of their tasks.
Once that’s done, communicate with the executive to track his or her progress during the year, if possible. That’s motivational. We all want to know how we are doing.
How do employees react when the annual bonus program becomes pay-for-performance based?
Surprisingly, in my experience, the employees like this type of program because it does bring clarity. It eliminates the necessity to spend a lot of time praising oneself to generate payment.
You have to involve them in the process, because if they aren’t on board with the reasonableness of the goals, the program won’t work. If you set a goal of increasing profits by 40 percent this year and, over the last 10 years, you’ve never increased profits by more than three percent, the executives will say this goal is unattainable. That would serve to be a demotivator. But if you set a goal the board and the executives feel is reasonable and a bit of a stretch, it should be very well received.
Ted R. Ginsburg, CPA, JD, is a principal with Skoda Minotti. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or email@example.com.
Daniel D. Golish, CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF, a senior manager with Skoda Minotti, discusses business valuations and everything you need to know about them.
For more information on this topic, see Frequently asked questions about business valuations.
Also, visit Skoda Minotti's Valuation & Litigation Advisory Services Resource Center.
Daniel D. Golish, CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF, is a senior manager with Skoda Minotti. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 449-6800.
Frank A. Suponcic, CPA, CFE, CFF, a principal with Skoda Minotti, discusses fraud and embezzlement and what companies can do to prevent those issues.
For more information on this topic, see Frequently asked questions about fraud prevention.
Robert B. Brenis, CGEIT, CISA, MCP, PMP, a principal with Skoda Minotti, discusses SAS 70 audits (statement of auditing standards No. 70), what they are and what your company needs to do about them.
For more information, see: Frequently asked questions about the SAS 70 audit.