The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 mandates that publicly held companies rotate the lead partner in an audit firm off the audit project every five years. Many private entities have followed suit, accepting audit rotation as a regular business practice even though they aren’t bound by any requirement.
But they’re missing out on benefits that come with an established working relationship, says Mark Van Benschoten, a principal with Rea & Associates.
“My ability to offer valuable advice only increases with the amount of time spent with a client,” he says. “When you change auditors, you lose that ability to cement a relationship where you fully understand each other.”
Smart Business spoke to Van Benschoten about misconceptions regarding audit rotation and the various benefits derived from a long-term relationship with an audit firm.
Why do companies rotate auditors?
Sarbanes-Oxley came about after the Enron scandal when there was a perception that the auditing firm was too close to the company. The thought was that switching auditors would ensure an independent perspective. Private companies followed the mandate even though it doesn’t apply to them. Many of those same business leaders encouraged boards of the not-for-profit organizations they are a part of to require an auditor change every three to five years. As a result, businesses and organizations severed ties with auditing firms that had done excellent work.
What is required by the law?
People misinterpret the mandate to mean that they must switch audit firms. However, only the lead partner in the audit firm must rotate off the project every five years. Businesses can get a new set of eyes on the audit without changing firms. Auditors have a professional responsibility to be objective. But if you believe someone may be too close, working with a different manager or partner accomplishes the same thing. This way you get a fresh perspective while maintaining the benefits that come with a long-standing relationship.
What are the benefits of keeping the same audit firm?
One is institutional knowledge. When there is a change in staff, an auditor can help educate from a historical perspective, explaining how something came about. This is extremely beneficial with nonprofits that have term limits for board members and experience changes in leadership.
You also can take advantage of an auditor’s industry experience. Someone with more than 100 manufacturing clients can take expertise from one and leverage that among other clients. For example, if a business owner is too focused on one specific area and is not abreast of what’s occurring in the whole manufacturing universe, an auditor can add value by discussing those issues with the owner.
There’s also a cost to getting a deficient audit. If a firm doesn’t catch some bad financial reporting, it will come back to haunt you.
Are there benefits derived from switching auditors?
If your auditor is not doing the job — not looking at key areas, responding to your needs or is tardy in providing service — you should change even if you have a commitment.
But change in itself does not bring any benefit; it’s more a result of not thinking through goals for the auditor selection process. What are you trying to accomplish with the audit? Audits have become very commoditized; some companies just solicit bids regularly and go for the lowest cost. The only thing they value is getting that opinion letter. You can get too focused on cost and miss out on added value.
What should you look for when choosing an auditor?
Find someone who knows your industry and can make a commitment to the timing and staffing levels needed so the audit isn’t obtrusive. Do some due diligence — find out if they have similar clients and talk to references.
Many companies have audits because a bank or funder requires it, and they want to get through the audit with the least amount of pain. But auditors should also add value.
Mark Van Benschoten is a principal at Rea & Associates. Reach him at (614) 889-8725 or email@example.com.
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Every Company is a Media Company. It’s a phrase coined some eight years ago by tech journalist Tom Foremski to describe the impact of technology on marketing.
From the Internet to Wi-Fi to smartphones, a tectonic shift has taken place with technology forever changing the landscape of marketing, just as radio and television did before.
Only this time, it’s different. This time, the power has shifted from the hands of a few hundred powerful media outlets to the hands of billions of consumers.
At the same time, companies like yours have been handed powerful tools and an unparalleled opportunity to engage with customers like never before. It’s not just in the obvious new places like mobile websites, apps and the media. Technology has made it easier and cheaper to communicate through video, live events and, yes, even print publications.
Like it or not, you are a media company.
So what’s a media mogul like you to do? You need to do one thing: create content. And you need to do it well. You need to create content that generates interest among your target customer base and engages them with your organization.
It might sound easy, but it’s not. Most business leaders know that effective communication is one of the biggest challenges any company faces. When that communication is what sets you apart in the minds of your customers and prospects, the stakes are all the higher.
Here are a few important points to keep in mind as you set about embracing your new role as a media company.
Be where your audience is
Content comes in many forms. Most of us 40- or 50-something business executives are more comfortable reading printed material. Flipping through your brochure, newsletter or even your own custom magazine is comfortable for us. So hand us something.
But younger VPs and 20-somethings — many of whom do the heavy lifting of researching company buying decisions — are more comfortable gaining intel online. They scour videos on YouTube, mine infographics on visual.ly and peruse PowerPoints on SlideShare. So take the time to figure out which of these is the right channel to reach your target customer.
Share knowledge, not platitudes
Yeah, we get it. Your people are smarter, their customer service is better and their breath smells fresher longer. But that’s not why we might be interested in your business.
What we want to know is how you’re going to solve our problems and make our lives easier. We don’t want you to tell us you are smarter; we want you to show us you are smarter.
Thought leadership articles, white papers and blog posts showcase your knowledge of industries, issues and tactics. They differentiate you from your competitors and position you as a subject matter expert in your market.
Talk about customers more than yourself
The best communicators are great storytellers. Stories resonate. They connect us. They are, simply, what we remember.
Sharing client success stories is one of the best ways to tell your own story. The tried-and-true case study is one of the most effective forms of content in a marketer’s arsenal. If you show us how you can make our businesses faster, better, stronger, we will do business with you. It’s that simple.
And if you have particularly well known and respected clients, you get the added benefit of basking in their reflected glory. Welcome to the media business. Now go tell your story.
Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business Network and SBN Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7078.
When Ted Turner launched CNN, there were plenty of people who said a 24-hour news network would never fly.
But Turner saw a problem: He enjoyed watching the news, but his busy schedule typically had him missing the standard news broadcast time. That’s when he got the idea: What if the news was on all the time? He couldn’t be the only one who was unable to fit a regular broadcast into his schedule, so he knew the demand was there.
The next step was to dream big. What if the news was on all the time, not just locally, not just regionally, but nationally and even internationally? The result was the first 24-hour cable news network. It took a lot of effort to get CNN to where it is today, but Turner’s dream was realized. His big dream yielded a big result.
People need to dream big. If you never take the time to dream big, great things probably aren’t going to happen for you.
We have the power to visualize our future. A professional athlete visualizes hitting the game-winning shot so that when the time comes, he or she expects to succeed. As CEOs, we must also visualize ourselves and our organizations achieving great things. We must see where we want to be and then convince those around us to help us get there. When you can articulate the vision in a way that makes it as clear to them as it is to you, your goals will be easier to accomplish.
Here are four steps to achieving great things:
- Have you dreamt big enough? If you aren’t visualizing your business achieving all its goals and growing the way you want it to, it might be holding you back.
- Take time to reflect on the dream. Let it simmer as you consider the obstacles that will have to be overcome to achieve your dream.
- When you are comfortable that you have thought it through, share the dream with people you trust. They can point out challenges you may have overlooked or offer encouragement to keep you moving.
- Get started. Big dreams don’t happen without hard work. Lay out the steps that will get you from where you are today to where you want to be and start working toward your goal. You won’t get there overnight, so focus on taking small steps toward your vision each day. Sell others on your dream so they can help you get there.
Don’t be satisfied with small achievements. Visualize your potential and the potential of your organization. With hard work, you can turn it into a reality. Dare to dream big.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800)988-4726 or email@example.com.
This column is not a how-to painting guide for business executives — I’ll leave that to the experts at Sherwin-Williams. Instead, I offer a few suggestions on preserving ideas for future exploration and innovation. Let me explain further.
Hindering creativity typically rears its inhibiting, ugly head when you make definitive statements, either verbally to others or in the confines of your own mind, and too quickly dismiss new ideas as being too farfetched. We’ve all been there. How many times have you said, “Not on my watch,” or, “I’m drawing a line in the sand on that matter,” and sometimes adding for emphasis, “That will happen only over my dead body”?
Eating your words, even years later, can likely cause severe indigestion and can sometimes result in choking that could bring on a premature demise of that next big thing. Littering the bottom of the corporate sea are concepts with promising potential that executives, with the flick of the wrist, pooh-poohed. Most times, that was simply because there wasn’t enough time to deal with the unknown or because of myopia and the lack of an inclination to push the envelope. It doesn’t take much talent to say no, but it takes leadership and creativity to take a germ of an idea to the next level. And it takes true vision to shepherd a new anything through the difficult trial-and-error gauntlet.
Close-minded responses to the unproven are not just limited to management. Politicians particularly have a unique knack of painting themselves into a corner with unlikely promulgations that frequently come back to haunt them in November after the opposite occurs. Backpedaling is probably the method most politicians use to get their exercise.
In a 1966 Time Magazine print edition feature story, this then-prestigious publication asserted, “Remote shopping, while feasible, will flop because women like to handle the merchandise and, with so much time on their hands, want to get out of the house.” Someone might want to email Time and ask the publisher how to spell Amazon.
There are alternatives to summarily stymieing thoughts, dreams or unproven methods. Certainly, there is a time and place for everything, and frequently, you or your team may not have adequate resources, at a particular moment, to pursue every idea that comes down the pike. Instead of saying no, a more fitting response is to say or think, “Let’s put that idea on a back burner so that we can for the moment focus on more conventional solutions, at least, for the shorter term.” This leaves the door open for continued research and refinement of an idea that could ultimately evolve into something meaningful.
Here is where the bucket from my headline comes in to preserve an incomparable yet promising notion that, at the moment, might be superfluous to the task at hand but, at the right time and place, proves to be a killer idea. I use the word bucket as a euphemism for a holding place or repository for things that I may want to explore when the time is right. Certainly, one cannot investigate every idea ever pondered, but at least by retaining all such ideas in one place, they are always there for future consideration when either more is learned about the subject matter or when comments begin surfacing in the media or elsewhere touching on that similar idea you’ve kept tucked away.
Your very own bucket can also become a temporary refuge merely to take your mind off other, more thorny problems or a simple respite from the day-to-day grind when you’re looking for a new inspiration. Alternatively, at the end of the year, remove the mothballs from your bucket and review what you’ve deposited. A fresh look just might ignite a former idea, which then takes on a new life of its own.
Anyone who has ever painted a room already knows not to wind up in a corner, lest they may never get out. Worse yet, more open-minded competitors could use that bucket to throw cold water on an idea that you had earlier but never capitalized on it while they did.
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.
"The Benevolent Dictator," a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available online at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to succeed in business you need to have inner confidence - that state of feeling certain about and trusting in yourself. You can have confidence in your goals, your team, your system and your family, but if you lack self-confidence, you are missing the main ingredient for success.
Lack of confidence makes it harder to:
- Make sound decisions
- Lead others
- Perform tasks and duties correctly
- Get a raise or promotion
Today I will provide you with 5 confidence tools that you should use on a daily basis in your business and professional life.
Let's get started!
Confidence Tool #1 - Focus
As I mentioned last month in 5 Tips for Improving Your Focus as a Busy Professional - over the years in my coaching and speaking, I have found focus to be of the utmost importance for success in the workplace. Too many professionals try to "fly by the seat of their pants" and lack any ability to direct their attention.
To use the tool of focus effectively, you must first determine the things that need your concentration and focus. Take the time to assess and evaluate them. What should come first, second and so on.
Once you have things evaluated and set out, laser-target your focus and do not allow yourself to be swayed away from the task at hand.
Knowing what needs your attention and intently focusing on those needs helps free the mind of distractions that lead to second-guessing and lack of confidence. This builds motivation that in turn leads to building a positive energy that helps you remain calm and focused during times of stress.
Focus prepares the mind for action.
Confidence Tool #2 - Mentorship
Anthony Robbins and others have talked a lot in recent years about modeling the success of successful people. The idea is to find someone who is successful in your area of work or expertise and do what they do - modeling their successful behaviors.
While I agree that this is helpful, I have always felt that simple modeling comes up short. When I model, I am left to my own devices. I am forced to determine just what it is that has made the person successful. In essence, I have to guess.
Mentorship overcomes this shortfall. Mentoring involves working directly with someone who can help you find your strengths and weaknesses in business. Mentoring takes the guesswork out of the process.
Find someone in your area who is a leader - someone who has achieved a level of success and ask him or her to mentor you. Work with their schedule to find times where you can meet and discuss your needs and desires related to your business.
I have found that many leaders enjoy the ability to mentor others.
Can you see how this tool can help with your inner confidence? It is powerful!
Confidence Tool # 3 - Attitude
You can become the smartest, well-trained and mentored individual with the absolute worst attitude and that attitude will lead to your demise.
Zig Ziglar said it this way:
"Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude."
How high you fly in the world of business is determined not by how much you know, but by the power of your positive attitude.
Ziglar was a trainer and teacher for dozens of years; he was not speaking against you learning new things and being mentored by the best. It's a matter of perspective.
Truly confident people - not those who think confidence is made up of simple arrogance, are those who have a great attitude toward business, work and life. These are the ones that co-workers want to follow.
Attitude moves your action forward.
Confidence Tool #4 - Exercise
In her article: Get Ahead at Work: 5 Ways to Increase Your Confidence In Business, Kelly Lynn Adams talks about the role exercise plays in developing confidence in business.
"Exercise has been shown to improve both mental health (by releasing mood-improving endorphins) and physical wellbeing (by reducing the likelihood of illnesses) while also improving the way you feel about yourself. So, whether you prefer to dance, go to the gym, run outside, bike, take a yoga class or box, get moving. It may just pay off, literally!"
I could not have said it better!
Exercise provides strength for action.
Confidence Tool # 5 - Action
I have been hinting all along in this article that there is one very important tool that must be used in order develop the confidence needed to achieve true success in business.
That tool is action.
We must get up, get moving and get out there on a daily basis. Actual hands-on doing is a powerful provider of self-confidence. Action defines the muscle of confidence. Consistent, daily action makes that muscle strong.
When focus, mentorship, attitude, and exercise bolster action, inner confidence no longer becomes a struggle we face.
Use these tools and develop the confidence you need to achieve your wildest dreams in business.
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 is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” Contact her via email at email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
Media relations opportunities have greatly expanded. With nearly all publications having a print and online version of each issue, e-newsletters that get distributed daily or weekly, blogs and information repositories on the websites, a reporter’s need for quality information to share with his or her readers is insatiable.
What hasn’t changed is a reporter’s desire to convey a story with a degree of exclusivity. Reading the publications you are targeting and understanding the audience from the reporter’s point of view will help you create unique storylines for publications.
Send reporters your case studies, white papers, product releases, research results, photographs and videos. Be sure your content is reliable, appropriate and factual — that rule isn’t likely to ever change, nor would we want it to. You want to be a respected resource and in good standing with the media. Be accessible to reporters when they call — this means as soon as possible and within the same day. If you don’t know the answer to a question, either offer to find the answer or refer them to someone who can provide it. It is a team effort — you need them and they need you.
Optimize your content for online sharing with live links to images, videos, more in-depth research reports, product information and the like. This helps reporters with their due diligence and the same holds true for readers.
Mobile technology demands an easy, reader-friendly linking strategy that keeps the viewer engaged. Whether a user is using a computer, tablet or phone, the information you submit should provide links to the depth of information readers need. Use online distribution service bureaus to get your information to interested parties.
A best practice that I have always encouraged is the creation of a company press kit. Providing a factual document on the company reduces the amount of research and time a reporter may need to spend. It also improves the margin of error by giving the reporter a factual document to go by.
A company press kit should be easily accessible online along with images of founders, products and other helpful graphics. Reporters work on tight deadlines so anything you can do to minimize their time in telling your story, the better.
Create your own content
One of the biggest changes the Internet brought to the public relations profession is the ability for businesses to publish information of its own. Today, businesses can start online publications, which generally begin with blogs and enewsletters and include social media such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter among others.
Web and social media sites are repositories of information about products or services, success stories, white papers, press releases, videos, PowerPoint presentations and so on. Limiting access to this information hinders online engagement.
Instead provide a snip-it or synopsis of unrestricted information to enhance trust and engagement before requiring personal information for full access. Add social media sharing buttons to your sites to make it easy for people to share your information within their social media circles.
Having and maintaining relationships with reporters is still important. Consider the media as you would your most influential client. It takes effort to get noticed and once you do, the courtship has only just begun.
Stay in touch and keep media contacts “in the know.” They may not always be interested in what you send their way, but they will appreciate you keeping them informed.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, firstname.lastname@example.org, @brandpro or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.
Amy Schultz Clubbs grows passion fruit at Molina Healthcare as employees find giving back is the key to engagementWritten by Dennis Seeds
Amy Schultz Clubbs pays her employees hourly wages to volunteer at least 16 hours per year as a way of giving back — and doesn't have to look far to see proof that the volunteering pays big dividends. Actually, positive signs can happen at any time, nearly anywhere.
“We had a couple of individuals who through their volunteering with the Meals on Wheels program recently were able to help save a woman’s life when they went to the home,” she says. “The individual had fallen and couldn’t answer the door; they were able to get help and likely saved her life.”
The victim was afraid help never would arrive as she was lying on the floor after the fall. She later told them she was told she had suffered a mini-stroke. She couldn’t get up, and was frustrated, crying and scared.
Two provider relations representatives with Molina Healthcare who deliver meals in the Zanesville area knew something was wrong when the resident didn’t answer the door and her dog kept barking and tugging at the front window curtains. They called 911.
A firefighter was able to gain entry through a window. The resident was hospitalized but has since recovered. She has expressed her gratitude to the two volunteers and has even invited them into her home regularly, so they all could get to know each other better.
“It’s rewarding because you give back to the community,” one of the Molina employees said.
Clubbs agrees wholeheartedly. In fact, it’s one method that she believes is particularly successful with motivating Molina employees through its rapid growth since it was founded in 2006.
When she signed on with Molina Healthcare in 2007 as its chief financial officer when the corporation was opening an Ohio division, she moved quickly through the ranks to COO and to her current role because of the rapid growth of the provider of managed care services to Ohioans on Medicare and/or Medicaid. Molina Healthcare has become Ohio’s second largest care coordination plan with 240,000 members, and now has 460 employees and more than $1 billion in revenue a year — and expects to hire 225 more next year.
Here’s Clubbs’ prescription to deal with rapid growth and keep employees engaged to the fullest.
Track the life cycle
Many companies were founded by an individual who was passionate about a particular product or service and who wanted reach as many people as possible to tell them about it and make them a customer. Just as it was with founder Dr. C. David Molina and offering affordable, quality medical care for the needy. Once that was established, it was logical step to also offer a health care plan exclusively for government-sponsored health care programs for low-income families and individuals.
So the mission was clear from the beginning for Dr. Molina and it was just as clear to Clubbs when she became CEO a few years ago. Clubbs and her team took an empirical look at the entire process, to see if Molina Healthcare of Ohio was operating true to the corporate mission.
“We kind of started looking at what is the life cycle of the member,” she says. “Where does it start? We followed that through the entire organization — what does the life cycle through our organization look like?”
By following the life cycle, they were able to make sure that the right process and infrastructure was in place every step of the way to navigate the member through the organization.
At every point in the process, it is necessary to keep the focus on the relationship that is being developed.
“Molina doesn’t spend a large amount of money on commercials and billboard advertising because we really rely on the relationships that we develop with our community partners and with their provider partners as well really to educate potential members about what their health care options are,” Clubbs says.
The examination of the life cycle showed the depth of engagement employees will need to demonstrate — and the importance of how critical it is to maintain that engagement.
“The people who work for us are really passionate about what they are doing and the individuals we are providing services to, and so you need to really look to keep that passion in employees throughout the year,” she says.
“It was just getting the right people in the right seats of the organization, and really developing people from what started out as building infrastructure to moving toward more of an operations life cycle of the company, and really keeping people engaged in the organization as you do that,” Clubbs says.
As the Ohio division of a larger corporation, the entity had a template of sorts to follow when it was first started, but there was also a provision to adapt as needed.
“A lot of it we developed from scratch, and a lot of it we were able to leverage,” Clubbs says. “With building relationships, we were definitely able to leverage best practices from our other states — and the Molina story as well. The company has been around for more than 30 years.”
“We still run clinics today in many of our states, and are able to really leverage that history as we are building that relationship here locally as well,” Clubbs says.
Find the differentiator
Examining the role that employee engagement plays is critical in finding out what separates the winners from the also-rans.
“I believe it is our differentiator, and I really think it is how we have been successful in keeping our employees so engaged and keeping morale up while we have been growing so quickly over these last several years,” Clubbs says. “I definitely think it is a key. We really try to model that engagement at all levels of the organization here.”
Among the methods beyond the minimum that are frequently used by businesses to keep employee engagement high is the support of volunteerism. Molina Healthcare has put it in writing.
“Our volunteer time-off policy says we will pay people for a set number of hours every year when they volunteer in the community,” she says. “And once they do that, even though you are only paying for a set amount of time, people get more engaged and are more likely to go out and do it on their own as well.”
The company also has an employee activity committee that helps coordinate the volunteer opportunities for the associates. At least quarterly, the committee will have an employee appreciation event as well where the members show how much the company appreciates employees.
“We encourage people to not only volunteer their time but to give back through personal donations either monetary or things like having a personal care items drive for the food bank,” Clubbs says.
She also encourages her leadership team to contribute by being board members on community organizations as she herself serves on several boards.
“It’s another way that we kind of demonstrate our commitment to the community, that they are serving as well.”
Find a need and focus on it
If your company examines your flow life cycle, and you find a particular need that can be met that with some attention and focus, it can be a win-win for you and customers.
Clubbs and her team capitalized on what was common knowledge about the population it served: It was more vulnerable than others that may be served by a commercial plan. Members may have significant health problems as well as financial concerns.
Accordingly, if Molina could focus on care coordination, it would be a plus. Communicating with some of its members through outreach builds the relationship to a new level.
“We have community health workers who actually go out into the community,” she says. “They will go visit members in their homes to do health care assessments and things of that nature and to bring services to members in their home or other places of service, where they might not be able to get out and get those services as readily on their own.”
The company activity team and management receive sensitivity training that gives some background about common situations they may find, and it can help to solidify relationships. One of the big things they experience is the Beyond the Freeway Tour.
“They will take a group on the bus and take you around the local community, through a homeless shelter, through a food bank, through other places where the individuals that we are serving or are also receiving services, so that you can have that sensitivity to what a day in the life of one of our members is really like out there.”
Such as experience may heighten an associate to listen more closely and visualize what the member is going through as the member talks about concerns.
“I think a lot of times words are not exactly what the problem is or what the issue is, so really being able to listen and decipher between what someone is saying and what the issue really is and to make sure that you are addressing it and resolving it is really key to any success,” Clubbs says.
How to reach: Molina Healthcare of Ohio, (800) 642-4168 or www.molinahealthcare.com
Track the life cycle of the product or service
Find the differentiator from your competition
Look for a need and focus on it
The Clubbs File
Amy Schultz Clubbs
Molina Healthcare of Ohio
Born: Lawrence, Kansas.
Education: I went to Ohio University and received a bachelor of arts in business administration, majoring in finance.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
My first job was serving soft ice cream at a Dairy Shed. I think what I learned from it was a lot of patience and customer focus. It was in Circleville, Ohio.
What was the best business advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was to ask for forgiveness, not permission. That honestly has helped me over the years of my career. It basically means, ‘Just do it.’ If you think it is the right thing to do, go ahead and do it. Don’t wait and ask somebody if it is OK to do. If it ends up being wrong afterward, then you can ask for forgiveness. But it is better to just go ahead and do it if you think it’s the right thing to do. That came from my regional vice president who preceded me as plant president, Kathie Mancini.
Who do you admire in business?
I mostly admire people who are really following their passion, their heart and what they do in the business world. There are a lot of women who I work with and for right now. Five of my directors are women, and if you look up verticals for whom I report to, the next three layers above me are all women. Every one of them is so passionate about what we’re doing here at Molina. They are smart and strategic thinkers. They are doers and they make things happen. So I love that. And I think that people who do follow their passion are able to have a bigger impact on an organization and still be able to make things happen. That’s what I admire. I’m just surrounded by them here.
What is your definition of business success?
I think in general, business success is really being able to grow a business profitably while achieving some sense of the greater good of the community. With Molina, our ability to improve health outcomes for the individuals to whom we are providing services to is for the greater good of the community. At Molina it is providing high-quality care to improve health outcomes in a manner that is cost-effective.
Practically no one reads software licensing agreements, but the terms they set allow software companies to access your computer network for an audit. And when they decide they want an audit, software companies may attempt to gather information without executive management knowing.
“They will send the audit request in an email because a formal letter has a greater chance of going up the chain to management. The email will say the audit right is in the contract and to run the attached script on your computer system,” says Jason H. Beehler, an associate with Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter.
“That script was created to find as much usage as possible. It will look for any occurrence of the software’s name, even if it has no correlation to the installation of the software. The company, usually without thinking, will go ahead and run it and it comes back with an unbelievable number. All of a sudden the software company is asking for $100,000 or $500,000 or more, depending on how extensive they allege the overuse is,” says Beehler.
Smart Business spoke with Beehler about procedures companies should follow to manage software licenses and what to do if a software company requests an audit.
How should companies respond to an audit request?
Treat it like an audit request from the IRS. Whoever receives the request should notify someone on the executive side — CEO, CFO, CIO — and the executive should contact in-house or outside counsel to review the licensing agreement and understand the company’s rights. What is the script designed to look for? Is the license agreement valid and enforceable?
You also want to make sure that, before any audit request comes in, the person who manages software purchases is proactively tracking software licenses and usage. A person may have moved on to another job or department and the copy still exists, although no one is using it. Simply removing software from computers prior to the audit can legitimately decrease your exposure by reducing the number of users.
Often employees have software programs they don’t use. From an IT perspective, it’s easier to create a master template for a desktop software suite that is loaded on computers. You may have what registers as 100 users of the software, but the number of people actually using it is 15.
What if the script has been run?
If you get a letter that says you owe $200,000, contact your counsel, and then together you can call the software company’s general counsel and see if you can negotiate. It could be that $60,000 of that total is interest and, of the remaining $140,000, maybe half corresponds to the actual number of unpurchased licenses in use. If there’s legitimate overuse, you can structure a settlement and offer to pay over a period of some months or years.
If you can’t reach a settlement, consider filing suit before the software company files, so you can choose the court. It’s much better to fight on your turf and your terms. When you file, the software company may very well countersue for copyright infringement and breach of contract. But at least you will define the case on your terms, and you may not have to litigate in the software company’s backyard.
Are more software audits being conducted?
Yes. It could be a function of a difficult economy, either because the software companies are feeling the pinch or because they suspect that users may be engaging in unauthorized copying in order to save money. The prevalence of downloaded software presents an opportunity for software companies if they suspect people aren’t tracking their licenses well.
IT experts say software companies could put controls in place to prevent unauthorized copying. That’s what makes these claims interesting, and that issue should be explored if it comes to litigation. The argument that the software company had an opportunity to prevent copying and now seeks damages for activity it could have stopped could be a significant issue at trial.
Jason H. Beehler is an associate at Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter. Reach him at (614) 462-5452 or email@example.com.
For more information on Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter, please visit www.keglerbrown.com.
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Cloud computing is the use of applications that are housed on servers outside of a business’s location and accessed using the Internet. Instead of deploying servers internally and building a network infrastructure within their walls, companies contract with a cloud-computing provider that hosts the applications.
“Cloud computing is a key component of any company’s infrastructure these days, whether you’re Fortune 500 or a sole proprietorship,” says Eric Folkman, manager of managed services at Blue Technologies. “There’s a piece of it now that can fit pretty much any company. It wasn’t that way a few years ago, but the technology has progressed and the costs have come down so far that there’s something there for everybody.”
Smart Business spoke with Folkman about getting started with cloud computing.
Why should you look into utilizing the cloud to help your company?
Three simple reasons are:
- Financial benefits.
- Increased availability of data, whether for your employees or the public.
- Reducing your disaster risk with some form of backup.
What specifically can be taken to the cloud?
The ability to move applications to the cloud has exploded. It may sound cliché, but the better question might be: What can’t you take to the cloud?
Some applications are better than others in the cloud environment, such as email, financial systems, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, data backup and Microsoft Office-type products like Word and Excel. In addition, voice is gaining popularity, which works by routing your phones through the Internet. This can reduce your business phone bills and provide flexibility to telecom costs.
When is the right time to go to the cloud?
It depends on the situation, but anytime a company is considering a major change to its technology — whether a server upgrade or application change — that’s an appropriate time to consider the cloud.
Here’s a scenario I run across three or four times a week: A company is running an older, internal email server and decides to upgrade. It could spend tens of thousands of dollars on hardware, software licensing and implementation. The business gets an upgraded server but still has maintenance costs, security risks and the potential for downtime if something happens to the physical servers.
The alternative is to host email through the cloud. There’s no need to secure and maintain an internal server, and email is more accessible via the Internet. There’s also no disaster recovery component — you know the provider has mechanisms to keep your data safe. However, sometimes you have so many users going to the cloud that it doesn’t make sense, as opposed to doing it in-house, from a cost perspective.
What’s an easy way to get started?
Cloud-based data backup is a low-cost, low-risk way for a company to dip its toe in the water. Companies see savings quickly and don’t have to mess with tapes and the risk of someone (usually the receptionist) manually rotating tapes off-site. Although there are some configuration changes, it’s not a mission-critical application.
Email and a CRM, like salesforce.com, are two others to consider doing sooner rather than later with a quick payback.
How is the value of cloud usage measured?
Like any business process, do your homework and build a business case. Not every company is perfect for it, but it’s an option executives should at least look at. It can be difficult and cumbersome to figure out if you’re not familiar with IT and don’t understand all the pros and cons of the cloud environment. A little advice in the beginning could really help get you beyond the learning curve.
Once you’re using the cloud, many providers offer advanced reporting and monitoring tools, so if something goes wrong you can take corrective action. For instance, most backup providers offer a dashboard. You can see how many computers are backing up, how much from each, how long it takes, how many failed to back up, etc. You also want your cloud contracts to include flexibility to add services or make changes as needed.
Eric Folkman is manager of managed services at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Technologies offers further insight on this and other topics affecting businesses on its blog. Learn more by visiting www.btohio.com/news-resources.
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Every day more than 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and during the next 15 years it’s expected that more than 1.3 million home health and personal care aides will be needed to accommodate them. In addition, in-home care can be costly. On average, a caregiver or client will spend $18,000 a year for 20 hours a week of care.
“Long-term care insurance can fund home care that will allow you to remain at home where you are most comfortable, with safety and independence,” says Marc McTeague, president of Best Hoovler McTeague Insurance Services, a member of SeibertKeck.
Smart Business spoke with McTeague about how to maximize your long-term care insurance for home health care.
Do people mistakenly associate long-term care with nursing homes?
Yes, but the opposite is also true. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, 7.6 million individuals currently receive care at home because of long-term health conditions, permanent disability or terminal illness, but there are just 1.8 million individuals in nursing homes. Many buy long-term care insurance just so they can receive care in their own home.
Who typically uses home health care?
Every day, guardians, care managers and family members make long-term health care decisions for their clients and loved ones. Home health care can be an appropriate solution for those who wish to age at home.
However, it’s important to understand the differences in home care providers to make informed decisions. The Agency for Health Care Administration licenses home health care agencies following a comprehensive survey. A home health agency can assist with personal care and offer skilled nursing services including medication management. Certified nursing assistants or home health aides provide all personal care, and home health agencies are required to have a nurse available 24/7. A home health agency is a good choice when you desire nursing involvement or assistance with daily living.
What’s key to know when hiring a caregiver?
Here are some steps to follow:
- Look for a home caregiver from a reputable agency, where he or she is licensed, bonded and insured. Also, check that the caregiver is covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
- The caregiver should be supervised by a licensed professional who makes unannounced visits.
- When hiring, review two to three references and require a recent criminal background check, as well as random drug tests, TB tests and a recent physical exam. The caregiver should have a minimum of two to three years of experience.
- If the position involves driving, determine that the caregiver’s driver’s license and car insurance are current and valid.
How does long-term care insurance cover home health care?
Activities of daily living (ADL) refers to what we do on a daily basis to care for ourselves, including bathing, dressing and using the bathroom. Individuals with chronic diseases often have trouble performing some of these ADL, so the measure is used to assess long-term care insurance benefit eligibility.
Depending on your policy, you might have a waiting period before you can access your funds. Does your policy allow you to start collecting benefits on the day you begin receiving assistance, or are you subject to a waiting period of anywhere from 30 to 120 days? It’s important to get advice from your broker when deciding which policy is best.
Also, seriously consider when you can initiate a claim. The waiting period often corresponds to the benefit period, or the maximum amount of time that the insurance company will pay benefits. The longer the waiting period before benefits begin, the longer the company may pay for care. Benefits typically last three to five years.
When is a good time to buy?
Many people don’t realize the significant benefits to purchasing long-term care insurance earlier in life. For the same policy, yearly premiums for policies purchased at age 50 are notably less than premiums at 70. Also, the earlier you purchase, the more likely your application will be approved. By planning ahead, you will be best prepared to secure an affordable policy that helps you stay at home when the time comes.
Marc McTeague is president of Best Hoovler McTeague Insurance Services, a member of SeibertKeck. Reach him at (614) 246-RISK or email@example.com.
Visit SeibertKeck on Twitter @SeibertKeck or online at www.SeibertKeck.com/page/skmedical.
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