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.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter
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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Many aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) become effective Jan. 1, 2014, but preparing for that date is difficult for businesses because not all of the rules and regulations have been written.
“As of last month, there were still 1,200 regulations yet to be written by the end of the year. I don’t think anybody has it figured out yet — that’s the biggest problem,” says William F. Hutter, president and CEO of Sequent.
Nonetheless, there are steps businesses can take now to be ready for 2014. “The first thing to do is to understand the PPACA. Unfortunately, there is no definitive source of information on how it will impact companies because of the yet-to-be written regulations. So you need to read a variety of materials, starting in July — that’s when we should see those rules and regulations start to manifest,” says Hutter.
Smart Business spoke with Hutter about strategies small and midsize businesses can take to deal with the uncertainty surrounding health care reform.
Is there a chance that the effective date of PPACA provisions might be delayed?
Some factors already have. The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), an exchange for small businesses to purchase health insurance, has been delayed for a year. Also, nothing has been presented showing how the federal health care exchange, a marketplace for individuals to purchase insurance, is going to work.
Since everything is in flux, what can companies do in preparation?
A number of strategies are going to emerge, and many might have questionable structure. If someone presents an opportunity too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful about vetting companies offering creative strategies to avoid some of the impact of health care reform.
One legitimate strategy on the increase is the use of cell captives. Companies will self-insure, but with minimal exposure. There are good self-insurance options for businesses in the 60- to 70-employee range that will exempt them from certain aspects of the legislation, such as unlimited rehabilitative services. An employee can go to rehab for 30 days, come back and four months later have another drug problem that sends him or her back to rehab — there’s no limitation and it’s covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. A company can design a plan that doesn’t allow that because it’s not required in a self-funded plan, even though it is part of the minimum essential coverage required under the PPACA in the fully insured environment.
All of these self-funded plans will become high deductible health plans with three layers of risk. The first is the employee deductible, which will pay the first layer of claims. The second layer will be an amount of self-retained insurance risk a company insures. The insurance company will pay the third layer. That setup protects insurance companies from a lot of the smaller claims. In Ohio, about 70 percent of claims are less than $8,000.
What impact will reform have on health care costs?
It will not bring down the cost of insurance because there’s nothing health care reform can fix relative to the aging demographics of the workforce. There’s been a dramatic increase in recent years in the use of medication and cost of defensive medicine. As baby boomers continue to age, those costs will only increase. There are not enough 20-somethings coming into the workforce to compensate for the aging demographic in the state of Ohio.
If anything, the cost of regulation just keeps increasing. A recent study stated that fines and penalties are expected to total $88 billion. All kinds of alternative strategies are being considered, not to avoid the intent of providing good coverage for employees, but because of uncertainty with the legislation. If you can create certainty by having a new health care plan design, that’s good for business. At least you know what you have.
We’re not going to see the conclusion of how health care reform is going to be implemented for a decade. It’s going to be a really long time.
William F. Hutter is president and CEO at Sequent. Reach him at (888) 456-3627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website: Understand your legal obligations when sponsoring a health plan for your employees. Download a checklist.
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When you go to the dictionary to look for the definition of focus, you will see such lofty things as:
“the point where the geometrical lines or their prolongations conforming to the rays diverging from or converging toward another point intersect and give rise to an image after reflection by a mirror or refraction by a lens or optical system.”
“a point at which rays (as of light, heat, or sound) converge or from which they diverge or appear to diverge.”
Luckily, for those of us that are not physicists, I did find one definition that makes sense when trying to understand the meaning of focus:
“a point of concentration or directed attention.”
What do you concentrate on the most with your business? Where do you direct your attention? These are the questions of focus. Over the years in my coaching and speaking, I have found them to be of utmost importance to the success of those in the workplace.
Let's look at 5 tips for improving your focus as a busy professional.
1. Stop doing what you are doing.
If you struggle with focus on a daily basis and you continue to think and act in the same manner – you need to stop and stop right now.
The quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein speaks to us here: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Stop. Breathe. Assess. Evaluate.
This leads us to our second tip.
2. Determine what needs your concentration and attention.
In the workplace, too many people “fly by the seat of their pants” when it comes to what needs to get done. In most instances, it is pure laziness that sustains this way of doing things. It takes work to stay focused and be successful.
As I said above, you will need to assess and evaluate in order to determine what needs your directed attention. Hopefully you have goals in place for yourself and your team. Let those goals be the defining line for your focus.
This leads us to our third tip for improving your focus as a busy professional.
3. Clear all unnecessary distractions.
Once you have determined the areas and actions that need your concentration, it is time to laser target your focus. In order to do this, you must clear away anything that would disrupt, distract or lessen your laser focus.
- Cell phones
- Social Media
- Instant Messaging
- Tasks that could be delegated
Make a list of all the things that you must stop doing in order to stay focused. This is the opposite of the normal to-do list. It will make clear what needs to be cut out from your daily routine.
Some distractions are going to be hard to give up because they have imbedded themselves as habits – and habits take time to change. Development of laser-targeted focus does not happen overnight, but it must be practiced daily in order to achieve its mastery.
4. Work in 60- to 90-minute blocks of time and provide yourself a reward.
Do not expect too much from your focus. Saying that you are going “to work until it's done” is an overload for most of us. It is also too vague and not goal-oriented.
Set aside a specific amount of time for a designated task. Studies have shown that we do well when we block off 60- or 90- minute time frames. This allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that a break is coming.
As we work, our alertness drops off, increasing the lure of distractions. Set a timer and take a break at the end of each cycle.
How about a reward? We all like rewards in one form or another – even if we are the one giving the reward. Say to yourself, “After this 90 minute session of work I am going to take a 10 minute break and walk around the building.”
Other possible rewards are:
- A snack (be careful not to overindulge and get sleepy)
- Text messaging
- Fresh air
5. Learn to say no.
I mentioned delegated tasks earlier. Many busy professionals struggle with delegation. We tend to hold the old attitude of“if you want something done right, do it yourself.”This might be true in the here and now, but in the long run it will lead to lack of focus and, ultimately, exhaustion.
Learning to delegate is a form of learning to say no. “No, not me, not now.” When we learn to say no, we are truly saying yes to our focus.
There are many other tips that one can use to stay focused. These are the five that I have found to be the most useful. Take the time today to try one, two or all of them. Your goals deserve your focus. Your team deserves your focus. You deserve it as well.
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.
The ultimate endgame in any marketing strategy is conversion.
While conversion means different things to different industry sectors, the actions of reaching conversion are universal. In retail, for example, it means searching for and buying a specific product online or in a store. In business-to-business, conversion could be when a prospective client reaches out with their contact information or and requests more information to engage with your services.
Conversion is a multitiered journey that consists of navigating through three steps — awareness, interest and engagement.
Awareness, essentially developing a brand message that resonates across all channels (such as Web, offline, print, mobile and video) is relatively straightforward if you have the proper brand strategy. You must define two things: who you are and what it is you’re trying to say.
However, converting awareness into interest, and eventually engagement, is where organizations most often lose their way.
I personally see this problem regularly manifest itself during a review of an organization’s website. Often, there are too many words and screens of text to sift through, and those words are either clichés or don’t really mean anything to the organization’s prospective — or current — clients.
The bottom line: The organization gained my awareness but lost my interest. Conversion is less likely a potential outcome.
This, however, is easily solvable.
One way to turn awareness into interest is by creating more consumable content, which is defined as providing, in a simple and nonoverwhelming way, the key points that will grab someone’s attention to learn more about what you do and what you offer.
Think of it this way: Develop clean, concise copy that clearly defines what you do and why you’re different from the competition and that articulates your value proposition, without being wordy. You should not have to scroll down more than one time on a Web page to accomplish this goal.
When you look at traditional advertising, the same problem exists. Review your current ads and ask yourself these questions: Are you running an ad that truly reflects your brand? Does it articulate your intended message and your brand through a series of a few choice words? And is there a defined call to action?
Now consider how you’re messaging to your prospects live, such as through your organization’s presence at trade shows.
At your booth, are you presenting a video reel that drones on for five or 10 minutes and includes every aspect of your company? Why waste a lot of money producing a corporate video that is too long, boring and that no one will watch? You will never see an ROI for your efforts.
Instead, determine whether you can develop a short experience at your booth that captures your desired audience’s attention. For example, combine a simple one-page handout with a brief video — no more than a minute long — that uses powerful imagery, focused messaging on your differentiators and a series of client icons that demonstrate who you work with.
You can always expand upon that brief overview video through a series of short complementary videos that are focused and highlight different segments of what your organization does and how it does it.
Let your prospect choose which area of your business he or she is interested in and wants to learn more about — whether it’s through your website, in print or in person. When someone chooses to learn more, it’s a safe bet that he or she is engaged.
The initial goal of all of this should be to generate interest rather than make a sale. The time for conversion is later, but you’ll never get there if you don’t generate interest and engagement first.
Dave Fazekas is vice president of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
What if the leaders at IBM had stuck to making punch card equipment? What if after making the transition to the personal computer market, they had stayed entrenched there?
Punch card equipment is long gone, and with recent PC sales numbers significantly in decline, the leaders of IBM have stayed ahead of monumental changes in the market and kept the company moving forward for decades.
An open mind.
Too often, CEOs place self-imposed limitations on themselves, both in business and personally. The status quo becomes acceptable and new ideas become verboten. When this happens, growth is stifled — a dangerous situation. Many business gurus will tell you that you are either growing or dying. A stagnant company sees itself as not losing ground, but as its competitors move forward, its relative position in the market fades, even though it views itself as standing firm.
The only way to avoid this is to keep an open mind. CEOs need to constantly grow and learn from a personal perspective — so they constantly improve their leadership and people skills — and also from a business perspective — so new ideas are allowed to push the organization forward.
While there are many approaches to keeping an open mind, here are three ways to get started.
- Embrace trial-and-error. Finding success might require experiencing a dozen failures. Whether it’s a new way of running a meeting or trying to find the next innovative product, accept the fact that success has a cost. Don’t eliminate an idea because it goes against what the company has always done.
- Seek knowledge. As a professional, a CEO should never stop learning. There should always be a curiosity about your industry that drives you to seek an understanding of the latest trends and strategies, but you should be constantly looking at other industries as well. Often, best practices in one industry can be applied to another. If you are the first to make the move, it will give you an advantage over the competition.
- Find a mentor. The right mentor can make you aware of your blind spots. Without someone to offer a different perspective, it is easy to fall into familiar ways of thinking, thus stifling the chance of new ideas taking root.
The longer a CEO runs a business, the easier it is to fall into the trap of doing what worked yesterday or last week. When this goes on long enough, the business ends up with an overall strategy that is several years old.
You would never say, “Let’s use the same strategy we developed five years ago,” but because of a closed mind, that’s what ends up happening by default.
Be vigilant about your search for knowledge. In the end, it will make you a better leader and improve your company’s chances for success.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
When you flip a light switch, turn on the water or start your car, you expect reliability every time. For employees, it’s just as mandatory that they be reliable, by showing up on time, completing the tasks at hand and basically doing their jobs time and time again.
By the same token, your employees expect you, as their leader, to be reliable. This means when you say you’ll do something, you do it, when they need direction, you provide it, and when the chips are down, you’ll be there for them.
Being reliable is good, but being too predictable — not always. In fact, being too conventional can make your company a “me, too” organization that only reacts to what the competition does, rather than taking the lead. It can be a bit more daring to set the trend, but if managed and controlled correctly, the rewards dramatically outweigh the risks.
Warning signs that your leadership has become too predictable occur when your subordinates begin finishing your sentences and know what you will think and say before you utter that first word on just about every topic. Compounding the problem is when your employees begin to perpetuate the negative effect of you being so darn predicable by believing it themselves and telling others, “Don’t even think about that; there’s no point bringing up your idea about X, Y or Z because the boss will shoot you down before you take your next breath.” This bridles creativity and stifles people’s thinking and stretching for new ideas.
It’s human nature for subordinates to want to please the chief. Under the right circumstances, that can be good, particularly if you are the chief. But it can be a very bad thing if you are looking for fresh concepts that have never before been run up the flagpole.
Uniqueness is the foundation of innovation and the catalyst for breaking new ground. George Bernard Shaw, the noted Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, characterized innovation best when he wrote: “Some look at things that are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”
The “why not” portion of this quote is the lifeblood of every organization. A status quo attitude can ultimately do a company in, as it will just be a matter of time until somebody finds a better way.
As a leader, the first step in motivating people to reach higher is to dispel the image that you’re exclusively a predictable, same-old, same-old type of executive who wants things a certain way every time. There are dozens of signals that a boss can give to alter a long-standing image and dispel entrenched mindsets. You can always have a midlife crisis and show up at work in a Porsche or Ferrari instead of your unremarkable Buick. This flash of flamboyance will certainly get people questioning what they thought was sacrosanct about you. The cool car might also be a lot of fun; however, the theatrics might be a bit over the top for some, not to mention a costly stage prop just to send a message.
A better solution is to begin modifying how you interface with your team, how you answer inquiries from them and, most importantly, how to ask open-ended questions that are not your typical, “How do we do this or that?”
Another technique is when somebody begins to answer your question, before you’ve finished asking, particularly in a meeting, abruptly interrupt the person. Next, throw him off guard by stating, “don’t tell us what we already know.” Instead, assert that you’re looking for ideas about how to reinvent whatever it is you want reinvented or improved in giant steps as opposed to evolutionary baby steps. If you’re feeling particularly bold, for emphasis, try abruptly just getting up and walking out of the meeting. In short order, your associates will start thinking differently. They’ll cease providing you with the answers they think you want. Some players will hate the new you, but the good ones will rise to the occasion and sharpen their games.
If you want reliability, flip the light switch. To jump-start innovation, you could begin driving that head-turning sports car. Better yet, get your team thinking by how you ask and answer questions and by not always being 100 percent predictable but always reliable.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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