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A growing number of companies are making a commitment to enhance employee performance by implementing health and wellness programs. Many leaders, however, overlook the value of thoughtfully designed workplaces as a tool to inspire, motivate and retain employees. Conventional workplace health and wellness programs are terrific, but tend to be disproportionally utilized by those already making healthy lifestyle choices, whereas design choices impact everyone. Great design and thoughtful products can elevate moods, promote healthy work habits, reduce stress, eliminate physical strain and muscle pain, and inspire creativity and professional development. This translates to a reduction in sick days, greater productivity…
George Lenyo is optimistic about the future of Detroit, even as others dwell on the financial challenges that led to the city filing for bankruptcy in July 2013. “I’ve lived in Detroit since 2004,” says Lenyo, managing partner for EY’s Detroit office. “One thing I will tell you is whether it’s the sports teams or the companies that reside here, the level of passion and resilience in Detroit is unheralded across the country. It’s nice to see that passion that we’ll pick ourselves up and build something together. It’s great to see that come through.” Lenyo has been with the…
James R. Scapa has never been fond of sitting back and admiring what he has built. He has more fun taking a big chunk of it apart and putting it back together in a different way to see if he can make it work even better. One thing he really likes to tinker with is Altair Engineering Inc., the business he launched more than 27 years ago. “I tend to reorganize the company every year, which is very shocking to some people,” says Scapa, the founder, chairman and CEO of the simulation technology and engineering services company. “People usually hate…
In business, as in life, there are times when demands for my time, energy and resources can be overwhelming. Business can be up or down, and a leader is constantly bombarded for decisions, meeting requests and information. I believe Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix can help prioritize the most important and urgent tasks. I love this quote by Covey: “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” By embracing Covey’s message, I learned how to be selective with my choices. Important and non-urgent actions take discipline, and include long-term planning and re-evaluating strategic…
A growing business may think a national or large regional bank would best serve their business needs, but in reality, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. As big banks tend to cater to big business, community banks offer many advantages as a dedicated business partner. A local bank is knowledgeable about the community in which a business operates and can make quicker decisions from a local perspective instead of relying on decision-makers in another city or state. Business owners many times are able to talk directly to the head of lending or the president about their business.…
Regardless of industry, geography or size, one thing is certain: Risks to organizations are changing, becoming more complex and are more interrelated than ever before. “An organization’s ability to identify, assess and respond to the key risks that it faces is critical to its sustainability. The companies that excel in this area are the ones that will be able to react quickly to new challenges,” says Kevin Pastoor, managing director at Aon Risk Solutions. “The first step is identifying the top risks to your organization, and Aon’s Global Risk Management Survey is an excellent place to start.” Smart Business spoke…
If your employees have a company retirement plan, then you have a fiduciary responsibility to them. The days of ignoring this responsibility are over. Some of the settlements linked to charges of negligence or mismanagement can be painful for businesses big and small. In 2010, a California Fortune 500 engineering firm settled $18.5 million with two employees after a class action case claimed it was making an insufficient effort to reduce 401(k) account fees. The Department of Labor (DOL) recovered more than $117,000 in unremitted employer contributions and associated lost opportunity costs for two Wisconsin employee benefit plans with 25…
The national headlines herald Detroit as a city decimated by financial ruin and urban blight. But the city known as Motown, the Motor City and years ago the “Paris of the Midwest,” is entering an era of entrepreneurial opportunity not seen since the industrial age. For many business owners and burgeoning entrepreneurs, Detroit’s financial woes create a blank canvas of economic opportunity. The need and promise of urban revival paves the way for the creativity and industrialism that allow the city’s reinvention. It can become a hub for new industries to emerge as well as a bastion for entrepreneurialism. Resources…
Lori Blaker didn’t have a lot of support back home in 1994 when she headed to China to begin training operations with a select group of automotive manufacturers. To put it bluntly, they thought she was insane. “My colleagues here at the office looked at me like I was crazy,” says Blaker, president and CEO at TTi Global. “I was told at the time that it was the stupidest idea they had ever heard of. Was I insane? I was going to be the ruin of the company. What the hell did I know about doing business in China? You…
The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) lending program is a major part of U.S. business growth, and these loans can often be substituted for traditional commercial loans with some benefits to the borrower.“With SBA loans, a business owner can increase his or her cash flow and sometimes get approved for higher loan amounts than traditional commercial loans,” says Steven Valiquette, second vice president and commercial loan officer at First State Bank.Smart Business spoke with Valiquette about how SBA lending works and what business owners need to know.What are the advantages of SBA loans versus traditional commercial lending?The SBA allows for longer…
This past November, Andrew Liveris went to the White House for a meeting with the president. That in and of itself is a pretty significant life event, but in Liveris’ case, it was as much about the journey as the destination.Liveris is the chairman, president and CEO of The Dow Chemical Co. A native of Australia, he’s held numerous positions at Dow over the span of nearly 40 years — roles that have taken him to places such as Hong Kong and Thailand, before eventually moving to Dow’s Midland, Mich., corporate headquarters, where he became CEO in 2004 and chairman…
Most successful businesspeople agree with Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote when it comes to strategic planning, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” A leader’s approach to strategic planning can vary greatly in length of time, measurement of progress, commitment and ultimately in the results. I would argue that a detailed, strategic plan spanning longer than three years is too long to be relevant. Tactics identified too far in advance cannot keep up with the fast pace of changing technology, new information and changes in the economy to make the plan meaningful. Here are my three essential elements to…
Long work hours, heightened competition, demands for efficiency, and new laws and regulations are all challenges faced by executive leaders today. It often feels like we’re running up the down escalator — constantly in motion, exerting excessive energy with our adrenaline pumping just to get through a normal day. After awhile, the demands take their toll. In addition to serious potential health consequences — including heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. — stress has behavioral side effects, making us anxious or depressed. The result of that chronic stress can severely compromise our ability to lead.…
When Lisette Poletes joined up with her mother, Hortensia Albertini, to help lead Global LT in 2009, she did so with an air of curiosity. “Probably for the first eight or nine months I was here, I took an approach where I really just watched what was going on,” Poletes says. “I had to build my own ideas of what I thought was working and not working coming from a different background.” The numbers show it was time well spent. Global LT, a language training and translation provider, closed 2009 with just more than $9 million in revenue. When 2012…
Nobody in Alan Jay Kaufman’s field is looking for the insurance industry to develop the same professional glamour appeal as a movie star, professional athlete or international spy — but they are looking to get on the same recruitment footing with banking, finance and just about any other area of business.The insurance industry is fighting that kind of an uphill battle. It’s primarily because college students, in many cases, don’t view insurance as an appealing career choice, which hinders the recruiting efforts of firms such as Burns & Wilcox, a 1,000-employee insurance brokerage, which Kaufman leads as chairman, president and…
Does your company employ a multigenerational workforce? If so, your organization might significantly benefit by adopting a reciprocal mentoring program that leverages talents, skills and knowledge to bridge generational gaps surrounding technology — such as social media — corporate culture and team building. Given the generational divide, older and younger workers often feel disconnected when it comes to adapting to technology, corporate culture and working as a team. With reciprocal mentoring, workers across all generations individually and collectively play a pivotal role in creating multigenerational buy-in to the workplace changes that accompany the adoption of technological tools such as social…
Remote deposit capture is a treasury management service that allows your company to deposit checks immediately upon receipt by using an electronic scanner, without the need to visit a bank. It saves time, increases productivity and lets employees focus on areas that most benefit the business, using resources in the most cost-effective manner.“Remote deposit capture reduces your transportation needs substantially. A courier may only need to travel to the bank once per week, as very few items need to go to the bank in paper form — an 80 percent reduction in transportation,” says Kerri Werschky, retail sales manager at…
Middle market manufacturers often think workers’ compensation and disability are uncontrollable costs items. However, it’s more important than ever to change this way of thinking.“Workers’ compensation is a significant variable cost element for manufacturers,” says Joe Galusha, managing director and leader for casualty risk consulting at Aon Risk Solutions. “It’s an area where controlling workplace injuries and their associated costs can actually become a competitive advantage.”“We’re coaching our clients to take more responsibility over workers’ compensation and disability prevention, as well as claim management,” says Mike Stankard, managing director, Industrial Materials Practice, at Aon Risk Solutions. “If they do, there’s…
Twenty years ago, McKinley Inc. was a company with 450 employees. Ten years ago, the company, which specializes in real estate investment and management, had a single operating platform for all of its businesses.That was then, this is now.Today, Ann Arbor-based McKinley has more than 1,400 employees and six different divisions contributing to its $273 million annual revenue figure.It’s a long way of saying that growth has been a fact of life for CEO Albert M. Berriz. That’s a good problem to have, but it still comes with a series of challenges that must be met and overcome if Berriz…
With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, I started to ponder the idea of luck and if it plays a role in our business lives.Over the years, I have had so many people tell me how lucky I am after hearing about the ups and downs of 30-plus years as an entrepreneur. At times, I’m not sure how to feel about the comment, so I usually just smile and say, “Thank you, I know that I am a blessed man.”We’ve all heard the great quote from Thomas Jefferson, who said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder…
As accountable care programs are implemented, health care providers are going through significant financial, clinical, operational and strategic transformation. This has profound effects not only on health care providers, but also on those touched by health care delivery.Payment transformation, re-admission penalties and demographic shifts are creating a perfect storm where health care providers have to be very skilled, says Ron Calhoun, managing director, national health care practice leader, at Aon Risk Solutions.“Providers are going to have to get it right,” he says. “They’ve got to be clinically integrated, and a majority of them are not.”Smart Business spoke with Calhoun about…
When business owners decide to borrow funds from a bank, one of their major decisions is whether to take a fixed rate or a variable rate of interest.“There really is no correct answer, whether to choose a fixed rate or a variable rate when borrowing,” says Alfred DeFlaviis, chief lending officer and senior vice president and Gabe Makhlouf, first vice president of commercial lending, both at First State Bank.Studies have found the borrower is likely to pay less interest overall with a variable rate loan versus a fixed rate loan. But, that doesn’t take into account that the longer the…
Thursday, 31 January 2013 19:46

Great partnerships = great success

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Peanut butter and jelly. Nuts and bolts. Lennon and McCartney. Love and marriage. What do all these things have in common? They represent great partnerships — things that go together, like, well, a hamburger and fries (when I’m not on a diet, of course). Great partnerships epitomize the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Vanilla ice cream is great, right? And who doesn’t love an ice cold glass of root beer? But put the two together and you’ve created an American classic: the root beer float. Business can be like this, as well. Your…
Thursday, 31 January 2013 19:01

Adrienne Lenhoff: Think before you post

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Have you rethought your opinion of someone because of something they’ve posted on social media? Social media has blurred the line between business and personal acquaintances, with most people having both personal and professional contacts linked to their pages on social platforms such as Facebook.Social media creates an environment where many of our social filtering inhibitions disappear, and people tend to feel freer in expressing views they would not otherwise express in real-life social and business settings.We witnessed the best and worst of friends, family, business colleagues and acquaintances during the 2012 presidential election. In the offline world, most of…
Throughout its history, vanpooling has been very good to Ann Fandozzi’s company.For more than 35 years, VPSI Inc. — which is now branded as vRide — has grown and profited from running vanpools for commuters who want an alternative way to negotiate rush-hour traffic. After becoming the company’s CEO this past June, Fandozzi likely could have continued focusing solely on vRide’s vanpooling expertise with no ill effects to the company’s bottom line.But Fandozzi saw more. She saw vRide’s potential to grow outward from its staple business, with a goal of becoming a comprehensive commuter solutions company. So Fandozzi challenged her…
Effective communication is the vehicle to bring board meeting decisions, annual strategies and initiatives, and support programs for your constituents to fruition in business.Without a plan to communicate their importance and implementation, time spent participating in daylong retreats, creating charts, finalizing objectives and enduring the wearisome budgeting process are a waste of your time — and who has time for that?Today’s technology has created myriad options for sending messages across varied time zones and locations inexpensively. I don’t know any business leader or CFO who doesn’t love to see expenses cut, including me. The challenge for all business leaders is…
Peter Kellett is an attorney. He’s also the chairman and CEO of his firm, Dykema Gossett PLLC. But Kellett will be the first to tell you that he is more than just an attorney leading attorneys.Behind Dykema’s approximately 400 lawyers in 11 nationwide offices is a support staff that interacts with the firm’s clients on a daily basis, handling administrative tasks, billing and accounting, and other tasks essential to prompt and comprehensive client service.If those employees aren’t engaged in providing an excellent client experience, it can damage the relationship before an attorney has a chance to sit down with a…
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