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We spoke with EY’s Rick Fezell back in February about transitioning to his new leadership post in Chicago. Here’s a little more from that conversation as Rick talks about the value of asking for help – even when you’re the leader. When Rick Fezell became the new managing partner of the Midwest Region for EY, he found himself in an unfamiliar setting. After spending most of his career on the West Coast, he was now in Chicago and had to get to know a bunch of new people. “How I overcome that is I trust our other partners,” Fezell says.…
Mark Silverman had a lot of voices in his ear in the early days of Big Ten Network. The launch on Sept. 1, 2007, was a glorious day. But it was quickly followed by opinions from every direction as people with ties to the Big Ten Conference expressed their thoughts about what was and wasn’t working with BTN. Patience wasn’t an option when it came to games not being broadcast or revenue being less than had been anticipated. Fans complained to their schools, the schools complained to the conference and the conference reached out to Silverman. Fortunately, Silverman, who has…
It’s no secret that the success or failure of any modern company is driven by the quality of its people. This was the basis for the “War for Talent” concept developed by McKinsey and Co. in the 1990s. But the “war” has since evolved into a new endeavor, as a mission to not only obtain but also retain that coveted talent. A stellar recruiting philosophy is no longer enough. To ensure success — especially in a highly competitive industry — a company must have measures in place to continually cultivate, challenge and satisfy its most promising talent. Determine skills beyond …
Most people spend their working lives following orders, whether they’re from a boss or a customer. They may not be military commands — your customer may ask you in the nicest way possible to reduce delivery time — but they still must be obeyed. This is just the way things are, whether you’re a junior executive or higher-level manager. So here’s the leap of faith: Consider the possibility that you can have an equal relationship with a “superior.” I don’t care if that superior is the CEO of a Fortune 50 company. You don’t have to be an inferior in…
As homeowners across the United States continue to struggle to stay in their homes, lenders and investors have taken different approaches in response to the crisis. As of January 31, more than 1.3 million homeowners have received a permanent modification on their mortgage through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The U.S. Treasury Department reports these homeowners have saved an estimated $25.5 billion in their monthly mortgage payments since the program went into effect. Jorge Newbery’s view of the program’s accomplishments isn’t as rosy. “HAMP is (President) Obama’s plan to assist families,” says Newbery, founder and CEO of American Homeowner…
Interviewed by Dustin S. Klein If you take a tour of Life Fitness with Chris Clawson, you may find yourself answering questions that you wouldn’t expect to be asked on a tour of a company that makes exercise equipment. For instance, he’ll probably want to know if you have a favorite wine or if you’ve ever visited a winery. “I say, ‘How many of you think the wine tasted the same after you visited the winery?’” says Clawson, president at Life Fitness. “And they all shake their heads no because it tastes different. You get to meet the vintner, go…
Companies that have health insurance plans with low deductibles can save money by increasing the deductible, and then use some of the savings to ensure employees aren’t harmed by the change. “If you go from a fairly rich deductible of $250 to $2,500, the insurance carrier will provide you discounts of 25 to 35 percent in premium reductions,” says Dan Wilke, Vice President of Underwriting and Statistical Analysis at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “But if you tell employees their plan changed from a $250 to a $2,500 deductible, that’s a PR nightmare. Instead, you can create a health reimbursement account (HRA) or…
Businesses are familiar with the notion that written employment contracts can be a source of rights and liabilities in the event of a split with an executive employee. However, businesses are often not as familiar with other potential sources of employment liability in those situations, including the Wage Payment and Collections Act, sometimes called the Wage Payment Act. Smart Business spoke with John Haarlow Jr., an attorney at Novack and Macey LLP, to discuss the relationship between this statute and executive compensation. What is the act and why is it important? Generally speaking, the Wage Payment Act requires Illinois employers…
Business operations are subject to a number of internal and external risks, as are ownership interests in businesses. How organizations and their owners address these risks can have a significant impact on the value of businesses and interests therein. An enterprise risk management (ERM) process involves identifying risks relative to an organization’s objectives, assessing them for likelihood and impact, developing a response strategy and monitoring progress. A well-defined ERM process framework can protect and create value for organizations and their owners. Smart Business spoke with John T. Alfonsi, managing director at Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC, about how ERM precesses can…
Rick Fezell gets it. Why else would he jump into the icy waters of Lake Michigan in the middle of January? As the new managing partner for EY’s Midwest Region, Fezell wanted to show everyone that there was another side to his personality than just being the boss. He was willing to step out of his comfort zone and do something that a lot of people think is completely crazy. But as much as his polar plunge got everyone talking, it’s the more subtle actions taken by Fezell that demonstrate his understanding of what it means to be a strong…
With margin pressures, cost reductions and ongoing economic uncertainty on most corporate agendas, a company’s supply chain has become a key driver of growth. The relationship between the supply chain and senior finance leaders is more important than ever as C-suite executives work to build a cost-effective operating model. Yet, in “Partnering for Performance: CFO and the Supply Chain,” a recent EY survey that looks at the impact on the business when the CFO and chief supply chain officers collaborate, only one-quarter of finance executives describe their relationship with their supply chain counterparts as a true business partnership. Worse, only…
Do these terms sound familiar? ■ Vision ■ Strategy ■ Quality ■ Mission ■ Commitment Come on, you can admit it. Aren’t there times when corporate-speak makes you nauseous? Don’t get me wrong; I live in the corporate world. It’s from there where my bread is buttered and bills are paid. Yet, those running the big businesses often forget what the keys for optimizing success are, thus garnering less than stellar results. The construction of a high-performance team needs to be centered on the how. Having worked intensely with executive teams in the last five years, we take an unconventional…
The duty of leadership to effectively reward is essential to the survival and prosperity of any organization. Issues between the leader and his or her people regarding incentive compensation can undermine the entire motivation process. We really are in the “timely rewards” business as company leaders. Here are four principles for successfully rewarding your people for a job well-done: Deploy your people to maximize the use of their unique gifts and talents When we have people working in areas where their individual gifts and talents don’t match the position well, employee satisfaction and employee performance suffer. Why? Because expressions of…
Count on Bob Lacy to be one of those business leaders who won’t be trying to calculate the hours his employees spend away from their work as they track their brackets or sneak a peek at the March Madness action on their computer, smartphone or tablet. “It’s fun to do and it’s a good thing for the culture,” Lacy says, referring to activities such as bracket wagers, Super Bowl squares and fantasy sports. “It’s just another form of camaraderie. Nobody is forced to participate. Much like our run club or the company employee lunch we do every month or our…
John Kalanik, Jim Chappell and Tony Maurer brought a lot of engineering experience to the table when they launched InStep Software in the mid-1990s. In those early days, the company’s co-founders focused on solving engineering problems with software solutions. “The Internet was really starting to take off,” says Kalanik, the company’s president. “We knew there was an underserved market for the development of engineering software. Initially, we focused on consulting projects for companies in the telecommunications, power and utility industries; many of these projects resulted in the development of a specific commercial software application. “This provided us with the experience…
Mark Silverman has fond memories of Sept. 1, 2007, the day Big Ten Network went live to TV viewers for the first time. “We had been working nonstop to get the network ready,” Silverman says. “I started in December (2006), and most people didn’t come on board until April and May 2007. Flipping the switch, going live on air and watching Dave Revsine, our host, do his open for BTN, it was definitely the most memorable moment I have in our history.” It was an instance of great accomplishment. But the work of turning BTN into the successful business venture…
Thursday, 27 February 2014 05:18

How business owners can help identify expert witnesses

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An expert witness is a person knowledgeable in a particular subject area who can assist a jury or judge in understanding specialized, technical or scientific evidence presented in a court case. Experts are needed to explain what is reasonable in various industries, scientific or technical information, complicated financial data, and anything else that laypersons might have difficulty understanding on their own. That’s why having a good expert witness is critical to litigants. Smart Business spoke with Adam Waskowski, a partner at Novack and Macey LLP, about what to look for in an expert witness and what business owners can do…
Thursday, 27 February 2014 14:39

How to transition your small business to an ESOP

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Having a sound exit strategy in place with respect to departing shareholders is imperative for any company. This is especially true for small businesses in which the departing shareholder is a key cog in the company’s management and day-to-day operations. A departing shareholder also faces the issue of finding a market to be adequately compensated for his shares. “Companies and individuals are faced with the daunting task of finding a market for the shares being sold, the fear of a targeted acquisition in which the purchaser would drastically alter the landscape of the company, and the various costs and time…
Small and midsize companies are increasingly looking to outsource HR functions in order to focus on core operations and growing the business. “Companies have been moving that way as HR has become more complex — it’s no longer an HR person sitting in an office planning parties. There are complicated employee and compliance issues to address,” says Liz Howe, Director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “There are so many different laws being passed at the state and federal level that it can be a challenge for any HR team to keep up,” Howe says. Smart Business spoke with Howe …
The Institute of Medicine estimated 30 percent of health care spending in 2009 was wasted. Patients get duplicate services, unneeded services or services that haven’t proven to have medical value, which is where medical management can help. Utilization management enables health plan members and network providers to contact a benefits manager to determine whether services are medically necessary before they are rendered, says Dr. Robert Sorrenti, medical director at HealthLink. Years ago, physicians, hospitals and providers strongly opposed utilization management, feeling it intruded upon their ability to make decisions. Today, there is acceptance, along with strong interest from those paying…
Have you ever made a promise and failed to keep it? Of course you have, you’re human. That doesn’t make you a bad person, assuming it was not your intention to deliberately deceive the person or people to which you made the promise. But sometimes in our zest to please others, we don’t always think through all the details before we open our mouths. We just push forward believing that we can make it happen. In the event that we can’t live up to the promise, we apologize and try to learn from our mistake. Aligning commitment with a promise…
It’s a new year and a fresh start. While it could be construed as cliché to make resolutions, sometimes they are exactly what I need to refocus and recharge. By working with multiple organizations over my career, there have been recurring themes that have stayed with me. People want to work toward something together and belong to an organization that they believe in and trust. They want simple, clear directions as well as focus, and everyone always wants to see tangible results. With those thoughts in mind, here is how I approach my new year: Plan — for the day,…
Three tips to help you get better at securing warm leads to grow business “Before I got married, I had six theories on raising children. Now I have six children and no theories.” — John Wilmot We all long for that road map to guide us to a higher level of success in all that we do in life, whether it is in parenting, fitness, buying a car or a house, or saving for your children’s college education. Yet, I’ve discovered a surprising level of irony in the way many organizations and their sales divisions go about securing business. Sure,…
When you’re looking to build your team in business, it’s only natural to look toward your friends and family for both money and time. Friends and family are the ones who stick with you through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship — from that first customer to the cash crunch. Fortunately, when starting cleverbridge, I didn’t need my friends’ money. I did, however, need their time, and I decided to hire a few of them early on in our company’s journey. There are some obvious dangers that come into play when hiring people you know: You risk ruining personal friendships…
Why does a man who has been managing partner of the Midwest Region for EY for less than a year jump into Lake Michigan on a cold, winter’s day in January? Why does he climb the 2,109-steps of Willis Tower and bring his wife along for the trek to the top? If you’re Rick Fezell, you do it because you love challenging yourself with physical feats that test your limits. But you also see the opportunity these challenges present to show people that you’re not a stuffy, aloof leader who just sits behind his desk all day thinking about work.…
Wellness in the workplace isn’t just implementing a program, it’s about establishing a culture of wellness that promotes healthier lifestyles, says Liz Howe, director of business development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “It’s not something you try and then decide whether you maintain it. A good program requires a well thought out strategy and budget,” Howe says. Smart Business spoke with Howe about simple steps businesses can take to create a culture of wellness, and how to structure a program that delivers results. What’s involved in creating a culture of wellness? There needs to be champions within the organization, including total buy-in…
The cost of business litigation is inherently uncertain because of unforeseen maneuvers by your opponent and unexpected rulings by the court. However, there are things that you — as the client — can do to reduce your litigation costs, including your attorneys’ fees. “Experienced clients know how to efficiently use their litigators,” says Monte L. Mann, a partner at Novack and Macey LLP. Smart Business spoke with Mann about how to reduce your business litigation expenses. How can you be sure your attorney has a clear understanding of your case? Introduce your litigator to your case efficiently. Before your first…
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