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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 …
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…
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 …
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,…
The goal of any incident response is to minimize the impact of a negative event on an organization’s objectives. This involves responding to an incident as quickly and efficiently as possible, making good decisions to limit further damage and repair any damage that has been done. In order to accomplish this, an organization should have a corporate response plan (CRP) in place that is ready to go at a moment’s notice. A CRP typically includes an oversight committee that will design the CRP and oversee the work of the corporate response teams. Smart Business spoke with James Martin, managing director…
The fear is gone and employers are ready to hire, according to Rona Borre, founder and CEO at Instant Technology LLC. “Over the past year, things have really opened up,” says Borre, whose firm specializes in IT staffing and recruiting. “Where technology used to be a cost expense, it’s really looked at in a very different light. It’s a thing that drives the business to make it go forward. CEOs are running their businesses very differently than they did five years ago. “There is a huge demand for good technology talent and a very small shortage on supply right now.…
Jay Dettling needs newly hired employees at Acquity Group to hit the ground running and quickly become productive members of his team. The digital marketing company focuses on helping customers engage their clients and has grown between 30 and 40 percent annually for more than a decade. The bar has been set high and Dettling will continue to push it higher as the company grows beyond 700 employees. But that doesn’t mean he is naive to the fact that hiring is an inexact science or that other companies out there are pursuing the same top talent that he wants to…
The greatest impediment to the successful resolution of a commercial dispute is the failure of both clients and attorneys to understand and think adequately about the extent, nature and amount of damages at issue in the dispute, says Eric N. Macey, partner at Novack and Macey LLP. “While clients will invest huge amounts of time and money to focus on the merits of a case to prove they are ‘right,’ they either ignore or fail to give the same consideration to damages issues,” he says. Yet, in order to resolve the dispute, management needs to properly evaluate damages so they…
Sunday, 29 September 2013 14:05

Rona Borre - 6 tips to prevent bad hiring decisions

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Every firm has set processes in place to weed through potential candidates to get to “the one,” but finding the right match takes proficiency. According to a recent study, 68 percent of businesses have suffered from a bad hiring decision. While one bad hire might not be a disaster, it can certainly wreak havoc on daily operations. One wrong hire can lower a company’s productivity, affect worker morale and even lead to legal issues, all while costing the firm a substantial amount of time and money. The average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30 percent of the…
When employees are hired or leave a company, the process typically involves HR staff inputting or changing information in a variety of places. “HR is adding them or removing them from payroll, typing in information and sending it to the insurance provider, and using seven to 10 different systems to handle the various tasks,” says Liz Howe, director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. Companies are alleviating that burden by automating processes through benefit administration systems. “They recognize the burden that HR people face. And employees are becoming more technologically savvy and want information at their fingertips,” says Howe. Smart…
Monday, 23 September 2013 03:19

Travel tips: How to spend smarter on overseas trips

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Today’s technology is making it easier for consumers to plan a trip overseas. With just a few mouse clicks, you can book the best flight deals, find accommodations, scope out the local attractions and even map out a detailed travel itinerary. But even with so many resources to consult for travel advice, consumers may overlook important financial considerations in the trip planning process, says Art Rice, the VP and Manager of International Operations and Product Development for FirstMerit Bank. For anyone planning a trip overseas, Rice offers the following financial tips: Do your homework Rice counsels first-time travelers to first…
Businesses with many variable-hour and part-time employees are developing new strategies to address the employer mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Although implementation of the mandate has been delayed until 2015, companies continue to work on ways to avoid penalties when enforcement kicks in, says Daniel Meracle, a partner at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “We’re seeing four variable-hour strategies that employers are using,” Meracle says. “Some may be against the spirit of what Congress intended when they passed PPACA, but they are within the guidelines of the law.” Smart Business spoke with Meracle about these latest strategies for…
How can your company improve its business results? One way is by optimizing your firm’s use of patents. The right strategies for leveraging patent properties can provide long-term advantages and a leg up on the competition. The following strategies are useful starting points for enhancing business outcomes through patents: Consider patents’ financial qualities The same analytical constructs that apply to financial asset management can be applied to patent management. When managing financial assets, it is prudent to consider things like expected future cash flows, return on investment and relative risk profile. Understanding this information helps businesses with limited resources to…
Today’s workforce is unique in that there are now four generations of people working together — traditionalists born from the 1920s to the 1940s, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials.That presents challenges to employers in bridging generational gaps and getting workers on the same page.“There are now four generations of people in the workforce, and they all bring something very different to the table. They have unique characteristics in terms of values and what is important to them personally,” says Liz Howe, Director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc.“There is a lot of buzz about the lack of communication among…
Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Entrepreneurs change the world

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Recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious business award programs, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards celebrate gravity-defying innovators who build and run great companies. This June, we gather here and in 24 other cities across the U.S. to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome the award recipients from the class of 2013 into our Hall of Fame. Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel…
Industrial and DistributionFINALISTTodd Berger first got a taste for the transportation and logistics industry as an intern for American Backhaulers — and it didn’t go well. He vowed to never work in that industry again.After all, it was a time when pioneer companies like Google and Apple were the leaders of innovation, and in Berger’s words, the transportation and logistics industry “just wasn’t ‘sexy’ and lacked innovation, and I wanted to change that.”Fortunately, Berger thought it over and came up with a different goal. He re-entered the industry in 2001, working as a dispatcher at Transportation Solutions Group. Berger recognized…
Health CareFINALISTEarly in his life, Jason Beans suffered a broken nose which received inappropriate medical treatment. In addition, the medical billings persisted over an extended period of time, and the situation nearly bankrupted his family. This experience drove Beans to research and develop a system for patients and companies to benefit from improved quality of care and decreased medical costs.At age 29, Beans founded Rising Medical Solutions to provide medical cost containment and care management solutions. He is dedicated to developing a system which provides patients with quality health care, medical providers with faster payment, and insurance carriers/payers with proper…
Emerging EntrepreneurWINNERAl Goldstein, president of Pangea Properties, candidly admits that he believes real estate is an entrenched industry, with a “good ol’ boy” network.Nevertheless, Goldstein and longtime high school friend Steve Joung fought and clawed their way past that hurdle when launching their new venture, Pangea Properties.While they did not know much about the real estate market, they did know the Internet/marketing data side of the business, and wanted to provide a better product to a market they felt was underserved. They wanted to incorporate technology and best in class customer service to the rental market in multifamily apartment complexes…
ServicesFINALISTThe inspiration from mentors that Heather Sanderson received while developing as a professional didn’t go unnoticed — it helped her become an entrepreneur. While raising a family as a single mother in California, she met other successful women entrepreneurs at networking events, and the wheels began to turn.When she relocated to the Chicago area in 2001, she cofounded Overture Premiums & Promotions based on her desire to start a promotional marketing agency that was more than just a distributor and could act as a creative branch and provide integrated marketing strategies to its clients.Using the financial and operational experience gained…
TechnologyFINALISTStopher Bartol asks himself every morning, “What legacy will I leave behind today?” After all, Legacy.com was his creation during the Internet boom of the late 1990s, and every day the legacies of ordinary, everyday people are commemorated on the website.Bartol, however, is happy that Legacy.com plays a behind-the-scenes role. Despite many critics having felt that Legacy.com should do more with its brand, such as prominent ads on the obituaries sections that the company hosts for newspapers, Bartol maintained that the company would not use its brand to overpower those of its affiliate newspapers.The affiliates do not feel threatened or…
TechnologyWINNERAndrew Sieja began his career as a computer programmer specializing in knowledge management solutions and Web storage — and after a few years, the entrepreneur bug bit him. In 2001, he and two friends pooled their resources to form their own software-consulting firm, kCura.After a few years, Sieja, president and CEO, realized that to be a market leader and to have the highest quality of employees, he had to make difficult decisions that might not be popular. There was a department that continuously launched products lacking the quality necessary for the company to maintain its market position. The situation was…
 Private Equity/Venture Capital BackedWINNERWhen they first got into the health insurance business, neither Brandon Cruz nor Clint Jones had much knowledge about the industry, except that there had to be a better way to utilize the Internet to help both the health insurance companies and the individual consumer.This lack of familiarity allowed them to “think outside the box” and be innovators in the industry. Cruz, the president and chief technology officer, and Jones, CEO, founded GoHealth in 2001.With their energy and skills to understand, challenge and help reshape a complex market for health insurance, these entrepreneurs stood apart from others.While…
TechnologyFINALISTWith an engineering degree from MIT in the 1980s and having already started a computer consulting company when PCs were just being introduced, Chris Gladwin could have had a successful career working for a large technology company.However, he decided to launch MusicNow hoping to revolutionize the way users obtain and store music recordings. But MusicNow could not generate profits on its own and was eventually sold to Circuit City.Not to be deterred, Gladwin launched Cleversafe, Inc. This new project that he planned for nearly seven years and developed for five more eventually became a success. Instead of making a physical…
Health CareFINALISTWith J.P. Fingado as its CEO, API Healthcare has more than doubled the number of hospitals and staffing agency clients it serves and is regarded as the nation’s leader in healthcare-specific workforce management technology.Fingado’s ability to drive such success at API Healthcare is because of his capacity to lead the people working with him. In his four years as CEO, the company’s workforce has increased significantly to match its rising sales growth. But regardless of the company’s size, Fingado’s management philosophy has remained the same: building people based on their strengths, not their weaknesses.The success and record-breaking growth API…
TechnologyFINALISTWhen Daniel Adamany founded the technology solution value-added reseller AHEAD, LLC in 2007, he knew he had to have a competitive advantage over the competition.One major strategy was to remain vigilant in identifying the customer’s industry-specific technology needs. To do so, Adamany, CEO of the company, put into effect the Think, Look, Plan, Move strategy — for customers and employees alike.AHEAD wants its employees to think about their position in the company, look ahead at where they might want to move in the company, plan a strategy to achieve that goal, then move forward and execute that strategy. This philosophy…
More information leads to better decisions, and big data is providing companies with enough background to take much of the guesswork out of decision making.“The larger the data set, the greater the context. Big data promises the tools to make observations much sharper and guide decisions based on facts or highly likely predictions, as opposed to intuition or sheer courage,” says Satyendra Rana, vice president at HTC Global.Smart Business spoke with Rana about how companies can take advantage of big data and its potential for improvement and innovation.What is big data?Big data is a paradigm shift in the way businesses…
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