SBN Staff

Friday, 17 February 2012 10:06

Talent management solutions

The largest and fastest growing career and talent management partnership, Careers Partners International (CPI) is a global talent management organization comprised of 70 partners with 1,500 consultants operating in over 200 locations across 35 countries. As a CPI partner, CPI Houston offers local expertise and a global reach to companies large and small.

For over 25 years, CPI Houston has been helping Fortune 500 and many smaller companies optimize their bottom lines through talent acquisition, development and transition services. In contrast to other firms that provide off-the-shelf programs, CPI’s approach customizes talent management solutions for improved results.

Smart Business sat down with Sheryl Dawson, Executive Partner with CPI Houston and Talent Strategies Group, a Division of CPI Houston, to learn more.

What are some of your biggest business challenges?

Having been in business for over 25 years, I have found that one of the toughest challenges has been navigating the changing landscape of our business, especially during difficult economic times. Talent management consulting has undergone dramatic shifts with the impact of changing workforce demographics, globalization and technology. Expanding and altering our various practices to respond to the needs of our client companies in acquiring, accessing, developing, retaining and transitioning talent has been an ongoing process.

Strategies employed to address these challenges include:

  • Becoming a partner in the fastest growing global talent management consulting organization in the world with over 200 locations in 35 countries.
  • Building a team of top coaching and consulting talent to deliver best-in-class services.
  • Partnering with innovative talent management technology companies to support our clients’ talent strategies with top rated products.
  • Developing innovative solutions to “right now” challenges our clients face.
  • Partnering with our clients to ensure their business needs, unique requirements and challenges are met and expectations exceeded.
  • Remaining vigilant to developing economic, business and talent management trends that impact both our clients’ and our business, then adapting accordingly to ensure a competitive advantage.

Finally, we have created our brands to best reflect our values of integrity, high quality, commitment to our clients and optimal results. Demonstrating our value proposition to clients is an everyday goal.

How do you drive innovation?

Innovation is the life blood of any successful organization and it is a passion of mine. We are known for creating custom solutions for our clients using a blend of traditional and technology-driven learning and development resources. While innovating is serious business, for us it is also fun! I recall years ago, long before cloud technology, that we developed a “virtual” outplacement solution to complement our highly personalized programs. Today while major outplacement competitors have adapted technology as the primary delivery mode, substituting personal coaching with virtual online tools, CPI retains a coach-centric model of delivery that combines the best of both approaches.

In all aspects of talent management, we partner with organizations that are leaders in SAAS solutions such as SuccessFactors and Orca Eyes. We also utilize Harrison Assessments, a best-in-class assessment for the entire talent management cycle from recruiting to development and succession planning. Our forte is identifying and creating the best solutions and applying them to our clients’ unique requirements for optimal results.

What is a lesson you've learned in business?

One of the lessons I have personally learned is that I cannot be “best” at everything. It truly takes a team to deliver the best solutions. One of my greatest privileges in consulting is the opportunity to work with highly talented consultants and coaches. The old adage that our most important resource is our people is by far the greatest truth for a consulting firm. Without our experienced coaches, consultants and trainers, we have little to offer. Even our technology solutions are developed by extremely experienced and talented people. Over the years, I have focused on developing a network of highly talented consultants and creating an environment in which they can do what they love and what they do best. Having the right talent, at the right time, with the right solution for the right client is what I do best. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, I partner, collaborate and innovate to present the right solution with the right delivery team to achieve our clients’ goals.

How has your organization impacted your community and regional economy?

Our impact on the community and regional economy has been significant over the years. As a talent management consulting organization, our business is people. We directly impact the lives not only of those employees whom we personally coach, but their families and their entire organizations as well. We help our clients find new jobs and careers, advance their careers and become better leaders. We help organizations develop talent management strategies that optimize their engagement and retention. We help communities by enabling their population to find their passions, achieve their career goals, provide for their families, become more productive employees and entrepreneurs, and improve their leadership capacity.  That adds up to an immeasurable contribution for over 25 years.

How do you provide value to your clients?

Our value proposition is constantly changing and adapting to our clients’ needs, requirements and business goals. What sets us apart is our commitment to adding value at each step of the consulting engagement. From identifying needs, to assessing solution alternatives, to delivery, we seek to differentiate our services and products with strong relationships of trust, innovative solutions, high quality delivery, and measurable results. We take pride in our long term client relationships and repeat business.

How do you go "above and beyond" for clients?

Going above and beyond is not merely a slogan for us — it is a commitment. Our philosophy of customer service is that we want our customers to be our best “sales force.” We deliver every assignment with the goal of having every client be willing to recommend us to their closest colleague or friend. We guarantee our performance will warrant the trust and confidence placed in our extraordinary team. It is great to get a generic reference, but when we receive a direct referral we know we have gone above and beyond for our client and that is the best reward for a project well done.

Sheryl Dawson is an Executive Partner with Talent Strategies Group, a Division of Career Partners International (CPI), Houston. She can be reached at sdawson@cpihouston.com or (713) 784-3197.

Thursday, 09 February 2012 13:31

Protect and serve

Providing a quality security service is what Reynolds Protection has sought out to do the past five years.

An agency based in Dallas, we service the entire state with security officers, armed guards and personal protection officers. Also known as bodyguards, those more familiar with the industry say “executive protection.” Across the great state of Texas, you will spot our employees in places such as high-rise lobbies, banks, medical clinics and even guarding million-dollar homes. Our clientele ranges from Fortune 500 companies to small mom-and-pop store fronts.

All of our licensing, schooling and training is given and governed by the Department of Public Safety’s Private Security Bureau. Given the serious nature of our business, the PSB and DPS closely monitor our employees, training and business practices. Every single guard at Reynolds Protection is a licensed and approved officer by the DPS & PSB. They have all had excellent training, testing and passing scores by advanced security schools and given their DPS credentials.

Protecting the executive

If you’re a prominent executive worth a substantial amount of money, we promise you that right now as you read this article, there is a professional criminal in your town who keeps notes on you, your kids, your wife, your cars, your nannies, etc. They have your daily routines memorized. They know where your kids go to school, where your wife likes to shop and eat lunch with her friends. They would love nothing more than to pounce on your family for their financial gain.

But kidnappings and theft are not the only dangers! Anger and retaliation are also a constant concern for today’s executive. The high-level executive is forced to make decisions that could spark media attention or make decisions that may result in people losing jobs. It only takes one disgruntled person finding the one unlocked door or one unsecured entrance to end your life.

Becoming one of Texas’ best fastest-growing security firms — with more than 100 employees and executive protection clientele ranging from CEOs, foreign dignitaries and nearly 100 celebrities. No doubt you’ve seen our guys on the news and didn’t know it was us.

Terminating employees

Henderson, Kentucky. Meridan, Mississippi. Wakefield, Massachusetts. These are just a few of the painful reminders of deadly violence in the workplace. We’ve all heard these horror stories about disgruntled employees getting fired from their job and then coming back to shoot their boss and co-workers. The sad part is, these situations could have been avoided if proper security measures were taken.

This is where Reynolds Protection steps in. Our entire crew has been trained in these situations and are all Level 4 Protection Officers, commissioned by the state. With such large corporations laying people off in cities like Austin, Dallas and Houston, it’s really no surprise that this has become the majority of our job assignments lately. Don’t take any chances with you and your employees’ well-being.

Remember, when you realize that you need security quickly, it’s usually too late.

Chad Reynolds entered the security industry at a young age as a gaming commission officer, assigned to the fast-paced world of the casino industry. His role at the casino was like something you’d see in a Hollywood movie, such as escorting high-roller entourages into the Main Cage to the likes of delivering chained cases filled with money to Soft Count.

When Chad and his wife Christy moved to Dallas, they started Reynolds Protection. At first, their goals were small and simply wanted their own business license so Chad could operate as a freelance bodyguard. They never would have guessed that it would turn into what is now one of Texas’ best and fastest-growing security firms — with more than 100 employees and executive protection clientele ranging from CEOs, foreign dignitaries and nearly 100 celebrities.

His licensing and certifications are currently held through Texas’ Department of Public Safety. His original security training was in Mississippi by a private security team. He has since continued his training by the Private Security Bureau and ASIS.

You can reach Reynolds Protection at (214) 614-8181 or www.ReynoldsProtection.com.

How do you know which companies have the credentials to serve your business needs?

In a variety of industries there are standards that can be used as a benchmark.  The average consumer may not understand the behind-the-scene factors that go into setting the standard; however, the consumer does understand the meaning and intent of the third-party oversight of a specific segment. This is well established in consumer products and medicine, but the service industry is another matter, says William F. Hutter, CEO of Sequent Inc.

“Can anyone be an attorney? No, there are licensing rules,” says Hutter. “Would you do business with a bank that is not insured by the FDIC? Hopefully not. How many legitimate health care providers do not have Joint Commission Certification? None, because the standard is a requirement of doing business. Would you use a non-FDA approved medication? Of course not, because it could be dangerous.”

Yet, well-intentioned companies with smart leadership tend to forge ahead with an outsourcing decision without understanding what standards they can use to measure the credibility of an outsourcing company. Too often, the price seems attractive, but it might be too good to be true. This emerging industry of HR outsourcing is full of minefields for the casual consumer. This is really the ultimate example of getting what you pay for.

Smart Business spoke with Hutter about understanding the standards of outsourcing.

What is driving outsourcing, and what is the liability of doing so?

Ever-increasing government compliance demands are causing companies to consider outsourcing their noncore functions such as human resources, payroll processing and 401(k) administration.  These functions do not drive revenue or growth, but are part of the required infrastructure for almost any business with employees. These backroom functions consume dollars and time, while exposing business owners, managers and HR people to extraordinary personal liabilities.

Outsourcing is understandable and makes sense, because it can reduce your costs by saving time and headaches. But what about the liability associated with managing the business of being an employer? If there is secondary liability for the actions of a third-party outsourcer, what due diligence should a company conduct before outsourcing certain fiduciary functions?

What questions should a company be asking of a potential outsourcing partner?

Fortunately, there is a standard set of due diligence questions that can be asked of any company providing the service. One of the most common types of outsourcing is payroll. Another concept can provide a comprehensive package of HR services to small and mid-sized businesses for reasonable pricing. Professional Employer Organizations can vary greatly in expertise and philosophical approach; therefore, it is difficult to know how to select the best fit for your company.

Getting the answers to the questions below can help any company that is considering outsourcing its HR functions to a PEO.

* Have you visited the PEO offices to look under the covers?

* What are the professional affiliations of the company?

* Is the PEO a member of NAPEO?

* Does the PEO offer employment practices liability insurance, which covers its clients and managers?

* Is the PEO self-insured for workers’ compensation? If yes, how does it reserve for future liabilities?

* Is the PEO a member of the Certification Institute for Workers’ Compensation Best Practices?

* Is it accredited by the Employer Service Assurance Corp.? (www.esacorp.org)

* Does the PEO protect you from secondary tax liability?

* Does the company audit financial statements?

* Is the PEO able to secure fiduciary liability insurance coverage to protect trusted money such as retirement plan funds?

* Who is the plan sponsor for health insurance?

* What protections does the PEO have against one of its customers not making payroll?

* How does it protect confidential data?

* What are the back-up systems for technology?

* Does the PEO have senior HR staff to assist you in a time of need?

* What is its staff-to-customer ratio?

* Does it provide defense coverage in case of an employment-related legal action?

Are there third-party standards that a business should take into consideration?

Yes, there are standards established by third parties for the emerging HR outsourcing industry that can be relied on. One of the most important is Employer Service Assurance Corp. ESAC is an independent, nonprofit organization that administers an accreditation program for the PEO industry to verify compliance with government regulations and industry standards.

The performance of key employer responsibilities by accredited PEOs is backed by bonds, providing financial assurance for clients, worksite employees, insurers and regulatory authorities.

ESAC-accredited PEOs submit audited financial statements and quarterly independent CPA verification of payment of taxes, benefit contributions and insurance premiums. Assurance is provided through $1 million surety bonds held on behalf of each ESAC-accredited PEO, plus a $10 million excess bond covering all program participants.

The key to establishing a successful HR outsourcing relationship is built on a few fundamental considerations.

* Find the best fit for your company.

* Price is important but should not be the determining factor.

* Trust and confidence in your service provider are very important.

* Verify the company credentials.

* Visit the service provider’s local office to look under the covers.

William F. Hutter is CEO of Sequent Inc. Reach him at (888) 456-3627 or WHutter@sequent.biz.

The cost of providing health benefits to employees continues to be a burden for many employers that are already struggling with tight finances. Now, more than ever, offering competitive benefits is an important tool for companies seeking to recruit and retain employees, but it is becoming more difficult, as health benefits often account for one of the top three expenses for a business.

As a result, balancing value for employees with cost management can be a challenge, says Joanne Tegethoff, account executive with JRG Advisors, the management company of ChamberChoice.

“As the cost of benefits continue to rise, employers are looking for ways to manage those costs while still remaining an attractive employer of choice,” says Tegethoff.

Smart Business spoke with Tegethoff about some strategies that businesses can employ to offer competitive benefits without causing an undue burden.

What strategies should employers consider?

Voluntary benefits provide a venue for businesses to offer value to employees without increasing their costs for providing benefits. Voluntary benefits allow a company’s employees to purchase insurance and benefit products based on their own personal needs, through the convenience of payroll deductions. And most of these benefits are available on a pre-tax basis to employees.

Employers should consider offering a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), in conjunction with a medical savings account such as a Health Savings Account (HSA), as their primary health plan, or as an alternative option. HDHP options include up-front deductibles that must be satisfied before services are covered — minimum HDHP deductibles for 2012 are $1,200 for individual coverage and $2,400 for family coverage. The large deductible results in lower premiums than a traditional health plan, encouraging employees to become more educated consumers by better understanding how health care works.

The reasoning is that if health care consumers — your employees — are spending their own money for care, then they are more likely to question that care and not blindly accept procedures such as unnecessary tests. The system encourages them to do so because, until they reach the higher annual deductible, the cost is coming directly out of their pockets.

Can dependent eligibility audits help curb costs?

It is crucial to conduct dependent eligibility audits to ensure that everyone receiving benefits through your plan is eligible to do so. Most employers have policies and procedures in place that outline plan eligibility for their employees and dependents. If someone is on the plan who is not eligible for benefits, the employer is losing money by paying for their care. By conducting eligibility audits and enforcing policies, employers can ensure that everyone who is on the plan should be.

How can employers make employees better consumers of health care?

Provide education that encourages employees to become smarter health care consumers and take responsibility for their health care costs. Structure your policy in such a way that employees are paying more for more expensive services. For example, show them the costs of visiting the emergency room versus a visit to a doctor’s office or to an urgent care center. Also encourage them to purchase generic drugs rather than brand name when available, and show them the cost benefits of doing so.

Finally, educate them about using  mail order prescription refill services, and questioning physicians about treatment options and costs.

What other steps can employers take?

Develop and implement a wellness program. Focus on healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes that employees can make. Emphasize that you are concerned for their health and well-being, and show them how being healthier can both improve their lives and help lower their health care costs, as a healthier work force will ultimately lead to lower health care costs for all.

Offering financial incentives for participation, such as gift cards and reduced health care premiums, can encourage employees to participate. In addition, support from upper management for wellness and employee education is critical. Employee health affects productivity and overall financial performance, so it is in your company’s best interest to encourage employee health and wellness. And a little prevention can go a long way.

How can employers address chronic illnesses?

Implement a disease management program for employees with chronic illness, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These programs typically include health screenings, blood tests and more frequent check-ups, and many insurers offer these services free of charge or for a minimal fee to encourage healthier behaviors.

Also encourage employees to receive routine preventive examinations, including screenings and check-ups. The goal is to keep healthy employees healthy and ensure that those who are at risk or who have medical conditions are receiving the appropriate care. And many employers host onsite health fairs and conduct onsite screenings or health clinics in conjunction with the insurer, which provides the company-sponsored health benefits.

Finally, offering customized benefit statements that show employees how much you pay for health care costs can be eye-opening. Cost transparency can lead to employees making more economical decisions about their health, along with an increased appreciation of benefits provided by their employer.

Talk with your adviser to learn how to begin making these cost containment strategies part of your long-term employee benefits strategy.

Joanne Tegethoff is an account executive with JRG Advisors, the management company of ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7233 or joanne.tegethoff@jrgadvisors.net.

There’s great hope on the coronary heart disease front with more options for diagnosis, treatment and recovery than ever before. Two-thirds of adults survive the disease — 27 percent higher than a decade ago — and impressive new technologies and techniques show tremendous promise.

Progress is impressive and risk factors well known, yet more Americans continue to die from coronary heart disease than any disease. While hereditary factors play a role, unhealthy lifestyle choices remain a significant culprit.

To learn more, Smart Business turned to Steven Schiff, M.D., prominent cardiologist and medical director of invasive cardiology at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center; and David Perkowski, M.D., the medical director of cardiac surgery at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, who pioneered and has performed over 1,500 ‘beating heart’ surgeries.

How do heart attack symptoms vary among men and women?

For women — who die of heart disease more than men — symptoms can be so subtle patients may not suspect they’re in trouble. Symptoms may include nausea, dizziness, uncomfortable pressure, tightness or heaviness in the chest that doesn’t go away quickly; cold sweats or pounding heart; pain radiating up the shoulders or neck or down the arms or back; difficulty breathing; and/or shortness of breath. Because symptoms experienced by women tend to be more variable and less typical, care must be taken to consider the diagnosis of a heart attack or blocked arteries in female patients.

What risk factors are most prevalent?

Smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyles and heavy consumption of saturated and trans fats are prevalent among many Americans. These negatively impact cholesterol counts and blood pressure levels and can cause dangerous plaque build-up in coronary arteries. Too often, children will mirror their parents’ unhealthy habits. With one in three California children and teens overweight, the elevated number of kids with risk factors for heart disease — high body-mass index, glucose intolerance, elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol — translates into higher risks of coronary heart disease as they become adults, making family fitness essential.

How can health risks be lowered?

Lowering cholesterol and treating high blood pressure can reduce the risk of dying of heart disease, having a non-fatal heart attack or needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty. Preventive measures include maintaining an appropriate weight as well as eating foods low in cholesterol and fat. Reducing stress, controlling blood pressure and exercising regularly are important, as are regular check-ups, screenings and following a doctor’s advice.

What advances are available locally?

Orange County residents have access to world class heart care. Advanced and innovative diagnostic technologies, treatments and rehabilitation for heart disease are the norm at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institutes at our hospitals. These include open heart surgery, angioplasty, stenting and device implantation such as internal defibrillators and pacemakers. In addition, heart and vascular services offer catheter ablation, rehabilitation and centers for cardiac care for women. MemorialCare was the only West Coast health system to be listed among the 25 Best Health Systems for Overall Care and Heart Attack, Heart Failure and Surgical Care in Total Benchmark Solution’s Competition. We

are among just a few designated cardiac paramedic receiving centers in Orange County with emergency treatment times that beat the national average. And our hospitals are recognized for quality cardiac outcomes continually surpassing state and national standards.

Orange Coast Memorial is the area’s first hospital, and only a handful in the U.S., with a Hybrid Cardiovascular Interventional Suite. This advanced approach to heart care allows cardiac specialists to provide interventional treatments and surgery in one suite, reducing procedure time and stress on patients. We also offer angiography, angioplasty, bypass surgery or combinations of these in the Hybrid Suite. Our da Vinci robotic system offers breakthrough minimally invasive capabilities with greater surgical benefits.

Saddleback Memorial is a pioneer in off pump coronary artery bypass surgery, or ‘beating heart’ surgery, that is performed without stopping the heart, resulting in better preservation of heart function, reduced hospital stays and quick recoveries. We received American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines Heart Failure Gold Performance Award, honoring our attaining stringent guidelines for treating heart failure. Advances continue with a center that is dedicated to managing heart disease and other chronic conditions.

How can we create a healthier workplace?

A healthy lifestyle is your best defense against many diseases, and the workplace can help everyone achieve better health. MemorialCare offers programs and screenings, which include nutrition education, exercise tips and health activities, like break time walking groups. Ensuring the availability of fruits, vegetables and nutritious foods in vending machines and eating places also helps create healthy choices.

Memorialcare.com offers tools that help evaluate medical risks and health guides outlining heart attack symptoms, heart-healthy eating and women’s wellness. Our hospitals offer prevention programs and heart evaluations at worksites and other convenient locations.

Steven Schiff, M.D., is a cardiologist and medical director of invasive cardiology at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center. David Perkowski, M.D., is medical director of cardiac surgery at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit memorialcare.org.

Wednesday, 01 February 2012 10:55

The benefits of virtualization

Parisa Perkins and Lance Kosmal, both National Account Managers at Aventis Systems, share the benefits of server virtualization for businesses.

For more information on Aventis Systems, visit www.aventissystems.com or call (866) 528-9313.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:01

How "social" do you need to be?

If you have heard any of the buzz on the street lately, you are aware that social media is here to stay, and the businesses that leverage this channel and participate strategically can reap rewards. “While it is true of social media marketing today that, ‘if you’re not in, you’re out’,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions, “A very valid question is; how ’in’ do I need to be?”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to get the most out of social media, and what the right social moves are to achieve it.

What business results should I expect from social media?

The key to realizing a specific business’s ‘reward’ from social media, is defining and understanding your realistic expectations, finding your strategic fit, implementing the tactics that align, and taking a disciplined approach to daily social media activity.

Businesses need to understand that only in specific situations will social media tactics deliver straight-line results of leads and sales.  It is possible, but the circumstances required are not a viable reality for many businesses.  Indirect influence on leads and sales is where social media can be a key contributor to business growth.

Business results that social media is best poised to deliver include:

  • Brand reputation management – you can listen and act to guard your businesses.
  • Target market intelligence – trends in needs, uses and attitudes about your brand and can be learned by simply listening.  Participating in response can earn you customers.
  • SEO performance improvements for your website – Search engine algorithms now include social media engagement.  Linking, keyword and search results benefits are also outcomes of properly optimized social media.
  • Brand and expertise positioning – through many avenues to present your brand and offer expertise that feeds top of mind awareness and brand preference.
  • Influencer marketing – social media allows you to identify and align with key people online whose word of mouth (or word of keyboard) can exponentially motivate your target customers.
  • Crisis Management – An opportunity to quickly and broadly distribute messaging.
  • Public Relations – Social Media can be considered the Public Relations of the 21st Century.
  • Encouraging visits to your website – and eventual conversions.

The right social media strategy will be unique to every business. Developing this strategy involves the Marketing 101 exercise of knowing your target customers, discovering where they are online as well as who and what motivates them.  Once you have defined this, the right expectations, tactics, metrics, measurement tools, and workflows triggered from those metrics can be determined and selected for your social media strategic plan.

What are the must-do tactics in Social Media?

A 2011 Marketing Sherpa study cited the top three ‘most effective’ social media tactics as:

  • Optimizing social media sites to improve search engine rankings
  • Building one to one relationships with bloggers, and other social influencers
  • Moderating company branded social networks

Content marketing through social media (distribution, sharing, and commenting) were the other most effective tactics cited.  The lowest ranking ‘most effective’ tactic was outright advertising on social networks.

The best place to start is by establishing business profiles in the social networks relevant to your audience and strategy. These will most often include, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and content distribution and bookmarking sites like YouTube, StumbleUpon, SlideShare and Google Plus.

This is just the start.  You must commit to keeping these profiles updated, fresh and relevant.  The right timing of updates varies among businesses and social media, but not updating guarantees failure.  Relevant participation includes offering advice, insights, tips, expertise, response to comments and questions, special promotions, and exclusive values related to your business and your target customer.  Relevant, successful participation is rarely a continual barrage of outright or veiled sales pitches.

How much do I really need to put in to social media?

Just a few years ago, a big selling point for social media was, 'It’s essentially free!' This is a dangerous and false statement.  Social media is a marketing channel with unique but real 'costs' of participation.  You may not be paying for your profile or message space, but to be effective, social media requires resources of time and talent in developing, delivering, tracking, monitoring, responding appropriately and adjusting campaigns.

eMarketer’s 2011 study of forecasted investment in social media in the next three years showed: 87 percent of businesses plan to spend more than 5 percent of their digital marketing budget on social tactics, 55 percent of businesses plan to spend over 10 percent of their budget, and 28 percent will spend over 20 percent of their budget on social media tactics.  This reflects the investments in resources that are a reality of effective involvement in today’s social media arena.

Because the nature of social media is an open two way communication, just ‘broadcasting’ messages cannot be your entire strategy.  The ability to offer competent, prompt response and engagement is critical to social media success.  It can also affect the bottom-line success of a business, so you can’t entrust this to an intern.

A recent statistic by Conversocial illustrates this point by revealing that 88 percent of social media users interpreted a business’s action or inaction in responding to social media comments and inquiries as a reflection of their ‘true colors’ in customer service.  They further said that inaction would make them ‘somewhat less’ or ‘far less‘ likely to do business with that company.

Effective social media marketing requires strategy, expertise and dedication. Enlisting expert assistance to help develop and even implement your social media marketing strategy (either in-house or partnering for this expertise) can streamline the process and place you competently into the right social circles to help grow your business.

<< For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

If you serve on the board of a non-profit organization, you may be familiar with this scenario: revenue is down, donations are smaller and more tightly restricted, government assistance has become all but non-existent, and costs have continued to rise. While the near panic of 2008 and early 2009 is in the rear view mirror, the economy is far from fully recovered, and non-profit organizations are no better off than their for-profit brethren.

Shawn Riley and Sean Malloy of McDonald Hopkins’ Business Restructuring Services Department sat down with Smart Business to talk about what a troubled non-profit organization can do to help face the challenges posed in these troubled times.

Why are so many non-profit organizations struggling?

Riley: A number of reasons. Non-profits face many of the same business challenges as for-profit companies. Money is tight everywhere, so growing top line revenue or even keeping it steady can be difficult. Many non-profits also rely on charitable donations for a large portion of their revenue. While there are different estimates about the overall level of charitable giving, most data show that it dropped in 2008 and 2009, and recovery in that sector, like the economy generally, has been slow.

What should the board of a distressed non-profit be doing to face challenges?

Malloy: The minute a board starts to see financial trouble on the horizon, it has to take active steps toward solving the problem. It is easy for non-profit boards to let inertia take over instead of actively managing. The leaders of a nonprofit are usually on the board out of a desire to give back to a community or a goal, but it is important to think about it as a business, especially when signs of trouble begin to appear. The board needs to make sure there is solid financial reporting and metrics by which to measure success. Most importantly, the board’s members need to admit they have a problem and not put off dealing with financial distress until the next quarterly meeting or when it turns into a true crisis.

Riley: It is also critically important for a board to understand where its duties lie. In a for-profit company, fiduciary duties are owed to shareholders. This is not the case for a non-profit. The board of a non-profit owes its primary duty to the entity’s mission. So the first thing the board should do is make sure that it is aware of the mission — it can then evaluate the ‘going forward’ strategy in that context. Sometimes a real focus on the mission has been lost as the entity has struggled. Looking deeply at the mission and how best to continue to accomplish it can help a board reorder priorities and make key decisions.

Once these priorities are evaluated, how should the non-profit execute on its goals?

Malloy: Our best and first advice is usually to get experienced help from a financial professional. Non-profit boards are made up of smart, accomplished and caring people. But the reality is that they were probably chosen for the board based on connections in the community, experience or interest in the industry and fundraising ability. While that is great in good times, it does not  provide the expertise  necessary  to deal with a financial crisis.

Riley: In many ways, once the priorities and goals are set, restructuring a non-profit is similar to doing the same thing for a for-profit company. We often recommend hiring a financial adviser with turnaround experience. They can usually suggest ways to cut costs and  grow  revenue  in ways that  are  not obvious  to the current  management  and board.

What if things get really bad? Is bankruptcy an option for non-profits?

Riley: Yes, it is. Having said that, bankruptcy is an expensive process and we try to help our clients restructure their finances without filing a bankruptcy case. Banks and other creditor groups have become more and more sophisticated and can be willing to work with companies to provide relief and avoid bankruptcy. The good news for non-profits is that there is a section of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code which provides that creditors cannot force a non-profit into involuntary bankruptcy. So a bankruptcy case is usually only filed when the board makes an informed decision that the protection of the Bankruptcy Code is the best structure under which to restructure the organization.

Malloy: There are some situations when bankruptcy is the best option for a non-profit. One example might be a non-profit hospital where revenue is not matching operating costs and pre-bankruptcy attempts to turn around operations have not been able to close the gap. In a case like that, filing a bankruptcy can stop creditor collection efforts and give the hospital the cash flow needed to ensure that patient care is maintained at a high level while negotiations with creditors occur. Every factual situation is different.

Are there other unique aspects of non-profit restructuring?

Malloy: One unique issue is donated funds. The board and management should be careful to continue to manage donated funds appropriately, even in an insolvency situation. Donations that are made for a restricted, specific purpose cannot be used for general operating expenses or turned over to the non-profit’s creditors.

Riley: Despite the unique issues for troubled non-profit organizations, the board needs to remember that creditors who are owed money will assert their rights. They will not just go away because the organization has a non-profit mission rather than an economic goal. As a result, the board should make sure there is current and sufficient directors and officers insurance in place. And as we said before, the most important thing is to be active — and not wait too long when trouble starts to brew.

Shawn Riley and Sean Malloy are members of the Business Restructuring Services Department of McDonald Hopkins LLC. Reach

Riley at (216) 348-5773 or sriley@mcdonaldhopkins.com. Reach Malloy at (216) 348-5436 or smalloy@mcdonaldhopkins.com.

The so-called “fitness” industry has become awash in a sea of backward thinking, untested and unproven premises and, worst of all, dangerous practices.

“It may sound extreme to suggest it, but if ever there was a Dark Age for exercise we are in it,” says Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness.

Smart Business learned more from Trentine about how to leave the dark ages behind.

Why do you say we are living in the dark ages of exercise?

Most of our collective consciousness concerning exercise is based on aerobics philosophy. In 1968, Kenneth H. Cooper coined the term aerobics to denote his fascination with running. He later expanded this to include a host of activities, thus crossing over to millions of people and their pet interests and pastimes. Over the past few decades, the term aerobics has been replaced by the term ‘cardio’ under the assumption that ‘steady-state’ activities serve to stimulate and improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, aerobics undermines the necessary process to stimulate strengthening. It promotes injuries and thwarts the body’s ability to adapt to the stimulation were it to occur. In this regard, aerobics philosophy, i.e., steady-state notions, represent the Dark Age of Exercise.

Why are aerobics activities not as useful as many believe?

It is important to realize several facts. First, the center of metabolism in the body is the skeletal musculature. It possesses the greatest vascularity, the greatest concentration of mitochondria, and the greatest peripheral nerve supply. It is also the site of a majority of chemical reactions and heat production.

Second, although the heart is a muscle, it is involuntary. It is optimally accessed with exercise only by meaningful muscular (skeletal/volitional) loading. The very nature of steady state (aerobics) is to avoid meaningful muscular loading by burdening the bones, so that the muscles are spared to permit endurance and thus avoid exercise.

Third, cardio makes about as much sense as cutting your heart out of your chest and putting it on an exercise machine.

Aerobics is poor science. It is unhealthy. It is antithetical to exercise. It is backwards and uneducated. It is empty exercise. It subverts the loading required for exercise. It will not burn significant calories or meaningfully improve one’s appearance. It severely compromises what can be accomplished for the heart. Aerobics will incur injuries that lead to inactivity, depression, overeating and greater fatness.

Worse, in recent years, a literal wave of bastardized exercise trends have stemmed from the ‘cardio’ religion and have, in fact, transcended it in the fitness ranks:

n high volume training

n plyometrics

n pilates

n westernized yoga and its hybrid equivalents

n functional training

n explosive and ‘speed-strength’ training

n dance aerobics

n boxing aerobics and hybrids

n gyro-training

n vibration devices

n stretching programs

n spinning

n cross training and recent cross-fit programs

n boot camps

n home exercise programs such as P90X

Despite the apparent differentiation in the activities listed above, they are all built on an achievement-oriented premise that focuses on the process of the activities and not the results. If you’ve been engaged in a program of fitness that focuses on aerobic activity such as walking or running, using elliptical machines, jogging, or any of the practices listed above, you’ve been wasting much of your time.

This may seem shocking and outrageous but I suspect most readers will have their sense of shock immediately followed by a sobering moment of quiet agreement. If engaging in the above activities did lead to any good (as promised in every infomercial and health club banner), our society would be populated with the fittest people the world has ever seen because the majority of people are doing these things. But this is not the case. In fact, there are fewer and fewer lean and fit people today than ever before. And it’s getting worse.

So how can people stop wasting their time?

There is a solution to not only the challenge of physical conditioning but also the time commitment necessary to affect the kinds of improvements we all seek so dearly.

The key to all of this is proper exercise. And proper exercise is strength training. Strength training is the only practice that can lead to total fitness; that which directly and efficiently encompasses all of the suspected and unsuspected benefits that a person can experience from exercise. Strength training is the only exercise activity that asks not ‘how much can you tolerate?’ but more appropriately ‘how little do you require?’ In strength training, only the results matter; the process is secondary.

True exercise stimulates skeletal muscular strengthening. All reasonable expectations from exercise are accessed through the skeletal muscles — the only window into the body — by strengthening or attempting to strengthen those muscles. These expectations include: improvements in bone density, vascular efficiency, metabolic efficiency, joint stability, muscular strength and cosmetics.

It’s time to replace all the backward thinking, the erroneous concepts and the absurd and dangerous practices with valid principles and a new understanding.

It’s time to truly level the playing field so that the most feeble, debilitated and elderly homebody can eventually perform with the same sense of vitality and purpose as the most truly gifted, advanced and youthful athlete.

It’s time to ensure that a program of progressive intensity is never compromised by equally progressive risk of injury.

It’s time to admit that exercise requires not only ample intensity but also the correct dosage of volume and frequency.

Joshua Trentine is president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 and visit www.overloadfitness.com.

Smart Business spoke to Mark Strippy, Executive Director, Payroll Services at Heartland Payment Systems®, about how businesses can ensure they don’t miss out on savings from the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation.

If you need a break from political discourse, don’t be too hasty. One of this year’s trending topics for political debate among members of Congress and presidential candidates is something that you’ll want to tune in to.

In late December 2011, Washington announced an extension of the reduced payroll tax rate that went into effect in 2011. The topic became hot several months ago because of the then-impending extension deadline of Dec 31, 2011, and continues to pick up steam as a result of a proposed full-year extension.

Although it may be a point of contention among politicians in this, an election year, the extension works to your favor as a business owner, and to the favor of your employees.

The initial payroll tax rate reduction was proposed as a one-year “holiday” and provides employees with a 2 percent reduction in the Social Security tax withholding rate. That reduction dropped the tax rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of wages. The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 has added two more months to the reduced Social Security tax rate.

The cut has meant more money in the pockets of working Americans. And, as an employer, you pay in to the tax based on the rate paid by your employees, so you’ve enjoyed a savings as well.

The business of implementation

If you process payroll in-house, the payroll tax cut will require some adjustments in your bookkeeping. To avoid having to make adjustments after 2012 comes to a close, you should work with a tax specialist sooner, rather than later.

For businesses that process through a payroll service, make sure to find out if the company is processing on compliant software. If the payroll service is using outdated technology, it may face some challenges processing the change.

For payroll service bureaus that are up to date on the requirements for processing payroll for 2012, implementing the changes is virtually seamless for your business.

There are several key dates in 2012 to keep in mind in the implementation of the tax reduction extension:

  • Jan 31: Employers should have begun implementation of the tax reduction. If you haven’t done so by Jan 31, it means you have over-withheld.
  • Mar 31: Employers who over-withheld in January need to make an offsetting adjustment prior to this date.
  • Apr 30: Quarterly employment tax returns for the first quarter are due by this date.

One thing to note is employees earning more than $18,350 in wages during the two-month period are subject to the “recapture” provision. This means these employees will pay an additional income tax of 2 percent on those wages they earn during the first two months of the year.

Why it’s a bright spot

Right now your business is experiencing a savings, which is a good thing for your bottom line. As it was intended to do, the temporary payroll tax cut frees up some of your funds to be reinvested in your business for things like new jobs, inventory and capital improvements.

Don’t miss out on these savings by not being compliant. Be sure you or your payroll specialist is following the tax calendar as it applies to your payroll taxes. Otherwise, the money you are saving from this payroll tax holiday could cost you in unnecessary fines.

Washington continues a dialogue about a possible full-year extension for the Payroll Tax Cut, so be sure to follow this hot topic.

About Heartland Payment Systems

Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. (NYSE: HPY), the fifth largest payments processor in the United States, delivers credit/debit/prepaid card processing, gift marketing and loyalty programs, payroll and related business solutions to more than 250,000 business locations nationwide. A Fortune 1000 company, Heartland is the founding supporter of The Merchant Bill of Rights, a public advocacy initiative that educates merchants about fair credit and debit card processing practices. The company is also a leader in the development of end-to-end encryption technology designed to protect cardholder data, rendering it useless to cybercriminals. For more detailed information, visit HeartlandPaymentSystems.com or follow the company on Twitter @HeartlandHPY and Facebook at facebook.com/HeartlandHPY.