Columnist (38)

If your company is interested in establishing or enhancing its collaboration with philanthropic organizations, Dan D’Armond, community and government relations director for BMC Software, offers some excellent observations and questions to ask as you review your involvement.
Here is my interview with him:

Deena: What are corporations typically asked about corporate giving and forming strategic partnerships?

Dan: One of the most commonly asked questions corporations receive from nonprofits is, ‘What is your giving strategy?’ Maybe the better question is, ‘Can a corporation afford not to collaborate with nonprofits as part of its strategy?’

Many nonprofits approach potential corporate partners with the promise of a short meeting as to not take much of the corporate giving officer’s time, and then go through a long list of information such as what they do, who they serve, events they have and the all-important, ‘What can we put you down for?’

In an attempt to keep on schedule, they forgot to do a vital task — listen.

A truly strategic partnership results from an actual discussion on goals and objectives.

What is it that the company views as strategic? What does a good partnership look like to them? What types of program elements are they looking for? What are examples of partnerships that have been successful and valuable?

Companies that are active participants in their communities do so for a variety of reasons — good corporate citizenship, cause marketing, community engagement, branding, building community credibility and so on.

Determine, ‘Why do we do what we do?’ and, ‘What do we hope to get out of our community partnerships?’ Having a clear mission statement on areas of philanthropic focus is the starting point.

Talk to sales leaders to find out where their customers are involved. Take the internal temperature on what motivates employees to become involved in volunteerism.

Each corporation must have these internal discussions so that it can effectively communicate its goals and objectives to the community partners and therefore select the best partnership programs.

Nonprofits need to ask these same questions first of themselves and then of the corporations. Nonprofits know the programs and value they provide to the community and to their clients. They also know the tools they have in their tool chest to deliver on a true partnership.
Deena: How do nonprofits and corporations measure success?

Dan: Having a clear and agreed upon set of outcomes and how they will be measured is critical to renewal of the program collaboration.
In the current climate of shrinking budgets, corporate giving officers must demonstrate the return on the investment of each of their collaborations.

I feel the most important element to building effective community collaboration is by knowing your audience — both internally and externally.
Both corporations and nonprofit organizations must know what success looks like to them inside and outside, as well as what the most important tools are needed to reach success.

The combination of these well-thought-out strategies and resulting collaboration will bring positive and lasting change to the communities that both organizations serve.

Deena Carstens Munn is the founder of the Houston Philanthropic Society. Deena has more than 10 years of experience in corporate philanthropy and over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit charitable organizations. She is the founder of, and also works for, IHS as a senior sponsorship manager for CERAWeek. Deena has enjoyed volunteering for Hospice of North Central Florida, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Greater Houston Partnership (Energy Collaborative), Houston Technology Center, Christian Community Service Center (CCSC), P.A.W.S. Houston and The Nature Conservancy. More is available at

Learn more about the Houston Philanthropic Society at:
Twitter: @HoustonPS

Top-quality health care procedures are readily available in the United States, but disruptive trends are challenging health care businesses. Renewed attacks on health care costs, demands for greater access, exciting research on personalized medicine, evidence-based medicine and medical tourism are transforming health care businesses.

Remarkably, these disruptive challenges are less about medicine and more about evidence-based management of health care organizations.
They are disruptive challenges that demand a business solution.

Why business? Why now?

The country began grappling with the need for health care reform and searching for potential solutions well before the advent of the Affordable Care Act. Health care organizations are increasingly rewarded for outcomes and efficiency rather than the numbers of procedures with expensive equipment.

For example, one reform instituted last October eliminated readmission reimbursements for hospitals. Now, hospitals are not reimbursed if a patient is readmitted for treatment of the same illness within 30 days. This incentive to “get things right the first time” will increase efficiency.

The challenge to provide the same, or better, quality of care with less is indeed a business challenge. Leaders and managers within the field who understand business models and can implement lean-style business systems are at a distinct advantage.

Strategic planning, big data, services marketing, life cycle cost accounting, continuous improvement and operational excellence are all familiar topics in business and critical to the future of health care.

In addition to understanding how the system can best function, being able to analyze additional challenges to the standard care platform, such as the increase in medical tourism or the rise of pharmacy clinics or further individualization of care through genometrics, is a skill that business leaders provide.

The bottom line

It’s no coincidence that leaders of many of the major hospital systems in Houston, home to the largest medical center in the world, not only have training in medicine but also in business. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, from 2002 to 2011, combined enrollment in dual-degree MD/Ph.D., MD/J.D. and MD/MBA programs increased 36 percent.

CEOs of health care systems and hospitals, physicians within large organizations or practicing on their own, managers of accountable care organizations and those marketing insurance packages to consumers must understand business in order to be successful in this rapidly changing landscape.

The health care industry will increasingly need and seek leaders who can effectively create value, which is the fundamental goal of business. Those who can succeed will not only improve the health of their organizations, but also improve the very health of the health care industry.

Bill Glick is dean of the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. Located in Houston, across the street from the Texas Medical Center, the school offers an MD/MBA degree with the Baylor College of Medicine, a concentration in health care and a graduate certificate in health care through Rice Executive Education. Reach him at (713) 348-5928 or More is available at

Learn more about Bill Glick at:

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, which often surprises visitors. Much like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it seems like Houston “gets no respect.” But the growing recognition of Houston’s global business opportunities could change that perception.

The Houston Airport System has historically experienced strong passenger air service to Europe and Latin America. And now the Asian market has received a number of boosts, such as Air China Beijing’s direct flights to Houston four to seven times a week, United’s additional daily flight from Houston to Tokyo, daily direct flights from Istanbul to Houston on Turkish Airlines and direct flights from Seoul to Houston on Korean Air.

So how did Houston’s leadership grow these opportunities with China and other Asian markets?

Perseverance and vision

One of the reasons Houston is a great city is the perseverance and vision of its leaders. A direct flight from China to Houston had been discussed among community leaders since the early 2000s. It took the Houston Airport System working alongside business and government leaders to get a deal in place.  

“We were very confident that the Houston-Beijing route would do well, primarily because of the strong economic and cultural ties that exist between the two destinations,” says Mario Diaz, director of the City of Houston Department of Aviation. “We knew that the demand existed, and we knew that Air China was capable of developing a strong, personal connection with the people of Houston.”  

Preparation, timing and patience

Houston’s vibrant economy and cultural diversity played an important role in Air China’s decision to enter the Houston market in 2013 and expand its footprint in the city and the region as a whole.

“Strong demand from business and leisure travelers to China and destinations in Asia has accelerated the implementation of our growth strategy for Houston and the south central region of the United States,” says Zhihang Chi, vice president and general manager of North America for Air China. “The additional flights will provide more options and flexibility to international travelers, allowing them to have more convenient connections to cities within China and beyond via our Beijing hub.”

Long-term relationships

Establishing long-term relationships has been important throughout this process. The Houston Airport System has cultivated strong relationships with Air China, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, travel agencies throughout China and the media.

The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has helped support airport efforts for many years. It’s managed the travel agency and media relationships overseas through their third-party affiliations in China, which included a training program for Chinese media and travel agencies to learn about Houston.

Support from the Greater Houston Partnership, the mayor’s office and various city council members during previous trade missions to Asia developed business connections that were helpful in establishing this new service.

Houston is an entrepreneurial city with limitless opportunities. The increase in international interest in the city is a sure signal of the city’s infinite possibilities. Onward and upward, Houston!

Linda Toyota is president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Houston. With more than 20 years experience in the nonprofit community, Linda has worked with a wide array of nonprofit organizations including the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Houston Technology Center, the Texas Heart Institute and the Houston Area Women’s Center. Reach her at Learn more at

Considering sales purely as a numbers game often leads to brute-force approaches that are rarely effective. Alternately, analyzing sales drivers and systematically maximizing their potency results in more sales with less effort.

Sales drivers are factors that influence the probability of deal-closure, deal cycle-time, deal profit margin and the post-sale risk of failure. Examples include a company’s reputation, notable product or service features, a salesperson’s skills and the state of the economy.

Common sales drivers are necessary for the deal to go through, and only the top drivers have the power to take the deal to closure. They are your cannons that blow through the resistance. While easy to list, identifying the top sales-drivers is challenging. So how potent are they?

You should systematically identify, analyze and relentlessly exploit top sales drivers, and continuously update the list of top drivers. They may change based on the prospect, the product, the market-segment and even vary based on each sales opportunity. The consistent identification of top drivers, overlooked by your competition, is the key to success in the marketplace.

Consider three examples of top-drivers for complex sales, which require clients to make significant changes in their organizations:


1. Compelling business event

If the prospect is not faced with a compelling business event that demands a strong action, the likelihood of closing the deal will be low regardless of the salesperson’s selling skills, product features or prospect interest.

By identifying, understanding and addressing compelling business events a salesperson can significantly increase the probability of closing the deal.


2. Executive-level internal champion

Deals involving significant change fail unless the salesperson is able to cultivate an executive-level internal champion in the client organization. Organizations need to buy into change at various points and levels.

As an outsider, a salesperson is ill-equipped to “work the organization,” and no amount of feature selling or pricing discounts can drive such a deal to closure.


3. Risk elimination

Change involves risk, and a prospective buyer’s foremost concern is the risk of failure. It may take significant time and a lot of work for the client to realize value from instituting change, while the risk introduced is often immediate.

Therefore, the prospect’s instinct is to maintain status quo. Hence, mitigating risk is a significant driver.

Identifying the top sales drivers provides salespeople specific guidance on what is absolutely necessary to close deals. Each deal/opportunity in the sales pipeline must be closely and continuously monitored to determine whether or not it is harnessing the power of the top drivers.

Measuring the opportunities that employ specific top drivers and their success rate provides critical sales intelligence. Collecting and measuring this data helps validate or invalidate the hypothesis of what comprises the list of top drivers and leads to active evolution of top drivers. Analyzing and exploiting highly potent sales drivers is a proven way to enhance sales productivity.


Name: Ravi Kathuria

Title: President

Company: Cohegic Corp.

Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the BusinessMakers show, CBS Radio, TEDx and PBS Nightly Business Report, he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.”

Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or



“HR bytes” refers to human resources technologies being developed, deployed and adopted at a breakneck pace. New and innovative software applications are making the delivery of HR services better, faster and simpler.

For years now, large Fortune 500 companies have invested in HR technology that streamlines back office processes, enhances learning opportunities and simplifies employee procedures. Now, though, progressive HR service providers are expanding their service offering beyond mere administrative and tactical HR to include more strategic services and the systems to support them, giving smaller companies access to these tools as well.


Time and labor management

Automated Web-based time and labor management systems are replacing antiquated time clocks and swipe cards rife with inefficiencies, and the potential for cheating. Web-based systems provide companies advanced online tools to monitor and manage their employees. 

In addition to tracking employees’ time and attendance, some systems allow employers to tap into real-time labor data on demand so managers can assess immediate staffing needs and adjust employees’ schedules accordingly. Such systems can also seamlessly integrate with a company’s internal or outsourced payroll systems to streamline processes and eliminate inaccuracies.


Applicant tracking

Automated applicant tracking systems assist HR personnel by providing access to applicant databases, creating accurate job descriptions, screening applicants, assessing candidates’ skills and automatically communicating with applicants.

By streamlining this time-intensive process, these programs significantly reduce recruiting costs and help better identify candidates who are likely to contribute value to the organization.


Online benefit enrollment

Benefits enrollment, once a tedious and labor-intensive process, is now conducted mostly online. With 24-hour Web-based access, employees can log onto enrollment systems at their convenience and review plan options, compare features and pricing, and of course, make or change benefit elections.

This allows HR teams to focus on addressing employees’ questions and managing the more complex issues that may arise during benefit enrollment.


Employee self-service

Employee self-service is perhaps the most prevalent advancement in HR technology. Web-based systems allow employees online access to their individual employee data, such as payroll information like tax withholdings or 401(k) contributions, so they can adjust withholding levels or contribution amounts as needed.

Self-service expands to supervisors too, allowing them to manage tasks such as scheduling or performance evaluations.


Talent management

Technology is delivering fully integrated solutions that help businesses manage their employees from the time they are hired to the time they retire. 

From training and career development to performance management and succession planning, talent management programs allow companies to be more responsive to their employees’ professional needs and improve overall retention.



Web-based training programs offer employees a wide range of options to further develop their professional skills. Employees can take convenient online courses when and where they wish and complete them at their own pace.

Some programs also offer the opportunity for cyberspace interaction with instructors and other participants through message boards and chat rooms. With access to the same advanced technology as larger companies, smaller businesses can optimize their workforce and their HR processes to enhance company performance and productivity. 


Name: John Allen

Title: President and COO

Company: G&A Partners is a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses.

Learn more about the company at:


Twitter: @GAPartners


Brave entrepreneurs step into the arena. If they are lucky, they are nurtured in the right environment. The landscape is littered with collapsed ventures launched in harsh environments. Even passionate entrepreneurs have failed.

The myth of great business leaders is that they are born with the right stuff, gifted with a revolutionary idea that fundamentally changes business. This thread of the special maverick who becomes a successful entrepreneur can be seen running through the narratives of many of our stories about great entrepreneurs — from Walt Disney to Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

But as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Contrary to popular belief, great ideas sprout within a context, not in a vacuum; collaboration with others is a necessary component; and key principles of entrepreneurship can be learned, practiced and implemented to great success. A little knowledge can make the difference between missing the market and growing fast; between yielding to vultures and great personal wealth.

So what’s the right environment?


Community with other players

Just as valuable as a groundbreaking idea, an environment that helps budding entrepreneurs formulate and nurture ideas is key. An entrepreneurial environment provides opportunities to learn from the experience and knowledge of others, to collaborate, to develop alternative business models and to test ideas.

Research and experience have demonstrated repeatedly that entrepreneurs develop more effectively within an entrepreneurial community with access to complementary resources and markets. Even among the top competitors from the premier global MBA programs at the Rice Business Plan Competition, we frequently see teams respond to feedback by pivoting four or five times until they find the right business model to commercialize novel technologies. Shark tanks, incubators and business plan competitions can provide entrepreneurs a safe environment in which to take a risk, test their business plan and make adjustments.


Education and opportunities

Cities play a crucial role in providing an environment that develops and nurtures entrepreneurs. Silicon Valley is famous for the environment it has created that nurtures technological innovation; Austin does the same for musicians. And Houston has created a wonderful environment for entrepreneurial activity. Each of these cities has great universities, and Houston is fortunate to have the top ranked executive MBA program for entrepreneurs at Rice University, several other top ten programs in entrepreneurship at Rice University and the University of Houston, and a rich mix of supporting organizations such as the Houston Technology Center, BioHouston, Houston Angel Network, TiE Houston, Houston Tech Fest, Start Up Houston, and many others. It’s no wonder Forbes recently listed Houston as the No. 10 Best City for Young Entrepreneurs and the No. 2 Best City for Female Founders.

Passionate entrepreneurs need to seek environments where they can learn from others, collaborate and take calculated risks to test their ideas. In these environments, entrepreneurial ideas have the greatest chance to take flight.


Bill Glick is the dean of the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. The Jones School’s graduate entrepreneurship program, currently ranked No. 4 by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazines, has been ranked as a top 10 program in graduate entrepreneurship for five consecutive years.


Twitter: @RiceMBA

Monday, 23 December 2013 02:20

Out of the box: Walter Ulrich

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Emerging technology: HTC’s work with entrepreneurs and startup companies provides them with in-depth guidance

I started out as a geek, a technologist — I loved dealing with technology. But as I grew in my career, I realized that technology was only a means to an end and the end was to do something interesting, something that would help people, patients or companies succeed.

So I became a business person, and I love being at the Houston Technology Center because it combines that little geek that is deep down inside me with the joy that I find in translating technology into commercial success, business success, new companies and good jobs.

The Houston Technology Center, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is the largest technology business incubator and accelerator in Texas, advancing the commercialization of emerging technology companies in Greater Houston.

In fact, the center has been named one of Forbes’ “Ten Technology Incubators Changing the World,” and one of “Twelve Business Incubators Changing the World.”
Each day, the staff and partners of the Houston Technology Center work closely with entrepreneurs and startup companies providing them with in-depth strategic and tactical business guidance, fundraising advice and connecting them to opportunities, allies and capital.

Promoting ‘tech city’

As a catalyst for change, economic growth and development, the Houston Technology Center’s focus is to assist in the acceleration and commercialization of emerging technology companies. The Houston Technology Center also promotes Houston as a leading technology city and serves as a hub for the local technology business community.

Supported by more than 300 of Houston’s leading corporations and academic institutions, as well as the Greater Houston Partnership, Texas Medical Center, NASA-Johnson Space Center and the City of Houston, the Houston Technology Center has become the region’s center of technology entrepreneurship by assisting companies within several key sectors: energy, information technology, life sciences, nanotechnology and NASA/aerospace related technologies.

There is no end in the application of new technologies to solve the world’s problems, whether it is clean energy, remediating the atmosphere and the water, working with national defense and terrorist issues, the technologies that we see every day are applicable. And we are not talking about generations; we are talking about years.

In 13 years of operation, the Houston Technology Center has provided feedback to more than 1,000 companies and coached more than 250 companies, helping them raise $1.5 billion in capital and liquidity events, and creating nearly 5,000 jobs.

The Houston Technology Center serves as the Gulf Coast Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization for Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Emerging Technology Fund, assisting small to midsize technology firms expediting the commercialization of new life-changing inventions and improving research at Texas universities.

Character counts

It is a privilege for me to have the opportunity to work with the entrepreneurs who are making these kinds of changes for our community, for our state and for the world.

These entrepreneurs are supported not only by the Houston Technology Center, and my colleagues, but they are supported by volunteers — hundreds of volunteers — and sponsors and board members like Jim McIngvale who each contribute in their own way.

McIngvale has proven to be extraordinarily successful, but the characteristics that he brought to create Gallery Furniture are the characteristics that we look for in all the entrepreneurs we work with — hard work, integrity, persistence and a positive outlook on life.

Walter Ulrich, president and CEO of the Houston Technology Center, was previously CEO of several technology companies and an executive with two major global management-consulting firms. He also serves as chairman of the Gulf Coast Center for Innovation and Commercialization, serves on several boards and is active in major community organizations. Early in his career, he was responsible for the development of the first successful email service. For more information, visit

To learn more about the Houston Technology Center, like its Facebook page and follow on Twitter @HouTechCenter.

Monday, 23 December 2013 07:15

Working Globally: Linda Toyota

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‘As the World Turns:’ We can be more productive together if we are aware of cultural nuances

When I look at Houston, the title of the long-running television show, “As the World Turns,” comes to mind. Houston is undergoing an ethnic and cultural transformation and at the same time its reputation continues to grow as a place where people can dream and succeed.

The city’s transformation into an international megalopolis has happened within the past few decades. The metropolitan region is now home to nearly 6 million people. This growth has been significant, but the nature of the growth is also of interest.

Between 2000 and 2010, Houston added more than 1 million people, which is more than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., according to the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University. Additionally, the Kinder Institute found that Houston has become the most racially/ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the country during this period. Thus, it is not only Houston’s size that has grown but its diversity as well.

The Asian-American segment is booming

One demographic that continues to grow in Houston is the Asian population. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, the Asian population in Houston has grown 70 percent between 2000 and 2010. This trend is not exclusive to Houston. Asian-Americans are the fastest growing multicultural segment in the country, increasing nearly 58 percent between 2000 and 2013, which is nearly five times faster than that of the general population, according to The Nielsen Co. report “Significant, Sophisticated and Savvy: the Asian American Consumer.”

As the president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, I have the opportunity to interact with Houston’s Asian business community and Greater Houston’s business community. Both of these groups continue to have increased interaction with one another as Houston’s internationalism continues to rise. As such, this vantage point has allowed me to pinpoint the issue of cultural misunderstanding as a barrier to better collaboration and productivity for all.

Understanding the relationships

The pattern I perhaps see most is related to how misconceptions of cultural behaviors lead to misunderstanding and sometimes missed opportunities. The truth is that when working within a global context, we encounter individuals whose behaviors in business environments are markedly different than to what we are accustomed. Sometimes misinterpretations of these different behaviors act as a barrier to productivity, collaboration and innovation.

In his book, “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies,” Scott E. Page, a professor of political science and economics at the University of Michigan, asks the essential question for a rapidly globalizing world: “How can we all be more productive together?”

Page says the answer is actually in environments with individuals from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. Our differences are what make us stronger. Other studies have shown that groups that include a range of perspectives and skill levels outperform like-minded experts.

In the global world today, we must all play an active role in breaking down barriers that prevent us from reaping the rewards of embracing diversity. One of the most common barriers we face are cultural ones. We may perceive the cultural social practices of one group to signify something completely different than intended because we understand it through our cultural lens. However, it is to our benefit to educate ourselves and look below the surface.

This can often be done by studying the practices of other countries or by joining diverse organizations. Often, we share the same values with those we interact and hope to collaborate with. We must not let misperceptions stand in the way of realizing the true potential of what can come of embracing diversity.

Linda Toyota is president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Houston. With more than 20 years experience in the nonprofit community, she has worked with a wide array of nonprofit organizations including the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Houston Technology Center, the Texas Heart Institute and the Houston Area Women’s Center. Contact her at

Monday, 23 December 2013 01:42

Charitable Giving Front: Deena Carstens Munn

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Donate with a plan: Is charitable giving good for business, or just good business?

Companies big and small are seeking ways to give back to their communities. As they do, they’re marrying corporate objectives with community needs, resulting in a victory for businesses and charities alike.

The days of absently writing checks have passed and the era of strategic giving is upon us, which means more work for both parties.
For companies, it means having a well thought out strategic plan for community investment, which includes internal and external engagement. For charities, it means they must better understand each company, their philanthropic programs and business goals, and offer appropriate options for support.

For a company to create a sustainable strategic plan that supports its triple bottom line — people, planet and profits — it must first determine the types of contributions it may offer. A robust philanthropic program will typically offer a combination of non-cash or in-kind product, cash through foundation, or corporate grants and volunteerism.

Non-cash or in-kind product could include software, hardware, printing services, computers, airline tickets, books or corporate assets such as used tables and chairs. Cash is the top means of support offered to charities, which may fund events that in turn fund programs. But it’s advisable to review a full list of funding options to determine the best strategic fit.

As for volunteerism, there are many ways to engage employees, but here are a few:

Employee giving programs

Employees are often looking for ways to get involved. Offering them a structured program such as United Way, EarthShare or your own signature program through which they can engage a charity will empower generosity and engagement. Company matching goes a long way as well, but isn’t a must.
Day of giving

Create an occasion to come together as a group for a day of volunteering or a community project. It will show your employees and the community that you care, and you will find employees are happier because helping the community is the right thing to do. It’s a great team building opportunity, too.

Paid volunteer time-off

Offer employees one day off per year to support causes that are aligned with your business. It promotes goodwill and allows your company to work together with employees to make a difference. Skills-based volunteerism, or volunteerism that capitalizes on talents, business skills, experience or education, requires more thoughtful engagement and is the perfect intersection of business and community.    

The biggest challenge I see with corporate giving today is what I call “repeat philanthropy,” meaning companies will fund the same causes and organizations year after year. While repeat philanthropy is financially beneficial for charities, it also introduces risk when budgets, management or focus areas change.

Thoughtful planning will promote proper engagement on all levels and build sustainable programs to ensure long-term success. After all, corporate giving can help attract and retain employees, imbue employees with pride and let employees know that the company cares about not only building its profits, but about the community and the planet, which certainly makes charitable giving good for business as well as just good business.

Deena Carstens Munn earned a degree in sociology from the University of Florida. She has over 10 years of experience in corporate philanthropy and over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit charitable organizations. She is the founder of the Houston Philanthropic Society and also works for IHS as a senior sponsorship manager for CERAWeek. Munn has enjoyed volunteering for Hospice of North Central Florida, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Greater Houston Partnership (Energy Collaborative), Houston Technology Center, Christian Community Service Center (CCSC), P.A.W.S. Houston and The Nature Conservancy. For more information, visit

To learn more about the Houston Philanthropic Society, like its Facebook page and follow on Twitter @HoustonPS.

Monday, 23 December 2013 01:24

Business Initiatives: John Allen

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Re-evaluate and refocus: These five resolutions for the New Year can help you tone up your business

It’s 2014 and time to think about those New Year’s resolutions that can help you shape up. No, not your waistline — your bottom line. For many businesses, the past few years have been anything but kind. If you’re lucky, your company is still relatively fit — it may just need to tone up. Other companies, however, are far from peak condition.

As a smart business owner, you know what you need to do to keep your company in shape, but like most of us, you need occasional reminders. The following tips are just that, simple reminders of what you need to do to get your business in tip-top shape and ensure your company is strong enough to bear the weight of whatever lies ahead in 2014.

1. Refocus on fundamentals — To identify growth opportunities, business owners often focus their energies externally. Don’t lose sight of hopeful prospects, but refocus some of your time and attention internally. Examine the core functions of your business operations to be sure the fundamentals are sound and the infrastructure is strong.

2. Repair what’s broken — If some aspect of your business isn’t working, it’s time to fix it. Managers are often so busy they don’t focus on functions that aren’t operating as efficiently or effectively as they should be. Take time to examine your processes, procedures and even people, and make changes where necessary.

3. Re-evaluate and retrench — In the same way a few extra pounds can make you feel sluggish, having your company grow beyond a level it can comfortably sustain will cause it to be out of shape and ineffective.
Are you operating outside of your wheelhouse? Have you expanded beyond your core business — and beyond your comfort zone? Just as it is easier to lose five pounds than 10, it is better to recognize issues early than wait and let the burden of added weight take a toll on your business’ long-term health.

4. Reduce waste and reinvest in your business — Reducing your waistline is one way to shape up, but may I also suggest reducing your “waste line.” Look around your company. Where can you reduce costs?
And while you’re at it, look for ways to reinvest in your business, especially infrastructure. Sometimes you need to spend money to save money. Investing in advanced technology or more automated processes can help you save money over time.
5. Re-engage and reward employees — It’s been a challenging few years. At one time or another your employees have probably worried about their jobs and their financial futures.  

Such distractions can lead to reduced productivity. Keep your employees engaged and productive. Communicate openly, honestly and often. Offer opportunities for professional development, such as a training seminar, a mentoring program or a challenging project. Reward key employees with new responsibilities or a new job title to recognize their hard work and keep them motivated.

Just like getting your body in shape takes willpower and resolve, getting your company in shape also takes discipline and determination. The process, however, can be energizing and exciting, and the results can ensure your company’s strength and long-term health. Get moving and have a great year.

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information, visit

To learn more about G&A Partners, like its Facebook page,, and follow on Twitter @GAPartners.

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