Houston (992)

There are many pressures on organizations to make the most out of every customer interaction and maximize the return on investment on marketing and sales spend. However, businesses often don’t have the work force necessary to handle these functions as timely and effectively as they would like or the tools and processes in place to measure and track success. Companies that are able to track interaction, engagement, investments and customer patterns and behaviors often enlist the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

“A CRM tool helps businesses manage sales, marketing and customer service operations without significantly expanding their work force,” says Gina Rosen, a consultant at Columbus. “CRM, in the past, may have been nice to have — a luxury technology, but in today’s marketplace, it’s a must have to stay competitive.”

Smart Business spoke with Rosen about CRM, its applications and how it has helped businesses improve processes to better engage customers, target sales and gauge marketing effectiveness.

What are the typical features offered by a CRM system?

The features offered by CRM are very diverse. It’s primary applications are contact management; marketing automation; sales force automation; sales and lead management; reporting and analytics; call center and case management, particularly with respect to customer inquiries or complaints; workflow automation, or automating manual processes; and social media integrations. Businesses have the option for on-premise solutions where the software is hosted at the business on its servers, or they can utilize a Web-based or cloud option, which involves less initial financial investment. The software can also be customized to meet the particular needs of a business.

Is CRM cost prohibitive for businesses?

No it is not, however, had this question been asked six or seven years ago the answer would have been yes. Previously, enterprise-ready CRM software required significant funds to get the software and hardware in place. But with the advent of cloud-based solutions, even businesses run by a sole proprietor can afford CRM and leverage its applications to optimize processes. The cloud-based model allows business owners to pay through subscriptions that charge per user. The pay per user cloud-based model offers a low-cost opportunity to implement CRM, experience the value and see the return on investment (ROI).

What are the most compelling reasons an organization would implement CRM technology?

A recent survey of 200 top-performing small and medium-sized businesses showed that the number one reason businesses implement CRM software is to establish data-based metrics for sales and marketing. It also provides the ability to show ROI and quantitative key marketing metrics that mean a lot to businesses.

The second reason CRM is implemented is to proactively communicate with customers. Customers expect a lot these days, and one of those expectations is that businesses, whether small or large, interact with them. To stay in front of your customers and offer personal interaction is critical.

Within that same vein, the third reason companies take advantage of this software is for custom-targeted sales and marketing. With CRM you can customize that end user experience, which makes your sales force more effective. Customers can interact directly with your CRM custom solution through your existing website and experience a tailored visit based on previous interactions, or your sales force can utilize the standard feature when interacting with customers and have all of a customer’s history available in one spot.

What are the most important value drivers for CRM?

The top value for a business is the software’s ability to help manage marketing and sales campaigns. CRM can help businesses test marketing and distribution strategies and gauge customer reactions. This information can be applied to future marketing efforts.

Another important value driver is that the software serves as a customer data repository, allowing you to consolidate customer knowledge within the organization in CRM. This includes far more than just contact details, but also customer behaviors and attitudes and price sensitivity. This, combined with personal data, can allow businesses to build more effective and predictive sales models and marketing campaigns that result in higher sales.

Further, CRM systems can help demonstrate ROI. With CRM you can quantitatively show increases in sales, customer referrals and participation in promotions.

What is the most common challenge a business faces when implementing CRM?

Typically the challenge is user adoption — getting your sales force and front line users to embrace CRM. They often see populating the fields as double entry, an extra step, or another way for management to check in on them. But once the sales force sees that using the software results in more sales, they can easily overcome that hurdle.

What are the most common performance metrics?

The top one, hands down, is revenue growth. The faster you can show ROI the better.

Second is growth in a business’s customer base, which means adding new customers or converting leads into paying customers.

The third most common performance metric is aggregating customer data. Many companies have customer data spread out over disparate systems. CRM gives businesses a one-stop shop for their records.

Can you give us some examples of companies that have benefited from implementing CRM?

The Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, which works within the media and entertainment industry, had ticket sales go up 88 percent in one year and their internal operations couldn’t keep up with demand. Adopting CRM allowed them to automate and streamline inefficient processes, which translated into more ticket sales. A customer testimonial is available with more information.

Another example is the human resources consulting firm Findley Davies. Implementing CRM in their call center has given them the ability to manage daily responsibilities and track productivity. It has dramatically changed and improved day-to-day operations within their Benefits Administration department.

Gina Rosen is a consultant at Columbus. Contact her at (248) 850-2195 or mva@columbusglobal.com.

With more than 20 years in the market and 6,000 successful business implementations, Columbus is a preferred Microsoft Dynamics business partner for ambitious companies. Columbus’ key deliverables include flexible and future-safe ERP, CRM, BI and related business applications that deliver competitive advantage and immediate impact.

 

Polly LaBarre is the co-author (with Bill Taylor) of “Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win.” The strategies, tactics and advice in “Mavericks at Work” grew out of in-depth access to a collection of forward-looking companies. These maverick companies are attracting millions of customers, creating thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars of wealth.

Here is a portion of my interview with LaBarre about the book, which covers forming strategies, unleashing ideas, connecting with customers and enabling employees to achieve great results.

Q: Describe what you mean by “maverick.”

A: Mavericks are different, edgy and independent of spirit. Their personal style or message may not appeal to everyone. But that’s precisely the point. Mavericks are defined by the power and originality of their ideas. They stand out from the crowd because they stand for something truly unique. What’s more, they take stands against the status quo, in defiance of the industry elite and offer compelling alternatives to business as usual. Mavericks may be fighters, but they’re not rebels without a cause. Their sense of purpose is not only powerfully distinct (Think: Southwest Airline’s quest to democratize the skies); it’s provocative and disruptive (Think: HBO’s declaration of originality, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO”).

Don’t confuse mavericks’ unswerving commitment to a cause and their lack of patience for the status quo with the egotism, monomania and power mongering modeled by too many celebrity CEOs and moguls. Mavericks, in fact, have a sense of humility.

Q: Are mavericks born or made?

A: It’s probably a little bit nature, a little bit nurture. We wrote this book to nurture the maverick in all businesspeople. What red-blooded working person wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, ‘I think I’ll stand for business as usual today’? We all want to make a mark, forge our own path and express ourselves in the world. It’s just that some of us need more of a nudge down that path than others.

Hopefully, the maverick individuals and ideas we present are inspiring and instructive enough to move people. The 32 companies we feature have vastly different histories, cultures and business models. We examined glamorous fields like fashion, advertising and Hollywood, as well as old-line industries like construction, mining and household products. The maverick leaders of these organizations are young, old, women, men, Americans, Europeans, charismatic and preacher-like, retiring and almost reticent. They just don’t fit any one mold.

Q: How does a maverick survive within a traditional company?

A: We encountered a bunch of mavericks inside big traditional companies. They all seemed to have a couple of survival strategies in common: They unleashed tough questions and critiques of their organization without losing their sense of loyalty to it. They’re the kind of questions every CEO should be asking. For example, Jane Harper asked of IBM, ‘Why would great people want to work here?’ And Larry Huston, now vice president of innovation at Procter & Gamble, argued, ‘The current business model for R&D is broken. How can P&G possibly build all of the scientific capabilities we need by ourselves?’

Mavericks don’t just ask questions, they act. We saw this again and again: They just got started, usually without a budget or formal permission, by designing an experiment around their question. Jane Harper launched an experimental Extreme Blue lab in Cambridge and spent a couple of years begging and borrowing resources until the program’s impact became clear.

Mavericks look for peers and fellow travelers outside the boundaries of their company. Not surprisingly, mavericks tend to click when they meet other mavericks. They’re great networkers and learners and are always looking for kindred spirits for support and ideas.

Q: Who is the quintessential maverick in American business?

A: Herb Kelleher and the team at Southwest Airlines. In the midst of the financial carnage and heartaches of the airline business, there’s one company that keeps growing, keeps creating jobs and keeps generating wealth. And that, of course, is Southwest. Southwest didn’t achieve these results because its fares were a little lower than Delta’s or its service was a little friendlier than United’s. It achieved those results because it reimagined what it meant to be an airline. If you ask Herb Kelleher what business he’s in, he won’t say the airline business or the transportation business. He’ll say that Southwest is in the freedom business. The purpose of Southwest is to democratize the skies, to make it as easy and affordable for rank-and-file Americans to travel as it is for the well-to-do. That’s a pretty commonplace idea today but largely because Southwest fought the entrenched conventions of the industry so doggedly in pursuit of that purpose. Its unrivaled success is based on its unique sense of mission rather than any breakthrough technology or unprecedented business insight.

Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, and The Art of the Start. He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at kawasaki@garage.com.

It seems that every other week there’s a major story in the media about a company claiming that one of its competitors has purloined a cherished secret that provided an unfair competitive advantage. This is all part of running a business in today’s fishbowl environment, where sensitive information is too abundant and can be obtained by almost anyone and everyone who is so inclined.

In this era of heightened visibility, some of the best companies, especially high-tech firms, play everything incredibly close to the vest, particularly when it comes to providing information about current sales trends, new products and projects that they are exploring or developing. This is because such information is a coveted company asset. In today’s “victory at almost any cost” world, too many are looking for that edge to leverage whatever they can to stack the odds in their favor.

We also read too frequently about how easily these secrets have somehow wound up in the wrong hands. Sometimes a loose-lipped employee simply talks too much to too many people in the wrong places. Occasionally, someone simply leaves a briefcase or smartphone, jam-packed with confidential information, in a bar, at a restaurant or on a plane.

What’s not talked about much is the frequent practice of competitors simply asking what appear to be innocuous questions of lower-level personnel in a company in order to garner nuggets of “inside information” usually without risking the perils of violating any legal statutes. It’s also common practice for Wall Street security analysts to simply walk into a retail store, as an example, and begin asking questions about trends, what products are selling and which aren’t. It all gets down to the reality that it never hurts to ask a question because one never knows when a valuable tidbit will be revealed.

Like it or not, this is just the way it is, and there will always be people who ask and others who tell. What can you do to protect your coveted information? The answer is basic: mandate that providing revealing responses to specific questions is a violation of company policy and could result in draconian consequences for anyone who spills the beans, no matter if well-intended. Once your employees and suppliers know the ground rules and the consequences, you’re one step closer to closing the possibility of vital information inadvertently slipping through the sieve.

The best way to accomplish this is to establish, enforce and continually reiterate a “one voice, one company” policy. This translates into all hands within your organization knowing what can be told to outsiders and, more importantly, what can’t. This policy must be in writing and must state what types of questions are off limits. It must also explain how the questioner is to be handled when the interrogatory is posed. In my retail chain experience, we often had competitors, vendors and industry analysts visit stores and ask all types of questions. Candidly, I don’t blame them, but with a clearly understood policy, employees know how to respond by referring the questions to headquarters and a specific department or individual. Ninety-nine percent of the time the person asking the question never follows up with the corporate office because he or she knows the desired answers will not be forthcoming.

Most employees want to please their employer and most want others to think they are in the know. When you create an ironclad policy, it takes the pressure off of your people and adds another layer of security about things no outsider needs to know. For your suppliers, require that each sign a confidentiality agreement and specify that you have a simple “one strike and you’re out” policy. Also use your own secret shoppers to test your vulnerability by having them ask the forbidden, just to verify that the company veil is not being lifted by the unauthorized.

This protocol is certainly not foolproof, and periodically, there will be lapses — the most frightening of which are the ones you’ll never learn about. It all gets down to a numbers game. Confidential information, just like the cash, equipment and other assets on your balance sheet, can never be taken for granted and must be protected. Anyone can look in your fishbowl in this day and age, but it is your job to make sure that what they think they might find is not what they get.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Friday, 02 November 2012 14:29

A matter of perspective: Focus on what matters most

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Are we grateful for the things we have? Are we grateful that we live in a country where the government can’t seize our businesses, where there’s no threat of rebellion and where we can go home to the comforts of our modern homes?

Many people in the world don’t have any of those luxuries. Some can’t even look forward to a good meal or clean drinking water. Most of us here in the United States don’t have to worry about such problems because the people that came before us worked hard to create a nation that has an amazing standard of living. The generation before us rose from the troubles of the Great Depression, led the fight against Nazi aggression that killed millions and returned home to finish making America into a superpower, but do we ever pause to think about the contributions our mothers and fathers made to make things easier for us today? They lived in small houses, often sheltering multiple generations, and worked long hours to make a better life for their children and grandchildren and selflessly went off to war to protect our freedom.

Do we ever think about any of that? The answer for many is no. Gratitude is in danger of becoming a lost art as we focus on accumulating money and possessions, always looking to be better or richer than the next person.

How many times have you read about or talked to someone who had everything you could ever ask for — nice home, nice car and no money problems — lamenting the fact that he or she doesn’t have as much as or more than someone else? We sometimes catch ourselves comparing who has more instead of who has less.

As business leaders, we should have some sense of moral obligation to help those within our sphere of influence, whether it’s our peers, employees or the person who lives down the street. We should be doing our best to look out for those around us, but too often, our days are consumed with the details of business.

Our world may be built on information, but wisdom is lacking. Business has been boiled down to statistical analysis and quarterly earnings reports while people are just another line on the ledger. There is often little room for gratitude in corporate America, and that’s a shame.

When our focus is on accumulating things, we can never enjoy it, because we don’t know how. How can we enjoy something when we’ve already raced off to try to get more? Like a kid tearing through a pile of Christmas presents, we never really take the time to appreciate each gift.

In this season of giving thanks, we should take a moment to think about those who came before us and who helped us get to where we are. Let’s thank those around us for a job well done and consider reaching out to someone who could use a helping hand. But most importantly, let’s consider putting our lives in perspective by thinking about those who are less fortunate.

When we focus more on gratitude, we’ll make a difference that’s far more effective than any business plan. It will allow us to take the time to celebrate success and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Gratitude doesn’t require a giant donation or a huge event; sometimes the little things are more effective.

In the end, we’ll find that the only things truly worth accumulating are good will and happiness. It’s in our control to start helping everyone around us get their fair share, and that’s something all of us can be thankful for.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or fkoury@sbnonline.com.

Ric Campo has been Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, Indiana Jones, ZZ Top and a number of others. He’s not an impersonator, nor an actor, but the CEO of an $8 billion company trying to get all his 1,864 employees on the same page.

His company, Camden Property Trust, owns 206 business and multifamily apartment properties around the nation. For years, the employees working at those properties pretty much had allegiance to their property and not to the company. That was a big issue.

A rebranding effort solved many of the concerns. Gone were inconsistencies in naming and policies. All properties now had Camden in their names.

But as part of team-building exercises such as departmental comedy skits, Campo’s impersonations set examples on how to let your hair down, break through the walls that separate different ranks of employees and drive engagement.

“There are enough barriers between employees and the C-level people,” Campo says. “You know how people just freak out, how people are awed by that. I think the skits are sort of a leveling; they make people more approachable and more real as opposed to, ‘I’m the CEO and you’re the employee and I tell you what to do — I can fire you or hire you.’ Those kinds of breakthroughs are important to get the best out of your employees.”

The scenes for those breakthroughs are the stages of companywide meetings and events. When the curtain rises, there is a lot of employee spirit going on. Campo sets up to tell the people who make up the brand they have to get engaged, get to know the company better and get to see that one of its core values is fun.

The idea behind the skits is people have to work together, come up with a script and produce it.

“You create a tremendous amount of shared experience because that is what you are trying to do — team building,” he says.

It all leads to a united company firing on all cylinders. Here are the steps Campo finds effective in getting everyone on the same page throughout a far-flung company with annual revenue of $676 million.

 

Seek and enhance relationships

While many businesses may feel their most important relationship is that between the company and its customers, equally important are employee/employee relationships. You have to have the second one before you can even think about developing the company/customer relationship.

Camaraderie is your lifeblood, and without it, work and even life in general may be rather dull.

“One of your core values should be to have fun,” Campo says. “If you can’t have fun, you can’t have fun with the people you work with, why bother? We try to make it feel like employees want to get up in the morning and come to work for Camden. And they want to have fun doing it.”

Creating a culture of fun starts with research and borrowing ideas from fellow companies’ successful efforts. Once you have some plans, roll out the initial ones. The first part of the year is a good time.

“One of our big ones is at the beginning of the year. Starting in February and running throughout March, we have what are called ACE awards, which is Achieving Camden Excellence. It’s basically an employee recognition event,” Campo says.

Employees vote for other employees on how they emulated Camden’s values in the last year, and winners get prizes.

“It’s a really big deal,” he says. “Some people get up and cry when they win. They also get money, too, like $2,500, a trophy and a watch.”

You can try different formats and vary the locations. Campo finds an all-day employee event effective for rehashing how everyone did last year and what is going to go on in the new year.

“But if you think about what you have — a lot of people, maintenance people and service people and so on — don’t communicate in corporate-speak,” he says. “Communicate in normal language. For example, when we talk about how we did over the last year, we don’t talk about balance sheets or income statements, earnings per share or multiples on stock or anything like that.”

Talk about normal things people understand. Incorporate some well-produced videos and other audiovisual means if you can.

“We use a lot of fun stuff so that creates a camaraderie with the employees; it gives them a sense of pride where they work,” Campo says. “Spend a fair amount of time talking about what you do.”

As the discussions are carried on, it’s important to follow through when suggestions or requests are made. Those can be turned over to a committee structure, which you would have in place by that time.

“The key thing is you have to listen to them, and you should make changes based on their input,” Campo says. “Have various constituent groups of employees. For example, we have the maintenance advisory committee, the MAC. It’s made up of maintenance people from around the country. They meet four times a year in Houston and basically deal with issues that they get from the field.

“They go through and decide which idea or request is going to be prioritized, and then which one is going to be presented,” he says. “The key to this is making sure that there is a forum for communication from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down.”

 

Start with a focus on trust

Developing the employer/employee relationship depends in a big way on creating a great workplace.

“That’s the key,” Campo says. “It all has to do with how people treat each other. It starts with trust. You build trust with your employees over a period of time.”

Building trust involves some of the key issues leadership must embrace.

“Some employees say they trust; well, a lot of them don’t trust,” Campo says. “Trust revolves around things like fairness, respect and credibility, and a lot of that has to do with communication and what things you do as a management team and how you do them.”

For example, on the fairness side, if you always hire management from outside the company and never from within, is that fair?

By establishing company practices, it will be a step toward greater trust.

“Have a policy on posting a new job,” Campo says. “We always post job openings in advance on our website for our employees to see. They get two weeks’ advance notice before we go out into the marketplace.”

You earn people’s respect when you do your job consistently well, set a good example, don’t bad-mouth others and respect other people, for example.

Credibility is being credible in good times and bad.

“During the good times, the key is, if you treat your employees well and you are fair and pay them well, you share the profits — there are not two or three people making all the money and no one else,” Campo says.

“You communicate effectively — What are the goals of the organization? Then you are patient. It takes time to develop those kinds of things. It takes about a nanosecond to blow them out.”

Don’t destroy that trust even in times of financial challenge, such as with the recent recession. Campo made some bold steps that helped ensure trust.

“We cut pay for the top people the most,” he says. “I took, like, a 75 percent pay cut, my next level took, like, a 40 percent cut, and then as we got down to our managers, they basically got a zero cut in pay but we froze their salaries. That is how you get into credibility, respect and fairness for people, and that’s how you build trust.”

It’s important to build pride, camaraderie and awareness that the job is not just a paycheck. Campo makes sure employees get a piece of the action and that communicates how he cares about their eventual retirement. But it also gives them a new perspective because they become part owners.

“When we hire a manager, for example, or a service maintenance person, we give them stock,” he says. “We have about 2,000 employees, and about 1,000 own stock in the company. A lot of them own stock because we gave it to them. Some own stock because we have a pretty robust employee stock purchase program.”

So when a manager or a service maintenance person has to make a decision, such as replacing the carpet or the roof, they are making decisions as an owner and not as an employee.

“They understand you need to take care of the customer first, but they are shareholders, and they understand that every dollar they spend is important,” Campo says. “If they can make spending decisions that are efficient and drive revenue and enhance expenses and what have you, then they get that and they’ll enhance shareholder value doing that.”

What it leads to is a productive workplace, Campo says, and Camden, for example, is No. 7 in the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work for 2012 and has been in the top 10 for the last three years.

 

Break the ice in a big way

If your company should acquire or merge with another business and you’ve done your homework and determined it’s a good company and its culture is OK, Campo says it’s still a time to pull out your bag of tricks and break the ice.

“The whole idea on trying to engage employees is to really understand that you need to bridge the gap between the C-levels, the management levels and the front-line employees because I think the biggest mistake that most people make is that they are not approachable or that they are just too stiff,” he says.

Campo suggests taking a page from the CBS TV show “Undercover Boss.” In that reality show, the company leader puts on a disguise, takes a job in a low level of his or her company and observes the operation from the bottom up.

Campo showed up at the first merger meeting in one case dressed up like a maintenance man.

“I wore a maintenance shirt that said ‘Camden’ and ‘Ric’ on it like I’m an air-conditioning repair guy. I wore jeans, and I didn’t sit at the executive table. I sat with maintenance people and talked to them.”

About 350 people were there, and most of them were property managers and similar management. A maintenance man came up to him and began a conversation.

“He said, ‘Wow, you’re a maintenance guy from Camden?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ ‘Are you going to talk to us today?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ ‘Well, that’s pretty incredible. They bring in a maintenance guy to talk.’

“The outgoing CEO of the company was on the podium, and he was wearing a suit and power tie. He said he was really excited to talk about the merger. ‘It’s a great thing for both companies.’ And then he said my name and CEO and introduced me as the head maintenance man. I walked through the crowd, telling people what the deal was and how it affected them. I didn’t talk about the accounting details of the sale.

“I just said, ‘Look, these two companies together are better. And you guys all have jobs, and it’s going to be better for all of us.’ I talked in broad strokes so people could understand instead of saying a billion this and billion that … and people just loved it.”

The tactic was a big hit and scored points in the communication arena.

“Communication is absolutely one of the most critical things that you can do and you have to do, and you constantly have to reinforce messaging on what you want people to think about and how you want them to move forward in the current environment,” Campo says.

“I think this is something that companies really fail to do. If you don’t communicate, people feel like they don’t know what’s going on or are not part of the group, and that leads to complacency and wondering why they are working here.” 

 

 

The Campo file

Name: Ric Campo
Title: Chairman and CEO
Company: Camden Property Trust

Born: Carmel, Calif.

Education: Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore. I was the first one in my family to go to college. I met my wife there, and my son just graduated from there. I majored in business accounting. I’m actually a CPA.

What was your very first job? I worked in a laundry in Lake Tahoe sorting sheets. It was a laundry for towels and sheets for hotels. It was a good job. I was 16.

Who do you admire in business? I would say somebody like Warren Buffett. I am impressed with his business basics. He buys and owns companies long term, low debt and has just kind of a country common sense as opposed to the rapid-fire style that we have today.

What’s the best business advice you have ever received? It is something that I remember a lot. When I measure success, success is not how much money you make but how many jobs you create. Whenever we were at various levels in our development of our company, we always had the ability to cash out and take our money and go home, but we always went to the next level, which meant we got bigger and created a broader platform for our people. It was good advice because each time, had we taken the money and gone home, we always thought about what that would mean for our team, our platform and our organization. So we always took the next level. We created a company that not only is big, and bigness was never the issue, but it’s sustainable. I think that’s pretty good advice.

What’s your definition of business success? It’s how many jobs you create and what kind of value you create for your customers. It’s definitely not your total rate of return on your stock, even though I think they are correlated.

Learn more about Camden Property Trust at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CamdenLiving
Twitter: @CamdenLiving

 

 

How to reach: Camden Property Trust, (713) 354-2500 or www.camdenliving.com

Only the teams that execute their plays flawlessly stand a chance of winning the National Football League’s Super Bowl. That fundamental truth applies as much to football as it does to business.

Execution ingredients

Flawless execution involves discipline, focus, sense of urgency and resonance. Execution is not about brute force. Brute force works for short bursts, but it is unsustainable in the long term. Brute force can quickly become unproductive. It can lead to internal skirmishes, emotional wear and tear and burnt-out team members.

Discipline and consistency

Execution requires strict discipline. Companies often fail to take their ideas to fruition because they lack follow-through. They celebrate their “big-idea” executives more than the executives who quietly make it happen behind the scenes.

In such companies, ideas are typically launched with great fanfare only to be lost in the day-to-day firefighting, never reaching culmination.

Celebrating big moves is human nature. As the viewing public, we tend to enjoy and celebrate more the quarterback who occasionally throws an 80-yard pass than a quarterback who boringly but consistently moves the ball forward 10 yards with each play.

Football and business victories are achieved not on occasional showmanship but on the shoulders of consistent and disciplined execution.

Focus

Execution requires a vigilant effort to stay focused and make progress in spite of compelling organizational distractions.

For instance, if the visiting team has to win, it has to learn to tune out the roar and visible displeasure of the home crowd and not let any referee bias toward the home team affect its concentration.

Sense of urgency

Teams that win big do not wait until the second half or the last few minutes of the game’s fourth quarter to show their top form. The big winners apply themselves from the start and maintain the pressure on the opponent.

Companies must instill a sense of urgency that becomes part of the organizational fabric rather than be driven only by events such as the end of a calendar quarter or a looming deadline. The best teams do not come from behind to win; they maintain an infallible lead.

Diligence

Flawless execution is not achieved by accident. It is not driven by serendipity. A team that has not practiced diligently during the regular season and perfected its strategy will find it difficult to rally at the last minute and beat the opponent’s superior execution.

The strengths of talent, teamwork, coaching and superior strategies must be harnessed in a systematic and cohesive manner to prepare the team so it can perform at its best level.

The team must constantly be reminded that execution is the goal. They might be very talented, but if they cannot coordinate on the field and deliver results, that talent is of little use.

Resonance

Prepare and win your company’s Super Bowl of business execution every time.

The teams that understand execution execute with a lethal rhythm. They are unfazed by the success or failure of the previous play or the previous game. They focus only on the present play and game. Their resonance is their real strength. They become an engine, an engine with the right hum — unstoppable and unbeatable.

Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the “BusinessMakers” show, CBS Radio, and “Nightly Business Report,” he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.” Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corporation, a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or feedback@cohegic.com.

When a business owner wants to relocate, the task can seem daunting. However, by exploring some key considerations, you can prioritize the move and find a location that works well for your present company and your future growth.

One such location — Irving, Texas — is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Irving has more than 8,500 businesses that are already operating in the region, including the headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies.

“You need a value-driven proposition,” says Carter Holston, general manager of Real Estate NEC Corporation of America. “You have to have a good location. You have to have a great office space. You have to have access to your employees and pay the right amount of tax, both school and other. All that goes into the mix when you make the decision.”

Smart Business spoke with Holston about what employers need to consider for relocation and why the Greater Irving-Las Colinas area fits that bill.

If a business is thinking of relocating to a new city, what does it need to take into consideration and how does that relate to the Irving area? 

There are three components that any company needs to consider:

  • The work force.
  • How you access the work force, the accessibility to the region, and how you move about via the roadways and mass transit.
  • The business-friendly environment.

Irving is in the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, so access to an available work force is not a problem. The area is adjacent to a major airport — the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — allowing you to get your people in and out of the city in an easy and efficient manner.

The Irving area also has accessibility from the standpoint of mass transit, which is a game changer in business today. The new work force is more mobile and prefers living, working and playing in the same area instead of driving long distances to and from work.

Then there’s the business-friendly environment, which is probably one of the most important factors. Companies need to be in cities that believe in business, that understand the revenue they derive from taxes and what it means to have their citizens employed.

What’s the current state of the commercial real estate market in the Irving area?

Commercial real estate for Irving is on the rise, generally, and Texas, itself, is a good market for companies and corporations to consider relocating to.

Irving has more than 30 million square feet of commercial office space and is the third-largest submarket in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Typically, there is about a 20 percent vacancy rate, but that has been as high as 25 percent, so Irving is a value-driven market.

With 30 million square feet, there are some large blocks of space that are available at affordable rates. Most companies seem to be taken aback at the leasing rates in Dallas compared to other regions.

Irving also has another game changer that just opened in July — a light rail system that runs through the central urban center. That mass transit will affect commercial real estate in a positive way in Irving.

What else makes the North Texas region so attractive?

Texas, in general, and the Dallas region, in particular, are ‘can do’ regions. There’s really no reason for Dallas to be on the map. There’s no geographic reason for Dallas to exist, no great river system. However, the people who settled here on the prairie a long time ago made it work, and that theme and attitude have carried through the years. Even when the oil business was not good, Dallas found a way to diversify and found other industries to attract, such as technology, oil and gas, banking and insurance. Just about every sector of the economy is represented in North Texas, and the Dallas area specifically.

This ‘can do’ attitude holds true for the area’s longevity and its future, which is based on finding a way to get things done.

How can an employer find things such as tax breaks and incentives when moving into a new area?

First, look at what is important to you. There are a variety of tools that each region and city has to offer. The tax breaks, in and of themselves, shouldn’t make the decision for you. The decision to relocate should be based on where you can get a fair deal — where the value deal is found.

That said, for new construction, there are many incentives available, varying greatly by city. You should have a good broker representing you who has access to incentives and knows what has been granted in the past. You should be represented well and compare with past incentives, but don’t let incentives be the only thing that makes up your mind.

The Greater Irving-Las Colinas area is certainly very affordable with available space and incentives, but it’s also a great product in a business-friendly area.

Carter Holston is general manager of Real Estate NEC Corporation of America, where he oversees all domestic commercial real estate functions and is responsible for more than 1 million square feet of leased and owned facilities. In addition, Holston serves as a consultant to the Irving Economic Development Partnership at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at (214) 262-2190 or carter.holston@necam.com.

Visit the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce at www.irvingchamber.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce

Business owners who are trying to grow their companies are focused on getting to the next level, and treasury management may not be a high priority.

By outsourcing this function to a third party, owners can maintain their focus on the business while relying on trusted advisers to take on the responsibility for understanding and managing the transactions associated with the business’s cash flow cycle. Outsourcing frees business owners from the time-consuming job of handling receivables and disbursements so they can pursue opportunities that will directly impact their business growth and bottom line.

“Outsourcing allows you to work with a business that has the tools to help manage processing receivables and disbursements faster and more efficiently, streamlining workflow to get transactions related to the ins and outs of the cash flow cycle done in a timely manner,” says Kacy Karl Owsley, senior vice president, treasury management sales manager for Cadence Bank.

Smart Business spoke with Owsley about how outsourcing treasury management functions can benefit business owners.

Why should companies outsource their treasury management functions?

An owner’s main focus is running the company and selling services or products. In smaller environments, there is not a lot of time for the manually intense process of handling receivables and disbursements. Outsourcing treasury management functions to an entity that has the most up-to-date tools and security features can save both time and money.

Outsourced capabilities can be complex, and it can be expensive for a small business to have that technology in-house. By outsourcing, you get the benefit of bulk processing, technology and use of an environment accustomed to handling many more transactions than you typically process. By outsourcing these functions, you can speed up the process and optimize your cash. This allows you to access your funds more quickly, invest more timely or pay down your line of credit faster, all of which impact your bottom line.

Another reason to outsource treasury management functions is growth. Smaller companies that are growing quickly don’t have the infrastructure, whether people or processes, to sustain that growth. If you build outsourcing into your growth model up front, you don’t have to build in people and processes related to treasury functions. This leads to a scalable environment because you can outsource that workload.

Which treasury processes are typically outsourced?

It depends on the ins and outs associated with a cash flow cycle for a small business owner. You can outsource simple tasks such as printing and mailing checks, or more complex tasks, such as invoice processing, approval and payment routing.

With your cash flow cycle, there are businesses that can take on that process for you. It could be on the receivables side. For example, you don’t have to be at the office or the mailbox to get your mail when you can have a provider receive your mail, make a timely deposit the same day, and provide you with images of what was processed and deposited into your account that day.

On the payables side, your outsourced vendor can receive invoices, scan them and receive a Web-enabled image of your

approval. After receiving your approval, a payment can be made on your behalf.

What should each business consider when outsourcing?

There are multiple options related to your internal business model when there is a lot of growth predicted over a short time. You have to be positioned for growth or have a provider ready and able to take on the transactional volumes of those accounts. There is also a cost difference between processing transactions in-house and having a secure infrastructure to do so, and using an outsourced vendor who has a more streamlined process. Because of the volume that vendors deal with, they can save you money in processing expenses with things such as bulk rates, postage, check stock and data keying.

Make sure your vendor has the capabilities to take on the unique needs and customization that you require in processing, as not all providers are flexible. You may have a unique process around a certain type of transaction, and you want to ensure that your outsourced vendor has the capability to perform that process. Also make sure the vendor has the flexibility to process transactions and provide real-time information and access to the data associated with the transaction. Having the capability to obtain information while you are mobile can make you a more powerful business owner.

Finally, you need to understand the contingency and disaster recovery plans for the outsourced vendor and how quickly its systems will fail over to its contingency model. Make sure that if you have pending transactions and there is a disaster that they are still being processed in a timely manner, even while in contingency mode.

How can a business establish a strong relationship with its outsourced vendor?

Your provider should buy in to the finite details related to what you are outsourcing. You want them to understand your business, the type of transactions you need processed, the processes you want to outsource and how far you will take the outsource relationship — whether fully integrated or with intermittent manual integration. Your provider should fully understand what your business model looks like to ensure that they are prepared for the possibility of changing scenarios and making transactional volume adjustments.

Kacy Karl Owsley is senior vice president, treasury management sales manager for Cadence Bank. Reach her at (713) 871-3917 or kacy.owsley@cadencebank.com.

Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by Cadence Bank

The oil and gas industry in the United States faces various trends within the next five years that promote considerable optimism but that also highlight the need for continual vigilance, says Melvin F. “Trey” Hunt III, partner-in-charge of Oil and Gas Services at Weaver. Those trends relate to the cost and availability of credit and capital, technology, the regulatory landscape, and global conditions and energy demand.

Smart Business spoke with Hunt about the challenges and rewards that those in the oil and gas industry can expect over the next five years.

What do cost and availability of capital and credit look like going forward for the oil and gas industry?

Adverse business conditions in the U.S. during the past five years prompted the Federal Reserve to reduce the prime lending rate to promote investment and economic growth. Although the national economy continues to display signs of recovery, interest rates are likely to remain low for quite some time, leaving credit readily available for capital expenditures. That is great news for oil and gas companies seeking funds to expand operations.

How has new technology revolutionized this industry?

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing might represent a modern-day Industrial Revolution that will make much more hydrocarbon energy available to consumers in the U.S. and beyond.

The Eagle Ford shale area, a few hours southwest of Houston, serves as an example of the impact those technologies can have for increasing hydrocarbon energy production. For more than 50 years, oil and gas companies largely ignored the Eagle Ford shale due to its marginal economic profile. During that span, the area was home to more white-tailed deer, javelinas and rattlesnakes than people. Thanks to the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the vast reserves of the Eagle Ford shale area are now being exploited.

While these technologies are often associated with natural gas production and previously untapped areas, oil companies are also using technology to greatly extend the productive lifespans of mature oil-producing regions. Without question, technological advancements will continue to impact the industry.

How is the regulatory landscape creating a potential challenge for oil and gas exploration?

While the low cost of capital, the availability of credit and improved technology hold tremendous promise for energy companies, the national regulatory landscape presents the potential for unfavorable conditions.

The two major political parties in the U.S. differ in how they view the oil and gas industry. Among other issues, those differences are reflected in debates regarding the continuation of the Intangible Drilling Costs deduction, Cost Depletion allowance and other federal tax incentives favorable to the oil and gas industry. Whether or not such tax provisions remain in effect for 2013 and beyond may hinge on the November election results and any ensuing Congressional and White House

negotiations.

While domestic oil and gas companies benefit from technological advances, they also face calls for more stringent regulation regarding hydraulic fracturing and other practices. Up to now, those calls have mainly affected companies operating in the Eastern United States. Such calls, though, may also affect Texas oil and gas operations during the next five years.

What is in store for the future of the oil and gas industry because of global conditions and energy demand?

Various economic side effects caused by regulatory and geopolitical changes may affect oil companies more than traditional market fundamentals, such as supply and demand.

The measured and efficient exploitation of natural resources around the world depends upon maintaining political stability in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and other energy-exporting nations. Political unrest in such international regions will influence market conditions for Texas companies. At some point, though, the global economy will also regain momentum, and the hydrocarbon-hungry economies of China, India and other countries will most likely drive energy commodity prices higher. All the while, Big Oil, smaller tech-oil innovators backed by eager venture capital firms and everyone in between will be frenetically pursuing new and creative ways to extract the world’s hydrocarbon treasures.

The next five years offer the promise of low interest rates and access to capital, presenting ideal conditions for business expansion by oil and gas companies. The capabilities of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing make it economically feasible for companies to extract more oil and gas. If the geopolitical and regulatory environments cooperate, the United States could have a recipe for energy independence and economic prosperity for generations, a recipe that would particularly benefit Texas oil and gas companies.

Melvin F. “Trey” Hunt III, CPA, is Weaver’s partner-in-charge of Oil and Gas Services. Weaver is ranked the largest independent regional accounting firm in the Southwest with seven offices throughout Texas. Reach him at (832) 320-3296 or Trey.Hunt@weaverllp.com.

Insights Accounting is brought to you by Weaver

Your staffing agency should be much more than an order taker. Instead, an effective agency can serve as a partner to your company, creating a relationship that develops over time, similar to those with other professional partners you may have whom you rely on for advice when making a business decision.

As the relationship develops, your recruiter will learn about your business culture and, most importantly, what your hiring managers are looking for regarding their current staff, future projects and even potential layoffs, should that be the case.

“Companies need the best candidates to fill an open position, not just warm bodies,” says Jacque Myers, senior engineering recruiter with The Daniel Group. “When we have the opportunity to develop a partnership with a client, we can understand their challenges and help them resolve these issues with one of our hiring solutions.”

Smart Business spoke with Myers about making the most out of your relationship with your staffing agency by developing a strong partnership for the long term.

Why is it important to form a long-term relationship with one staffing partner?

Companies with a consistent and sizable need for temporary staffing stand to benefit from forming a long-term relationship for several reasons, including having access to a broad, specialized pool of employees who can be qualified to meet the specific needs of your industry or business; having a single point of contact who can handle all of your staffing needs; and realizing the potential cost savings that comes from working with someone who has knowledge of your business and your industry.

From the agency’s perspective, having a long-term relationship helps your recruiters build familiarity and a knowledge base that will help them prepare a cadre of pre-qualified candidates for you to review and consider. Doing this means that when your project begins, your recruiters should be prepared to provide you with better-qualified candidates in a much shorter period of time.

However, failing to establish a long-term relationship with your recruiter can result in a ‘revolving door’ situation with hires that can lead to frustration on the part of the hiring manager and co-workers, as well as a delay in the completion of the project.

Should you be looking for direct hire placement, the staffing partner who, once again, understands your culture, long-term goals and the industry in which you work, will be much better able to find a candidate who fits within your organization.

What should you expect from your staffing partner in addition to resumes?

Your staffing partner can begin finding and earmarking potential contract and direct hire candidates long before your business enters its crunch time. Let your staffing agent know what you are dealing with, both from a budget standpoint and in regard to the long-term goals of the resource they are looking for.

This will put your staffing partner in a position to advise you of the best way of getting the right talent and ultimately realizing staffing success. It will also help to make sure that you do not have any skills gaps by implementing the right mix of direct hires and contract consultants.

The qualification process is equally important. Having a staffing partner who understands your culture and is clear on where your employee or contractor will be spending their time gives you a much better chance of accomplishing your goals through the hires that are made.

To determine if you have a strong relationship with your staffing agent, ask the following questions:

  • Does the agent have true ‘partnership’ aptitude? Is the service built around the need to invest sufficient time toward understanding your business, your hiring managers, key drivers, value proposition, and both the hard and soft skills of the candidates?
  • Does the agent provide scope, reach or expertise that complements what you are able to do yourself? For example, can the agent identify and penetrate strategic talent populations that are out of your current reach or otherwise not on your radar?
  • Will your agent be a true consultative partner who is willing to share constructive feedback and provide recommendations instead of telling you only what you want to hear?
  • Is the staffing agency prepared to be your partner in this for the long run and not just the one-time placement?

How soon should you discuss your staffing needs for 2013?

Now is the perfect time to begin meeting and discussing your hiring challenges for the coming year. It is important to share with your staffing agent what you expect your budget for staffing might be, as well as the overall challenges you expect to face so that your staffing consultant can determine how he or she can best accommodate your hiring needs for the upcoming year.

Once all of the information is gathered, the right staffing partner will help you reach your goals by making insightful, timely recommendations and determining the best staffing arrangement that will be most effective for you and your company or department. <<

Jacque Myers is the senior engineering recruiter with The Daniel Group. Reach her at (713) 932-9313 or jacquemyers@danielgroupus.com.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group