When Andrew Dorn, Industry Leader, Information Intensive Business, Acxiom Corporation, was recently researching the top manufacturers in the United States, one topic kept coming up — the strong growth expectations focused on the world's emerging markets. With the economies of the U.S. and Europe in flux, Dorn felt that, now more than ever, manufacturers need to be attentive to those emerging markets.
"The world is now flat," says Dorn. "Competition comes from everywhere, so manufacturers need to be everywhere."
Because of that, Acxiom has partnered with Smart Business to present a special one-hour webinar: "Driving Global Sales for Manufacturers: Why global growth for manufacturers is more important than ever."
During the webinar — on Wednesday, September 19 at 1:00pm EST — we will discuss why global sales for manufacturers is critical, what factors should be considered in developing or refining the international strategy, and, finally, present a roadmap that can be employed to optimize chances for success.
Featured panelists will be Zia Daniell Wigder, Vice President and Research Director, Forrester Research; Jennifer Barrett Glasgow, Global Privacy and Public Policy Executive, Acxiom; and Michael Biwer, Managing Director, Acxiom.
"As you enter the global market, it is imperative you understand the privacy laws in each country as they are quite complex and some are very stringent, for example, having criminal penalties for some violations," says Barrett Glasgow.
Other topics to be discussed include:
- How to determine which countries to enter and what data to gather to understand regional customer requirements
- Recommended approaches to building country-specific strategies that can help facilitate smooth transitions, lowest possible cost-of-entry, and consistent performance
- Considerations for navigating the complex web of country-specific data protection and privacy laws companies must adhere to in their efforts to connect with customers and prospects
- Best practices used by leading companies that have successfully entered new markets
"The U.S. and European economies are still recovering and the balance of growth is constantly shifting," says Dorn. "For example, China and Brazil have been experiencing strong growth. They are encountering a maturity curve, but that doesn't lessen the importance of the issue — manufacturers need to be diversified and have a presence in all major world markets."
The webinar, "Driving Global Sales for Manufacturers: Why global growth for manufacturers is more important than ever" will be held at 1:00 pm EST on Wednesday, September 19.
There’s an old saying that the best way to get yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.
The problem is that, too many times, you think there’s a treasure lurking just a few more shovelfuls down, so the digging continues. As the hole gets deeper, you keep at it because you’ve already put so much effort into it that it would be a waste to stop now.
There are many examples in business of these ever-deepening holes that eat up manpower, time and money. Sometimes, the elusive treasure is a product that’s sputtering along but just can’t quite get going like you had hoped. Other times, it is a person who has all the promise in the world but doesn’t have much to show for it other than a warm chair and a lot of frustration on your part. The “hole” might even be an entire division that is underperforming or a vendor that just isn’t meeting your needs.
Corporate America is littered with decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time but that just didn’t work out. Remember New Coke? It was meant to replace the Coca-Cola that everyone grew up with, but it lasted only 77 days before the classic formula was reintroduced to the market.
The Coca-Cola Co. wisely made the tough decision that its reformulation didn’t pan out the way it had hoped and brought back the old formula. The result was that while New Coke may have failed, the company retained its top spot. It realized the hole was getting too deep with no return in sight, so it got out.
If you’re going to be successful, then you will have to make tough decisions. No matter how close to the buried treasure you think you are, at some point, you have to take your shovel and climb out of the hole and move on.
It’s called cutting your losses. Coke executives could have stuck to their decision because every bit of market research showed that people liked the taste of the new formula better, but it just wasn’t showing up in the sales figures. Maybe you’ve invested a lot of time and money into a product or a person, but there comes a point where you have to give up and focus your resources on more productive areas.
You can’t be afraid to make these tough decisions. It might be easier to justify further expense to keep going, but don’t wait any longer. Pull the plug.
Ending a project that’s bleeding money is an easy decision. The really tough choices come with the marginal performers — people included. To know when enough is enough, you need to set up accountability for projects and people so you can measure how well things are going compared to the standards you’ve set.
If something isn’t measuring up, get rid of it. In today’s business world, profit margins are too thin to waste money on unproductive portions of your business. You can’t afford to have a nonproductive anything — be it a person, division or product — weighing you down. Do everything you can to help the people affected move on, but make the decision and stick with it. These types of decisions are never easy. You never know how they will affect your business. It will always be easier to keep going after that elusive return on your investment, but you have to hold yourself accountable, as well. If it’s not working, it’s time to make a change.
So stop digging now before the hole gets so deep that you are unable to climb back out of it.
If you are interested in learning more about publishing a book, please contact our publisher, Dustin Klein, at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In developing a strategy, creating a new business or launching a product line, intensive preplanning is what can make the difference between success and failure. This same principle applies to negotiating just about anything. No matter what you want to achieve, be it selling a new customer, buying a competitor or hiring a superstar, you must determine what is the end result you want before you put pen to paper or make that first introductory call.
We’ve all heard hundreds of time about the importance of “putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes” or showing some empathy. Good basic advice, but do you really follow these suggestions?
In many business relationships, if it becomes a win/lose transaction, at the end of the day, one side is going to be very unhappy and the other side, albeit temporarily satisfied, could ultimately lose, too. In most instances, both sides have alternatives. Unless you have found the Holy Grail that no one can live without, the other side always has choices. One of which can be to do nothing and take a hike.
Most negotiations begin with the thought, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, the first question should always be, “How can we enable the other side to win (or feel as though they have won)?” It’s all about looking at the objective through the other person’s eyes. This simply translates into giving the “opposition” something that they must have, even if they’ve yet to realize it, while meeting your own needs. Rather than start with figuring out how much can you make on the deal or the positive result that will accrue to you if you hire a particular superstar, ask yourself, “What can I do to make the other side feel like the winner?”
For your next initiative, start at the end and work toward the beginning. You might just be pleasantly surprised with the road map you construct using this technique. Here are a few examples.
You want to buy a competitor because it has a product that will enhance your offering, but you don’t need all of the other widgets that this target manufactures. The traditional strategy would be to make an offer knowing that, if you succeed, you’ll scuttle all of the company’s other operations, cherry-picking what you want from the carcass. This could work and might be the easiest way to achieve your goal, but this Machiavellian method of taking no prisoners likely won’t play well with the target company owner, who has spent years building it and is emotionally invested in the business and the organization’s employees. When you look at the situation through the lens of the founder, you determine that a different approach, such as paying a good price for the entire business, plucking the item you want from the company, and then selling the rest of the company back to the employees could be the ticket to getting discussions started. This way the owner gets his money, he is a hero with his employees, and you acquire the product you need to grow.
Let’s say you want to hire the best salesperson in your industry who, unfortunately, works for your competitor. Instead of just going in and offering a big salary and bonus, which he or she most likely has already been offered by someone else, try to determine, after doing your homework, what this superstar’s hot buttons are. Maybe he has made it known that he would like to work remotely from a desert island while continuing to build his book of business. Looking at it from his perspective, you figure out that you can buy him his piece of sand somewhere with a beautiful view, obtain highspeed Internet connectivity to his paradise and allow him to work six months per year in his dream location. Rather than just making a cash-rich offer, start the negotiations by providing a solution to your target’s fondest expectations.
Putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes is far from a new idea. However, too many executives forget that creating a win-win is preferable to having it only your way. Remember, many times, instead of just knowing the answers, you first have to figure out what questions to ask to ensure success.
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 email@example.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.
Scott Kirsner spent three years immersed in the movie industry in order to write a book called “Inventing the Movies: Hollywood’s Epic Battle Between Innovation and the Status Quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs.”
He talked with directors like Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron, editors, cinematographers, studio chiefs, producers, tech companies that sell technology into Hollywood and even actors with an interest in new technology like Morgan Freeman.
He discovered that Hollywood serves as a great case study for how any long-established, successful and self-satisfied industry responds to new technologies and new ideas.
Even when a new idea seems to have obvious merit and even when its inventor can make a strong case for it, 95 percent of the people involved in the industry fight the new idea with all their energy for as long as they possibly can until they realize it has the potential to grow their business in surprising ways.
Case in point: Within a decade of Hollywood’s fight against the Betamax video recorder, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, the studios were earning more from home video business than they were from ticket sales.
Here are several movies — all of which you’ve likely seen — each with an important backstory that innovators can learn from.
Sometimes technology needs to be just good enough, not perfect. “The Jazz Singer” will forever be remembered as Hollywood’s first talkie — even though it wasn’t among the first dozen to try to sync up the pictures on the screen with a soundtrack. But the technology that Warner Bros. banked on, developed at AT&T’s Bell Labs, was better than what came before it. It was just good enough to turn “The Jazz Singer” into a hit — especially combined with a performance from Al Jolson that practically leapt off the screen. The system still relied on phonograph records that could scratch. If the film broke and needed to be spliced back together, the entire movie would veer out of sync. The Warner Bros./AT&T technology was just good enough to start the sound revolution in Hollywood, though it didn’t endure for very long as a standard. Five years after “The Jazz Singer,” even Warner Bros. had switched over to a technology that more reliably linked the audio with the visuals.
Innovators never underestimate the importance of allies. Shot in glorious Technicolor, “Gone with the Wind” won the Best Picture Oscar in 1939, marking the start of Hollywood’s transition from black-and-white to color. But Technicolor had been working on its technology for making color movies since 1915, developing new kinds of cameras and film-processing techniques.
Like most start-ups, the company nearly ran out of money several times and had to continually hunt for new investors and allies who’d make movies using Technicolor’s technology to show how it was improving. These allies included the swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks and Walt Disney, who won one of his first Oscars for a short cartoon made in Technicolor. Technicolor co-founder Herb Kalmus met another key ally at the racetrack at Saratoga Springs: Jock Whitney, a rich playboy who used his money to option a novel by Margaret Mitchell and help turn it into a movie starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
Innovators spot market opportunities first and chase them relentlessly. Entrepreneur Andre Blay had no connection to Hollywood, but in the mid-1970s, he was among the first to realize that home video machines like Sony’s Betamax (which sold for about $1,000 at the time) presented the potential for a new business.
He sent “cold call” letters to most of the major Hollywood studios asking them for the right to sell their movies on videotape. Only one studio, 20th Century Fox, consented, offering movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Blay’s first ad in “TV Guide” netted his company $140,000 in revenue, and within a year, Fox acquired his company for $7.2 million in cash.
Innovators find collaborators who share their vision, and they’re prepared for things to take longer than expected. Computer graphics pioneer Ed Catmull, while he was still a graduate student at the University of Utah, was one of the first people on the planet who believed that it’d be possible to make a full-length computer-animated movie that people actually would pay to see. As he marched toward that goal, he connected with two people who bought in to his vision: John Lasseter, an ex-Disney animator, and Steve Jobs, who purchased the fledgling Pixar from George Lucas and helped develop it into a company that could stand on its own two feet, selling hardware and software while also pursuing Catmull’s ambitious, audacious goal.
Catmull admits that he thought the goal of making Pixar’s first film would take a decade — it took two. Disney eventually bought Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion.
As a business owner, there are many lessons to learn about innovation from the movies.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Left or right? Up or down? Yes or no? The human life is full of choices. We make them on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day basis. It’s what we do, how we live and move and have our being in the world.
Consider some choices you may have made in the last few years:
- What car should you buy?
- Should you ask her to marry you?
- Are you ready for another baby?
- Is this house right for you, or should you keep looking before you make an offer?
- Who should be let go in the next round of budget cuts?
- Will your department reach its goals this year?
- Should you ask for a raise?
- Is it time for your mom to enter a nursing home?
- What do I need to do to lose weight?
- What will you eat for dinner tonight?
Decisions are usually easier when we are only faced with two choices. Blue or red car? Two-story or ranch-style home? Slim Fast or Weight Watchers diet plan? Our brains are somehow wired better to choose between two competing choices.
It’s when we have more options that we sometimes stall, flutter or downright choke.
- Three people from a team of eight in the department must be let go.
- Should we marry now, when we finish college or after we find secure jobs?
- In order to best reach our yearly goals, should we focus our attention on X, Y or Z, and how much of our remaining budget should we allocate to the project we choose?
Life is full of hard choices, and the bigger they are and the more options we have, the harder they get.
Through my years in working with individuals, groups, companies and organization, I have narrowed the questions we need to ask in order to make the right choices both in our life and in business.
Here are 3 of my best tips for making the right choice:
1. Analyze outcomes, not pros and cons.
Many of us have been taught somewhere along the way to take out a sheet of paper and divide it down the middle with a line. On one side we list the “pros” of a certain choice, on the other, the “cons.”
This old school way of making choices is time worn and tested, but I think there is a better focus: outcomes. In the end, the outcome of a choice made is what truly matters.
Working through a big decision can give us a kind of tunnel vision, where we get so focused on the immediate consequences of the decision at hand that we don’t think about the eventual outcomes we expect or desire.
When making a choice, then, it pays to take some time to consider the outcome you expect. Consider each option and ask the following questions:
- What is the probable outcome of this choice? (This is the list we should make.)
- What outcomes are highly unlikely? (This allows them less weight in the choice.)
- What are the likely outcomes of not choosing this one? (These are negative outcomes.)
- What would be the outcome of doing the exact opposite? (Play “devil’s advocate.”)
Our thinking should be in terms of long-term outcomes and not short-term pros and cons. And we should broaden our thinking to include negative outcomes. In doing so, we will find clarity and direction in making the right choice.
2. Ask why – five times.
The Five Whys are a problem-solving technique invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota. When something goes wrong, you ask “why?” five times. By asking why something failed, over and over, you eventually get to the root cause.
Although developed as a problem-solving technique, the Five Whys can also help you determine whether a choice you’re considering is in line with your core values as a person and a business.
- Why should I take this job? It pays well and offers me a chance to grow.
- Why is that important? Because I want to build a career and not just have a string of meaningless jobs.
- Why? Because, I want my life to have meaning.
- Why? So I can be happy.
- Why? Because that’s what’s important in life.
We now see how the first two tips are interrelated. By asking the Five Whys, we learn that having meaning and being happy are desired outcomes that influence the choice made in asking the first question: Why should I take this job?
The continued relationship can be seen in revealing the third tips for making the right choice.
3. Follow your instincts.
This tip affords you the ability to work through the first two tips with a sense of personal confidence.
Because research shows that:
The conscious mind can only hold between five and nine distinct thoughts at any given time. That means that any complex problem with more than (on average) seven factors is going to overflow the conscious mind’s ability to function effectively, leading to poor choices.
Our unconscious mind is much better at juggling and working through complex problems. People who follow their instincts actually trust the work their unconscious mind has already done.
When we allow ourselves to focus on long-term outcomes rather than short-sighted pros and cons, take on the task of asking “Why?” five different times, and trust and follow our instincts, we put ourselves in a much better position to make the right choice in any given situation in life and business.
Like anything we go through as human beings, this process takes work. Get to work and let me know how it goes.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com
The Division of Corporation Finance, a part of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has issued guidance on disclosure obligations related to cyber security risks and incidents. And although public companies aren’t yet required to disclose this information to shareholders, it’s just a matter of time, says Brittany Teare, IT advisory manager with Weaver.
“Right now, this is just guidance in the best interest for your shareholders, but that will likely change. It could become a requirement, probably sooner rather than later,” says Teare.
Just as the Senate headed for its August recess, efforts were made to pass cyber legislation. Although the bill didn’t pass, more regulation surrounding cyber risks and security is certainly coming.
Smart Business spoke with Teare about what the guidance entails and how businesses can measure and guard against cyber risks.
Have the SEC reporting requirements for cyber security changed with this guidance?
The new guidance takes the existing requirements that public companies follow and expands upon them. There’s no mandatory piece yet that results in a direct impact on a company if it doesn’t disclose information on cyber incidents.
Basically, the guidance states that if cyber security risks and cyber incidents have a material effect on your shareholders — if it could affect how financial information is reported — you have to report them.
How can you tell when cyber security risks are going to materially impact your company?
The guidance addresses some of the possible risks and whether they should be voluntarily reported to shareholders. If you don’t have cyber security controls around your key financial systems, for example, then the way you record or report your data can be easily manipulated or altered. Even if a cyber breach has not yet occurred, it is very likely.
Cyber security itself is a gray area. Employers typically know that network and perimeter security, access and change controls should be in place, but executives may not consider disclosing vulnerabilities. CEOs and CFOs are used to looking at the balance sheet and seeing line items for hardware and other things they can touch. It can be challenging to consider the likelihood and risk that the organization could be breached and the ways it could happen. Addressing weaknesses is something that companies need to continue to do.
What is your advice to CEOs about quantifying data and seeing vulnerabilities?
A starting point is to designate a person or group of people responsible for cyber security. These people should not only understand where the SEC is at and where requirements are potentially heading with this guidance, but should also identify risks to the specific organization.
There is a central entry point in any network, but key people need to know where an attacker will head and what the most sensitive data is. If an attacker can get to the most sensitive data in a network, this could add up to a huge loss. If the company does not store much of this type of information, then an attack could involve a company’s reputation, which is much more difficult to value.
Another challenge is improving communication from the CIO or IT manager. Often, IT will say, ‘We need X dollars for new equipment, applications and hardware that are going to help make our organization more secure.’ It’s usually a considerable amount of money and can be millions of dollars in larger organizations. When management hears that number, they want to know what the return on that investment is going to be. IT typically struggles with quantifying that return.
A CIO needs to be able to tell other executives, ‘If this firewall, application or system is not installed, a breach would cost us X dollars, or the company could lose X dollars per day,’ for example. Not everything can be quantified, such as a company’s reputation, but this gives CIOs a place to start.
Is cyber security a big factor for investors?
Yes, and it is becoming more so as the public realizes the prevalence of cyber attacks. Shareholders and employers alike are justifiably concerned about this because some of the most secure companies in the world have been breached in the recent past. For example, RSA, which provides security management solutions such as strong two-factor authentication for many well-known organizations, was recently breached. If a large company that specializes in security can be breached, then small and mid-market businesses are susceptible.
What are some steps businesses should take to protect their data and reputation?
There are some key, high-level steps that companies should consider:
- Take inventory of the data systems and gain an understanding of where critical data is located. Then, work to ensure that there is an appropriate amount of security on those areas.
- Use complex, strong passwords to help protect the network, systems and data, and regularly change them. Have the system lock out users after a certain number of failed attempts and log all such activity.
- Most important, heavily monitor the networks and all systems. Check who is logging in and from where, who is successfully entering and who is failing. Then set a baseline to understand any abnormalities.
- Use the principle of least privilege, especially for critical accounts and functions. This ensures that no single employee has all access; instead, access is tailored to the job function. If there is a breach, it prevents those accounts from being abused for something they shouldn’t be used for in the first place.
These simple steps are often overlooked by many companies. There is much more that companies can do, but first take small steps to implement key, basic controls. Then, if a breach occurs, the business can more easily identify what and how it happened.
Brittany Teare is an IT advisory manager with Weaver. Reach her at (972) 448-9299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Accounting is brought to you by Weaver
When it comes to hiring, staffing agencies are the experts. They know what it takes to create lasting employment relationships and can find a qualified full-time candidate quickly and efficiently, saving you the hassle of wading through hundreds of applications, says Rachel Ferguson, a recruiter with The Daniel Group.
“Agencies have a database of applicants they’ve screened and know what potential candidates are looking for in a company, job type and pay,” says Ferguson. “A recruiter will save you time and money, working to place the right candidate quickly so you don’t have to repeat the process if an applicant doesn’t work out due to a poor hiring decision.”
Smart Business spoke with Ferguson about how staffing agencies can help companies with their full-time hiring needs.
When working with a staffing agency to find a permanent employee, what is the first step?
The first and most important step is providing a detailed job description to the staffing agency you’re working with. The more information you can provide up front, the easier the process will be for everybody involved. When an agency only receives a barebones description of what is needed, the result can be multiple rounds of interviews to flesh out precisely what skills an employer needs, and that can result in frustration.
A clear job description allows the agency to get to work locating candidates. As the employer, you should expect applicants to be thoroughly screened and qualified before they are presented to you by the agency. You may only see three to five resumes out of hundreds screened in the search process. These are the candidates that your recruiter believes to be the best fit for your opening. You should consider your recruiter as a business partner who can guide the hiring process and who has the best interests of your organization in mind.
How does a staffing agency screen candidates?
With today’s technology, traditional interviews are not necessarily the only means of prequalifying applicants. Candidates may live out of state or have a demanding work schedule that can limit their ability to travel to an office for an interview. Skype interviews are increasingly common, and it’s not unusual for recruiters to talk to candidates multiple times per day by phone to gather more information.
Social media is also making a mark on the screening process. Recruiters can research any public profile the candidate has on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn to get a better impression of his or her personality. Personality and skill assessments are great tools to gauge whether a candidate will fit a company’s culture.
What characteristics indicate a candidate could be a good choice for permanent employment?
Always look at a candidate’s tenure when evaluating a long-term fit. However, given the current job market, many people have been forced into working contract positions, so it has become tougher to judge work history based on tenure. A general rule is that the fewer jobs someone has held, the better indication of that person’s long-term employability.
Recruiters also look at whether a person has made multiple, broad, cross-industry career changes, which can be a sign the person doesn’t have a clear vision of career progression and may be more likely to leave a job when it gets tough.
Asking a candidate about hobbies can give a recruiter a broader picture of personality and help determine if he or she will fit with your company’s culture in the long term.
Is conducting interviews enough, or should there be on-the-job observation?
That depends on the company and the type of position it is filling. For many professional, senior-level roles, recruiters are interviewing candidates who are employed but considering new opportunities. For these, it’s much less common to see temp-to-perm strategies. It may be considered too risky for the applicant to leave a permanent position with benefits for a temp-to-perm role that could fall through. It is important to have candidates interview with key staff members they will potentially interact with and get detailed feedback.
Many characteristics can be discovered through a trial period, but if your recruiter is experienced and thorough, these can be uncovered before the candidate is hired.
What level of involvement should a company expect to have in the hiring process when working through a staffing agency?
Expect to be engaged from beginning to end. During the process, your recruiter may need to regularly follow up with you to fine-tune how candidates are selected. Communication is vital to ensure the right person is hired. Give feedback after interviews to discuss with your recruiter what is and isn’t working. Many times, hiring managers will make the mistake of interviewing and then falling silent for too long without feedback. Candidates in today’s market expect quick feedback, and an unresponsive client can leave a bad taste in an applicant’s mouth. While the employer has the final say in who it hires, your recruiter is responsible for narrowing the field, and communication is the best way to build trust.
Once a candidate is chosen, how can a company improve its chances of that person accepting the job offer?
The job offer is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. You may have conducted great interviews, but if you don’t have a lucrative job offer, you could lose the candidate. Undercutting a strong candidate at this stage says that you don’t value what they can do for you. Not only is the salary you offer important, but a strong benefits package goes a long way.
Also, secondary benefits such as health and wellness packages, contests and other perks can be appealing. Make sure you communicate to the candidate what special offerings your company has and build excitement to improve the chances that your preferred candidate will accept your offer.
Rachel Ferguson is an engineering services recruiter with The Daniel Group. Reach her at (713) 932-9313 or email@example.com.
Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group
Drew Alexander is probably one of the first to admit that supermarket-anchored shopping centers are very recession-resilient. Good properties in good locations don’t hurt either, as well as good practices. But that’s not the entire story.
Alexander, the president and CEO of Weingarten Realty Investors, which dates back to his great-grandfather’s first dry goods store in Houston, knows that good people are a large part of the equation. And it was the conjunction of being a new parent as well as a manager of people that gave him the insight that there are a lot of similarities between the two roles.
“I found the two things surprisingly similar,” Alexander says. “I think you need to be as consistent and honest as you can. You need to set reasonable goals. You need to show tough love and sometimes separate some people or punish kids when they’ve done something wrong. You should be supportive when folks are down and a bit of a cheerleader when things are tough — and they have certainly been tough for the last several years.”
Is it easy being a tough-love parent/tough-love boss?
“It can be difficult, but I think the keys are leading by example of doing the right thing of working smart, thinking through things, gaining the knowledge in one’s mistake and really treating people as you would want to be treated,” he says. “I think there are a lot of similarities.”
When you have tenants such as Target, Walmart, Ross, Marshalls or TJ Maxx anchoring shopping centers, you could well expect the $542 annual revenue Weingarten received in 2011. But again, the rest of the story is the family-themed culture that has helped keep occupancy above 90 percent not only in the recent financial crisis but in the mid- to late 1980s crisis as well, when the Texas economy was devastated as the oil business crashed.
Here how Alexander imparts a family spirit at Weingarten Realty that helps drive its success with the 16 million square feet in commercial property and shopping centers it owns across the nation.
Most organizations recognize that communication is a top priority in operating a business. Meeting with your direct reports and having them cascade the information down to other levels is a very common method. But it shouldn’t be the only one.
“It is also important to spend some casual time with employees, to go to lunch with them, to have a cup of coffee with folks and to meet with them in their offices, maybe have a drink after work occasionally and hear what’s going on with them,” Alexander says.
The talk may even include some disagreements about operations. While they are eventual — you can’t expect agreements all of the time, you can learn to exercise control how you respond so you don’t make matters worse.
“Always try to walk the talk,” Alexander says. “When somebody disagrees with you and says you’re wrong, or when somebody gives you some difficult feedback or says that something isn’t working, always try not to retaliate in any way, shape or form.”
In short, the easiest answer is to control your tongue. But it may be one of the hardest things to do since you’re feeling you have to defend your opinion among feelings of resentment, frustration and anger.
“Don’t get into an argument,” Alexander says. “Maybe ask a little bit more about why they think that to really solicit other feedback. I may not always agree with it but I learned a long time ago if you want the honest feedback then you have to accept it graciously.”
Keep as much of the anger out of the conversation — this way you will not be as tempted to say anything that could be construed as hurtful.
How your business is structured will affect how it you manage it. A business with one central location is akin to a nuclear family — and a company with a headquarters and several offices is not that different from an extended family.
But the key to effectively managing either is delegating authority.
The first step, as in raising children or grooming a new manager, is that you walk before you run. So start your own informal training course for delegates.
“When you have a new manager you need to try people with a little bit of training wheels,” Alexander says. “Give them a project, see how they do. I’m a big believer that the vast majority of the time if people come to you with a proposal, they should have a recommendation for what they want to do.
“You can allow exceptions, but you should always be signposted in advance as they come in and say, ‘Look, I thought about this for a minute, and I am really struggling. I don’t have a recommendation, I just want to role play some different scenarios off you and brainstorm with you for a minute.’”
With a solid proposal in hand, the would-be manager will have covered his or her bases and can move on to the review process.
“If they signpost up front, you can be a lot more tolerant about it versus if you perceive that they are coming for you to do their job,” he says. “You need to be a big believer that you want people’s recommendation. Then you evaluate the quality of folks because obviously you don’t want to delegate the same amount of responsibility to everyone because everybody’s ability and skill sets are not the same.
“You have to take a measured approach of trying things out small and giving people more and more responsibilities; then you check with them frequently at interim status reports,” Alexander says.
The last step is to judge the talents of your potential managers after your trial runs are complete. Obviously, you should focus on the traditional qualities of a good performance but keep an open mind.
“I think work ethic is important, but in today’s world, it’s increasingly hard to even judge that on any sort of scale because in part of the communications age that we live in ... I have colleagues who are obsessive about checking e-mails over the weekend when I’ve actually said you are entitled to but you don’t have to!
“So I don’t think burning the midnight oil is even a differentiator any more because it’s just too hard to measure,” he says.
What is easier to measure is the potential manager’s proposal for his project. It should be clear what the recommendation is.
“I use the example that it’s like junior high school math,” Alexander says. “You’ve got to show your work. You have to tell why you favor making that decision. What are the key factors? Even when people come to a conclusion that is different than yours, you like to see how their thought process works.
“Then a lot of times if it is a little more of a tactical decision about how to do something, I am a big believer that if somebody has a plan to get from point A to point B that’s a little different than mine, but they feel very strongly about it, I’d rather have them work their plan that they are passionate about than work my plan because, unless, it’s sort of like a burden of proof thing, that what they are proposing is substantially wrong.”
Along with reviewing the specific proposal, you should look at how it fits into the bigger picture.
“Look at how the judgments are made, what were the factors and don’t get so hung up on the details,” he says. “I use the analogy of driving directions. There are tons of different ways to get from point A to point to B. If you want to take the scenic route because you think it’s pretty, or if somebody else wants to go on the freeway and deal with the traffic, I don’t care.”
Once you have chosen your delegates, make use of them. Assign them as much as you feel they can handle.
“If you run a pretty decentralized organization, the troops who are in the field — the folks and the COO — are your boots on the ground and make the vast majority of decisions,” Alexander says. “When it comes to major capital expenditures acquisition and new development, the CEO obviously gets involved but even then the troops are the ones who input most of the data to create the pro forma so they have a lot of input that drives the return on investment and whether or not it’s above your hurdle rates.”
The CEO may ask a lot of questions about their assumptions and method and point out some inconsistencies from other deals.
“But generally even then, they are driving it a lot,” he says. “So whether it’s your CFO or COO, you may get involved in something but you would tend to delegate a fair amount either directly or just by the nature of your processes. You would really only get involved if there are big dollars or longer-term, human resources involved, anything to do with the brand or investor relations.”
There are some differences, obviously, in terms of the unconditional love a parent has for a child. You can’t fire a child. If a worker is not performing, you have to protect the right things.
“I don’t know any CEO who likes firing people,” Alexander says. “It is something every manager recognizes that you have to do it for the good of the organization. The people who I have talked to who are so-called turnaround specialists don’t like the idea of going into an organization and eliminating a third or whatever of the workforce but they do it because they think it is necessary so that the company survives.”
The termination process is difficult but you will be doing the right thing for all the stakeholders.
“I was fortunate enough that I took over this company from my father, Stanford Alexander, and still work closely with him,” he says. “So you look back and find that a lot of the things that your father taught you as a kid are important today. As a firm, you pride yourselves on integrity and your desire to do the right thing for all your stakeholders, shareholders, retailers, associates and vendors and to take the very long-term view.”
One of the major benefits to come from instilling a family spirit in a company can be a tremendous loyalty from your associates
“This translates into some very hardworking people, who are creative and passionate, who care about the company, care about their co-worker, are very team-oriented people who help each other and are nice to each other,” Alexander says.
“By running a public company but with a little bit of the spirit of a family that cares — that loyalty will show up for you in tenure, work ethic, passion and esprit de corps.
The folks will care about the company. They have a lot of emotion and feeling toward it. You obviously will want to offer competitive salaries, have good benefit programs, a nice work environment, a lot of wellness programs, education programs and scholarships to associates’ children for college. Do a lot to hire and retain good quality people.”
Simply put, with everyone pulling in the same direction, the team will reap the benefits.
“A consultant once used the expression with me that there are basketball teams and then there are track teams,” Alexander says. “In basketball, the team wins and everybody wins. In track, it’s nice when your friend wins his or her race, but you really want to win your race.
“You really want to be more like a basketball team where everybody wins. You may be the QB gets a lot of the attention and gets asked to do the interviews, but it’s really about the whole team. If a lineman doesn’t do what he is supposed to do, then all of us are going to suffer. So we are all incented to pull in the same direction.”
How to reach: Weingarten Realty Investors, (713) 866-6000 or www.weingarten.com
The Alexander File
President and CEO
Weingarten Realty Investors
Born: Fort Worth, Texas. I go by Drew, and my real name is Andrew. But nobody other than my high school principal called me that.
Education: I started out at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and did a couple of years there. Then I transferred to and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. My degree is a bachelor of business and administration with a focus in real estate.
What was your first job?
I was about 7 years old and we had the supermarket company at the time. I worked in the stores helping customers unload their carts to be checked out. I wasn’t a carryout at the other end of the process because my mother didn’t want me in the parking lot. She thought I would get run over. So I was doing a job that doesn’t exist anymore. I helped the customers unload from their cart to the conveyor belt to be checked out. One of my other jobs in the supermarket was labeling all the prices on things.
I think I learned from that job to go to college and work in something that wasn’t so manual. Also, I think I learned the value of customer service. I got paid a whopping 10 cents an hour, but frequently, principally housewives would say, ‘Now you’re a nice young man, do you get paid?’ And I said, ‘Yes, ma’am. I get10 cents an hour.’ ‘You’re so hard-working. Here’s a quarter.’ Occasionally, I got a dollar. That was a lot of money in the early ’60s to a kid. I think I put a lot of it into baseball cards over the years.
What was the best advice you ever received?
I think that would go back to advice from my dad in terms of doing the right long-term thing and treating people as you would want to be treated.
Whom do you admire in business?
I think many of the strong leaders, Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Steve Jobs. And certain parts of this are their creativity and passion although certainly not everything. Then as I mentioned before — my dad. It’s corny, but it’s the truth.
What’s your definition of business success?
It ties into the goals, and that’s where I think when you get to the end, whatever that is, having done the right term thing is a success. So clearly there are things that go into that in terms of share price and total return for shareholders, being well thought of by all the stakeholders and that would be shareholders, employees, vendors, tenants, etc., but that’s where I think if you are doing the right long-term thing, then all those other things will flow from that.
Have you watched an experienced juggler at a carnival or circus? He masterfully juggles several objects in the air, ranging from simple balls and bats to dangerous fire-spitting torches and sharp knives. An awe-inspiring juggling performance involves years of strenuous practice, meticulous planning, precise rhythm and flow, and an incredible presence of mind. A juggler never wings it.
In many respects, running and growing a company, such that it constantly pushes the envelope, is no less challenging than an elaborate and risky juggling act. Great managers never wing it. They pay meticulous attention to every aspect of the business, planning diligently, ensuring rhythmic progress and vigilantly guarding against missteps.
Dropping the ball
When they are not on the top of their game or when they take things for granted, even the most experienced managers drop the ball — or the knife. At times, managers mistakenly believe, because they have been successful so far, they will be successful in the future. They try to wing it, overconfident in their abilities to manage a complex organization. Juggling flaming torches is quite different than juggling balls.
A juggler never takes for granted any object he throws up in the air. Managers must develop the same level of respect for strategic aspects that they may have overlooked or underserved.
A good example is culture. Too often in companies, culture develops by default, without regard to the strategic imperatives of the company. Effective managers do not take culture for granted. They carefully cultivate a culture that matches the stated values of the company.
A juggler is diligent and methodical. He precisely positions the objects he uses during his act. He understands the sequence and the rhythm. Likewise, managers must understand the beat of their organization.
Take the example of goal setting. Some managers like to set overly aggressive goals. As a result, the organization falls short, and in spite of significant progress, a feeling of failure pervades the atmosphere.
On the other hand, some managers set goals that are too easy to achieve or are not meaningful. The effective manager sets goals with just the right intensity. As a result, the organization strives hard, achieves the goals, feels good and moves on to tackle higher-level goals. A few cycles of successfully executing the right intensity goals creates the rhythm to strongly propel the organization forward.
Systematic management method
The million-dollar question is, as a manager, do you truly follow a systematic management method? Too many managers do not. They manage from the seat of their pants, but fail to realize it. Some use a management system but rarely question how proficiently their method addresses the strategic and management needs of their organization.
An effective manager recognizes the limitations of the human mind. A person can only manage so much from their head. Effective managers employ a well-thought-out systematic method, and importantly, they coherently articulate and explain that method. Then the whole organization appreciates the business drivers and issues, and each member contributes at a strategic level, as opposed to just doing his or her job.
In too many companies, the strategic aspects do not form a cohesive group. Execution is out of sync with strategy. Strategy does not match the mission and goes against the core business model. Goals exist in a vacuum, with the organization unclear on the road map to achieve the goals.
It takes a substantial amount of work and practice to systematically and cohesively connect all of the strategic aspects, from mission, vision, goals, strategy to execution and culture.
You must employ a systematic method as excellent as the experienced juggler’s. It is your most important responsibility. You will then build a successful and outstanding company that excites and motivates its employees and thrills your audience of clients and customers every bit as much as the juggler thrills his audience, tossing a circle of knifes or flaming torches into the air above his head.
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 Corp., a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and is president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or feedback@ cohegic.com.
While the new wave of banking regulation may portend of doom and gloom to some, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel for many businesses.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed two years ago as a result of the economic downturn, contains about 400 new regulations for the banking industry.
“That’s a significant increase in regulation for the industry,” says Paul Murphy, president and CEO of Cadence Bancorp LLC. Some of these regulations, he says, go beyond where the problems existed and into areas that were already well regulated, which could potentially lead to over-regulation. In addition, Basel III, the new capital standards guidelines for the international banking community, will begin to be phased in over the next three years. By 2015, all banks will be required to have the same definition of and same types of capital requirements, which theoretically will create more stability in the system. This means that banks will need more capital to do the same amount of business that they did prior to the changes.
“The question becomes, ‘How are you going to raise the capital required to be in compliance?’” says Murphy. “Over time, banks will have to charge a little more than they have been and their net interest margins will have to be wider to provide for the additional capital requirements. And while we are concerned about too much regulation, the safety of the financial system is key to America’s growth. I believe the regulators are aware of these issues as we move through this process.”
Smart Business spoke with Murphy about the regulatory climate for banks and how it will impact small- to mid-sized businesses seeking loans.
What has been happening to small banks?
The number of banks sold in 2010 was 130, and 118 of those had less than $1 billion in assets. In 2011, 124 banks were sold, and 112 of them had less than $1 billion in assets. This year so far, 83 banks have sold, and 74 had less than $1 billion in assets.
The trend is compelling — small banks are going away and very few new ones are being chartered. Banks are getting bigger because they can effectively spread the cost of regulations across their base of assets. Bankers are in the midst of coping with these regulations, which ultimately will continue to drive banks to merge or to acquire smaller banks because the cost of compliance is significant.
How will the new regulations impact businesses?
The concern for business owners is that, as banks become more regulated, it stifles the industry, inhibiting banks from taking reasonable risks, and reasonable is an important word. You want a banker to believe in your business and support you with good loans at good rates. But if banks become too concerned about regulations, it could limit their ability to provide credit products.
Credit is the lifeblood of our economy. A healthy banking industry that is well capitalized and responsive is desirable because loans to businesses mean jobs. Banks are a critical part of our economy, and having healthy banks can lead to job creation. It is understandable why some people think there is less credit available today than there was in 2007. What is likely the case, however, is that, prior to 2007, the United States experienced credit excess, and today, we’ve settled back into modest credit availability. While some start-up businesses might not qualify for certain loans based on their risk profile, good borrowers and healthy businesses are still being funded.
How can the consolidation of banks to strong regional enterprises help small- to mid-sized businesses in this highly regulated environment?
Regional banks are big enough to have a range of products and services, work in diverse geographies and have strong capital that leads to a larger loan limits. Further, regional banks are well hedged across investments, which offer a stable, balanced platform. The size of these institutions also results in more competitive pricing when compared to smaller banks.
Also, in today’s economy, technology is critical to businesses. Regional banks can afford to invest in technology because they can spread the cost over a larger base of customers and they’re incentivized to make further investments because it can lower the customer’s cost of doing business. Banks can be true technology partners.
How can a bank help businesses operate more efficiently?
Banks can help businesses though the smart, effective use of technology. Technology lowers costs, improves controls, reduces paperwork and mitigates risks such as fraud.
For example, business owners who worry about security over the Internet should be aware that the 128-bit encryption has not been broken and has protected banking and many other data transfers across the Web safely and effectively. Further, with technology, you can have fraud protection software scanning for irregular transactions. Generally, data moves faster, account balances post quicker and more information is available to the owner of the accounts, which ultimately means greater security.
Knowing what is happening with your accounts on a more timely basis allows you to mitigate fraud. Banks can also ensure a company’s money is working for that company all the time, whether it is through such enhancements as an accounts receivable lock box or an accounts payable lock box.
Outside of banks, how else can a business acquire the capital it needs?
Another primary channel for small- to mid-sized business loans is in the private equity investment community, where you go to a group of investors who have raised capital for the sole purpose of investing. There are also angel investors, which can include family and friends willing to invest in your company.
Businesses can also get financing through factoring companies and leasing companies, which provide capital for equipment.
Paul Murphy is president and CEO of Cadence Bancorp LLC. Reach him at (713) 871-3901.
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