Expenses are an expansive headache for most businesses. Whether it’s purchasing office supplies, business travel, client entertainment or vehicle maintenance logging and keeping track of everything is often much more work than it should be.
That is why more and more businesses are turning to commercial card programs.
A commercial card program is a single card product that can be used for purchasing goods and services, effectively consolidating multiple payment streams into a single program to manage expenses. The program’s reporting system provides a detailed description of who made a purchase, and where and when it was made. Each card can be assigned various limits to manage the dollar amounts and types of expenses authorized for individual employees.
This allows for the centralization of data, making it easy to obtain information on strategic sourcing opportunities and policy compliance. More accurate data enables managers to improve their ability to negotiate better pricing from vendors and ensure their employees are following corporate policies.
“A commercial card program is a convenient and cost-effective way to streamline your organization’s purchasing process,” says Suzanne Colmenero, a senior business relationship manager at Wells Fargo Bank. “You can use a commercial card to purchase anything, from travel expenses to supplies, and even fleet expenses.”
Smart Business spoke with Colmenero about commercial card programs and how to determine if they’re right for your business.
Why is the commercial card becoming an increasingly popular way to manage expenses?
Because it can streamline your company’s purchasing process by automating expense management processes and controlling expenses. With more and more businesses accepting Visa and MasterCard, commercial cards are becoming the preferred way to conduct business. A commercial card program can offer both hard and soft dollar savings for organizations using them, improved cash management, greater control over spending and streamlined expense management.
Commercial card programs have several other benefits. Employees who carried multiple credit cards can now use a single card for business purposes. Employees no longer have to decide when to use which card, eliminating confusion and decreasing reliance on other forms of payment, which often are more expensive to process. Also, a commercial card program can result in increased savings by centralizing the administration and support of the program. One monthly invoice is processed for your organization’s expenditures, and you get better information faster with online reporting features.
What specific savings can a business expect to realize?
According to the 2007 RPMG study, the average cost to process a payment transaction using a traditional purchase order method is $88.55. Compare that to the average cost to process a payment transaction using a commercial card ($19.49). You’ll see these savings thanks to the elimination of check processing, postage and other costs associated with check writing. Not to mention the savings you’ll see from the time saved by streamlining approval processes, which can be used for more value-added activities. You can also extend the time you have to settle payments for your purchases; commercial cards can have up to a 30-day cycle and/or a grace period before payment is due.
Of course, costs vary from organization to organization, but the extent to which a company is willing to revamp its purchasing and accounting processes will determine the amount of savings realized.
Which companies are best suited for commercial card programs?
Almost any organization can reap the benefits of a commercial card program. I find that organizations that have several different employees making on-the-spot purchases or those with at least 25 vendors see the most benefit. Also, companies that have employees that travel and entertain can benefit.
When employees make business purchases with commercial cards, you eliminate cash advances, purchase orders and checks. Plus, cardholders experience a significant reduction in procurement cycle time.
What controls do commercial cards offer?
You can control the amount of each purchase, total expenditures and access to supplier categories for each cardholder. Transactions are approved or declined at the point of sale based on these pre-set controls. Commercial cards also are accompanied by reporting and reconciliation applications that provide company administrators and managers of employees the ability to review purchases made within 24 hours of settlement. There are standard reports available to facilitate informal and formal audits of these purchases to ensure policy compliance.
What are the benefits of online administration?
Having real-time administrator access to your commercial card program enables you to make changes to limits and cancel cards immediately. It also makes reconciliation easier by automatically loading all commercial card transaction activity for each cardholder, along with pre-approved cost center and general ledger mapping combinations. Cardholders can also add in out-of-pocket transactions to facilitate their expense management process. Online approval workflows also help in reducing the time it takes to process commercial card payments.
Managers can monitor spending patterns of employees with real-time Internet access to their card balances and transaction information. An administrator can go online to perform a wide range of tasks, including changing cardholder limits, closing card accounts, ordering replacement cards, downloading transaction data, running reports, auditing the program and disputing transactions.
Suzanne Colmenero is a senior business relationship manager at Wells Fargo Bank. Reach her at (713) 319-1551 or email@example.com.
Education: B.A. in speech communication;
The Ohio State University
What was your first job?
Working fast food in an amusement park when I was 14. But I was also a radio disc jockey when I was in high school and college.
What has been your most difficult leadership challenge?
Finding the best people who want to get better every day. Likewise, when these people realize that they can get better every day, they get really more excited about work.
What has been your greatest leadership lesson?
When you realize it’s not about me, it’s about us.
We’re not playing tennis here. This is not one-on-one here. This is a group effort. You lose sight of that when you think it is about you. You realize it is about us, and that realization means that some people are limited and you are limited, but two people are better than one.
What profession would you want to be in, if you couldn’t have your current job?
Making movies. I do some now. I make lifetime movies or videos, and put some music to them for either people that retire or my kids or stuff like that. I minored in movie production in college. I just enjoy that.
What theme song would you choose for your company?
‘We are the Champions,’ (by Queen.) I am an aggressive person. It doesn’t mean I’m undefeated, but I want to win.
Every time Shelly Lazarus talks to executives who are managing through tough times, she poses a straightforward question: What is the value of a brand?
It’s a simple question that often leads to a more detailed discussion.
“Is it a revenue or a cost?” asks Lazarus, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, an advertising firm that, over the past 60 years, has helped build some of the most recognizable brands on the planet. “I would argue a revenue driver. If you spend money during a recession, you can come out ahead. Those companies and brands that invested through this (recession) will come out stronger and ahead of their competitors.”
Lazarus shared her thoughts on brand value, managing through tough times, how to deal with Gen Y and the future of advertising at the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum 2009.
On managing through tough times
The best thing you can do is state the problem clearly but stay optimistic about the outcome. It’s not ‘rah rah’; people can see through that. But you have to get yourself to a place where you see the path. And when you’re comfortable, communicate, communicate, communicate. You have to get out with people and share what’s going on so they can assess the situation and have an understanding of where you’re heading and feel a sense of comfort.
Everybody is looking at you to see how you react to the ups and downs of the marketplace. The biggest mistake people make in communicating is that in many companies, the last group of people that the leaders communicate with is the employees. That’s a mistake — they are the most important constituency you have.
The second biggest is that you better not sugarcoat the news. You need to have a good sense that people in the company trust the leadership. And to have that trust, you need honesty and transparency.
On managing Generation Y
This is a different generation in the workplace than the previous generation. The average tenure for Generation Y employees today is 16 months. You’ve got a sea change coming toward us that we have to deal with. But there are things you can do. If there is an expectation that jobs are episodic, is there something you can do with jobs in a company? Can you make the job more satisfying? And how do you create the balance they seek? We are dealing with a population, a generation really, that doesn’t want to do things the same way you do. You need to rethink the nature of the job.
On the future of marketing
Less than 50 percent of our revenue comes from traditional advertising. There are so many new ways to communicate that we’re inventing it as we go along. But there’s a danger of fragmentation. It’s imperative to ensure your message and brand is consistent. That way, wherever people choose to find you, the brand message is the same.
No matter what you choose, a mix of media always works better than a single medium, and the more different media that you use, the better your results. But you need to know what role each effort plays and how it’s going to get to a transaction. Things are so fast that you can now move from ‘I never heard of that before’ to a transaction within 24 hours.
So, when determining where to advertise or market your message, be demanding. Find out how you’re getting from the first insertion to a sale. If that is your mindset, it becomes much easier to adapt.
How to reach: Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, www.ogilvy.com
Five keys to an economic revival
Today, business leaders are struggling to balance the near-term needs of survival with the long-term demand to find new sources of growth. Never has the need to innovate and be entrepreneurial been more urgent. Ernst & Young LLP has identified five areas where entrepreneurship and innovation are the keys to a global economic revival.
- Entrepreneurial thinking. In a recent Ernst & Young survey, the majority of entrepreneurs said they saw the economic slowdown as the perfect time to pursue new market opportunities. In addition, economists, academics and industry leaders all agree that recessions tend to favor the naturally innovative temperament of entrepreneurs. Some of the world’s largest companies were born during a recession.
- New market leaders. The market leaders of today are not necessarily the market leaders of tomorrow. Dominant corporations are constantly replaced by entrepreneurial-minded enterprises that grow at incredible speed and gain significant market share.
- Innovation can — and often must — be disruptive. Industries, companies and economies all suffer initially as innovation challenges the status quo, but strong organizations embrace shake-ups and ultimately thrive.
- Entrepreneurs are not bound by size. Large companies are often hampered by institutional structures that may view unconventional ideas or strategies as impractical, unwise or threatening. But large corporations can still innovate successfully if they build and sustain innovation-oriented cultures.
- Government support. Government policies that encourage entrepreneurship are most likely to result in increased innovation. Governments, which are often viewed as most effective when they stay out of the business sector’s way, actually play an important role in nurturing and protecting one of their most important engines of growth: entrepreneurs.
Source: Ernst & Young LLP, www.ey.com
Norman C. Chambers and his management team wanted to be ready for a rainy day at NCI Building Systems Inc. It was 2007, and the company had pretty much finished a successful growth strategy that began in 2003, and the company wanted to have plans in place just in case things went south.
“We developed and put together plans that would, first of all, try to give us some road signs about when we would start to see this and things we would try to do immediately,” says Chambers, chairman, president and CEO of the integrated manufacturers of metal products for the nonresidential building industry.
The group identified a mild recession as a 15 percent reduction in the level of activity in the marketplace, which is measured by square feet of new construction. A deeper recession would be a 30 percent reduction in such activity.
Chambers and his team could place the plans for each scenario on the shelf and dust them off if they ever needed them.
But why would they need the backup plans? In the third quarter of fiscal 2008, the company posted record numbers, and things looked good.
But that following quarter, signs started to creep in that things were going downhill. Net income and gross profit in the fourth quarter was less than the third quarter, which was very unusual.
“We hemmed and hawed as to the cause because other parts of our business were doing quite well,” he says. “It culminated with us really taking a step back by our fourth quarter of 2008, in that it was clear that while we are going to have a good (fourth) quarter, it was going to be less volume and less revenue and less profitability than our third quarter and that was the first time. So, we stepped back and said, ‘Why is this?’ and we started challenging some of our basic assumptions.”
Even though Chambers and his team prepared for the rainy day, they were met with a monsoon in the form of seeing most of the company’s business segments declining 62 percent. From November 2008 to April 2009, Chambers had to reduce NCI’s work force by nearly 40 percent and the number of plants in the United States was reduced by 25 percent.
“We went about that in part because we had planned for something that was bad and were facing something that was twice as bad,” he says. “While we had it about right, we had to totally re-engage in exactly looking at what we are doing.
“You then have a look and say the economy is falling off a cliff and your business is linked to economy. You can reduce costs and all those things, but it doesn’t ultimately change the bare facts that there’s going to be a whole lot less work for a period of time that seems to be quite extended.”
Don’t go it alone
Plain and simple, you can’t get your company through tough times on your own.
“Leadership isn’t just the CEO,” he says. “If it is, I don’t know how organizations can effectively do well.”
Since each business unit within NCI has its own president, those individuals were responsible for coming forth with a plan to reduce costs, as were those at the corporate level.
“What occurred was the presidents and their teams within our three business units are the ones who developed a plan based on the guidance we gave, which was a mild recession is a 15 percent hit and a deep recession is a 30 percent hit.”
You have to look at all aspects of your company to see where costs can be reduced.
“It’s across the board,” he says. “Those conversations were very open. We each came forward with our plans — What could get done, why, how fast, could we do more, what would be the consequence of doing more?
“It’s a conversation that is more than just a number or percentage. It’s about what’s behind those numbers. Where are we going to be with factories we have, with the people we have? How are we going to produce even half as much of the products that we produced in this year before?”
With your team, find forward indicators in your industry that can give you an idea of what is expected.
“One attempts to, in devising strategies for a company, try to get a range of possibilities and try to forecast downside cases as well as upside cases,” he says. “I would have argued that we did a pretty good job of doing that. But, I’ve got to tell you that, in retrospect, you can only say that we gravely missed the severity of the downturn.
“The fact that I’m in good company in terms of lots of people that did that doesn’t give me any comfort whatsoever. It gives me no comfort whatsoever the fact that many missed what has been probably the worst downturn since the Great Depression.”
You have to look at your volume reduction and talk to your team about how many people you need and how many locations you can keep open to keep producing.
“You have to work backward from some numeric goal in terms of some understanding of how much business you’re actually going to be able to produce to come up with what your cost structure needs to be,” he says.
While you may feel like many factors are out of your control, you have to control what you can, like costs, and keep everyone focused, while also depending on your team.
“I think that the notion of leadership is the ability to stay the course and continue to focus clearly on those things you can control and do your level best to make the right decisions with the colleagues that you surround yourself with as a leadership team,” he says. “It isn’t just one guy.”
Sure, people look to the leader to stay focused and to make good decisions, but they also want the leader to be open to suggestions and to value that input.
“Because it is, in fact, their commitment that is the only tool you have as a leader to weather a very challenging time,” he says. “It is the commitment of the people around you, of your colleagues and their ability to enroll people that work with them that is the difference, I think, between death and survival.”
Make cuts with compassion
By the second quarter of fiscal 2009, the company had to implement a third action plan for a 50 percent reduction in square feet of new construction.
To stay afloat, the company had pay freezes from top to bottom, cut bonuses and temporarily stopped contributing to employees’ 401(k)s. But none of that hit as hard as the closing of plants and having to let people go.
“As you make those hard decisions — and frankly shutting down plants is a hell of a lot easier decision to make than letting people go — you are letting people go from top to bottom. It’s not just a bottom deal. You are letting people go that you have worked with for 20 years, who depend on a job, who depend on benefits and depend on all aspects of what a company can provide.
“There is nothing that is easy for anybody in our organization to effect those changes. The only way you can is from the perspective of those who remain will be able to earn a living and take care of their families.”
You have to announce the cuts as fast as you can so it’s not hanging over the company. You also have to be honest and as detailed as possible when explaining to everyone why the decisions were made.
“I think that to the extent that you can communicate those steps that you are taking, the processes that you
are going through to be as frank and as open with your constituency, which are customers and suppliers and employees, is very important,” he says. “While you cannot ultimately allay fears, the knowledge that you can share with them and the behavior that they can see in you as the CEO and those that make up your team is critically important.”
You also have to sincerely do everything you can to keep the company steady, and you have to communicate that you and your team are doing all that you can.
“There is no limit to the amount of time you will spend, the hours you will spend, the days you will spend in making sure that the company not just can survive but can prosper,” he says.
While you made cuts in order to keep the company steady, you don’t want to communicate that message of prospering soon after making them.
“I think I’d be fibbing a little bit that you could combine both those messages at the same time,” he says. “I’m not sure that they could be heard. So, when you are doing those cuts, it’s to survive. Then you are proving your survivability by getting back to profitability.”
Much like you don’t make the plan on how to survive alone, you can’t communicate the message by yourself either. Of course, if you are the top executive, your voice has to be heard, but your managers have to spread the message throughout the organization, as well.
“It’s interesting because one often thinks that the CEO or the chairman kind of comes forward and speaks to the troops and kind of gets the message out, and to some extent, that’s true,” he says. “But I’ll tell you, it’s really the case of your leadership team and them being part of understanding the problems and the issues, being part of and creating the solution, being part of and being responsible for the future of the company, and then taking that message out and sharing that with people.”
Employees will react better to many voices saying the same thing than just you preaching the message.
“In a company like ours, the personal types of communications are much more important than some voice from the top of the tower,” he says. “They want to know the voices are singing the same tune and are aligned, that’s for sure. But it’s very important for that structure to be in place and for that leadership and responsibility to be carried by a lot of folks.”
Though making the cuts was hard, the moves, along with capital from a private equity firm, helped the company return to profitability for the third quarter of fiscal 2009. In addition, sales for the fourth quarter of that year were $244.4 million, up 2.5 percent from sales of $238.4 million in the third quarter of the same year.
“Returning to profitability, while being somewhat shallow to those who have lost their jobs, resonated pretty powerfully with those who remained in jobs,” he says.
Though improvements have been made at the $968 million company, Chambers isn’t naive enough to think everything is fixed.
“We certainly believe that the cuts that we have made, the reduction in plants clearly with the refinancing and a significant reduction in our debt, puts us in a position to do well in the future,” he says. “We say that realizing that probably next year will be no better than this year.”
While the economy may not rebound completely anytime soon, Chambers and NCI are ready to take their share of the current marketplace.
“We have to make sure that we get more than our share of that marketplace,” he says.
“The cost reductions and the plant reductions are in service to going there and kicking ass. It’s in service to continuing to be the most successful company in our industry.”
How to reach: NCI Building Systems Inc., (888) 624-8677 or www.ncilp.com
Pamela Chambers O’Rourke sets the bar high for herself and her more than 850 employees in 48 states at ICON Information Consultants LP.
“We can’t have errors in our business,” she says. “If we’re not error-free, we fix it, and it better not happen again.”
Over the past decade, O’Rourke has established ICON as an industry leader, providing recruiting, consulting, payroll and project management services for IT, accounting, finance and HR professionals. Last year, she was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year winner regionally in the Business Services and Staffing category.
O’Rourke’s dedication to satisfying customers is nearly fanatical. Before she hired her first employee, one and a half years after ICON’s founding, she had already generated $7.7 million in annual revenue.
O’Rourke has kept on a steady growth curve since she founded the company in 1998. Smart Business caught up with her to discuss how a strong work ethic and focus on the customer provides a competitive advantage.Q. What’s the biggest challenge you faced going from a one-woman shop to an 850-person company that is still growing?
A. Finding people like me. That was my No. 1 problem because I assumed everyone had the same work ethic I did. When I started hiring people I quickly found that the work ethic wasn’t there. So I found five people to surround myself that had a similar work ethic, which allowed me to take the business from $7.7 million to $11 million to $15 million and up to $82 million last year.
Every year, I’ve had between 20 to 30 percent sales growth, and I’ve never had a quarter with a loss. That’s due to tenacity, a strong work ethic and being customer-focused. I am always asking the question, ‘What are we doing for our customers?’ That’s what I teach my employees to do, as well.Q. How do you keep everyone focused on the customer?
A. I’m very competitive, and my career in IT taught me that if you had a redo, you could be fired. So there’s no redo in our business; you have to get it right the first time. And, you have to learn how to be proactive and anticipate the client’s needs. My employees know that you can’t have mistakes or you’ll lose an account. They also understand that being an IT professional and being able to do sales is critical. You sit down with a client and say, ‘Here’s your project. Here’s when it’s due. Here’s how much it’s going to cost.’ That’s sales. People don’t always think like that, but they should.Q. How has the speed of technology changed your approach?
A. I’ve always been on the bleeding edge, trying to anticipate what’s coming next. Today, customers want everything now. When requests come in, the response has to be immediate. That’s the ICON way: It’s not tomorrow; it’s today. If you wait until tomorrow, a competitor will beat us to it. We can’t let that happen.Q. How do you keep the fire in your belly?
A. I’m all about numbers. Numbers never lie. A good CEO or president needs to watch the numbers. I pay myself commission only and have since I founded the business. Any entrepreneur, when they start a company, should be commission only. You have to have a reason to go to work. If you’re paying yourself a salary, how will you know if you’re company’s going to be successful. You need to work for success, and you need to earn it.
How to reach: ICON Information Consultants LP, www.iconconsultants.com
Recognizing entrepreneurial excellence
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® awards recognize the men and women who put everything on the line to turn ideas into viable enterprises. Now in its 24th year, the awards honor those who build the market-leading companies that make our communities, our country and, indeed, the world a better place.
Being a recipient of this prestigious business award means that you’re at the top of your game and puts you in the company of such entrepreneurs as Tom Adams of Rosetta Stone, Michael Dell of Dell Inc. and Pierre Omidyar of eBay Inc.
An Entrepreneur Of The Year® nominee must be an owner/manager of a private or public company with primary responsibility for the recent performance of the company and an active member of top management. The nominee’s company must be at least two years old.
Successful entrepreneurs, whether company founders or current leaders, have a knack for taking businesses to the next level. They employ creative ways to find the capital and resources they need to reach their goals as well as build and grow businesses.
If this sounds like you, consider applying to be a 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®.
Nominations are now being accepted and are available at www.ey.com/us/eoy for downloadable forms or electronic submissions or by calling (800) 755-AWARD.
Burton M. Goldfield is president and CEO of TriNet Group Inc. and is responsible for setting the overall corporate strategy and directing the business operations for the company. He has more than 25 years of experience in the industry and has worked in increasingly high-profile positions, including executive-level sales, operations and technology management.
Q. What significant human resources issues might affect businesses in 2010?
The health care reform bills will have a significant impact on the cost of delivering health care for the small and medium business and also, probably more important, on the reporting and the possible penalties associated with the reforms. Ultimately, if the owner or entrepreneur is not aware of the changes in the legal and regulatory issues, they’re going to be focusing on extracting themselves from that mire as opposed to focusing on their competitive advantage and their client base.
Q. What advice would you provide to a business that might be trimming its human resources budget?
First, you have to continue to do midyear reviews and year-end performance reviews. Reviews are tied to developing employees and making them feel valued and pointing out areas where they can do better. Second, recognize good performance. People shy away from that because they don’t have the big raises or bonuses to give out, but there are other ways to recognize good performances. Third, really keep the pulse on workplace morale. Productivity will suffer if workplace morale goes down. It doesn’t do any good to hide your head in the sand. Fourth, protect your benefits. People react emotionally to a decrease in their benefits, so I am not recommending my clients dramatically cut their benefits. I would rather defer raises than reduce health care benefits.
Q. What are you recommending to your clients as we work through this economic state in 2010?
You need to focus on your marketplace and understand it. You need to focus on your competitive advantage, which is, in most businesses, the people. This economy will change. Do you have a sound business plan? Do you have a competitive advantage? Do you have a core market? And do you have a great set of employees and colleagues?
Education: Bachelor of arts in business administration from King College in Bristol Tennessee
What was your first job?
Cashier at local drugstore at age 15
What has been your most difficult leadership challenge?
The integration of multiple cultures into one. Every company has its own culture, but when you start to meld multiple cultures into one, it can be a challenge. You have to redefine what success is, for example.
How do you meld those cultures?
To set very clear expectations, because what was expected in one company is going to be different than what is expected in another company. So you have to set very clear expectations and you have to make sure people understand them and then that they have the tools to succeed.
If you couldn’t have your current job, what would be your dream job?
If money were not an object, if I was independently wealthy, I would be an amateur athlete. I’m a runner. I don’t run as far or as fast as I once did, but I would be an amateur athlete.
With money being a reality, I would actually probably be a small business owner. I would love to have a running store.
What would you choose as a theme song for your company?
‘Right Now’ by Van Halen. It talks a lot about a sense of urgency that you’re always pushing to get to the next level but also adapting pretty quickly to the changes that are at hand.
With the holiday season upon us again, many individuals and corporations are looking into charitable activities. But, there’s no reason charity should be a once-a-year endeavor. Many charities need assistance year-round, and getting your company involved in charities is a great way to help those less fortunate in your community.
Getting involved in community outreach programs takes time and money, but doing so will give far more than it takes. Besides feeling good about doing something positive, you’ll be benefiting the communities you do business in.
“When your company becomes actively engaged in each of the various communities that it serves, it not only benefits those communities, but also fosters a sense of accomplishment and commonality among co-workers and gives your business another dimension,” says Oscar H. Martinez, a senior vice president and business banking manager with Wells Fargo Bank.
Smart Business spoke with Martinez about how companies can take part in charitable endeavors and the various benefits that come with getting involved.
Where should executives look to get involved in the community?I think executives have to know and understand the needs of the community and find something that they as an individual have a passion for, as they will be more engaged and serve that charity or nonprofit with more vigor. In today’s wonderful age of technology, you can use Google as a resource to narrow down the various community organizations by category. In the end, it all comes back to a passion for a particular interest.
How do you get employees to buy in to community outreach programs?
Create team-building events around community service, which helps expose employees to various organizations and programs. It usually takes off from there. In different settings around your organization, talk about the various community organizations, and do this all year long, not just at certain times of the year. By talking about many different charities, you’ll find that most, if not all, of your employees have been touched by something that instills a passion for a certain cause. Therefore, they become champions of that cause through their own volunteerism.
The interesting thing is that when one person talks about his or her volunteer work, it kind of permeates through the rest of the company. Then, it becomes fun and a little competitive, with employees inviting one another to their community service projects. In the end, everyone is helping with each of the various community outreach programs.
What should CEOs know before getting involved in community activities?CEOs should understand that, from time to time, they will need to be flexible and give employees time to volunteer for certain events and projects. Time commitment is generally a large part of being actively involved and it may require some well-planned scheduling. Equally important would be to understand the needs of the various community groups so as to maximize the positive impact to them.
What challenges do employers confront when balancing business and community involvement?
As mentioned, the time commitments will require careful consideration and planning. Employers also should make sure they don’t let political or business alignment dictate which charity they work with. This definitely requires a balancing act, as the employer needs to maintain objectivity and separation of the two to avoid any conflicts or appearance of conflicts of interest.
What benefits will executives and employees gain when they are engaged in the community?
The benefits are both tangible and intangible. The greatest satisfaction is knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life in a positive manner. The tangible benefit is having the local population recognize that your company is engaged in the community and cares about the people of the community. Being genuine and sincere gives others a comfort level; they trust that you truly have their best interests at heart.
When people and businesses are fully engaged in the communities in which they live and work, the community tends to become stronger, economically and socially, which becomes a huge benefit for those executives and employees, as this is their community as well.
What enrichment will corporations experience, over time, as they reach out to the community?The more involved that corporations and their team members are in the community, the stronger those communities will become.
It truly is a team concept that is embraced by all and will make the community thrive and flourish. It is also a great example to the youth to get them involved early and eventually perpetuates itself. People tend to gravitate to those who are a positive influence in their lives and those around them.
I know it may sound like such a cliché, but it is all about people and building relationships, and the only way to do that is to get involved and stay involved.
Oscar H. Martinez is a senior vice president and business banking manager with Wells Fargo Bank. Reach him at (713) 284-5561 or Oscar.Martinez@wellsfargo.com.
Born: Houston, Texas
Education: Bachelor of business administration from Southern Methodist University; master’s degree in business administration; doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Texas. Morris also attended Harvard Law School’s Program of Instruction for Lawyers.
What was your first job?
Other than painting the fences and mowing the lawn at the house, it was making on-time deliveries around the company around age 10.
What would you do if you couldn’t have your current job?
Probably a builder. I think it’s a very fun thing to take something from nothing and see it completed. When you are dealing with something physical like that, I think it’s nice. Somebody moves in, you put the key in the door, you start utilizing what you built and I think that’s a very fulfilling experience for people.
What song would be the theme for your company?
With the way the real estate segment of our economy is going right now with homeowners’ issues, etc., I’m going to take Little Orphan Annie and say ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.’
I like Winston Churchill. He said it one way: Never, never, never, never, give up. I find that success comes through not stopping. I think it very important not to give up and to keep on keeping on.
The many, many people that stop short of the goal, they stop on the 10-yard line or the 5-yard line, and if they just kept pushing harder, they’d be in the end zone.
Born: Aurora, Ohio
First job: In retail sales selling for Sears
Education: Attended Rice University and the University of Houston
What has been your most difficult leadership challenge?
Leading my family. It’s the most rewarding and, at the same time, the most difficult. Leading your family is always a difficult thing because they are the ones closest to you. You are with them so much of the time and you face life’s challenges together. So, that leadership role of being a father or a parent is probably the most difficult.
How do you tap into employee potential?
What happens in that respect is (you have to create) an environment where people can fail. In fact, when I describe this to people, I always say, ‘Look, my goal is failure.’ They say, ‘What do you mean the goal is failure?’
I believe learning is just failing fast. You fail fast enough and, pretty soon, you learn what not to do. Before you know it, you’re doing what you should be doing. It’s kind of like, when a little baby is learning to grab something. You hold that rattle out in front of them. They miss to the left, then they miss to the right, then they get closer and closer and then they grab it. Before long, they are able to grab it with no problem.
But what happens is, the person grows up and they got their hand slapped too many times, so they are kind of afraid to fail.