You’ve probably learned the hard way not to communicate anything emotional in email because the medium tends to be tone deaf. No doubt you’ve also learned to overlook misspellings and shortened words in texts and tweets.
We’re certainly connecting more ways and more often. But are we connecting any better?
It’s hard to say. The challenge of effective communication is to trim the time between the exchange and the realization that the communication got through or wasn’t understood. In business, the sooner we know we’re not connecting, the sooner we can fix it.
Actual conversations are still the best way to communicate. Phone calls lead to less miscommunication than email. Why? Conversations — whether in person, by phone or via Skype — have built-in error detection and correction. You can hear the pause. You can see the puzzled look. You can explain. Communication is therefore successful.
Be sure you and your organization empower staff to ask when they aren’t clear on any communication — from any source.
According to a compilation of work trend studies, more than 77 percent of all employees do not trust their managers. Some 63 percent do not believe in what leaders say, and 83 percent believe that managers work just for their own benefits. Less than 40 percent of the workforce reports being “truly committed” to their boss or company.
If we don’t trust our bosses, aren’t committed to our workplaces and don’t value our community leaders, what hope do we have for the future of our economy?
One of the real catalysts for creating shared value within your company is to create an environment of trust and credibility to allow people to unleash their true potential. And because leadership is about people, passion, drive and communication, author Andreas Dudas suggests four major leadership objectives to begin to turn the tide of distrust and noncommittal employees:
■ Earn trust through credibility.
■ Ignite fire inside people.
■ Empower people.
■ Create a sense of purpose for employees.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld famously says, “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes. And the way to create better jokes is to write every day, which I do. Consistency is the secret to my success.”
The same can be said for top performers in any field. They are more consistent than their peers. Even after a particularly off week or a bad quarter, the most successful performers — that is, leaders — hit the ground running the next day.
They appreciate that leadership isn’t just being top dog. It’s not a position. Leadership is a practice — the practice of pushing the envelope, working all the angles, developing yourself and your team, striving for excellence — day after day, no matter what.
Your work ethic is the key to your success, no matter your field. It is appreciated, respected and it pays off. ●
David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.hardingpoorman.com.
Connect with David Harding on LinkedIn http://linkd.in/HCZpz3.
As we head into peak 2014 planning season, numerous digital marketing priorities will emerge. However, there is one that is quickly becoming the most important, as customers continue to drive a transformation across business. The amount of personalization possible is endless, and companies need to change traditional marketing practices to optimize the digital marketing opportunity.
Consider the following: The Direct Marketing Association in 2011 reported that for every dollar a marketer invests in email, the return on investment is approximately $40.
Both sides now
Social media provides an additional avenue to collect and analyze customer data to build comprehensive customer profiles that truly reflect preferences, lifestyle and personality. The data in these profiles is extremely actionable and can drive relevant communications, personalized experiences and custom offers that increase engagement. However, it is important to remember both sides of the consumer psyche.
Consider this quotation from Daniel Pink in Booz & Company’s article “How to Design a Winning Company”:
“I've since come to realize that empathy is related to understanding someone's emotional state or feelings, whereas perspective taking is much more cognitive and analytical — it's understanding someone's interests. I think interests are the key word here. The facts say that both perspective taking and empathy can enhance your understanding of someone else, but if you have to go with one, go with the analytical. I think the evidence says very clearly that people are able, especially in negotiation and sales situations, to reach a better deal for both sides when they're focused on interests.”
The quote points to one thing in the marketing world — responsible marketing — which is the one tenet that should be universal for all marketing agencies, technology firms and consultants.
Responsible marketing is our ability to leverage the massive amount of customer data to create a personalized experience for each individual customer. The value isn’t just from the marketing message itself; it’s from the intelligence and optimization in each that builds a 1-to-1 ongoing relationship with each customer that scales across the enterprise, builds brand loyalty and drives sales.
Personalization and using it
Traditional marketing has been about finding and utilizing empathy. You can watch any episode of AMC’s “Mad Men” to understand the beautiful and creative relationship between advertising and consumer empathy. In order to be creative, Don Draper, the lead character in “Mad Men,” had to understand the emotional drivers of the customer or at least give a good guess.
However, the world has changed. Personalization is becoming a central part to any marketing process. Empathy is only one part of the equation, and it is becoming smaller as technology advances. Do we have to understand the emotional state of a consumer? Of course.
Do we have to understand past sales data and behavior to truly relate? Absolutely.
Daniel Pink is right when he suggests that truly understanding someone’s interests is the essence of effective selling (and marketing). We must build strategy based on data and personalization to reach today’s hyperconnected, on-the-go consumer.
Kyle Lacy is senior manager, content marketing and research for ExactTarget. He is the author of Twitter Marketing for Dummies, Social CRM for Dummies, and Branding Yourself. For information, go to www.exacttarget.com.
Scott Moorehead use culture to drive success at The Cellular Connection to the tune of $600 million in salesWritten by Dennis Seeds
When Scott Moorehead became the CEO of The Cellular Connection in 2008, he thought culture was just what people knew about art.
“If you had culture, then you drank your coffee with your pinkie in the air,” he says. “I didn't know anything about culture. I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know if it was important or not.”
But after being in the driver’s seat for a short time, and networking with some other companies, he realized that a company culture was a crucial matter.
“Now I believe that no matter what your company sells, what it does, no matter how many inventions you have or patents you have, your only secret sauce that nobody can steal is your culture,” he says.
While you might say Moorehead’s mind-set makeover sounds like a dramatic enlightenment, it was more of a shift in what he knew about the company already but hadn’t quite put together all the pieces.
While growing up, the ebullient Moorehead knew that one day he was expected to take the reins of the company that was founded by his parents. So over time, he worked 32 positions in the organization — nearly every one — to earn his spot at the top so everyone would know it was not just given to him.
“Because of having worked my way up through the company, I could see there was a cultural difference between the people who worked in the stores, and the people who were in the corporate office, and the people who were in executive positions,” he says. “It didn't match, and it didn't feel like we were all on the same page. That was the feeling I got before I knew what culture was.”
The Cellular Connection is the largest Verizon premium retailer in the nation with more than 800 locations across 28 states. Annual revenue went from $191 million in 2009 to $606 million last year under Moorehead’s leadership. Here’s how the culture Moorehead drives plays a big part in the company’s success.
Make order out of chaos
Starting a company and building a culture from the ground up is one thing; merging two cultures is another matter; and the hardest job of all may be sorting out a disorganized culture. That’s what was facing Moorehead. The de facto culture created a lot of barriers walls that one had to hop over constantly to get things accomplished, and Moorehead realized it was a tall order.
“We didn't even talk the same language, man,” Moorehead says. “It was a constant battle because the stores were speaking a different language than the executives because the executives didn't have a lot of transparency at the time. They had the right intentions, but the transparency wasn’t there.”
Once Moorehead found the weaknesses in the primitive culture that was in effect, he took time to consider the journey ahead.
“You have to take a step back and look at what your values are,” he says. “Then you can build your culture around that. Trying to force a culture that doesn't exist, from a value perspective, is impossible.
“It's a constant battle to make sure that your culture is right and you have to do research, and you have to have opinions from all levels of the company, and you have to figure out how to get people to speak up on their own behalf. It's tough. Otherwise it's just one person's point of view. That's not really a culture; that's more of a directive.”
Moorehead’s major goal was to build one team out of several disconnected ones. That meant getting the big picture to be accepted by 1,400 employees.
“Somebody's got to raise the sail, and somebody's got to paddle, and somebody's got to steer, and somebody's got to make sure we are cooking the food to feed everybody who's hungry, to keep them healthy; it takes a crew to run this ship,” Moorehead says. “Everybody has a job — but everybody realizes everybody else's job is just as important.”
When you explain the big picture, it likely will be easy to get employees to buy in. Moorehead found that his good fortune was to follow the excellent vision his father, who co-founded the company with his mother, had laid down: he wanted a company where people wanted to come to work each day, he was not going to manage by intimidation, and there would be a family aspect of the company.
“When you put all that together — customers matter, employees matter, no management by intimidation, and family feel, and let's just make a company where people want to come to work, — and you say that out loud, it sounds like buzzword bingo!” Moorehead says. “So getting people to believe in it wasn't hard. It wasn't hard at all. Now, getting it actually executed is a whole different story. And that is hard.”
Let your culture be your filter
What makes it difficult to get everyone on the same company culture page is how each employee views his or her personal role in the process. So a key feature is to keep the explanation simple.
Moorehead conveys the message this way: the culture serves as a filter through which every decision must flow.
“You have to build the culture around what you believe in, making it the first thing that you filter all your decisions through,” he says. “It’s hard, because you have to try to get every person to do that. And without a doubt, it is not perfect here. You can’t have several thousand employees and make it perfect every time, but we are getting a heck of a lot closer.”
While you make the essence of culture real, make it regular as well. Repetition leads to mastering the process.
“You have to really make it habit,” Moorehead says. “If you can make it habit, then you've got a chance. But if you just talk about it just once a year, when the annual sales rally comes around, and you don't live it, then you've got no chance.”
Part of making the culture real is transparency when it comes to the company goals and how the team is going to reach those goals.
“I don't keep anything from anybody,” he says. “They know the corporate goals and they know where we are trying to get to and then ultimately, they need to know what every department is doing to help everybody to get to the same place, so we are all headed in the same direction, talking the same language. That makes everything pretty easy.”
One other cultural feature that can be effective is to appeal to employees on a family level.
“We do ultimately feel like we are a non-blood family, and when you feel like that, you feel like you want to help your family out,” Moorhead says. “I think they are absolutely bought into being part of bigger than just themselves.”
Nurture the entrepreneurial spirit
While it is not necessary for all employees to have it, an entrepreneurial spirit is sought for all high-level execs at The Cellular Connection.
“If you don't have an entrepreneurial spirit, then you probably should not come work here because you may not be completely fulfilled with your job,” Moorehead says. “We are not going to hand you a piece of paper with a bunch of boxes to check. And that's empowerment.”
With empowerment there is a lot of trust involved, so you have to hire the right people.
“Then every now and then, you have to check up on everybody and make sure things are smooth, but there is a ton of empowerment, and that is a thin line to walk on. Things can go awry pretty quickly and if you're not engaged, as a boss, you can have things fall apart on you very quickly.”
If you are not good at it, empowerment can become a reactionary style of management.
“But if you're taught how to be a great leader, and you're taught how to stay out front, and be that person who motivates the team and sets reachable goals and who works together with a plan that's built by everybody instead of just from the top down on how to achieve these things, then you can do it,” Moorehead says.
“It just takes the right person. Not every person is right to come work at our company. Not everybody likes it. But we have found that the people who we have brought on board have been yearning throughout their entire career to have their thoughts and their personality to be heard. It's like they've been set free.”
Moorehead cites the example of a TCC employee who was a new hire into a management position, but wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
“It took him a while to really jump into the fact that his opinion mattered now,” he says. “As soon as he figured that out, he developed a program called the Rock Star Sales Process. Customers have to feel like rock stars, that's the point.”
In short, his suggestion became the standard sale process for the company — and he got to be in charge of it.
“He was just beside himself with the fact that one good idea rolled into something that thousands of people across the country now use has their technique to do sales in our stores,” Moorehead says. •
- Make order out of chaos
- Let your culture be your filter
- Nurture the entrepreneurial spirit
The Morehead File:
Name: Scott Moorehead
Company: The Cellular Connection
Birthplace: I was born and raised in Marion, Ind.
Education: I'm a Boilermaker. I went to Purdue University, and I graduated from the school of business, majoring in business management.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job ever was bagging groceries at a grocery store. No tips. This was beyond the days of tips. I learned that I didn't want to do that kind of job forever. My first, I would say, job was for my dad on the wire line side, when we were pulling in local area networks. I didn't know any better at that point in time, so when I got to work, I worked hard. And not everybody liked the fact that I worked my butt off. It was like maybe you should slow down and have a cigarette, or something, man. But I don't smoke! One of the jobs that I worked the whole summer was when we were wiring the state hospital in Richmond. There are several buildings that are 100 years old and I had to work through difficult spaces. I told my dad, this wasn't all that great, and he said, “If you don't graduate from business school at Purdue, this is what you're going to do the rest of your life!”
What was the best business advice you ever received? A lot of the guiding principles that I use as a manager, and I feel like I'm a pretty good manager, a pretty good leader, have been from my dad. My mom and dad, Phyllis and Steve Moorehead, shared a lot of the same practices. My dad told me you always take care of the company and the company will take care of you — essentially, don't make selfish decisions. That's the fastest way to lose your staff. This is business advice that you can't just send to everybody; this is from an ownership perspective. But I have given the same advice to my leaders, and I think it's worked for them.
Who do you admire in business? There have been several people who made an impact on me, in a lot of different ways. My dad, first and foremost; both my mom and dad actually. In my early years at Verizon, I had a lot of people who had a positive effect on me. Nick Pyros had a huge impact on me, and a woman who is actually the COO of Verizon Wireless now, Marni Walden. Every time I am around her I seem to take way something from her that makes me better. Then from an ownership standpoint, and building your business from small to big, I've latched on to a guy who I have partnered with recently, and his name is Marcelo Claure, founder of Brightstar Corp. He is an amazing business person. If there is one person on the planet who was in the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent of business people, it's him. Being in the same room with him and watching how he conducts himself is like getting a master’s degree.
What is your definition of business success? A lot of people ask me what my goals are, and when I want to quit or move on, or do something different or whatever, and I say, man, I wake up every single morning, and I want to come to work and have fun, and I do. And the day that I wake up and am absolutely sick of this whole thing, then I know it's time to quit. But I've never felt like that. Ever. I mean every single day since I have started this, I've never dreaded going to work. Ever. Not once. It didn't matter what's going on. It's fun around here. I don't have a financial resolution or any particular saying other than I want to stick to my morals, and I want to come to work. Those other two things that I feel like if I can stick to that, then I have success.
The Cellular Connection Social Media Links:
How to reach: The Cellular Connection, (765) 651-2001 or www.ecellularconnection.com
If you were to assemble some of the world’s outstanding business leaders in one place and ask them their secret to sleeping well at night amid the pressures of running a successful business, you might think you’d collect the best tips to handling anxiety in the business world.
The truth is that top business leaders often don’t have a secret to reveal — they rely on the strength and confidence they’ve developed over the years.
At the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference, held earlier this year in Monaco, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners assembled to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
We took the opportunity to collect the thoughts of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem solvers — about dealing with worries. ●
“There’s nothing that keeps me up at night. I sleep very well. The challenge we have as a company is to keep delivering the culture we have created and expand it, keep evolving at the speed our customers expect us to evolve and keep creating value for them as we have for the past 10 years.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“The main thing is to make sure that we are always looking for new, creative ideas that keep our business updated with new technology and creativity. The other thing is making sure we are working faster than before.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“Business has its highs and lows, because let’s face it, it’s not easy. It has its challenges. They asked Steve Jobs what was the most important thing in business and he said, ‘Passion.’ If you don’t have passion you would give up when things get difficult. We have so much passion and love for what we do that it becomes a part of our life.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 World Entrepreneur Of The Year
“What if the stock market crashes? What if there is some unknown thing that happens? What if there’s another 9/11 type of situation? Companies need to carry on, but maybe they don’t need to do events. Maybe they cut back on entertainment and speakers. The worry is what happens if something happens that I can’t control.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“We are in recovering times. I feel very positive about the economy in general, but I’m still very worried about Europe. And while we are recovering, it’s still choppy and choppy times are times when there are more needs out there.”
Retired global chairman and CEO
"I guess there is a point in my life where I thought it is all about me, and I am going to be the guy that guides everything and controls everything. What I have learned is that the best thing that I have done for our business is learn to let go and learn to get people who are better equipped to manage specific areas, do their thing and not get in the way."
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“Nothing keeps me awake at night becase my work is solid.
My father married at 60 and my mother was 23. They had four children. Then he died, and we quickly had to start thinking about what to do. There was no money — nothing. We had to leave the little town we lived in because of violence there. Thanks to that, I am where I am right now because I still could be on the streets of my village selling tobacco. There is no wrong that can do good. That's what I have to teach people.”
founder and president
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.
I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.
Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.
A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.
Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.
Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.
As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.
Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7078.
When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.
While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.
They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.
Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.
And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.
You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?
During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●
What would it take for a company to succeed if its leader could effectively do only one of the following: innovate, instigate or administrate? We all know that an innovator is the one who sees things that aren’t and asks why not? The instigator sees things that are and asks why? The administrator doesn’t necessarily ask profound questions but, instead, is dogged about crossing the “t’s,” dotting the “i’s” and making sure that whatever is supposed to happen happens.
Ideally, a top leader combines all three traits while being charismatic, intellectual, pragmatic and able to make decisions faster than a speeding bullet. Although some of us might fantasize that we are Superman or Superwoman, with a sense of exaggerated omnipotence, the bubble usually bursts when we’re confronted simultaneously with multiple situations that require the versatility of a Swiss army knife.
Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes with various skill sets and styles that are invaluable, depending on the priorities of a company at any given point in time.
Every business needs an innovator to differentiate the company. Without a unique something or other, there isn’t a compelling reason to exist. Once those special products or services that distinguish the business from others are discovered and in place, it takes an instigator to continuously re-examine and challenge every aspect of the business that leads to continued improvements, both functionally and economically. It also takes an administrator — someone who can keep all the balls in the air, ensuring that everyone in the organization is in sync and delivering the finished products as promised to keep customers coming back.
As politicians and pundits of all types have pounded into our heads in recent years, “It takes a village to raise a child.” All who practice the art and science of business have learned that, instead of a village, it takes a diverse team working together to make one plus one equal three.
On the ideal team, each member possesses different strengths, contributing to the greater good. The exceptional leader is best when he or she is an effective chef who knows how to mix the different skills together to create a winning recipe.
In many companies, however, leaders tend to surround themselves with clones who share similar abilities, interests and backgrounds. As an example, a manufacturer may have a management team comprised solely of engineers, or a marketing organization could have salespeople who came up through the ranks calling all the shots.
If everyone in an organization comes from the same mold, what tends to happen is, figuratively, one lies and the others swear to it. This builds to a crescendo of complacency and perpetual mediocrity.
There is a better way. Good leaders surround themselves with others who complement their capabilities, and savvy leaders select those with dramatically different backgrounds who will challenge their thinking because they’re not carbon copies of the boss. This opens new horizons, forges breakthroughs and leads to optimal daily performance.
Strange bedfellows can stimulate, nudge and keep each other moving toward the previously unexplored.
To have a sustainable and effective organization, you can’t have one type without all the others. While everyone on the team may not always agree, each player must always be committed to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
The single most important skill of the leader who has to pull all the pieces and parts together is to have the versatility of that Swiss army knife — selecting the precise tool to accomplish the objective at hand. ●
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. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 800 years ago, medieval philosopher Maimonides outlined eight levels of charity, the greatest of which was supporting an individual in such a way that he or she becomes independent. In Maimonides’ view, support was defined as a gift or loan, entering into a partnership or simply helping that person find employment.
Few things are more powerful than philanthropy — especially when its end goal is to better the lives of others. These days, philanthropy, and corporate philanthropy specifically, has assumed a broader role in society.
Today, companies give back more strategically than ever before. They align themselves with nonprofits that foster missions they believe in. The wealthiest people on the planet have even coordinated the Giving Pledge (www.givingpledge.org), where they’ve committed to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
At last count, more than 115 people had taken the pledge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be the most prominent names on the list, but others include Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert, Progressive’s Peter Lewis and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings.
Last month, one member, David Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, discussed the importance of philanthropy during a presentation at EY’s 2013 Strategic Growth Forum.
In his pledge letter, Rubenstein explains why: “I recognize to have any significant impact on an organization or cause, one must concentrate resources, and make transformative gifts — and to be involved in making certain those gifts actually transform in a positive way.”
One way Rubenstein is being transformative is through “Patriotic Philanthropy.” He has given $10 million to help restore President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and underwrote renovations to the historic Washington Monument. Yet Rubenstein’s most noteworthy initiative is the whopping $23 million to acquire a rare copy of the Magna Carta, ensuring it remained in the United States. After its purchase, Rubenstein gifted it to the National Archives.
Not everyone has Rubenstein’s vast resources. But every organization and any individual can make their own impact.
In the workplace, for example, organizations that give back elevate their status perception-wise among competitors and peers. It doesn’t take much. But by being a company that cares, prospective employees want to work for you. For your existing team, deliberate and well-organized corporate philanthropy programs quickly take on a life of their own, becoming a rallying point.
Think strategically and get started by finding your cause. We all have them. They exist at our very core, forming the belief system we live by every day. So why shouldn’t our philanthropy follow that same course? Consider aligning your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something that is close to your employees’ hearts.
Most important, get involved and just make a difference. It really comes down to that. One initiative that has always impressed me has been the annual CreateAthon event undertaken by WhiteSpace Creative, a member of the Pillar Award class of 2005. You can read a first-hand account of this year’s program here.
Being a good corporate citizen goes well beyond making good business sense. When you align yourself with causes you care about, whether big or small, you make a difference in someone’s life. And the bottom line is this: It is all of our duties to get involved. It’s no longer a question of if, but rather of what, when and how. ●
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
First, the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) health insurance exchange was delayed. That was followed by a delay in the release of community ratings for small group programs. On top of that, there’s confusion about whether businesses with less than 50 employees, which are not governed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate to provide health insurance, can utilize health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) to buy individual coverage.
“The ACA places significant limitations on HRAs, and they are the only vehicle these companies have to distribute dollars employees can use to pay for premiums. The question is whether businesses that are exempt from the mandate are impacted by other aspects of the ACA. There will need to be some guidance as to whether it applies,” says William F. Hutter, CEO of Sequent.
The delays and uncertainty have left small businesses with few options for health insurance at a time when they need to finalize plans for 2014.
“That inherently creates a violation of rules because there’s a 60-day notice requirement to inform employees of any plan changes,” Hutter says. “We think the notice will be interpreted so that companies might be able to make a plan change, but not a cost change — the employer would have to pick up any difference. But that factor also has to be determined.”
Smart Business spoke with Hutter about problems with the rollout of the ACA exchanges and how reform continues to affect businesses of all sizes.
Should the 19 million people who were told their coverage was terminated have been surprised?
That was known back in 2010; it was written about. Plans were cancelled because the ACA changed requirements for insurers and the plans they provide. Plans are not only registered on a federal level but also on a state-by-state basis. Each state has a department of insurance to oversee plans and rate structures. A carrier needs to meet new requirements under ACA and state mandates, but when a plan design is changed, it is no longer grandfathered. It has to be terminated or withdrawn, and a new plan is submitted and approved. Whether this will be true going forward is uncertain.
If you are self-insured, the opportunity to keep the same plan is greater. Companies that self-insure can continue their plans as long as they don’t make significant changes.
Are self-insurance plans exempt from many ACA requirements?
Yes, that’s why companies have been exploring the option of self-funding arrangements. It’s a strange set of rules, but you can choose to cover or not cover certain things as long as they aren’t considered minimum essential coverage requirements. However, you can’t do it in a limited way; you can’t decide to cover autism, but only up to $10,000 a year. You have to choose to not cover it or cover it completely.
What self-funding does is create more predictability for companies because they purchase a stop-loss policy to limit their liability. Health insurance costs will continue to rise because of an aging demographic. The plan design can help keep increases to 4 to 6 percent annually instead of 30 or 40 percent.
Is that option also available to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees?
It can be, although you can’t do it like a big company would because a small employer doesn’t have the numbers to mitigate the risk of large claims.
Self-insurance is a design plan issue. Being self-insured with a specific stop-loss point might work. If you have 30 employees, you can have a stop-loss of $10,000 each. Then you need to figure out your actuarial funding for it and reserve that amount to pay for claims and expected losses. If you have a healthy group, it makes sense.
Small businesses also can join a pool for health insurance. That’s a service HR consultants or chambers of commerce provide, through an aggregation model, for clients or members to get health care. They don’t provide health care but establish a contractual arrangement with a company that does.
But the problem with the ACA is that new information is coming so quickly, and it takes months to rethink your health insurance strategy. This will continue to be difficult for companies to work through. ●
Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent
Twelve years ago, EY decided to go global with its Entrepreneur Of The Year awards and establish the World Entrepreneur Of The Year program — and the results have been, shall we say, an international success. The conference, held annually in Monaco, features Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners competing for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
Assembling business leaders from around the world in one place to be honored is a huge accomplishment — the wealth of experience, as well as the variety of successful leadership styles, is outstanding.
Here are some thoughts from the collection of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem-solvers — about leadership styles. ●
“I built the company based on people, not on experience from before. They were willing to learn and try anything. We had a bunch of people who had never done this before. None of us had run companies. None of us had worked in high levels of companies. None of us were from Fortune 500s. Chobani not only became a business that grew, but Chobani was like a school to us, including myself.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 Entrepreneur Of The World
“Early on, the business was centered on me, and I had to make all the decisions alone. Now I share those decisions with my 10 main directors. If there are differences in opinion, I make the last decision.
The other thing is that I have had to ensure that the people who are invited to work here are people with principles, values, integrity, responsibility and passion. If I don’t see a person with passion, they don’t hang around the company very long.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“I’m a very passionate person, which will never change. When you grow, you gain more experience and the kind of problems you face change. As you grow, you need to grow with your organization.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“In the startup days, you have to be very innovative, hire and retain talent, refine your business as you deploy in the marketplace, and you learn things from it. Today, with a solid track record of business success, I can focus on what’s next and think more strategic and long-term than you’re allowed to in the early days. My style has evolved as the business has matured.”
Chevron Energy Solutions
“Entrepreneurship and leadership is about always having ideas, knowing that it is possible even though everyone says it is too difficult. Maintain the positive and always have new ideas.”
Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Marroquinera
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
“To keep the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship alive once you've got past the startup base, I think it is making sure people understand why they are there. There are always things you can do to improve your business. You should be rethinking and retooling it every chance you get. The key thing is to make sure everybody in the organization understands the story, where are you going — how are you going to get there? And the belief that you are doing the right thing —people want to know their purpose. Keep the energy going, keep a strong sense of purpose.”
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. Why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs? That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”
President and CEO
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
“I like to be involved. I want to know everything that is going on. But I have to delegate to my team. That was the biggest adjustment for me, and it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s that delegating to others, trusting them and reinventing yourself. Now that we’ve grown, I put more responsibility on my team and rely on my team more than I once did.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“If someone makes a mistake, what do you do? You laugh with them. You don’t yell at them. You laugh. It just keeps things light and lively and people want to do their very best. You let them know they screwed up, but you also let them know it’s OK.”
National Heritage Academies