Indianapolis (1038)

Richard Branson is full of big ideas. The man who founded six companies that each rake in more than $1 billion annually dares to think big. For him, it’s all about the experience, making a difference and not doing things the same way as the competition. An idea captures his imagination and he sets out to turn it into reality.

For him, it’s not about the money. It never has been.

When he sees a situation where he thinks he can make a difference in people’s lives, he looks for a way to make a difference. He understands that “why” he is doing it is more important than the “what” or the “how.”

Author and consultant Simon Sinek agrees (see video link). He explains that Apple is wildly successful at what it does not because it can build computers better than anyone else but because it understands “why” it is doing so. It’s not that the competition doesn’t know what it is doing or that it doesn’t have talented people creating good products. It’s just that Apple understands why it is in business and focuses its message on that instead of what it does — which is build electronic devices.

Sinek says that people like to do business with people who believe what they believe, so they buy more on the “why you do it” rather than what you are actually doing. Notice that profits are secondary. If you do things the right way for the right reasons, profits come naturally.

You might already have a big idea for your business, but it will most likely never reach its full potential unless you understand why you are doing it. Have you ever stopped to think about why you are in business or why you are doing what you are doing? It can be an enlightening exercise.

With the demands of daily business, we seldom stop to think about the reasons behind our actions, and if we do think about it, the answer is often “to turn a profit.” But to what end?

When you understand why you are trying to make a profit and the answer goes beyond simple wealth, then you are getting to the heart of what differentiates a good business from a great one. Maybe the reason why is a social issue, such as eliminating hunger, or maybe it’s a medical issue, such as curing a disease. But it doesn’t have to be grand. The “why” can be something like “making computers easy for everyone to use.” The important part isn’t the scope; it’s understanding your business’s basic reason for existence.

When you’ve taken the time to understand that, your business will have the potential to do great things because employees and customers alike can unite around a common understanding.

It’s why Apple is a great company and it’s why Richard Branson is wildly successful. If you’re already doing it, you’re on your way. If not, take the time to think about it.

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

Tuesday, 25 December 2012 11:29

4 necessary skills for managing people

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According to Merriam-Webster, management is “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.” While “controlling” is a bit harsh in my book, the definition is correct in it's focus on management of people. To be a good manager or team leader, you have to have an above average interest in people. Success in management is found in the relationship developed between leader and team.

The best managers see themselves as catalysts. They become that agent or force that provokes or speeds significant change or action. These managers get things done quickly by leading with solid people skills.

Here are 4 people skills that every good manager must possess:

1. Understanding the right way to give a critique.

The worst thing you can do if you want to get someone to listen to you is to criticize.

As human beings, we hate to be criticized. When we feel attacked, we usually attack back – even when we are in the wrong. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking “I know I am right and I am going to prove it to you.”

Over the years I have learned that this way of thinking simply does not work.

A good manager has the self-control and presence of mind to put aside the needs of his own ego and say “I've got a problem, will you help me?” Enlisting cooperation in this manner will always lead to better results.

2. Understanding the need to help.

If someone comes in to criticize you or to raise your game, under what circumstances would you be willing to accept the critique?

The answer for me is simple. If I think someone is really trying to help me, then I'll engage and listen.

On the other hand, if I feel that the person is just trying to get the job done or make himself look good, I may listen, but my heart will not be in it. My interest and creative energies will be lost.

The truth of the matter is: Managers will only have influence over their people to the extent that their people think they are sincerely trying to help them. It is simply the way human beings work. Good managers truly care about their team and work hard to help them.

3. Understanding no two people are the same.

As a manager, you do not influence everybody the same way. People do things for their own reasons – not for others and not for you.

Inspiring people to your company vision happens best when you help them to see what's in it for them. This varies from person to person. It is your job to discover what things motivate each member of your team.

Some people are motivated by a challenge, some by money and others by recognition.

It is about reading their needs, desires and wants and then leading in such a way that ensures their success at obtaining them.

4, Understanding the best way to get tasks completed.

An effective manager realizes that each time he has an interaction with someone about a task, there are two things going on:

a. A discussion about the task and how to get it done.

b. The way in which the interaction affects the managers relationship with the collegue.

The first is pretty straightforward, but it's success is determined by the tenor of the second.

It must be said that the task should not be sacrificed for the relationship at all costs. It must also be said that winning on the task is not good if the manager ruins the relationship. Both are important and the manager must do well in each area.

I refer again to the need for the manager to develop relationships with the team in order to understand the best way to get things done according to individual members needs, desires and strengths.

In the end, good managers know how to use their influence and power to help others achieve beyond their wildest dreams.

I like management guru Tom Peters' definition of power:

“My definition of power is understanding that all of managing — and this comes out of the old grade school book — is the notion of doing more than you and I can do by ourselves; that is, doing things through other people.”

He goes on to say:

“If you are interested in getting things done effectively and imaginatively through other people then what you're trying to do in the workplace is exactly what you're trying to do on the football field – which is to get people who work with you to achieve beyong their wildest dreams.”

Workplace managers understand that good people skills determine their success. They work hard to develop the skills needed to lead in ways that shows their interest in people.

DeLores Pressleymotivational 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 atinfo@delorespressley.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.

Monday, 31 December 2012 20:58

What you might not know about health care reform

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Health care reform is on the way, with most mandates starting in 2014, but it will be 20 or 30 years before we really know how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will work, says William F. Hutter, president and CEO of Sequent.

“That creates much uncertainty for small and middle-market companies.

They don’t know what to do. And that uncertainty is bad for the economy and it is bad for business. When business owners can’t make decisions, it’s bad for all of us,” says Hutter.

Smart Business spoke with Hutter about some of the lesser-known aspects of the PPACA.

What are the minimum participation standards?

There are two standards for minimum participation:

• 80 percent of all eligible employees must take coverage from the employer.

• 70 percent of net eligible employees must take coverage from the employer.

Net eligible employees won’t include those who decide to get coverage from a spouse’s plan.

A really unique caveat about this is that if a company cannot maintain those participation requirements, technically no carrier has to write it coverage. That would force the company into a state health care exchange because it would be unable to provide a health insurance program for employees.

You could try to increase employee participation by improving the plan, but then the cost goes up and the company can’t afford it. Or the cost goes up and somebody can go to the state health care exchange and get a subsidized plan for less.

A lot of companies with between 75 and 150 employees are really going to be challenged. If they can’t meet minimum participation requirements and can’t afford to design a plan to compete with the exchange, they can give up and let everybody go to the exchange. But then they have to pay a $2,000, per employee, nondeductible penalty. For a company with 100 full-time equivalents (FTEs), that’s a $200,000 tax and they still don’t have a health plan.

How can companies that provide adequate health insurance still wind up paying penalties?

Say I run a company that has more than 50 FTEs and I’m offering a good health care plan. However, because of the subsidies that are offered, an individual opts out of my health care plan and instead seeks out insurance from a state exchange. A family of four can earn up to $80,000 and get a subsidy for buying on the exchange. I could still wind up paying a $3,000 penalty if I have an employee who opts out.

So companies will be weighing whether it costs more to provide health care or simply pay the penalty?

Correct. If that’s the case, how does that impact my company culture and how do I want to take care of my employees and their families? We don’t know how some of those questions are going to manifest. Or the fact that, as an employee, I get my health care out of an exchange, therefore I can go to work anywhere I want to. That begins to break down the loyalty factors between employees and companies.

What impact will the PPACA have on health insurance costs?

Based on the average cost of $440 per month for an individual, 75 percent is used for claims. That means the remaining 25 percent, or $110, goes for administration costs, profits, compensation, rents and other expenses related to the health care plan. The legislation says that 85 percent of every dollar must be used to pay claims. In order to maintain that same $110 a month, the cost for an individual goes up to $730; it’s just a reverse calculation. This can be attributed to the legislation and how it ultimately impacts the medical loss ratios.

William F. Hutter is president and CEO at Sequent. Reach him at (888) 456-3627 or bhutter@sequent.biz.

Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent

Companies typically want to do what’s right for those they serve. Key priorities should be customers, investors, employees and the communities in which the company is located — but not necessarily always in this order. The dilemma, however, is that many times short-term decisions can prove to be long-term problems that cause more pain than the initial gain.

It’s difficult to make all constituents happy every time. As a result, management must prioritize decisions with a clear understanding that each action has ramifications, which could manifest themselves in the short, intermediate or long term. Seldom does a single decision serve all of the same timelines. There are no easy answers and anyone who has spent even a short amount of time running a business has already learned this fact of life. So what’s a leader to do?

It’s a sure bet that investors want a better return, employees want more money and benefits, and customers want better quality products, higher levels of service and, oh yes, lower prices. This simply all goes with the territory and is a part of the game. The problem can be that, most times, it’s hard to give without taking something away from someone else. Here are a couple of examples.

Take the case of deciding to improve employee compensation packages. Ask the auto companies what happened when they added a multitude of perks over the years, as demanded by the unions? The auto titans thought they didn’t have much choice, lest they run the risk of alienating their gigantic workforces. History has shown us the ramifications of their actions as the majority of these manufacturers came close to going belly up, which would have resulted in huge job losses and an economic tsunami.

Basic math caused the problems. The prices charged for cars could not cover all of the legacy costs that accrued over the years, much like barnacles building up on the bottom of a ship to the point where the ship could sink from the weight. Hindsight is 20/20, and, of course, the auto companies should have been more circumspect about creating benefit packages that could not be sustained. Yes, the employees received an increase to their standard of living for a time anyway, but at the end of the day, a company cannot spend more than it takes in and stay in business for long.

Investors in public companies can present a different set of problems because they can have divergent objectives. There are the buy-and-hold investors, albeit a shrinking breed, who understand that for a company to have long-term success, it must invest in the present to build for the future. The term “immediate gratification” is not in their lexicon; they’re in it for the long haul. Another type of investor might know or care little about a company’s future, other than whether its earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates. These investors buy low and sell high, sometimes flipping the stock in hours or days. And, actually, both types are doing what’s right for them. The issue becomes how to serve the needs and goals of both groups. When a company effectively articulates its strategy, it tends to attract the right type of investors who are buying in for the right reason. This will avoid enticing the wrong investors who turn hostile because they want something that the company won’t deliver.

When interviewing and before hiring employees, it is imperative that candidates know where the company wants to go and how it plans to get there. Many times, this means telling the prospective newbie that the short-term compensation and benefits may not be as good as the competitors’ down the street, but in the longer term, the company anticipates being able to significantly enhance employee packages, with the objective of eventually outmatching the best payers because of the investments in equipment being made today.

The key to satisfying employees (present and prospective), investors, et al, is communicating the types of decisions a company will make over a specific period of time. Communication from the get-go is integral to the rules of engagement and can alleviate huge problems that can otherwise lead to dissatisfaction.

Knowing what is right for your company, based on your stated plan that has been well-communicated, will help ensure that you do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 03 December 2012 17:04

8 bad work habits to avoid

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In our world of quick text missives, sharing the daily joke via inner office email, and generally more relaxed workplaces, informality can become a workplace hazard. Studies show that employers and managers often assess an employee’s career potential based on how that employee carries himself or herself in the workplace. None of us wants to be judged by the externals, but our respective “book covers” matter.

Poor manners at work – however unintentional - can lead to workplace conflict because they distract fellow employees from working or, in the worst cases, offend co-workers who have differing viewpoints and cause potential legal liability for the employer.

Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid these 8 bad work habits:

  1. Talking loudly on telephones and in person in common areas.
  2. Interjecting comments into conversations between other employees, unless your opinion is solicited.
  3. Taking supplies – even if they were bought by the office – from other employee’s work areas without getting prior approval.
  4. Wearing perfume that can be smelled even after you leave an area.
  5. Gossiping about co-workers or people outside the workplace.
  6. Sharing racial, religious or sexual jokes in any format.
  7. Arriving late to meetings.
  8. Regularly using large chunks of work time to resolve personal and family matters.

Most employees want to be viewed as valuable, contributing members of the company team. Thus, it’s worthwhile to periodically assess our workplace demeanor and, perhaps, adjust our behaviors, to help convey that image. Your future with your employer likely depends on it.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

One of the signs of a boom — or at least a boomlet — is that companies start wanting to drive their competition crazy. This occurs when “survival” is no longer an issue and optimization or maximization can become a goal. However, the desire to do things to the competition can lead a company astray — or drive it to even greater heights.

Companies go astray when defeating the competition becomes more important than taking care of customers. When companies become obsessed with the pursuit of excellence, by contrast, they often reach new levels of greatness. Here’s how to avoid the former and achieve the latter.

1. Know thyself. Before you can drive your competition crazy, you have to understand what your company stands for. Otherwise, you’ll succeed only in driving yourself crazy. For example, Apple stands for cool technology. It will never represent a CIO’s safe bet, an “enterprise software company,” or service and support. If it decided it wanted to drive Microsoft crazy by sucking up to CIOs, it would drive itself crazy — that is, if it didn’t perish trying.

2. Know thy customer. The second step is to truly understand what your customer wants from you — and, for that matter, what it doesn’t want from you. One thing that your customer seldom wants to do is to help you drive your competition crazy. That’s in your head, not your customer’s. One more thing: A good company listens to what a customer says it wants. A great company anticipates what a customer needs — even before the customer knows it wants it.

3. Know thy enemy. You cannot drive your competition crazy unless you understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You should become your competition’s customer by buying its products and services. I never truly understood what it was like to be a customer of Microsoft until I bought a Sony Vaio and used Windows. Sure, I had read many comparisons and competitive analyses, but they were nothing compared with hands-on usage.

4. Focus on the customer. Here’s what most people find surprising: The best way to drive your competition crazy is to succeed because your success, more than any action, will drive your competition crazy. And the way you become successful is not by figuring out what you can do to the competition but for the customer. You succeed at doing things for the customer by using the knowledge that you’ve gained in the first three steps: understanding what you do, what your customer wants and needs and what your competition doesn’t do. At the intersection of these three factors lies the holy grail of driving your competition crazy. For most companies, the key to driving the competition crazy is out-innovating, out-servicing or out-pricing it.

5. Turn customers into evangelists. There are few things that drive a competitor more crazy than unpaid customers who are evangelists for a company. Create a great product or service, put it out there (“let a hundred flowers blossom”), see who falls in love with it, open up your arms to them (they will come running to you), and then take care of them. It’s that simple.

6. Make good by doing good. Doing good has its own, very sufficient rewards, but sometimes you can make good and do good at the same time. For example, if you own a chain of hardware stores, you can help rebuild a community after a natural disaster. You’re bound to get a lot of publicity and create bonds with the community — this will drive your competition crazy. And you’ll be doing something good!

7. Turn the competition into allies. One way to get rid of your competition is to drive it out of business. I suppose this might be attractive to you, but a better way is to turn your competition into allies. My favorite author of children’s books is Tomie DePaola. My favorite DePaola book is “The Knight and the Dragon.” This is the story of a knight and a dragon that train to slay each other. They are smashingly unsuccessful at doing battle and eventually decide to go into business together. Using the dragon’s fire-breathing ability and the knight’s salesmanship, they create the K & D Bar-B-Q. For example, if a Home Depot opens up next to your hardware store, let it sell the gas barbecues, and you refill people’s propane tanks.

8. Play with their minds. If you’re doing all this positive, good stuff, then it’s OK to have some fun with your competition — that is, to intentionally play with their minds. Here are some examples to inspire you:

  • Hannibal once had his soldiers tie bundles of brush to the horns of cattle. At night, his soldiers lit the brushwood on fire, and Hannibal’s Roman enemies thought that thousands of soldiers were marching towards them.
  • A pizza company that was entering the Denver market for the first time ran a promotion offering two pizzas for the price of one if customers brought in the torn-out phone directory ad of its competition.
  • A national hardware store chain opened up right next to a longtime community hardware store. After a period of depression and panic, the store owner came up with a very clever ploy. He put up a sign on the front of his store that said, “Main Entrance.”

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

Monday, 03 December 2012 16:28

Giving back: How much charity is enough?

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While attending an event we put on with a local charity, I was impressed with the difference that seemingly minor things can make in someone’s life. I was proud of the contribution and effort that our employees put into the event and the dedication the nonprofit showed for its mission.

The event made me think about the business community and all of the wonderful things companies do for those in need. Take the recent destruction from Hurricane Sandy as an example. Businesses have pledged more than $90 million in assistance, two-thirds of which was monetary donations to organizations like the American Red Cross.

While companies give back in as many ways as possible, even during these difficult economic times, I was wondering if there wasn’t more that could be done in our local communities. Not every effort has to always include a financial component.

Here are some nonfinancial ways to give back in addition to what you already do for the community:

  • Give more time. Some organizations have a greater need for man-hours in addition to financial backing. Your business may already give generously on the financial side, but maybe your favorite charity could use a labor boost as well. Nationally, about 35 percent of companies have some sort of formal volunteer program. Consider donating employee time to help out with a big project or basic cleaning and organizing.
  • Offer advice. You probably already serve on one or more boards for a nonprofit, but there is always another charity out there that could use your help. You don’t have to become a full-fledged board member, but you can offer advice as needed to help the existing members navigate through a problem that plays to your strengths. If the nonprofit is looking for a board member and you don’t have the time, help it find the right person by making a recommendation or referral.
  • Hire nontraditional employees. One way of giving back to the community is helping others help themselves. There are many skilled employees with either physical or mental disabilities that could be a great addition to your company if given the chance. When you have a job opening, make sure you are considering all candidates, including those from nontraditional backgrounds.
  • Do pro bono work. If you can provide a service that a nonprofit needs, consider donating it. Marketing, printing, IT services — basically anything an office needs is probably something a charity could use. Find out what the nonprofit could use, then figure out a way to help out. Even if your company can’t help, maybe you know someone else who can.

In this season of giving, it’s not hard to find a worthy cause. There’s also no question that you and your company have most likely already given a lot, assuming you are in a position to do so. But there’s an old question that asks, “How much charity is enough?” The answer is easy: Just a little more.

Take the time to evaluate whether you can do just a little more than what you are already doing to make an even bigger difference.

If you are in search of a worthy cause, consider donating to The Pillar Fund, a donor-advised fund administered through the Cleveland Foundation. For more information, contact Dustin Klein at dsklein@sbnonline.com.

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

Whenever Randy Reichmann needs to illustrate to his managers that what works for one person may not work as well for others — and that there may be other options — he usually talks about sifting flour.

“A mother and a daughter were making cookies at home, and they were getting ready to sift flour,” he says. “The young girl pulled out a fine-mesh strainer … and I remember, this is how my mom did it. She just pushed the flour through it with a fork.

“But the mom said, ‘Oh no, honey. That’s not how you sift flour.’ She reached under the counter and brought out a sifter with a little hand crank. Then she poured the flour in and sifted the flour while she turned the crank. The little girl said, ‘No, Mom. That’s how you sift flour.’

“The question is, if you didn’t see either person sift flour, would the cookie taste any different? The answer is no. The point is there is more than one way to do things.”

The advice that Reichmann, president and CEO of the Indiana region of Old National Bank, gives to new managers follows that mold — that they have to figure out what motivates people to do the things that need to be done in a way that they are comfortable doing.

“That’s really the message,” he says. “Young managers should not just expect people to do the things the ways they did them — but they should help them find the ways that they can do them and still be successful. That takes time.”

There is one way to deal with problems, and that is directly, Reichmann says.

“You deal with them head on,” he says. “You have to be careful, too. I learned this lesson: It is one thing to have a positive attitude, but you can’t wear rose-colored glasses because there are real problems that come up, and you have to deal with those.”

Here’s how Reichmann learned how to look at problems through colorless lenses and teach his executives to do likewise as they confront challenges at Old National Bank, an institution with corporate assets of about $10 billion and 2,300 employees.

Make over your mindset

Surviving a traumatic event can help people develop resilience and the coping mechanisms to deal with the challenge — just as it was with Reichmann.

His experience with an economic crisis gave him the tools to help him and his staff survive future crises. Reichmann was managing about 125 people at an out-of-state bank group when the real estate market crashed as a result of out-of-control speculation, and he had to take action. He was trying to keep the organization afloat while at the same time trying to continue to conduct business as usual. But it was difficult, and he says he drove to work each morning wondering which deal was going to crash that day and what the resulting losses were going to be.

Banks and thrifts had to work hard to prevent panic among the public as well as among financial organizations’ employees. To combat the fear, Reichmann called a leadership meeting.

“It was an interesting meeting to me because it had nothing to do with banking and had everything to do with helping people deal with adversity,” he says.

The whole point of the meeting was that, with the right mindset, they had the ability to stand up to difficult times.

“There is a quotation from author Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., that says, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,’” Reichmann says. “We were trying to get people to focus not on the behind-the-scenes efforts to keep the bank afloat, because we already had people working on that. We were trying to get them refocused on what we could do with our existing customers and hopefully to acquire new customers to help grow the bank — to help grow revenue at a time when we were taking some pretty significant charge-offs.”

The results of the meeting were significant. But for Reichmann, it was a life-changing moment for his mindset.

“I grew up on a farm in central Illinois and learned that if you worked hard, everything will be OK,” he says. “I found out very quickly that sometimes there are things so much out of your control that there is no guarantee they were going to be OK, in terms of what your measuring stick is for a bank.”

His transformation took some time, however, because he had some “unlearning” to do. He says he needed to switch from a fear, or a scarcity, mentality to an abundance mentality.

“I just meant that we would get through this, we would do what we had to do,” he says. “I remember clearly thinking, ‘Once I get through this, I am going to catch the next train out of banking land because I don’t ever want to go through something like this again. It was horrible.’”

But with some patience, Reichmann found a silver lining.

“As things got better, and we improved dramatically, you get to the end of it, and all of a sudden, you realize that the situation is better; the bank was going to be OK,” he says. “In fact, we were making quite a bit of money. Also, we were the only bank in town that really made it there. Then you think, ‘Jeez, I just went through all that. Why do I want to leave now?’”

So he stayed, and his career continued to grow. But that period of time has stuck with him and has defined what he is capable of in terms of enduring hardship, in terms of leadership and in helping other people to see their way through a very difficult time.

“Ultimately, you come out on the other end in a way that you never could have imagined when you were going through it,” Reichmann says.

Pull back and regain focus

While there are many times when it is important for a business to keep looking at the big picture — an aerial view of your business, if you will — there are times when you should be flying at tree-top level instead. Reichmann says homing in to regain focus will help prevent getting engulfed in a situation, which often is unproductive.

Instead, you need to take your eye off of the big picture and just do the next thing because it is too easy to become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problems you are facing.

“I couldn’t solve all the charge-offs and nonaccruals and try to get rid of the real-estate-owned properties that we had, but what I could do was I could go work on the next problem,” he says. “I could go on a call with one of our bankers. I could make a call myself to try to develop some new business.”

Once you shift the focus away from the big picture, employee anxieties often decline. Reichmann says that if everyone is doing the things that they are able to do instead of focusing on the things they can’t, the picture starts to become clearer. He says that an improved mindset and a focus on tying up loose ends can go a long way to restore stability to a business. And that’s what happened in his situation as he and his staff finally knew that they were going to make it and that they were positioned well in the marketplace.

“We were the only bank in town that cleaned up its balance sheet, and that effort was just fabulous,” he says. “I’ve never seen a bank generate more profit in that period of time. We were much more disciplined than we had been. We were requiring equity, getting appraisals and doing all the things that we are doing now and just made it a healthier environment for everyone. It was just an incredible period of time.”

You have to bring perspective to a problem, a belief that you are going to solve that problem no matter what it takes. Reichmann says it’s easy to take on a defeatist attitude and begin to believe that you aren’t going to make it. But if you reach that point, you are never going to win. Instead, you need to remain positive and maintain the belief that you are going to come out ahead. If you lose a sale or even a customer, it’s important to adopt the attitude that it is not necessarily a loss.

“That’s not the way to look at it,” he says. “You are certainly not happy that you’ve lost the business, but you need to learn what you did wrong and what you could do differently to do better the next time. There is more business out there. Are you going to sit around and feel sorry for yourself about what you lost or are you going to focus on getting out there and seeing what you can win?”

Making the effort takes time, however, and it can be difficult. People tend to get into habits, and it takes a conscious effort. You have to make the effort to change your thought patterns and think in terms of abundance. Reichmann says that changing his mindset made him more optimistic, removed some of the fear and made him a better leader. That allowed him to step up and lead his employees to the light at the end of the tunnel.

He says that as a leader in difficult times, you have to show employees that there is a way out of the current situation. Then, as positive things occur, share those wins with them. However, you also need to share the negative, along with information about how you are going to deal with it.

Blend and make magic happen

As a challenging situation begins to improve, the ultimate measure of success is not financial achievement but personal enhancement. When you can tie a company’s level of earnings with an employee’s goals for personal development, you have what software engineers call “a killer application.”

“When you have blended those two things, you have a magic potion,” Reichmann says. “You have self-motivated individuals who feel like they are making progress not only in their roles but also in their personal goals for their lives, and that’s a pretty positive experience.”

If you can do that, employees are no longer working for themselves in one sense and working for the bank in another sense. As a leader, it is your job to find out what makes your employees tick, as everyone has their own personal goals and what works for one may not work for another.

Reichmann says he often tells new managers that they are not one of the rank and file. Instead, they have to move up the chain into a new position, which includes figuring out how to motivate individual workers.

“Typically, if I have an up-and-comer who is eager and aggressive and clearly has a bright track record, he or she may say, ‘OK, I did A, B and C, and I got here. So therefore, I need to have my people do A, B and C, and then they will get here,’ he says. “The point that you have to get through to them is that A, B and C worked for you, but perhaps X, Y and Z will work for somebody else to get the same results. To me, what leadership and management are all about is trying to figure out how people grow personally, because when you do that, they perform better professionally.” <<

How to reach: Old National Bank, (800) 731-2265 or www.oldnational.com

The Reichmann File

Randy Reichmann

President and CEO

Indiana region

Old National Bank

Born: Carlinville, Ill., a small agricultural town about 45 miles south of Springfield, Ill.

Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I majored in agricultural economics.

What was your first job?

I worked on a dairy, hog and grain farm as a youngster. Aside from that, when I went to college, the first job where I got a check from somebody other than my dad was working for the university. I would fuel up the pool cars on evenings and weekends. I learned, having always worked for my dad, that it was fun to work hard for other people and see them appreciate it — for somebody besides your family. That served me well in my career because, on a dairy farm, there is no vacation from milking cows. What I found out is that, when you get into the professional world and you just work hard, you can go pretty far.

 Whom do you most admire in business?

I admire Jim Morris, president of the Indiana Pacers. Being president of the Pacers is a high-profile position, but Jim is all about helping other people. Whether it is Boy Scouts or whatever else makes Indianapolis a better place to live, Jim probably is involved in that somehow.

What is the best business advice you have ever received?

I wish I could remember who said it, but, ‘Put your head down and do the next thing. And stop worrying about things you can’t control.’

 What is your definition of business success?

Business success is being successful financially, and I hesitate to use the term ‘more important’ but just as important is that you are seeing people grow — that you see those things that you’ve invested in in terms of teaching and guiding pay dividends. Success is when you see them able to handle a situation that, heretofore, maybe they couldn’t have.

 

All businesses face obstacles at some point that will impair growth and evolution.

“It’s important to push through the problem by understanding its cause,” says Josh Klarin, vice president of Business Development, Consulting, at Sequent. “What do you do when this cycle hits? Many factors could be the cause, and it’s easy to blame them. But you need to face the situation with honesty and realism and take a tough look at things.”

“We all get stuck, we all hit bumps and even take steps back as we build our businesses. The successful learn from these sticking points, build new knowledge and blast through them. Sometimes we just have to ask ourselves a few questions, remain calm and rediscover the things that built our companies in the first place.”

Smart Business spoke with Klarin about ways to address and surpass hurdles that your company encounters.

What do you mean when you say a business is stuck?

You’ve hit a level where you’ve just plateaued. It’s typically a revenue or profitability measurement, something financial. It could also be technology or controls, or you have lost sight of why you’re in business, your core services.

How do you identify the obstacles and bottlenecks causing the problem?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you stuck because everything has to flow through you or someone else at every step?

  • Are your products and services clear?

  • Do your people understand purpose and pricing?

  • Have you built an environment of empowerment?

  • Is there a fear of mistakes that stifles creativity or reasonable risk taking?

Owners of small and mid-sized businesses usually know there’s a problem but sometimes don’t want to admit it because of a founder’s pride or an unwillingness to look outside the forest and see what’s out there. The No. 1 cause of getting stuck is that the leaders of the business get in their own way — ‘I built it. I know it. Therefore, everything must come through me.’ That stifles the company and it stifles people.

What can you can do to overcome obstacles and grow your business?

First, employees want to have some authority and to know that not every little thing they do has to be run through an approval chain. You can use the analogy of raising children. When they’re young and small, you have to take care of them and feed them. As they get older, you have to let go a little bit and trust you’ve taught them and empowered them to do the right things. This really isn’t a lot different. That’s why when companies hit various growth stages, they’ll bring in a different person, someone with experience in operating a company of that size. In a small business, you’re not going to do that. You just have to look in the mirror and trust the people who helped you get to where you are today.

What role can employees play in moving the business forward?

It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, employees not only want to be heard, they actually care and have something to say. Sometimes you just have to ask. The second thing you can do is ensure your environment encourages feedback, input and ideas. Have an informal gathering and engage employees. The simple act of asking can uncover some wonderful things and help your culture. They see things on an everyday basis that you wouldn’t necessarily see.

Once you’ve asked the right questions, you can create an environment where people want to engage, which is the third step. If they think you’re asking and are going to throw the ideas away, or they worry that if they say something wrong they’re going to be fired, that’s not creating the right culture and environment.

How can customers help move the business?

Customers are a fourth way to overcome obstacles and grow your business. Ask them what they are seeing with your business, how you are perceived, and what is working and what isn’t. Ask them why they decided to use you or to no longer do business with your company. Involve them in improvement by asking what they need and want. Remember, without your customers, you have no business. You should be able to find two or three that you can sit down with and start trying to address what they might be thinking about.

Could the solution be branching out into other products or services?

So many times, small businesses just want to get money, which you can understand, but they get stuck by spreading themselves too thin. A customer wants something, it’s not exactly what a company does or what it’s good at, but the business tries it. Before long, you’re trying five or six things that you’re not really good at and you forgot what got you here. Understandably, when you’re small it’s all about making payroll and keeping the lights on, but losing focus is such a big risk. You don’t want to abandon your core.

The final way to grow your business is to look at the core business to see if it has plateaued. If it hasn’t, that’s when you need to look at your competition and what your opportunities are. If you’re in a market that’s shrinking, it’s a whole different question. But if that’s not the case, you need to find out the elements that are making people chose a competitor, whether it’s a better product, price or service.

That’s not saying you shouldn’t look at new product lines or services, but there has to be some thoughtfulness to what you go into and don’t just jump into something that may be more than a few degrees from your core business.

Josh Klarin is vice president of Business Development, Consulting at Sequent. Reach him at (614) 410-2368 or JKlarin@sequent.biz.

Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent

You need to stick out in today’s world.

Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author, says, “Taking a stand requires guts. You will stick out and get noticed. Your stand may be controversial. Brazen. Or provide an uncomfortable truth.” You will absolutely be judged. But reasonable people will appreciate that you took the chance and showed your resolve.

The alternative to taking a stand is certainly safer. But speaking your truth is more satisfying. You can have either, not both: Stand out or fit in. Not all the time, and never at the same time, but it’s always a choice.

Those who choose to fit in should expect to avoid criticism (and be ignored). Those who stand out should expect neither.

Every success story is rooted in hard work, motivation and persistence. Sure, being at the right place at the right time helps. But even that is dependent upon an astute appreciation of what, where and why the right time and place exist.

Research, homework, focus

Do your homework. Knock on doors. Do your due diligence. Stay focused. Keep up with new technology. Find a way to break through. There are no shortcuts worth taking.

Whether you consider yourself a great author, architect, brain surgeon or sculptor, it doesn’t matter how gifted you are if your work doesn’t get written, built, used or created. You have to stop daydreaming, planning and procrastinating at some point. If you have a brilliant plan but it remains undiscovered or unfinished, what’s holding you back?

Stop worrying about perfection, funding or selling your idea. Just go for it and sink or swim. It’s the only way to find out if you really are brilliant, gifted and worthy.

The value of quietness

It’s a noisy world. I appreciate this most when I’m enjoying a breather in my own schedule. I recently read Roberta Matuson’s “Fast Company” blog and realized how much being quiet not only strengthens focus and productivity but also leadership ability.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. It’s usually the quiet ones who get the most done. Here’s what Matuson says about quiet leadership: “Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For example, when everyone is stressing out because it looks like a team isn’t going to meet their deadlines, it’s usually the quiet people who are able to calm people down and carry them over the finish line.”

Quiet leaders project confidence. Calm and quiet in the midst of a storm allow the time and space needed to focus on the important issues at hand and allow your team to learn to do the same.

The advantage of the morning

I’m most alert the first thing in the morning. So that’s when I tend to schedule the things that require the most effort — be it brainpower, physical activity or creativity.

What successful people do with their first hour of every day — often before going into the office — is fascinating. Before that first power breakfast or staff meeting, the first hour of the day may be best served by planning. That’s because the first hour of each day is the hour you see everything most clearly and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list.

Writer, speaker and “Fast Company” blogger Tony Robbins writes, “Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called homeroom, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up homeroom every day. You should, too.”

Your first hour is a quiet gem. Use it to keep the rest of your day functioning at its best. <<

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies 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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.