Los Angeles (1224)

In this month’s issue of Smart Business Los Angeles, we learn about Tommy Skinner’s desire to transform the logistics industry. Here are some of his thoughts on how you find the people that can help you drive big changes.

 

Tommy Skinner wants to build a business that transforms the way people think of logistics. To make that happen, he’s bringing people in to work for SHIFT Freight who don’t come from a logistics background.

“We are hiring outside the industry,” says Skinner, who leads the company as vice president. “There hasn’t been anyone that we’ve hired on the merit of their experience within the less than truckload space. They have been hired on the merit of their intellect, their cultural fit and really their vision and buy-in to what we’re trying to do.”

Hiring from outside your industry requires more training, but it also gives you a chance to more closely mold your talent to your unique needs.

“When you bring someone in outside the context of maybe what’s been built as the norm around them, you can teach them the industry and you can teach them your role within the industry from scratch,” Skinner says. “Above all, you can focus on a daily basis on why we’re different and ensure your people know that meeting those expectations is paramount.”

 

Blaze your own path

SHIFT Freight has gained some traction when it comes to finding good talent to the point that people come knocking on the company’s door looking for work.

“We get calls and knocks on our door more than we have to look outward for new personnel,” Skinner says. “When we’re approached, it means two things. One, we’ve effectively communicated our goal to be a fun and exciting brand and culture. It reinforces what we’re doing internally. Secondly, you know that those candidates who are approaching us, they already have bought into some or all of what we’re doing.”

Skinner says the formulaic approach that many companies follow in their hiring protocol has grown stale.

“The first step, particularly with larger companies, is an online application that has objective fields that allow for information gathering that is good for HR personnel,” Skinner says. “They also have some very generic behavioral questions. I look at those surveys the same way I look at a generic cover letter. They don’t really tell me anything about that person.

“Granted, I wouldn’t expect a large Fortune 500 company to have the time to meet with every individual that is interested in joining the organization. But if you can begin to quantify how interested that individual is, that passion and drive and that visionary buy-in is invaluable.”

The responsibility of figuring out whom to hire and who not to hire has to go beyond your executive leadership team, Skinner says.

“I feel comfortable having any one of our team members sit down with a potential candidate and ultimately make a hiring decision,” Skinner says. “In large organizations, you have a siloed HR department or a level of management that is responsible for the decisions. As a leader, I’ve failed if I haven’t been able to empower members of the team to make a decision as critical as building out the team. “

 

How to reach: SHIFT Freight, (888) 439-4241 or www.shiftfreight.com

 

To get more insight and advice from the top business leaders in Los Angeles, please visit us @SmartBiz_LA or on our Facebook page.

Have any of your employees tried to do a selfie in the office in response to the one Ellen DeGeneres took at the Academy Awards last month?

It was one of those moments that seemingly everyone was talking about and trying to recreate in the days after the Oscars. It served as yet another reminder of the blazing speed with which information can travel in this day and age when it hits the right note.

If only that new product your company has been working on for the past six weeks had the same ability to captivate the masses. Unfortunately, that product would probably get much more famous, much more quickly if it was a total disaster that left you scrambling to explain what happened.

Outside of getting really lucky and stumbling upon the next great innovation that changes the way we all live, work or play, you’ll probably have to work a little harder to build an audience for what you’re selling.

But one thing you can do as the senior leader is take advantage of this ubiquitous communication tool and start using it to sell your brand. Don’t leave it all in the hands of your social media team.

 

Get involved

This isn’t a call to start micromanaging the efforts your people are making to build a following for your business on Facebook or Twitter. Rather, it’s a suggestion to take part in the conversation and engage your audience on a more personal level.

It’s safe to say that many senior leaders who have a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account don’t actually manage their own account. They have their IT team post pre-formatted messages at designated times through platforms like HootSuite. The times are selected based on thorough research into the most likely parts of the day for messages to be seen.

It makes sense. You’re busy running a business and you probably don’t have a lot of time to sit around poking at your smartphone to send tweets. But when you’re completely removed from the process, you miss a chance to share the passion you have for what it is your company produces.

I’ve said it in previous columns, but it bears repeating. People like people who are real and genuine. If you use social media to talk about your product and respond to feedback both good and bad, you show yourself to be aware of what’s happening in the world. You’re not just counting up the dollars each month to see if you made a profit. You’re taking an interest in how your product or service is being received by consumers.

 

Have fun

But it doesn’t always have to be about work. Take a picture of your dog or your son or your granddaughter having a good time. Share a video clip you saw on YouTube that you thought was funny. Round up your leadership team and take your own selfie for all your followers to see. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Life is too short not to.

 

Mark Scott is Senior Associate Editor for Smart Business Los Angeles. Reach him at (440) 250-7016 or MScott@sbnonline.com

 

It’s easy to make the unfair assumption that if a business decides to file for a tax extension, the leaders have been spending the months leading up to the April 15 tax deadline procrastinating on their paperwork. But that’s not necessarily true.

Rather than rushing to file in a hurry, a business tax extension is a major asset in a company’s corner as it means getting extra time to prepare and file properly. But what does being granted a tax extension for your business mean and what do you need to know when you decide to file for one?

 

Get your deadlines in order

Typically, the IRS approves business tax extension requests so long as they are submitted by 11:59 p.m. on April 15. They will grant you six more months to work on your taxes. Use Form 7004 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns) on the IRS’ website and e-file or send the form along by mail.

For companies organized as corporations and partnerships, be sure you have the correct deadline in place for when your returns are due.

The extended deadline for calendar year 2013 S corporation returns is Sept. 15, 2014. Not extending this deadline to file may cause your S corporation to owe a 5 percent penalty of unpaid tax for every month the return is late with a cutoff point of 25 percent.

Partnerships, with extended deadlines, have 2013 returns that are also due on Sept. 15. Failure to file on time can result in owing penalties of up to $89 a partner each month the return is behind, for a maximum of 12 months.

 

Talk to your accountant

Email and meet up with your accountant to evaluate your tax liability and any other confidential information. Be sure to bring along any paperwork that concerns banking, investments, expenses and revenues.

Even if you feel confident that you can handle working on your own taxes, federal tax laws are constantly changing. An accountant may find some deductions and write-offs you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

 

Make extensions part of your tax strategy

NBCNews.com mentioned that for businesses that need more time to contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension Plan, filing for an extension can actually be extremely beneficial. An extension on Form 5305-SEP (Simplified Employee Pension — Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement) means that the extra time ensures the business doesn’t need to have the money in place until the due date of the tax returns.

 

Use your extended time wisely

Filing an extension puts you at much less risk of facing an audit than will rushing to get your forms finished by April 15. It’s important, however, to bear in mind that once you file for an extension, you need to stay organized and focused on getting your taxes filed. If you’re missing any documents, work on obtaining them as soon as possible so it makes the filing process smoother.

 

Name: Deborah Sweeney

Title: CEO

Company: MyCorporation.com

MyCorporation.com is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, provides startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. Deborah writes about issues that affect companies of all sizes and shares tips that she has found to be useful in her own business endeavors.

Reach her at (877) 692-6772, MyCorporation.com or on Twitter at @DeborahSweeney or @MyCorporation

It would not be right to say that Tommy Skinner gets excited when his employees at SHIFT Freight are sad. But he does take a certain level of satisfaction when he witnesses how much his people care about their customers.

And when the occasional problem occurs with moving a product from point A to point B, and Skinner sees how his employees feel about that problem having occurred, it does have a way of making him smile.

“I think it voices the true care we have and the empathy we feel for our customers, their product and the general experience they have with our business,” says Skinner, who leads the organization as vice president. “The team does a really good job of coming together and resolving problems as best we can. Everybody goes home at night knowing we did the best job we could.”

SHIFT Freight was formed in 2013 to “change the way companies think about moving freight.”

“I’m from outside the industry,” Skinner says. “Investors approached me who are seasoned veterans in the LTL (less than truckload) space and they said, ‘Hey, we’re looking to do something different.’ That alone piqued my interest.”

So Skinner climbed onboard and set out to do what many companies try, but fail to achieve — bring real change to an industry.

 

Measure value of customer satisfaction

One reason companies struggle to resonate with customers is the attitude they take toward customer service.

“A lot of it is just the perspective with which companies operate,” Skinner says. “If you were to go to your average widget maker, I believe they would likely consider themselves a widget maker as opposed to a provider of a premium service demanded by the customer.

“A lot of it is simply perspective. On a board level, it’s a little bit harder to quantify the results of a uniquely special customer experience. So dollars and resources and a cultural commitment are placed in other facets of the organization.”

It may be easier to put a number on how much money you’ll make selling this product or how much you’ll save by switching from this vendor to that one. But there are also ways to measure financial metrics when it comes to customer service.

“We have found some interesting ways to quantify our success, and really look at churn rate and customer loyalty,” Skinner says. “See the dollars that are a return on the investment in a customer. It’s so fundamentally core to what our business is.

“If you asked me what is SHIFT, I’d say it’s similar to a motto that Zappos has. We’re a customer service company that does a really good job at moving our customers’ products timely and safely.”

You’ve got to get everyone involved in the effort to please your customers, whether you’re talking about employees on the front lines or the people in the corporate office who answer the phones.

“Break down any wall or barrier between the two,” Skinner says. “I’m a liaison between the dock and the office. The values and those key performance indicators that we talk about in the office, we also talk about on the dock.

“There’s no separation, and I think that’s important. As an organization, we get into trouble if we’re not setting forth that same customer-focused vision operationally as we are in the front office.”

 

Focus on service

Of course, at the end of the day, you can be the nicest company with the nicest employees, but if they can’t do their job, you won’t be getting much return business. So you have to look beyond the smiles and energetic words and find the passion that exists in people to do the job right and do it with the right attitude.

“We’ve done a good job of finding creative ways to assess the talent,” Skinner says. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of smart talent and a lot of proficient talent out there. You really need to find those individuals who are passionate and believe in what you’re doing.”

Ask questions that clue in to the person’s personality or help you know what they like to do away from the job or with their friends and families. Get to know the real person and you’ll have a good sense of whether they are being real with you or putting up a false front.

Do your homework before you get to the interview stage to help you bring the right people in for a deeper conversation.

“It’s often not until I’m sitting down with someone that I can really get an idea of who they are and what they are striving to do and how they’ll fit into the organization,” Skinner says. “To get that person in the chair, it’s often a matter of how many follow-ups they have sent me. What are the ideals with which they are interested in the position? That can say a lot about whether it’s worth the time to sit down with that person.”

The effort to hire employees who can bring strong passion to their work and create that difference in the logistics industry is showing signs of paying off. SHIFT Freight opened a number of locations in 2013 and expects to quadruple in size this year.

“When you start a company, you define processes and you map out every operational function,” Skinner says. “But it’s been great to watch the team adapt those processes and build on them in new and interesting ways. The ways our team feels invested in our organization is invaluable.”

 

How to reach: SHIFT Freight, (888) 439-4241 or www.shiftfreight.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shiftfreight

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/shift-freight-llc?trk=company_logo

Twitter: @SHIFTFreight

If you work for Avi Steinlauf at Edmunds.com, you can take as much vacation as you want. It may seem like a slacker’s dream come true, but Steinlauf says employees have embraced the move with just the right mix of appreciation and discipline.

“It’s something we piloted in 2011 with a few work teams and we found out that we had higher quality, quicker throughput and far higher satisfaction on the part of our people,” says Steinlauf, CEO at the leading online source for automotive information.

“We do company surveys on a yearly basis and the No. 1 thing people like about working at the company is the fact they are treated like adults. It’s a results-oriented work environment and they are getting the results. It was a bit of a leap for us, but it’s been a success.”

Steinlauf was part of a panel discussion at the EY Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Springs, Calif., in November called “The right balance for your business.” He shared his thoughts on what it’s like being the leader of a family business. 

“My father is a very active chairman with no other hobbies other than Edmunds,” Steinlauf says with a chuckle, referring to his father and the company’s founder, Peter Steinlauf. “So he’s in the office multiple times a day. That’s really what he thinks about 24/7.”



Constant evolution

The Steinlauf family owns 70 percent of the privately held business, with outside investors making up the remaining 30 percent.

“Our goal in life is to continue to build this business, potentially for generations to come,” Steinlauf says.

“We were fortunate to have brought shareholders in at a time when the Internet was doing all sorts of crazy things in 1999 and 2000. Folks wanted to invest in anything that said dot com and there weren’t a lot of strings attached. The nature of our outside shareholders is that they are along for the ride for a period of time, and it’s up to them to determine what that period of time is.”

In terms of operational goals, Steinlauf says the company strives to make car buying easier for its customers and to foster trust between consumers and automotive retailers.

“We started off as a print publication publishing quarterly pricing guides and over the last 20 years, we have made the transition into the digital world and onto the Internet where today, we’re a fully online publisher of automotive information, pricing, specs, reviews and things like that,” Steinlauf says.

Edmunds now has an online audience of about 18 million consumers a month in the United States. The move to give employees unlimited vacation has not hurt that effort one bit, Steinlauf says.

“People are still working hard and in certain cases, are still working long hours,” Steinlauf says. “They just may not be chained to a desk to do that.”

 

Not a birthright

With three sons and three daughters, Steinlauf has a full house and an ample supply of potential leaders to choose from to carry on the family business. But he is quick to note that they won’t just walk into his office one day and take over the company.

“I’ve got a 10 year-old boy and an 8 year-old boy who have both expressed some interest,” Steinlauf says. “They made comments, each of them in their own way to me, such as ‘When I work at Edmunds, Dad ...’ and I say, ‘Whoa, hold on a second, you have to work hard and do some things, it’s not a God-given right.’

“Hopefully they’ll have the opportunity at some point, but it is not a God-given right that they will have an opportunity to do that. I’ve still got plenty of years to consider and think about that.”

 

How to reach: Edmunds.com, (855) 782-4711 or www.edmunds.com

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/edmunds

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+edmunds/posts

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/edmundsinc/

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/edmunds.com

Tumblr: http://tumblr.edmunds.com/

Twitter: @Edmunds

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Edmundsvideo

Instagram: http://instagram.com/edmundsdotcom

If you work for Avi Steinlauf at Edmunds.com, you can take as much vacation as you want. It may seem like a slacker’s dream come true, but Steinlauf says employees have embraced the move with just the right mix of appreciation and discipline.

“It’s something we piloted in 2011 with a few work teams and we found out that we had higher quality, quicker throughput and far higher satisfaction on the part of our people,” says Steinlauf, CEO at the leading online source for automotive information.

“We do company surveys on a yearly basis and the No. 1 thing people like about working at the company is the fact they are treated like adults. It’s a results-oriented work environment and they are getting the results. It was a bit of a leap for us, but it’s been a success.”

Steinlauf was part of a panel discussion at the EY Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Springs, Calif., in November called “The right balance for your business.” He shared his thoughts on what it’s like being the leader of a family business. 

“My father is a very active chairman with no other hobbies other than Edmunds,” Steinlauf says with a chuckle, referring to his father and the company’s founder, Peter Steinlauf. “So he’s in the office multiple times a day. That’s really what he thinks about 24/7.”



Constant evolution

The Steinlauf family owns 70 percent of the privately held business, with outside investors making up the remaining 30 percent.

“Our goal in life is to continue to build this business, potentially for generations to come,” Steinlauf says.

“We were fortunate to have brought shareholders in at a time when the Internet was doing all sorts of crazy things in 1999 and 2000. Folks wanted to invest in anything that said dot com and there weren’t a lot of strings attached. The nature of our outside shareholders is that they are along for the ride for a period of time, and it’s up to them to determine what that period of time is.”

In terms of operational goals, Steinlauf says the company strives to make car buying easier for its customers and to foster trust between consumers and automotive retailers.

“We started off as a print publication publishing quarterly pricing guides and over the last 20 years, we have made the transition into the digital world and onto the Internet where today, we’re a fully online publisher of automotive information, pricing, specs, reviews and things like that,” Steinlauf says.

Edmunds now has an online audience of about 18 million consumers a month in the United States.

The move to give employees unlimited vacation has not hurt that effort one bit, Steinlauf says.

“People are still working hard and in certain cases, are still working long hours,” Steinlauf says. “They just may not be chained to a desk to do that.”

 

Not a birthright

With three sons and three daughters, Steinlauf has a full house and an ample supply of potential leaders to choose from to carry on the family business. But he is quick to note that they won’t just walk into his office one day and take over the company.

“I’ve got a 10 year-old boy and an 8 year-old boy who have both expressed some interest,” Steinlauf says. “They made comments, each of them in their own way to me, such as ‘When I work at Edmunds, Dad ...’ and I say, ‘Whoa, hold on a second, you have to work hard and do some things, it’s not a God-given right.’

“Hopefully they’ll have the opportunity at some point, but it is not a God-given right that they will have an opportunity to do that. I’ve still got plenty of years to consider and think about that.”

 

How to reach: Edmunds.com, (855) 782-4711 or www.edmunds.com

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/edmunds

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+edmunds/posts

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/edmundsinc/

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/edmunds.com

Tumblr: http://tumblr.edmunds.com/

Twitter: @Edmunds

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Edmundsvideo

Instagram: http://instagram.com/edmundsdotcom

I was fortunate to meet the most influential person in my career right out of high school. This was the only time in my career where I was working for someone else and despite the fact that he had no formal education, he created one of the most successful independent record companies of all time — Ruthless Records.

If it weren’t for Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, there wouldn’t be a Snoop Dogg, a Dr. Dre or even a Beats By Dre line of audio devices on the market.

Wright taught me that the most important lesson of all is to listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts. I’m a huge believer in education, but you can’t let your degree bog you down, and you can never rest on your laurels.

The key to success is being passionate about what you do.

 

Show how you feel

Are you passionate about your brand? Beyond the obvious goal of hiring good people, you need to be able to speak passionately about your company, as if it’s a person you are madly in love with, and lead by example with unbridled motivation and inspiration.

Once you do that, it’s easy to get the right people on board. Your passion for your business will be contagious and when it comes from a real place, you’ll be amazed by how many people will want to sign up with you.

 

Listen to your voice

Your inner voice is usually the right voice. Trust your gut when that next star employee walks through the door. Everyone needs to start somewhere. Give them a shot so that you have a chance to mold that person into the superstar they’re meant to be.

Time is not the equalizer of greatness. Just because someone hasn’t done a job for a long time — or even at all — doesn’t mean that they won’t perform well. I’ve had employees with absolutely no experience outperform other employees with 20-plus years of experience. Rely on your instincts to suss out the good from the bad — and ultimately, the great from the good. Look for passionate people who are willing to learn from you and grow with you. 

 

Demand honesty

Create a culture where honesty rules because you can’t build a great company if everyone is too afraid to speak up and say anything besides yes. When the right people at your company can be open and honest with you, they will inherently help you weed out the things and employees that are holding the company back.

If you have to start setting up systems in order to ensure your team is doing their job, you’re already in trouble. The right people are self-motivated, and you will discover that when they’re given the leeway to make their own decisions.

Finally, allow your team to be honest, even when they don’t like a decision you’re making. Even though you’re passionate and following your instincts, you can still make a mistake, too.

 

Name: Terry Heller

Title: Founder

Companies: Heller Holdings LLC; Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

Terry spent 12 years in the music industry directing and producing music videos for Eazy-E, Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Linkin Park and The Black Eyed Peas.

Reach Terry at (310) 473-5999, terry@hellerholdings.com or www.hellerholdings.com

Learn more about Terry at:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/terry-heller/7/b57/524

Learn more about Plan Check at:

Twitter: @PlanCheckBar

Instagram: http://instagram.com/Plancheck

Over the course of my career, I’ve been both the young entrepreneur and the seasoned leader. In both roles, I have discovered that the foundational tenets of a successful corporate culture remain constant.

No matter the industry, the annual revenue or the number of employees, a truly great CEO will define and cultivate a strong corporate culture. In it, the company’s leadership participates from the floor rather than the fortress and the team is empowered and feels appreciated.

 

Step down from the ivory tower

Whether you’ve built your company from the ground up or you’re stepping into a leadership role at an established business, it’s essential to step back and observe the current culture and determine how to assimilate from the start before you walk in with a blind takeover.

If you sequester yourself in your office in an attempt to establish rank, or work exclusively with direct reports and executive peers, it can be hard to see and experience the one-on-one interactions that define the culture from the employee perspective.

Eat in the lounge or break room. Attend meetings of the rank and file, not just the C-suite. Don’t say you have an open-door policy; walk out that door and be accessible to your team. It’s the only way to identify what elements should be fostered and which components could use guidance and improvement.

 

Provide real world perks

Contrary to popular belief, you can likely put away the Xbox, pingpong table and endless soda. Today’s employees are looking for real perks in the form of resources. Whether it’s better health care coverage for family members, managerial training, outside education, remote work opportunities, flexible hours or even healthful snacks or workout opportunities, it’s important to support your team with whatever they need to perform to the best of their abilities.

Taking the time to discover and execute on the team’s needs in and out of the office will increase retention of valuable talent and ensure a positive work environment.

 

Encourage peer support

Satisfied employees work better together for the greater good. It’s been proven that teams are more effective when they collaborate. It’s important for leaders to instill values of ongoing education, learning and questioning. Promoting transparency will decrease competition, improve performance, increase innovation and keep morale high.

Programs and tools must be implemented that support information transmission, like ongoing internal cross-training and mentoring programs. Providing opportunities for specialists to learn new skills and concepts from each other better equips every teammate to resolve issues.

Corporate culture encompasses many, but it starts with one — the one at the top. It’s your responsibility to both establish and honor company values and permeate them into the workplace, while simultaneously listening to employee needs. Show that you’re part of the team and you will nurture a culture everyone can get behind.

 

Name: Ronald Burr

Title: Chairman and CEO

Company: CallFire Inc.

CallFire Inc. is a technology company providing voice and text connectivity to more than 100,000 businesses. Ron is the holder of eight Internet technology patents in online advertising and market research.

How to reach: CallFire Inc., (877) 897-3473 or www.callfire.com

Twitter: @RonBurr or @CallFire

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronburr

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/callfire

We live in an era of decreasing trust in many organizations and institutions. Ongoing Gallup polls document the erosion of trust that people have in leaders of government, religion, military, health care and business. While fostering trust is always important, it takes on greater significance when the environment becomes unpredictable.

In a predictable environment, people have one foot firmly planted in the system. So, even if leadership is lacking, they can at least count on the system. In an environment marked by transition, however, the stability of the system is taken away. Striving for grounding, people turn to the source most likely to provide stability — their leaders — and hope to find a measure of consistency and trustworthiness. 

During times of upheaval, people are operating from states of withdrawal and hypervigilance that alter their perceptions.

They are looking to leadership for cues as to what is going to happen next. They are scrutinizing your words, body language and tone of voice and comparing it with their picture of the “normal” you. And, because human beings have the tendency to “awfulize,” they may create in their minds unimaginably bad scenarios just from the frown on your brow or the sigh in your voice.

By focusing on the elements below that build and reinforce trust, you can help to minimize anxiety and regain the focus of your people.

 

Remain humble

Continuous improvement is both an important perspective and a useful process for any leader to entertain. Your personal and organizational journey is not finished. Little can be gained from resting on your past accomplishments. Humility helps foster trust.

 

Use self-deprecating humor

Having a good laugh at your own expense will go a long way toward fostering a sense in others that you are approachable. Self-deprecating humor is also infectious. It encourages others to lighten up as well and be more open about their issues and concerns.

 

Admit to being wrong

Few things score more trust points than your ability to admit your mistakes. Changing environments are, by definition, mistake prone as people proceed by trial and error. Externalizing those mistakes has a double benefit. First, it fosters trust — the fact that you’re human. Second, it actually sets up a forum for defining and solving problems.

 

Honor your word

In an unstable environment, you may find that you give your word in good faith, but then something happens and you have to go back on what you said. Such reversals are normal in change. When they happen, however, be proactive in telling people what happened and why you had to reverse yourself. As long as you’re straight with people, they will trust you and work to deal with the situation.

 

Project openness

Studies show that people who disclose information — and get others to share — are perceived as trustworthy. Openness allows communication to proceed in two directions. It gives permission for people to approach you not only with feelings, but also with the information and suggestions that you need to become a more effective leader.

 

Name: Dr. Mark J. Tager

Title: CEO

Company: ChangeWell Inc.

Changewell Inc. is a San Diego-based consulting and training company that works with clients to guide personal and organizational change and increase productivity. The company provides training, speaking and consulting programs to guide transformation. Mark’s latest book, “Transforming Stress into Power,” is available on Amazon.com.

 

How to reach: Changewell Inc., www.changewell.com or mtager@changewell.com

 

Technology provides today’s business owner more ways to connect with customers than ever before. But with all those channels available, it’s more critical than ever that you know what you stand for as you seek to build connections with the people you want to buy your product.

You are your own brand. What kind of brand do you want your business to be?

Our company, kathy ireland Worldwide®, is greatly influenced by core values shared by every team member. We handle rejection with confidence. If people aren’t saying, “no” to you, you may not be taking on the real battles of your industry.

Most of our team members have worked, learned, laughed and cried together for the 21 years that we celebrate in 2014. The word “team” is used very casually in many businesses. Not ours. Although this business bears my name, we decided early on it could not be about me. Through the years, we’ve been able to discern engines that move us forward and anchors that pull us down.

 

Follow the Golden Rule

Are you treating the people you work with as you would want your family members treated? If not, start making a change ... today. I never had a family business, but today, I have a business family. What we have been able to accomplish, with mutual respect and yes, love, is pretty incredible.

Every business needs advocates. Some people recoil when I speak at business conferences about building every business as a brand.

Too many people confuse iconic brands as the only brands. Apple. Disney. Starbucks. McDonalds. Mary Kay. Martha Stewart. These brands climbed the ladder to iconic status because of the dreams of a relentless entrepreneur and a very gifted team.

 

Prepare for challenges

Each of us has or will have a monetary crisis. Ours came many years ago when 98 percent of our business was dependent upon one partner. That one client filed bankruptcy and left us sputtering and on the floor. We got back up and decided that diversity was our path to the future. Those days were pretty grim.

It was like the movie “Groundhog Day.” We were in debt and starting all over again. Loyalty. Passion. Commitment. Frugality. These are disciplines that are forged in a crisis. Until you hit tough times, it’s hard to know which relationships are authentic. 

 

Cherish your experiences

I’ve been self-employed all my life — from selling painted rocks to being the first female newspaper carrier in my hometown. A paper route teaches you a lot. Whenever Warren Buffet and I spend time together, we always swap stories about shared experiences from our paper route days.

Last year, Mr. Buffet, Bill Gates, Ndamukong Suh and I all competed in a newspaper toss at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Naturally, Mr. Buffet won the toss. He is not only the world’s smartest investor, he’s never lost his newspaper skills.

The difference is, today, he probably buys more newspaper companies versus the newspapers he tossed as a youngster. More than 30 years later, I’m still the girl with the paper route.

 

Name: Kathy Ireland

Title: Founder, chair, CEO and chief designer

Company: kathy ireland Worldwide® 

kathy ireland Worldwide® is a lifestyle business that offers designs in fashion, weddings, home, office and other areas. Kathy supports many nonprofits including the YWCA, Dream Foundation, Providence Educational Foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

How to reach: kathy ireland Worldwide®, www.kathyireland.com

Twitter: @kathyireland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kathyirelandWorldwide

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