Turning it up: Jerry Azarkman cranks up communication and service to help Curacao expansion plan thriveWritten by
As Jerry Azarkman watched new stores open in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., he felt proud that Curacao, the company he launched at the age of 24 with a mere $20 in his pocket, was beginning to expand beyond its Los Angeles roots.
But he was also concerned about the sales volume at these new stores. They just weren’t doing as well as the stores located closer to Curacao’s Southern California headquarters.
“The L.A. store’s volume is much higher,” says Azarkman, co-founder, co-owner and chief marketing officer for the Latino-oriented retailer that’s corporate name is Adir International.
“The number of credit applications approved at the Phoenix store is much lower than the stores closer to headquarters. Why is it smaller the further you go? All these things gave me a thought about the implementation of direction. The further you go, the communication kind of slows down, and it doesn’t get there.”
Azarkman wanted to turn that around and ensure that wherever he opened a store, whether it was next door to his office or 1,000 miles away, it would offer the same quality of product and service to Curacao customers.
“The biggest challenge is as you grow, your structure grows and there are more layers of management and communication,” Azarkman says. “That communication has to be the same from level to level all the way down to the front lines. The challenge is when the communication doesn’t get to the level you want it to get to.”
It’s a common problem for growing businesses and Azarkman wasn’t casting blame about it. He just knew that his 2,600-employee company needed to adapt and rethink its communication channels to ensure that everybody was on board with what was happening.
“I’m involved in the philosophy of the company, which is keeping employees motivated so they can do their jobs at a top level,” Azarkman says. “They really want to do that. They’re not doing it out of fear. They are doing it because they believe in it.”
That attitude would be the key to helping Curacao achieve continued growth.
Demonstrate your commitment
One of the biggest changes Azarkman made with Curacao was to change the company’s name. It may not sound that meaningful to the internal operations of a company to change the name from “La Curacao” to Curacao and redesign the company logo, but it provided Azarkman with a vehicle to demonstrate the company’s commitment to digging deep and looking for ways to provide even better service to its customers.
To get things rolling with this process, Azarkman brought in an outside consultant to make an honest assessment of what needed to change.
“We hired a company from the outside because you cannot believe in your own judgment,” Azarkman says. “You’ll create an impression that you’re much better than you actually are. It’s better for somebody from the outside to look at you than for you to look at yourself.”
The firm came in and set up focus groups in the communities where Curacao did business.
“They did focus groups with our customers, with customers that left us three years ago, with people who had never been in our stores and in communities that had never heard our name,” Azarkman says. “Out of that, we learned a lot about what the community thinks of us, what changes they are expecting us to do and what changes we have to do.”
The groups provided a great deal of feedback, including the suggestion that ultimately led to a new name and logo. It was a good foundation to begin transforming the business. But the key to providing what your customers are looking for is asking the question with the knowledge that you’ll need to keep asking it again and again.
“Expectations change with time,” Azarkman says. “You create an expectation, a standard, and then the next day, you have to go and create a much higher standard and create a ‘wow’ in the minds of customers that walk in the store. When they leave the store, you want them thinking, ‘Wow, I never thought I was going to get that value or that experience.’ To get to that point is a constant struggle.”
Earn employee support
Azarkman needed his employees to buy in to the pursuit of superior customer service without feeling as though they were being punished or forced into something that didn’t fit their skill sets.
“If they’re not buying in to it and they are going to be forced into doing something that they don’t believe in, it’s not going to happen,” Azarkman says.
There needs to be something out there, a reason to work harder and exceed customer expectation.
“What’s it in it for them?” Azarkman says. “What are they going to gain out of it? A better career path, higher income, more security, better stability for the company? You put all those things together, and you’re going to create a team that is really going to be motivated and dedicated and really cares about the company because they are part of the company. They are working there because they belong there. They are part of it.”
A comprehensive training program at Curacao, known as the University of Curacao, bolsters employee engagement. It helps promote an environment of learning and growing that Azarkman says is one of the keys to achieving growth.
“You need to know how to motivate people and get them to perform better,” Azarkman says. “You have to provide the tools that they need. Managers are tool creators. They create tools for their associates to perform. If they are creating the right tools and then people are using the tools that have been created for them, the success is going to be there.”
Azarkman refers to the sale of a television as an example of the outcome he seeks in training his managers and employees.
“Let’s take a Sony television,” Azarkman says. “You can buy it anywhere in town. You can go on the Internet and find 10,000 places to buy it. The difference is what is coming with that television. What value am I giving to that customer with that TV? What is the additional value?”
If everybody is thinking about ways to please the customer and is able to bring up those ideas without fear of reprisal, the result is a strong culture and a strong company that consistently exceeds expectation.
“It’s not that you create a ‘wow’ in the minds of customers and that stays,” Azarkman says. “Today, you’re meeting expectations. Tomorrow, it might not be enough.”
Don’t lead with fear
The effort to drive home that message to stores near and far away from Los Angeles and ensure that everyone is pushing toward those goals on a consistent basis has to begin with you.
“You have to make sure that all your executives are really buying in to it,” Azarkman says. “If anybody has a doubt or has something they don’t agree with, let’s put it on the table, fix it and make sure we all agree. Get one direction you can all agree on and go from there.”
If you want to learn what needs to be fixed in your business, you’ve got to be willing to accept criticism.
“The minute there is fear, all the communication channels are shut off and they are not going to be willing to open their mouths and discuss issues or concerns that they have,” Azarkman says. “If the leader is creating fear and the people have to work with that fear, it’s not going to last too long.”
Companies that insist on coming up with reasons why a problem doesn’t really exist are only setting themselves up for a bigger failure down the road.
“The communication will determine the success or failure of the company,” Azarkman says. “If there are real problems that need to be addressed and you don’t put them on the table, they will accumulate until there’s an explosion because people were afraid to bring it up.”
One of the solutions to the problem of lower sales volume in the Arizona stores was to enact rotating management teams between the more established stores closer to Los Angeles and the newer, less experienced stores in Arizona.
It’s a step that can help you better assess your team and weed out the people who aren’t going to be a part of your future.
“You need to check performance and evaluate each person,” Azarkman says. “You always have to create a bucket of people that are performing. Unfortunately, some do not perform no matter how much you try to educate and help them. So you have to let them go so you can keep your company healthy.”
Fortunately, Azarkman has more talented people on his team than underperformers who have to be let go. Curacao has more than 2 million credit applications on file and continues to expand. Azarkman says it all comes back to the philosophy of customer service.
“If the customer gets service above expectation, it means you’ve done something to maintain and keep that customer,” Azarkman says. “It’s small advice, but it’s big if you keep it in mind.”
How to reach: Curacao, (866) 410-1611 or
The Azarkman File
Jerry Azarkman, Co-founder and co-owner, Curacao
Born: Tehran, Iran. I moved to Israel at the age of 6 and grew up in Israel. I came to United States at the age of 21. There was a good community of Jewish people living in Iran before the fall of the Shah. There were probably about 1.2 million Jews there. My parents felt that it was going to extreme Islam already in those days. And in 1961, they decided it was not going to be a stable country to stay in, so we moved to Israel.
Education: I did three years of computer language study at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. It’s a university. I took some evening courses while I was in the military service.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
My father, Oscar. Any time I’m in a problem, I go back to things that he told me. The things I’m passing to other associates in the company, it’s come from the first lessons of motivation that my father passed to me and my brother.
What one person would you like to be able to meet and why?
Albert Einstein. First, I would like to see his philosophy about life, religion, God and how science is connected to religion. What did he really see? Maybe the guy is so extremely smart that he had to bring himself hundreds of levels down to talk our language so we could understand him. I would like to know what level he is.
Don’t be afraid to seek outside input.
Work with employees on new initiatives.
Don’t lead with fear.
International expansion is a great way to grow as the U.S. economy slowly recovers, and the population and per capita gross domestic product of countries such as India and China continue to rise. But finding funding for exports can be difficult, unless you leverage a government-backed program.
“Why turn away sales when you can get working capital assistance through government programs to penetrate red hot foreign markets?” says Alfred Ho, vice president and enhanced credit specialist at California Bank & Trust.
Smart Business spoke with Ho about the benefits of leveraging guaranteed export financing.
What is the working capital guarantee program?
U.S. manufacturers were struggling to compete overseas, as foreign sales and receivables are generally excluded from traditional lending programs. So, to spur exports and domestic hiring, the federal government offers guaranteed financing programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank).
The loan proceeds under these programs can be used to purchase supplies and equipment, hire staff or, in the case of the SBA’s Export Express program, even attend an overseas trade show. And because the terms are flexible, owners can use the loan proceeds to fulfill a large contract or several small deals.
How do the programs help small businesses?
The programs encourage banks to lend to small businesses by guaranteeing 90 percent of the loan amount and allow loan officers to consider foreign receivables and work-in-progress during the underwriting process.
Plus, if a standby letter of credit is required to support a bid bond, advance payment guarantee or performance bond, the collateral requirement to have one issued is only 25 percent, instead of the 100 percent in traditional cases. This provides an edge for a U.S. company in its quest for overseas contracts.
How much can companies borrow and what does it cost?
The SBA export working capital program permits loans below $5 million. It charges an upfront fee of 0.25 percent of the loan amount and an annual utilization fee of 0.55 percent, which is assessed monthly.
There’s no limit to how much you can borrow from Ex-Im Bank, and its upfront fees range from 1 to 1.5 percent of the loan amount. The loan interest rate is based on the prime lending rate plus a spread. Interest rates for larger loans are based on the London Interbank Offered Rate,
which is currently hovering around a 52-week low.
What are the eligibility requirements?
Requirements differ among the programs but they all require a firm purchase order prior to advance and, minimally, shipment from a U.S. port to a country acceptable to Ex-Im Bank. Goods and services shipped must have at least 51 percent U.S. contents. Certain products are excluded from the programs. A company must also have a positive net worth and be profitable for the last three years to qualify.
For other qualifications and restrictions, talk to your lender or visit the SBA or Ex-Im Bank websites.
How can business owners find a participating lender?
Your local SBA or Ex-Im representative can provide referrals, but you can look for a Delegated Authority Lender who has the ability to expedite your loan.
Your banker can walk you through the lending process and share helpful ideas. The banker should be able to suggest ways to lower the risk of international commerce.
The important thing is: Don’t venture into the international marketplace alone. Find a competent banker to serve as your guide.
Alfred Ho is vice president, enhanced credit specialist at California Bank & Trust. Reach him at (213) 593-2118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by California Bank & Trust
Just when the construction industry was about to emerge from the doldrums, a series of game-changing events has raised the stakes for some of its major participants. Design professionals and contractors face increased risk and liability following the introduction of new design standards and several precedent-setting court decisions.
“The convergence of recent activities is a call to action for architects and contractors,” says Steve Erigero, a partner specializing in commercial litigation at Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. “They must take immediate steps to minimize exposure.”
Smart Business spoke with Erigero about the ways design professionals and contractors can benefit from the rebound while limiting their exposure.
What’s behind the rise in liability for contractors and design professionals?
Design professionals were largely immune from liability under California Senate Bill 800, but that changed when a California appeals court ruled that homeowners and homeowners associations could now sue them for defects.
Then, the California Legislature eliminated another safe harbor, when it decided that contractors and developers could no longer pass liability to downstream parties like subcontractors.
Finally, the escalation of green building projects has resulted in a host of new design standards and certifications. Professionals who fail to comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or other green building standards may be held liable for any shortcomings.
What are the most common risks associated with development projects?
Architects can be liable for construction defects, delays or cost overruns resulting from plan deviations as well as the improper installation or under-performance of specified building materials. For instance, they can be liable for a leaky window, even when the framer or product manufacturer is at fault. In addition, design professionals risk becoming a deep pocket if a general contractor is underinsured or files for bankruptcy.
To protect themselves, architects need to perform visual inspections throughout the course of construction and make sure their contracts include clauses that limit pass-through liability.
How can professionals minimize exposure to risk and liability?
The first step is to conduct a risk assessment and an insurance review. Even a high-deductible insurance plan may be better than going bare, but you need facts to assess your exposure and determine your risk tolerance.
Next, be cautious about signing indemnification agreements given the court’s reinterpretation of Senate Bill 800’s statutes. A contract review may reveal opportunities to insert clauses that limit liability and damages, especially in California.
Finally, consider the capitalization and financial stability of builders and developers before taking on a project. You certainly don’t want to be the last guy standing in the event of litigation.
How can professionals head off potential problems by working with legal counsel?
Besides helping with contract and insurance reviews, your lawyer can alert you to possible trouble by monitoring litigation activity on your current projects. It may be possible to mitigate risk by purchasing insurance if you receive a timely warning. He or she can help contractors decide whether to hire employees or continue subbing work out. Since contractors can no longer pass-through liability, it may be less risky and more profitable to exercise greater control over the construction process. Your lawyer can even help you compete for new deals by creating several versions of the same contract with varying levels of liability. That way, you can tailor your risk each time you bid on a project.
The key is to take immediate action so you don’t miss out on the long-awaited rebound in the construction industry.
Steve Erigero is a partner, Commercial Litigation, at Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. Reach him at (213) 312-2013 or SErigero@rmkb.com.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC
Bespoke means custom made, or made to order. The term originally came from custom clothiers — from suits to shirts to shoes; anything someone wears can be made to order for him or her by the right manufacturer.
“Bespoke is the art of being able to modify your production line to do custom paint and leather colors along with many other things,” says Jon Boardman, general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company.
In addition, how your company operates with each individual that comes in or calls is bespoke. Bespoke can fit into any business, one way or another, he says.
Smart Business spoke with Boardman about made-to-order sales and what that can mean for your customers and business.
How does bespoke work in the luxury car market?
For a normal brand you just get to pick from 10 to 20 exterior colors and five to eight interior combinations. Then, the manufacturer picks where the leather goes and the color of each piece of the interior, while dictating the type of wood that goes with this.
However, Bentley and Rolls-Royce have more than 300 exterior paints and will also mix paint to sample for a client. They offer 28 leather colors for the inside, and upon special request — while staying within the legal guidelines — they will consider doing wild game leather, i.e. ostrich and alligator.
Both Bentley and Rolls-Royce take bespoke to many other levels that people don’t even think of when looking for a new car. They can do custom woods, stains and finishes, such as satin or high gloss. They can incorporate the client’s name in the doorsills, wood veneer and even into the leather. They will inlay precious metals, jewels and shells into the veneer prior to it being installed into a car. For example, one customer request was to make a car’s veneer from a tree in his yard. Yet another option is to have no wood in your vehicle at all and go with turned aluminum or carbon fiber.
The Bentley stand on bespoke is stated as follows: ‘We enjoy working with our customers on their bespoke requests and are only limited by the boundaries of good taste and our ethical and environmental responsibilities.’
What’s the relationship between bespoke and an enhanced customer experience?
Bespoke allows a person to make a vehicle — or any other product — exactly what he or she wants. Whether the customer prefers a black car or a pink car, he or she has the ability to take part in the design of the car.
Why might some business owners consider using this concept for their company?
It is a great way to distinguish your company from the next, even though you are in the same field of business. Anything that gets a client to be more active in his or her purchase can only help everyone involved.
A 2011 Los Angeles Times article pointed toward the accelerating trend for customized products, especially with millennials, those ages 18 to 39. In the article, Alexander Chernev, an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, said by doing it themselves — ‘the Ikea effect’ — customers derive additional value.
Do you have any advice for executives on how to incorporate bespoke best practices?
Bespoke doesn’t have to be used in its traditional meaning. By modifying a customer’s experience with any company or brand you are making his or her experience unique. So, be creative and think outside the box.
A unique and memorable experience will have that person returning to you and speaking highly of your company while he or she is out with friends. You can do many things to thank your customers, from small dinners to event tickets to elaborate parties, anything to make sure you stand out to a client.
Jon Boardman is general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company. Reach him at (310) 659-4050 or email@example.com.
Social media: Visit O'Gara Coach Company at facebook.com/BentleyBeverlyHills.
Insights Luxury Autos is brought to you by O’Gara Coach Company
Installing the redundancy measures necessary to make sure company data is available 24/7, regardless of calamity, is prohibitively expensive and requires a great deal of know-how, which is why many organizations outsource their data protection to companies that are specialized to guard it.
“We live in an age where data has a critical role in our lives on a daily basis. Losing access to that data, whether from being knocked offline or because of a catastrophe, can be terminally disruptive, so having backup systems in place is critical,” says Pervez Delawalla, president and CEO of Net2EZ.
Specialized data centers are dedicated buildings constructed to house server equipment that hold data — business or personal, critical or otherwise. They are designed for redundancy in physical functions, such as power and cooling, as well as network redundancy to keep data available to its customers. But what separates one from another?
Smart Business spoke with Delawalla about how to grade data centers to ensure you find one that offers the best protection for your most valuable commodity, your data.
What are the differences between data centers?
The biggest misconception is that all data centers are built the same, which leads many to ask the question, ‘Why would I pay more for one when I could get it cheaper down the street?’ The answer lies partly in Tier rating.
What is Tier rating?
Tiers represent the availability of your data based on the probabilities of system failures in a given year. Tier 1 guarantees 99.67 percent data availability in a year. Tier 4 is 99.995 percent availability. These percentages are based on the life expectancy of equipment such as power and cooling systems and distribution panels.
So that 99.67 percent represented by Tier 1 equates to, in any given year, 29 hours that systems could be offline and data inaccessible. While that might not sound like much, if you’re doing the volume of online business Amazon does, you can’t afford that. In instances where customers are trying to get to your site nearly every minute of the day, it needs to be up all the time to accommodate them, so you need the maximum level of redundancy for protection.
Tier 4 data centers, on the other hand, guarantee a maximum of 2.4 minutes offline in any given year. The percentage differences, measured in tenths, may seem negligible, but it accounts for a big difference when your data is affected.
How reliable is a Tier rating?
Data centers can have their Tier rating certified by a third party. Certification bodies include the Uptime Institute, as well as more traditional auditing firms such as Deloitte and Ernst & Young, which have technology arms capable of making an assessment. There’s also SSAE 16 certification for service organizations, which is used for reporting on controls.
How can companies ensure they have the highest level of data protection?
There are different methods for achieving redundancy. For instance, you could employ multiple Tier 1 data centers that fail over to each other. But that can be expensive. It might make more sense to use two Tier 4 data centers, one of which can serve as a geographic redundancy — it should be located a great distance from your main office and your primary data center to guard against failure caused from natural disasters, such as earthquakes.
What else should companies ask?
Make sure you’re aware of a data center’s redundancy for its network — the physical fiber that comes through the building — and how it interconnects with the rest of the network and Internet exchange points.
Also consider the support environment. Not all centers have 24/7 on-site engineering support to take care of the back of the house, such as the generators. While customers often overlook it, it’s critically important to have someone physically monitoring those systems and on hand to react to any major outages or prolonged system failures. Similarly, it’s great to have engineering and technical support on the server and router side of it to work directly with customers.
Pervez Delawalla is president and CEO at Net2EZ. Reach him at (310) 426-6700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Technology is brought to you by Net2EZ
General liability policies specifically exclude claims arising from professional services, so any business engaged in such services should consider a professional liability policy to properly protect their business. However, business owners may not realize that not all errors and omissions (E&O) policy forms are created equal and there is no such thing as a “standard” policy. The coverage is highly specialized and it is important to work with a broker who understands your industry and how to tailor such policies to suit your needs.
Smart Business spoke with Steve Rivera, an assistant vice president at Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc., who shared some insider tips to help businesses evaluate whether their E&O coverage is protecting them correctly.
What is E&O insurance?
E&O insurance, more commonly referred to as professional liability or malpractice insurance, covers your company, or you individually, in the event that a client holds you responsible for an error or omission in the service you provided, or failed to provide. In addition, E&O insurance can also protect your business from allegations of libel and slander.
Who needs this protection?
Anyone providing a professional service, for example doctors, lawyers, real estate and insurance agents, accountants, software designers, educators, architects, engineers, contractors and consultants.
What is important to look out for?
Making sure that the services you render are covered by the policy. If you are like most businesses, you are constantly evolving and finding new ways to service your existing client base or attract new clients. Have you recently rolled out a new service offering? If so, have you contacted your insurance broker to notify them and asked how it may impact your E&O policy? If not, you are running the risk of operating with a gap in coverage on your E&O policy and could experience unforeseen expenses because of an uncovered claim, which can severely hinder your business or even worse, put you out of business.
How are E&O policies responding to website and social media activities?
If your company has a website or a social media presence, it is important to speak with your broker about adding coverage on your E&O policy for these exposures. Many policies exclude Web-related activities, leaving you unprotected against claims. If your company transacts sales over your company website, you are liable for client information, such as credit card numbers, in the event your website is hacked and personal information is accessed.
Why is it important to know if your defense costs are inside your limit of coverage?
Most E&O policies include coverage for defense costs, which pays for legal and administrative expenses associated with defending a claim, regardless if the suits are baseless or contain merit. The defense costs can be staggering and can erode your policy limit, which may mean that if limits aren’t sufficient, you pay out of pocket. Let’s say, for example, that the total losses to be paid as a result of a covered claim are $1 million in damages and $300,000 defense costs, for a total claim of $1.3 million. If you have a $1 million dollar policy limit, and defense is inside that limit, then $1 million is the most the insurer will pay and anything above that limit is your responsibility. It is advantageous to the policyholder to seek defense costs coverage outside the policy limit, whenever available.
How can you tell if E&O limits are adequate for a business operation?
There are a few ways to do so, including evaluating the company’s revenues and benchmarking against peer institutions. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula and there is no way to predict just how big an E&O claim can be, so the best thing a business owner can do is to work with a broker that specializes in this type of coverage.
Does E&O cover international operations?
More and more businesses are able to service clients all over the world, and it is imperative that their policy’s coverage territory is defined as worldwide. Not all policies will come standard with worldwide coverage.
Steve Rivera, CLCS, is assistant vice president at Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc. Reach him at (818) 574-0894 or email@example.com.
Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc.
Executive MBA programs are geared toward people who have been working in the business world for around 14 years and have quite a bit of managerial experience, says Carla Hayn, senior associate dean of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“Most executives who enter an Executive MBA program are more mature, experienced and about 10 years older (average age of 37) than people enrolling in full- or part-time MBA programs,” she says.
Smart Business learned more from Hayn about how to find the right MBA program.
How can an executive determine whether getting an MBA degree is the right choice?
It you are on the brink of being promoted or have already moved into a top management position, an Executive MBA program will enhance your skill set and your ability to succeed in your career. You’ll learn more about the specific areas in which you may need more specialized knowledge (e.g., corporate finance, brand management, supply chains, etc.). You’ll have classmates who are experts in their fields from whom you can learn. You can take an array of elective courses to acquire further expertise.
Why are elective offerings an important part of MBA programs?
All Executive MBA programs provide you with the ‘core’ business knowledge in accounting, finance, marketing, economics, etc. However, programs vary widely in the number of electives available to executive students. At UCLA Anderson, we provide 15 electives each year especially for our executive students in diverse areas such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Venture Capital & Private Equity, and Online One-to-One Marketing. In addition, executive students can travel through our International Study Programs (recent trips include Brazil, China, South Africa, India) and our exchange programs with partner Executive MBA programs throughout the world.
Are there other features that distinguish one Executive MBA program from another?
Absolutely. Among the other important factors to consider in choosing a program is the stature of the faculty. Exactly who will be teaching you? Are they excellent communicators? Is the classroom experience not only challenging but also invigorating? Ask to attend a class and find out for yourself if the students are engaged in the learning process.
UCLA Anderson is known as a leader in experiential learning. The Strategic Management Research Project is a capstone course that synthesizes the knowledge our executive MBA students acquire throughout the program. Five to six students work on consulting teams for a six-month period to solve a multi-faceted problem confronting an organization.
All first-rate Executive MBA programs should also stress leadership development to help you develop your own management style, building upon your strengths. Look for a program with experiential workshops, engaging seminars and informative guest speakers. Talk to the current executive students and find out how satisfied they are with the various components of their program — the students are an excellent source of information.
What is the return on investment of the Executive MBA program?
Most estimates show that the present value of the incremental earning power over an executive career due to an MBA degree is about $500,000. This high return is due to the fact that executives with an MBA degree are usually promoted faster, are considered for a wider array of executive positions, have access to more job opportunities through their increased business and social networks, and have a different view of themselves that prompts them to explore higher and more financially rewarding positions.
A survey of graduates of the UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA Program shows an average salary increase of 158 percent within five years from graduation. While this survey was taken when the economy was stronger, it is not unreasonable to believe that an executive’s salary would double within five years of graduation. The knowledge acquired in an Executive MBA program translates to a higher rate of business success, whether you are working for a large public company, a smaller private company, or are self-employed.
Carla Hayn is senior associate dean in the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach her at (310) 206-9225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management
As the 2014 date looms, a lot of news is spreading about having to offer affordable coverage to all employees by Jan. 1, 2014, or pay big fines.
“Employers, you may be asking yourself, ‘Hey, our plan year starts on July 1 every year. Does the employer mandate apply to us on Jan. 1, 2014, or does it start on July 1, 2014?’” says Tobias Kennedy, vice president at Montage Insurance Solutions.
Smart Business spoke with Kennedy about possible transitional relief for some employers.
How does the employer mandate work for plans that don’t start with the calendar year?
The good news is there has been special transitional relief for employers to avoid the unaffordable coverage fines and the ‘pay or play’ mandate until later in the year. Generally speaking, the employer shared responsibility mandate is effective on Jan. 1, 2014, but there are special transitional rules that might apply and, if they do, they delay the assessment of penalties until the first day of your first plan year that starts after Jan. 1, 2014.
In other words, if you are that employer with a July 1 plan date and you qualify for the special transitional relief, you don’t face penalties until July 1, 2014, and will not be fined for the January through June months — even if you are out of compliance.
So, how can you qualify for this special transitional relief?
Basically, the transition rules say that if you maintained a non-calendar plan as of Dec. 27, 2012, you might be eligible. There are two parts to eligibility. The first one is whether or not you had a plan in place on Dec. 27, 2012, which is easy enough to figure out.
The second part is based on whom your plan was offered to. If your plan was either offered to at least a third of your employees or covered at least a quarter of your employees, then you quality. For the purposes of figuring out if you offered it to one-third of your employees, you’d look at the number of people offered coverage at your most recent open enrollment season, and for the purposes of figuring out if it covered one-fourth of your people, you can pick any day between Oct. 31, 2012, and Dec. 27, 2012, and check on what percentage of your employees were enrolled.
You still have to correct any violations — unaffordable or under-accessible plans — by your anniversary date or you will be fined. But if you qualify, you have the full year to assess the situation and to make plans to come into compliance by your 2014 plan anniversary.
Which companies can’t get the transitional relief?
The federal government has specifically stated that companies who already have a calendar year plan can certainly change now to a different anniversary date, but they will not be eligible for this relief and those companies — ones who had a Jan. 1 anniversary as of this year or prior — will still be assessed the ‘shared responsibility’ fines as of Jan. 1, 2014.
Additionally, if your company does not qualify for this transitional relief because you either didn’t offer insurance or didn’t cover enough people, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, you will need to offer affordable coverage to at least 95 percent of your employees or be fined. In other words, even if you did have a plan in place but it covered so few people it doesn’t fit the transitional relief provision, you’ll need to either change the plan year date to Jan. 1., 2014, or consider offering coverage to your employees at the 2013 renewal to avoid any fines.
Is there anything else employers should know?
If your employees do not have a medical plan effective Jan. 1, 2014, they will be fined personally. At this plan year, it’s recommended that you sit down and audit your employee benefits program to make sure your employees are offered the coverage and the coverage is affordable, per the 9.5 percent rule that begins in 2014.
Next month we will further review these potential fines for ‘unaffordability’ and the details of that 9.5 percent rule so you know how to comply.
Tobias Kennedy is a vice president at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at (818) 676-0044 or email@example.com.
Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions
When I meet with business-to-business and professional service clients to discuss their marketing strategies, one comment that consistently arises is “No one buys professional services through the Web.”
While that may be true — you don’t typically buy an accountant online as you would a product through e-commerce — how your brand is perceived most definitely will impact a prospect’s buying decision.
Decisions to work with professional service firms don’t happen overnight. They take time. And because of this, any B2B organization must ensure it is “seen” in the strongest possible light before the sale actually occurs.
In fact, it’s just as important to not lose prospective customers because your organization is perceived as weak or subpar as it is to convert a prospect into a client.
The simple truth is that you never know at any given time who is researching your brand and through what channel. Having a consistent brand message, whether they’re looking to engage you now or somewhere down the road, helps you to not lose them before they need your solutions.
To accomplish this, you must get your brand messaging across in a consistent manner across multiple channels.
So how do you that?
First, a solid marketing strategy must include a website that clearly articulates the brand message and value proposition of your services — and it has to be on the home page.
It also should include supporting content that allows a prospective customer to quickly understand who you are, what you do and why you’re different.
For example, let’s say you’re an accounting firm. Being able to articulate why you are the best at providing risk management solutions for clients can help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Providing and highlighting content that explains your service, along with case studies and client examples that include measurable results, is a smart move. It allows prospects and site visitors to get a feel of what it would be like to work with you.
Additionally, your website should offer prospective clients an easy way to contact you — either through a phone number or a simple contact form that includes a name, email address, phone number and short explanation of the prospect’s business problem.
Beyond your website, other channels to consider include social media, which includes LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In these social media channels, you need more than just simple company pages. Instead, you should offer visitors relevant and current content that consistently supports the brand message and your organization’s value proposition, along with company information and executive profiles. And it’s extremely important to continually be “active.”
Using the same accounting firm as an example, it could utilize consistent content around recent changes to government policies, updates on recent business wins or sharing a solution that helped one of its clients overcome a business challenge across all social media channels.
And when that information isn’t timely, something as simple as new hire announcements or employee promotions will show visitors and followers that there is activity within your brand — and your organization. It makes you “active,” which makes you more attractive to prospects.
Other channels to think about include mobile or tablet experiences, print marketing and event sponsorship. Every channel you can imagine should be used to express your organization’s brand message because there are always people watching.
So while your clients may not choose or buy their professional services online, they will evaluate your brand even prior to consideration. And while it’s impossible to measure what clients you may lose by not having this strategy in place, it is clear that a solid marketing strategy of this type can save you from losing consideration — even when you don’t know you’re being considered.
David Fazekas is vice president of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
According to The Business Dictionary, attitude is: “A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual's choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).”
The words that jump out as important in this definition are:
- Positively or negatively
In light of this, we can say that when we respond to things with a positive attitude, that response influences positive action in us and others. We can also say that the opposite is true.
We could end this article right now by simply saying – As a leader, manager or executive in business; do the former and not the latter. But if you are like me, I bet that you could use some “how to” examples and tips.
Here they are, six tips for having a positive attitude in business:
1. Keep an open mind. Always be open to the possibility that a life change you have refused to consider might be the key to transforming your life for the better.
This type of attitude impresses your colleagues. Why? Because most of them have been faced with the same challenge and chose to not change. Their attitude towards the change has been clouded with self-doubt and lack of courage.
When you are willing to keep an open mind, you are responding positively to the challenge of a life change that has the possibility of a great reward.
Be different than those around you. Be open.
2. Be proactive, not reactive. A reactive individual is at the mercy of change. A proactive individual sees change as a part of the process and takes action to make the best of it.
Having a proactive attitude requires work. You must be able to think ahead and anticipate. It involves being involved.
In business (and life) you cannot simply sit back and let things just happen as they will. In truth, you could, but that attitude is a negative response that influences negative action, namely, reaction.
Do a little mental work beforehand. Get in the game and be proactive.
3. Go with the flow. Present an easy, casual and friendly attitude that shows your flexibility, yet at the same time portrays your persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity.
This is not the negative “sit back and let things happen” attitude described above. Persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity is what sets it apart.
Having an attitude that is easy and casual, without stepping outside the bounds of proper etiquette and being friendly, is some of the best advice I can give to leaders in business.
Be persistent while going with the flow.
4. Think big. If you think small, you will achieve something small. If you think big, then you are more likely to achieve a goal that is beyond your wildest dreams.
When we allow ourselves to have an attitude that pushes boundaries and explores possibilities, we draw in people who have the same attitude. In other words, by thinking big we find big thinkers.
Want to have a team full of big thinkers? Want to have meetings where ideas are shared and positive plans are made? Want to grow leaders out of your team and promote them to new heights in their career? It all starts with your big-thinking, boundary-pushing, dream-inspiring attitude.
Go ahead – think big.
5. Be persuasive, not manipulative. Use your persuasive talents to persuade others of your worth. Don’t use it to convince someone that others are worth less than you.
Have you ever had a manipulative boss? Have you ever had a persuasive boss?
6. Enter action with boldness. When you do something, do it boldly and with confidence so that you make your mark. Wimping out is more likely to leave you stuck in the same old pattern and immune to positive change.
In the end it’s all about getting things done – with a positive attitude. As leaders, we need to be able to move and work with a certain sense of boldness. A boldness that inspires us and those around us to reach for new horizons in all we do.
It’s obvious, action is better than no action – but bold action that leaves a mark is what we should be doing in our life and business.
Do something and do it with a bold attitude.
Attitude really is everything in business. It is the force that empowers us to respond positively to the challenges we face on a daily basis. It allows us to enjoy what we do as we do it. It builds us and our teams.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.