Los Angeles (1224)

I remember, as a 5-foot-5-inch executive, being at senior-level conferences and trying to act “taller.” I noticed and later read that the majority of CEOs are more than 6 feet tall. That is a personal stat that is hard to change. Lately, there is one other stat that is getting a lot of attention: BMI. For those of you not sure what BMI is, it is a measure of your body fat as determined by your height and weight.

A Wall Street Journal article highlighted research that showed that executives who have a BMI under 25 percent are perceived more positively by peers than those with BMIs over 25 percent. Why? Perhaps it has to do with self-control or discipline or energy levels. Regardless, it is a perception that can impact your career — and your company’s prospects.

The great thing about this is that you can do something about it. And, it doesn’t have to be doing triathlons or taking up hockey again after all these years. It is about moving more every day. How do you know how much you move? You track it.

Consider every other metric important to your company’s success. You track revenue, receivables, payables, aging inventory, product turns, absenteeism, retention and, I am sure, many other things. If it is important, you track it. As we all know, we achieve what we measure.

While you are thinking about what you personally can do to move more, think about how it would help the rest of your senior team and all your employees if they do the same.

How do you get started in this effort?

Create a baseline and then focus on continuous improvement. If you care about productivity, you need to pay attention. Studies have shown that the cost of obesity for every 1,000 workers equates to $285,000 each year. This number includes absenteeism, increased medical costs, worker’s compensation claims and increased drug costs.

Of course, not everyone is obese, although more than 70 percent of the people in the United States are overweight and obesity is now considered an epidemic.

Moving more helps everything. It helps our creativity, it keeps our brain younger, it helps ward off heart disease and cancer. You name it; it helps. (For more information on BMI, including how to calculate yours, go to this web page from the National Institutes of Health: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm)

Make it happen

Wouldn’t it be great if your employees felt as accountable for their own health as they do for other aspects of the company? Productivity will soar, your retention will be at record levels and people will clamor to work for you. I couldn’t grow taller, but I could be in shape.

In a variety of top-level corporate jobs, I traveled all the time so a gym wasn’t always an option. So I put on a pedometer and started tracking.

Soon, my senior team all started wearing them. We started doing walking meetings. One-on-one sessions while we were moving became the norm. We started sharing our goals and cheering for each other.

I personally began tracking 10,000 steps a day. And, we became the fastest growing division within the company — by profits — not by waistlines.

If it seems like a big undertaking, consider an outside wellness expert to help you set up a plan, create the metrics and lead the implementation and engagement.

Yes, size counts. You want increases in your bottom-line and shrinkage at the waistline.

Sue Parks, a former top-level executive with USWest, Gateway and Kinkos, is a corporate wellness expert. She is the founder and CEO of WalkStyles Inc., www.walkstyles.com, based in Irvine, Calif., and co-author of “iCount, 10 Simple Steps to a Healthy Life.”

With so many health care reform law changes and updates, human resources professionals and companies are asking for a boiled down version of some of the main points that need to be highlighted, regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and key pending action items.

Smart Business spoke with Tobias Kennedy, executive vice president, Montage Insurance Solutions, about what you need to know and do with the ACA.

What are a couple of immediate concerns for everyone?

First and foremost, make sure you got your notice out to your employees on their rights to the new marketplaces, or exchanges. Then, make sure the notice gets added to your new hire kit for future staff.

Next, employers need to look at their waiting periods and their compliance with California’s Assembly Bill 1083, which is a state law that expounds a little on the ACA. If this law applies to you, you may need to clip your waiting period if it extends beyond the allotted 60 days. Be aware this is separate than the federal bill and is set for a 2014 start date.

What extra steps do large employers need to take?

To find out if you need to comply with the employer shared responsibility provision, you have to evaluate your employees. Basically, the question is: Do you employ an average of at least 50 full-time people, including full- time equivalents. For some groups, this is an easy question. Others may waiver near the border, so it’s important to know the correct method for calculation.

If you do trigger the shared responsibility provision, you now need to be aware of exactly whom you are supposed to be offering benefits to, and exactly what types of benefits will qualify.

How should large employers keep track of their employees’ hours?

It’s a good idea for employer groups to start doing a regular check — monthly, quarterly, etc. — to see which employees are being offered coverage versus which employees are averaging more than 30 hours per week. Remember, just because you think they’re part-timers doesn’t mean they aren’t a manager’s go-to when someone calls in sick, or the workload gets hefty. It’s not uncommon for overtime hours to add up and alter a person’s average hours worked.

You’ll want to have a handle on the average hours worked by people that are not offered your benefits by running a payroll report and watching out for staff who edge up near the 30-hour average mark.

What’s key to know about insurance renewals?

You will want to note that, beginning with the upcoming January 2014 renewals, this is your last renewal to come into compliance before facing fines. Are your plan designs compliant? Is your employer/employee premium split compliant? If not, you may want to see where you are versus where you need to be. You’ll need to see what, if any, transitional steps you want to take this renewal, so you’re not so far off in 2015 when the potential for fines enters the picture.

Tobias Kennedy is an executive vice president at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at (818) 676-0044 or toby@montageinsurance.com.

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions

The biggest employer piece of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been delayed until 2015. Unfortunately, it looks like some of the transitional relief rules for the 2013 year went by the wayside with it, so it is incredibly important for employers to know that, as of now, the government is expecting you to use the 2014 gift year to get yourself into compliance — a year in which, technically, the ACA is still the law of the land, although there will be no penalties for the shared responsibility provision.

“Employers should really be aware of the fact that, beginning with the upcoming Jan. 1 renewals, your next renewal is your last renewal to implement the necessary changes before we enter 2015 and you begin to ‘go live’ in terms of facing noncompliance penalties,” says Tobias Kennedy, executive vice president, Montage Insurance Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Kennedy about what exactly is the employer shared responsibility.

What does the employer responsibility really entail?

To break it down, you need to know the answer to three questions:

  • Are you large enough to trigger it?
  • If so, is your coverage considered affordable?
  • Are you covering all of the people you’re required to cover?

How can employer groups know if they are large enough?

Technically the provision only applies to companies with 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees. If you have more than 50 full-timers, it’s easy to know that you must comply.

Groups that can be trickier are those with part-timers. Even though you are not required to cover them, you are required to count their hours worked for the purposes of determining large employer status. Basically, most every hour worked by a part-timer goes into the calculation and you assign one full-time equivalent for every 120 hours your part-time staff works. In other words, if you add up all the part-timers’ hours and it comes to 1,200 hours for the month, you would add 10 bodies to your head count because that’s the equivalent of 10 full-timers, per the law. If you average more than 50 for the year, you must offer the people who are truly full-timers affordable coverage or face a penalty.

When is coverage considered affordable?

This actually has two parts to it. The first is the actuarial value of the plan, which is a fancy way of ensuring the plan is not a mini-med plan. So, first and foremost, regardless of what you charge the employees in premium, the plan has to have a 60 percent actuarial value. A Kaiser Family Foundation study set 60 percent at, approximately, a $2,750 deductible, 30 percent coinsurance and an out-of-pocket max of $6,350 — so it’s a fairly lenient plan design to meet.

Apart from that, you have to make sure that the employee-only tier costs less than 9.5 percent of an employee’s salary. You don’t need to worry about dependent buy-ups. There are a few safe harbors for figuring employees’ salaries, including using what’s reported in Box 1 on Form W-2 or comparing the premium to the Federal Poverty Level. You are only responsible for ensuring one of your plan options meets this threshold. In other words, dependent buy-ups can still be done at the cost of the employee, as well as buy-ups to richer coverage/lower deductible plans.

How do you know if you’re offering the plan to the right people?

First, the legislation defines full time as 30 hours or more per week, which might be a change for some employers still using the traditional 40-hour threshold.

Apart from that, one of the more complicated parts of the ACA centers on how employers with variable-hour employees offer coverage. Basically, you have the option of averaging out hours worked over a pre-defined time frame, up to 12 months. You can use that longer time frame to level out spikes in work for employees who toggle between working more some weeks and less in others. You can review their annual average and offer them coverage based on hours worked in the year.

You need to cover at least 95 percent of those the law says you’re supposed to cover, so you’ll want to work with your consultant to be sure you cast an appropriate net over the people that you’re required to make eligible.

Tobias Kennedy is an executive vice president at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at (818) 676-0044 or toby@montageinsurance.com.

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions.

There has been an overwhelming amount of news surrounding the health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and now there’s more talk that Washington, D.C., might try and kill it. Again.

“As much as companies don’t want to admit, it is truly now time to say, ‘This thing is here to stay and I need to know what to do about it,’” says Tobias Kennedy, executive vice president, Montage Insurance Solutions.

With the employer shared responsibility penalties delayed until 2015, the keyword is delayed — not eliminated.

“With the early Fourth of July present the administration announced for us, there is a bit of a ‘dry run’ opportunity that really benefits a lot of companies,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Kennedy about what the delay of the penalties means for employer groups.

With the delay, what do employers need to keep in mind going forward?

No. 1: This really isn’t the time to hit the snooze button for 12 months. The delay shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to waste another 12 months in figuring out compliance. It should be used as a practice run to see if you’re in compliance, and if not, what steps need to be taken to correct your course.

No. 2: Just because the employer shared responsibility provision was delayed, it doesn’t mean the ACA was delayed. If you’re an employer group, you still have requirements.

You won’t be penalized for failing to offer insurance or failing to offer affordable coverage, but that doesn’t get you off the hook for the mandatory issuance of the employees’ rights in the exchange notification, or certain plan design changes. Be sure you are working with your consultant(s) to be totally clear on exactly which provisions were delayed and which have action items pending in the near future. 

While most companies know, at least in broad strokes, that large employers will soon be responsible for providing affordable coverage, there is more to the employer shared responsibility. Again, the best time to figure out the intricacies is during a practice year — not when there are penalties looming and a hungry IRS over your shoulder. 

What should employer groups specifically be doing in 2014?

Aside from figuring out what you need to do in the short term, such as identifying the parts of the ACA that were not delayed as they relate to your insurance plans, use 2014 to really get a handle on a few questions:

  • Are you a large enough employer that you need to offer coverage?
  • If you are large enough, what type of coverage is compliant and what are you allowed to charge your employees for this compliant coverage?
  • To whom do you need to offer coverage? If it is not as simple as ‘everyone works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,’ then you may have some variable hour employees who straddle the line of part-timer and full-timer. These employees may be technically over the 30-hour threshold, so you’ll want to be sure you know which people in your population you would be legally required to offer benefits to.

Tobias Kennedy is an executive vice president at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at (818) 676-0044 or toby@montageinsurance.com.

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions

Fall is a great time for sports fans. The World Series takes place in baseball, and the regular seasons for the NFL, NBA and NHL begin.

The end of the year is also one of the most important times for small businesses. A lot of entrepreneurs look back on 2013 and wonder what could be improved and what should be changed. Luckily, there are plenty of business lessons to learn from professional sports.

There is no “I” in team

Chances are good that you’ve run the entire show from day one, so as you add employees, it can feel a bit uncomfortable to put some of your former responsibilities into their hands. That’s why people micromanage — they assume that they, and only they, know how to do a task correctly.

You need to get into the habit of trusting your employees and backing away. Give them room to surprise you and rise to the occasion, and start building a team in earnest.

Avoid “Hail Mary’s”

It is awesome to see a crazy play work out beautifully. But, more often than not, we just get stuck watching the wide receiver fumble the ball and lose the game. It can be tempting to try your own Hail Mary pass at the end of the year to boost your numbers and round out 2013 on a high note, but marketing gimmicks are a real gamble.

Instead, drum up business with time-tested, reasonable marketing practices. The end of the year is not the time for a business to experiment with its customer base.

Don’t be a Monday morning quarterback

We all know Monday morning quarterbacks. They are the ones who know the plays that should’ve been made and mistakes that should’ve been avoided. Advice based on hindsight can get pretty annoying, especially in a small business.

You want your team to like working for you because if morale drops, so do sales. Constructive, end-of-the-year criticism is appreciated. If all you do is point out your employee’s mistakes without giving them room or advice to grow, however, they are going to be put off.

Keep your eye on the ball

This idiom always interested me. The point of any game is to score points and win, and a ball is a means to that end. But the idiom isn’t “Keep your eye on the goal,” or “Keep your eye on home plate.” The focus is the ball.

Like in sports, the goal in business is to win by staying in business and supporting your livelihood. But how your business operates, and how it takes advantage of your personal, entrepreneurial style is how your company achieves that end.

Take this time to reflect and remember why you got into business in the first place — a crummy boss, a side passion or a desire to better your community. Whatever the reason, focus on that and use it to guide your growth strategy. If you find your niche, your company will do just fine.

Admittedly, the sports-to-business analogy can be a bit corny, but you have to admit that using some of these fundamental practices can help you improve your business. Focus on them, and 2013 will be a real winner — if you’ll allow me one more sports-related pun before I go.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. 

Twitter: @DeborahSweeney

Twitter: @MyCorporation

Google+: https://plus.google.com/117209031809196393270/posts

 

Before Amit Kleinberger came to the United States and helped launch Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, he was a member of the Israeli military. He graduated from commanders and sergeants school, served as a sergeant in Israel’s armed forces and was a member of an infantry combat unit.

“It shaped me more than anything,” Kleinberger says. “In combat, there are tough situations. When you tell someone, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ they are risking their lives. It’s absolutely not going to work if you think they’re going to do what you tell them to do simply because you’re the ranking authority at the time.

“In times of combat, people will fight for their lives and do what they need to do to survive.”

Kleinberger sought to earn the loyalty of the people in his charge by being someone that they could believe in and trust, even in the direst circumstances.

“You have to be the person they want to follow,” Kleinberger says. “It’s about the values, the culture and the way you treat them. You have to be the kind of person who they feel is a role model, someone they can learn from. But you also have to be competent. You can’t just be the nicest person in the world. You have to know your stuff. If you’re not competent, they are not going to follow.”

That philosophy served him well in his military service and it has helped him be successful in a number of business ventures — one gland slam of which is Menchie’s, which opened in 2007 and launched as a franchise company in 2008.

The company now has 288 stores in 17 countries with another 300 stores in development. Annual revenue is about $143 million and Kleinberger, the company’s CEO, credits a culture that gives employees a sense of pride and ownership in everything that they do.

“Every good leader can see if their people are inspired and subscribed to the mission or if they are just there to do a job,” Kleinberger says. “Any leader can see when they lead someone if that person is doing it with their heart. The writing should be on the wall.”

Here’s a look at how Kleinberger finds people who believe in his leadership style and helps them become an integral part of the Menchie’s family.

 

Get the right people

Kleinberger describes his schedule as “liquid.” He tries to plan things out as far as two months ahead of time, and it’s not always easy to find an opening for a new appointment. But when it comes to his employees and their needs, they never have to wait to get a piece of his time.

“Even though I have things scheduled, my team comes first,” Kleinberger says. “If they need me for something, everything will be on hold, and I’ll be there for them. Everything else waits.”

This commitment to culture begins during the hiring process. It’s not unusual to have dozens of interviews to fill a single open position.

“I will take anywhere from 100 to 200 applications per position and from those, we will narrow it down to one hire,” Kleinberger says. “We’re really picky when it comes to getting the right people.”

He wants people who have skills, but more importantly, he wants people who bring the attitude that he is looking for to become part of the team.

“The skill sets are easy to identify,” Kleinberger says. “People have credentials. The harder thing is for most people who are not successful; it’s not because of their skills. It’s because they don’t have the right approach to what they do. That’s what ends most relationships in business.”

Kleinberger says he doesn’t want people who just want to sell as much as they can at their store, and he’s not looking for people who see Menchie’s as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things.

“Growth is not an objective,” Kleinberger says. “It’s a result. You’re not going to grow because you want to grow. You’re going to grow as a result of doing the right thing at the right time for the right person. It’s the same thing when I hire people. If they’re here because they just want to grow and that’s their objective, it’s not going to work.

“If their objective is to bring good to the world and to my company and to make people smile and to work as a team, if all those things are their objectives, the result is inevitable. They are going to succeed no matter what.”

Those who try to marginalize the importance of culture in the workplace, says Kleinberger, do so at their own peril.

“Nothing can happen with a wrong culture,” Kleinberger says. “Nothing will happen. The culture is what will define the performance of your company.”

 

Be empowering

Assembling a team of loyal employees is only the first step, of course, in achieving those great results. You bring in people and talk to them about being a valued member of your team. You need to follow that up with opportunities for them to provide that value.

“Empowerment is critical,” Kleinberger says. “If you bring people in, let them do what they need to do and empower them to the point where it’s even taking a risk. If you bring someone in to take care of a specific role or job function, let them run with it.”

Kleinberger cites his vice president of marketing as a prime example of the value of empowerment.

“There’s a senior executive that I hired and she’s an experienced lady,” Kleinberger says. “But beyond that, I believe in who she is. She has the attitude and the skill set. Recently, we were on the verge of launching a few products that I was less involved with than I usually am. The message I gave to her was clear: If you believe it, and you’ve done your studies, and you think this will work, go for it. Make it happen.”

It can be tough as the CEO to let people take action when you’re not sure of all the variables that have led to the action. But just as you had to learn and be given a chance when you were climbing the ladder, your people need the same opportunity.

“It is a big risk because if these products come out and are not as successful as others, that can have a risk,” Kleinberger says. “But I’m confident in these products because I believe in her. I believe she did the right due diligence to arrive at the result we want.”

He believes that many people who leave a job don’t do it because they’ve grown to dislike the company.

“The most common reason people leave is mistreatment and micromanagement,” Kleinberger says. “Empower them. If they feel they can make big decisions and make an impact and make things happen, they will do that big time. The problem is most companies don’t give people that leeway. They micromanage them and don’t give them the ability and responsibility to do certain things.”

So what happens when something goes wrong?

“It’s part of business,” Kleinberger says. “Don’t fear making mistakes. The ones who don’t do anything don’t make mistakes. For the ones who do things, it’s part of business. I make mistakes every day. Understand it, assume responsibility, repair it and prevent it. Those are the most important phases of accountability.”

 

Focus on the best

On a recent Friday afternoon at Menchie’s corporate office, Kleinberger arranged for a food truck from In-N-Out Burger to swing by and serve lunch from noon to 4 p.m.

“It has nothing to do with growing the business, but it has everything to do with it because that’s culture,” Kleinberger says. “They get to spend the afternoon with their friends celebrating. That’s what I mean by culture. It’s about doing things that show the team that we care because we really do.”

These days, businesses are chasing every dollar to get ahead but you can’t forget the effort your employees put in to achieve those successes. And if you’re worrying too much about costs and not taking the time to show your appreciation, you could be headed for trouble.

The same is true for your willingness to regularly make investments in your business that will please your customers.

It’s one of the key reasons Kleinberger puts better ahead of cheaper and revenue before cost on his priority list. If you spend too much time worrying about what you’re spending, you’ll never grow.

“The first rule is better before cheaper,” Kleinberger says. “It’s always good to compete on key differentiators and key value propositions instead of on price and being a commodity. The second rule is revenue before cost. I prioritize increasing my revenue over reducing my cost. I watch my income, and then I watch my expense.”

When you show your commitment to the task and get your people excited about it too, good things will happen.

“You have to enroll and subscribe people into that mission statement,” Kleinberger says. “If you do it, they will be happy to jump in and assist to make it happen.” 

 

Takeaways

  • Get people who believe.
  • Don’t fear mistakes.
  • Invest in your business.

 

The Kleinberger File

Name: Amit Kleinberger

Title: CEO and founding partner

Company: Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt

 

Born: Jerusalem, Israel. Immediately after my birth, we moved to South Africa and I spent my childhood in Johannesburg. That’s where I spent the first phase of my life. The second phase was in Israel and the third phase was in Los Angeles.

 

Education: I started going to Santa Monica College, and I actually dropped out in the first semester. Business was calling. I got the opportunity to start my first business while I was in college and immediately when I started, that business took off. I decided to part ways with college and head straight into the business world.

 

Who has been the biggest influence on you?

One would be a leader in the military who was my first commander. He taught me a very simple thing: ‘People don’t do what you tell them to do. They do what they want to do.’ He really led by example and understood leadership.

The second person is my father. My father instilled in me what I believe is the culture piece of business. He is one of the kindest people I know who always taught me to love, respect and care for people. And I mean everyone. It doesn’t matter if we know them or not.

 

What one person, past or present, would you most like to meet?

Steve Jobs had the ability to see things much earlier before they actually happened. That is intriguing to me because I believe being cutting edge in business is not only important, it’s critical. His vision was so interesting. I would really love to understand his process for seeing the things he saw.

 

How to reach: Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, (877) 696-3624 or www.menchies.com

Twitter: @MyMenchies

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MyMenchies

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/menchiesfrozenyogurt

 

 

Monday, 30 September 2013 20:00

Ah!thentic Ambition

Written by

Jack Butorac thought he had retired from the food industry in 2000, but a small Toledo, Ohio-based pizzeria was calling his name.

Monday, 30 September 2013 20:00

World Entrepreneur of the Year: Overcoming Challenges

Written by

Monte Carlo has seen a lot of risk takers in its day, but not many have been like those who attended the recent EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference. These risk takers may use the term “gamble” every now and then, but they more often use their willingness to take a risk as a way to overcome the challenges of running a business.

The collection of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs at the conference were innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem solvers.

From this highly qualified group of leaders comes some quality insights into rising above the challenges that could have blocked the success they envisioned for themselves and their companies. ●

 

“We have a phrase: ‘Market leaders need to meet market innovators.’ It’s a ‘two-fer’ because the innovators often need to have partnerships with the market leaders in order to really scale their companies. That could be as simple as a distribution agreement. It could be joint R&D. It could be capital. It could be a variety of things that form a partnership.

Likewise, if you think of firms like Procter & Gamble that have had edicts from the top that half of their innovation will come from outside the ivory tower, then those are the kinds of opportunities that we hope to be able to continue to bring.

Go and find those innovators … and likewise for the innovators, make sure your reach out and look for strategic partnerships that help your business grow.”

Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year and Venture Capital Advisory Group, EY

 

“Cost pressures are always high. What we need to make sure we do is continue to innovate our audit services and all our services to make sure we make maximum use of technology. We also need to make sure we take advantage of both time zone arbitrage and cost arbitrage where talent zones are present.”

Jim Turley, retired global chairman and CEO, EY

 

“The drive to always want to get better and do more is what keeps me going. It’s hard for me to turn it off and say, ‘That’s great.’ I’m always thinking about tomorrow. You can’t take things for granted in our business.”

Corey Shapoff, president and founder, SME Entertainment Group

 

“When you have a monopoly, it slows innovation. It reduces competition and is generally not good for the market. Once you have an open Internet with no government operating on top of it, then I’m very optimistic about humanity when it comes to producing things.”

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

 

“As a startup you go to the specialty stores first. That’s how you start and you grow and once you reach a certain level, then you go to the big retailers.

I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go to the big retailers and be in the regular dairy isle. That was a crazy idea and nobody thought that would go, but at least we tried. When we tried, we convinced one retailer in New York. The result from that was we were able to expand to a couple of other retailers. After the second or third customer that we had success with for our yogurt, I knew it wasn’t going to be about selling, it was about making enough.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc., Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States, 2013 World Entrepreneur Of The Year

 

“In our country, our main challenges are new regulations and new financial reforms that we have to comply with. We are getting together for meetings inside the bank in different areas to study each one of the reforms.

Also at the Association of Banking Industry in Mexico, we have an association of the 44 authorized banks where we get together in different commissions to make sure that we can modify some of the new policies that are going to come out later this year.”

Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco BASE, Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico

 

“One of the main challenges is how to train the talent we have in Latin America. Latin America has 600 million people and 1 million IT workers. The next step is to train more people and convince people to adopt technology as a career. If you provide the proper entrepreneurial environment to that, maybe the next Google or Facebook can come from Latin America.”

Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant, Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina

 

“One of the biggest challenges the industry faces is trying to figure out what the impact of the natural gas/shale gas revolution is going to have on us. Suddenly there is cheap natural gas, which is going to be more challenging for renewable projects to compete with. Rather than looking at it as an either-or world, you have to look at how the two technologies can work together.”

Jim Davis, president, Chevron Energy Solutions

 

“Zonamerica is a different kind of company, a business and technology park. But in general, we have a financial sector, we have 60 banks, a wealth of private funds, we have call centers, cell services and headquarters for companies that want to develop business in the region. The problem is all these companies require very qualified personnel. Our core purpose is to attract the best human resources to produce or offer the product. So we created a database and we have, at this moment, more than 24,000 people registered. Then these companies, according to the needs they have, can see and select the personnel they want. And then we also have schools to teach skills to prepare people for these kinds of employment.”

Orlando Dovat, founder and CEO, Zonamerica, Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Uruguay

 

“Zonamerica is a different kind of company, a business and technology park. But in general, we have a financial sector, we have 60 banks, a wealth of private funds, we have call centers, cell services and headquarters for companies that want to develop business in the region. The problem is all these companies require very qualified personnel. Our core purpose is to attract the best human resources to produce or offer the product. So we created a database and we have, at this moment, more than 24,000 people registered. Then these companies, according to the needs they have, can see and select the personnel they want. And then we also have schools to teach skills to prepare people for these kinds of employment.”

Orlando Dovat, founder and CEO, Zonamerica, Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Uruguay

 

“Probably the most difficult cost control challenge is managing staff salary software. There is a specific reason for that within our company — we are going through a system conversion, so when we acquire practices, they each have their different practice management software. Some are fully computerized; some are not computerized at all. We at one point had 18 different systems within our company. We have converted all of our 107 locations onto one platform this year, so with training and obviously the unknowns that occur with changing people's worlds by changing their operational platform, that's our biggest challenge this year. Having said that, that will allow us to create a line of central efficiencies in the coming years.”

Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO, president and chair, FYidoctors, Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada

 

Monday, 30 September 2013 08:00

Understanding your ‘natural instincts’

Written by

The animal kingdom has long been instrumental in teaching children about appropriate behavior.

A rabbit named Peter educated us on the importance of conflict resolution. For better or worse, Curious George was habitually inquisitive and, in separate incidents, three bears and three pigs taught us the importance of home security.

But despite a literary reputation as “big” and “bad,” according to Jack Hanna, “A wolf will feed the sick, the old and the young first.”

That’s a pretty impressive character trait for a creature so often maligned by the human race. Over the years, however, we’ve learned to expect Hanna to set the record straight on an important part of our world that most of us will never experience firsthand.

 

Following the footsteps of a legend

Inspired by wildlife pioneer Marlin Perkins, Hanna parlayed a fascination with animals and a position leading the Columbus Zoo into a television empire spanning 30 years. He’s had countless TV appearances on popular shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” In addition, he currently helms two television programs, “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown” and “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.”

Not surprisingly, Hanna’s high regard for the animal population is also reflected in his view of the public’s acceptance of the animal kingdom: “Most people who say they don’t like animals don’t like people much either.”

Phil Beuth, former president of “Good Morning America,” observes, “With Jack, what you see is what you get — he’s a genuine gentleman.”

Hanna has set a simple benchmark for appropriate professional behavior, “I operate by The Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Of course, humans are animals too — complete with instincts, genetic predispositions, unique skill sets and laws to keep us from acting like predatory animals. Yet, prey we do — leveraged buyouts, hostile takeovers, foreclosures, etc.

 

Comparing workforces of nature

When asked about lessons human worker bees can glean from the animal kingdom, Hanna enthusiastically says, “Just look at ants and termites. They each have specific jobs to do.” By performing specific tasks every day, these creatures work solely to serve the greater good — ostensibly without complaining.

Animals = 1 Humans = 0

Hanna also points to an innate respect in the wild that does not always translate into the land of the bipeds: “The animal world does not waste food and animals do not abuse their own children. For example, gorillas may fight but they still work together.”

Working through issues to achieve top performance is apparently part of the natural order of things. It’s about survival. As the concept of business survival has never been more prominent, shouldn’t cooperation receive equal billing?

Animals = 2 Humans = 0

Though Hanna also marvels at the mysteries behind the instinctual and highly effective way animals communicate, many in the office marvel at some people’s overwhelming lack of communication skills.

Animals = 3 Humans = 0

Specifically, according to Hanna, “The elephant is one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.”

So yes, it seems that without the benefit of an iPhone, Twitter or Outlook, an elephant truly never forgets.

Time to hire me an elephant. The Laws of Nature win every time. ●

 

Speaker, writer and professional storyteller Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. For more information, visit randallkennethjones.com.

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A marketing epidemic, to put it mildly, has been impacting most businesses — and it’s time to think about keeping your message simple if you haven’t already done so.

The roots of this epidemic can be traced back to two events.

First, during the economic fall of 2008, as businesses looked for ways to preserve revenue streams, companies hunkered down and focused on sales to preserve existing customers. Many cutoff or significantly reduced marketing budgets, and others shifted to digital media as a “low-cost alternative.”

The second event was the rapid spread of social media and the skyrocketing use of smartphones and tablets, which provide instant access to relationships, information and communication.

The social media craze and businesses’ desire to market on the cheap led companies to flood the marketing channels with content. Sales sheets, photos, videos, web pages — companies were suddenly all things to all people because they could push content to digital channels for “free.”

The problem — our marketing channels are now very noisy. As consumers of information, we respond to this noise with limited attention spans. The result — companies have sent confusing messages to the marketplace and people aren’t listening.

This current epidemic of marketing noise distributed across all channels leads to a common marketing need for all businesses — simplification.

 

Keeping it simple

So how do you achieve message simplification? It all ties back to the business. Here are seven steps to help get you started:

1. Identify three to four key business objectives for the next two years. Do you want regional growth or growth in a new industry? Do you want to sell more to existing customers?

2. Prioritize your objectives by placing dollars or number of opportunities next to them. This will help you focus on the most important areas.

3. Brainstorm a list of marketing tactics that can help you achieve each objective. Can you generate more leads from trade shows, your website, your existing customer list? What tactics do you need to adopt?

4. Write a succinct summary, or “elevator pitch.” This should be one to three sentences on how you benefit the people you are targeting in your objectives.

5. Compare your elevator pitch to your marketing tactics and existing materials. Review your website, brochures, email newsletter, social media accounts, videos, trade show collateral, etc. Notice how many “extra” things you say in an effort to cover all your bases.

6. Rework your message. Focus on the audiences for your key objectives. Identify the benefits for these audiences. Your marketing message should speak directly to these audiences so they can understand your value and usefulness to them.

7. Prioritize your marketing tactics. It’s tempting to be trendy and market on social media or through video, just remember to consider which tactics will best reach your audiences. You don’t need to be in every marketing channel, just the ones where your customers and prospects will hear you.

 

Finally, once you’ve simplified your message, stick to it! It is important so that people understand the benefits and value that you deliver. While it might seem repetitive to you, your audience will appreciate the clarity and with time, will remember what your business does best. ●

 

Kristy Amy is director of marketing strategy for SBN Interactive. Reach her at mailto:kamy@sbninteractive.com or (440) 250-7011.