As the U.S. economy continues to limp along, unemployment is more of an influencing factor than it has been at any time since the Great Depression.
It is estimated that there are in excess of 25 million people currently unemployed. That means this represents 15 percent of the work force, not 8.2 percent, as government statistics suggest. While the average monthly paycheck is $3,500, the average monthly unemployment check is $1,000, which is costing the government a total of $36 billion a year in lost payroll taxes and unemployment benefits, says Peter J. Munson, managing partner at Executive Career Services.
“The question then becomes one of how the future look for jobseekers, employers and the economy alike,” says Munson. “In addition, how does the HR and talent management industry react to the constantly changing landscape during these uncertain times? This is very much a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, with no clear end in sight.”
Smart Business spoke with Munson about how the current economy is impacting the private sector and how human resource managers are changing their talent management practices to address the change.
How has the economy changed?
The bottom line is that many manufacturing jobs are gone forever, either as a result of outsourcing overseas or simply because certain sectors have become obsolete or uneconomical from a production perspective. Today, more than 50 percent of consumer goods are manufactured outside of the United States, and that trend continues to increase.
For example, the Big 3 auto companies now build more cars outside of the U.S. than they do here at home. Most technology and electronic products are manufactured in Asia. At the same time, most U.S. textile plants have closed down in favor of cheaper Asian imports.
Also, many companies are outsourcing their help desks and customer service activities to countries such as India. Looking to the future, the private sector of the U.S. economy is increasingly dependent on service industries, as heavy industries decline. This includes financial services, technology, energy, green and health care. As a result, human capital will have to be re-educated and retrained to meet the demands of these emerging and changing fields. The solution to this issue is to address the fact that our education system is broken.
How can the education system be addressed?
By any standard, unified school districts in major cities are failing to produce quality results. Therefore, community colleges should put more emphasis on technical skills training in areas such as electrical, mechanical and IT. The fact is that not all high school graduates are capable of completing a college degree, let alone paying the high cost of tuition.
Consequently, high schools, colleges and trade school admission requirements and curriculums should be designed to meet the needs of the changing landscape if we are to rebuild our skilled work force and the infrastructure to support a productive manufacturing base. This should represent the bulk of our production resources and career opportunities.
How are human resources manager changing the way they work?
Human resource managers are now looking at significant changes in their talent management practices in an effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Due to the uncertain economic outlook, companies are relying more on temporary staffing than on full-time employees. Fewer companies are outsourcing their search requirements and more are using job boards and social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook to identify talent, from CEOs to trainees.
Many companies have chosen not to provide outplacement services when they plan a reduction in force. Ancillary services such as executive coaching and leadership development programs have been put on hold by many employers, and this means that training for new skills and/or job opportunities is limited.
How has this impacted outplacement and talent management firms?
Outplacement and talent management firms have consequently had to essentially reinvent themselves to stay current. Outsourcing of consultants and virtual delivery has become the norm. Today the industry is more advanced than ever in the development of online career centers, interactive webinars and virtual coaching using such tools as Skype. This allows candidates an option to manage their job search from home by accessing the selected service providers’ websites, as well as selecting online certified job training programs.
The old bricks-and-mortar model of outplacement career centers is fading from the landscape. This change has been slow in coming but is now more the rule than the exception. In addition, there has been a consolidation of the bigger career training firms in an effort to achieve economies of scale.
Most people in this country want to work and be successful. The U.S. work ethic and productivity exceeds most other nations. If we can combine this with a re-education program in which we have round pegs in round holes, we really can win the economic future. But unless fundamental change occurs at all levels, the prospect of a return to full employment will not happen any time soon. The end result of any changes should be to produce a more efficient, economic employment delivery system for all concerned.
We can’t all be lawyers, doctors, CEOs or millionaires. However, in this land of opportunity, there is room for everyone to succeed in their own way. That is what makes America great.
Peter J. Munson is managing partner at Executive Career Services. Reach him at PeterMunson@ecscpi.com.
Insights Human Capital Solutions is brought to you by Executive Career Services
After toiling for years to build a successful enterprise, business owners have earned the right to leave on their terms and retire. However, nearly half of owners fail to achieve their timing or financial goals because they focus on day-to-day operating challenges instead of creating viable exit strategies.
“Procrastinators usually end up dying with their boots on, when they could be enjoying the fruits of their labor by planning ahead and orchestrating a seamless transition,” says Greg Chiampou, director of Business Advisory Services for Contango Capital Advisors, which operates as CB&T Wealth Management in California.
Smart Business spoke with Chiampou about the process of creating a proactive exit strategy.
When should owners initiate the planning process and who should be involved?
Ideally, owners should begin to plan five to seven years before they want to leave because it takes that long to stage for an ownership change. It also may take up to three to five years to establish a complementary estate plan. Planning ahead gives owners time to groom successors or implement structural changes that enhance a company’s value and maximize sale or transfer proceeds by reducing tax liabilities. Assemble a transition planning team that includes a certified exit planner, CPA and attorney, who may get support from an insurance adviser, business appraiser and financial planner.
Why is goal setting paramount and what should the goals address?
The owner’s goals serve as the plan’s foundation so the owner must decide when he or she wants to leave, who will take over the business and how much money he or she needs to support his or her lifestyle. Then, the planning team can flesh out the details and assess the feasibility of the owner’s objectives by using models to test the plan’s elements. For example, testing may show an owner will have to sell to a third party instead of transitioning ownership to children or employees in order to derive enough proceeds to generate an annual income of $500,000.
Who should perform the valuation and cash flow projections?
Since the business is usually the owner’s largest asset and its value is a critical element of the strategy, owners need an accurate, objective appraisal. Engaging a certified appraiser or valuation specialist doesn’t have to be expensive, and the peace of mind generally is worth the investment. Verify business and personal cash flow estimates by asking a CFP to review the accuracy of the financial assumptions.
How can business owners enhance their company’s value before a sale or transfer?
Tactics that can boost a company’s value include:
- Mitigating concentrated risk: Expose concentration risks such as a limited customer base, suppliers or products by giving owners the opportunity to secure long-term sales or supplier contracts, or increase vendors and product offerings before a sale.
- Separating assets: Strategically transfer ownership of major assets like a warehouse, office complex or franchise agreement to a separate LLC, which can boost overall value.
- Conducting audits: Identify and rectify financial discrepancies, environmental hazards or legal vulnerabilities by auditing your finances, property and legal profile.
- Documenting operating procedures and retaining critical talent: Confirm continuity with organizational charts, documented procedures and secure key players. Buyers won’t pay full price if critical operating procedures, employees and institutional know-how could depart with the owner.
- Staging: Prepare to tell prospective buyers how sales growth and earnings can be maintained and possibly expanded. Ensure your office or production facilities look like they deserve the asking price. While purchasing new equipment or furniture can boost a company’s image and value, don’t take on significant new debt ahead of a sale.
How can owners minimize the tax liabilities resulting from a sale or transfer?
Aside from the actual purchase price, taxes have the biggest impact on the proceeds from a business sale or transfer. Ask an exit adviser and CPA to review your strategy and suggest ways to reduce or eliminate capital gains and estate taxes. For instance, converting a C-corp to a S-corp can eliminate double taxation on the sale of business assets, and estate taxes can possibly be eliminated by gradually gifting shares to your children or transferring ownership to a family limited partnership or limited liability company. In fact, highly appreciated assets can be converted into a lifetime income without paying capital gains tax when the asset is sold by setting up a charitable remainder trust.
What should owners consider when developing a contingency plan?
Even the best succession plans can be thwarted by the defection of key employees or customers, the sudden death of a partner, an unanticipated cash shortage or a scion’s desire for a different career. That’s why every organization needs a contingency plan that provides solutions to game-changing problems and events. Examples include buy-sell agreements that govern should an owner die or decide to leave, employee-retention bonuses backed by insurance and a mentoring program for successors. Given these tools and a little time, a team of skilled advisers can ensure that business owners exit smoothly.
Wealth management services are offered through Contango Capital Advisors, Inc. (Contango), which operates as CB&T Wealth Management in California. Contango is a registered investment adviser, a nonbank affiliate of California Bank & Trust and a nonbank subsidiary of Zions Bancorporation. Some representatives of CB&T Wealth Management are also registered representatives of Zions Direct, which is a member of FINRA/SIPC and a nonbank subsidiary of Zions Bank. Employees of Contango are shared employees of Western National Trust Company (WNTC), a subsidiary of Zions Bank and an affiliate of Contango.
Investment products and services are not insured by the FDIC or any federal or state governmental agency, are not deposits or other obligations of, or guaranteed by, California Bank & Trust, Zions Bancorporation or its affiliates, and may be subject to investment risks, including the possible loss of principal value or amount invested.
Greg Chiampou is director of Business Advisory Services for Contango Capital Advisors. Reach him at email@example.com. Reach California Bank & Trust at www.calbanktrust.com.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by California Bank & Trust
When Billings Productions was looking for a new home for its dinosaurs, it found the ideal location in Allen, Texas.
The company got its start nearly a decade ago after Larry and Sandra Billings met in Jakarta, Indonesia, got married, and went to work at Dino-MAE, a company that built dinosaurs. When that company closed, Larry thought he could build more realistic dinosaurs and the couple decided to start their own animated dinosaur company.
In 2003, their first year in business, they built 60 animatronic dinosaurs. Larry passed away in 2007 after the company had started turning a profit, but the company continued to thrive under the leadership of Sandra and their son, Trey. Billings Productions is North America’s leading provider of life-size animatronic dinosaurs and is the only U.S. company that specializes in creating creatures that can withstand the outdoor elements.
Each dinosaur has an electronic brain to produce sound and create realistic movements via a pneumatic system. And its 200 robotic dinosaurs, which include more than 50 species, are in great demand in zoos, amusement parks and museums not only across the country but around the world, says Tim Brightman, director of business development at Billings Productions.
“We currently have shows going on in England, France and Spain, and next year we’ll have shows in New Zealand and Australia,” says Brightman.
Smart Business spoke with Brightman about the world of dinosaurs and why Allen will be the home of Billings Productions for years to come.
How does the business operate?
We lease out animatronic dinosaurs, mostly to zoos, but also to venues such as amusement parks and museums, for temporary exhibits that Larry Billings referred to as ‘edutainment.’ The goal is to encourage discovery and create an awareness of prehistoric life by making learning fun and entertaining. Every boy I’ve ever known, including myself, from about the age of four thinks that dinosaurs are the coolest thing in the world. It’s something you never get over, and Larry felt that way, as well.
We currently have 10 shows out and have more going out in the next few months. Our biggest dinosaur is the T-Rex, which is 45 feel long and 25 feet high. However, that collapses down so that several dinosaurs can fit in the trailers for transportation.
Exhibits generally go out for two to three months at a time. It is a fun and growing business. However, the industry is becoming more competitive and we have to keep moving forward with new ideas.
What precipitated the move to Allen?
When the business first started, it was operating in what was essentially a 20,000-square-foot old aluminum airplane hangar in Texas. We had just outgrown it. We had too many dinosaurs and too many projects we are building to remain in that space. When dinosaurs were coming back, the building was completely full and we needed more room.
Billings Productions has gone from a mom-and-pop business that was run in an ad hoc manner to being a real business. We are getting the business organized and structured, and as we continue to grow, we needed more space.
We scouted all over the place to find a location that was suitable and that had enough space, and we found what we were looking for in Allen. We looked at other locations, including a small town in Texas where fossils had been found, which seemed like a natural fit. But we were very concerned that if we moved 100 miles away, we would lose our core personnel, and we found everything that we needed in Allen. That allowed us to keep our talent and cost effectively locate in a bigger, nicer building. The new space is state of the art and doubles the amount of space we have, giving us more room to store our dinosaurs.
We moved in this spring, and so far, it’s been great. We’re still moving in, but as far as the facility goes, we’ve shipped out a couple of shows since moving there, and it’s so much easier. We have a good loading dock and other things that we didn’t have before, things that make it a whole lot easier to do business. Going forward, as we settle in to our new location, we’re looking into expanding our product lines, and eventually, we are going to set up tours so that people can come through and see how the dinosaurs are built.
In addition, the Allen Economic Development Corporation has made us feel very welcome and wanted. We’re starting to work with them on where the company is going over the next five years and some expansion plans. We plan to be in Allen for the long term and we’re excited about how that relationship will develop over time. Everyone has been amazingly helpful and generous with their time and support, and we really look forward to being here for a long time.
Tim Brightman is director of business development at Billings Productions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at (972) 727-0250 or www.allentx.com.
There are more than 900 million active users on Facebook, the equivalent of nearly three times the population of the U.S.
“The challenge with social media is that employees are constantly posting comments regarding their work and personal lives on their own time as well as during work hours,” says Laura Fleming, Shareholder with Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. The line between public and private life often is blurred, which complicates the situation for employers.
Smart Business spoke with Fleming about the lawful use of social media in hiring, firing and other workplace situations.
Can employees be fired for using social media?
Most employees are ‘at-will,’ meaning they can be fired for any reason as long as it’s not discriminatory. As of now, there’s no law that explicitly prohibits firing an employee for behavior on social media sites.
However, some social media activity is legally protected. For example, civil rights laws protect employees based on their race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, etc., so it could be unlawful to fire an employee for writing about religion on Facebook.
In addition, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently has targeted employers for firing employees who criticize working conditions on Facebook. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was established to protect employees’ rights to engage in group activities to improve working conditions, especially through unionization. The NLRB has taken the position that employees complaining about working conditions on social media could be protected as if they were engaging in union activities. While a single employee on Facebook grumbling about an employer is not protected, if other co-workers join in — two or more, whether virtual or in real life — they may be protected under the NLRA.
Should employers conduct Internet searches to discover more about job applicants?
It’s prudent for employers to know who they are hiring and a social media background check can give you useful information. The problem is that embedded in this information are details irrelevant to the position and potentially protected. It can be a challenge to ensure that protected information doesn’t bleed into the hiring decision.
If you conduct an Internet search on an applicant be careful not to base any of your hiring decisions on information protected by civil rights law. In fact, some background check agencies will perform social media checks for you and screen out protected information so you don’t see it. You want to avoid creating any record that would show protected information was used in a hiring decision. In general, employers should avoid discussing any protected-category information during an interview and definitely avoid emailing such information to colleagues. Otherwise the applicant, having been denied the position, could claim that he or she was unlawfully passed over based on protected-category information discovered on a Facebook page or other social media site.
Can employers ask applicants and employees for social media passwords?
Right now, there are no laws specifically prohibiting employers from requesting personal social media passwords. However, Facebook has come out strongly against this practice, claiming it is a violation of its statement of rights and responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password. Also, in several jurisdictions, including Illinois, Maryland and California, there are movements to get laws passed to protect social media privacy. Regardless, any company that requests personal social media passwords risks lowering employee morale.
In addition, if an employer is trying to hack into an employee’s personal account without that person’s knowledge or coerce an employee to give up his or her password that could be a violation of the employee’s privacy rights or the Stored Communications Act.
Can an employer claim ownership of an employee’s Twitter followers?
In one high-profile case, an employee amassed some 17,000 Twitter followers and then tried to take the account with him upon his departure. There is an ongoing lawsuit to determine the rightful owner of the account, as well as the monetary value of the followers.
Because it takes time for the law to catch up to technology, there is not much legal guidance on how to determine ownership of social media accounts that are used for blended — work and personal — purposes. Thus, employers that engage in social media marketing should be careful to document their ownership of social media accounts. The employer should maintain and pay for the accounts, and prohibit personal use of the accounts.
How can employers protect themselves from social media-related claims?
All employers should have a social media policy, which safeguards several important interests. First, the policy should limit personal social media activities during work time or on work equipment. A recent survey found 64 percent of employees admitted visiting websites unrelated to work during work hours. Although it may be unrealistic to attempt to eliminate this activity entirely, to maintain a productive workforce employees must keep personal social media activity to a minimum. Second, the policy should prohibit employees from disclosing confidential and proprietary information online. The policy also should prohibit the use of social media to engage in any type of harassment of other employees.
Also, if a company is engaging in social media marketing, its marketing guidelines should comply with Federal Trade Commission regulations. For example, if employees are posting reviews of their employer’s products, they must disclose their relationship, among other requirements. Highly regulated industries, such as financial services and pharmaceutical/medical device, have additional restrictions on online advertising.
Laura Fleming is a Shareholder in Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth’s Labor and Employment Practice Group. Reach her at (949) 725-4231 or email@example.com.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth
Human beings find comfort in routine. As children, we gain a sense of security from knowing what will happen, when it will happen, for how long and how we are expected to react to each situation. As we mature, knowing that home and family will be where we left them allows us to go out and explore the world as young adults, secure in the knowledge that we can always come home if we need. However, as we age, this penchant for sticking to the routine can work to our detriment.
We begin to settle in at home more and more, often opting to camp in front of the television rather than venture into a new neighborhood or to try a new vocation. Our sedentary ways can have damaging health consequences, most significantly for that muscle that drives the body: the heart. To stay strong, the heart needs daily movement that includes periodic challenges (to force it to pump more oxygen than normal), foods that declog blood vessels and keep them flexible, limited preservatives and refined foods, and regular activities that relieve stress. But, once sedentary, inertia can make it seem as if changing our habits is an insurmountable task.
However, with concerted effort in three areas, what I call affect, behavior: and cognition – the ABCs of Change - we can break the cycle and embrace good cardiovascular practices.
First, start by tracking your moods, your activities and your thoughts in relation to heart-healthy activities such as walking, jogging or any other activity that works up a sweat. Jot down on paper how you are feeling and what you are thinking at the moment when you decide to engage in any act that undermines your heart.
Next, write down how you will change your behavior each time you feel yourself slipping into the unhealthy mindsets that precede unhealthy behaviors. Now, write down what things inspire you to get up and move or to make heart-healthy decisions.
Then, commit to doing at least one heart healthy activity each day and to modifying your environment as needed each time you feel yourself sliding into unhealthy practices.
Last, give yourself time. Generally, it takes 21 days of repeat activity to develop a new habit; however, you may slip up. They key is to review your strategy and recommit each time you fall. Ultimately, your heart will be the better for it.
Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.
In business, confidence is key. I would say that it is foundational. All other factors, such as motivation, training, drive and leadership, depend upon a core of inner confidence.
Whether you work for someone else or run your own business, tapping into your inner confidence is vital in order to succeed. A few people do this with the greatest of ease, but for most of us it is a daily challenge that takes hard work and determination.
Here are four “tools” that will help you to find and tap into your inner confidence in order to propel your business forward:
First: Refuse to give consent.
I pull this idea from a saying of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Refusing to give consent to feeling inferior is the jumping off point for the daily challenge of using confidence in business. Here is what I mean:
Your first step into tapping your inner confidence is to refuse to see yourself as less, no matter what anyone else might say. This refusal forces you to take a stand and begin to think differently about yourself.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says reminds us here that: “Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking you are worthy.”
When you take this first step, it awakens your inner confidence. It stirs it up and gets the ball rolling. It becomes active in the process of your success.
Quite simply - it empowers you.
In business, being empowered leads to the desire to grow, the ability to step outside your comfort zone and the determination to act. I have discovered through coaching others that empowered, powerful people do powerful things.
Tapping into your inner confidence requires you to step up refuse to see yourself as inferior, less or wanting.
Second: Be willing to change.
Unwillingness towards change holds you and your business captive. It takes the wheels right out from under you and stifles vision and action. It halts growth.
I believe that fear of change is a problem of confidence. Most business people who struggle with change are, at the root, struggling with confidence. For some, it is easier to stay stuck and inactive.
They do not realize that being willing to change frees up your inner confidence. The willingness becomes the catalyst to move past the fear. It frees you up and drives you forward.
What kind of change must you be willing to consider? You must be willing to change your thinking.
Having the same thought patterns over and over again is not beneficial to your success. The problem is that the same old thoughts lead to the same old behaviors and, in the end, the same old results.
Albert Einstein said it this way: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
In order to propel your business forward, tap into your inner confidence by being willing to change your thinking.
Third: Envision the end result.
This tool is about making choices.
In his book, “Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others,” George Kohlrieser talked about these choices when describing successful athletes:
“The power of imagination is incredible. Often we see athletes achieving unbelievable results and wonder how they did it. One of the tools they use is visualization or mental imagery….they made the choice to create their destinies and visualized their achievements before they ultimately succeeded.”
Story after story has been told about athletes, race car drivers and men and women in business who have taken the challenge of looking into their mind’s eye and envisioning the end result they desire. They “made a choice to create their destinies.”
In my opinion, visualization is the tool that sets your inner confidence in stone. Tapping into this well is a sign for all to see that you have the confidence needed to achieve your desired result, whatever it might be.
Fourth: Practice positive self –talk.
Over the years, I have encountered two very distinct groups of people when it comes to self-talk. The first is the over-the-top, fake, often arrogant folks who can’t stop talking about themselves – always with a positive “I’ve done that and better than you” attitude.
The second is the self-humiliating, always down on their luck, also fake folks who can’t find one good thing about themselves.
Both groups are uncomfortable to be around. Neither group will work well in business.
The ability to speak to yourself in kind and affirming ways builds up the well of inner confidence and keeps it alive and well. This ability is necessary to energize yourself as you encounter the ups and downs of life and business.
Positive self-talk is the maintenance tool. It keeps everything running smoothly.
There you have it – four distinct and powerful tools. Refusing to give consent, together with a willingness to change, the ability to envision the end result and positive self-talk, will allow you to tap into your inner self confidence and propel your business forward.
I wish you all the best on your journey.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
You might think I’m a warm, fuzzy and “Kumbaya” kind of Guy. Most of the time I am, but I have strong feelings about e-mail etiquette and what it takes to get your e-mail read — and answered.
As someone who gets dozens of e-mails every day and sends a handful of e-mails every day to get strangers to do things (“digital evangelism”), I offer these insights to help you become a more effective e-mailer.
Craft your subject line. Your subject line is a window into your soul, so make it a good one.
First, it has to get your message past the spam filters, so take out anything about sex and money-saving special offers.
Then, it must communicate that your message is highly personalized. For example, “Love your blog,” “Love your book,” and “You skate well for an old man,” always work on me. While you’re at it, craft your “From:” line, too, because when people see the “From:” is from a company, they usually assume the message is spam.
Limit your recipients. As a rule of thumb, the more people you send an e-mail to, the less likely any single person will respond to it, much less perform any action that you requested.
This is similar to the Genovese Syndrome (or the “bystander effect”): In 1964, the press reported that 38 people “stood by” while Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York.
If you are going to ask a large group of people to do something, then at least use blind carbon copies; not only will the few recipients think they are important, you won’t burden the whole list with everyone’s e-mail address. Nor will you inadvertently reveal everyone’s e-mail address.
Don’t write in ALL CAPS. Everyone probably knows this by now, but just in case: Text in all caps is interpreted as YELLING in e-mail. Even if you’re not yelling, it’s more difficult to read text that’s in all caps, so do your recipients a favor and use standard capitalization practices.
Keep it short. The ideal length for an e-mail is five sentences. If you’re asking something reasonable of a reasonable recipient, simply explain who you are in one or two sentences and get to the ask. If it’s not reasonable, don’t ask at all.
My theory is that people who tell their life story suspect that their request is on shaky ground, so they try to build up a case to soften up the recipient.
Another very good reason to keep it short is that you never know where your e-mail will end up – all the way from your minister to the attorney general of New York. There is one exception to this brevity rule: When you really don’t want anything from the recipient and you simply want to heap praise and kindness upon him or her. Then you can go on as long as you like!
Quote back. Even if e-mails are flying back and forth within hours, be sure to quote back the text that you’re answering. Assume that the person you’re corresponding with has 50 e-mail conversations going at once. If you answer with a simple, “Yes, I agree,” most of the time, you will force the recipient to dig through his deleted mail folder to figure out what you’re agreeing to.
However, don’t “fisk” either (courtesy of Brad Hutchings). Fisking is when you quote back the entire message and respond line by line, often in an argumentative way. This is anal if not downright childish, so don’t feel like you have to respond to every issue.
Use plain text. I hate HTML e-mail. I tried it for a while, but HTML is not worth the trouble of sending or receiving it. All those pretty colors and fancy typefaces and styles make me want to puke. If you can’t say it in plain text, you don’t have anything worth saying.
Control your URLs. I don’t know what’s gotten into some companies, but the URLs that they generate have dozens of letters and numbers.
It seems to me that these 32-character URLs have almost as many possible combinations as the number of atoms in the universe — I don’t know how many URLs a company intends to create, but it’s probably a smaller number than this. If you’re forwarding a URL and it wraps to the next line, it’s very likely that clicking on it won’t work.
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the Web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of 10 books including “Enchantment,” “Reality Check” and “The Art of the Start.” He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at email@example.com.
Most of us sincerely want to be a better person, manager, spouse, significant other, parent, child or Indian chief. Certainly, good intentions and desire are the first steps in self-improvement. The second step is an introspective discovery process combined with a bit of discipline in order to make meaningful progress.
To get started, ask yourself several pointed questions. Has anyone ever made suggestions to you about your management or communication style? Maybe it was a boss or mentor, a good friend or an associate earnestly trying to give you a few constructive tips on how to improve. Best yet, it might have been self-discovery after you did something that did not quite measure up to your own expectations.
Reality is, for most of us, our strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses. As an example, if you're a type A, anal-retentive person who is detail-oriented to a fault and always crosses every T and dots every I, possibly this strength has morphed you into becoming a micromanager of others. Or, maybe you consider yourself a disciple of the great communicator, the late President Ronald Reagan, because you are a terrific speaker who can captivate the other person in one-on-one conversation or every individual in a large audience. The downside of this is maybe you're not a great listener because you fall in love with the sound of your voice and your words. This could translate into you talking too much and unintentionally giving the wrong impression of not being receptive to another person's point of view.
The list can go on and on. The trick, however, is to recognize what you are and what you're not, and then tweak your style for the greater good, helping not only yourself but also those with whom you interface by making yourself more effective and perhaps even a little easier to take.
Try this. Create two columns on a legal pad or spreadsheet and list all of the attributes you think you possess in terms of your management capabilities/style. Keep the list short and focus on what's important, as this is not an inventory of everything you've done or learned since the third grade. Once you've captured two, three or four key characteristics, in the next column record a corresponding set of those things you know don't help your cause.
Next, re-read this personal inventory of pros and cons and look for patterns. If you note, as an example, that you are incredibly disciplined and seldom give yourself any slack, see if you also jotted down on the detractor side of the ledger that people tend to think you push subordinates too hard without differentiating between what is mission-critical versus basic tasks. If you spot this corresponding weakness, it doesn't necessarily mean that you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, but you might just need to recalibrate your standards when dealing with others, recognizing that your subordinates don't have to become your clone to be successful.
Once you've drilled down on the most important characteristics that you want to change, it's time to develop a game plan. For illustrative purposes, let's again assume you're that great communicator, but you sometimes go over the top and incessantly interrupt others, which leads to missing out on their ideas, not to mention becoming a bore. If this is your Achilles' heel, you must focus on the triggers that cause you to behave in this manner in order to strive for improvement.
Maybe you're really not self-consumed, but instead, your mind races ahead to follow-up thoughts that you want to make without allowing enough time for others to absorb and comment on your initial words of wisdom. This suggests you need to put a mental circuit breaker on your lips after you make your first major point, allowing for a long pregnant pause to let others amplify on your point or introduce an opposing or complementary thought. By doing this, you'll help make the conversation or presentation more interactive, which may lead to better resolutions or open the door to new unexplored concepts or opportunities.
Armed with this newly created self-assessment, you'll become a more productive and better leader who has learned to make your strengths stronger and reduce the negative effects of your weaknesses.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.
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Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.
There are plenty of warnings about wanting too much in this world, whether it is in your personal life or as the CEO of a company.
Remember the dot-com bust? Prior to the technology market bubble bursting, tech companies could do no wrong. Investors were ignoring basic fundamentals because “this was a new era” and the old rules didn’t apply. Well, it turns out the rules did apply. As did one very old rule about “what goes up, must come down.”
Tech company valuations were slashed by billions, thousands were laid off and the ripple effect was felt throughout the economy.
More recently, we experienced the real estate bust. It was pretty much the same story — people ignored basic investing and common-sense rules and the prices for real estate went sky-high, and then the bubble burst. The results were also the same: billions in value lost, thousands of jobs affected and the ripple effect was felt throughout the economy.
There is plenty of blame to go around for these events, both by investors who got caught up on the hype and CEOs who were trying to get rich, or at least richer than they already were. It was a quest to have the biggest paycheck, the biggest yacht, the biggest plane and the biggest house. The reckless CEOs were trying to use get-rich-quick methods that are dangerous to everyone.
There are four common ways to grow a company:
- Going public through an IPO
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Debt financing
- Self-funded organic growth
IPOs cost a lot of money to launch and even more money to maintain. The second and third methods are all about leverage. Overvalued stocks and overleveraged companies were major contributors to the tech and real estate busts. Too many CEOs were borrowing more and more money to fund the next great merger or open more locations. When tough times hit and the money dried up, they had lived well beyond their means and a harsh reality set in.
Despite these recent economic failures, many companies are still playing with borrowed money, overleveraging themselves and putting their entire company at risk. You have to understand the leverage game and the risks that come with it. The best way to grow a company is to create an environment that fosters growth and to focus on building long-term relationships.
This isn’t to say that you won’t make a strategic acquisition here and there or occasionally borrow money to fund needed expansions. The key is to do it in moderation and understand how too much debt can hurt your ability to grow. Making a mistake with debt can spell doom for your company and everyone in it.
Your responsibility as CEO goes far beyond yourself. Investors obviously are counting on you, but so is everyone that works in your organization. For some of your vendors, you might be their largest account. If you suddenly went out of business, how would it affect them? Would you create your own mini “bust” that rippled through the local economy, even on a micro scale?
In today’s world, you need to take a hard look at how you are leading your company. One wrong move could cut you off from the credit you need to fund your leveraged growth. With no money, the organization often collapses under the weight of its own debt.
It’s OK to be satisfied with what you have and not play the high-risk game of leveraged growth. Growth is good but not when it requires an “all-in” risk that can ruin your organization and the lives of the people who work there. Remember, more often than not, slow and steady wins the race.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities.
The blood, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators. Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize this passion for excellence and to build an influential and innovative community of peers.
We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional finalists into our entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for launching their companies, opening new markets and fueling job growth.
So let’s celebrate their achievements, their perseverance and their tireless pursuit of business excellence.
Kim E. Letch is a partner and program director for Entrepreneur Of The Year, Orange County.
John Belli is the office managing partner for Ernst & Young, Orange County.
Finalists and Honorees
• Mike Morhaime, Blizzard Entertainment (Winner)
• Jonathan Ord, DealerSocket Inc. (Finalist)
• Jim McCluney, Emulex (Finalist)
Life Sciences & Public Service
• Joe Kiani, Masimo Corp. (Winner)
• Charles Dunlop, Ambry Genetics (Finalist)
• Dan Merkle, Lexipol LLC (Finalist)
• Andy Fathollahi, Incipio Technologies (Winner)
• Jeff Walker, Super D (Finalist)
• Bill Duehring, Felt Bicycles (Finalist)
Real Estate & Hospitality
• Gary Jabara, Mobilitie LLC (Winner)
• David Kim, Jerome Fink, The Bascom Group (Finalist)
• Alessandro Pirozzi, Cucina Alessa (Finalist)
• John Raymont, Kurion Inc. (Winner)
• Mike Manclark, Leading Edge Aviation Services (Finalist)
• Heidi Golledge, CyberCoders (Finalist)