Pittsburgh (2550)

Some people are in denial about their personal finances, thinking that they’ll get to it one of these days.

“You need to have a lot of discipline around your finances because getting into financial shape is tough,” says Jeanine Fallon, Senior Vice President and Market Executive, First Commonwealth Bank®. “It requires focus, planning and a lot of sweat, but the end result is a happier and more fulfilled life.”

Smart Business spoke with Fallon about taking control of your debt and spending habits.

How should you assess your debt situation? 

Look at your current obligations by gathering monthly statements and listing loans and debt. Think about the creditor and your balances, interest rates and payments. Total all payments and divide your gross income by the debt to find your debt to income ratio. The target should be around 36 percent, but those with high disposable income can go a few percent higher. Then, use your partnership with a lender you trust to create a solid financial plan.

It’s also helpful to pull your credit report three times per year from annualcreditreport.com because not all credit reports are free.

What are some warning signs your finances are heading out of control?

Some warning signs are if you have no emergency fund, typically three to six months of your income, to fall back on; you experience stress when thinking about your debt; you don’t know what you owe; and/or you continually charge more on your credit cards than you can pay back.

How can a debt consolidation loan help?

Consolidation loans don’t reduce your debt but can reduce your payments. You take your debt and consolidate it into one big loan to simplify your payment and tracking. Your banker will help you decide on a secured loan or an unsecured loan, the right term to quickly pay off your debt without creating hardship, and choosing between a term loan or line of credit. Keep the end number in mind, which is what you’re paying back with principal and interest.

What are some best practices to help stay debt free?

Even if you consolidate your debt, it’s important to take steps to ensure you don’t end up right back in the same financial bind you were in before. Manage your expenses by establishing a budget. Keep a spending diary of every penny you spend for at least a month — similar to a food diary when on a diet. When looking at your funds, break it into percentages:

• Foundation expenses, such as shelter, groceries and transportation, should be 45 percent of your take-home income.

• Include 15 percent for fun, vacation, dinner, clothes or whatever your passion is.

• Typically at least 25 percent is used for taxes.

• Keep about 15 percent for savings — 10 percent for retirement and 5 percent for emergency or big-ticket items.

Then, manage, reduce and eliminate debt. It is important to make wise decisions when assuming new debt by using good debt to improve your net worth. Tie savings and spending plans with what’s important to helping you to live with a purpose. For example, if vacation time away with your extended family is important to you, yet you own a huge, expensive house, your financial obligations may not be in line with your values. Also, prepare for life events by taking a disciplined approach to building up the money you put into your retirement plan as well as your emergency fund. Ultimately, if you don’t change the way that you’re spending money when you experience significant life changes, it can cause hardship in the end.

Jeanine Fallon is a senior vice president and market executive at First Commonwealth Bank. Reach her at (412) 886-2540 or JFallon@fcbanking.com.

For a debt consolidation calculator, visit http://www.fcbanking.com/planning/calculators.html?CALCULATORID=PC10&TEMPLATE_ID=www.fcbanking.com_1.

Insights Wealth Management is brought to you by First Commonwealth Bank

Managing the leave process has always been complex and it is becoming even more so with recent updates in federal regulations concerning leave and accommodations. In addition to the federal requirements, state and local governments also are enacting laws to further protect an employee’s time away from work.

“Employee absence puts a strain on your organization, and survival in today’s business climate demands high productivity and a lean and efficient staff,” says Edward Mashey, senior director for Absence Management Services at UPMC WorkPartners. “Every hour an employee is out on leave adds costs to your bottom line and what you don’t know can hurt you.

“Compliance concerns, administrative errors, inconsistent tracking, under reporting, lack of accountability, limited knowledge and costs — all are reasons for putting leave administration in the hands of a trusted partner with years of experience administering leaves of all types, including family medical leave, military and employer-sponsored leaves,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Mashey about what an employer should know when outsourcing leave administration.

What is an employer’s obligation in this area? 

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide employees job-protected unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons, including personal or family illness, military service, family military leave, pregnancy, and the adoption or foster care placement of a child. The law recognizes the growing needs of balancing work with family and medical issues.

What are some reasons employers should consider outsourcing?

Tracking and managing the paperwork associated with all leave requests creates additional administrative burdens for an employer. UPMC WorkPartners’ experience with employers has shown the average time needed to effectively process a leave is three to five hours per leave. For an employer of 1,000 employees averaging 120 leaves per year, this amounts to nine weeks per year of managing just the initial leave requests.

Why is compliance in this area so important? 

Compliance with federal, state and local leave requirements is a key component in a successful leave program. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, the average wrongful termination verdict for an FMLA case is $350,000, not including attorney fees. Employers should seek out leave specialists who have ongoing training and education related to federal, state and local regulation changes in order to keep an employer’s program in compliance.

It’s important for employers to know that a supervisor can be individually liable for violating an employee’s FMLA rights based on the FMLA’s statement of who can be liable and its definition of who is an employer. Having a partner that can train and communicate to a staff and effectively interact with them regarding leave and disability issues is extremely important.

What are some other issues that surround leave management?

Intermittent leave time needs to be fully reviewed to ensure the leave meets the requirements of a serious health condition and each increment of time away from work is appropriate and medically necessary. Each absence needs to be reviewed for medical necessity.

Currently, the federal government has proposed changes to the FMLA that include updates to the military exigency and injured service member leaves. An expert outsourced leave administrator’s dedicated staff keeps abreast of all leave law changes whether federal, state or local changes.

And remember, the end of an employee’s leave time is not necessarily the end of the employer’s obligation. Recent court cases have shown employers how important it is that they discuss with the employee their potential ability to return to work after leave time has expired. Working with a partner that has the knowledge and skills to help identify those cases that will need extra attention from an employer is an essential element of an intelligent leave management strategy.

Edward Mashey is senior director, Absence Management Services at UPMC WorkPartners. Reach him at (412) 667-7117 or masheyet@upmc.edu.

SAVE THE DATE Wednesday, Jan. 16 , 11 a.m. to noon, UPMC WorkPartners webinar: Best Practices in Leave Administration. To register, contact Lauren Formato at formatol@upmc.edu or (412) 454-8838.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Monday, 03 December 2012 17:04

8 bad work habits to avoid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 03 December 2012 16:28

Giving back: How much charity is enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson — the methods they use to run their businesses are so unusual, so against what we typically expect from a CEO, that exposés on their leadership style make for pretty good stories.

But recently, I’ve found it odd that the behaviors of CEOs warrant entire articles. After all, I talk with business owners and managers every day who exhibit what would be considered unconventional traits. More than ever, CEOs are beginning to break the stuffed-suit stereotype for a chance to create a business culture that one day might also be emulated.

Of all the business fads and leadership traits I’ve seen go in and out of style, I am particularly fond of the following three:

Leaders who know when to be led.

It might sound counterintuitive, but people who run businesses have a reputation for being a little thickheaded and stubborn. I’m sure you’ve had a boss in your career that no matter how many times they asked people for advice, they never actually took it. People like having their opinions confirmed. So if the sought-out advice conflicts with that opinion, it tends to get ignored.

And that’s a shame because a real leader should know that there is a time to lead and a time to be led. The managers and employees of a particular department were hired because they brought a certain level of expertise about the department to the business.

When a CEO asks for feedback, they need to actually take what is said into consideration.

Managers and CEOs who give their employees a bit

of breathing room.

Our social media manager likes to let her employees have a bit of downtime while on the clock. For her, it’s important that they have some time to rejuvenate their minds as blogging requires constantly producing new and interesting content.

That downtime can be spent scrolling through Reddit, checking out their Tumblr dashboard, cleaning out their Gmail accounts, whatever they want to do, as long as the time is spent on something that isn’t work.

Typically, having that bit of time helps them break out of routine and ruts that can result in bad writing. The same can be said for those in less creative positions.

For example, someone in sales could get a little too used to saying the same thing over and over again. Suddenly their pitch starts to sound scripted, even if they never had a script to go off of in the first place. Potential clients can pick up on how stiff their speech is, but a quick break away from work to recharge their batteries can help loosen them up.

Leaders who help employees have a life.

There are always things you can do to make your business more profitable — really leaning on your employees to increase their sales, for example, might bring in a little bit more money. But it ends up sacrificing their peace of mind if you push too heavily. Employees will begin to dread coming into work. And when they are at work, they will be a frayed ball of nerves.

In order to achieve long-term success, business owners need to remember that they have to hold onto reliable employees. If businesses have a high turnover rate and are constantly training and retraining people, they’ll never have a chance to grow. Once again, things will stagnate, and that can spell the death of a company when sales inevitably slump.

There are still entrepreneurs who hold onto the old ways, believing that an iron fist and a crazed obsession with perceived profitability will lead them to success. This may be true in the short term. But the resulting turnover and general attitude of their employees will eventually be their downfall.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation, an online filing services company that specializes in incorporations and LLCs. Find her online at mycorporation.com and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

With lower lease rates and the Marcellus Shale boom, commercial real estate in the tri-state footprint is looking up. Greg Sipos, senior vice president, corporate banking manager, at First Commonwealth Bank, has been encouraged by recent commercial real estate activity in western Pennsylvania, as well as in Akron, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio.

“When I say those names, you’re not like, ‘Wow, that’s a great place to go,’ but, you know what, it really is these days,” Sipos said. “They’ve had some real estate growth and nice projects in those markets. It’s well ahead of the rest of the country, and I’m encouraged by the amount of activity in the last six months.”

Smart Business spoke with Sipos about the state of the real estate market and how bankers are getting back to the fundamentals of lending.

How does the current commercial real estate market look?

When you look at this market, there was limited asset appreciation over the years, and the borrowers never overleveraged the way that it happened everywhere else. People built equity in their real estate by normal amortization of loans. So if they had a 15-year loan and they paid it back over 15 years, they built equity in their real estate. Western Pennsylvania has always been known for that, as opposed to the rest of U. S., where asset appreciation was due mostly to the perception of overall growth through demographics. Problems occurred because assets were overleveraged in a lot of ways. Conversely, Pittsburgh went from being one of the worst real estate markets in the country to being one of the best in the span of three years because of the steady equity growth.

The mood is very strong in this area with some game changers. The growth in the Marcellus Shale area and the oil and gas industry in western Pennsylvania has brought strength to the market through all aspects, from multifamily to the retail businesses and hospitality industry. Another thing that’s happened in the central business district, as far as Pittsburgh is concerned, is a lot of large firms headquartered in other cities realized that the rent per square foot in Pittsburgh is much more reasonable than the rent per square foot in Manhattan and other comparable markets. Companies are relocating to the central business district or to Pittsburgh in general because of favorable lease rates.

Hospitality is known as a good indicator for the economic health in commercial real estate. What is the outlook in the tri-state area?

Yes, hospitality is an indicator, and it is doing very well now. Western Pennsylvania had a lot of older product, but now a lot of newer product is coming online around Pittsburgh and in some of these smaller towns. Morningstar, a financial-data firm, reports that — at least for the next three or four years — it’s definitely an industry to lend in.

When banks make a loan for hospitality, they look at what the drivers will be — why will people be coming and staying here. A lot of the hospitality that got into trouble was in resort areas because, during recessionary periods, people tend to forgo vacation. The hotels that are successful are the ones that have many drivers. For example, is it a flagged property? It’s much easier in today’s market to get a loan for a Marriott, a Hilton, a Holiday Inn or a Choice product because of the reservation system. One hospitality loan was recently done in Latrobe, Pa., the home of professional golfer Arnold Palmer. There’s a lot of industrial around, it has a resort element because of Idlewild Park and the Laurel Highlands, it has St. Vincent College, hospitals, and it has Mr. Palmer’s name attached to it, which results in reciprocating agreements between Latrobe and Florida. So there are drivers for occupancy. You don’t want to open up a hotel where you have to bet on tourism or one industry.

How have lending practices changed, and how much emphasis is being placed on equity?

The one thing that’s different now — that hasn’t come back the whole way — is the lending rules were generally much less stringent pre-recession. Post-recession, it’s back to the fundamentals. When you want to buy something, you need to have a down payment for it and you need to have cash flow to repay it.

Banks are requiring down payments. As a business owner, when you are thinking about making that expansion or when you’re thinking about buying a new building, you need to make sure you have the right amount of equity to go into the project. The bank is no longer willing to take the equity risk it was taking pre-recession.

Having equity shows you can afford it and shows your commitment to the project. If you are able to buy real estate without putting equity into it, it’s much easier to walk away. Some people might be interpreting that as unfair, but it’s not really unfair, it’s just the way it’s always been done prior to the years leading up to the recession.

It’s important to remember there are differing ways to find equity. These include:

  • Equity through government programs.

  • Investors on the sidelines looking to invest.

  • Personally guaranteeing loans, a practice people were always comfortable with. Borrowers have to be willing to guarantee the indebtedness, maybe by pledging other equities in other properties as collateral.

Greg Sipos is a senior vice president, corporate banking manager, at First Commonwealth Bank. Reach him at (724) 463-2556 or gsipos@fcbanking.com.

Insights Wealth Management is brought to you by First Commonwealth Bank

Life is full of stressful situations, be they personal or professional. Stress of some kind is often unavoidable, or, at least, a common experience for nearly everyone in the workplace.

Learning how to be resilient is a life approach that helps those who’ve developed it handle stress more effectively. For some, resilience is a way of living, but for all it’s something to learn and incorporate as they develop.

What exactly is resilience? Resilience refers to the ability to adapt, recover and grow stronger from adverse situations. Robert Brooks of Harvard Medical School calls resilience “ordinary magic” because everyone has the capacity to be more resilient.

“Managers and leaders may not realize that what they do contributes to having a more resilient work force. Their job is to create a work environment that makes it possible for each individual to contribute their competencies, to be creative,” says Annette Kolski-Andreaco, manager of Account Services for LifeSolutions, an employee assistance program and an affiliate of UPMC WorkPartners.

“It isn’t that resilient people are extraordinary people,” she says. “It’s that they’ve been tested and learned that they are adaptable.”

Smart Business spoke with Kolski-Andreaco about resilience in the workplace and why it matters to employers.

Why should the resilience of the work force matter to an employer? 

The workplace can be a challenging environment for employees for a variety of reasons. They need to navigate complex networks of relationships and continuously adapt to changing work processes to keep up with the relentless competition in the marketplace.

Many employees today can easily feel overwhelmed, fatigued and disengaged due to their work environment. They may come to question whether what they do really matters, and if they can find professional fulfillment and meaning in their work.

To succeed on the job, employees need to acquire cognitive skills through training and education. But equally important for success is the establishment of a solid work/life balance with families, social networks and leisure pursuits. It is that support that enables employees to have a solid foundation from which to better handle stress in the workplace and expand their capacity for change and resilience.

Recent surveys from Gallup polls show that less than 30 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work, while 56 percent are disengaged and 15 percent are actively disengaged. When people are able to change their mindset toward being more hopeful and optimistic, the result is healthier, happier and more productive employees.

Research also supports the idea that when employees and employers actively cultivate a positive attitude, the work environment becomes more optimistic and creative.

How can an employer create an environment that encourages resilience?

The capacity for resilience is there in all people, but there are things that can be done to nurture or reward resilience.

What that means for employers and managers is that they need to realize that their employees respond far more flexibly and readily when they have supervisors who connect with them in an authentic and personal way. When managers are able to see their employees as whole persons with a desire to contribute their talents, if given an opportunity, then both parties will benefit.

Employers need to identify their employees’ positive traits and then work with them to improve and strengthen those positives. Engaged employees who believe their contributions have value are able to be more resilient and are less vulnerable to workplace stress.

Most employees want an opportunity to shine. They also want their employer to be fair, and to give them some control over what happens to them. They want their employers to be respectful and they want to connect with their manager on a human-to-human, personal level.

What are the advantages of having a resilient work force?

A more confident, challenged and interested work force is what every employer wants. The simple truth is that for this objective to be realized, managers need to spend the time and make the effort to know each of their employees as an individual contributor to the overall mission and vision of the organization.

Employees are far more motivated by flexibility, fairness, opportunities to learn and develop themselves, and acknowledgement of their accomplishments, than we realize. Stressful work environments are a fact of life, but a more resilient response by employees and their managers makes all the difference in whether they’ll be overwhelmed and burned out.

Creating an atmosphere for resilience to emerge is something that comes from leadership at all levels. An employer can turn to an employee assistance program to learn different ways to develop resilience in their managers and for their staff.

Annette Kolski-Andreaco is manager of Account Services for LifeSolutions, an affiliate of UPMC WorkPartners. Reach her at (412) 647-8728 or kolskiandreacoa@upmc.edu.

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