The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have a profound effect on most employers that offer health plans in 2014.
“Passing the law was the easy part. The process of issuing regulations and guidance between three separate federal agencies — Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and the IRS — is the difficult part. Add to the mix an occasional court ruling and you have the perfect recipe for confusion and the risk of misinformation,” says Chuck Whitford, client advisor at JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice.
Smart Business spoke with Whitford about points to consider in the coming year with the ACA.
What’s the first step going into 2014?
Going back to basics, determine if your plan is ‘grandfathered.’ A plan that essentially hasn’t changed since March 23, 2010, is most likely grandfathered. However, if you changed insurance companies before Nov. 1, 2010, or passed along the majority of the rate increases to employees, the plan you thought was grandfathered may not be.
You must tell employees if you have a grandfathered plan. A grandfathered plan can be exempt from some of the ACA rules, such as covering preventive care at 100 percent, continuing coverage for ‘adult dependents’ to age 26 and nondiscrimination rules for fully-insured plans.
How will the exchanges affect employers?
You will most likely be asked questions about the new health insurance benefits exchanges, also known as marketplaces. They are primarily online marketplaces for purchasing health insurance, run either by a state or the federal government. The federal government has a hand in, at least, running exchanges in 33 states. There are two types — one for individuals and one for small employers, generally up to 50 employees.
There have been glitches in these online systems. Once problems are fixed, it should be easier for individuals to review available plans and see if they qualify for subsidies to reduce premiums or, in some cases, reduce the cost sharing of deductibles and coinsurance.
What’s important to know about full-time equivalent (FTE) employees?
For the purpose of the ACA, a full-time employee works 30 or more hours per week, or 130 hours per month. The law requires employers to track the number of full-time employees and add up the hours worked by their part-time employees each month (up to 120 hours per month) and divide by 120 to determine the number of fractional ‘equivalent’ employees.
Employers with 49.99 or fewer FTEs don’t have any requirements to offer coverage and won’t be assessed penalties. The ACA still will impact their health plan’s rates, and they must comply with the 90-day waiting period limit and other ACA provisions.
Employers with 50 or more FTEs must offer coverage, deemed affordable and of minimum value, to all full-time employees and dependents to age 26. If any full-time employee receives subsidized coverage in an exchange, it triggers employer penalties. The ACA defines affordability as the employee’s cost for single coverage not exceeding 9.5 percent of income. A plan covering at least 60 percent of costs on average is considered minimum value.
In July, the Obama administration announced a one-year delay in the penalties and employer reporting. This can create a different set of issues for an employer that offers coverage to employees that work, say, 40 hours per week and has employees who work between 30 and 39 hours per week. These employers may want to hold off extending coverage to their 30- to 39-hour employees until 2015. However, with the individual mandate, employees not offered employer-sponsored coverage might go to the exchange. Some will qualify for a subsidy and also may qualify for cost-sharing reductions. Fast forward to 2015, employers wishing to avoid the nondeductible excise taxes (penalties) may extend eligibility of an affordable plan that meets minimum value to these employees, removing exchange subsidies and increasing the employees’ cost.
Because of the complex nature of the ACA, employers are encouraged to review their employee benefits strategy and communications for 2014 and beyond with a qualified advisor. ●
Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by ChamberChoice
The modern employee assistance program (EAP) is an employer-sponsored benefit designed to support the achievement of employer health and productivity goals. EAPs also have evolved to become a strategic partner to maximize the human capital of an organization.
“An EAP’s main goal is to resolve problems before they interfere with work attendance or productivity. And, in performing that task, EAPs have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line,” says Sandra Caffo, a senior director at LifeSolutions, an affiliated company of UPMC WorkPartners.
Smart Business spoke with Caffo about how EAPs work and their ROI.
What is the potential payoff of using an EAP?
A study found that for every dollar spent in a typical EAP, there was a return of $5.17 to $6.47 in increased work productivity. The study also showed that 80 percent of costs from lost productivity were associated with presenteeism, which is when an employee is at work, but is not productive, largely because of personal problems.
EAPs employ behavioral health experts who can provide short-term coaching and counseling that focuses on problem resolution. The goal with all EAP services is to resolve problems before they interfere with work attendance or productivity. Because of that, EAPs can help supervisors understand how to manage those valued workers whose productivity suddenly and mysteriously plummets.
How do EAPs enhance value?
Supervisors may be able to spot a troubled employee and express concern, but typically they are not equipped to work out a plan of action to address the problem. Many supervisors would argue — correctly — that this isn’t part of their job description. That’s where an EAP can help. It can provide consultation to both the manager and the employee to develop a plan of action.
EAP consultants are able to guide leaders at all levels to shift their focus to management strategies that will make a difference in an employee’s job performance. With an EAP management consultant, leaders learn how to coach employees toward improved performance while holding them accountable for negative patterns of behavior.
Because EAPs are able to provide services that consider all of the occupational and non-occupational factors that affect job performance, they are able to increase the value of an organization’s investment in its workforce. They achieve this in several ways:
- By increasing employee engagement and improving productivity, morale and workplace harmony.
- By focusing on building the capacity of employees and their dependents to successfully respond to life’s personal and work-related challenges.
- Through EAP coaching and consultation, which helps leadership, managers and supervisors increase their skills to effectively address difficult employee situations. It can tailor programs and initiatives for key workforce groups to meet specific needs.
How does an EAP mitigate business risks?
Supervisor consultation helps to build action plans and handle new or complicated employee situations, from incompatible employees to workforce reductions.
On-site trainings focus on staff development and skill building in areas such as stress management, customer service and multi-generational teams.
EAP intervention also can help when an organization has a traumatic incident like an accident or death to support those managing the situation and those affected by it.
A federal occupational health study of more than 60,000 workers using EAP services over a three-year period found statistically significant improvement from pre- to post-EAP intervention for six measures related to work productivity. These include: employees’ emotional problems, employees’ physical health, the interference of physical or emotional issues on work and social relationships, perceived health status, job attendance and/or tardiness, and global assessment of functioning. In short, the benefits of EAPs are measurable, and they can be used to select an effective EAP, gauge its performance and determine the ROI. ●
UPMC WorkPartners is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division, which also includes: UPMC Health Plan, UPMC for Life, UPMC for You, UPMC for You Advantage, UPMC for Kids, Community Care Behavioral Health, EBenefit Solutions and Askesis Development Group.
Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan
If you were to assemble some of the world’s outstanding business leaders in one place and ask them their secret to sleeping well at night amid the pressures of running a successful business, you might think you’d collect the best tips to handling anxiety in the business world.
The truth is that top business leaders often don’t have a secret to reveal — they rely on the strength and confidence they’ve developed over the years.
At the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference, held earlier this year in Monaco, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners assembled to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
We took the opportunity to collect the thoughts of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem solvers — about dealing with worries. ●
“There’s nothing that keeps me up at night. I sleep very well. The challenge we have as a company is to keep delivering the culture we have created and expand it, keep evolving at the speed our customers expect us to evolve and keep creating value for them as we have for the past 10 years.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“The main thing is to make sure that we are always looking for new, creative ideas that keep our business updated with new technology and creativity. The other thing is making sure we are working faster than before.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“Business has its highs and lows, because let’s face it, it’s not easy. It has its challenges. They asked Steve Jobs what was the most important thing in business and he said, ‘Passion.’ If you don’t have passion you would give up when things get difficult. We have so much passion and love for what we do that it becomes a part of our life.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 World Entrepreneur Of The Year
“What if the stock market crashes? What if there is some unknown thing that happens? What if there’s another 9/11 type of situation? Companies need to carry on, but maybe they don’t need to do events. Maybe they cut back on entertainment and speakers. The worry is what happens if something happens that I can’t control.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“We are in recovering times. I feel very positive about the economy in general, but I’m still very worried about Europe. And while we are recovering, it’s still choppy and choppy times are times when there are more needs out there.”
Retired global chairman and CEO
"I guess there is a point in my life where I thought it is all about me, and I am going to be the guy that guides everything and controls everything. What I have learned is that the best thing that I have done for our business is learn to let go and learn to get people who are better equipped to manage specific areas, do their thing and not get in the way."
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“Nothing keeps me awake at night becase my work is solid.
My father married at 60 and my mother was 23. They had four children. Then he died, and we quickly had to start thinking about what to do. There was no money — nothing. We had to leave the little town we lived in because of violence there. Thanks to that, I am where I am right now because I still could be on the streets of my village selling tobacco. There is no wrong that can do good. That's what I have to teach people.”
founder and president
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.
I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.
Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.
A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.
Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.
Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.
As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.
Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7078.
When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.
While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.
They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.
Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.
And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.
You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?
During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●
What would it take for a company to succeed if its leader could effectively do only one of the following: innovate, instigate or administrate? We all know that an innovator is the one who sees things that aren’t and asks why not? The instigator sees things that are and asks why? The administrator doesn’t necessarily ask profound questions but, instead, is dogged about crossing the “t’s,” dotting the “i’s” and making sure that whatever is supposed to happen happens.
Ideally, a top leader combines all three traits while being charismatic, intellectual, pragmatic and able to make decisions faster than a speeding bullet. Although some of us might fantasize that we are Superman or Superwoman, with a sense of exaggerated omnipotence, the bubble usually bursts when we’re confronted simultaneously with multiple situations that require the versatility of a Swiss army knife.
Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes with various skill sets and styles that are invaluable, depending on the priorities of a company at any given point in time.
Every business needs an innovator to differentiate the company. Without a unique something or other, there isn’t a compelling reason to exist. Once those special products or services that distinguish the business from others are discovered and in place, it takes an instigator to continuously re-examine and challenge every aspect of the business that leads to continued improvements, both functionally and economically. It also takes an administrator — someone who can keep all the balls in the air, ensuring that everyone in the organization is in sync and delivering the finished products as promised to keep customers coming back.
As politicians and pundits of all types have pounded into our heads in recent years, “It takes a village to raise a child.” All who practice the art and science of business have learned that, instead of a village, it takes a diverse team working together to make one plus one equal three.
On the ideal team, each member possesses different strengths, contributing to the greater good. The exceptional leader is best when he or she is an effective chef who knows how to mix the different skills together to create a winning recipe.
In many companies, however, leaders tend to surround themselves with clones who share similar abilities, interests and backgrounds. As an example, a manufacturer may have a management team comprised solely of engineers, or a marketing organization could have salespeople who came up through the ranks calling all the shots.
If everyone in an organization comes from the same mold, what tends to happen is, figuratively, one lies and the others swear to it. This builds to a crescendo of complacency and perpetual mediocrity.
There is a better way. Good leaders surround themselves with others who complement their capabilities, and savvy leaders select those with dramatically different backgrounds who will challenge their thinking because they’re not carbon copies of the boss. This opens new horizons, forges breakthroughs and leads to optimal daily performance.
Strange bedfellows can stimulate, nudge and keep each other moving toward the previously unexplored.
To have a sustainable and effective organization, you can’t have one type without all the others. While everyone on the team may not always agree, each player must always be committed to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
The single most important skill of the leader who has to pull all the pieces and parts together is to have the versatility of that Swiss army knife — selecting the precise tool to accomplish the objective at hand. ●
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. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 800 years ago, medieval philosopher Maimonides outlined eight levels of charity, the greatest of which was supporting an individual in such a way that he or she becomes independent. In Maimonides’ view, support was defined as a gift or loan, entering into a partnership or simply helping that person find employment.
Few things are more powerful than philanthropy — especially when its end goal is to better the lives of others. These days, philanthropy, and corporate philanthropy specifically, has assumed a broader role in society.
Today, companies give back more strategically than ever before. They align themselves with nonprofits that foster missions they believe in. The wealthiest people on the planet have even coordinated the Giving Pledge (www.givingpledge.org), where they’ve committed to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
At last count, more than 115 people had taken the pledge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be the most prominent names on the list, but others include Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert, Progressive’s Peter Lewis and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings.
Last month, one member, David Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, discussed the importance of philanthropy during a presentation at EY’s 2013 Strategic Growth Forum.
In his pledge letter, Rubenstein explains why: “I recognize to have any significant impact on an organization or cause, one must concentrate resources, and make transformative gifts — and to be involved in making certain those gifts actually transform in a positive way.”
One way Rubenstein is being transformative is through “Patriotic Philanthropy.” He has given $10 million to help restore President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and underwrote renovations to the historic Washington Monument. Yet Rubenstein’s most noteworthy initiative is the whopping $23 million to acquire a rare copy of the Magna Carta, ensuring it remained in the United States. After its purchase, Rubenstein gifted it to the National Archives.
Not everyone has Rubenstein’s vast resources. But every organization and any individual can make their own impact.
In the workplace, for example, organizations that give back elevate their status perception-wise among competitors and peers. It doesn’t take much. But by being a company that cares, prospective employees want to work for you. For your existing team, deliberate and well-organized corporate philanthropy programs quickly take on a life of their own, becoming a rallying point.
Think strategically and get started by finding your cause. We all have them. They exist at our very core, forming the belief system we live by every day. So why shouldn’t our philanthropy follow that same course? Consider aligning your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something that is close to your employees’ hearts.
Most important, get involved and just make a difference. It really comes down to that. One initiative that has always impressed me has been the annual CreateAthon event undertaken by WhiteSpace Creative, a member of the Pillar Award class of 2005. You can read a first-hand account of this year’s program here.
Being a good corporate citizen goes well beyond making good business sense. When you align yourself with causes you care about, whether big or small, you make a difference in someone’s life. And the bottom line is this: It is all of our duties to get involved. It’s no longer a question of if, but rather of what, when and how. ●
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
When Calgon Carbon Corp. made Randall Dearth its new president and CEO, it was somewhat of an easy transition — the former Lanxess CEO had been a member of the Calgon Carbon board for six years.
“I knew a lot of the high-level issues, the potential emerging markets and a lot about the products and people here,” says Dearth, who in August 2012 joined Calgon Carbon, a 1,100 employee, $562 million global leader in the manufacture, reactivation and application of activated carbon, ballast water treatment, ultraviolet light disinfection and advanced ion-exchange technologies.
Dearth spent his first several months at Calgon getting to know the people, plants and processes, but wasted little time making some necessary changes in the company.
“One of the first things I decided we needed to do was focus on margins and margin improvements,” Dearth says. “Aside from learning the company, I also spent a lot of time trying to come up with programs to help improve the bottom line for our shareholders.”
In doing so, over the past year, Calgon Carbon has implemented a $30 million cost improvement program. Dearth looked at things such as headcount optimization, product rationalization and brought in consultants.
“We’ve done a lot to focus on how we can quickly and effectively improve our margins to give our shareholders a benefit,” Dearth says.
Here is how Dearth used his previous experiences to put it all together to improve Calgon Carbon Corp.
Make an assessment
What excited Dearth about coming to Calgon Carbon was the possibility of using some of his experiences at Lanxess, which helped turn that company around, to see if they were applicable at Calgon.
“Coming into this role I had my toolbox of tools, and the question was could I apply this to Calgon Carbon to help improve margins quickly,” Dearth says.
The biggest obstacle Dearth saw was the company’s culture. He didn’t want to shake things up to a point where the culture would be disrupted.
“You can’t underestimate corporate culture,” he says. “You can come in with a lot of ideas and techniques and be rearing and ready to go, but if you don’t take the time to understand the culture in which you’ve come into, that doesn’t work.”
Dearth was fortunate that he had an overview of the culture from a board perspective.
“It’s not a matter of having the right culture or the wrong culture,” he says. “It’s understanding that it’s different and trying to manage around that.”
Calgon Carbon has been around for more than 70 years. The foundation of the company is very solid, but sometimes that foundation can be the issue.
“When you are a company that’s 70 years old, sometimes you do get into that mentality of this is how we’ve always done it,” says Dearth, who also served as president and CEO of Bayer Chemicals Corp. from 2002 to 2004. “Part of what I’ve done over the last year of being here is really focus on trying new things to make our company better, our employees more efficient and ultimately bring more value to shareholders.
“The other thing I was able to bring to the table coming from both Bayer and Lanxess is a global perspective. As a smaller American company, Calgon hasn’t looked at global opportunities the same way that a bigger company would. I’ve spent a lot of time restructuring our businesses to focus on more global decision-making.”
A decline in gross margin percentage year-over-year, from 32.7 percent to 30.2 percent, had a significant impact on Calgon’s 2012 bottom line. Central to the effort to improve these margins was the company’s launch of a $30 million cost and profit improvement program.
“We have already completed the first phase, which will provide $10 million in annualized savings beginning in 2013,” Dearth says. “The second phase, already well underway, should result in another $10 million in annualized savings beginning in 2014. The third phase, which we have begun to implement, will provide an additional $10 million in annualized savings when completed.”
Cost savings obtained in phase one resulted from personnel reductions worldwide, manufacturing improvements, reduced R&D spending in 2013 and the closure of an idled manufacturing facility in China. Cost-saving opportunities for phase two are the result of product rationalization, global procurement and streamlining of operations.
In addition to these cost saving measures, Dearth decided to restructure the company’s business units, which took a lot of uncertainty out of the organization and had a positive impact on the culture.
“Calgon had previously been structured by function,” Dearth says. “So you had a sales department led by a VP of sales and a marketing department led by a VP of marketing. The regions were totally autonomous and did their own thing.
“Calgon Carbon is big in essentially four segments: municipal water treatment, industrial and food applications, specialty carbon applications and UV technology. So we took our sales people who are focused on these areas and our best marketing people in these areas, and gave them autonomy under the leadership of a business unit head to drive their business.”
Since implementing that change, communication has been much better, and there is a better sense of where the company’s challenges and opportunities are in its markets.
“People have a better sense of the purpose of what their job is and what they themselves can influence,” he says. “Customers like it because now it’s clear as to who knows their business and their markets. It has also increased accountability, and it’s clearer as to who is driving the ship.
“When everybody had a small piece of it and things went awry, there was really nobody who said I’ll fix it and drive it forward because it was only a piece of their responsibility. That’s what we restructured, and we did it early in my tenure here, and the next step is to take that global.”
Dearth’s success in making all these changes within his first year as CEO started with the team around him.
“First and foremost, you have to understand the team around you, because your team is going to make or break you,” Dearth says. “Are they understanding where we need to go? Are they qualified to do the job? That is critical.”
Secondly, Dearth created a vision of where Calgon needed to go and how it would get there.
“I not only need to buy in to those key people I just mentioned, but the employees, my board of directors and ultimately the investors who are putting their money into our company need to know where I believe this company can go and how I’m going to get them there,” he says.
Lastly, Dearth took the time to understand the organization and its businesses.
“I’ve spent a lot of time asking the right questions and putting task teams together to evaluate whether we are doing something the right way or should be doing it differently,” he says. “You don’t want to get too far into the weeds, because you lose sight of the bigger picture, but it is important to have a good sense of what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, and it all ties into making the decisions to take the company to a different level.”
The next level
Despite all that Dearth has already accomplished to get Calgon Carbon on a better path, there is still a lot of work to do moving forward.
“We’re still dealing with the global economy that is at best a little shaky,” Dearth says. “That is one challenge we need to overcome. We need to constantly be looking at further optimization. China has become a big player in a lot of industries and activated carbon is no exception.
“We need to look at how they will affect our business going forward. Keeping one step ahead of the Chinese competition is a challenge to make sure we’re the best at manufacturing, marketing and have a global presence that we can compete in.”
Another aspect Dearth will continue to focus on is company culture.
“Company culture gets easier and easier once people get it and they understand there is a leader in front of them that they can trust and is taking them where they need to go,” he says. “That doesn’t happen in 10 months. It’s a long process to get everybody on board and that’s still a challenge I have ahead of me.”
Those few challenges aside, Dearth is looking forward to entering three new market opportunities. One is a water ballast treatment system — the U.S. Coast Guard will be requiring ships entering the U.S. in 2014 to have a ballast water treatment system to remove and treat the water going in and out of the ships.
The second one is mercury — all power plants in 2015 that burn coal will be required to remove the mercury, and activated carbon has been shown, and is being used, as the material that can take the mercury out of the smoke stacks when coal is being burned.
Third is related to Calgon’s municipal water business — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring that certain disinfection byproducts and certain species that are formed when chlorine is used as a disinfection need to be removed from the water, and activated carbon takes it out. Those municipalities that have this problem need to comply.
“On top of the fact that we’re improving the company’s efficiency, we’re also positioning ourselves for great growth.” Dearth says. “We have a very solid balance sheet and I’d like to expand our business. So we’re looking at both internal cap-x projects and outside investments that can grow our business.” ●
- Assess your business opportunities and areas in need of improvement.
- Implement changes to address those needs.
- Continue to focus on what will grow the company to the next level.
The Dearth File:
Name: Randall Dearth
Title: President and CEO
Company: Calgon Carbon Corp.
Born: Warren, Ohio
Education: Received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hiram College and a master’s degree in polymer science and engineering from Case Western Reserve University.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I was a head lifeguard when I was in high school. That taught me a lot about leadership and being able to rally people around a cause. It was a great way to get a tan too.
What is the best business advice you have ever received? Always ask yourself, ‘Have I created value today?’
Who do you admire in business? I’m a huge fan of Harry Truman. In 1945 when Roosevelt died, here was a guy that was not supposed to be successful, came from humble beginnings and was not prepared at all. However, he let his instincts do what needed to be done and surrounded himself with the best people and things worked out. That’s kind of how I am. I’m given what I have — my training, experiences and background and I’m going to focus on doing the best I can.
What do you like most about Calgon Carbon Corp.? The fact that we’re solving environmental problems, not only for today’s requirements, but for the future.
Calgon Carbon Social Media Links:
Randall Dearth on LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/17PslhD
How to reach: Calgon Carbon Corp., (412) 787-6700 or www.calgoncarbon.com
I must confess that I was a skeptic of social media when it emerged in the early 2000s, but I’ve done a total turnaround on the topic, realizing the power of social media for communication, networking and knowledge sharing.
When used productively and with intention, social media can provide a wealth of benefits to business leaders and their organizations. Social media cannot be managed in a vacuum, it has to be integrated in the organizations overall marketing strategy. Plus, it has to be fun, creative, ambitious and impactful, while serving a purpose for your business and bringing value to your customers.
I propose the following five objectives to integrate into your social media strategy to make it a productive tool:
Follow, track and monitor your “ecosystem”
LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to easily follow critical players in your ecosystem. You can follow companies, connect with people and read the latest news they publish for free. You don’t have to check multiple websites; the information comes to you regularly and freely.
You can track your competitor’s and customer’s pages to find out what they are working on. In addition, you should connect with industry association experts who regularly share their knowledge through social media.
Find great knowledge at no cost
Most service companies, particularly consulting firms, publish white papers and research reports that are priceless. Lately, I have accessed some amazing reports from McKinsey & Co., BCG and Deloitte Research.
Business schools have great blogs that offer links to papers and other relevant essays. There is a wealth of knowledge available out there — get connected to what thought leaders are working on and discover potential trends and signals from other industries.
Develop your own network
The power of networking for business has been demonstrated over and over. LinkedIn and other similar sites are the best way to establish strong and long-lasting connections. I have used LinkedIn to target potential hires, to launch discussions on particular topics of interest, to run polls in specialized groups and to establish a network of more than 4,000 professionals.
Create a corporate brand, image and content
Social media managed with intention can help develop your corporate brand. Use social media to publish your content, create your image and complement your traditional marketing strategy. Create a small team within your organization that will manage digital marketing. Use it as a team-building activity and as an opportunity to bridge generations at work.
Use it as a productivity tool
This is probably the most attractive reason to use social media. I used to have a long list of websites to check every day. I have now streamlined this list and am using LinkedIn and Twitter to read news, find content and communicate with my ecosystem, saving me considerable time. Encourage your marketing team to be active in industry-relevant social media groups.
There’s no doubt times have changed. Technological development is going to accelerate and the next generation of workers will probably be the most connected and technology-savvy. So it is not a question of whether or not your organization should embrace social media, but when and how it should do so. ●
Stephan Liozu is the founder of Value Innoruption Advisors and specializes in disruptive approaches in innovation, pricing and value management. He earned his doctorate in management from Case Western Reserve University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.stephanliozu.com.
Follow Stephan Liozu on Twitter @StephanLiozu