Business planning

Good Reads: Creativity and Constraints

Most successful CEOs and executives are readers. Feeding your curiosity is as important for your growth as reading about business.

What have you read lately that you found interesting – inquiring minds want to know – or at least I do if you are willing to share.

I read about “The Geography of Genius” by Eric Weiner and it sounded interesting. Who thinks of geography as an aspect of genius? And in the first chapters, I wondered. Then the ideas began to coalesce.

On management and HR:
“Michelangelo was a sculptor when chosen to paint the Sistine Chapel ceilings.” The concept then was to choose someone clearly talented and assign a huge, impossible task. Now we minimize risk-taking — we want the perfect candidates who have already done our job before we hire.

On creativity:
“Foreign born immigrants in USA are 13% of the population, one-third of all patents, and 25% of US Nobel Laureates.” Why? ‘Unusual and unexpected events, actively experienced, lead to cognitive flexibility in those open to new experiences and thinking.’ Our reactions to constraints fuel creativity.

“Corporations spend huge sums of money on workshops designed to help employees thing more creatively…. (which is) futile if the environment in which they work is not receptive to new ideas.”

Read this book for some ideas of your own on how to break constraints and grow yourself and others. It reminded me that I need to remain curious and open to new things to feed my growth.

 

“No Ordinary Disruption” by Richard Dobs, James Manyika, & Jonathan Woetzel is a more classic ‘business book. Much of it is based on the work of the McKinsey Global Institute.
“The rise of emerging markets, the accelerating impact of technology on the natural forces of market competition, the […]

By |October 20th, 2017|Business planning, Executive development|Comments Off on Good Reads: Creativity and Constraints

What Now? The New Overtime Rules Announced

Small organizations have feared the impact of the new overtime rules which changed the level of pay below which everyone is considered eligible for overtime pay significantly. Many small businesses and non-profits assume they cannot afford to pay overtime. Others think anyone with a college degree is automatically exempt from overtime. The new rules have been announced and the salary level test is $913 per week ($47,476 annually.)

What are you going to do now?

The first step is to educate yourself. The US Department of Labor has a wide range of resources explaining the new rules and what has and has not changed. You can find this at DOL Final Overtime Rules 2016

I will be doing a webinar for the Virginia SBDC Network on June 24th which will focus on what options you have now and how to assess your next steps. Register for this free webinar via Webinar Info and Registration

Then move into assessing exactly what the impact is in your organization.

Who is newly eligible?
What are your options for each new eligible?
How many hours does each person currently work over 40 on average?
What are the reasons for overtime work?
What are the costs associated with the possible changes you are considering?  Timing?

If you have an annual pay review coming up this year, consider that date as well as the December 1 date – what does your culture imply you should do?  What other impacts on your culture will this change lead to?  What other impact will your culture have on your decisions?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to begin communicating with your employees. Although the rule changes do not take place until December 1, 2016, most employees will have […]

By |June 21st, 2016|Business planning, Compensation|Comments Off on What Now? The New Overtime Rules Announced

How Will You Adapt: Changes in Paid Overtime

Over the past year, the US Department of Labor has been revising the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs which positions must be paid overtime. Your payroll firm and employment attorney have probably been pushing you to review your practices. The proposed rules got a lot of comments, over a quarter million, and now the new rules believed to be coming out this month with a short implementation period. Rumor has it that the salary level test will be $47,000 instead of the originally proposed $50,440.

Many small organizations had ignored the duties tests of the FLSA and called all employees exempt from the FLSA based on the old test of $23,660. In reality, exemption from FLSA is based on the duties of the position and the salary test.

What Should You Do Now?

1. Look at your existing position descriptions and requirements.

Are they accurate and current? If not, update them. Look at the duties test first and determine if the positions are in fact exempt from the law. A simple checklist: https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17a_overview.pdf

2. Review the pay of individuals in each position you consider exempt from FLSA using the duties test.

Assess what you will do with each if their current salary is less than the final salary test. In some cases, it may make sense to raise pay. In others, it may make more sense to reclassify the position as non-exempt and control overtime.

3. Consider your culture.

If you have been paying all employees on a salary basis, you may wish to continue to do so. This can be done whether employees are exempt or non-exempt. If your organization pays at the end of a specific pay period through the same date, and you wish to include non-exempt […]

By |May 9th, 2016|Business planning, Compensation|Comments Off on How Will You Adapt: Changes in Paid Overtime

March 2016 News You Can Use

Many of my clients have some form of ‘respectful workplace’ policy or practice to guide employees on discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. Whether you have such a policy or not, you may want to decide what you want to do about guns in the workplace if you are a Virginia employer.

While Virginia allows both open and concealed carry and makes many restrictions on carrying guns limited, employers can prohibit guns in their workplace. You cannot prevent them generally from being locked in cars in parking areas though. As you consider a new policy or statement in your employee handbook, consider adding other potential weapons to it.

A sample statement:

Organization name X strictly prohibits the possession, use, and/ or sale of all types of weapons on work premises or while engaged in company business off premises except where expressly authorized by X and permitted by state and local laws. This policy applies to all employees, including those who have a valid permit to carry a firearm. Weapons include but are not limited to all types of guns, explosives, and knives or other edged weapons.

Further you may want to consider whether you need a plan, employee guidance, and training related to ‘active shooter’ issues. There are very good resources listed and linked on this Homeland Security page:
https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

Many local police departments will assist in assessing vulnerabilities and provide resources to support your planning and training.

NEW: Virginia Safety Poster Requirement

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has updated their job safety and health protection poster. This is now effective and you need this new poster. Additionally there are new accident reporting information. All fatalities, injuries, or illnesses that result in patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an […]

By |March 13th, 2016|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on March 2016 News You Can Use

SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Recently Elizabeth Chisman Moon of Focus Data Solutions and I did a seminar on this topic for the Alexandria SBDC. Here are some basic ideas on managing your risks of security breaches.

Start by developing policies or practices that address the most important security needs of your business. These might include:

use of company equipment and software,
use of personal devices for work,
social media,
basic security procedures (physical and systems),
what you consider ‘company confidential’ or sensitive information.

Defining what you consider sensitive information is critical. This ensures you know what information deserves extra care in handling and storing so you can protect it. The policy also tells your employees what information you expect them to keep restricted and ensure others do not see. Common types of sensitive or ‘company confidential’ information include:

all data relating to services, applications, procedures, and/or products sold by the organization, excluding marketing literature designed for external use
research and/or development materials
information about clients or customers, excluding that within sales or marketing literature produced for external use
contractual arrangements between the organization and its clients or suppliers or vendors
purchasing, pricing, sales, or financial data
personnel data on any employee or ex-employee
information provided by other organizations under confidentiality agreements.

Development of basic policies can be done using samples from your professional/trade organizations or your network. However – it is vital to ensure that each policy is designed to support your desired culture. Having such policies checked by your lawyer, appropriate consultants, or vendors is important to ensure you minimize your risks. The policies then provide a basis for orientation of new employees as well as training of all employees and regular reminders on need for each employee to protect the organizations’ assets.

Remember that policies that are difficult or complicated lead to […]

By |February 22nd, 2016|Business planning, hiring, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Millennials and Our Future

I am not a big fan of business books. So many are one small idea blown into a book and poorly written too. But I recently read a book with some ideas useful to any small business or non-profit.

When Millennials Take Over by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

This is an optimistic look at the future of business. It is a short, easy read. Better yet, you may already being doing parts of what they suggest is the future of business – to be digital, clear, fluid, and fast. As you know if we have met, I am not a big fan of the hype surrounding the millennials. They are not so different or so bad but are much like past generations were in their 20-30s. What they do bring is a different view of many technologies and of data-gathering. The book recognizes the hype early but uses them to organize its premise of the changes hitting most organizations over the past five to ten years and how millennials expectations can offer some solutions.

Digital refers to ‘organizing and working in ways that leverage’ the possibilities of digital technology.
Clear refers to the ‘value of clarity’ inside organizations. And many small businesses do this just to stay in business and grow.
Fluid refers to how the ‘heirarchy shifts and morphs decision-making’ as needed to be most effective.
Speed refers not to incremental steps but to the mindset and practices that allow your to leap forward as needed.

The book helps you make sense of ways to reduce the administrivia that stops many people from contributing all which they can. It not only demonstrates the critical aspects of your organizational culture to your success but also shows how that impacts the […]

By |December 29th, 2015|Business planning, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on Millennials and Our Future

Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Locally there are many official and area celebrations of Veterans Day and many military installations, so it may mean more to us than just another ‘sales holiday’.  Obviously, it means more to me.  But what could it mean to your business or organization?

It could mean that your business thrives by hiring veterans as well as providing services or products to them. There are many local resources to help you in attracting and hiring veterans. Veterans offer you:

a wide range of technical skills,
ability to deal with high-change environments
experience in demanding and fast-paced environments,
commitment to your mission and values, and
in-depth training and experience in supervisory and interpersonal skills.

Military spouses and family members also form an excellent labor pool to draw from. You can work with the family center offices at area military bases to attract both veterans and spouses. These include both the Employment Readiness Program and Transition Assistance Program at the centers, named as below
Army: Army Community Service
Navy: Fleet and Family Support Center,
Air Force: Airmen and Family Readiness Center,
Marine Corps: Marine Corps Readiness Center, or
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Work Life.
These programs usually accept job postings. Many run employer days and job fairs. Contact the installations closest to you.

The US Department of Labor has an excellent guide to help you in the process of developing your ability to hire transitioning military effectively – “Hiring Veterans – Step by Step Toolkit for Employers”

An excellent toolkit for hiring veterans, based on extensive private sector research, is available from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

In Virginia, ‘Virginia Values Veterans’ is a training and certification program on hiring veterans available here

Maryland also offers support for employers seeking to hire veterans  here .

So this year, when the anniversary […]

By |November 8th, 2015|Business planning, hiring, Smart practices|Comments Off on Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Should You Hire? 3 Common Mistakes

Hiring employees or independent contractors is an on-going challenge to many small -mid-size businesses. When, who, what can I afford – all come into play. These are among the most common mistakes I see.

1. What skills and experience do you really need?

Classically, smaller employers want folks to wear multiple hats. There are some people who love doing a variety of types of work each day. But the work combinations must make sense and be right for your organization’s needs.

There may be a terrific sales person who is happy to be doing administrative work half of the time – but I have not met such a combination of attributes.

Two part-timers or outsourcing each area to experts or some combination makes far more sense in situations where the work needs are very different.

2. I hate to do sales… and other tasks you dislike

I often see founders who really dislike marketing and sales work. I am not too thrilled with it myself. But in most cases, the best business developer for the business is the founder or top executive. Potential clients want to know you before they will consider hiring your firm.

This can be true of other critical business aspects as well. If your business is highly technical, clients want to see the that founder or CEO knows the technology.

And are you really ready to give up these responsibilities? Many aren’t when it comes down to doing so – and they micromanage and wonder why they are not getting their own time back or the results desired. Giving up critical parts of your job is often more difficult than you expect.

In these cases of things that you dislike doing , you may need to hire support. But […]

May’s WWII and Military Lessons for Your Organization

May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

VE Day (70th Anniversary – May 8th) recognizes victory in Europe in WWII.
Armed Forces Day (May 16th) recognizes those currently in service.
Memorial Day (May 25th) recognizes those who died in war.

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Leadership and Management Lessons

Military planning is the basis for strategic and business planning in most companies. While military leaders understand that all planning is overcome by events, they also know that smart planning is the basis for success. That is true for your organization as well! Too often we are so busy with reactive work and daily demands that planning drops to the bottom of a to-do list that we already never get to.

A plan will help you succeed faster and better. No small to mid-size organization needs some elaborate plan put together at great time and expense. Book an hour a week, preferably not in your office, and try to capture your vision of the future you want. A one-page summary would be a real achievement. And one that can be readily shared with employees, board members, or other stakeholders!

A recurring lesson, since President Lincoln replaced General McClellan after Antietam, is the importance of execution to success. Your ability to execute is what keeps your future positive. At far too many clients, I have seen the results of endless debates about next steps or conflict avoidance […]

RETIREMENT – MORE THAN A BUCKET LIST ISSUE

Have you actually thought much about retirement? Do you, like many, intend to get around to thinking about it …. sometime?

Do you love your work so that you fool yourself into believing that you will never retire? That your circumstances will never change?

For years I have talked to CEOs and organizations that did not see any reason to think about the changing nature of retirement. Anyone with relatives over 85 (the fastest growing demographic in the USA) caught on fast though.  What happens when our lifespans are commonly passing 80 years but our work-lives are barely half that? And our systems and many mindsets are still geared for early retirement with some years of play…. then simply disappearing?

A century ago, we worked until we died or became disabled. The Depression and WWII gave us Social Security and pensions. Starting in the 1970s, a ‘golden age’ of retirements was supported by personal savings plus defined pension plans plus Social Security – at least for those in larger companies and government.

Retirement has both financial and personal aspects: many of us don’t plan for either.

Most important: do some personal ‘what-if’ planning. Studies show that women still are more likely to be the care-givers. But anyone can, as I have, end up caring for several older relatives in their last years. Dealing with the medical, emotional, and physical issues is not easy. All these and others related to aging family take far more time and energy than you expect — even if you can afford good help. And this hits your business directly, often disastrously.

For those of us fully invested in our work, planning the personal side is even harder than the financial. Yet it is critical too. […]