All Articles by Network Magazine

2020-winter-dressing-for-as-many-jobs-as-you-want

Dressing for as Many Jobs as You Want

After a typical-yet-stressful day of lunch packing, bus catching, a contested hearing, client meetings, and parent pick up, I raced back to my office for a trick or treating event that my kids did not want to miss.  After dressing them in their costumes, my son looked at me and said, “You look like you’re […]

After a typical-yet-stressful day of lunch packing, bus catching, a contested hearing, client meetings, and parent pick up, I raced back to my office for a trick or treating event that my kids did not want to miss.  After dressing them in their costumes, my son looked at me and said, “You look like you’re dressed as a lawyer for Halloween.”  I laughed and replied, “I suppose you’re right,” though, as it turns out, I dress like a lawyer most days.  I also dress like a mom.  And a wife.  And a friend.  And a daughter. And a volunteer.  And the list goes on and on…  The problem is, I can only wear one outfit at a time.

I know I am not alone in the struggle the find the perfect balance to be all things to the people who rely on me and to be a success in my career, well-rounded, happy, and content.  (That’s not too much to ask for, right?)  I also know I am not the only one who feels like I am constantly coming up short.  In fact, as I write this article, I am home with my children on a would-be snow day that ended up being a bust.  Being here with them means I am not in my office.  Not being in the office means potentially missing an important phone call, losing out on a new assignment, and definitely getting behind in billable hours.   It also means another bout of fighting the never-ending perception that I cannot be totally present as a lawyer because I am a mom.  Mostly, it means feeling guilty that I am not focusing on my career.

Yet, here I am, working at my kitchen table while my kids play games and watch tv.  I am billing some hours, but not enough.  I am snuggling on the couch while checking emails and dictating letters.  So, am I really with them?  It feels more like I am in between work and home, and lawyer and mom.  A purgatory – and sense of guilt – I am all too used to.

I do not know the answer to the ultimate work-life balance question.  I have been dressing up for these competing and not too often complementing roles for so long now that I have come to the determination that there really is no answer.  I do know this, though – I am doing it.  I might not be able to convince everyone that I can lawyer and mom, but I don’t have to – my accomplishments speak for themselves.  In fact, the constant pressures exerted upon me from all sources of my life have molded me into a supremely efficient multi-tasker.  I can meet the deadlines and bake the cookies and attend the events.  I can do it all in my heels.  But I also know this – I cannot do it alone.

As a working mom, I have concluded that my personal, professional, and familial network is more valuable than even the biggest book of business.  My network includes bosses who are understanding and flexible and who will help me fight the negative perception that often looms large over lawyer-moms.  It means family who help with the children and do not judge when the dishes have not been done.  It means a husband who recognizes my desire to be a good mom and a good lawyer, and who is constant and present.  It means children who will grow up knowing their mom sacrificed time with them to work hard but also sacrificed her career to be there for every concert and ball game.

But mostly, my network includes a group of strong, independent, multi-talented, and supportive women.   They listen when I complain, celebrate my successes, and lift me up when I am down.  I find that I turn to these women more than any other group because they understand.  They know what it feels like to have professionals judge them for being away from the office and, at the same time, other parents judge them for being away from their kids.  In response, they work harder and longer and mix and match until they find the perfect way to dress as both a professional and a mother.  In the age of the working mother, I count myself lucky to be surrounded by so many of them.

When I look back at this time in my life, I will not recall it being easy.  I will, however, recall feeling supported, well-rounded, happy, and content regardless of how I was dressed.  I guess it isn’t too much to ask for after all.

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Interviewing & Hiring: Should We be Surprised at Reality TV’s Bad Advice?

America just loves Reality TV. So much so that even respected business publications are succumbing to celebrity infallibility in place of good advice. Now you may be thinking, “Who in their right mind would take business advice from a reality TV personality?” The answer might surprise you. An article in Inc. magazine recently highlighted the […]

America just loves Reality TV. So much so that even respected business publications are succumbing to celebrity infallibility in place of good advice. Now you may be thinking, “Who in their right mind would take business advice from a reality TV personality?” The answer might surprise you.

An article in Inc. magazine recently highlighted the one interview question which Shark Tank star and accomplished businesswoman Barbara Corcoran swears by. As a former head of recruiting for Johnson & Johnson, and now a consultant teaching interviewing and hiring, this is the type of article I live for. With the show’s popularity, especially amongst businesspeople, this sort of information can provide engaging anecdotes when impressing on hiring managers the paramount importance of a sound interviewing and hiring process and practice. The article, however, centered on a question which, if applied, could result in a legal battle with the interviewer being unquestionably in the wrong. That’s right, Inc. magazine published an article with Barbara Corcoran sharing an illegal interview question. The question? “Tell me about your family.”

That question is so far out of bounds today that debating its merits, or illegality, is mute. The bigger issue is the fact that a publication such as Inc. actually published it! While Inc. would probably call to the disclaimer that states, “The opinion expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com,” the fact remains that many readers certainly would double-down on its validity.

Avoiding illegal questions is only one of the key success factors for today’s hiring managers. If your organization isn’t properly trained on interviewing and hiring practices and guidelines, or worse, your organization doesn’t have a process at all; you are going to flounder in what is possibly the most competitive job market ever. Although there are many things to consider when attempting to find and hire the best talent, there are three pieces of advice I typically share, and none of them will put you in jeopardy:

Identifying Passive Job Seekers

We’ve always known that passive job seekers, those that are not actively seeking another opportunity, are often the most desirable. These candidates are typically the most successful in their roles, and the companies that employ them know it and work to keep them. This is why managers should always be recruiting, specifically when they do not have an opening. The best managers I have seen at this are constantly identifying top performers from other companies, building relationships with them, and (most importantly) selling them on the merits and value of their company. It’s constantly puzzling to their peers when these managers are able to fill an opening with a superstar quickly. It shouldn’t be.

Interviewing and Hiring for Culture

The cost of a bad hire is significant. While some estimates put the cost of onboarding and training a new employee at $240,000, the true cost of a bad hire goes even further when you consider the loss in productivity, morale, etc.. With the war for talent, and the shifting demographics of employees to newer generations, the importance of matching an employee to the company’s culture has become critical in identifying and keeping them. The Lehigh Valley enjoys tremendous access to many talented individuals who would gladly trade their long commutes for a great culture and opportunity closer to home. As a consultant, working with organizations to define their culture and then training managers to interview for it has become one of the most important factors for hiring success.

A Positive Experience

A candidate’s opinion of your organization will be formed during the interview process. Glassdoor.com estimates that 72% of job seekers that have a bad experience will share that feedback online. How the candidate is treated during the process can mean the difference between hiring and losing the best candidates. To ensure a positive experience, the process should be timely and include frequent and positive communication that keeps the candidate excited about the organization and the opportunity. Also, timely and professional communication with candidates that are not selected is just as important. These same individuals may fit another role in the future, or recommend the company to others, and leaving them with a positive opinion will pay dividends.

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Leading The Way: The Benefits Of Civic Leadership And Community Involvement

If you missed the presentation, so sorry.  It was worth your time to hear from a panel of experienced professionals on this topic, not to mention the networking and delicious snacks as well as CLE and CPE for the attorneys and accountants in attendance.  On Monday, October 28th, Lori Molloy, Madlen Miller, and I discussed […]

If you missed the presentation, so sorry.  It was worth your time to hear from a panel of experienced professionals on this topic, not to mention the networking and delicious snacks as well as CLE and CPE for the attorneys and accountants in attendance.  On Monday, October 28th, Lori Molloy, Madlen Miller, and I discussed the importance of being involved in the community, in particular, being part of a Board of Directors for a non-profit organization. The presentation focused on Leadership by Leading the Way.  Although it was geared to emerging professionals, information was shared that benefited all professional levels in our community.  As members of society, it is our responsibility to build up our communities and see that they thrive, putting our talents to good use.  Part of this responsibility rests with volunteer work – whether giving legal advice, dishing out food at a soup kitchen, delivering meals to the elderly, or building homes.

In addition to being an attorney, Lori Molloy is the Executive Director of North Penn Legal Services.  She shared her thoughts on what she looks for when choosing a Board member.  In particular, for her organization, the person must be an attorney, so her pool of candidates is much smaller than that of a typical search where the Board would include professionals from diverse backgrounds to enhance the skills and vision of the organization.

Lori addressed such topics as Duty of Care and Duty of Loyalty – both fiduciary responsibilities of a non-profit Board of directors.  Duty of Care means that Board directors must give the same care and concern to their Board responsibilities as any prudent and ordinary person would – they must actively participate in board meetings.  Duty of Loyalty requires Board directors to place the interests of the organization ahead of their own interest at all times and not use Board service as a means for personal gain.  An annual retreat allows Board members to develop a strategic plan and goals for the future.  It also builds camaraderie among the Board members, oftentimes allowing them to get to know each other on a more personal level.

Madlen Miller is the Director of Marketing and Analytics at Morton Brown Family Wealth and has years of experience coaching new members of firms by assisting them in growing their talents and strengths.  She shared tips on how to juggle work, voluntary, and personal time.  Maddy suggested to start, you should discover your passion, so volunteering will be enjoyable as opposed to a chore.  As a stepping stone, you may want to become part of the Board, which will further enhance your appreciation of the organization.  She explained that employers must be on-board with allowing their employees to give back to the community through their time and talent on company time.  Many firms allot time for this to take place.  The benefits for both employer and employee are endless.  The community sees first-hand through the employee how the employer is involved, and that in-turn, promotes their business.

I am a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.  I shared my thoughts on the importance of the fiduciary responsibilities – paying attention in Board meetings and keeping a watchful eye on the spending of the organization to remain fiscally responsible.  All too often, we hear what happens to small non-profits because no one was watching – someone walks away with the money.  The Board must be fully involved to prevent this from happening.  Although the name, non-profit, connotates no profit, income as a result of activities is used to cover expenses and can show a positive bank balance. In fact, this income can be essential to an organization’s survival.

Our emerging professionals are the next generation of Leaders in our community.  In their professional role, they are looked to for sound advice and guidance, their voice is impactful to the community, and they are considered trusted advisors in their field.  A transition to Board Leadership is something that will round out their life experiences and help them grow as a person.  As quoted by John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

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Coaching for Success: Finding a Thought Partner to Help You Unlock Your Potential

It seems like each time my peers ask about my job, it makes a little more sense to them than the last time. They finally asked me to write an article explaining what I do! There are so many different kinds of coaches, the title can be confusing, so I’ll start by describing what coaching […]

It seems like each time my peers ask about my job, it makes a little more sense to them than the last time. They finally asked me to write an article explaining what I do! There are so many different kinds of coaches, the title can be confusing, so I’ll start by describing what coaching is and isn’t – to me. There are other types of coaches, and they are free to use the term as they wish. I’ll describe my own definition below. Then I’ll give you tips on finding the right coach for you.

What coaching is not:

It’s not therapy. Therapy for past trauma, childhood issues, and severe anxiety (to name but a few topics) are necessary. The coaching I do does not claim to take the place of psychological therapy or counseling.

It’s not mentoring. Mentoring is a process of training, advising, and passing down wisdom to a younger or less-experienced colleague. I do this for aspiring coaches in Heidrick & Struggles’ Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance (LCOP) program, a post-grad certificate offered at Rutgers and American U. Although I use some coaching skills in that role, my function there is more that of a mentor than a coach.

It’s not a consultancy. A consultant is an adviser with expertise in their field, which they will use to help you problem-solve or strategize.

What coaching is:

Coaching is neutral. My background is in Communications, Business, HR, and Leadership, but in a coaching session, my knowledge is on the back burner. The reason is that research shows advice rarely works. People are more likely to change if they make their own discoveries. I’m trained and practiced at actively listening without getting attached to a certain outcome or action I’d like you to take. If you’ve ever been annoyed by unasked-for advice (and who hasn’t?), you’ll understand how powerful my active listening (without trying to control the outcome) really is.

Coaching is powerful! A good coach is specifically trained in how to ask questions in a way that opens your eyes to answers you just wouldn’t discover on your own. And thinking out loud with someone who knows what to ask and how to ask it is totally, shockingly different from sharing your thoughts with a friend or loved one. I often get client comments about the “magic” that seems to happen when our conversation leads to crystal clarity about exactly what to do next.

Coaching is a codiscovery process. What interests me is what you may discover about yourself. If this sounds too airy-fairy to you, hang on: usually, the barrier between you and the success you want is something you could change if you only could identify and face up to it. It’s like the proverbial monster under the bed. It’s a lot less scary when someone comes in and shines a light under there. By the same token, during our sessions, I help you gain insights about yourself that help you pull down the barriers that stand in your way.

What to look for if you’d like a coach as described above:

ICF qualification. Whether you’re looking for an executive coach or a life coach, make sure they are accredited and qualified through the International Coach Federation (ICF). Look for ICF ACC or PCC on their website or card.

Accessibility. Make sure your coach is local enough to easily meet with you face to face or has experience with virtual sessions. Research shows that telephone (audio-only) coaching is as good as or better than video-conferencing. But the coach should have the training and/or experience in virtual coaching to be effective. And of course, face-to-face is still golden.

A good rapport. You need to feel comfortable with your coach. If you feel intimidated or self-conscious with your coach, this will hinder your journey to peak performance. If your would-be coach doesn’t put you at your ease, you may simply not be a good match for each other. Any good coach will be plugged into the coaching community and more than happy to recommend others you could try.

A trial session. Some coaches offer a no-obligation 20-minute laser-coaching session for you to experience what coaching is like. You simply need to be prepared with a decision or challenge you’re facing that you’d like to take action on. The coach will take it from there. I offer this because I want to spread the word about what ICF executive coaching is like. Call me with questions, or text me to book your complimentary 20-minute laser-coaching call!

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Great Fruit X Great Wine = Boos-Rock Wine! | From Basement to Today!

Once upon a time, there was a guy named Bryon, and even though he had a full-time job running one of the country’s largest paint production plants here in the Lehigh Valley, he exhausted all of his spare time following his passion and making wine in his family basement. All with the dream of maybe […]

Once upon a time, there was a guy named Bryon, and even though he had a full-time job running one of the country’s largest paint production plants here in the Lehigh Valley, he exhausted all of his spare time following his passion and making wine in his family basement. All with the dream of maybe someday owning his own winery. He invited neighbors and friends to come to his home weekly to make and drink wine in his basement. One could argue the level of quality of that wine, but it was good enough, and it made everyone happy who made and drank it. Unbeknownst to Bryon, his neighbor David (who had many businesses of his own) was a huge wine connoisseur.  David had a great love for the best California Cabernets. He had also always dreamed of one day owning a winery and maybe even moving to Napa Valley. Every October, large refrigerator trucks carrying grapes would come to Bryon’s house to be made into wine.  Right on cue, all of his friends and neighbors would show up, and the winemaking and celebrating would ensue into the late hours of the night. On one evening, David looked over at his neighbor’s house to see all the happiness & laughter & hijinks and decided to find out for himself what the heck was going on over there…

When Bryon told David, “it’s cool we’re just here making and drinking wine.” David said, “I love wine, let’s try some.” As folklore has it, David was not impressed.  He suggested instead that we make some really great wine together with only the best grapes from California and use Oak barrels. They started in Bryon’s basement with one American Oak barrel and some real quality grapes from California. At the first tasting of this new elixir they had created, after six months of fermentation, they danced in glee in Bryon’s basement to celebrate what they had done. It was so good that they invited their friends and neighbors over to taste it too.  When it became time to bottle it 1  ears later, there was only  f a barrel left. They decided they needed to produce more and get even higher quality grapes and barrels. They then decided to go to a wine show in Lancaster. When they went to the registration table to sign in, the guy at the counter said: “Well, what’s your winery name”? They looked at each other said,” we don’t have one yet.” The guy at the registration booth looked at their names and took half of each of their names – Boos & Rothrock and said, “well, your name today is BOOS-ROCK Winery.” They looked at each other and claimed “BRILLIANT” and the name stuck!  Next up, where are we going to make this great wine as it was time to move out of the basement.

As luck would have it, David’s family owned a 6-acre parcel of land out in Breinigsville (complete with a spring-fed pond). It was a perfect fit for a winery and a vineyard. They started off in 2012 with one room and 14 brand new French Oak Barrels along with amazing grapes from Napa Valley. The grapes were picked right off the vines and shipped across the country in refrigerated tractor-trailers. Once they arrived, they were destemmed and fermented with the best nutrients until the brix levels were just right.  At that point, they were pressed and fermented in the French Oak Barrels. They were then racked every 4 months.  After 2-years in the Oak barrels, the wine was put into stainless steel fermenters to settle down for 6 more months. Then the wine was bottled and left to rest for 6-months and later released to the public. The results and feedback from everyone were fantastic! The wine was amazing! So many people loved the wine that they started to come up and volunteer on weekends, and the winery continued to grow. First, it was 14 new French Oak Barrels, then 30, then 50, then 70, and now 100. They also continued to expand into different grapes and wines like Merlot, Cab Franc, Super Tuscan Blend, Chardonnay, and even superior sweet wines like Pink Catawba & Red Raspberry. But their passion was California Cabernet Sauvignon. So, they set out to make the best Cabernet possible east of Napa Valley. They were able to start purchasing their grapes from some of the finest vineyards in Napa, Lake County, and Mendocino, California. They were also ready to begin purchasing from some of the top growers, including the grower considered the best in California, Andy Beckstoffer.  Today, Boos-Rock Winery is producing some fantastic Cabernets from all different regions in California as they continue to perfect the process and use the best grapes, nutrients, and Oak Barrels available. They are now open for sales, private tastings, and private events for Club Members. A new Wine Club is coming with over 30,000 bottles available. Their wine is also now being sold in local Restaurants and Country Clubs in the Lehigh Valley.

Not bad for a couple of guys in a basement 8 short years ago with a vision and passion for great wine. Great fruit * Great Wine = BOOS-ROCK Wine! For more information, please contact Doreen Carl, Director of Operations at 484-223-0625 or email at doreen@boosrock.com.

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Today, Boscov’s is America’s largest family-owned department store. But like all family businesses, its beginning was small and humble.

At only 18, Solomon Boscov left his family in Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1914. He settled in Reading, PA, where the Yiddish he spoke at home was similar to the German spoken by the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers throughout Berks and Lancaster County. With a pack on his back and with the […]

At only 18, Solomon Boscov left his family in Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1914. He settled in Reading, PA, where the Yiddish he spoke at home was similar to the German spoken by the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers throughout Berks and Lancaster County. With a pack on his back and with the few dollars he had, he began peddling household goods to the farm families in the surrounding area. He developed a reputation for fairness and honesty. As his business and reputation grew, he was able to buy the dry goods store that had provided the merchandise he peddled, and the first Boscov’s Department Store was established. It was a true neighborhood store providing honest pricing and quality merchandise to the community in good times and through the bad times of the depression.

The core principles established by Solomon continue to be the keys to success today.

A Vast Selection of Quality Merchandise Including Your Favorite Brands

Unlike other “department stores” that only carry apparel, we offer a full range of departments, including toys, candy, and small appliances. Within each department, we offer a broader assortment of products at a wider range of prices than you’re likely to find elsewhere. That means that if you’re shopping for coffee makers, you’ll find twenty-five models at prices to satisfy the gourmet coffee connoisseur as well as the bargain hunter. The same holds true whether you’re buying outerwear or a dress – a larger selection at prices to please everyone.

Incredible Pricing

We believe that it’s about how much you sell and not the margin you make on each item. If you sell enough, profitability takes care of itself. We know our pricing is good because we do so much business in Texas and California – but we don’t have stores in Texas or California. Here’s what happens – online shoppers search for an item on a competitive shopping tool, and Boscov’s comes out on top. They place the order; we ship it to them – even in areas that don’t know what a Boscov’s is.

Knowledgeable and friendly coworkers provide the kind of customer service that’s hard to find anymore

Don’t tell the competition but having helpful coworkers on the sales floor is an asset. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an item you’re ready to purchases and having to look for a salesperson to ring it up. Buying from a real person who is knowledgeable and empowered to help is a better experience than buying from Alexa.

Commitment to Community Involvement

We’re your neighborhood family store. We live here, we work here, and we play here. It’s only natural that we should be a part of the community. Our store openings reflect our commitment to the community. Grand openings include a day devoted to raising money for the community non-profits. And that’s just the beginning. We have an ongoing partnership that brings these organizations into the store for meetings, fashion shows, and classes throughout the year. For example, we recently held a family health and wellness event for young families that brought in eighteen different organizations offering information and demonstrations on things from mommy and baby yoga to financial planning for college.

We know that shopping is social. People like to shop with a friend and family. While some commodities can certainly be bought online, if you’re shopping for a dress, it’s important to see how it moves when you walk and how the color goes with your complexion.

We believe that what happens on the sales floor is more important than what happens in an office. The customer tells us what we need to do. As a result, all of our executives spend lots of time visiting stores and listening to our customers and coworkers

We open one store a year, and we hire about 300 new coworkers in the process. In addition, we ask over one hundred of our seasoned coworkers to spend time both before the new store opens and after the store opens, working side by side with new members of the team. We believe you teach the culture of a company by example, not from a handbook.

As a privately-owned family business, we have the luxury of being able to make smart decisions for the long-term health of the company. Working for the customer and not for the market gives us added flexibility and allows us to make decisions that are right for the customers and ultimately better for the business.

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8 Drivers to Building Value Before You Sell

I have been coaching business owners for over 20 years now with growth-oriented engagements helping to improve businesses through strategy, culture, and leadership with an acute focus on the people side.  It has been very rewarding, creating client friendships and impacting the company’s and employees. Still, as I’ve gained a few more laps around the […]

I have been coaching business owners for over 20 years now with growth-oriented engagements helping to improve businesses through strategy, culture, and leadership with an acute focus on the people side.  It has been very rewarding, creating client friendships and impacting the company’s and employees. Still, as I’ve gained a few more laps around the racetrack of life, I am becoming slightly more sensitive around helping those business owners transition well.  Did you know that 100% of businesses transition?  They transition to employees, family members, investors, or to dust, but they do transition.  Here are a few additional startling statistics before I unveil the 8 Drivers for business owners to focus on long before they get to the doorway of transition.

  • 95% of business owners have unrealistic expectations of their company’s worth
  • 95% of business owners have operational or market issues that will impact selling their company
  • Business owners leave almost 30% of their business value on the table when they transition
  • 83% of business owners need to grow their businesses before they transition to meet wealth goals
  • Only 12% of companies secure LOIs (Letter of Intent) for sale, and only 20% of LOIs survive the first pass at due diligence: that’s a 97.6% failure rate

These stats are alarming, and if you are a business owner, I hope they grab your attention.  It is wonderful to help my clients with strategy, leadership, and culture, but ultimately, they need to transition well so that life’s investment in your company properly takes care of your loved ones.  About two years ago, I incorporated CoreValue®, the #1 best-selling business consulting system for business growth (& exit).  The methodology was born out of MIT, and it identifies 18 Drivers that impact the value of a business when a transition arrives.  Maybe I will unpack all 18 in a later article, but with over 25,000 companies on their platform, they have identified 8 Drivers that have the greatest impact on the transition process.  The 8 Drives in no particular order are as follows:

  1. Growth
  2. Dominant Market Share
  3. Recurring Revenue
  4. Barriers to Entry
  5. Product Differentiation
  6. Margin Advantage
  7. Innovation
  8. Brand

Let us spend time breaking each Driver down to understand why they are critical to your transition plan and can impact your estate by as much as 30%.

1) Growth – this Driver refers to your company’s top-line revenue number.  Company’s that have a consistent track record of growth better than the competition make them very attractive.  It means there is a strategy in place that is working to grow faster than the rest of the pack and means security for the buying party.  It also means that your company has some special recipe that makes it desirable for a potential suitor.

2) Dominant Market Share – this Driver can be a double-edged sword.  Your market is the location where you sell your products and services.  Buyers of your business want to see a strong market share position to ensure company strength and resilience, but they also want to see growth opportunities.  If you own 80/90% of your market, the likelihood of losing market share is higher than the opportunity to grow and gain market share.

3) Recurring Revenue – this Driver is gold!  Who doesn’t want recurring revenue?  Buyers will pay a premium for recurring revenue that they can take to the bank and fund other business initiatives.  Many companies have a tough time building this into their business model, but if you can crack the code in your industry and market, even if it’s in smaller steps, it will be an investment well made.

4) Barriers to Entry – this Driver can potentially be the lowest hanging fruit to increasing enterprise value but takes some serious creativity.  Barriers to Entry are the obstacles facing a new entrant into your business’ market.  Most industries have low barriers to entry outside of capital and know-how. However, barriers can be added to your company by patenting products and processes, making it difficult for competition to replicate your exact delivery to the market.

5) Product Differentiation – this Driver is specific to your company’s products and services and is tied directly to the customer’s desire for your products and services.  If you think your products and services are different than the competitors, but the customer is only willing to buy from you overprice, then you do not possess a differentiation edge.  This is one area where customer surveys can flesh out your differentiators or who you learn ways to build differentiators into your products and services.

6) Margin Advantage – this Driver is challenging to prove, but if you can, buyers will be willing to pay an extra premium for your business, and it will be worth the effort to prove it.  When you can show gross and net margins above the industry norms along with the logical reason behind the numbers, you will find yourself in the catbird seat.  Who doesn’t want to be more profitable than the competition?

7) Innovation – this Driver takes serious discipline to build into the culture of a small business.  Innovation is invaluable in creating an ongoing competitive advantage.  Does your company have a proven and systematic way to drive and capture innovation at all levels and encourage innovation in every area of the business?  If you do, you are more likely to be able to stay ahead of industry changes and continue to prosper.

8) Brand – this Driver refers to how recognizable your brand and business is within your marketplace that reinforces the business’ presence, supports the company’s objectives, and helps drive customer engagement.  A strong brand name that resonates with your customers can add significant value to your company, especially if it’s a brand with a history of a positive reputation in the market.

Where are you on your company transition journey?  Have you reflected on your exit from your company and how it will impact your life?  It is never too early to pre-plan.  I would encourage you to get away for a long weekend, somewhere with solitude, a new journal, good music, and your favorite beverage.  Take some time to capture your journey and grade your company in these 8 Drivers.  Are you excelling in them, or do you need to put some focused attention on them?  If you take me up on my advice, you may be investing time in one of the most critical financial junctures of your life.  Travel well.


David Olson

David Olson is a management consultant at N2Growth with over 20 years of experience specializing in CEO Business Coaching delivering services related to Strategy, Sales & Marketing, Culture and Leadership.  He is also a CoreValue® certified growth consultant and creator of The Culture Compass®.

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Gravity Didn’t Come out of Thin Air

History is taught in short tales of inspired genius. Actual events are more complex. Humans build off the knowledge of those who have come before. Newton did not discover gravity by sitting under an apple tree; his revelations about gravity were the culmination of hundreds of years of human study and experience with the topic. […]

History is taught in short tales of inspired genius. Actual events are more complex. Humans build off the knowledge of those who have come before. Newton did not discover gravity by sitting under an apple tree; his revelations about gravity were the culmination of hundreds of years of human study and experience with the topic. Newton was standing on the shoulders of the giants who learned about the subject and shared their insights.

Like scholars contemplating their intellectual legacies, parents can spend angst-filled hours trying to decide how to divide their assets amongst their progeny. “How much is enough for them to live comfortably without being spoiled?” is not an uncommon discussion.

But what if that is the wrong conversation? What if these parents instead focused on sharing their family values and history so that regardless of how much the kids receive; the family’s legacy will persist? What if your purpose was to provide the shoulders from which your kids could embark on their own future? How would you go about that?

Start early: You do not need to share the extent of your family’s wealth to begin teaching your children and/or grandchildren about the impact they can have on society. You can separate your charitable assets from the rest of your net worth. Many organizations sponsor donor-advised funds that allow you to make a charitable contribution now with the final recipient of those dollars to be named later. If you set up such a fund, you can engage your heirs about why you give to certain organizations and allow the youngsters to opine on the types of charities important to them. Donor-advised funds can be established with as little as $5,000.

Educate: Utilize your trusted advisors to share the concepts of financial prudence. A well-educated family with a solid understanding of the wealth available to them is more prepared to avoid the “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” stereotype than one with “unlimited” wealth foisted upon them after mom and dad are no longer able to protect them from themselves. These advisors can also discuss your charitable intentions and serve as the institutional memory of the family, assuming the advisors themselves have developed their own intergenerational transition plans.

Write it Out: A personal note can last a lot longer than a spoken lecture. Take the time to record your contribution to the family story. What were the good and the bad times? What were your motivations? How has society benefited from your existence? What was your personal “why”? Why do you live as you do? Why have you committed to specific causes? Like any game of whisper down the lane, if you rely purely on the spoken word, your meaning can be distorted quickly. If you write it down, there can be no confusion about your intentions for future generations. There are things that you may be more comfortable committing to paper than discussing directly with your heirs. That is okay. Even if you are not able to have that conversation with your kids, be sure to have it with your trustees and executors. They will be positioned to interpret any potential points of confusion.

Imagine the vantage point you would have if you were standing on the shoulders of giants. Then envision that you did not have to climb up there yourself and instead were given a well-intentioned boost, avoiding years of toil. We are all able to provide that same advantage to future generations. The beauty of the American way of life is that dynasties can exist. The equally beautiful corollary is that no family is ensured its status – we have no hereditary aristocracy. The American Dream is to want better for your kids than you have. In conjunction with establishing wills and trusts to direct your financial assets, you should be investing time into sharing your values and history. That could be one of your most fulfilling endeavors.

Securities offered through M Holdings Securities, Inc., a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Cornerstone Advisors Asset Management, LLC, which is independently owned and operated.

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Outsourced Bookkeeping: A Better Bang for Your Buck!

The number one priority of a CEO, whether it is a small business venture or a Fortune 500 company, is long-term, sustainable profits earned in an ethical manner. As such, business owners are hard-pressed for time: providing services or products, overseeing employees, or creating and innovating to align with the market or consumers, to name […]

The number one priority of a CEO, whether it is a small business venture or a Fortune 500 company, is long-term, sustainable profits earned in an ethical manner. As such, business owners are hard-pressed for time: providing services or products, overseeing employees, or creating and innovating to align with the market or consumers, to name a few.   In addition to these responsibilities, handling the day to day tracking of income and expenses is a daunting and stressful task to keep up with. There is an alternative solution available today, which is the option to hire a private contractor to manage all aspects of bookkeeping. Choosing this option is a wise investment of resources for many reasons. Read below to see the many ways professional bookkeepers provide value-added services to those they work with.

Reduced overhead expenses. No matter how well versed a business owner is with finances, all understand that the largest contributor to expenses is through the wages and benefit expenditures required to pay employees on payroll. Through hiring an expertly trained bookkeeper as a contractor, one can reduce administrative type positions, thereby reallocating precious dollars to sales, marketing, or other support members. Additionally, having less “in-house” employees can also reduce the need for office space or supplies and technology/software expenses.

Confidentiality. Outside of compensation concerns, business owners also often have to grapple with the concerns of internal employees having access to secure and private data. This becomes especially concerning when payroll for peers comes into play. Hiring an independent bookkeeper will not only bring peace of mind through confidentiality but will also allow business owners to obtain full control over how data is shared and handled.

Accuracy. Although tax season is usually synonymous with the month of April, bookkeepers understand the crucial need for businesses to stay in compliance with GAAP practices year-round. Having comprehensive accounting experience and being trained on QuickBooks will allow for high-quality bookkeeping, as opposed to an administrative employee who may have limited financial exposure or understanding. Since the data produced will be accurate, financial statements can be provided at will to the bank, investors, or the owner for any business needs or concerns.

Scalability and Flexibility. A new start-up or younger business benefit from this aspect, in particular, as cash flows are typically lower within the first five years of formation. The initial needs may be small, but over time, as the business grows, the terms of the arrangement can be altered as needed. Options exist at the onset and throughout the bookkeeping arrangement to fulfill the needs at various stages of the business’ growth.   

Financial Advising. Not only do bookkeepers understand how to construct balance sheets, income statements, and cash flows statements, they also comprehend how to interpret them. The bookkeeper will be able to advise on business decisions based on spending activity, which could result in improved cash flow, assist with budgeting, or develop future projections.   

In addition to these five key assets, professional bookkeepers will also help you save a precious resource: your time. If any one of these skills could assist your business to flourish, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local bookkeeper today!

ASAP Business Support Services, Inc. has been supporting Lehigh Valley businesses for 25+ plus years. Please visit our website (https://www.asap-business.com) for more information.

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Offering the Benefit of Financial Peace of Mind to Your Employees

We all know that employees don’t leave their personal lives at home.  The stresses of home life are a shadow that can have very real consequences for your business. As a business owner, you are constantly under pressure to compete for customers, and in the current strong job market, the competition for the best employees […]

We all know that employees don’t leave their personal lives at home.  The stresses of home life are a shadow that can have very real consequences for your business.

As a business owner, you are constantly under pressure to compete for customers, and in the current strong job market, the competition for the best employees is also at a peak.  Offering your employees, a path to financial peace of mind can help you keep your best talent and keep your best talent focused on their jobs and your customers when they are at work.

According to a survey conducted in 2017 by the Jobsite Career Builder, 78% of American families are living paycheck to paycheck. The Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Household in 2018 found that as many as 39% of households wouldn’t be prepared for a $400 emergency (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, May 2019).  This kind of stress can cause strain on families; chances are good that some of those folks work for you.

Financial stress can lead to loss of sleep, increased absenteeism, lower productivity, and higher health care costs.  Additionally, financial difficulties are one of the leading causes of divorce in this country.  Divorce is a traumatic, emotionally fraught time that leads to additional stress and distraction while your employees are at work.

Most employers will say that their number one priority is for their workers to get home safely at the end of the day.  Knowing that financial stress can lead to daytime fatigue and distractions, both of which are closely linked to safety incidents in the workplace, makes it imperative that we, as business owners care about the financial stress of our workforce.   

To help your employees avoid or deal with financial stress, consider one or all of these options:

Offer an Employee Assistance Program or (EAP) – According to the Society for Human Resource Management, an EAP is “An employer-sponsored employee assistance plan (EAP)  a work-based intervention program designed to identify and assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting their performance at work, such as marital, financial or emotional problems; family issues; or substance or alcohol abuse.” EAPs are a benefit offered by 78% of employers.   The quality and scope of EAP services can vary significantly.  Additionally, EAPs are not intended to provide long-term assistance, but rather to get the ball rolling and then refer the employee to an external provider.  That means your EAP may only be as good as their referral network.

Another benefit option to offer employees is financial coaching.  Financial coaches are trained to work with individuals over a longer period of time to help clients address the underlying behavior that created their financial challenges in the first place, as well as to develop and track concrete plans/budgets to get their financial house in order.

Focus on financial wellness as part of your overall wellness program.  Many employers offer wellness programs and incentives for exercising, losing weight, and getting healthier.  Offering employees and their spouse’s courses on budgeting and other financial topics as part of your wellness program promotes financial fitness and minimizes financial stress.

The benefits of financial stress reduction to your employees and your business are endless.  People who see a path out of their financial challenges begin to feel hope for their future and can better focus their attention on their job and your customers.  While I don’t know of a study that has demonstrated the correlation of the reduction of financial stress to the increase in productivity, what if it was 5% or even 10%?  What if it means you have less employee turnover, produce a higher quality product, and have happier customers?  Clearly, good health means good business. When your employees enjoy physical, emotional, and financial health, there’s a good chance your bottom line will be healthy, too!

If you’d like to learn more about how to reduce financial stress in your workplace, contact Kindra Walker at 484-22-2957 or at TremontFinancialCoaching.com

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