All Articles by Network Magazine

summer-2019-clean-air

LifeAire Brings Air Purity to Critical-Care Medical Environments Worldwide

Medical facilities strive to keep surfaces in critical care environments as sterile as possible. But one of the most serious threats in those areas is in the air surrounding the patients and staff. Airborne chemical and biological pathogens can readily bypass many air filtration measures commonly used by medical facilities, including HEPA, ULPA, and UV […]

Medical facilities strive to keep surfaces in critical care environments as sterile as possible. But one of the most serious threats in those areas is in the air surrounding the patients and staff. Airborne chemical and biological pathogens can readily bypass many air filtration measures commonly used by medical facilities, including HEPA, ULPA, and UV light, and can enter areas where compromised patients, human embryos, and gene/cell therapies are susceptible to attack and contamination.

With a focus on this, LifeAire Systems’ Founder and CEO, Dr. Kathryn C. Worrilow, conducted more than two decades of research into air remediation, initially in the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) environment. She found that the first-line air filtration techniques in use, even combined with best-practice protocols, were inadequate to guard against airborne volatile organic compounds (VOC). This shortcoming places operating rooms, recovery rooms, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, and cell manufacturing facilities at risk.

Dr. Worrilow’s research determined that external environmental events can greatly impact the clinical outcomes of a facility. The VOCs that permeate basic filtration are generated through many sources, including seasonal changes, construction, vehicle exhaust, paint, cleaning fluids, and road resurfacing. Dr. Worrilow found that the IVF success rate dropped precipitously when nearby projects, such as road resurfacing, contaminated the air. She also determined that airborne contaminants play a major role, not only in reproductive and cell culture success, but also in the rate of hospital acquired infections (HAI) within hospital and assisted living settings.

This discovery was the genesis of the technology of Allentown-based LifeAire Systems. Dr. Worrilow led a team of chemists, engineers, and physicists to develop the LifeAire System — a patented, in-duct air purification system that incorporates a multi-stage approach with a blend of strategies that capture, kill, and filter airborne chemical and biological contaminants. Unlike common HEPA filters, the LifeAire System provides comprehensive molecular destruction of biological and chemical contaminants, delivering air with purity levels as high as 99.99 percent in a single pass.

With financial investments and strategic business insights from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Worrilow was able to move forward with transforming her realization into a commercially viable product that benefits several types of medical and research facilities. Teaming with H.T. Lyons, also based in Allentown, to manufacture Aire-IVF air purification units, LifeAire now holds 26 patents globally and has deployed units to more than 45 IVF programs worldwide. Clinical pregnancy rates have improved an average of 15 percent across all installations.

“My vision at LifeAire is to help healthcare professionals eliminate air as a potentially adverse factor in the function of a facility. The realization of that vision is the LifeAire System,” said Dr. Worrilow. “The support that we have received from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners has been comprehensive and pivotal to LifeAire. In addition to providing part of the seed funding, Ben Franklin introduced us to an angel investor for follow-on investment, helped us build our management team, and linked us to marketing, business planning, and financial projection experts. We are privileged to have such comprehensive guidance and support right here in the Lehigh Valley to help us bring our industry-leading solution to the world.”

LifeAire’s transformational, multi-stage air purification approach is significantly improving patient outcomes in several facilities. The Mayo Clinic, UCSF Medical Center, Stanford University Medical Center, Northwestern University Medical Center, University of Connecticut Health Center, and the University of Iowa Hospital are using the LifeAire System to control sensitive clinical spaces within their environments. The top three IVF programs with the highest live-birth rates in the U.S. for patients under the age of 35 are also reporting dramatic improvements from using the LifeAire System.

The IVF, life sciences, healthcare, and long-term care industries continue to experience the shortcomings of standard HEPA/ULPA filtration and the risks associated with the presence of contaminants in the air. Current news stories depict extremely dangerous diseases resurfacing in healthcare environments — diseases that were long thought to be dormant or defeated — and which can be disastrous to patients. LifeAire Systems’ technology is poised to be part of the solution.

www.lifeaire.com

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summer-2019-women-and-imposter-syndrome

Women and Imposter Syndrome

It can creep up unsuspected like a distant ache in your gut, like dread in the face of an insurmountable obstacle, or like the paralysis of doing everything except the one thing you know you were meant to do. Imposter Syndrome. That sense that you are not up to the task, that they promoted the […]

It can creep up unsuspected like a distant ache in your gut, like dread in the face of an insurmountable obstacle, or like the paralysis of doing everything except the one thing you know you were meant to do.

Imposter Syndrome. That sense that you are not up to the task, that they promoted the wrong person and will soon discover their error.  Or, if you are self-employed, the struggle to put a dollar amount on your time and convince potential clients you are worth it.  The pain of “marketing” one’s services while inhabiting the same body that was once a child: the one who skinned her knees, and who cried when she couldn’t break open the piñata at her own birthday party.  Now, she is a Human Resources Director, a Family Therapist, a Department Manager.  And you know that girl is still in there somewhere.

In addition to seeing our own past or present weaknesses, many of us fear seeming disingenuous offering our services to people within our network with whom we have collaborated in the past.  We do not want a friend or former colleague to feel used, or like we are selling to them.  To flip our mindset to see that we offer something that will benefit them far beyond the dollar cost, we need to realize the value of what we bring.  This is easily done intellectually, but to bring that knowledge to the heart often requires time in conversation with a neutral party who is trained to help you change the underlying beliefs that feed the mindset.

While Imposter Syndrome is not unique to women, we seem to experience it more.  In London, England when I was first promoted to HR Director, I called my mom stateside to tell her the news.  Her first comment was, “Do you think you can do it?”  I was bilingual, well-educated, experienced, and living in my third European country of residence.  But her question threw me off balance for a split-second as I wondered how to answer.

When I relayed this story over the years to other female friends, they identified with the feeling and shared similar tales of their own.  In some cases, our beloved mothers unwittingly transferred their self-doubt onto us.  Many of us did not realize this had happened until our 30s or 40s, when we got a renewed energy for stepping into our bigness.

One of the barriers to self-actualizing in this way is concealing our vulnerabilities.  Sometimes when we try to explore how we might step outside our comfort zone or reach for the stars, we mention it to the wrong person, who shoots us down in the blink of an eye.  They speak out of their own narrow view of self, lumbering you with their own set of perceived limitations, their own shoulds, musts, and can’ts.  The result is that we clam up, unable to state out loud the thing that holds us back.  Yet, saying it out loud and looking it full in the face may be the key to disarming it.

Another dynamic that may leave women bewildered is that many (not all of course) are big enough people to see and praise others’ giftedness.  We are confident enough to see our own strengths and those of our colleagues, and to see the value of collaborating.  This ability is one of the hallmarks of an excellent, mature leader.  However, in an ego-driven or male-dominated work environment, the person who does this may be left doubting herself as she celebrates others’ expertise and no one returns the favor.  In fact, as she applauds her male colleagues’ gifts, everyone else is doing the same, and hers may remain unseen.  This reinforces her nagging suspicion that she is an imposter and unworthy of her position.

My response to this is not, as you might expect, for women to band together and support each other, giving each other a leg up whenever possible.  This is no bad thing, but I would suggest instead that male and female leaders actively work together to dissolve the unconscious divide between men and women; that we seek the person underneath the gender.  This is becoming particularly important in an age when socially, and especially amongst millennials and Generation Y, gender roles and even gender itself has become a blurred line or a point somewhere on a spectrum rather than the traditional cut and dried definitions of male and female.

To find courage to navigate leading in a changing world, a coach who helps you see new possibilities and open your eyes to perspectives you would not have found alone can be an enormous asset.  Some coaches function as advisers, mentors, or consultants.  I believe to get beyond Imposter Syndrome and make the kind of self-discoveries that will help you improve your mindset and make good decisions, you need a non-judgmental thought partner who asks questions that help you see what lies beneath the issue for you so you can design your own actions.  My advice would always be limited by the fact that I am not you.  That is why I help you better understand what you know about yourself and the situation, to enable you to design your own action steps.  The actions you design yourself are far more motivating to you because they are authentically yours.

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summer-2019-this-word-unleashes-change

This Word Unleashes Change & Innovation

Have you ever worked for a boss who always said no? If you have, my first guess is it was a frustrating experience. My second guess is you don’t hold said boss in high regard as a leader. I’ve always been amazed at the number of well-known axioms espousing the benefits of learning to use […]

Have you ever worked for a boss who always said no? If you have, my first guess is it was a frustrating experience. My second guess is you don’t hold said boss in high regard as a leader. I’ve always been amazed at the number of well-known axioms espousing the benefits of learning to use the word “no” with greater frequency. In fact, there are some very bright people who believe you simply cannot become a good leader without developing a mastery for using the word no – I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve never been a big fan of telling people no, but I’m a huge proponent of the advantages of helping people learn how to get to a yes. Smart leadership creates an environment where yes is not viewed as a weakness, but as an opportunity.

While inherently obvious, it should not go unnoticed that the use of the word no is 100% negative. The word no ends discussions, stifles creativity, kills innovation, impedes learning, and gates initiative. Put simply, the word no advances nothing, grows nothing, builds nothing and incentivizes nothing. No is not all it’s cracked-up to be. Smart leaders create and foster a culture of “yes” rather than use “no” as a tactical weapon just because they can.

Unless accompanied by a tremendous amount of reasoned dialog, the use of “no” is rarely informative, much less instructive. Most leaders simply don’t take the time to have the needed conversation surrounding a no. Moreover, when those conversations do occur they tend to be focused on admonishment rather than teachable moments. Teaching someone how to get to a yes is one of the most valuable things a leader can do. It was Sir Richard Branson who said: “I have enjoyed life a lot more by saying yes than by saying no.” Saying yes is both valuable and fun, so why not learn how to help people to a yes?

As a leader you should challenge, probe, assess, validate, and even confront on a regular basis. By all means ask people to justify their logic. It’s perfectly okay to ask “Why should I say yes to this?” and it’s even more okay to expect a good answer. Make sure however that when you send a person back to the drawing board it’s a teaching exercise and not a death sentence.

By helping people refine their thinking you’re in essence clarifying your expectations, developing them in the process, and advancing the ball at the same time – this is simply good leadership. Where leadership is concerned, a slow “yes” is often more instructive, and ultimately much more productive than a fast “no.” When you’re tempted to give a no as your answer, stop and ask some of the following questions first – you’ll be glad you did:

Before I give you an answer, I’d like to know more about your thought process here. Can you tell me more about how you arrived at this point?

Let’s peel back the layers on this issue a bit – can you help me better understand your logic on this?

That’s an interesting idea – who else is onboard with this?

I’m not sure I understand how this aligns with our current direction. How does this add value to our core mission?

Help me connect the dots on this one – why will this take us where we want to go?

Have you identified all the risks here, and what are your contingency plans should things not progress as expected?

What’s the downside should we not move forward with this?

Ask yourself this question – If as a leader you find yourself always saying no, what does that tell you about your leadership ability? It means your vision is not understood, your team is not aligned, and your talent is not performing up to par. It means you’re not teaching, mentoring, communicating, or leading. The perception that strong leaders say no and weak leaders say yes is simply flawed thinking. Leaders need to communicate trust in their team – they need to create an environment where people are not afraid to seek opportunity, to pursue innovation, or to change their mind. A constant stream of “no’s” is not a positive sign, it’s a warning sign that needs to be heeded.

I have found that the most common reasons people tend to cite in support of using no are as follows:

Excuse: It helps to keep them from wasting time – Reality: For a leader to believe their time is somehow more important than other’s time is usually not correct and is often the height of arrogance.

Excuse: It somehow manages risk – Reality: A quick no often keeps opportunities hidden, creates information deficits, and causes blind spots – all of which actually increase the potential for risk.

Excuse: It builds character – Reality: While its true adversity builds character, so does empathy and understanding. Life brings about enough adversity on its own – leaders who manufacture it as a teaching method have missed the point.

Excuse: It helps them focus by not biting off more than they can chew –Reality: if your only way to prioritize is by saying no, then you are missing out on a lot of what life has to offer. Rather than prioritize by exclusion, use systems, processes, etc., to prioritize by inclusion.

While saying no might be more convenient, the aforementioned agendas are better accomplished with clear communication, effective collaboration, and prudent resourcing – not by saying no. Great leaders help people get to a yes – in other words, they teach them how not to receive a no. Rather than just kill something with a quick no, a good leader uses every adverse scenario as a development opportunity to help people advance their critical thinking and decisioning skills. The word yes is a catalyst – it begins rather than ends. It inspires rather than demoralizes, and it communicates trust rather than doubt.

In the link to the following video, Google’s Eric Schmidt shares his reasoning for creating a culture of yes. Schmidt stresses the importance of not creating a negative culture, but instead, fostering a scalable culture which focuses on optimism and not pessimism. I have always believed if you want to bring out the best in people, give them the opportunity to succeed – the best way to do this is to begin with the assumption they won’t fail. If you’ve hired smart people, trust they’ll do the right thing rather than fear they’ll do the wrong thing.

While I understand that there are times when using no may be your only option, those times should be the exception and not the rule. It’s also important to note that the use of “yes” and “no” are neither universally right or wrong, but there is much greater upside to enabling a yes. Think of it like this: Yes paves the path toward the future, while no affirms the status quo. Bottom line: Yes is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of intelligent leadership. Next time you’re tempted to say no, do yourself a big favor and find a way to work around the obstacle and toward a yes.


mike_myatt head shot

Mike Myatt is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and their Board of Directors.  Widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, he is recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on leadership.  He is the bestselling author of Hacking Leadership and Leadership Matters, and a Forbes leadership columnist.

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summer-2019-new-office-space-for-growth

Companies Use New Office Space in Downtown Allentown for Recruitment and Growth

Today’s businesses, large and small, are focused on attracting and retaining talent. As a result, human resource professionals need to be actively involved in the decision-making around their companies’ facility expansions and relocations, according to a recent study by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. While much has been made of Fortune 500 company ADP moving […]

Today’s businesses, large and small, are focused on attracting and retaining talent. As a result, human resource professionals need to be actively involved in the decision-making around their companies’ facility expansions and relocations, according to a recent study by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.

While much has been made of Fortune 500 company ADP moving 1,600 employees to the new Five City Center office tower in downtown Allentown this summer, the strong demand for office space of all sizes in the revitalized city serves to illustrate companies’ use of new, urban real estate for recruitment and growth.

By 2020, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be from the Millennial Generation, whose members want to live and work in vibrant downtown environments, as seen in the state’s larger cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Businesses are paying attention to that trend and discovering how leasing new office space in downtown Allentown can help them recruit millennials.

At a symposium on opportunity zones held in downtown Allentown last year, Tom Murphy, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, said, “For the first time in history we’re seeing jobs move to where people are, rather than vice versa. For companies, it’s all about being where talent wants to be. Tech giants, startups, Fortune 500 firms, small businesses…”

Chris Reber, Market Executive at Merrill Lynch’s downtown Allentown office in Tower 6, says, “For Merrill Lynch and companies like it, locating our offices in an energized city environment with walk-to-work opportunities like downtown Allentown is critical to attracting and retaining talented employees and expanding our business.”

Smart companies are also realizing the many benefits of leasing the new; Class A space downtown Allentown has to offer. Only 10 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s office inventory is less than a decade old, with most of it being more than 30 years old. With today’s trend of open and flexible office space that promotes collaboration, the larger floorplates of new office buildings surpass the divided ones of older buildings. In today’s quickly changing market, flexibility in both office space and lease terms, as well as a happier and more productive workforce, ultimately help businesses grow.

Companies are beginning to realize they are losing money by staying in employee-unfriendly, inefficient office space. Unhappy and unproductive employees lead to higher turnover and increased recruitment costs, and costs to operate inefficient space are higher, reducing the overall efficiency of their business. Fortunately, there is plenty of room to add new, open office space in downtown Allentown, but if developers don’t supply it, it will hurt the Lehigh Valley office market overall.

Another trend among downtown Allentown businesses is the desire to network with other companies within the central business district. Companies, like people, want to be connected and to grow through those connections.

Kerry Kulp, a Network Systems Consultant and Partner at Velaspan in Three City Center, says, “We moved to downtown Allentown with expansion in mind because of the great location and opportunities to collaborate with other downtown companies. As a direct result of our location, we have built relationships that have led to additional business, requiring us to recruit and expand our workforce.”

Attracting and retaining a young, educated workforce; designing new, open office space from scratch; and collaborating with dozens of companies within walking distance are all goals that can be met in downtown Allentown’s reenergized office community.

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summer-2019-get-disc-connected

Get DISC-Connected

How would your leadership impact change if you knew exactly how to connect with your team? What would happen if your company phone directory included each person’s communication style? How would your sales team perform if they understood their own selling style and could discern the buying style of your customers? The Maxwell DISC Method […]

How would your leadership impact change if you knew exactly how to connect with your team?

What would happen if your company phone directory included each person’s communication style?

How would your sales team perform if they understood their own selling style and could discern the buying style of your customers?

The Maxwell DISC Method empowers you to do all of this and more.

What is Disc?

In 1928, Dr. William Marston authored his DISC theory, which says that each of us is a unique combination of four primary personality styles: Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Compliant.

A person’s style is determined by the survey answers that he or she provides. While each of us is a combination of all four styles, we usually have one that is stronger than the others.

Let’s take a look at the four primary types.

D – Dominant

The Dominant or D-type personality is outgoing and task-oriented. They seek control and make quick decisions. D-types are very direct and focus on results.

I – Influencing

The Influencing or I-type personality is outgoing and people-oriented. They persuade others with words and are often the life of the party. I-types are spontaneous, friendly, and love the spotlight.

S – Steady

The Steady or S-type personality is reserved and people-oriented. They make great team players and consistently follow through on tasks. S-types are motivated by loyalty and acceptance.

C – Compliant

The Compliant or C-type personality is reserved and task-oriented. They are on time, very analytical, and rely on facts. C-types are planners who take great pride in their accuracy.

DISC-Connecting

According to the Harvard Business Review, “The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”

That means connecting!

Connecting increases your influence in every situation, according to John C. Maxwell, the world’s leading authority on Leadership.

Connecting increases Leadership impact.

Connecting increases Teamwork impact.

Connecting increases Sales impact.

Connecting increases Relationship impact.

Connecting increases Empowerment impact.

DISC gives us the knowledge that helps us to connect with each other on a deeper level. It allows us to engage each team member the way THEY need to be engaged.

It helps us value them.

Putting DISC to Work

At CAPO Leadership Consulting, we fundamentally believe that there is immense power in understanding yourself. We also believe that teams perform much more efficiently, effectively, and with less conflict when they truly understand each other.

Using the Maxwell DISC Method, we have seen teams achieve more with greater accuracy as they increase their understanding of themselves and their teammates in areas that include:

Communication Style, including Communication Dos and Don’ts

Behavioral Style, including Motivation, Ideal Environment, and Primary Fear

Strengths as indicated using PowerDISC™

Work Style and how to leverage this in a team environment

The Number One Mistake

The number one mistake that we have seen organizations make when using any personality profile system is to fail to act on the resulting information in a meaningful way. The information is held within HR and management and is never leveraged to provide real value to the business.

Take Action

We believe that DISC information must be used to empower your leadership and your entire team.

At CAPO, we put action to DISC by providing the following:

DISC Overview for your team

DISC Survey for each team member (15 minutes to complete online)

Individualized DISC Report for each team member

Action Plan for each team member based on DISC Report

DISC Team Communication Workshop with your entire team, focusing on communication, collaboration, and execution while honoring the strengths and style of each teammate.

Coaching with the leadership and the team to ensure that this new information is applied and leveraged to positively impact the business.

Don’t miss the opportunity to bring this powerful tool to your most valuable asset – your people.

About the Author

Michael Barrovecchio believes that everyone is “Born Brilliant”, possessing everything they need to be truly successful. Michael coaches Business Leaders, Executives, and their Teams to become aware of their Brilliance and engage it to live and lead with authenticity and balance. Michael is President of CAPO Leadership Consulting, an Executive Director with The John Maxwell Team, and a Certified DISC Behavioral Consultant. He can be reached at 732-713-1900 or Michael@CAPOLeadershipConsulting.com.

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summer-2019-professional-services-marketing

The 3 “T’s” of Professional Services Marketing

Marketing can be a scary word. Where do you start? What is the most effective way to market? How do you budget? Slow down.  With a little planning, some focus, and a straightforward to-do list, you can handle this. Whether you are an accountant, lawyer, financial planner, or an engineer – these tips can be […]

Marketing can be a scary word. Where do you start? What is the most effective way to market? How do you budget? Slow down.  With a little planning, some focus, and a straightforward to-do list, you can handle this. Whether you are an accountant, lawyer, financial planner, or an engineer – these tips can be applied regardless of your service and focused on your niche area.

TIME: Identify how much time are you willing to commit to your marketing?  You can’t run a marathon if you are only willing to devote one hour/week to training. Same with marketing. You can’t plan to write 5 blogs, an article and do two presentations a week if you can only commit an hour/week to marketing, because that will only get you 2-3 blogs or an article.  That’s not even a half marathon.

TALENT: What are you good at – besides CrossFit or watching Game of Thrones?  Were you on the debate team or just love public speaking? Get involved at an industry event as a panelist, emcee, or speaker.  Did you minor in journalism or keep diaries? Start blogging, find industry publications to write articles for, and write articles for LinkedIn. Are you a social butterfly and love working the room? Get out to networking events and join boards at your local Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations. Do you love helping others and have a soft spot for the needy? Volunteer and sit on the board for non-profits. Are you a natural at having close relationships? Schedule one-on-one meetings with clients, prospects, and referral sources.  Your reputation and relationships are what makes you memorable.

TARGET: What are your goals? Tangible goals. For example, if you are 34, retirement at 40 with $18 million in your 401K isn’t what I want to hear, unless you already have $15m banked, then let’s talk. Set tangible goals for the next year, keeping in mind your talent and time. Set small goals for three weeks from now, 3 months from now, 6 months from now, and so on. If you make all your goals due at the end of the year, you will keep procrastinating. Hold yourself accountable – or rally some co-workers to join you in your efforts and create a wager, so you stay motivated.

EXAMPLE 1: You are an outgoing accountant looking to meet small business owners as prospective clients, and you commit to setting aside an hour/week. You set a goal to meet 3 business owners in three weeks. Reach out to some people in your network and ask if they will set up a lunch meeting with someone whom you want to meet or that they think you should meet. Attend an event where you can meet small business owners. Reach out to a connection on LinkedIn that you don’t really know and set up a phone call or meeting.

EXAMPLE 2: You are an associate attorney working in your firm’s liquor law department where you are hoping to drum up new distillery clients. You have 10 hours/month for marketing, and you enjoy writing and public speaking. Start a blog or contribute to your firm’s existing blog. Set a schedule and make sure you have at least two blogs in the hopper, you never know when a work or a personal emergency will arise. Sign up to do a CLE at your local bar association or team up with another practice area in your firm and do an in-house presentation (you and a labor & employment attorney covering things distilleries need to think about).  Attend events at the local distilleries – get to know the owners and their needs.

EXAMPLE 3: You are an engineer and need to drum up more business outside of your immediate area.  Your goal is to connect with construction companies, developers, planning commissions, and zoning boards.  You hate public speaking and writing, but you don’t mind social settings.  You work during the day, but most evenings are free for marketing. Attend events for the economic development organization in the geographic area you want to target, register for land development conferences, and see if there are any real estate development/planning commission events at your local Chamber.

Long story short – it’s not rocket science. It takes planning, discipline, and accountability. Just like a diet or exercise plan, you need to stay the course and vary the activity to see results – eating only broccoli and doing bicep curls will not help you achieve your fitness goals – and neither will only blogging and connecting with people on LinkedIn.  However, stick with activities that you like – you will be more likely to stick with it.

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summer-2019-digital-marketing

Digital Marketing – What You Need to Know

Are you lost in the Wild West digital marketing space? As you trek along the seemingly vast wilderness littered with new technology and terminology – you are not alone. While there are no defined road maps, getting overwhelmed by the mountains of endless data, countless platforms, and product offerings won’t help your cause. In fact, […]

Are you lost in the Wild West digital marketing space? As you trek along the seemingly vast wilderness littered with new technology and terminology – you are not alone. While there are no defined road maps, getting overwhelmed by the mountains of endless data, countless platforms, and product offerings won’t help your cause. In fact, there is so much happening in the digital space that often even the most experienced marketers can be found scratching their heads. As this space grows more sophisticated and crowded day by day, going back to basics can be the most overlooked, yet valuable, place to start.

Let’s talk basics.

Anything that is placed in/on/through internet technology qualifies as digital marketing.  It’s advertising delivered through digital channels, and it takes on many forms such as SEO, Content, Paid Search, Mobile, Email, or Social Media – just to name a few.

It’s way bigger than you might think; everything is connected, but these simple principles apply:

Know who your customers really are. If you know who your customer is, there are lots of data that can help you find and connect with them.

While digital marketing can be easier, that doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes, clients can get lost (or obsessed) in the data. Instead of getting lost in the data, get lost in your WHY. Why should customers use you? What sets you apart?

Take the time to get a baseline understanding of the different digital channels, then, talk to your current clients about their online behaviors. Do they use certain social platforms? Do they Google everything? Maybe they are Podcast junkies. You won’t know until you ask.
Trending…

Going back to the basics is important, but don’t forget to become familiar with new opportunities that may present you with a unique way to connect with your customers as well.

Content Personalization
As technology has evolved, so has the ability to customize your website and tailor messages to be delivered to your target audience as they interact with your website in real time. Content personalization is the new frontier and if your website is a few years old and in need of an update – start thinking about how you can incorporate personalized content to meet the unique needs of your target audiences.  If you have several unique products or service offerings that serve multiple industries, consider opportunities to tailor content and content offerings to those unique potential customers. A more personalized content offering can lead to a higher rate of customer acquisition through your website.

Smart Speakers
Smart speakers are growing at a rapid pace and are considered to have a faster adoption rate than smartphones with more than a quarter of U.S. Adults having a smart speaker in their home as of March 2019 according to Voicebot.ai. While voice applications are still very much new, consumers are creating heavy demand for businesses to catch up with the growing tech. Additionally, the quick rise in Voice Search popularity has made the opportunity for local businesses in this space a real possibility.  We are seeing real-time growth as this tech is transcending from our homes into our cars with the release of Amazon’s Echo Auto. This category will continue to grow, and with it, the use cases between marketing opportunities and simplifying business operational challenges will as well.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This is a big one that we can’t cover in its entirety here, but knowing what science is and what is closer to science fiction may help to clarify. Computers are not becoming “intelligent humans,” as the famous computer scientist, Edsger W. Dijkstra said, “The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.” AI really is new programming that can help make sense of massive sets of data. An easy example is Natural Language Processing (ex: Grammarly, Google Translate). NLP may sound like ultra tech, but really it is just the interaction of humans and computers. Just know, that there are some major ways a business can benefit from AI including data and analytics; Chatbots and other customer service tools; or even the automation of backend office processes.

This all seems really technical…what do I do next?

This is a very exciting time to be a marketer; businesses have more opportunities to connect with current and potential clients than ever before. The entire landscape has transformed from just Marketing to “MarTech.”

Start by looking for a consultative partner that is willing to work through a discovery process in which you cover more than just your advertising – marketing touches all parts of the business. This partner should be seeking information around the internal and external elements that affect your business.

It’s OK to test, re-strategize, make changes, and move your budget around.  Be willing to get into the weeds with a good partner who can help you decipher data. Be willing to invest in tools that will help you generate a good plan and track your ROI.

Everyone is after the same thing – conversions – the Holy Grail of marketing. Conversions are anytime a consumer takes action in response to a brand’s marketing message. That means impact and something specifically sought after.

So set goals, establish the parameters, and give it time! We can’t stress this enough. Time is your ally or your enemy. It all depends on how you look at it. Enjoy the process; technology is a wonderful tool and will help you in a number of ways.

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Long term care – What is it? Who needs it? Should you have it?

Long term care is a range of support and services affecting your personal care needs. When you can’t do activities of daily living that includes bathing, dressing, toileting, incontinence care, transferring from a bed or chair, eating or you have severe cognitive impairment that requires substantial care then you need long-term care. Many of these […]

Long term care is a range of support and services affecting your personal care needs. When you can’t do activities of daily living that includes bathing, dressing, toileting, incontinence care, transferring from a bed or chair, eating or you have severe cognitive impairment that requires substantial care then you need long-term care. Many of these things we can take for granted, but as we age, or health becomes a challenge, it becomes more challenging to do these seemingly simple tasks. Long term care insurance is one way to help cover some of the costs that you would have to pay out of pocket for or have a family member assist you in your day to day routine.   

Medicare doesn’t cover long term care – the fact is it only covers a short term stay in a nursing facility but under strict guidelines that you are in a hospital for 3-days and then transfer directly to a facility because you are unable to return home but have expectations to return home and live independently.  It is important to get insurance while you are young and healthy as you must qualify in good health to get coverage. Many people say that it is an expensive insurance, but if you think about the costs associated with long term care, the insurance can be a bargain. Personal care with a home health aide can cost upwards of $22/hour, assisted living costs start at $3,500/month, and skilled care can be double assisted living costs. Paying for long term care insurance in advance of needing care instead of expending your life’s savings for care can be a huge value.

There are various levels of care, and they are adjusted as care needs change. Personal care can be given at home or in a facility which includes some basic daily needs. The next level is assisted living and then finally, skilled nursing care. The only covered services via Health and Human Services through Medicaid is skilled nursing care. You may have reduced quality of life if you don’t need that high level of care but don’t have insurance or assets to pay for the first steps of needing basic assistance.

Long term care insurance is a big part of your financial well being offering you peace of mind to know that if the unexpected happens, you won’t need to depend on your family or go through all of your assets to get the care you need. Once you reach the age of 65, you have a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care during your lifetime. (Medicare and You, 2015) The unexpected need for care can arise at any age.  Over 50% of people on a claim are between the ages of 40-64. (Unum Ins Co)

If you are a business owner depending on how your business is structured, you can get a tax deduction based on your age and other factors when you buy long term care insurance through your business. This offering can be extended to your employees at no cost to you and can be part of your health insurance benefit package. They too can qualify for a tax deduction on their individual taxes. If you have a health savings account (HAS) premiums can be paid pre-tax.

Traditional long-term care insurance is still available but new products have given rise to alternative ways to protect assets, provide care and offer a different option versus a use it or lose it benefit. Hybrid whole life insurance policies have a rider add on that will allow you to pull forward the death benefit to use towards long term care while still leaving some death benefit coverage. There are one-time lump sum policies that allow you to carve out a piece of your savings and secure it for long term care needs instead of having a monthly payment moving into retirement years. If it turns out, you don’t need long-term care in each of these scenarios at some point your family will get the benefit of the insurance upon your death. Protecting yourself and your loved ones, taking the burden off your family to care for you is one of the best gifts you can give to you and them.

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What the future holds for Social Security and should you expect to receive benefits when you retire?

Most Americans will eventually receive Social Security benefits. Each year, the Trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund release a lengthy report to Congress that assesses the health of this important program. The newest report, released back in April of this year, discusses the current financial condition and ongoing financial challenges that the program faces. […]

Most Americans will eventually receive Social Security benefits. Each year, the Trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund release a lengthy report to Congress that assesses the health of this important program. The newest report, released back in April of this year, discusses the current financial condition and ongoing financial challenges that the program faces.

Highlights of Social Security
Trustees Report

Social Security’s total cost is projected to exceed its total income (including interest) in 2020 and remain higher for the next 75 years. The U.S. Treasury will need to withdraw from trust fund reserves to help pay benefits. The Trustees project that the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance/Disability Insurance trust fund reserves or (OASDI) will be depleted in 2035, one year later than projected in last year’s report, unless Congress acts.

Once the trust fund reserves are depleted, payroll tax revenue alone should still be sufficient to pay about 80% of scheduled benefits for 2035, with the percentage falling gradually to 75% by 2093.

The OASI Trust Fund, when considered separately, is projected to be depleted in 2034. Payroll tax revenue alone would then be sufficient to pay 77% of scheduled benefits. These figures are unchanged from last year’s report.

The DI Trust Fund is expected to be depleted in 2052, 20 years later than projected in last year’s report. The significant depletion date change reflects the fact that both benefit applications and the total number of disabled workers currently receiving benefits have been declining over the past few years. Once the DI Trust Fund is depleted, payroll tax revenue alone would be sufficient to pay 91% of scheduled benefits.

Why is Social Security facing
financial challenges?

Social Security is funded primarily through the collection of payroll taxes. Because of demographic and economic factors, including higher retirement rates and lower birth rates, there will be fewer workers per beneficiary over the long term, worsening the strain on the trust funds.

What is being done to address these challenges?

Currently, not much, but the reports urge Congress to address the financial challenges facing these programs soon, so that solutions will be less drastic and may be implemented gradually, lessening the impact on the public. Combining some of these solutions may also lessen the impact of any one solution.

Some Social Security reform proposals on the table are:

Raising the current Social Security payroll tax rate. According to this year’s report, an immediate and permanent payroll tax increase of 2.7 percentage points to 15.1% would be necessary to address the long-range revenue shortfall (3.65 percentage points to 16.05% if the increase started in 2035).

Raising or eliminating the ceiling on wages currently subject to Social Security payroll taxes ($132,900 in 2019).

Raising the full retirement age beyond the currently scheduled age of 67 (for anyone born in 1960 or later).

Reducing future benefits. According to this year’s report, to address the long-term revenue shortfall, scheduled benefits would have to be immediately and permanently reduced by about 17% for all current and future beneficiaries, or by about 20% if reductions were applied only to those who initially become eligible for benefits in 2019 or later.

Some financial advisors believe that although Social Security is not expected to be depleted until 2035, which means today’s retirees should not worry too much, those about 15 to 20 years out from retirement should start acting now to bolster their retirement savings should Congress fail to act.  Social Security was initially envisioned as one leg of a three-legged stool, the other legs being pensions and personal saving.  Other advisors increasingly see annuities as a solution to the challenges facing Social Security by serving as an income replacement to the looming cut in monthly social security benefits.  However, at the present time, annuities have been a misunderstood, complex and frustrating option for individuals and many advisors recommend that annuities should not represent more than half of an individual’s retirement assets.

Lastly, whether you have been saving for your retirement for decades or whether you’ve had to deal with health issues or layoffs, it is important to periodically review your personal social security statement on the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov.

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Trust but Verify

Few people would argue if I said that your health is your greatest asset. Given the importance of physical health, it is wise to work with a caregiver that you trust implicitly. Doctors proudly frame their educational accolades on the wall, are backed by large health networks, and possess specialized skills and experience a layperson […]

Few people would argue if I said that your health is your greatest asset. Given the importance of physical health, it is wise to work with a caregiver that you trust implicitly. Doctors proudly frame their educational accolades on the wall, are backed by large health networks, and possess specialized skills and experience a layperson does not have. The general public expects a vetting process allowing only the best and brightest to practice medicine.

A close second to physical health, in terms of importance, should be financial wellness. Doctors go through stringent training and accreditation procedures, but can the same be said for professionals in financial services? The industry has tests ensuring a basic level of competence, but the hurdles to begin practicing are not nearly as rigorous as those in the medical field.

Investment services, unlike medicine, also have varying levels of responsibility that firms owe to their clients. In some cases, the duty owed is merely to ensure that an investment is suitable at the time of purchase, whereas, in other instances, an ongoing duty of undivided loyalty exists. The distinction may seem subtle, but in plain English, would you rather have a service provider who merely chooses what is suitable for you or one that must act in your best interest? There is also a myriad of legal means by which the provider of services can be compensated, not all of which are fully disclosed. Given the potential for misaligned interests between investors and their financial advisors, an implicit trust may not suffice. How, then, can investors structure their relationships with advisors to more closely align with those found in the medical field?

By asking a simple question: “Are you a fiduciary?” Investment fiduciaries provide advice and direction for their clients. Fiduciaries work with individuals, institutions such as corporations and not-for-profits, and retirement plans. Today, advisors are even applying a fiduciary process in the wealth preservation and insurance markets. The same principles can be applied to all aspects of a client’s financial plan.

So, what is a fiduciary? A fiduciary is a party that owes a legal responsibility to another. A fiduciary is required to make decisions that are in the best interests of the people and assets in their care without regard to their own wellbeing — it is a relationship of undivided loyalty and trust. A fiduciary should always be willing to commemorate this great responsibility in writing; otherwise, the promise of loyalty is not worth the paper it is written on.

There are critical factors in the due diligence process before engaging a financial professional. Client goals and needs, professional experience, asset management philosophy, tenure, and advanced designations are all important considerations, but a base level of peace of mind can be achieved knowing that you are interviewing a fiduciary.

The role of a fiduciary is so important that the SEC has recently approved its new Best Interest Regulation that provides a framework for regulation of investment professionals. It is no coincidence that the SEC Chairman Rob Jackson said in his prepared remarks that “investors should seek out true fiduciary advice from financial professionals who have chosen to hold themselves to a higher standard.”

I was raised to believe that trust is earned, never given. I teach my children this lesson. I believe you can and should trust. Trust should be nurtured and deepened over time, and even after it is earned, I still believe we should all follow the wisdom of President Ronald Regan to always, “Trust but verify.” The fiduciary standard should act as that explicit verification.

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