Leadership

Teach Me to Fish – The importance of mentoring in the growth of your business

You came up with a great idea. You built your business. You hired the right team. Now what? You build them up. Every. Single. Day. Hire for Attitude: Hire people who work hard, are passionate about the field, and are genuinely interested, personable and kind. Find the characteristics you cannot teach and then focus on […]

You came up with a great idea. You built your business. You hired the right team. Now what? You build them up. Every. Single. Day.

Hire for Attitude:
Hire people who work hard, are passionate about the field, and are genuinely interested, personable and kind. Find the characteristics you cannot teach and then focus on teaching the skills needed to do the job.  Of course, do not ignore the technical skills required, but do not overlook someone awesome because they haven’t learned one particular computer program yet. Helping someone grow into their potential is an extremely rewarding experience that motivates an entire team!

 

Offer Training:
Onboarding, a new team member, is vitally important to the success they find in your organization. Taking the time to train each person in his or her respective roles properly can take a lot of time, but you get back what you put in. Invest up front by making yourself available for questions and feedback. Schedule meetings for the one week, one month, three month and six-month marks. Be open to suggestions and make improvements where needed.  Consider online courses and training options to help your team improve their skills. This will also let them know you value them and support their professional endeavors.

 

Manage Up:
Encourage team members to support one another. Set reasonable expectations that allow everyone to understand their job as well as the responsibilities they have to the team at large. Set up regular team meetings that create accountability. Start meetings with positive feedback and give each person the chance to share a victory they had recently. Build from there, review challenges as a group, and problem solve together. Then trust them to get the job done!

 

Give Feedback:
Running a business can often be challenging and requires everyone to be on the same path. It also requires a certain amount of risk-taking and experimentation. Sometimes new ideas work and sometimes they don’t. Do not be afraid to honestly address concerns, issues, and mistakes as they happen. Focus on what is working first and then move into what needs to change and why. Explain the bigger picture and help create the vision for all team members to follow and help support. Empower them to help advance the mission of the company and grow as people in the process.

 

Walk the Talk:
Be willing to set the example. Your team will look to you to set the tone of the company. The way you conduct yourself both inside and outside of the office will be the primary example of how your team should behave. If you make a mistake, admit it openly and explain how you rectified it. Allow them to see your weaknesses and how you are also growing and learning from them. Be an example of a humble lifelong learner who strives to be better every day.

 

Get Involved:
Motivate everyone on your staff to get involved in the community. It’s amazing what can happen when you give back. Volunteering allows people to use their strengths to “do good” outside of the workplace. This builds confidence and boosts morale across the team.  It also fosters networking opportunities, hones professional skills, and allows a deeper understanding of the world around us.

 

Have Fun:
Take the time to get out of the office and do something fun together! Plan a group activity that encourages teamwork, laughter, and relaxation. Enjoy the environment around you and take a break from the intensity of a normal workday. Give your team a say in the plans and allow them to take the lead and plan the day. This builds important career skills and provides a positive feeling for everyone!

 

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THE ROI OF HR: HR Has Shifted from Overhead to Investment

Over the past ten years, there has been a monumental shift in workforce management away from the traditional idea of staffing a “personnel department” to push papers in tucked-away cubicles, far removed from the hub of the workplace. Today’s modern human resources operations play a big role in optimizing the workforce, and they must have […]

Over the past ten years, there has been a monumental shift in workforce management away from the traditional idea of staffing a “personnel department” to push papers in tucked-away cubicles, far removed from the hub of the workplace. Today’s modern human resources operations play a big role in optimizing the workforce, and they must have a legitimate voice in the executive suite and boardroom.

Increasingly, HR is rightly viewed as an investment, not an expense or overhead. Modern employers realize that cultivating their people is as important as maintaining their technology, brand, quality systems, and other business functions. Without a strong, productive workforce, there is no guarantee anywhere in the company.

Organizations of all sizes have been enhancing their HR programs and processes for good reasons. If you listen to politicians, it would seem that the movement centers on the need to meet ever-changing (and sometimes onerous) regulations and rules. This is a valid concern for any workplace. However, while avoiding the pain and expense of non-compliance is important, it is not the most compelling reason for improving HR operations. The biggest reason most organizations have been modernizing and expanding their HR services is really quite simple: It improves their bottom line.

Four vital ways HR improves your workforce ROI

There are several major ways in which HR operations can contribute significantly to increasing the value of your workforce investments.

  1. HR helps limit the amount of time, energy and money invested in recruiting. Organizations cannot afford to waste resources on poor hiring and applicant attraction practices. Focused and faster processes are a must, and they must be executed without sacrificing the quality of candidates. Even one bad hire can take a tremendous toll on your workplace climate and overall employee satisfaction.
  2. HR helps enhance workforce productivity. Good HR practices can find inefficiencies within a workforce and remedy them in a way that both employers and employees can appreciate and value. HR can also teach, encourage and reward productive behaviors.
  3. HR helps reduce turnover. When employees feel that their company nurtures them, supports them and respects them, they are far more likely to stay. What’s more, they are going to work harder, be more loyal and be more likely to tell others about how much they enjoy where they work. This all helps to boost an organization’s employer brand authentically.
  4. HR helps you keep up with the competition. Whether you realize it or not, you compete every day to attract and retain talent. If great people don’t enjoy working for you, they’ll find a paycheck elsewhere. What’s more, if you aren’t employing the top talent in your field, you will also find it harder to compete for clients, because they will gravitate towards other organizations that have a more robust workforce. Clients today demand a high-quality customer experience that comes naturally from businesses that employ great people and retain them long-term. This is thanks in no small part to quality HR practices and support.

Tracking ROI of HR programs

It can be difficult for organizations to measure how some of their HR functions contribute to revenue or decrease expenses in hard numbers. This may help to explain why the benefits of modern HR operations are not top of mind for some business owners. However, valuable investment-related metrics can still be collected to assess the effectiveness of many HR programs, provided employers know what to look at, and how. Training investments are a perfect example of this.

According to Fortune magazine, most training programs can be assessed for ROI when companies zero in on one or two goals they want to achieve in advance, and then measure those areas before and after the programming takes place.  This information can then be compared to the cost of training. Other ways to track the benefits of training programs include using ongoing surveys/questionnaires, pre-training exercises that make clear what the quantifiable expectations are for after the instructional sessions are completed. This data can be compared to the long-term, resulting revenue or cost savings. In some cases, cost savings may come from reduced time spent on compliance paperwork or money spent on regulatory fines or legal fees.

Businesses that take the extra step of measuring the returns of training investments can also use this information to then improve their overall development programming, as the connection to the organization’s improved bottom-line becomes clearer.

Besides training, the same tracking principles can be applied to many other HR functions once goals, desired outcomes, and methods are pinpointed. Because HR is an investment, it is imperative to establish objectives and metrics at the outset of a new initiative so objective measurement can occur.

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The environment and tools your employees need today to be successful, fulfilled and invested in your organization are also what they need to help make you successful. Creating a productive, positive workplace with the help of modern HR functions results in a win-win situation and a tangible return on investment.

BY: Tina Hamilton is president and CEO of myHR Partner, Inc., a Lehigh Valley company that offers human resources outsourcing for mid-market companies in 24 states. She can be reached at tina@myhrpartnerinc.com.

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Invisible Boundaries

My wife and I were blessed with two exciting additions to our family a few years ago. Cooper and Zeke came into our lives on a warm summer day after much anticipation. They were brand new Goldendoodle puppies, and we were not fully prepared! We quickly realized that an Invisible Fence would be a wise […]

My wife and I were blessed with two exciting additions to our family a few years ago. Cooper and Zeke came into our lives on a warm summer day after much anticipation. They were brand new Goldendoodle puppies, and we were not fully prepared!

We quickly realized that an Invisible Fence would be a wise investment. It would allow our puppies to enjoy outdoor freedom while keeping them safely on our property.

Here’s how it works:

  • Cooper and Zeke wear special collars that give them an audible warning signal if they get too close to the property line.
  • If they ignore the warning and continue to approach the boundary, they receive a mild electrical shock that is uncomfortable but not harmful.

Our puppies quickly learned to avoid discomfort by moving away from the boundary when they hear the warning.

Programming
One day I let Cooper and Zeke outside to play. All was well until I realized that I had forgotten to put their collars on them! They were free to roam wherever they pleased!

Fearing for their safety, I ran outside, frantically calling their names. To my pleasant surprise, Cooper and Zeke were contently sitting on the front lawn, surveying the neighborhood.

Even though they were free to explore the world, they were unaware of that freedom. They never challenged the physical boundary because the Invisible Boundary is now programmed into their minds!

Does this sound familiar?
Your Programming
Just like Cooper and Zeke, you and I were programmed at an early age. This programming comes from parents, teachers, and other authority figures, and it drives our belief in who we are and what we can achieve.

Some of our programming is good; some of it is bad. Either way, it defines our Invisible Boundaries.

Your Invisible Boundaries
What are the things that you desire but have been unable to achieve because something stops you?

When have you heard the warning signal and retreated back to safety instead of moving forward into freedom?

What would your life, relationships, and business be like if you could discover and crash through your Invisible Boundaries?

This is exactly what a Professional Performance Coach can help you do.

Coaching vs. Mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring are different disciplines. Sports “coaches” are actually sports mentors.

Mentors teach. They tell you what to do, and that is valuable when lack of information is the challenge.

However, when striving to increase achievement and success, lack of information is rarely the challenge. There is most likely a lack of awareness – an Invisible Boundary.

Coaches don’t teach or tell you what to do. They know that YOU are the only expert of YOUR life, and they ask surgical, powerful questions that cause you to think deeply into your situation, increasing your awareness of your Invisible Boundaries and how to navigate past them to a more fulfilling path forward.

The Coaching Process

The Coaching process is a series of confidential conversations that raise awareness of the following:

  • Your Goals – What Do You (REALLY) Desire?
    • What is your Model of Perfection?
    • What does this look and feel like?
    • THINK BIG even though you don’t know all the steps to achievement.
  • Current State – What is Currently Happening?
    • What is your self-belief level?
    • What have you tried?
    • What results are you getting?
    • What assumptions are you making?
    • What are you avoiding?
    • What do you fear?
    • What is confusing or unclear?
  • Options – What Can You Do?
    • This is the start of your Action Plan
    • What steps can you take now to move toward your goal?
  • Action Plan – What Will You Do?
    • What next steps do you commit to take?
    • What obstacles do you expect?
    • What will you do to navigate past these obstacles?
    • How committed are you to this plan?
  • Accountability – What Did You Accomplish?
    • What went well?
    • What did not go well?
    • What did you avoid?
    • What stopped you?
    • What surprised you?

If you desire to permanently blast through your Invisible Boundaries and achieve your big goals, Coaching is an excellent next step for you.

About the Author

Michael Barrovecchio, President of CAPO Leadership Consulting and an Executive Director with The John Maxwell Team, believes that everyone has greatness on the inside. He Coaches individuals and teams to success by equipping them to engage that greatness and replace limitation with empowerment. He can be reached at 732-713-1900 or Michael@CAPOLeadershipConsulting.com.

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How Leadership Changes Culture – Part II

A few issues ago I began unpacking how “leadership changes culture” by giving a backdrop on the creation of The Culture Compass® in 2006 designed to help CEO’s measure and manage culture.  I addressed three barriers I learned that were holding back real change; un-customizable employee engagement surveys, a lack of actionable implementation, and the […]

A few issues ago I began unpacking how “leadership changes culture” by giving a backdrop on the creation of The Culture Compass® in 2006 designed to help CEO’s measure and manage culture.  I addressed three barriers I learned that were holding back real change; un-customizable employee engagement surveys, a lack of actionable implementation, and the missing culture cog.  In this issue, we will jump right into the six leadership factors that change a culture.  For the purposes of this article, leadership is defined as the CEO and his or her executive team.

  • Leadership Cares
  • Leadership Alignment
  • Leadership Listens
  • Leadership Commitment
  • Leadership Implementation
  • Leadership Flexibility

 

Leadership Cares

There are different reasons why leaders care.  I had one client who cared because he was experiencing an employee revolt.  He was truly concerned that if he did not get his arms wrapped around his dysfunctional corporate culture that he would have a mass exodus on his hands.  Some leaders care because they understand that improved culture leads to improved profitability.  Other leaders care because they want to enrich the lives of their employees.  Bottom line, the leadership needs to care.  A friend and colleague of mine who was the President of a mid-market global firm told me flat out; he just didn’t care.  The employees to him were a means to an end.  Another human resource colleague of mine cares deeply about changing their culture, but she isn’t the CEO, and without the CEO caring, it will never get the attention it needs.

 

Leadership Alignment

When beginning a culture change endeavor, the likelihood that the CEO and all of the executive team really cares, views culture impact with the same gravity, and has the same cultural values is rare.  For successful culture change to occur, leadership needs to be aligned.  This is not an easy task, but my pill for the cure is training.  With each culture change engagement I deliver, I interview and train the leadership team together.  We review how it impacts their business, and we talk about what kind of culture they have and want.  We even design the employee engagement survey together for aligned executive level buy-in.  People own what they help to create, so in this manner, the leadership team owns their culture and shifts into alignment.

 

Leadership Listens

One of the most important messages you can send to people that follow you is that you listen.  That means you ask for opinions and give others an opportunity to influence.  When you incorporate a strong feedback mechanism in your employee engagement survey, you create a pathway for communication that fuels employees’ personal value.  The key though is to listen.  The biggest mistake to corporate culture change is to ask and not act.  Essentially communicating that you are not listening.  I encourage my clients to respond to culture change feedback even if the ideas cannot be adopted—this reinforces that you have listened.

 

Leadership Commitment

As a leader of your organization, if you are not ready to commit to the adventure of change, then don’t get off the porch.  I mean that—do not start unless you are committed to finish!  I have seen firsthand companies that have turned culture change into an organizational minefield.  The CEO will tell me it didn’t work, and unfortunately, I have to remind them that they weren’t committed to change and that the entire initiative turned into a hollow promise.  Yes, it will backfire if there is a lack of commitment.

 

Leadership Implementation

As a 20-year consultant veteran, I differentiate myself by emphasizing implementation.  When an organization begins culture change, the transformation will only occur through implementation.  I do not stop with a report and recommendations. I help my clients build actionable implementation plans.  I work with the leadership team to identify and select employees who can play a role in helping the execution of those plans.  This spreads the implementation buy-in throughout the company and ensures greater success of implementation.  Leadership’s role is to coach and facilitate implementation.

 

Leadership Flexibility

When a company embarks on transforming their corporate culture, they are embarking on a journey into the unknown.  Culture is fluid, ever-changing, impacted by the daily weather, disruptive, moody and explosive.  During culture change implementation, leaders need to be flexible, understanding that the environment will shift actions and initiative throughout the process.  Leaders need to use their corporate values as the compass, to ensure they are going in the right direction, yet be flexible to allow deviations.

 

Yes, culture change rises and falls on leadership, but a strong culture can make the difference between winning and losing, so I encourage leaders to embrace the challenge and lead their organizations toward a healthy corporate culture.

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Frenemies…and the Fine Art of Finding Your True Friends

Not everyone wants you to succeed. It’s sad but true. Many local business owners spend an incredible amount of time networking to meet people to build their brands.  It’s the Dale Carnegie “Like-Know-Trust” mantra.  You must get out and meet people before you’re ever going to sell them your product or service.  You need to […]

Not everyone wants you to succeed. It’s sad but true.

Many local business owners spend an incredible amount of time networking to meet people to build their brands.  It’s the Dale Carnegie “Like-Know-Trust” mantra.  You must get out and meet people before you’re ever going to sell them your product or service.  You need to connect.  It’s especially important if you run your own business. It has been true for the success of our video production company.

We have had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic business people in the Lehigh Valley.   Networking exposes you to wonderful people.  You’ll find yourself being pulled to some who really stand out. They are likely “your people” and will remain so. The cream always rises to the top!

However, there are a few that seem genuine who will surprise you (and train you to be a better B.S. detector as you grow your network).

I recently had the pleasure of being in the studio audience at a TV show taping, a networking opportunity with The Wisdom Coalition.  There were a few familiar faces in the room but many I’d never met.  It was a diverse, multi-cultural collection of businesswomen I was pleased to meet.  But it was one of the panelists who struck a nerve with every single one of us that day.

Caroline Adams Miller, a professional life coach, best-selling author, and speaker talked about how important it is to surround yourself with like-minded, supportive people.  Friends who will support your long-term goals. Sound advice that can be a challenge for those looking for true friends in business.

When Miller brought up ‘frenemies,” the entire studio audience started nodding their head.  Have you heard of them?  A frenemy is someone that masquerades as a friend but deep down is an enemy.  Miller said, “Eighty-four percent of women today say they have ‘frenemies,’ and what I will tell you is that friends who are enemies will undermine our goals, our success and our well-being without us even knowing it is happening.

Clearly, each woman in the studio audience had at least one frenemy in their life, because that nodding continued. Maybe it was a “mean girl” in high school.   Perhaps a co-worker she met in the boardroom who wanted to be the shining star at a meeting.  Or the person who got the promotion she’d worked hard for.

As sad as it is, it’s not a women-only problem.  How many of you can relate to someone who seemed to be in your corner, who disappointed you with a surprisingly negative reaction to your business or personal success?  Maybe they’re silent.  Maybe they’re negative.  Maybe they’re openly envious. They don’t belong in your inner circle!

Miller says the true test of a friend is whether they celebrate your successes in a genuine way. Here’s a little checklist I came up with to help you decide:

  • Are they curious about your work?
  • Do they support your ideas?
  • Is your friend enthusiastic about your accomplishments?
  • Do they celebrate your wins?
  • Do they openly compliment your ideas in group situations?
  • Do they refer business to you?
  • Do they nominate you for awards or talk up your abilities?
  • How do you feel after you spend time with this friend? Happy?  Tense?  Angry?

If you’ve answered no to most of those questions, you’ve identified a frenemy.

Use the checklist to help detox your life and focus on building an inner circle of those that you can support and that can support you in return. Be the friend who makes introductions and lifts people up. Go to their events, follow them and support their social media posts. Be a connector and a supporter. Becoming a true friend in business is the best way to protect against frenemies.  When you surround yourself with the right people, you and your business will both benefit.

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Corporate Social Responsibility Matters for Your Small Business, Too

You may read about large corporations making substantial charitable contributions and wonder how small businesses can make a difference. Even though the budgets may be smaller, professional services companies and other small businesses can also benefit from a thoughtful and strategic corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan. Remind me, what is CSR exactly? Corporate social responsibility […]

You may read about large corporations making substantial charitable contributions and wonder how small businesses can make a difference. Even though the budgets may be smaller, professional services companies and other small businesses can also benefit from a thoughtful and strategic corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan.

Remind me, what is CSR exactly?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for stakeholders (which could include employees, customers, the community at large, and others). It can entail activities like charitable giving, employee volunteer programs, environmental sustainability efforts, and ethical business practices. Your company may already be doing some or all of these, most likely in response to your employees’ requests, but it might not be terribly impactful or strategic (yet).

Why does it matter?

Research shows that people ranging from millennials to boomer’s care about a company’s CSR practices, both as consumers and employees. You may have earned a customer for life (or the opposite) because of something you might find completely arbitrary, like your charitable support of a cause that is important (or offensive) to them. To a customer, whether an individual consumer like a client or a corporate entity, your business values are sometimes the most important thing separating you from your competition. Engaged employees work harder and stay longer, and a commitment from leadership to reinforce ethical behavior and support the community where employees live, and work goes a long way.

But I’m already making charitable donations.

Supporting nonprofit organizations with charitable contributions or sponsorship dollars is good. But you may have noticed that the same organizations come back looking for support year after year, and you don’t know how they invested what you gave last year. To make more of an impact, some businesses are taking the next step toward forging community partnerships with organizations that align with their values. The first move might be to find out what your employees value and get them involved in making decisions about your company’s community activities. Tap your company’s “rising stars” and challenge them to lead this new initiative. Define what your corporate values are and find out what causes mean a lot to them and the rest of your team. Maybe marketing is part of it, or it could be all about employee engagement. The next step might be to encourage those employees to have a meeting with the leadership of an organization that aligns with your organization’s values and goals. They should learn more about the organization and find out what opportunities there might be to support the mission; it could mean event sponsorship, volunteer projects or strategic planning.

That sounds like it would take a lot of time away from my employees doing work.

Depending on the nature of your business, your employees could work on community activities during their lunch hour or before or after work. If you aren’t coordinating any activities yet, there are numerous activities that won’t cost money or take much time. Host a “jeans day” to raise money from employees who choose to dress casually and empower them to select an organization to receive funds. Encourage employees to volunteer during the annual United Way Day of Caring. Tap into community resources including Lehigh Valley Community Foundation and Volunteer Center to find out how other local businesses engage in philanthropy and volunteerism.

How much is this going to cost me?

I advise clients to start small and manageable. You can set a budget to give away grants, sponsor events or donate services and/or product in-kind, and your employees can raise funds, too. You can repurpose the items that still have a useful life but are no longer needed, like office furniture and supplies. If your current charitable giving is “a mile wide and an inch deep,” consider getting more regularly involved with one or just a few organizations. Developing a community partnership allows your employees to get to know the organization and its programs and mission well. Maybe a few of your employees will volunteer on committees of the board of directors and eventually one of them could serve as a volunteer board member. It could provide meaningful leadership development opportunities as well as a deeper relationship with the organization.

If your business is already supporting the community in many or all of these ways, give yourself a pat on the back. There is a lot of need in our community, and you’re already working toward making our community a better place. Don’t be shy about sharing that important work with your customers, your employees and the community at large. Your work could inspire other businesses to make an impact, too.

 

Megan Beste of Taggart Associates works with clients that want to make an impact in the Lehigh Valley by serving as a community relations liaison and corporate philanthropy consultant. For more information, contact her at megan@taggartassociates.com or 610-882-1571.

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Finding Your Passion

What’s your passion?  It seems to be a bit of an overused question. Discussed on every job interview, first date or college application. It’s all a bit cliché.  But maybe it seems cliché because we have never really focused on the question.  Have we ever given any real thought to the answer? In 2012 my […]

What’s your passion?  It seems to be a bit of an overused question. Discussed on every job interview, first date or college application. It’s all a bit cliché.  But maybe it seems cliché because we have never really focused on the question.  Have we ever given any real thought to the answer?

In 2012 my wife was diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a shock.  We were relatively young (late 40’s…. that’s young…right?..right?).  We are not supposed to have to deal with this yet.  This is what our parents’ generation is supposed to be dealing with.   After getting her through the radiation, the surgery and the first round of chemo, we were finally able to spend some time at home as she recovered her strength. This recovery gave us a lot of time to talk, reflect and just catch up after years of running at the speed of life.

As we started settling into the reality that my wife was going to be fighting this disease for the long haul, we had a conversation about what we want out of life.  At the time I was a military aviator and was too often away from home.  Sure, like everyone, we always had discussions about our dreams after military retirement; travel, flying for the airlines, vacation houses, boats, motorcycles etc.  This time it was different.  We could clearly hear the clock ticking.  This time it was real. With our new found respect for the fragile and finite time that we have on this planet, we talked about what we really wanted out of life.  It gets to be about much more than motorcycles, vacation homes and the rest.  We decided to write down all of the things we thought it would take to make us exceptionally happy.  As we talked, I started writing the items down.

When the conversation was over, we had a list of five things.  That’s it.  Five things that we thought we needed to make us exceptionally and forever happy.

  1. Spend more time with friends and family – We had been living the military life for 25 years. Lots of missed birthdays, years spent away from the ones you love most.  That had to stop.  We knew I had to retire.
  2. Start a family business – Funny, when you are faced with recognizing how short of a time we have here you start focusing on a legacy. Why are we here and what are we going to leave behind? We wanted to start a business that my family could be involved in and continue to grow long after we are gone.
  3. Do something with agriculture – Our ancestors had all been farmers. We have always been attracted to the notion of getting back to farming in some way.
  4. Be home every night – We spent so many, too many, nights apart.
  5. HAVE FUN – I mean what is the sense if you are not going to have fun.

That was it! Five things. That is the list of everything important to us.

Armed with this new clarity, we set out to find an opportunity that would check off all the items of our newly formed list.  For the next several months we would keep our eyes peeled as we drove around the valley.  We looked at pick your own berry farms, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, vegetable gardening, wineries and more.  It was wineries that got us thinking about distilling.  Instead of growing grapes, we would grow grain and instead of making wine we could make whiskey!  We were on to something.  We started studying the industry, attending training at Michigan State and Cornell as well as an internship with Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane Washington.

As soon as I returned from that trip, I knew that distilling was the way that we could check off all the items on our list.  We put our house in the suburbs up for sale and immediately bought a farm.  We started working with a local farmer to help us grow the grains, and we broke ground on the distillery in June of 2015.  We opened our doors in January of 2016.  It has been the adventure of a lifetime.  We make less, and work harder now than we used to, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

People ask, “Did you always have a passion for distilling”? The answer is no.  I’m passionate about the items on our list.  Spending time and having fun with friends and family, agriculture, our family business.  That is what I am passionate about. The distillery is the vehicle that we use to check off all of those items.

So that is my passion.  The list of five simple things.  We have been fortunate enough to check them off, and we couldn’t be happier.  So, the next time someone asks you what you are passionate about what will you will you say?  What is on your list?  What is truly your passion?

P.S. My wife just celebrated the 6th anniversary of her cancer diagnosis.  She continues to battle hard every day like the champion that she is.  I’m so proud of the example she sets for our kids and me every day.  I love you, Jodi Butters. 8

 

www.eightoaksdistillers.com
FB and IG @eightoaksdistillers

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Valley Influencers – Mike Molewski

Seven years ago, I interviewed Mike about his evolution as a business and community leader here in the Lehigh Valley for an article I was writing.  We did the interview at his home which happens to have a beautiful wine cellar.  Mike generously opened a nice bottle of red, and as we conversed, I began […]

Seven years ago, I interviewed Mike about his evolution as a business and community leader here in the Lehigh Valley for an article I was writing.  We did the interview at his home which happens to have a beautiful wine cellar.  Mike generously opened a nice bottle of red, and as we conversed, I began to discover why Mike was one of the most influential people in the Lehigh Valley.  Fast forward seven years, I thought it would be interesting to see what Mike has accomplished and what he’s thinking about for the future.  Let me start off by saying Mike is a true visionary when it comes to making a plan and then executing it.  In May of this year, Mike relocated his practice to Allentown’s latest City Center building called Tower 6 overlooking Center Square and the PPL Center.

Walking off the elevator of the 9th floor I was immediately greeted by a beautiful glass entryway opening to the CAPTRUST reception desk where I was greeted with a friendly smile by Amy Molewski, Mike’s oldest daughter, and recent CAPTRUST hire, returning to the Lehigh Valley after 13 years in New York City.  His brand-new office space with floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of the Valley was a very fitting place to sit back down with Mike and get caught up on how his leadership has progressed and moved him and those around him forward.  The only thing missing was the red wine, so I succumbed to another cup of coffee.

I had my notes from my previous article in front of me, and there were so many topics to pick back up on, so I started with CAPTRUST.  Mike explained that the financial services industry had changed dramatically in his 30-year career.  At age 23 he started his own practice, then created MFP Strategies in 2000, a firm he and his partners grew to $5 billion of assets under advisement, and then merged with CAPTRUST in 2016.  Since MFP was clearly successful, I asked what made him decide to act on the merger?  As Mike explained, it became clear to me that CAPTRUST provided Mike, his team, and their clients a better platform for growth.  Mike thinks, eats and breathes growth.  “Business leaders must create a plan for growth, without growth there are limited opportunities for our clients and teammates,” says Mike.  To attain bigger and better, Mike led his team to join CAPTRUST.  Now Mike and his partners Jim Edwards, Wes Schantz and Chris Butz, are Principals in the #1 Independent Registered Investment Advisor in the nation with over $270 billion in assets under advisement (as of March 31, 2018).  Quite an astounding accomplishment, so I wanted to dig further to understand what drove the merger and what’s next.

Mike shared with me that it wasn’t just being a large firm that was the main motivator, but more importantly, alignment for strategic growth.  He went on to explain to me that the opportunity with CAPTRUST had many significant benefits.  CAPTRUST is employee-owned with no outside ownership to drive decisions that conflict with the firm’s mission and core values.  In fact, their mission statement boils down to “enriching the lives of others.”  This encompasses clients, employees and the communities they serve.  To live out their mission statement, CAPTRUST has created an employee shareholder program where over half the 433 employees have ownership in the company.  “Financial advisors and other team members who become shareholders” Mike expressed, “feel more appreciated when they have long-term incentives tied to their efforts.”

Another benefit associated with the merger was the strong institutional business focus CAPTRUST had, which reinforced MFP’s institutional consulting business. CAPTRUST had the infrastructure in place with its size and scalability to provide support from its headquarters in Raleigh, NC that allow unhindered growth while simultaneously increasing their client-focused client-facing experience.  This strategic model allows CAPTRUST to serve over 5,000 institutional and private clients and 2.5 million participants in retirement plans.  “CAPTRUST has made sizable investments in people and technology to not only be a dominant player with institutional clients but also private wealth clients across all income and net worth levels.  As a firm we have clients in all 50 states and financial advisors in 36 locations across the country”, added Mike.

Entering into a merger is a daunting task, so I asked Mike how he lead his firm through such a risky proposition.  “As MFP considered the merger, both sides could have walked away at any time.   Instead, we started to think about where we could take this, and we did a lot of reverse due diligence,” Mike revealed.  They spent a lot of time with the CAPTRUST partners and management team.  Like any personal relationship, the more time spent together, the better you get to know the other person, or in this case, the entire leadership team.  I asked him what flushed out of the due diligence process that cleared the way forward.  Interestingly it came down to values and client advocacy.  Mike said, “We really liked the people and their culture.  They have solid values, and as we spent time with them, we got to see their good intentions and their actions.  CAPTRUST had a strong focus on their people, to help them succeed personally in their careers and aspirations.  And we loved their decision-making mantra—”just do the right thing.”  Mike was also personally motivated because this created an opportunity for him and his team to work with some of the top financial advisors in the US and CAPTRUST’s most successful clients across the county.   “I lead a team within CAPTRUST called the Strategic Advisor Group that is responsible for working nationally with many industry leading companies, their owners and executive teams, as well as families with substantial wealth, family offices, high net worth individuals and endowments and foundations, it’s an awesome opportunity” Mike noted.

Going from among the Top 50 Registered Investment Advisory firms in the United States (Registered REP Magazine, May 2013) to the #1 Registered Investment Advisory Firm in the United States (Financial Advisor Magazine, July 2017, based upon assets under advisement) is extremely impressive, so I inquired about what’s next.  Mike shared that CAPTRUST has a 10-year plan that is committed to growing the company by 4x.  They want to attain $1 trillion in assets with half of their growth planned through mergers and acquisitions and the other half through organic growth.  In 2017, CAPTRUST completed seven mergers and acquisitions, and they are targeting four in 2018.  “We expanded our Allentown offices and have the entire 9th floor here in Tower 6, and we are actively seeking M&A opportunities here in the Lehigh Valley,” he explained.  Mike continued, “The key driver for us is attracting financial advisors who have the similar clients, a great cultural fit, and exceptional talent.”

CAPTRUST was the first signed tenant in Tower 6, showing its commitment to being part of the renaissance of Allentown.   There is a strong employee trend desiring an urban setting, especially for millennials.  The restaurant life and PPL Center in Allentown is very robust and attractive for employees and clients.  “We received a very positive response from employees when the news was shared about our intention to move to center city Allentown, and those with some reservations were won over very quickly,” says Mike.   Mike smiled and expressed, “it feels good to be part of a growing business community.  Moving here accentuates our community involvement and being a part of Allentown’s rebirth.  There is a lot of energy in the city, and I believe the best is yet to come for Allentown.”

In our last meeting, we spent some time discussing Mike’s philanthropic works, so I was eager to get an update on this part of his world where he leverages his leadership talent and impressive business and social network.  Mike is the Foundation Chairman of Northampton Area Community College and the Co-Chair and Founder of the Lehigh Valley Food and Wine Festival which over its nine-year history has raised $2 million in scholarship awards for Northampton students.  Mike has also been very involved in the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, having served as Co-Chair of the Tocqueville Society for over eight years.  He has been a Board Member at King’s College for 15 years, his alma mater, and a role that is close to his hear.  King’s still has a large population of students who are first-generation college students, just like Mike.

I asked Mike about business trends within the financial services industry and how his firm was addressing them.  He informed me that they are witnessing strong interest from clients to move to larger firms who have specialized capabilities and cites cybersecurity safeguards as a current hot topic.  To meet this growing trend, they have implemented improvements in people and technology that help their clients, specifically in the area of wealth management, which gives clients better online access to their information, including portfolio performance and risk measures, strategic wealth planning, and full integration with insurance and estate planning.   “Smaller firms just don’t have the resources that clients now expect and demand,” Mike added.

As we were wrapping up, I asked him about his daughter Amy returning from New York City to join the firm.  He was very excited about having one of his children working in the business, and never thought it would happen.  What I didn’t know was that Amy isn’t the first family member in the business.   Jim Edwards is Mike’s younger brother, hired by Mike 18 years ago, and is a Principal at CAPTRUST working in the Allentown office.  We are witnessing a great family team making an impact here in the Valley and across the nation.

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Inovatin Doesn’t Need Permission

The average American spends approximately 43 years of his or her life working before retirement. So why would you go to work and do something without having the passion for it?  It’s important to find a way to spend your life doing something that matters to you. That’s where Mary Lengle comes in. Lengle grew […]

The average American spends approximately 43 years of his or her life working before retirement. So why would you go to work and do something without having the passion for it?  It’s important to find a way to spend your life doing something that matters to you.

That’s where Mary Lengle comes in. Lengle grew up in Bethlehem learning about the game of golf through a grandfather who instilled in her that golf is a game that brings people together. Lengle didn’t realize at the time what the impact of those talks would mean to her until many years later.

Early in her career, she worked at Rodale Inc. in the book division, working with the likes of Denise Austin, LL Cool J, and Morgan Freeman, helping them to promote their books. While she enjoyed the work, she knew deep down that if she were ever to find real satisfaction in her career, she would need to find a way to combine her love of golf and her storytelling ability.

“We spend so much of our lives waiting for permission. In school, you need permission from teachers, in the workplace you need permission from a boss before trying out a new idea, you just reach a point where you realize that you don’t need anyone’s permission anymore because it stifles your creativity and opportunities,” said Lengle, of New Tripoli.

In 2016, she was done asking for permission.

She knew it was time to finally combine those passions by teaming up with PGA professional and Lehigh Valley golf instructor Eric Cogorno to build his business beyond just individual coaching. “As I worked with Eric on my golf game, I was seeing how he collaborated with other students and what I saw was unique and special — especially his instruction with the junior golfers – “a level of expertise and passion on par with other talent and brands I’ve worked with in my PR and production career,” Lengle observed.

Lengle is working to become an ambassador for the game of golf by producing content that she hopes golfers of any age will find compelling and useful. It’s a simple premise, but it’s one that, for her, provides meaning and impact in her life. They don’t have a roadmap on how they’re going to get there, and they’re both OK with that.

“Eric and I believe in what we are doing, and we know that our initial concept may evolve, and that’s OK because that’s how you set the conditions to allow innovation to happen,” Lengle added.

Lengle and Cogorno are at that uncomfortable phase of their plan where you see most business leaders starting to get nervous because they want to see that quick return on the investment. Lengle is comfortable with being uncomfortable, and golf provides all the motivation she needs.

“Golf is a game where you must learn to detach from the outcome. You can’t focus on the past; you must stay present in the moment, and deal with the constantly changing variables that exist every time you step up to the tee,” Lengle said.

Not only is that great advice for golf, but it’s an excellent way to approach your life. Lengle can accept that not everyone will understand her and Eric’s mission. But what she does know is that when it comes to your business or personal life, if you’re going to take a risk where failure is possible, then you better be doing something you love, because that’s how you’ll ultimately succeed. ­

Mary and Eric have been using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram & YouTube to film and upload content at a dizzying pace. They have seen their followers increase with constant growth in comments and interactions from golf enthusiasts across the globe.

Their work can be found at Eric Cogorno Golf.

 

Jason Wilson of Tri Outdoor, Inc.

& William Childs, Advertising & Marketing Consultant

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LVCPO on the Rise

The Lehigh Valley Consortium of Professional Organizations (LVCPO) is a formally constituted nonprofit corporation with the following eleven professional corporations as members, represented by officers of their respective Boards of Directors: American Planning Association of Pennsylvania – Lehigh Valley/Berks Section Association of Fund Raising Professionals – Eastern – Pennsylvania Chapter Bar Association of Lehigh County […]

The Lehigh Valley Consortium of Professional Organizations (LVCPO) is a formally constituted nonprofit corporation with the following eleven professional corporations as members, represented by officers of their respective Boards of Directors:

  • American Planning Association of Pennsylvania – Lehigh Valley/Berks Section
  • Association of Fund Raising Professionals – Eastern – Pennsylvania Chapter
  • Bar Association of Lehigh County (BALC)
  • Estate Planning Council of the Lehigh Valley (LVEPC)
  • Forum for Ethics in the Workplace – Salesian Center, DeSales University
  • Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors Association
  • National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors – Lehigh Valley Chapter (NAIFA-LV)
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants of the Lehigh Valley (PICPA – LV)
  • Risk Management Association of the Lehigh Valley
  • Society of Professional Engineers of the Lehigh Valley (SPE-LV)
  • Exit Planning Institute, Lehigh Valley Chapter

How did this organization, LVCPO with over 6,000 professionals represented by the above organizations, come into being? The idea behind LVCPO emanated from a discussion between Dan LaBert, the then Executive Director of the BALC and Bob Rust, Lehigh Valley attorney of Rust Law, LLC and a member of BALC. Their idea was to form an organization that would encourage individuals from sister professions to interact with one another by attending programs held at the Barrister’s Club. These programs would feature presentations on current matters important to all the members of the member organizations and provide the opportunity to network and develop business opportunities at a social hour following each program.

Moreover, each session was to be private, thereby encouraging open and candid Q&A sessions with each speaker or panel of speakers.

An ad hoc organization was put in place with representatives of the BALC, LVEPC, NAIFA-LV, PICPA-LV and the SPE-LV forming an informal Board with Dan LaBert as the de facto Executive Director. For several years, LVCPO continued to operate in this fashion, hosting many successful programs and bringing together members to hear elected officials speak to important current topics and to mix and mingle.
In 2012, Ray Bridgeman was appointed Executive Director of the BALC and Director of the LVCPO. He not only picked up where Dan left off, he played a key role in taking LVCPO to a whole new level. Together with Bob Brown (current President of the LVCPO Board), they challenged the ad hoc governing board to incorporate LVCPO, establish a formal board with representatives from each member organization, and to charge each Board Director of the new board to aggressively seek greater participation in LVCPO programs by the members of their respective organization.

With this new vision, LVCPO put on amazing seminars with dynamic area leaders presenting, such as Don Cunningham (CEO-LVEDC), J.B. Reilly (CEO-City Center Investment Corp.) and Dr. Christopher Borick (Director of Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion). One of its principal goals was to provide networking opportunities between all its members, and this new plan has produced amazing signature events with hundreds in attendance, including high end car shows and beer and spirit tasting events from local companies, along with entertainment.
Formal incorporation ensued thereafter with a de jure Board made up of rotating Board members from the member organizations, three at large members and Ray Bridgeman as a permanent Board member and Treasurer. The first president of the newly constituted Board was Irv Keister (NAIFA-LV), followed by Rosemary Lamaestra (PICPA-LV), David Ellowitch (LVEPC) and Bob Rust (At large).

Under the leadership of lrv, Rose and David, the number of member organizations soon grew from four (4) to ten (10) organizations, thereby increasing exponentially the opportunities for interdisciplinary networking and business development between the members of the member organizations. Moreover, given the significant number of professionals present at each of LVCPO’s programs, the organization is able to draw top speakers willing to candidly address current “hot topics.”

While the LVCPO story is one of success, the authors recognize that the organization has just started to realize the tremendous potential for interdisciplinary discourse and business development that is “there for the taking” by the 6,000 plus individual professionals belonging to the LVCPO member organizations.

It is with this mind, that the authors strongly encourage those professionals who have yet to attend a LVCPO program to access LVCPO’s website to learn more about the organization and to identify the Board member of their member organization who is currently sitting on the LVCPO Board. Moreover, the authors welcome inquires (rbridgeman@lehighbar.org and rnrust@rustlawllc.com), as do the current President of the LVCPO Board, Bob Brown (bob.brown@lpl.com), current President Elect, Rick Roseberry (RRoseberry@maserconsulting.com) and current Secretary, Ron Semanick (ronjon369@rcn.com).

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