Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Corporate Citizenship

“It’s abundantly clear that expectations of businesses have grown enormously over the past several years,” says Steve Rochlin, director, research and policy development, The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College. “Businesses are expected to contribute positively to society. They’re expected to leave behind a more sustainable environment than they found. They’re expected to take leadership in encouraging sectors of society to partner to solve major problems facing the world today.”

It’s not just about the bottom line anymore, as companies are expanding into new markets globally, investors, clients and even employees want to know what our business is doing to make a difference within our community. Alongside the earnings and dividends, annual reports are now listing what a company’s giving record was for the year. Websites now have quick links to direct viewers to their company’s corporate citizenship information. Through the Internet, monitoring a business’s giving record has never been easier; there is a transparency and disclosure element in revealing this information. Many businesses on the global market are unable to compete because business partners/investors do not feel the business is giving back socially.

This new “trend” if you will makes me review my own business practices. What has CH Consulting done for our community? Currently, the staff and myself are involved in several of the community boards: Chamber of Commerce Board, Hospital Auxiliary Foundation Board, Housing Issues Advisory Board, etc. Staff volunteers for community events such as Ice Box Days and the Bass Tournament. I have staff volunteer as advocates for the local Domestic Violence non-profit.

Yet, to be honest, we don’t list this currently on our website. Why you may ask? Well, before this current trend and after the next trend, my staff and I will still be involved in our community. Corporate citizenship is ingrained into our company’s culture. Volunteerism is always it’s own reward. Blessings from helping our community come not from posting it on our website, but from the act itself. Although, don’t get me wrong, I love this new trend and I hope that many companies jump on the bandwagon of being more socially responsible, there is the sense of would they be doing this if there wasn’t the internet microscope? I would like to think they would.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Benefits of Telecommuting

As I sat on my deck this evening watching another gorgeous sunset, I realized yet again just how blessed I am to be able to live AND work on beautiful Rainy Lake. Each day that I wake up to the fresh air and beautiful views of my lake home I think about how grateful I am to have had the opportunity move my company to northern Minnesota where I am in close proximity to my family. Although a certain amount of travel is required, I am able to work much of the time from my home office where I can look up from my work on any given day to see deer walking by the window or a bald eagle flying overhead. What a fabulous work environment!

Like many of you, I spent years commuting to work each day - driving through traffic, spending hours on subways and trains, wasting precious time simply trying to get from here to there. This wasted time could have been better spent on work productivity, personal pursuits, or with family.

Through my own experiences as a business owner, I have found telecommuting to be an attractive alternative to commuting to a centralized workplace. It provides significant benefits for employees and employers alike, as well as offering advantages in the areas of environmental protection and energy conservation.

Improved Health – Telecommuting can help employees to create a better balance between their work and family life by giving employees more opportunities to spend quality time with family members. Telecommuting can also reduce the stress associated with the rush hour commute as well as providing employees with more time to incorporate health and wellness activities in their lives. Instead of waking up and rushing to get ready and head into traffic, telecommuters can wake up and take time for a cup of coffee, walk the dog, bring children to school, and still start work at the same time. Better health and lowered stress means employees put a greater focus on work concerns during work hours.

Increased Productivity
– Employees who enjoy the flexibility and independent work environment afforded by telecommuting tend to be more productive employees and display increased motivation for their job as well as higher morale and less absenteeism. In addition, telecommuters avoid travel time and deal with a reduced number of distractions and interruptions than they would encounter in a conventional workplace environment which results in an increase in productivity.

Employee Retention - Each year, many employees leave jobs that they otherwise enjoy due to relocation concerns. The option to telecommute eliminates the number of employees who resign because they want or need to move to a new location. Telecommuters can move with minimal disruption to their work productivity and less employee turnover means bottom line savings for the company in recruiting and training costs.

Organization and Staffing Flexibility – By offering telecommuting positions, I am not limited to hiring employees in my immediate geographic area. Instead, I can select the best candidates from anywhere in the country. As the needs of my organization change, I am free to restructure or reassemble the best teams to fit individual projects with minimal disruption to the company.

Cost Savings – Telecommuting helps companies achieve significant savings associated with office space costs and overhead. The reduced travel time for employees who telecommute also promotes savings in relation to gas prices and automobile maintenance.

Environmental Preservation – Telecommuting can help with the growing concern about global warming and energy conservation in today’s world. Currently, one of the largest sources of pollution in the United States is motor vehicles. Telecommuting significantly reduces the amount of automobile emissions as well as providing a significant potential for energy savings in the areas of on-site heating and cooling, lighting, automobile repair, and highway building and maintenance.

Working from home is certainly not appropriate for all employees or all positions. Those employees who are not self motivated may not do well in a work environment where they are not directly managed. There are also some positions and projects that require on-site interaction between team members. However, incorporating a well managed telecommuting program with built in accountability measures can have great benefits for your employees and your company.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rural Economic Development

With the migration of many people to larger metropolitan areas, a lot of rural towns and communities have been struggling for economic development. Most everyone wants to see their local/regional economy grow to some extent year by year, but an astounding amount of these communities are starving for any sort of growth, just to stay alive.

When a community is thriving, and growing to some degree over the course of time, then economic development usually is a force onto itself. As one wheel turns, the other wheels in the great machine of economic progress turn as well. As time goes by though, people can tend to lose sight that economic development needs to be continualy monitored and managed. There always needs to be short, middle, and long term goals in order to maintain forward momentum. But if a rural community finds itself in a downward spiral, economic development can’t just be looked at as a single issue, it is a broad subject with many things that affect it. You can’t just create economic expansion because you will it to happen, without looking at all of the pieces, and have a strategic plan the community is almost assured hard times or possibly failure in the future. Some of the various pieces to be considered when dealing with economic expansion:

Workforce: You need to start to be concerned about a workforce, whether there is enough and if they are educated.
Housing: Whether or not you have adequate housing to support the increase in population.
Infrastructure: Does the town support the basic needs for a brand new business. Such as various transportation options, and city services (sewer/water/etc…).
Incentives: What sort of incentives is not only available for the actual business, but what various cltral incentives does that business get by coming to that rral community.
Targeted Industries: Has your community leaders singled out the type of businesses that would fit into the community, and/or have a desire to come and become a part of the community.
Public Opinion: Nothing will ruin a potential business deal faster, than a negative community opinion. Or one that doesn’t agree that expansion needs to happen.

One way to solve this very big problem, is take advantage of the fact that you are a small and rural community. Utilize the ability to get a broad message out to the majority of the population, with little to no effort. Educating your community on what is going, helps sway public opinion and can gather support.

Involving the various agencies and existing businesses that exist in the community, is also a step in the right direction in affecting multiple pieces for expansion. Once collaboration starts to take place, and progress in one area improves, it will start to effect the improvements of all the factors. But, unless these issues are all addressed together, it won’t make economic success impossible, but you are creating a steep and slope.

So reconnect with the small town community ideal – band together and make a difference.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Effective Project Management a Must!

The use of project management skills is often what distinguishes a, successful project from a painful and unsatisfactory one. Thus the reason why the word combination “Project Management” for some - will elicit the outcome of mass groaning. But, in a world where clients and business partners increasingly want more of a hands on approach when doing business, things go from just simple consulting, to careful and detailed handling of not just the client, but also every detail that goes into the project as a whole.

So since it seems that this is a topic of great decision in a lot of businesses lately big and small, as well as something that keeps being thrown in my face as a reminder that I need to continue pushing for good Project Management, I have decided to write a little article about the basics. So please sit back, enjoy, and try and keep an open mind to something that may either be very new or very old school for you – but no matter how you look at it, it’s all good information.

Enjoy the article.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

From focus change.... straight into realignment.

Just a tad over a month ago, I was here talking about the possible need for a change in focus and reevaluation for my business, something all small to midsize companies should periodically do. Well here I am now talking about what has become the next step in the evolutionary cycle for my company.

It’s kind of like doing a deep spring cleaning every year. You know you clean the house all year long, and feel pretty good about yourself that it is clean. But then every spring, you decide to look under the stove or the couch, and realize that although at quick glance the house looked clean, but in the hard to reach areas, the house wasn’t as “in order” as you thought.

Ok maybe not the best analogy out there, but bear with me.

So I have started the change, started to put that next step for CH Consulting into operation, and that’s when it happens, the proverbial boat starts to rock. I realize that not only do I have to have a focus change (change = sales), but also with this change comes the need for internal realignment, in regards to staff, as well as maybe even myself on priorities (sell / be billable). We are a midsize company, but with less than 10 employees, so when you have a shift in the way business is done, the boat is definitely going to feel like it’s rocking by all that are part of the company.

And so here we are, company is changing focus, the boat’s a rockin, and I have to determine the best way to manage my internal resources. I have to realign within the company not only the processes that are used to do the job from day to day, but also employee responsibilities that are paired up with experience, and by skills.

Sometimes it is very hard to look internally at the employees who have gotten you to where you are today, but the need to look internally is fueled by not only business but also individual needs and goals. This is nothing new to this company or me, having been in business for over 5 ½ years, and in that span of time we have gone through multiple evolution cycles, and have changed focus and realigned. We know we have to do it now, and expect that we will have to do it again in the future.

The skill of being able to adapt to the cycle of evolution in a business is a skill than not everyone possesses, or you simply find employees who are at that point in their professional careers that they see the change as a good exit strategy for them to move on to bigger and brighter things. We miss them when they go, because in some way big or small they have all left a mark on this company.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Live Call Shortage - Is it possible?

Senate Democratic leaders say they'll push legislation this year to make it a federal crime, punishable by fines and jail time, to use automated "robo calls" and other tactics to mislead and discourage voters.

Civil rights and watchdog groups say some voters complained last year of being barraged by automated recorded campaign calls. Though many were only annoying, some gave misleading information, directing voters to the wrong polling site or raising questions about whether a voter was registered.

Many states have adopted "Do Not Call" laws that prevent marketers from calling consumers who put their names on government-run lists. But automated calls from politicians and pollsters have been exempt from these laws, as you may have noticed during the last election.

In response to this proliferation, a proposal to stop these "robo-calls" is making its way through most state legislation in conjunction with the federal legislation.
So with the possibility for increased legislation and auto call restrictions , on top of the 2008 presidential elections already beginning to have an effect on the market sooner than ever in the history of campaigning, will there be an overall shortage of live calling capacity nationwide when the time comes and it really matters?

There are only a handful of “big players” on both the Republican and Democratic sides, and even those organizations are no where close to being staffed to capacity needs I predict for the current live calling patterns, let alone to make up for any volume shifts from the current auto calling budgets to live work Not to mention that most automated calling was used in a way to either 1) Get a simple message of “Get out to vote”. With an autodialer and an automated message, you could do hundreds of thousands of calls in a very short period of time. Now with making those requirements of having to have live calling, you are talking about the same amount of calling taking days and weeks to accomplish.

One could look at this as a possible boom for the Telemarketing Industry. As hiring live agents, for a longer period of time, will allow most call centers to hire more people and work almost indefinately during campaign time. But there is the infrastructure aspect that requires the hiring, and training of hundreds of agents between now and then – with then being “now”, to have them ready for when the political telemarketing giant really wakes up and starts its rampage across American Phone lines this fall, in preparation of the primaries.