Getting rewarded for nothing? Winstanley Associates has it down to a science.
Thats not a dig; the marketing and advertising firm based in Lenox has taken high honors from the American Advertising Federation (AAF) for a self-promotional piece titled Winstanley Nothing, an empty, plastic blister pack that the agency used as a bit of tongue-in-cheek direct mail to give clients and prospects a chuckle as they cleared out their inbox.
Nothing will make you happy, the package without a product proclaims. Theres nothing to worry about, theres nothing inside it all starts from nothing.
Nothing made its debut in the advertising world in March of this year, when it was awarded a gold ADDY award as part of the AAFs annual awards competition for advertising, design, and marketing professionals across the country. The recognition came during the local competition of the Ad Club of Western Mass. (ACWM). Gold winners from the that event, which were chosen by a panel of five AAF judges from across the nation, were automatically entered into district competition, to be judged against entries from other ad clubs in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Winstanley took a silver district ADDY, and moved forward to the third tier of competition, earning another silver ADDY on the national level in the category of Advertising Industry Self-promotion. Nearly 2,000 entries were judged on the national level, with 413 gold and silver awards handed out.
Ralph Frisina, creative director at Winstanley, said the project is an example of the kind of innovative item the agency likes to create and disseminate once or twice a year, to cut through the clutter, as he said, and showcase its talents.
We try to do a 3D product of some kind, because people get so much stuff across their desks. We like to cut through the noise, and do it with a sense of humor, he said.
Devising the idea started with a little brainstorming, Frisina added, as well as searching for objects to which an idea could be applied.
We look for materials that are made by other companies or surplus outfits, and try to come up with a funny idea that fits.
From there, the concept is finalized, packaging designed, and copy written before the final product is mailed to unsuspecting professionals across the region. Frisina said Annette Ragan, co-creative director, and Meghan Dewar, art director, were particularly involved with the project.
About 600 clients and prospective clients received Nothing in 2007; in the past, Winstanley has also sent a tree in a can through the mail, a set of Santa Claws during the holidays, and bright, pink flamingoes to announce a summertime party. Owner and President Nate Winstanley said the items are light in tone, but because of that, people tend to keep them in their offices, on a bookshelf or tacked to a bulletin board. That longevity, he said, is their greatest strength.
It shows the true value, he said. People keep them because theyre funny, and they also demonstrate our capabilities.
This is the first national ADDY win for Winstanley Associates, and its owner said hes been pleased with the ACWMs work as both a local ad club and as an AAF affiliate.
Five years ago, we spent the majority of our time with the Albany Ad Club, and we could not access national competition through that relationship, Winstanley said. So, we shifted to participating in the Western Mass. show because of its ties to the AAF, and that has given us an entrée into the highest level of competition in the U.S. Thats an important aspect, and one reason why weve become active in the club.
The ACWM deserves kudos for getting, and trying to get, excellent judges, he said. If we want the opinions of people at the same level as us, thats easy to get. But the club works hard to get good judges from all different areas and levels, and thats the reason you compete in the first place to see how and where you measure up. The national ADDYs are awarded to some of the biggest agencies in the country and in the world. To be given an opportunity to play in that arena is invaluable.
Overall, it was a good year for Winstanley Associates at the ADDYs; not only did the agency secure the regions only national win (Health New England advanced to the district competition, earning a gold ADDY for its City of Bright Nights Ball 2007 invitation design), but also garnered the highest number of gold ADDYs at the local celebration, held at CityStage in Springfield.
In total, Nate Winstanley earned six gold ADDYs and one bronze in categories ranging from self-promotion to consumer and trade publications to sales promotion.
Whats more, Nate Winstanley said the agency is currently wrapping up a new project called Pet Peeves, that includes a 3D component similar to Nothing, but also a new twist a Web-based, interactive component that was devised in collaboration with Winstanley Associates sister software-development company, Lenox Softworks.
The idea was to sort of make a little box the box is empty to symbolize a place to put your peeves, he explained. The piece gets them to go to a Web site, where they can post their pet peeves.
Not for Nothing
Winstanley said the project, like its predecessors, is rooted in humor. But it will also attempt to create an important link between traditional media and online sources.
Its sort of a new protocol for marketing, he said. Were hoping to demonstrate our ability to create an interface between traditional and new media; its a great example of using print as a lead to generate traffic for interactive projects, and its unique because both companies are involved.
There may be nothing in store for recipients when they open that little box, but Winstanley Associates has had success with nothing before.
And for them, thats really something.
Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]
Creating a Financial Strategy for the Long Haul
Conventional wisdom tells us that once you start getting a paycheck, you should save a portion of it for retirement.
Too bad life gets in the way: illness, childrens education, home renovations, job loss, divorce, and more can all dip into funds earmarked for retirement. Its no wonder that 44% of Americans age 55 and older have saved less than $100,000, according to a Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Still, its important for Americans even those in their 50s and 60s to know that its not too late to jumpstart their savings as they approach retirement. What follows are some simple financial strategies to consider:
Know what youll need. Take the time to figure out and revisit how much money youll need in retirement. Experts estimate that retirees generally need at least 70% to 80% of their pre-retirement income. You can tap into Web sites that help calculate your life expectancy and how long your money will last in retirement. Among the sites featuring financial calculators are www.longevitygame.com, www.smartmoney.com, www.aarp.org, and www.ssa.gov. If you havent already, it might be helpful to talk with a financial professional to develop a strategy to meet your individual needs. Here are some points to remember:
Cut the debt. Eliminating consumer debt and curbing spending is a critical precursor to retirement. This may not be easy, however, since the average American carries $2,328 in credit card debt, according to 2005 research by Myvesta, a non-profit consumer education organization.
If credit cards are sabotaging your pocketbook, you can call your credit card company and renegotiate the interest rates being charged. You can also make a point to pay a set amount of extra money toward your debt. Look for this money by cutting out expenses you could do without regular trips to coffee shops, pricey restaurants, membership fees for services you dont really use. Its also wise to destroy your credit cards and keep just one card in hiding in case of emergencies.
Check how youre saving. Many experts suggest that pre-retirees save at least 10% of their annual gross income, but those with fewer resources may need to save more. In any case, how you save can be as important as how much you save.
First, always contribute as much as you can in savings plans. The government allows workers age 50 and over to save more than younger employees with catch-up contributions, allowing older workers to contribute thousands more to their 401(k)s and IRAs each year. The maximum contribution limit for an IRA (Roth or traditional) is $4,000 for the general population and $5,000 for those 50 and older by year-end. For 401(k)s, the maximum contribution limit for pre-tax employee contributions is $15,000 for the general population; for those 50 and older by year-end, the limit is $20,000.
Annuities are another savings vehicle worth considering. They offer a tax-advantaged way to guarantee an income for life, or, alternatively, a set amount of income for a specific number of years. In general, funds can be withdrawn from an account after age 59 1/2, at which time the earnings withdrawn are taxed. Withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2 may be subject to ordinary income taxes and a 10% IRS early-withdrawal penalty. Its best to consult with a tax advisor for specific tax advice.
Be prepared for healths ups and downs. While Americans are living longer, there are no guarantees for good health. Health-related expenses can impact the income youll need in retirement while medical conditions can jeopardize your retirement plans. Its estimated that 60% of people over the age of 65 will need help with health and personal needs and activities of daily living as they grow older. Having insurance for such needs may be a consideration.
Consider working at least part-time. If you receive a regular paycheck, you dont have to draw as much from your investments to get by. This gives your savings a chance to grow and lowers the risk of your portfolio running dry. Employer-paid medical insurance for you and your spouse may also be a major benefit, especially if youre waiting for Medicare to kick in.
Another way to look at working: those who retire at 65, work two days a week, and earn 40% of their pre-retirement salary can increase their savings by 30% over five years.
Even with retirement only a decade or less away, those in their 50s have the power to make the most of their prime earning years while refining their retirement strategies. By saving, investing, and preparing wisely, pre-retirees can ensure a growing retirement nest egg for years to come.
John H. Joyce is a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, the marketing name for the sales and distribution arm of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM) in Milwaukee, Wis., its affiliates and subsidiaries. Joyce is an insurance agent of NM based in Springfield. Securities are offered through Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, 1351 Main St., Springfield, member FINRA and SIPC. NM is not a broker dealer; (413) 748-8744;[email protected];nmfn.co/johnjoyce. This article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used for tax or legal advice.
Develop a Strategy to Become a Category of One
We know from working with other service professionals (legal, health care, accounting, engineering, architectural, etc.) that many of business owners and managers are concerned about how to keep their regular business and bring in new business in this tough economy.
When just a year or two ago business was great, why is it that some firms and practices are still doing well while others are struggling?
The answer is simple. The strong firms have built a solid reputation. They dont have to work at educating and convincing their clients and prospects about who they are, what they do, and why they should be trusted, because people already know what theyre going to get.
In other words, those firms have a brand that already exists. They have created a category of one and eliminated their competition in the minds of their clients and prospects.
By now youve probably heard that a brand is important and having one will somehow help you become more desirable. Weve heard much confusion about branding, though, as evidenced by comments like these:
When all of the firms in your market are saying the same thing, that they have the best, most experienced professionals, and that they will tirelessly dedicate themselves to serve a clients every need, how can you possibly sound any different than your competition? One of the quickest ways for a firm or practice to prosper is to define what it is and what it stands for, and then concentrate on being that all the time.
Even though your service company delivers an intangible, if it can have a reputation, a personality, or strong values thats a brand. Your brand is how you are perceived in the market. When you communicate who you are and what you stand for, you have to live and breathe it every day. It has to be inherent and organic. You communicate who you are by demonstrating your brand in what you do, what you communicate, and how you say it. When all your branding actions and messages are congruent, the less work you have to do to prove your value when a prospect is ready to make a choice.
Keep Selling or Build a Great Reputation
Today, any concept can be branded. Political parties and religions have brands. So do celebrities, rock stars, and athletes. When you hear their names, you automatically know who they are and what they represent. Any idea, concept, person, place, or thing that can have an emotion attached to it can be branded.
Heres what a brand does. If you were considering Tiger Woods to be a spokesperson for your firm, would you find it necessary to interview him and check him out first? Or would you already know exactly what youre getting?
Now imagine considering a local motivational speaker to be your spokesperson. You would most likely find it necessary to check him out and get several references before making a decision.
Theres a big difference in your confidence level when considering Tiger Woods and the unfamiliar, local person in the scenarios above. Thats the power of a brand. Ones reputation precedes him while the other requires a lot more selling and confidence-building to earn your trust.
If your firm can be remembered in the minds of your constituency for something of specific or unique value, you can build a brand based on that value. If not, your potential clients will have to go through a trust-building process and comparative shopping exercise until they are comfortable choosing you. Without a strong brand, every new prospect who doesnt know you will have to go through their own trust-building process first.
When you have something distinctive and memorable, your reputation (brand) precedes you. You dont have to sell as hard.
Innovation and Marketing Create Growth
One could say, youre not in the law, medical, accounting, etc. business; youre in the getting and keeping customers business. Obviously, without clients there is no business. Your objective is to make your firm sustainable by creating a repeating stream of clients who perpetuate your company. Thats the goal of marketing.
Innovation is the process that creates the distinctive value that is added to your service to set you apart from your competition. The value you represent to your clients can be from a diverse list, but trust is near the top of it. The more value you add to your distinction, the more trust you can build in current and future clients.
Your firms brand can be enhanced by the experience and expertise youve gained over time and through innovation. When you set up a different client expectation, you create a competitive advantage.
You then bring it all home though marketing when you communicate your innovative ideas (uniqueness) to attract new clients. Innovation and marketing are what drive every business. When you stop one or both, your business begins to fail.
Consistency Builds Reputations
Your brand should be consistently communicated internally and externally in everything that represents your firm, in everything that can form an impression about the firm tangibly and intangibly. From employment policies and practices to office decorum, from dress code to company culture, your brand is at stake in every interaction and client touch point. Your logo, colors, stationery, Web site, brochures, advertising, and other marketing communications materials communicate your brand visually and verbally.
When your brand is defined, focused, communicated, and enforced by congruent, consistent, and repeated acts, it becomes stronger. That creates the reputation that identifies your firm in the consciousness of the marketplace.
Leveraging Brand Value
Branding is all about leveraging, and the beauty of a strong brand is that its value continually builds upon itself. Increased brand value can be leveraged:
When this process is strategically planned and executed, your marketing function becomes increasingly easier to manage. In fact, everything becomes more predictable and easier when it is intrinsically woven into the culture of your brand.
A brand does not come from top-down dictates. It has to be organic and permeate your firm like DNA. Your firms leaders have to understand and champion it, making sure that everyone lives it so it becomes part of your firms culture. A brand has to be authentic. It cannot be hung on a meaningless slogan lacking the substance of a client expectation. It cannot be faked. It has to be embraced by every individual within your firm at every level, or it loses its relevance.
The essence of your inherent brand becomes the vision that your managing partner can use to lead your firm. It is the idea that the entire organization can get behind to ensure a unique and consistent experience for all stakeholders.
Becoming a Category of One
When a firm has a strong brand, it develops a life of its own internally and externally. As a result, the firm becomes a great place to work and a great place with which to do business. All service firms and practices have a brand, whether deliberately crafted or assumed through community impression. Doesnt it make sense to craft yours intentionally and guide its development?
Firms with strong brands do well regardless of the economy because they are focused solely on their constituencies wants and needs rather than on themselves. Their goal is to be the absolute best in what they do for their clients, period. They constantly look for ways to add more value to their clients experience. Theyre passionately on a mission to be a category of one.
A strong brand gives your firm a sense of direction and the tools to control your path so you and move forward with a greater sense of purpose. Once equipped, youll begin to see further horizons, and those firms that you once thought were competitors, the ones without the same equipment and knowledge as you, eventually become irrelevant.
When a service firm or practice becomes a category of one in its market, it has no competition. Its professionals no longer have to persuade prospects to become clients because prospects are attracted to them. These firms usually find themselves in a position to choose the clients they want to work with.
Become a category of one. Create a strong brand and eliminate your competition.
Christine Pilch and Dennis Kunkler are partners with Your Brand Partnership. They collaborate with clients and agencies to get results through innovative positioning strategies;yourbrandpartnership.com; (413) 537-2474; Expect Results.
Friendly’s Has Sweet Success With New Biofuel-processing Program
There’s something cooking in a small lab in Chicopee, at the Friendly Ice Cream Corp.’s distribution headquarters.
But it’s not a recipe for a new sundae or Supermelt. Friendly’s has introduced something new from the fryolator — it’s creating biofuel from used vegetable oil to help power its fleet of trucks and heat its warehouses.
Barry Bechard, distribution services supervisor for Friendly Ice Cream Corp. and one of the driving forces behind this new initiative, said the process of learning how to convert used oil into usable biodiesel began about a year ago, when many companies, especially those with large transportation and delivery components like Friendly’s, began evaluating what they could do to offset rising fuel costs.
“It was probably a couple of years ago that people started talking about different fuels they could use,” said Bechard, “and we began hearing about the possibility of transferring our trucks over to biodiesel.”
He said that, with the help of institutions involved with biofuel production and use — including UConn, which works with companies of various sizes to educate and help them implement the necessary systems — Friendly Ice Cream began to get a handle on what needed to be done to start using biodeisel. Moreover, Bechard said, the company realized it was already primed for the biofuel production in its own right, particularly in one key area: an abundance of the raw material needed to get started.
“Access to the oil is what ties everything together for us,” Bechard explained. “If we didn’t have it, the program just wouldn’t be as beneficial. All of our restaurants use quite a few gallons of vegetable oil, and up until recently, it’s just been a waste byproduct that we were giving to rendering plants. But when we learned how biodiesel is made, we realized we could start making it on our own.”
Fries, Fribbles, and the
Last year, Friendly’s made about 5,000 gallons of biodiesel by preparing used vegetable oil for mixture with standard diesel fuel. This year, the company hopes to produce about 35,000 gallons, thus offsetting fuel usage in the majority of its trucks making deliveries throughout the Northeast. The biofuel is also being used as a heating oil additive in the company’s Wilbraham headquarters.
Jim Dangleis, director of Northeast Distribution for Friendly Ice Cream, said the company, with its scores of restaurants and existing infrastructure that makes delivering oil for biofuel production easily implemented, was uniquely positioned to launch the program without creating an added draw on resources.
“The key here is that we’re using used oil,” he said. “There’s been a lot of buzz about biofuel lately, but a lot of outfits are using virgin oil, which takes resources away from other things and gives biofuel production a bit of a black eye.”
However, once the oil-reuse program was presented to Friendly’s restaurants, about 150 locations jumped on board, creating a partnership between the franchises and the parent corporation.
“It creates a company-wide incentive,” said Dangleis. “I’m glad we started looking at biodiesel when we did, because now diesel prices are through the roof and we have something in place to help. Reducing fuel costs, in the long run, puts less of a burden on the restaurants.”
The restaurants are welcoming the new program, he said, because, on their end, it amounts to an innovative recycling initiative that both employees and customers can get behind.
“The process turns a waste product into a useful product,” he said. “The trucks run cleaner and quieter, and the fuel burns cleaner and more efficiently. Everyone wants to get behind something that’s green — it’s good business, and it’s good PR.”
Room for Seconds
The Friendly’s biofuel initiative also signals the start of a new chapter in the company’s already-colorful history. Not unlike the first Friendly’s location, opened by Prestley and Curtis Blake in Springfield in 1935, the Friendly biodiesel processing center is a modest yet carefully planned endeavor.
“You can’t just buy these labs,” said Dangleis. “You need to actually create one, and put it together with pumps and vats and tubing. There’s a huge learning curve in setting this up and getting regulatory permission, but everybody’s behind this. We’ve received a lot of help on company, state, and federal levels.”
Bechard agreed, noting that he’s received the support of everyone from district managers to maintenance personnel. He’s part of the endeavor’s front line, sacrificing clean shirts for oil stains, and ice cream cones for measuring cups of goo.
“It’s not the cleanest job,” he said, “and I’m no expert, but there’s a lot to learn that is very interesting to learn.”
Bechard alternately calls the biofuel production at Friendly a “homegrown system” or his “backyard still.” Indeed, the facility encompasses a small garage, and was built from scratch using materials found at any local home-improvement store. But the neatly arranged tanks, heaters, and other implements represent a conversion lab that is always humming.
Employees at the distribution center had a tongue-in-cheek sign created for the garage that reads ‘Friendly Biodiesel World Headquarters,’ and while it may have started as a joke, that bright green sign is fast becoming a point of pride.
Despite its size, the lab produces between 800 and 1,000 gallons of biodiesel a week, blending purified oil with standard diesel fuel (the mixture includes between 5% and 10% cooking oil).
There’s only about 10 feet separating where the process begins and ends, but there’s plenty of new lingo to be learned along the way. Bechard explained that vegetable oil used in frying is delivered to restaurants for use in what are called ‘cubies.’ The biofuel program requires that the restaurants refill the cubies with used oil, and the packages are then sent back to the distribution facility for processing.
The used oil, French fry bits and all, goes into a large trough where it’s strained, and then transferred to a ‘feeder tank’ in 42-gallon batches. Standard water heaters, just like those seen in basements across the country, are used to heat the oil to about 110 degrees, at which point various tests are performed to ensure the oil is at the right pH level — about 7, said Bechard.
Then, the oil is transferred again into a separation tank, segregating the usable oil from unusable byproducts, and finally to a mixing tank, where air is pumped in continuously to remove excess moisture. From there, the oil is ‘splash-blended’ with diesel fuel and is ready for use in Friendly trucks.
Two simple mason jars tell the story of how used oil becomes fuel for a fleet of tractor-trailers. One holds a sample of cloudy fry oil before distillation, and a second holds the clear, honey-colored result. Bechard said that, despite hours of straining, testing, transferring, and bubbling, the fuel actually remains edible, though few people are lining up to test that theory.
“I think most people are just going to take our word for it on that one,”
he said with a laugh, noting, however, that other corporations have caught wind of the biofuel production at Friendly and have approached the company looking for guidance. “It’s a new focus for a lot of people, and they’re coming to ask us questions. It’s a neat situation.”
Biofuel for Breakfast?
That said, Dangleis noted that Friendly’s is approaching the level of biofuel production it would like to stay at for a while, and there are no immediate plans to further expand the program. The trucks can only handle about a 10% addition of oil before the benefits start to lessen, and while he’s happy to answer the questions of other businesses, he doesn’t see biofuel ending up on any proverbial Friendly’s menu any time soon.
“We’re still in the restaurant business,” he said, “but this has become a real team effort to make something happen that is great for our needs.”
The following building permits were issued during the months of May and June 2008.
Rick & JoAnne Locke
Six Flags New England
Mill Valley Estates, LTD
200 Tillary LLC
Immaculate Conception Parish
Clinical and Support Options
Greenfield Church of Christ
Holyoke Mall Company, L.P.
271 East LLC
Bally Bunion Realty LLC
City of Northampton
David S. Turner
Florence Savings Bank
Meadow Brook Preservation Associates LP
Meadow Brook Preservation Associates LP
Power Ten in Two LLC
Trident Realty Corp.
Trident Realty Corp.
Chicopee Savings Bank
Baystate Health Inc.
Baystate Medical Center
City of Springfield
Smith & Wesson
Springfield Housing Authority
Springfield Housing Authority
Western New England College
Engineers Realty Corp.
Granville Rd. LLC
L & B Truck Service
Morse Hospitality Concepts
The Rules Are Changing, So Beware of Costly Non-compliance Penalties
As spring draws to a close and attention turns toward picnics, barbeques, and ballgames, the clock continues to tick down to Dec. 31, 2008.
While many people associate New Years Eve with parties and revelry, 2009 will not be a happy year for employees or employers if the non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements and/or plans to which they are a party do not comply with section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. All businesses big and small, public and private, non-profit and for-profit as well as the workers they employ, may be affected by the requirements of and penalties imposed by 409A.
Section 409A was added to the Internal Revenue code as a result of the enactment of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. The impact of this addition is far-reaching and not yet fully appreciated. In fact, if you or your employees participate in a deferred compensation agreement or are a party to an employment or severance agreement that provides for deferred payments, you may be subject to the consequences of non-compliance.
What, you may ask, are the consequences of non-compliance? The penalties are as straightforward as they are harsh. If a plan, arrangement, or agreement does not meet the exacting standards of 409A, the amount deferred will be included in the employees income immediately, even if the employee is not currently eligible to receive that amount. In addition, a penalty tax of 20% will be levied on the amount included in the employees income.
Finally, an interest payment equal to the IRS underpayment rate plus 1% will be applied from the date when the amount was first deferred to the date when it is includable as income to the employee. Taken together with the income taxes you currently pay, these penalties and interest may equal a 50% tax on your income.
Perhaps the best way to explain the application of 409A is to discuss the plans it does not apply to. For instance, the provision does not apply to qualified retirement plans, such as plans promulgated under Internal Revenue Code sections 401(k), 457(b), and 403(b), nor does it apply to defined benefit pension plans, employee stock option plans, vacation pay, sick pay, death and disability plans, or compensatory time off, and other similar plans. While this may seem like an exhaustive list of retirement plans and benefits, it does not include supplemental employee retirement plans, employment agreements, severance agreements, some split dollar arrangements, stock option plans, and other similar plans.
To further complicate matters, non-qualified deferred compensation that was vested prior to 2005 is not subject to 409A because of its grandfathering provisions. Employers with plans that contain compensation deferred prior to 2005 can choose one of a number of options to preserve the grandfathered status of these deferrals. These options include:
Elections to defer compensation for services performed during a taxable year must be made by the end of the year immediately preceding that taxable year. This election must include the time and form of payment to which the employee is eligible.
The limits imposed by 409A on when deferred payments can be received dictate that, in order for a plan or arrangement to comply, it must provide that payments under the plan or arrangement be paid (1) on a date certain; (2) pursuant to a set schedule; and (3) upon the occurrence of a triggering event. These triggering events include separation from service, death, disability, change of ownership, or unforeseeable emergency. If your plan is subject to 409A and doesnt contain the aforementioned conditions, it is now time to begin your 409A compliance program.
The best way to avoid running afoul of the rules set forth under 409A is to put a comprehensive plan in place as follows:
Section 409A compliance is a complicated and far-reaching endeavor. In order to avoid running afoul of the regulations set forth by 409A, employers should consult with professionals. Several IRS guidance notices have already been written, and more are sure to follow as the effects of 409A are further understood.
The issues addressed here are merely a sampling of the plans affected by 409A and the options available to employers in order to ensure compliance with its rules. As such, do not wait until summer turns to fall before evaluating the deferred compensation plans to which you are a party. Dec. 31 is the deadline to comply with 409A, and non-compliance is going to result in costly fees and penalties in 2009.
Dennis G. Egan Jr. is an associate with the regional law firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C., specializing in business and corporate law;[email protected]; (413) 781-0560.
Four Simple Steps to Manage Your Boss
Conventional business communication has been always been defined from the top down. There are limitless books, seminars, and online resources on top-down management you can access any time.
However, this is not the case for managing up. Middle management continues to struggle to effectively influence executive management, which is crucial to business survival.
Not only should middle managers be able to listen to the problems and challenges of their direct reports, but they should be able to influence a positive change going upward in the organization.
Upward management may be the most important skill set to hone and own, particularity in the volatility of todays economy. Who better to have your back than the boss who is front of you all the time?
The following four-step approach is chock full of nuggets that are simple, but potent. These are not about sucking up or being a yes man or woman; rather, these are practical behaviors that require diligence, courage, and transparency. You just may find that youd like to be managed by your direct reports in similar fashion.
Step One: Choose Good Timing
Part of knowing the right timing is setting expectations with your boss upfront, but if you havent covered this ground, or the scope of responsibility has changed for either of you, it may be time to realign. Rather than assume what seems appropriate, consider these tips when timing your connections:
If you and your boss have travel schedules not conducive to face-to-face dialogue, simply inquire, when can I get you on the phone for 20 minutes? Id really like your input.
When you have something heavier to discuss, inform your boss about the importance of the matter. Many employees will try to connect with their boss once or twice, and when they dont get the attention they need, they harbor resentment. While its frustrating, chances are your boss is buried with work like you, and availability may be at a premium. Stay on him or her, and be tactfully persistent.
Discover the best times for your boss and yourself to speak. Designated times may end up saving time and building strong communication, fueling better results.
Step Two: Understand How Your Boss Prefers Information
Perhaps the most common error employees make is they deliver information in the opposite manner that their boss prefers receiving it. This does little to help their connection or personal market value.
A month ago, I gained insight on this topic from my brother, who is a partner at a Chicago law firm. He responded, some bosses want you to issue-spot, meaning quickly identify the issue you need input on and get to the point. Others want context and background around the subjects being addressed. Were often accused of not listening, but it poses a challenge when youre coming to us with the wrong approach.
So, how does one know what the preferred communication is with the boss? Eliminate uncertainty by asking so you can provide the highest value on a consistent basis.
Other tips to consider:
Be succinct and to the point. Even if your boss prefers context and background, avoid rambling on.
State upfront why youre coming and what youre hoping to gain from the encounter. Theres nothing worse than explaining your situation to your boss, and after five minutes he or she interrupts and politely says, Im sorry, Susan, what exactly can I help you with?
Bring solutions to problems. Sure, you are approaching your boss for answers and feedback, but he or she wants to know youve thought it through. The less time they have to spend solving your problems, the more they value your contribution.
Do your best to be clinical and emotionally controlled. Often what stands out above anything is your ability to demonstrate passion and confidence, providing you remain cool and in control. Emotional intelligence is key.
Step Three: Align Understanding
When wondering about the perception of his performance, my client John from New York once told me, I really dislike the one-time annual review. I need to know how Im doing more often so I can constantly improve.
When I asked him what he does about it, he replied, every six to eight weeks, I approach my boss and ask him two questions: What am I doing well? and Where can I improve?
Johns approach may be slightly more frequent than you prefer, but its so much better than the guessing game that comes with anxiety or fear, particularly in todays unstable market. A different client inquired about the approach he should take to get into a business-development position with his company. I told him, approach your boss and tell him youd like to get into business development, and state the value you believe you can provide. When in doubt, ask.
Step Four: Follow Up and Live Your Word
Few things in managing up are more demoralizing than a boss who doesnt follow up or get back to you on issues that are important to you and seemed the same to them. This is why its critical to capture information in writing during the meeting so they know youre retaining exchanged data and expect execution.
Also, as often as possible, agree on times and dates to follow up on issues discussed so you can diplomatically hold your boss accountable.
When your boss can rely on you, loyalty is more likely to be reciprocated. Establish trust through deadline-driven behavior and prompt response time.
The road to success upward is one that can be gratifying and rewarding. In a time of uncertainty, it can be a path that is safe and secure. Consider these steps and remember that you are judged on your behavior, performance, and results, not on your intentions.
Joe Takash is a keynote speaker and the CEO of performance management firm Victory Consulting, based in LaGrange Park, Ill.;www.joetakash.com
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Barlow, Keith M.
Barre Auto Supply
Bernal, Suiny G.
Bessette, Roger A.
Betterton, Richard M.
Bobilin, Howard A.
Bolton, Daniel L.
Bradley, Michael J.
Bressette, Linda L.
Burgess, Robert C.
Caron, Jason A.
Clayton, Margaret A.
Coleman, Allen D.
Demarey, Richard M.
Dembroski, Lillian C.
Dixe, Michael A.
Egan, Shaun P.
Ellis, David N.
Fanciose, Wayne A.
Flanders, Arlene L.
Forgette, Gerald A.
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Golemo, Christopher J.
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It was with significant fanfare — and some lofty rhetoric — that Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a 10-year, $1 billion life-sciences bill that he first put on the table more than a year ago in an effort to boost the states already-strong national and global position in that industry.
The measure calls for a $95 million research center at UMass Amherst, and the universitys president, Jack Wilson, called the life-sciences initiative a game changer for the Commonwealth. Elaborating, he said the bill would create new breakthroughs, new jobs, and new companies.
It will do so, according to its proponents, through $250 million in tax credits for companies, $250 million in research grants, and $500 million in bonds for capital projects. Locally, in addition to the new research center at UMass, the bill calls for $5.5 million to be earmarked for a business incubator at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute in Springfield, a joint venture between UMass and Baystate Health.
Dr. Paul Friedmann, director of the PVLSI, said the bill will enable the state to more effectively compete with other states and other countries at a time when said competition is considerable and mounting. Indeed, Maryland Gov. Martin OMally this week unveiled his own $1.1 billion plan to buoy that states life-sciences industry, while California, Texas, and other states have also made sizeable investments.
But if the BIO bill, as its called in some quarters, represents a step forward, perhaps a giant step, in terms of competitiveness in that all-important sector, the state is in danger of taking two steps back with regard to its overall economic health and prospects for future job growth.
Several measures small and large, ranging from $500 million in corporate tax hikes that are soon to be enacted, to soaring health insurance costs, to a bill mandating triple damages in cases involving violation of state wage-and-hour laws, threaten to seriously impact the states level of competitiveness and possibly bring the term Taxachusetts back into vogue.
The governor didnt sign the amendment to the Commonwealths wage-and-hour laws in fact, he wrote legislators a letter warning them of its possible consequences to businesses large and small. But only a few of the representatives heeded the message.
And this was not a conservative Republican governor sending out that letter and challenging the largely Democratic Legislature to take a step back and consider the ramifications of its actions but a fellow Democrat, one who took office with hopes that he and members of the House and Senate could work together to bolster the states economic future.
The disconnect between Patrick and the Legislature on the triple-damages provision underscores the need for a government-wide focus on making this state more competitive across all sectors of business.
Whats needed overall is a change in attitude, and this is nothing new. For too long now, business in Massachusetts has been viewed as something to tax more heavily when times are tough. When jobs are lost and businesses close or move out, there is significant mourning and finger-pointing about what could have been done differently. But there has never really been a broad focus on efforts to truly make Massachusetts more business-friendly.
Elected leaders can do it for a little while, as they did in the late 90s, and they can make some big headlines, as they did with the BIO bill. But they need to be more consistent and, overall, change the general attitude about business in this state. And they need to do it soon, because the competition is mounting, and not just in the life-sciences sector.
The BIO bill may indeed prove to be a game-changing step for Massachusetts. It holds enormous promise for the state and especially for UMass Amherst, which can, and needs to be, a more powerful economic engine for the Commonwealth.
But while putting in place these tax credits, bonds, and research grants for selected players in this emerging sector, elected officials have to consider businesses of all shapes and sizes and what it will take to bring them here or keep them here.
And this will take real leadership something we need to see much more of.