Thursday, August 29, 2019

On Women's Equality Day, Work Equity Is Still Elusive


Aug. 26 is Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, giving women the right to vote. The anniversary has been observed since 1971, following the nationwide Women's Strike for Equality in New York City the previous year that involved 50,000 women gathering on Fifth Avenue.

Other days throughout the year recognize women's achievements, such as International Women's Day on March 8, or draw attention to income discrepancies between men and women, like Equal Pay Day on April 2.

Despite making up about half of the labor force and the majority of the college-educated workforce, women have not achieved complete equality when measured in pay equity, representation in leadership roles and seats on boards of directors.

"Women's Equality Day is a reminder of how far we've come, but we are far from true gender equality worldwide," said Georgene Huang, cofounder and CEO of Fairygodboss, a career site for women.

"Women want to see more women in leadership positions and in positions of power to effect change. We want to be paid equally for equal work, and, most importantly, we want to be treated the same and awarded the same opportunities as our male peers," she said.

Change is slow, despite the many mentoring and sponsorship programs in U.S. businesses, noted Subha V. Barry, president of Working Mother Media, in research the organization released on women in corporate America.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles about the workplace gender gap from its archives and other trusted news sources.

True Gender Equity at Work Is Still a Distant Reality

Women these days can be CEOs, entrepreneurs, board directors, doctors, engineers and truck drivers, yet true gender equity at work—in terms of leadership, pay and promotion—is still a maybe-someday ideal. Nearly 80 percent of global organizations do not formally prioritize the advancement of women, despite research showing that doing so is good for a company's bottom line. That's according to a new survey of 2,300 executives worldwide by IBM's Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics.

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Study: Idaho, Utah and Texas Among Worst States for Women's Equality

Maine, Hawaii and Nevada, in respective order, took the top three slots in a new WalletHub study on women's equality. Idaho, Utah and Texas came in at the bottom of the rankings. The financial site came up with its list by comparing states on 17 key metrics ranging from the percentage of female business execs to the educational attainment gap between men and women.
(San Antonio Current)

Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got 'Greedy.'

American women of working age are the most educated ever, yet it's the most educated women who face the biggest gender gaps in seniority and pay. At the top of their fields, they represent just 5 percent of big company chief executives and a quarter of the top 10 percent of earners in the U.S. There are many causes of the gap, like discrimination and a lack of family-friendly policies. But recently, mounting evidence has led economists and sociologists to converge on a major driver—one that ostensibly has nothing to do with gender.
(The New York Times)

U.S. Companies Are Working to Fix Pay-Equity Issues

Sixty percent of U.S. organizations are working to resolve pay inequities based on gender, race or other demographic factors, and most organizations that are not yet taking action are considering doing so. Larger companies are more likely to be taking action than smaller businesses, according to a new survey, which found that among employers engaged in managing pay equity issues, most are focusing on pay equity analysis, remediation strategies and pay equity adjustments and identifying and resolving root causes of pay inequities.
(SHRM Online)

All S&P 500 Companies Now Have Women on Boards

There are no longer male-only boards of directors among Standard & Poor's 500 companies. Dallas-based Copart Inc. became the last of those companies to add a woman to the fold with the appointment of Diane Morefield, chief financial officer at CyrusOne Inc. There has been a push for board diversity in recent years. Last year, California became the first state to pass a law requiring publicly traded companies headquartered there to have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019. By the end of July 2021, boards with five members would need to add at least two women to their boards and boards with six or more members must add at least three women.
(SHRM Online)

As Gender Diversity on Boards Improves, There's Still a Gap at the Top

While the uptick in the number of women holding board seats between 2012 and 2019 is an improvement, it is nowhere near to reaching gender parity, especially when it comes to multicultural women.
(Diversity Best Practices)

Men play a pivotal role in creating workplaces where male and female employees can succeed, according to Catalyst. The New York City-based global nonprofit helps organizations advance women in the workplace, and it encourages employers to engage men as champions and build inclusive cultures. Many men would take more action to make their workplace inclusive if they knew what to do, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
(SHRM Online)

To Improve Gender Equality, Help Men Take Parental Leave

Employers serious about building gender equality in their organizations may offer paternity leave to new fathers in addition to maternity leave for new mothers. Further, they should help men take paternity leave as often as women take maternity leave, new research indicates. The 2018 Global Parental Leave report, released in September by HR consultancy Mercer, shows that in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, at least 23 percent of men could be taking paid paternal leave but are not. The report draws on responses from almost 1,000 employers.
(SHRM Online)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Testimonial General Concrete Chipping, LLC

4 Financial Management Mistakes Your Business Must Avoid

A dwindling cashflow is a common cause of business failure. Small and large financial gaffes cannot only strip away at your finances, but they could potentially place your company in jeopardy, as you might struggle to pay your overheads each month.

If you want to enjoy a healthy annual profit margin and long-term success in your industry, you must take control of your cashflow. Here are four financial management mistakes your business must avoid.

1. No Emergency Fund
An emergency fund could help to keep your business afloat during a difficult time in your industry or when you received an unexpected bill. To ensure your company is never faced with financial hardship, aim to save a minimum of three months’ worth of corporate expenses, which could ensure your company’s survival should an issue arise.

2. Unnecessary Business Expenses

Many business owners believe they need to make large expenses to separate their brand from their rivals. As a result, they might pay a significant sum for the latest technologies, office equipment, or staff salaries.

It is, however, a smarter approach to adopt a more frugal mindset. For example, invest in second-hand products, haggle with suppliers, and find an affordable lease for your office or building space.

Never spend a penny more than you need to, even when your company is generating a superb return on its investment. By running a lean business, you’ll have more money available to overcome a financial obstacle.

3. Avoiding Insurance

The right insurance policy could help your business to make a swift recovery following onsite damage or compensation claims. Yet, many companies make the mistake of not choosing the right coverage to suit their specific needs.

There a wide range of options to suit different companies’ needs, such as business insurance, cyber and data risk insurance, and employers’ liability insurance. It is, therefore, important to consider the potential risks your organisation might face and to find an insurance policy to match.

If you fail to invest in the right insurance policy, your business could be liable for a considerable amount of money, should a client make a claim against you. For example, if you regularly provide professional advice and services to clients, you should learn more about professional indemnity insurance as well as public liability insurance. Reputable providers such as Hiscox can instantly provide coverage of up to £10 million with both professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance so that your company aren’t caught out, with flexible policies tailored to your needs.

4. Failing to Budget

Many businesses are guilty of failing to budget each month, but it could be critical to your company’s success and survival. It ultimately helps a business owner to maintain a tight control of their finances, as they will know exactly how much money they will need to spend each month and where it is going.

Without a budget in place, you could fail to account for your tax obligations, insurance premiums, office expenses and more. If you spend too much, you may then need to apply for a business loan or run up debt on your credit card if you urgently need cash to pay for a debt repayment or corporate expense.

Monday, August 19, 2019

How Women Can Escape the Likability Trap

Powerful women know how to flip feminine stereotypes to their advantage.

Author: By Joan C. Williams
Ms. Williams, a professor of law, is a co-author of “What Works for Women at Work.”

There has been a lot of talk recently in the political arena about the likability trap for women: Women who behave in authoritative ways risk being disliked as insufferable prima donnas, pedantic schoolmarms or witchy women.

What you haven’t heard about much is the way successful women overcome this form of gender bias. I have interviewed about 200 women over the years in my research on gender and the workplace, and they all employ a similar set of strategies for escaping the likability trap. One former chief executive described hers this way: “I’m warm Ms. Mother 95 percent of the time, so that the 5 percent of the time when I need to be tough, I can be.” She embraced a stereotype that typically holds women back — the office mom — but flipped it around, using its momentum to propel herself forward. I call it gender judo.

Why do women need to do this? Even as women have moved into traditionally male domains, feminine mandates remain. More than 40 years of research by social scientists have shown that Americans define the good woman as helpful, modest and nice. In other words, as focused on her family and community, rather than working in her own self-interest. Meanwhile, the ideal man is defined as direct, assertive, competitive and ambitious.

This version of masculinity maps perfectly onto what we expect from leaders, in business and politics. Women in leadership need to display these “masculine” qualities, but when they do they risk being seen as bad women, and also as bad people. So savvy women learn that they must often do a masculine thing (which establishes their competence) in a feminine way (to defuse backlash).

In their study of female entrepreneurs, the social scientists Matthew Lee and Laura Huang found that venture capitalists were more likely to fund companies led by women if those companies were presented as having a social impact. This provides a “cover” that helps women overcome the perceived mismatch between the stereotypes of the good, community-focused woman and the hard-driving entrepreneur.

Other research finds that women make a similar finesse while negotiating. Women who negotiate as hard as men do tend to be disliked as overly demanding. So they use “softeners” in conversation. (“It wasn’t clear to me whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range.”) When Sheryl Sandberg negotiated for what no doubt was an outlandishly high compensation package at Facebook, she told Mark Zuckerberg: “Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.” She turned a salary negotiation (competitive and ambitious) into a touching testimony of team loyalty.

Isn’t this all a bit revolting? Here’s what works for men negotiating for a higher salary: I have another offer, and I need you to match it. Why should women have to do something different?

They shouldn’t.

When women embrace feminine stereotypes like the office mom, they reinforce both the descriptive stereotype that women are naturally nurturing and communal, and the prescriptive stereotype that they should be. But sometimes what women need to do to survive and thrive in the world is exactly the opposite of what they need to do to change it.

For women who want to master this strategy, the first step is to behave as assertively as comes naturally and see what happens. If you find your effectiveness jeopardized because you being yourself triggers dislike, then you need to decide whether overcoming the backlash is worth the sacrifice.If it is, try doing something masculine in a feminine way. Think of femininity as a tool kit, and choose something that feels authentic to you. But don’t choose deference. One study found that women who used a submissive conversational style, apologizing and hedging, just undercut themselves.

The most common anti-backlash strategy I found in the women I interviewed was to mix authoritativeness and warmth. “I got feedback I was intimidating, so I would make sure that I got to know people, and before a meeting I would share something personal to make myself more approachable,” one woman, who is now a chief executive, told me.

Some women use metaphors to recode behavior that is coded as masculine. A woman responsible for winning new clients at a major consulting firm, where rainmakers were called “hunters,” told me she rejected that label. “I always said: ‘No, no, no, I’m a gardener. I grow things,’” she told me. Just another dame who loves to nurture.

Another tried-and-true move is what anthropologists call gender display. “For me, it’s pink lipstick,” one woman told me. She is the lone female member of the board of a public company.

In the most sophisticated form of this strategy, powerful women create an entirely new narrative, softening their hard-driving personas by highlighting that they are also communal, selflessmothers. A brilliant recent example is M.J. Hegar’s 2018 congressional campaign video. In it, a battered door — all that’s left of the helicopter she was shot down in while on an Air Force rescue mission — is tucked behind her dining table, where she sits contentedly with her family.

This is all a lot of hard work, and it’s work that men don’t have to do. Men, to be successful, just need to master and display masculine-coded traits; women, to be successful, need to master both those and some version of feminine-coded traits that do not undercut their perceived competence or authenticity. That’s a lot trickier.

What’s the solution? Organizations have to be vigilant about challenging the biases that force women to do this in the first place. The workplace is often structured in ways that reward behavior that’s considered socially appropriate in white men but socially inappropriate in women and people of color. This provides an invisible escalator for white men.

The goal is not to empower women to be as emotionally tone deaf and grabby as men are sometimes encouraged to be. Instead, we should work to make sure that both men and women are rewarded for displaying empathy or a willingness to put the common good above self-interest. These qualities have long been undervalued in work and in political life because they have been coded as feminine, and the world needs much more of them.

Interactive maps help explain what opportunity zones mean for the Houston area


Since being added to the tax code in December 2017, opportunity zones have been a complicated development that organizations, investors and community activists are trying to solve.

Fundamentally, an opportunity zone is an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment, according to the IRS. But because this policy is a new one, there are a lot of mysteries that need to be clarified.

To unpack the complications of the new addition to the tax code, Kinder Institute for Urban Research's Houston Community Data Connections team has created an interactive storymap to break down the goals of Opportunity Zones in metro Houston. The map explains the locations of Houston-area opportunity zones, their demographics, how Opportunity Funds and Opportunity Zones work, and how the tax incentives for investment pays investors back.

"Opportunity zones are a huge topic of conversation but also a big black box right now," said Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute. "Investors everywhere are trying to figure out how to leverage the opportunity, while at the same time community activists are (1) hopeful that opportunity zones will bring new investment that will benefit their community, and (2) fearful that opportunity zone investments will not be sensitive to neighborhood needs and concerns. We hope the opportunity zone storymap will be used by community folks who want to understand the opportunity zone process and investors who want to understand more about neighborhoods."

Within Texas' 145 counties, there have been 628 designated opportunity zones and Harris County has the most in the state at 105. A total of 147 opportunity zones, which are all low-income neighborhoods, sit inside Houston's nine-county area. To qualify as an opportunity zone, areas must be nominated by the state, and that nomination has to be certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, according to the IRS.

According to the American Community Survey 2013-2017 5-year estimates, the poverty rate in opportunity zones within Harris County (30.8 percent) is much higher than the county average (16.8 percent). Harris County's opportunity zones also have a higher unemployment rate (11 percent) compared to the county average (6.4 percent). Home values, rents, homeownership rates and educational attainment are all lower in opportunity zones than Harris County at large.

"We're hoping the map gives a general sense of how the program works, and where the opportunity zones are in metro Houston," said Jie Wu, director of research management at the Kinder Institute. "The map will also give basic information about the designated neighborhoods. The map has information on demographics, socioeconomic status and housing such as population by age group, poverty rate, unemployment rate, educational attainment, median household income, median home value, median gross rent, homeownership rate, renter’s cost burden and vacancy rate."

The newly-released storymap is the first part of a project tackling the explanation of what opportunity zones mean for Houston. With an estimated release in October, Part II will talk more about the historical demographics of opportunity zones in Houston and the potential neighborhood changes due to an influx of investment in those areas, according to Wu and her team.

How CFOs Can Unlock innovation

Author: Ken Gabriel, Draper Labs

he most important thing CFOs and other leaders can do is give people the right resources and remove the obstacles that allow them to innovate.

A company’s success — or indeed its very survival — increasingly depends on its ability to drive change and innovate at pace. Yet most organizations aren’t equipped to do this. At one extreme, organizations micro-manage innovation with rigid processes and metrics. At the other extreme, companies treat innovation as an art, operating with the philosophy that creativity shouldn’t be constrained.

Either approach ultimately yields the same result: diminished or non-existent returns on R&D – an intolerable result for any finance director. But CFOs and finance directors have among the most powerful roles in breaking this cycle of no return by applying and advocating for an approach I call “disciplined innovation.”

Disciplined innovation increases the likelihood of achieving breakthroughs because it creates the right conditions for innovation to flourish. It has three key components, starting with a determination to achieve a bold new capability — think engineering the lightbulb instead of designing a better candle. Many innovations are a 2.0, and while there are a time and place for incremental innovations, new breakthrough capabilities are today’s game-changers.

Second, innovation requires fixed timeframes and budgets. Smart financial constraints and deadlines don’t impede creativity, they impel creativity by creating a sense of urgency and focus. The third element is where the CFO plays a vital role: operating with independence. This means creating measured freedom from business-as-usual rules, especially when it comes to reporting, hiring, and contracting. This is key to making breakthroughs happen.

Before I sound too sacrilegious, I’m not saying all rules need to be relaxed. Standard operating procedures like procurement have well-intentioned safeguards against risk. But when you consider all the elements that must align to bring a new invention to life — from talent to market opportunity to capital — it’s imperative for businesses to move fast and be able to strike at the right time. Waiting several months for a competitive bidding process to award a contract just isn’t an option.

CFOs have an immense lever to empower and encourage innovation by understanding which rules to relax and how to relax them. Some of the best finance directors I’ve worked with have taken some of the following key steps that paved the way for big breakthroughs. And in the process went from people who said “no,” to saying “this is what we can do.”

Streamline financial control and reporting. Innovation isn’t a linear process and new discoveries often mean that money allocated for one workstream needs to shift to another. I’ve seen so much time wasted in multiple meetings justifying this shift to multiple stakeholders. As long as the project stays within scope, additional reporting or controls on expenditures detracts from the mission at hand. Relaxing some of those reporting constraints is a relatively simple step a CFO can take that can empower an organization to be far more agile while still guarding against risk.

CFOs have an immense lever to empower and encourage innovation by understanding which rules to relax and how to relax them.

Take a new approach to talent. Convention has us think about hiring people for the long-term. But innovators often want to come in to effect change on an exciting project and move on, either to another organization or another project. So, instead of thinking about a long-term salary and benefits, finance and HR can work together to attract top technical talent with a sign-on bonus and incentivize them via a performance or exit bonus when they achieve the project’s goal. It’s also critical to be open to subcontracting to be able to move at pace. Waiting several weeks for a search to hire a specific expertise in-house can kill innovation when a subcontractor can get a job done within a week.

Take a fresh look at contracts. Acting at speed requires a greater degree of outside partnering, bounded by shorter, simpler, and mutually fair contracts that can be executed quickly. For example, at Draper, lengthier contracts needed for defense work just aren’t practical for private-sector projects. So, we created a shorter development services agreement, which has a more flexible approach to intellectual propertyownership and indemnification while still protecting against risk. This is vital because if a project has a two-year deadline, waiting nine months to lock in a contract is going to doom the project to failure.

Incubate and insulate.
Freedom from business-as-usual rules sometimes requires creating specific innovation activities within a company. One way we do this at Draper is through our internal research and development program, which is where teams compete to get funding for game-changing innovation projects. Each project lasts for a discrete timeframe and has a fixed budget. They operate with independence. The finance team and I check in with the group every six months to review progress and offer guidance.

The most important thing leaders can do is give people the right resources and remove the obstacles that allow them to innovate. As you assess business-as-usual rules within your organization, perhaps one guiding question can help: Is this a governance issue, or simply the way we’ve always done things? If it’s the latter, you’re likely looking at an area you can unlock to increase the pace of innovation for your business and further differentiate your products, services, and company.

Ken Gabriel is President and CEO of Draper Labs, an MIT spin-off engineering solutions company, famed for developing the Apollo guidance computer and continuing its tradition of cutting-edge innovations in numerous fields, including precision medicine. Before joining Draper, Gabriel co-founded the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group at Google; prior to this, he was Deputy and Acting Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the U.S. Department of Defense.

contributor, Draper Labs, innovation, R&D

Thursday, August 15, 2019


“Houston’s economy will grow 5.4 percent this year and 4.4 percent in ’20, according to the latest forecast by The Perryman Group. As a result, Houston should add $27.4 billion to its gross regional product this year and another $23.9 billion next year. Real personal income, employment, population, and retail sales also show healthy gains. Inflation remains subdued. 

Every sector of Houston’s economy will grow and add jobs, based on the forecast. The largest employment gains are expected to occur in services (35,174), construction (8,017) and manufacturing (5,310). The largest output gains will be in mining, manufacturing and services.” Source: The Perryman Group.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Cash Flow Basics: 11 Ways to Fix Cash Flow Problems

by Janet Attard

Cash flow is a problem that plagues every small office from time to time. On paper, you look like you're doing okay. Your sales are higher than last year, and your expenses haven't increased much. Things look like you should be making a profit. But your creditors are breathing down your neck and you're always playing catch up. What can you do? Here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction.

Get Invoices Out Promptly

If you invoice clients, you're not going to get paid until you send out the invoices. If you send out all your invoices on the 28th of the month, and your customers pay their bills around the 25th of the month, you'll have to wait 30 days  - or longer, perhaps - before they pay you. Speed up cash flow by sending out invoices as soon as you ship products or complete a job.

Raise Your Prices

When you started your business you may have priced your products or services on the low side as a way to attract customers, or because you didn't realize what all your costs of doing business would be. Now, you have plenty of work coming in, but it may not be profitable. You may find that you have to work 80 hours a week to get the work done, or that your costs for supplies or raw materials have increased. Or, you may have expenses you hadn't planned for, like the cost of payroll taxes for employees, a need to move out of the home and to rent office space, or a need for new equipment or more physical space to run your business.
If you are in a situation like this, or if you are still charging the same prices you did 4 or 5 years ago, raise your prices. You can't operate a small business on razor-thin margins. By raising your prices, you'll have more cash coming in, which can help tide you over slow periods or times when customers pay late.

Blame it on your accountant

Some clients, particularly those who were your first clients, may get annoyed when you announce you are raising your prices. They may believe you "owe them" for "helping you get your start," and that your price increase is a betrayal. If the customer is one you want to keep, the way to defuse the situation is to take the personal element out of it. Instead of arguing about why you decided to increase your prices, sympathize with the client and then attribute the decision to your accountant. You might say, for example, "You know, John, I really didn't want to raise my prices. But my accountant said I had no choice."
Most professional advisors will be happy to go along with you, as long as you tell them ahead of time and as long as it sounds like something they'd really recommend.

Work on retainer

One of the problems with self-employment is that income may vary drastically from month to month. When you wear all the business hats, the need to do the work often interferes with ongoing marketing. If you don't market steadily, there will be times when no business comes in, and as a result, times when no money comes in. Under this feast or famine scenario, you may get $20,000 in payments one week, and then not get another cent for two or three months.
One way to even out the irregularities in cash flow is to seek clients who will put you on retainer, paying you a guaranteed amount of money each month. Retainers are usually set up so that you guarantee you will set aside a specific number of hours to do work for a client each month. The client pays that amount whether they use up all the time or not. If they go over the time, they pay an additional, hourly fee. If they don't use up all the time, they lose it. The unused time does not accumulate from month to month.
Lawyers and accountants use arrangements similar to this. Public relations, computer consulting and other businesses in which clients may need repeat attention are good candidates as well.

Teach employees to upsell and cross-sell

Increase your profits by increasing your average order size. To do so, train your staff to suggest related products or more expensive options for the product or service the customer requests. If you sell online, see if you can enable upsell and cross-sell features in your shopping cart.

Watch check clearance times

Money in the bank isn't money to spend -- at least not immediately. Although the Check21 laws make it possible for banks to process checks faster (and therefore debit your account faster), the law does not require banks to release funds any faster than in the past. Thus, your bank may take two business days or more to clear local checks. If your customers are out-of-state, your bank may hold deposits for up to 10 business days. If there are sizable amounts of money involved, those 10 business days can seem like an eternity.

Accept credit cards to speed up cash flow

You don't have to be a retail store to accept credit cards from your customers. Businesses and government agencies, as well as consumers, use credit cards to make a wide variety of purchases. Instead of waiting 30 days, 60 days, or more to collect payment from your customers, you can get paid in 2 or 3 days by asking them to pay you with a credit card instead of having you bill them. You'll have to pay a percentage of each sale to the credit card company, and possibly a monthly fee, but those expenses may be negligible when you consider the time and money you'll save by not having to send out monthly statements. This is a win-win arrangement. The customer can still string out payments, but you're not on the end of the string. An added bonus: speeding up cash flow can help you speed up payments to your creditors, which may lower or eliminate interest payments you make on your payables.

Accept electronic payments

Don't limit the forms of payment you accept to the traditional ones. There are numerous forms of electronic payment systems that businesses and individuals use today and you should accept. These include ACH payments (for business accounts), PayPal, and mobile payments. 

Shift your receivables to a finance company

If your customers don't like to pay bills for your type of product or service with a credit card, or if the amount is too large for them to feel comfortable charging, look for finance companies that will offer loans to your customers. Again you get paid now, the customer or patient gets to string out payments, and you don't have to go to the trouble of sending out monthly statements.

Get some or all of your money up front

Don't spend weeks or months working without pay. When you negotiate deals, plan to get at least a third of the money up front if you are working on a long time project. If possible, spread the remaining payments so you cover all your ongoing expenses for the project.
If you don't know your customer and it would be difficult to collect if they didn't pay or if they never came to pick up work they ordered, insist on payment in advance. That way you don't have a collection problem.

Check credit ratings before the sale

One of the best ways to avoid collection problems after a sale is to make sure the customer is creditworthy before the sale. Take the time (and spend the money) to do credit checks on new customers. If the credit check makes the customer look risky, ask to be paid upfront in cash.
Listen to the buzz in your industry, too. If you are unsure of the credit-worthiness of a business, try to find others who have sold to the businesses. Ask if they have had any trouble collecting, and if they have, don't make the sale.

Catch credit problems early

Keep an eye on aging accounts from existing customers. Don't wait until they are 6 months behind in payment to try to collect. Send out late notices if you haven't received payment by the next billing cycle. If a company who has normally paid on time, still doesn't pay, call to find out if there is any problem with their order or with the service you are providing. If they say no, ask when you can expect payment.

About the author:Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Monday, August 5, 2019

8 Ways Marketers Can Show Their Work’s Financial Results

Paul Magill
Christine Moorman
Nikita Avdiushko
JULY 31, 2019

When we asked over 300 marketing leaders in the U.S. to identify the activities they find most challenging, the number one thing they reported, by a wide margin, was “demonstrating the impact of marketing actions on financial outcomes.”

This is a longstanding challenge for marketers. They want to demonstrate financial impact so that they can show accountability for business results, gain the respect of other business leaders, and secure future investment — but the measurements of marketing are often less precise than the measurements of other business activities.

How can marketers overcome this challenge? We have consulted on both sides of this issue: with CMOs seeking to demonstrate their financial impact and with CFOs, COOs, and CEOs seeking to make effective decisions about marketing investments. Based on that dual perspective, we think these eight steps can help.

1. Start with business value. The task of demonstrating how marketing affects the bottom line often prompts visions of precise measurement, elaborate metrics dashboards, and irrefutable attribution of financial outcomes. But focusing only on what is most measurable underrepresents marketing’s full impact. We think CMOs should take a more comprehensive view of the business value they create.

CMOs often play multiple roles in creating business value within their function — as growth enablers, innovation catalysts, champions of customer centricity, builders of new capabilities, and stewards of the corporate brand that serves as a magnet for talent. They also create business value beyond their function by collaborating with others in the C-suite to advance the enterprise’s strategy and the CEO’s agenda. Marketing leaders should frame their impact broadly, to include all the ways marketing benefits the organization. Judging its impact through metrics can then follow.

2. Understand what business value means to each function. Marketing leaders should translate the definitions of their value creation for the different functions they interact with. Sales might define business value as revenue growth; finance might think of it as volume, price, margin, and cost management; supply chain might call it the predictability of demand. Marketing leaders should tailor their demonstration of impact to the most relevant metrics for each function, and include other evidence that resonates, such as customer testimonials for sales, positive trends and variances for finance, and better forecasting and reduced stockouts for supply chain. Of course, in some companies there may be measures of business value that are shared across all functions (such as NPS/customer satisfaction), and marketing leaders can show impact on those, too.

3. Know your own metrics. There’s more to demonstrating the impact of marketing activities on financial outcomes than metrics. However, at some point, you need metrics. Most marketing leaders have a set of KPIs they use to demonstrate impact on financial outcomes, and it’s critical to be thoroughly knowledgeable about them. That means having not just a spreadsheet to review at the senior management team meeting but also a deep understanding of how the metrics are constructed. For MROI, for example, what costs have been included as the investment — program costs, or staff costs as well? What has been counted in the return on that investment — profit increase, or just revenue lift? What baseline of financial outcomes (absent marketing activities) is being used? What time frame is being used to assess the impact? Why do those choices make sense?

4. Explain the inherent uncertainties of marketing measurements. Deep knowledge of the metrics can build your credibility when you’re discussing them with other executives, but it helps to explain marketing’s inherent uncertainties. Marketing’s environment is typically much “noisier” than the factory floor in terms of unknown, unpredictable, and uncontrollable factors confounding precise measurement. Marketing activities can also be subject to systems effects where the portfolio of marketing tactics work together to create an outcome — say, a digital campaign that works only because of a complementary TV presence.

Marketing actions may also work over multiple time frames. For example, while demand generation takes place in the current quarter, brand-building actions could take years to cumulate. Finally, it is often difficult to attribute financial outcomes solely to marketing, because businesses frequently take actions across functions that can drive results. For example, perhaps a change in the sales force enabled the success of a marketing intervention last quarter. These uncertainties should be explained to the top management team as being inherent to the task of marketing, not the result of a sloppy measurement system.

5. Emphasize validity over precision. To executives used to managing their businesses through the scrutiny of numbers, marketing’s uncertainties can be frustrating. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” If marketing is hard to measure precisely, how can we manage it? The answer: Marketing does have valid metrics through which its activities can be assessed and managed. A/B testing and test markets can confirm or refute hypotheses to reasonable levels of confidence. Brand-building tactics can be assessed through surveys and focus groups. Many modern marketing tactics (especially digital) are very trackable.

CMOs should emphasize that their metrics are valid when evaluating whether marketing activities are working as expected, and that the inherent imprecision in measuring marketing’s financial outcomes does not undermine their validity. Marketing leaders also need to protect against overindexing the marketing mix toward the most trackable tactics merely because they offer more precision.

6. Have a budget story. One factor that sometimes undermines executives’ faith in marketing’s impact is the sense that the marketing budget is not administered rigorously. Other functions often think that marketers drive unnecessary costs. It therefore helps to demystify the marketing budget and demonstrate rigor in managing it. Provide visibility on total spend, show how spend is aligned with business strategies and key priorities, and demonstrate how working spend has been optimized and non-working spend streamlined. These elements can be woven into a budget story that explains the logic behind the spending and establishes the credibility of marketing as a responsible steward of the organization’s resources.

7. Have a marketing transformation story. Further credibility can come from demonstrating ongoing improvements in marketing effectiveness and efficiency. There are major cost levers that can be operated in areas such as consolidating the brand architecture to focus more spend on fewer brands; rationalizing the agency roster and proliferation of websites; and creating shared services across the enterprise with automation and technology-enabled processes. Executives in other functions want to be assured that marketing is minimizing waste and staying at the frontier of effectiveness, efficiency, and agility.

8. Meet one-on-one. Marketing leaders usually attend monthly meetings of the senior management team or equivalent forums. Our observations suggest these are often poor environments for demonstrating the impact of marketing on the bottom line. The tone is typically set by the CFO and/or division presidents who are reviewing numbers. Precision is expected. Discrepancies or disappointments in the numbers are fiercely questioned. Credit and blame are sought and dodged, even if in unspoken terms. It can be difficult for a marketing leader to follow the advice above without risking the perception of making excuses. There is too little time given to marketing on the monthly agenda to give a comprehensive and nuanced view of marketing’s financial impact.

That work should happen one-on-one, with the CMO investing considerable time in educating their functional counterparts about these points above. Over time, the one-on-one efforts can make senior management meetings a more hospitable forum for marketing.

CMOs who master the steps above will be positioned to thrive in their role. And if they teach these steps to their teams, the stage will be set for a much deeper understanding of marketing to take hold across the enterprise. Over time, marketing can come to be seen as a strategic investment, one that is rigorously managed, adapts to market uncertainties, and demonstrably moves the needle on financial outcomes.

Paul Magill is a Managing Director with Deloitte Consulting LLP and former CMO for Abbott.

Christine Moorman is the T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Marketing and Director of The CMO Survey.

Nikita Avdiushko is a recent MBA graduate from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business with concentrations in Marketing and Strategy.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The New Wellness Trend For Women Is Wealth

August 14, 2018

It’s hard enough for women to move from the cubicle to the corner office but now the research shows it’s affecting their wellness - financially.

Financial wellness gauges your ability to manage your current finances while preparing for the future. Building wealth and being financially well is an assessment for how confident and comfortable you are in addressing short-term and long-term financial goals while feeling secure along the way.

A new Workplace Benefits report released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that women are plummeting on the financial wellness scale with more fear and stress than their male counterparts.

The bottom line is that employers play a huge role in turning this around. As the provider of benefits, companies serve as the gateway to educating women. They can also provide the platform for engaging them so they can make the right financial decisions surrounding those benefits.

Women are much more fearful than men about being able to pay for their children’s education, their ability to work longer and the pressure to support family members. Women are 14% more likely than men to feel stressed about their financial situation and 13% less likely to be optimistic about their future financial situation.

44% of employees under 40 report they are not doing well financially, so this is also a hot button for Millennial engagement and retention.

Being stressed about money impacts day-to-day engagement at work and spills over into negative health effects. The two most critical areas where women fall behind are in savings and investing.

On average, by age 43, women have saved $119,000 in investable assets compared to an average $196,000 saved by men. Investable assets include the total value of all cash, savings, mutual funds, CDs, IRAs, stocks, bonds, employer-sponsored retirement plans such as a 401(k) or 403(b) and all other types of investments excluding your primary home and other real estate investments. This lagging trend continues with the amount women contribute to their 401(k).

The wage gap is a huge factor underlying this great divide: Women are paid less than men therefore the percentage toward retirement savings is a lesser dollar amount. But, women are also not actively investing. Forty-one percent of women across all races and ethnicities report that their biggest financial regret is not making the effort to invest more. Income alone cannot grow your wealth in the way that investments can.

But there is a distinct difference in where women are capable regarding finances and where they are less confident. Women are equally as confident as men in most financial tasks, such as paying bills (90%) and budgeting (84%). That’s not the issue. Where doubt creeps in for women is managing investments.

Talking about money with friends and coworkers has been a longtime social taboo. Sixty-one percent of women would rather talk about their own death than money. Yet the most powerful tool for influencing one another is through authentic storytelling. Women sharing their successes, their learnings and their mistakes will undoubtedly move this topic from taboo to urgent.

Financial tools need a makeover to be more appealing, and we need more female advisors who can speak our language in terms of how they frame our specific goals and vision for attaining them.

“We need to be talking about savings and investment goals throughout the year to build trust and partnership toward goals. So when you get to enrollment time, it's just one financial decision, but it's not the only time we’ve connected about saving and investing.” Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is also the co-chair for the firm’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Council.

“The financial services industry has done a poor job in general of making sure that we look like the populations that we serve. We can no longer just admire the problem, we need to go ahead and fix it. We need to ensure that those providing advice, whether it's over the phone, whether it's on a webinar, or whether it's in fact in person, are diverse and accessible to women, minorities and early-career professionals. “

Women have different needs and should have the education to be empowered to become active investors. The onus is on employers to segment the offerings and use different channels and diverse people to connect and promote their offerings within their company.

What can employers do to help their teams feel financially well?

Make Financial Advice More Goal-Oriented: Women want to map out their specific goals, which range from figuring out how to crack the code of paying college loans to building an investment portfolio from scratch.

Provide Space for Uncomfortable Conversations: Raise conversations in a way that fit the company's culture. These conversations need to be a combination of both technology, in-person meetings, small groups meetings, and one-on-one consultations where women can share and even compare. Sabbia concluded that “The action happens in a one-on-one consultation. The magic happens in the small group dialogue.”

Offer Money Mentors and Advocate Career Sponsors:Truthfully, women need more sponsors to advance their career, but they also need influential mentors to coach them in money matters as well. Forty-five percent of women say they do not have a financial role model. Sharing stories about first-time investment experiences and being open about building savings to achieve personal goals will strengthen our knowledge and awareness.