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Attracting & Retaining Talent in the Construction Industry

May 16, 2018 by

According to a 2018 survey by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate, 78 percent of construction firms report they struggle to hire qualified talent, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Without qualified talent, companies are forced to either turn down projects or hire unqualified employees, increasing the potential for poor productivity, safety issues, turnover, and a damaged company reputation. Aside from increasing base pay, providing bonuses, and improving employee benefits, what else can firms do to attract and retain talent?

Training and Development

Growth opportunities are one of the key drivers of employee engagement. Consider providing employees with job shadowing, technical training, leadership development, mentoring, and coaching. Provide employees with clear career paths and milestones. 

In addition, consider leadership-development opportunities. Workers with strong technical skills are often promoted into leadership positions. However, leadership positions often require different skillsets, and those with good technical skills don’t always receive the necessary leadership training. Determine what competencies are necessary for leadership in your organization, evaluate workers based on these competencies, provide training, and regularly provide feedback on strengths and development opportunities. Providing leadership-development opportunities will increase retention and ensure a pool of potential leaders to pull from in the future.

Purpose

Employees need to understand the company’s vision and how their role fits into it. Provide employees with opportunities to contribute by asking for their feedback and ideas. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the weeds and lose sight of the big picture of what’s being built and why, and innovative solutions can come from many different people. Provide recognition for their contributions and achievements, and remind employees about the achievements they are contributing to every day. Consider introducing workers to those who have benefited from their projects—students, hospital patients, employees, etc. Helping your workers understand the big picture will instill in them a sense of purpose and pride.  

Reputation

Consider your company’s reputation among customers, current employees, and the community in general. People want to work for companies that have a great mission and a reputation for treating their employees well. Survey your staff and identify how the company, and its culture, is perceived. What is your company’s level of employee engagement? Identify strategies to bolster the culture, increase engagement levels, and thus enhance your company’s reputation. 

Improvement of pay and benefits are considerations for attracting and retaining qualified workers in the construction industry, but continuous learning and growth opportunities show that management is invested in professional development and long-term careers. By showing employees how their work contributes to a larger purpose and considering the company’s reputation, a company is well-poised to attract and retain talent.


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Lauren Weivoda, M.A., is a​ ​human​ ​capital​ ​strategist​​ at Solve Consulting LLC.

Height-Adjustable Desks Are Easy To Love

The “act of sitting” is bad. It’s not just about how poor posture can lead to chronic pain; it can reduce life expectancy.

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting in front of the computer, in the car, or on the couch. That equals about 55 percent of one’s waking time. 

More shocking were the findings of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study suggested that the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.

That last part surprised me. The study suggests that even those who go to the gym after a long day of sitting in front of the computer are going to suffer the ill effects of sitting.

Height-adjustable desks are a great way to help augment a healthier lifestyle. Because of that, these desks have been gaining popularity in households and professional workplaces. Here are some reasons to love height-adjustable desks.

Better Posture

A height-adjustable desk naturally improves posture and strengthens the spine when upright. It’s a lot harder to slouch and hunch over the computer when standing up. This means fewer backaches and pains.

Increased Energy

With better posture comes better breathing. Sitting at the computer for a long period of time can be exhausting and even painful. Think about a typical day at work: after 30 to 45 minutes of staying in the same seated position, muscles can cramp, and blood flow slows, leaving a person feeling restless and uncomfortable. Standing helps increase blood flow and even helps tone muscles. This lets employees remain alert and increases their energy while working. They become more focused, and in turn, more productive.

Longer Life

This may sound dramatic, but it is no joke: a height-adjustable desk could literally add years to a person’s life. Studies by the NIH and Centers for Disease Control, among others, have described prolonged sitting as “the new smoking.” Sedentary habits can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. These studies show that reducing the amount of time spent seated can help reduce the risk of these diseases.

More Calories Burned

A height-adjustable desk can help avoid the health pitfalls of sitting all day and burn calories at the same time, as standing burns more calories than sitting. Studies show that about 50 calories are burned per hour when simply standing, but standing encourages people to move even more, often burning significantly more calories.

Those who are not quite ready to stand up and work should note that it is still important to get up and move…your life may depend on it!


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

Ethical Governing Boards

In business, we design our spaces, websites, products, and services. But design also applies to the human element of business. 

When a company scandal hits, we can often trace difficulties and challenges back to its board. That’s why it is important to spend some time designing and maintaining the ethical cultures of governing boards. Here I am referring to the formal structures and informal practices that shape the board’s experience and effectiveness.

The formal aspect of a board culture has to do with the written policies and processes. The No. 1 ethical issue facing boards is conflict of interest. That is why board members are asked to sign conflict of interest statements. Other typical policies include member rights and responsibilities, and a code of ethics. The best governing boards have developed orientation packets for new board members that include these policies and ask them and existing members to read and sign them each year they serve.

The informal aspect of board culture is more elusive. This has to do with the way things are actually done rather than the way the policies state they should be done. Informal culture is driven by individuals rather than the written word. It is messy and human, filled with honorable intentions as well as blindspots. 

One of the best articles about designing the ethical culture of boards is a Harvard Business Review article written by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld titled “What Makes Great Boards Great.” He identifies key ethical aspects for governing board success. Three important ones are:

  1. Create a climate of trust and candor: A climate of trust is built on respect. Board members who respect each other can challenge each other in civil debates, which result in better decisions for the company. CEOs and executive directors can create a climate of trust and candor by distributing materials in a timely fashion, sharing difficult information, and openly asking for feedback.
  2. Foster open dissent: It is the duty of each board member to be willing to question each other’s assumptions and beliefs. The best boards create environments that nurture these exchanges, and, in doing so, help members overcome the conformity bias and groupthink that are deadly to an organization. It is important to note that open dissent is different from disloyalty—the first is healthy and the second is toxic.
  3. Ensure individual accountability: Governing board members are expected to take their roles seriously and follow through responsibly. This can be hard to do, especially when leaders accept offers from too many good causes and end up with too little time. We have to be honest with ourselves about the number of things we are capable of doing well. Board members need to hold each other accountable, which is the best insurance against irresponsibility.

Designing ethical governing board cultures is a challenge worthy of brave hearts and noble leaders. When done well it can make boards great.


Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Motivation from Within

I’d like to introduce the concept of the elephant and the rider. The elephant represents the emotional self, which is powerful, massive, momentum-generating, and typically gets to where it wants to go.  The rider represents the spiritual self, which is purposeful, self-aware, and desires great things in life. Most people go through life allowing the elephant to go wherever it wants.  In other words, people behave based on how they feel in the moment. The problem here is that the elephant does not want growth, which is difficult, challenging, risky, and painful. Rather the elephant fears failure, wants instant gratification, and desires “comfort-zone” living. Without guidance from an engaged rider, the elephant won’t lead a life of success. The elephant will choose to go down a path that leads to incredible success but is filled with hunters, pits, traps, nets, and spears, instead of a path that leads to conformity and status quo but is filled with safety, laziness, easy and comfort. 

As a salesperson, do not let the elephant go where it wants to go. Steer it down the path that leads to success.  Wake up the rider so that its power will drive the elephant towards success.  

It’s a multi-step process. The first thing needed is a vision/mission statement that clarifies a purpose for living. This will ignite a passion that will trump the feeling of fear and resignation that typically keeps people from pursing success. Second, take sales one step at a time.  When the elephant looks to the summit of the mountain from the mountain’s base, it will become overwhelmed. Give the elephant manageable milestones that are achievable and well-mapped out, and the elephant starts to move up the mountain. Third, define key performance metrics that prove progress is being made, because if the elephant is to sustain the effort up the mountain, it needs to know that movement towards the summit is happening. The emotion that keeps the elephant climbing is called fulfillment. Last, condition this enormous beast with a predefined reward system that provides treats every time a milepost is reached. This causes the elephant to become your biggest ally in the pursuit of success.

Knowing true purpose is crucial to awakening the rider so that it will steer the elephant. In an effort to define this, here are six questions to ponder:

  1. What were you born to do?
  2. How do you want to be remembered?
  3. What makes you wake up and go to work?
  4. How can you become more self-aware?
  5. What gets you excited and passionate?
  6. What impact are you having on others?

The answers to these questions can help the rider steer the elephant in the right direction.


Karl Schaphorst is a 27-year veteran of sales who now specializes in training other sales professionals. He is the president of Sandler Training.

This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Beating Marketing FOMO

May 15, 2018 by

I may not be Nostradamus, Jeane Dixon, or even Miss Cleo (and thank goodness, considering they’ve all ceased to be), but I’m fairly confident when I predict that your marketing efforts are seriously behind both the times and the eight ball, and that your company is but one Twitter fail away from extinction. 

How do I know this? Simple: You have no chatbot. Seriously, my good marketing manager, what are you thinking? You need a chatbot. And, come to think of it, an Alexa strategy. And a Google Home strategy. Also, influencers. Gotta have ’em. Never mind that your firm’s main line of business is industrial fasteners. At least you have a chief advocacy officer. What? No? Why do I even bother?

If the above feels a touch extreme, chances are you’re reading this on a Monday morning and have yet to slip back into the cacophonous deluge of marketing tips, tricks, and death notices (TV’s been dead for 16 years, don’t’chaknow) that fill your feeds to the brim. If you pay attention to even a fraction of it, you’re likely second-guessing every marketing decision you make.

And how could you not? This is a fast-paced world full of exponential change that you can’t possibly understand if you’re not taking the deep dive into big data. Right?

Of course not. 

The marketing fear of missing out (FOMO) is real. It also understandable, and beatable. All the things I mentioned above are tools that numerous brands have used successfully (according their own reporting, which may be suspect). But the key word in that sentence is “tools.” Nearly everything you see being touted as the latest, greatest, holy grailiest of advertising excellence is merely another tactic.

And that’s where your years of experience should kick in, helping you to determine which of the new (and existing) tools fit your brand’s needs best. Should you learn about them? Certainly, even though it sometimes seems impossible to keep up. Should you try some out? Absolutely; setting aside a bit of your budget—marketing or otherwise—for experimentation is always a good idea. But do you have to scrap everything and rush pell-mell into the next big thing in order to stay alive? No, a thousand retweets no.

The tidal wave of new-and-questionably-improved ad tools will probably never ebb. But remember this: Anyone insisting that you embrace their prescribed tool is selling a book about it, runs an agency that specializes in it, doesn’t know how to use other marketing tactics well, or all of the above. 

So stay interesting. Create boldly. Speak strategically. Act honestly. Sure, you may miss out on synergizing the newest adtech, but you won’t miss out on the most important thing—having a brand people actually like.


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer who can make all your dreams come true at jasonfox.net.

Omaha is 120 Years Old (In Tourism Years)

The year of 1898 was a huge tourism year for Omaha. It was the year that an event lasted five months and attracted 2.6 million people from around the world—the Trans-Mississippi and International Expo, also known as the Omaha World’s Fair.         

It was no accident that Omaha played host to this event; it was all by design. The tourist attraction was the innovative vision of a small committee of local businessmen who understood that tourism meant big business and could provide a boost to the local economy. The fair had an economic impact of almost $2 million dollars, an equivalent of more than $54 million by today’s standards.  And it all started with a small group of business leaders with an idea.

Omaha has a long history of small committees doing big things. In 1950, four men who loved baseball had the vision to bring the NCAA Men’s College World Series to Omaha—Ed Pettis of Brandeis Department Stores, Morris Jacobs and Byron W. Reed of Bozell & Jacobs, and then-Mayor of Omaha Johnny Rosenblatt. The first games played in Omaha had a total attendance of 17,805. Over the years, College World Series of Omaha Inc., a local nonprofit organizing committee, was formed to sell tickets, plan special events, and rally community support for the series. Today the average attendance is more than 20,000 people per game.

It was the belief of a local woman, Lisa Yanney Roskens, and her love of horses that played a big part in Omaha hosting the 2017 FEI World Cup Horse Jumping and Dressage Finals. While there were many people involved, she played a key role in presenting the proposal to the international committee members in Lausanne, Switzerland, and convincing them that Omaha was the right place to host the event. More than 50,000 people from around the world attended the competition, putting the city on an international stage. 

Junkstock is another Omaha event that started with an idea from Sarah Alexander, a stay-at-home mom with a passion for vintage pieces. She envisioned a place where junk enthusiasts could find some of the best antiques and repurposed art in the region. Junkstock started in 2012 with 29 vendors. This fall more than 200 vendors and 23 food trucks will be on site to welcome more than 10,000 guests through the gates. To accommodate the demand, Alexander purchased Sycamore Farms, a 135-acre century-old horse farm which now hosts three premier junk festivals every year. 

Some of the names you may recognize, while others may not be as well-known. Each person named helped with events that brought thousands of out-of-town visitors to our city and millions of dollars to our local economy. And they all started with an idea, a few creative minds, and faith in Omaha as a destination.


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Remember The Maine!

April 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Remember the Maine?

Press baron and Citizen Kane archetype William Randolph Hearst told us to do just that in 1898, but most have forgotten these days because we have so many other things to remember, like our Amazon Prime password and debit card pin number, let alone where we parked the car in the shopping mall parking lot.

In our defense, we do still remember Pearl Harbor and some of us even “remember the kind of September,” though revivals of The Fantasticks do seem to be thankfully decreasing in frequency.

Anyway, here’s a refresher. The USS Maine, an obsolete, poorly designed battleship, plagued by cost overruns during its construction—there is nothing new about military budget waste—sailed into Havana harbor to “show the flag.” That is, America wanted to show a little newfound muscle towards Spain, the last colonial power besides us left in the Western Hemisphere.

Well, our “muscle” sat there in the harbor for a couple of weeks until, tragically, it blew up along with 200 of its sailors. Immediately the American newspapers put forth the story that the Spaniards had treacherously used a mine to destroy the ship. Hence the headlines: “Remember the Maine!”

A nifty little war ensued. In short order, Commodore George Dewey sailed into Manila and sank the Spanish Pacific fleet, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, in support of the African-American 10th Cavalry, charged up San Juan Hill in Cuba. (Teddy got all the press, of course.) Cuba was independent pending the later outcome of Michael Corleone’s casino scheme with Hyman Roth, and the Philippines, freed of its old Spanish overlords, were then happy to be governed by new American overlords. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Sorry, I can never resist tossing in a quote from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. It’s my thing. Stick with me, I know where I’m going.

So—“Remember the Maine”—remember? Well, the thing is, it wasn’t blown up by a mine at all. Most experts now agree that the cause of the fateful explosion was a fire in a coal bunker. Yes, our old friend coal. It was big in 1898. Sure glad we’ve moved on from the stuff here in the “modern” world. The slowly growing fire in one of the battleship’s coal bunkers eventually ignited the ship’s powder stores. Boom! War! History!

And where do you keep the powder, and ammunition for a big ship’s guns? According to Merriam-Webster, you keep that stuff in a “magazine.” In this case, a magazine that changed the course of a nation.

Which brings me to my point—I know, finally, right?—a magazine.

Happy milestone to Omaha Magazine. This issue marks the completion of 35 volumes in print. Has this magazine changed the world? Maybe it has, a little here, a little there. Change does occur when facts and inspiration can join forces. Thirty-five volumes highlighting the people, places, issues, and interests of our community; giving writers, journalists, artists, and leaders a forum where they can share and inform; giving our city and region a chance to look clearly at our triumphs and tribulations.

So, here’s to more explosions of art and ideas. Here’s to Omaha Magazine.

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Take a Vacation and Create Jobs

March 23, 2018 by

When is the last time you took a vacation? I mean a real vacation, not just time off work to paint the kitchen or clean out the garage. Has it been a while since you’ve discovered a new place or experienced a new adventure you couldn’t wait to share with family and friends? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.

In Nebraska, 66 percent  of the workforce has unused vacation time. They’ve left 4.9 million vacation days on the table. Nationally, if everyone took all the vacation they’ve earned, it would generate $236 billion for our economy—enough to support 1.8 million jobs.

Think about it: if hotels had more guests, then they would need more staff. If restaurants had more diners, they would need to order more food from suppliers and hire more people. If retailers had more shoppers, they would need more merchandise to keep shelves stocked and more staff to provide great customer service. Inviting more people to visit Omaha would have the same effect in our community. You get the picture—tourism means business.

According to research from U.S. Travel, taking time off makes you a more positive and productive employee. In fact, the research shows employees who use their vacation time are more likely to get promoted and receive raises when compared to those who choose to forfeit their vacation time. Plus, and here’s the real bonus, people who take time off feel happier and enjoy improved physical health.

If you’re still not sure about taking time off, think about it this way: by taking a vacation, you’re helping create millions of jobs and providing a big boost to our nation’s economy. Now add that to your resume.

*Research provided by U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off, The State of the American Vacation.

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

The Science of Selling

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In 1960, President John F. Kennedy announced to the world that the U.S. would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In October 1969, Apollo 11 delivered Neil Armstrong into space and he set foot on the moon. How did NASA, never having completed this task before, have success without disaster? By understanding the science and testing everything on Earth according to the rules of science, NASA was able to predict how things would work on the way to the moon and the result was Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong.  We can leverage that same science when it comes to selling, and, if understood, can use it to predict the outcomes of sales calls.

Most prospects have a negative perception about salespeople. “They are pushy, arrogant, self-seeking, annoying…” are just some of the adjectives given. I know, because I have asked many times. However, the science behind human behavior and communication has been understood by psychologists for decades. The method of Transactional Analysis, Dr. Eric Burne explains, states that to generate trust and bonding with other people one must behave with humility and vulnerability, which is the opposite of how the typical salesperson behaves in a sales call.

The DISC behavior assessment, developed by psychologist William Marston, defines four distinct behavior styles of people.To win favor of a prospect, behave like they do, not like you do.

Neuro-linguistic programing, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder is the science of communication.

To win favor of prospects, mirror and match the way they communicate.

Sir Isaac Netwon gave us the laws of motion: An object in motion tends to stay in motion; every action has an equal and opposite reaction. These laws spill over into human behavior. The best chance of getting a prospect to say “yes” is to take this prospect to “no.” The action of taking a prospect to “no” will often be met by the prospect with an equal and opposite reaction of moving toward “yes.”

I can’t give any one scientist the credit for emotional motivation, but that doesn’t diminish the power behind this scientific truth: People buy for their own reasons and these reasons are driven emotionally. Most sales conversations revolve around intellectual information such as features, benefits, price, and terms and conditions, and the conversation never leaves the realm of the intellect. Take the conversation to the emotional level and then prospects start buying from you even if your price is high.

I am a scientist by education (bachelor’s degree in engineering) and I love the science of selling. However, for many years I did not know it nor did I pursue it, so I had to work much harder to win sales. Sales professionals should make it part of their personal development to learn and then own the scientific rules as they apply to the world of selling.

Karl Schaphorst is a 27-year veteran of sales who now specializes in training other sales professionals. He is the president of Sandler Training.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

What I Know For Sure

February 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We all “know” things.

I mean, we just believe this or are convinced of that, or we think another thing is probably true. But beyond all that, there are those things we simply “know.” They are the certainties programmed into our DNA—buried in our psyches.

We all know that the world is flat. As proof, we are all aware of people who have gone west and never come back.

We all know that lemmings go into a frenzy when the mating season tips things out of balance. We all know that the little rejected male voles, drowning in hormones, rush off in a column for the nearest cliff and follow on off the edge to their fluffy deaths on the rocks below. Millions have witnessed this phenomenon in a Max Fleischer cartoon from 1936.

We all know that the only man-made object that can be seen from space is the Great Wall of China. We heard it from a friend, who knows a guy, whose slightly tipsy aunt was told this by Buzz Aldrin at a Cold War-era cocktail party in Naples, Florida.

It is established in our heads that penguins mate for life. Never mind that none of us have ever seen a penguin engage in extra-marital egg cradling.

Napoleon Bonaparte was short. He was very short. The “little corporal” was a tiny man. We all know that this lack of stature caused the Corsican to overcompensate and prove himself the match for any “tall” man by conquering Europe. We’ve all known a short person who shares this “Napoleon Complex,” and we never invite them to our dinner parties because we don’t have booster seats handy. Randy Newman put it all into a song.

We all are certain that our mothers were right to warn us that we should not go in the water for an hour after eating. If we jump into the overcrowded municipal pool 55 minutes after the bologna with Miracle Whip sandwich, we will immediately cramp up and sink to the bottom of the over-chlorinated water and go unnoticed by the cute lifeguard who is flirting with the bad boy outside the chain link fence. We all trust our mothers.

It is simply true, and we absolutely know it to be true, that Vikings had horns on their helmets. We all saw the drawings in our history books picturing Eric the Red doing something, or Leif Erikson doing something else, and they always had horns.

It is an established historical fact (and oft-repeated) that though Mussolini was a fascist thug, he did make the trains run on time. I think that’s supposed to excuse all of his other sins.

Those are just some of the things we “know.” Of course, they are all wrong. All of them. Every single one.

The world is round. People actually return from California, even if they are not pleased with having to come back after not making it in Hollywood.

Lemmings do not blindly follow other lemmings over the edge of cliffs. I mean, it would be cool if they did, but they just don’t.

It’s actually very hard to see the Great Wall from space, but you can see I-80, or the huge San Bernardino Walmart parking lot (larger than 45 percent of incorporated towns in America) easily from the International Space Station porthole.

Penguins do not mate for life. It’s just that they all look alike and private detectives have problems tailing them when trying to catch them in flagrante delicto. “Is that Paul on the left in the tuxedo?”…“Beats the hell out of me.”

Napoleon was not short. He was 5’7”, which is one full inch taller than the average male in the era. Historians know this because they measured a lot of old clothes. Sorry, short people, you do indeed have no reason to live.

You could eat a Thanksgiving feast with all the tryptophan-laced trimmings and start your channel swim straight out of your chair. The biggest danger you would face is falling asleep, and missing the Chargers vs. Cowboys game.

Vikings did not have horns on their helmets. I don’t know why they didn’t because it would have been cool, but the whole horned helmet thing is Richard Wagner’s fault.

Finally, it turns out that Mussolini wasn’t good at anything, except making people think he got the trains to run on time. He didn’t. Plus, he was a monster.

Yep, it turns out we know less than we think. Maybe that’s a good thing. It’s hard to learn when you know too much.

All I know, I know, I know, I know…is, there ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone.

Otis XII hosts the radio program, Early Morning Classics with Otis XII, on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This column was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.