Tag Archives: jobs

Red Tape, Red Flags

May 1, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“People need to understand [H-1B] is particularly vital for small states like ours where we’ve got low unemployment and a high need for STEM jobs,” says Amy Peck, an immigration attorney with Jackson Lewis, P.C.

One recent search on the popular monster.com job searching database revealed more than 30 software development jobs in Omaha posted within one month—jobs for a field where the overall unemployment rate is 1.6 percent.

That’s why many in IT or other STEM-related fields paid attention when, in July 2017, President Donald Trump signed the “Buy American-Hire American” executive order, which subjects already hard-to-obtain work visas to even greater scrutiny.

This was a blow to those employers recruiting skilled labor on H-1B visas. The visa allows for 65,000 employees to be hired from abroad and 20,000 to be hired from students enrolled in U.S. colleges (under the H-1B advanced degree exemption). More than 200,000 applications are expected for H-1B visas in 2018.The application process opens on April 3, and, if the trend continues as it has in the past several years, applications will only be accepted for five to seven days.

Unlike hiring an employee from the United States, when the start date is often two weeks from the acceptance of a job offer, the earliest an H-1 B-status employee could begin work is Oct. 1…if the application is accepted.

Fortunately, there are plenty of folks who can help navigate the legal system. On behalf of clients, Peck fields increasing government reviewer challenges.

One of the biggest impacts this executive order may make is that employees seeking an extension to an H-1B visa will now face the same scrutiny they faced to obtain the visa.

“When we file extensions on cases that got approved without challenge before, they now get challenged even though the facts have not changed,” Peck says.

That means an employee on an H-1B visa who has worked hard, innovated, and generated income for a company could be denied an extension and the company could lose an employee for no reason other than checking the wrong box
on the paperwork.

Each denied visa extension would cost a company a skilled, trained worker, filing fees, lawyer fees, and much more.

“This change is very disturbing to employers who want to keep a good employee but fear they may lose them during the extension process,” says Omaha immigration attorney Mark Curley. “Foreign workers feel less secure in their employment. They understand their H-1B extensions could be denied.

“Employers could lose a good employee after three years if [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] re-adjudicates the petition and determines the occupation or employee do not meet H-1B requirements…There is already a backlog in the employment-based green card process for applicants from India and China working high IT-related jobs in Omaha.”

“The H-1B is a specialty occupation visa with very specific requirements,” Peck says. “The job must require at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field or related field. The government has certain wage levels you’re required to pay. A very sophisticated analysis goes into that.

“So, this is not something employers are eager to do. Often, it can be the last resort because they can’t get U.S. workers to do the job. As an economy we rely on this visa category in ways many people don’t want to admit and would like to deny.”

Vetting is done by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services center officers. Requests for evidence usually challenge specialty occupation designations.

“We spend a lot of time and effort with employers to describe what the job is,” Peck says. “We cross reference that with the government database. Then we look within the company sponsoring the H-1B to determine if others in that job have a similar degree and we use that to support our submission. The vast majority of our cases are getting approved, but we’re having to really fight. It’s taking all of our skills, tools, and resources to maneuver successfully in this environment.”

First Data is among several Nebraska employers using H-1B visas due to a shortage of skilled U.S.-born workers.

“There’s a myth employers are undercutting the U.S. labor market by hiring H-1Bs, and it really isn’t the case because with H-1B labor there is a cost involved not present with a U.S. worker,” Peck says. “The filing fee alone if you’re an employer with 25 or more employees is $2,460. If you want your case expedited you add another $1,225—and then attorney fees on top of that.”

Pending federal legislation aims to further scrutinize H-1B visas.

“The practical effect will be fewer petitions filed,” Curley says. “It will decrease the number of foreign students who enroll in U.S. colleges and universities.”

One thing is certain. H-1Bs are a hot item—as a topic of business and political discussion.

Amy Peck


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

Moving Day

March 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The days of building an office park in the suburbs are gone.

Companies in Omaha and across the country are picking up and moving to hip urban hubs of their respective cities, letting go of a long-standing notion that most of the nation’s workers want to work and live in slower, quieter areas of town, far away from the noise, crowds, and chaos of city life.

Today, as executives strive to attract tech-minded young professionals who want to work, shop, eat, and play in the same neighborhood, Omaha companies are increasingly mindful that a key way to do that is to relocate to some of the fastest-growing—and just plain coolest—areas of the city. Even if they were not in the suburbs before, corporations are seeing that relocating in the most popular areas of town is good business.

“People like urban,” says developer Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Companies, which is working with engineering and architecture firm HDR Inc. on building a new site for Kiewit Corp.’s new headquarters in north downtown Omaha. “It’s pretty hip, and it’s important for companies to be in walkable communities. They need to be able to retain their workforce and they want to be able to use their office environments as a working tool.”

The trend is so hot that even suburban areas are transforming into urban oases. OBI Creative will be an anchor tenant at the burgeoning Lumberyard District at 135th and Q streets. The six-block district includes an Eat Fit Go, First American Title Co., and Local Beer & Patio, and is attempting to attract young creatives and professionals.

Executives at OBI Creative, which is currently located near the popular Midtown Crossing, thought the area resembled more urban locations like Dundee or Benson yet was more convenient for their staff.

“The majority of our employees live west of 90th Street,” says Lana LeGrand, vice president—OBI leadership and operations. “At the same time, the location afforded us easy interstate access to serve our clients regardless of the location.”

The Lumberyard District was the perfect setting for an advertising agency, she says. 

“When we saw this area, not just the potential of the office space, but the vibe of the neighborhood, we felt we had found a location where our employees would thrive and our clients would love to visit,” LeGrand says.

And while HDR is helping other companies move, the architecture firm itself is moving its corporate headquarters from 84th Street and West Dodge Road to one of the most hip and bustling areas of the city—Aksarben Village—later this year. The new, 245,000 square-feet of office space will house retailers and employ more than 1,100 people. HDR opted to move because it had outgrown its longtime location and its executives’ desired to bring as many people as possible to the location. They also want to provide plenty of parking and entertainment amenities for workers and clients.

“I’m excited for our employees that we will be moving to a new headquarters by the end of this year,” HDR Chairman and CEO Eric Keen says. “It’s an exciting new chapter for us as we begin our second century here in Omaha.”

Rex Fischer, HDR’s senior vice president and corporate relations director, says Aksarben Village will “fit our needs and will serve us well into the future. We stand to be more effective in how our people work and collaborate…a modern headquarters stands to be an excellent recruiting tool.”

Kiewit’s new downtown location, which is expected to be ready as early as 2020, was chosen because of its closeness to Kiewit University, the company’s new training center. Noddle says company leaders were mindful of the move’s potential influence on north downtown.

“It’s full of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues, and this can only benefit those businesses,” he says. “Moving a major business in a community is one of the things leadership might think about. Others will follow, I think, as it will inspire other businesses to look very hard at that area where everything is growing.”

Adds Noddle, “The image of bringing 600 new, stable, and well-compensated jobs to north downtown can and will have a positive impact in that area.”

Noddle says Kiewit’s move to north downtown will help open up its current space in the growing Blackstone District, which has been booming in recent years. Young professionals will be more attracted to Omaha when they see there are diverse urban areas for them to work and live in.

“It’s very attractive to current and future employees,” he says. “They could go anywhere, but they will choose to come here.”

HDR’s headquarters under construction in Aksarben Village

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

Sales Insider

April 5, 2017 by

I love sales. It is a career where you, the sales professional, determine your income based on how skillfully you execute the duty. It has a feel of independence, ownership, and entrepreneurship, and it can be extremely rewarding. Professional selling is regarded as one of the top-earning careers on the the planet. Note to you business owners out there: If your salespeople are making more money than you, don’t be jealous, be excited because they are building your business and increasing its value.

The term “commission” is familiar to ranks of sales professionals. However, I want you to think about your income a little differently. Rather than earning commission when a sale is made, think about your pay as an hourly wage. What makes your hourly pay different from the familiar, traditional hourly jobs is that your hourly rate will change based on the activity you happen to be doing at the moment. For example, in my previous career, for every 10 presentations I made, I would close on, and get paid commission for, three orders. On the three projects I won, my hourly rate was great, but on the projects I lost, my hourly rate was $0/hour. I thought “this is just how it is in sales,” so I did little to change or improve my sales performance until I was taught to think of my compensation as hourly. Spending 60 hours per week on sending proposals to my customers meant missing out on my kids’ activities and time with family, all so I could get paid for 30 percent of my time. That made me angry. This is madness, yet a vast majority of salespeople would give you a similar story.

I think there is a better way to sell that will pay more per hour, which means one can earn their desired wage in less time. I just need to figure out how to get rid of the seven prospects who don’t buy quickly and only spend time on the three who will buy. If I can figure this out, then I will close the three orders, so my pay is the same as before, but I do not spend much time on the seven who do not buy. Can you see how my hourly wage more than doubles?

Since your time is just as valuable as your prospects’ time, only the prospects who plan to buy from you get any of it. In order to do this, you must sort all prospects who talk to you as either buyers or window shoppers. The first step in doing this is to recognize that there are four possible outcomes of a sales call: yes, no, maybe, and clear future. Let’s examine each one.

Yes: Congratulations! You achieved an order and you will earn money.

No: Shoot! Shake it off. There are plenty of other customers out there who will buy. Did you know that “no” outcomes are good, and they can actually make you money? If you get a “no,” that opportunity no longer consumes your time, which means you can divert time to those who buy, and your hourly rate actually increases.

Maybe: Stay away from the dreaded “I need to think it over.” These outcomes represent the “window shoppers” and will cost you money. These prospects waste your time and consume your resources. Therefore, when a prospect stalls, push them to “no.”  At least a “no” will make you money.

Clear future: Sometimes your product or service cannot be sold in one call. You might need multiple meetings to formulate the solution and make the sale. This positive outcome is for those prospects who see value in your solution, are willing to move the process forward, and want the sales conversation to continue on a specific day at a specific time.

Thus, the rule is “No more maybes.” If you can make this rule part of your selling system, you will increase your hourly rate and significantly grow your sales. You effectively sort the buyers from the window shoppers and spend more time on those who buy. Now, I close three out of four presentations I make, my income has increased by triple digits, and I spend less time doing it all.

So, what is you hourly wage?

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 Spring 2017 edition of B2B.